Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

There was an hour time change through the night and so I got an extra hour to sleep in! Despite having and interior room with no windows to gauge time, Ryan woke at the crack of dawn and went down to breakfast. I told him I would get up at 9 AM and meet him. Right at 9, he barges into the room and tells me that he and his family saw Orcas and whales off the side of the ship, so I hurried through my wake-up process and ran upstairs to see. Alas, all of the whales had disappeared, however, the view itself was enough to take my breath away. We were in a channel surrounded by huge, snow-crested mountains that had skirts of lush greenery whose colors were the definition of evergreen. Cascading from the pockets of snow were waterfalls that ran the length of the mountain all the way down to the water we sailed upon. I have to say, it was the best breakfast view I’ve ever had.

We had about 2 hours before our boat went ashore, so Ryan and I decided to jump into the hot tub. The contrast of the hot water and cool touch of the air mixed with the mountain views was just great. Not to mention the added bonus of the jets massaging our caves which ached from running up and down the ships stairs between floors!

Eventually, it was time to run back to the room and get ready for our whale watching excursion in Juneau! We had a quick-lunch onboard the ship and I tried to get the “world renowned” crab cakes that were on display in the lunch que, but they hadn’t made them yet so I had to go with a burger. I was disappointed but I quickly shrugged that off as we debarked. We had about 1.5 hours until we needed to meet our tour guides, so we walked down the wharf to the shops. We tried on some hats and looked through the chachkies. Ryan and I took off a bit further into the town of Juneau which is packed with fun shops and yummy looking seafood places. After some window shopping (even though I wanted to buy everything) at this adorable shop called Trove, Ryan and I rendezvous with his family and then met the Harv & Marv’s tour guides by the boat. The pointed us to our 20-person shuttle that was our transport to the marina.

It was about a 20-minute scenic drive to the marina where our ship and Captain, Captain Steve of the Merlin, was waiting for us. Steve was very nice and was quick to help us on our private boat to head out before any of the other boats beat us.

Whale watching with Harv and Marvs in Juneau, Alaska

After taking off from the dock, the hunt was on to spot a spout of a whale. It took about 15 minutes before we came across a breaching blue whale calf! The mother was close by as well and both of them kept popping up to the surface. We even got to see the mother’s tail a few times! We watched them for about 30 minutes and then they disappeared.

We took off down the waterway, passing bald eagles and sea lions along the way! The sea lions kept popping their heads up out of the water – super cute! We finally found another set of baby and mother whales right by a glacier. The baby whale was playing and kept bobbing its head up out of the water. It was such a cool site, especially with the backdrop of the white mountain tops. Absolutely breathtaking. I loved everything about the experience. Especially seeing the other boats crammed packed with people who did not get a private boat. For $20 more, it was totally worth doing!

A blad eagle in Juneau, Alasak

We sadly had to head back to the marina and then back to the cruise ship harbor. We had until 10 PM to board the ship, so Ryan and I walked around downtown Juneau. We bought some trinkets in town, and Ryan was hungry so we stopped by Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos food truck so he could get some delicious Rock Fish tacos. They were not only reasonably priced, but the bite I had was so yummy.

I, personally, was saving my stomach for some Alaskan King Crab since I didn’t get my fill from lunch earlier. Luckily, Tracy’s King Crab Shack was on the walk back to the ship so we stopped by. While I just wanted a crab cake initially, we ended up with a combo so we could try a crab leg, the crab bisque, and crab cakes all at once. Oh My Gosh! It was so fresh and delicious! Not only that, but the location right on the docks with the buckets of crab legs whizzing by for other tables made the experience just so much more.


With very full bellies, we walked back to the ship, watched some live music in the Piazzo, and went to bed!

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Alaska, Day 1

Alaska, Day 1

We made it to the Crown Princess:

We took a big black Uber, that just barely fit all of us and our bags, to the Crown Princess cruise ship. Once we got to the loading dock, we got in line ready for the long, tedious process of boarding. To our surprise, none of that actually happened and we were on the ship in less than 30 minutes! It could not have been more painless or organized! We were led to our rooms and, to our surprise, the room was big-ish. We got a middle-boat room with no windows, but the mirrors in the room made it appear much bigger and there was a HUGE closet! Score!

