To Love You NOW …and Forever

The sun glimmers over the sea and casts a glare on her phone screen. She puts one hand over her eyes and brings the screen closer so she can see. As Sophia thumbs through photos of wedding venues she feels the phone vibrate and sees a message from her Maid of Honor, Alexa.
“Don’t you just love this style!” and an attached picture of a long sleeved lace gown pops up when she taps the message.

It is a lovely dress but not exactly what she what she wanted. She has to talk to Alexa about that later. Her thirty-minute lunch break is over.

As she walks back to the office her phone begins buzzing again. It’s Matt. Why does he have to call her now?
“What do you want?” she quips.

“Nothing sweetheart, I just wanted to see how your day was and if you want to get dinner together tonight?”

“Yeah, sure. What time? 7 o’clock. Okay. Bye. I love you.” She rushes as she hangs up and walks into her office.

Wait, she did not have time to meet with him tonight. She already made plans with their wedding planner to select invitations.

“I can’t see you tonight. Meeting with the wedding planner.” She texts him quickly before her work phone starts ringing.

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That was the 4th time this week that she had cancelled plans with her fiancé. She knew he was getting upset, but she didn’t have any choice. Their wedding was coming up in less than 7 months.

You, dear bride, have surely been in Sophia’s shoes before. You are overwhelmed with wedding decisions and are overcommitting your time. Have you realized that it is often at the expense of your relationship?

The day will be a whirlwind of people, dresses, cameras and a very important kiss with your new husband. You are promising the most important person in the world that you will love and support him for the rest of your life. It is such a deep and powerful commitment. Arguably the most important decision you will ever make.

This is your wedding and you are the princess. You deserve the best and you should make sure that you’re creating a day that will be one of the most beautiful days of your life.
That does not mean that you have to become a mean, unpleasant person for your groom to be around. Of course, problems will arise and you should make sure that you get them resolved. Be strong and assertive to get what you want. You are not going to make everyone happy but you and your groom should be happy. You have the power to make this process an enjoyable experience!

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1. When you act out or lose your temper, apologize. Sometimes admitting that you are wrong can be calming and bring peace back into your life. Saying sorry gives you the ability to step back and analyze the situation more objectively.

2. Take time every day to nurture your relationship. Send an encouraging text on Monday morning and make a home cooked dinner on Thursday night. Do something to make sure he knows that he is the most special person to you.

3. Take some time talking not talking about the wedding. When you first started dating you used to talk about the books you were reading, or the music you love. You would talk about a work project, a place you wanted to visit, or a new restaurant you wanted to try. Take a day trip somewhere, or if you don’t have that much time, make a dinner reservation and talk about why you love each other.

4. Ask yourself one question: When this wedding is all over, how do you want to remember it?

I want you to remember the excitement of planning a glorious party. Remember the joy of spending time with your friends and family planning this huge celebration. Most importantly, remember the love that kindled this fire. You have forever to spend with your favorite person. Make sure that forever starts now.

BEST of YOUTUBE 2017

You might think that because I spend my professional time creating and producing television, I would want a break from video in my down-time. When I’m not making TV, I’m watching it. And I increasingly watch online-exclusive content. Video production gets better every day, thanks to advances in technology. Creators get better with every video upload (practice!) Great video is inspiring to me! When I watch, I learn, and believe me… I’ve done a lot of both.

This my friends, is the Best of YouTube 2017:


ROBERT STROK

SKIP TO: All of the short videos < 02:00 min.
I want to see high-quality, artistically shot video, with cool edits and great music, which are features that ALL of my favorites have. I’m not a fan of talking to the camera you’re holding. Sometimes the selfie vlog has good info, but that is not what I’m here for.
^ WHY – Composition, editing, etc. PLUS, I love the skateboard shots. Rob uses them a lot…

^ WHY – CREATIVE… Rob was just on a random trip in Hawaii, caught some amazing videos of kids being awesome and…here you go.

^ WHY – COLLABORATION is king! I love when my favorites get together and create content this amazing!

^ WHY
– STELLAR COMPOSITION, editing & music pairing
– Personal story VO about his decision to quit school weaved into the video 


KOLD

Sam Kolder is an excellent videographer who actually tours with The Chainsmokers and shoots video at their shows. He doesn’t post a lot, but what he does put up is super high quality.

