Road Trip Checklist: Top 5 Tasks

If you are currently planning a road trip, or even just daydreaming about one, then this post is for you! Organizing travel can sometimes feel a little daunting, but preparing for a road trip is a special kind of hectic. Take your travel plans, then add a car into the mix, and you quadruple the “what if” factor. It’s far from an impossible feat though, and it doesn’t even have to be that stressful. People say the key to success is preparation, and this holds so true for travel, especially of the road trip variety. Below I have laid out the bare-bones list for the absolutely necessary tasks to complete before the pedal hits the metal. This is just the start for many, but if you, like me, can get easily overwhelmed by an excessive amount of tasks… then just start here.

1- Get your car serviced

If you ask me, the scariest part of a road trip is that I have a giant unpredictable hunk of steel tagging along when I am used to it just being me and a pack. There are so many things you can’t control out

Ready, Set, GO!

there on the road, but you can at least ensure that your vehicle is as prepared as possible for whatever comes your way. This means getting any outstanding mechanical work done, possibly a tune up, checking all the fluids, getting an oil change, and stocking your car with an emergency kit. Some great things to keep in your trunk are a can of Fix-a-flat, extra windshield wiping fluids, flashlight with batteries, a blanket, and reflective tape are a few things I personally like to keep in my car. If you aren’t driving, then get that car rented ASAP to get the best prices.

 

2- Budget

Don’t get caught with all your eggs in one basket!

Once you have all the crucial work completed on your car, then you can take a look at what’s left in your piggy bank… or wherever the kids keep their pocket change these days. Budgets do not have to be as detailed as you might think, especially if you aren’t on a super tight budget. I always round my costs up because it’s way better to be under budget than to run out of money on the road. The typical criteria for my budget is a daily food allowance, lodging allowance (I almost always stay with friends), expected gas expenses, souvenir allowance, and account for any specific activities you already know you want to do like rafting or city tours for example.

 

The actual allocation of funds will be different for everyone, but those are the 5 core elements to budget for. Typically my lodging, activities, and souvenir budget is almost zero, as I like to bring back just postcards and photographs, but I will research ahead of time to find the best local watering holes. The last two important aspects of a road trip budget are always having access to either a credit card or a savings just in case of an emergency, and accounting for any bills that will be withdrawn while you are away. Be careful not to double spend your money in the bank.

NOW FOR THE FUN PART!

3- Pick Core Stops

Got Georgia on your mind?

There are as many ways to plan a road trip as there are to… (Is there another colloquial phrase aside from the “skin a cat” saying, because that just freaks me out). Anyway! I think its best to first decide if you will do a loop, or rent a car one way and fly back. Either way, you need to pick some core stops, which are the places where you will absolutely be stopping. I am sure some of you are saying part of what makes road trips great is the spontaneity, and I agree. I usually only pick a few stops in cities where I know someone and plan to spend the night. It is important to factor in how much driving per day you realistically can do, and often that defines where your stops will be. So pull out that handy map, or hit up The Google and get excited!

4- Research Weather

Not too shabby…

My favorite! I get so excited to look up the weather in all my stops, especially if I am heading south. This is important beyond picking which swimsuit to pack, knowing the weather forecast is critical for planning out time. Be sure to give yourself extra time if you see the weather will be particularly bad. If you check the weather often before you leave and see rainy days ahead, you should have enough time to reroute a few of your stops… if you happen to be chasing the sun like myself.

 

5- Copy and Share Vital Documents

Once I am pretty much all set with my itinerary, I do this final step, which is far from least. It is really important to share your potential schedule with someone at home, even if it is a loose outline. I like to email a copy of my route and potential stops to my mom (I knoooow, but she is my BFF), and it helps that my loud mouth is forever on social media. In addition to my itinerary, I also make copies of my driver’s license, and I keep in my glovebox and another copy in my bag. This is also a great time to double-check you have current copies of your insurance and registration in your car. Lastly, be sure to write down contact info for a few people close to you and keep that in your car. I know with cell phones hardly anyone memorizes phone numbers anymore, so in the off-chance you need to make a call without your phone handy… a pen and paper might just be what saves your behind!

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6 Things to Expect When Traveling with your Sister!

I am known to travel alone, I love the experience of traveling solo and the freedom that comes with being entirely responsible for just yourself. Yet, when I do travel with someone, which is a rare case scenario, making the choice of travel partner is a serious task and not to be taken lightly. The only person who has survived the test of time, and traveled by my side more than once would be my lifelong partner in crime, my little sis. Having now taken two big trips with my little sister, I have some words of wisdom to share before you take the plunge into sister-travel! This will be helpful for any sister traveling, it doesn’t matter if you are the bossy-pants, overprotective, extremely prepared sibling, or if you are the easy-going but secretly sensitive, always trusting, party animal, usually younger sibling (Full disclosure: I am indeed that bossy-pants sister!).