While waiting on our luggage, we met up with the Maitre D’ to make a reservation at the steak restaurant, grabbed a celebratory margarita at the bar, went to lunch at the buffet, and then soaked in the view with some Champaign on the upper deck. Not too shabby, huh?

Alaska cruise aboard the Crown Princess

We relaxed in the room until our 5:30 dinner time at the Botticelli dining room. We had a 6-person table by the window and a really nice wait staff! I had some vegetarian egg rolls with peanut sauce to start, tortellini soup, and salmon with a sweet almond crust as a main. It was all pretty good. For dessert, I ordered the chocolate soufflé, but the waiter decided to give us one of each dessert to try! I was so full!

After dinner, we walked to the Princess Theater for the singing and dancing show. It was old school and cheesy but the singing and dancing was good. The announcer who hosted the show told us that the Princess was having a The Voice competition and told us about all of the other cool things coming up. So excited for the adventures to come! After the show, we checked out the view, the sun stays up until like 10 PM, and then we watched movies until bed time.

Sunday – Traveling to Juneau

When you have an interior room on a cruise, you have absolutely no way to tell what time it is, with the exception of your trusty cell phone or watch. When you turn the lights out, it is completely and utterly dark. With that said, waking up is hard when you are toasty under the covers in a dark and cold room. After some coaxing from Ryan, I finally got up thinking I had slept in way too much, but as it turns out, it was only 8:30 AM! We had put out our order from breakfast in bed the night before, so around 9, there was a knock on the door and breakfast was served. We watched some TV while browsing the day’s activities and eating some cereal, grapefruit, croissants, and sipping coffee.

Alaska cruise aboard the Crown Princess

We decided to start our day with a spin at the gym. Unlike Caribbean cruises where everyone opts for sunbathing over weight lifting, the gym on our Alaskan cruise ship was packed! I did some weights and watched Miss. DoubtFire on the treadmill. There is nothing that helps me run more than a good movie with no commercials!

After the gym, we hit the buffet for a quick breakfast themed snack and then met up with Ryan’s family at the bar. I had a Bloody Mary and we watched the Aerobatrix two-person show perform in the Piazza. They had a very cute show that was quite similar to acts we had seen a few weeks prior at the Texas Scarborough Fair. After the show, we went to the Mexican Food buffet for lunch and the Acrobatrix members sat at the table next to us. We started chatting about some of the acts from the Scarborough Fair and, wouldn’t you know it, they knew exactly who we were talking about and were friends with those other acts through the circus scene! Small world, huh?

Ryan was not feeling so hot, so he went back to the room. I eventually rejoined him after a quick peek at the “outdoor track”. It was the smallest “track” I have ever seen and was too windy to walk on, let alone run! I came back to the room with every intention of going back to the gym while Ryan napped, but there was an interesting show about tree houses on and I accidentally feel asleep as well.

We had dinner reservations at the Crown Grill steak resultant at 5:30. Unfortunately, the rockiness of the day got to one member of our party, so only 5 of us made it to dinner. We were sat at a table right next to a wedding party who all looked quite lovely. Eventually, another bride and groom showed up and sat next to the other wedding party, and the staff brought out cakes for both parties and we clapped for all. It was quite a celebration!

Our dinner started with a delicious Alaskan crab cake, followed by an aged goat cheese and beet salad, a deliciously cooked NY Strip steak with sautéed mushrooms and mashed red potatoes, and ending with a desert medley that included a small sampling of every desert on the menu! Oh so delicious. The steak came with three different salts on the side; Himalayan, smoked Applewood, and Black Lava sea salt. I would pinch a different salt and sprinkle it on each morsel of steak to create the most flavorful experience! I am not a huge steak person but I will be buying salts and making steak as soon as I return to Texas!

Desert at the Crown Grill on the Crown Princess Alaskan Cruise ship

Dinner ended right around 7:15 – just in time to watch The Martian on the top deck! Ryan and I had been wanting to watch The Martian for months now so it was a perfect way to enjoy the movie. Though our lounges were slightly wet and it was 50 degrees out, we bundled up with extra towels and some blankets the crew gave us and watched the movie with the most spectacular view! I want to say it was relaxing but the movie definitely had me on edge! I highly recommend it and its book counterpart.

