Tag: destination review

Australia update #4: tips for traveling in a not-so-foreign country

Australia update #4: tips for traveling in a not-so-foreign country

We’re baaack! And going through the usual post-trip activities—fighting jet lag, getting back into a routine, planning the next adventure, etc. It is never easy coming home. But unless you are going sell everything you own and become a nomad, it is a necessary part 

Australia Update #3: Reefsleep

Australia Update #3: Reefsleep

Travel is full of memorable and unique experiences. Many of them you could never recreate even if you tried (and there are some you never want to). That said, I rarely have an experience I would describe as once-in-a-lifetime. It just feels like that should 

Australia Update #2 Funny Aussie Signs

Australia Update #2 Funny Aussie Signs

B and I have seen a lot of really good stuff in the last few weeks: koalas, kangaroos, sunsets, sweeping landscapes and cultural icons. We expected all these things. What we didn’t expect was to see so many funny Australian signs! The funny ways Australians narrate all of these things and other information is downright entertaining. Aussies, whether they mean to be or not, are funny suckers. Here are some of the gems we’ve seen along they way.

Funny Australian Signs

funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
There is a scrolling fortune screen in Sydney that cycles through fortunes super fast. When you take a pic in front of it it captures your fortune.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Stop pooping in the grass, people!
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Lots of hemsworthy lookalikes down under.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Ha! The dingo saves us from another inane stick family.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
So many tourists never really grasped this one.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Who cares about copy infringement when you are being funny?
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Dang government.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Only one box on the fire warning is okay. Yikes! (Awww, koalas!)
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
My humps, my lovely lady humps.


Australia has reminded us that there’s no need to be boring when you are presenting useful information. The funny Australian signs shown above (and many more we did not show) are both informative and entertaining. They made us laugh. They also reminded us to watch out for venomous snakes, precipitous cliffs, poisonous jellyfish, etc. An adventure this down under is! Be sure to check out our tips for traveling in a not-so-foreign country.

Australia Update #1: Van Life

Australia Update #1: Van Life

Hello from the land down under. We have been here a week and already it has been a wild ride. Just check out our Australia van life photos below! Australia Adventures First up, we visited Sydney. Then we turned our attention to Melbourne. But between 

Three days on the Oregon coast: a road trip itinerary and map

Three days on the Oregon coast: a road trip itinerary and map

I am very excited to share this road trip itinerary for three days on the Oregon coast. I take no credit for its amazingness. It was given to me by a former local and all-around Oregon expert. She really came through and provided the greatest 

A Trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

A Trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

In our Poland Do’s and Don’ts post, we briefly mentioned visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines (WSM). Some things deserve to be talked about a little more, so this post will describe the crazy cool time we had exploring 300 meters (imagine three football fields stacked straight down) underground in Poland.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
Figures carved out of salt in Wielizcka

Getting There

One of the fun parts of travel is to leave the comfort of a tour and see what life is like for everyday people in that area. When we decided to go to the mine, I (obvs.) pulled out my trusty guide book and checked out how Mr. Steves recommends getting there. It seemed simple enough: go to a bus station, get on a bus, buy a ticket and head out of Krakow. We figured, no biggie, let’s do it. Well, the first problem was the description of the bus station ‘across the church from the mall.’ A. The mall is huge and B. there are little churches everywhere. After bumbling around trying to find the right church, we eventually did locate the stop that had our bus number on it. Check.

Buying a bus ticket in Poland

The next step was to board the bus and buy a ticket. I think the purchasing of a ticket is often the most challenging part of public transportation, so here are my best (rather obvious) tips: 1. Always have a variety of low denomination bills and coins. Even if you don’t know how much they are worth, you can just keep handing them over until eventually you’ll pay for whatever it is you are buying.

I hate being in the U.S. and not having the right payment method; this is only amplified in a strange place where you don’t speak the language. Variety is the spice of life. 2. Do what the locals do. When we boarded the bus we watched the kids in front of us walk up to a machine and stick in a few zloty. They then walked over to a time stamp thing and shoved in their little piece of paper. We followed suit.

Riding a bus in Poland

After we boarded the bus, we found some seats and settled in. The salt mine is about a 40 minute, ten mile route outside of the city. C and B found some seats next to each other and I took an open seat next to a tiny, ancient lady. She was straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale–I guarantee this lady looks exactly like her mother and her grandmother, all the way back to the middle ages. Our other bus riders were a mix of locals and (what we later learned were) tourists.