 ^ WHY – The Chainsmokers!

SKIP TO: All of the short videos < 03:00 min.

>YouTube commercial – This one is cool because while this video is certainly sponsored by and created because YouTube requested it, the content is impeccable…as usual. 


SAWYERHARTMAN

Sawyer and his adorable girlfriend Angelique (who also has a channel!) just finished a year of daily vlog posting. While not every one of those videos was my favorite, it is obvious that that much content creation MADE Sawyer really good at what he does.

SKIP TO: any Thru My Eyes videos – Amazing music, shot composition, editing and VO (that’s Voice Over for you non-industry kids) 

SKIP TO: Chapter Videos | Currently two installments – amazing editing and footage. Special bonus on these? a great story, written and VO’d by Sawyer.

  


MIMI IKONN

This was my first YouTube love! Her channel has changed quite a bit since having a baby almost a year ago. If you’re a momma, about to be, or thinking about it, I’m sure you will be obsessed Mimi’s recent videos, many of which feature her and hubby Alex’s new life with baby, Alexa Love. For me, it’s all about travel!

SKIP TO: Best Of 2015 – This one was personally inspirational to me because it came out right before I went on my first big trip. **”Best of” videos are usually a really good bet, since they are the creator’s BEST.
 ^ WHY – Looking more closely, I mostly enjoy her intros and interstitial content. Again, I’m not a huge fan of talking to the camera. Sometimes it’s great information but usually I just skip the talking to the camera bits if they’re more than 20 seconds (in all videos.) ^ WHY – 
Obsessed with Mimi’s music selection. It’s always something I’ve never heard that is both exciting and chill at the same time.


ANGELIQUE COOPER

NEW FAVORITE! Found her because of her BF Saywer, and in a short time she is really developing her style as a video creator. She has workout videos, a lookbook all of the usual, but this one really caught my attention:

Skip to: “My Trip of a Lifetime”
^ WHY – She explains in an earnest and poetic way what trip meant to her. The extra work that it took for her to write the copy, read the VO, and edit all of this footage together really brings this one up in the rankings.


LOOKBOOKS

There are thousands of gorgeous girls on YouTube with videos about what their outfits are and how #blessed they feel. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-shot lookbook, but I can only watch so many (like 3) before I get bored…

Mimi is the queen of the Lookbook:

^ WHY – Mimi goes through a good variety of outfits for a specific occasion or season. Always paired with great music, clean shots and fun edits. 


What are your favorites? >>>

Cancun – Money Exchange Decisions

-the money exchange decision-

CANCUN for the WEEKEND: PART 1

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WHERE

> I needed to get away from the cold and I had been dreaming of taking a trip by myself (more on that soon!) I did some flight research and found a ticket from Denver to Cancun for $250 round trip through Spirit. Actually, I found the flight through SkyScanner.com and I will share my methods of finding cheap flights in an upcoming post.  I definitely could have found a better ticket price to go somewhere closer, like Las Vegas, Los Angeles or even Miami, but I had never been to Mexico and I found a great place to stay that had a private beach for $43 a night (through Booking.com.)
This is Part One of the Mexico for the Weekend series! Here we focus on the MOST important part of your trip – having money that works!


CURRENCY EXCHANGE

 A great way to lose a lot of money without getting any benefit is to get a bad exchange rate. I specifically talk about Mexican Pesos and Euros in this post, but the principles apply wherever you go!


EXCHANGE AT HOME?

> You can get Mexican Pesos (MXN) before you get to Mexico, but I find that you will not get the best deals this way. Some banks (in large cities) keep foreign currencies in their vaults. Other banks keep foreign currencies at one central location in the country and it has to be overnighted to your city. Call around to banks in your area to see what each bank’s process is.

FEES VS EXCHANGE RATES

> When you exchange money in the U.S. you will be charged a fee through the bank or currency exchange office you go through. Businesses that exchange at airports tend to have the worst rates, because you are paying for their convenience.

