On Being Prepared: What You Can Learn from Two Dudes I Picked Up in Yosemite

One mid-October day on my road trip, I was headed to Yosemite. It was getting to be late afternoon and I wanted to catch sunset at Glacier Point. I’m usually pretty good at being prepared– normally, I have my campsite set up by this time, but in order to catch the sunset, I decided to camp at a site just outside the park, even though it would mean getting in late.

Glacier Point was as incredible as I had imagined, pink and luminous, and by 7pm I had moved on. An hour later it was dark. After stopping to watch the rock climbers on El Capitan, I was making my way East on Tioga road when I saw two guys with their thumbs out. The look on their faces was pretty desperate. They weren’t the typical bearded, backwards hat, pants rolled at the ankles, Chacos and some kind of technical backpack climber dudes you see in Yosemite. No, these guys were pretty clean cut and didn’t have a whole lot of stuff with them. I very, very rarely pick up hitch-hikers when I travel solo, but this seemed like an exception. I pulled over.

When I picked Joe & Yo up, I was blasting Bon Iver eating peanut butter with a spoon. I explained that I didn’t have back seats because I slept in my car, so we’d all have to squeeze in the front. They probably thought I was crazy.

Exasperated, the guys expressed their thanks. Yo tried to give me $20. I laughed.

“Guys, you would have been picked up eventually,” I said.

Still, they responded, “You saved our lives!”

I asked where they were staying. Their campsite was a little bit out of the way, so I asked if they had room for another car. They said yes. Bingo, my campsite for the night.

When we got to camp, I took a better look at Joe and Yo, and of course, laughed about how their names happened to rhyme. They struck me as city boys, and when I asked, they confirmed that yes, they came from San Francisco for a quick camping trip. It was probably around 45 degrees at this point, about 9pm.

I felt a little guilty as I cooked a huge feast and they heated up their cans of soup on a brand-new-tags-still-on MSR Pocket Rocket, which I did assure them, is a great stove. Joe started making a fire. I somewhat resisted the urge to help.

I asked how they got themselves in a situation where they had to be picked up on the side of Tioga Road by some girl with a car bed. Joe pulled out the map they give you when you roll into the park.

“Well, last time I was here, I went this far,” he measured with his fingers. “And so I figured I could go this far.” He laughed a little, probably recognizing that he sounded a little ridiculous. I tried really hard to not to give him my “Holy Shit, That Was Dumb” face.

Joe wasn’t even sure if the whole path they took was on the map.

From what he could guess, it seemed like it had been a 16 mile day, including a summit. And they had done it with a liter of water each, no backcountry map, and definitely no headlamps.

Joe and Yo were lucky, but not only because I picked them up. There are just so many things that could have gone wrong on their hike that day that I was frankly amazed that having to hitch-hike was the worst thing that happened to them!

Here are some of the basics that the guys should have considered, and what you can learn from them.

And this is what that sunset looked like, in case you were wondering.Beautiful and humbling in many ways.

How long is the hike?

And is there elevation gain? Understand what 16 miles feels like. If you’ve never hiked before, that’s gonna be painful… and dangerous. The Visitor’s Center at any National Park will be an excellent resource, and Park Rangers can recommend great hikes. Make it a priority to check in with a Ranger at the Visitor’s Center to ask about conditions and get recommendations for your time in any National Park.

What do we pack?

Once you know what hike you are going on and have an estimate of how long that will take you, consider what you should bring. If this is going to be an all-day event, bring at least two liters of water… more (sometimes even double) if it’s hot. Bring food for the day. Bring synthetic or wool layers, a hat and sunscreen if it’s sunny, and a rain jacket if there is any precipitation whatsoever in the forecast. I was taught to always bring a rain jacket, but I know people that forego it if the weather forecasts a bluebird day. Bring a small first aid kit and a headlamp. You never know when you’ll need it.

Should we tell someone where we are going?

Yes, yes and yes. Let someone know what trail you are headed on, and when they can expect you back.

Overall, know the weather, the time the sun is setting, and your limits. Don’t push it or try to be a superhero– mother nature will always win.

I don’t know a single mountaineer, climber, or hiker who has never been in a situation where they felt underprepared… and often, they thought they had taken every precaution. The message is this: understand what you are getting yourself into and be prepared. Plan for the unexpected so that if and when it happens, you can get yourself out of trouble ASAP.

Know what you are getting yourself into and you will be able to enjoy nature so much more.

Know what you are getting yourself into and you will be able to enjoy nature so much more.

