Road trips are some kind of magic. With good music, the food of your choice, only the best company, and countless destinations, a good road trip can work wonders for the soul.

But it can also be mind-maddeningly boring. And uncomfortable.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some ways to make it an even more enjoyable experience?

I think it would….

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…so here are 10 ways to make it more enjoyable!

1. Start early, plan your day, and enjoy every break that you get.

An early start can radically improve your driving experience because you get a lot done earlier. That means that you’ll get to where you want to be earlier, and doesn’t everybody want that? Planning your stops can also help, and actually enjoying the breaks you take (stretch, move around, have a laugh) will make the next few hours in the car a lot easier.

2. Have actual CONVERSATION and swap stories (no phones allowed)

Believe it or not, you can be entirely entertained by another person. Tell your “most embarrassing moment” stories and demand to hear theirs. Talk about your dreams and aspirations, goals and motivations. Talk about how life is different now than from five years ago, and how it might change in the next five years.

You can also talk about politics. But that might be more boring than sitting in silence.

3. Play games.

There are so many games you can play! 21 Questions, I Spy, Did You Hear That, The Movie Game, The Alphabet Game, and more (it doesn’t always have to be the License Plate Game or Punch-Buggy). Google some ideas beforehand (or during; smartphones area a true blessing) and dedicate at least an hour to some games.

4. Have snacks!

Food improves road trips by 100x (maybe 1000x). I don’t know why or how, but munching on some veggie straws and fresh peaches for 6+ hours makes 6+ hours of sitting really not so bad. Either pack some snacks or plan to stop for them. Either way, I just really think you should have food (notice the exclamation mark on this point).

5. Use a paper map

People used to do it this way all the time, so why not try it? It’ll definitely get your brain thinking and maybe your heart pumping after you miss your 8th turn. Be willing to have an adventure.

6. Have a killer playlist

If you know your drive is going to be (X) hours, then make a playlist that’s (X) hours and don’t skip any songs. Make sure they’re ones you want to hear. Maybe create a story with your song choices, setting the mood for each hour.

7. Try out some audiobooks

If you run out of song ideas, try an audiobook. Reading can kill literally hours on a lazy Sunday, so why not do the same thing while you drive? Find a good book and turn it up. You won’t even notice the time fly. (Maybe don’t pair this technique with the paper-map technique?)

8. Stop to see family, friends, cool restaurants and sights along the way

Obviously, stopping to see friends and family only works if you happen to have friends and family along the way, but even adding an hour or more to your drive so you can see someone you know (and maybe crash on their couch for the night, if the drive is very long) is utterly worth it. Also, it pays to look up some cool sights, quick hikes, or noteworthy restaurants along the way to help chop up that road trip.

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Now it’s your turn! Give me some fresh ideas on how to make a long road trip less long.

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Travel intimidates a lot of people, and I honestly kind of get it (emphasis on kind of). There is a lot left to the unknown. What will happen if I get lost?  Planes/cars/trains crash all the time, so what happens if mine does? What if I forget to pack XYZ? What if I lose my phone? What if I spend more money than I should? There’s a lot of planning required and what if I don’t want to do all that work?

The frenzy of concern and lack of motivation surrounding travel is often what causes people to stick to their couches and TV screens. The idea of things going wrong, even the minor, irrelevant things, can be so overwhelming that it’s easier to choose the safe route, and sometimes the immense planning required for certain trips is exhausting (and let’s be honest, it can be somewhat tedious). But this idea that you can control the happenings of your life down to the last minuscule detail is what’s ruining you from making a life at all. It’s your unwillingness to try that’s causing you to miss opportunities.

Travel is cool.

It’s fun.

And it’s good for you.

Here’s why…

1. It gets you out of your comfort zone.

This one goes without saying.  When you travel, you’re moving, seeing new places, and trying new things. You’re not going to your favorite coffee shop because you’re trying out a new coffee show. You’re not sleeping in your own bed, since you’re sleeping at a friend’s, in a hostel, hotel, or guest house. You have plans, but you don’t always know what will happen, and it teaches you that maybe your comfort zone isn’t all that comfortable after all.

2. It challenges you.

When you don’t travel, you get used to your routine, your things, and your rules. Traveling is playing in an entirely different court and it’s up to you to adjust to the new way of life. You have to put in the effort to get food, find a place to stay, drive through new cities, and go on a new adventure. And sometimes it’s quite the challenge.

3. It humbles you.

Sometimes you end up going the wrong way down a one-way street, ordering pig’s cheek for dinner, or walking into the wrong gender’s bathroom because all the words here are in foreign languages. And yeah, that sucks. But try knocking the chip off your shoulder because you’re going to be fine.

