Month Forty Two of Digital Nomad Life was slower than month forty one, but we still visited nine states – two new to me – and road tripped more than half the country, so I guess it wasn’t really the quiet month that I had imagined it to be!
The first three weeks of the month were spent at our housesit in Mount Pleasant, only a twenty minute drive from one of the most beautiful cities in the US, if not the world: Charleston.
During the sit, we actually achieved something that I usually struggle with: Balance.
We were staying in a beautiful house in a quiet neighborhood, and we made the most of it. I spent a lot of time snuggled up on the couch, working, reading or watching movies, and we made good use of the kitchen too.
During our time in the area we took the sweet dog we were caring for, Griffey, walking on the beach at Sullivan’s Island every day, as well as exploring other nearby islands – Folly’s Island and the Isle of Palms.
We learnt more about the history of the area at the Charleston Museum, self-guided walking tours of Charleston and Mount Pleasant Historic District, and by visiting Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter.
We sampled low country cuisine such as the Low Country boil with shrimp, sausage and red potatoes, She-crab soup, Crab rice and Benne wafers, and spent hours wandering the historic and beautiful streets of Charleston.
I even made time to explore a bit further afield to the beautiful town of Beaufort and the stunning grounds and swamp garden of the Magnolia Plantation.
I came away loving Charleston, and it is definitely somewhere we will return to in the future. We feel so lucky that we were able to housesit there for such a long period, and we will be actively searching for long housesits in the future.
After a beautiful time in Charleston, we hit the road again, for a nine day road trip back to Denver for Christmas.
We drove through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, before finally getting back home to Denver.
Highlights of our road trip included walking by the river in Columbia and along the boardwalk in Congaree National Park; Drinking beer at Terrapin Brewing in Athens, Georgia; Exploring the rusting remains of the Sloss Furnaces Iron Works in Birmingham, Alabama; Everything we did in Memphis, Tennessee (see highlights below); Exploring the history of the Hot Springs and soaking in some at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas; Learning more about the Oklahoma bombing and paying my respects at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum; Exploring ghost towns and 1950’s throw backs on Route 66 in Texas and New Mexico; Visiting the cute small town of Las Vegas in New Mexico; and hitting up some New Mexico favorites, including Santa Fe and Ojo Caliente. Oh, and sampling all the different cuisines along the way of course!
We spent the last two days of month forty two back in Denver, where we visited the German Christmas Market and the Christmas lights in downtown Denver, went to a play where drunk people recited A Christmas Carol, did Christmas Karaoke, and made Christmas cookies with family.
It was another fantastic month.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries Visited: USA
- South Carolina: Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, Charleston, Beaufort, Folly Beach, Columbia
- Georgia: Athens
- Alabama: Birmingham
- Tennessee: Memphis
- Arkansas: Hot Springs
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma City
- Texas: McLean, Glenrio, Amarillo
- New Mexico: Tucumcari, Las Vegas, Espanola, Ojo Caliente, Santa Fe
- Colorado: Denver
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter, and Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.
Islands Visited: Sullivan’s Island, Fort Sumter, Folly Island and Isle of Palms in South Carolina.
Best Meal: Another great food month with lots of delicious Southern comfort food and regional BBQ. In Charleston, we loved the perfectly fried shrimp and fries from Dave’s Carry Out, the fried chicken and mac and cheese from Bertha’s Kitchen, and the sesame crusted catfish with peanut sauce over grits from Hominy Grill.
For something a bit different, I was so excited to get a perfect chicken and mushroom pie over mash with gravy from Pouch Pies in Athens, Georgia; delicious Knodel spinach dumplings from a German food truck at the German Christmas Market in Denver; and the wood-smoked chicken breast and wild rice salad from Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe.
We also got to try some delicious BBQ in Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina – all of which were different. In South Carolina I loved the hand-breaded chicken tenders with baked beans and mac and cheese from Maurice’s Piggy Park BBQ in Sandee; in Alabama we loved the cheese biscuits with honey butter and the succulent BBQ chicken breast smothered in white BBQ sauce from Jim ’n Nick’s BBQ in Birmingham; and the smoked turkey from Central BBQ in Memphis was amazing, with their special range of BBQ sauces made in-house.
