Travel Tuesday: Peru!

Last week I returned from a 9 day trip to Peru for work.  Myself and one of my co-workers and friends took 25 students to Lima and Cusco for a Leadership Center alternative spring break trip.

We met with business leaders and education experts; we learned about Peru’s upcoming Presidential election and their vast income disparity; we saw almost ALL the sites, from the catacombs of Lima to the ancient city of Machu Picchu.  It was amazing to experience this vibrant culture through with a Social Change lens, with 25 bright and engaged students, and with a dear friend. Viva Peru! Continue reading

Travel Tuesday: Colorado

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A week ago today, I returned from a ‘work trip’ to the AEI Base Camp in the Colorado Rockies.  It was actually my first time in Colorado, although I have admired the Rocky Mountains from the air in the past and may have spent a quick layover in Denver.  But even the birds-eye view couldn’t prepare me for presence these mountains have.  From their beauty to the physical effect of the altitude, my five days near Taylor Park, CO were dizzying.

Taylor Park.PNGPart of my job working with the First Year Experience at TCU is helping with our extended orientation program- Frog Camp.  Frog Camp ‘Alpine’ is one of eight themes for camps throughout the summer and is geared toward students who like the outdoors (and not showering for a few days)! In fact, we only had one opportunity to shower while we were,  exclusively used outhouses, and most often at night made do with the light of our headlamps and the moon.

We arrived at Colorado Springs airport and set out on a 3-4 hour drive west to base camp.  We were advised to drink a lot of water to avoid altitude sickness so there were plenty of bathroom breaks on the ride there.  And while I do think the water helped, I definitely still had headaches and a hard time running for very long periods.

img_9370I feel like camp fully captures the wild spirit of the Rocky Mountains and our days at base camp included team building activities, high ropes courses and zip-lining, rock climbing, and white water rafting.

 

 

I had really been looking forward to this trip for a long time and not only because I didn’t have to shower :).  I love getting to spend quality time with TCU students, so of course it was great to start building relationships with the class of 2019.

But more than that I have imagined Colorado as somewhere that we could live happily with our tiny house.  There is certainly a much larger tiny living community and I love having so many amazing outdoor activities right in your backyard.  It’s not the only place Jared and I have talked about buying a plot of land to take out tiny house to, but it’s exciting to know that it lived up to all my expectations and maybe even exceeded them.

Austin Adventures

IMG_1342.JPGSo much has happened in the last week!  Jared and Tim cleared our land, we met with Nomadic Cabins in Austin, and we stayed in a tiny house to try the lifestyle on for size.

Some may say we are in pretty deep to be spending the night in a tiny home for the first time and that might be true, but Jared and I were both pretty happy with the space and functionality during our stay. We even took notes on the few things that bothered us that we wanted to make sure to pass along to Nomadic for our own home.

But first things first- the day before we left for Austin, Jared and Tim, my father in law, rented two large brush mowers to clear some of the space on our land.  Yes, the chigger and cactus-filled paradise had to be tamed, although Jared and I both very much want to keep the land natural and rural.  So we went out with Tim and Kat, my mother in law, last week to take a look at where we wanted to clear and just how big the job of clearing was going to be.

Jared used our GoPro camera to set up a time lapse shot while he and Tim cleared the land that you can see here!

But they didn’t stop with that- they have been back to the property twice in the last week to do some tree trimming. And Jared and I met this past week with a man who is going to till ‘the cactus graveyard’ they left behind after the brush mowers.  The man may also remove a large pile of debris on our property that, according to our neighbor, used to be a barn. We aren’t really sure what exactly is in the debris pile and it’s going to be expensive to move so we haven’t yet decided if or when that will take place.  Although the debris pile does sit on the area that we imagined would be part of our driveway so we may have a little more research to do on that piece.  Because we were already going out to the property to meet with the man, Jared and I got to take a good walk around the property to decide exactly where the house and fence would go and found the perfect spot: in between the trees below so we will be nice and shaded. Jared and Tim have done so much work on the property- hard, sweaty, and sometimes bloody manual labor and I’m not sure it’s possible to adequately thank them.  Nonetheless walking around the cleaned up property with Jared was so cool.

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If all the progress on the land wasn’t exciting enough, we have seen so much progress with the house in the last week too!  Last weekend we left to head down to Austin to meet with Nomadic Cabins and visit with family and friends. As one might expect, Austin is totally on top of the tiny house movement, and we found an adorable tiny house in a woman’s backyard on AirBnB to rent for the weekend.  Trish’s Open, Airy Tiny House-Central & UT!was affordable, adorable, and perfect for our first tiny house overnight stay.  The house was actually very close to Jared’s brother in northwest Austin and even closer to the build site for our tiny house.  

