Author: Dana

Letter To A Friend Struggling With Failure

Letter To A Friend Struggling With Failure

About a year ago, I was at a healing retreat in New Mexico.  On each person’s last day, they had a tradition of burning artwork and writing that represented parts of you that you want to leave behind, and to give away (or take home) items that represent parts of you that you would like to flourish.  Most of the people I had spent the most time with and grown close to recently left the retreat.  So it was difficult for me to decide how to give things away to the people who had just arrived.  I noticed a lot of them talked about having a paralyzing fear of failure (which I do not have).  So I wrote a letter “to a friend who is struggling with feelings of failure.”  If you feel like you have failed to have enough travel or adventures in your life (or at any other aspect of your life), you might find it helpful to see things from a new perspective.  Here’s what I wrote:

Hi friend,
I hear you are struggling with feelings of failure.  So I thought you might like to hear from an expert in failing.
You see, I am a manufacturing automation engineer.  In plain English, that means I fix robots that make cookies and ice cream.  When something breaks, it’s up to me to fix it, even if I don’t know what the problem is.  Many times, I am called to fix something even if I don’t know how it works or what it does!
Needless to say, it would be impossible to walk in and immediately fix the broken part and be done.
When the ice cream machine breaks down, I have to fail many times before the machine is fixed.  Is the machine plugged in?  Yep.  Damn, I failed at fixing it.  Is the power on?  Damn, failed again.  Maybe I should go home before I get fired.  Sometimes I might fail 100 times without fixing a single thing.
It’s not about making sure things go smoothly all the time.  It’s what you do about it when things go wrong.  Do you give up?  Or do you keep trying new things until you figure out something that works?  You see, each one of those failures is not inherently negative.  Instead, look at each failure as gaining information.  Ok, so the problem with the ice cream machine probably isn’t related to the power source.
What happens when you don’t know the next step?  Is that when you go home?  No, at my job, I am not required to know everything off the top of my head.  Sometimes I have to look things up or even consult an expert.  You too, are not required to know everything.  There are plenty of resources, and an amazing community to reach out to.  It is very likely that someone else has struggled with the same problem that you are having, and can offer insight.  And there’s always an expert to reach out to.
So the next time you feel like you have failed, just remember to step back and try to see what information you can gain out of the experience.  And if you are persistent in your quest, there just might be ice cream on the other side.




Solo Christmas Travel Adventure

Solo Christmas Travel Adventure

Several years ago, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, for a job without knowing a single person there. When December arrived, I didn’t have enough money (or time off work) to fly home to Florida for Christmas. It took almost a whole day to fly home, especially after the time change and layover. I tried to join a get together with friends, but that fell through. Everyone else either already had plans or was leaving town. I eventually came to accept that I would be alone on Christmas.

Hmm, now what? Having a traditional Christmas was no longer an option. I had already been living in Arizona for five months and I hadn’t been to the Grand Canyon yet. Or to that ski resort in Flagstaff. And I had just been given the perfect opportunity to go explore them. That’s it! I would go on a Christmas Road Trip Adventure!

As Christmas got closer, I became more and more excited about my upcoming trip. Some coworkers told me about a really cool ski resort in Flagstaff, and I hadn’t had a chance to go skiing since high school. They said lift tickets sometimes sell out, so I bought them ahead of time from a ski shop in Phoenix.

I booked a hotel with a hot tub and packed my ski suit and bikini in my suitcase. On December 23, I headed north to Arizona Snowbowl!

Ski suit? Check! Bathing suit? Check!

It was an easy, two hour drive straight up I-17. I checked into my hotel, then stopped at the store for a ski hat and some gloves. I woke up early the next morning and drove up the mountain to Arizona Snowbowl!

The view from the parking lot at Arizona Snowbowl.

I was so excited to go skiing! I went inside and rented skis and poles. They asked me if I wanted a skiing instructor. Pshhh! I already know how to ski! I politely declined, then suited up, headed outside, and got on the chair lift.

It was the most terrifying chair lift I had ever been on. There was nothing keeping me from jumping (falling?) out of the seat from so high up. I closed my eyes and held on tight as the chair swung back and forth. When I finally arrived at the top, I pushed myself off of the lift.

The view from the top of the mountain.

