A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Meike Carter

Top picks 2018

I want to summarize all the destinations that we visited in 2018 and show you my top picks.There are so many other amazing destinations, but I have to narrow it down to only the places we saw since our Journey started in August 2018. That is when we bought our Winnebago and started traveling fulltime.
My top pick to dry camp ,secluded from civilization with spectacular views of mountains , nestled in between boulders with carved out fire pits is- Alabama Hills in California 20181130_101912.jpg 20181130_074826.jpg A8E75C81C8BA4EA04EBF8F1EF64207DF.jpg Top pick for Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds. Usually campgrounds located near lakes with Electric and Water hookups for $22 per day. This one goes to- Lake Cochiti, New Mexico 20181028_170407.jpg 20181028_163203.jpg 20181028_163134.jpg
Not only does Lake Cochiti have a fabulous campground, it also gets my pick as most impressive hike - Tent Rock National Monument is breathtaking 20181030_120559.jpg 90_20181030_112648.jpg 90_20181030_113638.jpg
The most strenuous hike this year was at Red Rock SP. Once you reach the peak it is a perfect place to sit and have lunch on one of the boulders. Pack a lunch and plenty of water. You can hike here all day long. 20181127_124206.jpg 9AD60B1C0B1CAF30DB70410D1F9B4D98.jpg
My top pick for the most sandy and hottest hike is, of course- Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley, CA.
That place is so much fun! Try sand swimming down the dunes... Be aware, you might lose your socks.We have found several socks along the hike.20181129_093515.jpg 02D782C5079629BCBADCA2546D593F05.jpg 02D6F1C2FF0CADE9920ED8058B72D881.jpg
Badwater Basin in Death Valley- gets my pick for lowest and saltiest location I've ever been to. The place looks like something from another planet. That is what inspired Star Wars to film there.20181128_161200.jpg 20181128_161137.jpg
One of the best preserved Petroglyphs we saw this year were in - the Valley of Fire. Hiking the Valley of Fire is stunning due to its bright red colors. Some rock formations look like beehives and 2 campgrounds are nestled in between boulders and hiking trails. 5E8CF1DBE5C0C676CFD1BAD1750EF0A7.jpg 20181124_104335.jpg 5E906399E9AA7CAD6CC8D40644D31784.jpg
Most amazing sunsets were in - Cocoa Beach, Florida. I did not include Hawaii, because we only spent the last two days of 2018 there and the majority in 2019.
Cocoa Beach is one of my favorite beaches to boogie board. A military base is located on the barrier island that offers a wonderful Famcamp with full hookups for only $22 per day. It is for active or retired service members only. 20180816_191339.jpg 90_43A96980F9C952236D770282D61419F3.jpg 20180827_200307.jpg
This one is difficult, I am not sure which one of the best preserved ancient pueblos would be my top pick. I loved them all! Here are the ones we visited.
Aztec Ruins in New Mexico 2686.jpeg
Mesa Verde, Colorado 2827.jpeg
Walnut Canyon in Arizona 20181106_151204.jpg
Wupatki in Arizona 180_20181107_135845.jpg
We have stayed in regular RV parks, military Famcamps, Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds, Walmart parking lots, BLM land and National parks. If you are traveling on a budget my top pick for boondocking would be BLM land or ask the Forest Service if camping is permitted.
The most serene hike was- Marin Headlands in California with a fantastic view of the ocean , with waves crashing onto cliffs and spilling onto shore. IMG_20181217_163557_785.jpg 20181217_133316.jpg 20181217_131801.jpg
The hike where you will see cows, deer, birds, elephant seals and if your lucky -whales is at- Point Reyes, California.
The entire barrier island sits on a different Continental plate, divided by the San Andreas fault 20181222_145101.jpg B4B5C415F5EBF7888280C936637D7D6F.jpg 20181222_152857.jpg
2018 was full of adventures and new places, but I only showed you what absolutely stood out above the rest. This country is full with amazing places, landmarks and people. I can't wait to see where it will take us this year. Happy travels!