Some banks also charge you a set fee per transaction if you are not a customer. The exchange specialist may not tell you that they roll additional fees into the exchange rate that they give you. The rate that they are quoting you is not the ACTUAL exchange rate. They are adding in their own costs. If you must get your currency exchanged before you go, call around to all of the banks in your area in order to find the best rate possible.


WHY TO NOT GET MONEY BEFORE YOU GO

> Example: Currently the USD to EURO exchange rate is almost the best it has ever been at around $.94 USD to one EURO (see Bloomberg.) However, when you call banks, they will quote you at a rate somewhere in the $.83 – $.87 USD to EURO. If you exchange $1000, suddenly you’re losing about $170 US to fees instead of the $60 that you would lose if you were getting a true exchange without the built in fees. Keep in mind, rates fluctuate daily.


img_0510ATMs – EXCHANGE METHOD OF CHOICE

> The best way to change your money is by using an ATM in your destination city. Rule number one: take out large sums. ATMs will charge a per transaction fee. That means if you take out $50 today and $50 tomorrow you’ll get docked twice as much money as if you had just gone and taken out the $100 you need in one transaction.

 

Example: I recently took $400 euros out of an ATM in Spain. My account reflected that I took out $430 USD. That is a 93% exchange rate! This is almost the actual exchange rate. Perfect.

WHICH ATM TO USE

> If you can use an ATM that has your bank’s branding on it you’ll be spared some fees that banks charge for using another bank’s money. Even if you don’t see your bank name on the ATM, do some research online before you go to see what the other ‘partner banks’ or ATMs your bank will recognize. Many banks are part of a network.

TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS

I can’t talk about foreign money spending without mentioning travel credit cards! NerdWallet is an amazing money-resource and you should definitely check out one of their newer posts about the best travel credit cards to use in 2017 HERE. There is so much money to be made by spending this way. You can skip foreign fees and get direct currency exchange rates as you swipe. Also, you can get bonus points for spending overseas, and tons of money back if you meet certain spending criteria. Words to the wise, read all the fine print when signing up for credit cards. It would be a shame to quality for a card, earn hundreds back in cash and prizes and then not pay your card off — negating all that free money PLUS reducing your credit score.


WORRIES ABOUT TAKING OUT A LOT OF CASH

img_0528> Travelers worry about theft and carrying large sums of cash. Follow these two rules: don’t walk around with thousands, AND carry your money wisely. A few hundred dollars in local currency will go a long way in many foreign countries. It is smart to keep a sum stashed in your backpack or luggage and then some of the money in your pocket for easy access. Pockets with zippers on clothing that is close to your body is the BEST way to carry your money and passport while traveling. Invest in some good clothes with this in mind before your trip.

I’ve never worn a money belt, but that is an option too! They can be worn discreetly and close to your body. Find some great ones here on Amazon.com.
Traveler satchels and any kind of purses are asking for trouble. They are easy to spot and advertise that you might be an easy target for quick cash. Even if you are not going to be in an area that is known for pickpockets, better to develop good travel habits and be safe. Basically, TRY not to stand out or look like a tourist when you’re traveling.


PRO TIP

img_0449> Never swipe your debit or bank card in a foreign country. You will get docked a foreign transaction fee every single time.  This is a set fee, so it doesn’t matter if you’re paying hundreds for a hotel or just a couple bucks for coffee. Pay cash, or pay online.
Paying for lodging online is ideal. It is your greatest expense and you can bypass the foreign transaction fees and exchange fees completely. If you use Booking.com, make sure you know whether you are paying for the property when you book or when you get there. Many times the hotels stipulate that you pay at the hotel when you get there. Know ahead of time so that you can bring cash if needed.
You can also pay for tours and museum or cathedral visits online. This has an additional benefit besides saving money on fees. To see some international landmarks, like the Cathedral in Sevilla or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you may have to wait in a VERY long line if you try to walk up and get in on the day of. Paying in advance online will help you skip you to the front of the line. Many times when purchasing your tickets online you will be asked to choose a time that you want to go. Then you can get there at that time and go right in!


WARNING

> Be fore warned: you may still have problems arise with money while you’re travelling abroad. Sometimes ATMs aren’t working! Sometimes they are not even there anymore! You may have done all the research to find the right ATM before you leave for you trip, and then get there to find that it is out of money.

