Tech Nomad Chick

The story of one girl's quest to become a digital nomad

1 Year Nomadiversary

It has been a while since I posted to the blog.  It is not for lack of travel or things to write about but more lack of time and desire to sit down at a computer when I am not working – I know,  excuses, excuses.  The last post was a few month ago and left off with my parents visiting Colombia.  Since then I spent another month in Colombia and I have thousands of picture to still go through before I can tell the amazing story of the remainder of my time in Colombia.  After Colombia, I returned to Chicago where I have been the past couple of months spending quality time with family and friends.  I also took a few shorter trips to Colorado, Florida, and Minneapolis.  However, this post is not about the travels I have fallen behind on documenting.  This post is me stepping back to say – whoa where did the year go?!  How have I been doing this already for a year and what should I do next?  Before I can decide what to do next I wanted to take a moment and look at the past year by numbers (because I’m a math nerd and there were way too many memories to show the past year in pictures).  I did a similar post on the first 5 months here.  The data below is a total starting from day one (August 1, 2015 – Aug 1, 2016).

Ground Coverage

28,874 Miles Traveled!! There is a pretty cool travel website that helps keep track of travel stats if you take the time to plug-in your travel data.

5 Countries Visited:  US, Colombia, Mexico, Jamaica, Cayman Islands

World Travel Map

Blue = 2015, Red = 2016

18 states visited:  the green states I have spent at least 1 night in and the orange ones I have driven through in the past year


Logistics and Financials

If you haven’t already noticed I am a bit of a numbers geek so it is no surprise that I keep track of the details.  Last time I shared my number I was pretty generic on the dollars spent.  It seems taboo to talk about money so I have been pretty vague in the past.  However, I am trying to travel more on a budget so maybe if I share it with others it will hold me more accountable to trying to spend less.  I’ve mentioned before that my goal was to spend no more on living expenses than I was spending while living in Chicago which was about $100/nt when I took into account rent, parking, utilities, internet, etc.  I know, it’s kinda crazy, but that was my reality.  So when I started to travel I was by no means trying to travel a shoestring.  I wanted adventure but while still having comforts I was used to in life.  I did not want to rough it or sacrifice anything and I was more than willing to pay to insure I was comfortable.

I honestly has no idea if it was going to be easy or a hard thing to do.  Turns out it wasn’t all that hard – even if I did not have family and friends to stay with I think it would have been very easy to stay under my budget or even under a much more strict budget.  Early on I was overspending on places to stay just because it was in my budget and I could but in hindsight it was totally unnecessary.  In fact, when I look at the best memories over the past year there are only a few places I am glad I splurged a bit (mainly ski in/out condos and beachfront places) and there are a ton of places I am glad I didn’t splurge on such as hostels in Colombia because they were socially so much better than the hotels and a quarter the price.

I think over time I have learned when to splurge a bit and when it is not worth it and I am hoping my expenses will continue to go down as I cut  back some.  It also helps keep expenses down when I spend 2 month in a high rent area like skiing in Colorado (Jan & Feb) and then spend 2 months in an inexpensive place like Colombia (Apr & May) to help average out the overall cost.


*Other includes nights where I was driving or flying and did not require getting a place to stay for the night

As you can see in the Nightly Details breakdown I have spent almost 50% of my time staying at Family & Friend’s places.  This was very unexpected and not something I planned going into this but it is also one of the best parts of the travel which has allowed me to spend so much more quality time with the people I love!  I am very fortunate that I have great family and friend who I enjoy being around (and it seems they like having me around since they keep inviting me back) and it is a double bonus because it also helps subsidize my nightly cost.  In return, I try to give back when I can, like when I was in Breckenridge in January I rented a place that slept 6 people and had many friends and family come visit.  I hope to be able to do that again next year!

Nightly Expenses

Graph shows what I paid every single night over the past year


Shows what I paid monthly along with where I was located during that time as there is definitely trends to see

Overall, my average nightly stay was $62 so I was almost 40% under budget which is pretty cool!  I saved more money in the past year by traveling all over North America than I would have staying in Chicago.  That is very hard to believe and very unexpected.

So now what?!  In all honestly, I do not know.   I am not ready to settle back down and I really do enjoy the nomadic lifestyle but I am also a little tired of planning things.  Try planning where you are going to sleep every.single.night.for.a.year and I am sure you will be tired too, right?  I just wish I could wave a magic wand and someone would have all my travel logistics figured out and my bags packed.  Ahh that would be so nice but I don’t have that person so I think I am going to keep lying low until I get my mojo back to plan some bigger, longer, further away trips (I keep thinking southeast Asia, but then I don’t buy a ticket because I think  it may be too hard to work when in that time zone!).

In the meantime, here is how my loose calendar is shaping up:

Sept – (potential) road trip Chicago to Colorado for a couple of weeks

Oct – return to Chicago via KC and spend a week visiting with friends.  Fly to Atlanta for wedding + dog sitting for 3 weeks

Nov – still in Atlanta for a few weeks then fly back to Chicago

Dec – Dominican Republic with my sister for a week with the Soles for Souls organization

Jan-Apr – I have already rented a place in Colorado for the ski season.  It is the same place I stayed for 3 weeks in March and I am super excited to go back for 3 months!

Wow, ok, I guess I do still have quite a bit planned but there are also a ton of open dates on my calendar so who knows how they will get filled.  Maybe once I pack my car up to go to Colorado I will just take another extended road trip detouring through Atlanta until December.  Decisions Decisions.


Shout out to Barb K. and her family for reading along and following me on my journey!!

My Parent’s Visit Colombia!!

This is my very first guest post which is written by my mother!  My parents came to visit me in Medellin very last minute.  I think it was because they were afraid for my safety and knew I had a first rough week (which I wrote about it here).  They claim it was only due to the cheap airfare….whatever the reason really doesn’t matter because I was thrilled to see them since it had been almost 5 months since I had seen them last.  As for the blog post, I thought it would be good to hear about and see Colombia from a different perspective.  Everyone know’s I am adventurous and pretty much up for anything so what I say about Colombia might be taken with a grain of salt.  My parents on the other hand are pretty content with their lifestyle of spending winters in Florida, summers in Chicago, trips to Minnesota often, and until only recently trip to visit me in random places.  They have traveled the world throughout their years but not enjoy staying close to home and family.  Needless to say I was super surprised when they decided to buy tickets and even more surprised at how much they loved the city of Medellin.

