Hi friends! It’s been awhile since I last wrote a post…What can I say, life has been busy! Any who, if we’re friends on instagram then you know that Kwin, Fitz and I just went for our FIRST trip on a plane! We flew to the sunny Florida to visit my grandma for a couple days. It was refreshing to get some sunshine and warm weather to say the least!
Leading up to our travels I was feeling pretty anxious about WHAT TO PACK for my little girl! I watched countless YouTube videos, talked to family and friends and ultimately felt pretty confident with how everything went. So here is a compiled list of everything to make traveling with a little one a little easier!
DISCLAIMER REGARDING TRAVELING DURING COVID both Kwin and I are fully vaccinated as well as my grandma! We flew on Delta airlines which I was VERY impressed with; They were very strict on the “mask wearing” and had the middle seat blocked off still. Once in Florida we we made sure to follow all the “safety protocols” that we do when at home.
Carseat and Car Attachment- These are FREE to fly with! We checked ours at the baggage check since we had a straight flight to Fort Myers. One thing that I will do next time though is get a carseat bag! If we were going to have layovers I probably would have checked it at the gate to make sure that it gets to our final destination!
Stroller- We didn’t end up packing our stroller because my grandma had already gotten us one! However, many people suggest bringing it and checking it at the gate to help with moving around through the airport. These are also FREE to fly with.
High Chair– Depending on where you are going…most airbnb’s and hotels don’t have highchairs for your baby! We love this one as it is compact and easy to travel with
Pack-N-Play- We love THIS one. It is so compact and easy to travel with. My cousin recommended folding it up and packing it right in Fitz’s suitcase…GENIUS!
Buy a Seat vs. Infant on Lap- When flying with a baby that is <2 years old you have two options. You can buy them a seat and place their carseat directly on it to fly, or you can have the infant sit on your lap for the duration of the flight. We chose the second option and I was hoping that Fitz would sleep most of the flight anyway (she did’t, but still did AMAZING) Something you have to do if you chose the “infant on lap option” is call the airline and get them added to your boarding pass! It was very easy to get done, but important because they still need to account for her!
Bring baby’s birth certificate- At security check in they may or may not ask for this!
Diaper Bag- ALWAYS PACK 1 MORE DIAPER THAN YOU THINK YOU’LL NEED! I also had multiple outfit changes (just incase she had a blowout on the plane,) and lots of toys/distractions! To be honest though, Fitz was more interested in the packaged foods and plastic wrapped fork they gave us that she barely played with anything I brought for her.
Take Off and Landing- Just like adults, baby’s can struggle with the pressure changes at take off and landing! To help counter this, make sure to your feed baby! The swallowing can help relieve the pressure changes. Whether it be breastfeeding or bottle feeding, this is KEY!
Baby Monitor– Love these so that we weren’t stuck sitting inside during nap time.
Baby Carrier- Our ERGO baby carrier goes EVERYWHERE with us! It made walking through the airport, walking the beach, and just around town so easy.
Reusable swim diapers– I was debating between the reusable vs. disposable swim diapers and ultimately decided with the reusable ones! Not only are they better for the environment, but they also just seem to “work” better! One main difference between regular diapers and swim diapers is the fact that they don’t absorb pee! The main purpose of these diapers is to contain and poop that baby might have while in the water. PLUS I really liked that the reusable ones don’t swell up when in the water, making it really difficult for baby to move around.
2020 was a year of inner growth, mental strengthening and finding the silver linings. It was a chaotic year in so many ways, and also a year full of grounding experiences. To be honest, it was one of the most wonderful years of my life. I know that I might get a lot of controversial comments with saying that...Buuuut after sitting back and truly evaluating everything, it’s the honest conclusion that I’ve come to.
I got to spend so much quality time with Kwin, and it strengthened our relationship with one another.
We were able to accomplish so many chores at home that have been building up over the years.
We spent so much time outside, adventuring new and old things!
We were blessed with the greatest blessing we could have ever asked for: Fitz Annmarie Morris
Going into 2020 I didn’t know what to expect, and I definitely didn’t expect a freaken pandemic! I, like many, had so many goals to achieve and had such high expectations of what pregnancy would look like: all of my family&friends going through it with me, having a fun baby shower, the family walking into the hospital room once Fitz was born…NOPE! But I’m not here to dwell on the past. Like I said earlier, I’ve found the silver linings in all that was thrown at us last year and going to put all the negativity in the past!
You never know what life is going to throw at you, which is why I’m going to be setting ‘Intentions’ this year and every month setting smaller goals to achieve. I like the idea of both Macro and Micro achievements, and this is a good way to do it! So here is to 2021!
Intentions for 2021
Journaling– I want to get better at journaling everyday. Whether it be what I’m grateful for, what I’m happy or sad about, something funny that Fitz did, or just a little vent session. I find so much joy in writing and getting what’s on my mind out! I have an app on my phone that I’ve been using the past couple months (Morning!) and I really like it; But want to transition to a more permanent style by using a spiral bound notebook.
Drinking more Water– Something that I think everyone can work on! It’s so easy to forget to drink…which isn’t good! 98% of the human body is water. I’ve got a 40oz Hydro Flask and plan to make sure that it’s accessible and filled up at all times.
Work on my own confidence level– This is something I’ve struggled with almost all my life. It’s easy to hide…and at times really gets to me mentally! So how exactly do I plan to do this? – By getting out of my comfort zone and reaching out to friends to do things – Not worrying about what other people will think of me/something I do, and just DO IT – If something is bothering me, confront it.