Posted by Meike Carter 04:50 Comments (0)

2018 was all about lifestyle change

20190121_134509.jpg Our Journey began quicker than expected. Last January we were in the midst of completely gutting and renovating our house in Kentucky. It had been rented for over 10 years, while we were stationed in other states during Tony's military career. The tenants moved out and left our house absolutely destroyed. We couldn't put it up for rent in that condition, and had no other choice but to move from Georgia(where Tony retired) to Kentucky and take care of that problem. 20190104_125511.jpg Our retirement plan changed and buying a catamaran was not on top of the list anymore. It was time to tackle this mess. Unfortunately, nothing was salvageable and we had to gut the majority of the house.
We kept one room intact to sleep in and one room to store all our boxes. We did not have a kitchen for a couple of weeks, washed dishes in the bathroom and cooked in a crockpot that was sitting on a chair. The living arrangements were tough, but we were thrilled to do all the work ourselves. And when I say that, I absolutely mean it. No other hands touched our floors, walls, ceiling, roof, etc... but Tony and mine. I have to emphasize on that, because we literally put everything we had into that little house. We were exhausted from working and found ourselves facing another obstacle. This time it was our rental house in Texas. The tenants were moving out at the end of January. That was definitely overwhelming, we had to come up with a plan, quickly. How can we manage 2 houses in different states, work on both simultaneously without losing our minds.
Well, by January the majority of the inside was finished in the Kentucky house. We had to wait until Spring to put the new roof on, fix the yard and put it on the market to sell. Therefore moving all our stuff to our much bigger house in Texas made more sense. We rented a big moving truck and hauled everything to Texas, leaving only necessities and tools behind in Kentucky. We began to work on the Texas house, painting all the rooms and laying new laminate. The old carpet had to go before we started setting up furniture and unpacking boxes. The Texas house was fixed in no time, all furnished and comfortable, a place to relax and call home.
We really wanted to complete all the work in Kentucky by April, adding a new roof as the last item to tackle before putting the house on the market. We worked around the clock, weather permitting to finish the neverending projects. Everything had to be perfect for inspection come Spring. For a couple of months we had to drive back and forth between both states and finish all the work in order to have a successful sale.
In May we were back in Texas when our realtor notified us of a buyer. We were thrilled and drove back to Kentucky to be present for the inspection and for anything that needed our immediate attention, while we were there in person. With everything signed and in order, nothing else was left for us to do and we returned to Texas.
By that time we were so tired of dealing with Real Estate, that we began to seriously look for boats and RV's. We got up in the mornings with a nice cup of coffee, and as a routine checked Craigslist first in hope to find a fantastic bargain on sailboats. Watching YouTube videos on catamarans, sailboats, houseboats, 5th wheels and RV's helped us keep our dream alive. 20190104_122213.jpg
Deep down I felt the pull towards a catamaran, but I was aware of how expensive they can be. Not having sold the house yet, I did not want to envision another debt.
One thing was for sure. We did not want to be in the Texas house either. We lost all interest in the stuff that filled our house, it began to feel like a burden. Honestly, I was so done with everything and wanted freedom more than anything.
Shortly after, we hosted an open yardsale. "Come inside my house and buy whatever you want for the right price". People flocked in all day and pretty much moved half of our house for us. A lady walked thru the kitchen and asked if I sell my silverware. I counted the pieces in the drawer and noticed some forks were still in the dishwasher. I was floored that even my dirty dishes sold.
Towards the end of the day we were in a state of disbelief, with only a matress and boxes full of whatever left. Our furniture completely sold out. Laying on the mattress that night, I asked Tony if we are insane for doing this.
I felt lost, confused and sad; yet excited and proud to have pushed through, with this crazy idea of unplugging ourselves from regular society.
We contacted a property management company to list the house for rent a few days later after everything was boxed up, cleaned and stacked in the U-haul.
I kid you not, 15 minutes after we pulled out of our driveway with the last load going into the storage unit, our house rented out and was under contract.
Within 2 weeks both houses were taken care of. One sold, the other one rented. Finally free, we drove to South Carolina to see family on July 3rd. During our stay we visited several marinas and RV dealers. We came very close to buying a Sea Ray, had the pre approval letter and last minute decided against it. She wasn't a sailboat after all. We had to stick to our plans and not make any hasty decisions, that we could later regret. We continued looking and found ourselves almost daily at RV dealerships. By that time we gathered enough knowledge to see a good deal, and that's when we came across the Winnebago Journey. We knew immediately that we stepped into our new home on wheels. Within 24 hours we made our final decision and wrote our names on the sales agreement. With that a new Chapter in our lives opened up, our lifestyle changed completely and the Journey began. CFA88465ADA97A0077F0262FD79EFC8D.jpg CFA7D6C8B45334BE0325153DB71B8D71.jpg CFA74CC205187CA9A160E47F2D3905D6.jpg CFA6BAC5AE68F6FA9ACB6961967C62CE.jpg

