My 9 Favorite Travel Vlogs

In case you haven’t noticed through my previous posts, I have a bad case of wanderlust, and after Josh and I cut cable TV out of our lives, YouTube travel vlogs became a very present part of our evening routine. Travel vlogs have given us inspiration for trips, ideas for things to do and try when we travel, and have given us a deeper appreciation for the enormity of the world that’s out there, just beyond the horizon.

Some travel vloggers spend their entire lives traveling and filming, using sponsorships, freelance work, and Patreons to fund their travels. Others save up for an entire year and then spend an epic month or two having the time of their lives in a specific destination, only to go home and start saving again immediately for the next trip. We’re inspired by each vlog we watch and would love to have the opportunity to do something similar someday (if I ever get over my fear of the camera).

Finding travel vloggers to follow was a lot of trial and error, but joining a couple of travel groups on Facebook led us to some new faces to add to our evening lineup. I’d like to share a list of my 9 Favorite Travel Vloggers with you to help make it a little bit easier to start your travel vlog binge.

Attache

Attache probably posts the least frequently of all the vloggers I will share here, but his content is arguably the best for people planning trips to the places he visits. The host, Alex, takes viewers on a holistic journey to each city he visits, starting at the airport (or train station, if that’s how he arrives). He talks about the best way to get from the airport into the city center, then talks about the best things to do and see in each city, the cost of a Big Mac (because that’s how the entire world judges the affordability of a city), and the cost of a cup of coffee.

We truly get excited each time Attache posts new content and I’ve been known to add travel destinations to our wishlist just based on his vlogs.

 

 

 

Kara & Nate

When you Google travel vloggers, Kara and Nate are likely to pop up high in your search results. They are a couple from the Nashville area and they are on a mission to visit 100 countries by 2020. Right now, they’re in the high 70s. We really enjoy watching Kara and Nate travel around the world because they’re not just checking off countries. They’re truly exploring every place they visit, from trying new food to doing a river cruise down the Nile and exploring pyramids.

We’ve added numerous places to visit to our list after being inspired by Kara and Nate. They’re master travel planners and do a large portion of their travel by using credit card points, Airbnb credits, and from sales of their online courses to help other people follow similar dreams. I feel like, if we ran into them on the street somewhere, I would be that weirdo who approaches them like we’re best friends, even though they have absolutely no idea who I am.

Kara and Nate post much more often than Attache, so it’s easy to follow their progression throughout the world.

 

 

 

Gone with the Wynns

Nikki and Jason started out traveling via RV several years ago and Josh and I have been following their latest adventures in their own catamaran for over a year. When they bought their boat, they had no sailing experience and spent many months on the southeast coast of Florida learning the ropes (literally).

After learning what they were doing, they spent a while sailing around the Bahamas, then started to sail south. They did a full Panama Canal transit and spent some time gathering supplies and preparing the catamaran for a Pacific crossing. They departed Central America and headed for French Polynesia and after 25+ days at sea, they arrived safe and sound.

While I LOVE cruising, sailing on my own tends to be a little bit terrifying to this girl from land-locked Kansas, but sailing across the entire Pacific Ocean on a catamaran with only my husband is something I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to attempt. The ocean is a scary place and spending 5 days at sea between Hawaii and Vancouver last year was a test of my patience, so I’m not sure 25+ days would be the best idea for my sanity, especially on a tiny catamaran with no onboard activities.

Right now, in their vlog series, they’re still in the middle of the Pacific and running into some complications. Luckily, thanks to social media and the power of the internet, we know they made it safely to French Polynesia, but I get nervous for them in every single episode while they’re in transit.

If you’re a fan of sailing, exotic travel, or just cutting the cord and being self-sufficient for a while, I definitely recommend Gone with the Wynns. They’re fun to watch and you’re likely to learn something you didn’t know before each time you see them.

 

 

 

Flying the Nest

Flying the Nest is one of the latest travel vlogs we’ve added to our watch list. Stephen and Jess are from Australia and have shared their experiences all over the world. We haven’t been watching them very long, so I don’t know a ton about their background, but they are a lot of fun to watch and I would recommend checking them out. If you’re interested in Western Australia, that’s where they’re from and one of the first trips we watched from them was a road trip through Western Australia. It’s like no other place on earth.

 

 

 

The Endless Adventure

Eric and Allison are from San Francisco and have been traveling full-time since 2015. Their travels tend to take them to more “off the beaten path” destinations and lately, they’ve had some focus on central Europe, which is different than many of the vloggers we’ve been following.

I always appreciate that Eric and Allison usually do one food-focused vlog for each location they visit. Learning about the cuisine of a location can tell you a lot about the culture and how people live there. We enjoy doing food tours when we travel and watching Eric and Allison talk about regional cuisine makes you feel like you’re right there with them, just without the calories!

 

 

 

Kinging-It

From their outward appearance, Craig and Aimee seem a little more edgy than some of the other vloggers I’ve mentioned in this list. Craig has ear gauges and Aimee has multiple nose rings. Edgy certainly isn’t bad though. These two have just completed the Mongol Rally with some friends and seem to have run into mishap after mishap along the way. They persisted and finished and it was certainly an interesting journey.

This Welsh couple has endured several difficult situations during their relationship (cancer and a broken neck to name just two), but they have an engaging camera presence and they are visiting places that most of the other travel vloggers we watch aren’t visiting.

I recommend Kinging-It if you’re looking for something that’s a little less Pollyanna and more about embracing the challenges of travel. They’re definitely authentic!

 

 

 

The Budgeteers

The Budgeteers are a little different than other travel vloggers. They produce TV-style episodes of one trip per year (I believe that’s the frequency). The idea is that each of the three Budgeteers have $1,000 to spend and they do what they can in the location they visit for that amount. They just finished their 3rd season and they spent it in India, traveling all over the country.

The team is made up of Paddy, from the UK, Thijs, from Belgium, and Lina, from Columbia. They all met while traveling and have recorded seasons in Southeast Asia, and Central America, in addition to their latest India season. Because they do one large trip per year, videos don’t necessarily come out year-round. Their entire season is released over a couple of months and then you have to wait for the next season, just like any regular television show.

The Budgeteers typically stay in hostels, so if you’re interested in that kind of travel, definitely add them to your list.

 

 

 

Where’s Poppy

Poppy is a vlogger from Denver (I think) and I randomly stumbled upon her channel a few months ago. She’s known for staying in one place for a longer period of time and really getting to know the locals. She sticks around a location long enough to rent an apartment and to take day-trips to nearby places.

Lately, Poppy has been in China and in Bali. We’ll be in China next year and Bali is on our bucket list, so we were particularly interested in her recent vlogs. She has stunning videography and photography and a love for adventure that I wish I’d embraced in myself when I was younger.  

 

 

 

Samuel & Audrey

Samuel and Audrey are from Canada and have a bit of a unique style to their vlogs. Samuel grew up on Vancouver Island and Audrey has a South American heritage. I believe she’s said that her father is from Argentina and they recently visited her mother’s family in Lima, Peru.

In addition to their English channel, they also have a Spanish channel with similar (maybe the same) content, which blows my mind a bit. I can’t imagine coming up with content for one channel, let alone two!

One of the recurring features of Samuel and Audrey’s vlogs are apartment tours for places they’re staying. They enjoy taking their viewers around the apartments to show how locals live. It makes for interesting viewing when there are things that Americans may not be used to seeing.

 

 

 

 

 


Whatever your travel bucket list includes, you’re sure to find something that peaks your interest in this list. While most of the vlogs mentioned here focus on international travel, I’d really love to find a travel vlog that showcases locations within the United States, so if you’ve got recommendations, I’d love to hear them. If you’ve got other favorite international travel vlogs, I’d love to hear about those too!

Safe travels!

 

What Not to Miss: Lawrence, Kansas

While Lawrence, Kansas is likely not at the top of many travel bucket lists, occasionally, the opportunity arises to head to the heart of the Midwest and visit a place I’ve called home for my entire life. Lawrence is the home of the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University, and we’re a little blue oasis in a sea of red (politically speaking). We bleed crimson and blue and “Rock Chalk” our way through college basketball season, always chasing the elusive March Madness. But, we’re not just about basketball and watching planes fly over.  Lawrence is so, so much more. If you’ve ever got the opportunity to pass through, and spend some time, there are a few things I recommend to all my friends before they leave town.

Where to Stay

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide where you want to stay.  Lawrence isn’t huge, but there’s a definite lack of hotel space within the city, especially if you’re here during a popular event (basically ALL of May, with graduations from both Universities and both high schools). If you’re planning to be here during a big event, your best option may be Airbnb, otherwise you can probably find a room at one of the Downtown Lawrence hotels.