Know your tolerance for dealing with situations like this and plan accordingly. If having some cash before you go, or swiping your card everywhere you purchase, is your preference, that is fine. Just know that you are losing some of your hard earned money. Losing few bucks per transaction can really add up if you are eating out three times a day, buying souvenirs and taking day trips for your entire trip.

I cannot stress this next point enough: OFFLINE DOWNLOAD the city you are going to on Google Maps. Even if you are going to get a SIM card for your phone in the new country so that you can have service wherever you go, you will never be sorry you have a working map. Google Maps does not use data or cellular service to locate you, rather it uses GPS, which is always accessible, even if you don’t have service. By having the area downloaded, you can search ATMs (and whatever else you need) in your area without cell phone data service. MUCH more on the value of Google Maps while traveling coming soon!


175x175bbBONUS PRO TIP

Using a new currency is really confusing! Even if you know the exchange rate in your head, it can be difficult calculating what things are actually costing on the spot. I use the My Currency Converter – Exchange Rates Converter app with great ease and success.

 


 

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I’d love to hear about your currency exchange experiences.
Send me a message on instagram! Happy travels, love!

INSTAGRAM: @lovelyminimalist


 

PRIMEAZON – why you should Amazon

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Amazon Prime Membership $99 per year

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This hundred dollars per year breaks down to $8.25 a month, which is less than a subscription to Hulu, Netflix, iTunes or Spotify. *They do have a monthly option for $10.99 per month. Get the annual membership (or Free Trial!) because, unless you are positive that you are ONLY going to order items for one month and then never order online again, paying monthly will just end up costing you more in the end.

You can read all about all the benefits you get as a member: amazon_prime_logo

img_0311> I can’t even tell you the amount of money I save in shipping. It WAY more than pays for the $100 investment. If that is the only feature that you utilize, it will be worth the investment.

>Love the two day shipping. So many times I’ve been able to order something I needed, when I thought of it, and then had it delivered to my front door before I would have had a chance to take a trip to the store where they may not have even had it. Plus, if you’re a smart Amazon shopper you know all of the PRO TIPS to save you even more money and get the highest quality products for the best prices.



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FREE RETURNS :
Short of re-purchasing an item you already own, ALWAYS buy items that have “Free Returns.” Sometimes the shipping along on sending something back can cost half of the cost of the item itself.


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REVIEWS & ANSWERED QUESTIONS :
Always buy the version/brand of whatever product you want that has the most stars. If you haven’t seen the product in person, take a few minutes to read some reviews (good and bad) and look at the photos that customers post in their reviews to get a real life sense of what it’s going to look like. I find this is especially helpful with clothing.


STUDENTS :
You get an even better deal > 50% off ($49/year) so, no excuses.


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WAREHOUSE DEALS:
If an item offers a “Warehouse Deal” this LIKELY means that the product is unused, brand new and the box is a little banged up. Totally worth the savings you get for buying a ‘used’ product. If it is available, it’ll be just off to the right, by where you can add the item to your cart.



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= buying a $20 item with only a few reviews, getting it, not liking it, then finding out that returning it will cost you $7 to ship back. Don’t get stuck with something you don’t actually want, because isn’t worth the money to ship it back. ^ Follow all of the Pro Tips to avoid this!


img_0318 > We all buy stuff, but maybe more stuff than we would like to admit. Luckily there is a huge movement right now towards more intentional and minialistic living. I like to think of this not only in terms of what I buy, but also in terms of how I spend my time. Please watch the “Minimalism” documentary. Here is the trailer:
http://www.theminimalists.com/

Another really encouraging and inspiring resources is  “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

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Once you watch/read this material you may feel some internal conflict.

I came home from work to four Amazon boxes the night that I sat down to watch “Minimalism.” Talk about feeling conflicted…

‘I should send all of these packages back right away…shouln’t I?
But I actually am going to use these things and if I sent them back,
I would still need to re-order or go out to the store and purchase them.’

Following the tips and tricks I mentioned in this article help me to feel less guilty about purchasing things that I want. PLUS they save me enough money to buy, or sometimes do (minimalist travel tips coming soon) the things that I’m really excited about.

