Exploring America

So, what does one do after making the decision to leave America and become an expat?

Plan an epic, massive, awesome road trip.

That’s right.

My time as a Las Vegan is coming to a bittersweet end in a mere few days (the movers come Monday, June 11). Then, I’m off on a cross-country road trip adventure before I head to Thailand and Elephant Nature Park.

Who is coming along for the ride?

First, Dave, of What’s Dave Doing, will be joining me.

He arrives Sunday to Las Vegas and gets to deal with an emotional D for a few days. (Yes, I feel bad but he has promised alcohol to take the sting of leaving my cats and driving north on 15.)

Where are we going?

No trip through the gorgeous southwest is complete without a stop in Utah at one of the stunning national parks. For this journey, we are parking it for two nights in Zion.

I’ve lived in the area for a total of five-plus years, so Zion isn’t new to me. But, it is to Dave! While I’m not going to be doing any death defying Angel’s Landing adventures, I do plan on re-visiting this gorgeous enclave of nature … and chilling by our hotel’s pool for a bit.

Then, we’re off to Colorado and TBEX — with a stopover to chill out in Denver and possibly drink some Fat Tire.

After getting some travel blogger conference time in, Dave and I will part ways and the passenger seat will open up to one of my favorite travel bloggers in the universe, Erica from Over Yonderlust.

#WinosontheRoad

Like Dave, we’ve never actually met in person, but through e-mail and phone conversations, I know I already adore the girl.

After Colorado, we are heading to Omaha (someplace in middle America, you’re welcome), then Chicago to see one of my best travel girls, Katie, and to make sure Erica crosses off “eating a hot dog” in the Windy City from her bucket list.

From Chicago, we are going to bop on down to Louisville, Kentucky to spend a few days with a good friend of mine, don fascinators and check out the Churchill Downs and even embark on a little bourbon tour.

Then, we’re in the home stretch and headed to Maryland to drop off my car, go sailing with my dad and raise a glass in our nation’s capitol.

What does this mean for the site? Well, for the next few weeks, as I pack, move and road trip it, there will be some guest posts to entertain. Then, once I’m back in the 301, it will be back to a more normal routine again! And, likely, tales of our epic adventures!

Want to follow along on the journey? Be sure to check out #winosontheroad on Twitter, Instagram and our blogs.

Have you done a cross-country road trip through America? Any places we should stop along the way? Leave a comment below and share your story!

 

30 Life Crisis

The first sign

The blinking red of my Blackberry alerting me to a new e-mail catches my attention as I sit on my couch, only a few days after returning from Red Mountain Resort.

I’m still happy. Still blissfully happy.

I pull up the e-mail on my phone and scan it quickly.

Holy. Shit.

It’s from Elephant Nature Park.

A letter from Lek. Telling me she wants me to come to Thailand and work for her doing PR and writing.

Suddenly, my breath falls short.

Tears blur  my vision.

How on earth?

I open my laptop and pull the e-mail up so I can make sure I am not imaging anything.

I’m not.

It is an offer to move to Thailand. To live my recently realized dream. To help save elephants.

Immediately, I call my mom. It’s late in Maryland, after 10 p.m. I know she won’t be happy to get a call this late, but I reason this news cannot wait until morning.

“Mom!” I sob into the phone. “You won’t believe this …”

Within minutes, we are both crying as I read her the e-mail, as we both sit and remark over and over: “I cannot believe this.”

“It’s all because of this past weekend at Red Mountain Resort and the reiki and the shamanic healing,” I remark. “Because of what happened. My energy is different now. I’m happy … and look what has happened.”

“You put it out there, and you got it, D!”

I mentally cross “Save Elephants” off of my list of things accomplished once I put it out there.

“What are you going to do about work?”

“Well, I don’t know yet. I still have to work out all of the arrangements with the park … I guess I will quit in the next few weeks or a month or something …” I say.

Although I wish I could march up to the job tomorrow and resign.

After we hang up, I sit in silence. Staring at the e-mail, gently stroking Keely behind her ears as she purrs in my lap.

My life is changing. And, it’s all because of me.

 

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Nevada Thailand

The career cross-road

When it came time for my one-year anniversary with my company this past winter, I went in, ready to ask for a raise and full-time status.

Despite the fact that, only a few months earlier, when I was suffering from horrific jet lag, my bosses informed me I would no longer be able to take a vacation which took me away from my e-mail.

It wasn’t for the fact that I wanted to stay with the job. It was never my plan to stay in Las Vegas for too long. I wanted to satiate my travel addiction. I had absolutely no desire to do any such thing, like making this job my career. In fact, the more time went by, the more I began to loathe walking through the kitchen to my little back office. Even if it was part-time.

But, when this meeting finally arrived, I had a plan: to stick it out through Thanksgiving and then hightail it out of there and go travel again. My parents and I had discussed my travel plans: to head back to Europe, teach English, house-sit and continue my freelance writing (which I was doing to counter the part-time status of my day job). Simple. Easy.

However, as the months between the discussion and my meeting continued on, I hit a roadblock.

