Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice. BUY NOW! "Finding My Voice, the debut flash fiction collection from J. Brandon Lowry, features 24 stories that explore life in all its complex and messy glory. An experiment in craft and style, this collection also features original artwork and personal reflections by the author. Each tale can be read in ten minutes or less, perfect for today's fast paced world. Love, loss, joy, sorrow, the highest highs, and the lowest lows, all brought vividly to life by an emerging voice in the world of short fiction.


We left the USA for China on January 1, 2018 and since then have had the most exciting adventures of our entire lives. I have never had more fun, experienced so much personal growth, and been more in love. I am so thankful for this adventure and what it has done for our lives. As if I don’t have enough to be thankful for, I am so proud to announce that my special fella has published a book called Finding My Voice. That’s right. Dr Lowry is now a published author!!!

The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Finding My Voice book cover by author, J. Brandon LowryA little over a year ago, I did something monumentally stupid. Having grown tired of my career as a research scientist, I quit my job in order to pursue a new avenue: Professional Fiction Writer. Never mind the fact that I’d spent seven years of my life obtaining a PhD and proudly becoming my family’s first doctor, or that I had all but given up on reading fiction in that time, or that the last creative writing course I’d taken was in high school, or that I was way too old to be seriously entertaining a dream I should have let go a decade before. None of that mattered; I was going to finally take a leap and see if I could make that fantasy a reality.

– J. Brandon Lowry, Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice is a collection of short stories that Josh has been working on over the past year while also working on his first novel. Oh yeah, and traveling the world with me! It has been incredibly interesting for me to see the transformation of his writing style and choices of subject matter. His very first piece, “The Heist”, is “the true story of the one and only time I’ve ever stolen anything“. The story is fun and funny, but he had never told his mother or anyone else about this experience in crime. I felt like it was one of his first experiences as a “real” writer, panicking a little bit that people will see too much of him in his writing. It was an interesting struggle for me to watch him overcome.

Another exciting development for me to watch was how our travels worked their way into his writing. The eccentric aunt character from “The Flavor of Christmas” was inspired by someone we met while traveling. “Light as a Feather” was written when we were in Malaysia. It’s the story of a man who dies and wakes up in the “wrong” afterlife. I found it interesting that the story of competing religions would come about after spending time in such a diverse country surrounded by Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. My favorite, of course, is “It Didn’t Have to be This Way, Ted”, a story I inspired during one of our many hikes in Australia where we were out in the middle of nowhere, but could hear the music of a nearby vineyard.

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J. Brandon Lowry

Picking out an author name seemed like one of those useless conversations couples have in moments of idle musing. It’s a bit like asking, “What should we do if we win the lottery?” I’m not sure either of us really thought it would make much of a difference. However, that first email Josh received starting with “Dear J. Brandon” was a strangely special moment. It’s weird to experience all of these little successes together, like first recognition of “J. Brandon”, first draft in print, first signed copy, first check, and first payout to our artists.

Proof copy of Finding My Voice by J. Brandon Lowry sitting on top of the packaging it arrived in.

We’re not making millions of dollars yet (more like 10s of dollars), but it still feels amazing having accomplished this goal. And it isn’t going to stop here. As of two weeks ago, J. Brandon Lowry has officially wrapped up his novel! 170,000 words of pure imagination is done and ready for the next step. We’re writing pitches for agents, building his brand as an author, and pushing for traditional publication.

Living the Dream

I know this is a bit of a step away from my usual posts, but traveling the world isn’t the WHOLE story. It’s just one facet of our shared vision for our ideal lives. Our adventures are about the people we meet, the things we learn, and the ways we grow, and I’m so thankful that we are finally able to pursue our dreams together.


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Preparing For a Trip to China

We have three more weeks in Boise, then we are heading off to China. Here is a run-down of the documents we have prepared for the trip.

