Category Archives: tips

Happy New Year

Once I returned from South America I spent a fair amount of time writing blogs to get (and stay) ahead of real-time. I had months of scheduled posts with the hope to keep writing to stay ahead and with job searching, working and planning a wedding, I just never got ahead of myself. I came to the end of those scheduled posts just before the end of 2012. I have a fair number of draft posts that I am ready to finalize and can start to schedule now. My hope is that once I have them scheduled from now until the end of January, I can spend some time writing to get (and stay) ahead.

I love writing and keeping a journal of my travels on my blog. With that said, I want to make some changes and improvements to my blog for the coming year.

Instead of saying I want to write a better blog (which I do), I have provided specifics on things that I’d like to change and/or learn in order to write that better blog. If I make my goals public, at least I’ll be held accountable if by no one but myself.

I’d like to spice things up. I think there have been posts that are a little bit dry (and I’m the one telling the story!). I want to tell my stories (albeit I am little behind*) from my time in South America and travels since then — without boring anyone or feeling like a braggart. I want to improve my writing and story-telling with each post. I want to make my blog more visually appealing — using at least one photo in each post (starting in this one). I know not every post is going to be spectacular, but I’d like to cut back on the number that are less than stellar. As I prepared this post, I figured out the new tools to fix photo size and placement — which I should have learned before I published the previous post.

I want to learn more about WordPress and its latest tools so that posting pictures is easier. I want to make the process of using WordPress easier on my end. I want to decide what to do with my Simply Three Cents Facebook page since I don’t utilize it other than a place to push out my posts. Should I post in real-time on Facebook with other travel content like I do on Twitter? Should I create a Simply Three Cents logo (since the current logo utilizing three pennies are lame)? Why do the posts that push to Facebook showcase the WordPress logo (maybe because those posts are missing photos?) I’d like to decide what’s the best use of each of the tools I use with my blog.

I have done a fair amount of writing this year for online publications — both paid and pro-bono. I’d love to continue writing for various publications so long as they will have me.

I follow a lot of travel blogs, and while I don’t ever anticipate this to be on the caliber of those (since I am not looking to make my blog a business), I am inspired by a lot of what I see there so I know what greatness looks like IF you dedicate a lot of time to your site with the intention of making a living on it. I’m just not looking to do that right now for a variety of reasons. If I can keep a chronicle of my travels to entertain, inspire and motivate others, in a relatively clean format with consistent and engaging blog posts, I’d be happy with that.

If you’ve been reading, I thank you. If you’re new, welcome. Feel free to use the tools to the right to see older posts based on geography or category. If you like my blog, or a post, feel free to share it. If you hate something, let me know. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.

*I’m way off in terms of timing from my adventures in South America but the stories are still there to tell. Please bear with me.

Me in the Tram Car Above Salta, Argentina

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Getting Lost is USUALLY Part of the Fun – part one

Once I left the supermarket the sun started to make its way down and I knew I wanted to head back to the hostel pretty quickly. Not having spent any time in town I didn’t have any markers of where things were, other than the ones I used to get to the supermarket.

And so, not surprisingly, I got lost on the way back to the hostel. Not like “Oops I am lost” but “Panicked, Holy Shit, Where Am I?” Kind of Lost.

The hostel I was staying at was a house in a quiet neighborhood, a ways off the main Punta strip. It was dark, it had a very suburban feel and no one was outside. A car would speed by every few minutes or so.

There are no street lights, there are no sidewalks and it’s now officially dark. Not sundown. Dark.

There are loads of trees – old, big, leafy trees – and my imagination has gone wild. I am imagining someone jumping out. Or worse, a stray dog.

I may have grown up on a quiet tree-lined suburban street, but I am a city girl. I like noise. I like knowing there are people around. This was not the Punta I had heard and read about.

I pull a Mary Poppins with my day pack and out comes my headlamp. And my whistle. Just in case.

There are no street signs so I can’t even begin to figure out where I am on the map.

I see cars pulling up to a place so I walk towards it. It’s a small restaurant in the middle of this residential neighborhood. There is a valet service and I ask one of the valets for directions.

I have to step back from my situation and realize the absurdity. I am in suburban Punta del Este, which in itself seems like a juxtaposition. The restaurant is tiny, men are in jackets and ladies are in long dresses. There are maybe three lights on.

And there’s a sign for valet parking? What? Where am I?

Thankfully I had the business card of the hostel with the information. What I didn’t have, and usually do, was a sense of direction.

With my headlamp illuminating us, the valet very slowly gave me directions in Spanish emphasizing exactly where I needed to go with his hand gestures.

I translated the directions, thanked him and hoped that my translation was right and crossed my fingers that I would remember what the heck he had just told me.

Before I walked away he offered me a ride, but I declined.

Getting into a car with a man who knew I was lost, with a language barrier, just did not seem like the best idea of the night.

I was wrong. It would have been better than the events that followed.


Tan It, Wax It, Buff It

I was only able to buy a bus ticket from Colonia to Montevideo.

None of the companies in Colonia provided connecting service to Punta del Este. I would have to connect in Montevideo.

