This Time for a Road Trip

While leaving Reno was bittersweet, the road home was filled with wonders. I packed my life into my car and drove from NV to NC with my best friend. On the first day of nine, we traveled from Reno to Las Vegas, stopping at Yosemite and Death Valley along the way.

Yosemite

If time had permitted, we would have loved to hike the Mist Trail, but we still had the opportunity to see the magic of Yosemite along our way. We entered through Tioga Pass Road, north of Yosemite Valley. Even though we were still an hour’s drive from the Valley itself, the views we saw were breathtaking.

Death Valley National Park

We continued on our way south, driving through Death Valley National Park. When we stepped out of the car to see Zabriskie Point, we were immediately hit with dry, hot air, and I wanted to rush back to the “coolness” of the car. We were in awe of the views as we drove through Death Valley, and watching the sunset at Zabriskie Point was very hot but also very worth it.

Seven Magic Mountains

In 2016, Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone installed Seven Magic Mountains just 10 miles south of Las Vegas, NV. The Mountains are a public art installation comprised of seven towers of colorful boulders standing more than 30 feet high. I first learned about the exhibition randomly on social media and wanted to see it for myself. Since the exhibition is only currently scheduled to be on view for two years, I am glad I got a chance to go before it was too late.

Advertisements

Biggest Little Lessons

I was ready to move from Nevada before I even moved to Nevada. And yet, saying goodbye was much harder than I anticipated. Driving away, I reflected on what my almost two years in Reno taught me, and I realized I learned many valuable lessons.

Dance like everyone’s watching.

75205168-RLDFSU4-97

First and foremost, I learned how to dance in Reno. From dancing nights away to cumbia, salsa, and bachata music to feeling comfortable moving my body to any beat, I confirmed once again that dance brings me happiness and helps me find community. They say dance like nobody’s watching, but now that I’ve upped my performance skills, I think it’s more fun to social dance like your next partner is watching and waiting to ask you for a turn. I know my time in Reno would not have been the same without the Latin dance community, and I feel very fortunate to have met such lovely friends.

Expect the unexpected.

Just like moving to Nevada was not in my original plan, Reno taught me to be prepared for anything. Sometimes really lovely things happened like meeting a best friend (and her dog) on BumbleBFF. And sometimes the worst happened, like having to find a new place to live in less than a week after just moving two months before. Through all the obstacles thrown my way, though, I realized I can handle just about anything and that maybe it’s time to start believing in myself.

IMG_5254

Make time for self-care.

I used to say I was in Reno for a reason, and that reason became apparent when I became severely sick in the summer of 2017. Suddenly having so much time on my hands was a blessing and gave me the opportunity to prioritize my health and learn how to take care of myself. For the first time, I started putting myself first. Now I am the healthiest I have ever been, and I know this is a lesson I will carry into the future.

 

 

I’m ready for a change.

As a small town girl, I have always been intimidated by the thought of living in a big city. And from living in Chapel Hill to Montevideo to Kitwe and then Reno, I have successfully avoided larger metropolitan areas. Reno was a manageable size, but after making it on my own in a completely new place on the other side of the country, I think I can make it in a big city too. I will put this lesson to the test soon enough because I am moving to London for grad school in the fall, and I am so excited!

A Drive Down South

Over Memorial Day weekend, I finally got to cross driving down the Pacific Coast highway off my bucket list. With a few of my dance teammates and an adorable puppy, we loaded the car and drove down south.

We stopped at every site we could manage, from right outside of Nevada to San Francisco, Big Basin Redwoods State Park to Rocky Creek Bridge, and any other notable parts of the coastline in between.

Our drive took us through Los Angeles before we stopped in Santa Ana for a late night of social dancing. We ended our trip in San Diego where we were mesmerized by the beauty of Balboa Park, and of course, we danced some more.

During the drive, I posed the question, “If you could live anywhere in the United States, where would you live?” Trying to answer the question myself, only east coast beach towns came to mind when most everyone else responded with San Diego.

