2016: A New Year of Travel

Happy New Year! It has officially been a week since we were all preparing to countdown to 2016, with that fiery motivation to have a better year burning in our hearts. As an effort to hold onto the momentum (and inspire you to do the same), I’ve decided to put together a new list of resolutions, just for Cleaving Leaveland and traveling.

Goals to Carry Into 2016

1. Be Where I Am. This was a hard one for me last year for a few reasons. The first is that when I packed up to leave New York City and embark on two years of traveling the US, I left behind a very strong and empowering community of friends. Even when I ended up in places like Seattle where I made a lot of strong friendships, I found it difficult to appreciate them because my eyes were always looking at my friends in New York. The second reason it was so difficult to be present was that I kept getting let down thinking I was going to end up in one place and job opportunities, or lack thereof, put me in another place entirely. But when missing out on living in Austin meant opening up my eyes to the amazingness of Seattle, I realized that my disappointment had been a waste of time and energy. This is an adventure after all. Which leads me to my next goal…

2. Keep An Open Mind. Traveling is not really an exploration if I have a locked mindset of where I want to be and what I want to see. Last year I was hoping to get to Austin and instead went to Seattle, which quickly became my favorite city in the US. Just this January I had hoped to end up in New Orleans, and instead I’m off to Long Beach, CA. I have only been to Long Beach once in my life and I mostly spent my time there partying in a college house. This is going to be a whole new adventure for me. I was really hoping to do some ghost tours, take piano lessons, and see some alligators in the south, but maybe I’ll take a surfing lesson or two instead. Last year I was not a happy camper to end up in Phoenix, but it ended up being one of the most transformative 3 months for me in my travels. So this year I plan to keep an open mind, and go wherever the wind (and jobs) take me.

3. Stop Watching TV. Okay, so I don’t really plan to stop watching all TV all the time. But I have been sitting on this one for a while. Then recently I saw a video of Obama talking to school-aged children about what it means to have a family. One of the more profound statements he made was that if you come home, and you sit in front of the TV watching a show or playing video games, then you’re not really there – you’re checked out. If watching TV is not helping me to “be where I am,” then it’s time to cut it out of my daily routine.

4. Run Outside Often. Or take walks. I like to run for exercise, and I’ve found that taking care of my health outdoors has led me to come across places I would have never explored otherwise (like the crystal shop in Seattle or my favorite independent bookstore in Phoenix). So I’m going to get outside often, whether with running, biking, or just taking a walk.

5. Record More. This is different than writing more, for me. I want to start really recording what I love about places, especially on the blog. Taking notes on the best Pho I found in Seattle or the cutest Bed and Breakfast I happened upon in Pennsylvania will add richer illustration to the map of my travels, and may come in handy as I revisit places later.

So my list only has 5 goals for blogging and traveling, but I’m hoping that keeping it short and simple will help me accomplish them more thoroughly. I have other personal goals of course (take another class, volunteer, pass less judgment on others), but this list should be enough to take my travels and Cleaving Leaveland to the next level. As some of you will know, I’m engaged to get married in late summer of 2017, so this will be my last full year of traveling. I plan to take it to the fullest. Come with me and enjoy the ride!

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Finding a Furnished Apartment (or Furnishing One on a Budget)

Everywhere I go with my traveling nurse boyfriend, we both know that we can only guarantee ourselves 3 months of residency in each city. For us, finding a furnished place is essential because we choose to only take with us what can fit inside the Jeep. I meet many other travelers who are also staying in cities temporarily and we exchange our stories. Here are some tips I’ve put together from the trial and error of finding places to live for 3 months at time:

1. Negotiate with AirBnB. 

AirBnB apartment rental

When heading to a new place, one of the first things I do is search on AirBnB. More often than not, I’ll find places that need people for months at a time. However, AirBnB tags extra fees onto any rental, for the security of the person renting but also to make money for the site. There has been once or twice that my boyfriend and I talked to a person renting and, with good reviews on our profile, convinced them to negotiate a lease with us outside of AirBnB. This brings the price for a 3 month rental down significantly and also helps out the person renting because they have a consistent paycheck from us and don’t have to worry about booking their place to vacationers every other week.

2. Take a Walk. 

downtown Austin finding an apartment

It can be easy in today’s world to get stuck in online searches and never venture outside until it’s time to do a viewing. However, when we got to Seattle and found that every place we viewed was being rented up by the time we got our foot in the door for a visit, we realized that we needed to get more creative. The place that I live in now is the cheapest rent we found in the nicest neighborhood, with a month-to-month lease, and we found it by walking around and calling numbers we saw outside or on the side of buildings. You never know who has furnished apartments available or knows someone that does. Which leads me to my next tip…

3. It Never Hurts to Ask. 

Finding a Furnished apartment in Austin Texas

In Austin, housing was expensive and hard to find, especially for the downtown area which was where we wanted to live. In an act of desperation, we began asking anyone and everyone we could find about getting a furnished place, even realtors who claimed to rent out only unfurnished apartments. By doing this, we ended up meeting a really nice real estate agent who actually rented us his personal condo downtown, as he had just upgraded to a house on the edge of the city and found himself not using the condo very often anymore. The place was right near the Capitol building, super swanky, and ended up being decently cheap for what we got because the guy wasn’t even expecting to get a renter and was just happy to have the extra income. So ask questions! You never know what answers you’ll find.

4. Switch It Up with Furniture Rental. 

renting furniture in Phoenix

This is what we ended up doing in Phoenix. There were some decently affordable furnished apartments for rent, but many of them were in not-very-walkable places (important for me because I don’t have a car) and they were still a little bit out of our budget. In the end, we found a really nice gated apartment community with rent so cheap I almost cried when I saw the numbers. The catch was that if we needed it furnished, we could go through the furniture rental company they worked with. Doing this brought the cost of the apartment up to an affordable price, though not super cheap. Still, it was in our budget and very low for an already-furnished place.