The Eldridge

 

My favorite Downtown Lawrence hotel is the Eldridge. It’s a hotel with a colorful history and absolutely worth checking out, even if you just head inside to walk around the lobby or grab a drink at the newly remodeled restaurant on the main floor. According to the hotel’s website, it was originally opened as the “Free State Hotel” in 1855. Just one year later, in 1856, the hotel was burned to the ground by sheriff Sam Jones, who was part of a pro-slavery movement. The hotel was rebuilt by Colonel Shalor Eldridge and operated until 1863, when it was, again, burned to the ground. The 1863 raid was orchestrated and carried out by William Quantrill and his men.  Quantrill was a notorious pro-slavery evangelist and this same raid destroyed much of the city of Lawrence, killing over 150 people.

The hotel was rebuilt again and named Hotel Eldridge, operating in that capacity until 1925, when a group of businessmen took over the deteriorating hotel, demolishing it, and building the structure, still standing on the corner of 7th & Massachusetts Street, today. It is truly one of the most beautiful buildings in Lawrence, and I recommend staying there if you have the opportunity.  Who knows. . . you may even run into the rumored Eldridge Ghost while you’re there!

TownePlace Suites

If historic, possibly haunted, hotels aren’t your thing, another Downtown hotel I recommend is the new (2016) TownePlace Suites. This hotel is located just off Mass Street, but still close enough to the heart of Downtown Lawrence to feel like you’re a part of the action. The hotel has an underground parking garage, so you won’t have to worry about finding a place to park or feeding a meter during parking enforcement hours (9:30am – 6pm, Monday through Saturday).

The rooms are modern and have views of New Hampshire Street, on one side, and the hotel patio and adjoining neighborhood, on the other.

 

Airbnb

While Airbnb isn’t everyone’s first choice for accommodations when traveling, Josh and I prefer it to staying in hotels. We’ve found that staying in hotels is prescribed and impersonal and we avoid it, when we can, unless we’re staying in a place for one night (and can use credit card points to stay for free) or if staying in an Airbnb could be difficult (when short-term rentals are banned, or when traveling to a location like China, where all tourists have to check in with the local police department, unless they are staying at a licensed hotel – who does that for you).  

In Lawrence, Airbnbs tend to be available more during football and basketball season, for fans who may be traveling in from out of town, but you can find homes to rent year-round.

If you want to try Airbnb for the first time and you use MY REFERRAL LINK, you’ll get $40 off your first booking and I’ll get a $20 credit when you complete your trip.

 

What to Do

Lawrence definitely isn’t lacking in things to do. Whether you’re interested in art, music, history, or the great outdoors, there’s something here for you!

Spencer Museum

Spencer Art Museum
Photo Credit: Spencer


If art is your thing, the art museum at the University of Kansas is a spectacular collection of pieces from all over the world.  The museum has been known to house controversial exhibits, in addition to the 45,000 items in its permanent collection. The museum, itself, went through a major renovation in the last several years and the building is beautiful, with one of the very best views of the Campanile and the KU Football stadium. Check it out if you’re craving some creativity.

Warehouse Arts District

Warehouse Arts District

Lawrence’s art scene isn’t limited to art museums. Lawrence is home to some of the most creative folks in Kansas and local art abounds. One of the best areas to find local art in Lawrence is the Warehouse Arts District (WAD). The WAD is a fantastic pocket of the East Lawrence neighborhood that houses many galleries, artist studios, and public art installations.

Definitely make a point to stop at the Cider Gallery, Seed Co Studios, Lawrence Community Photo Studio, Art Emergency, Lawrence Creates Makerspace, and Rural Pearl while you’re in the neighborhood!

If you happen to be visiting on the last Friday of any month, throughout the year, you’re definitely going to want to make sure this area makes your “to-do” list. Final Fridays is a monthly celebration where art show openings and community events take over. Thousands of locals and visitors take to the streets of Downtown Lawrence and the Warehouse Arts District for the evening, eating amazing food, taking in eclectic art, and celebrating something Unmistakably Lawrence.

 

Downtown Lawrence

Downtown Lawrence

Just a few blocks from the Warehouse Arts District lies the crown jewel of the city. Downtown Lawrence is home to one of the most quintessential Downtown areas in the Midwest. I would certainly rank it as the best in Kansas, hands-down. Downtown Lawrence is a 5-block long by 3-block wide grid surrounding Massachusetts Street with local and national retailers and restaurants, art galleries, music venues, event spaces, and businesses that rivals similar areas across the country.

I like to claim that you can find just about any kind of cuisine on Mass Street, from some of the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had to a Jamaican Beef Patty that’s been written about in the New York Times. Whatever you’re hungry for, you can find it on Mass Street.

But, food isn’t the only reason to visit Downtown Lawrence.  The area is known for its music venues too. Because Lawrence is located in the middle of the US, right on a major interstate highway (I-70), smaller bands tend to make Lawrence a stop on their tours because we are located between two of their larger tour stops (typically St. Louis or Kansas City and Denver). With venues like The Granada, The Bottleneck, and Liberty Hall, it’s difficult to find a night during the year that some sort of music performance isn’t being held Downtown.

Downtown Lawrence is also known as a shopping district, with a large concentration of local retailers selling a wide variety of items you won’t find anywhere else in Lawrence.  From over 1,000 different kinds of soda at Mass Street Soda, to unique handmade gifts at MADE, Essential Goods, and the Phoenix Underground, and t-shirt designs that will make you laugh out loud at ACME, there’s no doubt you’ll be able to find something unique and interesting to take home with you.

If history is more your thing, you can capture some of that in Downtown Lawrence too! Make a visit to The Watkins Museum of History and learn more about Quantrill’s raid that brought down the Eldridge Hotel and other significant events that have shaped the history and story of Lawrence and Kansas.

 

University of Kansas Campus  

Booth Family Hall of Athletics
Booth Family Hall of Athletics

 

One of the most beautiful areas of Lawrence is the University of Kansas Campus, perched atop Mount Oread. The University’s campus features beautiful green spaces, a sanctuary of academia, and hallowed ground for basketball fans from across the world. If you’re one of the millions of basketball fans who exist, you’d be remiss if you left Lawrence without visiting Allen Fieldhouse, the home of Kansas Jayhawk Basketball, and the namesake of Forrest “Phog” Allen, the father of basketball coaching. In addition to being one of the most difficult places to play a game as a visitor in the country, Allen Fieldhouse is home to the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, and is adjacent to the DeBruce Center, which, thanks to a very generous KU Alum (David Booth – of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics), houses the original rules of basketball, written by Dr. James A. Naismith, when he invented the game in 1891. In addition to being the Father of Basketball, Dr. Naismith also happens to have been the very first Jayhawk Basketball coach, making Kansas the birthplace of basketball.

While you’re on campus, be sure to stop by the Campanile, a World War II Memorial Carillon standing 120 feet tall, and overlooking KU’s Memorial Stadium. The carillon’s 53 bells play regularly, so stick around a bit to listen to a lovely and unique experience. Legend says that any Jayhawk who passes through the Campanile before their graduation day will either not graduate on time, or not graduate from the University at all.

 

Outdoor Activities

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, Lawrence has you covered there too! From the fantastic views of Wells Overlook, just south of the city to the Kansas River and Clinton Lake trails, you can capture a piece of the beauty of Kansas and learn that all you’ve heard about Kansas being “flat as a pancake” is a myth. Kansas, particularly northeast Kansas, and Lawrence, in particular, is beautiful, and hilly, and lushly green (when you catch us after a reasonable amount of rain).

If you’re in Lawrence in the late winter or early spring, you may be lucky enough to catch the bald eagles nesting at the Kansas River.  The best spot for catching them is the promenade behind the SpringHill Suites Hotel, or the deck of Abe & Jake’s Landing. Typically, the eagles are just perched in the trees, right along the river and you can get an up-close and personal view of them. In past years, there have been as many as 20-30 eagles in the trees at one time and it’s certainly a spectacular sight to behold.

 

Where to Eat

After you’ve seen all there is to be seen in Lawrence, you’re going to be hungry. Now, I talked a little bit about the food in Lawrence earlier, but now I want to give you some specific recommendations about places and dishes you should definitely try while you’re in town.

