Roadtrip Tips & Tricks

Road Trip Tips by Lauren LikesA few years ago we took the most epic road trip of our life. It was (and still is) the best trip we have ever taken. We took the whole summer and drove all over the USA. It totally rocked our world. It made us fall even more in love with our country, travelling, road tripping, exploring and just being together. I shared maybe 1/3 of our trip here on the blog, but I really do have plans, hopes and dreams to get the rest out to you one day and plan on doing some good wrap up posts, like this one here. As we were travelling that summer I tried to blog in real time, but we were covering so much ground, so fast and would spend days without access to internet to blog and I got really behind, but what I did do a good job of was journaling. I tried to keep as detailed of a journal as I could about what we did each day and we spent a lot of time (in the car) writing travel tips and dreaming up blog posts together. I recently ran across them and decided it was time to bring them back out since summer is coming and some of you may be planning a trip soon!

These tips aren’t just for epic, multi-month trips. They can be for your one week trip down to the beach. If you are heading out in the car, to go anywhere, remember these tips:

1. Bags, bags and more bags. Pack everything in seperate bags. Have a camping bag, a bathroom bag, a car entertainment bag, a clean clothes bag, a dirty clothes bag, etc. And then have empty bags. We did a lot of camping and showering at public rest stops, etc. So I always had a bag to carry my toiletries in, a bag to carry my clean and dirty cleans in and out of the bathroom in. Think through things like that and try to pack a seperate bag for each and then always have extra bags for the unexpected times. We carried a lot of different bags including: duffels, mesh laundry bags, canvas totes, cloth grocery bags, book bags, purses, ziplocks (possibly the most important) and plastic grocery bags.

2. Wipes. When people sit in cars, sleep in cars, live in cars for extended amounts of time there is a new level of ‘uncleanness’ that you learn about. So be prepared. There were times when we could find a really nice place to shower and there were times when we couldnt find a shower for days….And even when camping, well you know the drill. But the difference is you cant just go home after a day or two of camping and shower, you have to get in the car and drive to a new city. So we carried baby wipes, personal wipes, face wipes, hand wipes and plain old paper towels. These saved us, if all I could do sometimes was use a face wipe this made me feel a million times better.

3. Boxes. When you can, pack things in boxes. For our kitchen gear I packed a tuperware type box (that had snap locks, very important) and it made cooking, storage and finding things so much easier. Boxes obviously take up more room, so use them sparingly, but use them when you can especially for important things you will use often.

Road Trip 2(New Mexico) 

4. Ice + bag. When on road trips people need snacks right?! And when you are on an epic road trip you need meals. Take a legit cooler and keep it well stocked with ice. We spent SO MUCH money on ice, especially when we found ourselves in the middle of no where and in desperate need. So be sure to keep an eye on your supply and stock up when you find it cheap. The best places we found were Wal-Marts and those ice vending machines that are super randomly on the side of the roads (but once you start looking you will see them everywhere). The best tip I have for ice is this: Put your ice in gallon ziplock bags. This is for two very important reasons, it will melt and make your food soggy if you keep it in the bags you bought it in and secondly once it melts, into your clean bag, you can use it as nice, cold (free) drinking water.

5. Trip advisor + guide books. We set out with a generic map of where we wanted to go, but no real plans. We ended up throwing out our whole plan and scaling almost the entire US. We planned as we drove between places and sometimes just wandered around aimlessly. The two things we used the most were Trip Adviser and this USA travel book. I recommend taking a book with you because your devices may die and will likely lose service on your remote drives and if you google ‘things to do in DC’ you will be completely overwhelmed. So sometimes it is nice to only rely on one limited and trusted source for direction.

6. Pack all kinds of clothes. Variety is key. We traveled the southern and mid region of the US, mostly in the heat of July. We almost froze to death, almost died of heatstroke, went on epic hikes, spent fun nights in cities, went to parties with friends, camped on the beach, showered in gas stations and slept in parking lots. You need a lot of different types of clothing to do all those things. So pack a variety, but make sure they arent wasting space and only one time wears, take interchangeable options. Pinterest will give you some amazing outfit ideas if you need help with packing this part!