Worst Meal: Portabella Mushroom Burger at Grammy’s Kitchen in Moffat, Colorado. I had tried it before and loved it, but this time around I got a small portobello mushroom that had been dry cooked on the grill on a bun with some salad and no sauce – so basically a meal that tastes like nothing. I was not happy.
I also tried a Charleston specialty from Hannibal’s, crab rice, and really didn’t care for it – crab meat over greasy white rice is just not my thing I guess.
Best Craft Beer: This month I loved the Key Lime Pie Gose from Westbrook Brewing Co. in Mount Pleasant, the Carolina Creamsicle from Low Tide Brewing in South Carolina, and pretty much everything I tried at Terrapin Beer Co in Athens, Georgia – but especially the Pink Sea Salt Lime Gose and the Moo Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout.
- Loop trail in Laurel Hill County Park, Mount Pleasant 4 miles/6.5km loop
- Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge in Charleston 5 miles/8km return
- Boardwalk trail at Congaree National Park 2.5 miles/4km loop
- Three Rivers Greenway Walk in Columbia 2.5 miles/4km one way
Like last month, not a lot of hiking as such, but we did walk on the beach for an hour or more nearly every day we spent at our housesit in Mount Pleasant.
Reading: Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. Like the other books I have read by Lianne Moriarty – Big Little Lies and The Hypnotist’s Love Story – Truly, Madly, Guilty has a lot of intrigue and twists and turns. The book centres on how one BBQ has changed everything for the people involved, and from the very beginning you will be trying to figure out what happened. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down.
Watching: It was all about the Christmas movies this month! I watched Home Alone 2, Gremlins, Scrooged, Love Actually, The Santa Clause, A Christmas Story, and even more I can’t remember – ah, I love Christmas movies.
Spending Time in Beautiful Charleston
I was so excited that we were going to be spending three weeks in Charleston, and it turned out to be even better than I imagined! As much as I loved Savannah, I ended up preferring Charleston, as I feel there is a lot more to do in and around the city, and I thought it was even more beautiful (although, of course, Savannah is absolutely stunning too).
As I mentioned in the travel recap above, we managed to strike a balance during our time in Charleston between relaxation and exploration, and although we weren’t out exploring everyday, we saw a lot of the city and the surrounds.
My favorite thing to do in Charleston was to just wander aimlessly in the historic district and along the Battery, as beautiful architecture and history abounds in this city by the sea. My second favorite thing was trying the local cuisine, which included a lot of seafood and comfort food.
I would love to go back, maybe in summer next time.
Daily Beach Walks on Sullivan’s Island
I love a good beach walk, and because we were caring for a beach-loving dog, we spent nearly every morning during our time in Charleston walking the beach on peaceful Sullivan’s Island. Even though we were walking the same strip of sand every day, it was always different.
Some days were wind swept and cold, other days we were peeling off layers as the sun beat down. There was extreme high tide, low tide and everything in between. We chatted to local dog owners, saw a bald eagle and pods of dolphins playing close to shore, and enjoyed being outside and breathing the fresh sea air.
Exploring the Grounds of the Magnolia Plantation
Magnolia Plantation is located by the Ashley River, thirty minutes from Charleston, and has the oldest unrestored gardens in America – some parts of the gardens are over 325 years old! The gardens also include a hedge maze, a swamp, and one of my Southern favs – lots of old oaks draped in Spanish moss.
There is also a small petting zoo with ducks, geese, peacocks, deer and goats roaming around – I got a kick out of petting a deer, and a duck bit me.
I also did the self-guided Audubon Swamp Gardens tour and it is one of the most beautiful swamps I have ever seen.
Downtime with a Wonderful House and Dog Sit
There is so much to do and see around Charleston but because we were housesitting for three weeks there, we were able to take our time, spending approximately every second day exploring for a few hours, while having time to relax and work the rest of the time.
The house we were staying in was beautiful and I loved spending time there, wrapped up in blankets on the couch with my Christmas scented candle, watching movies and reading. I also spent a lot of time working behind the scenes on this blog, something that I don’t often have time to do due to client commitments and a heavy travel schedule.
I also loved being able to get back into cooking, something I enjoy but don’t get to do these days as much as I would like.