Keeping warm while watching a movie on the deck of the Crown Princess Alaskan cruise ship

It was quite a ride walking on through the hallways with the drastic rocking of the boat. We went to the store and bought some Dramamine for some of our sea-sick travel buddies, and then we went to our cabin for some needed rest.

Alaska cruise aboard the Crown Princess

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Getting to our Alaskan Cruise:

After a stressful day at work getting everything finished before 7 days off the radar, dropping the dog off at daycare, loading our bags into the Uber, and bypassing security, we were finally in the airport by gate 14 for our departure to Seattle, Washington for our Princess cruise to Alaska! We grabbed some celebratory margaritas at the Chili’s by our gate, (which were surprisingly good for airport drinks), and finally boarded our plane! We had checked our bags, so we didn’t have to stress about finding overhead bin space.

The 4 hour American Airlines flight was bumpy but had some amazing views as we flew over Colorado’s mountains. We were not expecting the views to start before we even landed! The snow-capped mountains called our names as our recent skiing experiences have us hooked on the slopes. We had to remind ourselves of our current adventure and that skiing wouldn’t happen for a little longer, but the thought of moving to Colorado in the future did cross our minds!

Anyways, after watching one of my favorite movies, The King and I, it was time to land in Seattle; a new State to check off my list! It took about 30 minutes to grab our bags from baggage claim and we walked through a sea of Toyota Prius’ in the parking lot to find our Uber to town. Apparently, Uber and Taxis drivers at the airport can only drive Prius’ for eco-friendly reasons.

It took us about $30 and 40 minutes to arrive at the Maxwell Hotel in downtown Seattle. Boy did our hotel have personality! Upon checking in, we were greeted with cupcakes, pineapple water, and smiling receptionists. The hotel’s mascot is a Husky puppy and they have plushies you can “adopt” in each room for $25 that goes to the ASPCA. Additionally, there are free yellow bikes you can use to go around town, umbrellas for the rain, and huge feathery comforters for covering the bed! Each bed comes with two of these fluffy duvet covers and we took the two from our bed and the two from the other bed in our room to make a super comfy, pillow-fairy certified sheet experience. It was SO COMFY!

My boyfriend Ryan’s family arrived before us and were waiting in to lobby for us to check-in, dump our stuff, and head down the street to dinner. It was a quick, block long walk to the neighboring Vietnamese restaurant. We walked in and the smells we were greeted with made our empty stomachs rumble! The restaurant was tiny so we pushed a few tables together. While there were only a few other people in the place, the two young waiters were bustling around, a bit inefficiently if I may say so. Our waiter took Ryan’s sister and her husband’s order first, put their order in, ran to another table, came back for Ryan and my order, put our order in, ran food to another table, brought over Ryan’s sister’s drinks, went to another table, brought Ryan and my drink, ran to the back, and finally came back for Ryan’s parent’s orders. It made me tired just watching him!

I ended up getting some delicious pho soup and a grilled pork bahn mi sandwich for dipping into the soup. Yum! We arrived at 8:30 and the restaurant closed at 9. Usually, there is some wiggle room for current guests to stay after 9 PM closing time, especially on a Friday night, but the waiters were trying to hustle us out. They not only brought the checks right after we got our food, but were busing dishes and informing us they had busses to catch home at 9:10. Needless to say, we ate quickly, ran out the door, and walked back to the hotel to jump into the mound of covers and sleep.

Heading to the cruise:

The nice thing about going to the West Coast from Texas is that you gain two hours of sleeping in time. Getting up at 8 AM was really like sleeping in until 10 – so nice! It was sprinkling outside so I popped on my new yellow galoshes and we took off to meet Ryan’s family up the street at Mecca Café for breakfast. It was about a four block walk filled with lush gardens, cute little restaurants, and a great view of the Space Needle!

There was a line out the door for the restaurant but thankfully, Ryan’s family had some bar seats warmed up for us. The diner had a strange but warm personality with a menu full of comfort food. I got the biggest bowl of oatmeal and blueberries with a side of toast and their famous bacon. So much food but so good! After we had our fill, we paid and realized it was pouring out! Thankfully, my jacket’s hood saved my hair-day and we made it back to the hotel without being drenched.

