Category Archives: Uncategorized

The dark side of Airbnb

There is a dark side to Airbnb that no one talks about. Airbnb is a modern reinvention of of ancient custom. In ancient times hotels didn’t exist. In the middle east traveler’s would wait in public squares to see if anyone invited them into their home for the night.
Airbnb has many pluses. It cuts lodging costs tremendously, especially in exclusive tourist areas. It’s a great way for homeowners to earn extra money. And it connects like minded souls reviving the age old tradition of hospitality.
What could the downside be you ask? Well, Airbnb raises rent prices and displaces locals. How does this happen? Homeowners prefer to rent their homes to holiday makers for far more money then a local could pay in monthly rent. This creates a housing shortage for residents as more people prefer to cater to vacationers. Rent prices increase in the competitive market. As a result locals who can’t afford the increased prices are displaced and must move farther out of city centers and other prime locations causing longer commute times or in some cased complete relocation. Hotels have zoning laws and restrictions, but anyone who qualifies can list their home on the Internet. This gives perspective renters one more reason to be disgruntled with tourists who are unaware of the everyday struggles. Of course, more places to rent means more tourists and more money brought into the local community. I am currently staying with a single mother in Cadiz who is able to rent out one of her rooms. For her the extra income is greatly appreciated. For me a clean, budget friendly room enables me to travel just that much longer.
What are your thoughts on Airbnb? I would love to hear your comments in the section below.

Traveling with chronic health problems

Have you ever been so tired that you couldn’t think? Couldn’t talk? Couldn’t feed yourself?
I’ve been too tired to pee before. I just layed in my bed for almost 48 straight hours, holding it in because it was too much effort to move.
From birth I’ve always had some health problems (my poor parents), but I managed them, and lived a relatively normal life. When I was in my early 20’s  I had an unrelenting ambition to do something with my life and help others. I moved to Belize and worked as a volunteer teacher, helping the deaf and their families learn to communicate through American Sign Language. I would volunteer at local schools who had deaf students and help them with their studies. It’s strange for me to look back on how young I was when I was holding workshops and instructing teachers about deaf culture.
My friends and I would make private visits to homes as well. One of the goals was to help the whole family be able to communicate better. As a Jehovah’s Witness I was able to share a lot of bible principles and truths with the families as well. It was amazing to watch the transformation as deaf children went from throwing tantrums and being abused to being happy, productive individuals with self worth.
Those were the most rewarding years of my life, but also the most exhausting. The schedule was relentless and the conditions were very hard (I was living in the jungle after all). Sadly, after four years laboring in love I had to return home too spent to continue.
Some people attribute my poor health to third world living conditions, but I had pre-existing conditions before I went as I already mentioned. If anything the fault is mine. I wore my self ragged doing what I love more than anything else in the world. Americans living on the mainland burn out every day. I’m sure if I had found something in the States that consumed me the way volunteer work did in Belize I could have wore myself down just as much in the continental US.
I won’t bore you with the lengthy list of health problems I have. I’m pretty sure I’ve already bored you with this sob story. The sad result of my youthful ‘folly’ is that I’m pretty much confined to living in the developed world. Well, at least for now.
It’s not  even close to an exaggeration when I say my heart was broken and continues to be broken everyday when I think of the life I had to give up and the families I had to leave behind. Fortunately I’m a determined person. I’ve struggled to move on, to keep living, and traveling in spite my new circumstances.

Traveling with Limitations

There has always been an unspoken phobia in the back of mind that I don’t want to be labeled by what I can’t do. The truth is it takes incredible strength to fight for your dreams in spite of limitations.

The hardest part has been learning modesty. Its hard to know your limits. I struggle with extreme fatigue, which means I can only do a few things each day. Or if I pull a marathon day then I break the energy bank and need at least 24 hours of virtually not moving to recuperate. This means I have to plan ahead of time, based on activities how much energy I will have. If I keep a trip to 5 ‘normal’ energy days I might make it back home before I crash. For longer trips I have to plan a crash day every 4 or 5 days where I do absolutely nothing. After particularly strenuous adventures I budget in a nicer hotel with room service because literally I’m so fatigued I can barely answer the door.
In order to conserve energy every aspect of my life has been streamlined. I have to budget my time carefully so I don’t burn out. There are no lengthy beauty routines. I sleep late and go to bed early. Modesty means that what you can do on a 7 day vacation takes me at least 14.
I’m not telling you all of this to be depressing. Actually, my motivation is completely the opposite. In spite of severe auto-immune issues that have affected and turned upside down nearly every aspect of my life during the last four years, amazing things have been accomplished. Just in terms of travel I have spent 3 months in Australia, 2 weeks in New Zealand. I have been back to Belize and Guatemala to visit friends at least twice for a minimum of a month each visit. You’ll notice I take my time when traveling. The 10 day blitz trip I spent in Europe almost killed me.

