Pick up lines (travel style)

I apologize, I don’t really have any good photos to explain what I’m writing here! When you’re having fun you forget to take them!


“How do you meet so many people all by yourself?!”

I get the question a lot.

Well, it’s simple. You talk.

I get it, I get it…It can be nerve-racking! Humans are scary creatures! (I’m not even being sarcastic) The trick is to put yourself out there. You won’t meet anyone alone in your hotel room.

Is it awkward sometimes? Yes, I won’t lie. Is it risky? Yeah, it can be. But does it pay off? HELL YES.

Now if you’re ready for some tried and true tips, skip to the next heading. If you’re still not convinced (or you want to hear more of my rambling), read on…

Why meet people? I just want to see stuff.

So you’re going on a trip. Good for you! You can choose to be a standard tourist sight-see-er, or you can put yourself out there, get a taste of the local culture, discover hidden secrets, and meet new friends all over the country. Which sounds better?

Tourist attractions are great. I’m not saying skip out on the neat aquarium or museum you’ve just been itching to see. I’m saying supplement your out-of-town experience with a few local treats. As a bonus, they tend to be cheaper, too!

In all the places I’ve been, the things that I really remember happened with fellow travelers or locals. In Colorado, I enjoyed river rafting for a price – but I enjoyed the free bonfire with the river rafting instructors much more. At Shaver Lake in California, I enjoyed the hot sun and a good book, but I had a blast downing a few beers, grilling out and dancing with some Texans. In Chattanooga, I had a great time exploring historic downtown and some already-trail-blazed hikes, but I really enjoyed taste testing beer with the bartender, eating the best fried chicken with locals and tipping back a few beers with the guys.


River rafting and zip-lining in Colorado

…so you see where I’m going here.

Remember, it is high risk, high reward. Trust your gut instinct and be safe about stepping out of your comfort zone. It is always okay to say no.

I’m ready. Tell me how to meet people.

Start easy. Stop at the visitor centers.  Talk with the front desk workers of your hotel. Grab a coffee and spark a conversation with the barista. Take a tour of the town.

visitor center

Courtesy of chattanoogan.com

The great thing about visitor centers, specifically, is that the people working there generally are there for a reason. At almost every visitor center I’ve been to, the person working loves where they live and he or she always wants to share!

Put yourself out there.  Instead of reading or blogging in your hotel room, hang out in the lobby. Get a coffee at the local coffee shop.  Sit at the bar when you order out. Beer and coffee are social drinks, so don’t do it in your room!  Picking up what I’m putting down yet?


Etcetera, Paducah, KY

Stay at a hostel. That – by far – has been the easiest way to explore. (But do your research first. Be safe!) Other people staying generally have a similar mindset. I didn’t even had to start the conversation at The Crash Pad! People were talking to me constantly!


The Crash Pad

10 Pick-up lines (travel style)

I’ve used all of these and at one time or another, they all worked. You may laugh, but you can’t judge until you try one and watch it work.

1. “Hello.” 

Yes, people generally respond when you say hello. Weird, huh?

2. “I’m from Iowa.”


From Raygun 

Now, I’m not promising a nice response…I get, “Oh, I’m sorry,” or “What the hell is in Iowa?” a lot… but hey, it’s a conversation starter! When people hear you’re from Iowa, they want to know about it. It’s makes you exotic.

Now, don’t give them your entire address…be safe you guys.

3. “Man, I don’t know what to order. You order for me.”

Yes, this one is totally bizarre, but you would be surprised how it works. I got it from another solo travel blog. It’s called the “Chili cheese omelet opener.” You sit down at the bar, ask if the person next to you is a local, ask if they’ve eaten there before, and then convince them to order your meal. When I did it, I got a laugh…then some great food. 🙂


4. “Can I pet your dog, please?”

I’ve done this twice. Once with a huge (seriously.. gigantic) dog while on a walk and once with a little pup at a bar/restaurant. The guy with the big dog was so tickled that I liked his not-so-little-fido that he talked to me for 15 minutes about it. (Bonus: he was cute)


Really, it’s just an ice breaker. When I pet the little pup, it was enough to break the ice and talk, and that led to the best fried chicken in town!

5. “Can you watch my jacket?”

Be careful with this one…if you like your jacket I wouldn’t recommend it…

When in Nashville I sat down at the front end of the bar and ordered a drink. I kept noticing a group of people look over at me. I’m sure they were thinking, “What the hell is this girl doing sitting by herself at a bar?” Eventually I got tired of them watching me so I picked up all my valuables (but left my old coat to “save my chair”), walked over to the group and said, “Hey can you guys watch my coat for a second while I use the ladies’ room?”