 

Pizza at Limestone

Pizza at Limestone has the potential to ruin all other pizza for you. I’m not talking about the kind of pizza you think about when you think about Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Chef Rick Martin takes pizza to a whole other level with thin, flame-kissed crust from a 1,000 pound, wood-burning oven, lovingly named Maggie. With unique pizzas like The Spud (local thinly sliced potatoes, onions, crème fraiche, bacon and rosemary), Farmer (house-recipe bacon, gruyere, local egg and greens), and Summer (local cream corn, fresh corn, cherry tomatoes, bacon, cheddar & parsley), your tastebuds will be in for the ride of their lives.

 

Lawrence Beer Company  

The chef at Lawrence Beer Company, Ken Baker, formerly owned and operated another Lawrence restaurant institution, Pachamama’s. After Pachamama’s closed, Lawrence spent several years longing for Ken’s unmistakable touch. Luckily, Ken and several partners have opened Lawrence Beer Company (in 2017) and Lawrencians, myself included, have been singing his praises ever since.

Lawrence Beer Company is a fully operational brewery, in addition to being a full-service restaurant. It is nestled in the Warehouse Arts District, in a building that used to be a seed warehouse. The space is huge and open, and the building even has several apartments (and an Airbnb property) on it’s upper floors where you can order food from the restaurant any time they’re open.

Dishes to try here include the Rice Fried “Chick-arrones” appetizer and the Cubano sandwich. The Cubano isn’t offered all the time, but if you see it on the menu, don’t hesitate to order it.  It is, hands-down, the best Cuban sandwich I’ve ever had. The pork melts in your mouth and I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

 

Bon Bon

Bun at Bon Bon
Bun at Bon Bon

Also in the Warehouse Arts District, you’ll find an adorable spot called Bon Bon. Bon Bon is owned by Simon and Codi Bates, who also own The Burger Stand, which I’ll talk more about below.  Bon Bon means “Good, Good” and is a great spot for outdoor dining and for an intimate, indoor meal.  The building is pretty small – so small that there’s no kitchen inside. All of the food that is made at Bon Bon comes from a full kitchen packed into a food truck, permanently parked on the property.

The food is super unique and is all inspired by Simon’s international travels. Some of my personal favorite menu items include the Kimchi Fried Rice, Katsu Bun, and French Onion Tots. Their menu changes seasonally, and is always filled with things you won’t find elsewhere in Lawrence.  It’s all amazing, so you can’t go wrong!

In the mood for a drink?  I’ve long made the claim that Bon Bon has the best cocktail menu in town.  Order a painkiller and settle in for an evening playing bags on the patio, listening to trains roll down the neighboring track. It has all the makings of a very East Lawrence evening!  

 

Burger Stand

Also owned by the Bateses, is the Burger Stand, near the corner of 8th & Mass.  Whether you’re a die-hard meat eater or you prefer vegetarian options, the Burger Stand has something for you.  is your place. Located in the old Casbah building, the Burger Stand offers one of the most expansive burger menus in Lawrence.  You can get a more traditional burger, topped with white cheddar and seasonal greens (“The Classic”) or a more adventurous burger topped with avocado and a habanero-cactus jam (“Fire”).

Veggie burgers at the Burger Stand are made from ingredients like cauliflower, black beans, shiitake and crimini mushrooms, and garbanzo beans. They even sell the Impossible burger. If burgers aren’t your thing, they have hot dogs, corn dogs, salads, and the best fries in Lawrence.    

My go-to at the Burger Stand is the Smoke Burger, topped with applewood-smoked bacon, gouda cheese, and chipotle-cocoa ketchup, but if you see something on the specials menu that interests you, I recommend ordering that.  The specials at the Burger Stand never disappoint!

 

Culinaria

Culinaria Small Plates Meal
Culinaria Small Plates Meal

Back in the East Lawrence Neighborhood lies Culinaria.  The restaurant has come a long way from its catering-only operation and now serves some of the very best Mediterranean food in town.  The space is small (only seating around 30-40 guests) but the food and service are mighty!

When planning your trip, keep in mind that Culinaria is currently only open Thursday through Saturday from 3:30-9pm. I recommend going with a group of friends and ordering several small plates to share.  If you hit them at the right time of day (3:30-5:30pm), you can catch one of the best happy hour values around, with $5 cocktails, $2 off wine by the glass, and $1 – $5 small plates. You won’t find an undesirable dish on the menu, but be sure to try the Fried Cauliflower with Labneh, Burnt Eggplant Dip, Jerusalem Hummus, and Mushroom Ragout.

 

Sylas & Maddy’s

Sylas & Maddy's
Photo Credit: Sylas & Maddy’s

If you have a sweet tooth and you’re a fan of ice cream, try the very best ice cream in Lawarence, at Sylas & Maddy’s. All of the ice cream is made in-house and flavors range from simple sorbets to more elaborate flavors (with unique names) like “Da Bomb” and “Rock Chocolate Jayhawk”.

My favorite thing to do at Sylas & Maddy’s is to order the 5-Flavor Sampler.  You get 5 mini scoops of ice cream, so you can try a variety. Helpful Hint though – if you plan on continuing a walk down Mass Street while eating your ice cream, make sure it’s not July, or your 5-Flavor Sampler will become one soupy flavor that may or may not work out well.  

 

Luckyberry

Luckyberry

If you love sweets but you’re looking for something that may take fewer sets in the gym to work off, try Luckyberry.  Here, you can find homemade soft serve that’s made with local ingredients in really eclectic flavors that you may never have thought of as ice cream before.  You can serve yourself in the back of the store, so you can try a variety of flavors if you’d like. You’re charged by the weight of the ice cream you dispense, so be careful not to go nuts. The menu changes often, but if you see chocolate cherry on the menu, I can definitely recommend that flavor.  

Luckyberry also serves fresh-pressed juices, coffee, fresh-made sushi, and a local salad bar. Pop in for a refreshing juice, grab a sushi roll, salad, and soft serve and have a complete picnic to take to one of the parks surrounding Downtown Lawrence.

 

Closing

Are you a fellow Lawrencian? Did I miss one of your favorites? Leave a comment and let me know what I should add to this list!

Whatever brings you to Lawrence, I hope you enjoy your time exploring our unique little LFK and that you long to return again! Rock Chalk!

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other “What Not to Miss”  and Travel Recommendation posts:

What Not to Miss: Vancouver, BC

We’re often asked for recommendations about places we’ve traveled and I’ve never written specifically here about one of our favorite cities to visit, Vancouver, BC.  In the spirit of my “What Not to Miss: Austin” post, I present, “What Not to Miss: Vancouver, BC”.

Josh and I have been big fans of Vancouver since our first trip there, back in 2014.  We stayed in Vancouver for a couple of days prior to our Alaska cruise. We’ve been fortunate enough to visit Vancouver twice since that original trip, both times in the last year and we’re still in love with the city.  It (along with Barcelona) is a place we’d absolutely consider if we were to move “abroad”.

How to Get Around

If you arrive by air, you’ll likely land at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).  The airport is beautiful and really easy to navigate and it’s ridiculously easy to get from the airport directly to Downtown Vancouver, using public transportation.  Just make your way to the Vancouver (YVR) – Canada Line SkyTrain station, located above the covered parking garage at the airport, and ride the SkyTrain for around 30 minutes, to the City Centre station, for less than $10 per person.

If you’re renting a car at the airport and you’re planning to stay Downtown, make sure you account for parking with your lodging.  I’m a big advocate of having a car in Vancouver, and you’ll see why as my recommendations go on, but parking in Downtown Vancouver can be a bit of a nightmare.  Make sure you’re prepared with an Airbnb that includes parking or a hotel that has parking facilities.

If you’re not renting a car, you’ll still find it very easy to get around Vancouver, using public transportation.  I recommend downloading the Citymapper app (Android | Apple) to map your routes using busses and the SkyTrain.  It’s super easy to use and is available for a variety of cities around the world.  All you have to do is enter your final destination and Citymapper will tell you all of the options for how to get there, using public transportation, on foot, via car, and with a taxi/ride share service.  If you’re using public transportation, the app has a feature that will allow it to alert you when your stop is coming up. Surprisingly, this feature works on underground transportation, as well, and even worked flawlessly in the London Tube, which is known for being one of the deeper subway systems in the world.

If you’ve got an early flight to catch, you can also use the app to estimate how long any route will take at specific times of the day, so you can estimate what time you will need to leave to arrive somewhere at a specific time.  It’s a really useful app and we’ve used it in multiple cities around the globe.

Where to Stay

I definitely recommend finding a place to stay that’s in Downtown Vancouver.  Vancouver is an incredible walkable city (we’ve easily hit 25,000 steps in one day in Vancouver) and being right in the center of everything puts you that much closer to all the great parts of the city center.  