During the last four years, I lived in Hawaii for 1.5 years, where I visited the 6 main islands.  I spent 10 days in British Columbia, another 10 on an east coast road trip, and another on a west coast, cross country road trip.While I know this list is not as impressive as a lot of other serious travelers, realistically it’s not too bad for someone who spends at least half their day in bed.
The point of this rambling story is that with sufficient motivation almost anything can be accomplished.
I work really hard at taking care of my fragile body, because my mind is incredibly ambitious. I hope this helps people realize they can attain their dreams too. That if they try hard they can still do amazing things with their life in spite of limitations. I had to reexamine, rearrange and reset my priorities in order to continue living the life I wanted to be known for.

 

5 Unbelievable Photos of Lake Michigan

 

After living in Maui for a year and a half I was worried about returning to Traverse City, Michigan where my family is from. Most of the time when I tell people where I grew up I receive a lot of sympathy and condolences.

The biggest surprise that greeted me was Lake Michigan. I love the ocean, and mountains, and waterfalls of Hawaii. So I was surprised how happy I was to be in West Bays tranquil waters once again. There is just something so reassuring about knowing your not paddle boarding with sharks or struggling against killer currents. The cheaper cost of living makes it easier to afford a boat, or a kayak or a paddle board or all three in my case. So while a piece of my heart will always be with my good friends in Maui here are 5 pictures that helped heal the heartbreak of returning to the mainland.

An Insider’s Guide to The Village at Grand Traverse

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Do you have a love of historic buildings and entertaining backstories? The Village at Grand Traverse is an active restoration site of the old state mental hospital. Now turned foodie heaven, a day at The Commons includes boutique shopping, gourmet cuisine, and educational tours. Here are a few of my favorite stops for your next summer trip to Northern Michigan.

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Spanglish

Seriously good Mexican, I mean seriously, arguably the best  and most authentic, flavorful Mexican you can get in Northern Michigan. Spanglish holds a special places in most locals hearts.

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Left Foot Charley

Want some wine with your Mexican cuisune? Left Foot Charley’s is just a few steps away from Spanglish and readily accepts outside food to pair with their local selection of wines.

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Higher Grounds

Not only can you order one of the best tasting mugs of coffee you can also buy one of the freshest. Roasted on site Higher Grounds is a local favorite used by many of the local coffee shops and carried in a many of Traverse Cities local stores. So even if you can’t go into Higher Grounds and try their coffee on location make sure you pick up a pound from the grocery store before you head home. I have friends in Central America where the beans are sourced that send me requests to ship them Higher Grounds coffee. That’s how good their roasts are. My favorite is Maya Magic espresso, but Guatemalan beans will always taste like home to me.

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Markets

Schedule varies by season so check online before heading out to buy local made products fresh from distributors. The market is a great place to chat with friendly locals about what’s happening in the area.

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The Underground Cheesecake Company

Called the cheesecake factory by locals. The café sells wonderful wraps, local goods, and Moomer’s ice cream. It’s conveniently located amongst some of the trendiest boutiques in building 50 also called the Mercato.

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Cuppa Joe

Vintage charm at its best. A brunch favorite, Cuppa Joe is located in the 60’s remodel section of building 50 but will eventually be restored to match the rest of the original building.

 

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Silver Fox Jewelry

A personal favorite, Silver Fox Jewelry sells local made products at affordable prices. Go in and check out their lovely and unique selection, including pieces made by me. Just ask for work done by Amanda Tiffany.

 

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The Historic Barns

A rustic chic location for a wedding or other venue, the inside of The Historic Barns has been beautifully restored. The outside is connected to the Botanical Gardens and Pavilion making it an excellent family photo opportunity.

