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.

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: