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Month Twenty Six of Digital Nomad life was another busy one, with the first week and a half spent still traveling before finally returning to Colorado.
The first night of month twenty six was my last one in London. I squeezed in a few more London favorites on my last day including a vegetarian roast at a traditional pub (with Yorkshire puddings!), a cream tea and a day at the excellent V&A Museum. And then it was time to move on.
Turns out that when booking only a couple of weeks in advance, it is cheaper to fly from London to Edinburgh rather than take the train so that is what I did.
I only had one night in what is one of my favorite European cities – my fourth visit – but I certainly made the most of it. I spent the afternoon and evening wandering the old town, then took a free walking tour the following morning before it was off to the airport again – this time to fly back to the US after three weeks away.
I got into New York late and caught the transfer shuttle from Newburgh Airport – 90 minutes from New York City. I was dreading it, and although I was tired, it was actually a pretty painless experience.
I was reunited at the train station with Toby and we caught the subway over to Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, our base for the week.
My week in New York turned out to be busy – but not overly so, eclectic, and off the beaten path – thanks to the killer planning skills of my friend Dani. It was so nice to have someone else do call the planning for one, especially a friend that is into the same kind of things as me and knows what I will enjoy.
And I did really enjoy my time in New York – although it is still not one of my favorite cities or somewhere that I would like to live, for a long period at least. There’s just not enough nature there for me and it feels so crowded. And that’s not even mentioning how damn expensive it is.
But I did love the food scene, the awesome people we met, the gorgeous architecture and the interesting neighborhoods we explored. It is a very cool city and I do see why so many people claim it as their favorite. It’s just not mine.
One of my highlights of our short time in New York was our house sit in quiet and graceful Cobble Hill. I really loved the neighborhood and the gorgeous, lovey kitty – Emille – that we were caring for. Dani set it up for us and we were very grateful to have such an amazing base.
I could have happily stayed longer but my wallet definitely needed a break – as did my waistline. It really is hard to say no to all the incredible treats in New York.
So I said goodbye to Dani, and Toby, who was flying out early the next morning to work two more back to back events, and flew back to Denver alone.
After a night at my mother-in-law’s place, I started an eight-day house sit, close to my favorite place in Denver: Golden.
My week in Golden was spent catching up with friends and family, getting caught up on work, visiting Golden nearly every day for lunch, coffee and walks along the river, and hiking in the foothills. It was a great work/life/family/friend balance – what I am always looking to achieve but don’t manage more often than not.
The house I was staying in was in a lovely, quiet neighborhood and the kitty I was caring for slept with me every night but was very self-sufficient and low maintenance – exactly what I needed after my London house sit with a high maintenance dog.
I only wish the house sit had been for longer.
After leaving the sit I stayed with friends for a night then went on a weekend road trip in the van with Toby’s cousin Anita – and it was awesome.
We hiked, explored cute mountain towns, and soaked in hot springs – everything I love about Colorado condensed into one weekend.
Back in Denver, I stayed with Toby’s Aunt Kathy for two nights and it was great to spend some time with her before she moves back to Washington at the end of the month.
Then Toby was back and we had a whirlwind couple of days staying out in Brighton, with Toby working on getting the construction of the van’s interior done with his Uncle Lonny and with me getting ahead on work and organising last-minute preparations before we were going offline for four days.
And where were we planning to go offline for four days you may ask?
Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness!
Maroon Bells is home to arguably the most beautiful mountain scenery in Colorado and I had been wanting to go since last year. We finally booked it in the diary and planned to spend three days hiking West and East Maroon Passes over to Crested Butte and back.
We ended up leaving Denver a bit later than planned so decided to change the plan up a bit – hiking the passes over four days instead – from midday Friday through to Monday morning.
The trip was just incredible and a definite Colorado highlight – I can’t wait to return and hike to Conundrum Hot Springs next time but that will probably have to wait till next year.
After getting back from our epic backpacking trip, we stopped briefly in Aspen where people were going crazy over the eclipse – we barely noticed it as we weren’t in the path of totality – then hit the road for one of our favorite places in Colorado: Telluride.