 

1.You will want to wring her neck… at least once, ok maybe twice.

I am just going to jump right in the deep end with this one. There will come a time where she says lets go left and you say right, or she loses the hostel key, or gets too drunk, or gets scammed while changing your money and brings back way less colones than she should have (these are just hypotheticals of course). There is no way around the fact that most sisters piss each other off every once in a while, and no amount of miles between where you go and your home will change that fact. You will absolutely spend some of the trip not getting along, but how you deal with that conflict is key. You didn’t spend a bunch of money to travel halfway across the world (or even the next state over, for that matter) to do what you can do at your Nonna’s house over the holidays, save the arguing for Thanksgiving! Drop the argument like it’s hot, and get back to making memories!

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Save the drama for when you’re home with ya Mama!

2.Expect your parents to worry twice as much.

From my personal experience… moms are particularly prone to worrying. When I travel solo I don’t hear much from my mom, she only begins to worry after maybe a week or so without an update. Now put two of her babies far away in the same place, and for some reason the worrying begins to multiply. I swear there must be some type of mathematical formula, but the more children away together the more they want to hear from you! The best way to tackle this phenomenon, is to share the burden… I mean the blessing of caring parents 😉 Take turns updating your folks about what you are up to, and where you are headed next. One of the best ways is with photos, and that brings me to my next point…

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“You are going to hike a volca-what!”

3.Expect to take the silliest selfies!

One of the best things about traveling with your sister, is that she already knows how impossibly weird you are! No reason to hold back with her, you can be goofy and raw and real and she won’t be the least bit surprised. Usually discovering new places, and new people, you can feel reserved or filtered until you get your bearings, traveling with my sister is the only time I have felt free to be my silliest-self 100% of the time.

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Only with the sis…

4.There will be things you want to do, that she just isn’t into. 

No big deal! Actually this is a good thing. It is important, especially when traveling with someone you are so emotionally attached to, that you take some time to yourself. It doesn’t matter if you just spend a couple hours checking out an art museum while she sleeps in, or you take a weekend and go learn to scuba dive. Having a little bit of time to reflect alone is healthy for you both, so don’t worry if she doesn’t share every interest you have.

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Take some time to yourself!

5.Expect to share your clothes.

When I was younger, this was not my favorite thing about having a sister… lets get real, in high school it was my least favorite thing in the world! Yet, it never is going to change so eventually you give in… and release the vice grip on that adorable mini skirt you secretly wish she couldn’t fit, but she magically fits in everything you own no matter what size it is! If you haven’t learned to share with your sister yet, you will learn it on this trip. Actually traveling together was the first time I realized it was fun to share clothes with my sister, it instantly doubled my available outfit possibilities!

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All apparel compliments of “Olivia’s Suitcase”.

6.Finally, expect to laugh your ass off!

I laugh more than I do anywhere else I go, when I have my sister by my side. I love to travel, but I will be the first to tell you it is far from easy. Yet, with your sis along for the ride, all those slip-ups and bloopers you usually have to navigate alone, are nonstop fodder for the collection of “inside jokes” you will be able to share forever.

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Here is to those times all your photos come out blurry, because you just can’t stop laughing!

Thanks for reading! Comment below, and let us know any tips you have for traveling with family. Like, Follow, Share!

Peace and Safe Travels!

Olivia

 

 

Onward to South Africa!!

After a refreshing mile long jog (after landing just 10 minutes before my flight
4 terminals away started boarding), I am on my plane to #johannesburg #southafrica So tired but so excited!!  

 Traveling is real life and so far from easy. I just sat down and there is a faint lingering smell of vomit not cleaned well enough… And literally 5 children under the age of 10 just sat behind me with only 2 adults. One is already pinching her brother, and another kicking my seat #curseofateacher This is going to be a very long flight and will surely test me… Thank goodness for sleepy time pills 😉 These kinda #nomadstruggles remind me of @pinthemapproject ‘s recent post on sharing the “real life” side of travel. That’s just what I plan to do! Expect regular updates from the field, reporting back soon, now for some sleep!   

 All there is left to do is tune out the little one whining behind me for an iPad, who I just gave the evil eye and told to stop banging on my seat 🙂 haha. Totally the curse of a preschool teacher, I love them… But do the really have to follow me everywhere??

