What is PCOS?

One of my biggest goals over the last 9 months has been trying to understand my body. I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 14. In the past I have gone YEARS without a period. It seems despite my best efforts, no matter what I do I cannot lose weight. For a long time the only thing doctors told me would help was weightloss, but how do we lose weight when our bodies want to pack on the pounds??

What is PCOS anyway? PCOS is a hormonal disorder in women leading to facial hair, acne, weight gain, hair loss or thinning (on scalp), infertility, painful and irregular periods, abdominal pains and so much more. It also has been linked to anxiety & depression.

Living with PCOS (or Piece of Shit as my husband likes to call it) is a struggle. Waking up everyday you never know if you will have energy or not. How many chin hairs do you need to pluck? wax? shave? Our self-esteem seems to always be at an all time low. Not only do many women suffering from this disease have to struggle with self confidence but infertility is a big hurtle that many times is barely even touched on. Add in that depression and anxiety that comes with PCOS and you have a perfect storm.

I have struggled with the symptoms for many years, ever since my diagnosis I have slowly packed on the pounds over the years. With a few nutrition classes from college under my belt, a certification in medical assisting, and a bachelors degree in biological sciences I want to test some of my own theories and see for myself what works for us and what doesn’t.

If you type PCOS into google search millions of pages will pop up, some of these are scientifically based studies, others are blogs from women who preach diet and weightless strategies with PCOS. I’ve tried many different strategies throughout the years, but I have never really stuck to anything. Do these diets/workouts/old wives tales really have any merit to them??

THE EXPERIMENT:

Over the next 12 months I am going to give myself one challenge per month and see for myself if any of these theories have actual science and truth backing them. I’ll be discussing the controls and variables to each experiment and sharing my documentation in real time through this blog.

We will explore the Keto diet, Low Carb diets, & the Mediterranean diet as well as different combinations of strength, cardio, and low impact workouts to see what balance works for me. I may also explore essential oil combinations, acupuncture, tongue scraping, meditations and natural supplements. If you have PCOS I encourage you to try the experiments along with me and share your results in the comments.

I will keep a diary of the food I ate, how I feel, and what exercises I did that day.

At the end of every month I will be answering the following 10 questions regarding my experience:

  1. did I get my period? / am I pregnant?
  2. how many breakouts do I have? what zones are they in?
  3. weight
  4. measurements
  5. is the hair on my chin course or fine?
  6. Am I losing chunks of hair or experiencing minimal hair loss?
  7. do I have energy or am I lethargic?
  8. What diet did I follow?
  9. What was my weekly exercise routine?
  10. what new supplements and natural remedies did I try?

The Controls:
I will be consistently using Slim & Sassy EO from DOTERRA used topically.
Daily Medications: Metformin 850mg BID | 4,000 IU Vitamin D3 | 1 prenatal vitamin
Drink at least half my body weight in water everyday.

My Hypothesis: PCOS can be cured through a specific combination of diet, exercise, and eastern & western medicine when following a regimen tailored to your body.

My 10 questions answered prior to starting the experiment:

  1. I did not get my period & I am not pregnant
  2. Minimal breakouts, mainly in the T-zone
  3. 215 lbs
  4. High waist: 34in
    R Bicep 15.75in
    R Thigh: 25.5 in
    Hips: 47.5 in
  5. chin hair: course and thick
  6. losing medium amount of hair off scalp daily.
  7. I am energized
  8. balanced diet per HHS.gov & 2000 calories per day
  9. yoga 3-5 times per week, cardio 2 times per week, strength 1 times per week
  10. None

Do these diets really work? Will I feel better in one year or will I learn that my disease cannot be beaten? Let’s fucking beat this.

Cheers to a healthier future, PCOS babes! xo

-Gabby

Five Types of Suitcases You Absolutely Must Have

Different trips call for different luggage. Here are a few suitcases I own that I adore and how I decide which I will use:

  1. Duffel bag. An overnight bag is like a little black dress for travelers. Everyone should have at least one. I like to use a duffel bag for this, I have three different ones. The key is to find one that has enough storage space as well as pockets on the inside and out to fit everything you need and keep it organized. In addition you can also use a large back pack or oversized purse.
  2. 15″ rolling under the seat luggage. For longer weekend trips, whether you are driving somewhere nearby, or flying out on business, a small rolling suitcase that can fit under an airplane seat is my favorite thing in the world. It is slightly smaller than carry on bags and fits under all airplane seats. Brandon and I both have one for short trips back to NJ to visit our families. The suitcase is roomy enough to fit everything we need yet compact enough to fit on smaller commercial airlines.
  3. Standard carry-on rolling bag. If you are like me and need to bring 3 pairs of shoes on every trip longer than 24 hours, the standard sized rolling bag is a great addition to your luggage collection. One reason I love this is because a standard sized commercial aircraft has room above your seat to store these. Modern technology has made me so lazy. I only fly on airlines I can check in from my phone so I can skip the lines at the gate. Very rarely do I ever check a bag. I hate standing in lines with people who don’t know how to navigate an airport or hardly ever fly. I am inpatient and love being able to get out of my car and walk directly to security so I can grab my Starbucks and relax once I get to the gate.  I hate standing in baggage claim waiting for airport employees to unload the plane and get me my luggage. I’ve also seen one too many suitcases lost or contents stolen in airports. If I can keep my possessions with me at all times I am a happy gal.
  4. Large sized luggage. Buy a nice large luggage bag with a good lock, and don’t skip out on the toiletry bag. When I am going on longer vacations like when we were in Hawaii for 2 weeks, I like to bring a large enough suitcase that I have everything I would need for one week including shoes. You’ll have to check your bag, unless you are lucky enough to live near an airport with curbside check in. In addition, you will need to stand around and wait for your luggage to get off the plane and you’ll run the risk of items being stolen. As long as you are careful, have a good lock on your bag, and pack smart you should be alright. Finger crossed and let’s hope that everything makes it home with you! Luggage sets are nice because they are usually roomy are made well, and come in a matching set which makes it easier to spot on the conveyer belt.
  5. Laptop bag. If you’re like me you’ll want to bring your laptop on the flight with you. I have a laptop bag in the form of a backpack which I found on Amazon. There is a ton of cushion so your laptop doesn’t get damaged and they are really nice and well made. I own the HFSX Vintage Laptop Backpack. You can buy ones with built in phone chargers and a place to store your phone, keys, wallet, and passport. Plus, it will fit under your seat.

Geniuspack.com is my favorite place to shop for luggage. They have great luggage that makes travel easy and organizing natural. Their hard side carryon is amazing. You can also find packing tips and lots of travel related gear other than luggage. You can all of the above INCLUDING universal travel adapters which work in 150 different countries. Another great thing to do if you can invest is to buy a luggage set that includes all of the pieces above. You will save money in the long run and everything will match (if you have OCD like me than that’s really important). Don’t forget to comment below with links to your favorite pieces of luggage and why.

 

Happy travels!

50 Quotes to Fill Your Wanderlust

  1. “This gypsy heart just needs to wander. Wander to undiscovered mountains and caves that guard the mysteries of this world. I will upturn every stone, I will drive through the darkest seas, just to discover the secrets that were only meant for me” -Chrissie Pinney
  2. “Jobs will fill your pocket, adventures will fill your soul”
  3. “I have an insane calling to be where I’m not”
  4. “Escape and breathe the air of new places”
  5. “There is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this”
  6. “I travel because I need to… because my wild, adventurous spirit can’t live according to the “norm.” I travel to regroup, to reinvent myself, to be the best me I can be, to find joy in the ordinary and peace in exploring. I travel to be.”
  7. “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”
  8. “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” – Jane Austen
  9. “Once the travel bug bits there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happy infected until the end of my life.” -Michael Palin
  10. “A mind stretched by new experience can never go back to it’s old dimensions”
  11. “But the world is calling, and I must go hear what it has to say”.
  12. “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” -Anita Desai
  13. “Travel sparks our imagination, feeds our curiosity and reminds us how much we all have in common.” – Deborah Lloyd
  14. “Because in the end you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” -Jack Kerouac
  15. “A person susceptible to wanderlust is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.” -Pico Iyer
  16. “Travel brings power and love back into your life.” -Rumi
  17. “If we were meant to stay in one place we would have roots instead of feet”
  18. “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
  19. “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” -Susan Sontag
  20. “One travels to run away from routine. That dreadful routine that kills all imagination and all our capacity for enthusiasm.” -Ella Maillart
  21. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” -Lin Yutang
  22. “Travel, not to find yourself but to remember who you have been all along”
  23. “‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. You live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen non percent of.” -Louis C.K. “
  24. “The best education you will ever get is traveling. Nothing teaches you more than exploring the world and accumulating experiences.”
  25. “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on. the other side of the world” -Mary Anne Radmacher
  26. “Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.”
  27. “Traveling makes one modest, you see the tiny space you occupy in the world. -Gustave Flaubert
  28. “I would gladly live out of a suitcase if it meant I could see the world.”
  29. “The world is too big to stay in one place, and life is too short to do just one thing.”
  30. “If happiness is the goal, and it should be, then adventures should be top priority.” -Richard Branson
  31. “Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.” -Timothy Ferriss
  32. “The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” -Agnes Repplier
  33. “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all, the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” -Randy Komisar
  34. “My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” Diane Arbus
  35. “Travel. Because money returns, time doesn’t.”
  36. “I travel because it makes me realize how much I haven’t seen, how much I’m not going to see, and how much I still need to see.”
  37. “Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying “I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” -Lisa St. Aubin de Teran
  38. “Life is meant for spectacular adventures. Let your feet wander, your eyes marvel, and your soul ignite.”
  39. “When one door closes pack your bags and go where there are no doors.”
  40. “Traveling; it gives you home in a thousand strange places, then leaves you a stranger in your own land. -Ibn Batutta
  41. “Please understand, I have been waiting to leave ever since I figured out that there were roads willing to take me anywhere I wanted to go.”
  42. “Live your life by a compass, not a clock.”
  43. “I travel not to cross countries off a list, but to ignite passionate affairs with destinations.”
  44. “Don’t be the person who is ‘too busy’ when you’re young and ‘too tired’ when you’re old”
  45. “Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money ever will be.”
  46. “Take only memories, leave only footprints.”
  47. “Travel opens your heart, broadens your mind, and fills your life with stories to tell.” -Paula Bendfeldt
  48. “Cover the earth before it covers you.” -Dagobert D. Runes
  49. “If you think adventure is dangerous try routine; it’s lethal.” -Paulo Coleho
  50. “If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.” – Patrick Rothfuss