Medellin, Colombia in South America?  Are you crazy?  It was the drug capital of the world twenty years ago. So why did Ralph and I decide to travel there?  Did we miss our tech nomad daughter who left us in August 2015 to travel the US?  Sure!  Did we want to travel to foreign lands to explore and experience a new culture & language?  Absolutely!  But, honestly, what was the REAL reason that one Saturday in April, while enjoying the beauty and weather of Ft. Meyers, FL did we book a flight to Medellin???  It’s simple, if you know us! 147.00 RT on Spirit Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale!  It was a 2 hour drive from FM and 6 days later, we were on our way.  What an adventure!!!


As we flew over Medellin, preparing to land, we were astounded at the beauty of this country with its mountains & valleys that are part of the Andes mountain range.  The vegetation and foliage were a boundless canvas of beauty and wonder.  What a welcoming sight! The winding & hilly streets packed with motorcyclist & compact cars zooming around us, only added to the excitement of the day.  We arrived at Park 10 Hotel in the afternoon and settled into our gorgeous room, awaiting Megan’s arrival. The staff was quite friendly, helpful,and most importantly, spoke English. That evening we walked to a local restaurant for empanadas & sangria. The food was quite flavorful and we all indulged in a variety of Colombian dishes. Of course, the sangria was delicious and helped us all have a wonderful night’s rest. Megan had the best night’s sleep since last August.  Thank the Lord for air conditioning!!!

Megan did not have to work on the weekend, so she scheduled a few tours for us.  First up was a street food tour by La Mesa.  On Saturday we joined our tour guide, Laura (pronounce Lou-da) in Envigado, Colombia, a town southeast of Medellin, just south of El Poblado.  Envigado is rich in culture, artistic, and culinary options.  Our food tour consisted of about 7 stops to enjoy the food of Colombia. Among our stops were a market with unique flavors of local fruits, a tasting of 3 local juices from rare fruits, a pastry stand, a churro stand, a complete Colombian lunch, and a cup of lemon gelato to end our delicious tour. Laura was a delightful 26-year-old who could speak perfect English and was very proud to share the culture and food in this beautiful town of Envigado.

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Ralph, Laura, & Mo on Street Food Tour

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Ralph & Mo enjoying empanadas

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Fruit stand on the tour

colomia fruit

a variety of the unique fruits we tried

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Lunch with the group on the street food tour

That afternoon we moved into a Hotel Sites, which was closer to Megan so we could spend more time together. It had a sun deck, swimming pool, exercise room AND free breakfast!  The room was air-conditioned with good wi-fi, so Megan moved in with us for the rest of the week.  What fun was that!!!  We walked to the Exito (grocery store) and stocked up on staples, snacks, and drinks. We ended our evening with cheese, crackers, and fruit at the pool.  With gorgeous views, these tired travelers toasted to the end of a wonderful day!

Up bright and early on Sunday, our tour guide, Juan Jose, picked us up at 9:15 for our 2 hour ride to the town of Guatape, a small, very pretty lakeside town.  The town’s main attraction is the gigantic rock, El Penol, Guatape.  It has an elevation of 7005’ & is part of the Andes mountain range.  Megan had planned to climb the 742 steps and we finally decided to join her. We met many Colombians, old and young, on our very slow journey up the rock.  Although it was brutal, we finally made it to the top, where a snack bar and restaurant served snacks and drinks.  Oh how satisfying that first taste of beer was!  The views were breathtaking and the local flair was worth every step! NOW, it was time to go down the stairs.  You would think, no problemo!  Well, it was 10 times harder for me!  My thighs throbbed with every step and my legs were shaking all over! We stopped in the town for a snack and tour, but it began to pour, so we headed back to the car. As the rain subsided, Juan suggested we take a boat ride to see the mansions on the lake.  We passed by Pablo Escobar’s home and some of his family’s homes.  It was very interesting and Juan shared the history of Pablo Escobar. With the Sunday traffic and the rain, we arrived at our hotel about 3 hours later, anxious for a good night’s sleep in our air-conditioned room.

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Before we started the climb up El Penol

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Looking up from the bottom….that’s a lot of steps!

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Megan, Ralph, and Mo at the top of El Penol

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View from the top of El Penol

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Streets of Guatape

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Start of the boat ride on Lake Penol

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Ralph & Mo on the boat ride

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Pablo Escobar’s delapidated mansion on Lake Penol

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View of the rock from Juan’s family friend’s house we stopped along the tour

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Very green water on the boat ride!

The problem with being a tech nomad is that you have to work – Forty hours per/week!!!  Megan started right after breakfast on Monday and hoped to complete her 8 hours by 4:00, so we could have time with her later.  We have to admit that we were not too upset with hanging around the pool, since we could barely get out of bed and stand up from our previous days climb of 742 steps!!! We spent the entire day laying by the pool while doing a little reading and a ton of napping.  We made lunch for all and hung out at the pool for the rest of the day.

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Ralph lounging by the pool

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The rooftop pool at Sites Hotel

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View from the pool at Sites Hotel

We enjoyed the street food tour so much we decided to take their other tour, the foodie tour, which is a food tour that goes to a number of high-end restaurants in town.  The food tour with Laura was scheduled for that evening and we taxied over to the meeting spot.  Hopping between the raindrops we arrived at our first of three restaurants, Alambique, a delightful open air restaurant, where we were served drinks, canasticas, and apps.  Each was very unique, and we enjoyed trying the local choices. On our second stop, we went to Carmen’s and were treated to four entrees:  pork, sausage, ribs, & fish with Colombian spices and sauces. They were all delicious with a beautiful Colombia presentation. Our last stop was Barcal for wine and dessert.  The desserts were fabulous!  As we stuffed each morsel down, we knew that we had overindulged, but honestly, it was worth every mouthful!!!


sampling of all the food we had on the tour!


more food we had on the tour! My mouth is watering looking at that tuna!