Packing List(This is our original packing list) 

7. Pack light. Seriously, you dont need that. Whatever it is, you can buy it on the road if it becomes absolutely essential. I took about 6 books, art supplies, tons of clothes and didnt touch any of them. We took our hiking backpacks and used them once. Be as ruthless as you can about your packing because as you travel you will accumulate more things and you will quickly find that the more room you have the more grateful you will be when you can lean your seat all the way back or crawl into the backseat to nap. Seriously, don’t pack that.

8. Apps. We either camped or stayed with friends, so apps like Reserve America, Trip Advisor, Airbnb, etc will be your best friend. Find an app or website that is an expert on the type of travel you plan to do.

9. Cook. Unless you are a millionare and have an unlimited amount of time, you need to make your own food about 90% of the time or more. We had multiple days where we didnt buy a single meal out and that was our goal. We tried to save our eating out meals for good meals, like famous restaraunts or meals out with friends we met along the way. Do not waste your eating out budget on unhealthy fast foods, it will only steal your money and make you feel terrible. Get smart and creative when it comes to meals. Plan ahead and stock up. Keep things like granola bars, chips, cheese and crackers, bread, sandwhich meat, etc on hand for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Then get creative with dinners. We often cooked hamburgers, chicken, and lots of sides, like mac n cheese or green beans. These you cant really buy more than a day or two in advance, but if you think it through and plan accordingly you can have some really delicious meals.

Road trip 4(Road side gem found in Mississippi) 

10. Cooking gear. In my box of cooking gear we had a two burner camp stove, a mini (teeny tiny) camping stove for hiking, the small propane tank for it, lighter, pot, pan, silverware (plastic and real), good knife, small cutting board, slotted spoon, spatula, kitchen hand towel, package of paper plates, paper towels, tinfoil (so very important), soap, scrub brush and a collapsable sink to wash dishes in.

11. Take care of your car. Make sure you get your car thoroughly checked before setting out. Make sure the tires are great and the oil is changed. We made it from Georgia to Texas and had a big issue, spent the day in pep boys and dropped a lot of cash. But the rest of the time the car was fine. I would recommend just having it checked out half way through. Nothing ruins a road trip like car trouble. And just in case, having a roadside assistance program membership is always a good idea.Road Trip 3(USS KIDD in Baton Rouge) 

12. Electronics. Invest in car chargers for everything you plan to take. We used a USB splitter so we could plug multiple phone or Ipads in at once. We also used an air mattress pump that plugged into the car so we always could have a nice, comfortable bed. We spent a lot of time at rest stops, stuck in the car watching movies and listened to a lot of podcasts on the drive. Find cords to connect your devices so you can have good sound in the car. Do not bring every electronic device you own, but if you are spending an extended amount of time on your trip, you will need a computer or ipad for booking, researching, working, paying bills and entertainment. Of course, you need a car mount GPS, your phone will not work for this type of travel.

13. Be flexible. This is always the number one tip for any kind of travel or for being a human in life. There will be literal road blocks, camp grounds will flood, forests will catch on fire, your car will break down, you will get lost, you will wake up soaking wet, there will be wild animals outside of your tent, you will leave your keys in your car, you will break a tent pole. Be flexible, go with the flow, that is where the real magic happens and you can stumble into the absolute best expereinces. If you are enjoying a place, stay longer. If you arent, leave. If you are tired, rest. Take the detour, stop and take photos, stop and eat from food stands. Take advantage of where you are and enjoy yourself, that is what this trip is for right?! Find the magic of wanderlust…

14. Break up the trip. When we reflected back on the most draining and most exciting portions of our trip (not which places we liked best, etc) we realized that the stretches of time that had the most variety in them were best. At the end of our trip we spent two weeks driving down the east coast (so beautiful btw), but it was miserable and exhausting. Every day we would wake up, go to the beach and just when we were perfectly relaxed, it was time to pack up camp, drive a few hours, set up camp, cook dinner, explore the town a bit and go to sleep. We camped every night, we were hot and tired  and constantly covered in sand and needed to go inside. The best times of our trip was where we would go to a really cool city for a bit, then go camp and hike for a day or two, then go stay at a friends house indoors and rest. When we pushed ourselves to drive all night, not stop, sleep in the car, go see everything, etc, we were miserable. When we were just driving for days on end and didnt stop anywhere, we were miserable. We needed that variety in our trip and in our lodging and food situation. So plan for that, remember you are in this for the long haul, not the momentary overload of a place.