The Maxwell Hotel rooms come with huge yellow umbrellas for use during your stay. We grabbed ours and took off for a post-breakfast stroll. The hotel was a quick walk from the EMP Museum, housed in huge colorful modern building. Right behind the EMP is the Space Needle surrounded by gardens and modern statues. Such a beautiful walk. This part of town is clean, seemed safe, full of well-kept gardens and surprises! We turned down a street and saw the bay at the end. We decided to walk to the bay and found a bridge overlooking the bay and a park on its shoreline. We could even see our cruise ship from there! We only had 30 minutes before we had to head to the ship, so we hustled back in the rain to depart from the hotel.

Graffiti wall in Seattle, Washington

Managing a Career & Travel

Managing a Career & Travel

Sometimes I feel like I am torn between two lifestyles;

  1. The wandering traveler who takes off around the globe, meeting strangers who become friends, seeing things that fundamentally change views on life, experiencing food that surprises and delights, hoping to make it big in the flooded market of travel blogs and Instagram accounts…
  2. The career woman who achieves personal and financial success, fulfillment, and stability by working hard, becoming an expert in endeavors, and putting roots into one location.

Both have their obvious benefits, but both have their own downfalls; one of instability, and the other of having material things but not experiencing life.

When it comes to life, I have always thought of it as balance – everything in moderation. At the end of my life, the thing that I will carry with me is the memories I have made through my experiences. While I want as many experiences as possible, I also want a comfortable lifestyle while I am not traveling. Honestly, I am trying to have it all.

With that said, I have a career that I love that funds my travel habits, my foodie experiences, and my liking for nice things. While I would love to take off as a forever wandering traveler, I like the stability of place I can call home where my close friends and family are, and a career that I can afford the lifestyle I want and save for the future. It is an office job and I get about 2 weeks of vacation. Yep, that is right, 2 weeks of vacation. With that 2 weeks this year, I will be skiing in Santa Fe, cruising through Alaska, road tripping from Texas to San Fransisco, traveling to Thailand, floating rivers in New Braunfels, and maybe more! How do I do it and all on a budget? I will share my secrets and tips with you below:

Vacation Days:

  • Negotiate! Whenever you are searching for a new job, always ask for the number of vacation, personal, sick, and holiday days given each year. Many places start with two weeks vacation and a few personal days, and will give you a third week after a few years. If you are in a place to do so, always ask for more vacation days in your job negotiations. Every day is valuable when determining your travel potential and you don’t want to have vacation day regrets.
  • If you are young and don’t get sick often, use any personal / sick days you can for travel. If this means saving them to until the end of the year to make sure you don’t need to use them, do so, but make sure you utilize them before they expire! While it is nice to get money for the days you don’t use, those are days of potential enjoyment you will never get back.
  • Use every 3-day weekend to your advantage! I have used Memorial Day to travel abroad for the past 3 years so I save a day. Labor Day is also a great time to do so before the holiday season gets busy. Leave on a Friday night and include both weekends in your travels and a 9 day vacation is only 4 days off!
  • Don’t let peer pressure get to you. A lot of people I know or have worked with never use their vacation days and have given me grief about using my days. Vacation days are good for you! They rejuvenate you and give you a new perspective on things, benefiting you holistically in and outside of work. Never let those vacation nay-sayers get to you as they are the ones missing out.

Budget:

  • Priorities: My car is a 2008 and has manual windows and locks. I call her the “Party Yaris”, as my little spunky car has personality and was only $14K brand new (though I had to ask them to throw the floor mats in for free). I could definitely afford a new, more lavish car, but that’s $500 a month out of my travel savings budget. I literally compare the cost of all big purchases to how much travel I could afford with the same funds. It is all about priorities and budgets. Figure out what you really want, and make that your main spending priority. Those cute shoes are nice, but if they are the same cost as a whale watching excursion in Alaska, are they worth it?
  • Budget tracking tools: I use Mint religiously to track how my finances are doing. Mint links to my bank accounts and I categorize all of my purchases so I can see how my spending is each month. I can also set up savings goals for trips and can watch my progress for saving to those goals. If I go over on any budget, this mean, red line pops up and reminds me that I need to be good. I highly recommend tools like Mint, but make sure you use a tool that is verified and safe before you give your credentials to your accounts.