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Megan & Mo at Alabique

Tuesday was another relaxing day by the pool for us.  Our thighs still throbbed!!!  Meg, of course was working.  We reserved a table at an Argentina steak house a few blocks away.  Our waitress did not speak English, but we all worked it out.  We had an appetizer, entrée, & dessert with a large carafe (or two) of sangria.  What a wonderful evening of conversation & laughter!!!

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Sangira Time!

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This was a SINGLE entrée! SO MUCH FOOD!

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After a few too many sangira’s and way too much meat we were now BFF with our waitress!

On Wednesday and Thursday Megan had to work OVERTIME!  She was swamped with work and on the phone most of each day appeasing clients and quickly problem solving issues of the day.  We walked to the mall and picked up a salad for Megan, and waited for her to complete her work.  On Wed evening Juan Jose (our tour guide from earlier in the week who we became friends with) picked us up for a tour of the neighborhoods and a lovely dinner at Ocio, a hot spot for locals and a favorite of Tom Cruises when he is filming a movie there.  Juan requested “Tom’s” table and we thoroughly enjoyed the food, ambiance & company.

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Thursday was our last full day in Medellin and Megan was swamped with work.  Ralph and I took a walk and had lunch at this cute, Italian outdoor bistro right across the street from our hotel.  We brought Megan some delicious pasta and relaxed until dinner. We were all very tired and stuffed from the excessive vacation eating and drinking, but, of course, we were hungry.  We decided to reserve a table at a Mexican restaurant, just two doors down from our hotel.  We ordered apps and Margaritas and laughed most of the evening about all of our adventures that week. Megan wanted us to stay and we would have loved to do that, but we had commitments in Fort Myers and planned to head back to Libertyville in a few days.

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Sunset at the hotel

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Another look of Medellin from the hotel

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View from hotel

On Friday we had an early pickup & bid fond farewell to Megan, knowing that she still had another month of adventure.

It’s hard to believe that this slice of Paradise, Medellin, until recently, was one of the most brutally violent regions in the world and known for their coffee, cocaine, and civil war.  But after an aggressive anti-guerrilla crackdown in 2002, Colombia has become one of the hottest tourist destinations in South America!  We were able to have a taste of their fine cuisine and travel in a few areas. There is so much more to see and do in Medellin and we look forward to returning to experience all that it has to offer!

BTW  We can’t wait to hear where Megan will be going next.  Meg, let us know because we will follow you ANYWHERE!!!

Highlights of Medellin, Colombia

After my first week in Colombia (which was pretty rough for me) my trip took a big turn for the better.  In the end, I stayed in Medellin for 5 weeks (which was longer than I had planned).  I kept pretty busy with work, hanging out with new friends, and exploring the city or neighboring areas.  My parents also ended up visiting for one of the weeks after they found super cheap flights but I will not go into those details on this post as my mom will be writing about her visit in a separate post.

Here are the highlights of the time I spent in Medellin in chronological order (leaving out all the things I did when my parents were here):

Cable Cars

I have mentioned before that Medellin is considered to be one of the most innovative cities in the world by the Wall Street Journal in 2013.  One of the reason it was given the crown is due to the public transportation system they have created including a metro system and cable cars that are included in the metro system.  Buying a ticket on the metro system (which I think was like $1USD) includes access to the cable cars which connects what used to be the worst part of the city with the largest nature park in the city.  It was a very inexpensive way to see the city and explore nature at the same time.  I had planned on going back to spend the day there hiking but my time ran out in Medellin but if you plan on going to Medellin make sure to plan an entire day in the park.  I had gone later in the day so I did not have much time to explore the park.

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Map of the metro system including the cable cars

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View of the cable car from the station

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View from the cable car going over Comuna 13 (the name of the neighborhood)

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Map of the park trails at the top of the cable car system

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View close to the top overlooking the city

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I stopped in Comuna 13 and picked up some fruit for the ride back home.

Pablo Escobar Tour

Pablo Escobar is a huge part of the history of Colombia and particularly Medellin since that is where he was from.  While it was great to learn more about the history I will be honest it felt pretty awkward being on the tour which included going to his grave site.  This was one of the first tours that I did when I was in Medellin and in looking back I am disappointed I financially supported a company that is making money off a criminal plus the tour itself was pretty lousy.  Regardless, I did the tour and I met his brother Roberto Escobar so I thought I would share the story.  However, if you are traveling to Medellin – I would personally pass on any Pablo tours

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Photo Op with Roberto Escobar (Pablo’s brother)

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The books Robert Escobar wrote and was selling to us silly tourists 🙂

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Graveyard Pablo and his family are buried in. Again this was super awkward as a tour group going here because well the obvious – it is a graveyard not a tourist attraction. I wanted to bury my head into the ground while we were there.

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Even though I was super embarrassed to be there I still snapped a picture of his tombstone which was surprisingly modest given the amount of money he had.

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In his brother’s house there was a museum with a number of vehicles – many of which had gunshots but they were all bullet proof so no one was ever hurt.

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Personal photos of Pablo visiting The White House when he was on the most wanted list. Very odd…

Atletico Nacional Football Match

You simply can’t go to Colombia and not go to a soccer game!  I went with a group from my hostel to a game one night and it was quite the experience.  While it still was a soccer game and therefore not the most exciting sport to me, it was super awesome to see first hand the experience of a game.  The crowd was going crazy the entire time which was very surprising considering in the end it was a tied game zero to zero!  Doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing but the people watching was amazing and the crowd’s energy was infectious.  If you go to a game do not be fooled by the beer they are selling….it is all non alcoholic beer!

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Ticket Stub

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Sun setting during the game

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Very heavy police presence at the games. Apparently there is a bad history of violence at these games which is why they also no longer server alcohol at the games.

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Night view of the game

Here is a short clip of the beginning of the game and the crowd chanting.  They seriously did not stop chanting once during the entire game!


Paragliding over Medellin

One of the big adventure sports in Medellin is to go paragliding….so I just had to try it!  I was not quite sure what to expect.  I have gone sky diving before and I have been hot air ballooning.  For some reason I thought it would be more like hot air ballooning and super calm but that was not the case.  It was very peaceful but I struggled a bit with motion sickness and pretty much spent the entire time trying not to vomit on my pilot.  The views were breathtaking and I am glad I tried it but next time I think I will opt to stay on the ground.

