Photography offers us the chance to be an artist and to witness the world through a lens – creating art through imagery, all while witnessing something unfold right before our eyes. This is why photography is such a worthwhile pursuit that you should seriously consider taking up. However, newbie photographers (me included) may find themselves frustrated at the beginning, as there are some growing pains to endure before getting that perfect shot. Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get better relatively quickly:
Do use what you already have
As a beginner, any camera you currently have for photography will suffice, whether that’s your phone or a point and shoot camera, and then you can work up to a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. For now, use what you already have to get a good understanding of the different camera settings and practice composing pictures until you can buy that upgraded camera. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, entry-level cameras listed by Tech Radar that you can begin with. The Nikon D3500 and the Canon EOS 90D are a good start, as both are packed with features and are reasonably priced, but there are certainly others to consider.
Don’t go crazy buying equipment
Some beginners make the mistake of going for the most expensive camera, mistakenly believing that the pricier, the better. While others, stock up on pricey equipment, thinking that all that gear will make them a great photographer. Don’t make the same mistakes. It’s important to remember, it’s not the gear that makes a great photographer. Rather than focus on stockpiling equipment (some of which you might not even need), devote your energy and budget to learning about photography by attending seminars, taking courses, reading books, and learning from others.
While you don’t need to buy everything professionals have in their kit, accessorizing is still important to make the process much easier. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories to begin with, depending on your needs. In fact, the range of photography equipment on Adorama such as tripods, battery packs, and lighting equipment is a testament to just how much equipment is out there to help make the job easier. Whether you’re looking for your camera to last longer by purchasing additional battery packs, or looking to get a steady shot using a tripod, there’s bound to be an accessory to assist you. For beginners, you should start with a lens cleaning kit, a couple of new lenses, spare batteries, a bag to keep your gear organized, and a basic tripod.
Don’t settle for Auto
Photo Pro Magazine state that it can be hard to steer clear of the automatic settings, as it makes capturing photos easy and convenient. However, you should break that habit if you want to become a better photographer as there is a lot to explore beyond the typical settings. At the end of the day, the more you explore your camera’s settings, the better you’ll be at photography and shooting in different scenarios. Not to mention, you may have already invested in a DSLR/Mirrorless, so make the most out of it by testing out new things.
You get better by taking photos of different subjects in diverse scenarios using a multitude of settings. As you practice, keep in mind some guidelines, like the rule of thirds, where you divide a frame into a 3×3 grid and place your subject on any of the four intersections. It’s a purposeful misdirection, as it goes against the eyes’ natural inclination to look directly at something. Nevertheless, it creates a dynamic balance and compels the viewer to look at the entirety of the image. Now, as you practice, it’s important to keep those creative juices flowing, and my ’10 Tips for Finding Inspiration’ post will hopefully help inspire you.
Even walking around with your camera on you at all times will help you to flex those creative muscles.
On the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
As I type this post, I’m currently sitting in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Yesterday (Saturday) was a very long day on the road. We left Phoenix, Arizona at 5:45 in the morning and arrived in Tucumcari about 12 hours later … 615 miles (990 km). Whew! That was a very long day.
Fortunately, Al and I took several breaks and switched drivers a few times. What also helped was my focus on fueling us properly. Al thinks about the truck and I think about our bodies. The day before departure, I did some serious meal prep knowing we intended to put in some long driving days.
Yesterday, we started off our day with a rare treat … while driving, we had our coffee accompanied by coffee cake. Ok, a sugary breakfast is not necessarily the best fuel, but it’s always a fun (and rare) splurge to start our travels in a festive mood.
Lunch consisted of Turkey club sandwiches on fresh sourdough bread with a side of crisp red grapes. For dinner, we enjoyed salmon patties (that I had prepped the day before) accompanied by homemade potato salad (also made the day before) – dinner prepared and eaten while parked at a rest area. One of the things that was super important to me when we purchased our RV was the functionality of it while the slides are pulled in. I was able to fry the patties and serve dinner and dine at our dinette all while the slides were left in.
Oh, and did I mention the homemade brownies we had for dessert? Yeah, I’d say I fueled us up just fine for the 12 hour travel day. And then the day ended with one of my famous margaritas and a good night’s sleep.
I love RV travel. Because we were able to enjoy meals at our own table, meals I had made, and use our own restroom whenever the urge struck, it enabled us to arrive at our destination with energy to spare … not much energy, but we weren’t exhausted. Staying hydrated, being well-fed, and making regular stops allowed us to crank out some serious mileage.
Today, we plan on putting in another long day of driving, but not as long as yesterday. We’ll be on two-lane roads most of the day today (Sunday) as we angle up toward Kansas City from New Mexico into corners of Oklahoma and Texas and then into the state of Kansas. Unfortunately, we expect to encounter more wind today. Yeah, yesterday as we headed in an easterly direction, we encountered winds from the south ranging from 15-25 mph. Fun times trying to stay in our lane along with the semis swaying from the gusts.
It’s 110 (bleeping) degrees Fahrenheit outside today without a cloud in the sky. It’s hot! Who would’ve thought Al and I would still be sitting in Phoenix, Arizona during the first week in June? Certainly not I. Thank goodness we have a flexible mindset and were able to readjust our plans after this most recent delay.
But it’s fricken hot 🥵 No sugar coating it by saying it’s a dry heat. Even an oven is a dry heat. Oh well, this ain’t our first rodeo experiencing extreme desert heat. We lived in Las Vegas, Nevada in the nineties. You learn to adjust.
Our initial plan was to depart Phoenix in mid-May and point the RV toward Wisconsin, but a few things happened that derailed those plans. First and foremost is that nasty virus that shut the country down … shut the world down. We wanted to wait for some level of normalcy to return (even just a glimmer) before we hit the road.
In reality, we didn’t mind changing our departure date until after Memorial Day Weekend because one of Al’s sister’s recently (April) moved to Phoenix. We were enjoying visits with her and her husband and assisting any way we could as they settled into their new home. So a couple of extra weeks in the valley spent with family would actually be fun.