If you’re comfortable with using the sharing economy, I recommend Airbnb.  We’ve been fortunate enough to stay in the same building (two different apartments) for each of our three Vancouver trips and it’s in a perfect location.  Unfortunately, the first apartment we stayed in has been sold and is no longer listed on Airbnb, but our last two trips were spent in this fabulous 19th floor apartment, overlooking Downtown.  The views at night are incredible and the apartment has everything you need to enjoy a trip to Vancouver (2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, laundry in the apartment, a fully stocked kitchen, balcony, fast internet, and the best perk of all – underground parking).

If you’re thinking of using Airbnb for the first time, you can get a $40 travel credit by using my link (www.airbnb.com/c/adavis350).  Full disclosure – if you use my link to book, I’ll get a $20 Airbnb credit when you complete your trip.

We haven’t stayed in a hotel in Vancouver before, but there are a lot of options to choose from in the Downtown area.  If hotels are more your speed, you’re sure to find one that’s suitable.

What to Do in Vancouver

It seems like there’s a never-ending supply of things to do when you’re visiting Vancouver.  I’ve broken down my “to-do” recommendations into “inside Vancouver” and “around Vancouver”. We’ll start with things to do while you’re in the city.  

Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour

The first time we were in Vancouver, we spent a whole day riding the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.  We’ve found that this tour, in any city we’ve done one in, has been one of our best experiences.  These tour companies painstakingly curate their routes and include interesting facts and history about the city, while showing you some of the most popular sites around.  You can hop off the bus at any of the stops, and hop back on when you’re ready to explore somewhere new.

We typically do one full loop of the tour, then get off at places that sparked our interest. That way, even if we find a place we love and lose track of time, we would still have been able to see everything on the tour.  I usually recommend buying whatever version of the ticket will allow you to access all of the routes that are running on your selected day, and if you’re going to be in town for more than a day, I’d get a multi-day pass, if it’s offered.  Then you can just do a couple days of hop-on-hop-off, and see everything you want to see in the city you’re visiting.

Granville Island

Granville Island is a special place.  It combines art, food, and waterfront, right in the middle of the Downtown Vancouver skyscrapers and it’s magical.  Most people immediately think of the Granville Island Public Market when they think of Granville, but this area is so much more than just the Market.  Don’t get me wrong – the Market is phenomenal, but the area is filled with local artists, studios, a boat making shop, a theatre company, and tons of little shops and restaurants that are totally Vancouver.  The Island is a great place to spend an afternoon and when you’re done, grab a snack at the Market and sit outside watching the boats and birds on False Creek, in the shadow of Downtown Vancouver.

Stanley Park

You can’t go to Vancouver without visiting Stanley Park.  It’s one of the largest parks in North America and British Columbia doesn’t mess around when it comes to parks.  At 130 years old and nearly 1,000 acres, Stanley Park is the oldest and largest park in Vancouver. The park lies on a peninsula between Vancouver Harbour and English Bay and features a beautiful seawall that’s great for running, walking, biking, and rollerblading.  While visiting Stanley Park, you can ride the Stanley Park train, visit the largest aquarium in Canada, lay on the beach, visit historical landmarks, eat delectable food, and enjoy the beautiful British Columbia outdoors. It’s really a park like none other, and you’ll want to devote a chunk of time to checking out all it has to offer.  

Stanley Park Seawall

Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery is really a fantastic stop if you’re an art lover.  Their exhibits change often and Josh and I have enjoyed the exhibits all three times we’ve visited.  The gallery is currently housed in a beautiful and historic building (former provincial courthouse), right in the middle of Downtown Vancouver.  Soon, it will be moving into a brand new space (groundbreaking is scheduled for sometime this year – 2018) that’s been in the planning process since 2004.  We can’t wait to get back to Vancouver when the new facility is finished to see how it turned out. It’s definitely worth checking out while it’s still in the current location, as the architecture is gorgeous.

Sunset Beach & English Bay Beach

Adjacent to Stanley Park, you can find Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach.  The two are connected and I’m not certain where one ends and the other begins, but both are fantastic places to spend an afternoon just people watching or enjoying the breathtaking views of English Bay.  Sunset Beach features access to the False Creek ferry system and the Stanley Park seawall. English Bay Beach features beach rentals, the Cactus Club Cafe (this place seemed WAY too cool for us, with a line to get in around 3pm), and a swimming raft with a slide.  If you’re looking for beach activities, either of these would be a great option.

What to Do around Vancouver

Now, we’ll explore things to do around the Vancouver area, but outside the city.  If you have the opportunity and the time to get outside the city limits of Vancouver, you won’t be disappointed.  British Columbia is one of the most spectacular places we’ve ever been and, if we lived there, I would spend most of my time outdoors.  It’s just breathtaking, every direction you go.

GyPSy Guide Tour App

Folks, this is my #1 recommendation when you’re traveling in British Columbia and have access to a car.  If you take no other piece of advice I’ve given here, take this one. GyPSy Guide is an app that you can download on your smartphone.  You download the app for a few dollars (trust me, it’s worth every penny you’ll spend and SO much more) at home, before you leave for your trip to Vancouver.  GyPSy uses GPS (get it? GPS?) signals (no cellular data) to track where you are located and gives you a turn by turn guided tour of the area over your phone speakers, or through the car’s bluetooth connection.  

We have taken both the Whistler (north) route and the Kamloops (east) route out of Vancouver and we would recommend both to anyone who wants to take a day-trip out of the city.  GyPSy also has a tour of Downtown Vancouver that does a great job of teaching you about the city and showing you all of the important landmarks.

GyPSy Guide tours have taken us to places other driving tours would have skipped and we’ve been awed by every turn.  In addition to the British Columbia tours, GyPSy offers tours in Hawaii, on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.  We used the Oahu and Kauai tours when we were there last year and will use the others the next time we have the opportunity.  GyPSy Guide also has tours in other areas of the United States and Canada. Truthfully, we will download the GyPSy Guide tour for any area we’re visiting that has one.  The tours keep you interested and provide some really great information about the places you’re visiting. Again, I can’t recommend these enough. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see things other tourists will miss!

Provincial Parks

If you download the GyPSy Guide Tour to either Whistler or Kamloops, you’ll be given the opportunity to pull off at many of the British Columbia Provincial Parks.  I absolutely recommend stopping to visit these breathtaking spots. British Columbia isn’t ever a place that came to mind when I pictured spectacular waterfalls, but it’s definitely on my list of best waterfalls now, after visiting so many of the Provincial parks.  It seems like every turn in British Columbia affords another fabulous view, and the Provincial parks spread throughout the province do not disappoint.

BC Ferry to Victoria

You’ll often hear from people who have visited Vancouver that you need to make sure you get yourself to Victoria.  This can be easier said than done, but, on our last trip to Vancouver, we made the trek to the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen and sailed to Swartz Bay, just outside of Victoria.  The voyage was beautiful and the experience of riding a passenger/vehicle ferry was really interesting.

Something many people don’t realize about traveling from Vancouver to Victoria on a ferry, is that the ferry terminals are both about 30 miles outside each city, so just hopping on the ferry as a passenger isn’t the most feasible option.  You’ll either need to have a car, or take one of the chartered busses that will take you from Downtown Vancouver to Downtown Victoria. We chose the private vehicle method, and would do it that way again, if given the opportunity. We’ve never done the bus trip, so I can’t comment on how smoothly that works, but we know the private vehicle option works well.  I do recommend, however, that you book your trip ahead of time, to reserve a spot. You’ll have to pay a deposit to make the reservation, but you don’t pay the full fee until you arrive at the ferry terminal for your voyage.

Butchart Gardens

While in Victoria, be sure to stop at Butchart Gardens.  I never thought a garden could be so fascinating, but it’s truly amazing.  The gardens are inside an abandoned quarry and are like no place I’ve ever been.  The care and love that goes into keeping this place so beautiful is very evident as you explore the grounds.  While you’re there, don’t forget to make reservations to experience high tea. It can be pricey, but it’s really worth it.  You won’t leave hungry!

Where to Eat

What would a trip be without some restaurant recommendations?  My recommendations in Vancouver are a little different than my typically recommendations.  Vancouver is an incredible international city. You can find cuisine from all over the world within about a 4 block radius of wherever you stay.  Everything is incredible, and you should try it all – from the dollar pizza, to the food trucks outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, you don’t be disappointed.  That being said, I do have a couple of recommendations if you need some places to get started.