These are the basics. Obviously, they are important. If you’re interested in learning even more about the backcountry, I recommend taking a course– REI, NOLS, and the Sierra Club offer courses, events and outings, just to name a few organizations that offer them. There are also plenty of organizations at the local level that host outings, often free of charge– make it your business to find one. Fuel your passion by arming yourself with knowledge.

Thanks to Yo and Joe for insisting that I make an example of them!


Full Time Travel: How to Get Started

One of the biggest questions I get goes like this: I’m at a point in my life where I want to travel/blog/do photography, but I am not sure where to start.

The question “Where do I start?” is one that I ask myself on a daily basis.

The first thing is: figure out if you are really ready to do this thing. When I started traveling, many of my friends would tell me I was so lucky and that they were so jealous. The truth is, they could have been doing the same thing, but they always made excuses for themselves: not having time, needing to work in whatever place, needing to stay put, “just can’t.” I could have made those same excuses for myself, but I chose not to.

So if you really want to do this, commit to the idea.

There is no “right way” to make travel and adventure your full-time lifestyle. There’s no step-by-step guide that can 100% guarantee that your travels will be safe, happy and life-changing. Be prepared to learn as you go.

So, where do you start? 

1. Start Saving

Money is a necessary evil. You are going to need to make a few initial purchases: maybe a flight, maybe gear, maybe a visa. Figure out how to save. Money is the number one reason people give me for not being able to travel. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen, even if it takes you a little longer than someone else to save the same amount.

Really take a hard look at your spending. Eliminate everything you possibly can, down to the dollar. Down to the cent. Do not buy lattes, do not go out to eat, limit nights out with friends. If you are really committed to your new life of travel, do everything you possibly can to put money towards it. Your friends and family might think this is a bit aggressive… and that’s because it is.

Aggressively saving money might make your life less convenient for a while. Trust yourself that you have made this decision, and trust that it will be worth it once you are on your trip.

Worth it.

Worth it.

2. Decide Where To Go

Do some research (and don’t let it stress you out)! There are so many cool places to go. Things to keep in mind: How long do you want to go for? How expensive are these places you are looking at? Is it easy, logistically, to travel to other countries from where you start? Will there be a language barrier? If you are planning on working, is it easy to get jobs in whatever place you’re considering?

I find it helpful to pick two or three places and weigh my options. A dollar will get you way more in Thailand than in Iceland. Australia is more expensive to leave because it is, hello, an island. Budapest is a fascinating city but is an entirely different landscape than the mountains and beaches of New Zealand. Cities? Beaches? Mountains? What are you looking for?

Think about it and narrow down your options.

There are SO many cool places.

There are SO many cool places.

3. Line Something Up

Having an idea of what you’ll be doing for your first week or two is extremely helpful, and will give you some peace of mind in what may be an otherwise unfamiliar situation. This might simply mean booking a hostel for the first few nights, but here are a few other options to think about.

Planning to WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a great idea. WWOOFing means you work on a farm in exchange for lodging and/or food. Often this is a wonderful opportunity that will teach you a lot about the place you are in. If you’re looking for a great learning experience to kick off your travels while having a base for a week or longer, this could be for you. You usually buy a membership for the country you are visiting, which will give you contact information for farms. You’ll then coordinate directly with farms regarding availability.

Another option is doing a Work-Stay or Work-Exchange. Many hostels abroad offer part time jobs in exchange for a free dorm bed. If you know what city you’d like to be in, you can email hostels directly and ask. Work exchanges aren’t only common in hostels or B&Bs, but can also look like a nanny job, or helping folks around the house. Good websites to check out are Help Exchange and Work Away.

Getting a job (like, where you get paid actual money) is also a fantastic option. In some cases, it’s possible to line up a job or internship before you arrive, even a few months in advance. I’ve found a handful of my odd jobs abroad simply by Googling it. In other cases, I prepared a resume before I arrived, then spent a few days seriously job hunting once I got to the country. If you do this, prepare to hustle.

Planning at least the first week or two of your travels is a good idea because it allows you to get your feet wet without being stressed about finding accommodation. You’ll also learn quickly how much you need to plan in order to feel comfortable. Everyone is different!

I took this photo while working in Costa Rica. Really.

I took this photo while working in Costa Rica. Really.

4. Do Your Homework

Come up with a budget and calculate your expenses. There are tons of helpful travel blogs out there that will help you figure out everything from expenses, to what to pack, to what to eat.

Find a few travel blogs you like and make reading them your favorite new hobby. Get as much information as you can– it might come in handy, even if it just inspires you to try something new on your travels. A few travel bloggers that have inspired me are Nomadic Matt, Adventurous Kate, and Alex in Wanderland. Travel bloggers have done it before. They are the experts, and loads of information about their travels is at your fingertips!