Extending our stay turned out to be a good thing, a very good thing, as I encountered a potential little hiccup in my health. A couple of medical tests later followed by a teleconference with my doctor and we were once again good to go and set a new departure date. (I’m fine BTW)
The truck was ready. The RV was ready. Al and I were ready, and after one final gathering with the family to say our goodbyes, we’d be hitting the road a couple of days later, or so we thought. The day prior to rolling, Al lost a crown while eating a relatively light lunch. No peanut brittle involved. Well, he didn’t exactly lose it, it ended up in his hand instead of being securely attached to the tooth in his mouth.
Poor Al! However, after three uncomfortable hours in the dental chair enduring some major work, he’s doing great and currently waiting on the permanent crown to be ready for installation. Turns out, that old crown and root canal were most likely older than the dentist. Now that’ll make ya feel old! 😆 So obviously, that tooth was something that needed to be taken care of before traveling and we’re glad we were still in the valley when the crown fell out.
As soon as Al gets his new crown installed, my crowned king and I will be hitting the road. Fingers crossed 🤞 we won’t encounter any more faux pas. We’ve already encountered one too many for my taste!
What do you do when it’s 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside without a cloud in the sky? You stay hunkered down inside the RV with the air-conditioner blaring and do some serious trip planning. Yep, it is definitely time to head north in search of cooler weather. With this year’s Phoenix high temps arriving early and some days soaring well over ten degrees higher than normal, it’s beginning to make a Wisconsin forest infested with man-eating mosquitos look pretty darn inviting. I can hear the buzzing now!
Between COVID and the soaring temps, the interior of my RV is beginning to feel more like a rubber room with a crazy lady holed up inside instead of the free-wheeling vessel of months past. Ah, this too shall pass … soon I hope 🤪
So with a clear date in mind (well, kinda) to finally hit the road and point the RV in a northeasterly trajectory, Al and I pull up Google maps and start discussing the route and timeline for our 1,900-mile journey to the north woods of Wisconsin. This year, we won’t be doing any dilly-dallying along the way. Instead, we’ll focus on the destination and keep the wheels rolling and see if we’re up to some long driving days.
We always have several plans in mind with lots of flexibility built-in. Research is the key to any successful road trip whether it’s via RV or automobile. With a trusty pen and notepad in hand, ideas, mileage, and stops are quickly jotted down.
Favorite Apps for RV trip planning
I have a few apps that I really like that aid us in our trip planning. Some of which, I use more than others. The two apps that I find myself using most frequently, especially while on the road, are Allstays Camp & RV ($9.99 one time fee) as well as GasBuddy (free).
Allstays App – Map
My favorite feature about the Allstays Camp & RV app is their map. I can zoom in on any given location and find just about anything that’s relevant to my travel day including low bridges. Yeah, when the RV measures out to be 12’6″ tall, we obviously like to avoid bridges under 13′ high and the Allstays app notes those low bridges. Since we mostly stick to main roads and interstates, we’re usually going over and not under these low bridges, thus not too much of a concern. BUT it’s wise not to be surprised!
I know a lot of RVers use a GPS specifically geared toward RVing and trucking. We don’t and only occasionally use our basic Garmin (an old GPS at that). I much prefer to navigate myself via a map. The GPS, named Hildi, has lead us astray more than once. So I don’t always trust her and like to back her up with a paper map and my iPhone.
I also enjoy all the other info noted right on the map including rest stops, Walmarts, Propane (LP), campgrounds, RV Parks, etc.
Although the Allstays app notes diesel gas stations (predominantly truck stops), I prefer using the app called GasBuddy when searching for filling options. Not only does the app list gas stations and addresses near your location, but also, up to date pricing.
We aren’t necessarily price based diesel shoppers, meaning we’re not always looking for the cheapest fuel, but it is nice to know what price to expect before pulling into any given gas station.
When it comes to diesel fuel, going the cheap route will almost always cost you more down the road via maintenance. Yep, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt … expensive lessons learned. I’d recommend talking to your favorite diesel mechanic about what to consider when fueling up.
Apps for finding camping options
When it comes to finding places to stay, I usually start with Allstays because I’m already on the app map, and then I jump over to Campendium (free). The Campendium website was developed over eight(?) years ago by a full-time RVing couple. So they live the RV life, are knowledgeable, and know how to serve the RV community.
I was actually one of their Beta Testers back in their infancy and used to post campground reviews on the site regularly, but since our style of RVing has changed over the past few years, I haven’t engaged on the platform for quite some time, but I still use it routinely for research and ideas.
Campendium is most helpful for finding boondocking/off-grid camping. I especially like the reviews written by fellow RVers and the links to blogs/vlogs providing additional information.
iOverlander (free) is another good app for boondocking/free camping.
The newest app that I just started playing around with is called The Dyrt. I’m still learning the ins and outs and looking into their trip planning feature ($29.99 a year). I’ll let you know what I think.
So with our trip planning pretty much accomplished, we’re spending this Memorial Day Weekend hanging with family and saying our goodbyes. It’s always bittersweet for me. On one hand, I’m excited to get the wheels on the RV rolling, after all, that is why we live the RV lifestyle, and on the other hand, I’m sad to bid farewell to family and friends. But adventure awaits, and I remind myself, 4-5 months down the road, we’ll be returning to our home base back here at the RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. But today … lake life is calling!
How are you spending your summer? Are you going anywhere exciting or opting for a staycation?
Life is about the moments. Don’t wait for them, create them! – Anthony Robbins
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TheRVers werequarantined in their snug littlehomes, while visions oftravel danced in their heads …
“Okay Ingrid, snap out of it”. I do believe the soaring 100 degree plus Fahrenheit temps in Phoenix, Arizona, have caused something to dance in my head, or is it the increase in consumption of brownies and alcohol? 🤫 Staying housebound in a tiny home, aka RV, during the Phoenix hot season is obviously not an ideal scenario.
Weather is temperamental
April is always an interesting month for the weather. The changing of seasons is rarely gradual. When we lived in Colorado, April always found winter making at least one final appearance by dumping a boatload of snow just when we were ready to welcome spring. It’s as if winter is talking to spring and saying, “Ah ah, not so fast”.