Here is a video the tour company which is clearly Guanabana tours since they plastered their name all over everything put together of the ride and a few pics:


Take off!



I took charge for a short time but the guy took it back over when all I did was pull down on the breaks due to nerves!


Rio Claro Jungle Getaway

I decided to escape the city and try to get into the jungle one weekend as I was getting a little tired of the city life.  I tried to go on a tour to Rio Claro Nature Reserve but most tour companies had a minimum of 4 people to go on a tour and I was not able to get a group on board so I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a tour all on my own.  I was super nervous to take a bus all by myself in a foreign country but I am super glad I took the plunge as it turned out to be one of my favorite getaways in Colombia and a day trip to Rio Claro with a tour company cost almost the same as 3 nights on my own!

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Medellin to Rio Claro was about a 3 1/2 hour bus ride which takes a little longer than straight in a car due to the several stops

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Bus station in Medellin

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This is Mary who sat down next to me on the bus. She didn’t speak any English and as you all know by now my Spanish is not very good but we sat and talked the ENTIRE bus ride. We shared pictures of our families and she taught me Spanish words I did not know. I would show her a picture of my sister’s husband (hermana esposo) and she would tell me it was my brother-in-law (cuñado) and so on with all our pictures. We shared food.  She would tell me the names of all the towns we drove through and point out any special buildings or places.   She would tell me which food to buy from the vendors who came on the bus and which ones to avoid. It was such a pleasure and a very special experience for me – one I will never forget. In the end, before she got off the bus, as her stop was before mine, she gave me her rosary for extra protection since I was traveling alone (I am wearing it in the picture), we hugged and I knew at this point that I made the right choice to take the bus and get out-of-town for the weekend.

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One of the vendors that came on the bus selling cheesy bread.  Mary told me to buy a bag and my only mistake was I didn’t buy more!  oh man was this stuff good!!

A short video of my entrance to the Rio Claro park after I got myself a room at the ‘hotel’

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This was the path from the main common area to the eco hotel which is where my room was located

Here is a video of my room:

Here is a time lapsed video of the walk from my room back to the community dinner area.  It was about a 15 minute stunning walk


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The hotel room was $40/night and included all meals which were all pretty good. This was dinner one night.

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One night during dinner I have a friend join me. He got a little friendly and ended up eating some of my food!

Here is a video of the bird eating my food:

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View from my room

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The nature park had a lot of organized activities. I went rafting one day which was super fun. There was a group of 6 woman (including me) all on the boat and we had a male guide. We rafted, swam, sang songs, jumped off rope swings, even saw a monkey!

Rio Claro rafting

Unfortunately since we were completely in the water I did not have my camera with me so I decided to draw a picture of the day.

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I also did the Caverna activity which was a difficult hike to the opening of a cave and then we swam, jumped off ledges, and hiked within the cave. It was crazy scary and there were these weird birds called guácharos that made the most awful noises living in the cave. It is giving me chills just listening to the sound again.

Rio Claro

Once again I had no camera so here is my picture

Here is a clip I found online of the noise of the birds.  This is not my clip or even the same place but it is definitely the same birds making the same god awful noise!


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This is the common dining area where people gather at night for dinner, drinks, and card games.

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Me trying to dry all my clothes that got soaked in the rafting and cave trips. It honestly took over a week to my shoes to dry!

In my opinion the trip to Rio Claro was a must do for people going to Medellin.  I am planning on doing a followup post on the logistics on how to get to Rio Claro from Medellin as it seemed super confusing when researching and trying to plan it all myself but it honestly could not have been any easier and so worth it!

The Forgotten Road Bike Ride

This was by far my favorite activity I did while I was in Medellin.  It was challenging, a great workout, and a huge adrenaline rush!  Essentially it was a 35K downhill bike ride (with a short uphill part).  I white knuckled pretty much the entire way down and man do you get speed!  We biked through people’s back yards, got chased by chickens, the views were spectacular, and it even had some very challenging single track (I opted out of most of it myself but did a few of the ‘easier’ ones).  It was great to not only get lost in the beauty of Colombia but to do so on a bike.  I strongly recommend this to anyone who likes to bike ride – but it’s not easy so be ready.  (Here is the link to the company I did the ride through: Colombia Bike Junkies)

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Shops on the way via van to the start/top of the mountain to start our decent

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Still on the way to the start in the country side that was super green


Start of the bike ride with the group

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This was the house we stopped at to eat lunch a few hours into the bike ride. The owner (standing in the doorway) was super sweet and cooked our group an authentic Colombian meal

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Our homemade lunch

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A local walking the horses outside the lunch house

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Taking a break to eat some fruit on the side of the road

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One of the neighborhoods we rode through


Taking another break near a small waterfall eating some more local fruits


Photo Op where I was supposed to lift the bike over my head but didn’t quite understand the instructions or maybe I was just too tired!!

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obligatory bike ride selfie

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just a small glimpse of the views I had during the ride

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more views from the bike route

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At the end of the ride (which was a hard 6+ hours) we rode to this cool pool and took a dip with all our clothes on and a few celebratory beers! It was SOOO refreshing!

As I mentioned at the beginning the next post will cover what I did in Medellin when my parents came to visit me and then I am off to the coast and islands of Colombia for some Caribbean fun!

My First International Trip as a Nomad is Off to a Rocky Start…

As I have mentioned numerous time before my next adventure was a trip to Colombia for almost 2 months.  Why Colombia, which I get asked all the time?  Well Colombia, Medellin specifically, is an up and coming city where many Digital Nomad (like myself) flock to due to the low cost of living and high speed internet (among other things that are better outlines here).  That alone is enough to get me to buy a ticket and decide to spend two months in a foreign country, I wanted to do it and I had watches and alerts on airfare but the main reason I bought a ticket to Colombia is because I found a super cheap ticket the day after the Miss Universe Pageant.

Do you remember when Steve Harvey announced Miss Colombia as the winner but then found out it was a mistake and he misread the card and had to take her crown away to give it to Miss Philippians.  If you have no idea what I am talking about here is the very awkward clip:

Well, leave it to Spirit Airlines to run a one day special to Colombia at 75% off the already pretty inexpensive prices.2016-01-03 08.51.05

This deal was on December 21, 215 and I already had plans to ski through end of March so I randomly picked a date between the 4/5/16-4/13/16 qualifying dates and bought myself a one-way ticket for under $100 to Medellin.  In the back of my mind I was not sure if I would end up going since I had no clue what I would be up to in 4 months but for less than $100 I was willing to take the risk.