They did. And when I came back, I had already broken the ice! The rest is history.

6. Drink liquid confidence.

Enough said. But be careful!


7. Can I take your photo?

People love this one. In a family or group there is always that one person who never gets in the photo because he or she is taking it. So when someone offers to take their photo they’re always really grateful. And in return they usually take yours!

A fellow hiker I met at Cumberland State Park, we exchanged emails so I could send him the photo

A fellow hiker I met at Cumberland State Park, we exchanged emails so I could send him the photo

8. “I couldn’t help but notice your Midwestern accent!”

This one works when you run into people from your region. It establishes rapport with them. You have a connection, something to talk about.

9. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just love your bracelet (shirt, earrings, etc.)”

Who doesn’t love to be complimented? Sometimes they’ll tell you a great boutique or local place to shop, too!

10. “Can you help me find….?”

People are generally nice. And generally nice people will be willing to help you find what you’re looking for. Since the hardest part of talking to someone is actually the hello, now all you have to do is say, “So what’s the best local coffee shop?” “What’s your favorite part of this town?” …or if you’re really daring, “So, tell me your story!”


Come back for my next post and we’ll talk safety. There are definitely risks involved with solo travel and with meeting new people.



Southern food, Southern friends and damn good beer

I came to Chattanooga to hike, but I couldn’t leave without exploring downtown. Chattanooga is a mid sized city with lots to do and things to see. Here’s a few of my favorite stops.

The Flying Squirrel

flying squirrel

The Flying Squirrel is a bar in South Chattanooga. It’s literally 30 feet from The Crash Pad and offers a huge selection of draft and bottled beer, tapas style food, and fun and interesting people. Plus, the bartenders are really good looking…

Like really good looking…

At The Flying Squirrel I met a myriad of different people. Last night I met two guys who went to school together in Cookville, Tennessee. Josh, Scott and I talked and drank all night and had a great time! They asked me to stay another night and meet them at The Flying Squirrel Saturday, but I decided it was best to hit the road instead.  Now I’m kind of real sad about it.

Thursday night I met a new group of friends at The Flying Squirrel by asking to pet their dog. After a few playful puppy kisses and some intereesting conversation, they took me out to dinner for the best fried chicken in Chattanooga. That leads me to Champy’s.

Champy’s Chicken


Champy’s Chicken supposedly has the best fried chicken in all of Chattanooga (some say it gets beat, though, by a little hole in the wall place with velvet walls located inside a budget hotel building).  I ordered fried pickles to share with the group. They were delicious but I don’t think I want to get used to Southern fried food on a regular basis.

Champy’s Chicken definitely had a local feel. I’d say the only way that visitor’s find the restaurant and bar is by meeting friends in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga River Market

I don’t have any pictures unfortunately because my phone and camera are both broken! The River Market is a day long event every Saturday during warm months. There’s local made jewelry, clothes, art, and even dog food…

I got this free Barley Bones t-shirt by eating a dog bone on camera for their Youtube and Facebook networks. I’m famous you guys.

Also…I at a dog bone.



A cheddar and barley dog bone.

…anything for a free shirt. #Collegeprobs

Also they entrepreneurs at this booth were very interesting. They gave me lots of advice for scenic hiking trails close to town and we talked for a long time about traveling and business. They are trying to raise enough money selling their pure-ingredient dog bones to transform the puppy treats into human treats perfect for hiking.

Walnut Street Bridge

walnut street bridge

The Walnut Street Bridge was the first bridge to connect Chattanooga’s downtown with the North Shore. It was built in 1890 and it’s one of the many historical structures of the town. Since it’s now too outdated to meet current standards for automobiles it’s been turned into a pedestrian bridge.

chattanooga bridge



Lesson learned

I’m really going to miss Chattanooga! There’s so much hiking to be done, people to meet, shops to explore, and downtown events to enjoy. I left one day early for many reasons.

…but now I really wish I hadn’t left early.

Be a yes traveler. You only get so many chances to travel, so enjoy it. When you’re in a new state, it’s a long drive to get back there, so experience everything while you can. Say yes to new adventures.

Friends, family and good music

padukah to nashville

From Paducah, KY to Nashville, TN

Last night I stayed in a $500 suite in the Drury Inn. HOLE-Y MOLE-Y! Pretty cool, eh? I’m big rollin’ now.

Just kidding. It was the last room left so I got it for 60 bucks.

Paducah is a quiet little river town squeezed between Missouri and Tennessee. Nothing special. I stopped down at the historic riverfront before I left, because why not? There was a very cute little coffee place near downtown, too. So many people were sitting around eating breakfast and talking in their Southern accents (I still can’t get over “ma’am and “honey”). I kind of felt like I was part of the town for a little bit.