It’s somewhat similar here in the desert southwest, but instead of cold, it’s heat. Sometime in April, the weather warns us of the impending summer heat by sending us those soaring hot temps. We’ll get a reprieve (hopefully) before real summer sets in. Last year, we enjoyed lovely weather in May, but so far this first week in May is not looking promising for any kind of break from the soaring temps. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out. Let’s face it, so far 2020 isn’t playing nice. So I don’t have high expectations for anything these days.
With that said, it’s that time of year in the desert southwest when those that can do and those that can’t suffer.
I’m talking about hitting the road and escaping the desert heat. Fortunately, we fall into the lucky category where we get to leave Phoenix for the entire summer.
Others will try and get a reprieve on weekends by traveling either up to northern Arizona or to the White Mountains in eastern Arizona where temperatures can easily drop by at least 20 degrees.
Our plan is to endure the Phoenix weather until the end of May and then hightail it up to northern Wisconsin to stay on Al’s sister’s property. We stayed there last year but took a little over three weeks to drive the 1,900 miles. This time around, Al has fishing on the brain and just wants to get there asap, plus with this whole pandemic thing, it’s probably best not to meander. Beam me up, Scotty!
I don’t think anyone could’ve envisioned something like a pandemic shutting down the country and impacting our freedom to travel, but I think it’ll be okay for us to drive to Al’s sister’s place by the end of May. However, we will be cautious on our drive there and reconsider doing any further excursions this summer once settled on private property. I had a list of places in Michigan’s Upper Pennisula that I wanted to visit, not to mention returning to the north shore of Lake Superior. Time will tell how it’ll all play out this summer!
For those of us living a nomadic lifestyle, we’ve had to rethink our travel plans and some nomads have needed to do some serious scrambling just to find suitable accommodations to abide by the ‘stay at home / shelter in place’ orders. Sue and Dave over at Travel Tales of Life have recently written a series of blog posts showcasing folks from around the world and how the pandemic has impacted their lives personally. I was honored to be asked to be a guest writer. You can check out their blog here.
Back to visions dancing in my head
So with visions of Wisconsin dancing in my head, I thought I’d share a lake tale with you …
Ingrid and the Game Warden
It was a beautiful summer day in northern Wisconsin. Al had spent the better part of the morning on the boat fishing. After several hours of fishing, he returned home to take a nap.
Considering it was such a lovely day and the lake looked so inviting, while Al napped, I decided to take the boat out. I motored out a short distance to a quiet bay, dropped the anchor, and began reading my book. “Ah, this is the life!”
While turning a page, I glanced up at the approaching boat which appeared to be a Game Warden. He pulls up alongside my boat and says, “Good morning, Ma’am, what are you doing”?
“Reading a book”, I replied, (thinking to myself, “isn’t that obvious”?)
The Game Warden informs me, “You’re in a Restricted Fishing Area”.
In a very polite voice, I responded, “I’m sorry officer, but I’m not fishing, I’m reading”.
“Yes, but you have all the equipment. So, I’ll have to write you up a ticket”.
“For reading a book?”, I asked quizzically.
“You’re in a Restricted Fishing Area, Ma’am”, he says rather matter of factly.
Somewhat exasperated, I stated once again, “Sir, I’m not fishing, I’m reading”.
“Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I’ll have to write you up a ticket and you’ll have to pay a fine.”
“If you do that, I’ll have to charge you with sexual assault,” I responded.
“But I haven’t even touched you”, explained the Game Warden.
“That’s true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment”.
“Have a nice day ma’am”, he responded and quickly motored away.
So maybe this didn’t actually happen in real life, but it could’ve.🤣
MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It’s likely she can also think.
I hope you enjoyed a little chuckle and you all are having a great day and staying healthy. And although we may have to rethink our travels and possibly make new plans for the summer, we’ll get through this challenging time and may even discover new hobbies in the process. Cyber hugs!
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A nomadic lifestyle may seem like a dream and for many, it is especially in the beginning, but there are some disadvantages to the nomadic life that become evident over time and more so now than ever before. Al and I have been living in our RV full-time for the past seven years, and we have a pretty good handle on the slew of emotions, good and bad, that come with living a nomadic life.
The life of an RV nomad is usually filled with a mixture of thoughts and emotions that will ebb and flow from day to day … excitement, dreamy, adventurous, rewarding … along with challenging, uncertainty, and fear. Let’s add in a worldwide pandemic and those challenges, uncertainties, and fear are taken to a whole new level.
Shelter in Place – Stay at Home – Social Distance
Those are new phrases that many of us have never used or used on any sort of regular basis prior to March of 2020. These days, stay at home, shelter in place or social distancing are phrases we hear routinely on a daily basis. We’re living in a new reality that has brought to light a major disadvantage for those living a nomadic life.
We’ve seen our favorite nomad YouTuber’s stuck in foreign countries or scrambling to get back home … wherever they consider home. We’ve seen our fellow RV nomads posting on Facebook and RV forums asking for help in finding a spot to shelter in place. Across the United States, campgrounds and public lands are closing left and right and in the process canceling reservations that full-time RVers were counting on as a place to live. RVers are told to return home. The problem for a full-time RVer is they have no physical home to return to. Home is where we park it. So, where are these full-time nomads expected to shelter-in-place?
Fear and uncertainty
When local governments started ordering non-essential businesses to close, that included campgrounds – public and private. Apparently, no one took into consideration the million or so Americans that live in their RVs full-time.
With the help of several RV organizations, a few state governments were flooded with pleas, and fortunately, we’ve seen either a rule reversal or a little leniency regarding the essential need for private RV Parks to remain open.
The situation varies from state to state and here in Arizona, the rules aren’t as strict or cut and dry as in other states.
Sure the Grand Canyon is currently closed to all visitors, but private RV Parks throughout Arizona are open and left to make their own judgment call in regards to accepting new guests.
Also, most BLM (government-owned) land in Arizona is still available as a place for RVers to hunker down.
Considering Arizona is such an RV friendly state with a huge population of full-time RVers living here half the year, I believe our local government is well aware of these facts and realize cutting off RV access would not solve anything but rather cause a whole new problem.
In addition, many of these private RV Parks in Arizona and Florida have year-round residents. Some of these folks live in Park Models while others in an RV. Asking folks to leave an RV Resort would be tantamount to asking anyone in a traditional subdivision that they’d have to move out of their house.
