There are a ton of videos and blogs on this subject. But welcome to my take on the situation. I have only found a few things to be true when travelling and the rest to be crap.
I don’t put necklaces through straws so they don’t get tangled, because I only take one set of jewelry with me so I lessen the risk of losing something (or having it stolen). I don’t take much shampoo in little bottles because it’s far more logical to “buy it when you get there” and in small quantities.
Perhaps this sounds a little rugged and I know we have favorite hair products, BUT the reality is that one exploded bottle of shampoo or lotion in your suitcase can make a mess that’s way worse to deal with than messy hair. And unless you are going somewhere where you know they won’t sell cosmetics, then just buy something when you get there. You often can find better products in places like Europe, that will work better in the water/sun/humidity in that location.
For instance, a pharmacist in Rome noted how pasty I was, and insisted I buy some SPF50. “Blanca, blanca, come here” she told me and shoved the bottle in my hand with some tampons. This was the best sunscreen I have ever used and I wish I could find it here in the states! It didn’t cause me to break out, it was light and it worked to keep “blanca” from being “rosso”.
The first was home to a massive amount of history and artwork dating back to prehistory and into modernity. It not only showcased the long story and history of native peoples but also the current conflicts and issues that exist. I especially appreciated a section that called out cultural appropriation and stereotypes in modern american culture.
The plaza outside of the museum was equally impressive and an enjoyable visit all on its own. Full of life-size and larger statues it paid testament to native culture, struggle and existence, a story that often is overlooked and misunderstood.
The folk museum provided a great blend of other stories, and the fact it had a folk-art element meant that it reflected the tale of the average person and not that of another identity. Rooms were filled to the brim of a variety of cultural expressions including miniatures, needlepoint, dolls and much more.
After musuem land it was time to PARTY!
We started the events with a surprise mass, and wedding for my great aunt and uncle. We finished with food and sangria at their home in rural Santa Fe. I got to see cousins that live in Germany and England that I don’t usually see and talk with other cousins I didn’t know too well. All around it was a success and very enjoyable for all involved.
And sadly the next morning ment driving home…until next time Santa Fe!
The second day was an early start to the day and driving to downtown before the tourists invaded. I also wanted to talk to the Native American artists that sat outside by the Palace to sell their goods to locals and tourists alike. This was a great opportunity to learn how the system worked and how it provided artists the chance to make money directly and control their art.
I ended up buying a small pottery egg from a woman that had a turtle and fish on it, representing life and sustainability. The price was great and it felt awesome to support local and small artists. As an artist and from a family of artists, this direct connection meant a lot.
I talked to others about their goods and how they made things. There were silver workers, pottery masters, jewelry makers, weavers and everything in between. If you want to REALLY shop native goods, then this is the place and the best way to do it.
I then hit a few more shops looking for a thank you to the neighbors for loving on our cat while we were gone and I found a small place that sold local arts such as tin work and jewelry made from dried corn. All of these made great little souvenirs and it was enjoyable to be shopping so early and away from the crowds and chaos.
Before it was too hot I also walked the few blocks around the center of town, photographing and enjoying the soul of the city. One that dripped with art and culture and history. The entirety of it brought me a sense of peace and joy that I miss living in a newer city. The sensation reminded me of the same sensation I receive when I’m in Europe. Traversing ancient pathways and soaking up centuries of movement.
Late that morning some other relatives arrived for the celebrations, so the afternoon was spent eating, talking and doing some more sightseeing.
We spent a significant part of the afternoon looking at the old and famous churches of Santa Fe, including the Loretto Chapel, known for its staircase. Gothic in style the church has a classic charm to it.
Then we visited the OLDEST church in the United States, San Miguel Chapel. Which not only has the claim to being the oldest, but also is home to a 14th century bell from Spain, and some beautiful old art from the colonial time period.
We finished the day at the OLDEST home in Santa Fe, which was perfectly sized for someone short like myself and was a darling walk in the lifestyle of early Europeans that settled in the area.
