Great Destinations from DC by Plane, Train, Bus, or Car

Do you live in the Washington DC area and are looking for a quick vacation spot that is close to home? Are you visiting DC soon and want to add in a day trip to somewhere outside the city? Do you wonder how how find direct flights from nearby airports? Do you need some packing tips? If so, check out this presentation:

Do you love Washington DC? What is your favorite place to visit outside the city itself? Let us know in the comments below.

Six steps for getting in your steps while on vacation

I rarely have enough discipline to follow much of an exercise regimen when I’m traveling. I do, however, follow an eating regimen; mainly, I eat everything I want in a new place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Throw in some happy hours and some wine tastings, and that’s a lot of excess calories.

Pastel Com Nata in Lisbon? Yes, please!

However, there are ways to combat the battle of the bulge when visiting Europe or any other new place. All it takes is some good walking shoes, a hat or umbrella, and some sunscreen. Here’s how you can continue to get in your steps while you’re traveling- and keep eating all those delicious new foods.

1. Use public transport

When we arrive in a new country, rather than take a taxi straight from the airport to our hotel, we generally opt for public transport. That usually means walking to one end of the airport, and scouting out the metro, train, or bus stop closest to arrivals and departures. Finding a ticket machine takes a few more (hundred) steps, and then we’re on our way. Once we arrive in our neighborhood, it’s often another few blocks to our accommodation. Day one: we’ve added at least 1000 steps getting to our new “home”.

In Frankfurt, it’s easier to take the train!

2. Visit a museum

Every national capital, plus most other cities in the world, boast some museum that they are very proud of. We love to walk through these museums and learn about the history of the area, all while (usually) enjoying the air conditioning. Some museums literally take more than half a day to go through thoroughly, while others may only take an hour or two. But either way, you’ve upped your total steps for the day by walking through all those exhibits. Keep an eye out for a day of the week or month that most museums are free!

The Mexican Anthropology Museum will take hours to fully visit

3. Take a free walking tour

About ten years ago, the concept of the free walking tour started rippling across Europe, then Asia, then South America. The idea is that you join a group tour at a designated meeting spot, the guide shows you all the city they love, and you pay whatever you think the tour was worth. I have only very rarely seen people skip out on paying the guide- most people seem to enjoy the tour and pay the guide anywhere from $10 to 20€ per person. Over the years, we have taken free walking tours everywhere from Beijing to Cuzco, and have never had a bad time. A walking tour can last from 2-3 hours, and can easily add 6000 to 8000 steps to your day.

A free walking tour in Delhi showed us the famous sights, as well as recommending us a fantastic place for lunch!

4. Ride the bus out, walk back

A great way to see part of a new city while getting in your steps is to once again utilize public transport. We will identify a neighborhood that looks interesting, then take a subway or bus ride to a sight in that area. A one way ticket usually costs less than $2. Then, we spend the rest of the day leisurely wending our way back to our place. We stop at bookshops, restaurants, parks, or bars along the way if we get tired. If you don’t have a local SIM card, no problem. Download the app, and you’ll have offline maps all the way.

Take the iconic yellow Lisbon trams all the way to the end- then slowly roam back

5. Take a day hike

A hike through a national park or a state park is a perfect way to spend a day of your vacation. Be sure to carry plenty of water, and a snack or picnic lunch if there’s no food to purchase within your park. If you’re less sure of your own ability to navigate a hike in the wild on your own, see if there’s a guided ranger walk- inquire at the visitors center. We’ve had some fascinating ranger walks at national parks and learned a lot.

Plitvice National Park in Croatia was a fabulous day hike

6. Make your vacation a long-distance hike

This one’s a bit drastic, but it does work. Consider turning your entire vacation into one… long… walk. If you’re okay with carrying a tent, sleeping in the wild, and cooking your own food, consider a long hike such as the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail- or even just a section of it. If you are already shaking your head NO NO NO, then consider a hike such as the Camino Santiago, or hiking a circuit in Nepal such as the Annapurna. Known as “teahouse” hiking, these kinds of hikes mean you sleep indoors every night, and go to cafes or alburgues for your meals. All you have to do is walk each day!

Chris hikes from Mexico to Canada on the PCT

What are some of the ways you get in your exercise while you travel? As for us, we are currently in Portugal, and starting next week, we’ll be on the Camino Portuguese. Check back soon for an update!

Why you should visit Mexico City and Puebla, and what to eat while you are there

20211123 Mexico City flag

After 18 months of staying in the US, Chris and I decided to dip our toes into the international travel scene again for my fall break. We chose Mexico for several reasons: direct flights, cheap prices, and easy entry requirements. As of November 2021, Americans do not need a Covid test to enter Mexico- just one to re-enter the US. We booked our tickets on Volaris airline, a Mexican carrier, and we were ready to go.

Plaza Constitution: the heart of Mexico City

Leaving your car at the airport for more than a few days can be expensive, so I looked up some cheaper parking options. We went with, which wound up being $35 to park our car at a nearby hotel for the duration of our trip. Be sure to read the fine print when choosing where to leave your car- try to pick a hotel with a free airport shuttle option (otherwise you’ll up your costs by having to take an Uber the last mile), and some local options provide covered parking, while others don’t.

