Category Archives: Travel

How to Find The Friends You’re Going to Camp With

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Many camping areas in remote locations have no cell phone service or internet access. Lots of folks are accustomed to having instant access to communication and are totally surprised when they arrive in their remote camping location and realize they can’t make or receive phone calls, send or receive texts, or update their social media. This lack of phone service can enhance one’s ability to hear the birds sing and to engage in uninterrupted conversation with friends and loved ones.

Lack of cell phone service can also mean it’s more difficult to find the people you plan to camp with if you come up in different vehicles at different times. Plan ahead so you can find your group. Here are six tips to help you meet up with your people once you leave civilization.

#1 If you’re meeting in a campground and have reservations you didn’t make, know the first and last name of the person who reserved the site. For example, if your brother’s girlfriend booked the site under her legal name, Elizabeth Brown, and you only know her as Liz, the camp host may not be able to direct you to the right site.

#2 Make sure you know what region, state, and county you are going to. The United States is a big place, and campground names are sometimes repeated throughout a state, region, or even throughout the country. For example, the same region of California has two Wishon campgrounds. If you’re supposed to be at the Wishon Campground at Bass Lake and instead you end up at the Wishon Campground off of Highway 190 in Tulare County, well, your weekend has started off on the wrong foot. You might have a similar problem is you’re supposed to be at the Giant Sequoia National Monument but end up in Sequoia National Park or you confuse the Sequoia National Forest with the Sierra National Forest.

#3 Know the exact name of the campground or camping area you’re going to. When I worked on the mountain, there were three campgrounds within a five mile stretch of highway that all had the word “meadow” in their names. There were also two additional meadows in the area where folks could boondock, as well as a road with the word “meadow” as part of its name.  That’s a lot of meadows! If a person didn’t know exactly what meadow to look for, it might be difficult to get to the right place.

#4 Your GPS system nay not work in a remote location either, so use a good paper map of the area to find your way around. Get your paper map and study it before you leave home. Have a good idea of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there before you start driving. If you’re traveling with other people, designate someone with good map-reading skills to be the navigator.

#5 Plan for folks to meet at the camping spot before the sun sets. Sure, folks with jobs might want to leave work at five o’clock and get on the road so they can start the camping fun on Friday night. Maybe you’re a boondocker who likes to sleep until noon and not start driving until 3pm. If you get a late start, then get stuck in traffic or lost, you might find yourself looking for your campsite in the dark. Get on the road as early in the day as possible so you’ve got plenty of daylight to help you find your camping spot.

#6 Designate a time and place for your group to meet if everyone doesn’t show up at the camping spot. Make the meeting place a prominent location and the meeting time before dark.

Bonus Tip Meet at a location within cell phone service and caravan to the remote location together. At least if you get lost, your whole group will be lost together.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

10 Budgeting Tips for Long-Term Travel

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You have John and Jayme of Gnomad Home to thank for the article before you. Yes, it was writting by Lauren & Jesse of The Wandering Stus, but it was John and Jayme who suggested they reach out to me about writing a guest post. Since I’m always open to quality guest posts, I was excited to have Lauren and Jesse submit a piece. These two know what to do to save money in order to make long-term travel possible, and today they pass that knowledge on to you.

First, let us just tell you how FREAKING EXCITED we are that you are reading this! Why? Because it means you are toying with the idea or planning to hit the road to live that long-term travel life and that, our friend, is AMAZING! We’re here to guide you through budgeting tips for long-term travel.

What makes us qualified to give you information on budgeting tips for long-term travel?! Well, we did it. We quit our jobs and lived almost one year on what we saved. So, we know what  you are going through. As exciting as it is, it can be equally overwhelming. Well, that’s why we are here, to give you 10 budgeting tips for long-term travel. Dun dada, dun, Wandering Stus to the rescue!

#1 Set Your Daily Budget

First things first, you can’t budget for long-term travel if you don’t set a daily budget. You need to do two things:

  • Figure out what suits you. Can you get by with no aircon in the bedroom? Are you fine sharing a room with strangers? Do you need certain amenities? Basically, you need to determine what kind of traveler you are; a “shoestringer,” luxury inclined or somewhere in between?
  • Where are you going? The cost of living between continents and countries can vary, and sometimes there are big variances.

