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Digital Nomad Life Month 70 + 71I’ve been so busy the last couple of months that I didn’t have a chance to do my month seventy recap – so here is what I have been up to for the last two months.

We started month seventy with five days in Silverthorne where Toby and I were both working as COVID testers. I also spent a day driving to and from Cañon City where I got the second shot of my COVID vaccination (yay!).

After a couple of nights in Denver where we hung out with family and hastily got our new RV Brownie ready to hit the road, we did just that – hit the road for California!

It took us two exhaustingly long days of driving to get to LA but we made it in one piece and then jumped straight into five weeks of work at Sugar Rush – a walk-through candy-themed art installation.

Sugar Rush in LA

We settled into life in the Hollywood RV Park which is super friendly and is full of colorful murals. It was our first time testing out Brownie and we loved our little retro RV house.

Work was easy but frustrating at times, but we worked with the best people, and getting to know them was the biggest gift of our time in LA. When we weren’t working, we were out exploring and I definitely came away with a much deeper understanding and love for that crazy city.

Venice Beach

I hiked a lot, ate at delicious restaurants, went to museums, checked out different neighborhoods, and spent time at the beach. Toby’s Dad even visited us for a few days and it was fun to show him around too. We had a blast!

After finishing work at Sugar Rush and before heading out of town, we popped up to Ventura for the night then took a boat over to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park for three days of camping, hiking, and tiny fox and dolphin spotting – it was pretty incredible.

Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island

We had a couple of nights back in LA to hit up the Stranger Things Drive-Thru and say goodbye to new friends, then we finally left LA to head to Phoenix, via a quick one-night stop to visit one of Toby’s old friends in Upland.

Phoenix was all about catching up on work and seeing family and friends – we have been here so many times before that we know the city pretty well but we did eat out at a couple of new spots on this visit, both of which were excellent – The Churchill and Pizzeria Bianco.

The last couple of days of the month were spent making our way back up to Denver, via a stopover in Flagstaff, one of our favorite college towns.

Now onto the stats!

Flagstaff

Countries Visited: USA

Places Visited:

  • Colorado: Silverthorne, Keystone, Cañon City, Denver, Grand Junction
  • Utah: St George, Salina
  • California: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Cruz Island, Upland, Indio
  • Arizona: Phoenix, Flagstaff, Kayenta

National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Channel Islands National Park

Islands Visited: Santa Cruz Island

Best Meals: Roast chicken with yucca and plantains from Viva Chicken in St George; Tofu Pad Thai from Box Thai in Lake Balboa; Scallop and calamari plate from Neptune’s Net in Malibu; Cajun-style Rock fish with homestyle potatoes from Reel Inn in Malibu; Margherita pizza from Gjelina in Venice Beach; Cauliflower taco and sweet potato taco from Guerilla Tacos in DTLA; Pineapple and olive Margherita pizza from Freak Brothers Pizza at The Churchill in Phoenix; Arugula and ricotta pizza from Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

Gjelina pizza in Venice

Worst Meals: Fish and shrimp plate from Neptune’s Net in Malibu and the veggie tacos from Teddy’s Red Tacos in Venice Beach – my stomach wasn’t happy with either of these meals.

Best Craft Beer: Winter Wish by Van Nuys Beer Co., Space Mallet by Modern Times Beer (best, best beer!!), Fruitlands by Modern Times Beer, Pomegranate Berliner Weisse by Angel City Brewery.

Hikes/Walks:

  • Sloan Lake Loop in Denver, CO 4.3km/2.7 miles 
  • Blue River Trail South in Silverthorne, CO 7.4km/4.6 miles
  • Clear Creek Trail in Wheat Ridge, CO 5.3km/3.3miles
  • Ocean and Canyon View Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, CA 6.9km/4.3 miles
  • Lake Balboa loop walk in Lake Balboa, CA 4km/2.5 miles
  • Beach Promenade from Venice to Santa Monica in LA, CA 11.3km/7 miles return
  • Point Dume in Malibu, CA 3.2km/2 miles
  • Musch Trail to Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park, CA 8.9km/5.5 miles
  • Grasslands Trail to M*A*S*H filming site in Malibu Creek State Park, CA 9.7km/6 miles
  • Old Zoo loop trail in Griffith Park in LA, CA 2.7km/1.7 miles
  • Prisoner’s Harbor to Scorpion Lower Campground on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, CA 21.7km/13.5 miles
  • Smuggler’s Cove Trail on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, CA 11.3km/7 miles
  • Potato Harbor and Cavern Point on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, CA 8km/5 miles

Lake Balboa

Watching: One Night in Miami, This is Us, Shrill, Cruel Summer

Reading: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet, Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – all so good!

