325 days, 13 countries, 65,000+ miles

My first retirement is over.

325 days ago I left a great job to spend time exploring the world. What I thought would be between 3 and 6 months turned into almost a full year – and an experience of a lifetime. Now, I have found a new career with Energy Circle – creating digital marketing plans for companies & organizations that work to build and outfit efficient and healthy buildings. It’s a bittersweet ending to an incredible year – as I would love to keep traveling (and will continue to some extent), but like all things, traveling costs money so I need to pay the bills…until my next retirement 🙂

So now, a full wrap-up, reflections and thoughts about this past year:

  • 325 days (June 17, 2016 – May 7, 2017)
  • 4 continents (North America, Europe, Oceania (Australia), Africa)
  • 13 countries (US, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, UK)
  • 28 states (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland.)
  • 14,000+ miles of road trips (doesn’t include every day driving while home)
  • 65,000+ miles of total travel (estimate including air travel)
  • 9,500+ photos (some better than others)
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My Instagram feed of photos since I began traveling back in June 2016

Favorites:

  • Country: New Zealand. When someone asks what my favorite place has been there is no question, and no hesitation when I answer, New Zealand. From the people to the geological features, New Zealand was absolutely incredible. Africa would also go on my favorites list, but it still doesn’t come close to how much I loved New Zealand.
  • State: Utah – I would have loved to spend more time in Utah – specifically the Moab area!
  • Activity: Bungee Jumping. Such a rush (and surprise! I did it in New Zealand) as well as hiking all over!
  • Airport: Heathrow, London. This may be just because there were clean showers that were welcome between 10+ hour flights!
  • Border Crossing/Immigration: Dobe border crossing from Botswana into Namibia. We had to track down officials for both countries to get our passports stamped! The border was so remote that they only get one car every 2-3 days!

Least Favorites:

  • Country:  None. There was something amazing about every country I visited – and I would revisit every single one!
  • State: Again, I don’t know if I have a least favorite state!
  • Activity: Going to drug stores in Australia. Unfortunately I was sick through my entire travels in Australia so frequented the drug store to get medicine! They don’t sell over-the-counter cold medicine so I had to speak to a pharmacist every single time. Plus, they only provide around 4 days worth at a time, so I was going every 4 days!
  • Airport: LA. I didn’t have to go far within the airport, but it was crowded and my terminal didn’t have many options for grabbing a bite to eat!
  • Border Crossing/Immigration: Boston/Logan airport. I don’t think I spent less than an hour in this line in any of my travels this past year – and at one point the line was so long people couldn’t even get off the plane!

I learned so much during this time,  and if I were to share anything with you it would be that if you need a break, take it. Time away from the office, a desk, or your home can be extremely refreshing and give you greater perspective and a better idea of who you are. I hope that in another 5-6 years, I may be able to retire again for another year. My advice to everyone is to take risks, get outside your comfort zone and never stop traveling. Whether it’s across the globe or across your town – there is something new and exciting around every corner!

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Road Trip Wrap Up

I know, I’m a little late on this post. I’ve been home for a little over a week so I figured it was time to share the latter half of my road trip!

Last known location was Washington, I had made it. The next few days did not go as planned because my good luck with good weather took a turn.

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Packed my sister’s life into my car! Ready to hit the road.

My sister and I got a late start leaving Washington so we had to pass by Multnomah Falls. We were on our way to Crater Lake National Park. But wait! Avalanches in Crater Lake NP? Made the trip impossible for us unfortunately. While staying a night in Oregon, I stopped by Jeep service to check on a tire that had low tire pressure. Apparently a sharp rock had punctured the tread, so after a quick repair we were on our way again! We continued on down to Berkeley, CA to stay with one of my sisters friends for a couple days.

We arrived for dinner and the following day did a little hike in the hills before the rain started. That evening, we participated in the Women’s March in San Francisco (the day after Inauguration Day). It was a really incredible experience – completely peaceful and invigorating at the same time. The rain only dampened our clothes and some signs, but walking through downtown San Fran with over 100,000 others is not something I’m going to forget!