IMG_5698.JPGThings we loved about this tiny house:

  • It’s smaller than our house (in length and height of the lofts) and it still felt huge!
  • Plenty of room for guests- We had a few friends and family come over for a beer and comfortably fit 5 people in the living/kitchen space.
  • Loft sleeping is fun.

Notes we made for our house after our stay:

  • Not that it was up for debate before but Trish’s restroom had only a curtain and no door- there MUST be a door to the bathroom
  • Add handrails on the walls beside the stairs or ladder to the lofts
  • Make sure there is a remote to the a/c unit- Trish had one and it was awesome
  • Be mindful of the placement of the house- Trish’s house had curtains on all windows but not on the front window door where the evening sunlight flooded the couch with blinding light

All in all, we would absolutely recommend this place and both felt great about our move to tiny living afterward. Check out the view!

Finally (and maybe most importantly) we got to meet with James from Nomadic Cabins while we were in Austin.  Their work space is right behind an old glass factory off of Burnet Road (note to self- wear close-toed shoes next time!). We arrived on Saturday right before lunch and were so pleasantly surprised to find our trailer had not only arrived but the initial floor was already installed.

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We also got to walk through their previous build which is right beside ours, ‘walk through’ our house and feel where the kitchen, living, and bathrooms areas would all be, and talk in detail about our plans.

Updates from that discussion:

  • We have decided to forgo central air and heat for a smaller and less expensive unit that can cool up to 800 square feet (our house will be closer to 300).  This unit will be much easier for us to control, repair, etc. and saves us $!!
  • We are not building a fold down deck, but rather a segmented detachable deck that won’t add to our road traveling width (which would also take away from our inside width).  That way we can put it together relatively quickly and keep it there when we are stationary but take it apart and store it in the house while we move the house!
  • We are moving the water heater and utilities from inside the house and in Jared’s closet to a small outside unit to give us more space inside the house (which won’t impact the travel readiness of the house).

All of these were James’s suggestions that we felt really comfortable about.  After chatting for about an hour and a half, we left feeling like our home is in pretty good hands!  And then, this past week James texted us with a photo of some pretty exciting progress:

 

Travel Tuesday: South Africa

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I’ve decided to give myself a little more structure on The Curious Knight Life by adding some weekly (if I’,m honest with myself it will be more likely bi-weekly) series, beginning with Travel Tuesdays.  Part of the appeal of the tiny house lifestyle to me was mobility.

Oddly enough, 10 years ago I never could have imagined loving travel the way I do. I grew up in the same small town in Western Maryland for 18 years of my life.  Going to college 3 hours away in Richmond, Virginia was even a little traumatic at first.  I almost transferred colleges after my first semester to live closer to home.  And once I got used to the neighboring state I always assumed I would reside somewhere in the Maryland, DC, Virginia area.  Change of any sort was hard for me.

So the fact that I am so drastically altering my lifestyle today, in large part to give me the ability to move around- see and live in different parts of the world- if shocking even to me.  But since my first out of the country excursion to South America in 2005, I realized there is a lot to see and I only have some much life in which to see it in.

One of the first big trips that tiny living enabled me to take with this past April and May to South Africa for the wedding of my college roommate and best friend, Amanda.  What a truly astonishing experience.  Amanda teases with the idea of her and her new husband moving there someday and I must admit I love, because even with Amanda stateside in DC, I hardly get to see her and this means I would most assuredly go back!

Amanda was born in the US with an American mother and South African father who met in college at UNC Chapel Hill.


She spent much of her childhood South Africa and still has a lot of family there.  She also moved there for 6 months back in 2010 prior to Jared and I’s wedding as her parents and siblings have moved back to the Durban area.
Since Amanda and I became quick friends on our hall in 2003 (Freshmen year at the University of Richmond- LoRo basement was the substance free hall and yes we were goody goodies), I have made the self promise that I would have to see the part of the world where she grew up!  I was able to make good on this promise in part because we sold our house in the fall. Without a mortgage and the time I would have spent on the house and yard in the past, I felt more free to commit to the trip when Amanda sent out the invites.

So on April 25 I set out for Durban South Africa and spent an incredible 11 days there, returning to the states on May 8.  I used SkyScanner to set up an alert for flights to South African and found some fairly affordable prices.   I could go on forever telling you the scenary, the culture, the food, the people, but if I haven’t already lost you in my wordiness I will try to keep it concise here.  These are the 10 highlights of time in South Africa:

1. Travel Time

4These flights were by far the longest I have taken in my life!  The trip there was broken into several legs: Dallas–> DC–>Dakar–>Johanesburg–> Durban.  The flights home were just Cape Town to Dubai and a whopping 16 hour flight from Dubai to Dallas, but Emirates Airlines certainly made sure I was as comfortable as one can be on a 16 hour flight and not in first class.