Couple the ideals of being a more efficient consumer with the desire to enjoy your life to the fullest. Being a minimalist can start with tiny changes. I’m not a minimalist yet, but I’m on my way.

I’d love to chat with you and share ideas!  

instagram: @lovelyminimalist

@realDonaldTrump… in the flesh

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FIRST: I’ll leave out my political commentary since this is simply a story about the time I met the next President of the United States.


Phone rings at 8:30 Tuesday morning.

If you can get to Colorado Springs within the next two hours,
you can have an interview with Donald J. Trump.

I had just walked into work and was sitting at my desk clicking through the emails that had trickled in since 5 o’clock the night before. I heard my boss take the call and was already packing the gear by the time he hung up. We work in the suburbs, two hours north of the rally happening that day in Colorado Springs. We had been in communication with both campaign communicaiton offices for the past year trying to work out a time to do an interview.

In the 350+ interviews with heads of state, Presidents of foreign countries and celebrities I’ve produced in the last 4 years, this one was a shock to even me. Meeting a presidential candidate is really exciting. The pomp and circumstance, the anticpation, the posse of support staff is a spectacle in and of itself.

Whenever you have interactions with someone of notoriety I find that they’ll either be very warm and convesational, or very distracted and anxious to get to their next appointment. Famous people tend to be very busy people whose schedules barely allow time to eat and sleep. I always view guests’ time allottment to be on show as a generous donation of their most precious resource.

I assumed that Mr. Trump would be in the latter, more distracted, category. He’s about to give a speech at the first of three rallys of the day, after he finishes our interview and the two interviews after us.

Leading up to the interview I arrived at the venue, kind of a horse arena in Colorado Springs with my 4 bags of camera gear. Secret service went through all the bags and then released me to the media stands in the mid-back of the arena. The ground had been packed down and covered in faux grass for the event, but was still a little uneven from being trod upon daily by horses. I found the Trump campaign Colorado communications contact and asked to see the interview area.  I was led with my crew to the area behind the black stage curtain.  Instead of a well lit, quiet room I found that the interview area was merely a black curtained off 20’x20′ cube on the same unever dirt directly behind the stage. My disappointment at this was great. Keeping audio clean would be virtually impossible and adequately lighting the interview almost impossible.  We spent the next hour working with the Trump communications team at the arena about the cameras we’d be allowed to use, the time we’d have to set up, and the status of Mr. Trump’s flight. We were to be granted the first interview, meaning we could set up our cameras a few minutes before he arrived. This welcome news to me. I prefer to have hours of time to set up the chairs, adjust the lighting and fine tune the background. Here, for our most important interview of the year, I would have a few minutes to get everything perfect. We were shown the tape line where Mr. Trump would stand and where Aaron would stand. Set our cameras up, focused the shot, got the mics ready and then were given the 15 minute warning.

“Where is your mic?” – staffer
“Here.” I replied and showed my wireless lav.
“No. You have to use a stick.” – staffer

I had less than 15 minutes to run out of the secured area (that hopefully I could re-enter) through the parking lot, rumage though the gear I left in the trunk to find the stick mic and run back in.

I tapped the shoulder of the cop at the back-stage entrance, “Hey, I have to go get some gear. Will you let me back through in a minute?”

“Sure thing! I’ll remember you.” He tapped my back and smiled.

Needless to say, I made it back with the correct mic with a minute to spare.

“Okay, he’s here.” someone said.

All heads turned to the door (gap in the curtains) in anticipation. I made one last double check-glance around the room at the gear making sure everything was ready to go.

He was wearing a bright red and white stripped tie. He looked different in person than I expected. Much more normal skin tone, very normal hair and an absolutely KILLER smile. He was ushered in by his staff to his spot in front of our cameras as he warmly greeted all of our crew members.

I’ll let you judge for yourself how well the interview went…

Once we wrapped I started picking up the cameras. We had to clear the area quickly so that the next crew could get in and set up their shot. One of our crew members asked to get a photo and before I could get out of the room Mr. Trump looked to me  and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to have a picture?” He additionally offered a photo to our intern and then we were out.

