One YEAR! WOW!
A whole year on the road, with so many new places experienced and incredible people met. New passions discovered and old passions reignited. Heart ache and joy.
My life now is a new life, starkly different from the one I left.
So much has changed but one thing hasn’t: I am still in love with travel.
I was meant to be done after a year. But everything has changed, so I am going to keep travelling. I’m not sure how long for. It would be nice to have a base again one day but for now, our home will be the road.
Most of month twelve has reflected the new way of travel that Toby and I are striving to sustain. A much slower travel that will involve staying places for longer periods of time, housesitting and working along the way.
The first day of this travel month we were in Steamboat Springs, a lovely mountain town a few hours north of Denver.
After delays due to the transmission crapping out on the car, we rented a truck and towed the car to Denver where we spent a night, squeezing in a visit to Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a ‘Grease’ sing-a-long, before Toby left to work in Oklahoma at a Rock Festival for a week.
As we didn’t have a vehicle, Toby caught a ride with a friend and I decided to stay on in Denver as we didn’t know what the sleeping arrangements at the Hotel in Oklahoma would be.
My (very kind) friends Venessa and Pete put me up last-minute and I loved hanging out with them for the week at their home in the leafy suburb of Washington Park. I explored the walking trails by the river and through the park, and the cute cafes and boutique stores of the neighbourhood’s enclaves of South Pearl and Old South Gaylord. I tried traditional Chinese food when we went out for dinner with Venessa’s parents and grandparents, and hung out with Venessa and Pete’s gorgeous dog, Margot.
I also started my first online job during my time in Washington Park. I am now the Editor of the excellent story-telling website Birdy Told Me!
The site was started by my friend Bridget and is definitely worth a look. I am loving the job so far, and it feels great to be involved with such a fun, creative project.
Once Toby got back into town, the car still needed to be fixed so we borrowed his brother Fo’s van and stayed down south in the family oriented suburb of Parker with Toby’s lovely cousin Nicole and her fiancé Josh. During that week we went out to Brighton, Toby’s hometown, to visit his Mum, as well as biking around Arvada and exploring the historic town of Golden.
Then, finally, the car was all fixed. We left town to do a week road-tripping around Colorado and man, I love this State!
Starting out with a day walking around Vail and drinking beer by the river in the sun, we then free-camped in Dotsero before heading to the tiny town of Marble where we ate delicious BBQ before I headed out to hike to the ghost town of Crystal.
Next stop was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park which we both didn’t know much about but ended up loving. The rock of the canyon is dark in colour, which makes it quite different from a lot of the canyons I have been to before which were more of a reddish hue. It was also very, very steep. It was a remarkable sight.
We spent a night camping in the park and hiked all of the short trails along the south rim of the canyon. The park is a dark sky park which makes it an excellent place to see the stars. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy the night we spent camping there but we did catch an awesome sunset over the canyon.
After stopping at the informative Montrose Historical Museum, we were bound for Telluride, a mountain town I had wanted to visit for some time.
Turns out Telluride is one of the coolest places on the planet and we had an awesome time exploring everything great about this vibrant town including the hiking trails, craft beer, independent stores and incredible waterfalls. What a place!
Our last stop before we headed back to Denver was meant to be Breckenridge but we ended up just driving through as I had been feeling unwell most of the afternoon. After setting up camp just outside of the cute town of Frisco and resting for a while, I felt much better.
With an amazing breakfast from the busy Butterhorn Bakery Cafe in our bellies, we drove back to Denver, and to our first housesit, in the central suburb of Highlands. We were looking after a French Bullmastiff, Fifi, who is very sweet if you are a human, but if you are another dog, stay the hell out of her way.
I dropped Toby at the airport the next day to fly to Vegas where we was working a festival for the week. I spent my week hanging out with Fifi, walking along the Plate river and around Sloan Lake, checking out the different distinct districts in the Highlands neighbourhood, watching far too much TV (you know, if you count watching entire seasons of Aquarius, Nurse Betty, Portlandia and Orange is the New Black a lot) and catching up with friends.
I also had some catching up to do with my blog as well as working on Birdy and on my other new job, as Virtual Assistant to Dani of Globetrotter Girls. It has just started out with a couple of hours work but once she has got the technical aspects of her website re-design done, I will be helping her with re-formatting her posts, before we delve into more day-to-day tasks. So far so good!
I found a few cool cafes to work in around hip Highlands, my favourite being Carbon Beverage Cafe and its sister space, Habit Donut Dispensary. Such a cool, open space with great coffee and great music. Love those donuts too.