Cartems Donuterie

This was a recommendation from one of Josh’s colleagues and he didn’t steer us wrong.  We stopped here as soon as we got off of our cruise ship, after 5 days at sea, from Maui.  Fresh, gourmet donuts and a great mocha were on my to-do list for the day and we had great success at Cartems.  The donuts you’ll find here aren’t of the “Dunkin’” variety. Come prepared to give your tastebuds a workout and you’ll have the opportunity to try flavors you won’t see anywhere else, like smoked maple walnut, honey Parmesan, and orange guava.  

Cartems Donuterie

 

The Flying Pig

Located in the heart of Gastown, one of the more gentrified, touristy areas of Vancouver, the Flying Pig may look like any other over-hyped restaurant.  What you’ll find, though, is a meticulously curated menu of seasonally-inspired and locally-sourced dishes that will blow you away. Who wouldn’t love some pulled pork poutine or lobster and prawn risotto?  Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any selection from their menu.

Mr. Shawarma Food Truck

If you know me, you know of my love for food trucks.  Mr. Shawarma is a truck I found the first time we visited Vancouver, and I’ve been back every time we’ve been there since.  It’s not fancy and it’s not expensive, but the food tastes amazing and the owners are some of the nicest people you’ll meet.  My favorite order is a falafel pita wrap, but they also sell poutine, platters, and spicy options.

Whatever your plans are when you visit Vancouver, I hope you love the city as much as we do!  Do you have favorites that I missed?

 

What Not to Miss: Austin

Austin is a city that gets talked about a lot.  Everybody knows somebody who knows something about Austin.  They’ve embraced the mantra “Keep Austin Weird”, and trust me, they do.  I find a lot of similarities between Austin and my own hometown of Lawrence, Kansas.  Both cities are a blue blip in a very red state, but both are so much more than their politically liberal leanings.  Both could easily play leading roles in a foodie’s dream and both are powerhouses of culture.

My husband and I spent about 5 days in Austin in early January.  It was his first time visiting, and my third.  Both of my previous trips were to attend SXSW, so my experience was a bit limited, but this was an awesome visit and we’re already making plans to go back.  Based on my experiences, I have a few recommendations of things that you shouldn’t miss if you visit Austin.

What to Do

Austin Eats Food Tour

This is my top recommendation for how to spend some of your time in Austin, and it includes eating at some of the city’s best food trucks. We love doing food tours in cities we visit and Austin Eats didn’t disappoint.  I wish we’d had more time in Austin so that we could have done more than one of their tours, but we participated in their Best of Austin Food Truck tour and it was pretty amazing!  The tour started with fresh Golden Eggs from Sandra Bullock’s Walton’s Fancy & Staple (seriously, look these up – they’re amazing), then visited the Cocoa Puro tent at the Saturday SFC Farmers’ Market.  All items sold by vendors at this farmers’ market have to be produced within 150 miles of Downtown Austin.

Other stops on the tour included Kerlin BBQ, where we sampled a fantastic BBQ brisket & cheddar kolache; la Barbeque, where we skipped the line that was forming before they opened, and had the best brisket and pulled pork of our trip, alone with homemade pickles and a really unique cole slaw; Tumble 22 for some Nashville Hot Chicken and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka; Lucky’s Puccias, in the courtyard of Mort Subite Belgian Pub for puccias, a tasty authentic Italian sandwich made with bread baked in the wood fired oven inside the food truck; and Churro Co. for an incredible s’mores churro.  All of the food and beverages are included throughout the tour and you absolutely will not leave hungry.

Rainey Street

This is an adorable little area (just a couple blocks) where old homes have been turned into restaurants and bars.  It’s adjacent to Downtown, and where our Airbnb was. There are food trucks interspersed throughout the area, so if you’d rather have food from a truck, then grab drinks at one of the hip little bars along this street, you can absolutely do that.

Austin 360 Bridge

If you’ve got a rental car, I definitely recommend going out to check this out.  The bridge is stunning, but the view is even more spectacular.  It can be a little confusing to find, as there aren’t any signs and it seems to be a bit of an unofficial park area.  If you see people parked on the side of the road, just before you are about to cross the big bridge, you found it.  You’ll park where they are, then climb up.  You won’t regret the mini hike.  The view from the top is AMAZING!

Hope Outdoor Gallery

This spot started as the beginning of a building and the project was never completed.  Now, it’s an outdoor gallery where artists use spray paint to create amazing art on the concrete foundation of the building.  There’s also a great, unobstructed view of Downtown Austin.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library

One of the better presidential libraries I’ve been to.  LBJ was the one who created many of the social programs we work with today.  It was interesting to see how they all started.  There’s a neat feature in this library where they allow you to listen to phone conversations LBJ had with many people, including Jackie Kennedy, right after JFK was assassinated.  It’s really interesting.  It’s on the UT campus, but they have a designated parking lot, so you shouldn’t have any problems.

Blanton Art Museum

If you like art museums, this is a great one.  The entry way is beautiful and they just opened a brand new building (it opened right after we left Austin) that looks amazing.  This one is also on the UT campus, but there’s a public parking garage that makes things easy.

Where to Eat

Pizza – Via313

This is a Detroit-style pizza spot that started as a food truck.  I recommend checking out the original (behind Craft Pride at 61 Rainey Street).  They have an amazing patio in the back yard, where the food truck is, and Craft Pride serves all kinds of Texas craft beer.  The pizza is amazing, and it’s a spot I go back to every time I’m in Austin.

Trendy Doughnuts – VooDoo Doughnuts

This isn’t the original location (that’s in Portland), but it’s just enough of a taste of Austin’s 6th Street to be enough for me.  6th Street is Austin’s Bourbon Street and can be a little overwhelming.  I recommend going long enough to grab a doughnut and catch a little live music.

Amazing Doughnuts – Gourdough’s Big. Fat. Donuts.

This is a food truck that only sells donuts.  There are great combinations and they’re all really good.  This is a popular place, so don’t go unless you have 30-ish minutes to spare.

Tacos – Torchy’s Tacos

Torchy’s is always on the list of recommendations when you’re talking about Austin.  If you like tacos, you’ll like this place, and they even have a “secret” menu.  It’s an Austin chain,  but they’re spreading to other places across the country (Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma right now).  but they know what they’re doing.  There are lots of locations all over the city and all have different features.  Check out their website to find the location that best fits your needs.

Unique Asian Fusion – Soursop

We stopped here on the way back to the airport.  It’s a small food truck attached to a brewery in a really industrial-looking area.  If you’re using GPS, you’re going to think you’re in the wrong place, but you’re not.  They have a really nice outdoor area and the food is unique and really good.

Breakfast – Biscuits N’ Groovy (Hyde Park)

If you like biscuits & gravy, definitely check out this food truck.  Lots of combinations and they’re all amazing.  It’s also around the corner from a great coffee shop, The Flightpath Coffeehouse.

BBQ – The Salt Lick

This is one you’ll have to drive to.  It’s about 30-45 minutes outside of Austin, but it’s worth it.  It’s one of the more famous BBQ spots in the country.  They have amazing food, but it’s super popular, so I recommend it for lunch rather than dinner.  We actually went as soon as we got off the plane and got our car in Austin, since we couldn’t check into the Airbnb until later in the afternoon.

No matter what you choose to do or where you choose to eat, Austin has something for everyone.  What are your favorites?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pockets

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pockets

Makes: 8 servings

These keto fathead cheeseburger pockets have quickly become a staple in the ketogenic diet that my husband and I have been following on and off over the last year.  Fathead dough is super versatile and you can really fill these with just about anything.  I’ve used fathead dough to make lasagna “noodles”, pizzas, cinnamon rolls, and several other recipes over the last year.  What’s your favorite way to use fathead dough?

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pockets

Recipe

Filling

1.5 lbs ground beef

3/4 medium onion, diced

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

16 pickle sandwich slices

Salt, pepper, and other seasonings, to taste

 

Dough

6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3 cups almond flour

8 tablespoons cream cheese, cut up

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

4 eggs, beaten until the white and yolks are combined

1 tsp salt

 

Method

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

You’ll want to make the filling so that it’s ready to go when you get your fathead dough cut.  Fathead dough is easier to work with when it’s warm.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet with the diced onions and your preferred seasonings.  Be sure to break the meat into small crumbles so that it will fit into the dough pocket better.  When the meat is cooked through, add in the shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted.  Set aside.

Next, you’ll make the fathead dough.  I usually do this in two batches to make things less difficult.  Just take the ingredients I’ve listed above, for the crust and divide them in half to start.