Now fast forward 3 ½ months and here I was realizing this could actually happen and panic set in on what the hell am I doing?  Where should I stay?  I need to learn Spanish!  What should I do?  I need to learn Spanish!  Do I need special travel insurance?  I need to learn Spanish!   How about vaccines?  I need to learn Spanish!  You get the idea….

One of the most difficult parts of traveling full-time is planning the travel.  Since I am ALWAYS traveling I am ALWAYS planning and sometimes I just want to enjoy the current moment and not plan for the next moment so I just don’t plan the next one or I only plan the bare minimum.  When I plan sometimes it causes a lot of anxiety, but if I just try to ignore it all until I get there hopefully it will be less stressful leading up to a big trip (or at least that is what I tell myself).

So for the trip to Colombia my bare minimum planning checklist included:

  1. Health Insurance – will my current insurance works in foreign counties in emergencies or do I need to buy supplementary insurance. Turns out I am covered so nothing more to do here.
  2. ATM/Banking – How much does my current bank change me to take money out of a ATM? How about my credit card?  Turns out my bank charges a TON to take money out (it could be $10-$15 per withdrawal) at a foreign bank!  Charles Schwab offers a checking account that is FREE and will reimburse any ATM changes in any country so I opened up a new account for travel.  My credit card does not charge any foreign transaction fees so I did not need to change anything there.
  3. Cell Phone – I notified my cell phone company I was traveling to a different country and signed up for a package that gives me unlimited texting in any country for a small fee. The calls and data are still super expensive through my phone so I have no plans of using it for that purpose but thought it would be nice to still be able to text people.  I also have a unlocked phone that I am bringing with me and plan to put in a local sim card once I get to Colombia (if needed).
  4. Vaccines – You can go to the CDC website to see what vaccines the government recommends prior to visiting a country. For Colombia there was nothing that I didn’t already have as a child so I just got a tetanus booster since it had been awhile since my last one.
  5. Return flight – It is common that to be allowed into a country you need to show proof of exit aka a return flight.  Since I bought a one way ticket back in December I wanted to complete my plans so I had a return flight before I tried to enter the country.  I ended up buying a return flight out of Cartagena for travel date of 5/28.  Future me will have to determine how  and when to get from Medellin to Cartagena seems silly to worry about that now!  For the records, when I went through customs they did not actually ask me for proof so I am not sure if this is really required but better safe than sorry was my thought!
  6. Place to stay when I arrive in Medellin – I decided to book a hotel at first because I had read that most hotels speak English and I knew very little about hostels. This was probably a big mistake but more on this later.
  7. Directions (written on paper) on how to get to hotel from the airport in case my phone is dead
  8. And of course pack for the trip!

That is not to say I didn’t do more research or have some ideas of different things I wanted to do and see while I was there but that was my bare minimum to get done in a short amount of time because I had less than a week from when I got to Chicago from Colorado to when I left to Colombia!  It was a busy week!

I was able to pack all my stuff for the 2 months into one backpack (which in my opinion is not even that big) and at last-minute I decided to bring another smaller backpack to hold my laptop and other small electronics so I could carry them with me on the plane – best decision ever as you will see later!!

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Everything I was planning on bringing all laid out. Some of this stuff I wore to the airport and a few shirts didn’t make the cut when I could not zipper my backpack but for the most part this is accurate.

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Stuffed larger backpack and pretty much empty smaller backpack that held my electronics. That is all I packed for 2 months. I’m not sure it’s gonna work but I can always buy something if I end up needing it.

My flight was scheduled to leave super early in the morning and with the drive to the airport and needing to get there 2 hours early for an international flight I had the brilliant idea that maybe I should not sleep at all and just go straight to the airport at 2 in the morning.  In hindsight this was a mistake but at the time I thought I was brilliant!  Rather than going to bed early I went out to a nice dinner and decided to go to a late showing of Deadpool.  It was the first movie I have seen in the theater in several years.  It was a great movie and I recommend everyone should go see it but probably not in lieu of sleep the night before a big travel day.

I made it to the airport fine but when I went to check in there was an issue.  Apparently my date of birth was wrong in the system.  I am still unclear if I entered it wrong or if they did but regardless the woman was super concerned because the last time this happened the person was not allowed on the connecting flight and sent back to Chicago.  It took 4 people to fix the issue but they ‘thought’ it was fixed and allowed me to continue to the gate and wished me luck in Florida.  ‘Thanks?’  I replied.  Worried that in just a few hours I might be back in Chicago calling friends to come pick me up at the airport.

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I snuck this picture so they didn’t know I was taking it which is why I only got 3 of the 4 women in the shot.

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Sunrise on the flight from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale

I had no issues in Ft. Lauderdale connecting to go to Medellin and the flight was practically empty so I had my own row which allowed me to lay down but I still was not able to sleep probably due to nerves and excitement.

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Me laying down in an entire row but still not able to get comfortable enough to doze off. I think I was just too darn excited!

It was a cloudy rainy day when I landed in Medellin but it was still gorgeous.  Here is a time lapsed video of the landing and my first peak of Colombia:

It is now about 2 PM and I have been traveling for 12 hours and awake for over 30 hours.  Needless to say I am exhausted and a little nervous with what I am going to experience when I get out into the airport to try to get a taxi to my hotel.  Unfortunately, getting a taxi is not what I should have been nervous about.  I got through customs with no issues but then at the baggage claim I am not able to find my bag.  It’s nowhere to be found.  The baggage handlers are putting all the bags in piles when they come off the conveyor belt and the piles are not marked but I determine based on the luggage tags which pile is the Spirit Airlines pile and again my bag is not there.  I try to talk to a few of the staff to ask if all the bags are all unloaded and no one speaks English or understood my Spanish.  I do my best to improvise knowing full well I probably don’t make much sense.  I think I am saying, ‘My backpack is not here.  Is it done from Ft. Lauderdale?’  because those are the words I knew to put together to form a sentence that I thought would make sense but who knows what I am really saying because no one seems to understand me.  At this point probably 30 minutes have gone by.  Thankfully (for me) another woman who was on my flight also did not have her luggage.  She was Colombian but lives in Chicago so I latched onto her like no other.  She walked around to tell people (in Spanish) her luggage was missing and I would then say, ‘Me too’ after everything she said.  Turns out there is nothing they could do as our bags were not here.  Spirit Airlines gave me a $25 credit for future Spirit travel (which did not even cover the cost of my checked bag – thank you Spirit!) and I was on my way to find a taxi to go to my hotel with nothing but my laptop in tow (THANK GOD I HAD MY LAPTOP!).

