12

2016 Goals: see more of the world

2016 Goals- see more of the world header - Let's Love Local

I know plenty of people who like to set a word of intention for their year. It’s a nice idea but a) I’m too verbose for just one word to define my whole year and b) their words are just too pleasant for my taste.

I’m also not a huge resolution setter because I know myself: if I’m not under deadline, I probably won’t do something I don’t want to do. That’s just the way I am.

So what’s a girl to do?

My wide, non-specific goal for 2016: see more of the world

While I’d love for that to include my dream road trip through the former USSR (that’s actually my potential 30th birthday gift to myself), it more likely means that I’ll be seeing a lot more of the Midwest. And if that sounds kind of depressing to you (or to me, let’s be honest) – it’s not! I spent 2014 whirling through 11 countries and 2015 bringing a whole different human into the USA. 2016 can be a year of seeing the world without changing continents!

Here’s how I’m going to do it.

Bullet Journal travel planning

Keep a running list of everywhere I want to go

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using an uber-helpful tracking system over the past few months for not only daily life but future adventures. I’ll talk about it further later this week, but one of the best layouts I’ve created is a chart that contains a running list of everywhere I want to visit. If you’re not big on pen and paper, even a simple Google Doc or Evernote entry that you update and reference periodically can be a great reminder and motivator for cool places or events you’d like to check out.

From my own personal experience, I’ve found that it’s incredibly easy to scroll through the internet, find something cool you want to do, and then completely forget about it. The only way you’ll remember it is when you see cool pictures from the event, after the fact. That’s the worst and when you’re struggling with enjoying local because you can’t travel, missing something cool can make you even less inclined to get out and do something in the future.

Let’s fight missing out (and our terribly memories!) in 2016.

So in the upcoming year I’m going to make a concerted effort to log my travel ideas more faithfully in the hope that I’ll actually use my research more fully in the space I’ve carved out for local travel adventures.

Use every moment of free time wisely

I’m really going to kick prioritizing exploring in my free time throughout the upcoming year and I have a really great method to do so which I’ll introduce later this week – stay tuned! I wrote earlier that the most critical action to take in order to enjoy being at home is to treat free time like adventure time or else you’ll quickly fall into the habit of sitting at home, being bored.

One I have an official schedule set for my new full time job and my freelancing work, I will not only be blocking out specific anti-internet times to get out and do something new as well as committing to several other actions that will have me out the door more often as not.

I don’t want 2016 to become a blur of work-home-work-home just because I’m settled in one safe-feeling place like Indianapolis. Let’s keep things spicy!

Explore Local Polly

Utilize every resource available to get it done

Traveling can get expensive, even when you’re traveling close to home (trust me, those flights of locally-brewed goodness don’t come super cheap!) so I’ve decided to become more dedicated to getting the most out of my money. One of the big ways I did that in the last year or so is by getting a credit card that gave me miles on everything I purchased.

Actually, I took on this sponsored post because I not only have a Capital One Venture Card but have used the miles with great result in the past year. Even used by someone like my husband and I who rarely rack up more than a few hundred dollars each month, we’ve found that the miles add up pretty quickly. (Last year was a banner year, though, considering we put all of our travel and green card expenses on it!)

What I like most of all is that we can decide when, where and how we want to use our miles. Capital One tells me they’re redeemable on any travel-related expense – from flights to hotel stays, cruises and Uber rides. We’ve used them for Uber, partial plane tickets, and even a bit of cash when we needed it!

In 2016 I’d like to get more out of the card (AKA not be afraid to put money on a credit card when I know we can pay it back) and find other methods of getting my money’s worth of every penny I spend!


So that’s it, my very simple, easy-to-achieve-because-it’s-so-vague goal for 2016: see the world. While I don’t like to rush time, I have to say that I’m excited for the upcoming year and every opportunity I’ll have to travel, whether near or far… aren’t you?

What are your travel-related goals for 2016? Got your eye on a specific country or just a general resolve to get out of the house more?