I Deleted My Facebook For 7 Days

Ok, so I am definitely straying a bit from my brand with this, BUT I think it is somewhat connected to this suddenly popular travel/nomad lifestyle. Every single person with a social media account should be able to relate.

Welcome to the 21st century! It has become completely normal to have everything including your dirty laundry hung out to dry on the internet. What would be absolutely terrifying to someone in 1901, is now the social norm. In fact, people who aren’t using social media are laughed at, and seldom taken seriously.

I tried something. I deleted my Facebook for 7 days. That’s nothing, I know, but I realized how much of our lives depend on social media now.  Here is what I discovered:

  1. The most common source of all news is Facebook.
  2. A HUGE amount of human interaction nowadays takes place on Facebook.
  3. I had less anxiety and depression and it actually cured a lot of my insecurities for the 7 days I disconnected.
  4. People are more likely to look at their phone than have a conversation with someone sitting across the table, or on the other side of the couch.
  5. Being without social media is lonely.

I was back on Facebook the second my week was over. I of course have some excuses as to why, BUT really none of that matters. One of the things I noticed more than anything was that I felt extremely lonely. I realized that I have isolated myself and my friendships are superficial, because it’s only through a screen. I realized Brandon and I spend more time on our phones looking at a newsfeed than we do talking to each other, doing things together, or just interacting at all.

It’s a catch-22 though. I feel less alone on my social media accounts, but the second all of that is taken away I realize how alone I really am. Everything revolves around taking the best photo to post on Instagram or Facebook. Downloading the newest apps like boomerang, or Tik-Tok to just keep up with everyone else, but is keeping up with everyone else really helping?

Travel blogs and other travel accounts are always so inspirational, and I get how hypocritical this is coming from someone who writes about travel themselves, but it’s also seriously depressing. A lot of people don’t know how to save money traveling and can’t afford to travel due to personal circumstances, and I think that is awful. Everyone should be able to travel. Don’t even get me started on the price of plane tickets, because it’s a rip off.

As a healthcare worker I have noticed 3 things in my short time working in a primary care clinic. Depression is an epidemic. Whether it is related to social media or not, the majority of the population feels inadequate and terrible about themselves and their lives. I can’t help but feel that addiction to social media plays at least a small part in this. Two years ago we were not screening for suicide unless a patient came in for depression or mentioned it during a visit. Today, more and more clinics are starting to screen at every single visit, and you know what? More and more people are being diagnosed with crippling depression and many people have SI (suicidal ideations).

Taking a break from my Facebook account even though it was only for a week, opened my eyes and showed me that there is so much more than just flexing about your life on social media or playing into everyone else doing the same. The truth is, what people post is a very small part of their lives and many people are hiding their sadness behind selfies of themselves and photos of them out partying with friends every night.

This experiment was very personal to me. I have been struggling with my own depression related to my self image as well as some other personal health struggles. I disassociate myself from my friends, my family and my husband frequently. Depression is very real for me and social media is a huge trigger. Seeing everyone else posting happy, perfect family photographs is hard to swallow. There are nights I don’t sleep and days I sleep for over 18 hours. There are days I go without eating and days I eat everything in sight. There are weeks I feel like I can take on the world and weeks I feel like a zombie just going through the motions with no feeling.

