To Travel (Alone) or Not To Travel? That is the Question

I’m often asked about how and why I travel so often…alone!

Is it an act of bravery, stupidity or out of necessity??

And the answer is, quite frankly, a little bit of all of them.

After witnessing both my parents passing, I made a truly conscious effort to change the parts of my life that weren’t making me happy and began to live the philosophy of Tim McGraw’s ‘Live Like You Were Dying’:

“Like tomorrow was a gift

And you’ve got eternity to think about

What you’d do with it

What could you do with it

What did I do with it

What would I do with it?”

Well, I wanted to LIVE this one marvelous life to the enth degree and experience all that it could throw my way. And just because I don’t have a traditional partner to do that with, doesn’t mean I should sit home alon. So, I put my big girl panties on and dove head first into an unbelievable abyss!

Anyone who really knows me, will tell you I am THE ultimate planner…albeit just to the left of Type A control freakishness. And solo traveling fits very well into my type of personality. No one to tell me what time to get up, no one with their own agenda, I get to do what I want, when I want and how I want…pretty awesome to be honest! And it’s equally awesome that my job has such a great vacation plan to afford me such unique experiences.
My first journey into this new found ‘live life’ philosophy took me to Tanzania and fulfilling a lifelong dream of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and then relaxing on safari afterwards. From figuring out flight times to trip details & training, special Visa requirements to shots, shots and more shots, I arrived in a completely foreign environment and met up with 10 strangers-all couples, mind you! What had I gotten myself into? After the requisite getting acquainted period and answering all the burning questions of, “How are you here by yourself?” we settled into the next 3 weeks of navigating terrain, climate changes and personalities. It wasn’t always easy and I realized I had to give up a lot of my control and just LIVE in the moment!

It was truly a life-changing trip for me.

From that moment on, it’s been a non-stop whirl of activity and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the gorgeous and equally humbling National Parks that I adore so greatly to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Peru, Mexico, Nepal, Bali, Singapore, Amsterdam, London, Italy, Ireland, France and beyond….the world is truly an incredible oyster and I hope to continue exploring it for the rest of my life!

Sure, there have been challenges: Flat tires at 4am with no cell service, forgotten passports in another country, unique outdoor restroom facilities without the comforts of home, periods of silence and quiet reflection while not encountering a human being for days, misplaced luggage, flights being cancelled – you name it, I think I’ve been there, but I thrive on that and can’t wait for the next adventure to begin! I find complete solace in the prep work of a trip. However, it’s meeting the varied and incredibly friendly ‘strangers’ that walk into my life for short bursts  of time that has brought the most happiness. Some I’ve stayed in touch with and formed unbreakable bonds, others will never be seen again, but it’s the unspoken understanding that we are touching each others lives in ways that could never be measured that has made the biggest impact. I’ve learned how resilient the human spirit truly is. How we handle and figure out just about any circumstance if we take a good hard look at reality and how life is is such an incredible gift…we’ve only got ONE!! So what have you got to lose?

Go skydiving

Go Rocky Mountain Climbing

And maybe even go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu

But most importantly

Love deeper,

Speak sweeter

And give forgiveness you’ve been denying….so one day you can truly say that you lived like you were dying.

Any tips I would share for a first time solo traveler? You bet!

*Solo travelers can blend more easily in a group so you don’t immediately stand out as a ‘fish out of water’

*Know in advance your destination point from airport to accommodations and approximate cost/time to get there-that way you can’t ‘be taken for a ride’

*Keep an extra copy of passport and money in more then one place on your person

*Walk confidently and with purpose-avoid “looking like a tourist”

*Never let anyone you are traveling alone, even if it’s just someone you’re asking for directions. Instead say, “I’m meeting friends at the Louvre in 15 minutes, I’m heading in the right direction, correct?”

*Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend at home and stay in touch regularly via free International apps

*Most importantly, have a sense of humor! Something is bound to go wrong, but that’s the fun of it!

XX

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Our Yurt to Yurt Skiing Adventure

‘Cause there’s still plenty of snow during Spring Break in MN!

After several years of talking about heading ‘Up North’ to the Boundary Waters to go Cross Country Skiing Yurt to Yurt, Fatima, Maud & I packed up our gear, hopped in the car and began an epic three night adventure!