Out of all of the traveling we have done over the last thirty years, traveling to China has definitely been the most difficult. In addition to all of the usual document preparation for traveling, like getting a passport, Americans will also need to apply for and receive a visa before arrival. Below, we’ve put together a short article to help Americans prepare for a trip to China.

Passport

It is slightly more work to travel to China than it is to Europe (for US citizens, anyway), but it’s not nearly as bad as some other countries. To prepare for our trip to China, I started working on all of our necessary documents about three months before departure. To fly into China, Americans need a passport that has been valid for at least six months. 

Passports are a great item to have regardless of whether you plan to travel to China. As long as the applicant is over 16 years old, issued passports will last ten years! With a passport, Americans can visit Canada and Mexico for up to six months at a time without any additional travel I.D.

How to Get an American Passport

It is important to start on this process early as the processing time is four to six weeks. To apply for or renew a passport, visit the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The process requires:

  • Completed application
  • Evidence of citizenship
  • Identification
  • Passport photo
  • $110 fee (as of April 2018).

Every time I have my passport photo taken, I like to collect at least five copies. To prepare for a trip to China, I needed to send one photo out for the passport, one to the Chinese consulate for my visa, and two for my emergency folders (more on this later).

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Chinese Visa

A Visa is an additional, mandatory travel document that is glued onto one of your passport pages (no, it has nothing to do with credit cards). It explicitly states how long I can stay within the country and how many times I can come back. There are many types of visas including those for Work, Study, and Travel. This article will be focusing on the Travel (L) Visa.

The Chinese Travel Visa (Category L) is for visitors who are visiting China for tourism. These travelers are invited to travel throughout the country, but forbidden from purchasing property, getting a job (including tutoring), or applying for schooling. It’s possible to do all of these as a foreigner, but they require a different category of visa.

How to Get a Chinese Travel Visa

Chinese visa’s must be collected directly from a Chinese consulate. There are only five such consulates throughout the United States (April 2018). Unless an applicant happens to live close to one or is willing to travel to one, they will be required to use a service. Online services or traditional travel agencies can help applicants prepare for a trip to China. Start by checking China’s Embassy website to see which consulate your state is associated with.

After researching, I ordered our visas from Chinese Visa Service Center rather than flying to the consulate in San Francisco. The company was slightly more expensive than some of the others, but was fast and provided me with a very suitable visa that fit all of my needs.

The process requires:

  • Passport* with at least eight months remaining and two blank visa pages

*Yes, we had to send our actual passports, so beware of the discount companies. Stick with businesses that have a good reputation. 

*I have read a lot of mixed reviews on this piece, so I am guessing this is a major deciding factor. As I have received a work visa from China previously, I was able to simply write the address of my first hotel and the day I planned on leaving. For first time visitors to China, I suggest making the supporting documents as detailed as possible. I would send a day-by-day itinerary along with photocopies of airline and hotel reservations. 

  • Consulate Specific Items
    • Proof of Residency (for California consulates)
    • Additional Visa Forms (for Houston consulate)
    • Employer Letter (Washington D.C. consulate)
  • Fees (depending on collection method)

The processing time varies depending on the collection method. We used the Chinese Visa Service Center. After the embassy fees, service fees, and shipping fees, our visas cost us $270 each and were returned within six weeks.

How to Read The Chinese Visa

Unfortunately, applicants rarely know which kind of visa they will receive until it arrives in the mail. I once requested a 60 day visa and received a 30 day visa, requiring me to adjust my plans. Most recently, I applied for a 60 day single-use visa and instead received a 60 day, multiple entry visa that is good for 10 years!

