The summer of 2016 was my first time being on the west coast. Whenever my roomate Harley asked if I wanted to road trip back with her to Los Angeles I obviously had to jump on the opportunity.

Spending two weeks in California was a blast, especially since my guide was one of my best friends who’s lived there her whole life!

Although we stayed at her house in a city right outside L.A.  and hang out with her friends most of the time, we also took excursions to San Diego and the hiking trails in Forest Falls.

 San Diego

San Diego is a beautiful beach coast city. My friend’s mom had a friend who was renting out an apartment in San Diego and she invited us to come for a weekend to visit.

As soon as we got there and unloaded the car, my friend and I went for a walk to the beach (about a 2 mile walk) and stopped at a taco shop as well.

Anytime I come to a new city the first thing I like to do is walk around and get to know what’s around me. It’s fun to find cute local shops.

I also wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo, one of the things on my bucket list! I love going to zoos, I’m one of those people that has to see every single animal in the place and this one gave me anxiety because of how big it was! They gave us a map of the entire zoo and I planned where to go. We spent the entire day there seeing the whole thing. My favorite part was the gondola ride over the park, the view was amazing

Forest Falls

If the hustle and bustle of the city get too much for you, one way to unwind is a hike through the mountains. One of the days we were there we rounded up a few of her friends and drove to Forest Falls. There’s a small waterfall you can hike too, and it’s not a very difficult trail either.

This was a nice outdoor activity, especially since it was free. It was nice to get some fresh air and explore some of the landscape around the park. There was also camping grounds available and with its proximity to the city was a convenient getaway from the city noise.

Los Angeles

Since my friend lived so close to Los Angeles we took a few day trips. There’s plenty to do in L.A. and I don’t think you could ever get bored there. It’s interesting to just walk down the streets and explore the shops along the way. We also went and walked around the LACMA. If you don’t want to pay the hefty fee to get into the museum (although I totally think it’s worth it) there’s some artwork around the museum as well

And if modern art isn’t really your thing, you can head over to the Abandoned zoo also nicknamed “graffiti park” for good reason. Exploring the cages and grounds of the park was a cool way to see behind the scenes and also a great place to have a picnic!

The area around the Santa Monica Pier was also a good place to walk around. This is also the end of Route 66.  There were plenty of shops along the pier and the streets around it. There’s some good shopping and a much less crowded than the typical Rodeo Drive. I think there was even an aquarium under the Pier.

Hiking to the Hollywood sign is one of the only ways to get a good picture with the famous sign. My friend and I started our trek out early, and without knowing that this trail was one of the most difficult ways. By the middle of the trail I was contemplating turning back because I was so tired. However, once we reached the top, the reward so amazing. You can see the whole skyline of Los Angeles.

This was definitely the more adventurous routes. But the view was worth it. And the climb back down was a lot easier. There was also a balancing stones and trees nearby that was cool

The same day we hiked to the top of the sign we also visited the walk of fame. This is definitely really touristy but also really cool at the same time. It was late at night so we didn’t go into the Chinese Theater but it was fun to find my favorite stars’ star. 

And of course, what’s a trip to L.A. without getting a picture of yourself with graffiti angel wings! There’s plenty of opportunities all over the city

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I lovee road trips. One of the best ways to see America is going on a good road trip. The longer the better.

Back in 2016, right after my first year of college, my room-mate and I took her jeep from southern Louisiana to her hometown of Redlands, California (right outside of Los Angeles). We drove through 9 states and 1,700 miles of road – in 36 hours.

The main rule about road trips – stop anywhere and everywhere!

this image is not mine

One of our first stops (besides for snacks) was the Cadillac Ranch in Texas. This is a really cool art piece out in the middle of a field in Amarillo. It’s even been featured in a couple music videos!

Grab some spray paint and add some art work of your own!

My room-mate drove through the night – I do not advise, she’s crazy – and we arrived at the Four Corners Monument before they even opened the gates.

Get there early so you can grab a pic before the rest of the tourists get there. There’s also a bunch of local vendors set up around the monument and some walking trails nearby.

A couple more hours down the road we turned into the Grand Canyon National Park. Considered one of the modern wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is almost unreal to look at. We spent about an hour or two staring at the immense hole in the Earth and learning about some of the history and facts with an audio guide.