Deleting Facebook helped me regroup, rethink my future and look at things in a more positive light. Deleting Facebook for 7 days in no way cured my depression, but it made me feel like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

I want to urge everyone to deactivate your Facebook occasionally, even if only for a day here and there. If you don’t want to deactivate you can always delete it off your phone for a while and just spend time with the people around you. Go out on a date with your spouse, go on a cell phone free vacation, go out and see a national or state park, enjoy the outdoors, and find some light in your life that doesn’t come from your cell phone or computer screen. Whatever your insecurities are, whatever triggers your depression or anxiety, taking a break from social media can help you refocus your attention on what matters. Of course, there is also a lot of GOOD that social media has brought and I’m not saying it’s all bad, but there is also definitely nothing wrong with taking a break a few times a year to ensure your sanity. Especially if you are being constantly triggered by everything around you.

If you do not feel safe, or are in a bad place and need help,
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Click here to donate and help end the fight for life: AFSP.org 
Click here to better understand depression: Helpguide.org

First-Timer’s Guide to the Gateway Arch

One of the coolest things to do in St. Louis is visit the Gateway Arch. Built in the 1960’s this giant is 630ft tall in the center and towers over the Mississippi river . One side of the arch overlooks Illinois and the Mississippi, while the other overlooks the city of St. Louis. You will want to have a plan before arriving at the park. If you visit the arch on a nice day, you will want to take a stroll before exploring the arch itself. You can get some pretty epic photos within the national park so definitely allow some time for a photoshoot with your friends and/or family. Below is a First-Timer’s Guide to the Gateway Arch with some important things you’ll need to know.

First-Timer's Guide to the Gateway Arch

buy tickets online

You’ll want to buy tickets online if you want to skip the ticket line. The line can get really long, really fast so make sure you buy tickets online so all you have to do is wait in the line for security. School trips and tours are frequent visitors so make sure to get to the arch at least 45 minutes before your ticket time.

the security line

The security line is pretty lengthy. You won’t be allowed to join this line until 30 minutes prior to your tour time. The security here is just like TSA at the airport. The only difference is that you don’t need to take your shoes off at this one. They have an X-Ray machine for your coats and bags. The park does not allow pets, luggage, weapons, or alcohol on the premises so don’t bring your beer either. The line moves fairly quick but in bad weather it can be a drag so dress accordingly.  The line begins right at the front doors and you will be standing in line outside the building. Once you get through security you might want to use a bathroom before you take the tram to the top. There are no bathrooms until you come back down.

the tram ride

Did you know you can take a tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch? If you want to get a birds-eye view of the city and Mississippi river you can ride to the top. Warning: If you are easily claustrophobic you may not want to ride to the top of the arch. You will need to sit in a small pod with 4 other people (your knees will be touching the person’s across from you and beside you). You will also bump your head (if not almost bump your head) a few times trying to sit down inside. The doors are clear and you can see the iron work from the inside of the Arch. Don’t worry, there are stairs all the way up incase you get stuck.

the top of the arch

Once you get to the top they will tell you to skip the first 4-6 viewing windows so that everyone can get into the arch easily. The trams run continuously so you won’t be stuck up there for long. The very top is about the width of a small passenger aircraft with small windows on each side. You may have to wait a few minutes to be able to get to a window, but the view is amazing. The Mississippi River is viewable out one of the sides, and there is an amazing view of the city of St. Louis out of the opposite side. You likely will not be able to move around very quickly due to the amount of people a the top, but you won’t need to hang out long. Once you finish continue across the arch to the opposite side and descend down the other leg of the arch.

the gift shop

If you need somewhere to grab a gift or two for friends or family the gift shop has loads of merchandise as well as some pretty awesome fudge. There is a section near the back that has native american history as well. There are books, tumblers, coffee mugs, magnets and more to choose from. The staff was very friendly and there was a lot to look at.

If you choose the option for the riverboat ride along with your arch tour, it is located on the east side of the arch down the steps towards the Mississippi river. You can also visit the Old St. Louis Court House within the same National Park, but you will need to walk a bit to get there.

Share your own Arch stories in the comments below
Check out my day trip suggestions for S. Louis here.