Finally, we returned my aunt to the hotel and Ryan and I were able to have a date in Santa Fe. Which, naturally,deserved being full of tacos (American-Mexican) and margaritas. We ate the most amazing fish tacos I have ever had at Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill (that also had an awesome Gluten-Free menu. Then we finished with a quick visit the art museum and a walk around the old part of town.
A few weeks ago I had the great luxury of being able to go to Santa Fe on a road trip with my fiance. The main reason we were going was for a family get together/surprise 50th anniversary party for my Great Aunt and Uncle, the second reason was the excuse to get away for a long weekend and do something different.
I am very much an artistic and creative person. It’s kind of my reason for living so the chance to go to a city dripping in art, that wasn’t in another country, was like an elixir of joy and artistic energy that I desperately needed. Since graduating from my MA degree things have been…rough, to say the least. So I have been trying to find energy and joy in the small things.
From the Fort, Santa Fe is between a 6-8 hr drive depending on traffic and route and if you obey speed limits.
We left at 4am on Thursday and got to Santa Fe at about 10:45am with a few pit stops so I could pee, stretch my legs and get a little something to eat. We also stopped at a tourist center in Raton for a few guides on where we were going and what to do.
The nice part about leaving so early was that traffic was minimal and not backed up in Denver and Colorado Springs. This made everything easier and less stressful. It also meant we got to Santa Fe at a good time to get lunch at a local diner called Joe’s, and see the New Mexico History Museum.
Joe’s offered some amazing huevos rancheros ( a go to for me) with the most amazing green chili! Ryan got a bison burger and all around the staff and environment proved to be comforting and tasty. They also offered an EXTENSIVE list of Gluten-Free options (extra win).
The history museum was also a fantastic adventure. Stations off of the plaza in the oldest part of the city it starts in the Palace of the Governor’s and winds into newer buildings as it moved forward in history. The collection of native arts and Spanish influences paints the picture of how New Mexico changed under European influence and they spent a good amount of time discussing the conflicts that it brought. For instance the Pueblo Revolt was very influential in the history of New Mexico and the Americas.
Ryan found much of the military history intriguing and enjoyable and we finished the trip through time reflecting on the Nuclear test sites around New Mexico.
For dinner we ate some food we brought with and stayed the night in the well-priced and well-maintained Super 8 that sat about 15 minutes from downtown. The best part was the artwork that covered the hotel by a P S Romero. The large sun piece over the front desk was the best, and I desperately wish I could own it.
Added bonus: mini murals were painted throughout the hotel!
If you are studying in Florence it is likely you will find yourself in Rome for at least one weekend. This is a must for any trip to Italy and an absolutely wonderful experience.
So, when in Rome…
DO take photos with the men in Gladiator or Roman Guard uniforms. They will give you a fond memory and make your family and friends laugh!
DON’T eat in the heavy tourist areas, if you have the time seek out a place off the beaten path, do it. This is a reality for all of Italy, look around and find a smaller family-owned “locals eat here” place. The food, service, and most likely the prices will be much better!
DO join a tour, if you go to the big tourist areas, especially on the weekends the guides will be a bit more, BUT they get you in much sooner, and you learn…
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On Saturday I got the treat of watching a medieval reenactment group hold a jousting and sword fighting competition. Which, unlike the Renaissance festival I go to in Colorado, which is a staged theatrical performance, this was actually a competition of skill, training, horsemanship, patience, armor and elegance.
By dumb luck I saw a poster around town advertising the event on Friday, and jumped for the chance to go see such a sight. A €10 donation to a local charity got me and a friend in with prime seats for photography and to see all the action. Of course everything was in Italian, but we were just happy to watch the event which was preceded by a parade, dance, drum music and plenty of costumes.
The next day was my second trip to Lucca, my friend and I rented and rode bikes along the Renaissance walls taking in a quiet…
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…to be a better traveler.
A friend posted on Facebook just now…which inspired this post, that she, after travelling part of Europe HATED her massive luggage that she took and never wants to travel with it again. To which I reply….well duh!