Being more aware of what I consume on social media– It’s easy to get caught in up the unrealistic reality that can be portrayed on social media. I want to make sure that what I’m consuming is beneficial for me mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Spend more time outside doing active activities– I know it may seem like Kwin and I are outside ALL the time, but to be honest, since having a baby it’s been easy to sit inside all day and not getting any fresh air! Being outside is so good for ones’ mental health, and I hope that by making an effort to be outside at least once a day, that Fitz will pick up on this habit too and love it!
Grow my blogging platform– I love writing! Gosh darn-it, I’ve said this for literally the past 4 years since creating my blog. But what happens is I get in my own head and think “Megan, nobody cares or even reads the blogs..so don’t waste your time.” And well, maybe it’s true..but maybe it’s NOT! So I’m gonna give this intention another try and just write away!
Thanks for reading everyone, and I hope that you all have found peace with whatever happened in 2020 and are ready for a fresh start this year! Here is to 2021 being a year of positivity, hope and new beginnings!
For those of you who don’t know me…FALL IS MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR! Like if fall could be 9 months out of the year (with summer being the other 3 obviously,) I think I would be the happiest girl in the world!
I’m not sure I can chose my favorite thing about it: the cool temperatures (hello jeans+sweatshirts,) the beautiful colors of the leaves, football games, outdoor activities or pumpkin spice lattes. Either way, the vibes of Fall are just something I look forward to all year long.
This year was especially fun and special; being that it’s Fitz’s first Fall experience! Does anyone else feel like Northern Michigan really lucked out this year with some warm, sunny and colorful days! Kwin and I definitely took advantage of this with lots of hiking, biking and “fall-ish” activities. Let me know if you enjoyed any of these too; or if we need try some new things next year!
Hiking and Biking
Vasa Single Track– HIGHLY recommend going here for an epic bike during the fall! NMMBA has done an awesome job recently of creating more trails for you to explore all over the state land in Williamsburg, MI. You can also hike or RZR on designated trails.
Electric Bikes on the backroads– We invested in some Electric bikes a couple years ago, specifically for bike rides like these! We are able to cover so much ground, and still enjoy the ride. Plus adventuring on back dirt roads is always so much fun with Kwin. Shoutout to Oma Jo for hanging out with Fitz so we could have a little day date!
Home Sweet Home– We’ve spent so much time over the past five years working on trails around our property. I’m not lying when I say they are my favorite trails to hike! The dogs can be off leash, so many different trails to choose from, and the beauty of the landscape makes it great too!
Mt. Holiday– A local favorite for skiing in the Traverse City area is also a favorite for hiking year round! Climbing to the top of the main ski hill really gives you an epic view of both East and West Grand Traverse Bay!
Marquette Trip– Our annual UP fall trip took place in Marquette this year. It was a beautiful and sunny weekend; filled with lots of hiking! Some of our favorites are Hogsback, Sugarloaf, Deadriver Falls and catching sunrise on Lake Superior. Fun fact… FOUR years ago Kwin and I got engaged on top of Hogsback Mountain; and look at us now with our beautiful baby girl in the same spot! This hike will always have so much special meaning to me.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes– I’m usually not for frilly drinks, I’m pretty lame and just prefer a good black coffee. BUT this time of year calls for all the frilly pumpkin drinks I can get my hands on. If you’re in the Traverse City area…. go to Espresso Bay and get their pumpkin spice latte (it’s made with REAL pumpkin, no fake sugary syrups) YOU WONT REGRET IT.
Third Coast Bakery– Donuts aren’t really my jam, and I usually only have one pumpkin donut a year. However, after trying one of there HIGHLY RECOMMENDED GF donuts… I was converted to a donut person. Lets just say we made it a Sunday tradition to get a few of these bad boys! If you’re in the Traverse City area and looking for a bakery that is Gluten Free and very allergen friendly (soy, dairy and some items even egg free) give this place a try! I haven’t had a bad bakery item yet!
Pumpkin Patch– Is it really fall if you don’t go to a pumpkin patch? Unfortunately with COVID, this wasn’t the “usual” pumpkin patch experience…but we still made the best of it!
Lions Games– Even though the lions let us down 75% of the time, we still spend our Sundays cheering them on!
Elk Rapids Sporting Events– I love fall because of all the sports! And with Kwin taking a break from coaching this year, we had more time to go support the other teams; like football, soccer and volleyball! Fitz is enjoying going to all these games too. I’ve got a feeling she’s going to be a little sports star!
Sauna Season – I missed out on sauna season last year, due to being pregnant. But let me tell ya, I’m so excited the weather is cooling off and the sauna is being lit again!
Hot Tubs– Kwin and Fitz have some fun bonding time in the hot tub before “tubby time” almost daily! My heart melts watching her splashing around in there and interacting with daddy. She really is a water lover already.
Halloween– EEEEKKK, I was looking forward to Halloween so much! In fact, Fitz rocked three outfits and looked absolutely adorable in all of them. Dottie from a ‘League Of Their Own,’ A Polar Bear, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!
Writing this on our first wintery day -hello white stuff&40mph winds– and getting a little sad that fall has come to an end. We are lucky in Michigan to experience all four seasons, as it really makes you appreciate whatever season you are currently in. So I’ll sign off hear and say: Until next year Fall!
It is no surprise that Kwin and I have welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world a month ago…man how time is already flying by! Miss Fitz has been a perfect addition to our family, and has already proven to be an amazing travel partner too! Here is a little look into the adventures we’ve been on as a family of three!
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
At just a whopping WEEK OLD, we threw Fitz into our Ergo baby carrier and made our way to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and Glen Arbor, MI. Thanks to our friends J and Lauren for letting us set up camp in their yard at their cabins (have to be COVID cautious!) Since I was still in “recovery mode” we played more of the tourist role; doing short and simple hikes…but still having great views!