We hadn’t had much snow in the Twin Cities area, so all three of us were just itching to get our skis on and enjoy a bit of the great outdoors!

The drive is about 6.5 hours total, so halfway there we stopped for a quick three mile hike to stretch our legs and get some fresh air in our lungs. It was pretty icy that day so we did plenty of bum -sliding down the hill for safety’s sake.

We arrived at the darling Poplar Creek Bed & Breakfast just before dusk and were heartily greeted by owners, Barbara and Ted. After getting settled into our spacious and super comfy rooms, they sent us on our way for a yummy ‘last supper’ at the Trail Center – didn’t look like much from the outside, but it was just delightful & delicious from the inside.

After a great night’s sleep and hand-brewed coffee, ‘Chef’ Barbara prepared a traditional Norwegian breakfast and Ted mapped out the next 21 miles of ‘fun’ for us.

Off we go for our first day of fun! Nine miles didn’t seem too daunting, even with 20 mph winds greeting every stride.  We were thrilled with the sounds of nothing but the swoosh of our skis amidst the beauty of the great northern Minnesota woods.

We made it to our ‘home’ for the night in just under 3 hours and after warming up our feet/hands we began to learn the intricacies of the wood stove and gas lighting from our camp guide, Jim.  After he snowmobiled away with a ‘be on the look out for moose’ last call, we settled in to a night of laughter, popping blisters, card playing  & a delicious spread of our favorite things.

And don’t forget, being out in the woods means the outhouse is your friend. At 3am in the morning, who cares about fashion: just give me a headlamp, some TP and off you go into the great unknown! Hahaha

While none of us got much sleep that night, the early morning brought about warmer temps and the desire to ‘get up and go’ as we had 12 miles to ski to the next Yurt and get back a little closer to civilization.

Day 2 proved to be quite the challenging one. We started off strong then faced a massive down hill slope that I chose to walk down vs. potentially crash. Fatima ever-so-gracefully came flying around the bend and landed at the base…just shy of the freezing cold water! As the day progressed, westarted to notice that our skis were all becoming sluggish and accumulating ice on them with every stride.  We were having to stop every 10 min or so and in essence ‘de-ice’ our skis with the pole tips or a knife. It was very frustrating to say the least and we were getting more tired and a bit nervous with every minute that passed us by. Did we have enough food if it got late, did we have matches to build a fire and stay warm, did we have headlamps to guide us through the dark, how could we call for help if needed?  And sure enough, an hour later, 2 ski poles were now broken from the constant banging of the ice and Maud was down with a sprained ankle. What should have have taken us four hours to complete ended up taking over seven. Thank goodness, Ted came looking for us as he knew something was wrong when we hadn’t arrived hours after our estimated time.  With Maud loaded up on the snowmobile, Fatima & I skied the rest of the way, she with only one pole and both collapsing with exhaustion when we finally made it ‘home.’

Warming up our homemade soup brought us great relief and I enjoyed a nice hot toddy to finish off the night…shut eye was 7:50pm!

The next morning we were up and at ’em, heading for the last ski of the day all the way back to our cars. We made it and were grateful to be back connected with the world and a hot cup of coffee for the long drive home.

Moral of the story: Be a bit more prepared when you are three gals alone in the great wilderness up north.

But would we do it again? Yeah, you ‘betcha!

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Be Good to Others

We all lead busy lives and time is often a commodity that we never seem to have enough of. We barely have enough time to get all we need done for ourselves and our families, let alone carving out time for random strangers or the numerous causes that pop up.

As we begin to get settled into the new year, NOW is the perfect time to reflect upon the past and how ‘doing good unto others’ may not actually be as hard to accomplish as we might think.

 

Whether it’s as simple as holding a door for a stranger, dropping spare change into a collection tin or taking a few hours to deliver meals, run errands, or help finish a ‘to do list.’ Find an organization that speaks to your heart and I promise you the personal reward is so worth it when you see the moment of surprise, gratitude, happiness and unbiased love on a strangers face-I sure hope you’ll try it at least once this year.