Road trip 5(camping on the beach in florida) 

15. Document. Make sure you have a fun, easy plan to document your trip. My plan to blog every day: ridiculous. The only thing we completely followed through with was a note on my phone where we wrote down each city we stopped in. It is just a simple list. But it is a complete overview of our trip and without it I would never remember the order nor the names of some of the small towns we visited. Journal and take photos, of course. But have one thing you do everywhere or everyday. We made that list and we took a feet picture everywhere we went. It gives us a cohesive overview of our trip and I only had one thing to remember to do each place. Make it simple, fun and memorable. Other cools ideas: snap a photo doing a handstand or certain pose in front of each cool monument you visit, take notecards and snap a photo of you holding the name of where you are in each place, pick up a postcard each place you visit or a magnet or a patch, the options are limitless. Here are some tips on how you can use instagram to do this! 

16. Budget. We planned this trip for over a year, we got rid of every single bill (except for car, insurance and phone) for that summer. We saved and planned and saved some more. Always estimate higher than you think. Add a line for care troubles. Set a daily budget. Set a cost limit on things like lodging. ALWAYS have some cash on you. Have multiple options to pay, cash, credit, debit. Stick to your budget. Splurge when necessary, scale back when you can. You can’t do everything. Fact. Your trip will only be enjoyable if you don’t come home with tons of debt or you are eating off the dollar menu. Looking for cheaper options can actually be a really fun challenge and will push you to try new things. So plan and save and plan and save.

17. Plan for the future. We quickly realized that we couldn’t do everything due to time, geography and money factors. We kept a list of places that we would like to visit in the future and things to do there. We found so many places we didnt even know existed and fell in love with cities that completely surprised us. This quick visit type travel was really great and helped us realize what places we could come back to and spend a whole week at and some places that we are ok if we dont ever make it back to. It also helped us hone our travel skills. We know how to plan for these trips now, we know what apps to use, where to stay and when. Keep lists of these things and be mindful of what you are learning!

Spring Clean Your Computer to Maximize Your Scrapbook Workflow

Spring Clean Your Computer with Lauren Likes

The inside of my computer looks like one of those ‘this is your brain on drugs’ commercials. For reals. It’s a mess and it is honestly so bad that my computer is almost unusable. The storage is so overloaded and it has SO many programs that no one actually knows what they are…. It is a serious problem. So when the nice people at Single Hop sent me this easy three-week clean your computer plan I was so grateful because it came at just the right time.

Clean Your Computer Calendar(Right click to save the calendar)

People who actually know things about technology will tell you many important reasons to keep your computer clean, but the very important reasons I want to talk to you about today concerns scrapbooking. With scrapbooking moving to a very digital place in this world our computers are very important in this process. Even if you don’t print your photos at home and do not use any digital elements, I know that you store your photos on your computer and use it to send your photos to the printer, so this applies to everyone (except film only users, but really those people aren’t reading blogs…).

Here are a few tips to maximize your scrapbooking workflow concerning your digital files: 

1. Back up your photos. This is the most important tip of all. I’m the worst at this, but I have been making an effort to back my photos up more frequently. Once a month (depending on how many photos you take) is probably a good idea in an ideal world. I currently use an external hard drive to back up my entire computer. Similar to these. You can also use an online storage system, like singlehop, to store your photos. I like the idea of an online storage system because then you can access your photos, files, etc at any time from any device. I have to plug my hard drive in to access my files, but it just depends on what works best for you. And you can always go old school and store photos and files on CDs. Either way, back that thing up.