Every August Kwin and I spend a week traveling around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan(the bugs are usually less crazy then…not this year though!) Our first destination on this road trip was Marquette, MI. A favorite of ours! Marquette has awesome hikes for both sunrise and sunset, great food and overall is just a fun place to be! Hiking- Sugarloaf Mountain and Presque Isle Park Camping- Tourist Park Food- Sol Azteca for dinner, Java Bay for breakfast and Contrast Coffee!
A definite MUST when going to the upper peninsula! We had two friends join us for this portion of the trip: Corey and Stephanie Adkins! It was so fun showing them, along with Fitz, the beauty of the Porkies!
Another favorite of Kwin and I’s. We love the primitive nature of this town…no cell phone service and full of so much Michigan history! We’ve never camped in Copper Harbor, but decided this time to stay the night at a cute campground just at the base of some awesome biking trails (so jealous that I wasn’t able to bike with Kwin!) Hiking- Brockway Mountain and Estivant Pines Camping- Lake Fanny Hooe Campground Food- a local food truck and Jamsens for breakfast.
What a spoiled girl, spending so much time on the lakes! This little girl has been in Elk Lake, Torch Lake and had her toes dipped into both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior!
Fun fact! While hiking with our friends-Corey and Stephanie- Corey made a joke that I’ve breastfed Fitz is some crazy spots! So I thought it would be fun to list them out here! -Pierce Stocking Overlook -Lake Of The Clouds -Miners Trail (Porcupine Mountains) -Cascade Falls -Lake Superior Shoreline -Face In The Rock -Elk Lake and Torch Lake
People call us crazy taking a newborn to all the places we have. We call it living life to the fullest(:
Destination– Signal Mountain Campground, Grand Tetons National Park
The trick to getting a good camp spot in the National Parks is to GET THERE EARLY! Living in Northern Michigan, we are part of the Eastern Time Zone; So one of the perks of traveling out west is the time change. Waking up at 6am is more like 8am at home…so it’s kinda like sleeping in, am I right? Not only does waking up early help with getting a good camp spot, but being able to see the sunrise in the mountains is pretty beautiful too!
Kwin and I were both very excited to be going into the Tetons! Of all the parks, this was the one that most people told us would be our favorite.
-We’d heard it was less crowded
-There were mountains everywhere
-And there would be lots of hiking, biking and paddling
Our morning started out again at the cute coffee shop in Jackson, Cowboy Coffee, and then we hit the road! Pulling into Signal Mountain Campground promptly around 7:30am with a train of other campers having the same intentions as us. Luckily, we were able to snag the BEST spot in the campground [well in our opinion at least] right on Jackson Lake.
After setting up camp we decided to do hike Taggart Lake Trail: a 3-mile, rated easy hike, but with spectacular views! We both agreed that it was one of our favorite hikes in the park.
In the afternoon we did a nice long paddle across Jackson Lake using our inflatable Tahoe SUP paddle boards, and let me tell you …it felt like we were paddling with a green screen in-front of us! I mean just look at those mountains, plus the crystal clear blue water!
Funny story, Kwin and I set up the tent while cooking dinner because we thought it would be fun to sleep under the stars. We didn’t put the rain fly on, that way we would be able to see the stars while going to sleep. Before bed we both wanted to do some reading, so we sat in the camper …. and well we both fell asleep! Around 12am we woke up to the sound of torrential downpour rain! We were dry …. but our tent, sleeping bags and other camping gear wasn’t.
July 3, 2019
Start– Signal Mountain Campground- Grand Tetons National Park
Destination– Signal Mountain Campground- Grand Tetons National Park
Once the rain stopped, around 8am we got coffee at the Signal Mountain campground store and then hit the road to our first hike of the day. Grand View Point Trail: a 5-mile, moderate ranked trail, that definitely fit its name perfectly! The trail at the beginning was pretty wet, thanks to the rain from the night before, so the mosquitoes were bad! However, once we got up to a higher elevation they seemed to disappear. The top of the trail had a beautiful view of Jackson Lake, along with the Tetons in the background! Again, I felt like I was looking at a green screen!
Our second hike of the day was definitely more busy than the first, Jenny Lake Trail. Despite there being a lot of people, it was still a really nice hike! About 7 miles in length, and I would rate as Easy.
July 4, 2019
Start– Signal Mountain Campground- Grand Tetons National Park
Destination– Norris Campground-Yellowstone National Park
I mentioned this before about getting to campsites early if you want to get a spot in the National Parks. Another helpful thing is this website here: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm it’s a great source of information regarding camping, or really anything in the National Parks. There is an area that lets you know when the campgrounds in the parks had been filling.
Our number 1 campground choice was Norris Campground, due to its central location. We saw that Norris Campground was usually full by 9:30am…so we got there at 7:30! After two hours of waiting we finally got a spot, set up camp, and then went for a nice bike/hike to Norris Geyser Basin (about 1 mile from our campground!) FUN FACT: one of the largest Geysers in Yellowstone is found at Norris Geyser Basin- Steamboat Geyser– and it erupts every 4-8 days apparently. While we were standing in line waiting for a campsite, it started steaming and showing an increase in its activity. The ranger pointed it out to us all, and said it was due for an eruption! Unfortunately, it didn’t erupt while we were there…but it was really cool to see the activity of Steamboat! After a quick hike we drove out of the park to Gandier, MT to meet up with Megan and Tommy- Kwin’s sister and our brother-in-law! We got groceries for the next couple of days, then went back to the campground and did the same hike we had already done, that way Megan and Tommy could warm up their legs for the upcoming days! Megan and Tommy were planning to stay with us for the remainder of our trip!