More shortly,

Olivia, Olive, Lala 

Following the Birds South

First let me confess, I’ve been less than active when it comes to my passion of travel writing. Yet, here I am at the keyboard with new vows of dedication and rekindled fires for my dream to share my journey as I wander around this world in a state of wonder. I think an important part of this confession, for all those other aspiring travel writers reading this, is that making this dream real is NOT always easy. Before you are a successful (money-making) travel writer you have to survive somehow, and sometimes that means working 13 hour days… and at times the reason why you are working so hard gets forgotten. That’s OK! Just pick up where you left off, and don’t get down on yourself for losing focus. One step at a time is how I am going to reach my goal of becoming a full-time nomadic travel writer, but when those steps start getting wobbly and I’m not sure which way is forward and which way is back… I take a break, find myself, and refocus my passion to fuel my dreams! This time I knew I needed some sunshine, a change of scenery to kick my butt in gear, and to avoid the first snowfall in Ithaca, NY. So I flew south with the birds… well technically I drove.

I didn’t have to go far to find some sunshine.  Just about 5 and a half hours away from Ithaca, I found myself in a town that is actually the definition of quaint. Coming from what some would call a “small” town it’s not easy for me to find smaller, but I did it… in a big way! At a grand total of 88 friendly souls Hillsboro is one of the tiniest towns in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This happened to be a big weekend for this compact slice of sunshine. The weekend of  October 16th and 17th happened to be Hillsboro Heritage Day, a day packed full of local food, drinks, and crafts. Not only was it an impressive display of local talent, but also a trip back in time. This second annual festival is a benefit for the Historical Old Stone School, a centerpiece of this tight-knit community. The school, which now serves as a community center and town hall, was built in 1874, at that time called The Locust Academy was one of first public schools in Loudoun County. There was an awesome turn out to enjoy the local offerings, and watch presentations on crafts of the past like paper making, weaving, and spinning.

Hillsboro Heritage Day!

Hillsboro Heritage Day!

Amy Newton a Pillar of the Community, Dressed to Impress... if it were 1874

Amy Newton a Pillar of the Community, dressed to impress… like it was 1874! (Photo by Amie Ware)

My fun was just beginning with this weekend full of old-time Virginia festivities. My next post will be about the other ways I explored and enjoyed this lovely and welcoming town. Home to the Fieldstone Farm Bed and Breakfast (owned by my Great Aunt), some incredible wineries, and a handful of hidden culinary gems… Hillsboro is a place you can’t judge by the size of its cover!

Enjoying what seems to be remnants of summer at the Fieldstone Farm!

Enjoying what seems to be remnants of summer at the Fieldstone Farm!

Machu Picchu!! The Poor Man’s Adventure Trek.

As you might have already guessed, I enjoy the wilder side of things… and so when it came to visiting Machu Picchu I was on the search to find a more “exotic” route to take. Rather than the much traveled and quite pricey (but phenomenal and classic) Inca Trail, I booked the more economical Inca Jungle Trek. What not everyone knows is that there are actually two trails traveled by the Incas to get to Machu Picchu, well technically one wasn’t traveled by the “Inca” because Incas were actually just the royalty or ruling class. The commonly known trail is the route the royalty took to reach Machu Picchu, but the common people or Quechua people took a route through the Andean jungle. This isn’t a beautifully crafted stone walkway like the images conjured by the mention of the Inca Trail, it’s a winding overgrown footpath through the thick of the jungle. To go on this wild adventure with a tour company, there are usually 3 and 4 day options offered, but to do it as cheap as possible yet still have enough time to explore I chose a 5 day plan that was all walking and buses… rather than enjoying the comfort of taking the train. The first day consisted of a thrilling and slightly terrifying mountain bike ride down from a peak in the Andes into the jungle below, with the option to go whitewater rafting in the valley for an extra $30. The second day was a 6-8 hour hike straight up and over a mountain then ending the day in a natural hot springs. The next morning there was another $30 option to go zip-lining and then take a car to the town of Hydro Electrica, if you don’t go with that option you do save 30 bucks… but you have a 4 hour hike bright and early to get to Hydro Electrica in time to meet up with the zip-lining crew. After having lunch together at Hydro Electrica, everyone does the 3 hour hike along the train tracks to the town located below Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes (or as it is now being called… Machu Picchu Pueblo). The next morning at 5am pretty much the entire town begins the 2,000-step climb to the top. Once at Machu Picchu, halfway through the day most people doing the jungle trek have to leave and hike the 3 hours back to Hydro Electrica in order to catch their 3pm bus to Cusco, the lucky ones take the train that night. I didn’t want to sacrifice a second of sunshine at the top, and I could barely walk after 4 days of hiking nonstop, so I spent one extra night in Aguas Calientes and slept in before my 3 hour hike to catch my 6 hour bus back to Cusco. I went on this incredible trip my last week in Peru with the last of my funds… and so I opted for the most basic plan, which was mountain biking, hiking, hot springs, and a visit to Machu Picchu!! The company I used was called Aita Peru, the woman running it was amazing and thorough… tailoring the trip to the individual needs of every person (I highly recommend them as I shopped around a lot beforehand and was so happy with my decision). I couldn’t have asked for a more adventurous, inspiring, and motivating end to my journey through Peru.