6 Awesome Places Near Atlantic City You’ve Never Heard Of, But Need To Visit.

the stigma

When most people think of New Jersey they think of crumbling industry and  big polluted cities. People think of it as a lesser version of New York and no one seems to want to give it a break. Believe it or not, there is more farmland in NJ than there is acreage in the state of Delaware. You can find some of the most beautiful sunsets, best flounder fishing, and the most quaint little towns in the entire country. Although Atlantic City is not at it’s peak, there are many beautiful places around it. Some places within a 30 to 40 minute drive of the city are worth a minute or two of your time. Below are my favorite places in and around Atlantic City, NJ that you didn’t know existed, but definitely need to see.

 

6 places (shockingly) located in and near atlantic city

the Historic Town of Smithville

Smithville

Smithville village

 

The small historic town of Smithville is located north west across the bay from Atlantic City, NJ. The little village is full of shops and restaurants with amazing food and great atmosphere. They also have revolutionary war time themed re-enactments and host two craft fairs during the year; May Fest & October Fest.  Previously surrounded by pine barrens, Smithville is now the heart of a small town.

 

smithville

gazebo

Locals and travelers alike love to come walk the old bridge, feed the ducks, and have a slice of pizza or “Stockton Bomb” from Costello’s sitting on the deck over the small lake. Take a ride in the duck boats or have a competition at the “shooting range” to see who can score the most points. The Smithville Inn is an old restaurant that was once a stop on the stage coach route which is now Route 9. The Inn dates back to 1787 and some believe that many of the stores  around the Inn are haunted.

Santa visits at Christmas time and a haunted train ride is fun for all ages during the month of October. Carolers sing during the holiday season and a large Christmas tree lights up the train station near the center of town. You can even stay over night in the village and enjoy a relaxing weekend by visiting their website, here.

Gardener’s Basin

Atlantic City

Second story deck of Back Bay Ale House

Gardener’s Basin is a small area of Atlantic City that barely seems like Atlantic City. One of the best places for a good breakfast in the city is Gilchrist which makes amazing eggs and breakfast sandwiches. Drink a warm cup of coffee and look out over the bay as the sun begins to rise behind you.

Start your afternoon by checking out the little shops and then head over to the Atlantic City Aquarium. Although it is quite small there a lot of really cool “touch” exhibits and craft areas for kids depending on the time of year. They have a decent amount of aquatic life and some really cool relics from old ships to diving suits. There is even an observation deck where you can see a good distance over the city.

Atlantic City

basin mason

Back Bay Ale House is the home of the famous “Basin Mason”. Try a 32 oz mason jar full of delicious adult beverage you can select from their cocktail menu. The drinks are both satisfying and strong for $12.50. If you order a 32oz jar they do have a 2 drink limit and trust me you won’t need a third one. They have mouth watering clams and amazing fish entrees to choose from. The small upstairs balcony, which can have up to a 3 or 4 hour wait time to be seated, has the best view of the sunset. There is an outside bar under the second floor balcony that sits about 100 yards from Scales

When night falls Scales Grill & Deck Bar has the best entertainment. Fairly new after the old building that once stood in its spot burned down a few years ago, Scales provides live entertainment and a fun atmosphere. Located directly on the water, you can either boat here or drive.

Ocean City boardwalk

Ocean City

Jersey Girl

Ditch the Atlantic City Boardwalk and drive 15 minutes south on the parkway until you get to the Somers Point & Ocean City Exit. Pay the toll and follow this road over the 9th street bridge and into Ocean City. One of the last dry towns in the United States is nestled right in southern New Jersey. Ocean City is one of the best shore towns for families with two amusement parks, a large arcade and miles of boardwalk. The beaches are clean and have life guards during the summer months.

 

Ocean City

Have a Khor’s Bros ice cream cone, enjoy a show at the Ocean City Theatre Company, or play a round of mini golf at Congo Falls. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier sports a huge ferris wheel and rides geared toward smaller children. Take a walk down the boardwalk a little further and find Playland’s Castaway Cove a pirate themed park with rides.

 

Ocean City

Ocean City boardwalk

Grab a slice of famous Manco & Manco pizza and sit on the boardwalk enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean. Check out the shore stores that line the boardwalk to purchase your own hermit crab and a bright neon t-shirt or sweatshirt with an obnoxious saying. You’re in New Jersey, so why not?

Cape May, NJ

cape may

Located all the way down the parkway South to Exit 0 from Atlantic City is Cape May, NJ. This not so little town has a million things to do. From the concrete walkway along the ocean, to the southernmost tip of NJ, to the shops and bed & breakfasts throughout the town there are so many things to see. Check out the Cape May lighthouse, which also happens to be the place my husband and I got engaged in 2015. You can get perfect sunset pictures at the top of the light house and on the beach. While you are there, check out the old ship wreck a few hundred feet away on the beach.