July 5, 2019
Start– Norris Campground- Yellowstone National Park
Destination– Norris Campground- Yellowstone National Park
Alright guys, not only do you need to wake up early to get a good campsite….but while in any National Park you’ve also gotta wake up early to get to the most popular hikes! We had heard horror stories before going to Yellowstone, saying there could be thousands of people standing around ONE SINGLE GEYSER! I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for claustrophobia to me! With this being said, we decided to get to one of the most popular geysers in the park, ‘Old Faithful,’ bright and early! This geyser is the most predictable of all the geysers in Yellowstone, and erupts about every 60-90minutes. I can’t compare the eruption to anything else, because it’s the only geyser we saw actually erupt, but it was pretty cool in my opinion! It shot up about 50-75ft in the air and lasted about 5 minutes. We were very fortunate to be there with only thirty or so people [compared to the thousands that can be there later in the day!]
After that we went to probably our favorite hike in all of Yellowstone! The Mystic Falls & Geyser Basin: a 3.5-mile, moderately ranked hike WITH AMAZING VIEWS! It’s about two miles away from the ‘Old Faithful Geyser Basin,’ so when we hiked to the overlook point we were actually able to see all the geysers there! If you look closely in the picture below you can see all the steam coming up from the different geysers! As the name says, there was a waterfall as well: Mystic Falls. All of us really enjoyed this hike for the views, the waterfall and also the bring blue/sapphire colors of the geysers were pretty awesome!
We managed to get in another hike this day and did a highly recommended hike Mt.Washburn. This was a 7-miles, moderately ranked hike that ended on top of a mountain overlooking the entire park! In-fact a functioning firetower was at the top. For those who don’t know what that is, a park ranger lives in this fire-tower, which was built in the early 1900’s, from June through October and is constantly monitoring for forest fires!
June 6, 2019
Start– Norris Campground- Yellowstone National Park
Destination– Norris Campground-Yellowstone National Park
Our last day in Yellowstone! Our first stop was the ‘Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.’ Now I’ve never actually been to the Grand Canyon, so I can’t really compare it to anything, but man was this beautiful! There were two waterfalls- The Upper and Lower Falls- and then beautiful rock formations lining the actual canyon. By the time we were leaving the parking lot was nearly full-mind you this was about 8am. So get there early folks!
Our next hike of the day was a “spur of the moment” hike called Elephant Back Mountain Trail. This hike was about 3.5-miles, most of which was uphill! Kwin and I really enjoyed this because we could “feel the burn,” and once you finally got to the top you had a beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake.
We ended the day by biking the ‘Osprey Falls’ trail- it’s one of the only bike friendly trails in the park- and then got dinner with Megan and Tommy in Gandier, MT.
If you’re planning to stay in Yellowstone, I would highly recommend going to visit this town. It’s located at the Northern entrance of the park, and has so many unique stores and restaurants! You should definitely make sure to stop in and check out Yellowstone Wildlife Galleries too. The store owner is a phenomenal wildlife photographer and has a store full of beautiful pictures!
Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park were truly amazing! We loved both parks for different reasons. But if I had to choose, I would definitely say that Grand Tetons was my favorite(:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, and I can’t wait to share about our time in Bozeman, MT, Glacier National Park and all the stops we made while traveling home!
One of the perks of being married to a teacher, are the breaks that he gets throughout the year. Anyone who knows my husband, knows that he cannot sit still and is always planning our next trip.
Living in Michigan, where winter seems to run forever (from October 1 through May 1,) we are always itching to get to the heat by the time Spring Break arrives. With this in mind most people (Including the Morris Clan) flock to the south, seeking out the sun and warm temperatures!
So, where to go?
If you’ve never been before, let me try and paint a picture of what Moab is like. Red Cliffs. Snow covered mountains in the distance. The Colorado river flowing through town. TWO National Parks just outside of town- Canyonlands and Arches. An Infinite amount of mountain biking and hiking trails….basically an active individual’s dream!
It was a no brainer that Moab was going to be our destination for spring break. Kwin and I went out to Moab two years ago (plus Kwin has been to it three times before that too,) we just love it. The road trip out there is long….but exciting (yes its about 25 hours straight…but road trips are fun with your best friend!)
Going into any vacation, we try to have a “skeleton plan” of things that we want to do. But it’s also important to us to be spontaneous…because spontaneousity is what makes life fun, am I right? With this being said, I’d like to share some of our favorite things to do while in Moab!
Sunrise and Sunset Hiking– With the two hour time difference, it’s pretty easy for us to be awake in-time for a good sunrise!
Some of our favorite sunrises are in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park (beware, that A LOT of people also like to see the sunrise at these parks, so it’s definitely busy…GET THERE EARLY.) My advise would be to see the sunrise at Delicate Arch and Mesa Arch at least once in your life, because the view really is incredible! But after that, there are plenty of other secret spots to watch the sunrise that would be a little more intimate and less crowded too!
Some of our favorite sunsets are Corona Arch, Moab Rim Trail, or really hiking up on of any cliff you can find! You’re in the middle of the desert so the sunsets are pretty epic from anywhere.
Mountain Biking– Moab is one of the best mountain biking places we’ve ever been too! Honestly, while driving through town I don’t think you drive past a car without a bike on it. They have biking for all levels…but mostly moderate-to-advanced trails! I remember when we were there two years ago I was terrified to do any of the trails because of how “technical” they can be; But this year (with the encouragement of Kwin) I went past my fears and just DID IT! I’m glad I did because the trails were HARD but SO MUCH FUN!
Slickrock Trail– Yup, I DIDN’T do this…but I did hike this one. Kwin and our friend Joe crushed this trail, and had so much fun! It’s an advanced trail with some pretty crazy descents and climbs all on sandstone rock.
