Monday, June 11, 2012

All About Day 4!

For some reason, being a consistant blogger is just not my forte....I have a million excuses I could give you, but I'll just suck it up and say I am lame for not updating.  I have been back for about 3 weeks now and really miss Alaska. It was so breathtaking, so crisp, clean, and refreshing.  I want to look out my window and see the mountains again.  I want to walk outside and have to wear a jacket because of the chilly morning air.  And I want to be a perpetual traveler.  But alas, bills have to be paid, things need to get done and I had to come back to reality. However, the best thing about travel is that I get to relive it every time I think back to my trip, every time I get to look at my pictures, and it makes me happy! So since I am missing AK, here are some pictures from Day 4! Day 4 was my favorite. This day was my 6 hour whale-watching tour which was phenomenal! Everything about it was awesome. The boat was beautiful and spacious, the captain and park ranger was very nice and super knowledgeable, and the wildlife viewing was STUNNING! Even though it was a bit misty, cloudy, and very cold, it didn't do anything to take away from the fact that I saw just about every Alaskan wildlife possible on that tour! Whales! Sea Lions! Otters! Puffins! The list goes on! I had such a great time and it was my favorite part of the trip! Met some neat people too!

Three leveled boat!

Seward harbor

1st Humpback whale of the day! 

The fluke

Dall's Porpoise

Pod of Orcas


Harbor Seals on floes of ice

Holgate Glacier

Sea lions chillin' 

Friday, May 25, 2012

All About Day 3!

Mountains everywhere!
I made it home safe and sound! It is good to be home, but I am not liking the 90 degree weather here in Indy...would much rather be a bit chilly in the 50 degree weather of beautiful Alaska! I finally have my computer back and internet so I can finally blog and share about my adventure! I was disappointed because in Anchorage the reception was spotty at best and there was hardly any Wi-Fi.  I was counting on that so that I could update my blog while on the road, but I had to roll with the punches.  But you all will get to hear all about it now!! So I left off with Day 3--day 3 was awesome.  I spent the night at a pretty nice hotel after discovering my hostel was completely shut down for renovations and repairs.  I got a great night's rest, hot shower, and some killer waffles for breakfast and was ready for the day! I started off heading to Anchorage's Saturday farmer's market which was amazing! over 100 vendors were there selling their crafts and yummy foods! I saw everything from Native Alaskan knifes to Salmon Quesadillas! I talked with several of the vendors and each one had a different story to share.  Most of the people were not native Alaskans, they had come up to Alaska for one reason or another and ended up staying because they loved it so much (I can see why!) I found some great souvenirs and a couple of memorabilia for me! I even got some porcupine quill earrings! Yup you read right--porcupine! This lady takes the quills that fall off and makes earrings out of them! It is pretty cool!
Porcupine Earrings
Extra Large strawberries because of the extended daylight!

After the farmer's market, I headed out on the Seward Highway! This was definitely a highlight of the trip (who are we kidding, the whole trip was a highlight), there were great views of the mountains and all along the way were pullouts to stop and take pictures and just breathe in the mountain air.  Alaska has a different feel to it, there is something humbling, empowering, and scary all at the same time about standing at the base of a mountain with no one else around and no civilization except for 2 hours by car...

Along the way I saw Dall Sheep (mountain sheep), bald eagles, paragliders, waterfalls, variety of birds, and of course snow and mountains! One of the things I did along the Seward Highway was stop at a small town called Girdwood which is home to a ski resort with a mountain tram.  At this time, the avalanche risk was too high so there weren't any skiers, but the tram was up and running! It took you to the top of the mountain where you could walk around and there was even a restaurant where I grabbed some lunch.  It was snowing and very winter-esque at the top of the mountain...loved it.

View from the Tram
The next stop along the Seward Highway was the Alaska Conservation Center.  This was a really neat place that takes injured or abandoned animals and rehabilitates them until they can get back out to the wild or will give them a home if they aren't able to be released back into the wild.  This place was almost like a safari in the way it was set up, only Alaska style! You drove through with your car but could get out and take pictures or walk around.  They had all sorts of critters there! Bears, Musk Ox, Reindeer, and Lynx, just to name a few.  Plus, all of the proceeds go back directly to the Center.  It was a really neat place and a great way to get up close to real wildlife!