Cheers xx

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Irish Strangers in the Night

On my recent trip overseas for our Waterford Irish Christmas event, I had the incredible pleasure to travel all around the Emerald Isle and connect with several generations of family members that I’d never met. It was a bit scary delving into the personal unknown. What would I say to these strangers? How would I carry on a conversation? What if they’re weird or worse off, don’t like me? YIKES!!

 

Well, I can tell you once the initial band-aid was ripped off and the first hug was shared, it was amazing how the human spirit took over.  I felt right at home with these delightful humans, who generously gave of their time to share in my life lasting memory making. Truly blessed! If you’ve been putting off looking up your family tree and meeting loved ones near or far-don’t waste another moment! I can’t wait to see them all again and continue our journey into the now, not so unknown.

Cheers xx

 

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Saying Goodbye to Old Friends

kimberlyWith the changing of the seasons comes the perfect time to declutter, purge, deep clean and say out with the old, in with the new! But when was the last time you actually dove into your closet, your home or your garage and took a good long inventory of what exactly you were using and what was just taking up space?

The art of decluttering our lives seems like an ordinarily easy task from a ‘things acquired’ perspective. But have you honestly really tried it lately?

When moving from my large 3-story home to my tiny little apartment, a friend told me about a book by Marie Kondo on tidying up your life.

The philosophy is simple: touch each thing and ask yourself ‘does it bring me joy’? If so, place in one pile, if not – out to the dumpster it goes.

So I sat upon the task of starting with my wardrobe, since Marie recommends tackling categories in your home one at a time.

As I pulled clothes from the shelves that I hadn’t seen, let alone worn in years, some still with tags on them, I realized I had my work cut out for me.

First task-anything with a tag was bagged for Good Will. I figured if I hadn’t worn it yet, it wasn’t important. Were those clothes bringing me joy? I didn’t even know they were there – seems easy enough, right?!

Next came the varying size chart of my hanging clothes-I seriously could have opened a ladies clothing store! I had garments ranging from Size 2-Size 14 and everywhere in between…yet I still stressed about ‘not having anything to wear’! So what to do? My heart said keep the clothes cuz ‘when you finally lose the weight you’ll have stuff to wear.’ My head said ‘IF and WHEN you lose the weight, you’ll want to reward yourself with something new NOT something that’s been sitting in a closet for several years and probably out of style anyway’.  Was looking at all those clothes and feeling sorry for myself about my current weight bringing me joy? Absolutely not !! Fifteen-some odd garbage bags later, I delivered those clothes to several women’s group and shelters. NOW I was beginning to be filled with joy!!

Hardest part? Walking down Nostalgia Row. Opening boxes that I hadn’t looked through in years took me down a slippery slope and had the potential to derail my declutter train. But I took Marie’s advice-if you haven’t needed, wanted, missed or been curious about what was in those boxes for at least a year-don’t even open them-get rid of them immediately! And bam-that dumpster was filled to the brim in less than 2 days!

I continued this joyful movement throughout my entire house and, man, did it feel good! My new place is very small and very minimalist by design. But I can honestly say I’ve surrounded myself by only the things that I truly love and that I can use and appreciate everyday.  It’s a very freeing feeling!! Whattaya think? Feel like finding some JOY today? xx

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Happy Birthday, NPS!

Being a lover of travel, I’ve had the wonderful 1opportunity to see some incredible sites outside of our beloved country.

However, I’m always drawn back to the true ‘comforts of home’ when visiting one of our own backyard spectacular national parks.

This year marks the 100th Birthday of the National Park Services and if you’ve not yet visited one of the 58 fascinating sites, it’s time to update your bucket list!

Glacier National Park, to me, is heaven and where my love affair began with hiking and the great outdoors.
I’ll never forget the first time I turned one of the many winding corners3 on the Going to the Sun road and having my breath taken away by the serenity of Lake McDonald. Heading further up the road, each new twist and turn brought waterfalls and vistas that just kept topping each other in unsurpassed beauty. From Avalanche Lake to the Tears, Haystack Butte, up to Logan’s Pass & the Continental Divide where Bighorn Sheep stop traffic while crossing the road-it’s all a wow!

4Take your eyes off the road for a second and you’ll miss the ideal Wild Goose Island. Continue up thru the curves to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation where you might encounter a pack of wild horses walking on the road. Be sure to take time to pack a lunch, a good book and enjoy the solitude of being in the great outdoors.

