Cross Country Travel Tips

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Good morning!

Back in July, I promised one more special post about my Cross Country Trip from June, but never got to releasing it. While on the trip, I began brainstorming ideas for this post (in fact, my grandfather suggested the idea for it) and have kept them in a note screen on my phone- until now.

These are genuine tips based upon my experience, and I tried to add some personal touches into a few ideas as well. Here’s my list:

  1. Take pictures- but only so many. I’m so glad to have the photo galleries from my Cross Country trip to reflect upon, but once you’ve taken say, a few dozen or so pictures of the Grand Canyon, put your camera away and physically take in the view. Anyone can view an image, but you’ll want to remember what it actually was like to be there. Savor the views- the sounds, the feel of the air…
    November Featured Photo
    November’s Featured Photo: Flying above the clouds over Lake Michigan during June’s Cross Country trip.
  2. Get the window seat. You won’t regret it. This trip involved me taking my first plane ride since I was 3- and I have a severe fear of heights. But when on the plane, it all went away- I felt safe (in fact, I pictured the plane as just a really, really big car) and was so glad to have the window seat. Between the views of the clouds, the horizon, and the Earth below, the plane made for some of the best views of the trip.
  3. Bring headphones. I find that if I have my headphones in, listening to music, I could zone out for hours on the train just taking in the scenery around us.
  4. At the same time, be alert, too- you never know when you’ll miss something extraordinary, like wild cows roaming along the train tracks.
  5. Talk to people- just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you can just be antisocial. Put work or school behind you. If you’re traveling with someone, talk with them. Traveling can be a great bonding experience- and you’ll be able to share these memories for years to come, like me with my grandfather.
  6. Write things down as soon as you think of them. Keep a journal- this will help you treasure exactly what each memorable moment – like looking down into the Grand Canyon for the first time – felt like.
  7. Talk about it at home- share the best stories of your trip with those back at home. They’ll (probably) want to hear about it, and you might just inspire them to go out and explore the world too.

And most importantly:

  • Take a moment to step back and admire the beauty of nature. You’ll gain such an appreciation for the world around us- the Grand Canyon moved me to tears.
  • Go back. Don’t go somewhere just to say you went there- create for yourself that yearning to return and discover more.

And lastly…

  • When traveling coach overnight on a train, bring a pillow. We learned the hard way on that one. 😅

Thanks so much for reading!


Want more stories and photos from this trip? Visit the Traveling Beyond category for many more galleries and highlights from June and future travels to come.

A Sense of Autumn

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Autumn is finally here- and I couldn’t be more excited. Summer is always so much fun- but eventually, the heat gets old and I am ready to just settle in for the colder months and absorb everything Autumn has to offer us. As I was thinking, I began to think of ways Autumn impacts all five of our core senses. That gave me an idea for October’s Featured Photo post, especially as I am now in a Yankee-Candle phase, and have picked up a few fall candles myself.

Sight: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think Autumn? Fall foliage. The leaves changing color, and lazily falling down to the ground. Seeing empty tree

The fall foliage was just beginning to arrive, but the peaceful sense of Autumn was already there, between the color of the sky and the relaxed state of nature. This picture was taken with a brown-orange filter to highlight the qualities of fall.

branches signals the coming of winter, which always comes too soon- but amongst ourevergreens, it provides a very pretty sight.

For a while, I’ve been studying the clouds and the sky. Come Autumn, the sky turns a perfect shade of Cornflower Blue- a slightly darker, more mellow blue than the summer previous. The clouds remain wispy and peaceful, fraying away from the dark, ominous clouds of summer and the overcast, pure-white snow clouds of Winter. It’s this peace of Autumn that I really enjoy, and I try to absorb the sights around me as much as I can. Plus, the sights that surround us only feel like fall when combined with everything else.

Sounds: Sometimes, it’s just so nice to hear nothing. Coming from the busy, always-active Summer, I find Autumn to be a retreat from our busy lives. Plus, I always take pleasure in the gentle breeze that pushes leaves along, or the slight drizzle of a short Autumn rainstorm. This is my kind of season.

Taste: Food is a humongous part of Fall, and for me, Fall wouldn’t be Fall without it. Between the Pumpkin Pie, cinnamon spice, apples (yum) and comfort foods, Autumn is the place to be. Not to mention, I’ve fallen under the Pumpkin Spice craze with a Pumpkin Spice Creme Frappuchino over at Starbucks (their Caramelized Apple Bread is fantastic too). Really though, what would Fall be, if things didn’t taste like fall?