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Women’s March in San Francisco

Our next stop was supposed to be Big Sur. But alas, land and mudslides closed the road. So scratch that. Let’s go to Yosemite! Oh wait, road closed due to snow. Ok.. how about Sequoia to the south… trees down so roads closed there!

Well, I guess we’re going around to Death Valley then! I’m really glad we did too – it was amazing. We had a little snow as we headed in and the valley itself was beautiful. My sister trapped a scorpion in the general store because the employees there were too afraid to capture it.

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Sunrise after a snow in Lone Pine, CA as we started our drive into Death Valley
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Pass Overlook as we neared Death Valley
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Death Valley – there has been so much rain that there were areas in the basin that were actually flooded
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Scorpion! The second I have seen on my travels this year

We went out the other side of Death Valley and were welcomed by a herd of Donkeys! We made a quick pit stop in Vegas to top of the fluids in my Jeep and continued on to Utah. We had an evening drive through a snow storm in Zion and stayed the night just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.

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Two of about 15 donkeys welcoming us to Nevada

Early the next morning we worked our way into Bryce to Sunrise Point. It was frigid and early, but totally worth it.

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Bryce Canyon National Park sunrise
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Bryce Canyon

From there we took the back roads up Boulder Pass and through Capitol Reef National Park. It was another stunning park!

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Capitol Reef National Park

We finished up the day visiting both Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. We hiked out to Delicate Arch at Arches for sunset – it was spectacular.

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Canyonlands National Park
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Sunset at Delicate Arch
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Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

The next two days were strictly road days. We spent 14+ hours each day in the car moving across the mid-west. We made a short stop to do a quick mile and a half hike on the second day because we were so tired of being in the car. When we made it to Virginia we spent the morning doing the upper section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I think we passed one other car on the entire parkway!

I dropped my sister off in Maryland and made my way home to Maine that evening. All in all, an 8,850 mile road trip in 16 days. I wish I had more time to spend in Utah, and I wish we could have gotten to the closed parks, but there is always more time to visit in the future.

6 days and 3,800 miles later

I’m about a week into my journey and have made it from Maine to Washington! The first two days of my drive around the country were strictly drive days. 10+ hours each day. I was surprised at how quickly they went though. I’ve been flying through audio books and podcasts. I drove through farm lands, old stage coach routes and of course, lots of highway. It was interesting to pass through towns that had population listed on their town signs (List Springs, WY had a population of 4!) 

My first park stop was Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I felt like I was on another planet. The landscape was incredible!  
Before heading to my hotel, I checked out Mount Rushmore as well.


I stayed in Hot Springs, South Dakota that evening – which was interesting for lack of a better word. It’s their off season so most of the town was shut down. I was one of 3 vehicles at my hotel, and when I went to a local bar/restaurant for dinner it was easy to overhear the locals’ conversations. One guy was completely wasted (at 6 pm) and the other two were having a conversation about God, sin and divorce. 

From there I went to the Grand Tetons. Pictures just don’t do these justice. When they come into view they are truly inspiring. I explored the area and woke up early the next day to head to the Glacier area. It was -20 degrees when I left!


I got to the Glacier area and explored Whitefish Mountain. Stunning views. 


The next morning I was the first one into the park and went for a 5 mile hike into McDonald Falls. The park was amazing, even though in the winter a lot of the roads and trails are closed.



I’ve been surprised to see two Tesla charging stations.. this remote one is out in the middle of nowhere in Idaho!!! Looks like it hasn’t been used since the last snow.. at least there was one in use in Jackson Hole!


After a treacherous drive today, I made it to my sister in Anacortes, WA! I left from Post Falls, ID in an ice storm, saw about 15 tractor trailer trucks off the road before driving over Stevens Pass in a blizzard.


Tomorrow we hit the road to Multnomah Falls in Oregon!

Countdown to the cross-country road trip

It’s been quiet in terms of travel for me over the last month – but a lot will be coming soon! Scroll down to the bottom to check out the photos of my Christmas morning hike up near Sugarloaf.