4. It teaches you new things, always.

How other people live, what they eat for lunch, how other governments operate, history, geography, languages, and more. There’s always something to learn. The world is bigger than your corner of it and travel will educate you on it all.

5. It will give you a different perspective.

Gas prices, taxes, food, morality, and people. You’ll come away from time spent away with an entirely new perspective of normality. What is normal, anyway? What is good food? What is fair? What is the right way to (fill in the blank)? You’ll have an entirely new understanding of life in general after you’ve seen more of it.

6. It can help you move forward, improve, heal, and grow.

“Finding yourself” is common and cheesy, I get it, but traveling to clear your head works. It helps you get yourself out of whatever rut you’ve been in for (insert how long you’ve been in a rut). Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s really effective! If you’re hung up on a bad break up, feeling trapped in an unwanted career, or just struggling with yourself, give a healthy dosage of travel a try and pitch the pills.

7. It introduces you to new friends.

Whether you’re in an all-inclusive resort chatting with people from your home country or some bar in a foreign country chatting with the locals, finding someone to talk to and swap stories with isn’t overly difficult. The things you’ll discover about them, yourself, their country, and yours is actually really cool.

8. You’ll make some rockin’ awesome memories no matter what.

Good and bad. One day they’ll all be memories and you’ll laugh about them. Don’t be afraid of making memorable adventures.

9. You’ll have some rockin’ awesome stories to tell no matter what.

This goes with the last. And the more embarrassing the event, the better the story, I’m sorry to say.

10. It will give you a sense of accomplishment.

You’ll start checking off places that you’ve been and seeing how much life you’ve lived. You’ll be able to come up with ideas of places you want to see in the future and know you’ll make it there one day. You can do anything now!

11. You’ll get to eat a lot of different foods.

Branch away from the American burger, please. Try the food you can’t pronounce. Get the dessert you’ve never had but the waiter recommends. You’ll find new flavors, some you’ll love and some you might hate, but at least you’ll try it and have the experience. And eating is good for your health, so that’s cool.

12. It gets you moving.

Literally. From hiking opportunities to city sightseeing to walking from one side of the airport to the next. You’ll get your steps in.

13. It promotes a healthy heart.

Not only are you moving around a lot when you travel (hiking, sightseeing, and airports, man), but you’re excited about what you’re going to see and do and find and experience. You’re invested and that gets your heart pumping.

14. It promotes a healthy brain and keeps you sharp.

You have to be able to use your brain to travel–how to get to the destination, how to find a good restaurant, exchange rates, different languages, solving situations, preventing issues, and more. You keep your brain active and thinking.

15. You get away from the everyday life stresses.

Forget the 9-5 job (at least for a little while), all the other day-to-day chores, and adult requirements. Right now you’re traveling and that’s all you need to worry about. The everyday stresses are on vacation, too. Leave them there.

16. It causes an increase in thought generation, conversations, creativity, and more.

Of course, you want to talk about the city you just walked to. You want to think about the history you just learned. You want to know how to make the food you just ate. You want to paint like the artists that have their work hanging in the galleries, play music like the concert you just attended, or write like the words you just read. Travel is inspiring and it makes you want to live more and do better.

What’s your list?

Virginia is a beautiful state. With mountains, trees, waterfalls, history, and plenty of scenic drives, it makes for a spectacular place to visit and a lovely place to live. But what are the prettiest places? How do you decide what to see?

While I obviously think you may as well see it all, there realistically isn’t time for that. So here’s a list of five of Virginia’s prettiest, most worthwhile places to visit (in my humble opinion), in case you are interested.

So check it out!

1. Falling Springs Falls

This has to be number one for me. Hands down, this is one of the prettiest places I’ve seen anywhere in America, let alone in just Virginia (it even rivals Iceland and Mexico, which is saying a lot).

If you don’t like waterfalls, then I can understand why maybe you wouldn’t adore this site as much as I do, but the fact of the matter is that it’s absolutely stunning. Bathtubs of blue water pool at the top and the bottom of these falls, and all the surrounding plants are bursting with green life. It makes for some ideal photography (but be warned: there are now signs warning that you can be fined for approaching the falls beyond certain points).

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2. McAfee’s Knob

This is one of the most photographed sites along the entire Appalachian Trail and for good reason. It’s a relatively substantial hike (about 5-ish miles one way) that is well worth all the effort involved. The iconic knob doesn’t disappoint, and neither do the channel-like rock mazes you can explore at the hike’s summit.

Be aware of its popularity and don’t expect to enjoy the hike alone, but if you’re not afraid of a decent hike and some crazy heights, give this one a go.