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Botanical Gardens

A large undertaking contributed to by many Grand Traverse volunteers is the local botanical gardens. Adjoining buildings to the commons have been remodeled and repurposed to feature the beautiful area to full advantage. Highlights include a historic cistern fountain, innovative green roof, and labyrinth. The restored buildings are a fusion of modern innovation and repurposed elements from the old state hospital.

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Trails

There are extensive trails running behind Commons that can be accessed via trailheads clearly marked along the woods edge. trails include hilltop views and quant streams.

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Historic Tours

For 25.00 historic tours of condemned portions of the old state hospital can be viewed. This is a great tour for those who are obsessed with Traverse City back in the day.

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The Tunnels

The best part of the Historic Tour listed above is a visit to the old steam tunnels that run under the old state hospital and toward Munson Medical Center.

Make sure to let me know what your favorite UP North location is in the comments below. I’m going to try and feature some of the best locations in Grand Traverse and Leelanau County in the upcoming months.

The Covert Clip Security Wallet

Covert Clip

This is an affiliate post for the Covert Clip security wallet. The Covert Clip offers wearers peace of mind from pickpockets an identity theft.  I took mine to Europe and Central America where the threat of theft can be an ever nagging thought in the back of your mind. The Covert Clip rests comfortably on the inside your pants waistline making passports, credit cards, and other small valuables inaccessible to theft. The Covert clip is RFID blocking which helps prevent identity theft and is made from a sturdy leather like material.

Covert Clip Black
“If they can’t see it, they can’t steal it.” My personal preference is to keep a small amount of cash or one credit card and ID in my front pocket and leave my passport and other cards safety tucked away in the Covert Clip so no one will ever know they are there.

The Covert Clip Women's
The covert clip comes in both classic black and a stylish geometric print. An included adjustable strap comes with the women’s covert clip (geometric pattern) making it possible to wear it around the waist or as a clutch worn over the shoulder.

The covert Clip Interior
Individual pockets inside the Covert Clip neatly divide keys and cards from passport or iPhone (my Samsung Galaxy is too big to fit). The dividers add reinforcement and durability to the product. The clips securing your valuables to your clothing are solid and well constructed as well so there is no fear of detachment.

Covert Clip
I was provided with a sample of the Covert Clip pictured above in both black and geometric.  I loaned the security wallet out to fellow travelers so they could test it out for themselves. Everyone who tested out the Covert Clip said it was comfortable and easily accessible. You can order your own security wallet from the link below.

Use my promo code DEAL10 to receive 10% off your purchase.

www.alpsgear.co.uk

 

How to spend 7 Days in British Columbia

My Route
My Route

Vancouver

Vancouver is beautiful. It’s a great city if you like the outdoors. Local residents are diverse and athletic. I visited in the fall. If your looking for a mixture of nature and architecture here are my top 4 recommendations.

VanDusen Gardens
VanDusen Gardens

VanDusen gardens is 55 acres of plants from all over the world including ponds, waterfalls, and a small maze. The sculptures and architecture is modern and interesting. Named after philanthropist Whitford Julian VanDusen the gardens have been open since 1975.

Granville Island is a must. It’s filled with cute shops. Great water and mountain views intermingle with interesting architecture. Granville island is a popular destination and parking can be a challenge so I suggest getting an early start to beat the crowd.

Downtown Vancouver is a great merger of fantastic architecture and harbor views. I have always been a fan of the fusion between God’s creation and the creation of man. Vancouver is an ideal city to experience the contrasts between hard lines and organic shapes.

Stanley Park, BC
Stanley Park, BC

Stanley Park is a world renowned park with excellent views of downtown Vancouver and Lions gate bridge. At over 1,000 acres there is a lot to see including an aquarium. The only downside of Stanley park and most other British Colombia attractions is paid parking. If you visit enough different sites the parking fees start to add up and it can be hard to find spots where parking is free.

North Vancouver

Capilano suspension bridge
Capilano suspension bridge

Capilano suspension bridge costs more then I wanted at $37.50, but that’s because your ticket includes the suspension bridge, cliff walk, and tree top bridges. All of which require considerable operating expenses. I can’t say I was impressed, it was more developed then I was imagining but the pictures I took here turned out fantastic and look far more rugged then how the actual excursion felt.

Grouse Mountain Gondola
Grouse Mountain Gondola

Avoid the gondola ride at Grouse Mountain, the views are good but the ride is grossly overpriced. There is another gondola in Squamish on the drive to Whistler that offers equally fantastic views at half the price.