I would love to return one day to camp and hike through the canyon. If you’re ever anywhere near the park don’t miss out on seeing this breathtaking view!

We then continued our adventures by spending two weeks in California – read about it here!

Have you ever been on a road trip? Got any special tips or want to share your adventure, comment below! 

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Freshman year of college was full of so many great memories – mainly due to the fact that I met an amazing group of friends who were down to do crazy things. One of those friends being my roommate, Harley. I was honestly like slightly dreading the fact of sharing a small space with a random person (who wouldn’t) but whoever does the roommate matching over at LSU seriously knows what they’re doing.

I think the reason Harley and I get along so well is because we’re always down to try each other’s crazy ideas. For our first spring break at college almost all of our friends ended up going home so we were left without any plans. Not wanting to stay in our dorm the whole time, we came up with an idea the week before spring break. Let’s drive somewhere.

We picked a direction, east, and since it was spring break we wanted to go to a beach. Yupp. That’s about as detailed as our plans got.. And to also save money – because ya know college students here – we were going to sleep in her jeep.

So Friday night, the day before we were going to head out, we went to Walmart bought a blow up mattress (went back to Walmart because we got the wrong size), and blew it up in the trunk of her jeep. The next morning, we headed for Mississippi.

For a proper road-trip there’s 3 rules I go by: 1. Stock up on the right snacks – my go-to’s are Cheetos, Dr. Pepper, and a Reese’s. 2. Never pass a semi without trying to get them to honk and 3. Stop at anything and everything that looks interesting (even the welcome centers – mainly for the free coffee).

Our first beach we ended up at was Gulf Shores, Alabama, which coincidentally was where most of the LSU sororities and frats were at, which our friend Scott was a part of. He was very pumped to see us – partially because he was drunk and also because he didn’t believe us when we told him our plan. We hung out with him for a little but didn’t want to stay in a house full of frat guys we didn’t know, soo we found dinner at a Mexican place and then surveyed the nearby hotel parking lots for a place to sleep.

The first night in the jeep was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. As I tried to fall asleep I couldn’t stop jumping at every sound I heard and running through scenarios of waking up to either cops, robbers, or murderers. We actually woke up to the sounds of the hotel’s garbage truck at like 8 in the morning. I oddly felt very well rested.

For breakfast we bought hunny buns from a gas station and also brushed our teeth and changed in their bathroom.. not my favorite moment. It wasn’t really beach weather but we were determined to have a proper spring break and do some sun bathing. I think we were on the beach for about an hour.. It was freezing. After running back to the jeep and putting on jeans and hoodies, we drove around and found a little amusement park to hang out at instead.

Harley posts her whole life story on snapchat and during this time one of her friends from California texted her and said they were in Gulf Shores too. We decided to meet up with them and found the beach house they were renting for the week. That night we had a little house party with booze and pizza and then crashed on their couch.

That morning we used our resources wisely and took showers (did NOT think about that before agreeing to this adventure, but thank God for friends). Then ate at a cute diner near the ocean and headed for our next beach – Pensacola. We drove along the coast into Florida. Following the signs, we decided to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum (don’t forget to ask for student discounts!) and then the Pensacola Lighthouse Museum, obviously climbing the 172 steps to look at the view.

Once we got into the town of Pensacola we drove to the beach and walked along the pier. It was a little too late to lay out and also still way too cold so we aimlessly walked around, but once again our friends came to the rescue. This time Acca, one of our friends from college, reached out to us and invited us to stay the night at her grandparents. They cooked us an amazing meal and then we watched movies all night, not sleeping in the jeep for a second time.

In the morning we once again set out on the road for another beach – this time Destin, Florida. It was a short drive and I don’t think we made any stops except for the Destin visitor center. We found the public beach but opted for walking along the boardwalk they have, going into the little shops and eating from the street cars they had (I found one that sold crepes!!).

There wasn’t much for us to do, it seemed more of a family vacation type of town with most of the good parts of the beach taken by hotels, so we used our time wisely and drove to the next beach that night – Panama. We got there late and found a parking garage to sleep in. This time I wasn’t as spooked out and fell asleep right away.