After that and a few other stops for pictures, I made it through the mountains to Seward.  This little town is something different. It is primarily a sea-fishing town, a lot of the locals make their money from harvesting the Salmon that flow into Seward.  Cruise ships dock here as well and that is about the only sign of modern is such a tiny town that the only name I recognized was the Subway they had it town, and that was a big deal! It is a cute town though, and has a lot of character and remains part of a simpler time and way of life...they aren't all tied up with the latest technology or keeping up with the Jones'. They live there for other reasons.  It is literally in the middle of nowhere, with the Gulf of Alaska on the other side of the bay, and Anchorage, the closest city, 3 hours away.  You better fill up your gas tank before heading out of town because the next gas station is about 45 minutes outside of town and you're stuck with no cell reception in the middle of the mountains if you run out! There are only about 3500 people that live there, but there are a lot of tourists that make their way there during the summer and it comes to life, with tours, fishing excursions, kayaking trips, and shopping. :) It took some adjusting to get used to and I had a bit of homesickness this day after arriving in what seemed to me a foreign country...nothing about it at all was familiar to this city girl from corn-filled Indiana. But I survived, and enjoyed every minute! Stay tuned for stories from Day 4 tomorrow!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 2!!

Well, today was interesting! Before I rattle off a bunch of stuff, just want you all to know just how beautiful Alaska really is indescribable. Everywhere you look there are massive, towering snow-capped mountains...literally everywhere! Anchorage seems to be in a valley, with the Chugach mountains to the east, and Mt. McKinley (the tallest mountain in North America!) to the northwest. Awesome. I can see how people could live here...breathtaking! Here is a picture of Mt. McKinley from my phone:
Alright, so here's the rundown. I had a pretty good night at the hostel--little weird sleeping in a room with 4 strangers, but whatever. Headed to the airport and realized I needed to change my itinerary for coming back to Seattle, wasn't going to make it back to the hostel in time on the way back--good practice for being flexible for what was to come...
The flight into Anchorage was beautiful! Clear skies and mountains as far as the eye could see! There was quite a bit of turbulence ...not a fan. After getting to the airport, realized there is hardly any cell phone reception, cause you guessed it, I'm in flippin' Alaska!! But, that means I can't use my phone as a GPS, which I was kind of counting had to fumble my way into downtown, nearly swerving off the road multiple times after staring too long at the mountains. :) Finally arrived at my hostel, only to find it closed down for renovations!! Started to feel a bit overwhelmed, but took a deep breath and used my big girl skills! Found a map, a hotel directory and ended up getting a room right next to the harbor. (Only bad thing is in Alaska prices are crazy and ended up forking over quite a bit for the room) but the good nights rest will be worth it :) After getting settled in my hotel, headed out to get something to eat at a place called Gwennie's--recommended by a friend. It was a neat little local place that it looked like all the fisherman came to after a long day! Definitely a rustic mountain place! Food was good and had my first salmon in Alaska--awesome! Then drove around and explored a bit--found a great overlook of Denali National Park!
Super exhausted tonight! Its 10:15pm here and it's still light out!! Going to try and get some sleep for another big day tomorrow! Can't wait to post my pictures from my camera! :) <3

Day 1!