I had never before given much thought to where I would like to live in the United States, much less on the west coast. But after seeing the beauty California has to offer throughout the entire state, it is a definitely a place I could settle in, or at least continue exploring!

Point Reyes National Seashore

I consider myself fortunate to have visited the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area multiple times, so I was even more delighted to venture outside of the city when I visited in late January. Located a one to two hour drive from the city, Point Reyes National Seashore is a beautiful peninsula jutting into the Pacific ocean. There are a number of hikes one can enjoy at this park preserve, varying in length anywhere from one to eight hours.

We took the Tomales Point Trail, an ambitious 10-mile hike (~5 miles to the Point and ~5 miles back) surrounded by stunning ocean views on three sides. The trail is rolling with various climbs and descents that you’ll face on your way to the vista and on the way back. As this is a fairly popular trail, expect to see other hikers and definitely expect to come across the preserve’s tule elk population. They are sight to see from a respectable distance!

Beware though, on this wind-swept peninsula you will certainly need layers for the chilly breeze from the sea and ample protection from the sun. There is only one spot on the trail that offers any shade.

All in all, despite the long trek, the views throughout the entire hike and especially all the way to Point are definitely worth it. But don’t just take my word, see it for yourself!

Muir Woods

 

Words are simply not enough to explain the magic of Muir Woods. Located north of San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. I visited last June and was simply memorized by the towering trees and winding trails. These photos are from Muir Woods and parts of San Francisco. I highly recommend a trip!

This Time for Seattle

 

In June, I took a quick weekend trip to Seattle to reunite with old friends and slowly cross off destinations from my #westcoastbestcoast travel destinations. I didn’t have enough time to do everything on my list, but I was immediately wowed by Seattle’s striking beauty. Everywhere you look, majestic skylines and mountaintops take your breath away. Below are a few photos and highlights from the trip!

  • Little Si – Neighboring Mount Si, this small rocky bluff is perfect for a quick hike if you don’t have enough time to tackle Mount Si or the famous Mount Rainier.
  • Pike Place Market – Seattle’s original farmers market and a popular tourist destination, a walk around Pike Place promises fresh produce, seafood galore, and lots of coffee!
  • Gas Works Park – One of my favorite parts of the weekend was lounging about Gas Works park with friends and watching the sunset over Seattle. I highly recommend a picnic in the park!
  • Seattle Pride – Not only did we visit the same weekend as Seattle Pride, but the weather was sunny and perfect for the celebration! It was so much fun to explore the streets of Seattle while also celebrating love and acceptance.

I now understand why Seattle is so popular, and I hope I have the chance to visit again. Comment with your own top Seattle destinations!

What happens in Vegas…

…does not stay in Vegas, but rather journeys home with you in the form of precious memories and never-ending laughs.

In July, I had the opportunity to attend my first ever Salsa Bachata Congress in Las Vegas. I had no idea what to expect, and I had never visited Las Vegas before. Between road-tripping with teammates, huge pool parties in the Vegas heat, top-notch workshops, my first ever Alma Latina bachata performance, and dancing all day and all night (with verrrrrry little rest in between) – it ended up being one of the best weekends of my life!

The 10th Annual Reno Latin Dance Festival is right around the corner, and I could not be more excited. This time I know what to expect, but I still vividly remember feeling exhausted after the last 4-day marathon so here’s a quick survival guide of things I hope to get right this time around.

Hydrate

My teammates make fun of me for being obsessed with water and always reminding everyone to stay hydrated, but I don’t mind because it is essential, especially in that Vegas heat and especially when you’re dancing all hours of the day and consuming lots of alcohol.

Meal Prep

Depending on the location of the festival, healthy food can be hard to find in a hurry. Plan ahead by bringing protein-packed snacks and meals and lots of yummy fruits and veggies to snack on. We even brought a microwave and plan on adding mini fridge and blender to our room this year. Just be prepared to be the party room if you bring these coveted items!