The views were gorgeous from the top of the mountain! I stayed up there for a while enjoying the view and taking pictures. I thought about all of the pictures my friends posted on social media of them selecting their Christmas tree, strapping it to the roof of their car, and decorating it. I decided to select one to be my Christmas tree. I looked over at all the trees. They were all so beautiful. It was so difficult to pick one. Finally, I saw one by itself in the snow in front of the mountain. That’s the one! That will be my Christmas tree! But I’m not going to chop it down and haul it away to decorate it. Nature already decorated it perfectly. I stood there for a minute, soaking up the views and enjoying the moment. Then I took a picture to show my friends.

My Christmas Tree

I decided to take it easy on my first run. I hadn’t been skiing since I was a teenager. There was no designated “bunny hill” at the Arizona Snowbowl, so I chose a green circle slope, which is the easiest level slope. When I was a kid, I sped down the blue square (intermediate) slopes like it was nothing. And I loved it so much!

This time, it was much more difficult. At first, I started going fast, and it was fun. But then I realized I couldn’t slow down and had very little control. There were lots of people around, so I didn’t want to hit anyone. I ended up jumping/falling off to the side of the path. When I landed, one of my skis fell off. As I started to look around for my missing ski, I realized I was stuck.

I reached for the ski and tried to snap my boot back into it, but it popped back off. A guy on a snowmobile rode by several times without saying anything. I wondered if anyone could see me. At least I wasn’t hurt. I felt like I was laying in the snow forever. Maybe I should take off my other ski and boots and walk down the hill in bare feet?

Eventually, he asked if I needed help. He helped me put my ski back on, then I got up and made my way to the bottom of the slope. I felt a pain in my hip as I tried to walk.

I decided to call it a day. Maybe I should have paid extra for those skiing lessons. I returned my equipment and went back to my car. I met some people in the parking lot and sold them my remaining ticket. Oh well, at least there’s a hot tub at the hotel.

When I got back to the hotel, I put on my bathing suit and went to the hot tub. I reached for the door to the pool area, but it was locked. On the website, it said the hot tub was open until 8pm. It was only 5pm. I went to the office, and they said the hot tub closes at 5pm. What a bummer.

I went back to my room and laid in bed. There was no way I could go to Grand Canyon the next day. I was in too much pain after falling on my hip. At this point, I was even dreading the two hour drive back to Phoenix.

I searched the internet to look for alternative plans. I found Meteor Crater Observatory – a national landmark at the site where a meteor hit. It sounded pretty interesting. But upon further research, it was closed one day a year. December 25. The day I needed to head back to Phoenix.

I decided to go to bed early and get some rest. In the morning, I checked out of the hotel and headed back towards Phoenix. Driving south on I-17 felt like a roller coaster ride. Zooming down the mountain, shifting into neutral.

I stopped at a rest stop in Sedona. I had heard a lot about that place. Lots of artist type people have been known to go there and have life-changing experiences after seeing the red rocks, or perhaps from the energy fields that radiate from the ground there. I enjoyed a picnic lunch from the rest stop. I could see the red rocks in the distance.

McGuireville rest stop picnic area with views of Sedona red rock.

It was quite a bit warmer in Sedona than it was in Flagstaff. I took off the hat, scarf, and ski jacket and wore just a sweater. By driving 60 miles south, it warmed up significantly!

When I got home to Phoenix, I ended the day in a bathing suit in the hot tub. It was so nice to finally relax and look back at my adventurous Christmas. Even though a lot of things went wrong, I had no regrets. It was something I really wanted to do. I got to explore places I had never been before. But most importantly, I learned how much fun it can be to go on solo adventures, even when nothing goes as planned. I was hooked on adventures! Especially since I hadn’t spent much time out west. Everything was new to me.

A few days later, I resigned from my corporate job, packed a suitcase, and drove to Las Vegas, NV, for a New Years adventure with a group of friends from college.

I already had another job lined up, but I was scared to resign. The people I worked with were nice. I felt like I was screwing them over. But going on my solo Christmas adventure allowed me to see that I needed to do this for myself. I needed to do what’s best for me.

Coincidentally, some friends from college in Florida were flying into Las Vegas for vacation/New Year’s Eve. My next adventure was right around the corner!

Have you ever turned a lonely holiday into an epic adventure?