I made a few friends from North Carolina on the bumpy flight there who sat behind me and shared their wine and our layovers.  Oddly enough I saw them nearly a week later in Cape Town!

But somethings never change and that is that I still get a little wimpy when I travel long distances, especially by myself!

2. Orphanage

24After arriving in Durban on April 26, we left the city for a game reserve the next day.  On the way we stopped at Makaphut Children’s Village where Amanda’s parents run the orphanage.  The children had prepared plays, songs, and dances in celebration of Amanda and Nick’s wedding and we all had an amazing time with these incredible kids.

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Check out this video to see some of the show:)

3. Game Reserve



Next we drove about 3 hours north of Durban to Nambiti Private Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal to stay at the Springbok Lodge.  We stayed in private luxury cabins and took 3 hour came drives twice a day (6am and 6pm) trying to find ‘the big five.’

Our range- Jonathan was incredibly knowledge and self described ‘crazy about the bush.”  We ended up seeing four of the big five (all except a leopard), plus hippos, zebra, giraffes, and so much more!  Truly a once in a lifetime experience.

4. Wedding

100The Wedding was on April 30 on a sugarcane plantation just north of Ballito Beach.  It was absolutely beautiful and full of Addisons 🙂  Some attendees from Makaphutu really brought the dance at the reception too 🙂  The wedding was photographed by Vanilla Photography if you want to see the really good shots.

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5. Cape Town and Clifton Beach

capetown-collageOn May 1st we all flew to Cape Town with Nick and Amanda for a Buddymoon 🙂  We explored University of Cape Town, Rhodes Memorial, Devils Peak Brewery, Mama Africa, the Old Biscuit Mill, Camps Bay, and Clifton Beach we I stayed with the other buddymooners (Amanda and Nick had a separate place).

6. Cape of Good hope and Boulders Beach

I drove half the crew (on the other side of the road!) to the Cape of Good Hope– the most south western tip of Africa and stopped at Boulder Beach on the way back to Cape Town where a colony of Penguins live.  And then we stopped to watch the sunset over the Atlantic and saw whales!!

7. Robben Island

172We took a ferry from the Cape Town Waterfront to Robben Island– the former prison where Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for 18 years.  It was a very somber but enlightening trip.

8. Table Mountain

199The afternoon after we ventured to Robben Island was spent hiking the quickest and steepest trail to summit Table Mountain.  Nick and Amanda led the way and I stayed right with them, despite a little panic due to my fear of heights and Amanda leading us off trail, to reach the top in an hour and half.  When we got there half the view was of Cape town and the Ocean and the other side of the mountain was completely covered in clouds. Amanda said she has never seen it like that it honestly felt like we were on top of the world.

9. Cheetah Reserve

The morning of my last day we went to a cheetah outreach center in Sommerset West outside of Capetown. We got to pet cheetahs and see some other animals which was amazing, but I loved the work the center was doing.  They were using their proceeds to raise dogs to give to South Africa farmers.  The dogs would then scare cheetahs away from their flocks and herds so that the farmers didn’t have to kill the cheetahs by setting traps, but still lost little of their livestock AND they got a dog out of it!  This place was right my alley 🙂

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10. Stellenbosch and Franschhoek on Horseback

After the cheetah outreach center we drove Stellenbosch and Franschhoek valleys known for their wineries. Amanda spent a significant part of her childhood there and found a stable to rent out horses to ride from winery to winery.  The scenery was breathtaking, the wine was amazing, and you know I love animals so it truly was the most amazing way to wrap up this incredible journey!

The Flip Side

11014958_10204179915671874_4794707137647916868_nAlaska is amazing.  We returned on Monday despite a North Texas ice storm that should have delayed our 5:30 am arrival or at least kept us at the airport.  But somehow we made it back safely and school was cancelled for both Jared and I, allowing us the day to catch up on our sleep.  And our sleep was very very off after not only the three hour time difference but many late nights awaiting Kristin’s arrival at remote checkpoints where no hotels existed and we either slept in Andy’s truck or, when accommodations were available, on gymnasium floors where you could stretch out and enjoy the comfort of consistent heat.