Cape May

Cape May light house

Walk around down town, or rent bikes to ride to the beach. Stroll down the cobble stone streets and eat an ice cream cone and stop at the Lobster House restaurant & raw bar. This is one of the best places to eat in southern New Jersey. You can eat dinner in the 5 star restaurant which is a little more business casual, or sit on the deck by the clam boats and order from the raw bar wearing your flip flops.

Batsto

Take a walk back in time and explore this old town about 30 minutes west of Atlantic City in the pine barrens. Batsto is a New Jersey state park with large old barns, mills, and trails to explore. Keep an eye out for the Jersey Devil who is known to roam these woods and has been spotted in the area. The village dates back to 1766 when a large iron works plant was built there. Over time, the natives of the town eventually all died or moved out. Today it is a historical land mark in the state.

The village is right near the river and is well known for hiking, biking, star gazing, and glass making. It is a great place for the whole family to spend some time out doors and exploring history.

the edwin b. FORSYTHe Wild Life Refuge

Located in Oceanville, NJ the wildlife refuge is a beautiful place to reconnect with nature and is found 12 miles from Atlantic City. You can drive, hike, or bike around the 8 mile one way dirt road. Climb the observation towers to get a bird’s eye view of 47,000 acres of preserved wetlands. You will find amazing views for landscape and nature photography as well as diverse species of birds.

When you are finished exploring the wild life refuge trails, check out the Noyes Museum which offers a ton of culture and history of the area. The museum is full of local art and offers many arts and crafts days for kids and is a collaboration with Stockton University. The staff is very friendly and the show room offers interesting art work and beautiful views of Lily Lake.

Like this article? Check out some of my others, here
Have something to add? Leave a comment below!

Taking Trips with Pets

Flying with your fur-baby

Many people today have pets and the majority of those people think of them as their family, as my husband and I do. We treat our cat, Fester, like he is our child sometimes. So how could you go on a family vacation without bringing along your four-legged friend? Taking trips with pets can be stressful for both you and your pet. Make sure that you have your pet checked by a vet to be sure they are in the best condition possible before bringing them away with you.

You will need to buy a carrying case for them and they will need to stay inside it. The exception to this rule is if you have a service animal or a doctor’s note stating they are a “companion”. This allows you to keep them out of their carrying case, even on board your flight! Provided your pet is under the weight restriction and able to fly under the seat in front of you, they can sit in your lap for the duration of the flight.

If you have an animal that is easily irritated and upset you might want to find some way to help calm them. Some vets offer medication for this, but there are natural alternatives as well. When we moved to Wisconsin, Brandon’s mom sent Fester to us. His dad hopped on a flight to Chicago for work where we picked him up. She used a lavender essential oil collar and he had no problems. Our cat Fester slept right through the flight and stayed awake, but calm, through the 3 hour car ride to our new home. Do remember, that your pet may be drowsy for a short while before finally waking up once you remove their collar. The Sentry Collar that Brandon’s mom  used can be bought for both felines or canines and come in many sizes.

Choosing a carrying case for small pets

Taking trips with pets

My sister carrying her cat, Mika.

Taking trips with pets

One of the best carrying cases for a cat is the cat pack. There are a few versions of this out there. A popular one right now is a back pack with a round window for your cat to look out of. My sister bought one that you can wear as a back pack or you can roll it behind you. It is made of mesh, very breathable and it provided enough room for her cat to be very comfortable.

Make sure that your pet fits correctly in the traveling case you choose. If you plan on bringing your dog or cat into the cabin there are regulations to follow. You will need to make sure that the carrying case will fit underneath of the seat in front of you. Check-In will make sure that your pet’s case is up to regulations. Beware. If your case is not up to regulation you can be turned away. If you buy a new carrying case bring it in a few days before your flight to make sure it will fit.

Another thing to think about when taking trips with pets is whether they fit comfortable inside their case. Your furry friend should be able to turn around completely inside their carrying case. If your animal is unable to turn around completely,  your flight representative may turn your pet away. Try it out ahead of time.

Remember, before a flight do not feed your pet since they can sometimes get motion sickness. Unfortunately, your kitty or doggy does not get a barf bag to use. Make sure they are sedated, they remain in their case, and they do not eat prior to any flights.

taking trips with pets: on the road

Taking Trips with Pets

Toddles

Taking trips with pets

Fester

 

 

 

 

 

If you need to bring your pet on the road with you, you may want to use an SUV. You should try to make an area for them to lay down on their own bed if possible. Most animals do not like the car so you may want to use the lavender collar I mentioned above, here as well.