So, since Al and I rent an annual lot, we weren’t in any jeopardy of not having a place to shelter or ‘stay at home‘, and we’ll stay home in Phoenix until we’re told it’s safe to travel again. But many of our RV friends aren’t as lucky and are scrambling to find a solution. No one wants to be the cause of spreading this virus any more than it already has and most full-time RVers aren’t traveling unless forced to by circumstances.
We’ve seen the good in people when complete strangers offer up shelter to those in need. Whether it’s a room in a house or a driveway or piece of land to park the RV, these stories are heartwarming. We’ve also seen the not so good from rude individuals posting nasty comments on social media (biz as usual for some, I guess). But overall, good seems to prevail during this time of crisis.
Freedom and Independence
Most of us choose the RV lifestyle to immerse ourselves in a sense of freedom and independence. We long to discover the country’s deepest secrets and hidden gems. We strive to capture the perfect landscape photo and/or Instagram selfie (guilty of both). After all, it’s the stuff dreams are made of … trading in the traditional nine-to-five routine for a freewheeling, wind in your hair kind of carefree lifestyle – a lifestyle of freedom.
Freedom:the absence of constraint in choice or action. The state of being free, independent, without restrictions.
For RVers, freedom usually means having the ability to go wherever whenever one chooses. We live independently on our terms. We’re adventurers, explorers, and out of the box thinkers.
But what happens when we’re told we can no longer move freely about? What does our life begin to look like? We’re not the kind of people to linger in one spot long enough for the grass to grow under our feet, but we’re living in uncertain times and unchartered waters and the wheels need to stop rolling. Some RVers have found a place to ride this unconventional storm out while others are still struggling and wondering where they can park for the foreseeable future. We’re all in this together and trying to find a new normal.
First weeks of ‘social distancing’ followed by a ‘stay at home’ order
What is normal during a pandemic? I spent the better part of March binge-watching stuff on my computer accompanied by feelings of denial, surreal, and WTF. Now in my defense, I’ll remind everyone that I was extremely ill during the month of February and it took most of March for me to regain my energy. Hey, when I get sick, I get sick, no mild stuff for this gal…. sigh! With that said, I still have an occasional cough that freaks people out every now and then. (always uses arm to cover mouth 😷)
Yep, it’s just an annoying cough. I’ve been to the doctor, had a CT scan, followed up with other medical stuff and I’m perfectly fine … finer than frog’s hair. Ever since I had Valley Fever a few years ago, I’m more susceptible to coughing than the typical person.
And now that I’ve flipped the calendar to April, I feel renewed, one might even say normal, whatever that is these days. Yeah, the world is still turned upside down, but my energy has returned and instead of being a blob on the couch, I’m once again a productive human being, well kind of. I’ve managed to stock up on way too many groceries, filling every nook and cranny in the RV. I have enough toilet paper, paper towels and kleenex to last us for the next six months. (I am sharing and not hoarding, just so y’all know)
I’ve been having fun in the kitchen playing around with new recipes and getting in some much-needed exercise so I don’t pack on the pounds with my tasty experiments. Life is slow and relaxing at the moment. Life has its stressful moments, but I have confidence that we’ll get through this.
I’m not sure how different life will look on the other side. I do have concerns, especially for the rising unemployment. Al and I know what’s it’s like to have bills, a mortgage, and a couple of small children and lose our income unexpectedly. That’s not a situation I’d wish on my worst enemy, and yet, millions of people around the globe are experiencing this unfortunate dilemma. Tourism in Arizona has been especially hit hard and many of our acquaintances are out of work … temporarily, I hope. My heart aches for these folks!
Every time I visit the grocery store, Walmart, or the RV dealer for parts (time to tend to those RV repairs), I thank the folks for working and make sure I stand as far away from them as possible. I keep those outings few and far between with hopes we can stop this virus from lingering or spreading any further.
Hitch itch and that desire to get those wheels rolling onto some new scenery are starting to settle in for many of us. I’m in dire need of a new landscape to photograph, but until we can hit the road, I’ll focus on cooking, taking advantage of this slow pace of life, and doing my part binge-watching something.
Stay safe and healthy, my friends. Remember,
alcohol kills germs.😀
Life is like a rollercoaster. It’s full of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s not. There’s solace in knowing we’re all in this together … all in for a heck of a ride … a ride called life. Besides, how boring would it be if it was continuous smooth sailing? After all, couldn’t we all use a little excitement in our lives from time to time? But please, just not too much excitement, huh! Yeah, life has been a little too exciting lately and not in a good way. I’m sure you can agree!
I’ve always been entertained by a good rollercoaster ride at an amusement park despite my propensity for motion sickness. Rollercoasters usually don’t make me sick. However, don’t put me on a tilt-a-whirl. I guarantee motion sickness will rear its ugly head by that spinning dizzying motion, and let’s not even talk about the rolling of a sailboat. 🤢 Nope, no tilt-a-whirls or sailing for this gal. Did I ever tell you guys during my first day on the job as a Flight Attendant, I threw up eleven times? Ah, not a day I’d care to repeat, but those tales are for another day.
Today, let’s talk about viruses … okay, not just any virus … the Coronavirus aka COVID-19 and its nauseating, dizzying effect on everyday life.
Dealing with a Pandemic
Illness of any kind isn’t fun, but add in the emotion of fear, and you’re dealing with a whole different animal. So many ups, downs, twists, and turns! Fear makes people panic and act and do things out of character. I understand the importance of getting ahead of the spread of this virus (it’s serious stuff) and containing it as much as possible is very critical. I truly do understand the importance!
And even though we are dealing with extreme matters and doing our part by practicing good hygiene and social distancing, I fail to understand the sudden hoarding of products specifically toilet paper. I guess the fear of running out of TP is on everyone’s mind 💩
Finding humor in a non-humorous moment
Due to the rush and hoarding of toilet paper, most of us are seeing a shortage. Store shelves are void of this precious commodity and many (me included) are afraid of running out. There’s a couple of local grocery stores here in Phoenix, Arizona that are offering seniors (65 and older) their own special time to shop; from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday mornings.