However, 6 years ago I learned this lesson myself, and have learned it many times since. Travel with less= enjoying more. TRUTH.
I found on my first trip to Europe, 6 YEARS AGO that taking extra crap was a waste of my time and money (you know you have to pay more for heavy bags on planes). I stupidly took books to read (which I never had time to), I took travel guides (now I rip them apart or use my phone) and I took a massive book to put ticket stubs and other crap in (this was EXTRA DUMB) this book weighed about 5lbs and now 6 years past most the ticket stubs have fallen apart or the thermal paper has erased itself….so that was also a waste of time. Anyway my first trip also meant that I bought a shit-ton of books at different places I went, which was well-meaning, but it also meant that I had a hell of a lot of extra weight that I had to ship home or pull all over Europe.
Oh to be 19, young and stupid…
Since then two more trips to Europe have taught me a lot, and mostly by mistakes.
First of all: DO NOT plan on mailing anything home unless you have like $300 extra to spend because international mailing rates have gone up, up, up. That goes for U.S. or Europe and let’s just say you can throw away a lot of money on knick-knacks and then to send them home, and the reality is YOU ARE BUYING CRAP so STOP!!!!!!!! This also goes back to a philosophy of DO NOT buy people souvenirs unless they are SMALL and light weight and squishable.
Second: Invest in good luggage. Luggage that is lightweight, can take some knocks, can stretch and that maybe has a warranty. My first suitcase barely functions (I keep souvenirs in it) and it started to fall apart halfway through a 2.5 month trip. ALSO- buy one with WHEELS and four wheels that are fully rotating. Even if you don’t do much walking with your luggage, the few hours at the airport make it worthwhile. If you are backpacking, then different rules apply.
Third: Plan for the length you will be gone. For 1 week-3 weeks, take a carry-on or medium suitcase, and plan to do laundry, and pack extra undies. For 1 month+ you’re allowed a larger bag, however if you are traveling a lot (in the moving place to place sense) keep in mind that a backpack may make trains and hostels a lot easier. For longer trips I take a larger bag and only pack it half-full, then there is room for gifts/souvenirs/supplies that I may need. For instance, the Hostel I was at last year in Edinburgh left me FREEZING every night, so I bought a wool blanket that not only helped with the cold, but now I use daily as a throw. Having extra space meant I could bring it home.
Fourth: Listen to friends/family that have traveled a lot and don’t be too proud to look stuff up. If I had listened to more Samantha Brown and less grandparents/dad’s friends I would have taken WAY less on my first trip and had a better time.
Fifth: Take a big enough bag. It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but when I went to Italy for my study abroad and lived in Florence 5 weeks, I accumulated a lot of stuff. Such as clothing….because fashion and street markets….. So taking the train to meet some friends to get to Germany was a nightmare. It was stuffed train+ suitcase+ two bags I bought + other random crap….It was bad, and embarrassing and HEAVY. Lesson learned.
Sixth: Use tech to your advantage. BUY A SMARTPHONE already! Seriously, on my last trip that is all I took was my iphone, leaving back my DSLR and computer. Why? Well usually I LOVE taking lots of photos but for only a week of running around and some extra time with family, my IPhone 6S was PLENTY to take fun photos, stay in touch and pull up maps/directions. Also, buy a GOOD smartphone, and make sure you have international coverage where you go. T-Mobile offers FREE texting and slow data overseas and is about $0.20/min to call. Which is pretty good! If you are going somewhere a long time and think you want to call a lot (I use SKYPE btw) then think about getting an unlocked phone and buying sim cards abroad that you can “top-up” or buy a month-to-month plan. It really helps and in this day a phone can be a lifesaver if you get lost or can’t find a taxi at 3am. Even if you take a DSLR in addition, having the cellphone can lighten your load by leaving the computer at home, and carrying important information (scans of passport etc.) Along with access to people back home. Anyway, just join the 21st century and be savvy. Compared to traveling 6 and even 3 years ago, having a SMARTPHONE make a HUGE difference and is worth the time/headache it saves.