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Could you Downsize from a Townhome to a 40 Liter backpack?

suitcases stacked

Four years ago Chris and I rented out our house, stored all our belongings, and backpacked southeast Asia for a year. At that point we had only lived in our home for two years, so we hadn’t acquired too much stuff, and we could utilize a free pack/move/store deal attached to Chris’s retirement. So I didn’t really have to do much to prepare.

Everything we own, packed and ready to store for a year (2014)

This year, as we started making plans to take a year off and travel around “middle” Asia, I realized we would have to do it all ourselves. We needed to start thinking about downsizing our ever-growing belongings, storing what was left, and what to do with our house. After much discussion and analyzing, we decided to sell our house instead of renting it out. Thus, our downsizing and decluttering would need to take place at the same time as getting the house ready to show and sell.

For Sale!

I started by reading a couple of books for some guidance: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, and later, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margreta Magnusson. I listened to “The Year of Less” by Cait Flanders. These books helped me get a handle on what to keep. We also watched the Netflix documentary “Mimimalism”, and perused their website. Through a Twitter tip from a cyber-friend, I discovered the “Sell All Your Stuff” blog, and started reading their posts. In a happy coincidence, my friend Amy, also on a decluttering kick, invited me to join the Poshmark and Mercari sites, two apps that allow you to list your items and sell them online.

Items out, cash in!

Around the time that we started getting serious about culling and Goodwilling items, two friends came visiting to DC. We had actually met Tricia and Kurt on our cruise from LA to Australia four years earlier, and had told them about our year-long travel plans. Unbeknownst to me, they had followed my blog for the intervening years and had decided to they should also downsize, rent their home, and head overseas. I like to think we inspired them! When we reunited with them in DC, something they said made me really think. I asked them about how they were able to get rid of the things in their homes… those awards, those paintings, those souvenirs that you like…. but don’t necessarily want to keep your whole lifetime. Tricia told me “I looked at every item and thought “If I died, would my kids keep this? If yes, we put it in storage. If not, it went to Goodwill or was sold”.

Tricia and Kurt, loving their on-the-go lifestyle!

And so I resolved to do the same. At around the time we started working with a realtor to sell the house, I started listing unused or seldom used furniture on Facebook Marketplace, and I doubled my efforts on Poshmark and Mercari. My efforts paid off, and I earned about $2400, while still keeping items we will need when we eventually “land” again in the US, such as our bed, some clothing items, kitchenware, etc. For items that didn’t sell well, or were just too low-priced to be worth my time, I offered up to my local “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook.

Camping out- after we sold our couch and coffee table

After leaving our house in June, we are taking a 4 month road trip, first to Alaska, and then down to Burning Man festival. We were able to think of our car as an intermediary between having a house full of stuff, and only a backpack. We created a camping kitchen kit, a first aid kit, and a car emergency kit. We separated the items we would need for our “bedroom” in our tent, and we will take more clothes than we probably need, because we have the room in the car and because we will pass through several temperate zones. Once we return from camping, we will need to once more downsize that load of stuff into just what we can carry in our Osprey backpacks. For more information on what we carry for long-term backpacking travel, I wrote a post about that here.

We’re pretty good at car camping!

Parting with items is hard- whether it’s selling them, donating them, or giving them to a friend who has always admired them. But you also feel a little bit lighter with every item that leaves your house. As Americans, we are pushed by a consumer-driven economy to buy, buy, buy. We are bombarded with dozens of advertisements a day. We mortgage houses that are too big for us, and then shop to fill them up with items. Chris and I have talked a lot about how we want our next space to look. We plan to combine offices, for one- both of us only use our “office” a few hours a week. Although we’ve had a full guest suite, I think next time it will be a fold out couch in the shared office instead (sorry, Micah). Public libraries and nearby stores often loan out items such as kitchen items (ice cream makers!) and tools (Autozone and Home Depot), so you don’t need to keep all those barely-used items at your house. Also check your local Buy Nothing group: I had a hankering to try dehydrating some foods and asked for a lesson from a neighbor; after trying it out for a weekend, I realized I did not actually want to purchase or own a dehydrator! There’s probably dozens of items in most of our homes that are rarely used.

Okay, ours probably won’t be this fancy but I can dream, right?

What are some creative ways you’ve been able to downsize? And what are the must-haves we need to take on our road trip? Leave me a comment below:

How do you say goodbye to your hometown?

christmas tree at reston town center pavilion virginia

Six years ago, Chris and I left Africa and returned to the US. In just one short month, we lived in a hotel, got married, bought a house, got a job (Deah), and got deployment orders for nine months (Chris). It was a crazy month, and we we found ourselves living in Reston, Virginia- which turned out to be our home for the next few years.

Reston has a very interesting history. It was one of the original “New Town” planned communities of the 50s and 60s, designed by a man named Robert E Simon (our town is named after his initials). It was inaugurated on Simon’s 50th birthday in 1964, and ol’ Bob lived to see quite the expansion of the area during the rest of his lifetime- I actually met him in 2013, and he lived until the age of 101.

Continue reading “How do you say goodbye to your hometown?”