But not tourists like the three of us; everyone on the bus was from Poland. We knew what stop we were looking for, but the problem was we had no idea of knowing when we got to that stop. We had been going for about 40 minutes when the group of teenagers that B and C were entertaining themselves observing all clambered off the bus.

Listen to your elders (in Poland and elsewhere)

There wasn’t a sign anywhere so we were staying put, but then the adorable babushka sitting next to me poked me, said something and Polish and pointed to the door. Some things transcend verbal language, so we scrambled off the bus before it pulled off again. Bless her. This actually brings about tip 3: respect the older ladies. Everyone should always do this, no matter where you are, but it is especially useful in other countries when you need help. If I am ever being hassled by men in another country, I know to look for an older lady. They’ll give the jerks an earful for you.

On the bus the lady had no idea who we were or what we were saying, but she knew three American girls would only be on that bus to go to the mines and so she helped us out. After we left the bus, we reverted to tip number one and followed the group of teenagers down a poorly marked path, across a road and finally arrived at the mine entrance.

The Mine Itself

The Wieleczka Salt Mine is a pretty major tourist destination in Poland; over a million people visit here each year. It opened in the 1200s (yes, that’s not a typo) and finally shut down operation in 2007. That’s an insane amount of salt that has come out of this almost 200 miles of underground area. On our tour, we walked about two miles in the mine.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Wielizcka wood beams.

The tour

After purchasing our tickets we were assigned to an English speaking tour group of about 40 people. After we got our headphones so we could all hear the super cute Polish tour guide girl, we walked through a door that had about ten steps down in a wooden shaft, then turned at a right angle and had ten more steps, etc. etc. for almost four hundred steps. This was no problem for B, but was a problem for C since she had sprained her ankle earlier that week and was a big problem for me since I get claustrophobic in underground places. (Why would I go into a mine, you might wonder? Well, I weigh things like this: if regret for not going > fear of going, I’m gonna go for it.)

At the bottom of the stairs, the hallway opened up and we got our first glimpse of what a salt mine looks like from the inside. I was surprised; I was expecting it to look like the salt I’ve seen–white and grainy. Instead, we would spend the next four hours walking on and through floors, walls and ceilings that looked like gray rock.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Hi ho, hi ho…..

Why the Wieliczka Salt Mine is famous

The reason why Wieliczka is such a famous salt mine and why we made it a point to visit was not because of its historical importance or size. Nope. Instead, it is renowned because salt miners, you know, when they weren’t busy working, have carved all sorts of interesting sculptures, figures, chapels, out of the salt. Most of these sculptures were inspired by the religious sentiments of the miners. Our tour started off sedately, with our guide explaining how we would only see wooden beams and wooden doors in the mines because metal would rust. Because of this, though, much of the wood is white with material that keeps it from catching on fire.

Fire would be disastrous to the mine (and miners!) so along with the white coating there were procedures in place that protected against it, such as we all had to be in an enclosed area and have door behind us shut before we could open the door in front of us to mitigate static electricity sparking a fire. We were then told that since salt is antibacterial, we could taste the walls without worrying about who has licked that same spot over the years. Challenge accepted.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Floor to ceiling salt lick.


Exploring the caverns

Our tour took us through about 20 of the 2,000 chambers in the mine and each one seemed more impressive than the next. Some scenes were of full-sized people, like John Paul II (not at all surprising as this guy is EVERYWHERE in Poland) and some were caricatures that looked like the dwarves from Snow White. We learned about the lives of the miners and how they would go into the mine in the dark of the morning and not leave until the dark of the night. We learned about how they used animals to do some of the work and some of the horses never saw the light of day, having been born and died below. A large underground lake glisten in an eery green color. However, the most impressive sight on the tour is a cavernous Chapel of St. Kinga.