I have felt a bit lonely but I have been really lucky that I have been able to spend so much time with friends. I went to a BBQ at Fo and Afor’s place, met up for Mexican with Venessa and Pete, met a reader and fellow blogger Tempesst for lunch at the food trucks in the Civic Centre Park, followed by a day out in Golden walking the Clear Creek trail and checking out one of the breweries, and then we also met up at Pridefest in the city.
It has been fun to explore more of Denver and the more I see of this city, the more I love it.
Toby got back a couple of days ago and we have been helping Sam, who I was house sitting for, set up her downstairs apartment for Airbnb.
Now onto the Stats:
Countries visited: USA
Colorado: Steamboat Springs, Denver, Brighton, Dotsero, Crystal, Marble, Montrose, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Telluride, Frisco
Islands visited: Still no islands (this should change next month)
National Parks and Monuments visited:
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Best meal: I’m going to have to go donut for this one, because the coconut cream pie donut from Habit Donut Dispensary in Denver was possibly the best donut I have EVER had, and I have eaten a lot of donuts. Their berry glazed and blueberry topped habit donut was incredible too. Special mention to the Eggs Benny at Snooze in Denver, and the Eggs Butterhorn (damn, their signature roasted red pepper sauce is good!) from the Butterhorn Bakery Cafe in Frisco.
Worst meal: Probably the pickled chicken feet I tried at a traditional Chinese restaurant I went to with my friends Venessa and Pete and her parents and grandparents. They weren’t actually as bad as I thought they would be, with the texture being tough rather than gooey like I had envisaged, but I wouldn’t say I liked them. It’s good to try new things though.
Best craft beer: Orange Creamsicle Wheat from Barrels and Bottles Brewery in Golden. Slightly creamy and very refreshing.
- Section of Platte River Greenway in Denver from Vanderbilt Park to Overland Golf Course 1.5 miles/2.5km
- Crystal Ghost Town from Marble, CO 8 miles/13km return
- Uplands trail, Rim Rock Nature trail and Oak Flat loop trail in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO 4.5 miles/7.25km loop
- Warner Point Nature trail in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO 1.5 miles/2.5km return
- Ridge trail from Gondola to Mountain Village in Telluride, CO 3 miles/4.8km
- Jud Wiebe trail in Telluride, CO 3 miles/4.8km
- Bear Creek Trail in Telluride, CO 4.4 miles/7km return
- Clear Creek trail in Golden, CO 2 miles/3.2km return
- Sloan Lake loop in Denver, CO 2.5miles/4km
- Section of Platte River Greenway in Denver loop City of Cuernavaca Park to Confluence Park 2.2 miles/3.5km
Reading: The Woman Who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes. Yes, it is chick lit, but Marian Keyes is chick lit at its best. Heartbreaking, funny, witty and wholly engrossing – this book was fab.
Listening to: The Lumineers – Stubborn Love, Ophelia and Ho Hey. When in Denver…
Grease sing-a-long at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
I grew up watching ‘Grease’ on a regular basis and it is absolutely one of my favourite movies so when we found out that the sing along version (lyrics to songs displayed on-screen) was playing at the stunning Red Rocks Amphitheatre the night we got back to Denver, we were all over that shit. Afor and Fo (Toby’s brother and sister-in-law) were going with one of their friends so we tagged along and it was SO MUCH FUN. I may not be a great singer but it was awesome to sing along to all the songs I grew up loving, and to do it on a warm evening in a beautiful natural amphitheatre with views of the city and the mountains – you can’t ask for much more than that.
Although technically now a part of Denver, Golden is a small, picturesque town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with numerous breweries, hiking trails and a river perfect for tubing. I have visited a couple of times during the past month and I just fell in love with this little historic town. It is so vibrant but has a small town feel and, unlike most places in Denver, it is actually in the mountains. There are still so many trails I want to hike, and I am yet to tube the rapids of Clear Creek (not to mention all the local beer I need to taste) so there are lots of reasons to return there.
Biking in Arvada
Arvada is another outer neighbourhood of Denver with a small town feel and beautiful old buildings. We borrowed bikes from Fo and Afor and cycled part of the Clear Creek bike trail from Wheatridge to old town Arvada. There is an awesome German bakery, a delicious taco place and lots of shops to check out, making it a pleasant place for a wander. There are biking trails all through Arvada, linking the old town to various parks and green spaces. Arvada is also home to a few excellent breweries. It is another neighbourhood I could definitely see myself living for a bit.
