Road Schooled

Lessons from the Road to Somewhere

Speed Road Trip Across America with My Feet

Posted on | October 3, 2009 | 2 Comments

When people ask me if I have any regrets about my travels I don’t really have any.  Sure there are things I would have done differently knowing what I know now, but I don’t have regrets.  The closest thing I have to a regret is that I wish I would have taken more pictures of my feet.

That may seem like a weird wish but of all the photos I have I get the most compliments on the ones of my feet.  So by popular demand here is a speed road trip across America with my feet in pictures:

Kayaking in Minnesota

Kayaking 1 of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes

Olympic National Park, WA

Olympic National Park in Washington

Kayaking with Alligators at Everglades National Park in Florida

Kayaking with alligators at Everglades National Park in Florida

Walking Along the Beach in Naples, Florida

Walking along the beach in Naples, Florida

Watching the Sunset at the Beach in Naples, Florida

Watching the sunset at the beach in Naples, Florida

Arches National Park in Utah

Arches National Park in Utah

Camping on the Beach at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas

Camping on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas

I have worn this pair of Keen sandals in 47 states.  I love my well worn Keen sandals and couldn't let them go to heaven at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.

I have worn this pair of Keen sandals in 47 states. I love my well worn Keen sandals and couldn't let them go to heaven at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.

I got my kicks on Route 66 in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

I got my kicks on Route 66 at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Taking a break and enjoying the view while hiking the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Taking a break and enjoying the view while hiking the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Foolishly wearing sandals among the cactus at Joshua Tree National Park in California

Foolishly wearing sandals among the cactus at Joshua Tree National Park in California

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

Mount Tampais overlooking San Francisco Bay Area in California

Mount Tampais overlooking San Francisco Bay Area in California

Hood River in Oregon

Hood River in Oregon

Who hikes 4 miles up Mount Si in Washington wearing Tevas?  Sue, that's who.

Who hikes 4 miles up Mount Si in Washington wearing Tevas? Sue, that's who.

Kelp beds at Deception Pass State Park in Washington

Kelp beds at Deception Pass State Park in Washington

Lime Kiln Point State Park at San Juan Island in Washington

Looking for whales at Lime Kiln Point State Park - San Juan Island in Washington

Muir Beach in Marin County, California

Muir Beach in Marin County, California

Out of my tent and off on the next adventure in California.

Out of my tent and off on the next adventure in California.

I wonder where my feet will take me next.

Feeling Minnesota on the Autumnal Equinox

Posted on | September 22, 2009 | Comments Off on Feeling Minnesota on the Autumnal Equinox

Autumn Leaves Floating on River Water

Autumn is my favorite season.  Or more accurately, autumn was my favorite season growing up in Minnesota.  Since then I have lived places that don’t really have seasons other than the rainy and dry season like Florida and California.  As much as I love Northern California, today I pine to go hiking in Northern Minnesota in all its autumnal glory.  Since I am 2000 miles away I’ll have to settle on a virtual autumnal equinox hike by looking at the photos of a late autumn road trip to St. Croix State Park from yesteryear.

Autumn Hike at St. Croix

Fall Colors Along the St. Croix River

Beaver Munched Tree at St. Croix in Autumn

Autumn Pond in Minnesota

St. Croix Minnesota Autumn Sunset

Pictures are nice but I would rather be there.  I’m taking the red-eye to Minnesota on Friday to catch a little bit of autumn with family and friends.  See ya soon, Minnesota!

10 Year Solo Road Trip Anniversary: 9/9/99 – 09/09/09

Posted on | September 9, 2009 | 3 Comments

Ten years ago today I woke up in a tent by myself for the first time. I turned on the radio to hear the weather forecast and all the DJs were talking about was how all the computers were going to crash because it was 9/9/99. And when the weather was finally broadcast possible flurries and frost were in the forecast.

I would like to write how my first solo road trip in northern Minnesota 10 years ago was one of the best experiences of my life. But in actuality it kind of sucked. It was cold and drizzling, I got up to go to the bathroom in the drizzle twice during the night, and the next morning I woke up feeling exhausted since I hardly slept.

I’m not sure why I continued solo road tripping after that first night. I could have said I wasn’t cut out for it and opted to stay home and watch TV the next time I had some time off and no one wanted to go camping. But I chalked up the unpleasantness to inexperience and tried again.