Taking full advantage of my husband’s old age 🤫, this past Wednesday I kicked him out of bed and loaded him into my little red truck before 5:00 a.m. I bribed him with the promise of a pastry! It was a dark, cold, drizzly morning. I was on a mission … a toilet paper mission. We stood in line outside the store in the drizzling rain with all the other seniors waiting for the doors to open.
Shopping crowds – so much for social distancing! At exactly 5:00 a.m. we were given entrance. Initially, it seemed very calm and civilized until a few folks broke from the crowd into a gentle sprint. Clearly, they weren’t interested in grabbing a shopping cart but were focused on one thing … toilet paper.
Not one to be outrun by an oxygen tank totting eighty-year-old, Al’s 6’3″+ frame with long legs quickly outstepped his competition and took the lead.
Being one of the first to snag the largest package of toilet paper from the top shelf, Al quickly handed it off to me and then proceeded to help his sprinting competitor. Al’s height and large stature, in comparison to the other senior shoppers, drew attention.
Shortly after helping the oxygen totting gentleman, a frail woman taped Al with her cane and said, “Hey Sonny, can you grab me a package?” Next thing you know, Al was helping hand out packages of toilet paper and in just a few minutes the once well-stocked shelves were once again bare.
Several of us lingered near the aisle and looked at the barren shelves while holding our allotted one package of TP like a trophy and just shook our heads amusingly. “This is crazy”, several folks commented while another said, “I never imagined I would ever see anything like this in my lifetime”.
After our toilet paper mission was accomplished, Al and I picked up a few more staples and with our shopping cart less than half full, we paid for our purchases and headed to the truck. It was still dark, rainy, and cold, but in the truck, we each had a thermal container filled with hot coffee waiting accompanied by a newly purchased fresh pastry as a reward for a job well done.
After a few gulps of steaming coffee, we looked at each other and laughed. Al said, “I never thought I’d go grocery shopping at 5:00 in the morning, let alone have a good time doing so”. Al was thanked numerous times by folks who clearly could not have reached the top shelf or been able to bend over easily to pull from the bottom shelf. What an interesting morning, indeed!
I’ll admit, I was relieved to snag that large package of toilet paper. I wasn’t feeling so confident two days earlier. You see, after living in the RV (less than 300 square feet) for the past seven years, I’ve developed a routine of sorts. Most RV refrigerator-freezers need to be defrosted routinely. I usually defrost mine about every three months and knowing this, I allow our frozen food supply to dwindle regularly. And with only a 6 cubic foot refrigerator, I’ve increased my Tetris skills drastically. Tetris skills are a prerequisite for RV living.
Likewise, when it comes to keeping our little home on wheels (aka RV) organized and clean. I like to use up our provisions before restocking and I take full advantage of poorly stocked RV shelves and a near-empty fridge to clean, reorganize, and strategically plan out the restocking.
I promise you won’t find any packaged or canned food items in our RV that are close to the expiration date. I couldn’t promise that when we lived in our large custom sticks and bricks home with a huge walk-in pantry. My daughter loved pointing out the expired dates on some of the food items that I’d accumulated.
Yeah, when you have more room than you need, things get overlooked, but not so in our RV 5th wheel where storage space is a precious commodity.
With all that said, I was in the low on supplies process for some thorough spring cleaning when the coronavirus hit. I knew COVID-19 was serious, but I never anticipated the fear factor leading to barren shelves at the stores.
Fortunately, we still had three rolls of toilet paper and enough food for at least a couple of weeks. So, I didn’t panic … until I went to Walmart to pick up just a few things. I was smacked in the face with a new reality. I found myself asking, “What if we run out of toilet paper?”
I love my neighbors! It was a beautiful morning in the neighborhood and while my neighbor and I were chit-chatting about this new way of life, she informed me that she was so glad she stocked up on TP from Costco before this whole hoopla began. My ears perked up! Did she say she had lots of toilet paper? Before she could get out another sentence, I asked if I could buy a few rolls of TP from her. My urgency was knowing the fact that they decided to head back to their home in Michigan early and would be leaving soon. So, I didn’t feel I had time to waste.
“Of course”, she responded, “Isn’t that what neighbors do … help each other out?” She refused to take any money for the three rolls of toilet paper which didn’t sit well with me. So I gave her a bottle of hand soap from Bath & Body Works (I love their pump hand soaps). Yep, life has resorted to bartering for toilet paper. Talk about some interesting twists, turns, and ups and downs!
Well, after a few excursions to various stores, my cupboards are full, the fridge and freezer are full, and we pretty much have everything we need for the next month with the exception of fresh fruits and veggies which seem to be in adequate supply at the grocery stores … for now, anyway.
Adding a little levity
So what does one do in the event of no toilet paper? Use Bounce dryer sheets for a wrinkle-free, fresh-smelling bum that’ll put a bounce in your step! Okay, I’m only kidding. It won’t take the wrinkles out of your bum 🤣
Let’s try and stay positive knowing this too shall pass. Sending good vibes and well wishes your way! How are you dealing with current life?
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I love the diversity of our RV lifestyle. We’re able to live in a major city one day and move out into nature the next. And when we come across a city such as Phoenix that offers both environments in relatively close proximity, I say this is an RVers dream … jackpot!
“May you live in interesting times.”
BUT … Life is anything but normal these days and I’d be remiss if I jumped right into the content of this post without mentioning a couple of things.
March is usually the busiest and best month to visit Phoenix, Arizona. Wildflowers are in abundance adding vibrant color to our desert landscape, not to mention the beautiful blue skies and near-perfect temperatures that are enjoyed by all. But not his year! Not only has the weather been schizophrenic leaving us wondering what has happened to our wonderful March weather, but the coronavirus has turned the tourism and stock markets into a volatile frenzy.
The Phoenix valley’s robust tourism industry has been severely impacted by potential visitors canceling reservations left and right. Resorts that are normally booked solid and charging premium rates are now half empty and offering discounts. Baseball spring training has also been canceled and all the stores are out of toilet paper. Out of toilet paper! Really?
Ah, but let’s all revel in the fact that this too shall pass and life will return to normal eventually … soon, I hope. For now, I’ll immerse myself in summer trip planning and images of wildflowers. The wildflowers are a given, but our summer travels could be in question if current conditions were to continue.