In the morning we once again tried to lay out on the beach, but it was so windy I was covered in sand by the time I got my towel to lay down. It also looked like it was going to storm so we searched for something indoors to do. We had seen the WonderWorks attraction (it’s an upside down building so it caught our attention) and decided to check it out. We spent the whole day there, there was a lot to do and it was honestly so much fun. We once again slept in the parking garage that night, which shielded us from the rain.

The next day we had to drive all the way back to Louisiana. Our spring break was definitely one for the books, although we didn’t get to be beach bums we had a great time. We also saved a ton of money because we slept in a jeep (and had help from our other friends) instead of buying a hotel room!

Do you have any crazy ideas you’ve tried out? Tell me how it went in the comments below! (Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss out on the rest of my adventures!)

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Bittersweet. That’s the taste I got from my first trip. Yeah it was awesome and fun, buuut as I’m sure anyone who’s gone on a long trip knows – shit doesn’t always go as planned.

Our bad luck started out before even leaving the country. We had to drive about 5 hours to the airport in Texas and about halfway in our bus broke down. We sat on the side of the road for a good bit – but luckily we didn’t miss our flight.

Once we got to France the first couple of hours were not at all what I had expected. One of the students didn’t have the right visa to get into the country so they had to arrange for a flight back to America. Imagine getting all the way to France and then having to go right back to where you came from! And then we got lost inside the airport for like an hour with our guide trying to find the charter bus – it was our guides like 2nd time doing the trip so I’ll cut him some slack but still.

We also didn’t have the best luck with hotels. At one of them about 6 kids got stuck inside an elevator and then at another they had such a bad bug infestation we had to find a new hotel.

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One of the things that I was most excited about doing was helping build a castle from scratch the medieval way (take note I didn’t write about it in the last post). While driving in the mountains we got lost and behind schedule –  the airport debacle was major foreshadowing I guess – so when we got there the only medieval thing we got to do is eat mead and sleep in a barn.

Our last week was going pretty good, until the second to last day before we left. After touring the city of Rome we were going to have dinner at the Hard Rock café.. our guide said it was a couple blocks down.. just a short walk. I don’t know what this guy’s version of a short walk is but mine doesn’t involve walking 20 minutes, getting on the subway, and then walking another 15 minutes. Call me a lazy American but THAT’S NOT A COUPLE BLOCKS.

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Once we got to the restaurant is when I noticed something. I tried to reach for my phone.. and it wasn’t there. I lost my phone. All those photos – gone.

Oh and to top it off the next day I did that thing where you go to throw away something and accidentally threw away my sunglasses instead of the trash haha. But yeah whenever I found out I had lost my phone I called my dad bawling my eyes out saying how terrible the trip had been.

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Now, whenever I look back on it I see how silly I was being. Yes I may have lost a lot of pictures on my phone and we may not have been able to do all of the planned activities but what really counts is the memories and friends that I made. Some of the most fun times I had were hanging out in the hotels playing card games or talking on the bus rides.

And my trip taught me a lot about traveling in general like navigating an airport, staying aware of my surroundings, and dealing with jet lag. It also taught me a lot about what type of traveler I am such as I’m a pretty light weight packer and I’m actually better at finding my way around a foreign town (seriously I can barely get around my hometown without a gps, it’s sad.)

But I think the most important thing that I learned is that every trip has its own mishaps – and it makes for a good story when you get home!

So if you’re ever on a trip that’s not quite going as planned, take it as a learning experience. And remember 1. The unplanned is where the real adventure begins and 2. Being lost isn’t such a bad thing.

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Do you have any good (or bad) memories from your first trip? Or any tips that you learned that has helped on your adventures since? Share in the comments below I’d love to hear them! 

Let’s start at the beginning…

The first time I got a taste of the travel bug was back in 2012, when I got a letter in the mail from People to People inviting me on a four week trip to France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. Obviously, I begged my parents to go.

Their one request? I help pay for it. So for the next nine months I did everything I could to make money and ended up paying for half the trip. I was known as the cookie girl at my high school because I would bring home-made cookies every day and sell them.