3. Sharp Top Mountain

This 3-mile-round-trip hike is popular, and for good reason. It’s an intense walk up, including many steep inclines and a whole lot of stairs, but the 360-degree view you get at the top will take your breath away. You can see for miles in every direction on the top of Sharp Top Mountain. Even on cloudy days, you won’t be disappointed with the view.

You’ll never hike this one alone, though, thanks to its popularity. In fact, you just might end up going with a team of 100+ middle/high-school students by accident because everyone loves this hike.

4. The Channels

I haven’t written a post about this one, but I will, because it was fun. Before exploring this site, I thought you had to head well out West to wander through any sort of canyons, but this maze proved me wrong! While it’s nothing like the Grand Canyon or Angels landing, it’s a fun, alternative option for Virginia.

It’s a relatively long though not entirely difficult hike that rewards you with a maze of sand canyons to explore (and play Marco-Polo in, of course). If you’re looking for something different, give this relatively unknown spot a go.

(I’ll write a post about it eventually, maybe.)

5. The Blue Ridge Parkway

I’ve talked about the Parkway a bit. I think it’s lovely. Virginia has mountains and this is one of the places it gets showcased best. It runs over 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, linking the Shenandoah National Park with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are tons of hikes (Devils Marbleyard, Apple Orchard Falls, Humpback Rocks, just to name a few) along this road, as well as outlooks and pitstops galore.

It’s a beautiful drive in the autumn with all the changing colors, in the spring and summer for ideal hiking and waterfall-swimming, and even in the winter, it displays its hidden treasures. You’ll get a good feel for Virginia if you give the Parkway a try.

 

So there’s my list! What’s yours?

I like wind.

Once, a friend asked me what my favorite aspect of nature was and that was it: The Wind. Maybe it’s changed by now (how do you narrow it down, honestly? water, sunsets, thunderstorms, snowflakes, lily pads, fire–there can’t be a favorite), but wind is definitely high on the Favorites List.

Think about it.

On a hot or humid day, you want a tall glass of water and more wind. On a mountaintop, you stretch out your arms to breathe in fresh air and feel the wind. Bungee jumping or skydiving, you remember the thrill of the wind (I do, at least).

Wind is great.

But are bungee jumping and skydiving great?

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Bungee Jumping

Noah and I drove all the way to Canada because the bungee jumping is better there. There are a few places to bungee jump in the US (I hear there’s a big tower you can jump off in Seattle?), but Canada really does it right.

And we went for the rightest: Great Canadian Bungee with the highest jump in all of Canada at a whopping 200ft. (Why does Canada measure it’s bungee jumping height in feet when everything else is measured in meters? To attract Americans like me, I can only imagine.) While waiting is absolutely the worst, the trip was entirely worthwhile.

Here are some things to know ahead of time:

  • Wear shoes that tie and fit well so that you’re shoes don’t fly off when you bounce. I’m not saying that happened to me, but I’ve heard stories.
  • Be prepared to arrive early and wait. Arriving early is important (because you’ll have to fill out waivers), but you will end up waiting a little while for your turn.
  • Obviously, if you hate heights, this sport isn’t for you. If you love heights, you still might feel your heart beating in your ears. Jump anyway.
  • If you go in Canada, don’t expect to understand 100% of what’s said–unless you speak French. Because they speak French. Get it?
  • Don’t think about the fall, think about your jump. There is a jumping technique to ensure a smooth experience (much like diving into a normal pool), and everything else will follow easily. Ask the instructor and they’ll (probably) help you. (Believe it or not, I spent the entire time worrying about my jumping technique and not the actual fall. A proper dive was WAY more intimidating to me than falling 200ft. I’m sure that’s normal.)
  • If you “can’t jump,” they’ll probably help you. It’s okay, they’re Canadian, so they’re nice.
  • You should go more than once. 🙂

Conclusion? Bungee jumping is great.

Skydiving

Noah and I went skydiving the day after we got back from Iceland. I found some crazy well-priced (cheap) vouchers on Groupon (you should check there, too) for DC’s Skydiving Center and snatched them up pretty much right away. I’d always wanted to go skydiving and this seemed as good a time as any.

First off, I’d definitely recommend DC Skydiving Center for a first jump. It looked nothing like what I expected pulling up (more on the modest then exotic side), but the staff was outstanding and made it a positively fantastic experience.

Second off, did you know that if a couple shows up to skydive, the majority of the time it was the woman’s idea? (What guy is gonna back out when his girl suggests skydiving, I guess. It’s a fun fact.)