The second time I went solo camping I was woke up in the middle of the night by raccoons fighting outside my tent. Imagine waking up to sounds like this and this right next to your head. Crank the volume up to the max to get the full effect.

Ah, the joys of camping. Despite those first few rough nights, curiosity and a love of outdoor adventure eventually won out and led me around the entire country solo camping. And while there were plenty more unpleasant nights (some good ones too), the journey as a whole was one of the best experiences of my life.

Sometimes I wonder what I would be doing now if I had given up on solo road tripping because of those first few rough nights ten years ago. Maybe I would be blogging about my favorite TV shows. Regardless, I would definitely be a much different person than I am today.

Today I woke up in a chair at the library at Stanford where I fell asleep teaching myself how to write code for iPhone apps. This whole iPhone developer / entrepreneur adventure is starting out just about as glamorously as my first solo camping adventures. But I’m sticking with it.

I wonder where I’ll wake up ten years from now.

5 Free iPhone Travel Apps

Posted on | September 4, 2009 | 1 Comment

iPhone Apps

I recently upgraded my crappy old cell phone that didn’t even have a camera to an iPhone.  All I can say is – I love my iPhone!  And I’m not sure how I managed without it.  All this time I could have been taking quick photos or videos, using the built in GPS when I was lost, and Yelping a quality restaurant nearby.  Oh well.  Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be thrifty especially when it comes to having the ultimate multi-functional travel device in your pocket.

So now I’m an Apple fangirl toting around an iPhone and a MacBook Pro.  The next logical step of course is to proclaim my love for the following free travel apps:

yelp iPhone appIn a new city and need to find good place to eat nearby?  Yelp it. I loved Yelp on my laptop and I love it even more on my phone for easy access to reviews of nearby businesses.  I don’t even need to know where I am.  I just hit the geolocate button and it will map out where I am and directions to nearby businesses.

Kayak iPhone AppNeed to check flight or hotel prices quickly?  Search 1000s of travel sites at Kayak.  Of course there are other travel price comparison sites (Priceline, Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, etc.) you can check also if you like but their apps are either non-existent or have severely limited features at this time so you are just better off visiting the regular websites.

Facebook iPhone AppMake your friends jealous by sharing your travel photos with them on Facebook.  You can take photos and video on your phone and upload them instantly.  It is amazing how many people I hadn’t seen in years that I have met up with because they saw in my status updates that I was going to be in the same location as them.

Skype iPhone AppWhy do you need the Skype app when you can just make a call on your iPhone?  Because sometimes you go over your minutes or you are calling overseas.  Skype rules for cheap calls.  The only snafu: You can’t Skype over the 3G network so you have to be in a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Google Earth iPhone AppTake a spin around the a virtual globe with Google Earth.  A very cool app to zoom in from outer space to your current location or spin the globe and daydream about your next travel adventure.

The iPhone is an amazing multi-functional travel gadget.  The apps and hardware (longer battery life, please) are only going to get better.  Mobile is the future.

Where’s the Mountain?

Posted on | August 7, 2009 | 1 Comment

Today when I was driving I looked to the southeast and momentarily thought to myself – “Where’s the mountain?”

And then I realized that I’m in California not Washington so I should stop trying to locate Mount Rainier on the horizon.  It has been a little over a week since I left Seattle for the Bay area but sometimes I still forget where I am.  Hopefully, soon I’ll stop looking for the Space Needle to orient myself in the city.

I am confused.

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Space Needle

A Week in the Life

Posted on | August 4, 2009 | 5 Comments

A Week in the Life of Sue - Road Schooled

Nora Dunn over at The Professional Hobo is doing a series profiling a week in the life of long-term travelers.  She asked me to contribute a post to the series.  Check it out:

A Week in the Life of Sue: Road Schooled

After you read about how much I cram into a week on the road you’ll understand why I haven’t posted this week.  The past week I was traveling from the Seattle area where I spent the summer to the San Francisco Bay area which is my base camp for the foreseeable future. Therefore I haven’t had much time to blog.

I travel fast.  I like it that way because when I slow down I get bored and antsy.  But I don’t recommend traveling as fast as I do for most people.

As a matter of fact one of the pieces of advice I would give to a newbie long-term travelers is to slow down and try not to cram in too much.  And if you want to travel fast like I do, pick a few places to stay more than a day.  In my case for the week in the life post I was traveling fast for a week, but I started at Padre Island National Seashore where I had been camping on the beach for 6 weeks and ended at the Grand Canyon where I camped for about a week (for free!).