Well I survived my first day alone! And survived my first experience at a hostel! Let me start by saying I feel very traveler-esque sitting here eating breakfast at my hostel with 3 different languages being spoken around me, world maps posted on the walls and a very soho type feel throughout! Anyways, yesterday was definitely an experience! Started off the day with my flights. First one was good--second one I had the pleasure of sitting next to a screaming baby all the way to Seattle. :) But I did it. On the plane ride into Seattle I had a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier from my window. I let out an audible gasp when I saw it. Just glorious. Made my way through the Seattle airport and found my way to their monorail system--so cool!! It took me about 30 minutes to get into downtown. Once I got downtown, I made my way to my cozy hostel and then turned the corner and Pike Place Market was staring me in the face!! Just like all the pictures! Love it! Plus the waterfront is right behind that, so awesome! I was pretty jet laged from the time difference so I actually ended up taking a nap near the know just another day :) Then it was time for the food tour of PPM--amazing!!! I will share more about that when I get back. But completely awesome. After that, I took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island where I was greeted with what else but rain...but what would a trip to Seattle be without rain! Such a cute town and I made a couple of stops there as well. After drying off, I headed back into Seattle with a great way to end the night--the beautiful lit skyline of downtown Seattle!! I don't have any way to post pictures right now, so unfortunately you'll have to wait but for a preview, check out my facebook!!
Today I am flying into Anchorage and headed to a new adventure! I will try to post again tonight! <3

Monday, May 14, 2012

Final Preparations!!

Um....this is really going down. In 48 hours I will be on my way to the airport to head to ALASKA!! Heck to the yes.  And by the way...I am an official college graduate now! Graduated yesterday with a degree in ASL/English Interpreting--it was a great day.  I had my own personal cheering section and got to spend the day with my family and all my awesome friends.  I definitely felt special and loved! Graduation was my one thing left that I had to focus on before my trip...and now it is know what that means!

I am pretty much ready to go, I haven't started packing yet though, gonna start on that tomorrow.  I need to make a quick trip to the store to pick up a couple of final things like more SD cards for my camera, snacks for the plane, and a new set of headphones.  But I think I am good to go!! I can't believe this is actually happening...I have been planning this for almost 9 months and now it is finally here.  I love planning so much, hopefully the trip is as fun as the planning process!! :)

Honestly, I am kind of freaking out.  What am I thinking going to Alaska by myself?! Ha! Can I really do this? Can I make it alone? What kind of snafus will I run into? And then I remember why I am doing this. I remember my bucket list and the life I want to live--one of exploration, adventure, and taking life by the horns.  I can not believe how big this Earth really is and I am fortunate enough to taste, see, smell, feel, and hear a small corner of it.  I am so thankful that I am able to take this trip, and to share it with all of you!! I will be attempting to blog as much as possible so make sure to check back in this week!! I will also be posting copious amounts of pictures and videos to Facebook so make sure to check that out as well! If for some reason the great wilderness of Alaska does not allow for internet access, you all will just have to wait until I get back to see the 1000s of pictures I am sure I will take (I am convinced my camera will not stop flashing) So get ready!!! Once again, I will leave you with a preview of hopefully what I will see this week!! :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coming Together!

First of all, I am jumping up and down with excitement as I write this (not really, I am actually on my couch, but still really excited!) because I just passed my National Interpreting Certification written test!! For most of you, you have no idea what that means, and that's ok...just trust me that it's a big deal and means I am only one step away from becoming a full-fledged nationally certified interpreter! : ) It has been stressing me out and now I can finally relax and get ready for my trip! ...which happens to be in only 16 days, not that I am counting or anything... : )

Today, I got a lot done in regards to more prep and planning.  I made about 5 reservations today for my activities that I will be doing (the ones I know for sure and that need reservations) I made reservations at Major Marine Tours for my whale-watching excursion, Bardy's trail rides for horseback riding, Savor Seattle for the food tour, and at Seavey's Ididaride for the dog sled tour!  Whew! Here are the links in case you are bored and want to check them out!

Major Marine Tours

Bardy's Trail Rides

Savor Seattle Food Tours

Seavey's Ididaride

I also went ahead and ordered my zoom lens!! Hopefully that will get here soon so I can play with it a bit before I go! Super excited about having a new lens to mess around with and hopefully I will be able to get some great pictures!!

Let's see...what else...I think I have made reservations for everything I can--except for the kayaking, I am giving it a few more days before I try and see if anyone else has signed up...  : )  So in making reservations, I had to pay at the time of booking so most of my trip is now paid for! Which makes it nice! I am still working out how it would be best to carry my money/budget, but I will just need money for food, souvenirs, gas, and a few other activities! Any suggestions on carrying cash or debit cards while gone?? I would love to do the envelopes for my trip, a la Dave Ramsey style, but am worried about it getting stolen.  Any ideas?