2016 Goals- see more of the world - Let's Love Local

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

13

Travel weird with these unusual attractions

The first truly memorable thing I remember about Russia (aside from the thick haze of smoke from wildfires that blanketed the whole city) was taking the train home at night, all by myself in a new country as I tried to navigate myself back to the small suburban town I now called home.

It wasn’t earlier when I had met the people who would become great friends. It wasn’t even standing stock-still in the center of Red Square, the crowds of tourists rushing around as I gazed at the cathedral I’d only ever seen in books. It was a solitary train ride, with the lights of the receding city fading from view.

And I think that’s the best way that I can explain to people how what is deeply meaningful to me in travel is not necessarily what they – or even I – would expect.

Whenever I go out to have an adventure, whether it be looking for weird history, hunting mammoths, or a one-of-a-kind dish, I’m always seeking out that spark that makes an experience or place absolutely unique, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. The kind of experience that sticks in my mind for years for no good reason other than my brain filed it away in the epic folder.

If any of that rambling sounds like you (or you’re just here to find unusual attractions to gawk at), read on for some of my most favorite resources for catching that spark.

INTERNATIONAL RESOURCES

NERDY DAY TRIPS
A really awesome site which, chances are, you’ve never heard of. Nerdy Day Trips is a user-driven site full of road trips and weird local awesomeness that’s all easily serachable via its interactive map. Best of all, Nerdy Day Trips has active users all over the world, giving you a great chance of finding something interesting to explore within easy driving distance.

PINTEREST
Let’s face it: everything that’s cool in the world has already been done. I don’t mean this to be depressing, I swear! It just means that you’ll have an easier time as you trawl through Pinterest because someone’s already done the legwork for you. I look for “weird travel [your location]” or “off the beaten path [your locations]” which usually brings up at least a few options that get me scheming. Whether or not that locations is actually Pinterest-worthy when you arrive is another question altogether.

ATLAS OBSCURA
Are you interested in the weird side of travel? Would you rather see the grave of someone’s arm than wander through another boring museum filled with all facts and no severed limbs? You’re in luck – pour through the archives of Atlas Obscura, a site dedicated to the strange, creepy, and just plain weird points of interest in the world. The site is handily divided by state for easy searching so you can find an offbeat adventure that suits your travel feelings.

STRATEGIC INSTAGRAM STALKING
I don’t know why NO ONE ever listens to me about this. It’s how I discovered Crown Hill Cemetery, Hotel Tango, and a ton of other cool stuff in Indy and wherever I am in the world. Figure out local hashtags (for example, Indianapolis is #keepindieindy #igersindy #loveindy and so on) and scroll through the feed of users who deploy these hashtags. Utilize Instagram’s map option, as well, to discover even more local users.

UNUSUAL PLACES
Unusual Places offers plenty of exploration opportunities in locations all over the world. As a photo-heavy site full of beautiful pictures, it’s simple enough just to choose your current location, scroll through the pictures, and dream about your next big adventure. Unfortunately this site isn’t super thorough but you might just find something interesting.

YOUR LOCAL TOURISM BOARD
I know that not everyone has access to a local tourism board (Moscow, I’m looking at you!), but most states/regions/counties – if not cities themselves – will have some organization dedicated to luring in tourist money. You’d be surprised at the depths that your state or local tourism boards will search to list any and everything visiting tourists might be interested in. Use this.

YOUR LOCAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY
You’d be shocked at how many places – even the tiniest towns – have a robust historical society, even if it is just two old guys posting sporadically on their website. A ton of people asked me how I discovered the Catacombs I talked about in my Indianapolis city guide. The simple answer? The local preservation society. It may not be the sexiest resource to reference, but it is super useful!

Scrolling through our options while lost somewhere in Indy.

Scrolling through our options while lost somewhere in Indy.