I was so surprised! No one else on that level that we’ve interviewed has offered photos to anyone. Usually you have to ask, and then you’re given a sigh, “Okay.” Or told that they have to get to their next appointment and don’t have time. So, as you can see up top, I met the next president (which we didn’t know at the time) and got a picture with him (to prove it!)

I actually found out that he won at 4 am the day after the election by seeing multiple texts on my phone from late the night before saying, “You have a picture with the President!”

 

DNC Report Days 1 and 2

There really aren’t words to describe the first day of this convention. Between the suffocating heat and then the torrential rain that soaked my dress and ruined my shoes, my appearance by the end of the day on Monday left much to be desired. It didn’t matter though, because as I sit here on Tuesday night, my heart is full.

Coming into this Convention I was prepared to witness an evening of ranting about party lines. I was ready to hear endless jokes and tirades about Trump. Both of which abounded.

Standing, for the first time, on the floor of a major political convention, my senses were overwhelmed. Behind me, Chris Matthews giving his live reports on MSNBC, in front of me, a sea of avid democrats cheering at every witty one-liner, and all around me, a sea of reporters scrambling to deliver their story on time. Headset wearing producers and gear-laden cameramen follow around their made up on-air talent. Before every big name speaker, volunteers in blue t-shirts descend into the crowd to pass out signs with catchy campaign slogans on them. The arena becomes a sea of poster board bouncing and waiving in the air.

As the night grows longer and the crowd swells, the anticipation becomes palpable. When the First Lady takes the stage, she commands it with grace and mastery. I’m not sure I thought about what she might say in this address to her party. If I had to guess, I would have said that she’d talk about how great these last 8 years have been, what an exemplary mother Hilary is, and probably tell us why we should vote for her to be the next President. If I had said those things in anticipation, I would have been right.

What I did not foresee in the coming speech, was the way she made me look at my country.

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.”

-First Lady Obama

That simple sentence completely awed me. It wasn’t surprising and it is completely true. The way that she set it up made me look at my country differently. All the external mayhem surrounding me faded, and in my mind I could only see two black girls eating dinner with their family and going to bed in a big beautiful house…a house that was built by men who had no power over their very own lives. It was a moment of realization. We have come so far as a nation. In that moment, I was so proud to be there, to be American.

Albeit, this is an America with problems and pains. We are hurting each other. People are dying in shootings. This is barbaric at the very least.
I hope that you take a moment and ponder the tragedies that are occurring around us. Read the stories about the victims. Learn about the lives, families and interests of the people who have been senselessly killed in shootings. You will cry. You must do this so that your heart will break and maybe then, when we all have broken hearts, we will find a way to stop this evil.  If you take just a few minutes, you will realize the humanity. You will see in a new light the real lives of the people who no longer get to wake up in the morning and go to work.

But I did not dwell on these things.

These things do not define us. We will overcome this. I don’t know who is going to be elected, but I do know Americans. I know that we are full of love and ambition and hard work. We stand here today in a country that we are proud of. To be born an American is a gift from God himself. How lucky are you to be placed in the most free and empowering culture in the history of the world? Do you ever stop to consider that?

My bias is not and has never been for Hilary or Bernie, Trump or Cruz. I walk around the City of Brotherly Love this week and remember the history lessons of men fighting to do something insane, start a country. They had crazy ideas and not all of them were good.

The streets of this city are filled with protestors. Some of them are protesting Bernie, or Hillary, and some of them are just yelling to be heard. Some of them march about in the sweltering Philadelphia heat screaming for change. Others stand in the pouring rain, outside the convention center, chanting in unison for change. These are Americans. They will tell you how they feel and they will do something about the things that are important to them.

I don’t know who I’m going to vote for in the fall. My bias is for America, the country who learns from her mistakes and works her heart out to be better in the future. My allegiance is to a country whose black President lives in a house that was built by black slaves. The Obamas are leading America, the ruler of the FREE WORLD, from a house that was built by slaves. I have confidence in you sweet Land of Liberty, and the beautiful people who call you home.

Wild West Road Trip

so this is the WEST…

 

IMG_1077Our 6 day trip included throwing some money away at a casino in Vegas, seeing our favorite comedian in Los Angeles, sleeping under a canopy of stars in the desert and peering over the rim of the Grand Canyon.