Landing some online work
This was a big one for me. I had never looked into getting online work in the past because I was always tied to a place by Trav’s need for a base. But since we have broken up and with Toby being nomadic, working online is suddenly a possibility. I hadn’t even started seriously looking when two part-time roles fell into my lap. I am now the Editor for an excellent story-telling website called Birdy Told Me as well as doing some Virtual Assistant work for my friend and fellow blogger, Dani from Globetrotter Girls. So far so good with both jobs, and I am loving being involved with both sites. But as they are both limited hours, I am hoping to set up another one or two part time Virtual Assistant roles in the future or to possibly do some project work. It’s all very exciting!
Meeting more of Toby’s family
I swear, Toby must be related to half of Denver. He has a massive extended family that I am slowly getting to meet. This month I got to meet his Mum which was a biggie (she is lovely) as well as a few of his cousins. Everyone I have met so far is so nice and so welcoming towards me. There are still so many family members to meet and I’m looking forward to meeting them all, but especially his youngest brother Flip. Hopefully in the next couple of months.
Exploring the past at the Historical Museum in Montrose
After a night in Montrose, we were heading down the road to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, when I noticed a cluster of historic buildings along the highway. Turns out it is an excellent historical museum. I insisted we visit and I am so glad we did! There was also a recreated nineteenth century street in the main building. The modest entry fee included a guided tour for two hours of all of the buildings which were chock-full of all kinds of stuff from the past 150 years that the owner had painstakingly collected over his lifetime. I love me a recreated historic village and the Montrose Historical Museum was a goody.
Staying in the mountain oasis of Telluride
Telluride is the mythical mountain town of people’s dreams. It is impossibly pretty with its colourful buildings and mountain valley setting, it is full of interesting shops, there are loads of restaurants and cafes serving delicious food, coffee and local craft beer, there is not a chain restaurant or store in sight, the friendly locals happily stop for a chat and smile in greeting as you pass, there are awesome hiking trails right by town and beautiful waterfalls tumble from mountain tops, in full view from the town centre. Seriously, this place is too perfect to exist, but it does. We spent three nights in a camping ground near town, spending our days hiking through the mountains, drinking craft beer, grazing at the local Farmers Market, checking out the shops, waterfall gazing, marvelling at the views from the free gondola, and generally just feeling ridiculously lucky that we got to experience this magical place. It is at the top of the list of places to live and work in Colorado if I can get a ski season job sometime in the future.
Hiking to the ghost town of Crystal
I read about the hike along a jeep trail to the ghost town of Crystal, Colorado in one of those ‘top hikes’ articles online. It sounded pretty damn awesome, and it was. I hiked four miles each away along a raging river, surrounded by gorgeous snowy peaks in the brilliant sunshine. A few four-wheel drive vehicles passed me along the way but I largely had the trail to myself. Just before ‘town’ was the picturesque Crystal Mill, perched above a gushing waterfall, then at the end of the road was Crystal itself. All that is left of the former mining town is a few historic buildings along a gravel road, some of which are lived in over summer. It was a peaceful spot and definitely worth the hike.
Getting to know Denver
When I first arrived in Denver back in March, I really didn’t know anything about it. But after spending three weeks in Denver this month, staying between the southern suburb of Parker, leafy Washington Park, quiet Wheatridge, and hipster Highlands, I can now say I know a thing or two about this city. I have been having fun exploring the different neighbourhoods, trying new coffee places and breweries, and walking the abundant walking and biking trails following rivers and around lakes. My verdict: Denver is an awesome place! (I still wish it had a beach though)
First house sitting assignment
I have wanted to start house sitting for a long time but with my previous lifestyle, it just wasn’t feasible. Luckily Toby was as into trying house sitting as I was so I set us up a profile and we landed our first gig house and dog sitting in the Highlands neighbourhood of Denver for ten days. Toby was working an event in Vegas almost the entire time so it ended up being just me and a giant dog. I was nervous but Fifi (the dog) was incredibly sweet and by the end of the ten days, I wasn’t so scared to walk her anymore (she is massive and doesn’t play well with other dogs). Highlands is a great neighbourhood and I loved being able to get a taste of what it would actually be like to live there. I am looking forward to doing a lot more house sitting in the future, and I actually have another one lined up for a week when I am back in New Zealand. It really is a great way to save money on accommodation, get lots of pet love without actually owning a pet, and getting a feel for different places by living like a local.
