Monthly Archives: January 2016

5 Things I did in January to $ave Money for Travel!

In the last year, all of my travels were road trips or a $79 Southwest Airlines special; but regardless of the distance, traveling is can be expensive. I thought it would be fun to share ways I save money each month in order to travel more, and I would love to hear your ideas! This is also a way to motivate myself and stay accountable; so with that, I bring you to my very first edition of 5 things I did this month to save money for travel!

5 Things I did to save money for travel

When we moved here, anything we wanted to keep but couldn’t fit in our car went to my mom’s basement. When I went home for Christmas, I was able to bring back a lot of my clothes (that I’d forgotten about, honestly) that I hadn’t seen in a year. When I started unpacking, I realized that I’d replaced most of those clothes already. I took that as an opportunity to clean out my closet and I made about $70 selling those clothes.

Shell found at Shackleford Banks, North Carolina

I didn’t go over my cell data. This one might sound a little crazy, but for some reason I really struggle to keep my data use under control. We have an embarrassing amount of data on our plan already, so I refuse to raise it. Instead, I promise myself every month that I won’t go over; yet I do anyways almost every month, racking up ridiculous charges. This month, I “saved” $20 by not going over my data limit. A goal for the future is to lower my data use enough to reduce the overall data on our plan, which would save even more. Rumor at work is that we are getting wireless soon, which would make this goal very attainable!

Washington, D.C.

A friend referred me to Shopkick. I was leery at first, because it seems like a lot of work for not a lot of payout, but I decided to give it a try. Essentially, it is an app that gives you points for walking inside a store, scanning specific items , or purchasing specific items; you then redeem those points for gift cards. I also make it a point to open the app every day because it usually gives you 1-2 points just for opening the app.  It took me a while to remember to turn it on and use it in the stores but now it’s second nature. Today, I was scanning a bottle of wine at Target when another girl came behind me and scanned the same bottle – obviously she was using Shopkick too. I got a “kick” out of that (ha- get it?). I didn’t use Shopkick as much this month as I could have had I remembered to use it every time I went to the store so I didn’t make much, but I did earn $2 towards a gift card. Obviously this one won’t make you rich, but if you’re at the store anyways, then why not.

You can sign up here and we’ll both get extra points.

Tryon Palace in New Bern, North Carolina

While my goal was to make a whole freezer-full of meals that I can throw in the crockpot before work every day, I didn’t end up making the time to do that. We did, however, buy 10 pounds of ground beef. It’s cheaper to buy a tube of 10 pounds than it is to buy 1 pound packages. I cooked all 10 pounds, then placed it back into the freezer to pull out whenever I’m ready. Not only was it cheaper this way, but it will save time on weeknights as I’ll be able to pull the meat out of the freezer in the morning before work and throw it into whatever I want to make that night without having to cook it then! By buying in bulk, I saved around $6.50.

Palm Trees















On the weekend that the northeast was hit with a massive blizzard, we got a little bit of rain and cold weather. We decided to take that as an opportunity to stay inside and watch movies; in other words, we didn’t leave our house at all. We ordered a pizza, but otherwise didn’t spend any money on gas, admission fees to anything, or drinks. Most weekends, we are driving somewhere at least 30 – 60 minutes away, paying for a couple drinks, having a nice dinner, and likely paying for some sort of entertainment as well. I estimate that we saved around $50 on the weekend we stayed home.

So that makes the total that I saved this month $148.50, almost $150! That would definitely cover a hotel for at least one night. It’s a good place to start!

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Charleston, South Carolina in One Weekend

I knew my mom would be coming to visit for about a week in September, so once we had officially booked her flights, I got busy planning and preparing a week full of travel and Charleston was the first stop on our list!

Charleston, South Carolina

My mom’s flight arrived in the evening, and we spent our first night wandering around King Street checking out all of the [closed] shops. If you’re into shopping, I’d obviously recommend doing this during the day, but since our time there was short, we opted for other activities during the day, and exploring King Street at night was fine for us. I also thought I should mention that while we were exploring, my mom noted how safe she felt. Of course, bad things can happen anywhere, but she was right – we didn’t feel out of place or that anything bad was going to happen to us. It was a very safe area, even at night.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina is beautiful night or day

If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I am picky about where I eat when I visit somewhere new. I like to eat at places that are new, different, and unique to the city, which is not always easy to find! My phone was still new to me, so I was struggling with the navigation system, making it difficult to find a good spot to eat (I’m too young to be having these sorts of problems, I know). My mom wandered all over the place with me, trying to find some good food, and never complained even though I know she was exhausted from traveling all day. We ended up finding a great BBQ place before crashing for the night.

