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.

How to travel with friends (and remain friends after traveling)

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably realize that I usually travel solo. That’s not an accident. I love being alone on the road for a multitude of reasons: I get to be totally selfish in my choices, I move at my own pace, I find I use my senses to better experience moments and I’m also more vulnerable (in a good way) to new interactions and friendships.

But the truth is, most of us travel with someone else — and I enjoy that, too. The trick, of course, is aligning your goals and desires with another (or multiple!) humans, a feat that isn’t always easy. Most of you have probably already realized that a great friend/partner/family member at home doesn’t necessarily equal a great travel partner away from it. Being in totally different settings from a normal existence — read: 24/7 interaction, bathroom-sharing, schedule-sharing — can test the closeness of and tolerance for any relationships.

So how do you have a stellar time with your bestie or your significant other without devolving into petty fights and frustration? Here are five of my favorite tips for having a swimming vaca —and still loving each other on the other side, as evidenced from my recent trip to New Orleans with my great gal pal Megan.

A pork story: How a father and daughter found culinary commonality over NC ‘cue

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

When it comes to food, my dad and I don’t have whole lot in common.

I love strong flavors, heat and, as he might describe them, “adventurous” proteins. He doesn’t even want to be in the same room as a garlic clove.

I’ll try anything at least twice. He proudly operates by his personal motto “dare to be dull” — shunning different choices in favor of something he knows he’ll enjoy.

It’s led to a fair amount of dinner and restaurant quibbles. We’ll likely never split an appetizer or agree on the proper ingredients involved in a tomato sauce. I’ll never convince him that octopus is actually super tasty just like he’ll never persuade me that anything is better without chilies.

But our culinary journeys do have one major intersection: barbecue.

17 ways to be more eco-friendly while traveling

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Growing up in a family where we washed and reused plastic bags, grew much of our produce, composted more than anyone I knew and camped our way across America, I’ve always tried to be conscious of my impact on the environment.

But traveling through Central America this last year — watching waves of trash wash up on beaches and sewage pumped directly into rivers and lakes as well as the effects of climate change, such as great drought  — has caused me to think even more urgently about living green.

The problem is, in many parts of the world, particularly poorer countries, being eco-friendly isn’t always convenient or even possible all of the time. In vast areas of Central America, for example, messaging about waste and realistic alternatives for single-use plastic are rare while large-scale recycling programs are entirely absent. Compounding my own personal mark are the tiny toiletries I’m forced to buy (small bottles vs. large bottles) thanks to living a life on the move, and the wet wipes I use constantly because of the lack of clean water, soap products and space. (I’m far from perfect.)

It’s easy for a lot of us to throw our normal standards to the wind while traveling or vacationing — when room service, eating out and sightseeing create different patterns than the perhaps more eco-friendly habits we’re used to abiding by at home.

Still, there are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and travel more sustainably whether you’re venturing across the country or overseas — if you’re only willing to put some thought in and make moderate sacrifices.

Live Inspired: How to eat (well) on a tight travel budget

• Brought to you by John Reamer and Associates

Last week, as I jetted to Denver, I solicited my social media fam for recommendations for cheap eats.

Along with some genuinely solid ideas and many not-so-solid fast food solicitations, I heard one comment over and over.

“I don’t think anything is cheap here,” was a variation I heard from several people.

Though I’d never been to Denver, that assumption surprised me. In just about every U.S. city, particularly the big ones, there are top-notch budget eats and drinks to be found — if you only know where and how to look. The problem is, a lot of people seem to find the logistics of just that confusing, leading to limp wallets, defeated drive-through runs and sad, store-bought sandwiches.

So since I don’t want you to be that person, since my life mission is making sure everyone  achieves culinary exhilaration without draining their savings account, I wrote this mini guide with tips to find super tasty deals for super tasty prices. (Don’t forget to look into public transportation so you don’t blow all your savings on Ubers):

Live Inspired: 11 things I love and hate about Los Angeles

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Over the course of a week in Los Angeles, I trekked all over the city, met up with five different friends, and presented them all with the same incredulous question:

Do they LIKE living in LA?

I asked with equal amounts of adoration and exhaustion — because during the time I’ve spent in the City of Angels (7 or 8 trips in the last decade), my impressions have ranged from <heart eye emoji> to <eye roll emoji,> sometimes in the span of a single half hour.