Soaking up the Christmas Spirit
We really got into the Christmas spirit in Charleston, then again in Denver – both cities really get into Christmas! In Charleston, we attended a local Christmas tree lighting with food trucks and live music, went to a Holiday Craft Market, did a super fun and boozy Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawl with a friend and her neighbors, and, my favorite, we went to see a production of A Christmas Carol at the historic Dock Street Theater – it was magic.
Back in Denver, we went to the excellent German Christmas Market and checked out the Christmas Lights in LoDo and Union Station, went to see Drunk Christmas, A Christmas Carol recited by drunk performers, and made Christmas cookies at my Auntie’s.
And of course, we also watched lots of Christmas movies.
A Day Trip to Beaufort and Beyond
During our three weeks in Charleston, we didn’t venture too far because there is so much to do in the area, but I did do one big day trip, to the pretty town of Beaufort, Folly Beach and the Angel Oak tree.
Beaufort is a real Southern looker, with moss draped trees, historic Southern mansions, and a cute Main Street – I especially loved the cosy cafe called Common Ground, where I got one of the best lattes I have had in the US, and got to try a local specialty, Tomato pie.
On the way to Folly Beach I stopped at the beautifully creepy Old Sheldon Church Ruins, and the Angel Oak – a giant oak tree with branches like tendrils that is thought to be one of the oldest living organisms in the Southeast.
Folly Beach was my last stop and I loved the colorful shops and restaurants on the Main street, and the long pier from where I saw a pod of dolphins.
It was a perfect day in the Southeast.
Being Productive with the Blog
I got a lot done on my blog this month. As well as writing a couple of new posts and optimising some older ones, I also bought an SEO e-book that I had been wanting for a while during a Black Friday sale, and I started working my way through all the tasks that will make this site more responsive, and will hopefully get me some more SEO driven traffic.
For those of you that read this site on mobile, you will have noticed a different website design that is cleaner and easier to navigate. The next steps will be to switch to a better host in early February before my current plan renews, then have them switch my site over to https.
Falling for Memphis
I started writing about all the reasons I loved Memphis and quickly reached half a page – a bit long for a recap – so I will write a detailed post about spending 24 hours in Memphis soon. A quick recap of why I loved Memphis so much – listening to live Blues on Beale Street, eating awesome Memphis BBQ, seeing the Peabody ducks, and visiting the excellent Civil Rights Museum.
Exploring the History and Soaking at Hot Springs National Park
I didn’t really know what to expect from Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, but I ended up loving it. We started by wandering Bathhouse Row and learning about the history of Hot Springs, which was modelled on a European Spa Resort in the mid 19th Century.
After checking out the very interesting museum and walking the promenade, we soaked at the Quapaw Baths and Spa to round out our visit. I wish we had longer to hike some of the trails too, and to try out the massages and private baths at Buckstaff Baths. Maybe another visit is in order.
More Route 66 Exploration
I love the kitschiness of Route 66 – it’s Americana at it’s best! On the way back to Denver we hit up a few Route 66 spots in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. In Oklahoma, we visited the cute Milk Bottle Grocery in Oklahoma City, in Texas we visited the 1950s time capsule that is the Tower Station and U Drop Inn Cafe in Shamrock, the small tumbled down town of McLean, the historic Sixth Street District and Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, and the nearly completely abandoned ghost town of Glenrio on the Texas/New Mexico border. In New Mexico we stopped in Tucumcari at the Route 66 themed Diner Kix on 66 for lunch, then checked out the commercial strip which has lots of Route 66 era motels.
If you want to do your own Route 66 road trip, this website has lots of information and maps.
Visiting Old Favorites in New Mexico
We managed to squeeze a couple of nights in New Mexico on our way back to Denver, and made sure to hit up Santa Fe where we visited the Plaza, Canyon Road and had lunch at one of my food oversights: Cafe Pasqual’s. And it wouldn’t be a trip to New Mexico without a soak at Ojo, and it was especially nice because the farolitos – New Mexican Christmas lights – were up.
Getting Back Home to Denver
Although I love our travel-heavy lifestyle, I also love coming back home, whether that be to my friends and family in New Zealand, or to my American family in Denver. We hadn’t seen a lot of the family since the wedding in September, so it was beyond nice to catch up with everyone.