New Posts Published on The World on my Necklace This Month:

The Perfect Day Hike: The Alice Lake Hike in Idaho

Because I have been so busy I only wrote one new post over the last two months – about the Alice Lake hike in Idaho. If you are planning to travel to Idaho this summer, do not miss this gorgeous hike! I outline what to expect and everything you need to know in my guide.

The lakeshore of Alice Lake hike

Highlights

Skiing For the First Time – and Killing It!

I epically failed as a snowboarder – not that I did it much or had lessons, but it just didn’t come naturally to me. Turns out I should have been skiing instead because it is so much easier and therefore more fun for a beginner.

Toby paid for me to do a full day of lessons at Keystone and I loved it from the very beginning. By the end of the day, I was doing runs way faster than I could have imagined, and it was AWESOME!

The last run I did of the day was the scariest and my confidence was knocked a bit after not being able to slow myself down and falling over, but I’m sure with more practice it will become easier.

Hopefully I will be able to ski again at the end of this year or early next because I definitely want to do it again!

Skiing Keystone

Getting Fully Vaxxed!

It feels so good to now be fully vaccinated after I got my second shot in March. I did have to drive 2.5 hours each way from Silverthorne to get it in Cañon City but it was 100% worth it, and I got to revisit a great used bookstore that I had discovered the previous month.

I am really hopeful that we are on the way to a COVID-free world again, and I feel so much safer knowing I am protected from it and that it is really unlikely that I could spread it.

Living in Brownie, Our New RV

So I still want to do a proper introduction to the new vehicular addition to the Chavez family, but here is a mini intro to our new RV. His name is Brownie and he is a 1981 Brougham Class B Motorhome (pretty much a giant, fat van).

Hollywood RV Park

Toby got a great deal from his cousin and is slowly working on it to make it more of a home. We already have new carpet and will be getting proper curtains, putting up new wallpaper in the kitchen, and sanding and varnishing the cupboards while we are in Colorado, before hitting the road for our big summer road trip (I’ll write more about that soon too).

Our original plan was to sell our little van, Casper, and get a 4WD but after lots of thought, we have decided to keep Casper too, so now we have a fleet of vans (are two vans a fleet?).

Anyway, Brownie got a great test run when we drove him out to LA to work Sugar Rush, and after living in him at an RV park for nearly six weeks, I can say that we love RV life and it didn’t feel too small for us at all.

Hiking in LA

It has also made us think of ways to make it even better and we are both super excited about roadtripping in it this summer (I still need to drive it though – I’m nervous!)

Being By the Beach Again

After a couple of months of winter in the mountains (which I loved too), I was happy to see the ocean again when we arrived in LA. Growing up by the coast in New Zealand, I do start missing it after a while.

Zuma beach

Although we were working a lot, I did make it to the beach at least once a week and it was very therapeutic after feeling super overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work I had to juggle during our time in LA.

Returning to Some LA Favorites & Discovering New Ones

It was great returning to some of my LA faves during our time there including a couple of different visits to Venice Beach and the canals, The Last Bookstore in DTLA to stock up on books, Malibu’s beaches, and the Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica

It was even better discovering some new favorites during our time there including before work walks around Lake Balboa, doing some new hiking trails in the surrounding mountains, visiting the M*A*S*H filming site in Malibu Creek State Park, exploring some new to me spots in Malibu including Point Dume and Zuma Beach, visiting the beautiful Getty Villa, exploring the Original Farmers Market, checking out the La Brea Tar Pits, learning more about LA’s history at the El Pueblo Historic site, and sampling the beer at a few breweries I haven’t been to before.

MASH Filming Site in Malibu

I have definitely come away from my time in LA with a much deeper appreciation for this city and I can’t wait to return to see even more.

Making New Friends From the Festival World

One of the best things about working Sugar Rush (as well as the money) was the awesome people I worked with. I had met a couple of them before through Toby but I was always just Toby’s wife and I didn’t know anyone very well.

