Two years people! Who knew?! I certainly didn’t think I would still be travelling now. In fact, when I left Sydney to do a one year trip two years ago, the plan was to be living back in New Zealand now – pretty much settled and working a regular job.
Thank God plans changed.
Don’t get me wrong, I love New Zealand and definitely want to live back there at some stage, but I feel so grateful that I am living the life that I really wanted all along. I’m a gypsy and it feels great.
Toby and I do want to buy land and build a tiny home at some point, but even then we want to have a base for only about half of the year. That’s the dream, to be able to have our own home in the mountains of Colorado that we love for six months of the year, then be able to housesit, travel and spend time in New Zealand for the rest of the year.
But until then, our lives will be on the road, and this month, month twenty four of my travels, reflects that pretty well. This month I visited two countries and three States, visiting friends and exploring. It was pretty great.
The first couple of days of the month were spent in Denver staying at Toby’s Mum’s place for a couple of nights, attending a Digital Nomad Meet-up at The Source and doing a day trip up to Boulder with my friend and Toby’s cousin, Anita, where we did an epic hike then treated ourselves to lunch at one of my fav restaurants in Boulder, The Yellow Deli.
For Memorial Day Weekend we did another housesit in Aurora, south Denver, where we mostly just laid low, chilling out at the house and walking the dog, although we did make it to Boulder for the day to attend the Boulder Creek Festival which was a lot of fun.
When the housesit ended we hit the road in our new little van to New Mexico to visit Toby’s Dad and hit up some of the local attractions. We were keen to be somewhere warmer – camping in the mountains would have to wait.
Our five days in New Mexico pretty much followed the same pattern that our time down there usually does. We ate amazing food cooked by the in-house Chef – Toby’s Dad’s best friend and flatmate Dennis, we spent an awesome day in Santa Fe which included a return to Meow Wolf, one of the most bizarre and exciting places I have ever been, we soaked a couple of times in the relaxing hot springs of Ojo Caliente, and we even did a hike in the desert above the hot springs. It was another great visit.
Unfortunately the end of our visit was marred by some bad news, my kitty niece Lucy had been sick for a week and they were going to put her down. She had Cat Leukaemia. We had planned to visit the Great Sand Dunes on the way back to Denver but we hightailed it back instead, hoping to get to say goodbye to Lucy. I cried the whole way.
In the end she wasn’t put down that day and we did get to spend some more time with her, which I feel good about.
Back in Denver we headed to the People’s Fair in Civic Center Park where Afor was working a stall for her work. We wandered around, people watching and drinking beer. I love all the festivals in Denver – there is always something to do.
The main event that we came back to Denver for was for Toby’s second cousin’s Baptism. Little Cullen was baptised at the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and after the two hour service we headed back to Fo and Afor’s to have a backyard party in the sun. It was a really fun family day and after most people left, a few of us headed to Jazz in the Park to continue the party. I was pretty hung the next day.
Back to Toby’s Mum’s for a couple of nights, then Toby was off to Vail to work and I was off to Canada for two weeks, although this almost didn’t happen after an unexpected glitch (see lowlights below).
After a long travel day I finally made it to Canmore where my friend Paulina picked me up. After running some errands in Canmore then grabbing dinner in a beautiful and sunny Banff, I arrived back in Field, nearly two years after I was there last.
I spent a week based at Paulina’s in Field, exploring and hiking in Kootenay, Yoho and Banff National Parks, camping by a beautiful lake, drinking at Truffle Pigs and re-learning how to drive stick again. The weather didn’t fully cooperate during my time there, but I didn’t expect it to, it certainly didn’t during my six weeks there in 2016. But I thoroughly enjoyed my time back there none-the-less.
Paulina’s flatmate was heading to Calgary to do some clothes shopping for work and kindly dropped me at the airport, where I then flew to Vancouver.
I always love coming back to Vancouver, rain or shine, and for my two nights in the city this time around, there was definitely more rain than shine. No matter, I still made it to Commercial Drive for dinner and drinks with my friend Jasmine, for pastries in Kits with another friend Bridge, and to the new tasting room at Parallel 49 Brewery with Shaun and Brittany, which had so much amazing beer. I also walked all over town from Granville Island to Gastown, trying new places to eat.
From Vancouver I took the looong ferry ride to Salt Spring Island, my fifth Gulf Island and the most well-known.