Myself.

Even with my plans being at least outlined, I felt trapped. As my job moved more and more towards babysitting and less and less towards what I was hired to do, I grew more and more miserable. I stopped going out. I stopped spending time with most of my friends. I would wake-up, go to work, come home, do my freelance writing, turn on the TV, then head to bed and toss and turn until sleep finally took over.

I was depressed.

The only good thing I did for myself in those months was seek help in the form of therapy. And, I’m not ashamed of it. Together, my therapist and I tackled a lot.

However, in January, instead of getting better, I got worse.

During my meeting with my bosses, they told me they were not prepared to give me a raise, or promote me to full-time. While the company was growing, they refused to let me grow with them. Despite the fact that I had no desire to grow with them, to see them through their successes beyond November, it was a slap in the face.

We like what you do. You do a great job. But, you aren’t valuable enough to reward you for your hard work.

I went from being able to smile to not being able to contain my tears.

Just like in Atlanta when I was in the prime of my 30-Life-Crisis, I had hit a place I hated.

The walls were closing in on me. I couldn’t breathe. I had no way out.

Until I did.

 

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Nevada

Daily Wanderlust: Wicked Spoon Buffet, The Cosmopolitan

Living in Las Vegas means there is never a shortage of amazing dining options. From the five-star, AAA starred, Michelin-ranked to the small mom and pop holes-in-the-wall, eating phenomenal food is easy to do in Vegas.

Yes, there is always a Las Vegas foodgasm to be had. This little nugget of foodgasm comes from Wicked Spoon, the gorgeous buffet at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas has it all: sushi, seafood, bone marrow, Mac and Cheese, Thai …

And the desserts. Shelf after shelf of sweet goodness, like these chocolate dipped strawberries.

For more on the Las Vegas buffet experience, check out this HostelWorld feature on the best buffets in Vegas.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Love in the desert

I’ve been talking a lot lately about the beauty of America’s desert southwest. Maybe it’s because I am trying to soak up as much as I can before I embark on the next journey.

Regardless, I’ve been going through photos of late and find myself staring at the untouched beauty in Utah, the reds and blues of the Hoover Dam and the deep orange hues found in the Valley of Fire.

Another beautiful spot to visit near Las Vegas? Red Rock Canyon. The outcropping of red rocks from the sand-colored mountains and the mint green brush makes for some seriously remarkable scenery. That, and the cacti.

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Hoover Dam

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

Whether staying in Arizona vacation rentals, Boulder City or Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam is one of those places that should be visited on a trip to the American Southwest.

On the border of Nevada and Arizona (and, depending on the time of year, also on the Pacific/Mountain Time Zone) is the historic Hoover Dam, also known as the Boulder Dam, which cuts across the Colorado River and created the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

Built during the 1930s and designed to bring water and power to the growing southwest, workers lived in Boulder City and then worked on the mighty structure, which was considered an amazing feat of engineering.

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

Looking down, down, down

The hydroelectric generators and colossal concrete structure also infuses some art deco into its design with four towers (two of which display the time on either side of the river).

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

It’s an hour earlier in Nevada when on standard time.

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

In 2010, a massive bridge straddling the Colorado River was constructed.

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

Looking up at it from the dam, it scares the crap out of me. I swore I would never drive on it, but I accidentally stayed on the road too far one day, and nearly panicked when I saw the “welcome to Arizona” sign. I crossed the bridge and didn’t die. So, now, the bridge and I have worked out our differences, even though I’m not too eager to take anyone across.

Visit Hoover Dam in Las Vegas

For those interested, there are two tours which can be taken at the dam — the Power Plant and Hoover Dam tours. The Power Plant tour is $11 for adults and includes a 30-minute guided tour of the power plant and access to the Visitors Center. The Hoover Dam tour is $30 for adults (sorry, no kiddos allowed for this one) and treats guests to a one-hour guided tour of not only the power plant but also the passageways of the dam to see the inner workings of this immense structure.

Getting there: A 30-mile drive from Las Vegas, take I-15 to I-215 East, then take US-93 South towards Boulder City. The smart road planners take you through the quaint little Boulder City en route to the dam. Boulder City is a cute little town, stop at the Boulder City Brewing Co. for a blueberry beer (super tasty) or get a bit to eat and a glass of wine at Milo’s. Then, head to the dam. There is free parking, but it is a walk from the main attraction. Parking on-site in the garage is $7.

 

 

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Nevada’s Valley of Fire

Las Vegas, a look at the Valley Of Fire

About an hour outside of Las Vegas is the Valley of Fire. Dedicated in 1935, it is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park.

And, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

With a background of bright blue sky, the red sandstone formations are striking. They’ve been around since the days of the dinosaurs, a not-so-shabby 150 million years.

A perfect day trip, there is plenty do to in the park. For nature-lovers and hikers, there are trails that weave around some of the stunning formations, including the beehive rocks smoothed over time. Plus, there’s places to picnic and camp, too.

Want to go?

From Las Vegas, take I-15 North to Exit 75.

Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Destinations