Once my visa had been approved by the Chinese consulate, I had my passport returned with a sticker that looked like this attached to one of my visa pages:

Chinese-Visa-1024x639

  • Category: “L” means Tourist Visa. This allows the holder to visit China as a tourist. Tourists are not permitted to work or attend full-time classes.
  • Enter Before: Double check this date! This is the absolute expiration of the visa.
  • Entries: This is how many times the tourist can leave and return to China using the same visa; on the example above, A. ABC is only allowed one entry. This means that Ms. ABC can not leave mainland China for quick trip to Hong Kong or anywhere else. Once she leaves China for any reason, she will not be able to return without applying for another visa.
  • Duration of Each Stay: This is the maximum amount of time the tourist can stay in China per visit. In the example above, Ms. ABC only has one entry and can only stay for a maximum of 30 days. If Ms. ABC were to stay for 31 days, she would be subject to heavy fines or worse. I have a 60 day, “multi” entry visa. This means I can come and go from mainland China as often as I would like, but I can only stay for a maximum of 60 days at a time. This year, I visited China for 57 days, then left for 70 days. Then I went back for 28 days before leaving again.

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Health Documents

China does not require any medical documents for Tourist Visas. However, there are some safety measures that are worth considering when preparing for a trip to China. Before leaving on our RTW trip, we visited our local Travel Clinic to get up-to-date information on all of our health needs. The CDC provides a helpful website to help link Americans to local travel clinics around the country.

Vaccinations and Medications

There are no vaccination requirements for China, although the Hepatitis series and Typhoid cycle is recommended by CDC and our travel nurse. For our most recent trip to China, we ended up getting both, along with all of our other boosters. The Chinese government does not require any proof of these vaccinations.

As for the usual medicine bag, I suggest saving all receipts and paperwork for any prescriptions. After our trip to China, we continued on to explore more of SE Asia for the rest of the year. This required me to pack a year’s worth prescription medication, which kind of made me look like a drug mule. Fortunately, I wrapped each prescription bottle with the doctor’s note and my receipts for buying them. I did not run into any trouble, but better safe than sorry.

Insurance

We purchased travel insurance from World Nomads. For a little over $1,000 each, we are covered for most accidents that happen at least 100 miles from home for the next year (there are shorter plans as well). It includes emergency medical assistance, evacuation, and even little things like lost or stolen luggage. Travel insurance will not cover our usual preventative doctor visits and does not count on our taxes as medical coverage.

It is difficult to prepare for a trip to China without considering some of China’s quirks. Compared to the USA, daily life can be quite different and a little less… structured. Travel insurance helps ease my mind about not getting my camera stolen, having my train trip cancelled at the last minute, or being re-routed to a layover in Beijing then expected to fly out of Shanghai a few hours later (yes, that actually happened). We can’t prepare for everything, but it is nice to have a backup.

China does not require travelers to have medical insurance and will provide medical assistance to anyone for a fee. Like many other countries, there are pharmacies readily available just about anywhere that provide most of the products one might need. Some common items that won’t be found are: anything with antibiotics (including creams like Neosporin), deodorant (Chinese genetics don’t require it), tampons, mint flavored toothpaste, and floss.

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Back-Up Documents

Moral of the story, once I had my passport and visa, I was set to go. HoweverI never go on a vacation without organizing a set of emergency documents. We make three sets of everything: one set we bring with us, one set we leave behind with a trusted friend, and the other set is digital.

For some examples, my sister once lost her ID in Florida two days before leaving on a cruise that required an ID. I’ve been in hotels where the front desk took my passport for the night because their scanner was broken and they had to register me in person. I have also been locked out of the internet for more than a week during which my credit card bill became overdue. These things DO happen and I like to be prepared.

Emergency Travel Documents

  • Photocopies of passports and visas
  • Additional passport photo cut to size
  • Day-by-day Travel Itinerary
  • Emergency contact information (local and foreign)
  • Additional items for Trusted Friend Folder
    • Check books
    • One valid credit card
    • Copy of online banking passwords
    • Last Will and Testament

It may seem a little bit of overkill, but this helps us to cover all of our bases in case we run into trouble.

Hopefully this helps make sense of everything and you feel like you can prepare for a trip to China. Feel free to leave comments if you’ve got any other questions about my travel prep. Or, you know, if you want to come visit us, I might be able to give you a hand!

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Document Prep for China

We have three more weeks in Boise, then we are heading off to China. Here is a run-down of the documents we have prepared for the trip.