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While in Nashville I walked up and down Broadway and weaved myself in and out of all the boot shops, bars, and diners.

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Eventually I planted myself at a bar called Honky Tonk Central. After half of a band performance with me, somehow, as the subject of all the lead singer’s stage talk (I guess it’s cuz I’m from Iowa) a group of guys finally came over and said hello. Man, they were fun!

honky tonk central

These guys all went to school together in Wyoming and were on vacation for a week. They bought me a few beers and led me in a few dances. Have I told you guys all how much I love country dancing?

I love it so much.

If you can dance…marry me.

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Eventually my three boyfriends and I had to part 😥 We exchanged numbers…but it’s too bad I won’t be back to Nashville before they leave. My only regret is that we didn’t get our picture together.


After an hour of walking around and sobering up, I headed out to Hendersonville Tennessee where I ate dinner with Tom and Becky – Tom is my mom’s brother, so my uncle. It’s always so wonderful to be with family. And it was nice to sit down and relax for an evening with their three dogs and cat.  I think it’s been about 15 years since I’ve seen them!


My Uncle Tom on the left (stole this picture from his website)

Good Music

Tom is such an inspiration to me. Born and raised in Iowa, he’s in Tennessee now following his dreams and songwriting.

Check out his webpage – his music is really good! (Course I’m biased)


Nashville is, after all, the city of music. What better place to be?

Big City Adventures in St. Louis

day 1 drive


Put your money where the city is

As a broke and solo traveler I tend to avoid the big cities. Every time I travel to a city bigger than 300,000 it’s not as easy to travel alone on a budget. Everything is inflated – parking, gas, food, alcohol, entertainment…just everything. Plus, big city attractions generally revolve around commercial businesses. Call me a nature geek, but nothing is more free and entertaining than the good ol’ outdoors.

Someday, maybe I’ll change my mind, but right now I enjoy hopping town to town instead.

Despite my hesitation, I had to stop at St. Louis – population 318,000 – along the way. Ideally I would have checked out the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, the St. Louis Zoo, Anheuser-Busch Brewery, the stadium, and the Gateway Arch. I settled for two out of the five.

St. Louis, home of the Gateway Arch


“All experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Funny story about visiting the arch. While driving there, I spilled soda all over my jeans. Now what I did next was probably not the smartest travel move I’ve ever made…

Not wanting to carry a soggy denim mess around, I decided to change in the parking lot in the back seat of my car (don’t worry, doors locked!). All was going well until I opened the door to stand up and zip my zipper. Out pops a homeless guy from behind the car beside me.

Long story short, I told him if he waited across the street I would bring him $2. I’m a little upset that I used $2 in this situation, but I was standing there shoeless in a parking lot of East St. Louis and I wanted the guy out of my reach.

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Anheuser-Busch, America’s leading domestic brewer

Photo credit to myself

I can’t say I was incredibly interested about how brews are made (my interest ends with drinking) but it was still a really neat tour. The free and complimentary tour walks you through the entire process of brewing and packaging Budweiser brand beers. You also see the Clydesdale horses and their stables as well as some neat historical buildings within the facility. You get a free “sample” of Bud heavy or Bud light, then at the end you receive a complimentary glass of any product in their line. I went with a Japanese lager – Kirin Ichiban. Good enough for me.


First, you have to have the right ingredients. The five main ingredients are barley malt, hops, yeast, water and rice.

Mix it up with a little TLC (or something like that) then it heads to the aging cellar for 21 days.

Mix it up with a little TLC (or something like that) then it heads to the aging cellar for 21 days.


When the beer is finished, it heads to this packaging plant…


…where it is packaged lightening speed. Done!


Say, “Beer!”




Day 3: Leaps of Faith

idaho springs

Miles traveled: 0

River rafting

I decided to try white water rafting…as expensive as it is. It was a lot of fun and I learned a few things, but not too exciting overall. I don’t recommend beginner white water rafting….it’s basically a lot of money to float down the river. Ask for intermediate. But in the end it was worth my money and I will tell you why….

Take a leap of faith

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Part of the combo package was zip lining in the Rockies. Now that was fun.  As confident as I was, the first run was a little scary. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. By the final zip line I was flying upside down (the “spider man”) and doing flips off the platform. Trust in yourself and trust in what you do. All you need is a little confidence. This is only the beginning of my deep metaphoric breakdown of Idaho Springs. Get ready…

New friends

Our guides were phenomenal. One of them was especially friendly and I certainly returned the smiles. I’m glad I did. The guide, Christoph, wanted to explore a new hiking path and I wanted a hiking buddy, so we decided to go out and explore some trails…couldn’t tell you where…somewhere in the Rockies.