The week in my life that took me from Padre Island to the Grand Canyon was in April.  In the 4 months since then I have traversed the Pacific coast from San Diego, California to Vancouver, British Columbia with weeks long pit stops in Santa Cruz, Portland, and Seattle.

And now I’m in the Bay area writing this post from a coffee shop in San Rafael.    A year ago San Rafael was a pit stop.  I lived here for two months last summer.  In the year that has passed not much has changed in San Rafael.  But I have changed a lot.

A year in life of Sue post may read a bit differently than my week in the life post.  The past year was one of the best and worst years of my life.  And now life has come completely full circle and I’m sitting here writing this post in a coffee shop where I sat a year ago.  Everything looks the same yet totally different. Traveling changed my perspective.

I wonder what life will look like a year from now after spending a year living in the same place.

10 Things I Learned Solo Road Tripping the United States

Posted on | July 28, 2009 | 1 Comment

Solo Road Trip - 4 Years and Counting

Four years ago today I packed up my car with camping gear and set out to explore the United States. It has been a wild ride of ups and downs through 47 states and more than 30 National Parks. To celebrate my four year anniversary of hitting the road I thought I’d share a few things I learned along the way.

1. Be crazy….or courageous.

When I packed up my car with camping gear and left my life behind to explore what else was out there a lot of people told me I was crazy. Or they said I was courageous. Or maybe a little bit of both. There is a fine line between being crazy and courageous. Crazy knows no boundaries, no limits, no fear. Courage is stepping past boundaries and limits, self-imposed or otherwise, in the face of fear. Regardless of whether people think I’m crazy or courageous, solo road tripping the United States is one of the best things I have ever done. Take bold steps forward, even when people call you crazy.

2. Pick a direction and be flexible.

Long-term travel never goes according to plan, almost to the point that it doesn’t pay to plan everything out. I generally travel for about two months at a time before taking some sort of break. If I tried to plan out every detail I would never go anywhere. I would be in a perpetual state of planning my big trip that never happens. Don’t worry about all the details. If you wait for everything to be perfect you’ll never go. Pick a direction, prepare as best you can, and then go.

3. Be good to yourself.

Long-term solo travel is wearing at times. I do all the driving, planning, tent set-up / take-down, etc. There is no one to help me out when I’m tired or sick. Without my health I could not have done what I did. Your health is precious. Take care of yourself.

4. Adversity builds strength and character.

Solo road tripping the United States has been one of the highest growth phases of my life. Life on the road is roller coaster of exceedingly high highs and almost unbearable lows at times. While the high points were exciting, most of my growth came out of dealing with the lows. Adversity is an opportunity for growth. Embrace it.

5. Always have something to look forward to.

Sometimes life on the road by myself sucks. Bad weather, sickness, and car breakdowns happen and there is no one there to lean on in the bad times. I try to live in the moment but when life in the moment isn’t going well looking down the road boosts my spirits. Things always get better eventually. Hope in a brighter tomorrow gets you through the bad times.

6. Simplify.

Before hitting the road I put all my possessions in storage except for what fit in my car. When I first hit the road I missed some of my stuff, but the longer I was on the road I enjoyed the simplicity of not having a lot of stuff. By simplifying my life so drastically my definition of essential items changed. Doing without makes you realize what is important. You need less than you think.

7. Let go of who you think you should be to become who you are.

I’m still working on this one – easier said than done. Solo road tripping across the country is not a normal thing for a girl to do. If I had let societal norms dictate my direction I would never have packed up my car with camping gear and had the adventure of a lifetime. Before I hit the road I defined myself too narrowly and held too much of my identity in my career. On the road I gave myself room to grow and my definition of myself broadened. If you give yourself room to grow, you can become more than you can imagine.

8. Life gives you what you need, which is not necessarily what you want.

I used to hate it when I didn’t get what I wanted. But in retrospect, more often than not what I wanted wasn’t really what I needed. Life gives you what you need even if you can’t see it in the moment. Accept what life gives you and go with the flow. Everything happens for a reason.

9. Enjoy the journey.

I used to live for the big payoff. I would endure drudgery hoping it would payoff in the end. If you don’t like what you are doing day to day on the journey to your big goal you probably won’t like your life any better once you achieve that goal. The big payoff won’t be what you imagined and may even lead to more drudgery. Do what you love and enjoy the ride. Eventually you’ll get where you need to be.