Once we got in to Telluride I had planned to catch up on some work while having a beer, but just as I sat down at the local Brewpub – the power went out. And stayed out for about three hours. Funny thing is the exact same thing happened last time we were in Telluride and sitting in the exact same pub. Oh well, work just had to wait for another day.
One of Toby’s workmates and his lovely girlfriend kindly put us up for the night, took us out to dinner, and even cooked us breakfast the next morning. Their hospitality definitely made for a very sweet stay in Telluride.
The next day was rainy but that didn’t matter so much to us – I had so much work to catch up on so we just spent a couple of hours working in the cosy Phoenix Bean Cafe on Telluride’s main street.
After lunch at the excellent Brown Dog Pizza, we hit the road again, this time for Arizona, where we discovered that there is an awesome free camping ground at Navajo National Monument.
For our last evening of month twenty six we watched a brilliant sunset, right from our campsite. It was a great way to end the month.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries visited: United Kingdom, USA
- United Kingdom: London, Edinburgh
- New York: New York City
- Colorado: Denver, Morrison, Georgetown, Glenwood Springs, Snowmass, Carbondale, Buena Vista, Manitou Springs, Leadville, Aspen, Maroon Bells, Crested Butte, Telluride
- Arizona: Navajo National Monument
Islands visited: None this month
National Parks and Monuments visited: Navajo National Monument
Best meal: So much great food this month but three dishes in particular were spectacular: Margherita pizza from Totonno’s in Coney Island – seriously one of the best pizzas I have ever had with super thin and crispy dough and lots of sauce, the blackened chicken burger from A Whistle Stop Cafe in Georgetown, which was so juicy and had so much flavor – the best chicken burger I have ever had, seriously, and the Detroit-style Pineapple, Ricotta and Jalapeno pizza from Brown Dog Pizza in Telluride – this place won the International Pizza Awards in Italy in 2015 and you can definitely see why.
Worst meal: Filipino spring rolls from a vendor at Smorgasburg Food Market in New York. They were soggy, kinda weird tasting and overpriced.
Best craft beer: Lots of great crafts this month but I think my favorites were the Hibiscus Gose by Big Alice Brewing that I had on our Long Island City brewery tour – in fact all of their beer that I tried was very, very good – and I also loved the Nordic Blueberry and Petit Sour Peach from one of my favorite breweries – Crooked Stave – who specialise in sour beers. I tried them along with some other spectacular sours at Goed Zuur, a taproom serving only sour and wild beers in Denver – definitely my kind of place!
- The Highline in New York City 1.4 miles/2.3km
- Section of Clear Creek trail in Golden, CO 2 miles/3.2km
- Clear Creek/Foothills Loop trail 2 miles/3.2km
- North Table Mountain Loop/Mesa Top trail in Golden, CO 9 miles/14.5km
- Mt Falcon – Castle Trail and Meadow trail near Morrison, CO 8.5 miles/13.65km
- Wash Park Loop in Denver, CO 2.5 miles/4km
- Hanging Lake trail in Glenwood Canyon, CO 3 miles/4.8km
- West Maroon Trail in Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, CO 12 miles/19.3km
- East Maroon Trail in Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, CO 16 miles/25.7km
Reading: The Lonely Polygamist. I am still reading it but so far I am enjoying The Lonely Polygamist, a book about… you guessed it, a lonely polygamist. It may be fiction but it still gives an interesting insight into what life is like for Polygamists. DEFINITELY not a lifestyle I am even remotely interested in but interesting to read about none-the-less.
Watching: The Prestige. This movie isn’t a new one but I had somehow missed it when it came out in 2006. It is a Mystery Thriller about two Magicians in Victorian England that become bitter enemies after a trick goes horribly wrong. There are lots of twists and turns which I loved, and it was just generally a very well put together movie. If you also managed to miss it when it came out – watch it now. It’s a great movie.