Posted by Meike Carter 10:57 Comments (0)

Vacationers vs. Travelers

D488949CCF6C97C9608D0A1FAAB31357.jpg I recently had a conversation with a friend and we shared our travel experiences and where we have lived. She brought up a good point, saying that there are vacationers and then there are travelers. She hit the nail on the head. Let me explain.
Most likely you start off going on a vacation, lets say you have a week off from school or work and decide to book a hotel in you region. Usually in the beginning, people want to get their feet wet, going on vacation not too terribly far from home, still needing their comfort zone and choose a destination less than 8 hours away. Since a hotel or resort is booked for that week of vacation, all activities will most likely occur in that location. Its paid for and safe, I get it.
This type of one week vacation will become the highlight of your year and you will return to the same destination every year or venture out to another neighboring state once you get used to that resort and are ready to take on something new. Breaking out of the comfort zone is not easy. Unless you work from home and can carry a laptop with you, your vacation time is limited depending on how long your boss will allow paid vacation per year.
A vacationer will finally fly and leave the nest for that week. A safe resort on a nearby island will be the most exciting adventure ever, putting some distance between work and fun and quickly you call yourself a world traveler- not so fast, back up! My bad, you can't be a world traveler if you haven't left the states. Let's try this again. So you arrived in a resort on an island and roam around and return to that resort from now on. Okay, you have broadened your radius of miles, but are still doing the vacationers thing of laying by the beach during the day and hanging around the resort at night. It sounds fun and relaxing, but here is where a traveler does things different. IMG_20181128_143831_821.jpg
Like I said, becoming a traveler takes time, because your mindset is completely different. Here is why. As a traveler you allow more than just a week to wander around. Sometimes you don't put a time cap on your trip at all. It all depends on your lifestyle. You might have a destination, but you seek the journey that gets you there. A traveler does not always book a place for the night, usually they improvise and carry a backup shelter with them, called a sleeping bag. 😉
Travelers like to interact with like minded people and locals, to learn from and gather information useful to make the trip unique. Exploring, hiking and eating local dishes are a must. All your senses need to be awake to appreciate and fully experience your surroundings. I usually close my eyes and take a really deep breath, smelling the air when we hike somewhere and stop for a break. It is rejuvenating to be surrounded by nature. D4876CEBD4543913BB47C76316C93D56.jpg
A traveler will most likely walk the path less traveled and stay away from tourist hot spots. We rather hike with our packs thru the woods a couple of miles to find a deserted beach, instead of sunbathing amongst hundreds of vacationers lined up on a strip of sand. 20190101_072116.jpg
Usually days are not planned, they will unfold themselves depending on where you are, who you talk to and how the weather is.
A traveler cannot stay put in one place for too long, before getting the itch to explore something new. Material items become a nuisance, adding strings that you don't want to be attached to. Owning a home is another burden that you have to worry about while traveling, and fashion will definitely not fit into the travelers lifestyle. Columbia, Mermot, Underarmour,Northface, Merrell etc...will be your go to fashion designers while traveling the world.
Anyway, I am glad that I had this conversation with my friend, which ultimately made me ponder the differences of vacationing vs. traveling.
Until then...happy travels!