And that’s not all. Christoph invited me to the raft guide’s campout for the evening.




And here’s where I get cheesy. Stay with me here people. Promise it’s worth the read.

Camping out in the Rockies

Tucked between mountain peaks and off the beaten path, the campground was miles from light pollution of Denver and even Idaho Springs. Surrounded by mountains and evergreens, the only way to see the sky was to look straight up. We watched the moon come up over the silhouettes of evergreens, a jagged border between earth and sky. You could see the big dipper shining clear and bright even though the clouds blocked out the other stars. Campers had tents pitched all over the little clearing, little scraps of civilization among the mountain landscape. A river flowed through the camp, providing a midnight song of rushing water and significantly lowering the temperature enough to curl up in a blanket beside the glowing campfire. Campers and rafters sat around the pit and laughed between drinks of Jack Daniels and drags of weed and cigarettes (slightly less charming).

Christoph made supper on his little propane stove – homemade spaghetti. I swear to God in another life this guy was a chef. I drank boxed wine out of a measuring cup and he ate spaghetti right out of the pan (such a gentlemen letting me use his only bowl). Eventually we headed out to the campfire to enjoy the night with other campers. We laughed and drunkenly (not me – I stayed sober for safety’s sake) talked about life and travels and I got the dirty inside scoop on what it’s like to be a river rafting guide. These guys have literally seen the world.

The night was absolutely perfect. The smell of the bonfire, the sound of the river, and the feeling of joy from people I’d never met made the night unforgettable and irreplaceable.  I didn’t get back to my hotel room until 2:30 and even that was too early. I will never forget my last night in Idaho Springs.

I’m telling you, this place was serene. It takes Iowa camping to a whole new level. These people live here every night in the summer. They cook on little portable propane fueled stoves and sleep on mats in their tents. If I hadn’t paid for my room already, I might have stayed and slept there too – although that’s a little more risk than I’m willing to take.

Things I learned in Idaho Springs (also worth the read):

1.)    If you buy lemonade from little kids, wait until they turn around to drink…you might have to spit it out. I learned the hard way today.

2.)    Rafting customers are called gumbies behind our backs because we look so hilarious in those stupid life jackets.

3.)    Small towns are most certainly better than big cities when it comes to traveling. People are friendlier, hotels are cheaper, and you can more easily immerse yourself in the culture. You learn a lot more and have a better time making friends and being part of the culture then going through a museum or visiting a monument.

4.)    Trust your gut instinct. I felt safe in Idaho Springs. I felt a good vibe from Christoph. I took a huge leap of faith heading to the trails with him and joining their campfire.  That’s not always the case. Earlier I went for a run and it felt sketchy so I got out of there. Learn to understand your instinct and be aware of your surroundings. And sometimes even instincts are wrong, so take the right precautions when meeting people you don’t know well.

5.)    People are generally good. Yes, you have to watch out for bad people and be safe and careful. But people are generally good. I can’t tell you how many friendly smiles I received in Idaho Springs, how many times people noticed I was from out of town and offered advice on where to go, and how often my bed and breakfast owner called me by my first name in passing. I ran into other travelers eager to tell their stories, and store cashiers excited to share their culture with me. Just ask a question and you’ll get a hundred answers.

6.)    Follow your passions. The raft guides live for rafting and kayaking. They live modestly to pay for it (thousands and thousands of dollars in equipment and traveling…just a paddle costs over $100). They don’t care if they are poor or live in a tent, in fact they seem to love it because they get to do what they love most and it pays for the more exciting trips all over the world.

7.)    In my sarcastic, mocking voice: “Be one with the land.”  But seriously, one thing about traveling by car is that you don’t actually experience the terrain like you would on foot or bike. Now I’m not saying bike across the country instead of drive, but it would be worth your time to get out of your car, plant your feet on the ground, take a big  breath and experience the world around you not just see it.

8.)    You don’t realize how important conservation is until you realize how much beauty there is to lose. This I learned from Christoph. I’m not kidding, this guy has a grocery bag to save plastic, made me return my trail brochure to save paper, and drives no faster than 60 to save gas. But he’s also traveled the world and seen amazing beautiful landscapes littered by highways and buildings. I’d probably do the same if I had that perspective.

9.)    The relationship between risk and reward. When you take risks, it pays off. I took a risk by befriending someone out of my element. I took a risk by choosing a little bed and breakfast instead of a franchise hotel. I took risks by getting in a boat and rafting, gearing up to zip across the mountains hundreds of feet above ground. And you know what? Idaho Springs was the best travel experience I’ve ever had because of those risks.

10.) And finally… Busch light is not just the taste of Iowa…it is the inexpensive taste of everywhere. Amen, people.