2,000 plusIMG_0961 miles were driven (mostly by James) and at least 3 gallons of Red Bull consumed (also by James.)
We really wouldn’t have been able to do so much unless James had been willing to drive through the night on both the first day and the last.
Our 3 star resort in Vegas was $30 (my absolute favorite,) camping a few yards away from the beach in Malibu at Leo Carillo State Park was $45, the L.A. Hilton was $100, and camping in the desert was free. We didn’t want to put the miles on my car so we rented a car that was $120 for the full 6 days.

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ANDANTE coffee shop stop on our 16 mile bike cruise from Beverly Hills through Hollywood and back.
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Can I get a hallelujah for this fan-tastic tile-work at the coffee shop door?

We both love some classy craftsy coffee. Like a typical hipster, we looked up the coffee shops in L.A. that roast their own single source beans from Etheopia. I was not disappointed. ANDANTE roasts their beans right there in the shop. It reminded me of a combination between Two Rivers and Crema in Colorado. Just like my IMG_0837favorite joints at home in Denver, L.A. brought the same relaxed vibe, chilled out baristas and the best pour-over cup of Etheopian coffee with notes of lime, strawberry, orange, and chocolate.

 

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MERCADO

All that bike riding made us hungry.
I had to have some tacos, and not just any tacos… I wanted craftsy tacos with a hipster vibe, the kind they serve up on the rooftop of my favorite restaurante in Denver, Los Chingones.

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MERCADO to ourselves

5 seconds on Yelp brought us to Mercado, a sweet Mexi joint that was literally a block away from where we were standing.

Gosh, I love the internet…and these tacos.IMG_0855

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Find a spot in the sands of the Mojave desert, amongst the Joshua Trees and lizards to pitch your tent.

You WILL SEE the Milky Way Galaxy
…and it will CHANGE YOUR life.   IMG_0879

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Biking up the Beverly Hills and finding a Sunday afternoon BBQ at the house on the top of the hill, complete with Valet parking for your Bentley, was priceless.

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SUNSET in Malibu

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IMG_0988GRANDEST OF CANYONS || You will see hoards of deer and Elk, along with tourists from every corner of the world at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Before this weekend I didn’t even know there were two separate rims. James planned a special treat for us and drove through the entire night so we could experience sunrise at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on our way to Vegas. Because we were there so early we practically had the outlook to ourselves. IMG_0941There were just a
few older couples out, coffee in hand, strolling the walk. We climbed the rocks and felt like we were conquering the world, peering down into the canyon and listening for the winding Colorado River.

On the way home we stopped to watch the sun set over the South Rim. I saw a license plate from every single state in the Union at that parking lot. When I think about the effort that the Asian and European tourists had to make to get there, muliple plane rides, probably days of travel…it made me ashamed that I had never jumped in the car and driven down the road to see it before.

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Vegas…the fame, the fortune, the loss and mostly the hot desert sun.

It did not disappoint in any way.

IMG_0643The contrast of the opulent Bellagio, Trump tower, MGM Grand… with the deteriorating motels just a couple miles down the street is very strange. Not stranger than they way I felt when losing $40 in the first 15 minutes of gambling. Listening to the guy next to me say “I’ve already lost $2,000” and watching the guy on the other side of the table lose piles and piles of $10 chips to the dealer.

  I could not have been happier with this rooftop pool, the awesome poolside DJ, and piles of pool toys.

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Spending $40 on this bike rack is quite possibly the best investment I’ve ever made.
The little effort it took to bring them brought endless amounts of joy and enjoyment to this trip from the Vegas Strip to the beaches of Malibu.

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I’d love to hear about your trips and tips!

…Video of this venture coming soon!

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Mesa Verde – Budget Camping Trip

We took a weekend and drove to Mesa Verde National Park, one of thirteen National Parks in the state of Colorado. Mesa Verde is in the southeastern most corner of the state and from the mesas you can see into three other states — Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The drive from Denver is about 6-7 hours and you can cut through the mountains and zig-zag your way down or you can go down through interstate 25 and then all the way over. We went one way there and the other on the way back. Make sure that you leave early enough to get all your driving done in the daylight.  There is so much wildlife in that part of the state and driving in the dark with low visibility can be dangerous. The posted speed limits are actually slower at night because of the large number of (mostly) deer in the area that will cross the street.