Re-Discovering my Love for Edinburgh
Although this was my fourth visit to Edinburgh, it was my first in nine years and I really enjoyed getting re-acquainted with this beautiful, historic city. I was welcomed back to Edinburgh with a bright bluebird sky, a rare sight even in summer. After dropping my bags at the hostel, I made the most of the amazing weather and walked around Edinburgh’s Old Town, Haymarket and through the Princes Street Gardens, wishing the whole time that I had longer there.
The next morning I took part in a free walking tour that took us around some of the more famous sights in the Old Town, then it was time to leave. My visit to Edinburgh was short but sweet and I know it won’t be the last time I will visit this spellbinding city. I’ll be back.
Seeing an Alternative Side to New York
I wasn’t a big fan of New York the first time I visited back in 2012 so this time around, I wanted to forgo the tourist attractions and do the things that I really love – eating great food, drinking craft beer, exploring cool neighborhoods and getting outdoors.
Luckily my friend Dani, who was our tour guide for the week, is into the same things and she did an amazing job of showing us a more alternative side to New York, largely focusing on Brooklyn.
We did do a couple of touristy but fun activities in Manhattan also – row boating in Central Park, wandering Greenwich Village and walking the Highline – but everything else was a bit more off the beaten path.
Highlights included a brewery tour in Long Island City, Food markets and vintage shops in Williamsburg, exploring a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood, street art hunting in Bushwick, and picnicking in Prospect Park.
House sitting in Cobble Hill
As much as I enjoyed all of the activities we did in New York, I think the highlight for me was staying in lovely Cobble Hill. From there we were close to some great restaurants, lots of beautiful brownstone apartment buildings, Brooklyn Bridge Promenade which was perfect for watching the sunset over Manhattan, and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
It didn’t have the full hipster vibe and crowds of Williamsburg, and it is a lot prettier than gritty Bushwick. It is cool but not too cool – it felt more welcoming and unpretentious than some more trendy neighborhoods. Because of all of this, it ended up being my favorite neighborhood in New York and somewhere that I would love to return to.
Back in Beautiful Golden
If we ever live in Denver, it was definitely be in the little Gold Rush mountain town of Golden, which is now part of the greater Denver area. It has a beautiful river running through it, lots of hiking and biking trails in the Rocky Mountain foothills that surround the town, a quaint and walkable main street and that mountain town vibe that I love so much.
I have spent a lot of time in Golden in the past, and after visiting multiple times during my house sit this month, it further cemented my love for Golden. It feels like home.
Hiking the Trails at Mt Falcon
I had been wanting to hike Mt Falcon for a while, people always recommended it when talking about hikes around Golden and because I was house sitting nearby, it was the perfect time to finally do it. I decided on the eight mile Castle Trail which wound up the mountain to ruins of a historic mansion then through a meadow to a car park on the other side.
The hike started out with views over to the iconic Red Rocks and through dry and scrubby terrain, but as I rose higher, the temperature dropped slightly and I found myself in more alpine environs – lots of pine trees and much more green.
I loved the incredible views and diverse landscapes of Mt Falcon, and I even saw a rattlesnake on the way back down – although I nearly stood on him and he rattled like crazy. Now I can recommend Mt Falcon to people too.
Colorado Road Trip Weekend
I hadn’t been further than the Front Range since last year and was dying to get back into the mountains proper, so when Toby’s cousin Anita said she was keen to go on a weekend road trip, I jumped at the chance.
And we had an awesome weekend away. We left on Friday afternoon, stopping in quaint Georgetown for lunch before getting to Carbondale where we were spending the night in an Airbnb. The next day we were up early to hike to Hanging Lake, relax in the Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs (where I saw a bald eagle!), visit Snowmass Village and drive over Independence Pass to Buena Vista where we camped for the night.
Our last day was spent hanging out in the funky mountain towns of Buena Vista, which was having a Gold Rush Days Festival with burro racing and historical reenactments, and Manitou Springs, my favorite hippy mountain town, before driving back to Denver.
We crammed so much good stuff into two and a half days that it made it feel like we had been gone for much longer, and I loved spending time with a friend who loves hiking as much as I do.
Our Little Van is Coming Together!
This month, Toby finally had some time to work on our little van, Casper. We named him that because he is white and ‘invisible’ – Casper doesn’t look like a camper because of his small size so we are hoping to get away with a lot of stealth camping.