We were traveling to Southeast Asia and Nepal. We deemed ourselves “shoestringers” who would probably need to splurge every now and again. Based on the countries we were going to and what our needs were, we ended up budgeting $50 a day.

#2 Eat Cheap

A great way to save some cash is eating cheap. Street food is not only some of the tastiest food, but some of the cheapest you’ll find. Plus, the whole experience of eating street food will give you all the “local” feels.

Another way to eat cheap is going grocery shopping and making food yourself. If you have a place with a kitchen, awesome! Make enough food for a few meals. If you don’t have a kitchen, you can still make food – think peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, toast with Nutella, etc.

#3 Stay with Friends

It’s always cheaper to stay with friends. Think hostels. Learn from us, the folks who always thought staying in hostels in the shared rooms was the best and cheapest option to go with. While yes, it is cheaper than a hotel, it is not always the cheapest option. We actually found it cheaper to book a “private room” or “family room” than reserving a bed in a shared dorm. If you are traveling with two other people, take a look at some private room options. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

#4 Take Overnight Transportation

Taking overnight transportation may not always be the most comfortable or most restful experience you’ll have, but it will save you some cash. Think about it. If you travel during the day you 1) waste a day of exploring and 2) have to pay for accommodations once you arrive. If you take overnight transportation, the transportation is your accommodation for the night and you don’t miss any exploration time.

#5 Know What the Per Person Rate Is

If there is any sort of haggling tip you need to know to save some cash it’s never start a negotiation by asking for a group rate. Go in asking what the price is for one person FIRST. Once you know the per person rate, start your haggling.

If you know the per person rate, then you know the base they expect and you’ll be able to negotiate smarter for a better price. And when we say negotiate, we mean it! Go in low and be stern about it!  Also, do NOT be afraid to walk away. If there is one thing we’ve learned, walking away usually results in you getting the price you want.

#6 Take the Scenic Route

Okay, so since you have no deadline on when you are returning home, you essentially have “all the time in the world”, so why not take the scenic route when getting to a new destination? Any time you can take a bus, boat, train or hell, even walk… do it. Sure, it will take longer than flying but it’ll be cheaper. Plus, you’ll get to see some scenery you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

#7 Book Your Accommodation with the Same Booking Site

We used Booking.com for a lot of our accommodations. We not only found it to be the cheapest of several booking sites, but we also were pleasantly surprised to find that if we booked enough through the site, we became a “Booking Geniuses” and got 10% off all bookings through the site. Pretty sweet.

Always shop around but consider booking through the same site if there are incentives to do so.

*Please note, we are not paid or sponsored through Booking.com – we’re just here to give helpful money-saving tips.

#8 Book Direct with Your Accommodation vs. Through a Booking Site

If you are okay with winging it and putting in a little extra work, going to hostels or homestays in person will save you a few extra bucks in accommodation costs. The booking sites take their cut of what you pay for your accommodation. If you book directly with the accommodation, you don’t have to pay those booking site fees.

Also, if you are staying for more than a few nights, ask for a better nightly rate and ALWAYS ask to have breakfast included in what you pay.

#9 Always Ask for a Better Price

If there is one thing to take away from this post it’s never be afraid to ask for a better price …. where applicable. Usually on food and drinks, the price quoted is pretty much the price, but on excursions, taxi/tuk tuk rides or trinkets, haggle away! Fight for that better price. It’ll be worth it in the long run if you save a few bucks everyday through haggling.

#10 Limit Your Alcohol Intake, Drug Use and Partying

If letting loose involves the three listed above, you’ll see your bank account dwindle at a faster rate. One of the most fun but expensive parts of travel is experiencing the nightlife of a place. We’re not saying don’t drink or party but if you can set a budget on how much you want to spend on beers and other fun in a week, it’ll help you stay on track.

Basically, try and budget where you can. Even a dollar or two a day will add up over time. If your main goal is to travel as long and as far as you can on what you saved, you’re going to have to make sacrifices along the way. However, just think, for every sacrifice you make, you allow yourself another day in paradise.