Touch: While going out and feeling the crunch of the leaves (like jumping into a leaf pile, for example) might be awesome, for me, as I mentioned before, what I love about Fall is the slight breeze, and the cooler temperatures. I’m so glad once we lose the Summer heat, but have yet to transition to the harsh cold of Winter. Just walk outside- it feels completely different, once Fall fully arrives. My favorite part? No allergies.

Scent: I mentioned this at the start of this post: right now, my Mom and I, we are going through a Yankee Candle phase. For a while, I had imagined coming home to do my homework, and be greeted by the scent of fall. For me, Fall smells warm and comforting, full of spice and pumpkin.

So, when we visited Yankee Candle a few weekends ago, I had the time of my life smelling all of the different fall scents. I eventually settled on “Apple Spice”, the candle in the image above, which combines traditional fall spice and apples, delicious apples. I also settled for something more sweet- a candle I’ll probably start lighting in November, still in the midst of Fall: Sugared Pumpkin Swirl. Whoever names the candles at Yankee Candle- you’re doing something right. We also purchased a few Votive candles, ranging from Moonbeam on Pumpkins to Sweet Apple Cider. The smell of Fall is wonderful, and it adds to the experience of a new season in so many ways.

Fall is going to fly by. Enjoy it. I know I will. 😁


The Great American Solar Eclipse | Featured Photo

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IMG_8371As I’m sure you’re aware, on August 21, 2017, North American experience totality in what is known as the Great American Solar Eclipse.

Here in Connecticut, we only experienced a partial eclipse, and we didn’t purchase any eclipse glasses.

But there is never a problem without a solution. And so we downloaded an eclipse projector from Warby Parker (I recently bought glasses from them) and saw (if small) our own eclipse!

It was really a pinhole projector, which means that you poke a small hole in a sheet of cardboard and reflect the sun onto a sheet of paper. At first, clouds made us unsure as to wether it would word, since the projector works best in bright light, but it was enlightening to see what we saw in the picture above.

Now, for those pinhole projector experts out there, I know the projection seems small (that’s about as big as we could get it) but it was still just as fascinating. It was really something to be able to experience such a rare alignment of our solar system- it’s another thing that makes our world so beautiful.

For an hour, we watched as the eclipse neared 67%, then waned back to the regular sun. The only difficulty about this was not glancing at the sun! Whether it be turning around quickly, glancing the wrong way, or walking back indoors, I managed to catch a few glimpses of the sun (I didn’t get to see the eclipse, though!). And BOY, was that sun bright!

All in all, though, it was a great summer experience. Totality must have been amazing- I’ve seen pictures – but I guess I’ll have to wait another 17 or so years for that. And, I can say that I saw the Great American Solar Eclipse.

In other news- my regular posting schedule returns September 10th!

Thanks so much for reading! Stay tuned for more featured photos!


Behind This Month’s Featured Photo | August 2017

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Hi there! If you didn’t notice when 12 and Beyond reopened from the Project: 12 and Beyond update, there is now a footer on 12 and Beyond!

If you scroll to the bottom of this blog on any post or page, you’ll see three things: a calendar, an email signup, and a featured photo! I’ll be updating that photo each month, and so I thought I’d share the story behind this month’s photo, shown below.

Looking up from the base of the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier.

I took this picture looking up from the base of the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago, while I was on a cross country trip back in June. For pictures, stories, & more on the trip, check out here.

This particular wheel, however, is special. From a glance, it might just be another Ferris wheel, but it actually replaced the wheel that stood before it at Navy Pier, and was installed of the 100th anniversary of Navy Pier.

If you knew me, you’d know that, at some point in my life, I was obsessed with Ferris wheels. Don’t ask me why. But of course, I had riding the Centennial Wheel in the back of my mind when we were in Chicago. And so we rode it.

And it’s quite massive. Yet, unlike so many other Ferris wheels that I have ridden, it’s a very smooth ride. To be honest, the ride wasn’t incredibly satisfying, because it didn’t feel like a Ferris wheel. You’re enclosed, it’s ever slow moving, and it’s almost too smooth. There was nothing that exciting about it- except for, of course, the view. Though most of the pictures I took from on the wheel (I suppose that’s a benefit of an enclosed pod- you can use a camera) were blurry, you do get a beautiful view of Chicago and the shore.

And I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the ride, though- because I still did. The picture you see, though, was one of my favorites from the trip. You’re just looking up from the base, craning your neck to see the top of the massive wheel, and you get to see the fascinating ‘inner workings’ of the Ferris wheel at a totally different view.

Navy Pier was a lot of fun, as was my entire trip. Using the link I put above, you’ll be able to view several photo galleries from the trip, which included the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, photos from the train, and a lot more.

Stay tuned next month for a new photo! Thanks for reading!