Chapel of St. Kinga

This room is about 5,000 square meters and can hold several hundred people. As we descended the stairs onto the main floor, our guide pointed out the chandeliers carved out of salt. This seemed impressive until we got to the bottom of the stairs and took a look around us. There were sculptures all over and an altar where we were told many people have been married. My favorite thing about the room, though, was the carving of Leonardo’s Last Supper. There was an amazing amount of detail–so much so that you almost forget that someone etched away at the wall to leave this beautiful scene in relief. The tour ended with elevators–we were so grateful we didn’t have to climb up the stairs that we didn’t mind being crammed into strange cattle-like elevators.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
St. Kinga’s Chapel

Wieliczka Salt Mines
The Last Supper. Pass the Salt.

Getting Back

After our tour we figured we would be able to head back to the same area we got off the bus, cross the road and wait for the next bus heading in the opposite direction of where we came. So there we were, standing around, when another Polish woman walked up to us and saying something we didn’t understand and gesticulating down the road. Since we subscribe to rule #3 religiously, we did as she said and found another bus stop down the road. A few minutes later, the bus arrived and we were on our way.


The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a terrific way to spend a day in Poland. You will get a glimpse into the life of pious, hard-working miners and be instantly grateful that the job you have isn’t remotely as difficult. For a heightened adventure, try out getting there on your own. You might just run into some sweet Polish ladies who will help you on your way.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Wielizcka Salt Lake. Eat your heart out, Utah.

5 nights in Puerto Rico

5 nights in Puerto Rico

Last spring B, C and I were thinking about where we could go in the fall for a quick, affordable vacation. After looking through Google Flights and seeing where we could get from Boise on the cheap, we narrowed it down to two options: Aruba 

5 Adventures in Peru

5 Adventures in Peru

After finishing grad school in 2008, I still wasn’t ready to face the real world and get a grown-up job. Instead, I decided to cash in some skymiles and head down south to Peru with a pilot friend, L, with whom I had worked over 

A travel log of an epic road trip through the South

A travel log of an epic road trip through the South

Let’s talk about road trips. I know they are not for everyone and some people go stir crazy if they are stuck in a car too long. But I love them. If done right, a road trip is one of the best ways to see and explore a particular destination. Our road trip through the South was amazing. Below, we share our 10-state, 12-day itinerary as well as highlights and recommendations and from our time on the road.

Road trip through the South

A couple of years ago, as part of our quest to see all 50 states, R and I planned a pretty epic road trip down south. Our individual travels had taken us to a few Southern states, but we both had several left to check off our list. By making one big loop through the South, R determined that we could both check off our missing Southern states while having a grand old time and seeing a good chunk of this country of ours. We knew it would be ambitious and exhausting since we had a limited amount of time. But we were more than up for the challenge.

Planning our road trip

Good planning and preparation is critical to a well-executed road trip in my opinion (see which websites I prefer to use for planning a trip). We decided that the person who had never been to a particular state would get to pick out the main activity. That seemed like a good way to prioritize since we did not have time to see and do everything. We also factored in bucket-list items—the more random the better. R is always on a quest to see our National Parks so naturally, those made the list as well. Once we had our general list compiled, we roughly mapped out how long it would take us to get from point A to B to C and so on. Then we bought our plane tickets.

We settled on October for a couple of reasons: one, there was a concert in San Antonio we wanted to attend; two, fall is a great time to travel because the weather tends to be nice; and three, since kids are in school, you do not have to deal with as many people in touristy areas. We had our dates and we had our route. The only thing left to do was anticipate the adventure.


We flew into Oklahoma City on a beautiful fall day. Neither of us had been to Oklahoma City before and honestly, my expectations were low. However, the city surprised me and I ended up enjoying it very much. After picking up our rental car (a Mazda 3 with Missouri plates that we named Mo), we headed to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse at the Stockyards for some steak (obviously). We had to wait since this place is super popular but let me tell you, it delivered.

After dinner, we enjoyed some time downtown. We wanted to see the Wormy Dog Saloon, a place many of the bands we like play at. It was not very impressive but the historic Bricktown area is cool as is the little riverwalk. The real gem however, was the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. It is powerful to see this at night and although it breaks your heart, it is one of the more impressive memorials I have been to. I would recommend a visit. The other thing we did in Oklahoma City was visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. It too is well done and worth a visit.


We left Oklahoma City and headed south to Texas. Both of us have spent time in Texas so the state was not new to us. However, the traffic was especially bad on this trip. After talking with quite a few different locals, it sounds like bad traffic is the norm in and around the Hill Country—which is unfortunate. It was, hands down, the worst traffic we experienced on our entire road trip. Ugh.