Some of the most common questions I get asked are about our international travel preparations, things like travel documents, vaccinations, that kind of stuff. So I figured I’d put together a post going over everything so everyone can see how I’m getting ready for a year of seeing the world.

Passports and Visas

It is slightly more work to travel to China than it is to Europe (for US citizens), but not nearly as bad as some places. I started working on all of our necessary documents months ago in preparation. To fly into China, you need a passport that has been valid for at least six months, along with a Tourist Visa. A Tourist Visa is an additional travel document that is glued onto one of my passport pages (it has nothing to do with credit cards). It explicitly states how long I can stay within the country and how many times I can come back.

Chinese-Visa-1024x639
The example visa above is a single entry Tourist Visa. The L category is for tourists and the number of entries is listed as 01. It is valid from June 12, 2009 to September 12, 2009 and only allows the visitor to stay for 30 days at a time (duration of each stay). The person carrying this visa will only be able to visit China once for up to 30 days before they need to get a new visa. They will not be able to return to China if they leave briefly to visit Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet, or Taiwan. 

After researching, I ordered our visas from Chinese Visa Service Center rather than flying to the embassy in San Francisco. After the embassy fees, service fees, and shipping fees (all required), our visas cost us $270 each. That is quite expensive for a visa, but the terms are very good. We get multiple entries from November 2017 to November 2027, and each entry period is good for 90 days. This means we can go in and out of the country as many times as we would like for the next 10 years as long as we are never in the country for longer than 90 days at a time! This will be perfect for our long term travel plans, since we’re trying to keep things as flexible as possible.

Vaccinations and Insurance

There are no vaccination requirements for China, although the Hepatitis series was recommended by most doctors we talked to. We ended up getting the series along with all of our other boosters. Our doctor also got us prescriptions for a basic antibiotic and two Z-Packs (for severe food poisoning). We did not have any trouble finding other basic medicines last time we were in China, but we did put together our usual travel pack of meds for convenience.

We purchased travel insurance from World Nomads. For a little over $1,000 each, we are covered for most accidents that happen at least 100 miles from home. It includes emergency medical assistance, evacuation, and even little things like lost or stolen luggage. It will not cover our usual preventative doctor visits and does not count on our taxes as medical coverage. However, we plan to keep up with our usual check-ups while traveling by simply paying the low out of pocket costs. We will reconsider getting a recognized health insurance next year.

Back-Up Documents

I never go on a vacation without organizing a set of travel documents. We make three sets of everything: one set we bring with us, one set we leave behind with a trusted friend, and the other set is digital. Our travel documents include photocopies of our passports and visas, additional passport photos cut to size, a general itinerary, and emergency contact information. The trusted friend also keeps our check books, one of our credit cards, a copy of our online banking passwords, and our Will. This helps us to cover all of our bases in case we run into trouble.

My sister once lost her ID in Florida two days before leaving on a cruise that required an ID. I’ve been in hotels where the front desk took my passport for the night because their scanner was broken and they had to register me in person. I have also been locked out of the internet for more than a week during which my credit card bill became overdue. These things DO happen and I like to be prepared.


Hopefully this helps make sense of everything. I’ve been working hard for months getting everything put together, but I feel like I’ve got all the bases covered. Feel free to leave comments if you’ve got any other questions about my travel prep. Or, you know, if you want to come visit us, I might be able to give you a hand!

Support

A quick and easy way to help keep us going

I know what you’re thinking. “Gosh, these guys are just so cute and fun, I feel like sending them a bunch of money!” Okay, probably not that exactly, but if you do feel inclined to help support our adventures abroad, there’s a quick and easy way to do it that won’t affect your budget at all.

Take a look over on the right side of the page. You’ll see a couple of boxes, one of which is labeled “Shameless Advertising”. Find the link (it’s the word “HERE”) and click it. That will take you to Amazon.com. Then, bookmark the page. Every time you shop on Amazon, use that bookmark, and we get a commission on whatever you buy. Seriously. You don’t have to get anything in particular or spend a certain amount, just do your normal Amazon shopping and we get a cut (as long as you use our bookmark, of course!).