Things are definitely coming together!! I have just a handful of things left to do before the big day--I am starting to get nervous now...wondering if I can really pull this off, if everything will live up to my expectations...I am trying to remember to be flexible and keep in mind why I am doing this trip! I know that I will have so much fun, but it is still a little unnerving to be preparing to go over 3000 miles away! Any prayers for the next few weeks will be coveted and appreciated! I am also hoping that in the midst of all my running around and enjoying myself, I take time to pray, journal, reflect, and be thankful for my life and the huge blessing of travel!!!

I will leave you all with another glorious picture of Alaska!!

Seward at dawn (breathtaking!)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

3 Weeks!

Alright!! It is down to 3 weeks from today! I can't believe it is getting so close! I am all done with my college classes (eek!) and now all I have to do is pass a big national certification test and then I can focus on packing and getting ready! Today I went to Target (one of my favorite stores) and picked up some accessories and travel toiletries.  They have all those cute little travel size bottles of stuff--love it! I am still looking for a good, but not expensive, backpack, but other than that, I think I have everything I need to take with me! I also picked up a sleep mask--someone recommended that  since there will be around 20 hours of daylight when I am there! I didn't even think about that...not being able to sleep because the sun won't go down! Haha!

Next week I will work on reservations for some of my activities--want to make sure I get to do everything I have planned.  I have also done some research on renting camera lenses and have found a really neat website called  They have every DSLR lens ever and you can rent them for a couple of days or a couple of weeks! I really want a zoom lens for my Canon so that I can get some good shots of far away wildlife and other landscapes, however....they are ~$1000....yeah.  So at this rental website, for 2 weeks its about $50! Sweet! They ship it to you and then you just ship it back when you're done! Sounds like a deal to me!

I am so excited!! Can't wait until graduation and then 4 days later--Alaska! Heck to the yes! And just for the heck of it, I will leave you all with a glorious picture of Anchorage!

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover."  --Mark Twain

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Itinerary Planning, Part 2

It is now officially less than 30 days until I will be leavin' on a jet plane! I can't believe it! I have so much going on, that it still seems so far off! I still have my last week of classes, a final project, and a big national interpreting test that I have to pass before I can really focus on tying up any loose ends and making sure everything is in place.  Anyways, I left off with the first half of my itinerary last time, so...

Day 5:

This is my outdoor adventure day! I have found a really cool place to go horseback riding (which if you know me, this is one of my favorite things ever!) that goes through the mountains and over creeks, and all sorts of neat scenery! I also am planning on trying kayaking! I have never done this before, so it should be an interesting experience.  The place I want to use will spend time teaching you the basics and then you use a tandem kayak so hopefully I will survive! : )  And actually, I have had my first "hiccup" with the planning in regards to this company.  I emailed them to make a reservation and what was the response? They don't have anyone else signed up that day, and they need at least 2 people to send out an excursion...Haha! I guess that is one drawback to traveling solo! Making reservations sometimes needs 2 people! Hopefully someone else will sign up soon...I really want to learn how to kayak! 

Day 6:

Dog Sled Ride Day!!! Yes, I will be riding on a dog sled!!! ...ok a summer version of a dog sled, i.e., on wheels, put will still be pulled by a team of mushing dogs!!! One of the most famous Iditarod families runs a program where they tell you all about the race, how they raise the dogs, and what being on a dog sled feels like! Oh, and you get to play with Husky puppies! I will unfortunately have to head back to Anchorage later this day to get ready to head back home...this will be a sad day of my trip... I will be leaving Alaska late in the day and will get into Seattle late that evening, so I will be spending the night in Seattle to head out the next day to Indy. 

Day 7:

I will have a little bit of time in the morning to maybe grab some more good Seattle food before catching the long flight back to Indy.  It is going to be a depressing trip home, so be ready for sad updates, tweets, etc! Hopefully I will have learned a lot, have some sweet pictures, and tons of memories to share and treasure! Can't wait to share my adventure with all of you! 