Those nine months flew by so fast, but extremely slow at the same time. I don’t know how many travel guides and tips I read or how many times I practiced packing my suitcase to prepare for my first trip abroad. Before I knew it, my mom was waving goodbye to me from the parking lot of Albertson’s as our bus drove away. 

As much as I don’t want to admit I was a little scared for my first flight. I remember waking up every time there was turbulence and honestly thought we were about to crash and I’d have to live out the rest of my days on a deserted island… and then I would eventually fall back asleep and we arrived perfectly fine. 

We flew in to Paris and spent three days in the iconic city of love. We arrived early in the morning and so after we dropped our luggage at the hotel we headed to the Eiffel Tower. I have this thing for tall buildings, or anywhere tall enough, where I can just look out over a city. I don’t know what it is but looking out over a whole city, imagining all the people living their lives and all the possible adventures, is so calming to me.

We couldn’t go to France without touring the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. I also loved lounging in the  the Sacré-Cœur. There’s a bunch of shops on the road leading up to it where I got most of my souvenirs from France. I also ate my first ever crepe (*heart eyes*).

The next stop was a farm on the border of France and Switzerland where we learned a little about the agriculture and where I got to milk a cow! During this time the cinnamon challenge was a big thing, but ya know since were from Louisiana we put a twist on it and used Tony’s seasoning instead. The family tried it and hearing a French woman curse in English was hilarious. 

Traveling through the mountains we ended up in Lucerne, Switzerland. Before letting us loose onto the streets for free time, one of our chaperones insisted on us hiking walking to the Lion Monument. It was amazing to see in person, and honestly at the time I didn’t appreciate it enough. We also walked the Chapel Bridge and even signed our names on it (look for mine!). We only stayed in Switzerland for about a day, and I would love to go back and explore more of it. This was one of the most beautiful places we went.

We then headed to Austria and met with our homestay family, who we stayed with for two nights. Another girl in the group and I got paired with best friends so we hung out together. We went to the aquarium, shopping, and out to eat. Aaaand since the legal drinking age is 16, we went to the bars (sorry mom). I remember phoning home while walking back because it was my nieces birthday, everybody asked if I was having a good time.. I definitely was. 

After the homestay we went into Vienna and took a cooking class on how to make apple streusel! One of my favorite memories that day though was learning how to play the bongos with African refugees. We all sat in a circle hitting the drums singing Shakira’s Waka Waka. It was one of those moments you don’t want to end, where you just stop and look around and can’t help but smile.

The next day was quite somber. We toured the Mauthausen concentration camp, and I honestly could not finish the tour because I was so overwhelmed. It’s one thing listening to the horrors in history class but it’s completely different when you’re looking at it with your own eyes.

Our last country, Italy, was my favorite by far. We went into Venice by train and, although it was trash day, I feel in love with the city immediately. We took a gondola ride weaving through the streets – the guy singing to us and everything. And then for lunch we were given seven euros to find food somewhere. My friends and I split some pizza and sat down in the plaza, people watching and feeding the pigeons. Since we were in Italy, we had to get gelato for dessert of course.

The next day we went to Florence and learned all about the leather work. We also saw the Statue of David and also stopped by the Leaning tower of Pisa. 

Rome was the last city on our adventure. We took a walking tour of the city seeing sights such as the Colisseum, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain. I remember sneaking away from the group near the fountain because I saw a little crepe shop nearby, after the one in France I was on the hunt for them. We also went to the Vatican and marveled at the Sistine Chapel which is definitely a must see you guys! 

It amazes me that people live in these beautiful cities just casually walking by these sights each day. Like imagine how much more fun your commute to school or work would be if you got to see the Colisseum or the Eiffel Tower everytime?? It baffles me honestly. The United Sates just doesn’t have that kind of history. 

Our last night we did farewells over dinner and then jetted off to America in the morning. After traveling for four weeks, I got home and I’m pretty sure I passed out for like a week.

I loved combining traveling with learning on my first trip abroad. My favorite memories come from the small “behind the scenes” type of activities we did. I’m glad I took my first trip with People to People, because although it wasn’t perfect (what trip is anyhow) I allowed myself to be exposed to new and different things and found out I loved every second of it.

 After this trip, I knew I didn’t want to stop! What was your first adventure like? Comment below!

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