Car transmission dying
We knew it wasn’t a good sign when the car started making weird noises when changing gears so we had our fingers crossed that the car would make it back to Denver before conking out. We nearly made it, but not quite. At the lights, just as we were about to leave Steamboat Springs, the last stop on our US road trip before driving the last three hours to Denver, the transmission shat itself. We managed to push it around the corner into a car wash car park and from there, Toby went out and rented a U-Haul truck with a trailer to pull the car back to Denver. The friendly guys at the car wash helped push it on the trailer and then we were on our way. It ended up taking nearly two weeks to get the new transmission and have it put in, which meant that Toby had to get a ride to a festival he was working in Oklahoma, while I stayed behind in Denver, and then we had an unplanned week in Denver once he got back. But it’s all fixed now.
Breakups suck. After the initial couple of months of heart ache I was doing pretty well, but then, over the past month, the crippling sadness has been creeping in again. It’s not all the time but when it hits (and I can’t predict when that will happen), it is bad. I have an amazing new boyfriend, I am living the life I always wanted to live but still, I’m crying more than I should be and reminiscing about better times with my ex. It’s weird, I don’t want to get back with him but I just feel incredibly sad that our relationship has ended. I guess I have to expect this as we were together for such a long time and it was a fantastic relationship for most of it. It is going to take some time, I guess I just have to accept that.
Being away from Toby
It isn’t fun being away from the one you love and it’s even harder when you are in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, when you want to be with that person all the time. Toby worked two events this past month that took him to Oklahoma and Vegas for a week each. The fact that we are both from different countries and currently can’t live in each others, along with Toby’s work taking him around the US to work various festivals and events, this is just how it goes. At least when we aren’t apart we get to see each other 24/7 and most couples don’t get to do that so I guess that makes up for the time we have to spend separate.
Extreme heat in Denver
Holy shit Denver has been HOT! Think 100+ degrees with no clouds. I have still been going out in the extreme heat which probably wasn’t my best idea as I have been suffering from heat-induced head aches, sunburn and I felt close to passing out a couple of times. It has cooled down a bit now but anything above 90 is too hot for me. What can I say, I am used to mild temperatures coming from the north island of New Zealand. It has kind of made me look forward to having six weeks of winter back home (I am sure I will change my tune on that one pretty fast!)
So, as I discovered during all of the alone time I had when living in a tiny village in the Canadian Rockies last summer, I am not the introvert I thought I was. I need human interaction. I think going through tough times emotionally makes this even more true. I spent over a week house sitting by myself this month and although I caught up with friends a lot and kept myself busy exploring and working, loneliness still crept in. And she is a bitch.
I think this is my lowest month yet! This had a lot to do with the fact that I spent the majority of the month in Denver where we didn’t have to pay for accommodation. We also cooked a lot more this month.
I spent most of the month in Denver where we had free accommodation staying with my friends, Toby’s cousin and then house sitting.
Food and Drink $428
Not too bad, mostly because we were buying groceries and cooking a lot of the time while camping and staying in Denver, rather than eating out so much.
- Train $7.50
- Petrol $16
- Red Rocks ticket to see Grease Sing-a-long $16
- Historical Museum in Montrose for two $20
- Cat Cafe Denver entrance $5
- One month US phone plan $30
- Tip for cash wash guys $20
- Trusted Housesitters join fee (half with Toby) $40
- Toby Birthday Present $20
- New case for Hard drive $5
- Elastic for bracelet $4
- Water bottle $10
- Hay fever Medication $11.50
- Showers $4.50
- Parking fine $50
So nice to have the earning section back in here again! I did some work as Editor for Birdy Told Me and got a bit of tax back from when I worked for my old company for a week back in October. I am hoping for this to be even higher next month!
What’s in store for next month:
The first week of month thirteen will see me and Toby hitting the road again for a short trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder – both new places for me. I’m excited to see if Boulder is as cool as everyone says and to do some hiking in the national park.
Then after one night back in Denver, I will be leaving the US after three months here to fly home to New Zealand, stopping over for 12 hours in Sydney on the way.
I will be spending the remainder of the month mostly in Auckland, visiting friends and family, hopefully doing some temping work, and house sitting two cute kitties for a week on Auckland’s north shore.
The plan is to also head down to Tauranga to see my Mum and friends there, Matakana to visit my Aunties and meet my new step-nephew, and to Hamilton and maybe Rotorua to visit friends too.
I had wanted to avoid going home in winter but now that I know I’m going, I’m excited, although I am dreading having to spend six weeks away from Toby who is staying back in the US to work.
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here