2. Clear the photos off your computer. Once you are certain they are safely backed up, clear your photos off your computer. I recently removed about 20,000 photos from my computer. Most of which I was keeping because ‘one day I will eventually scrapbook them’. I finally came to the realization that I wasn’t going to be doing those pages anytime soon and, since they are backed up, they are only a few clicks away to having them back when I am ready to scrapbook them.

3. Clear other files. When you are using your computer to edit and upload your photos and it runs deadeningly slow, it makes you dread that most-important-to-scrapbooking process even more. So make sure old files are deleted or backed up and off the computer to allow your editing and uploading programs to run that much faster.

4. Organize your photos. I shared screen shots of my photo organization here, but a quick explanation: I have folders for each year. Within each year are main categories (travel, phone photos, events, etc) and within those photos are each individual event in a folder (2015>travel>hawaii). This way I can quickly find whatever photos I am looking for and can toggle easily to other related folders.

5. Organize your digital products. I keep a folder called digital products and within that break everything down. I break things down by designer and then have each individual kit in a folder.

6. Delete. Delete. Delete. I am the most guilty of not doing this. It is time-consuming. But! So helpful. Delete those terrible photos you will never use or even look at. The accidental shots, the blurry ones, the test shots, the no one is ready shots, etc. And then delete the original of your edited photos. If you spend your precious time lightening and perfecting a photo, delete the original one because: 1. you will never use it. 2. it takes up space. and 3. you don’t want to get confused and print the bad one!

7. Created an edited folder. Once I have chosen and edited a handful of photos for a project I will create an ‘edited’ folder inside that events folder. That way when I want to upload for the blog or print for a scrapbook I can just ‘select all’ that are in the folder without having to dig through and remember my favorites. This is a HUGE time saver.

8. Start now, overhaul later. When I started my new organization system it was 2014, but I had a TON of jumbled up, messy files. So instead of doing a complete overhaul, I started with any new files that were incoming. I put everything in one big messy folder and slowly went through, organized and deleted things from it. But every time something new came in, it went into the new, clean and well-organized system. So don’t get overwhelmed, start now and organize your files going forward, then work backwards when you are ready.

Establishing these simple habits has helped my scrapbooking workflow tremendously. In general the digital portion of my scrapbooking workflow looks like this:

take photos > upload them into the correct year, category, event folder > wait forever to scrapbook them > choose the photos i want to use in a project and put them in a sub folder > edit them in picasa or photoshop > add any digital elements > save them to that ‘edited’ folder > upload/print > backup entire computer > delete completed projects or old/never going to do anything with photos off of computer.

What is your digital workflow? Any tips for organizing your photos? And what do you use to store them, online or external hard drive?

I did not receive any payment or free stuff to write this post. SingleHop shared this calendar with me and I thought it was really helpful and wanted to share it with you. I have not used their services nor do I receive any affiliate commissions if you use their services.

Soulmates Minibook // Laurel Lane Designs

The evolution of an idea: 

A want or need arises: I want to make something or I have a design team deadline, a gift to give, I want to use these supplies, etc.

An idea takes shape: I could do it like this or use these things.

There is a tickle: Somehow, in your mind, a puzzle slowly gets solved. Ideas and items begin to form together to create an actual thing for you to make. (this is what happens  98% of the time, instead of the crazy burst of inspiration that people think happens in a creative persons mind)

Chaos ensues: the frenzy of translating your thoughts and ideas into a tangible product is a confusing and somewhat overwhelming process. There are normally messes and mess ups.

A product is born: It is finished. You have the thing.