Canyonlands– The drive to the national park from the town of Moab (which is about 30 miles) is littered with trails! A combination of sandstone cliffs and desert riding. These trails range from moderate to advanced and were a blast.
Klondike Trails– Something unique about these trails is that you are riding near or on dinosaur tracks! Thats right, I said dinosaur tracks! Something unique about Moab and it’s terrain is that the sandstone is actually petrified sand dunes, so the geographical history behind the land is pretty awesome! Kwin and I really enjoyed these trails-note they are definitely more on the advanced side, but walking part of the trail is not too bad because of the views!
Porcupine Rim Trails– Again, a trail that I DIDN’T do…but Kwin and Joe absolutely killed it. The crazy thing about this trail is that you descend DOWN a mountain about 4000ft. I’ve hiked part of this trail, and it blows my mind that people can bike down it…crazy people!
Petroglyphs– The Native American’s- believed to be the Pueblo People- who use to live off the land in Moab left behind some pretty cool pieces of artwork (rock carvings made by hammer and chisel.) Petroglyphs are believed to be a way of communicating and/or celebrating achievements. You can’t see them everywhere, but always be on the look out for the cool pieces of artwork while hiking!
Camping– Kwin and I have created a pretty cool rig that we live in while traveling. With our Aliner camper, an EZ-up Canopy, Solar Panel’s to help keep our camper battery charged, Solar heated shower bags, and all the water and food one could need, we are able to be completely unplugged and off the grid! Camping can be so fun when you have a good set up(:
Being with friends– This year we were lucky to have another family join us…the Shorts! Trips are always so much fun when you’re with other people, and able to make memories with them too. Joe, Leah, Simon and Elmer thanks for making this trip a great one!
As much as we love Michigan, it’s always so sad when vacations are coming to an end (yes, the dogs were sad to be returning to snow again too.) The freedom and spontaneousity of life that vacations bring about are the best! Trips like this one are rejuvenating and make getting back into daily routines exciting. It also excites us for all the upcoming trips that we’ve got planned!
So, can anyone guess where we will be going for next years Spring Break?
For the first time in about 10 year, my family FINALLY did a family vacation! Earlier this year, my mom and I were throwing out ideas about where we could go. The key determinants were: inexpensive, warm, and had a lot of activities we could do. Hawaii? Nope too expensive.Florida?Nope, been there too many times. Mexico…OK! Without any argument, we decided to take them to the wonderful Puerto Aventuras, Mexico! Puerto Aventuras: a small, quaint, gated community located about 50 minutes south east of Cancun (between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum.) Kwin and I have vacationed here two years ago- where it was my first time to Mexico, and Kwin’s…well he’s been here a lot! We left on Christmas Eve- leaving the snow covered, and bone chilling Michigan- and headed for the sun. Travel tip… Christmas Eve/ New Years Eve typically have the cheapest plane tickets! Customs was a breeze. We then caught a shuttle to pick up our rental car. We ALWAYS rent a car when traveling, even in Mexico, because it allows us more freedom. We don’t have to depend on a bus, other people, time constraints, and predetermined schedules.With the van all packed up we made a quick stop at SAM’s club to load up on some snacks/groceries and then made our way to our final destination! Last time Kwin and I stayed in the Omni Hotel, located right in the downtown area, and this time we stayed in a nice VRBO condo.
So, what is a vacation with Kwin and Megan like? Well, just because we are on “vacation,” doesn’t mean that we are going to be sitting and doing nothing all day. I love relaxing occasionally, reading a good book and getting some good R&R…but when we travel we feel like we should be adventuring new terrain, and diverging into the culture! Coba Our first excursion was the Mayan Ruin- Coba. This Mayan community was first settled between 50 BC and 100 AD in the Yucatan Peninsula. However, when the spaniards discovered this land, they brought over deadly diseases, which nearly wiped out the entire population! When Coba you will see the main/ largest pyramid (Ixmoja), spiritual temples, two ball courts, and other Mayan ruins. Upon arriving you can choose to have a tour guide, which is nice because they are very knowledgable about the ruins, or walking the through by yourself. You can also rent bikes or take a “trolly.” Ixmoja is one of the ONLY Mayan ruins that you can still climb! It’s a steep 120 stair climb to the top. Most of us were able to make it to the top, and the view once up there is spectacular. Overlooking the vast green jungle, two lakes (Lake Coba and Lake Macanxoc) and seeing evidence of other uncovered Mayan structures. Given that Coba is a good distance from the Ocean, and in the middle of the jungle, it can get pretty toasty out there! But no need to worry, there are three fun cenotes to jump in just a short 5 minute drive away- Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha. Keep reading to learn a little more about these!
Tulum Otherwise known as Zama, meaning City of Dawn, because it faces the sunrise. Tulum resides on a bluff facing east toward the Caribbean Sea. Tulum had access to both land and sea trade routes, making it an important trade hub. All of the Mayan communities were connected to one another by way of path. This is said to have extended for miles connecting Coba, Tulum and Chichén Itzá. This is probably my favorite Mayan ruin. The ocean views, ability to swim whenever you want, PLUS sunrises and sunsets! Unlike Coba, most of the Tulum ruins have been preserved. This allows you to feel like you are actually walking around the same community that they once did. FYI: This is a VERY popular tourist attraction, so if you’re not there early in the morning it can get very crowded.
Cozumel We always make a day trip over to the island of Cozumel, taking a ferry from Playa Del Carmen (which is about a 45 minute ride.) Downtown Cozumel is similar to any port city- full of people, restaurants, shops, etc. Given it’s a popular location to do a day trip, and where cruise ships port, we like to get away from town ASAP! Just like last time, we rented mopeds, and cruised around the whole island! Stopping along the way to do some snorkeling, body surfing, or getting some refreshments.