You’ll want to start the dough by melting the mozzarella and cream cheese in a large, non stick skillet (or the microwave – I prefer the skillet because you can add and remove heat on the fly and it makes it easier to mix the dough later).  Once the cheeses are melted, add the almond flour, egg, and vinegar and mix (if you used a skillet to melt the cheese, this is when I would reduce the heat to low so you don’t overheat the cheese) until combined into a nice dough.

Transfer the mixed dough to a sheet of parchment paper, and cover with a 2nd sheet of parchment paper.  Roll our the dough into a large rectangle, between the two sheets of parchment paper until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.  If you’re making the dough in two batches, this half should be cut into 4 equal rectangles.

Before making the second batch of dough, go ahead and put together the first half of the hot pockets, otherwise the dough will get cold and be more difficult to work with.  To do this, you’ll scoop about 1/8 of the meat filling into each of the dough rectangles and top with two slices of pickles.  Fold the dough over to form a pocket and pinch the edges together, pressing with a fork, if necessary, to seal completely.

Repeat for the second batch of dough.

Place finished pockets on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, checking regularly after 20.  Finished pockets should be nicely browned and the dough should be cooked through.

Nutrition

Keto Fathead Cheeseburger Pocket Nutrition Facts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Year in Review

As the year draws to a close, I always like to take a few moments to reflect on all my experiences over the past 12 months. As with most years, 2017 will be remembered as a year of curve balls and unexpected surprises, but what would life be without occasional surprises and detours? Here’s my 2017 Year in Review. . . 

Amanda & Josh overlooking Honolulu
Overlooking Honolulu

Work

I just passed the two-year mark at the University of Kansas at the Center for Public Partnerships and Research, managing the Institute for the Advancement of Family Support Professionals project. The Institute officially launched our free, online learning platform on November 1st and things are going well. As the project continues through 2018, a career map feature will be added to the platform that will help guide users to trainings that will help them become proficient in a national set of core competencies that were developed by the project. The project involves a team of stakeholders from many different organizations, spread across four different states and most of the work is done virtually via video conferencing. You can learn more about the Institute and even sign up to take some of the courses yourself at www.InstituteFSP.org.  

 

My husband, Josh, spends his time working in content marketing and communications strategy for a Victoria, British Columbia-based marketing and consulting firm. He is the account lead for several Fortune 1000 clients and has spent some time this year writing about something he’s really interested in – blockchain and cryptocurrency.  You can find some of his writing at www.CoinCatalyst.com. The Bitcoin learning curve has been steep for me, but I feel much more educated in the world of cryptocurrency thanks to Josh’s devout research skills.  We even spent the drive back and forth to Central Kansas for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year listening to Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money on Audible.

 

Travel

We’ve continued traveling fairly extensively throughout 2017.

 

Hawaii

In May, we celebrated our 7th anniversary by flying to Honolulu, spending four days on the island of Oahu, followed by 12 days on a cruise ship visiting three additional islands for seven of those days and crossing the Pacific for the additional five. While in Hawaii, we stayed in an Airbnb on the North Shore of Oahu, visited Pearl Harbor, did a driving tour of Oahu, had coffee in Kona, visited our first active volcano in Hilo, went mountain tubing at Kauai Backcountry Adventures through the irrigation canals of an old sugarcane plantation in Kauai, marveled at the beauty of Waimea Canyon, took a 6-person cruise along the Na Pali Coast with Na Pali Experience (seriously, if you ever get the opportunity to do this, DO IT!!!), did the entire loop on the Road to Hana, and visited art galleries in Lahaina.

Vancouver

After spending five days at sea, we disembarked the cruise ship in Vancouver and walked 25,000 steps the first day off the ship. Vancouver is one of our favorite cities in the world and we always appreciate the opportunity to explore our favorite places when we’re there. We even made the drive along the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler.  They’re not kidding when they say the Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in North America.  It’s truly spectacular, and was made even better because of an app I stumbled upon when we were planning our time on Oahu.  If you’re ever traveling in the Hawaiian Islands or in British Columbia (and a few other locations), and you’ll have a car, I HIGHLY recommend looking into the GyPSy Guide.  The company has several tours of varying lengths for each of the Islands, as well as many tour options in British Columbia, and several popular National Park destinations in the United States.  We probably downloaded 6 or 7 of their tours for our trip and they were worth every single penny.  You download the tour and pair your phone with the car’s Bluetooth, then play the audio of the tour through your car speakers while you drive.  The tour is triggered by GPS signal, and the guide gives fantastic directions.  We saw things during those driving tours that you would never find in a guidebook or by just using trial and error.  I wish every destination had something similar.

Brandywine Falls
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park

 

Family Health

When we returned from Vancouver, we found that my mom had become very ill while we were away. She’d lost a lot of weight and was very weak. Her liver specialist at the University of Kansas Hospital decided that it was time to talk about being placed on the liver transplant list and I spent three days working from the hospital while my mom went through the tests and evaluations that are required before being placed on the list. During this process, it was discovered that my mom was also in kidney failure and she was admitted to the hospital for about a week while the doctors worked on getting her healthy enough to be placed on the transplant list. The treatment she received while in the hospital helped her regain enough strength to officially receive approval to be placed on the liver transplant list on my 35th birthday. Her health continues to be stable and she will likely have to get much worse before she will be able to receive a transplant, but we’re fortunate that she’s on the list.

Amanda & Vickie outside of Palma de Mallorca
Amanda & Vickie outside of Palma de Mallorca

Through this process, I’ve learned more about the process of organ transplants than I ever knew existed and have started preaching the importance of registering to be an organ donor to anyone who will listen.  I even organized an organ donor drive for the Midwest Transplant Network at my office, in August.  If you’re not already registered to be an organ donor (not just with a sticker on your driver’s license, but through an actual registration process), please consider registering at www.OrganDonor.gov today.  Five minutes of your time could mean the difference between life and death for someone you know.

More Travel

Boston

In late September, Josh and I had the opportunity to visit Boston for 4 days for a marketing conference. Since both of us have a professional interest in marketing, it was a perfect opportunity to attend a conference together and get in a little sightseeing while there. Last year, we visited Boston on a cruise, but only had the chance to be in the city for a one day, so it was nice to get to spend more time there and actually get to explore a bit. We stayed in an Airbnb in Beacon Hill, right in the middle of everything. We even took Amtrak to New London, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, so we could check off a couple of additional states. It was a great, albeit short, trip.

Vancouver (again)

One day after returning from Boston, we flew back to Vancouver, BC for a few days ahead of another cruise. We woke up before dawn one morning and drove our rental car to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen to go to Victoria and visit Josh’s childhood friend, and his family for the day. We got to enjoy high tea in Butchart Gardens before walking around Downtown Victoria, and spending a few hours at their home before taking the ferry back to Vancouver that night. We also had the opportunity to take another GyPSy Guide tour and drive east out of Vancouver to Kamloops, BC. Someday, we want to take a trip to the Canadian Rockies (Jasper, Banff, etc.) and Kamloops is halfway between Vancouver and the Rockies. It was a beautiful drive and we’re eager to get back to the area.

West Coast

From Vancouver, we boarded the Ruby Princess and headed south. We stopped in Astoria, OR, to see Mount St. Helens, spent a day in San Francisco, where we visited Sausalito, sailed under, drove over, and walked over the Golden Gate Bridge, saw the Full House Painted Lady houses, and walked around Haight Ashbury. We spent the last day of our cruise in Santa Barbara on a food & drink walking tour (Eat This, Shoot That) of the “Funk Zone” which reminded us a lot of our own East Lawrence. The cruise ended in Los Angeles and we flew home that afternoon.

Staying Busy in the Community

After founding the Girlfriend’s Gala in 2014, I’m working with our planning committee to wrap up plans for our 4th annual event, on February 2nd. The Gala is an American Cancer Society fundraiser resembling a “prom” for ladies 21 and over and features a photo booth, snack bar, raffle, and bachelor auction. It’s an event that’s becoming really popular in Lawrence and I spend a lot of time each year preparing for it and soliciting donations.  It’s always a blast and it raises a lot of money for a good cause.

 

I also spend time as a member of the Board of Directors for Just Food, the food bank, here in Douglas County, Kansas.  I serve as a member of the fund development sub-committee and help with a lot of the plans for fundraising events throughout the year.  

 

This year, in my capacity as a Board member for the Social Media Club of Lawrence, I’ve helped to revamp the format for our 2018 meetings.  Since the club was founded, it has been meeting weekly, on Wednesday mornings at 7:30.  With many of the members starting families and having to drop kids off at school at exactly that time every morning, it was becoming difficult to get many members to attend meetings.  We’re excited to start hosting monthly lunch networking meetings and monthly evening meetings with presentations, starting in January.  For more information about attending or becoming involved with SMC Lawrence, visit our Facebook page.