Charleston, South Carolina

I am obsessed with palm trees!

In the daylight, the first thing I noticed about Charleston was how many churches there were. Within a block of our hotel, there were at least 3, and every single one was unique.

One of the many churches in Charleston, South Carolina

One of the many churches in Charleston, South Carolina

We had been given several restaurant recommendations, and we decided on Toast for breakfast because they were advertising pumpkin spice lattes, my favorite! The service was great and the food was wonderful, but it turns out that I can’t tell you how the lattes were because I ended up with a Bloody Mary instead. I have a feeling I made the better choice!

Charleston, South Carolina City Market

Close to Toast was the Charleston City Market, where locals come to sell a variety of items from paintings to hand-woven baskets. We took our time walking through, checking out the different vendors. At the end of the market, there is a public bus stop that our waitress at Toast told us about; it is completely free and takes you all over the city. We hopped on at her suggestion and rode it the whole way through before we deciding where we should get off to explore.

The entrance to the Waterfront Park in Charleston

The entrance to the Waterfront Park in Charleston. Note the church in the skyline.

We ended up at Waterfront Park; here, you can grab  some ice cream a great view of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, walk along the water’s edge, and take in the view. It truly is beautiful and my mom and I spent probably a good hour here.

Arthur Ravenel Bridge from the Waterfront Park in Charleston, South Carolina

This view doesn’t get old

We wandered around the nearby area, looking at the houses and all of the unique architecture. One of the most famous houses is in this area – Rainbow Row. The Rainbow Row houses are the longest cluster of intact Georgian row houses in the U.S. and they were built in 1680! They were slightly damaged in the Civil War, became slums, and then were re-stored in the 1920’s.

IMG_1158 IMG_1163 IMG_1154

If you want to visit Charleston, you can do so easily without a car. We did have a car, so we went to see the Angel Oak Tree (yes, we drove about 20 minutes to go see a tree). However, this is no ordinary tree; it’s by far the biggest tree I’ve ever seen and some estimate Angel Oak to be 1,500 years old. The limbs alone are as big as a normal tree trunk, and it stands around 65 feet high.

Angel Oak Tree in Charleston, South Carolina

Since my mom was visiting from Iowa, I knew she was dying to see the beach (at least, I think she was…I would have been!) The beach was a close drive from the Angel Oak Tree, so we spent the last couple hours of the afternoon at Kiawah Island walking the beach. I must admit that I think a ghost tour would have been in the works had I not had such a bad experience in Gettysburg!

Kiawah Beach in South Carolina

It was the perfect first day in Charleston. The following day, we woke up and went to Fort Sumter (post to come!) before heading to Myrtle Beach for a couple of days.


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2015: My Year in Review

2015 was very much a monumental year for us. Not only did I take a new job that will ultimately get me where I want to go, but we also got to travel to so many new places, and see so much. Here are some of our highlights from this  year!

We started off our year with a bang when we went on a cruise with Mitchell’s family; our 7-day cruise visited Grand Turk, San Juan, Saint Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. A mere 2 days after the cruise, we packed up everything and drove halfway across the country to start a new life in North Carolina.

I didn't have high expectations for this beach, which is privately owned by the cruise company, but Half Moon Cay was one of the most beautiful beaches I've been to with sand so soft I swore it was powdered sugar!

I didn’t have high expectations for this beach, which is privately owned by the cruise company, but Half Moon Cay was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to with sand so soft I swore it was powdered sugar!

We spent most of February trying to get settled in North Carolina, and didn’t do a whole lot of traveling. We went to an over-crowded chocolate festival 40 minutes away and made our first trip (of many) to Wilmington. And, oddly enough, I don’t have many pictures of Wilmington despite our many trips there!

March brought our first visitors from Iowa, and we went to Myrtle Beach for the first time. We didn’t do a whole lot of touristy activities due to time, but we did explore the WonderWorks Museum, ate at a nice restaurant, and enjoyed our hotel’s hot tub. We learned the value of having a tourist destination so close to us, something we aren’t used to!