Light tunnel at Sugar Rush in LA

It was a real treat working with these open-hearted, interesting, fun – just damn good people, and I can’t wait till our paths cross again in the future, because I will definitely be working more events.

Loving the Hippie Vibes in Topanga

I really loved Topanga with its hippie vibes and gorgeous setting in Topanga Canyon. I spent one of my days off there, first doing a beautiful hike in Topanga State Park, then checking out the eclectic shops and eating at Cafe Mimosa on the peaceful patio.

It couldn’t have felt further from the craziness of LA despite being so close.

Shop in Topanga, LA

Visiting the Getty Villa in Malibu

I really enjoyed the art and gardens at the Getty Center on my first visit to LA in 2009 so I was so excited that the Getty Villa in Malibu reopened (after being closed for a year) while we were in LA.

Getty Villa Garden

Toby and I scheduled our visit for a morning before work and it was so impressive. The villa itself is modeled after a Roman villa in Herculaneum that was buried by the Pompeii eruption in AD79, and houses ancient Greek, Roman, and Sumerian artifacts, as well as stunning Romanesque gardens.

Angelenos are so lucky to have the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in their city and to be able to visit for free.

Getty Villa

Work Farewell Party in a Disco Dome Lollipop Forest

On our last official night at Sugar Rush (although some of us worked the week-long extension after) we had drinks and music in the installation, at the Disco Dome which is home to a lollipop forest!

Disco Dome at Sugar Rush

It was such a fun way to unwind with everyone – the entertainers and security staff came too – and to see people we had worked with nearly every day for over a month in a more relaxed environment.

I don’t know if any other party I go to will be in such a fun and unique setting!

Nights Out With New Friends

As well as the Disco Dome staff party, we had a few more nights out with new friends including a small house party for one of our work colleague’s 30th, beers at a brewery with a workmate, a girls night out in Hollywood, and our VIP Treatment at Stranger Things Drive-Thru in LA (we know a couple of staff members there so they got us in for free and we even got goody bags!).

Stranger Things Drive Thru

It would have been nice to have more nights out with everyone but as we were working till 10pm most nights we were usually too tired, so I am just happy we got to fit in what we did.

An Afternoon and Evening in Ventura

I really like Ventura and we have visited this cool beach city a number of times now, including the afternoon and evening before we caught the boat to the Channel Islands.

Ventura beach and pier

On this visit, we walked along the beachside promenade and on the pier, visited a couple of breweries we haven’t been to before, and had dinner and walked around the cute downtown.

I even found a map in the restaurant we ate at that featured New Zealand twice – we usually get left off maps entirely so this was a nice change and made me like Ventura even more.

Ventura downtown in evening

A Very Memorable Boat Trip

Our one-hour boat trip out to Santa Cruz Island ended up being one of the best of my life – because we happened upon a megapod of over a thousand dolphins! I love dolphins and I have had some amazing dolphin experiences before, but this was just crazy.

The captain said that there could have been as many as ten thousand dolphins surrounding the boat and they were jumping out the water and splashing in every direction, as far as the eye could see.

I tried taking photos but couldn’t capture it properly so I just gave up and enjoyed the experience. We were surrounded by the pod for about ten minutes and it was just magic – I feel so lucky to have experienced it! 

Camping and Hiking in Channel Islands National Park

Although we had mostly overcast weather, our three days on Santa Cruz Island was so special, with our incredible dolphin experience, getting to see lots of the tiny island foxes, as well as doing some beautiful hikes.

Hiking in Channel Islands National Park

On the first day I did a solo 14-mile hike from Prisoner’s Harbor to Scorpion Ranch where Toby was waiting for me at our campsite, and although it was a slog, the last four miles the sun came out as I was coming down from the top of a mountain and the views made it all worth it – wow!

The campsite was in a gully of Eucalyptus trees and was a great place to watch the Island foxes – the size of cats and endemic to the Channel Islands. There are actually bear boxes at the campsites to store food because those foxes can get into everything!

Santa Cruz Island

We did a couple of shorter hikes during our time there too, including to Potato Harbor and Smugglers Cove. Overall it was a fantastic experience and so worth the expense and going out of the way to visit.