I had booked a house bus on a farm through Glamping Hub and after a couple of hours having lunch and exploring the biggest town on the island, Ganges, I took the local bus out to the house bus.
It was everything I could have hoped for and more and may have made me call Toby to tell him that I want our future tiny home to be a bus.
On Salt Spring Island I was restricted as to where I could go and when as I didn’t have a car and the bus timetable is sporadic at best. I did go for a walk to see nearby St Mary Lake, I went to the excellent Saturday Market, and I walked around to a small beach on a peninsula by town.
My last day on Salt Spring Island I awoke to rain so I left earlier than planned, hitching, catching a bus, taking two ferries, catching another bus, a train then a bus to get back to Kits – phew!
I was expecting sun for my last day in Vancouver, but of course the weather didn’t oblige and it ended up being cloudy most of the day. But no matter, I had an epic day anyway – biking around to Cambie Village, Mount Pleasant, all around the sea wall in Stanley Park, then I met a friend for dinner in Kits and strolled the streets there.
At 8pm at night the sun finally came out. I sat on Kits beach looking out over the mountains, remembering why this stunningly beautiful city is my favorite in the world.
The next day after a quick and rainy visit to Jericho Beach, I headed to the airport for a long afternoon of flying and stopovers, before getting to Vegas!
The last couple of days of the month were spent reacquainting myself with Vegas, including wandering the hotels on the Strip, doing a bit of gambling, hanging out at the MGM pool, and partying with Toby’s family who flew in for his cousin Ticia’s 40th Birthday.
It was full-on, but a lot of fun.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries visited: USA, Canada
- Colorado: Denver, Boulder, Fairplay
- New Mexico: Espanola, Ojo Caliente, Santa Fe
- Canada: Field, Lake Louise, Banff, Calgary, Golden, Radium, Vancouver, Salt Spring Island
- Nevada: Las Vegas
Islands visited: Granville Island, Salt Spring Island
National Parks and Monuments visited: Yoho National Park, Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park
Best meal: There have been quite a few standouts this month. Cheese stuffed and green chile smothered Chile Rellenos with rice and beans at The Pantry in Santa Fe was awesome, and the Pear and cardamom pie at Acme Cafe in Vancouver had one of the best pie crusts I have ever tasted. The Mattar Paneer at Sula Indian in Vancouver was so flavoursome. And I loved the authentic Mango Sticky rice at Eim Thai near Garden of the Gods, the Roast Vegetable and Cheddar cheese pie I had at Salt Spring Island Market which had buttery pasty and loads of well seasoned root vegetables packed in it, and the Boulani (vegetable stuffed roti) from the Afghan East is East Restaurant in Kitsilano. It was a great eating month.
Worst meal: The sushi I had from a non-descript place in Vegas. It came out looking so delicious but ended up being full of cheap quality crab and soggy tempura batter – pretty gross.
Best craft beer: Again, like last month, I have consumed a rather large number of delicious craft beers this month but a definite shout out goes to all the incredible Canadian crafts I have tried, particularly the Batch Sour Patch from Parallel 49 Brewery in East Vancouver. The flavour of the ginger and fruits that are infused into the beer really stood out without being too sweet, and the sourness was perfectly balanced. Loved it!
- Mesa, Quarry Rock and Royal Arch loop from NCAR 8.5 miles/14km approx.
- Sloans Lake in Highlands, Denver loop 2.5 miles/4km
- Section of Clear Creek Trail in Wheat Ridge 2.5 miles/4km return
- Ojo Caliente hike 3 miles/4.8km return
- Cobb Lake hike in Kootenay National Park, Canada 3.1 miles/5km return
- Emerald Basin Hike in Yoho National Park 6.2 miles/10km return
- Moraine Lake Lakeside trail, Banff National Park 1.85 miles/3km return
- Lake Agnes Teahouse Hike, Banff National Park 4 miles/6.5km return
- Mt Stephen trail, Yoho National Park 2.5 miles/4km return
Reading: The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan. Kim is an incredibly talented writer and I have followed her travels on her blog, So Many Places, for a few years now. Her book is about the yellow envelope she was given by her friend with money in it to be given away charitably through out her travels – she could choose as she went who she wanted to give the money to, bit by bit, and the book chronicles her travels (and struggles) as she finds worthy people to give the money too. The book especially made me want to get to India – hopefully early next year.