Unseasonably Cold Weather in Charleston
I definitely wasn’t expecting the amount of cold weather and rainy days we got during our three weeks in Mount Pleasant/Charleston! Everyone was saying that is is usually a very pleasant and mild time of year and we did have some lovely days like that, but at least half of our time there was either freezing cold or raining.
Oh well, it meant we had an excuse to just stay in and enjoy the beautiful house we were staying in (and Christmas movies).
I had heard such great things about Oklahoma City but in the end, everything I did just fell flat. It didn’t help that it was near the end of our fast paced road trip, and the day was dull and grey. I found the memorial and the museum very informative and moving, but I guess that also put more of a downer on my short time in Oklahoma City.
I’m sure it would be much nicer in summer when everything isn’t so dull.
Another expensive month this month, they pretty much all have been for at least the last six months. This month was expensive because of vehicle costs, membership renewals, much needed new clothes and shoes, Christmas shopping, and my inability to scale back on food and drink spending.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of six nights in cheap motels on our road trip back to Denver, and one night at the Sheraton where we got an amazing deal ($66 for the night!). We also spent 19 nights housesitting in Mount Pleasant, two nights at Toby’s Dad’s in Espanola, and two nights at Toby’s brother’s in Denver.
Food and Drink $722
Another month where I spent a lot more on food than I should have. We actually cooked a lot this month during our housesit, but then we were on the road for a week and ate out for two meals each day so it added up quickly.
- Hiking Socks x 4 $18
- Woollen scarf $20
- Running Shoes $75
- Christmas Sweaters x 2 $32.50
I made the most of Black Friday and picked up some things I needed anyway at a reduced price. And I had to have some Christmas sweaters if I am spending Christmas in the cold this year.
- Gas $126.50
- Parking $2
- Uber $20
- Lime Scooter Rental $1
Not bad considering we drove more than half way across the country! Lucky gas prices are so low right now.
- Charleston Museum $12
- Magnolia Plantation Entrance $15.50
- A Christmas Carol Play $33.50
- Fort Sumter Tour $22
- Civil Rights Museum $16
- Quapaw Hot Springs $22
- Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum $15
- Ojo Caliente Hot Springs $22
- Drunk Christmas Donation $6
We didn’t go quite as crazy as last month with our paid activities, but still managed to fit in a lot of fun activities, as well as a lot of free ones, like hiking, city exploration and Route 66 sightseeing.
- Phone Credit $50
- Toiletries $58.50
- Makeup $7.50
- USB Thumb Drive $17
- SEO E-book $21
- Trusted Housesitters Membership Renewal $50
- Books $4
- Christmas Gifts $134.50
- Help X Membership $14.50
- 2019 Day Planner $17
- Tip for Live Music $2
Wow, lots of extra costs this month in the lead up to Christmas. The ‘other’ section should be a lot lower next month.
Van Costs $286.50
- Six months of Van Insurance $236.50
- Oil Change $30
- New Windscreen Wipers $20
Costs always seem to come up all at once with the van. As we are heading to Hawaii for a few months soon and so won’t be using the van for a while, we shouldn’t have any more costs for a while (here’s hoping!)
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
What’s in Store for Next Month
The first half of month forty three will be spent in Denver, catching up with friends and family after being away for a couple of months. As well as it being Christmas and New Years, there are also a number of family birthdays so we will definitely be kept busy.
While we are back, I also want to return to my beloved Golden, go snowshoeing for the first time, finally check out Central City for some slots and crab legs, and hopefully head to Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park for the day.
The last two weeks of the month we will be in much warmer climes – Hawaii!
We have three nights booked in Waikiki and will be renting a car for one of the two full days to explore more of the island – Toby is really excited about seeing the giant waves on the North Shore.
From Waikiki, we will be flying to the Big Island, where we have a Help Exchange set up through Help X. We will be spending six-eight weeks volunteering on a farm near the small village of Hōnaunau for 20-25 hours per week. In exchange, we will have our own private studio to stay in, a couple of meals a week with the host family, and produce from the farm including avocados and star fruit.
I will be helping with their pizza food truck business, prepping and selling pizzas, while Toby will be helping with some landscaping and construction projects.
We will have a lot of spare time to explore the island too, and there is a kayak we can use, so I definitely envisage lots of beach time for swimming and snorkeling, and we will look into short term car rentals to explore more of the island on our days off.
Although I love the snow, I am looking forward to some warmth!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here