Posted by Meike Carter 01:44 Comments (0)

Pay it forward

20181229_160439.jpg Anytime we travel we meet the most awesome people. Nowadays when you watch the news or anything on television you almost get paranoid leaving your house, afraid to run into all these crazy people. I can speak from my own experience and can say, that I have come across some amazing, interesting, intelligent, inspiring and super friendly and helpful people.
Don't be discouraged to travel and meet new faces, because the majority are just as nice as you are. Unfortunately on television the bad news get broadcast to cloud our minds and keep us in our bubble. Pop that damn thing and you will see that it's not all that bad.
We have met great people all over Europe and the States and I can't wait to visit the other continents as well.
Anyways...lets get to "pay it forward ".
It never fails and works just like magic. I will describe our latest experience to give you an idea of how things in our lives work. We plan our goals, but don't write them in stone, always leaving room for life to get in the way.
This Christmas was an emotional day. It was the first Christmas without our daughter, we were in an RV instead our house, we didn't have the traditional feast and I was worried that our 9 year old son would miss his old lifestyle. He seemed to be fine and happy as always. Landon was fine, but not his parents. 180_E7ACBE17E560CA2DB3049F4ED4973B33.jpg A quick decision was made and 2 days later we stood with our backpacks at the passenger terminal trying to get a flight out of here. We didn't catch a flight, other families had priority and we had to go back to the RV. Tony was about to pull the Jeep up to the front door of the terminal for me and Landon to get in when he spotted an old couple walking their luggage to lodging. We decided for me to stay put and him offering the couple a ride. In return, they invited us to stay at their home in Scottsdale Arizona anytime we are in that area.
Two days later we started talking to other travelers, while standing in line for the flight to Hawaii. We all exchanged tips and tricks for a successful trip to the island. By the time we landed, everybody rushed over to the front desk to sign up for a return flight. The sooner you sign up, the better the chance of flying back since your signup date determines your
position on the waiting list for roll call. Anyway, Tony skipped that part, and headed straight to Enterprise, but turned down the car due to the high price of $135 for one day. He returned back to me, to let me know that he didn't get the car. I asked him, how can we leave the terminal with all the luggage and not a clue where to go. Thankfully the couple that we talked to while standing in line at Travis offered to drive us to their hotel. Luckily we booked a room for 2 nights and arranged a car rental. 20181231_105001.jpg Our vacation started the second we arrived in our beach cabin on the other side of the island. Again we got lucky and one cabin was still available. We couldn't believe our luck and made sure to keep our place clean, to pick up washed up trash on the beach and recycle our plastic. The housekeeping definitely appreciated our involvement and I listened to their concerns as locals, asking me to make people aware of what effects tourism has on the Hawaiian community.
This is my moment to pay it forward- with the increase of tourism and high rise buildings the cost of living has skyrocket to the point that locals can't afford to pay for housing anymore. More and more tent cities are being established along various Beach parks where locals live, since they can't afford to pay rent anymore. Roads are congested, Waikiki overcrowded and the coral reef at Hanauma Bay is dying. Hawaiians are very much in touch with nature and are afraid to lose their homeland. They depend on the ocean and want to keep the islands healthy, fighting the city council from building a railway on Oahu to transport tourists.
I can see both sides, as a tourist it would be convenient to get shuttle service to various locations, but as a local I can understand the importance of keeping things the way they are. With every improvement in the infrastructure, taxes and living expenses get raised and land taken away. Locals are slowly moving away to different islands, where they might have other relatives to start over fresh. The lady I talked to asked me to make people aware of the situation, because they are tired of fighting for their land and rights, saying that tourists are welcome as long as they respect the land and the ocean.
Our conversation definitely stuck with me and I told her that I had a similar conversation with a Native in New Mexico. 20190108_175355.jpg
Ever since we have been on this Journey we have talked to many people, learning along the way. What we definitely learned is that as long as you are willing to listen and help, karma will find it's way back to you.
We were trying to fly back to California for about a week, every time we stood travel ready with our backpacks, hoping to hear our name called. That didn't happen for almost a week straight. After day 5 I got worried, by then we had already slept 2 nights on the lawn in front of the terminal and in the Jeep. We were exhausted and needed a real bed to sleep in. Since we still had our rental car we drove to the other side of the island back to the beach cabin, where I had the conversation with the housekeeper and promised her to write about what the locals are facing. They welcomed us back, and put us in a cabin overlooking the ocean. Finally we were able to catch up on some sleep. I sat on the beach praying to catch a flight by Sunday, our absolute deadline and walked the beach, when something shiny caught my eyes. I walked over and dug it out of the sand, holding a cross with scripture in my hand. I was overcome with emotions and peace, turned to Tony and said, we will make it back home. IMG_20190114_091935_219.jpg
We returned back to the terminal the next day, a flight was leaving for California with 19 seats. As we looked at the printout for roll call to find our name, a gentleman who we have been talking to for several days, pointed out that our sign up date is incorrect. That's right, we were signed up for December of 2019, which means we could have been waiting on a flight until Christmas. The year was wrong. No wonder we were always at the bottom of the list. The flight had to stop roll call to correct this mistake and reprint the paper. That pushed us up on the list. The man who caught the error said, that he is glad to help even though it pushed him further off the list. Well, our name did get called, but it was for the last 2 remaining seats. We are a party of 3 and did not want to split up. With tears in my eyes we gave up the 2 seats for someone else to fill. The gentleman who helped us got to fly home.
Like I said when you pay it forward, good things will happen.
The following morning we got on a flight and landed safely in Cali on Sunday. Everything worked out, we made wonderful memories, learned more about how to travel on a budget and most of all made new friends. 20190108_180250.jpg
Don't forget to pay it forward....