5And finish your journey at the Many Glacier Hotel, where the Moose and Bear sightings are never guaranteed, but are always a delightful surprise when they do.

 

Boarding the plane to go home that first trip brought tears to my eyes and I was taken aback by the emotional impact those 4 days had on 4my life. 12 years and multiple trips later, GNP keeps pulling me back and although I have my
secret spots and hiking rituals, each day is truly never like another.

 

My wish for each of you is that you hear the whisper of Glacier calling and one day enjoy exploring her majesty.

8

 

 

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Making meal time quick & healthy

I think it’s happened to all of us, right?  A long day at work and we get home to find there is absolutely ‘nothing to eat in the fridge’!  So, what do we do?  Either go out for fast food or spend the money at a sit down restaurant.  Or, race to the store and grab anything that sounds good to our grumbling stomachs, which usually results in overeating and over spending.

So, one night after the mad dash to the store and coming home with some lettuce and a rotisserie chicken, I started thinking.  Hmm, I love chicken and it’s a great source of protein, but this bird has been sitting in a ton of grease (a.k.a. flavor) for I don’t know how long.  That grease is equating to how many calories and fat?  There’s gotta be a better way!

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I thought about my friends that blot the grease off of a slice of cheese pizza (which I find blasphemous, btw) but maybe they are onto something? So I pulled off the skin, rinsed the darn thing off and pulled off just enough chicken to top my salad. Dinner was delicious and I had enough meat left on the bones to make two more meals!kw-blog-4-2kw-blog-4-3

 

 

 

 

Now, granted, having it cooked for you may cost you a few bucks more, but I found that Costco has a bird that is double the traditional size of most stores – I can get 5 meals out of that bad boy.  And my local grocery has a ‘$1 off cluck’ weekly special every Thursday.  I love starting the weekend off with some meals already prepped and ready to go!

From chicken salad (two ways),to tacos and pot pies  – I think you’ll love this quick way to get meals done in a jif and save a few calories along the way.

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What do YOU do with your bird? I’d love to hear!

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Kimberly’s 48 hours in Vegas Survival Guide

Looking for a quick getaway that has all the makings of an Adult Disneyland? Then look no further than Viva Las Vegas.

My sister-in-law, Natasha, had never been to Vegas and since my friend, Bucky, was headlining in a show and colleagues were attending the JCK, it seemed like the perfect weekend to go for broke (no pun intended)!!  Girls Trip!!

Kimberly blog 2 MJ

There are lots of great and affordable airlines traveling to LV this time of year – so while the temperatures are rising, take advantage of the low $$ for travel.  Pack a carry-on only; don’t waste a minute of your time at baggage claim and heaven forbid your luggage gets lost.  It’s a quick trip: 2 tops, 1 bottom, a bathing suit & cover up, 2 dresses, 1 pair of heels and a pair of flip flops . . . that’s all you need!!

Once you arrive, be prepared to wait in line for a taxi. This line appears to be never ending, depending upon the time Kimberly blog 2 taxi line insert& day of arrival, but it moves quicker then Space Mountain and there’s some pretty good people watching along the way.

Once you get to your hotel, you may also encounter a long line to check in. Understand, Vegas truly never sleeps, so people are checking in & out at all hours of the day.  Join the Total Rewards program online so you have a member number, as most casinos have a special check-in line & tons of discount for members . . . and it’s free to join.  And always smile, be courteous and ask for an upgrade.  I found that being kind (that and a discreet tip to the person checking you in) will pay off handsomely in the long run. You’re not in your room for most of the day, but a higher floor, better view and executive lounge privileges can sure make your stay that much sweeter.

Kimberly blog 2 shopping 3Shopping in Vegas is just insane! It’s the best of NYC, LA, London, Paris and your favorite mall all wrapped up on one long strip.  From the highest end boutiques to the most convenient of touristy shops – you could literally arrive there empty handed and go home with an entirely new wardrobe!!Kimberly blog 2 shopping 1

If you love to eat like me, you’ll be in a gastronomical paradise!! From the mom & pop diners to your favorite celebrity chefs, there are a gazillion Kimberly food 3opportunities to tantalize your taste buds.  Enjoy breakfast in Rome, lunch in Paris and dinner in NYC . . . it’s a culinary feast of the senses.  Don’t have a reservation?  No prob!  Be flexible, go on an off hour, be willing to sit at the bar, smile . . . and don’t forget to tip the guy or gal that squeezes you in without much of a wait!!