Cenotes What exactly are these things? They’re natural caves that are filled with fresh water (That’s right, FRESH WATER,) in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. These underwater sinkholes were formed millions of years ago when limestone caves collapse, revealing underground pools. When driving down the highway you will see signs for cenotes EVERYWHERE! Let me tell you, it’s so refreshing to jump into fresh water pools after doing some hiking all morning. Most of these cenotes are well managed and cost only a couple pesos. Some of our favorites are: the ones I listed above at Coba- Cenotes Tamcach-Ha, Choo-Ha and Multum-Ha- and Cenote Cristalino (Which is right near where we stayed in Puerto Aventuras.) Each Cenote is unique….
Cenote Choo-Ha has platforms that you can jump off into the water! A 50ft and 20ft jump…believe it or not, I actually did the 50ft jump this time!
Multum-Ha supposedly has a legend that a man fell into the hole and his skeletal remains are still at the bottom.
Cenote Cristalino is an above ground cenote which has a rock wall to jump off of, and fish that suck on your feet and give you a nice pedicure (if you sit still enough.) You pay big money for that in the states!
FOOD! Well, how can one go to Mexico and NOT like the food? I think it’s impossible! Fresh guacamole made right there on the spot, fresh pico-de gallo served as we sat down at the table. Fresh seafood. Man, I don’t think we had a bad meal. Plus the food is SO CHEAP here! Puerto Aventuras main downtown is a popular tourist spot called “Dolphin Discovery.” Surrounding the area with dolphins, sea lions and manatees, is a boardwalk and 10+ local, family owned restaurants. Each night we tried a different restaurant! We obviously all had favorites, but in my opinion they were all great. Good food, good drinks, good company!
I’m so glad that we were able to take a fun family vacation with my parents and two younger brothers! A trip to the sunny, and warm Mexican weather is always so rejuvenating for the soul. Especially living in grey, cloudy and cold Michigan.
A year of growing mentally and physically EVERYDAY.
A year of rekindling relations with family and friends.
A year of traveling to new and old places.
A year of creating new traditions and and living life to the fullest!
Reflecting back, 2018 has taught me so many useful lessons that I’ll be able to use the rest of my life. I’ve learned how to handle tragedy, and stressors that are out of my control. I’ve learned that some of the best moments are those in the most unexpected times. And lastly, I’ve learned to just be present and that everything happens for a reason.
Grieving is a beautiful process. Losing family members sucks. I won’t lie, it was horrible and almost broke some of my family members. But it also brought us closer together. We supported each other, and tried to make light of the difficult situation. We shared all the good stories of those lost. And most importantly, accepted each others ways of grieving and helped each other through them. I love my family, and cannot imagine going through life without them.
I wanted to thank my family for being such rocks during this stressful time. I love you all so much, and always remember that Uncle Kevin and Uncle Nathan are watching over us everyday!
We also recently had to put down or beloved Dawson Marie. She was not just a dog, she was our little girl. Kwin has owned Dawson for 15 years now….YES he was only a Junior in High School! She went through so many major life events with him, and 5 years ago I was able to join the family too! Dawson was a sassy, determined, and stubborn girl…unlike any dog I’ve ever met! I’m going to miss her constant panting, which she did to make sure everyone knew she was in the room. I’m going to miss her smile, and those big brown eyes of hers. I’m going to miss my hiking buddy, because when I joined the family us two stuck together. And lastly, I’m going to miss just seeing her around the house everyday. A piece of my heart is gone now, but I’m so thankful for all the memories that we’ve got with her to always look back on. Dawson, you’ll NEVER be forgotten<3
I’ve had some struggles with my health in the past. Honestly, it is quite embarrassing looking back at it now, but being upset does more harm than good.I’ve began looking at every situation I’m given in life and truly analyzing them to find the silver lining. This years health debacle, has taught me to CHILL OUT! It’s okay to not always be ‘GO, GO GO.’ It’s okay to have good and bad days- the bad ones really make you appreciate the good ones! And it’s okay to NOT be perfect. By having the mindset I use to have my stress levels were through the roof and effecting other parts of my health. As I sit here today, I can honestly say that my mental health has grown leaps and bounds from a year ago!
What year in review would this be without the awesome adventures that Kwin and I have had this year?!
We’ve made countless trips to the Upper Peninsula- Skiing in Marquette, spring trip to the cabin, camping in the summer, and annual fall color trip! That place sure is magical.
We traveled to North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington DC to visit Kwin’s sister
Explored new territory in Canada, just before Kwin and the other paddlers of Stand Up For Great Lakes crossed Lake Superior!
A new puppy joined our family, Miss Kopper! She was born on Kwin and I’s 1 year anniversary…HOW COOL(:
Hiked the North Country trail, where we did some backcountry camping cliffside!
Reflecting on my 2018 Goals!
Be More Eco Friendly– I THINK THIS WAS A HUGE SUCCESS! Kwin and I really made a conscious effort to make this one happen.
We installed solar panels on our house, which has made a HUGE decrease in our carbon thumbprint! SHOUTOUT TO Solectriq for installing this for us!
We also have picked up our recycling game by having an in house recycle bin
Decreased our food waste by composting!
Traded out all our Tupperware containers for glass ones!
Reusable produce bags for grocery shopping. I got THESE from amazon
Reusable sandwich lunch bags. I got THESE form amazon also!
Read More– I’m happy to report that this was a success as well! I finished 13 books this year, which surpassed my goal of 12! Reading is a great way to de-stress, end the night and continue to learn cool things.