I’m sure we can all agree that there’s currently too much uncertainty right now that might affect our travels. However, I’m optimistic and think in another month things will turn around, and therefore, our summer travels will continue as planned.
So, let’s get back to talking fun stuff!
An RV friendly city in Arizona
There are so many things to see and do in a big city; museums, restaurants, stores, sporting events, other events, and the list goes on, but the solitude and beauty of nature are always a strong pull for me. What if we can enjoy both?
It’s a rare treat to find an RV friendly city, and when we do, we like to plan a lengthy stay allowing us plenty of time to immerse ourselves in everything big city life has to offer. Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona and Phoenix is RV friendly, this city has become our winter home.
The Phoenix valley is not only super popular with RVers but equally popular with all kinds of other visitors; snowbirds, vacationers, convention traffic, seminars, etc. Peak tourist season is January, February, and March … March is the busiest due to Spring Break, excellent weather, and baseball spring training (Cactus League).
The lodging options throughout the Phoenix valley are abundant and diverse. For those of us with RVs, we can find everything from scenic campgrounds to full-on RV Resorts complete with resort-style pools, pickleball courts, and golf courses. For non-RVers, there’s everything from inexpensive hotels, to vacation rentals, to mega-resorts, and everything in between.
If you plan on visiting the Phoenix area and are looking for an RV spot for less than a 2-week stay, I would highly recommend Lost Dutchman State Park. It’s one of our favorite campgrounds. We love the views, hiking trails, and location. Lost Dutchman State Park offers a feeling of being in the backcountry, and yet, shopping and restaurants in nearby Apache Junction are less than a 15-minute drive away … the best of both worlds.
Coming in second to Lost Dutchman State Park would be one of the campgrounds in the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation system. Our personal preference is either Cave Creek Regional Park or Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Our friends prefer McDowell Mountain or Usery Mountain. McDowell Mountain Regional Park is well known for its biking trails while Lake Pleasant is known for its water recreation. There’s definitely a little something for everyone around here.
And of course, there are plenty of private RV parks throughout the valley. So many, that I couldn’t possibly list them all. Most are 55+ communities but there are a few that aren’t age-restricted.
Valley Talk … The term “Phoenix valley” refers to the actual city of Phoenix as well as her dozen-plus surrounding suburbs. It makes communication easier. You might hear folks comment, “That’s in the east valley (meaning Scottsdale, Mesa, etc.) or that’s in the west valley (meaning Glendale, Goodyear, etc.). Then there’s the north valley near the town of Anthem where I am currently parked. Most people in the U.S. know where Phoenix, Arizona is located, but not everyone has heard of Mesa, Glendale, or Anthem. Therefore, by using the term ‘Phoenix valley’, people have an easy grasp of where in Arizona one is talking about.
Things we like to do in the Phoenix valley …
There’s a never-ending schedule of art shows, craft shows, sporting events, or other events to attend throughout the year in the Phoenix valley. I always discover some unique event worth checking out. Although hiking and photography top my list of favorite activities, there are so many other great recreational and educational opportunities to explore. Yes, RVing in a major city definitely has its pluses.
The Farmers Market in Old Town Scottsdale is a great way to start a Saturday morning. I’ll admit, it usually feels a little strange attending a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, but keep in mind, you won’t find a Farmers Market around here during the summer months when temps sore into the 100 degree plus Fahrenheit range. It takes most northerners a little time to wrap their heads around a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, me included.
Corporate conventions and various educational seminars are held throughout the year in Phoenix or Scottsdale. I always keep an eye out for these special events for us to attend. One of our favorites is attending educational TD Ameritrade seminars. We’ve even had the pleasure of meeting Joe ‘JJ’ Kinahan. If you’re a trader or CNBC watcher, then shaking hands with a “celebrity” like JJ might be a real treat like it was for me. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet some of the various traders/instructors from the Think or Swim trading platform. They are always a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
Let’s get social
Because Phoenix is such a popular travel destination for RVers and non-RVers alike, we never know who we might bump into. It’s always a pleasure connecting with my social media friends in person. Every winter, we enjoy numerous get-togethers with blog readers, blog writers, or folks from other social media platforms. Over the years, we’ve developed some amazing friendships via social media. Phoenix is the perfect city to physically connect with like-minded people.
Nature around Phoenix
Although I enjoy most aspects of big city living, I have a need to be close to nature and wildlife. Fortunately, with plenty of parks and open space located throughout Maricopa County, I’m still able to get my nature fix while living in a big city.
There’s some amazing scenery in this part of Arizona. Just outside of the city, in the east valley is one of my favorite scenic drives. Driving the Apache Trail makes for a perfect day trip, but before embarking on this drive, do your homework. The stretch of road between the town of Tortilla Flat and Lake Roosevelt is a gravel road and can be pretty rough in spots. A high clearance vehicle is usually recommended. Always check with the local ranger station for up to date conditions regarding Route 88/Apache Trail.
Have you ever visited Phoenix, Arizona? What’s your favorite city to visit?
And please stay healthy and safe out there!
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Photography has surged in popularity in the past decade with the emergence of social media and smartphones. Even though we’re all taking more photographs, many of us assume we’re limited in our talents due to our equipment. I’m here to say it’s not about the equipment, and you can create great, even amazing, photographs with any camera.
I’ve had an interest in photography as long as I can remember, but my true passion didn’t emerge until we hit the road full-time in our RV several years ago.
After wearing out a couple of point and shoot cameras, I upgraded to a Bridge camera. I still suffer from camera envy and may one day switch to a Mirrorless Camera, but for now, my Lumix(s) fits my needs … certainly not professional-grade cameras by any means.
We’ve slowed down our travels somewhat and now spend our winters settled in an RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy this RV community and the friendships that have developed.
Although I don’t engage in many activities at the RV Park, I do co-host a photography group … a group of like-minded RVers who share a passion for photography. Not only have I learned a few things, but I’ve also been able to teach and share a few tidbits of my own photography knowledge.
I still consider myself a novice photographer, or rather more of a photo snapper and try to improve my skills with every click of the camera.
Being involved in the RV Park Photo Group has served as a great learning experience for everyone involved. Our group consists of every level of shooter along with every level of camera. Yes, we are indeed a diverse group of photo enthusiasts.