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The first of many new Spanish words I learned on my trip: perdido (lost).

Finding a taxi and getting to the hotel was painless.  However, once I got to the hotel I was a little disappointed.  I initially booked this hotel because based on the review that it has English speaking staff, super-fast internet, and free international phone calls.  The hotel was like my little Medellin insurance policy.  I was willing to pay a bit more to know that when I got to Medellin I did not have to worry about work logistics and I would give myself a week to get settled and decide where to go more permanently during my stay.  The problem was the staff did not really speak English (their English was about as good as my Spanish and I am quickly learning my Spanish is awful), the internet was not fast, and I never could understand if international phone calls were free (since the staff did not speak good English) and I was not willing to try to find out.

Now I need to add the caveat that I realize I am in a foreign country and I do not expect everyone or anyone to speak English nor do I want them too and I really am trying to improve my Spanish however when I pick a hotel due to the fact that it says English-speaking – I expect the staff to speak English.  I was paying more for that particular service.  I will probably also keep mentioning the English/Spanish thing on the blog not because I am a naïve American who expects the world to speak English but because it is a challenge being in a country where you do not speak the native language and it continues to be one of my biggest struggles while I am in Colombia.  This is my story of my travels and this challenge is a big part of that for me. 

Now back to the hotel….at this point I say f*it.  I get a room, order room service because I haven’t eaten all day, and I go to bed for the night at like 6 pm.  Happy First Night in Colombia with no luggage!!   YAY!!!

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I order bandeja paisa from room service which is a traditional Colombian dish from this region. I like to call it a heart attack on a plate. Egg, sausage, ground beef, FRIED pork belly, plantain, avocado, rice, and beans. it is oh so delicious but oh so bad for you.

The next day, Sunday, I wake up…still no luggage and I decided my top priority is to figure out how I am going to work since the internet at the hotel is not good enough to make internet calls or log into my client site.  I found a co-working space, Epicentro, and even though it is not open on Sundays I decided to walk there to make sure I know where I am going and explore the town a bit.  I found a Spanish school nearby where I signed up for private Spanish lessons to help me get more comfortable speaking which will start on Tuesday.  Later that same night my luggage arrived which was a HUGE relief!  Woohoo I can shower and change out of these filthy clothes!!  Things were looking up.

My first work day in Medellin was a success, I went to Epicentro and was able to get my work done and get on all my calls without issues.  After work, I joined a free walking tour of Medellin which is one of the top rated activities in the city.  It was a great intro to the city and would recommend anyone who comes here to sign up for it.  It is an English-speaking tour which I welcomed with open arms after just 2 days of trying to speak Spanish it was a godsend.

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Our tour guide giving us the low down on how bad thing used to be in Medellin just 20 years ago when it was the called the Murder Capital of the World

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Map of the walking tour

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This sign was in a little coffee shop downtown. It says a cup of coffee is $2,000, or $1,500 if you say thank you, or $1,000 if you say good morning and thank you. Just love it!

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Square of Lights in Downtown Medellin

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Veracruz Church Medellin

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My first empanada in Colombia. It cost 68 cents and tasted like a giant stuffed Frito Lay chip

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Someone had placed bird seed in the park that said PROGRESO which mean PROGRESS

2016-05-09 09_45_56-(1) #WalkingTour #Medellín with Real City Tours... - Free Walking Tours Medellin

Our tour group taking a break for a photo-op


After such a successful and fun first work day, I wish I could say my second work day in Medellin was a success but my week rapidly started to decline on Tuesday.  Work turned crazy with typical work stuff but to top that off my connection at the co working space was horrible on Tuesday.  I am not sure if it was just a fluke or maybe it was because of massive thunderstorms (and I mean massive), who knows, but regardless I couldn’t keep connected to any phone calls with my clients over WiFi and after many dropped call I ended up using my personal cell phone which is about $1/min to finish out my day.  That alone was enough to make me crabby and I tried to chalked it up to the cost of doing business in a foreign country but I was not a happy camper and knew I needed to quickly find a solution so after my first Spanish class I went to the local cell store to try to get a local sim card to make calls back to the US.  Let’s just say this was a complete shit show but thank god for technology!  I was armed with my translation app and I literally sat with a poor girl and we went back and forth with a translation app, me writing a question in English, the app translating to Spanish, her typing her response in Spanish, the app translating to English, back and forth, batch and forth, back and forth.

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Screenshot of part of our conversation from my phone

Finally, I had what I needed and was sent on my way.  It took forever and I walked out of there with a sim card with 100,000 pesos (which is around $33) loaded onto the sim card which I was told should give me around 8 hours of talk time to the states. Which is hell of a lot better than the $1/min AT&T was charging me.  Unfortunately, the sim card ended lasting only about 4 hours of call time (which is still better than AT&T).  I still to this day do not know what went wrong or how to fix it but I reloaded it again with another 100,000 pesos later in the week.  Luckily, since I reloaded the phone my internet connections have been much more stable and I have been able to successfully make wi-fi calls without any issues so I have not needed the phone (knock on wood)!

The rest of my week continued to be wake up, eat breakfast, walk to office, work until 3, walk to class, class until 6, walk back to hotel, usually order room service (I was always starving b/c I would skip lunch), catch up on work, study, sleep and repeat.  My days were long.  I walked a ton because nothing seemed far enough away to take a cab but nothing was really all that close.