As you’re accumulating ideas and inspiration, start thinking about what you’d like to accomplish on your travels and how long you’d like to be gone. If you’re booking a round trip ticket, you already know your timeline. If your trip is open-ended, have an idea of how you are planning to fund yourself, and what you’d like to get out of the experience.

Social media can help you in terms of inspiration and networking. On my most recent trip, I met quite a few people through Instagram, and as a result, did more and had more fun! Reaching out to someone on social media can be a great idea. Of course, always use common sense and be safe when meeting people from the Internet.

I connected with people on Instagram to do this backpacking trip in the North Cascades!

I connected with people on Instagram to do this backpacking trip in the North Cascades last month. It was a hilarious and beautiful trip!

5. Go

If you are waiting for the “right” time, stop. There will never be a right time. The right time is whenever you decide it is. If you decide that the right time is now, then the right time is now. That being said, plan well. Once you have saved enough money, book your ticket. Generally speaking, tickets are cheapest about 3-4 months from the date of travel for international flights. Look this up specifically for the area you are going and you could save yourself some money.

Once you’ve picked a date, feel free to get really, really excited. You’ve taken a huge step!

One foot in front of the other!

One foot in front of the other, ya know?

I lived abroad out of my backpack for three years, and if there is one piece of advice I have for you, it’s this: Just start. Don’t think too hard about it.

There’s no one resource that will guarantee you’ll be happy and fulfill all your goals abroad. And there never will be. The only person who can make that happen is you.

I didn’t wake up one day feeling ready. I just went, even when I didn’t feel like I knew how. I wasn’t an expert. I got my first Smartphone in 2014 and starting putting photos on Instagram. I am a great example of someone who is figuring it out as they go.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “well DUH,” then Congratulations! But most people, including myself, need a push. So here it is.

The best way to get started… is to start.

Questions? I’d love to answer them. Email me.


My Favorite Hikes in the World

I haven’t been to the whole world. But I’ve been to some of it, and what I have seen is wildly gorgeous and inspiring.

Here are some of the most memorable hikes I’ve ever done.


I’m still not really sure how this place exists. It’s SO gorgeous– the terrain is simply stunning and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Golden volcanic landscape and turquoise lakes = ALL OF THE YES. Wait for a clear day… you’re gonna want to see this. The part you really don’t want to miss is in the middle of the hike, about 6.5 miles in, so whether you choose to do the Crossing one way or as an out-and-back, plan for lunch at Emerald Lakes. Expect 3000ft of elevation gain, losing about that much on the way back (more if you go one way).

Length: 12 miles, out-and-back to Emerald Lakes possible. Allow 6-8 hours.
Difficulty: Challenging
When to go: Best December-February. Check conditions before you go.


Huge limestone karst rising on either side of a peaceful river. DREAMY. As with most things I have observed by traveling in China, you just kinda figure this one out. You have to cross the river a few times (this means pay a bamboo raft dude). Go with zero expectations and a ton of flexibility and you’ll be stoked. Once you get to Xingping, there’s a trail to Lao Zhai Shan, a karst peak with a stunning view. It’s a lot of stairs, so allow an extra hour, but it’s worth it. If you can’t find it, just ask locals and point up.

Length: 6.2 miles. Allow 5-6 hours.
Difficulty: Easy peasy. Lao Zhai Shan is challenging, but you’ve gone up stairs before.
When to go: Best April-October. Check conditions before you go.
Here’s some helpful info.


What I have seen of Alaska is incredible, and this hike is no exception. This trail runs across from Mt. McKinley, giving you the best eye candy ever on a clear day. The ridge itself is pretty, but it’s the view of the Denali range that gets this hike on my list. You could do a short section of this trail as a day hike, but I recommend spending 2-3 days here to maximize your chances of seeing McKinley. If you only have one car, you’ll need to organize a ride back to where you started (or hitchhike). Make sure you are well informed about camping in bear country!

Length: 9-22 miles, depending on which trailheads you use. Could be a solid day-hike or a multi-day trip.
Difficulty: Goin’ up is challenging. Moderate once you’re on the ridge.
When to go: Summer. Check conditions before you go.


In my opinion, this is THE way to see the Amalfi coast. This walk is extremely scenic and gives you spectacular cliff-side views and a sense of Mediterranean landscape. Simply put, it’s gorgeous. Pack a picnic and take the bus to Bomerano in the morning. From there, follow the white and red signs all the way to Nocelle in Positano. This is more of a walk and less of a hike, as you’ll have great views of cliffside towns. Expect jello legs from the MANY stairs you’ll encounter as you get closer to Positano.