Beautiful Sunset at Myrtle Beach

Our love for gambling brought us on a spontaneous trip to the mountains in Cherokee, where the closest casino is; this is something completely new to us as we’re used to being within an hour of 3 casinos. On our way home from Cherokee, we briefly explored Asheville (didn’t love it) and took in the mountain views.

There's a good view around every turn in Cherokee

There’s a good view around every turn in Cherokee

May brought us our first 3-day weekend together; we obviously took advantage of this time and went to Gettysburg which was such a unique experience and travel destination. On the way home, we took a minor detour and hit up the casino in Baltimore. And even though this isn’t necessarily a travel experience, one of my favorite memories since moving here was in May; on my birthday, we rented a kayak and took it to a sandbar where we fished, found crabs, and drank beer all day.


From about March to August, Mitchell was working 6 days a week with the only exception being Memorial Day weekend. We had to be creative in our travels, and I didn’t want to stretch Mitchell too thin. That means most of our weekends were spent at Topsail Beach, about 45 minutes away from our house. We made an exception one weekend when we took a ferry to Shackleford Banks where wild horses roam the small island!

Horses and a beach at the same time? Um, yes please!

Horses and a beach at the same time? Um, yes please!

We crossed off one of my Bucket List items in July by going to Washington, D.C. for the 4th of July. I have always wanted to see the fireworks at the National Mall ever since I saw them on TV as a kid. Even though the rain made it a much different experience than I had imagined, it was still incredible to cross off such a big thing from my bucket list. We also moved from our crappy apartment to a nice, big house!

Washington, D.C.

In August, we mostly enjoyed Mitchell working normal hours again and finished settling into our new house. We knew that September was going to be a busy travel month so we laid low other than a day trip to New Bern.

New Bern, North Carolina

Labor Day weekend was spent in the mountains. Of course I loved the mountains when we visited in April, but it was this trip that made me fall madly in love. We explored Bryson City and made plans to return when the leaves began to change. Two weeks after our mountain trip, my mom came to visit and together we tackled Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, and Topsail Island.

Charleston, South Carolina

October brought us back to the mountains for an incredible weekend. We explored a little more of the mountains than just the casino (only half joking), took a train ride, and just took time to enjoy ourselves. I’m not quite sure how we got so lucky, but the weekend we were there was the most perfect weekend for fall-color-viewing! We also checked out the North Carolina state fair! Iowa is known as being one of the best state fairs, so checking out a different one was a good experience, and it was so weird to be chilly at the state fair, since ours is in August!

North Carolina State Fair

November brought us a spontaneous trip to Washington, D.C. Let me tell you, spontaneous trips here bring you to much cooler places than what we are used to! And spontaneous trips are the best trips, especially when you can get away during non-tourist season (hello, cheap hotels and no lines!). We visited Mitchell’s family in Florida for Thanksgiving and had the best time there, too. They took us to the beach and we went boating every day. Also, this may be surprising, but we hit up the casino in Tampa on our way home.

Path to a Florida Beach!

It would only seem fitting that the year would end the same way it began – traveling halfway across the country. My mom got a new car and sold us her old one, so I flew home for the holidays then drove the car back to North Carolina. It was another check off the bucket list because I’ve always wanted to drive [halfway] across the country solo. Of course, I’d like to do it again and be able to take my time so that I can stop at all the places and do all the things! Before I flew home for the holidays, Mitchell and I took advantage of a huge Southwest sale, and spent our anniversary in Nashville. A post about Nashville is coming, but let’s just say that I did not have huge expectations but it ended up becoming one of my favorite vacation destinations to date.

Nashville, I love you so much!

Nashville, I love you so much!

That’s my year in a nutshell! My whole life, my grandma has said that time goes so fast, and the older you get, the faster time goes. She is so right because I honestly don’t know where 2015 went. I don’t know what 2016 will bring, but I have a feeling it is going to be the best year ever!


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11 Things Moving Across the Country has Taught Me

At this exact time last year, Mitchell and I were selling, giving, or throwing away everything we owned except for what could fit in our car. It was a bittersweet (and extremely stressful) time; I had no idea what was lying ahead of me and I was equally as excited as I was terrified. I have grown immeasurably throughout the last year and I can’t explain how thankful I am to have this opportunity. Because it’s the beginning of a new yearand the anniversary of our big move, I’m feeling nostalgic. So with that, I bring you 11 things I learned about moving across the country.