Soulmates minibook by Lauren LikesI had been toying with an idea for a few weeks in my head. I don’t make a lot of minibooks about love, they are normally about our travels. But Laura’s Soulmate collection was just so beautiful, I really wanted to find a way to use it. Thus a need/want arose. My idea had very little shape, just ‘maybe a minibook’, probably in my normal style of 2 holes punched and jump rings to close it. But I wasn’t totally excited about that so I let the idea marinate. Then, the magic moment happened when all the pieces fell into place. I saw this new book/kit that Kelly Purkey is starting to offer and it clicked. The puzzle was formed enough for me to begin to see the bigger picture. I got on my computer and in photoshop combined Laura’s cards to create foldable pages, printed them and then the chaos ensued. I chose a color scheme (black, white, pink + tiniest bit of gold). I chose and printed photos. I gathered washi tapes and stamps in the right color/theme. I began. I pieced everything together like a puzzle until it was complete.

I am so in love with this book. It is one of my favorites I have made in a long time. The colors, the photos (from our session in Thailand with Jean Smith), the love patterns. I used embellishments and some cards/papers from the Messy Box to use as accents. I love love love this book. Have I said that yet? I simply poked a hole in the pages and ran embroidery thread through and tied it together. This book took about 2 hours to make, maybe less I was indecisive and a little distracted. I love this simple format and think Kelly’s monthly kit of getting pages already made for you is such a cool idea. But I loved that I got to choose my cards. The only issue I had was that I didn’t like just the plain white background of the back sides (double-sided printing was impossible due to the made up and random sizes of my pages), so I spent a lot of time making backgrounds using washi tape (that’s probably where all my time went). So if you want to do a book like this you can either do pages like mine, print on one side and decorate the other on your own or print double sides or use patterned paper with a white background to print on. Either way, it will turn out gorgeous, fun and easy. Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes17 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes9 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes8 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes 6 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes 5 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes 3 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes2 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes 1 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes16 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes15 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes 14 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes13 Soulmates minibook by Lauren Likes12What do you think? Did you get ‘the tickle’? Is a puzzle falling into place for you? Are you ready to go into the chaos and create something?! Id love to know.

 

Project Life: Creative Mess

Sometimes when you are juggling super big (and crazy exciting) secret projects and running a super big (and crazy overwhelming) career day at school things like sleep and blogging just go out the window. I do apologize for the eerie silence here the past few days. This has been the first time in a long time that I have ever just forgotten to blog. I even had some blogs ready to go, I literally did not have the time to hit post. So, to make it up to you I’m throwing the whole schedule out and showing you a recent spread I made using Rachel of Big City Quiet’s Designs.Big City Quiet Designs // Project Life Pages by Lauren Likes

This year I am not focusing on weeks but events and themes and pretty things I like. So to document all the projects I’ve been working on I used Rachel’s incredible Creative Mess kit and it was so easy to use. I love the clean black and white script. I chose pink project life cards from Studio Calico to add pops of color and then just cut a 4×6 photo in half and used the pink blank space as a filler card because it matched perfectly. Super simple, super fun.

Go check out Rachel’s other designs too, they are A-Mazing.  

 

Everyday Adventure: Hike Mt Bugaksan

IMG_0021One of the things I love most is random adventuring. You don’t have to travel or live somewhere exotic to find adventure. I firmly believe that you must break up the day-to-day monotony of routine for your mental health, to feed your creativity and to connect with your people (or yourself!) and the best way to do this is through everyday adventuring. This is not something you do everyday, but something you could do in a normal, everyday kind of day. Instead of running errands and lounging on a weekend day, go do something new. Just look around you and you will find it, whatever it is, and you will benefit immeasurably.

I talk about every day adventures in my monthly newsletter and when you sign up you get a really fun freebie you can print and use as a place to list new adventures you want to take. So if you want to talk more in-depth about everyday adventuring, sign up for my free newsletter. 

This weekend we went on a very brief hike in the city up Mt Bugaksan to look for Cherry Blossoms and see the city view. There weren’t really very many cherry blossoms, but the view was breathtaking. You can see the city almost 360 degrees around you. It amazes me that right in the middle of this huge city are random mountains you can hike. I don’t like the smog at all, but these photos look like vintage film due to the bad air quality in Seoul. So…bad for your lungs, great for your photography?! Either way, it was the perfect quick outing. We went, hiked, had dinner out and were home all between 2pm and 9pm. I want to hike the entire wall that runs around the city, it was originally for protection but now is a cool item on my Korea Bucketlist, but it is 14 miles long, so I think we will need to do it in sections to really enjoy it. So I was excited to check one tiny portion of it off the list! To do this hike, we rode the subway, walked up one side and down the other and came out at the same place. It took maybe half an hour to get to the top and no time at all to get down. Here are some great blogs with more info on this hike and the whole wall hike if you are interested. Here, here and here. 