27 days!! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Itinerary Planning, Part 1

So you all are probably wondering just what the heck I will be doing in Alaska...if not, well, too bad cause I am going to tell you anyways! My favorite part, the doing! It has been hard for me not to get to tied down to my itinerary so it will remain flexible and dependent on several factors once I get there.  I have things I want to do, but who knows? Maybe once I get there I will find things I didn't read about in the books and will completely change my plan! That's the great part about traveling solo! If I want to spend more time in one place than I originally planned, I CAN! Why? Because I am running this ship! I am captain of this adventure! : ) Tonight I will let you in on the first half of my itinerary, I will save the rest for later. :)

Day 1:

I will be leaving Indy bright and early in the morning!!! (6:55am!)

Arriving in Seattle around 10am their time...gonna have some jet lag probably since Seattle is 4 hours behind...and I am actually spending the first day of my trip in Seattle.  Really excited about checking out the mecca of foodies/urbanites everywhere!

Hope it's this clear when I am there! 
1st thing in Seattle? Attempt to ride their monorail to my hostel (which is right across the street from Pike's Place jealous. : ) ) Maybe then take a trolley tour of downtown seattle then head over to the Pike's Place Market for a food tour!! Heck yeah! 

This tour takes you around the market, sampling all sorts of foods along the way! Fresh Clam Chowder to local wine and cheese! Oh. yes.

After the awesomness that is the food tour, hopefully I will get to do some exploring and possibly a ferry ride out into Puget Sound..if time permits!

Day 2:

I will have the morning to grab some fresh local/organic breakfast and do a little shopping before boarding my plane to Anchorage.  The flight from Seattle to Anchorage is about 4 hours, I don't think I will be able to stand my excitement!

Once I get to Anchorage and hopefully haven't passed out from sheer beauty of the surroundings, I will grab my rental car, and make my way to my next hostel.  Then I will have some time to just chill and probably go to bed early...I have a feeling I will be quite tired.

Day 3:

Anchorage Farmer's Market!!! They have this every weekend in the summer and I will just happen to be there when it is going on! So excited! I hear they have reindeer jerky?

Some shopping around Anchorage and then it is off to Seward via the Seward highway, one of the most beautiful drives in all of America.  There is so much to see and do along this road, that I am planning on making a day of it and just taking my time getting down to Seward--should be fun! After getting into Seward, I will be checking out the SeaLife Center (an aquarium/rescue program for wildlife) and grabbing some fresh Salmon for dinner!

Day 4:

This is my whale-watching day! I will be taking a whale-watching tour out into the Gulf of Alaska/Kenai Fjords National Park to see glaciers, whales, sea otters, sea lions, and all other sorts of wildlife! This tour is an all day thing so that will take up most of my time, but definitely going to find some more good seafood when I get back to shore!

I hope I get to see one of these beautiful Orcas! 
So there ya go, the 1st half of what will hopefully be an awesome trip! Let me know what you think, or if I should add anything!! 31 days left! : )

Friday, April 13, 2012

So I'm Definitely A "J"

This semester in one of my interpreting classes, aptly titled "Personalities in Interpreting", we have been talking a lot about the different Myers-Briggs personality types.  If you are not familiar with them, I would highly recommend googling it and maybe figuring out what you are.  It is super helpful once you figure out what type you are because then you can understand why you do the things you do, and analyze all your friends! Anyways, I am an ISFJ. (look it up) I already knew that I was an introvert (I), but the other three letters I didn't know what those meant.  I have laughed aloud a few times this semester because of how spot on my letters are in regards to what I do.  For J side.  J stands for "judging", but this is not judging as in looking down on others, but it means that I am highly organized, like order, make decisions quickly, and like to have control over my life...yeah definitely me. But I didn't realize just how much of a "J" I was until I really started doing some hardcore planning for Alaska.