Here are some other things you should know:

  • Skydiving is one of the safest sports, with one of the absolute lowest fatality and injury rates (soccer is more dangerous, mom).
  • It doesn’t matter if the plane wing has duct tape holding it on because as long as your parachute works, you’re fine!
  • Your skydiving instructor might tell you this is his second (third, fourth, fifth, blah blah blah) jump ever. They’re lying. They’re trying to scare you. You have to jump way more than that to be certified…maybe.
  • While you free-fall for a few glorious seconds, your cheeks might touch your ears (not really, but you get the idea). It’s great. Don’t take off your goggles or maybe your eyes will touch your ears, too (I made that up).
  • They’ll handle everything. You just gotta relax and enjoy it. They might give you the parachute handles for you to do some donuts, but really–they got this.
  • Don’t jump in the same place twice. Mix it up. Try new places. A new location is a new experience (Hawaii skydiving is on my bucket list because I heard you might be able to see whales. Just sayin’).

Conclusion? Skydiving is great.

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Ultimate Conclusion

Obviously, these two sports aren’t for everyone.

Obviously, there is the risk of injury to them both.

If you’re wary or worried but want to give one a go, try skydiving first. It’s a lot easier because you have someone going with you and you don’t have to convince yourself to jump. If you’re confident and determined, however…then do both.

 

It’s been a minute!

Everyone tells you that you get a lot busier once you get married, but I really didn’t believe them (and I still don’t entirely believe them because life is always busy, so what’s the difference in time just because you made your over-the-top crush legal?). Here we are, though, three months into being married and busyness is a real thing–but it’s honestly not the only thing.

Truth is, LOTS has happened besides the traditional I-Dos (and maybe I’ll write about it, but what are the chances of that, really?). This is me trying to ground my feet again inside the whirlwind of events called “life” (married or unmarried).

So, I’m trying this new thing. I know I’ve talked about thankfulness, contentment, and perspective before, but like any selfish brat, I tend to forget about it and start living my life like it’s all about me again–which is all fun and invigorating, until your will gets crossed, or you get laid off, or your car gets totaled (are these examples from my life or my imagination? Gosh, sounds like a story, doesn’t it?).  So, I’m doing this thing where I learn from my own life and try to actually take lessons from it (I’m old enough to do that now; isn’t that cool?).

Check out a few things I maybe now possibly think…

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#1: Show More Grace (and Don’t Take it Personally)

Your friend is being a jerk. You didn’t get an invite to the beach weekend and it looks like a blast in all their social stories. A stranger made you mad. Your coworker sucks, you can’t land the right job, you keep seeing people (and yourself) making the same mistakes over and over and over again. And it makes you (insert typical emotion here).

Okay, so, chill, bruh.

It’s human nature to want to correct things that aren’t exactly right. It’s human nature to be offended when something doesn’t go the way you want it to go. It’s human nature to snap at something that hurt you.

But so, so often these reactions are a waste of time. You’re angry, or sad, or downright livid, and while you have a right to your feelings, acting on them irrationally tends to do more harm than good. You may be surprised at what a deep breath, a clear head, and an unwillingness to take things personally can do for you. Give grace regardless of receiving it, and shake off the bad stuff.

#2: Money Isn’t Worth Much

Ever since you’re a kid you’re supposed to know what you want to do to make money (what do you wanna be when you grow up?). You’re expected to have a plan of the money-making kind, and while it’s realistic to seek out a way to provide for yourself, it’s imbalanced to place all your efforts into making big money as fast as possible.

Here’s my take of it… Experience trumps money. Plentiful memories outweigh massive paychecks. A good, happy life is worth far more than a rich one with fancy materials.

I absolutely believe you should work hard, do well, and constantly seek ways to improve yourself and your life. I think you should make money, spend it wisely, and provide for yourself and your family. But how much more could you accomplish if you realized that beyond the basics, money isn’t all that great? Build memories, and don’t be afraid to use your bank account to do so.

 

#3 Life Won’t Go Your Way–So Work Hard and Enjoy the Ride

If you’re a control freak about your life, then, of course, you’re going to be heckin’ upset when something happens that you, A) didn’t expect, B) outright didn’t want, or C) wasn’t your first choice. Life happens. Make room for that in your organization. It’s okay if you get lost and end up being thirty minutes late. It’s okay if you have to buy new tires for your car instead of on new clothes. It’s okay if you lose your big-money job and have to “downgrade” until you find something better.

Stop judging your life, and stop judging other people’s lives. Enjoy what you have. It’s a gift.

 

That’s all, folks. Maybe I’ll write again soon.

By the way, here are links to my wedding photographer, baker, florist, and coordinator. 10/10 recommend them all.

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