Mint budget software

  • Do your travel research: While I do like being a “lazy” trip planner by finding companies that book everything for me so all I have to do is show up with my luggage and passport, the cost benefit of that is not always worth it. For example, when booking our trip to Thailand, I reached out to several agencies who put glorious, $4K per person, air-fare not included, itineraries for us. We were a little shocked that the price didn’t go down since we were sharing a hotel room and Thailand is notoriously cheap, so I did some digging. After looking for about 2 hours, I found better hotels, international flights, and activities all for under $3K per person! That is a $2K convenience fee which would basically pay for another trip. No thanks!
  • Be patient when booking flights: I always get nervous that, if I don’t book that very instant, my seats and flight is going to disappear. This is not the case and I have lost hundreds of dollars for being too hasty. Use services like Airfare Watch Dog to track you flights. It will alert you when the price drops and will give you estimates on how much the cost will go down or up if you wait.
  • Shop smart: I love buying new stuff for my trips. Going skiing? New ski jacket! Going hiking? I need hiking boots! Having shopping-control is such a challenge! While you will need things for your trips, there is nothing wrong with shopping outlets, finding better prices on Amazon, or waiting for the weekend’s sales. Trust me, I tried on and sent back 7 pairs of rain boots with Amazon Prime’s free shipping before I went to Seattle, but my final pick was only $25 and I walked over 19 comfortable and dry miles in them by the end of the trip! Being a bargain hunter is not only good for your budget, but super fun when you get a great deal!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska

Any questions or need suggestions? I am happy to help you achieve your travel dreams! Comment below or send me a message fellow traveler!

 

 

Santa Fe, Day 3

Santa Fe, Day 3

Another early morning for our last day in Santa Fe. We packed up our bags so they were ready to throw in the car for our noon checkout, walked the puppy, and headed to breakfast at Cafe Pasqual’s across the street.

Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Cafe has a stellar reputation in Santa Fe and was recommended over and over for a breakfast-must and we immediately saw why when the folks next to us at our communal table received their food. It was all so delicious and fresh. Everything at Cafe Pasqual’s is made in-house and, for the most part, is organic and naturally raised. We made 10 new friends at the communal table from all over the States and filled up interesting conversation and on the below:

  • Breakfast Quesadilla – Whole wheat tortilla, melted jack, guacamole, scrambled eggs, house-made chorizo and green chile salsa
  • Durango Omelette – three organic eggs, Fra Mani rosemary ham, jack cheese, scallions, guacamole, sautéed field mushrooms, green chile, and house-made toast

After our huge breakfast, we were ready to walk! We hopped in the car and drove over to Canyon Road, home to over 100 art galleries, to walk and see all of the art. The galleries were just opening as we arrived and the art spanned all styles. Each gallery had its own vibe and greeting party upon arrival – my favorite were the dog greeter – always a treat! It is truly awesome how Santa Fe loves and welcomes man’s best friend as much as we do.

IMG_1470 Galleries on Canyon Road Santa Fe, New Mexico

We ended up walking into the McLarry Modern gallery which housed art that completely complemented our tastes. We stumbled upon a room in the back full of colorful art that, upon further inspection, reflected certain infamous people in American culture. Figuring out who was portrayed by the colors and symbols in each painting became a game for us as we traveled through each canvas. We discovered that we unintentionally completely fell in love with Poteet Victory’s Abbreviated Portraits series.

We came to Canyon Road with every intention of just window shopping our way through the afternoon, but once we learned the story behind the series, were entranced by his wife, and taken up to the studio where the works come to life, and meeting Poteet himself, we decided to make Mrln Mnro our first original piece of art (the red and white piece featured above). Such an exciting and surprising day!

After we finalized our purchase, we walked through a few other galleries, learning about the artists, styles, and stories behind the various pieces. All of the art curators at each place were friendly and so knowledgeable and willing to impart that knowledge on us. I don’t think we could have had a better experience.

We had to head back to the hotel and checkout at noon, so we grabbed our bags and our excited dog, and started to long drive back to Dallas. Thankfully, we downloaded some really interesting podcast series, my favorite being Criminal, and took in the Texas views on the way home. We must have passed thousands of windmills along the way. We also passed a donkey that escaped a fence and was being chased by a lone police officer who was trying to corral the donkey while keeping the other horses within the fence boundaries. It was pretty funny!

Road trip to Texas

Road trip to Texas

Ten hours, and a stop or three later, we made it back to Dallas with some great memories and the constant urge to travel again!