You will also need to factor in time to stop for bathroom breaks if you have a dog. A lot of rest stops have areas for your dog to use for activity or bathroom. For cats, you can bring a litter box in your car. If you do bring a litter box, keep in mind you may need to open a window every few hundred miles. Make sure you keep your cat in a carrying case in cars as well. They can be distracting or they may even escape through an open window.

Be sure to always keep your pet on a leash, even with open windows. Just tie the leash to a spot in the car that is safe. Always be sure to bring extra doggy bags for “number 2” and get them enough exercise daily. It’s good to bring them a a few toys to keep them distracted as well and make sure you bring enough food with you for the entire trip.

Sharing your life with your pets is so important to many, so it would be terrible to leave them at home. When taking trips with pets be sure that your pet is comfortable. Whether your fur-baby is in the back of your car or under the seat in front of you, make sure they are healthy and you follow all airline regulations. If you do all this then you should have smooth sailing.

Happy travels!

Road Trip Essentials

Road trip essentials

Wherever you go, go with all your heart

Road trip essentials for long drives

The road trip essentials I listed below are some things I can’t go on a long road trip without. Many of them can be tweaked to fit your needs. Also, be aware that along with the things listed below there are so many other important items to remember like a spare tire and jumper cables. In 2013 my parents took me on a road trip across the country that was full of memories we will never forget. That trip was the best vacation my parents and I have ever taken. The road trip essentials I’ve listed below have treated me well and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  • Pour over coffee maker (with coffee grinds and travel mugs. The one I use is here. If you can’t drink this type of coffee you can stop at a coffee shop or you can always buy the pre-packaged Starbucks coffees.
  • Car charger for your phone, watch, and any other electronic devices. See here.
  • Your hiking boots! It’s common to find impromptu hikes in remote areas. Why not stop and enjoy a little? Hot out? Check out my favorites; Keens or Tevas. They are much alike but have some important differences so research and try both. I used Keens in Hawaii, but use my Tevas when hiking in my home state of Wisconsin.
  • In contrast to those hiking boots, bring slippers to wear in the car to keep your feet warm and cozy.
  • A Flare gun. We carried one with us when we drove across the country. It not only can be fired into the air in the event of a serious emergency, but anyone trying to rob you probably doesn’t want it shot at them either.
  • Layered jacket. Temperatures above and below the mason dixon vary greatly and can change in an instant. Find a good jacket that has layers that you can zip in or out . It also helps if you have lots of pockets. I use this kind here.
  • Protein bars and energy drinks. For protein bars I use Quest, cookie dough and cookies and cream are my two favorites. You wouldn’t even know that’s what you’re eating. I use to swear by red bull but I really love Uptime energy drinks. They are way healthier and full of vitamins and minerals your body needs through out the day. So ditch the red bull and pick up some uptime.
  • First aid kit/Medicine bag. I’m a medical assistant so I am always aware things might not go as planned. Pack a first aid kit/medicine bag with essentials for headaches, cuts, and anything else you might think of.
  • If you are going to be camping make sure you bring a weather radio to stay aware if weather conditions begin to change rapidly. Make sure to also have a heavy duty flash light like this one and spare batteries incase you have some night time car troubles or need to find something in the dark.
  • Bring a camera. I recommend buying a Nikon 2100 if you want still shots since that’s the one I am about to purchase too, or use a GoPro. I have the Hero5 and shoot everything with that, you can take still frames of whatever you want and even pull stills out of your video that still have really great quality. Plus you can document all those impromptu and “promptu” hikes.
  • Bring cash. Make sure you bring cash with you on your road trips. Even though credit cards are pretty universal now, cash is still king. Plus, if you stop at a small town shop along the way that doesn’t take credit cards you’ll be left high and dry.
  • Hopefully you do not break down, but make sure you have AAA or road side assistance through your insurance Incase of any car problems. If you rent an RV or a car then make sure that you ask the rental service questions about how many shops they have and what you should do incase of an emergency. If the rental company tells you not to drive through Death Valley, you probably shouldn’t drive through Death Valley on this road trip.
  • Bring a tent and/or get a membership for a campground found in multiple places all over the US. KOA is the one we used and it was really easy and the employees were super friendly.
  • Bring survival gear. Probably not a road trip essential because you most likely won’t get stranded and if you do someone should be along soon enough, but you never know. Especially if you are hiking in large parks, be prepared. Bring a lighter or fire starter, iodine kit to purify drinking water, and some rope (survival straps are enough, See here.) You most likely won’t need any of this but if there is a situation that arises you’ll be completely prepared.
  • A good guide book and a map. Learn how to use a real map, not just the one on google. Surprisingly enough there are a lot of dead zones in the US. (Yes, there are people without internet and WiFi out there). Learn to use a real map and mark out your planned trip before you leave to help you follow it more easily. You can usually pick a good one up at Barnes and noble

If you can think of any more road trip essentials to add to this list comment below!