Whistler

Go to Whistler! The drive alone is worth it. The views are amazing. Train and grey hound buses are available for alternative transportation. Food and activities in Canada cost considerably more than in the US, but hotels in the off season are ridiculously cheap. I paid $63.00 one night for a room with 2 beds, a fireplace, a jacuzzi, a full kitchen, wifi, and a kurieg machine. An amazing room that costs almost $300.00 a night during peak season. I was planning on sleeping in my car but with rooms as little as $50.00 in the off season how can you resist.

Vancouver Island

Horseshoe Bay, BC
Horseshoe Bay, BC

The ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Naniamo was pleasant but the views aren’t that spectacular compared to the drive up the coast to Whistler. The drive from Naniamo was ugly and rainy the day I drove it. I’m not sure how it looks in the sunshine.

Bushart Gardens, BC
Butchart Gardens, BC

Butchart gardens is a must for any landscaping enthusiast. The Japanese gardens are spectacular in the autumn season.

Sidney, BC
Sidney, BC

Sidney is a cute little town with interesting architecture. I spent the night here before heading taking the ferry the through the San Juan Islands

Victoria

Chinatown, Victoria
Chinatown, Victoria

Down town Victoria has wonderful architecture. Chinatown has some cute shops to explore. The restaurants and coffee shops are good. Victoria’s lakeshore is worthy of a leisurely afternoon stroll.

San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands
San Juan Islands

Whatever you do don’t take the ferry through San Juan Islands if you are returning to Canada. I thought it would be pleasant diversion as Washington islands are so famous. The ferry ride is fabulous, but now that Marajuana is legal in WA I got stopped and searched at the border. The patrol lady was crazy rude and treated me like a criminal despite a lack of evidence. They even searched my socks. They said my behavior was highly suspicious even though I hadn’t done anything slightly suspicious so the moral of the story is take the Swartz ferry to Vancouver. Sometimes it’s not worth it to take road less traveled.

Tips:

Bushart Gardens, BC
Bushart Gardens, BC

Autumn is the perfect time to visit British Columbia. It’s the off season and prices are cheaper. Shorter days meant that after 3 the lighting isn’t great for photos. Even sunsets at 6pm come out more dreary than colorful.
While in British Columbia I walked and average of the 6 to 10 miles a day. There is just so much stuff to see. For October the weather was perfect almost 60 and sunny. It rained mostly at night, although a couple of days were bitterly damp. There were so many urban sites to see I was too tired to do any strenuous hikes.
For shorter trips I would focus on Vancouver and Whistler as they have the most variety of activities and fantastic views.

Why Visiting Bristish Colombia is a Must

Bushart Gardens, BC
Bushart Gardens, BC

The People.

Yes, I know it sounds cliche, but Canada has exceptionally polite citizens. You can engage almost anyone who speaks English in polite conversation. British Columbia has the friendliest customs agents (WA State Border Patrol Excluded) they were fast, efficient, even apologetic. I remember once flying back into the USA I thought I had accidentally broken the law and was gonna get arrested just because one customs officer was having a bad day.

Maui is wonderful and for the most part the aloha runs free, but being a haole on the “valley isle” comes with a certain amount of “stink eye” as my friends call it. Vancouver on the other hand is extremely ethnically diverse. Everywhere you walk your ears are bombarded with different accents and dialects. It fosters an air of acceptance and anonymity. I hate feeling like I stick out. My only complaint is a complement of sorts, for a big city everyone stares and talks to you. I had one homeless man tell me I had a million dollar smile. On another occasion a Jamaican Jazz player stopped mid song to tell me I was gorgeous and deserved a rich white man. It took me a while to adjust to this, but if you embrace it, everyone has fantastic ideas for where to stay, what to see, and where to eat.

Canada’s amazing tourist bureau runs specials in late October that include low fares and cheap hotels. I’m an extremely cautious traveler. The best part about solo female travel to Vancouver is that you feel safe, it fosters such a relaxing environment, I felt free to wander around its many parks and downtown areas, pumpkin spice latte in hand. I would highly recommend it for anyone needing a few days to get away. The “solitude” was the much needed recharge that I was seeking.

Grouse Mountain, BC
Grouse Mountain, BC