Watching: The OA. Damn this show was good. I watched the whole thing in a couple of days. The premise of the show is that a blind girl turns up seven years after going missing, and now she can see. She has some pretty crazy stories about what happened to her while she was away, and as the season progresses you start to get the story of what happened and how she ended back in her home town after all these years. Absolutely riveting with a bit of a sci-fi bend.
Seeing More of Boulder
I really love Boulder and I managed to make it up there twice in the past month – firstly to do an awesome loop hike up to Royal Arch with my friend Anita which included a secret local’s shortcut from the Quarry up to the Arch. The views were gorgeous and we were lucky for a stunningly sunny day. My second visit to Boulder was for the Boulder Creek Festival with Toby, his brother Fo and sister in-law Afor. We had a brilliant day that day too and enjoyed wandering the festival grounds, eating all the free samples (so many!), grabbing lunch, listening to live music and browsing the independent retailers set up in tents by the creek. Both days were highlights of the month.
A Perfect day in Santa Fe
I am really starting to love Santa Fe. It was my second visit to this magical city and we did the general tourist stuff – checking out the Plaza and shops around it, visiting a couple of churches, wandering the galleries of Canyon Road, and visiting the Railyard/Guadeloupe District. But we also re-visited the magical mystery that is Meow Wolf and started to attempt to solve the mystery there, which definitely added another dimension to the house and Multiverse. If you ever find yourself in Santa Fe – do NOT miss Meow Wolf.
Soaking at Ojo
There’s nothing like a good soak in natural hot springs, and I got two soaks in during my time in New Mexico at one of my favorite hot springs, Ojo Caliente. There are numerous pools of varying temperatures, each with a different mineral, as well as a Eucalyptus steam room, sauna and mud area where you slather yourself in mud, dry in the sun, then rinse off. Just walking through the doors of Ojo I felt relaxed.
Returning to Field
After living in Field for six weeks during Summer/Autumn 2015, I knew that I would come back at some stage, and after nearly two years I did just that. I spent a week staying with my friend Paulina and her husband Darren in their beautiful, new to me house in the village. It was still rather cold but we did loads in the area including visiting a secret waterfall out the back of Golden, finally visiting Kootenay National Park, hiking in Yoho and Banff National Parks, camping at a local spot by a beautiful lake, drinking shafts at Truffle Pigs – the signature cocktail of Field, and grabbing dinner in Banff. My biggest problem with Field when I was there in 2015 was battling feelings of loneliness, but that was definitely not a problem this time – I had a fantastic stay.
Hiking to Lake Agnes
It was my third time hiking to Lake Agnes from Lake Louise, and this time was my favorite yet. Paulina’s flatmate Nicola and Paulina’s dog Nyah joined me, as did a lot of other people (it’s a very busy hike). Every other time up there it started to rain as I reached the Teahouse, but this time around the sun came out instead – that made a big difference. We got a prime spot with a lake view at the Lake Agnes Teahouse where we warmed up with hot drinks and massive servings of apple crumble, then we hiked through deep snow halfway around the lake. The frozen lake was so beautiful, and I loved being out in the snow, even though the hike through it was challenging and slippery. I don’t get to see snow a whole lot so it’s always a treat for me.
Camping in the Middle of Nowhere
One night in Field after Paulina and Nicola finished work, we packed up the car and headed off for a night camping out the back of Yoho National Park at a local spot. On the drive out there we saw a couple of deer, and three bears, one only 5km before we got to our camping spot. And then when we turned up, there were no other campers there which I have to say unnerved me a bit, recent bear sightings and all. But we had a great spot right by the lake and it was so tranquil and beautiful.
We had a nice camp fire dinner then headed to bed. I thought I would be freaking out over every little noise but although I only slept lightly, I was OK. There were no freak outs. In the morning the sun was out and we sat by the lake for a couple of hours, the girls swimming, me not swimming, all of us soaking up the breathtaking beauty and peacefulness of the place. It was really nice.
Wildlife Spotting in the Canadian Rockies
During my week in the Canadian Rockies I saw more wildlife than I have on all of my previous visits combined – ten bears, one moose, one porcupine, one fox, three hummingbirds, and loads of deer, ground squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. Most of these were just seen on the side of the road when we were driving along. Spring in the Rockies seems to be the best time to see wildlife if my experience is anything to go by.
