Live Inspired: first impressions in El Salvador

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

The shrill, happy notes reverberated through Plaza Libertad, drawing a crowd of a couple dozen, and me — invited by the music and the gleaming red upright bass.

A woman, wearing a bright pink apron and holding a matching ladle, spooned atol — a sweet corn drink — into styrofoam cups to serve. Two other women had staked out territory in front of the little five-piece band and were dancing as though it was their jobs (it might have been; they later worked the crowd for tips). 

I whipped out my iPhone, as I always do, with a wave of reluctance. The nature of my job, these days, is to record what’s around me, but documenting other people in other places, especially as a white person, isn’t always popular. I’ve often stopped photographing because I absorb the glares around me. In more than a handful of cases, I’ve actually gotten visceral rebukes.

But on this glorious Friday afternoon, as I eyed the assembly, all I caught were smiles.

Live Inspired: the hours before takeoff

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Every time, it’s the same.

On the night before I make a new, big move, I don’t sleep.

Before that point, I think about my plans ahead very differently. Now, over a year into this wild, nomadic existence, there is an element of normalcy in what I do — plunging myself into the unknown, alone — even though at times it feels totally insane.

I know I’ll fall into my flow. I know I’ll fall in love. The constant move, more than anything else now, is the new order.

But in those hours before the next leg begins, a particular feeling takes over — some blend of excitement, anticipation and anxiety — and my pulse raises, my stomach turns.

Live Inspired: ruined travel plans — a perfect surprise

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Down by the pebble-strewn shore, the river looked as still as a lake, transforming from waterway to a long, glass mirror as the afternoon rendered into evening.

It was one of those glorious days when the air feels neither too hot nor too cold, and the Mississippi reflects the deep, cloudless sky, the lush green shore and, somehow, the very exuberance of one of the summer’s best offerings.

On the first full day of the next leg of my journey through Central America, I was enjoying it to the fullest — but I was not in El Salvador, where I had planned for months to be on this date (Tuesday of this week). I was nowhere close. In fact, I was back in Minneapolis, stranded in the U.S. after one of the most hellacious travel disruptions of my life.

And it was pretty damn great.

Live Inspired: An ode to slow travel

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

At sunset in Panajachel, Guatemala, a line of snack stalls abutted the Lake Atitlán.

Each one offered beers, swaddled with napkin bibs, and fresh ceviches with their own little twist. Living there for over a month, I could have tried them all. But walking by every night, I chose the same one — not because I was uninterested in trying something different, but because being a regular just felt good.

Live Inspired: Why I love being a solo female traveler

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Traveling with others can be a lot of fun, and let’s be honest, it’s definitely the most popular way to travel. But solo travel, especially solo female travel, has become trendy for a reason and it’s not just the great selfie ops (selfies are actually really hard to take solo, I’ve learned).

I get a lot of questions about my solo female traveller lifestyle — whether I get lonely or bored or feel uncomfortable a lot.

Those answers? All a resounding “no!”

Traveling alone isn’t a consolation prize; for me, it’s actually the pinnacle. Whether you’re taking a weekend trip within the U.S. or wandering across a continent, solo excursions can be incredibly refreshing and stimulating. Going alone has taught me a ton about myself, about my independence and what I’m capable of.

Once you start, it can be addicting. Here’s some of why I love moving through the world alone.

Live Inspired: an emotional return to Minneapolis

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Last Wednesday, I landed in Minneapolis for the first time in a year.

And the first emotion I could identify upon my return to my adopted home of eight years was “weird.”

Obviously, I was more than excited to see friends and former colleagues, for a three-week summer stint on the precipice of returning to Central America.

But as the plane from Montréal, my previous stop, descended into the Twin Cities, I could only think of the last time I was in that air space. 

It was June 28, 2018, and I was leaving everything I knew, bound for everything I didn’t. I was ready for this move, I thought. Weeks earlier, I had sold all my belongings — the things acquired over 32 years of life — left my job at the Star Tribune, said a tearful goodbye to the house that claimed so many memories, bid farewells to friends of a lifetime. I did so with so many dreams, with so much motivation. I’ve never felt regret. 

But in that moment, in a left-side window seat in the back of the plane, I was struggling to breathe. 

Why Montréal just might be my new favorite food city

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Montréal has been on my travel list for years because of its European culture and diversity, primarily. Why I didn’t assume that came with some of the best cuisine, I don’t know.

When the words “Montreal” and “food” pop up in the same sentence, you’re generally talking about three things: poutine, bagels and smoked meat. And while I like all three of those things in theory, none of them have the power to motivate me the way, say fresh seafood, perfect pho or epic pastas might. Poutine, frankly, sounds like something I might have come up with at age 12. Smoked meat …so like, pastrami? As for bagels, well, I was arriving directly from New York.

So what a surprise it was, then, on my first morning on the island city, when I procured a “tout garn” (everything) cylinder from the famed St.-Viateur shop, that I found myself wondering if I had ever actually eaten a bagel. Well, not a Montréal bagel, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong: I love New York bagels. The crisp exterior, soft interior is one of the perfect textures of all time. Or so I thought.

How to visit New York City on a budget

Ten tips for spending time in the Empire City without breaking the bank

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

New York is a vixen. I keep traveling, but it still remains the most alluring place I’ve ever been, a city bubbling with palpable energy and spirit. It will entrance you with its buzz, awe you with its anonymity, lull you into private moments in the midst of a crowd, and community on a near empty street.

Aaaannnd the sticker shock can break your spirit faster than a 2.5-hour wait at brunch. Yeah, most of New York ain’t cheap — from the Did-I-Just-Buy-A-Designer-Handbag hotel prices to the $18 cocktails.

But the best part of the empire city is that is does both high brow AND low brow incredibly well; public parks and other free-admission areas are, for the most, as manicured as the top museums; many street carts are manned with professionalism and skill of a lauded restaurant.

You can spend a week or more here and stay on budget and live really well.

Live Inspired: Indulging the senses in Annapolis

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Spending a weekend in Annapolis requires one, primarily, to use their senses.

Of sight — the heritage colonial architecture, the parade of American flags hung from businesses and residences, the sultry, boat-filled waterfront erupting with blazing sunsets, the pristine turquoise domes and lighted posts at the naval academy, all coalescing into a watercolor landscape from a painting you once saw.

Of smell — the scent of saltwater and magnolia flowers hanging in the air, the salinity of fresh oysters as they’re pried open, the richness of the tide’s other bounty as it’s simmered in olive oil and white wine and butter.

Live Inspired: the extraordinary ordinary

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

For those of you accustomed to following my journeys across the country and abroad, perhaps these last couple weeks have felt a little, well, boring.

After the better part of a year in Central America and a rapid-fire run through seven American cities, I’ve been holed up for almost two weeks in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. My Instagram — usually home to a blitz of cultures and experiences — has gone mostly quiet save for some work promotion, photos of my avocado toast, images of onions caramelizing in a pan. I’ve entered exactly one restaurant. I’ve barely left the house (of my dear friend that lives out here); to be honest, even if I did, there would be little to do.

It’s delightful.

And for someone with very little “normal” left in their life, I can’t really explain how meaningful it is.