PIN IT FOR LATER!

About The Wandering Stus:

Hi! We’re Lauren & Jesse. A travel couple who quit our corporate jobs in 2016 in order to fulfill a dream of making time for ourselves, living in the now and exploring the beautiful people and places Mother Earth has to offer. You know, all that good stuff. We’re here to give you travel tips, epic itineraries & overall travel inspiration to help you plan your next adventure!

For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our website and follow us on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Photos provided by the Wandering Stus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing in the Mountains

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I love these mountains in Taos County, NM.

Most fulltime rubber tramps know that going up in elevation is the key to cool comfort in the heat of the summer. For every rise of 1,000 feet in altitude, the temperature falls about 3.6 degrees.  If, like me, you grew up a flatlander, you may not know the tricks to staying happy above sea level. You want to go up the mountain, but you may be a bit cautious about doing so. After spending the better part of the last five summers above 6,000 feet, I know a thing or two about mountain living, at least during the spring and summer months. Today I’ll share my tips for managing in the mountains.

#1 Know that altitude sickness is a real possibility. I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve never suffered one bit of altitude sickness, but some people get it bad.

According to a comprehensive Health Communities article about altitude sickness remedies,

acute mountain sickness (AMS), is the most common type of altitude sickness. It can occur at elevations as low as 5,000 feet, where it is likely to last only a day or so, but is more common above 8,000 feet. At elevations over 10,000 feet, three out of four people will have symptoms.

The article lists these symptoms of altitude sickness:

  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat accompanying physical exertion
  • Impaired thinking.

The article also lists some precautions to you can take to acclimate to higher elevations.

  • Acclimatize and take it easy. Spend your first day at high altitudes relaxing…
  • Do not smoke and avoid drinking alcohol. Smoking and alcohol consumption increase the risk of dehydration and decrease respiration rate during sleep…
  • Drink extra water. Drink as much as you can to remain properly hydrated, at least three to four quarts. Your urine should be clear and copious…
  • Eat foods that are high in carbohydrates.
  • Get headache relief. Acetaminophen or an NSAID (such as ibuprofen) can be taken for headache.
  • Don’t go up until symptoms go down. If you start showing symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don’t go any higher until they decrease—or descend a few hundred feet to a lower altitude.

I suggest you read this entire article and familiarize yourself with the symptoms of and remedies for altitude sickness before you start your ascent.

#2 In the mountains, it stays colder later in the year and gets colder sooner. Early May in Flagstaff brought a storm with a predicted high of 43 degrees and a chance for two inches of snow. The Man and I headed out before the storm to avoid the inclement weather, but we experienced chilly nights and mornings in the California Sierras until well into June. Memorial Day weekend gave us a foggy Saturday where temperatures in the Mercantile never climbed above 42 degrees. If you’re too hot in the flatlands in spring and decide to move on up, either find a camp in the middle elevations or be prepared for chilly morning and nights

Fall may come to the mountains before you expect it. It was never long after Labor Day on the mountain where I worked that I found myself sleeping under my down comforter and wearing a jacket the first few hours of every morning. You may want a decrease in elevation before the official beginning of autumn.

#3 The weather can change quickly in the mountains, so be prepared with appropriate gear. If you store your winter gear away from your rig, but sure to pack a warm hat, warm socks, and decent jacket before you go up the mountain, even in the heart of summer. Take sturdy shoes to protect your feet if the weather turns cold and/or wet. If you have room, it’s not a bad idea to pack your Mr. Buddy heater too.

At the Rio Grande Gorge outside of Taos, NM (elevation 6, 969 feet) I’ve literally seen the weather change from sunny and hot to cloudy with lightning and thunder to rain and hail to rainbows and sunshine, all accompanied by a temperature drop of 20 degrees in less than an hour. Of course, these are not usual weather conditions, but proof that such changes can happen fast.

I seldom got my speedometer above 25 mph on this curvy California mountain road.

#4 Get yourself a good paper map. Don’t depend on GPS or your vehicle’s navigation system which can be entirely useless in remote, high elevation locations. If you get your directions online, be sure you can access then if you lose phone service. Your best bet is mapping out your route on your paper map before heading up.