Here are a few tips that our RV Park Photo Group discussed on how to create more professional-looking images with any camera.
15 Beginner Tips – How to take better looking photographs
1. Learn your camera inside and out. This might mean diving into that owner’s manual and actually reading it. If you don’t have a manual, no worries, a Google search will come to the rescue. And don’t forget YouTube tutorials. It really is necessary to know how all the settings work and what they mean. Even if you won’t use all the features, it’s important that you’re comfortable navigating the camera’s menu and settings with ease, especially in the field.
Always half-press the camera’s shutter button before taking the shot. On an iPhone, simply tap the screen for your desired focal-point (a little yellow box appears around the item when you do). Once you know where your camera is focused, you can decide if this is where you want the focal point to be in the image, and if not, start over.
One of the best things I did when I first bought my iPhone 8+ last year was to attend some free seminars at the local Apple store. Needless to say, there were a few ah-ha moments by many of the attendees … me included.
2. Shoot regularly. The best way to improve your photography and get comfortable with your camera is to shoot often. Considering digital photography is free, there’s no reason not to spend hours behind your camera clicking away. Learn to love the delete button but always delete in your computer (unless you’ve taken a complete dud, like your lap or something 😆). You’ll be surprised by how an image might appear on your LED screen versus your computer screen. Sometimes it looks better in the camera and sometimes an image looks better on the computer. So give the photo a chance and review it on your computer screen before deleting it.
Experiment with different subjects, different camera settings, and different light. Over time you’ll develop a style and voice that will be authentic to you.
3. Stabilize your camera to achieve sharp photos. Obviously, the best way to stabilize a camera is by using a tripod, but that’s not always convenient, especially if you’re lazy like me and leave the tripod at home. So, the next best thing to do is to use a wall, fence post, or another stable surface to minimize camera shake. Learn to hold your camera correctly and pay attention to your breathing when pressing the shutter. And be sure to have stabilization turned on when handholding and turned off when using a tripod.
4. Use the Camera’s “scene” modes. Cameras and phones are smarter than ever before. Therefore, take advantage of the camera’s preset scene modes. The various modes optimize your camera’s settings and do the thinking for us. Depending on your camera various modes may include; landscape, food, action, portrait, night, and more. I love using these settings, but I always shoot the same image in P (program) mode or A (aperture priority). Remember, taking digital images is free. So shoot away and shoot the same subject using different settings.
On my iPhone 8+, I use the portrait mode to capture food or flowers and create great Bokeh (blurred background).
5. See the light. Before clicking that shutter, observe and assess the light. The first step to creating better photographs is understanding light. Think about how the light interacts with the scene and subject. Is the light highlighting an area or casting unique shadows? Light plays a vital role in the mood and interest of a photograph and is the most important element in creating a great photograph.
Composition guidelines for newbies
6. Rule of Thirds. This is one of the most common tips when it comes to improving your photographs. It’s an easy technique and will aid in making an image more interesting. Think about cutting the frame into thirds by using both horizontal and vertical lines. Then place your point of interest over the cross-sections of the grid.
I have the gridlines always turned “on” on both my camera and my iPhone. By doing so, it aids in composing my image and keeping my camera level. Actually, when I attended a seminar at the Apple Store, the first thing they recommended was to turn on the gridlines on the phone.
7. Leading Lines. This is probably my favorite form of composition. I’m always looking for leading lines to photograph. This type of composition draws the eye into the image.
8. Interesting foreground. Adding an interesting foreground object will give depth to a photograph, especially in landscape photography.
9. Patterns are a repetition of objects, shapes, or colors. Patterns are everywhere if we once train our eyes to notice them.
10. Negative space. When shooting people, animals, or birds, always leave a little extra room in the image toward the direction the subject is looking. This creates interest and mystery. The viewer may wonder what the subject is looking at.
11. Rule of odds. While composing an image, try to include an odd number of elements in the frame. This is a common practice in interior design. With an odd number of subjects, the image becomes more balanced.
12. Include a frame. A natural frame around the main subject will add depth to the image by drawing the viewer’s attention into the photo. Think about a window or tree framing a subject.
13. Move your feet. Learn to shoot from different angles and varying heights. Moving your body closer to or further away from your subject can often create a more dramatic shot. Walk around looking for a unique perspective. Don’t rely on a zoom lens … move your feet and body and explore the subject’s surroundings.
Final thoughts for beginner photographers
14. Get good at processing. Every image needs some amount of processing, some images more than others. Embrace the process, learn the software, be creative and comfortable with whatever program you use. I’m a huge fan of Photoshop Lightroom while others prefer Photoshop Elements (similar to Photoshop, but geared toward beginners). These days, there are a number of photographic editing platforms to choose from. Some are free and some subscription-based. Find something that works for you and get good at it.
15. Slow down and don’t rush the process. Take the time to think about what is going on in your viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Think about the composition and what you’re trying to capture. Understand the creative process and make intentional decisions. Learn to tell a story with your photos. See the light, the lines, the moments, the little things, BUT be willing to put the camera down awhile and truly experience your surroundings and then photograph whatever makes you happy.
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Traveling full-time, part-time, or some-time can be exhilarating but at the same time exhausting. Finding a travel style and pace takes time and practice and will most likely change as you and your desires change.
Long before Al and I bought an RV, we usually traveled by air to our destination, and on occasion, we tent camped. Even when we were younger, whether we were flying or road-tripping, finding a pace that wouldn’t wear us out was always a priority. After all, the whole purpose of traveling was for us to explore and immerse ourselves in new places and that would require good health and plenty of energy. Most times, this was easier said than done!
For the better part of a month, I’ve battled a nasty cold that has kept me housebound, or rather RV bound. All that downtime had my mind wandering aimlessly. I was focused on feeling better. I was reminded of how important it is for us to listen to our bodies. During my illness, my body seemed to crave soup and vegetables. And of course, being the smart gal that I am, I listened to my body and fed it what it wanted.
So while downing gallons of warm nourishing soup, (okay, maybe it wasn’t gallons, but I bet it was close 😆) my mind drifted to places I’d like to visit and photograph. My poor camera has been sitting idle in the camera bag for weeks, and that does not make for a happy camper around this RV. Although I’m finally beginning to feel better, I’m still struggling with a lack of energy. Even with an addled mind and lack of energy, I’m still fantasizing about RV adventures.