Plan Ahead

Start eyeing that schedule now, and highlight all of the workshops and performances you want to attend. It can be hard to go to everything, especially if you’re like me and want to take workshops on styling, technique, footwork, bachata, salsa, hip hop, and whatever new dance style you discover at the festival. It’s even harder to go to every workshop and to find time for much needed rest if you have additional practices for performances. So plan ahead and prioritize what’s important to you. Workshops are a great way to meet new people and learn new moves to try out in the evenings!

Pack a bag

Pack a small workout bag or tote to carry with you during workshops and to keep your stuff organized while you perform. Fill it with:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Gum
  • Wet Wipes
  • Vitamins
  • Needle and thread
  • Safety pins
  • Bobby pins

Have fun

Soak up every moment! It can be nerve-wracking to be surrounded by professional dancers, but you are attending for a reason and you can learn something from everyone. My friends and I challenged each other to be more confident and bold in social dancing, trying on new outfits, and meeting new people. You won’t regret it!

Tahoe Tales

Oops.

I haven’t blogged in over a year! Luckily, that doesn’t mean I haven’t traveled in over a year. My adventures took some unexpected turns along the way…in other words, life happened. I’m fortunate to be feeling a lot better and hope to share both retrospective and current (i.e. plans I’m currently dreaming up) travel stories, as well as newfound reflections on health and wellness. Until then, here are some photos of the lovely Lake Tahoe!

West Coast, Best Coast?

Ever seen #westcoastbestcoast? Or heard anyone try to tell you that the west coast is the best coast? Just a simple Google search will yield tons of listicles filled with reasons why the west coast is better. Arguments include In-N-Out, better coffee, better views, beaches, and more. Not convinced? Now that I’m on the west coast for the next two years, it’s time for me to find out. Peep my travel wishlist below.

My West Coast Travel Wishlist:

  • Las Vegas
  • Explore Lake Tahoe
  • San Francisco
  • Sacramento
  • San Diego
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle
  • Victoria, Canada
  • Alaska
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Redwoods National Park
  • Grand Canyon

If you have other suggestions of places I should visit or things to do at any of these places, comment below!

The Biggest Little City and its Neighbor

If you’re like me and have never lived on the west coast or watched Reno 911, then you likely don’t know much about Carson City or Reno, Nevada. But if you’re definitely like me, then you just accepted a job in Carson City and moved to Reno, so it’s time to find out more.

It seems that I move from one mining town to another because Carson City and Reno were home to a gold and silver mining rush in the late 1850s. After the population boom from mining, Carson attracted more people with jobs that came along with the railroads. Reno saw another spike in popularity when Nevada legalized open-gambling and passed more liberal divorce laws. Did you know that Reno was the gambling capital of the U.S. before the late 1950s?

Carson City has been the state capital since Nevada became a state, and serves as a hub for state and Northern Nevada activity. Reno, a scenic 25 miles north of Carson City, is the bigger city area that is home to the University of Nevada at Reno and nicknamed the “Biggest Little City in the World”.

Most often when I meet new people, they either gawk and ask why I moved to Carson and Reno from North Carolina or list all of the fabulous reasons why they enjoy living here. Rather than the former, I’m hoping I one day list dozens of reasons why I enjoy living here too.printable-map-of-nevada-state

One of the biggest appeals of moving to this area, is its proximity to so many wonderful parts of the west coast. Not only is this area so close to the beautiful Lake Tahoe, but it is only a 2 hour drive to Sacramento or 4 hour drive to San Francisco. Las Vegas is an 8 hour drive south, and places like Los Angeles, Seattle, and the Grand Canyon aren’t that much farther away either.

As a native North Carolinian, I have had to adjust to the arid climate of Nevada and the fast-approaching cold that will be my first real winter. Past the climate adjustments, my first impressions of Carson and Reno are that the two cities offer a chance to toggle between a calm, town-like life and a not so overwhelming city bustle while being surrounded by beautiful views and so many opportunities for exploring, hiking, or just enjoying nature.

If you’re familiar with either Carson or Reno and have suggestions, please let me know!