Yoga– This was hit or miss…I would go in phases of doing yoga everyday and then not. I love doing it, and feel so much better when I do! I can feel my stress levels going down, and my body is less “tight.” I definitely plan on continuing to work on this in the upcoming year.
Building my Blog Platform– Well, I can’t do it all! This one defiantly was put on the back burning the second half of the year. In fact, the second part of the year I tried to decrease my use of ALL social media. I felt like it was adding to my stress levels, and wanted to put my health first. I also was un-encouraged and felt like my material was the same EVERY TIME. I’m hoping that this year I can get back into being more consistent and think of more content to blog about.
Increase my cooking creativity and eat more wholesome foods– I would like to say this was a success (and I hope that Kwin would agree too!) Diet has a HUGE role in your overall health, and given that I was really working on healing myself this year, I took my cooking and food intake seriously! I love cooking and defiantly will continue this into the new year.
Increase my knowledge of Holistic Health– Learning is one of my favorite things…yes, nerd alert! I would say that probably half of the books I read this year we’re all related to holistic health of some sort. I’ve also started seeing a Naturopathic Dr. (Thank you Dr. Abbey) to heal myself, and she is so great! Always educating me and willing to answer my millions of question. I truly feel that our healthcare will make the change to more of a preventative form of medicine through Holistic Medicine!
2018, you were challenging…but probably one of the biggest years of growth! I’m thankful for everything that happened this year and challenged me to be a better person!
I also wanted to thank my amazing husband, Kwin, for his constant support and love. Without him, all the challenges and frustrations that I’ve faced would have been 1000x harder!
Thank you for reading! I hope you all enjoy the remainder of the 2018 year with a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
This years spring break (Yes, we still get to go on spring break as adults…PERKS of marrying a teacher!) Kwin wanted to show me some new territory, so we took a road trip down the East Side of the country!
We Started our journey in the Great Smokey Mountains! Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are the two towns located just outside the park where most of the tourists stay. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of either of these towns; mostly because I am not huge into “touristy” things, but GOTTA EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING ONCE. After we got away from all the people and into the Smokey Mountain National Park I loved it!
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the greatest while we were there…but it didn’t stop us! We hiked the Chimney Tops hike along with the Grotto Falls hike. For those who do not know, the last 0.25miles of the Chimney Tops hike is now closed due to the forest fire in 2016. Apparently the trail experienced some erosion and damage from the fire-I’m a littlebummed because Kwin said that was the best part of the trail!
We have heard that Asheville has some pretty great Mountain Biking, so going there was a must! We stopped for breakfast at City Bakery and it was phenomenal-local and organic whole foods! From there we made our way to DuPont State Park where we did some hiking, mountain biking and found more waterfalls!
Lake James State Park
FINALLY WE GOT SUNSHINE! After three days of rain and clouds we were very excited to finally see the sun come out. We had full intentions on paddle boarding while here…but the wind was a bit too strong!
Sunshine+awesome mountain biking trails+beautiful hiking=one of our favorite days.
One of the main reasons we went on this trip (bedsides seeing new territory) was to meet up with Kwin’s sister (Megan) and brother-in-law (Tommy). They just moved into their new house-which is beautiful, congrats guys! While there we went to Hanging Rock State Park.
Our last stop on the trip was a day trip to the Nations Capital. At the age of 24, I cannot believe I have NEVER been here before! Along with the day at Lake James, this was another favorite of mine! Kwin and I are both kinda nerdy…but we love learning, especially about history.
Things I loved about Washington DC
Dog Friendly-except you couldn’t take your furry friends into the actual memorials
Such an active town-there were people walking, running, riding bikes, playing soccer, playing ultimate frisbee…you name it and it was going on!
Bike trail from Washington DC to Mt.Vernon
SOOO MUCH HISTORY
Traveling is something that Kwin and I have a huge passion for! We love exploring new things as a family (yes that includes taking our dogs everywhere we can!) and being off the grid as much as we can!
We also have a NO CHAIN RESTAURANTS rule (we cook mostly in our camper, but sometimes it’s nice to go out.) Here are some cafes we went to- City Bakery (Asheville), Grind Cafe (Morganton)
I hope you all enjoyed! For any questions regarding trails or another travel questions feel free to ask!
Also, SHOUTOUT to my amazing husband for getting me the best birthday present I could have asked for! I love my new Sony A6300 Camera, it sure took some amazing pictures this trip!
New Zealand, where do I even begin? It truly was the vacation of a lifetime! Kwin and I are so fortunate to have spent our honeymoon making such great memories. I’m sorry that this blog is kind of on the long side…but I could write forever about how amazing this country is. I hope you enjoy(:
We arrived in New Zealand on Christmas day, ready to start our adventures! Little did we know that ALL of Christchurch was shut down for Christmas! It was a ghost town. We ended up renting some bikes (Next Bike) and headed to New Brighton Beach for the day. It was a nice ride (mostly because nobody was on the road). PS-For those who do not know the ozone layer in the Southern Hemisphere is thinner than the Northern Hemisphere so the sun is INTENSE! Unfortunately we both got pretty burned that day….
Christchurch also has a Botanical Garden and Historical Museum which we were able to walk around on our last day. Such a cool place!
Lake Tekepo and Lake Pukaki
December 26, we picked up our Mighty Camper van as early as we could, stocked up on groceries and then started on our adventures. Our first stop was Lake Tekepo, this was our first glimpse of the crystal clear, aqua blue water of New Zealand lakes. TRULY INCREDIBLE. After hiking around a little bit we finished our journey to Lake Pukaki and stayed at Glenntanner Holiday Park (Just outside of Aorki National Park-Mount Cook). Something pretty neat about the Holiday Parks in New Zealand was that they have community kitchens for everyone! It was such a cool atmosphere to be in: people from all over the world, cooking and eating dinner together! NOTE: We did not stay in holiday parks all the time, but in specific areas in New Zealand its illegal to Freedom Camp, so just know the laws wherever you are!
