Braving the High Roller

Las Vegas, Nevada

The older I get, the more I am convinced that drinking alcohol to increase bravery is a valid and very effective coping mechanism. It should come as no surprise, then, that I turned to liquid courage when confronted with my very real fear of heights at the High Roller in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here’s what nobody told me, though: they don’t actually stop the rotation to let you on. Don’t drink and Roll, friends. Learn from my mistake – this is one attraction that should be done sober.

My amazing grandparents on my mother’s side spend their winters in Nevada, snowbird style. Every time I visit, we spend at least a day braving the wilds of Las Vegas. My Grams, more adventurous in her 70’s than I could ever hope to be, convinced me to go on the High Roller with her and my Papa. Walking up to it and taking in the 550-foot tall observation wheel from below, I was sure I could do it.

In giant observation wheels, as in life, perspective is everything.

We rode the elevator up to the boarding level and exited into a fully stocked bar. Vegas is a beautiful place. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief and ordered a drink heavy on the raspberry flavoring and champagne. My Papa ordered a Velvet Elvis, because when in Rome and all that, and my Grams elected to stay sober. See what I mean? Braver than I will ever be. By the time we got through the line to our designated pod, I was feeling the raspberry-infused buzz. I boarded the pod after my grandparents and the doors closed, all the while feeling pretty brave. That bravery lasted approximately sixty seconds as we slowly ascended until we were level with, and then above, all of the technicolored casino lights. I looked down at the tourists and flashy advertisements and felt very small, very nervous, and very tipsy. I huddled in my seat and sipped my drink, avoiding the clear glass walls of the pod.

That’s the funny thing about perspective, though. Eventually, you’re so far above it all that you aren’t the small one anymore. The buildings and revelers below grew smaller and smaller until, suddenly, I felt bigger and greater than the entirety of Las Vegas. I was enormous and strong. I was invincible. I was drunk (on power or alcohol, the interpretation is up to you). As we slowly rotated, the view became more like what you see from an airplane window and my head filled with bubbles. I bravely left the safety of my seat and ventured over to the window. I stayed there with my nose pressed against the glass for the rest of our rotation, staring down at Vegas.

Standing in the trenches, so to speak, Vegas seems so large and so bright and so full of life. As the wheel propelled us higher and higher, though, those lights grew dimmer and the Strip began to look flimsy and plastic. All of those beautiful people doing beautiful things grew very small, and I realized that at the end of their weekend they would drag themselves back to wherever they lived, hung-over with significantly less money, and return to their regular lives. Vegas, the great paradisiacal city in the desert, was nothing but a temporary mirage.

I may get a little philosophical when I’ve been drinking.

As we neared the exit level, buildings grew larger and I lost my magical above-the-world perspective. Heights were scary again, and I realized I would have to exit while the pod was still in motion. My Grams, pre-knee replacement and all, hopped out of the pod with ease and grace. I leaned over to my Papa and whispered in his ear, “Papa… you’re gonna have to drag me off of this thing…” The exit almost knocked us both over, but we made it out relatively unscathed. We exited into the gift shop (because Vegas) and I fought the urge to purchase approximately eight mugs to commemorate my champagne-infused bravery.

The High Roller was probably the second-coolest thing I did in Vegas (Jersey Boys reigns supreme and you can’t convince me otherwise). While I feel moderately proud of myself for facing my lifelong fear of heights, I feel very proud of myself for spending the rest of my Vegas vacation alcohol-free. Sometimes the best things we do are the scariest, and the view from the very top of the highest observation wheel in the world is something I will not forget anytime soon. I also came up with my new motto in travel (and in life): “If my Grams can do it, I can do it.” Here’s to being as brave as my 70-something grandmother!

I’m not making any promises, though.

A Peek Inside My Purse

 

Every good traveler is ready to drop everything and head out at a moment’s notice. You never know when Adventure will call, and wouldn’t you hate to have to put her on hold? Whether you stock a go-bag, a compartment in your car, or your regular purse, you need to make like a Boy Scout and always be prepared. Personally, I have an obnoxiously enormous purse (which I affectionately refer to as my Mary Poppins bag) that I take with me EVERYWHERE. To inspire you to prepare your own Emergency Travel Pack, here’s a peek into what I keep in mine:

1. Approximately 72 lipsticks. This one isn’t exactly a travel necessity, but I like to be able to change my look depending on where I go. I love that with a dab of my favorite shade of red, I can go from Nanny to Exotic Traveler in a moment. I probably look exactly the same, but I feel different. That’s what counts. Probably.