I already knew Alaska was a wild and beautiful part of the country, so much of it blissfully untouched by industry and technology.  But Alaska in the winter takes on a life of it’s own.  By daylight the sun reflects a crystallized, white, tundra, checkered by mountains that extend as far as you can see.  By night, albeit not every night as we came to find out, the sky is a dark canvas for the dynamic Aurora Borealis. I have seen pictures and always wanted to see the northern lights, but no camera can do it justice.  I tried to take photos first with my Iphone and next with my Cannon PowerShot SX510HS, but only really high quality cameras can even capture a bit of it’s wonder (this shot is borrow from Whitney McLauren, a free-lancer following the Yukon Quest). Even this shot cannot illustrate how playful the Northern Lights really are; constantly moving like a heartbeat on monitor or an artist swirling their brush, I was truly awestruck.

downloadOn my solo trip to Fairbanks on Valentine’s day, I was finishing up with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild– a vibrant telling of one woman’s journey to heal and find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington State.  As I flew right past Mt. Rainier on my way into Seattle I could picture every anguished and magnificent step and each breathtaking view.  The novel felt so apropos that even though I have finished and am back in Texas, I have kept it on my nightstand and find myself constantly going back to the pages I dogeared.  One of the most striking pages is actually a borrowed quote at the start of part 5- “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver- “The Summer Day” pp. 235). This trip felt like a good start.

Although plans for life don’t hold the same charm they once did for me, I do like living with themes.  And both wild and precious seem appropriate to how I want to live.

I am so proud of Kristin and Andy and their dogs at Hey Moose Kennel.  I am so honored that Jared and I got to be there to see them run and complete this incredible race.

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I am also so happy that we have decided to go TINY so that we had the opportunity to be there.

Trip Outline:

  • 2/14- Dallas to Seattle and Seattle to Fairbanks, where Tim and Kat picked me up at the airport.
  • 2/15- Fairbanks to Circle with Jared and Andy
  • 2/16- Kristin and her dog team arrive in Circle close to midnight- this is the first checkpoint in Alaska that is accessible by road.  Dawson City in Yukon, Canada was the last place Kristin saw family and her handlers.
  • 2/17- Circle to Central where Kristin has another late night arrival under the glorious Northern Lights.
  • 2/18- Central to Mile 101 and Kristin and her team have to go over Eagle Summit, one of the steepest mountains and scariest parts of the trail.
  • 2/19- Mile 101 to Two Rivers- the last check point before the finish line, but a long drive for us and Kristin and her team have to go over Rosebud Summit which turns out to be worse than Eagle because of the trail conditions.  She arrives at Two Rivers early in the morning and takes off for the last run to the finish line.  She crosses the finish line shortly before 10pm and we are all there to cheer her on!!
  • 2/20- Rest and Recovery in Fairbanks plus meet the mushers that evening.
  • 2/21- The Yukon Quest Banquet when Kristin receives her Finishers Patch!
  • 2/22- Family Brunch and take the red eye out from Fairbanks, back to Seattle and eventually back to DFW at 5:30 am on 5/23.

Now I am so excited to start planning my next adventure to South Africa at the end of April to see my beautiful College Roommate, Amanda, get married.  It finally feels like I am seeing and doing rather than just talking and imagining, although my imagination too is running wild after this trip.

A little less stuff and a lot more adventure.

11412138_10100512861563346_8425689690980631686_nI leave tomorrow for Alaska to see my sister in law, Kristin Knight Pace, Jared’s oldest sister, finish the last leg of the Yukon Quest- a 1,000 mile dog sled race from White Horse, Canada across the Yukon Territory to Fairbanks Alaska.  The sentence I just typed blows me away.  Not only because Kristin is doing what so many people only imagine and talk about but that I have the opportunity to see it; to be there.

2017-elevation-mapOne of the biggest motivations for Jared and I to sell our home and move toward a smaller way of living was because we wanted to have more experiences.  And less things and space we own and need to take care of leads to more time and money to spend on adventures like this one.

292491_719613192389_40064208_nWe actually were lucky enough to visit Kristin and her husband Andy outside of Denali National Park where they both work three years ago in the summer.  Alaska in the summer was breathtaking and it was actually one of my first experiences with tiny living.  I don’t know if Kristin and Andy would claim that they live in a tiny house (and they have since moved to a larger cabin since we visited in 2012) but they were incredible role models in terms of living for experiences rather than things.  They love nature and their dogs (they have their own kennel from which Kristin’s sled team is composed), they love the work that they do and aren’t afraid to take risks.  Even if they don’t claim it, so much of their life is what the tiny house lifestyle is to me.  They really have been an inspiration to us not to put off life and the adventures you want to have, but to dare to make it all happen now.

So tomorrow, bright and early I depart.  I have surprisingly little packed considering how cold it will be.  But I was told to pack light so we can throw my bag in the dog sled and that I will pretty much wear the same thing everyday- done.

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First a four hour flight to Seattle and then four hours to Fairbanks where I will meet Tim and Kat (my mother and father in law). Then we drive about four hours to Circle Alaska, one of the race check points where I will meet up with Jared, Andy, and Mandy (Kristin’s dog handler team) and hopefully see Kristin at the check point.  I am not really sure what to expect other than temperatures around -40 degrees Fahrenheit and if I am very very lucky this cool light show I have heard about 😉

Catch you on the flip side.