What everyday adventures have you been on lately in your town? IMG_0019 IMG_0020  HikeIMG_0028 IMG_0037 IMG_0046

Readings and Writings on the Webs

IMG_5859 IMG_5823 IMG_5808 IMG_5804Lately Ive been writing articles on a variety of topics all over the interwebs! So if you like hearing reading me ramble on about various life musings go check them out!

I am participating in the 365 Crafting Time challenge where I do some kind of creative work everyday. So far I havent missed a day! Read about my process and what I have learned on Sabine’s blog, the creator of the challenge, plus see what others who are participating have to say.

I chatted with Mabel Magazine about how I invest money in a new business venture. Though my businesses are small, there was still a cost to starting them. So read how we decided on what to invest in up front and what to wait on. 

And if you have ever wondered what I do all day, I talked with Delaney about my day job as a social worker. I shared about creativity in my daily life, work/play balance and the craziness of the day in the life of a social worker.

Have a fun and crafty weekend! Make sure to follow me on instagram for lots of crafting and cherry blossom photos :) @laurenlikesblog

Get Messy: Be Brave

It’s been too long since I have shared my art journals. And I miss it. So here we go again! We started a new season of Get Messy this week, the Season of Brave. I am pumped about this season as it is the one I have looked forward to the most since we dreamed up the idea of the new Get Messy. One of the first art prompts is one of my favorites and was inspired by this pin I saw on Pinterest. It is just too genius and fun not to share, so I made a quick little photo serious for you. I think q-tips may become one of my staple tools when painting….I mean seriously, how gorgeous did this turn out and SO SIMPLE. What other things could I use to paint with…..any ideas?! Be Brave Art Journal by Lauren Likes Be Brave Art Journal by Lauren Likes Be Brave Art Journal by Lauren Likes Be Brave Art Journal by Lauren Likes Brave Art Journal by Lauren LikesBe Brave Art Journal by Lauren Likes Be Brave Art Journal by Lauren Likes

And for my second page: A Definition of Brave Taken Straight From a National Geographic Magazine. It’s like they knew what the prompts were going to be….

Be Brave Art Journal by Lauren LikesIf you want to join us it’s not too late! If you register now you will become a lifetime member of Get Messy and will have access to all of last seasons Love prompts, tutorials, etc and all future content. Be Brave, it’s a great time to start art journaling….

Get Messy//An Art Journal ChallengeGet Messy Art Journal is gang of crafty vixens who are sharing art journal pages we have created to practice our skills and push past our creative limits with hopes to inspire. We support and encourage one another on this journey of creating and learning and we would love for you to join us too.

 

February Project Life

Dear February, you were boring and too cold and lasted way too long. But March, she was exciting and warm and provided fantastic photos. Therefore you were only given these two pages and we are officially parting ways. Sincerely, Lauren Lauren Likes Project Life Lauren Likes Project Life Lauren Likes Project Life

Products Frequently Used:  Studio Calico Cards, Studio Calico Wood Veneers, Seafoam Edition, Midnight Edition, Elise Joy Stamps2015 from Paislee Press, Midnight EditionPaislee Press Digital Currently,

Tips for eating street food

Tips for eating street food by Lauren LikesI am obsessed with street food. I will eat anything on a stick. I salivate thinking about waffles with ice cream+cream cheese+syrup+chocolate chips in them. I will plan entire days around finding a certain food cart guy that has something I’m really craving. I have eaten street food, literally, all the way around the world. From Hawaii to Russia to Nicaragua to Thailand to Malaysia to Korea to Georgia. I have eaten things I still cannot (do not want to) identify. I have eaten things that have made me incredibly sick. I have had heaven in my mouth. I really love street food. I even have an entire hashtag dedicated to it #laurenlikesfood and when I go on trips it fills up fast. My husband is officially embarrassed of me. But I don’t care. I want ALL the food.