2. A handkerchief. You never know where travel may take you. You never know when, or for what, you may need this.

3. A small, hardcover notebook. Sometimes inspiration strikes. I need to be prepared to write it down. Also, I have a really hard time keeping track of grocery lists.

4. A second small notebook. Remember our motto from earlier? Be prepared. Mine is designated specifically for blog ideas. A great story or post idea may come to me as I’m having an adventure, and I need to be ready to jot it down.

5. A sewing kit. Sometimes, your pants may tear mid-adventure. Learn from my past mistake and BE READY FOR THIS.

6. A flask. Because reasons. [I do have to add a disclaimer here and say that 99.99% of the time this flask is empty. It’s like a metaphor, or whatever.]

7. Hand sanitizer. Keep those germs away. Mine sparkles and smells like peppermint.

8. Lotion. The west is a dry, dry place. Your skin will thank you. This also sparkles and smells like peppermint. What can I say? I cannot be controlled at Bath & Body Works. Sue me.

9. Tic-tacs. These are just for fun, and because my Mimi always stocked them in her purse when I was growing up. It’s nice to feel nostalgic sometimes.

10. A wide variety of allergy medications and nasal decongestants. I am very allergy-ridden when I travel (and, to be honest, every other moment of my life).

11. A Reviver. This thing is a miracle. It’s a small, fancy piece of cloth that deodorizes your clothes and hair (and anything else) with one swipe. Smoke, food odor, body odor – it gets rid of everything. You keep it sealed in its little plastic holder and it stays fresh and reusable.

12. A small bag containing a folded-down, reusable tote. This was a gift from my boss a few Christmases ago, and even though it may seem like a boring gift it is SO. DANG. FUNCTIONAL. Mine is a Loqi, and it has a picture of a cat on it. It’s on the shortlist for greatest things I own.

13. A compact mirror. This is nice for fashion emergencies and all that, but to be honest I mostly use mine for spying on the people sitting behind me on airplanes. I say I’m doing this to be aware of my surroundings, but really I just enjoy feeling like a secret agent.

14. A dual-function phone charger. I got this at a gas station years ago, and it is the handiest thing EVER for traveling. At first glance, it looks like a regular car charger, but it also has a little wall plug that flips out from the side. You can plug any USB cord into it, and it is the best thing ever.

15. And finally, my Pinch Minimergency kit. It has about a zillion things inside, and I have been able to come to the rescue of so many people thanks to this little dude. Mine is very sparkly, but you can find a variety of styles and themes on their website.

What do you keep inside your travel bag? Comment below!

My First Solo Travel Experience

Or, How I Became a Roving Stone

At some point, somewhere, every person catches the Wanderlust Bug (and if you don’t, I’m sorry, but you are a broken person). My family lives for adventure and exploration, so it was only a matter of time before I came down with it. My grandparents have pared down their lives to a camper and spend their retirement roving the country. My dad spent the better part of his thirties and forties living in a new place every six months. Basically, traveling is hardwired into my DNA. In another time, I may have become a nomad rather than a nanny and, soon, a teacher. Who knows, I still may (but probably not because I have way too many things that I’ll never be able to get rid of, like my cat and my books and my coffee maker).

As a child, we took the requisite family vacations: Yellowstone, Disney World, and visiting family throughout the west. From the bits I remember, they were mostly perfectly fine vacations. [On a side note, don’t take your five-year-old to Disney Anywhere. Her only memory will be the fact that she fell in the shower and “cracked her head open”, and the overpriced toys and costumes you buy her will be in a box in your basement by the end of the year.] My childhood was full of an adequate amount of travel, and I was mostly ambivalent about it. I certainly didn’t have The Bug.

That all changed the year I turned thirteen. My dad, thanks to an inner sense of wanderlust (or possibly a midlife crisis), made a pretty drastic career change from Salesperson to Set Builder roughly around the time I turned ten. The pay was low and the hours bizarre, but the job made up for its failings in two beautiful ways: travel and live theater. During his time in theater, he worked in about nine states and even more cities. I was thirteen when my mother finally conceded to letting me fly by myself to visit him, and I was ecstatic (and also terrified).