Eating and Drinking in Vancouver
I love exploring the food and beer scenes of Vancouver, and luckily it is a great activity rain or shine. This time around I discovered a fantastic Indian Place on Commercial Drive, had some of the best pie of my life in downtown Van, ate delicious french pastries in Kits, tried a famous fish taco from Tacofino in Gastown, ate an incredible Berry Wine donut from my fav donut place – Cartems, satisfied my sushi craving with an excellent Volcano roll from Sapporo on Robson, sampled a giant berry pie from Peaked Pies on Denman Street, and drunk local beer at Biercraft and Parallel 49 Brewery. I can definitely call this Van visit a success.
Staying in a Converted bus on Salt Spring Island
You guys know how much I love alternative accommodations – I even lived on a houseboat for year – and so with a voucher from Glamping Hub in my hot little hands, I knew I wanted to use it to stay in quirky accommodations on Salt Spring Island. In the end I had the choice between staying in a tipi and staying in a house bus and I decided as I was traveling by myself and I can get scared at night, that the bus was my best bet. And I am so glad that I chose the bus!
It was a lot roomier than I had imagined and was so cosy, with fairy lights strung throughout and lots of wood details. As it ended up being quite cold, cozying up in the bus was perfect and I really enjoyed the alone time.
Checking out the Salt Spring Island Market
I love a good weekend market and the Saturday Market on Salt Spring Island is pretty famous around these parts. It has really put Salt Spring on the map. Even though it was quite nippy and overcast on the day of the market, I still really enjoyed my time there, browsing all of the interesting stalls selling handmade jewellery and clothes, local produce, and lots and lots of delicious food. There was also live music played by local buskers. I ended up treating myself to some mini sugar donuts, an apple brownie and an incredible roast vegetable and cheddar cheese pie. I also got an awesome headband with a piece of bendable wire in it so you can bend it and twist it so it stays on – ingenious.
A Sunny Evening at Kits Beach
After largely grey skies (and a bit of rain) during my time in Vancouver, the sun finally came out properly at 8pm on my last evening. I sat at Kits beach, staring out to sea and over to the Coast Mountains, a deep feeling of peace settled in my heart. This is why Vancouver is my favorite city in the world and a place that I feel very at home in. It is Vancouver’s connection to nature – it literally surrounds the city. You feel so close to the natural world here and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Fun in Vegas
Vegas isn’t really my scene but you would be hard pressed to not have at least a little bit of fun there and I certainly did on my first couple of days. From trying out roulette for the first time, to floating around the lazy river at the MGM Grand, and catching up with the family, my first couple of days in Vegas were a lot of fun – despite the temperature being as hot as hell.
I’ve had bad luck with my valuable items in the last few months – first my phone died, then my camera and this month, it was my sunglasses: The screw snapped making them unfixable. It’s not that they cost me a load of money but as they are prescription, I had to go without glasses for almost two weeks while the replacement pair I ordered online were sent. More frustrating than anything and another unexpected cost which I really don’t need right now.
Missing my Flight to Calgary
This one really annoyed me. I turned up for my flight to Calgary in Denver and went to check in at one of the machines. The machine wouldn’t check me in and said I had to see an Agent so I went and lined up. Then the Agent asked me if I had applied for a visa. This was the first I have ever heard about needing a visa for Canada, I was last there only eight months ago and there wasn’t a visa required then, but apparently now there was. I left the line to quickly apply online, and then kept refreshing my email on my phone, hoping like hell the visa would come through in time for me to catch my flight. It didn’t.
Luckily they changed my flight for free to travel via Seattle a couple of hours later, and then my visa came through. I only ended up getting to Canmore two hours later than I originally would have, which isn’t too bad. But it was a stressful, long day.
Lucy Lulu Died
This hit me really hard. I really loved this little kitty – she was special and I have never met another cat like her. There was always a ticking clock hanging above her head as she has Cat Leukaemia and unfortunately after over a week of not really eating, this poor sick kitty had to be put down. I miss her and when I return to Fo and Afor’s place I know it won’t feel the same there without her there, running around, messing up our boardgames and letting me carry her like a baby. RIP Lulu.
This month has been a stressful one for me in regards to money. When I left New Zealand at the end of April I was pretty happy with the amount I had managed to save and felt more financially secure than I had been in a long time. Then I had unexpected costs last month, I lost my best paying client, and we ended up buying a van that cost more than I had planned for, and needed some work done on it. And now I find myself stressing about money again. So it goes for me apparently. I have a couple of work opportunities on the horizon that I am really hoping pan out, and then I will be OK. Otherwise I’ll just have to make it work one way or another.