Casper now has the basic internal structure built – three boxes for storage with slats of wood that fit between to create the bed platform. The next step is to stain the wood and to get cushions that fit into place for the bed.
Ultimately there will be a tiny fold away kitchen, a fold out table, built-in wall storage, a couch, and wood paneling on the roof and walls. It’s exciting to see it evolve! #vanlife
Backpacking in Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness
There were so many highlights from our four days hiking in the Maroon Bells – it was one of the best backpacking trips I have ever done and I was just blown away by the whole experience.
The incredibly beautiful mountain scenery, the insane amount of wildflowers – more than I have ever seen before, the afternoon and evening in the gorgeous mountain town of Crested Butte, the buffet of wild raspberries and strawberries that we stuffed ourselves with, the wildlife we saw (although, thankfully, no bears) and the pure joy of accomplishing something difficult, and it was difficult.
I love Colorado but I have always thought that the most beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery was north of the border – I can’t say that anymore. I am excited to write about this adventure soon.
Return to Telluride
I have lots of love for so many of Colorado’s mountain towns but Telluride has got to be my favorite – the cool people, the delicious restaurants, the hiking trails and the spectacular views make it pretty damn special. I have been plotting my return ever since our first visit.
Luckily it was on our route down to our Flagstaff house sit so of course we couldn’t resist spending a night there. Staying with one of Toby’s workmates made it an even more special experience – it’s always more fun when you have a local connection.
We ate out, drunk beer at the local Brew Pub and I hunkered down to get some work done at a cool local cafe during our short time there, and even though we didn’t do any activities as such, we both loved our visit.
Constant Issues with T-Mobile
I was planning to switch to Verizon on my return to the US as T-Mobile had increased their cheapest phone plan by 50% – a pretty big jump. In the meantime I was using pay-as-you-go and weekly data plans, but they kept cutting off my plan before the week was out, and I was getting charged for people texting and calling me which I think is ridiculous (in every other country I have lived in you don’t get charged for incoming calls and texts).
For the first three weeks of the month I found myself calling them every week, at least once, to get my service re-connected, or to find out why I had been charged so much.
In the end I figured that it is still cheaper to stay with T-Mobile as Verizon has extra fees I didn’t know about until I did some more research, but I am not happy about it. I am planning to do some more research to find out if there is a cheaper pay as you go plan so I can finally ditch T-Mobile. Let me know if you have any suggestions.
Stressing about Accommodation
I love the freedom of our lifestyle but sometimes sacrificing stability – and money – for freedom can create a fair amount of stress. And the main time that I feel that stress is when Toby is away for work and I don’t have any travel plans or house sits lined up.
I found myself in that position for five days from when my Golden house sit finished to when Toby was returning from a job five days later, and although it worked out in the end – I spent a night with friends, two nights on a Colorado road trip, and two nights with Toby’s Aunt – it was stressful trying to sort something out.
I know Toby’s family will always be there for me but I don’t like having to rely on people so much when I can’t give much in return at the moment. Unfortunately I am not making a lot of money at the moment so I can’t just book an Airbnb, although I am hoping to build on my blog and my freelancing so that money won’t be so tight in the future.
Getting a Parking Ticket in Denver
I purposely parked in the Highlands on a street where I knew there was free two-hour parking when I went to meet Toby at Union Station – I didn’t want to mess with trying to get a park in the city during rush hour and I didn’t have any change on me for meters.
I got a park easily, walked across the bridge to the city, then came back two hours later to find a parking ticket. It was the one day of the month when they were doing street sweeping on that side of the road. Now THAT is bad timing.
A Never-Ending Night Camping
I am not the best sleeper when I am wilderness camping – every little noise I hear I convince myself it is a bear or some drifter coming to kill us – and our first night camping in Maroon Bells definitely reflected that.
I barely slept a wink and it felt like the longest night ever because of it. It wasn’t so much that I was scared this time around, although I was definitely vigilant and sensitive to any ‘strange’ noises, it was that I was cold, and my bed roll only gave me a minuscule amount of padding from the very hard and bumpy ground.