I took a whopping two-hour flight from my hometown of Cody, Wyoming to my dad’s new home of Phoenix, Arizona, but to me it was a massive excursion. I won’t dive into the fun times you can have in Phoenix, because to me that wasn’t even close to the best part of that trip. The best part was the feeling of absolute freedom that coursed through my little, naïve veins as I wheeled my suitcase through the airports. I looked around at the various flight boards and gates and felt like I had just been given the keys to eternity. I was convinced I could go to any one of the gates, hand them my ticket, and wind up literally anywhere in the world.

 

Of course, I’ve learned a lot since then about airport security protocols and basic finance, and I now know that a plane ticket isn’t a magic pass to anywhere I want to go. Even so, I can’t help but feel that same sense of wonder and longing anytime I’m in an airport. I connect to that little thirteen-year-old who’s just learned that a whole wide world is at her fingertips, waiting to be discovered. That first experience traveling alone taught me that I can go anywhere, anytime and I can do it by myself. It gave me my sense of wanderlust, which has only grown stronger thanks to several more exciting trips throughout my teenage years. I’m thankful to my dad for many things (helping to create me, teaching me to love football, and paying for my car insurance to name a few), but the greatest gift he’s ever given me will always be my wanderlust.

Resolutionized

Well, it’s finally here. 2017 is upon us. A new year has begun. You’ve already suffered through several of your “comedian” friends calling you to say “we haven’t spoken all year! ohmygod!” If you’re lucky (or maybe not so lucky), you got a kiss when the clock struck midnight, Cinderella-style. And, if you’re anything like me and just about everyone else, you’ve already written out some New Year’s Resolutions.

They may be silly, but I love New Year’s Resolutions. I love holidays in general, with their joyful celebrations and cheesy themes. I love that they are consistent – you can count on them coming around at the same time each year. Most of all, I love the corny traditions. I love singing Christmas carols and sharing what I’m thankful for and making gooey cards in the shape of hearts. So, of course, I love making a list of resolutions. It’s probably my favorite holiday tradition of all because it combines two of my favorite things in the world: festiveness and list-making. It’s my Type-A dream-come-true. I sit down, make a list of everything I want to improve about myself or my lifestyle, and enjoy the rest of the New Year’s Eve festivities feeling incredibly productive and self-congratulatory.

And I wake up the next day and don’t do a single thing.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? We spend time making these lists of goals for the new year and then promptly forget everything we’ve said until the next New Year’s Eve comes along. But for me, this isn’t just an issue with resolutions. I have a really hard time following through with goals or commitments any time of the year. I go through phases of inspiring productivity, but as soon as the initial excitement wears off or an excuse to wane pops up, I am donezo.

For an entire month, I got up every other morning at 4:45 to do hot yoga before work. The last class of the month, I let myself skip because I had worked late the night before, and I haven’t been back since. One year, I signed on for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) and dutifully tracked my word count for exactly three days, and on the fourth decided to watch a movie before working on the novel. To this day, the unfinished word document sits on my hard drive, mocking my lack of initiative. And, the biggest example of all, I have started about four blogs in the last five years. I get a boost of creativity, churn out posts for a good month or so, and slowly allow it to slip away. Then, when I’m ready to start again, I’m so ashamed at my own laziness that I just start a new blog so I don’t have to think about the old, neglected one. It’s pathetic, honestly.

Which brings us to here, today. January something. The first month of 2017. The start of something new. I’m posting what will hopefully be my last first blog post. I’ve made three New Year’s Resolutions for 2017, and following through on a creative project is one of them. Finally sticking with a resolution is another (so technically, if I actually do this thing, I can kill two birds with one stone – one roving stone). The last one is managing my money better, but I’m going to fudge a little and start that one tomorrow so I don’t have to feel guilty about spending startup money on a blog I may not ever look at again. See? I’m already off to a great start!

So, here’s to a great 2017. I hope you all stick with me, if nothing else to help me stick with this. I’m not sure what this year will have in store for me, or for this blog. I’m hoping for new adventures. I’m betting on many new lessons. I’m crossing my fingers for a little growth for good measure. And, starting today, I’m resolving for some dedication.

I’ve failed at twenty-two years’ worth of resolutions at this point, though, so maybe don’t hold your breath.

What are your Resolutions? Share them in the comments!