The other thing you can do is to hit the “Like” button at the bottom of each post. It won’t fatten our wallets, but it does increase our visibility; the more likes a post gets, the more likely it will be seen by strangers, which will lead to bigger opportunities for us. Also, it just feels really good to see people taking that extra second to click the button. Comments are even better, so if you like something we wrote, leave a comment! Even if it’s just to say, “Good job”, “Wow, I really envy you”, or “You left your jobs for this?!” Your comments help us to keep going and keep doing what we love.

So, to wrap up:

  • Support us financially by shopping through our Amazon Link
  • Support us emotionally by liking and commenting on our posts

Thank you to all of our amazing supporters and readers for believing in us and following along as we try to fulfill our dreams. Not one of you has said, “This is stupid,” and we really appreciate it!


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  • Wait, you don’t understand why people give Amazon gift cards as gifts? Well, that must mean you don’t have Amazon Prime… the best invention since Netflix. You want something, BAM, you’ve got it! Just think of the last time you drove all over town looking for a pair of purple socks with yellow ruffles. All of the time and hassle could have been avoided if you had just hopped on good old Amazon and had it delivered to your home with free shipping. Do it! Everyone loves Amazon Prime! Click MY link. You get a 30 day free trial and I get $3! What’s not to love?!

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Chasing the Dream

Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication.

[Originally posted on The Academy]

A while back I ran across this excellent cartoon depicting a section of “On Writing,” by Stephen King. The first few panels really hit me in the feels, because it depicts King describing his “dream” writing desk. Growing up, I always told people I wanted to be a scientist of one sort or another, because even then I knew writing wasn’t a practical career choice. Everyone wants be to something when they grow up, but how many people actually get there? What reason did I have to think I was any different? So I went with the achievable and smart choice, when really I was fantasizing about my writing room.

Let’s take the tour.

The first thing you’ll notice is the view from the window.  Sometimes there’s a lake, sometimes there isn’t, but the pines are always there, close enough that I can watch the squirrels chase each other up and down the trunks, but far enough away to allow for a nice yard. Under the window is my desk. It’s a little bigger than necessary for its function, but I like to decorate, so I need that space. The desk, like everything else, is a dark cherry color. It’s got everything a desk needs: a blotter; a brass lamp with one of those green glass shades; a decorative typewriter that I’ll try to actually use once and just end up making a huge mess with; and quirky desk toys scattered about for character. To the right is my little library, with bookshelves built right into the wall and soft leather chairs for reading (and maybe enjoying the occasional scotch and cigar). To the left of the desk is one of those old-fashioned refrigerators with the white, clamshell doors and a latched handle. This is my sanctuary, my little hideaway where I can slip into other worlds for a while and no one will notice that I’m gone.

Sadly, this place doesn’t exist. Yet. But I’m working on it. Last night, I submitted my first piece of fiction for publication. It’s a short story, a psychological horror tale about an incarcerated protagonist whose life is slowly becoming a waking nightmare. It’s got a little bit of social commentary, maybe some insight into the realities of life, and even some science. Also bugs. Lots of bugs.

I have no idea if it’s going to get picked up. I wrote it, after all, so of course I think it’s good, but it could be a real stinker. It’s just under 6,000 words, and I had to fight for nearly every one. It went through 4 drafts (one was eaten by the Microsoft OneDrive cloud gods — curse you!) before ending up in its finished state, and even now I’m thinking about making a couple tweaks. As the saying goes, “Perfection is the enemy of the good”; it’s time to let it go and see what the editors have to say.

This is the first time I’ve felt like I’m really treating my hobby as a career, and it feels good. All the little things that have been rattling around in my brain are finally starting to coalesce into something real. This first submission, while a small step, is the first one toward making my writing room a reality.

I can’t wait to break ground.