While our apartment community worked with a specific rental company, there are loads of others in every city that will deliver and set up your rented furniture. The downside to renting furniture is that what you get is pretty generic, and I definitely felt like we were living in a hotel in Phoenix more than in any of the other apartments we’d lived in so far. Still, for the amount of money we saved, it was pretty great.

5. Furnish for Free on Craigslist.

Furnished apartment Seattle Washington

It was simply too impossible to find a furnished place in Seattle. When we had reached the point of living in a friend’s place a week longer than we had planned and the only woman whose furnished condo was still available was a total nutcase, we decided to do something different and find an unfurnished place. It may seem crazy – it certainly did to me at first – but we chose to furnish our place with free or very cheap stuff from Craigslist with the intention of selling it or giving it all away when we left. We actually found some really cool things – just check out my Pinterest board from when we were looking!

On moving day, all we had was a bed, a couch, and by accident a coffee table. From there we got sheets, a shower curtain, towels, a bath mat, and lamps from Good Will. We found two more lamps for the bedroom and bedside tables  for free on Craigslist. I collected a dining room table and 3 chairs on 3 separate occasions from street corners. My boyfriend showed up early for one woman who had a blanket covered in stuff, and that got us an extra comforter, pots, pans, silverware, dish ware, knives, a coffee maker and toaster, baking sheets, and even some spices.

Later during a Craigslist search, we were lucky to be the first to message a woman who was selling a 52-inch flat screen TV easily worth $800 for only $100. After that, the rest came easy. We ended up with side tables for the living room, a TV stand, a pristine floral couch from the 70s that pulls out into a bed, corner shelves, and even a free air conditioner (before the Pacific Northwest heat wave of course). Nearly all of this stuff was free, and the only thing we had to clean were comforters and one of the couches. Best of all, I feel like the stuff we have is really ours, so if we spill something or break a glass, I’m not panicking about what it will cost us later. Who knows, maybe by the end of it we’ll make a few dollars back. Otherwise we’ll be giving stuff away for free on Craigslist, FreeCycle, or through the Buy Nothing Project.

I won’t lie, finding a furnished place is a hassle. But it has also been quite the adventure thinking up new ways to get it done. If you have any questions about finding somewhere furnished, feel free to ask in a comment or private message me on the Cleaving Leaveland Facebook page! I’m an expert by now, but may have forgotten some things while writing out this post. Happy traveling!

Most People Posting Warm Weather Photos in Winter Aren’t Assholes (Except for Californians)

Any person on social media (everyone) witnesses a divide that seems to happen every winter – on one side stands those in East Coast and Northern states, feeling frigid and depressed in a world of snow, ice, and freezing wind, and on the other side lounges everyone in sunny states, seemingly blissful as they hang out by the swimming pool, go on hikes, watch sunsets, etc. While the East Coasters can be seen bitterly posting screenshots of their single digit (sometimes in the negatives) temperatures, West Coasters are found posting shitty memes (saying things like, “My favorite part of winter is watching it on TV from California”) that inspire harsher pangs bitterness in the shivering bellies of every snow dweller.

Phoenix Winter Storm Meme Funny

People in Southern/South Western states are no different with their Instagram posts of sunsets, tan lines, and poolside pedicures. But living in Phoenix this winter, I realize the very big difference between what it means to brag about winter here and what it is to brag about it in California.

Let me tell you a little bit about summers in the desert. Temperatures rise above a hundred degrees (actually above 110 degrees) and often stay there for at least 30 days at a time. All traces of green disappear. The leaves die and fall off the trees, the grass dies and leaves a myriad of dust pits in its place, and views of the mountains and surrounding desert become a dull, relentless sea of brown. Dust storms sweep through Phoenix semi-frequently, choking the already smoggy air and blanketing the city for days afterward.

The high temperatures of summer in Phoenix last for five months. FIVE MONTHS. That’s pretty much the equivalent of a long winter in Cleveland. So for five months, people take shelter indoors, staking out in air conditioned movie theaters, museums, and bowling alleys. It’s not a joke to go outside during summer in Phoenix – it’s seriously dangerous. There’s a big outdoorsy scene here and even those brave souls you won’t find trying to hike the mountains until well after 9pm, when the ground has cooled off enough to not cook you. And having just popped my night-hike cherry, let me tell you it’s not the most pleasant. The need for flashlights limits your ability to think creatively on how best to get up or down steep areas. Predators such as hawks and coyotes are known to come out for hunting. Also tarantulas, scorpions, and rattlesnakes. Okay, maybe I’m just not the adventuring type, so sorry for the whiney paranoia, but I have yet to find a desert animal or creature I wouldn’t mind being within 10 feet of me.

Winter Green Palm Trees in Phoenix
Look at all that green!

The point is, summer in the desert is the equivalent of winter on the East Coast. Everything dies and being outside becomes unbearable, leading to the depressing, constant state of remaining indoors that is weighing on many of you right now during snow season. So think twice before you feel bitter about seeing a sunset post this winter on a desert resident’s Instagram account. They’re not posting it to be cut deeper into your misery, they’re just genuinely excited to be able to experience some fresh air without passing out from heat stroke. This summer, everyone here will be jealous of your beach pictures because the idea of sand and bare feet at that time will make them want to cry and jump immediately into an ice bath.

Those Californians though, with their year-round perfect weather, are total jerks. You should definitely keep hating on them.