The plan: Once I arrived in Montevideo I would need to buy that onward ticket to Punta del Este, where I would spend one night before continuing onward to the smaller, off the beaten track, beach towns I had read about.

Let me rewind a moment. Everything I had heard about ‘Punta’ was enough to tell me to avoid it and I wasn’t planning on making it a destination on this trip. But…

1 – I didn’t want to travel so long that I would arrive somewhere in the dark

2 – A few hours on a bus gets me an extra stop in the country than making the trip in one shot

3 – It was a Friday and I could stop in a lively, touristy town

With that said, I convinced myself that Punta seemed like a good place to stop for the night.


10 Ways to Get a Great Galapagos Deal, originally published on SmarterTravel.com

I wrote this post for SmarterTravel.com. It appeared there first.

There are four classes of travel to choose from when sailing the Galapagos. They are Luxury/Deluxe, First Class, Tourist Superior, and Tourist.

I wound up sailing the Galapagos on a First Class boat and was able to get a deal that included airfare. How? I booked the day before.

Two of us together paid less than what one of our fellow passengers paid. The boat I chose had a capacity for 90 passengers but was just one-third full. Was this a terrible company to book with? Not at all. In fact, we found out later it’s one of the best.

Below are 10 tips to help you secure a similar deal, questions to ask, and what to watch out for.

Do your research. As you get closer to departure, ask around. Know the going rates for the dates of travel and the class you want to travel. You will be able to gauge if there is a fair amount of availability or if boats are at capacity.

Understand it may not be possible. I’m sure it can be done, but you’re going to have to work harder during the high season as more boats will be filled to capacity. I was able to pull this off mid-March. That’s considered shoulder season.

Be realistic. The Galapagos National Park has assigned all of the boats a 15-day itinerary. Unless you plan on doing one of these, you will not see every island. You can, however, choose your cruise by geography. The islands are categorized into the Western, Northern, Southern and Central routes.

Prioritize. Do you want a boat that offers hot water? Do you want a private bathroom? Would you prefer a doctor on board? Decide what you must have and what is negotiable. Then make sure your boat meets your needs.

Remember this is nature. It’s not a theme park. If your heart is set on seeing something specific, like albatross mating season, you will need to do additional research to ensure your itinerary includes the island of Española for several weeks in April. That said, this is nature and it’s unpredictable.

Set expectations. Remember it’s an expedition, not a cruise. I can only speak for the boat I took. We were well-fed, but if you are expecting a 24-hour buffet, casinos and Vegas-style shows, you will be disappointed.

Negotiate. I was originally offered a cabin with two twin beds. I asked if it I could get a full or queen at the same rate. The travel agent made a quick call and got the okay to secure my preferred room type at the same rate. 

Talk to other travelers. I had been traveling around South America for six weeks before I made it to Ecuador. Any time another traveler said they’d been to the Galapagos, I asked a ton of questions. And, in true traveler fashion, they were happy to share their experience. This came in handy as I started my research. 

Find out what’s included. Snorkeling was included, as were the mask and the flippers. Had we needed wet suits we would have been charged extra. Find out what is included in the cost. Hint: You don’t need a wetsuit in March.

Ensure that there are bilingual naturalists. This is quite possibly the most important piece of advice I can share. When you’re on land, you will be spending most of your time with the ship’s naturalists. Make sure that you will understand them. You can practice your Spanish with the bartender back on the boat.

Do you have any Galapagos trip tips to share? Have you had success using any of these methods? Tell us in the space below.


Budget #indie30

Budget is the 18th prompt of the BootsnAll indie writing project.

Every traveler has a budget; for some it just might be higher of lower than for others What’s your style? What do you spend very little on and what are you always willing to pay more for?

I’m willing to splurge on experiences. After all, what’s the point of being somewhere if you can’t take it all in?

Sleep = bed and breakfasts keep the cost low, and get you more immersed in the local life.

Food = eating in markets, or restaurants that locals frequent are usually much cheaper, and better, than tourist places, or places with menus in many languages, or in key tourist locations.

Experiences = and well worth the splurges.


Life. Uncomplicated. Part Three.

Tips, tips and more tips! I feel a bit like Oprah – without the status, celebrity and money! Feel free to share your tips in the comments below.

Today we talk alcohol:

1 – Ever drop a piece of cork in a bottle of wine? 

If you lose any part of the cork in a bottle of wine and you don’t want pieces of cork floating in your glass, hold a coffee filter over your glass and pour the wine into the glass via the filter. Voila! The pieces of cork get stopped by the coffee filter. Genius!

2 – I always keep a bottle of Champagne (or Cava or Prosecco) in the fridge because you just never know when you will want to properly celebrate.

3 – If you need to chill a bottle quickly, put it in the freezer. Simply enough. But set the microwave timer so you don’t forget to take it out. Crucial 😉


Stop and Smell the Roses

This post from the Solo Traveler Blog reminds you to remember to stop and smell the roses.

It’s much easier to do when traveling, and not so easy when you are caught up in the grind. But this is a good reminder for the ‘in the grind time’ as well.

Make sure to watch the video in the Solo Traveler post as well.