5 Easy Ways to Squeeze Travel Into Your Busy Schedule

5 Easy Ways to Squeeze Travel Into Your Busy Schedule

Do you wish you could add more trips to your busy life?  Do you scroll through Instagram and wonder how people have time to travel so much?  Here are five easy ways to squeeze travel into your busy schedule:

  1. Schedule your vacation time – Does your job offer vacation time?  Have you ever spent the whole year “saving” vacation time just in case, and ended up using it at the end of December before it expired?  Try this instead:  Think of your dream vacation destination.  What’s the best time of year to go there?  As soon as you acquire more vacation time, block off a week or two during that time of year.  Already have plans to use your vacation?  Is it a planned event, or a “someday” dream of going somewhere?  Scheduling your work’s vacation time is a great strategy for longer trips (1-2 weeks).  I want to go on a shark SCUBA dive in Nassau in the winter.  I will pick a week in December or January to block off, and then schedule my trip around that.  If you find a better travel deal on a different date, you can always tell your boss to change it.  If you’re flying somewhere to go SCUBA diving, don’t forget to schedule an off-gas day!
  2. Holidays – A holiday (three- or four-day weekend) is a great time to travel.  Since airlines jack up the prices during holidays, a better strategy might be to plan a backcountry outdoor adventure nearby.  When I lived in Phoenix, a group of friends and I went camping in Prescott National Park for Labor Day Weekend.  It was gorgeous! 
  3. Weekend Getaway – Only have two consecutive days free?  No problem!  When I was in Portland, OR, I took a weekend trip to San Francisco to visit friends from college.  We went kayaking in the San Francisco bay with wind surfers.  Note:  longer flights or car/train/bus rides and crossing multiple time zones may severely limit the time at your destination.  In extreme cases, I’ve packed a whole weekend’s worth of adventures with only one day off.
  4. Day Trip – Can’t break away for more than one day?  That’s ok!  Travel does not have to mean spending all day and night getting to a far away destination. See if there’s somewhere you’d like to go within a few hours from home.  When I lived in Atlanta, I took a day trip to Lookout Mountain to go hang gliding.
  5. Staycation – Have you ever explored your hometown (or current location) as if you were a visitor traveling there on vacation?  Check out that art gallery you’ve always wanted to see.  Or the rose garden.  Go on that hike you’ve always wanted to try.  Bonus if you have friends or family that can join you from out of town.  It will seem more like a trip because it is a trip for them!  While living in Miami, I took my mom and nephew on an airboat ride in the Everglades.  What gems does your location have to offer?

Travel does not necessarily involve having unlimited time off of work.  With a little strategy and planning, you can travel more, too!  What are your favorite ways to make time for travel?

VLOG: Packing Light Challenge

VLOG: Packing Light Challenge

I recently went on a weekend getaway trip with my mom and my dog.  My mom booked the trip on Spirit Airlines with no checked bags and no carry-on bags.  Later, I learned that the dog does not get a personal item (for food, treats, and poop bags, etc).  Here is how I packed light enough to share a personal item with the dog, and fit everything into one bag.



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How to Take FOMO worthy Selfies on a Solo Trip

How to Take FOMO worthy Selfies on a Solo Trip

Are you excited about your upcoming solo trip!?  Great!  Are you worried about how to get awesome pictures when you’re alone?  Good news, you don’t have to miss any of your favorite photo ops!  In this post, I will show you some of my favorite photos from solo trips, and explain how you can use these techniques to get great photos on your trip.  You don’t need any fancy equipment.  A smartphone with a camera is all you need to get great pictures.

Use the selfie mode on your camera:

Stand in front of a beautiful scene you’d like to capture, then turn on front facing camera.  Look at the screen and pay attention to the background.  I moved the camera around a bit in order to find the best shot for this photo overlooking downtown Miami.





Use the timer feature and a rock:

To get this picture, I set my camera to selfie mode (front facing camera), and added a 10 second timer.  I leaned my phone against a rock, hit the button, and hurried into place at Capital Reef National Park in Utah.






Use selfie mode and take video:

For this one, I set my camera to selfie mode and leaned it against a rock again.  This time, I skipped the timer.  Instead, I turned on the video camera to capture a video of the entire jump.  Then I chose the best frame from the video.  Note that when you use the video camera, the quality isn’t as good.





Ask a stranger:

When I was at the Grand Canyon, many strangers asked if I wanted help taking my picture.  But that’s not always the case.  If you have trouble asking strangers to take your picture, look for people trying to get a group photo/selfie.  Offer to take their picture, then ask for them to take your picture in return.