#5 You might not have cell phone service either. Be prepared to live without cell phone service. Make all your calls and send texts before you start heading up the mountain. Warn anyone who might worry about you that you might not have cell phone service for a while.

#6 If you’re not accustomed to driving on winding, curving, twisting, mountain roads, plan to drive slowly. It takes a lot longer to drive a mountain mile than it takes to drive a mile on a flat stretch of road. The first summer I worked as a camp host, I picked up my mail 25 miles from the campground where I lived. Google Maps said it would take me 45 minutes to drive there, but it took me at least an hour.

This road outside Santa Fe, NM takes folks up up up the mountain.

#7 If you look in your review mirror and see a line of cars and trucks behind you, pull off in the next turn out and let the other vehicles pass. Folks accustomed to driving in the mountains may be able to drive on those roads faster than you can. That’s ok, but save the people behind you lots of frustration by letting them leave you in the dust.

#8 Be aware of bears. While you don’t want to succumb to bearanoia, if you’re boondocking in areas bears are known to frequent, you should take precautions so you don’t attract them to your camp.

In the book Bear Aware, author Bill Schneider offers an entire chapter detailing camping in bear country. The most important tip is to check potential campsites for signs of bears before you set up camp.

If you can see fresh sign [of bears] move on to another site with no signs of bear activity.

The second most important tip is to separate your sleeping and cooking areas.

The sleeping area and the cooking area must be separated by at least 100 yards.

Also, be prepared to “hang everything that has any food smell” or store those items in bear canisters.

If you’re unsure if the area where you want to boondock has issues with bears, visit the local ranger station to find out about bear activity before you choose your camping spot.

#9 Watch out for other mountain critters too.  You probably won’t see a mountain lion, but be prepared to react appropriately if you do. The Mountain Lion Foundation says to do the following if you meet a mountain lion:

  • Seem as large as possible.
  • Make noise.
  • Act defiant, not afraid.
  • Slowly create distance.
  • Protect yourself.

Again, I recommend you read the entire article before you need the information.

Where I worked in the mountains, we were more likely to see a timber rattler than a bear. To prevent a nasty bite (and a trip to an emergency room that may be more than an hour away), watch where you put your hands and feet. Don’t put any body part in a crack or crevice or under anything without first visually inspecting the area. If you see any snake, give it a wide berth so it can escape without feeling like it has to go on the defensive. For more information on how to avoid a snakebite or what to do if a rattlesnake does strike you, see this article from Denver Health.

The Man and I saw these wild horses just off the highway in Colorado at about 8,000 feet.

The part of the National Forest where I worked is open range, so people driving there have to watch for half wild mountain cows. I don’t know how common open range is in other mountain locations, but city folks are often quite surprised when they see cows on the road on their way up the mountain. If you see cows on a mountain road you’re driving on, slow down and give them plenty of room; sometimes cows bolt when they get nervous. The same holds true for wild horses, deer, elk, and moose, so be alert for large animals hanging out along mountain roads.

#10 Stock up on food, supplies, and fuel for your rig before you head up the mountain. Many mountain towns are secluded, and may not have the supplies you need. On the mountain where I worked, there was no diesel, none of the special fuel tiny backpacking stoves require, and no fresh vegetables for nearly 40 miles. If you are able to find what you’re looking for, you are going to pay a premium for items that had to be trucked up thousands of feet. In mountain towns, I’ve paid too much for ice ($4 for a seven pound bag), one-pound propane canisters ($6.95 for what costs under $4 bucks at most any Wal-Mart), and water ($3-$4 a gallon). You’re better off getting everything you need while you’re still in civilization.

There’s no way to imagine or prepare for every situation one might find oneself in while at a high altitude. In life we run into situations that could lead to harm, whether we’re in the city or the wilderness. I hope these tips help you plan for your health and safety when you leave the flatlands and venture up to higher elevations.

Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you for or protect you from every danger you might encounter in the mountains. You are responsible for our own self. Research the problems you might encounter in the area you plan to camp in before you get there. If applicable, call the Forest Service ranger station responsible for the place you want to camp and ask about hazards in the area. Think before you act. If something you’re about to do seems potentially dangerous, don’t do it!