Choosing the Right Vacation Rental

In choosing a place to stay, I like to use a little checklist to make sure I’m making the right choice. Here’s my checklist and the things I like to consider…

As a mid-30’s traveler, I’ve come to love vacation rentals. I’ve done enough traveling to know what I want out of my accommodations, and in my experience, vacation rentals offer the best bang for your buck. For example, I like having my own space that is quiet and clean. I prefer to spend my money on experiences and not amenities (because I probably won’t use them anyway). I want to eat at home at least once per day so that I can save cash for an amazing brunch or highly-rated dinner. This is why I love vacation rentals, because they offer all of these experiences at a price that is comparable, or often better, than staying at a hotel.

In choosing a place to stay, I like to use a little checklist to make sure I’m making the right choice. Here’s my checklist and the things I like to consider:

Step 1: Is a vacation rental right for this trip?

While I’m a big fan of vacation rentals, they’re not always the most appropriate choice. I like to consider rentals, hotels, and hostels; there is definitely a right time and place for each. When planning my accommodations, I first take a moment to consider my priorities:

Hotels

  • Duration – less than five days
  • Occupancy – four people or less
  • Location – pretty important
  • Price – highest price

Hostels

  • Duration – less than three days
  • Occupancy – less than two or more than two non-couples
  • Location – very important
  • Price – cheapest price
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Be careful not to immediately disregard hostels. This adorable cottage was our hostel in Doolin, Ireland near the Cliffs of Mohr.

Vacation Rentals

  • Duration – five days or more
  • Occupancy – two or more
  • Location – less important
  • Price – mid range price

Step 2: Where should I start my search?

There are many ways to find vacation rentals online. My favorite is Airbnb. HomeAway/VRBO are similar and just as good (we used HomeAway for our Rome trip), but Airbnb is usually my go-to simply because it is the one I am most familiar with.

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Step 3: What should I search for?

Josh is particularly picky about where he likes to stay, so I take great care in picking out the perfect vacation rental. There are several search options available on Airbnb. Here are the ones I use every time:

  1. Location – I narrow the map radius so that I am within ten minutes (walk or transit) of the major sights, but not actually in the thick of things where I am going to get charged extra for being in the “prime location.”
  2. Room Type – I have gotten better, but I do have a bit of a distrust for germs. I need my own space that I can clean to my liking, and that no one is going to touch except for me until I leave. This is why I select my Room Type as Entire Home. Don’t get spooked! Entire Home also includes studio and basement apartments. Mostly this is just my way to make sure that I have a private bathroom.
  3. Amenities – This piece can really limit my options, so I try to only select amenities I can’t live without (first world style) like high-speed WiFi, washing machine, dish washer, and a television with HD input.
  4. Price – Hotels are convenient and reliable, so if I can stay in a nice hotel for the same price, I may chose to do that over staying in a rental. The price is the make-or-break and must be at least the same price as my desired hotel or less (I rarely stay in rentals for more than $120 per night including cleaning).

Step 4: How should I request a booking?

People of the internet, please correct me if I am wrong, but from what I can tell, the hosts don’t seem to care what I write in my request letter. I started by writing beautiful, heartfelt requests, but quickly realized (based on the questions my hosts asked me later) that they never even read my request. Now I either use the Book Instantly option or I write a generic request email:

Hello,

My husband, Josh, and I are visiting location on holiday. We are clean and respectful renters who enjoy experiencing local neighborhoods. We would love to stay in your beautiful apartment if it is available for the selected dates.

Thanks,

Jen

I suggest booking as soon as possible and sending requests to your top two choices. Keep an eye out for hosts that are quick to respond with a friendly note. If the host takes more than two days, they may be considered unreliable (imagine if it took them two days to respond to my “I lost my key and am now locked out” email).


Step 5: How do I make the most of my rental?

I’ve landed and it’s time to head to my vacation rental! Woot! Now what?