Mount Cook-Mueller Hut Hike
This was probably Kwin and I’s favorite hike of the whole trip! It was a 3-hour round trip hike. It was definitely a challenging hike: with steep incline and mostly stairs the whole way up. We stopped multiple times (both to catch our breath, and also take in the beautiful views.) Once at the top we had an amazing view of Mount Cook- The tallest Mountain in New Zealand- along with the surrounding glaciers and glacier lakes. Kwin got this crazy idea that we should hike back down, grab our Tahoe SUP inflatable paddle boards, do a shorter (less vigorous hike) to the glacier lake and paddle it. Unfortunately, after carrying our boards almost 2 miles, we got to the lake and found a nice cliff, which meant NO ACCESS to the lake. Frustrating, I know…but hey, at least we got some beautiful pictures!
New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world…and well Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand! It is perfectly located in the middle of the Southern Alps, and along Lake Wakatipu. A perfect set up for hiking, biking, paddle boarding, white water rafting, paragliding, etc. WE LOVED THIS CITY! It has so much to offer, we could have easily spent a week there! However, due to our limited time we only had 4 days, so we packed them full of fun!
–Bungee Jumping: We went to the Nevis Canyon Bungee jump (part of the AJ Hackett company) and jumped off a 137m (440 feet) platform in the middle of a canyon! This was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done, but let me tell you it was amazing! Felt like I was flying!
–White Water Rafting: We went down the Shotriver, which is full of grade 4 and 5 rapids. It was a fun and a beautiful ride! I would have to say that the scariest part was the bus ride out to the river! The roads in New Zealand are unbelievable… drivers have no fear and the roads are in some crazy areas! This road specifically was an old Gold Trigging road: dirt, pot holes, winding through the mountains, steep drop offs, spots of erosion- FREAKED ME OUT! (These roads are considered historical, so no repairs are allowed to be made.)
–Hiking: We did the Queenstown Hill hike which was also pretty steep, but definitely do-able. It has beautiful views overlooking the entire city of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.
–Bike Wine Tour: Queenstown and all the surrounding towns have this awesome trail system (mostly mountain bike friendly) extending for miles! It’s hilly, winds through the mountains, and alongside vineyards and wineries.
–Paddle Boarding: Lake Wakatipu was is one of my favorite paddles EVER! Seriously, the scenery of the crystal blue water and mountains was just amazing. Also it was pretty easy to find secluded beaches to relax on. DISCLAIMER: It is illegal to paddle board in New Zealand (or any watersport) without Life Jackets! We did not know this at first!
We were advised to go to Milford Sound by everyone we talked too! While here we did some paddle boarding through the coves, but didn’t end up making it too far out due to the strong Sea Breeze that came in! It was a beautiful place, and the ride out there was beautiful too! I would definitely suggest getting out there and either doing the kayak tour (these are early in the day due to the sea breeze that always comes in) or the bout tour-if that’s your kind of thing!
We completed the Roy’s Peak hike which was LONG and tiring. It was all steep uphill hiking. (Talk about a calf and butt workout!) The hike took us about 4.5 hours to complete but is slotted to take about 5-6 hours. The views were incredible the entire hike up, overlooking Lake Wanaka and the surrounding Mt. Aspiring National Park mountain range. If you’re ever in the Wanaka area hit up the Burrito Food Truck! It was possibly the best burrito I’ve ever had in my life!
A guided Helicopter/Glacier Hike is pretty popular to do while in New Zealand, so we figured why not! There are a couple different glaciers to choose from, but we did Fox Glacier. It was really cool to be able to walk around on-top of a glacier, while also learning the history them. This was also my first time ever in a helicopter!
First we did the most iconic hike in the Arthurs Pass National Park- Punchbowl Trail. A beginners hike, but has a really cool waterfall at the end of it! After, we hiked the Mt. Aoiki trail (stems off the Punchbowl Trail) which was intense! Very steep, mostly like rock climbing at times, but a super fun hike up. It had a beautiful view at the top of the whole Arthur’s Pass valley.
Before leaving for New Zealand, Kwin and I were extremely nervous about freedom camping and the laws/regulations on it. For anyone who is planning on traveling to New Zealand (the South Island) the best advise I can give to you about freedom camping is that IT IS ALMOST EVERYWHERE! Most of the cities/towns do not allow it when you are within city limits, but they have signs everywhere telling you where freedom camping is and is not allowed. Some of Kwin and I’s best camp sites were ones that we found freedom camping!
Day 1: Christchurch- Bike to New Brighton Beach
Day 2: Glenntanner Holiday Park- Lake Tekepo and Lake Pukaki
Day 3: Queenstown Holiday Park- Mt.Cook and Walking around Queenstown
Day 4: Freedom Camping along Lake Te Anu: Milford Sound
Day 5: Queenstown Holiday Park- Nevis Bungee Jump, Paddle Lake Wakatipu
Day 6: Arrowtown Holiday Park-White Water Rafting, Queenstown Hill Hike
Day 7: Freedom Camping in Mountains- Bike Wine Tour (Arrowtown, Queenstown)
Day 8: Freedom Camping along Ocean-Roys Peak Hike, Swimming in Lake Wanaka
Day 9: Greymouth- Fox Glacier Helicopter Hike
Day 10: Freedom Camping, Craigburn Skiing Area-Arthurs Pass Hikes
Day 11:Christchurch-Botanical Gardens & Historical Museum