Kimberly blog 2 food 1Entertainment abounds in Vegas, from the biggest headliners, to musical Kimberly blog 2 MJ2reviews, cabarets, comedy and everything in between.  If you’re worried about seeing that one big showstopper, then perhaps book in advance.  But I found walking up to the ticket counter was just as easy, you see the actual venue & there are no overpriced service charges from a third party!  Kimberly blog 2 BrittneyPerhaps the best secret is that house seats are ‘on hold’ until the day of the show for special guests of the headliners, etc.  If you’re at the right place at the right time, a coveted seat may be yours!!!

Want to feel inspired? The various hotels are all incredibly different and feature one-of-a-kind architecture and design features that are truly museum quality.  Be sure to allow some time to just wander from one place to the next to the next . . .

Kimberly blog 2 poolsideFinally . . . it’s totally hothothot in Vegas and you must stay hydrated!!  Carry h2o with you at all times and wear sunscreen.  If hanging out by the pool, rent a covered cabana or lounge chairs that offer you shade and protection.  While they can be $100-200 for the day, with food/beverage minimums . . . it’s completely worth it for you to have a place to hang your hat, take a little nap if you stayed out too late the night before and just enjoy the wild and wacky pool scene.  When it’s 114 degrees outside, getting burned and blistered can happen quicker then you think and ruin the rest of your trip!

Yep, you really can do Vegas in 48 hours and survive!!  And, if you happen to get caught up on one or more of these steps, just remember:

What happens in Vegas . . . well, you know the rest!

Kimberly blog 2 Opening Vegas shot

Love to see YOUR Vegas vacation pix too!!

Cheers xx

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Summer fitness ideas!

Unleash your inner childish beast with fun summer fitness ideas! (as well as some nostalgic sing along opportunities along the way!)

As a kid, I remember the anticipation of summer break like it was yesterday! No early morning alarms, no homework, the excitement of sleepovers, summer camp and endless hours of just being outside and playing. Life was good!! But then we grew up, got jobs, family responsibilities and along the way, we kinda forgot how to play!

(Sing along) I like to ride my bicycle….

There was no greater feeling of freedom than my daddy giving me that final push as the last training wheel came off of my bike- woo-hoo! This was fantastic – I would ride around for hours, never once thinking about the ‘workout’ I was getting.  Today, it’s still so cool exploring the Twin Cities and beyond from the freedom of my bike!  I can ride just about anywhere I need to go, from the grocery store, to a Twins game, to lunch with friends and more! So, dust off that old banana seat, bell and basket and enjoy the ride!

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(Sing along) Ohhhh I got a brand new pair of roller skates ….

Anyone fancy a good old fashioned ‘all skate’? Obsession doesn’t even begin to describe my love affair with roller skating as a kid. I even convinced my parents to give me lessons ‘cuz I was SURE it was going to be an Olympic sport and I was gonna win gold! Well, 40 years later, the yellow pom-poms may be gone and the wheels have been upgraded to blades…but I still get a thrill taking a spin on the trails. Inline skates are, to my generation, the hover boards of today.  We skate vs glide, all the while getting a great lower body workout that we don’t even think about –  and its fun! Who knew?!  Just remember to wear your knee pads and wrist guards!

Kimberly rollerblade

Brain rollerblade(Sing along)  A my name is Alice…..

And, while my boyfriends name isn’t Arthur, I can still remember being a jumping fool and begging my friends for one more spin! Yet, why is it so darned hard as an adult?  So, grab your shoes, put on the Rocky soundtrack, and go for 3, three-minute intervals of good, old-fashioned jump roping- whew!!  Your heart will get pumping, you’ll work every single major muscle group of the body and I guarantee it’ll make you smile as you think back on the good ol’ days of summer!

Kimberly jump ropeKimberly jumprope2I’d love to hear about your summer outdoor plans this year!  Keep cool, stay hydrated & have fun! After all, it’s ‘summertime and the living is easy….!’  Enjoy!!

 

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