Travel Journal: Lessons from the Smoky Mountains

Appalachian Trail sign

I started keeping a travel journal in 2015 for my six week solo trip. Sometimes I’m surprised what comes out as I’m writing and what I learn as I make my way through the world. I thought it might be fun to do a series of blog posts that are different entries from my travel journals. I’ve only edited for punctuation or grammar. You get the real deal, which is a little scary…


March 16, 2019 ~ Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountain NP today ~ everything I hoped for. Those views with the layers of ridges – amazing. I can only imagine what it looks like when all the trees have their leaves – I must come back!

I really wanted to do a hike so I picked a short piece of the AT (Appalachian Trail) from Newfound Gap to Indian Gap. A walk always gets my brain going, but in a productive way. I was thinking about how the trail was a great metaphor for life:Part of the Appalachian Trail

  • There’s no time limit – everyone’s pace is different base on all they’ve done leading up to the moment they step on the trail.
  • Some parts are harder than others. It’s okay to slow down or even take a break to regroup during the difficult parts.
  • It’s always changing – it doesn’t climb forever, eventually, it evens out or goes downhill for a while.
  • Hiking a piece of such a huge and iconic trail like the AT was no different than a hike in Millcreek (a canyon near Salt Lake) that no one makes a big deal about. The buildup is all in one’s mind – it’s simply a trail. It only becomes iconic when all the pieces are linked together. You have to walk it one step at a time, just like a stroll in the park.
  • Each step is its own thing – mud, ice, leaves, tree roots, dirt, etc. Thinking about a different step than the one you’re on means you’re more likely to stumble or twist an ankle. Be present.
  • Every person who has walked the trail encountered slightly different conditions, even on the same day. What was ice when I crossed the first time was mud on my way back. Comparison to someone else’s hike is never apples to apples.

I’m always grateful to nature for showing me the mirror and providing a little perspective.

How to Organize Your Travel Itinerary

Organizing Your Reservations

Using a travel itinerary organizer can help keep all your reservations and timelines organized for your next trip.

travel itinerary organizerWith flight, accommodation, and transportation dates and times running through your head it helps to put everything in one place.


Using a Travel Itinerary Organizer

When I travel I don’t rely solely on technology to keep all my information organized–I always want a backup! I take a single sheet of paper with all the information I need for every reservation. This means if my phone is dead or I don’t want to use international data, I still have everything I need to reach my destination and get what I need. I’ve even made a travel itinerary organizer for you to use, if you’d like (get yours here)! Here’s what I include for each type of reservation:


This is everything you need for scheduling airport transportation, rental car pickup, or figuring out public transportation.

  • Departure Date and Time
  • Airline
  • Flight Number
  • Route: I use airport to airport code. For example, if I’m flying to London Heathrow from home I would simply put SLC to LHR.
  • Arrival Time: if there’s a change of date, I’ll note that with the arrival time as “+1” for the next day.
  • Confirmation Number


My biggest concern when I land in a new city is getting to my accommodation. With this information, you can get a taxi, call the accommodation if you need to, and know if you’ve already paid.


  • Check-in Date
  • Checkout Date
  • Confirmation Number
  • Property Name, Address, Phone Number, and Email
  • Pre-paid

passenger train in the mountains


Whether you’re traveling by rental car, train, bus, or ferry this will get you where you’re going.

Rental Car

  • Pickup Date, Time, and Location
  • Drop-off Date, Time, and Location
  • Confirmation Number
  • Car Type


  • Departure Date, Time, and Station
  • Arrival Time
  • Seats assignments, if applicable
  • Confirmation Number

Once I’ve printed my itinerary, I typically keep it in my wallet or somewhere safe in my purse or backpack. Keeping this information with you provides peace of mind knowing you’re not completely without direction, should any technology be troublesome! Now let’s get planning your next adventure!

Click here to get your free Itinerary Organizer!

How to Save Money for Travel

“How do you afford to travel so often?”

This is the question I get most often when someone finds out about my travel lifestyle. All the time I hear, “You’re so lucky!” While I am incredibly fortunate, I still pay for all of my travel out of pocket. I have a standard office job, but they’re amazing about letting me take time off. Last year I took about 10 weeks away from work, but most of them were unpaid.

I get it, that’s absolutely not the norm. My point is, if I can find a way to do that much travel, you can totally start visiting the places you’ve been dreaming about! It’s taken me a decade to create this lifestyle– it didn’t happen overnight. I started with one international trip a year, usually about 10 days long.

Advice on Saving Money for Travel

The biggest factor in making travel a real and regular part of your life is that it has to be a priority. If it’s not, you’ll always find somewhere else to spend your money. It’s not magic, just a simple combination of managing your time and money, and making sure you get maximum value for both. I call this “value travel” rather than “budget travel”. It’s about more than dollars and cents, it’s about having the experience of a lifetime, and that looks different for everyone.