Luckily my second night wilderness camping was at a lower elevation and I slept much better.
Oops I did it again. This is way higher than I thought it would be for this month and I need to tighten the purse strings going forward for sure. I did have some unexpected costs this month including having to renew our Trusted Housesitters Membership, getting than damn parking ticket, and spending way more on my phone than I usually would because T-Mobile sucks. Hoping to get it down to around $800 next month – wish me luck!
I only paid for accommodation for five nights this month – a night each in a hostel in Edinburgh and Crested Butte, my half of an Airbnb for a night in Carbondale, and a night each camping in Buena Vista and Twin Lakes in Colorado. The rest of the month I was mostly house sitting, with a few nights with family and friends.
Food and Drink $605
This is shockingly high considering that half the month I was house sitting and cooking a lot more. I really need to make a concerted effort to spend less on food. Easier said than done for this food (and beer) lover.
- Vintage Skirt $6
- Flight London to Edinburgh $42.50
- Bus to Stansted Airport in London $2.50
- Bus from Edinburgh Airport to City $9.50
- Transfer bus from Newburgh Airport to New York City $20
- One Week Transport Pass New York City $33
- Train to LaGuardia $5.50
- Uber from Airport to Brighton Colorado $18
- Gas $58
- Four day Parking at Aspen Highlands $15
- Shuttle to Maroon Bells $8
I don’t include International flight costs in my Monthly Round Ups
- Tip for free Edinburgh tour $5
- Toiletries $27
- Monthly Phone Plan $75
- Gifts $72.50
- Trusted Housesitters Membership (half) $50
- Bank charges $10
- Parking Ticket $50
- Bear Canister Rental $10
What’s in Store for Next Month
The first day of month twenty seven will see us spending a day hiking to the cliff dwelling of Betatakin within the Navajo National Monument, then visiting Monument Valley in the afternoon.
From there we will be heading south to start an eight-day house sit in the pine-scented College town of Flagstaff. I have heard great things about Flagstaff, and missed visiting it when I first traveled Arizona on a six-week US road trip back in 2010.
During our time in Flagstaff we are hoping to do day trips to Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Jerome, as well as joining one of the night programs at Lowell Observatory, checking out the dining and craft beer scene in town and generally just enjoying time together in our own apartment – well ours for the week.
After Flagstaff we will be going down to Phoenix to Toby’s best friend Mike’s for a couple of days, then we will have two days to drive to Ojai and our next house sit. We aren’t sure where we will stop on the way yet – perhaps somewhere in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Ojai will be our base for nine nights and we will be looking after two kitties and a beach-loving dog in a small house surrounded by roses. Ojai is a mountain town that is only a half hour from the beaches of Santa Barbara and I am so looking forward to spending some time on the coast, as well as hiking in the mountains.
Toby will be working for a week at a festival in San Bernardino after the Ojai sit and I am hoping that I will be able to stay with him at the hotel, otherwise I’m not sure what I am going to do – still a work in progress at this stage.
The last few days of the month we will be driving up the Pacific Coast via Highway 1 – from LA to San Francisco. We drove from San Francisco up to Oregon last year so it will be great to be able to drive more of this iconic road. It will be Toby’s first time driving this section, and it was seven years ago that I did it.
Stops along the way will include all the usuals – Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Solvang, Santa Cruz – along with some other stops I missed from last time – San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay in particular. Let me know if you have any other recommendations for any other cool California coastal must dos.
Month twenty six is shaping up to be another great month!
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here
You never have to worry about a place to stay when you’re in Denver. I know you don’t like freebies all the time so you can do some work for us to pay for your stay if that’s what you want.
Thanks so much Kip – I know you guys would be there for me if I need it 🙂
Really cool. Still, I am very impressed that you only spent $1200. I guess house sitting is the way to go.
I agree with you that NYC is really not for me but I can understand why so many people like it.
Thanks Mao! I do live pretty frugally and housesitting is definitely the way to go – for me at least. If you want to sign up to Trusted Housesitters – use the link on the side bar of my home page: you will get 20% off.