We made it to San Antonio eventually and spent a couple of days enjoying all the city has to offer. Our first stop was John T. Floore’s Country Store. We planned this trip so that we could attend a two-night, live taping of the Randy Rogers Band. Have we mentioned our love of live music? It is shadowed only by our love of travel. Combining the two is pretty much nirvana. So in between rocking out at Floore’s, we walked the Riverwalk, ate TexMex and visited the Alamo. R’s family happened to be in town so we also had the chance to catch up with them. Our time in San Antonio was fun and relaxing, which was important since we had to battle more traffic getting out of Texas. Sheesh.


From Texas, we headed east to New Orleans. I had visited New Orleans a couple of times before but this was R’s first time so she got to pick the adventures. First up was a vampire and ghost tour. Although it had potential, it was a little on the boring side. Luckily, there were beignets and people watching on Bourbon Street to make up for it.

The next morning, we actually got out of the city to take a Cajun swamp tour. This ended up being a highlight of the state. The country is so different down there and a swamp tour is a great way to experience it. Our funny guide led a small group of us through the bayou while showing us plenty of critters—both on and off the boat! So. Many. Alligators. A swamp tour really is worth taking if you get the chance.

Louisiana swamp road trip through the south
The bayou is a whole other world.


From Louisiana, we kept heading east. The Gulf Shore in Mississippi was a delightful surprise. The beaches were gorgeous! As we drove along the white sands and clear blue waters, we just had to stop and put our toes in the water. The most amazing part was how empty the beaches were. I imagine it is a different story in the summertime so score one for fall travel. We stopped at the Gulf Islands National Seashore to learn a little bit about this beautiful part of the world. The only downside was that the visitor’s center was not open so R wasn’t able to get a stamp in her National Parks Passport.


Once we got to Alabama, we headed away from the coast and moved inland. The landscape changed and I saw my first cotton field. In fact, it took us a minute to figure out was we were looking at! Of course, once we did, we had to stop and get a picture. I am sure the locals were rolling their eyes at us. That night we enjoyed a lovely sunset through the Alabama pines (thank you Jason Isbell) and had dinner at Bubba’s BBQ. Nobody does BBQ like the South.

cotton field Alabama road trip through the south
My first cotton field in Alabama.


Our first stop in Georgia was Andersonville, a National Historic Site. It was a confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the final twelve months of the American Civil War. It is super depressing, so brace yourself if you decide to visit.

Luckily, the next stop on our route was much more pleasant. Savannah was one of the places I was really looking forward to visiting on our road trip through the South. I had high expectations and thankfully, this Southern town delivered. We walked the old streets, shopped in unique boutiques, ate fresh crawfish and shrimp at Bernie’s on the river and tried rolled sandwiches for the first time. The weather was perfect and our hotel was a great retro number called the Thunderbird. My only regret is that we did not get to spend more time here.

From Savannah, we headed to the Fort Pulaski National Monument. It is out on the coastal marshlands so the views are hard to beat. We attempted to walk to the lighthouse, but that did not pan out. However, we still enjoyed a nice, albeit hot, nature walk. Back on the road, we stopped at a convenience store for snacks. R thought the boiled peanuts sounded like a good idea. They were not and we decided the South can keep that particular snack.

Fort Pulaski National Monument lighthouse road trip through the south
The lighthouse at Fort Pulaski National Monument.

South Carolina

Since I had never been to South Carolina before, I got to pick out the main event. After some research, I decided on something very random: God’s Acre Healing Springs. The old springs are famous for their healing powers so we made a quick stop to fill up our water bottles. I am not sure if they healed me, but the water sure tasted good. This place was not the easiest to find, but it meant we stayed off the beaten path and really got into the heart of South Carolina.

God's Acre Healing Springs South Carolina road trip through the south
The more random the better on a road trip.

North Carolina

After spending the night in Greenville, South Carolina, we crossed the border into western North Carolina. Ashville was our destination and it was here that we did some serious shopping. I highly recommend Screendoor and the Tobacco Barn. I enjoyed Ashville, but it felt a little more pretentious than the other cities we had visited (no offense to anyone who lives or loves it there). It happened to be Halloween while we were in Ashville so we did our best to dress up and hit the town. We found a bar with live music and great people watching.