I entertained the idea of actually going on a trip for about a month before I somehow ended up deciding on Alaska.  And as I mentioned in my previous post, it was a quick decision and I can't remember exactly why I chose that state.  I knew this would be my first solo trip so I didn't want to go out of the country quite yet until I knew for sure I could actually survive on my own...but I also wanted somewhere that was adventurous and far away enough that I would feel as if I was leaving the country.  So....where better than Alaska?? Which just happens to be 3,088 miles from Indianapolis.  In other words, I could get to England if I headed out the other direction. So yeah, far enough for me--for now. : ) Once I made my decision about where to actually go, my organized, "research everything, plan for everything", side jumped into overdrive! I started doing preliminary research towards the end of October. Yup, you read right. 7 months ago.  I told ya, I'm not messing around! Alaska's a big state! (2 times the size of Texas and 1/5 of the entire size of the US) I had to narrow down where I would actually be going.  So what did I do?? Head to an introvert's most cherished place, the library.

Only 3 of about 20 books I checked out

I researched everything from Juneau to Barrow and everything in between. I ultimately wanted someplace  that I could get to by car, which quickly narrowed it down to only a few cities. I also wanted someplace that I could see a little bit of everything Alaska had to offer--mountains, whales, culture, and more mountains. Anchorage it was. However...believe it or not, most of the books I read said the best thing to do in Anchorage was to leave. Huh? Really? The biggest city in Alaska and I was supposed to just say hi and leave? Turns out Anchorage is super commercialized and to see the "real Alaska" you have to get out of the city.  It just so happens that there is one of the most beautiful, most scenic highways in all of the US headed right of Anchorage into Seward and the Kenai Peninsula.  Sounded perfect to me.

After having my head in a travel book of some sort for the next 3 months, I finally had enough information to satisfy my "J" personality. Thus began the gathering of travel brochures for specific things I would want to do.  What did Anchorage have to offer? What exciting things could I do while there? mean more research? Haha! Yup. But this was the fun part! Highlighting, circling, and tearing out anything I wanted to do! And because I am going by myself, I got to pick whatever I wanted to do! My itinerary started to come together. Slowly, but surely, I finally ended up deciding on what I wanted to see and do. (And boy was it hard, there is so much to choose from!)

Free Travel Brochures! Tip: hit up the local cities ".gov" websites and they usually have an offer for a free travel guide!
Alright, so research done, activities picked out, next logical step for organization?? Create a color-coded travel itinerary/binder. Oh yes. I went there.  

Awesome! Makes my heart smile to see those dividers. : ) I know, I know, I'm weird.  But fellow "J"'s will get me.  This is my trip bible.  I have my printed reservation confirmations, hostel/inn information, important contact information, and each day has their own section.  Also, at the back I have included pertinent medical information and a medical release form in case something were to happen while I am away from home. I will get into more detail on my itinerary later, but you get the idea of just how organized anal I am. And even though my personality does play a big part in this research and organization, I feel it is so important for me to be as prepared as possible and know as much as I can before I step foot on that plane.  Especially because I am going alone.  Knowledge is power and if I can have half the battle already won before I even start, I am guessing that will make the trip that much smoother.  We'll see... : ) 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

36 Days Left!

I am taking my first SOLO trip in 36 days!!! Yes. I said in alone...just me, no one else.  That means no parents, no siblings, no one to tell me what to do, no one to ask their opinion, no one to answer to, no one to ask directions if I get lost...but let's hope that doesn't happen! :)  Solo.

A year ago, I made a bucket list (that I am still adding things to) after I realized I didn't want what most Americans want.  I didn't want to just go to school to work for the next 40 years. I didn't want to get stuck in a rut of monotony. I wanted stories to tell, I wanted to take advantage of my youth, my singleness. I wanted to live. I wanted to experience everything this world has to offer and, to me, a significant portion of being able to "experience" things means traveling.  About 80% of my bucket list has stuff that requires me to get out my comfort zone, out of Indiana and see this earth.

I couldn't tell you the exact moment I decided my first trip would be to Alaska, or really why I so definitively made that my first choice, but in 36 days, I will be leaving the corn of Indiana and replacing it with the snow-capped mountains, turquoise blue glaciers, and stunning wildlife of Alaska. I really can't put into words how excited I am! It really hasn't sunk in yet that I will be doing this whole shebang by myself, or that I will be over 3,000 miles away from home, but I couldn't be more thrilled to get my first adventure started!!