USA-SPECIFIC RESOURCES

ROADSIDE AMERICA
Roadside America is kind of like the website that your dad who has to stop at ever weird attraction advertised on the side of the road would have made. With its vintage feel, Roadside America is an awesome throwback that really digs into that nostalgia specific to those road trips you took as a young kid. These may not be worth a full day trip, but the site is a great way to get some quirky travel ideas if you’re already passing that way. You can search by state or town.

WEIRD U.S.
I’ve only read a few sample chapters from Weird U.S. (affiliate link) but I am in love… and will probably order it now that I’m at a stable US address! After wandering around the United States for years asking What’s weird around here?, the authors have compiled a list of some of the weirdest, most unique places and experiences in the USA. Part travel guide, part folklore history book, at the very least you’ll be entertained and inspired after reading this!

Oh, and if you haven’t got enough, there’s a companion: Weird U.S. The ODDyssey Continues: Your Travel Guide to America’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets (affiliate link).

OPACITY.US
Opacity is a site put together by Tom Kirsch in order to share his love of urban exploring. His lovely, evocative photos of abandoned buildings are sure to make just about everyone keen to begin their own exploring. You’re able to search the site’s archives through your own location to find out if there are any buildings close to you. (Note: be sure to read his about page to find out more about the legality of it all.)

ROAD TRIPPERS
OK, so you might not be able to drop everything and take an epic horror-themed road trip across the US, but you can definitely pick and choose from some of the truly creative ideas on offer at Road Trippers. Divided both by theme and location, you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy and isn’t too far from home!

14

5 easy steps to plan your weekend adventure

5 easy steps to plan your weekend adventure - Let's Love Local

One of the most frequent questions that came up on my survey (if you haven’t taken it yet, please do so here) was how the heck I find all of these weird places I go? I was a bit stumped by the question because searching for something new to do in my free time is basically just ingrained in me. In general, I think what a lot of you underestimate is the sheer amount of time I spend thinking about what I’m going to do in my free time, where the next place I’m going to aimlessly wander is, and in general how I’m going to find my next big little travel fix.

But that is a personal problem, and not necessarily a habit I would encourage other people to cultivate – at least not to the degree I do. So I’m not saying you need to spend as much time as I do fixated on mini-adventures (seriously, some of you might have other things to do in your lives, ya big weirdos) but I am saying that finding offbeat, interesting events and places to go takes some level of dedication.

Imagine, if you will, that you treat all of your free time like a potential vacation. Before you go on a big trip, you read blogs, hit up forums, dive into a guidebook, etc., right? Well apply that level of pre-exploration into your local travels and you’ll have a lot more luck.

To give you an idea of the process I use when I’m looking for something new, I’ve condensed my typical searches into an easy-to-manage list – five easy steps to plan your weekend adventure. I suggest you do this on a Thursday when everything starts ramping up for the weekend, ensuring you’re getting maximum exposure to what cool stuff might be happening in your area.

Grab a local print

Oh yeah, I’m going old school here and encouraging you to get something printed. On paper. Now I’m not saying to go out and get your city’s daily newspaper; rather, I’m talking about the alternative publications that cater to a younger audience. Most decent-sized cities or towns have these sort of things and they’re a veritable wealth of information when it comes to what’s upcoming. Indianapolis puts out NUVO ever Wednesday (I think?) and it’s filled with interesting local stories as well as some great events for the coming week.

Incidentally, if your town/city doesn’t have a decent – or any – newspaper (I’ve been there!), make sure you’re not missing an online-only, informal publication. Many places that no longer have in-print publications have moved to online only and most have pretty happening Facebook pages where you can get the DL.

Trawl Twitter

I hate Twitter and I’ve actually removed it from my repetoire of blog social media. I still have Twitter but not because I ever found it useful in terms of growing a blog audience. No, instead my Twitter account is only still around to read through my feed and post random thoughts.

So as much as I hate Twitter, I’ve actually found it insanely useful in terms of finding weird things to do. This step does require some amount of time (especially if you follow a lot of people) but I’ve discovered several awesome events (including the Catacomb tours and the Best of Indy party) that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about by reading tweets from some key people.