Length: 5 miles. Allow 4 hours.
Difficulty: Mozey status.
When to go: Best May-June or September-October.
Here’s some helpful info.


This hike is GREEN, rocky and gorgeous. It’s in Wales, so it’s cloudy. A lot. However, if and when the clouds do break, the landscape is spectacular. There are lots of trail options, and even a train you can ride up or down, so don’t expect to be doing this hike alone. If you’re looking for a challenge, I recommend Crib Goch on your way up and one of the more gradual trails on the way down. Crib Goch is very challenging with sheer drops on either side of you, so only go if you know what you’re in for.

Length: 7-9 miles round trip. Lots of options for trails and difficulty. Allow 6-8 hours.
Difficulty: Anywhere from literally sitting to a very difficult rock scramble.
When to go: Best in summer. Check conditions before you go.
Here’s some helpful info.

On any hike, always be prepared for the conditions and always Idiot Check yourself. What does that mean? It means you should make sure you have all the gear, water, food and skills you need for any adventure in the outdoors. Being prepared means you can spend your time having a ton of fun instead of being worried.

What trails are on your list?


10 Ways to Save Money for Travel

“I just don’t have enough money to travel like you do.”

I hear this a lot.

If you want to continue to spend the way you do, then you will never have the money you need to travel. Travelers will tell you that saving money for travel is easy, and it’s true. But it is a trade-off.

Here are 10 habits anyone can adopt to save more money for the trip of their dreams.

This tip is everywhere because it’s a GOOD ONE. One $4 coffee 5 days a week equates to almost $1000 a year. Don’t want to give up coffee? A 2.5lb bag of Starbucks coffee from Costco will run you about $25. Let’s add $5 for milk and you’ve got yourself all the lattes you want for the month for $30. You’re still saving $600 a year.

When you grocery shop for items you eat or use regularly, look at the price per pound or per kilo. Go for the cheapest item per weight/unit—buying in bulk is your friend. Often this means spending a lot up front, but you will buy less often. Seeing a bigger number on the screen can be stressful, but remember that you are saving on hidden costs.

Going out to dinner with a drink twice a week costs at least $50. That’s $200 a month and $2400 a year. Cooking for yourself is fun and rewarding, and healthier a lot of the time! Visit farmers markets and buy what is in season for cheaper, better quality produce. Find easy recipes you enjoy cooking and eating. Cook with staple grains and buy them in bulk. Make your own snacks to avoid buying them when you are out.

Yes, having a car is incredibly convenient, but it’s also expensive and a liability. To limit the money you spend on gas, look into alternatives for getting where you need to go. Walking and biking are my favorites. They’re free and make you feel great.

Let’s pretend you spend $9 on lunch 5 times a week. That’s $45 a week, $180 a month, and a whopping $2160 a year on so-so takeout. Obviously you aren’t going to quit lunch—but the cost of bringing your own delicious creation to work is much lower. Even with a roomy budget of $4.50 per lunch, your home-made delicacies can save you $1080 per year.

Look back over the past year and think of how many of your nights out were mediocre. We’re not trying to kill all the fun here, but you don’t need to spend your money on any more average nights at the bar. Be choosy when you go out—that not only includes when and where, but also what and how much you drink. If you cut out two beers (at $5 each) a week from what you normally drink, you’re up $40 for the month and $480 for the year. Also, no hangovers and no cash wasted on drunk pizza.

If you don’t have one already. Replace most liquids that you consume with water.

Make a list of things you really need. Anything that isn’t on this list is a want. Anytime you want something that isn’t on the “need” list, give it at least a month. If you still want it a month later, go for it if your budget allows, and take the time to find it at the lowest price. If it was a frivolous purchase, you probably don’t still want it after a month has gone by.

I know people who don’t want to look at their bank accounts because they are afraid to see what they have spent. Is this you? Being aware of your spending is huge! Write down everything you spend normally for a week. You may be able to identify quite easily where you can further change your spending habits.

Savings account, piggy bank, anywhere as long as it doesn’t go into The Black Hole of Money Sucking Mystery. Make it untouchable to you. Pretend it’s not there. You saved this money for a reason. Pay yourself first, because you’re awesome.

All of these things on this list are habits. They are lifestyle changes you make because you know it is worth it. Saving money for travel involves making your life a little bit less convenient, but carries with it a massive benefit of new life experiences and amazing memories.

Happy New Year! What’s your 2015 dream trip?