Here is the cost breakdown of an average weekend (2 night) camping trip to Mesa Verde!

Go and then leave a comment for me letting me know how your trip was!

TOTAL COST (2 people)
$160

GAS — $80
I have a pretty fuel efficient car that gets 30 miles to the gallon on the highway so we filled up a total of 4 times for the entire trip and with the great price of gas right now, was only about $20 a fill up. Remember that Mesa Verde National Park is VERY Large. Once you get to the entrance of the park you still have about 20 miles to go to get back into the depths of the park where the cave dwellings, tours, museum and information centers are. The campsite is much closer to the front of the park and they have full bathroom and shower facilities as well as a convenience store that is open during the summer season. We went pre-season so things were still pretty quiet and not much was open yet.

LODGING — $40
Reserving a camping spot is $20 a night and we stayed for two nights. You get a plot, a fire pit, wifi and the use of a bathroom for the money. There are so many spots (over 300) so the rangers told us that they never run out and you don’t need to reserve your plot ahead of time. They’re first come first serve.

FOOD — $30
This greatly depends on what you like to eat of course. We got a 24 pack of hot dogs, marshmallows, some dried soup packets, cereal, instant coffee and candy.

PARK ENTRY — $20
The Park entry fees vary greatly depending on when you are going and what kind of vehicle you have. Here is the link to the National Park Service website will the full details: https://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

We actually didn’t pay to enter because we went during National Parks week when the entry fee was waived.

GUIDED TOUR — $8
As you can see in the video we did the Balcony House tour. The only way you can go into the Balcony House is by paying $4 a person to go on the guided tour with a Park Ranger. You must climb a 30 foot ladder to get into the dwelling and then once your through you have to crawl through a small 18 inch hole and then climb up two more ladders and a treacherous stone foot path to get out. It isn’t too difficult and tourists young and old seem to get through the tour just fine. https://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/guided_activities.htm
The tours fill up so make sure you book in advance!

We also did the self-guided tour, which is free. Here is the link to more info about that: https://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/self_guided_activities.htm

 

Music:

Kacey Musgraves – Die Fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61Qiay4EctU
Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Fantasy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiqtgWWL6u8
Hippie Sabatoge – Able To See Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmfEyJpwVz8
Rain Man – Bring Back the Summer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivLdLtOtOzU

Budget Travel Vlog

We all have that one thing on our list that we say we’re going to do, but never quite seems to happen. For me it is travel. I would always find an excuse to say I’d go later, once I finsih school, once a busy season at work is over, once I have more money, once I can get some friends to go… as you see the list can go on.

I have decided that I’m not giving myself exuses anymore. I’ve made the decision to do the things that I want to do, and not someday, but now. That doesn’t mean I’m walking off the job today and foolishly getting myself into a financial bind. Rather, today, I have come up with a very short term plan, with exactly defined financial dates and goals. Plan for no more than a year out (if you goal is super lofty.) Then come up with a fun mini goal that you can achieve sooner, which will also help get you closer to that bigger goal. Feeling accomplishment will help you to stay on track financially.

For example let’s say that you want to take a trip to Europe. It’s April now, make a plan to go by the end of this calendar year. You have 8 months to get things together. That is definitly enough time to start stashing money, getting time off from work and making sure that other plans don’t fill in your calendar.

Watch out, cause the minute you decide to go 100 little excuses and reasons why you can’t will fill your mind. Catch each one of those little demons each time they pop up and find the solution to the problem that they present. This isn’t difficult to do in practice, but it is very difficult to DECIDE to do. Your minds is programmed to say no, and find ways to put things off. You are going to have to be vigilant against your own mind (or resistance…see The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.)

I’m sharing my travel experiences and money saving tips [and other reasons to say YES!] on my vlog.

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I give a price breakdown in the description box below each video and I’ll give advice to you from my experienes. I look forward to sharing with you all that I learn, and I hope to hear back from you what you’re learning!