Make friends:

If you’re staying at a hostel, chances are good that you’ll go sight-seeing or out on the town with some of the other guests.  Use this opportunity to get pictures of you and your new best friends.  Clearly, I need to use this option more often.  I had to cheat and use a picture from World Domination Summit in Portland, OR.  A group of us stayed at a hostel together, but we knew each other before the conference.




Take pictures without you in it:

Finally, who says you have to be in every single picture?  Sometimes it’s better to capture the moment without people in the photo.  Sometimes you’ve already tried all of the above options, and didn’t quite get the shot you wanted.  This picture was taken at the Sunshine Skyway South Fishing Pier on a road trip.






Having trouble finding a rock to lean your phone against?  Try a small $10 smartphone tripod like this one.  The legs can bend in any direction, and it’s small enough to fit in your carry-on suitcase.


I have never used a selfie stick, but if I ever do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

What are your favorite ways to take pictures while travelling solo?

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Dog Kissing Booth Costume + Behind the Scenes Video

Dog Kissing Booth Costume + Behind the Scenes Video

My dog had the cheapest, easiest to make, and cutest costume – a dog kissing booth.  I literally cut a hole in a box with a case cutter and then wrote on the box in sharpie.  It only took 10 minutes.  Here’s what it looked like:

Adorable!  But getting the video was a lot harder than I expected.  I wasn’t sure how to get the box to stay around the dog’s head.  But it didn’t matter because she wanted nothing to do with the box.  So how did I get such a cute boomerang?  In the video, I walk you through the problems I had and how I worked around them.  I show you how you can recreate this scene, even if your dog hates the box.

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Solo Cross Country Road Trip Survival Guide

Solo Cross Country Road Trip Survival Guide

I spent many years avoiding solo cross-country road trips.  If my destination was more than a five hour drive away, I got on a plane. But while I was living in Portland, I realized that there are a lot of National Parks and other destinations that are not near an airport.  Sure, you can bring a friend and switch drivers.  But how many of you have put off a road trip because none of your friends were available?

I decided to go back to Florida with my car.  I didn’t have the money to ship my car.  I looked at a map and saw tons of destinations I’d otherwise never get to see: the Pacific Coast Highway, southern Utah, the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe.  I was sold.  Time to face the wall I had built up in my mind around cross-country road trips.


  • Do you have an origin and a destination?  When I started my trip, all I knew was that I was going to Dallas, TX by mid-November.  I didn’t know where I was going beyond that. And that’s ok.  But it makes things easier if you know your origin and what direction you want to travel.
  • Once you have a rough idea of what direction you’d like to go, look for points of interest along the path.  Some points of interest might be on a short detour.  If it’s something you’d really like to see, try to make it work.  It can be a National Park, Theme Park, or any other place you’d like to visit.  Feel free to think outside the box.  I’ve been to the Pulse Nightclub Memorial in Orlando, FL, and Kurt Cobain’s house.  These points of interest may change along the route, and that’s ok.
  • Figure out your maximum daily distance.  You don’t want to end up exhausted and needing to stop while you’re on a really long stretch of highway with no exits.  Are you a road warrior that can drive 12 hours straight?  Great!  You’ll be way ahead of me!  For me, I can’t drive more than five hours before I get stir-crazy.  Knowing this, I kept each daily trip under 300 miles.  Make sure to leave enough time to spend at each destination.  Keep in mind, you might have some days where you won’t be driving by any of your chosen points of interest.  This would be a good time to check what’s in the area and try something you might not otherwise do.  For example, I wasn’t excited about stopping in Amarillo, TX.  But I found an awesome gym, had a great workout, and made some lifelong friends!  If your trip has too many days with no points of interest, try to find a more interesting route, if available.
  • Want to avoid snow?  Or tornados?  Know your limits, and make sure to avoid anything you can’t handle.
  • Look for places to stay, but be flexible.  I knew I wanted to go through southern Utah.  I searched for hostels, and it turns out there’s only one.  But don’t book immediately.  Make a note of it, but stay flexible in case a local makes a stellar, must-do recommendation.

Make sure everything fits in your car. Do I really need two camping chairs on a solo trip?