Seventh: Buy disposable entertainment. MEANING: download audio books/digital books (utilize the library), books you can leave at a hostel, movies that are digital, music that is digital etc. This keeps things lightweight and also if you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have to feel guilty about lugging around the weight.
Eight: Pack minimal clothes and buy new things. I try to leave some room in my budget and suitcase to buy some clothes. This is my “backup” for not only weather conditions and “unknowns” on what might be fashionable or more comfortable for the travel conditions. This acts as an awesome souvenir and a great amount of fun.
The biggest problem about loving to travel is that there is never an end to all the place I want to go. So I put things in a box, magazine cutouts and travel guides, and make rough lists of what to do in a year or two…or three. I’ve been very lucky in that I have been able to go somewhere new just about every year since I graduated from high school. Even if it’s just in Colorado! However, international travel has far more appeal due to the excitement of new cultures, languages, and being able to remove myself out of my comfort zone. BECAUSE I’m that kind of person!
So here is my rough list of places I want to hit in the next 5-10 years.
- Peru- I plan on hiking the Inca trail over four days, and I am currently “training” for such a feat! I also want to visit important Inca and colonial sights, and nerd out over weaving and clothing patterns that have been used for ages. Because I’m a nerd like that!
- Japan- This is a trip for Ryan and I, and maybe even Lily-bug in a few years! I think it would be a trip of a lifetime to see the diversity of the country in all its islands, eat the food, photograph the crap out of everything and just enjoy something so different from our day to day. I have even considered trying to move here for a year….I’ll keep you posted 😉
- China- Ever since seeing Mulan I have desperately wanted to go to China, I’m talking 7 year old me wanted so badly to go to China. Pretty much all my elementary school projects were on China and the New Year…who knows why. Even today I’m drawn to novels on China’s past etc. Okay I want to go to China TODAY in its hustle and bustle and new meets old traditions and cities. I want to experience the joy I have met in Chinese travelers and catch some of the contagious charm of a deep and ancient culture. It’s also HUGE so this may be a long journey from North/South East and West. There is so very much to see.
- India- This is one I want to do with my sister’s and mostly because I’ve been warned to not travel alone in India. Which may or may not be a reasonable concern, but it would be much more fun to be there with my sisters. We want to do India because of its challenge to our senses, norms, and a chance to grow closer as we take on new and exciting adventures. We want the elephants and architecture, but also the shopping and food and meeting new people. We want the diversity and the mix of old and new. It simply sounds like an amazing journey that will leave us all changed for the better!
- Korea- I have several friends living here or planning to go here. Korea is appealing due to its fantastic modern culture that is delicately blended with the past. Also the food, and the mountains and the architecture. I don’t care much about investigating the North, and the South has plenty of stories to tell and share.
- Mexico- I have technically already been to Mexico, but just Cozumel. Which was REALLY awesome, therefore it must me figured that the rest of the country has a lot to share. Again this is a place with a huge mix of cultures and peoples and is full to the brim with exciting adventures for all! Can we also talk about how amazing the food is here? I’m also a huge geek for Mexico’s pre-colonial history and I can’t wait to see more Mayan and Aztec art. If you know nothing about those two cultures go read about it now, it’s so cool!
- NorthEastern United States- This is where we started as a nation, so there is a ton of architecture and history to drool over. But there is also some amazing natural areas and greenery that we don’t get here in the west. My plan is to make a road trip of it and soak up the fall leaves!
- Oh Canada- it’s our neighbor to the north and full of poutine and mountains, what is not to love? I also want to soak in some history and adventure and hang out with REALLY nice people!
- NorthWest United States- I feel a strong need to check out that place called Washington and Oregon that are known for a rugged ocean culture and being very much like Colorado. Also their rainforests are some of the most amazing looking things I have ever seen!
- Greece- This is one of those places in Europe that I have yet to get to experience and I seriously can’t wait to go and take in the food, ancient history, architecture and culture that seems laughable and equally loveable.
There you have it, the top ten places on my list. And of course there is much much more out there I can’t wait to see!