The bike ride was by far the most adrenaline-junkie part of the trek. We got all geared up and then went barreling down a mountain road for two and a half hours. My heart would feel like it was going to explode every time I was passed by a bus or construction vehicle while making a hairline turn on one of the many switch backs. Starting up at 4,000 m above sea level where I had wished I put another layer on under the odd “biker” jacket we were supplied with, we ended the ride in the valley surrounded by lush jungle and I couldn’t wait to strip down to my tank top. The most amazing part for me (being more of a naturalist than a crazy thrill chaser), was the incredible change in foliage over the 2.5 hour ride… and being able to see the way the plants have adapted to a completely different environment all on the same mountain!

All geared up and getting instructions on how NOT to die...

All geared up and getting instructions on how to NOT die…

The following day we set out on the toughest hike, up and over a mountain. During the hike we stopped at the Monkey House, which was a working coffee plantation where tours can stop for a break and learn about cacao, coffee, and coca. We marched on after that delightful break, over rickety bridges, back and forth along insanely narrow switchbacks, and ended in the hot springs!

Our guide Junior giving us a lesson on jungle crops.

Our guide Junior giving us a lesson on jungle crops.

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Yucca, fresh coffee beans, jungle liquors, cacao beans, and purple corn!

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Beautiful Valley!

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That silver bunch of buildings by my elbow… yeah I came from somewhere near there that morning. BAMF-status!

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My companions for those glorious 5 days.

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You see that red speck in the center of the photo?? That’s a person…

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Rickety Bridges… not for the weak of heart!

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Nothing like a bucket pulley over a raging river.

The third day only two of us opted out of zip-lining in the morning, and so we were each other’s hiking buddies for the first 4 hours of the day. Our guide stayed with the other six and drew us a crude map that looked like something you would follow to get to Narnia… “You go down this ladder, around the mountain, over this bridge… there will be a guard then blink twice say my name and you’ll be there”… ok not quite that weird but pretty close. It’s a shame the other 6 people got to take a car for this section of the trip because that 4 hour hike was truly beautiful! After lunching all together, we finished the day with a 3 hour walk along the train tracks to finally reach the town of Aguas Calientes.

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Gorgeous bridge in the valley surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains.

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Beautiful waterfalls showered the mountainsides.

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This is the first time my friend and I came across another hiker during those 4 hours…   can you spot the stranger-danger?? LOL

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Train tracks to Machu Picchu.

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As I was grumbling about the pain in my legs… getting this shot made me remember how good it is to be on foot instead of rushing past in a train.

The next morning at 5am, I pretended that every inch of my body was NOT in pain, and I jumped out of my bed like it was Christmas! I headed to the line and waited my turn at the bottom of Machu Picchu to get my ticket checked. When you look up it seems to be a sheer cliff face, and you can’t possibly imagine how anyone… let alone little asthmatic me… could get to the top. Then I did it! I hiked up those nearly vertical 2,000 steps huffing and puffing, but I made it!!

Waiting in the line at 5:30am to get let across the bridge to begin the hike up.

Waiting in the line at 5:30am to get let across the bridge to begin the hike up.

Hiking up 2,000 steps, and as the sun began to rise... it was so obvious how it was worth every bit of pain in my aching body!

Hiking up 2,000 steps, and as the sun began to rise… it was so obvious how it was worth every bit of pain in my aching body!

Beautiful steps made by the Quechua people for the Incas to reach Machu Picchu.

Beautiful steps made by the Quechua people, during the time of the Inca empire.

Finally up at the top and through the gates Machu Picchu is still clouded by the morning mist.

Finally up at the top and through the gates, Machu Picchu is still clouded by the morning mist.

Amazing doorways that have lasted the test of time.

Amazing doorways that have lasted the test of time.

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Before we went off to explore on our own, we walked around for 2 hours with a guide who explained the history of this incredible site.

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In all its splendor!

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The only building with a rounded wall… believed to be a temple of the sun.