11 Things I learned about Moving Across the Country

It can be lonely
I learned this one the hard way, and I learned it immediately. For the most part, my new coworkers were welcoming but it took a long time to make real, lasting connections and relationships; and I learned there’s a big difference between feeling welcomed and actual friendship. At first, the only real social life I had was Mitchell, and this continued for probably 9 months. As much as I love my boyfriend, I really value (and need) girls’ nights; plus, asking a friend which shoes to wear over FaceTime isn’t the same (in retrospect, it also didn’t matter since the only person seeing them was Mitchell anyways).

Mountains North Carolina

You’ll second guess yourself at least once
Most days, living somewhere completely new fuels my desire and motivation for wanting to travel even more, but there are days where it is the opposite. Even though spending my weekends gallivanting up and down the east coast is the most incredible experience that I couldn’t have had from Iowa, it doesn’t replace being there to help my best friend plan her wedding or meeting my other friend’s newborn baby. That’s the big stuff. But the little stuff is hard to miss too – like countless dinner dates, happy hours, and my brother/our niece and nephews’ extracurricular activities.  Missing those moments can really make you second guess if you are where you are supposed to be.

Florida Beach

Your relationships will change
Even though everyone is a quick phone call or text away, it’s a lot of work to keep in touch when you can’t see each other in person. It’s easy to lose touch and drift apart in life, but it’s even easier to do so when you’re half a country away. But even though moving away makes it difficult, some relationships will become stronger. There are some people that I talk to more now than I did when I lived close to them; and although the dynamics have changed in every relationship I have, I am so happy that all of my relationships have remained intact.

North Carolina Beach

….and so will you
Part of the reason your relationships change is because you change too. You will not be the same person you were when you left. Let it happen, and embrace the change. Hopefully it will make you better and stronger in the end.

North Carolina Beach Sunset

It’s addicting
Need I say more? Moving to a place where you know no one is an adrenaline rush. I have learned that a part of me thrives on feeling that little twinge of homesickness. Plus, there are so many restaurants to try, places to explore, and people to meet. Living somewhere isn’t the same as visiting and once you get a taste of it, you may begin plotting out where you want to live next!

Roadtrip Road

You might have to pinch yourself a few times
I always dreamed of moving to the ocean and I never really imagined it would happen. I find myself thinking – “Is this real? Am I really doing this – DID I really do this?” pretty frequently. I have found myself thanking God many times for this incredible opportunity. And even though it’s my own hard work and dedication that brought me here, I feel so incredibly lucky.

North Carolina Beach

Greater appreciation
Learning about new and different cultures (yes, I consider the south to have its own culture 😉 ) helps me to appreciate others from different backgrounds while also making me appreciate my own background even more. Also, working for the military gives me the utmost appreciation for all of our service members, veterans, and their families.

North Carolina Mountains in the Fall

It will open up opportunities
When I dreamed of moving to the sea, I dreamed of sipping my coffee on the patio overlooking the ocean. And even though that hasn’t happened yet, mostly because we live a half an hour from the ocean, the opportunities here are even greater than that; reality has exceeded my expectations. By now, you know the opportunities for travel have been incredible for me, so there’s no need to go into more detail there. Instead, the opportunities for new friendships, new jobs, and a different way of living have all fallen into my lap. It’s crazy the opportunities you might get if you give them the chance.

North Carolina

Our newest friends

You become an advocate for “home”
Suddenly, everything from Iowa is “the best”. I find myself constantly talking about the sunsets, the food, and the people quite frequently. Because Iowa isn’t exactly a tourist destination, I have a lot of educating to do. I talk about it so much that I think my friends and coworkers wonder why I left in the first place!

No matter where I go, Iowa will always be home

No matter where I go, Iowa will always be home

It will become a part of you
I have left pieces of my heart in many places. North Carolina is not the first, and it will not be the last; and the problem with leaving your heart in so many places is that a part of you is always homesick for somewhere else. North Carolina was never meant to be a forever move, but I love this state so much. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be content where I’m at, and that’s both exciting and a little scary.

North Carolina beach

It’s completely worth it
Moving across the country was everything I dreamed it would be and more and I would do it again in a heartbeat . . . and I just might!

Myrtle Beach South Carolina Beach


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