Posted by Meike Carter 12:25 Comments (0)

2 weeks Hawaii on a budget

View Winter Journey on Meike Carter's travel map.

20190108_175355.jpg This is basically a summary of our spontaneous trip to Hawaii. We wanted to figure out how difficult it could be to rent cabins, hotel rooms and cars on a flexible schedule. I hope this will help someone that is thinking of doing the same. Matter of fact a friend of mine had a few questions, Teresa this might give you a better idea.
Let's start with flights. If you are eligible to fly on Military flights and your destination is Hawaii, flying out of Travis AFB CA is one of your prime passenger terminals. Flights leave almost daily. On the other hand, if you want to return back to the mainland it can be more tricky. We discovered that flights pop up daily, but they usually already have people manifested on them, coming from Guam or Japan. These seats are already reserved for them, which means passengers originating from Hawaii will get whatever seats are still available. That is definitely something new we learned. Next time we will continue on to other destinations in order to get manifested all the way through. I hope that makes sense.
Allow plenty of time, I would plan a week for a cushion to catch a flight back. Use the days you don't catch a hop just as another day on the beach. 20190110_140918.jpg This leads me to lodging...not always will there be a hotel room close by to crash in, but we learned that having a vehicle serves more than just as transportation. There is no need to book a room if you have to be at the terminal at 3 A.M., just lean back the chairs, climb in the sleeping back and catch some shuteye. That just saved you $135.
Hotel rates run around $135 per night on post, where the cheapest room in Waikiki could be $165, depending on the season.
We have stayed in a cabin on the beach for one week, costing us $105 per night. We didn't reserve or book it. We extended 3 times and each time were able to stay, which showed us that walking in is no problem. Even though it shows online as fully booked, we saw empty cabins on a daily basis. One bedroom cabins cost $105 and 2 bedroom cabins $135 per night. All have a fully equipped kitchens and sleeper sofas. My favorite place to stay is the Navy Lodge on Ford Island only 6 miles from Hickham Field. The hotel room with 2 queen sized beds, a little kitchenette, complimentary breakfast, 24 hour shop and pool with cabana cost us $102 per night. 20190111_173654.jpg 20190112_110515.jpg 20190112_110612.jpg
We discovered how to lower the cost on our car rental as well. If you have a credit card you might be insured depending on your credit card. That alone will knock down the price. If you book online and find the cheapest deal, you can show that to the people at Enterprise and they will price match, and if you sign up for their rewards program, that will knock off an additional fee. Overall we were able to zoom around in our Jeep Wrangler for $44 per day and used it occasionally as our hotel room. 20190108_163328.jpg 20190108_163338.jpg
We bought our groceries at the commissary, because all our rentals had kitchens and I prefer cooking our meals , it is healthier and more affordable.
If we did feel the urge to eat while we were exploring, a side of French fries and an iced coffee or a fresh pineapple smoothie would do the trick.
We discovered that you can take showers at the gym, use the restroom on the beach or the playground and wash clothes at lodging for free. We did all that during the time we slept under the stars. It is possible!
Overall we spent about $1000 per week and that included, food, car rental, hotel costs and the flight .
That is not a bad price for 3 travelers. I hope this information is useful and gives you a better insight of visiting Hawaii on a dime.
Most of all have fun, make fantastic memories and don't stress. Aloha!

Posted by Meike Carter 05:39 Comments (0)

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