Rebecca Lee Robinson
I love the “big city” of Colorado. AKA Denver, which serves as the capital but also as a massive metropolis of something like 30 suburbs and small towns all connected and smooshed together. Denver proper is rather small, but is packed full of exciting and enjoyable activities for any visitor.
Molly Brown, also known as the unsinkable Molly Brown. Also actually known in her lifetime as Margaret Brown…anyway, lived in Denver and was an activist and feminist in the early part of the 20th century. All around she was pretty badass and did a lot for not only Colorado but also the United States in her lifetime. The house has been restored to reflect her lifestyle and that of the Denver elite in the 1910s and 20s. It’s quite a look at the wealth of the time, and also her life and what she stood for and cared about.
Learn more from a project I did, Acta Historia
9. City Park
If you want to enjoy some of the 300 days of sunshine Colorado boasts about, there is not a more wonderful location in the city than at City Park, which is very close to my number 8 and 7 choices! It’s full of not only some great statues of Martin Luther King and Robert Burns, but also in the summer you can rent boats, there are fountains to play in to beat the summer heat. And always a few dogs to say hello to.
8. Denver Zoo
Yes a zoo is a zoo, but the Denver zoo boasts an impressive collection of creatures for a mid-sized city, and is home to some amazing habitats! Their recently renovated elephant enclosure is like walking into another country! They offer lots of goodies for kids to interact with, and for adults, it’s just a fun time to get face to face with otters and primates!
I have been going to this museum at least once a year for as long as I can remember. I even worked here for a while in college, and it was a dream come true! I love this place, and with revolving and evolving exhibits there is always something new to see! It’s always a lot of fun!
This heart to Downtown is an exciting and beautiful layout full of rich classic architecture and the place for downtown happenings and festivals!
This 1.25 mile long shopping mall offers a lot of fun shopping for the visitor, but it also offers a link to other sights in the downtown area. a FREE shuttle connects one end to the other where you can access Lo-Do and then Capital hill on the other end. The strip offer eclectic dining options and ease of access to other city transportation such as the tram-system. My favorite place is The Tattered Cover Bookstore!
This MASSIVE museum literally has something for everyone, and is full of relics from all over the world. Enjoy renaissance and medieval, or Asia and the Middle East, South America has rooms and rooms! They also have wonderful modern art, and rotating exhibitions so check it out. Plan a day if you have it, or a few hours to hit the main interests. Kid’s can also intimately interact with the exhibits by checking out an explorer pack!
This may be the most Colorado thing about Denver. Not only do you get to enjoy a huge collection of antique buildings but there are a ton of mom and pop restaurants serving up local fare. Then there is the iconic REI flagship store for those outdoorsy types. There is the iconic Union Station that lights up at night for a marvelous view, and Coors field if you want to catch a Rockies game. FINALLY you can Kayak in the middle of downtown Denver! REALLY and it’s FREE, of course you need a kayak…
2. Clubbing and music
The clubbing district of Denver stretches along Sherman street, south of downtown. This is great place to grab a few drinks, dance, meet people and check out the local DJ scene. If this is less of your style, stick to Colfax and the music venues! The Fillmore, Ogden (personal favorite) and Bluebird have concerts almost nightly from local bands to grammy winners, there is always something to check out!
1. RED ROCKS- not Denver Proper
Okay if you are going to take a trip to Denver, or are a local looking for stuff to do, then you HAVE to take in a show at Red Rocks. It’s one of those holy experiences that only can happen with music and nature and fandoms come together. My first show there was The Cure and since then I have seen Flogging Molly, Devotchka, and The Fray and I’m always planning on going back. Not only do the concerts make you swoon, but the park itself is a really cool place to hike around in and take in the Colorado sights and sounds. It’s only about an hour from downtown (give or take due to traffic) and well worth the jaunt. The best part is sharing it with friends, I got to share it with a family friend’s 13-year-old last summer, and not only was it her first concert, but her first big event like that without her parents. Meaning I got to share in her right of concert-going at 13 with Devotchka, at the best venue in the world!