There are a number of choices you can make in everyday life to cut costs and live simply so you can save enough money to reach your travel goals. Once you’ve saved, it helps to start researching well in advance. For international trips, starting at least six months before you want to go gives you time to watch prices, look at multiple options, and make sure you create the best experience for the money you have to spend. Lastly, you have to budget for the time you’ll actually be abroad. There are plenty of ways to create the trip of a lifetime without spending like a rock star, you simply have to know what to look for! Don’t worry, I’m in the process of creating courses to teach you how.

Travel Budgeting Tips

Let’s start with what you can do at home, right now, to save for your dream trip. One thing that saves significantly more than you think is making your own food instead of eating out. I typically spend around $50 a week on groceries (my husband and I keep our monies separate). I pack my lunch for work every day and rarely go out for dinner. I also choose to make things from scratch instead of buying pre-packaged meals and choose produce that’s in season. This saves even more money and is better for you! This does require some planning, so I do easy crock-pot meals or sandwiches if I know I have a busy week ahead. If I want something which takes more time to make, I use my Sunday afternoon to prep my food for the week.

I used to eat out for lunch at least a couple times a week and dinner too. I was spending a minimum of $50 a week on take-out, plus I’d still spend about the much in groceries for the rest of my meals! If you can save $50 a week, that adds up pretty quickly. That’s roughly $200 a month and $2,400 a year! If you do it right, you can totally have a 10 day international vacation for that amount! You can do this. All it takes is a little self-discipline and pre-planning!

I want to hear from you! What’s holding you back from reaching those travel goals?

Getting Started with DIY Travel

Getting Started with DIY Travel

It can be a little scary to try something new. We were so used to it as children, but as adults, we shy away from new experiences sometimes because it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to admit that you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s uncomfortable to work through the challenges that arise as you learn the ropes. It’s the same with planning your own travel, but the awesomeness of the experience is far greater than the discomfort of something new!

The first time you visit a new place, it doesn’t matter whether home or abroad, there’s definitely some adjustment required. You may start with exploring the area around where you’re staying (me!) or choose an attraction you’ve been wanting to visit and see what else is nearby. This is totally normal! I’m sure there are people out there who hit the ground with no fear and strike out for adventure immediately, but I feel like that’s the minority. Most of us take a minute to get our bearings.

I’m writing this on my last morning in Kauai (Hawaii) having now seen most parts of the island. On our third day here my husband took a day trip to Honolulu to visit Pearl Harbor and I had the time to roam the island on my own. I’ve traveled alone plenty of times, but it’s still uncomfortable at first. Then I get frustrated at myself for feeling the discomfort, but every place is its own exercise in being a beginner. I did go exploring, but not in a super extreme way. I visited a couple of new beaches and checked out the northern part of the island that I hadn’t visited yet. That’s it. BUT…I saw new things, pushed the edges of my comfort zone, and had a great day!

Allow yourself to start something new, whether it’s travel, a new language, painting, etc. Anything you think might bring you joy! Whatever you’ve been putting off because you haven’t known where to start, just start somewhere. Take a class, do some research, try a project. Being a beginner can be fun! It’s exciting to discover new activities, places, and ideas. It’s okay to not know and it’s perfectly acceptable to admit it and ask questions. You’ll never go visit a different place or try anything new unless you give yourself permission to learn something. You can start with learning to save some money on flights! It’s free…just click here.

Why Travel Is Important

Why Travel is Important

You don’t have to go halfway around the world to benefit from travel, though there is a multitude of positive outcomes from visiting other parts of the globe. Simply visiting a new destination, even if it’s close to home, provides the opportunity to step outside of your everyday life and put things into perspective.

When I’m in comfortable surroundings you can find my brain running through grocery lists, emails that need to be sent, gym schedules, and all the other tasks I need to complete today or this week. There’s a magic that happens when you find yourself in a completely new place, away from these routines. Your mind becomes free from the hamster wheel and suddenly open to all the new experiences happening around you. For me, it feels like I’m stepping out of a fog, and seeing clearly again. It’s glorious! Travel forces you to be present, to engage each moment as it’s happening because you don’t know what’s next!

Sometimes there’s a bit of nervousness and uncertainty associated with visiting a new destination. I continually come back to one of my favorite quotes when I start feeling this way: “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. Travel is such a fun and exciting way to stretch yourself, all while experiencing places you’ve always dreamed about!

The more you travel you discover that no matter where you go, people are just people. Even if cultures and customs are different, we’re all trying to find our way through our current circumstances and take care of our loved ones. The more of the world you see and explore, the more you’ll find we’re so much more the same than we are different.

Go! Whether it’s a weekend road trip or an extended international adventure, go. It will help you reconnect to yourself, the world around you, and whoever you’re traveling with. It will make you a better human at the same time. <3 Do it!

Start Your Adventure!