Channel Islands fox

Lowlights

Way Too Much Driving To Get to LA on Time

I have never driven so much in my life as we did over the two very long days we drove both Brownie and Casper out to LA from Denver. We never would have done the drive so fast if we had more time, but with the job coming up last minute, it had to be done.

What Google maps says takes 16-17 hours took us two 12 hour days to drive – including gas/restroom/meal stops – and I was beyond exhausted.

Brownie also had a couple of issues with fan belts that we had to fix along the way, literally on the side of the road. Luckily Toby knew how to fix the problem but I was constantly stressed about another breakdown.

I never want to drive that long of a distance as a solo driver again.

Venice Canals in LA

Too Much Work and Not Enough Time

Man, I was slammed with work during my time in LA. I worked a little over 50 hours/six days per week at Sugar Rush, and then had about another 20+ hours of work for my clients and on my own site which got pretty stressful at times.

I’m proud that I managed to do all that and still made time to have fun too – never working more than a couple of hours online on my one day off per week I got from Sugar Rush. I’m happy to work my butt off if I know it’s for a finite period, but I’m glad it’s over now!

Malibu Creek State Park Hike

Saying Goodbye to All My New Friends

After meeting such wonderful people at Sugar Rush, and spending nearly every day with them, it was sad to say goodbye. These people end up feeling like your family, and not knowing when I will see some of them again sucks.

Family Troubles

As usual, my time in Phoenix was not without frustration and anger at one far-right member of the family. I try and not say anything about my beliefs in front of him, but he can’t help himself.

I just can’t stay silent with people like that and so Phoenix turned out to be full of anxiety and anger, again.

Malibu Creek State Park

Spending

Total: USD$3559.50

Not too bad considering we were paying for accommodation for the time we were in LA which is never cheap, even if you are sleeping in an RV, and we had a number of expenses for our van fleet.

Accommodation $890

My paid accommodation for the past two months consisted of one night at a campground in Salina, 40 nights in a full-hook-up RV spot at Hollywood RV Park in LA, and two nights camping on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park.

My unpaid accommodation for the rest of the time included five nights in a hotel in Silverthorne paid for by Toby’s work, three nights with family in Denver, one night free camping in Casper in Ventura, two nights at the staff house in LA, one night free camping in Brownie outside Toby’s friend’s place in Upland, five nights at Toby’s Mum’s in Phoenix, and one night free camping in Brownie in a supermarket car park in Kayenta.

Point Dume in Malibu

Food and Drink $1154

Although we did have a few splurge meals the last couple of months, we didn’t eat out a lot when we were working (and when we did, it was likely that it was In-N-Out or El Pollo Loco) so this isn’t too bad. 

Clothing $157

  • Jeans $37
  • Top $31
  • Hiking Boots $78
  • Leggings $11

Transport $515

  • Gas $471
  • Ubers $38
  • Parking $6

Activities $129

  • Tip and Locker for skiing at Keystone $30 (Toby paid for my lesson and we got free ski passes)
  • La Brea Tar Pits entry $15
  • Return Boat to Santa Cruz Island $84

Venice Beach Promenade

Other $291

  • Toiletries $58.50
  • Hulu $12.50
  • Phone plan US $80
  • Laundry $8
  • Books $76
  • Patreon $10
  • Lamp fixed $10
  • Extend taxes $15
  • Kitty mug $21

Website Costs $42.50

  • Monthly payment for Keysearch $24
  • Yearly domain fee $18.50

Van/RV Costs $381

  • Parts for Brownie the RV $168
  • Taxes for Brownie $127
  • Insurance for Casper $25
  • Propane for Brownie $20
  • Wallpaper for Brownie $41

Olivera Street in Old Pueblo of LA

What’s in Store for Next Month

The next month will see us spending the first couple of days making our way back through Colorado to Denver, and after a couple of days visiting with family, we will be staying at a riverside RV park in my beloved Golden for two and a half weeks!

I am so excited to be staying still for a bit in one of my favorite places, and I’m also looking forward to catching up with friends and family while we are there. 

Topanga State Park

The last ten days or so of the month could very likely be in Boulder (fingers crossed!) where we might be housesitting and looking after a pup only a block off Pearl Street. We still need to meet in person to confirm the sit but it’s looking good that we will get it. 

If not, we will be hanging out with family in Denver. Either way, I am looking forward to Colorado beer, some mountain hiking, and lots of rest and work time too.

To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here

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