Energy? … During our travels (and we’ve traveled a lot), Al and I have learned plenty of lessons the hard way … including the importance of food, rest, and listening to our bodies. By fueling ourselves properly and getting a good night’s sleep, we can put in ten-hour driving days. Now mind you, that’s not preferable but sometimes necessary.
I think we’ve all experienced those long road trips … grab some junk food, wash it down with some carbonated soda, and call it good. And an hour later, we’re either ready for a nap or just not feeling well, and we certainly aren’t enjoying the adventure of rolling down the road when we feel less than optimal.
Our bodies are constantly sending us messages in an attempt to find a happy balance. Are we smart enough to listen? I truly believe, the best thing for overall health is to learn what our bodies are telling us. Therefore, we can make better decisions that’ll help keep us healthy, energized, focused, and ready to discover what’s around the next bend.
When we feel great, we can immerse ourselves whole-heartedly in exploring new places, new environments, and new adventures.
And get that camera clicking again!
7 Tips for health and energy when traveling
1. Eating for fuel. Just like we try to put quality gasoline in our vehicle so it’ll perform optimally, we need to do the same for our bodies. This means being aware of what our body needs and eating when we’re hungry and stopping when we’re full.
Step away from the potato chips and no one will get hurt. Mindless snacking while sitting in a car or airplane due to boredom doesn’t do anyone any favors. That’s not to say, the occasional snack needs to be avoided, but in moderation and only after the body has been properly nourished.
When I know we’re getting ready for a stretch of long travel days, I meal plan ahead of time. Obviously, one of the best things about RVing is bringing my kitchen along. I’m able to keep items easily chilled and when it’s time to eat, all we have to do is find a convenient place to pull over. Badda bing Badda boom, lunch is served!
2. Hydration is probably the most important thing we can do to maintain our health and energy, and not just while traveling, but every day. If you’re feeling tired, drink a tall glass of water. If you’re feeling hungry, drink a tall glass of water. If you’re having trouble focusing, drink a tall glass of water. I think you get the idea!
Paying attention to our water intake is even more important when visiting higher elevations or dry arid climates. If you once start feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated and probably feeling somewhat fatigued. Water is the only nutrient that has been shown to enhance performance for all activities including the most demanding endurance activities. So drink up!
3. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to maintaining health and energy throughout the day. I think many of us may underestimate the effect disrupted or shortened sleep can have on our overall well-being.
Things to consider … avoid exposure to bright screens like phones, computers, or tablets right before going to bed. Studies have shown, the light from these devices interferes with our natural body clock making it more difficult to fall asleep. And speaking of body clock, try to stick to a routine. Al and I go to bed almost every night around 10:00 and get out of bed every morning around 6:00 making for a solid eight hours of sleep.
Avoid caffeine after a given time of day. This is where listening to our body comes into play again. Personally, I stay away from anything caffeinated much after 3:00 in the afternoon. Most people aren’t quite as sensitive as I am, but this is something to take note of and be aware of the effects of caffeine on you personally.
4. Move! Last summer while enduring some very long driving days as we transitioned from northern Wisconsin to Phoenix, Arizona, Al and I frequently stopped at rest areas to stretch our legs. Energy begets energy! If you’ve been sitting for hours on end in a car, RV, or airplane, simply standing up and doing some squats or getting in some walking will immediately get the blood flowing and make you feel more energized.
Don’t forget to get in some deep breathing while you’re at it.
Al and his supervisor. I don’t know why we thought a flat tire in the middle of nowhere was funny, but we did!
I love my MacGyver! Changing the RV tire somewhere in northern Arizona. No services!
5. Laugh! Al and I are the kind of people that seem to find humor in most situations. We don’t take life or ourselves too seriously. Studies have shown that laughing can boost energy and be a stress reliever. So, while you’re sitting on the side of the road in a broken-down RV waiting for assistance (if you can even get assistance), pull up YouTube on your phone and watch some silly videos. Laugh! Life is too short not to.😁
Or if you’re like us and tend to break down in places without cell service (no internet), then all you can do is laugh at the situation, or make fun of your partner. We’ve been traveling in our RV since 2011 and have made a ton of RVing mistakes. At the beginning of our RV journey, these mishaps and mistakes would overwhelm and stress us and now we just shrug, tackle, and laugh.
Our favorite word to say after an incident is “recalculating“. Not only do we need to reaccess our schedule, but we need to be honest about how we’re feeling. Once again, we listen to our bodies! We may change the pace, grab a healthy snack, hydrate with water, coffee, or tea, or better yet, eat chocolate. Oh yeah, my fave!
6. When all else fails, eat chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better! Chocolate has caffeine which is a quick pick-me-up, and it also has flavonoids that have been shown to boost cognitive skills and improve mood. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m all in for improving my mood and functioning brain. So, we always have a stash of chocolate in the RV.
By the way, I’ll take one for the team, and eat your share of chocolate if cocoa ain’t your thang!🤣
I had enough energy to visit four states at the same time 😄 Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona – Four Corners.
Map of Four Corners
7. Listen to your body and do a mental check-in. We need to check-in with ourselves and travel companions regularly to access how we’re feeling. This is the perfect time to get real with what our bodies are telling us. And this holds true for our furry travel companions as well.
When we worked in the airline industry, we used to call it “get home-itis” (The determination of a pilot to reach a destination even when conditions for flying are dangerous). Don’t fall victim to “get there-itis“. When feeling tired, that’s not the time to ignore what your body is telling you and push through. This is when mistakes and accidents happen. Listen to your body! Be clear on how everyone is feeling and make simple changes as needed.
Pace yourself, drink water and eat more chocolate. If you’re not feeling your best and you’re driving, pull over … if you’re on a cruise, forgo that shore excursion … if you’re flying, take a nap. If you don’t feel well, do whatever is necessary to regain health and energy.
“The single biggest difference between people who get what they want and people who don’t is energy.”
By listening to our body, we can enjoy our travels while also benefiting from good health and plenty of energy. All it takes is a little inner reflection, planning, and flexibility.
Do you have any travel tips to help maintain health and energy?
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