But I realized not everyone is as adventurous or has as steely of a stomach as I do. But I promise, You Do! You just don’t know it. You are scared and uninformed and don’t want to spend your fabulous vacation super sick. I get it, but I want you to experience the goodness that is street food. So I’m here with a few tips for that you can apply anywhere you go. These are things I have learned through trial and error and apply in my daily life of street food hunting. I also asked a few foodie friends for some input to ensure I was giving you a complete overview and not getting too distracted by the lemonade in a bag guy….

Give these tips a try on your next trip and hopefully you can be a bit more adventurous and find some really great new foods you love!

Do your research before you go. Do a google search of common street foods of where ever you are traveling. This will give you an idea of what to expect and will help you be able to identify foods when shopping. There may be some really strange-looking things (like a corndog wrapped in ramen noodles) that you would have never been able to identify or would have tried had you not already known what it was. Also, this will help you be on the lookout for those things that look exciting to you. Ask friends and family who have travelled what they like to eat. Getting personal suggestions is the best, most reassuring thing you can do when you are nervous or unsure.

Ask! If you don’t know what a food is or what is in it: ASK! Even if you don’t speak the language, if you walk up with an inquisitive look the vendors will likely try to explain or offer you a sample. Ask the locals, they will know best! If you’re in a coffee shop or find a nice waiter that speaks good (your language) ask for suggestions of their favorite foods and places to go. People really want you to get to know their culture are will be really friendly and helpful if you are at least interested and willing to try.

Tips for eating street food by Lauren LikesKnow your allergies + the translation. If you have serious allergies this is a big one. Know your allergies translated so you can ask if the item is in the food. You will be amazed at the most random things that can be mixed together and you wont have a clue until you bite in. Better to be safe than sorry and of course carry any allergy meds you may need just in case.

Carry napkins + hand sanitizer. Depending on where you are, you may not be given any napkins, so have a pack of tissues on you. (cough, cough Get it together Korea!) The vendors are also obviously not going to have any hand sanitizer on their carts for you, so bring your own to cut back on your germ intake or just embrace it…builds up your immune system right???

Carry cash Come on now. Youre not at a bed and breakfast where cookies are left on trays and everything is charged to your bill at the end. These people have an entire restaurant in a 2×4 metal bucket. They don’t take cards. Also, in most of the world cash goes wayyyyy farther than a card.

Carry meds. I have been to Nicaragua three times. All three times I have gotten really sick. Each trip I got less sick than the time before, but, never the less, I get sick. No matter how hard I tried and how careful I was, Latin American countries put even my steely stomach to the test. Just carry the meds and take them at the first hint of an upset stomach. There’s no shame in that game. Traveler’s diarrhea is no fun to chit-chat about at work after your luxurious vacation…

Tips for eating street food by Lauren LikesAssess general sanitation methods. Be smart. Take a look around. Are a lot of others eating at this food cart? Are they using gloves or at least wiping off their hands? Are they wiping down the cart? Is the food covered or being freshly made? Trust me, you will never get yes’s to all of these questions, but be smart and use your judgement on what level of cleanliness you are ok with. One way to assure good levels of sanitation is to find places that are known for their street food. These places will be well-traveled, filled with foreigners and will be closely monitored for cleanliness.

Don’t think about it. And then in the end, try not to dwell on these things…It’s best to just take the food, eat it and not think about the details….

Start with what you know. I like chicken. That’s what I eat for 90% of my meals, so chicken is always where I start when it comes to new street food. If there are certain things you like most, try to find things similar or things that are familiar to you. Maybe don’t start with the fried bugs, maybe go for chicken + veggies on a stick. Right? Start small, find things you like, it will give you confidence to try more and will give your stomach a chance to warm up to new germs flavors. Fruits, desserts, drinks are always good warm up foods too.