 

Grad School

I’m so close to being done with grad school, I can smell it.  I’m officially half-way through my final year of a two-year Master’s program at the University of Kansas in Digital Content Strategy. I’ll walk down the hill at graduation on May 13th and finish my final class over the summer.  

 

Work Travel

I didn’t travel as much for work this year as I did in 2016, but still got out of Lawrence with colleagues a few times:

  • March – South By Southwest Education – Austin, TX
  • March – South By Southwest Interactive – Austin, TX
  • March – Institute for the Advancement of Family Support Professionals Meeting – Harrisonburg, VA

 

2018 Plans

2018 will bring a trip to Texas and two trips to the Caribbean.

 

Texas

In January, we’re spending 4 days in Austin and San Antonio. Josh has never been to either city and I’m looking forward to getting back to Austin and visiting San Antonio for the first time. We’re staying in an Airbnb on Rainey Street, which is one of my favorite little pockets of Austin. We’re excited to get to see one of our friends and her family when we visit San Antonio.  We accidentally found out they would be there (visiting from southern Mississippi for a conference) the same weekend we would, so we’ll get to spend time with them both in January and in November.  

 

Eastern Caribbean

In May, we will be travelling back to the Eastern Caribbean on the same itinerary we sailed in 2016 (St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau, out of Miami).  We haven’t booked any tours yet, but if Josh has his way, we’ll be doing the same tours we did when we were in each location before.  Unfortunately, St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda all took pretty direct hits from two hurricanes this fall, and we’re not sure how many of the tour operators are back to functioning 100% at this point.  We really enjoyed touring St. John and visiting the Baths at Virgin Gorda when we were there in 2016 and would love to get back to both again.

 

Western Caribbean for Josh’s 40th Birthday

In November, we will be sailing to the Western Caribbean with at least 25 friends and family members for Josh’s 40th birthday. We sail from New Orleans, which will be a lot of fun! You can see our itinerary and learn more about the cruise HERE. If you’d like to go with us, we’d love to have more in our group, so please let me know. There’s plenty of room for more people in our group and you get quite a few perks by being a part of a group, so make sure you book through us. Deposits are always fully refundable through the final payment for cruises, so there’s not a lot of risk involved in booking early.  

 

Wrap Up

2017 has been quite a year.  We’ve been a few new places, made some new friends, been involved in our community, and learned a lot.  What were your favorite parts of 2017?

 

 

 

 

 

Yes! Lawrence

Last week, a group of friends from across Lawrence, Kansas gathered in the Warehouse Arts District to talk about forming a new community organization dedicated to promote more “Yes!” across Lawrence.  Yes! Lawrence!

Yes! can come in many forms. . .

  • Yes! We are unapologetic urbanists who believe in the virtues of cities. More people living in close proximity to each other can improve their lives and the lives of those far beyond city limits.

  • Yes! We believe that affordable housing is sorely lacking in Lawrence and want to encourage the City to focus more on bringing the population of the urban core back to where it was 50-100 years ago.

  • Yes! We believe that the future of movement from place to place is pedestrian, cycling, and autonomous and believe that we should focus more on homes for humans than on homes for cars.

  • Yes! We believe that promoting mixed-use ideas in existing neighborhoods builds community and opportunity.

  • Yes! We believe that positive and sustainable growth and change is organic, incremental, and citizen-driven.  We favor many of smaller changes over large scale planning.

  • Yes! We believe that economic and environmental sustainability are intrinsically linked. Making smart environmental choices is a good investment.

  • Yes! We want to educate….There are many preconceived ideas about development based on minimal data. We seek to share available research with City officials and other stakeholders (KU, Haskell, school district, homeowners, neighborhood associations, etc.).

  • Yes! We believe that allowing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units or “Mother-in-Law” units on their property can enable people to stay in their homes longer and continue to afford to live in a neighborhood they love amid rising property taxes that may otherwise price them out of the neighborhood.

  • Yes! We believe in giving back to the Lawrence community making a difference in as many ways as possible.

We are forming Yes! Lawrence to create a community of people who want to make a positive impact but may not have the time, energy, or knowledge to make a difference on their own.  As a group, we hope to be able to call on individuals with useful connections and expertise when there is a cause within the community that could use our help.  We gather in the spirit of organizations across the country who believe in Strong Towns and proclaim “YIMBY” (Yes, in my back yard) recognizing the things that make Lawrence a unique and desirable place to live and realizing that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the answer.  We think multi-generationally, envisioning what our community could look like in 50 or 100 years and acknowledge that placing too many restrictions on neighborhoods, while seeming beneficial in the short-term, only further entrenches problems like gentrification and increasing our carbon footprint.

We are looking for interested individuals to join us on our quest to hear more Yes! in Lawrence.  Right now, we’re in the VERY early stages of planning.  We decided on the Yes! Lawrence organization name at our last meeting and are planning to craft a mission and vision at our next meeting, in January.  We’ve prepared a short questionnaire for those who are interested in getting involved or being updated about our progress. It asks questions about who you are, what you do, what organizations and people you’re connected with here in town, and what you’d like to see the organization strive toward.  Please take a couple of minutes to complete this form and share your thoughts!  We want to make this organization as inclusive as possible and bring a lot of Yes! to Lawrence, but we need your help to make that happen.

Don’t worry, you won’t be signing your life away by completing the form.  We don’t want this to be “just another meeting” and understand that the people who could have the biggest impact in our organization are also the people who have the busiest schedules and many other commitments.  We’re hoping to plan monthly meetings and meet with sub-groups, as necessary.  We don’t know all the answers yet, but, with your help, we’re hoping to begin developing some answers over the next several months.

If you or someone you know may be interested in Yes! Lawrence please sign up for our email list HERE.

We’re looking forward to hearing lots of Yes! all across Lawrence!

 

 

 

My Favorite Books of 2017

I LOVE to get book recommendations from friends! It wasn’t that many years ago when I found it difficult to find time to do any reading for pleasure.  I filled my time with other things and didn’t make slowing down to read a priority.  Then I found Audible. . . Combine my discovery of Audible with nearly 10 years of a 45 minute, one-way, daily commute and I was magically able to read for pleasure again.  Although I no longer have a commute, I’m still able to listen to audiobooks while I’m cooking dinner each night.  I complete books at a slower pace, but I’m still able to get in several each month.

I’m always looking for book recommendations that fit my varied interests and feel like the end of the year is as good a time as any to share my Top Ten reads of the last year.  I clearly don’t have a single style of book I enjoy.  I tend to get most of my recommendations from The Skimm or through random recommendations from friends. I’m including portions of the Goodreads descriptions from each book because they do a much better job of summing up the books than I could.

Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links.  If you use them to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris - book recommendations
#10

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

 

The Dry by Jane Harper - book recommendations
#9

The Dry by Jane Harper

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

 

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach - book recommendations
#8

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment – to oneself and to others.

 

 

 

 

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - book recommendations
#7

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

 

 

 

The Child by Fiona Barton - book recommendations
#6

The Child by Fiona Barton

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

 

 

 


#5

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

 

 

The Nix by Nathan Hill - book recommendations
#4

The Nix by Nathan Hill

A hilarious and deeply touching debut novel about a son, the mother who left him as a child, and how his search to uncover the secrets of her life leads him to reclaim his own.

 

 

 

 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - book recommendations
#3

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

 

 

 

 

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - book recommendations
#2

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden - book recommendations#1

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden

Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden?s extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad — Joe, I need your help — he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.

 

 

What are your book recommendations for 2018?

 

 

 

 

 

Banning Airbnb in Lawrence, Kansas???

Tomorrow evening, the City Commission of Lawrence, Kansas will discuss short term rentals in the city.  I have some very strong feelings about the subject and made sure I completed the survey the city sent out several months ago.  My perspective is not one of someone who owns a short term rental or who has any plans to have one in the future, but instead, is that of someone who has a great deal of experience using services such as Airbnb when traveling both throughout the United States, and internationally.


Our Short Term Rental Experiences

My husband and I have been customers of Airbnb since 2013 when our first experience with the service was renting an apartment with my parents in Barcelona, Spain.  The apartment was located one block from Sagrada Familia and, from the balcony of the apartment, we had a spectacular view of the cathedral from an angle few tourists would ever have the opportunity to experience.  None of us spoke Spanish, but we were able to communicate with our host (who spoke no English) easily through the Airbnb platform.  The apartment was across the street from a grocery store and in the same block as many local restaurants.  Because we were able to get such a great deal on the apartment through Airbnb, we spent significantly more just being “tourists” in a city we fell in love with.