By now, the host and I have emailed back and forth and made arrangements for meeting up at the apartment. Some rentals have options to pick up the keys without ever having to see anyone, but I like to take the time to meet with the host and ask them questions.

  • “What should I do if I lose my key or I have issues with the apartment?”
    • The host usually gives me their local phone number, or even better, they introduce me to the complex’s super.
  • How do I use the appliances?
    • This may sound silly, but foreign machines can be a little different.
    • Don’t forget to ask about the shower. We once had a rental with five knobs. It was a chilling experience trying to figure them all out… haha. See what I did there… chilling…
  • Where is the nearest grocery store frequented by the neighbors?
    • I don’t want to shop at the over-priced petrol station across the street. I want to shop at the everyday grocery store where I will find everything I need at normal prices.
    • This question often inspires my host to tell me about some of the other fun neighborhood quirks.
  • What is your favorite place for a cheap lunch?
    • This was our million dollar question in Barcelona. The host sent us to a restaurant that was off-the-beaten path, was filled with locals, no one spoke English, the food was 100% authentic, and the prices were set for the working class.
  • What is your favorite special occasion restaurant?
    • I can read reviews online all day about the hottest restaurant in town. I’ll usually pick my top five restaurants for my one fancy dinner before I leave home. If my host answers with one of the five on my list, that one turns into THE one.

Once we’ve said good-bye to our host, the place is ours and I like to try and think of it as our home. Our first stop is the grocery store to pick up cereal and milk for breakfast along with some fresh-baked bread and sliced meat for a cheap snack, and a bottle of wine… because we are on vacation and we deserve it. This $20 trip to the store usually saves us a ton of money throughout the week by allowing us to skip unnecessary restaurant stops.

Last, but not least, I like to do my laundry on the last full day. I start it when I wake up, hang it after breakfast, then fold and pack it before going to bed. Now I’m packed AND I have one less thing to do when I get home. That’s a nice feeling.


Step 6: When do I get to go again?!

When I have a home away from home, my vacation gains a new layer of relaxation. The places travelers call home during their travels are so underrated. There are so many stories to be told and experiences to be had right in the hotel, vacation rental, hostel, or host family’s home. I can not wait to share the places we live with you!

I’m a Travel Blogger

I got my first “job” today!

Sunday Shower Thoughts:

  1. “What would life be like if humans had a mating season?”
  2. “I wonder if sweet potatoes would be good on pizza.”
  3. “I love vacation rentals. How fun would it be to review vacation rentals? OMG, I’m going to review vacation rentals.”

I got out of the shower, threw on some clothes, and immediately set to work. I emailed 10 different vacation rental owners and told them I wanted to look at their place, take some pictures, and do a small piece on my blog. Everyone who actually read my email, responded positively.

On Monday, Josh and I drove into town and met with a woman who owns a dozen properties in the area and was excited to get some professional photographs taken of a property she recently acquired. That made me nervous. “Is she going to be upset when Josh and I show up with our phones and the GoPro? Does she think my blog is being read by thousands of people?” I was so nervous, but I put on my work voice and just did it.

We had so much fun! The woman and her mother were really nice people with interesting stories. The two apartments she took us to were lovely and exactly the kind of places we stay at during our previous travels. Josh took video with the GoPro and I took photos with my phone.

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Again, it was a little nerve racking taking photos on our cheap equipment with very little photography skill, but the photos weren’t the point. It was the story. The woman gave us the rundown of the area (similar to what she would share with her renters) and we visited many of the places she suggested. We imagined an entire week’s worth of amazing blog posts and stories we could tell if we had a week at her place. It would be the dream job I have always wanted.

Dream Job Checklist:

  1. Quit my nine to five and hit the road. – CHECK
  2. Start a blog. – CHECK
  3. Make first contact as a travel marketer. – CHECK

Am I dreaming? Has this really happened? This blog has 30 posts, I doubled my followers on social media, and I got my first “job”. There are still a few steps to go before I’m Samantha Brown famous, but I’m on my way. I really am. How did I get so lucky?