Over Thanksgiving, my family Skyped with my sister who lives out in Washington state and it was decided that I would take a road trip out there and she would join me on the return trip back to Maine! Ideally I would have done a trip like this in the summer, but timing was right so I said ‘Let’s go!’ It’s going to be a whirlwind trip, but I should be able to hit highlights from some of the national parks along the way.

Leaving on January 12th, I’ll head out to Washington and visit:

I’ll meet up with my sister a little west of Seattle on January 18th, and then together we will hit the following on the way back to Maine:

I plan to tentatively be back home in Maine somewhere around January 28th! Stay tuned for posts about this trip!

Because my family is all over the states right now (my brother is working in the Gulf of Mexico), we decided to postpone Christmas until at least my brother was home as well.  So Christmas morning, I decided to hike up to the Stratton Brook Hut near Sugarloaf. It was a beautiful morning and I was the only one on the trail. I took the Oak Knoll path up, which in the summer is a mountain biking trail and in the winter it’s great for snowshoeing. It’s a little longer than the main trail, but well worth it for the views! The full hike/snowshoe was a little over 6 miles – and it was incredible.

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Starting off at Campbell Field.. great view down the Carrabassett River
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I had to turn around a lot to catch amazing views like this
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Made it to the hut! Inside I was the only one other than the person working. Hot chocolate and coffee!
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Obligatory selfie? Nearing the top after taking off my snowshoes and hiking the remaining quarter of a mile.

I highly recommend taking a hike through Maine Huts and Trails – great trails, great hikes and great views! Happy New Year!

For a split second I thought I was going over the falls

We’ll get to that in a minute… (Scroll to the waterfall pics to read about it if you don’t want to read about the rest of my explorations).

The day after Thanksgiving I headed south in my car to Long Island to spend the weekend with my college roommate. We explored around her town as well as go back to campus. I did my undergrad at Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus. They have since re-branded and changed the name to LIU Post. It was a little scary how much I didn’t remember about campus – like where my classes were and which roads led where. It was also neat to see that people were actually attending a football game! When I was there, there was very little school spirit. And in full Long Island fashion, someone decided to bring a Hummer limo to tailgate.

My roommate, Jessie, happens to be a huge Jets fan – and her and her husband invited me to the game on Sunday. I was a little hesitant, as I’m not a HUGE football fan and I wanted to get to the mountains at a reasonable hour that night, but when I looked and found out they were playing the Pats, I had to haha. It was a blast. We had great seats (row 4 end zone). I left a little before the end of the nail-biter game just so I could get on the road before traffic got to crazy!

From the game I drove a couple hours north to an AirBnB I booked in the Catskills. The following day I got up early to head to Mount Tremper and Overlook Mountain. It was a short, easy hike (my Airbnb host told me to give it 4-5 hours… I did it in less than 2), but it was beautiful at the top. I had 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. Part way up there are the ruins of the old Overlook Hotel which was fun to explore as well!

After that hike I drove a little ways to another hike at Kaaterskill Falls. I walked the short distance to the viewing platform – where they happened to be filming a section for the news. They were saying they get around 70,000 visitors to the falls each year (mostly in the summer). It’s a two-tier falls that cascades over 250 feet total.

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News crew filming!

From there I did another short but more intense hike to the lower section of the falls. This is where it got interesting. The ground wasn’t frozen and there wasn’t any snow, so I didn’t have my spikes on my boots (but they were in my pack). As I got to the bottom of the top tier of the falls, the path was clay and I followed that to get a view at the base of the falls. What I didn’t see, was black ice as I rounded the corner. I immediately fell and was sliding on my hands and boots (with really good tread) down about 4 feet until I was about a foot from the top of the second tier of the falls. I starfished and my feet found a couple small rocks to grip (literally 4 inches wide by about an inch high). I thought for sure I was going to go in. I have never really been scared that I was going to get hurt or have a major mishap when traveling – this was a first for me!

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From the base of the top tier – where I almost went in. Worth it!

