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!

So….

“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.

DSCN0182

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?

IMG_0880

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!

IMG_0968

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.”

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)

golden_retriever_puppy-wide

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!

1IMG_0796

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!”

Safety

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

 

There’s nothing quite like Iowa

i

Can’t take the Iowa roots out of a corn-fed girl.

This summer I saw 11 states. I drove through 3 time zones of mountains, beaches, cities, desert, and farmland. The bulk of my summer I filled my weekends with drives to the coast and hikes in the Sequoias and Kings Canyon, and I spent my weekdays reporting in the city. Every place I visited, I thought, “This is the best place to be.”

farm

The Hilltop

When I pulled out of my driveway May 24th, I had respect for my roots, but to be honest, I was ready to get out and leave Iowa behind. When I pulled back into my driveway August 1st, there was no other place I wanted to be.  I drove up the lane with corn to my right and beans on my left, and saw our big white farm house on the hill peeking out from the tall stalks. In that moment, with confidence, I thought, “No, this is the best. It doesn’t get better than this.”

2013-05-19 19.28.23

Lucy by our pond

It’s the little things you miss the most – the little things you take for granted.  It’s the low rumble of a gravel road, the soft breath of my sleeping dog, the big red Chevy sitting in front of the shop, the silly red maple tree that doesn’t fit in with the others on the front lawn, the smell of fresh air and – yes – manure. It’s the feeling of serenity walking a mile back to the small pond, the view from my front window, the sound of Mom’s voice yelling, “Shut the door. You’ll let the flies in!”  It’s the wolf river apples falling from behind the house, the touch of soft

yyy

Wolf River

green grass on your bare feet, the crackle of the campfire and the sound of cracking open a cool beer.  It’s the taste of Mom’s apple pie and Dad’s overdone hamburgers and steaks. It’s big trucks and tractors, getting caught behind a combine on the highway, a friendly one-finger wave driving up the road, and not being able to leave town without running in to someone you know.

yy

The shed doubles as a great party spot.

yyyy

My summer vacation

Iowa is at its best in the sweet summertime. Cool beers, hot days, and warm smiles. My favorite memories come from this place. You’ll never take Iowa roots away from this girl. Forever I’ll remember 4-H and the county fair, country music and gravel roads, good friends and great family.  The sun may not shine so bright all year round here, but when it does we soak it up floating tubes down the river and mowin’ the lawn in nothin’ but a bikini. Until the sun cools down you’ll find me in my front yard on a big blanket in my swimsuit with a book.

Over time, you learn to gauge the length of summer by the height of the corn, and nothing’s more upsetting than seeing the stalks at their peak. Summer’s about over, and I missed all the time from when the green leaves popped out of the ground to just about until they start turning brown.  I wouldn’t trade my time in California for anything, but boy did I miss a great summer of green fields and blue skies. Iowa might not be where I want to spend the rest of my life, but I will never ever appreciate anything more than my home.

corn

A tell-tale sign of the end of summer.

P.S. As I write this, I’m watching a deer run across my front yard…how fitting. Comment with your favorite Iowa memories! We want to hear!

Nothing more beautiful than the color green

Now I know I’ve only been out of Iowa for a month now, but even so, I’ve noticed several differences coming home.

Iowa really is a beautiful state. Everywhere I’ve gone on my summer trip, I’ve loved each landscape. I’ve loved meeting new people with different perspectives.  Each place from Colorado to California has been unique – not better. Every part of the states (yes, even Utah) I’ve found beauty and something to appreciate. And of course I didn’t realize just what I would appreciate in Iowa until I left. It’s not finding a region or state or city that’s better than the rest – it’s finding one that fits you best.

8 Things I love about Iowa

wedding

My brother and Tracy saying their vows. Family – the real reason I went home.

1.) Family. Home is where the heart is. Home isn’t about geography, it’s about the people and memories that connect you and continue to you back.

 

2.) GREEN. Nothing is more beautiful than green fields and green pastures and green grass and green landscapes. I forgot how much prettier grass is than dirt, especially grass that grows naturally without any irrigation. It’s much brighter than the stuff you have to force to grow.

20130628_115419

3.) Cloudy skies. Cloudy skies make humidity and we all know how much I hate humidity. I mean I really hate humidity. But look how beautiful this landscape is. And it’s nice and cool too.

20130628_115756

4.) Home. Our big old farm house, the shed in the back, the view from the porch, the lilac bush out front, the gravel/dirt path to the cabin out back, the green pastures, the corn growing around the house. There’s nothing quite like home, no matter where it is.

20130630_205430 20130701_114921 20130628_104955

5.) Gravel roads and trucks. I am no farm girl – ask any of my friends or family…but come on, I think anyone would enjoy a ride in this Ford swervin’ all over a country road. Why do you think country artists sing about the gravelly stuff so often?

 

ford

6.) Friends. Missed my best girl friends tremendously.  Enough said.

 

green

In my running path

7.) Campfires. Because it’s cool enough and it’s wet enough. My favorite – seriously favorite – part of summer is nights under the stars around a big warm fire.

 

8.) The air. The air sucks in Fresno. It really really sucks. It was so refreshing to breathe in some cool Iowa air (that is until I drove past our neighbor’s farm and choked on some nice hog aroma). It was even better to go for a run in it.

 

9.) Corn. Yep, I even like the corn.

IMG_20130702_103719 corn

 

Even with all that Iowa fun, I am ready to get back to California. I’m a traveler at heart.

Until next time…

picture209

Cheers from Denver!