Since our trip to Barcelona, back in 2013, we have been completely sold on the sharing economy idea of Airbnb.  We do not travel anywhere for pleasure without looking for an Airbnb property to stay in.  In fact, since 2013, the only time I have stayed in a hotel was when I was traveling for work, and we have even started to shift business travel lodging to Airbnb when possible, because it allows for collaboration between colleagues in an environment that isn’t full of the hustle and bustle of a hotel lobby.  We can sit around a dining room table and debrief all the things we learned at a conference, or we can work on presentations while sitting comfortably on a couch in the living room.  It’s really a fantastic way to travel with colleagues.

Vancouver, BC Airbnb Short Term RentalsVancouver, BC
London, England Airbnb Short Term RentalsLondon, UK
Washington, DC Airbnb Short Term RentalsWashington, DCBoston, MA Airbnb Short Term RentalsBoston, MAAustin, TX Airbnb Short Term RentalsAustin, TX

My husband and I have stayed in Airbnb properties all across the US (Seattle, Downtown Kansas City (twice), Austin (twice), Denver, Washington, DC, the North Shore of Oahu, and Boston) and internationally in London (twice), Vancouver (in the same apartment on three separate trips), and Barcelona.  We feel like utilizing available short term rentals allows us to experience cities like locals do.  We eat at more neighborhood restaurants, shop at more locally-owned stores, spend more money, and really get to know each city we visit.  Because we’re able to experience the true nature of each city, we find ourselves much more connected to each place and much more likely to return for another trip.  Additionally, booking through services such as Airbnb has allowed us to stay in areas that are much closer to city centers and in much more popular areas for far less than we would have had to pay to stay in a hotel.  I can say, without a doubt, that we have been able to travel more and visit more destinations because we are booking with Airbnb rather than with a hotel.  Hotels in many of the destinations we have visited would have made the trip cost-prohibitive.

Lawrence is made for short term rentals

Lawrence is a city that’s primed to make people fall in love with it.  I’ve lived here my whole life and my love for this city is contagious.  Whenever I have friends coming into town, or even old high school friends coming home to visit for a holiday, I feel compelled to tell them about all of my favorite places in Lawrence and about all the new places that I’ve recently had the opportunity to love.  In my experience, Airbnb hosts are some of the very best ambassadors of the cities in which they have property.  They want the experience of their guests to be as positive as possible.  Hosts want those guests to come back.  They want people to love place they call home as much as they do.

I understand the purpose of regulating short term rentals, but I’ve encouraged our City Commission to do it in a way that will not suffocate their existence in Lawrence.  By keeping them around, we’re encouraging people who love the sharing economy to add Lawrence to their list of desired destinations.  I’m certain people staying in these properties are spending more money in town than those who are staying at a hotel.  My husband and I are those people in other communities and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

 

 

 

Managing a Multi-State Project with a Cadre of Technology Tools

When working intensely on a complex project with a group of people scattered across the country, completing even the smallest of tasks seems nearly impossible. Who hasn’t seen the infamous “A Conference Call In Real Life” parody video and seen all their own conference call experiences flash before their eyes? The ability to communicate effectively across the entire remote team is paramount to the success of many of the projects we have here at CPPR.

I have a personal love of technology and thrive on the process of finding and testing tools that might make the remote communication process smoother. The current project I coordinate has partners in four different states, spread across seven organizations, providing a great opportunity to do some of this testing. Over the last several months, my project team has utilized a cadre of tools (which some team members had never had the opportunity to use before) that are helping our remote team of partners build momentum and move us toward our end goal. An added benefit is that most of the tools we have settled on can be used for FREE**. Below, I will introduce you to the tools that we have had the most success with.

Using Google Docs for Grant Writing

Version control is a phrase that I hear like nails on a chalkboard. When you’re writing as a team, trying to keep track of who is making edits in a document at any point in time, making sure they’re editing the correct version, then making sure the correct version is passed along to the next editor. . . is all one big, complicated, and tedious job. With Google Docs, multiple writers from each of the partner organizations can have the document open at the same time, all contributing to the same final product at once. Without a doubt, this process saves our team many hours of time on edits and additions. Here’s a great video on how to use Google Docs to collaborate with your own teams.

Using Zoom Video Conferencing for Regular Calls

Another hiccup that can come up with remote teams is live communication. “When should we talk?” “How should we run our calls?” “Who should be on the calls?” These are all questions we asked ourselves when we started work on this project. Ultimately, we decided that we would need to have in-person meetings a few times per year. Our first meeting was held over three days, on the campus of James Madison University and, in July, the partners visited our team here at the University of Kansas for our second meeting.

For our biweekly meetings, we decided to try video conferencing, as we get our best work done when we can see one another. Video calls were going to be our best option since we’re spread so widely across the country and can’t justify the cost of in-person meetings more than a few times a year. While we tried several different video conferencing services, it wasn’t until the University of Kansas offered access to all staff earlier this year that we settled on Zoom as the tool we would use going forward. Zoom offers the ability to have device-based video and audio from all participants, a calling feature for times when someone can’t log in using a computer, and the ability to share screens — all very important features that make this tool work well for our needs.

To prepare for these regular calls, we use Google Docs to share an agenda ahead of time so that no one is surprised by what we’re talking about on any given week. Included in these agendas are links to relevant files so that people can review them prior to the call and access them easily while the call is happening. This also allows us to know when we need to move a topic to another week if the correct stakeholder will not be able to join us on that week’s call.

Additional Communication Tools

Slack. In addition to calls, we started using Slack to communicate between scheduled Zoom meetings. Slack is a relatively new communication tool for teams where you can have threaded conversations about any topic. Separate channels can be set up for discussion by subject, and people can subscribe to just the channels that are relevant to their work. Private channels can be set up for topics that don’t need full-team discussion. In addition to the channel feature, Slack includes a function allowing private, direct messages to be sent between team members, providing a quick option to reach someone for an immediate need or request, or just to share news. Slack also includes the ability to add files and images to your teams’ channels, which are easily searchable through the search feature. A lesser-known feature available is one-to-one video calling. While this option only exists in a one-to-one scenario in the free version of the tool, calls between up to 15 people are available in the paid version.

TrelloFor project management and tracking, we’re using Trello. Trello takes the Japanese Kanban technique of project management and puts it into an easy to use web-based tool. Teams use boards to create lists (for example, “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Completed”). Within those lists, team members can create cards for each task that needs to be completed. Each card (task) can be assigned a due date, and be tasked to an individual or multiple individuals on the team. Checklists, files, photos, notes, and updates can also be attached to each card. When a card is complete, it can be archived, deleted, or moved to the “Completed” list for archival purposes. This process helps keep the team on task and informed about where everyone is on each of their assigned tasks within the project.

Conclusion

Moving into my job here at the Center for Public Partnerships and Research two years ago was a real leap of faith for me. Having spent nearly a decade in the corporate worlds of finance and insurance, I had no experience writing grants or even being involved in the grant-writing process. Using these tools has made the transition much smoother.

The work we do here at CPPR is life-changing, not just for the people whose programs we work with, but for our staff, as well.

We’re working every day to make a difference in the lives of families across the country, and hopefully, soon, across the globe. With a limited amount of funding available, it’s always important to be mindful of opportunities to make a project more cost-effective. Using free or relatively low-cost technology tools for collaboration and communication can take a large cost burden out of the management of projects. The tools I’ve mentioned here today are not only playing a large part in the success of my project, but in projects across CPPR.

Incorporating new technology into daily activities can be painful for some, but the temporary growing pains are worth the reward when working with remote teams. Being intentional about which tools you choose to incorporate is important. Introduce too many new tools at once, or without a solid use-case, and team members may become overwhelmed or reject them completely. However, when your team finds the right balance, tasks are completed with less confusion and delay, team members always know what they are responsible for and what their deadlines are, and the lines of communication stay open.

Dipping your toe in the ocean of organizational, communication, and project management tools available right now can be scary, and overdoing it is definitely a risk, but don’t let yourself be frightened of trying something new. Here at CPPR, we know that we can only be navigators of social change by taking risks, exploring innovative ideas, and encouraging our partners and colleagues to embrace the opportunity to find the right technology tool for the job.

Intro Videos for the tools mentioned here:
Google Docs
Zoom
Slack
Trello

**Zoom, Slack, and Trello have premium versions that are not free. Those versions have additional features that haven’t been necessary to use with my project, but may provide an added benefit to others. Each tool’s website clearly discloses their pricing structure for their premium product.