  • Check your car’s maintenance schedule.  Will your car require scheduled maintenance while you’re on the road? If your trip is longer than 3000 miles, you might need an oil change during your trip.  Don’t avoid maintenance when you are on the road!  Check your tire pressure before you head out.  If your tire pressure is off, you might not get optimal gas mileage, which goes a long way on a long trip.  Also, double check that your registration won’t expire during the trip, and that you have car insurance cards that are up to date.
  • Pack your car.  What do you need to bring?  Will you be going to the beach?  On a ski trip?  Will you go camping in the backcountry along the way?  You don’t want to have lots of unnecessary stuff taking up space (and weight) in your car.  But you also don’t want to be camping in the snow without a sleeping bag or jacket.  I organized my car with plastic storage containers, and that ended up saving me lots of time (and preventing me from tearing apart everything in my car).  Make sure items you will need most often are most easily accessible.
  • Consider meal planning.  Are you planning on eating fast food every meal?  Make sure there are restaurants available throughout your trip.  Are you going backcountry camping?  I always looked ahead on my trip to figure out when’s the next time I’ll be near a grocery store. I’d stock up for a few days at a time, especially when I went hammock camping in the redwoods for more than one night.  There were no restaurants or grocery stores nearby.  Also, pack non-perishable snacks and drinks for when you are driving.  I brought fruit, granola bars, and gallon jugs of water.  The water also came in handy when I went backcountry camping with no running water.
  • Make sure you know your route.  You want to know where you’re going, even if you lose GPS signal.  Are you taking Route 66 all the way to Santa Monica, CA?  Are you taking I-10 from Los Angeles to Jacksonville?  Are you going off the beaten path?  If you know your route, it will be easier to deviate from it when you find unexpected must-do detours.
  • Be your own DJ.  Get together some music, podcasts, or audiobooks to listen to.  I get my audiobooks from the library on my phone.  Then connect to my car’s sound system via bluetooth or an AV cable.
  • Check for gas stations along the route.  This may seem silly, but I have been on road trips where there were no gas stations in any direction for a hundred miles.  And almost ran out of gas in the snow in Oregon because it didn’t occur to me there might not be gas stations.

The rare self-serve gas pump in Oregon.


  • Be flexible.  Ask locals for recommendations.  Taking a detour to follow local recommendations turned out to be the best part of my trip!  Don’t miss out!
  • Take pictures!  You’ll want to remember this.  And show your friends.
  • Be safe!  Don’t leave valuables visible in your car.  Be aware of your surroundings.  I put my blanket on top of my plastic storage containers, and then a Love Conquers Hate poster leftover from Pride on top of that.  When I went camping, I used a headlamp to pitch my tent if I arrived after dark.  I never felt unsafe, except when I got harassed by people telling me it’s “unsafe” for women to be alone.


The path to one of many lookout points at Capital Reef National Park.


  • Look for cheaper accommodations.
    • Hostels are great for areas that have lots of attractions.  Usually they have free guided tours, and you get to go with other travelers.  It’s a great way to do group activities while traveling solo.  Bonus: some have discounted tickets to popular attractions.
    • Paid and free campsites are great when you are in the wilderness.  I stayed at a few throughout my road trip.  The data is populated by other users, so sometimes the information is inaccurate.  But many entries have links to official park websites.  I found some spots too difficult to find in the dark, but the one in Mississippi was magical.  I will definitely go back to that campsite on future road trips.
    • AirBNB and an outdoorsy version, hipcamp, are great when cheaper options are not available.  However, I have found some really cool places for under $20/night on AirBNB.
    • If you’ve never tried CouchSurfing, it’s probably not what you think.  It’s NOT sleeping on a stranger’s couch for free.  It is a social media site where you meet other people who love travel.  Chat with potential hosts and get to know them first.  Maybe they’ve been to your dream trip destination.  This is not free accommodation – it’s more about a shared experience.  That being said, it’s nice to get them a gift from your hometown or from somewhere along your road trip.  Or cook them dinner.  Due to the time it takes to exchange messages with a host, this method will require a little more planning ahead.  I have used CouchSurfing on my road trip from Cleveland to Atlanta.  I had an amazing time in Knoxville, TN.  I plan on trying it again on my next road trip.
  • Look for apps that connect users with couriers.  Maybe someone will pay $100 for you to bring a guitar or suitcase from your origin to a place along your route.  If so, it could pay for gas money.

Have fun, and make sure to slow down and enjoy the journey!


What are your favorite road trip tips?

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