Traveling in Your 20’s is a Must: Here’s Why

 

traveling in your 20's

see the world in all it’s glory

 

Traveling in  your 20’s is a must. You will learn so many different things. You will find an appreciation for things you did not understand before and you will change every time you go somewhere new. I can’t tell you how you will be changed, because every experience is different. However, I can tell you it will be worth it. 


1. Education.

Step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. One of the best reasons to travel young is because it shapes you into the best version of yourself. You find confidence, independence, and clarity in who you are. You will not only learn about yourself, you will learn about the culture you are immersed in. There is no better teacher than experience, and you will get a whole lot of it.

You will learn how to navigate foreign countries and airports and you will learn key phrases in languages you knew nothing about. Traveling gives you a better understanding of the world and the people that inhabit it. You will also acquire a large quantity of useless facts that will be great conversation starters.

2. Cultural appreciation.

Immerse yourself in cultures that are foreign to you. When you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes you begin to understand where they are coming from. Doing this will give you the skills to understand opposing views in everyday life. Appreciating someone else’s cultural views will help you excel in future careers making you more relatable to others. Traveling in your 20’s will give you more experience than the average twenty-something. You will be much better at adapting to change as well as troubleshooting in high stress situations.

3. Respect for our earth.

Spend more time outside and less time indoors. Explore the landscapes of our Earth wherever you go. I can’t stress enough how important it is to see the world from every angle. You will see landscapes that are beautiful and some that are haunting. Everywhere I go I take time to walk or hike the landscape. Some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen come following a 6 mile hike. You will realize how small your troubles are in comparison to the world. Ultimately, we are all just minuscule in relation to the size of this giant rock we cling to floating in space around a hot ball of gas. You will learn to love our Earth, the views, and you will know how important it is to respect her.

4. Find your independence.

One of the best things about traveling in your 20’s is that you will find your independence. You will get lost and you will need to learn to adapt to the unexpected. By traveling you acquire the necessary tools to be independent, making you a great leader, and you will excel in your career. One thing I can tell you is do not rely on anyone else but yourself. If you are traveling in a group, bring a map. Do not trust your phone or your friend’s guide book. When my husband and I were in Hawaii we learned the hard way how easy it is to get lost. We were hiking in an unmarked trail I had read about in a travel guide. What was suppose to be an easy hike turned into a nightmare because I ended up taking us up the wrong trail.

Bring a map and don’t rely on your phone or guide books.

5. You have no monetary ties

If you are in your early twenties chances are you do not have any substantial debt. Without student loans looming over your head use the money you do have to travel. The experience you will gain far out weighs the risk you are taking by traveling. You most likely do not own a home and may not have any car payments, however if you do have these things, you can still take advantage of travel. Fresh out of college and can’t afford a plane ticket? Get in your car with your friends (or solo travel) and take a road trip. You can even map out campgrounds to stop at so you don’t have to pay for hotel rooms.

If you live in the U.S. (or even parts of Europe) there are so many things to see. If you have student loans kicking in within the next year, get in your car now and take full advantage of not having that outrageous payment.

6. you are not promised tomorrow.

Someday you will die. You are not promised tomorrow so make the most of your life now. Traveling in your 20’s is important because there is no promise that your legs will work tomorrow or that you will even be alive. Take full advantage of your young body now while you can. I work in family medicine and see many geriatric patients. One of the more frequent advice they give is this: See the world now before it is too late. We all age, and some of us age better than others, but at some point we all decline to a point we can no longer travel. I don’t know about you, but when I am 90 years old I do not want to regret anything.

Not traveling is the most frequent regret that I hear about. You may not be sure if you should skydive, but if you are at least considering it then maybe you should do it.

7. money is best used on memories, not ‘things’.

Do not waste your money on the latest trend because it always goes out of style. The best thing you can do with your money is to sink it into something that will enrich  your life. Culture in the U.S. revolves around brand name items that no one really needs. These things go out of style and end up being worthless. Putting $1000 towards traveling in your 20’s instead of $1000 towards a purse you want or alcohol is a much better investment. What are you investing in? Your future. Being a seasoned traveler makes you more marketable, relatable and knowledgable about things others don’t even know exist.

Traveling will teach you more about yourself and the world than you thought possible, so buy a plane ticket, pack a bag, and be in awe of something.

(Want to learn how to navigate Hawaii for less money? See my blog post here.)