I took the photos in this post.

Short On Time and Funds? You Can Still Have Your Dream Vacation (Guest Post)

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I recived several guest posts all at once, so I’m getting them scheduled. Today’s post is all about vacations and how you can manage to take one even if you have limited time and money. It was written by Catherine Workman.

Taking a vacation is a dream that many of us fantasize about, yet don’t follow through. We think that we don’t have time, the funding isn’t there, or that it might add stress instead of give us the relaxation we need. If it’s been too long since your last vacation, here are some tips to taking a stress-free holiday on a budget.

The Surprising Benefits

Many may put off taking that vacation simply because they see it as a luxury. However, much can be said for making taking time off a priority. Studies suggest that having a break from normal life can reduce anxiety, even once you get home, refreshed and recharged. It can aid in levels of life satisfaction and may even help you physically by improving quality of sleep. Getting better rest can leave one energized and feeling happier. It may also lower blood pressure. All of these can help you feel better, so if you have been feeling particularly stressed, or have had difficulty sleeping, it might be time for a vacation.

Time Your Trip Wisely

One way to save on the expenses during your trip is to go outside of peak season. Look at what area you might want to visit, and research when most people go. Next, choose whether you would like to visit during off-season or shoulder-season, which is between peak and off-season. Off-season may find you with less to do during your stay, which is why shoulder-season is a good compromise between saving money and still having lots of fun. You can avoid some of the heavier traffic during this time as well, which may mean less gas bought and less stress overall. You can take a shorter trip, and enjoy it just as much as you might have during peak season.

Go Domestic

Often, the word vacation sparks ideas of tropical climates and foreign landscapes. However, by traveling somewhere closer to home, you can have a fulfilling and relaxing vacation, without spending the vast sums that overseas travel often requires. You could try a beautiful national park, or even the Grand Canyon. There are several times during the year where access to national parks is free to the public, so you can plan your trip around these.

Or, you could go to a historical destination to learn a bit, and stay in affordable accommodations, such as at Williamsburg, Portland, or San Antonio. If you’re looking for a beach to relax on, places such as Myrtle Beach in South Carolina are far cheaper than more popular alternatives including Miami and California’s Newport. Since these places are closer to home, you don’t need to devote as much time to them as you might traveling abroad. You don’t even need to leave your time zone.

Use Your Club and Credit Cards

Many club-type stores, such as Costco and Sam’s Club, offer vacation packages at a discount. You might be surprised at the variation, and the low price, of vacations offered. One of the benefits of using an all-inclusive vacation deal from such a venue is what comes with the package. Often, your travel costs are covered, as are car rentals, hotels and other features, such as tickets to theme parks and sports stadiums. There are a variety of options from which to choose, and the packages usually rotate. It’s therefore important to check frequently to find something you might enjoy and book it before it’s gone.

Another way to save a little extra is to open a credit account with a company that offers miles for the points you earn. By using your card throughout the year, you can quickly add up points that can be translated into free, or heavily discounted flights.

Keep Things Calm at Home

One reason we may put off travel is because leaving our homes would simply be too complicated, especially if we have pets. If you’re traveling by plane, it may be best to leave Fido at home. However, just because we leave our pets behind does not mean they aren’t constantly on our minds. During your vacation, your focus should be on relaxation, not worrying about whether or not your dog is doing OK. To allay some of your fears, you may want to hire a dog boarder. See if your vet has any recommendations. Visit any potential boarders or kennels, and make sure it’s a place you feel comfortable leaving your dog. Ask plenty of questions, such as how often your dog will be walked, if playtime with other dogs is included and what the policy is on dogs of different sizes and play-styles. If your dog is timid, you don’t want them being overwhelmed by an aggressive, larger breed after all. The boarder should be able to address all of your concerns, so you can relax during your vacation.

Making time for yourself is important. Finding new ways to relax, and let your batteries recharge, is not an act of selfishness but of self-care. Plan your trip wisely, go somewhere unique and avoid the busiest seasons. You may be surprised to find how affordable, enjoyable, and rejuvenating vacationing on a budget can be.

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in awhile. She uses travel to boost her physical and mental health.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com