Who I’m following on Twitter:

  • A local Yelp representative. I had no idea Yelp was all over the world until I spoke to Indy’s Yelp representative (it’s not in Russia, so I assumed it just wasn’t a thing anywhere else), but it’s all over the Americas and Europe making it almost certain you’ll have access to someone who knows what’s what in your local. Seriously, these are the people who eat at local restaurants, shop at local businesses, and go to all the coolest events – as a job. Invaluable tips are guaranteed!
  • Neighborhood organizations. For example, Indy is made up of a ton of different neighborhoods and a lot of them have organizations that promote their events and interesting spots. These guys will highlight special events that bigger event aggregators may miss.
  • A preservationist/urban planner. I highly recommend following these types if you’re into architecture, historical buildings, or urban revival.
  • Local photographers. Not only do you get some gorgeous shots of local people and places, you may also come across something awesome to do thanks to the photographer scouting a spot for a shoot!
Weekend adventure

A cold weekend adventure in Moscow c/o some hipster I followed on Instagram.

Scroll through local Insta tags

While looking through hundreds of gorgeous photos taken in exotic locations can be really fun, it can also be a real downer when you’re stuck at home with no big trip in the foreseeable future. Thanks to this realization, I’ve been making recent efforts to cultivate a Instagram feed that features more realistic options than a stick-thin blond girl with her back to the camera against an epic, exotic backdrop. That isn’t my life now (er, actually, never was) and I’ve found that reflecting my lifestyle through my Insta-aesthetic has brought up a lot of amazing inspiration!

The best way to find useful local hashtags is to pinpoint bigger bloggers, photographers, and cool local restaurants or shops from your area. Check out what they’re tagging on their posts, click through, and enjoy the wealth of information that pops up. You might find new locations, fun upcoming events, or even make a personal connection by scrolling through.

FIND THOSE INSTA-TAGS
Useful tags could include:
#[your city/town] duh
#igers[your city/town/region] ex. #igersindy #igersmidwest
#love[your city/state] ex. #loveVA #loveindy
#visit[your city/town/region/country] ex. #visitnorway #visitvictoria

One of the biggest reasons I love Instagram as a way to find things to do (aside from all the pretty pictures) is that most people/brands are genuinely enthusiastic about answering questions or giving suggestions. So stalk, scroll, and comment away, Instagram’s going to give you big ideas!

Ask everyone

Literally. I am not kidding about this.

The barista at your local coffee shop? Ask him. The cashier as you check out at the grocery store? Ask her! The lady you make awkward eye contact with in the elevator at work? ASK HER!

The excuse of “I’m new around here” is always good but if you aren’t (or just aren’t a very good liar), a very honest “I’m looking for something different to do this weekend” is usually enough to get someone excited about giving you their version of a good time. Who knows who might be an urbex-er (urban explorer) or have connections to a super-cool organization?

You’ll never know until you ask, no matter how awkward it may be.

If all else fails… wander

I am one of those people most likely to fall prey to the “well I want to do something, but nothing’s happening so I’ll stay at home” mentality. If I haven’t managed to find something to do, I’ll just sit at home in front of the computer all day. Bo-ring!

I’ve found that forcing myself out there regardless of plan is usually a decent way of stumbling onto something at least marginally interesting. If you’re in a larger town or city, head to areas where events or gatherings usually happen or to a local bar where there’s likely to be good music or deals. If you’re in a small town, make your own adventure with some snacks and a road trip/hike through an expansive green space.

And that’s it! It’s that easy to plan your weekend – most of these ideas require little more than a computer or smartphone combined with just a little bit of willpower. Not so bad, right?

5 Easy Steps to Plan Your Weekend Adventure! - Let's Love Local

Just a quick FYI: there won’t be a challenge post this Friday as I and the biggest bit of my audience – USA-ians – will still be enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday slash stuck with their families. See you Monday and if you happen to adventure this weekend using any Let’s Love Local tips, be sure to share on Instagram with #LLLADVENTURE!