Save the adventurous stuff for last. So now you are good and warmed up. You’ve had some snacks and things you really like and some stuff that may have been not at all what you expected. Awesome! Now it’s time to really go for the gold. Go for the stuff that will give you a good story to tell when you get home. Try those fried bugs or that bowl of unrecognizable meat/pasta/rice/things. Your stomach is a little more used to the new foods, you have a better idea of what flavors and consistencies you like and you’re near the end of your trip so if you do get sick it wont ruin the whole thing. Right?!Tips for eating street food by Lauren Likes

Don’t eat it all. Sample. Nibble. Taste Test not Taste, Devour. The most sick I’ve ever gotten was when eating a food I don’t normally like and just being amazed at how delicious the street food variety of it was and inhaling it like an uncontrollable animal. Bad choice. Now, that is a ‘one time that happened story’, so don’t be afraid! Just be careful, especially if you know you have a weak stomach or have just had too much already. Besides, the less of one thing you eat, the more you get to sample of other foods. Win, win, win.

Just try it! Ok, you’ve read through this list. You’ve done some googling. You’ve gotten suggestions from friends or from locals. Now you’re standing on the street, inhaling the most delicious or foreign scent and you are frozen with fear and uncertainty. Just do it. Quit over thinking it. This is your once in a life time trip! This is your brag about it when you get back moment. It’s now or never. Do something that scares you because you never know, you could fall in love. What’s the worst that could happen? Oh yeah? That same thing can happen (or worse) from eating Blue Bell Ice Cream. So Do It. Taste It.

Ok, so now tell me your favorite street foods in the comments and I’ll go hunt them down!

Take a class: Ring Making

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One of my goals for this year was to take an art class in person and by that I mean an ongoing, multi-week class like painting or drawing, etc. I still haven’t found one yet, but! I have taken two one time art classes and they have been so fun and educational. The first I took was a Korean Tea Cup making class (aka pottery aka making teeny tiny bowls like you did in 3rd grade except more embarrassing because you are a grown up). See the embarrassing photo here! Anyway, some friends and I took a ring making class recently and the results were the exact opposite. Our rings are legit. Mostly because the staff walk you through each step and they are beautiful and real silver. Here is a photo walk through of our class, this is nowhere near a tutorial as the class was in Korean and well, I doubt we all have soldering tools just lying around. But it was still really fun! I couldn’t find their website, but if you are local and would like to go just let me know and I’ll give you directions.

My favorite part for sure was designing my ring. You got to choose the shape, width, texture, words, jewels and more. I was in heaven… 2015-03-16 19.11.51

 

What the rings (silver) looked like when they handed them to us to begin. They were cut in our ring size.

2015-03-16 19.09.28 2015-03-16 19.11.21 2015-03-16 19.16.09Hammering in the words! I made ‘sister’ rings for me and my sister. PS I know that one looks terrible (it was my first try OK!?) but once it got hammered out in the rest of the process it turned out perfect, except for the adorable upside down T…theres no fixing that…2015-03-16 19.21.18 2015-03-16 19.32.33 Shaping them. 2015-03-16 19.34.11 2015-03-16 19.34.33 2015-03-16 19.34.47 2015-03-16 19.36.04 2015-03-16 19.36.21 2015-03-16 19.37.02 2015-03-16 19.37.37 2015-03-16 19.45.31

Ps the PHHHOTO app is just too entertaining guys. 2015-03-16 19.48.24Ok so what we are doing here is hammering them down on the ring measuring tool to stretch them to the right size and to give them a textured top.  2015-03-16 20.16.48 Sanding the edges to make them smooth. 2015-03-16 20.27.57Then the professionals took them and did fancy, legit stuff to them to finish them and gave us these claw machines with fake money to play with. We were beyond excited to win those little fruity mints (and may have totally cheated. These games are SO hard!)  2015-03-16 21.08.31Our finished rings!  2015-03-16 21.10.31 2015-03-16 21.13.00So. Much. Fun! Have you taken any fun classes like this recently? Tell me about it!