Here in LA, you can get bangin’ egg rolls for $1 but you might have to eat them next to a rabid-eyed crew that has been awake for 37 hours. There are a million cool neighborhoods to explore but it might take you 1.5 hours and 17 sudokus to make it across town. You can walk your dog to year-round soft breezes, mild temps and palm tree views but your pup might also pick up some used sanitary napkins on the stroll.

You get the idea.

Here’s how I size it up:

Live Inspired: trading objects for experiences

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

This past weekend, I cleaned out my remaining closet of stuff.

I dumped a lot of stuff to donating centers. I sold a fair amount of my favorite pieces of clothing on Instagram. 

As I did, I received a bunch of messages. Among them:

“Good for you, lighten the load.”

And, “How refreshing.”

I understand those well-meaning sentiments and where they came from. Meanwhile, however, I was focusing on not puking in the sink.

Live Inspired: How to travel around the U.S. for a summer as a kind-of broke nomad

On Sunday night, I had a nightmare that I got sick while back in the States.

In the dream, I had a cold that wouldn’t go away, so I went to a hospital. At the end of the appointment, I asked the doctor how much this visit would cost, sans health insurance. She wrote down and slid a number across the table that jolted me from sleep, wheezing.

Health insurance, you see, is one of the many things that just isn’t in the budget for this three-month stint in the U.S. — a venture I’m both very excited and very stressed about.

After I awoke, I lay in bed for a minute, doing a mental check of every part of my body to ensure sickness wasn’t creeping up inside of me. I considered that I should probably drink fewer beers and smoke fewer stress cigarettes. I mulled how many more tunafish sandwiches were in my future. I checked my bank accounts, again, and the tally of all the various reward points I have.

When people in the U.S. marvel at how I’m able to afford to travel full time, they’re usually doing so with a North American mindset — scrutinizing just how much everything costs, here. By moving through developing countries, I tell them, I spend a lot less money to travel full time than most people do to stay in one place. That, of course is because everything in the U.S. is more expensive. Healthcare is a pretty dramatic example (seeing a doctor and obtaining medicine in Central America are tiny fractions of what such things cost here), but vast differences, exist, too, in travel, housing and food.

In Central America, I make enough money to buy my coffee each morning, eat out three meals a day (sometimes on the street though), drink too many aforementioned beers and occasionally stay in a locale with AC, hot water or (!) both. In the States, that budget would barely get me a sandwich and a dorm bed.

On Monday morning, thinking of all this, I considered breaking all my plans and zipping back to El Salvador, stat.

But alas, I have already booked nearly a summer’s worth of travel, and have some events in the works, too. SO, I guess I’ll figure out how to make it work. Hopefully. Maybe. Con suerte.

Here’s how to do it (I think):

Live Inspired: In the “land of the free,” our toilets flush all

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

These days, I spend a lot of time trying to remember where to put my toilet paper.

Since I got back to the States a week ago, I’ve found myself lingering in a lot of bathrooms, awkwardly holding that little used swath and trying to figure out why the trash can is so far away.

When I realize, anew, that I’m back in the ol’ U.S. of A. and I can indeed flush the stuff, my new reaction is less relieved than it is confused — mystified by the fact that the toilets can actually handle it here. I’ve stared into a lot of toilets, unconvinced it will all make its way down.

Perhaps this is the biggest analogy of it all: life in the States, down to the way we dispose of our excrement, is different. Almost every moment back is a reminder of that.

Live Inspired: Chemex, craft beer and joy in the world’s most violent city

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

The barista arrived at my leather banquette table armed with a tray full of equipment.

The pourover stand, with a glass decanter at its base. A stainless kettle with a delicate, gooseneck spout. A canister of the coffee itself, which she allowed me to whiff before beginning the precise brewing process, ensuring the shape and stream of the water flow was optimal for my single perfect cup.

Around me, bright murals covered the walls. Edison lights hung from the ceiling. Japanese siphon contraptions, which were also used to brew this organic java, were strategically placed around the cafe, like art.

I was in San Pedro Sula, dubbed “the most violent city on Earth.”

And I was having a lovely time.