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It is thought that this was an architectural design to keep Machu Picchu from sliding off the top of the mountain, but another theory is that they were used for agriculture… and some say these terraces were for both.

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“Don’t touch the ruins!” Im not touching… I’m thinking!

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Breathtaking!

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Machu Picchu… The Land Of #Selfies

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On top of the WORLD.

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Don’t forget me! The llamas at the Machu Picchu site are actually there to maintain the grass!

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Channeling the essence of the Picchu… actually I was fixing my hair for the pic, but meditating makes it seem like I’m making a much cooler face!

This was one of the most incredible things I have done in my life. I made memories and friends I get to keep forever by going through the amazing tour group Aita Peru, but I still had that time I need when I visit a place to sit and be with just myself. I like to say that when I travel I never “sight-see”… I commune. Machu Picchu proved to be one of those incredible places where as I stand in awe, my soul expands to connect with the land and I am forever changed… elevated and never to be the same.

Happy place! Happy face!

Happy place! Happy face!

La Lancha

Recently I decided it would be jolly fun to travel to the jungle! I should Elaborate though, I would be taking a 20 hour bus and then a 5 day cargo ship to get to the jungle. Maybe jolly fun wasn’t quite what I got, but it was an adventure to say the least. After a slightly nauseating 20 hour bus ride over the Andes, I arrived in Pucallpa where I was going to catch the cargo ship. I quickly realized asking where the “bote” was, wan’t going to get me very far, and the the name for this specific sort of boat was a “lancha”. This trip, I was warned, is not typically done by travelers, and that I might stick out a bit… Understatement of the year. Of the 250 passengers, not counting the many babies, 2 of us were not native Peruvians. As soon as I got on the ship, and until I left, almost every 250 plus pairs of eyes were on me. I was a bit uncomfortable at first, but seeing as I had to be here for the next 5 days I embraced it. I developed a few strategies for the staring masses. Often times they were just staring at me with a giant smiles, and I would smile back, but when it was an awkward jaw on the floor “I think I see a UFO stare” I would stare back as hard as I could, initiating a contest of sorts until they either realized how awkward it felt to be ogled at and looked away… Or we both simultaneously broke out in laughter, which occurred most often. I later learned from a friend I made on the boat, that it’s not that I am foreign, it’s actually my hair that people are finding so interesting to stare at! 

The boat provided 2-3 meals a day, I guess that depended on how the chef’s day was going, and 2 types of sleeping arrangements were available. I opted for the cheaper and more popular option, which is to string my hammock up on the deck. It was an amazing thing to see hundreds of people, men, women, and tiny children, all hanging around in hammocks! 

 

The top deck had an amazing breeze, and fewer people. The company was delightful, and the families welcoming. Seeing as no one spoke English, it was a perfect time to practice my Spanish! I spent the 5 days playing with the children, photographing the river, and chatting with other women about where I am from, what its like there…. And of course why I don’t have a husband and baby at my old age of 23 haha. Surprisingly the food wasn’t bad, I actually asked the chef for a soup recipe I liked it so much, but the views were even better.

   

  

  

Although I loved it, it was far from everyone’s cup of tea, maybe even a little much for my tastes at times. I basically refused to shower for 5 days because the water pipe was directly in front of the toilets, which were esencially port-o-pottys, there were insects of the 8 legged sort… Everywhere! There were also some other environmenal concerns I sruggled with, but I will get more into that later.

I will share a few more stories from my trip, but now I must head out on my next adventure. This morning I am heading into the Amazon for a 5 day trek. Instead of opting for the nice “lodge” style adventure I decided to go a more wild route. I will be learning to build shelters, sleeping on the jungle floor, fishing for my food, learning to use the plants and roots found in the jungle, and how to track animals! I can’t wait to go on this amazing journey to commune with the jungle, catch you on the flip side!

Onward to the Jungle

The second half of my weekend adventure will be posted soon, but I wanted to update my followers on my current movements. I just left Lima and grabbed a 20 hour bus over the Andes to Pucallpa, where I will grab a boat along the Amazon river to Iquitos, the largest city in the world that’s not reachable by road. The boat to Iquitos takes 4 days, the passengers string hammocks along the deck and sleep there together for the entire journey. I can barely contain my excitement, I could never even imagine I would be exploring the Amazon!! I might not post for some time, as it’s unlikely I will have Internet in the Amazon, but I will keep you all posted!  

   

Goodbye Lima, Hello jungle! It has been such an amazing journey so far. I have been inspired, motivated, educated, and amazed. I can’t wait to continue my journey by trekking through the Amazon during the next 10 days! 😍