Map that shows the location of the hotel (bed), work (computer), and class (book)

Work was unusually stressful, Spanish school was taking up a lot of time, I was exhausted physically and mentally, and starting to wonder why I am doing this to myself.  This is supposed to be fun and I was miserable.  I was not enjoying Medellin – I haven’t even been experiencing Medellin!  I felt like I was failing at work because I would leave early to go to class.  I felt like I was failing class because I did not have the time to fully commit to the homework and practice.  I was lonely because I had not really had a real in person conversation with anyone in almost a week.  It was all just too much.

I cried every night and even sometime during the day.  For example, when I tried to get my phone reloaded for the second time and the woman told me there was no way I used 100,000 pesos in just 2 days I started to cry.  Not because I was sad but because I was frustrated.  I was so frustrated I couldn’t communicate with her and tell her what I needed or ask her to tell me why I am out of money on my phone.  I wanted her to explain to me why it all disappeared when she thinks it shouldn’t have but to me the easier thing was to fork over my credit card and get more added.  I don’t know how to say all the other stuff to her and even if I did I would not know what she was saying in return.  I was defeated and that was the path of least resistance so that was the path I took.  I even cried at one point during the week when my Spanish tutor asked me how I was doing.  He was not asking because he cared.  He was asking as part of an exercise to see if I know how to respond in Spanish.  When I started to answer I cried.  In Spanish class.  That might have been a new low point.

As I type this a few weeks have passed and I am now already laughing a bit (ok, laughing a lot) but at the time I felt like a failure and I wanted to give up.  I felt like I had no one who understood me or could sympathize.  People always tell me I am living the dream with what I am doing but it isn’t always easy and if I open my mouth to vent or to ask for help I feel like the only response people would provide (which would be my response too) is this is your choice and if it’s too hard, stop and go home.  But the thing is I don’t want to go home so I decided some things had to change around here so I could start enjoying Medellin and I could create the life I want while I am here.

The first thing that was not working for me was my current hotel.  It was pretty far away from everything which required me to spend a lot of time walking.  Now, I don’t mind walking but when I don’t have much time to begin with spending 2 hours a day walking is probably not the best use of my time.  The hotel also had no social scene.  So I decided I would check out of the hotel and move into a hostel that was one block away from the co-working space.


I have never stayed in a hostel before.  Ever.  While I was not worried about getting killed or tortured like in the movies, I was worried it would be disgusting and loud.  I picture all hostels to be like gross frat houses which even back in my college days I wouldn’t live in one of those even if someone paid me!!  I have some standards and I never intended this trip to be roughing it or a budget trip but it seems to be how people travel in South America – they stay in hostels so I decided I will give it a go.  The worst that can happen is it is awful and I come back to a hotel, right?  Plus, a private room at the hostel is only $20/night which is just crazy inexpensive and gets me excited to see how spending so little in Medellin might allow me to splurge on future trips.

The next thing I had decided needed to change was the Spanish-speaking/lessons.  I really want to be a better Spanish speaker but it isn’t going to happen overnight and being in class 2 hours a day was not leaving me with much time in general but specially to practice and study what I have learned.  It just kept piling up day after day and not soaking in and I wasn’t truly learning it all.  I decided to cut back on the Spanish lessons to just 2 times a week.  I also realized I need to make a conscience effort to not be so hard on myself and get frustrated with myself when I try to communicate with others.  It doesn’t help anything and probably just makes it harder on everyone in the conversation.  I need to smile more!  A smile goes a long way anywhere but especially when there is a language barrier.  I will no longer apologize to the other person for not speaking good Spanish.  I will smile, try my best, try to have fun and learn something with every interaction and not beat myself up on any mistakes I made.

So that was that.  I had a new plan and on Saturday, exactly one week after I arrived in Medellin, I moved out of the hotel and into a hostel.  It was the best decision I could have made and things started looking up immediately.

The hostel, Black Sheep, was actually nice – not like a frat house at all!  My room was very basic, a bed, desk with chair, a lounge chair, and a fan, but the place was super clean.  There were a number of common areas people hang out in and socialize.  Internet was lightning fast – even faster than the co-working space!  Even though now I was only a block away from the co-working space I could stay in the hostel and work in my room which was much quieter and more convenient.  The staff at the hostel was super friendly and spoke fluent English but also were willing to practice Spanish with me.  I would always try to talk in Spanish but it so nice knowing when the conversation gets difficult we can fall back on English which we often did.  I think what surprised me most was almost all the guests in the hostel spoke English.  It was very weird at first when I would pass by someone in the hallway and they would say ‘hi’ rather than ‘hola’.  I don’t know if I will stay here for the rest of my time in Medellin, but right now this is exactly what I need and I am not ashamed to admit it.  It was like my little oasis in the city of Medellin and for the first time I felt very fortunate to be here.

Deja Vu: Breckenridge Take Two

After I left Moab, UT I was on my way to Breckenridge, CO.  I had spent January in Breckenridge and loved it so much decided to come back for a 3 weeks in March.  As I mentioned in my last post when I was driving into Colorado, in the second week in March, it was warm (50s) and there was hardly any snow.  It was a little concerning when I had heard March was the best month for skiing and I was very much looking forward to spending the next 3 weeks on the slopes but it’ s not like I had a say in the matter and I was going to make the best of it!

I had already seen the place I was renting so the normal anxiety I have when arriving to a new location was not part of the equation which was a nice break after a bit of technical (cell and internet) struggles in Whitefish, Salt Lake, and Park City.

The place I rented was VERY small – like tiny house small!  I think it was 350 square feet and after staying in it for 3 weeks I am not so sure I could live in a tiny house – especially with another person.  I seriously kept banging my head on everything!  The ceiling over the bed, the kitchen cupboards when trying to empty the dishwasher, pretty much everything in the place made contact with my head at some point.

Here is a short video tour of the place I rented.  It was very close to the chair lift (a block and a half away) and it was very reasonably priced.  I have already inquired about going back next season but since it is so small it is hard to have visitors which I loved being able to have when I had the large place in January so who knows if I will rent it again.  Plus who knows what I will be up to in 9 months considering I don’t even know where I will be this summer!

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One of my war wounds from hitting my head in the apartment!