More Cold Weather
Damn it was cold during my two weeks back in Canada – well, not every day but more often than not. So many of the hikes in Yoho, Banff and Kootenay National Parks were still closed due to snow at higher altitudes and more than half of my week in the Canadian Rockies it was either raining or overcast. My time on Vancouver and Salt Spring Island wasn’t much better, it was still unseasonably cold when the sun wasn’t shining, and I was happy I had packed some of my warmer winter clothes for the trip. Maybe next time I will wait to return to Canada a bit later in the summer.
A Week-long Hangover
Vegas is fun – sure, but feeling like shit everyday when you wake up isn’t so fun. I didn’t even party to the extreme like some people, in fact Toby and I were kinda lame, going home by midnight every night. But drinking every day for a week still takes its toll and I feel like I am heavier in both body and spirit and desperately in need of some recovery time.
Extreme Heat in Vegas
To say the temperatures in Vegas while we were there were extreme would be an understatement. It was topping 118 degrees daily while we were there with lows at around 100, making even the evening super hot. We stupidly decided to walk from Stratosphere to the Strip one day and after walking under the blazing sun for 20 minutes, I was pretty close to passing out. Never doing that again.
Ouch, I did know it would be an expensive month but I always hope that I will spend less than I think I will. This definitely wasn’t the case this month.
My accommodation costs this month consist of the $1.50 I had to pay over the voucher I had for the Salt Spring Island bus, and three nights in Vegas where I got surprisingly good accommodation deals. The rest of the time I was either housesitting, staying with friends or with Toby’s family.
Food and Drink $683.50
Urgh not being able to cook too much and the fact that Canada is more expensive than the US for food has definitely pushed my food costs up for this month. But I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy spending it and eating it.
- Summer Dress $13
- Petrol $69
- Shuttle from Calgary Airport to Canmore $44.50
- Public Transport Vancouver $23.50
- Ferry to Salt Spring Island return $22
- Public Transport Salt Spring Island $6.50
- Airport Shuttle Las Vegas $11
- Three Day Bus Pass in Las Vegas $20
I don’t include International Flight costs in my Monthly Round Ups
- Meow Wolf Entry in Santa Fe $10
- Loretto Chapel Entry in Santa Fe $3
- Toiletries $32
- Prescription Sunglasses $73
- Monthly Phone Plan $10
- USB Thumb Drive $20
- Batteries for Camera $10
- Kindle Book $5
- Canadian Visa $5.50
- Silver Chain $19.50
- Toby Birthday Present $15
- Gift $7
- Headband $12
- Gambling $15
What’s in Store for Next Month:
Month Twenty Five of travel begins in the craziness of Vegas where we will still have four more nights, half of which will be partying and the other half which is earmarked for recovery – sleep ins and pool time.
From Vegas we fly back to Denver for three nights where we will mostly be running errands, then we are hitting the road again, this time for Nebraska.
The family is going to be camping at Lake McConaughy for 4th July Weekend, just over the border from Colorado. I’m excited because I didn’t make it to the camping trip last year and it looked like a lot of fun. And Nebraska will be my 25th State – half way!
I will have to leave a day early to spend a night back in Denver before my morning flight to New York where I will connect to London then to Malta later in the evening. I am not looking forward to nearly two full days of travel but I am looking forward to getting to Malta.
Malta will be my base for eight days, and my 57th country visited. I am meeting up with my bestie Megz and her guy for four nights, three of which will be in Sliema, then I will have three nights on Gozo where my friend Kathryn will be joining me, before two nights back in Sliema.
As Malta is pretty tiny and I have heard the bus system in good there, I’m planning to mostly explore by catching buses around although we could potentially hire a car for a day or two as well. I still need to do more research about what I want to see in Malta but the plan is to hit up pretty much all the main spots on Malta and Gozo, eat everything and spend lots of time at the beach.
Then I will be heading back to London – my home for six years.
I landed a great housesit in Clapham Junction for 11 nights and along with walking the little French Bulldog I will be looking after, I am looking forward to getting reacquainted with my old home – catching up with old friends, returning to my beloved Richmond, strolling the South Bank and all the Royal Parks, hitting up Museums and eating my way through London’s spectacular food markets and pubs.
I’m also hoping to do a day trip to either Brighton or Oxford while I’m there, depending on whether I can take the dog on trains and buses as he can’t be left alone for too long.
And that’s what I will be up to for month twenty five!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here