10. Happiness is best when shared.

The more I solo travel the easier it is to handle the hard times. I count on my experience to get me through and always know that better times are ahead. Conversely, the more I solo travel the harder the good times become. I could spend the rest of my life traveling from beautiful location to beautiful location but without people to share with it starts to feel empty after a while. When I first started solo traveling it was about my own personal development and exploring new places. Somewhere along the way it became more about others and people rather than places.  Share the ride and give back to society.

Once in a Lifetime Moment Atop the Space Needle

Posted on | July 23, 2009 | Comments Off on Once in a Lifetime Moment Atop the Space Needle

Drinking a Soy Latte Atop the Space Needle

The other day I was sitting atop the Space Needle in Seattle drinking a soy latte after a day of sightseeing.  There was an antsy teenage girl next to me whining to go do something else, anything else, rather than sit there looking out the window.  BORING.  Her mom exasperatedly said –

“This is  a once in a lifetime moment.  You never know when or if you will ever be here again.  Enjoy the view.”

The teenage girl begrudgingly sat down, crossed her arms, and stared at the floor.

They made me think about what constitutes a ‘once in a lifetime moment.’  It is easy to define and enjoy the big once in a lifetime moments in your life – traveling to a new location, your wedding day, birth of a child, graduation, etc.  But what about all the other moments?

Technically this is a once in a lifetime moment for you.  You are sitting somewhere reading this post for the first time.  This moment in time will never happen again exactly as it is happening now.  Sure you could read the post again but you will already know how the story ends.

Once in a lifetime moments are every moment.  The big moments are memorable.  But what about the little moments?  They may not be as memorable but they are just as precious and often under-appreciated.

When people ask me where is my favorite place I have traveled I always have a hard time answering that question.  Long-term travel isn’t about a location or a place or a big once in a lifetime moment.  It is about the journey.  All the moments – big, small, and in between.

Every moment is a once in a lifetime moment.  Enjoy the journey.

San Juan Islands by Air, Ferry, and Foot

Posted on | July 19, 2009 | Comments Off on San Juan Islands by Air, Ferry, and Foot

While spending the summer in the Seattle area I have been fortunate enough to explore the San Juan Islands by air, ferry, and foot.  While traveling by different modes of transport I was struck how my perspective of the islands changed.

San Juan Islands by Air

San Juan Islands Clouds by Air

San Juan Islands Whale Shape by Air

San Juan Islands Boat by Air

San Juan Islands by Ferry

San Juan Islands Fog and Boats by Ferry

San Juan Islands Mountain by Ferry

San Juan Islands Seaplane by Ferry

San Juan Islands Seaplane Flying by Ferry

San Juan Islands Clouds by Ferry

San Juan Islands Ferry by Ferry

San Juan Islands Friday Harbor by Ferry

San Juan Islands by Foot

San Juan Island Ferry Terminal by Foot

San Juan Islands Lime Kiln Point State Park Lighthouse

San Juan Islands Roche Harbor by Foot

San Juan Islands Roche Harbor Lime & Cement Co.

San Juan Islands Roche Harbor Quarryman Hall

San Juan Islands Roche Harbor Church

San Juan Islands Roche Harbor Dragon Sculpture

San Juan Islands Roche Harbor Dragonfly Sculpture

When I was flying over the San Juan Islands I had no clue I would walk through a sculpture garden with a dragonfly in flight.  From the air I grasped the big picture of the islands but had no conception of the details hiding beneath the tree canopies.  And on land I discovered  some intricate details of the San Juans but missed the big picture of the layout of the islands.  If I had been dropped off in the the sculpture garden with a blindfold on I wouldn’t even have known I was on an island.

One of the things I love about travel is that it provides a different perspective.  But at the same time you can gain a different perspective of your own neighborhood just by looking at it in a different way.  Maybe by taking a different mode of transport – walking instead of driving or taking the bus.  Or maybe just by talking to the guy on the street that you pass everyday.

At one time in my life I aspired to see the San Juan Islands.  But now that I have seen the San Juan Islands by air, ferry, and foot,  I aspire to look at the familiar places in my life from the multiple perspectives I take when traveling.  By looking at the familiar from multiple perspectives new worlds open up and the disparate becomes connected.

Show & Tell: Sunrise at the Golden Gate Bridge

Posted on | July 9, 2009 | Comments Off on Show & Tell: Sunrise at the Golden Gate Bridge

Sunrise at the Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, CA

I left my heart in San Francisco.

Location:  Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA

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