From there I hiked down even further to get a view of the entire falls. A guy was down there and had seen my slip and told me that he thought for sure I was going in!

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The full Kaaterskill Falls – it was gorgeous! The ledge the slants down to the left in the middle is what I slid down.

After grabbing lunch, I headed to a mountain drive that I heard was good for sunsets. It was a seasonal road, so I said what the hell, I have a Jeep, I can give it a shot. There was some snow on the road, but you could see where another car or two had passed previously so I headed up the road. I get near the top and I happen upon a young couple with their Subaru Impreza stuck in the ditch. The had slid off about 50 feet up and had worked their car down the ditch trying to get it out. I offered my assistance – pushed, drove the girl to the store to get some kitty litter (helps on ice!) but it was just too stuck. We were able to find a place with cell service (service in the Catskills is slim to none) and she called AAA. I figured I probably shouldn’t push my luck after nearly falling into the water earlier, so I headed back for a relaxing night at my AirBnB.

Unfortunately, the next few days were all rain so I took my time working my way through Vermont and back home. Now, I’m up at Sugarloaf crossing my fingers that we get a lot of snow in the storm tonight!

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Sunset we caught on Long Island

4 Hikes and the Holidays

I’ve been home for about 2 weeks now, and though I’ve been silent on the blog front, there has been a lot going on! Those who follow my Instagram account (amyirish1) may have seen some posts from recent hikes. In addition to those, I’ve been thinking about and trying to figure out my next steps.

I’m going to stay in the New England area through the holidays…and go to warmer climates and get my scuba certification in January. So until then… I need to find things to do! I’ve booked Airbnbs for a road trip the week starting the day after Thanksgiving. I’ll drive to New York to visit my old college roommates, and then head north for a couple days to do some hiking in the Catskills. I’ll spend a final day in the Burlington, VT area for another hike before heading home.

I’ve found myself easily bored since I’ve been home, so I’ve done some pretty awesome hikes more locally. More locally I mean within a two hour drive. I took Blythe’s dog Pua (Blythe is my brother’s girlfriend) up Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton last weekend. It was a nice short hike that Pua could handle. It took less than two hours and with the leaves covering rocks, it was a little tricky coming down with Pua pulling!

On Thursday I drove a couple hours to Mt. Major in New Hampshire. I’d say it was a comparable hike to Pleasant Mountain and had some great views of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Friday I went to the border of Maine and New Hampshire to Blueberry Mountain. I think I was the only person on the mountain – I didn’t see anyone else. It was about 4 miles up and back with views of the surrounding mountains. The trails were not very well marked, so at times I had to stop and try to figure out which direction was which.

I downloaded the maps.me app on my iPhone before I started traveling and it has been a lifesaver (you can download maps of regions/states for offline directions). It has quite a few trail maps in addition to the standard road maps and I’ve found it has some additional trails/roads that Google Maps doesn’t have. This came in very handy when there was no visible path/markers indicating the trail!

Saturday I woke up early and drove almost two hours to hike Tumbledown in western Maine. It was a gorgeous day (all these days have been mid-50 degree weather). I was the second car in the lot (and it turns out the other car were people camping up there the night before). I, once again, had the mountain to myself – at least on the way up! Tumbledown was incredible. I took the Brook trail up and did the connector to the saddle of the western peak. It was more challenging than the other hikes, which was what I was looking for with some rock scrambling. It was about 4.5 miles roundtrip with waterfall after waterfall up to Tumbledown Pond. I then kept going to the east peak for views down at the pond and of the surrounding mountains. Maine is truly breathtaking. This has been my favorite hike so far.

I was expecting the hike to take about 4.5 hours (the sign said the 3 mile hike would take 4 hours), but I was back to my car in just 3 (I’ve been looking for some 4-4.5 hour hikes). I was so happy I got an early start too, because by the time I got to the top, a number of other people were at the pond and by the time I got back to my car the lot was full!

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Tumbledown Pond

After the dusting of snow last night (well maybe a couple inches) we’ll be prepping to host Thanksgiving at my brothers house this year. Enjoy the holiday!!