The first couple of days I was there it was warm, barely any snow, but I still skied and started brainstorming some hikes to do instead since the snow was not that great.  But after only a couple of days things started to change and drastically.  First off, Dan came to stay with me for the rest of my time in Breckenridge and he brought the snow with him!  It started snowing and then just kept on snowing and snowing the next several weeks!  I didn’t pay too close attention but it seemed that we got a foot of snow practically every day.  It was AWESOME!  I had never really skied in powder before so it was really fun learning how to ski all over again and I know understand why people freak out about it.  It is 1000x more fun!!

While I was in Breckenridge I had a very good daily routine.  I feel like I finally mastered the art of juggling working and skiing which at first was a struggle.  Plus without any injuries, at this point being in good ski shape, and the amazing snow we had put a huge smile on my face!  A typical work day would be:

  • wake up between 6 and 7
  • grab my phone to see how much snow fell during the night
  • if it was a powder day I would work for a couple hours, then go ski once the slopes opened at 9, and come back to work in the afternoon
  • if it was not a powder day I would work all morning go skiing in the afternoon
  • evenings always consisted of cooking dinner, sitting on the couch relaxing, working, and/or watching movies

On the weekends you can just scratch out all the work stuff out of my schedule and it was pretty much the same just more skiing.  It was very much a simple life and I loved every minute of those 3 weeks!

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The first snow I saw falling after being there a couple of day! WooHoo! So exciting!!

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The chairlift that is a block and half from the condo. It was Spring Break one week when I was there and this day the line was down the stairs. I had NEVER seen anything like it. Normally you just walk right on the lift but I guess the combination of spring breakers + tons of snow = long lines. Thank god they only lasted the week of spring break!

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My first powder run. I learned very quickly to stay off greens/blues on powder days because there is so much snow and the runs are steep enough so you barely move but its still fun!


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One night we went to see Lewis Black at the local community center. Man, he was funny especially with all that is going on with the presidential elections.

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I splurged on this trip and bought myself some skies! I had borrowed a friend of the family older skis so far on this journey and felt it was about time to upgrade since I am confident this is not going to be just a one season sport for me. I’m in love with them.

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I also bought myself a cool tie dye face mask. I wear my hippie proudly

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First day on my new skies

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On St. Patrick’s Day, Dan made us some corn beef and cabbage. Nom nom nom


The Epic app I would check every morning to see the snow stake and how much fell overnight. It’s like Christmas morning when you pull up the app and wait in anticipation to see what’s inside

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Another beautiful snowy day

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Easter Sunday. It was one of the most beautiful day’s we had and one of the most fun. It was warm and sunny and spirits were high on the mountain. It was also the first day we partook in Apres Ski – which I know is shocking but there wasn’t much drinking on this trip. I was still in recovery mode and on the Whole30 for most of this trip so diet was very clean and hardly any alcohol


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Dan & I on the lifts


I had lost one of my skis here and seriously couldn’t find it and once I did had a very difficult time getting it back on

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Another snowy day

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look at all that snow on the windows. The place is almost completely covered



On the last day of skiing I decided (with a push from Dan) to go back to the top of the mountain and complete Whale’s Tale which was the same run that I hurt my knee on back in January. This is at the top.

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It doesn’t look as scary as it felt but this is a ledge you have to kinda jump off to start the run. I literally stood there for like 5 minutes trying to get myself to go.

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This is the view from my ledge. It also doesn’t look as steep in the picture but trust me it is steep and a big jump and the bottom of the mountain is far far away. I took the plunge and not only did I complete the run without falling but it wasn’t even that hard or scary anymore once I took the first step. My skiing has improve a ton over the course of the past 3 months and I have to remind myself that 1 month I didn’t even ski.


End of season ski stats. Left side is mine and right side is Dan. This only includes Epic ski resorts. I had a day at Copper and 3 days at Whitefish that are not tracked by this app so I had 40 days total for the season. Now too shabby for first season of skiing! Dan kicked my ass on all stats though especially since he has less days in Colorado.

Leaving Breckenridge was probably most sad I have been leaving a place since I started this journey.  There is something about the mountain and the area that feel like home to me but I have other plans and adventures to take and I know it will be there when I want to come back.  So it was time to pack up, call winter a huge success, and head back to Chicago.

But wait….I can’t just go straight back to Chicago when I am sorta close to Kansas City.  (I had lived in KC from 2002-2014 so it is like a second home town to me).  We took a small detour on the drive back to spend 1 night (less than 24 hours) in Kansas City visiting with some friends and unintentionally creating a mini tour of the best of KC.  If anyone is looking to spend on evening in KC and want to do it right follow my agenda:

  1. Arrive in KC in the afternoon and go straight to Stuff which is my all time favorite place to buy unique jewelry
  2. Meet up with friends and go get a drink(s) at Beir Station
  3. Now you are getting hungry so go get some wings at The Peanut.  These are seriously the best wings ever!  Don’t eat more than 1 or you will be full.
  4. Next up go to Jack Stack BBQ.  While you are waiting for a table (because there will be a wait) go next door for a beer at Grunauer.  At Jack Stack don’t order BBQ order the ruby red trout.  It is seriously the best ever.  Let your friends order BBQ so you can try it but trust me on this, order the trout.
  5. After dinner head to Green Lady Lounge for some cocktails and live music.
  6. Then go over to Mike’s house and play cards into the wee hours of the morning.
  7. In the morning go visit your friends who just had the most adorable twins ever!
  8. Then order a pizza to-go to take with you on the road from Minsky’s
  9. Stop off at Quay Coffee to pick up a jolt of caffeine before you hit the road

Wait scratch off 6 & 7 from you agenda – that might be weird if you show up at their houses!

Now that is how you do one night in KC if I don’t say so myself!

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Kansas and warm weather and green stuff on trees! It sure felt good to feel warmth and see green stuff again!


Dan & I at the Peanut


Mike & I at the Peanut


Johnny & Michelle @ The Peanut


Michelle & I @ Green Lady Lounge

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Live Jazz @ Green Lady Lounge

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Road PIzza! In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have ordered the taco pizza. It was a little messy to eat in the car but still delicious.

Now that I am back in Chicago, the weather is warming up, and winter is officially over.  I have less than a week to unpack my winter stuff and pack up for my next trip to South America for two whole months.  EEEEKKKKKK!!!  I gotta get packing!!


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