From Ashville we headed into the Smokey Mountains (a must-see on a road trip through the South). Here is where the timing of our trip turned impeccable. The leaves were changing but the weather was perfect—blues skies and warm temperatures. The views we had were just like all of the photos we had seen of the Smoky Mountains and it was glorious. There turned out to be quite a few cars on the road, but they all seemed to be going the opposite direction of us so we had no complaints.

Smoky Mountains fall road trip through the south
The Smoky Mountains are well worth the visit.


Once we crossed the state border into Tennessee, we headed towards Pigeon Forge. The town itself is not really worth talking about. In fact, it is downright tacky. But we were there for one purpose only: to visit Dollywood. Dollywood has been on my bucket list for many years. Thankfully, R was up for a visit. I am pretty sure she was just humoring me but boy, did we have a good time!

The park is very well done. I happen to be a Dolly fan, but even if you are not, there are plenty of rides and activities to keep you entertained. We could not have asked for better weather and the lines for the rides were practically nonexistent. Dollywood ended up being a highlight of the trip for me and I would strongly recommend you visit if you are in the area.

Dollywood road trip through the south
Dollywood. Enough said.

A short drive later found us in Knoxville—which was another city that surprised us. I did not have any expectations so I was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer. We did some shopping, got some dinner and enjoyed a nice walk around their active downtown.

Back to Alabama

Instead of heading directly west towards Nashville, we headed back down south to the top of Alabama. Our first stop was the Unclaimed Baggage Center. I was really looking forward to visiting this weird and wonderful store. However, our timing was bad and we arrived on their busiest day of the year—the day ski clothes come out (although I have no idea why ski clothes are so popular in a place that has very little skiing). R and I did not need new ski clothes so we did our best to browse amongst all the people. But we were overwhelmed real fast and soon found ourselves back on the road to continue our road trip through the South. It was unfortunate. Luckily, we had plenty of adventures left on our list.

Up next was Muscle Shoals, a worthy stop for any music lover. We had lunch and stopped at a record store where I picked up a Jason Isbell record because, well, duh.

Back to Tennessee

The adventures continued back in Tennessee with a stop at Shiloh National Military Park (my favorite of all the civil war sights we visited) before we rolled in Memphis. Phew! As if all of these activities were not enough for one day, we decided a concert was in order. We headed to the Minglewood (highly recommend this venue) to enjoy two of our favorite bands: American Aquarium and Turnpike Troubadours. The crowd was pretty stellar and the whole experience made for a memorable night.

The next day found us exploring Memphis. We strolled Beale Street, rode the trolley, visited the Civil Rights Museum and ate tasty BBQ at Central BBQ. We also stopped by Graceland and payed our respects to the King. Memphis, although a little on the touristy side, is a pretty cool city and has a lot to see. It also appears to be reshaping itself and I see good things for it in the future.

Civil Rights Museum Memphis road trip through the south
The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is very well done.


From Memphis, we took a leisurely route south through part of Mississippi before crossing over into Arkansas. By this time, we were pretty exhausted and all that time on the road was taking its toll. Thankfully, our plans for Arkansas were very relaxed. We met up with R’s cousin in Pine Bluff. He and his wife put us up for the night and fed us. It was one of the best meals I had on the trip and the time spent relaxing and catching up was very much appreciated. After an easy night, we made our way back to Oklahoma City to return Mo and catch our flight back home.

Road trip recap

10 states, 12 days and 3,544 miles later, we have a whole heap of new experiences and memories. We ate Southern foods whenever we could, stuck to country roads and kept our eyes peeled for critters we do not have in Idaho (critters like possums, turtles and armadillos). We know there is still so much more to see and do in the South, but we got a good taste and now know where to focus when we go back. (In fact, R was able to go back to New Orleans and take in all of the things she missed the first time.)


A road trip is never a bad idea (unless it is in the middle of a snowstorm but I will save that story for another time). It is especially a good idea if you want to get off the beaten path and see how the locals live. Our road trip through the South may have been fast and furious, but it was filled with memorable experiences and it was a great way to see and explore a beautiful part of this country.

Top Ten Things to do in Boise, Idaho

Top Ten Things to do in Boise, Idaho

As a proud Boisean, I am pleased to share my list of top ten things to do in Boise, Idaho. One of the first things I do when researching a place I’m going to visit is to try and find some must sees for that