The $40 Solo Day Trip

Back when I worked at Amazon, you would work four ten-hour days and had three days. It was the best and worst job I’ve ever had. It was the best because of the fun we had and because the three days gave me some freedom with my travels. It gave me plenty of time to take some day trips. I got to visit some of the Florida springs in Central Florida. I also got to see the nature reserves in Southern Georgia. The best part was, all I needed was $40 to enjoy it all. I have a flash drive full of memories due to trip planning and cheap budgeting.

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PRE-TRIP PLANNING

It makes a good habit and plain common sense to plan your trip. In my opinion, going on a whim is reckless. You never know what can happen to you on the road. Are you willing to take that chance? You have to be prepared for breakdowns, getting lost, and other wild card situations that may pop up. Not only is it reckless, but you could easily spend two or three times what you should have budgeted. If you live paycheck to paycheck like most of us in this country, you can’t afford to blow half your earnings on impulse buys.

St. Mary’s, GA

The night before a day trip, I take an hour to plan where I want to go. Since I travel solo, I know eventually I can get drowsy behind the wheel. I don’t want to spend most of the day driving. I usually go somewhere about one to two hours away from my city. (Remember, you have to drive back from where you are visiting. A two-hour drive is actually four). Once I know where I’m going, I use Google Maps, Trip Advisor, and social media apps to see exactly what is at the place.

Fort Clinch

$20 FOR GAS

Now you may think $20 for gas is a lot for a day trip that’s only one to two hours away. Well, obviously, this depends on the type of car you have. I do it for peace of mind. As I said, you never know what you’re going to run into. I want to make sure I have enough to go and come back, considering traffic or excess use of the air conditioning. (I live in Florida, it’s to be expected.) These twenty dollars are also where you can have what I call “budget play.” If you know for sure that you only need $10 for your trip, this gives you $10 to spend as you want or need. Now you can spend a little more on food (or leave a better tip), or you can spend a little more on souvenirs.

Hillsborough Lighthouse in Boca Raton, FL

$5 FOR ENTRANCE FEE

This is tricky. I’m an outdoor person. I visit state parks to hike and explore, but my day trips also include museums, festivals, flea markets, art walks, and nature conservations. Most of the entrance fees to the state parks near me are about $5. It’s always wise to take a little more. One state park I went to cost $17. Museums depend on admissions, so naturally, they’re going to be more than $5. That’s where that “budget play” from the gas money comes from. Once again, you never know what you’ll run into.

Dames Pointe Park

$10 FOR FOOD

If food is at the center of your day trip, then you want to adjust where this is the focal point of your budget. For example, if you’re going to a shrimp festival, then the bulk of your budget should be focused. The food will be a more expensive than Captain D’s or 2 for $20 at Red Lobster. These festivals are run by small business owners who are looking to make a profit with their specialty foods as their business card. Don’t expect to go and spend $5 on a platter. You can expect there to be seafood cooked in ways you’ve never thought possible. You may want to try that out so be ready for it. Now, if a food isn’t the focus of your trip, then maybe a $5 sub combo from a sandwich shop will hold you over until you get back home.

St. Simon’s Lighthouse. St. Simon’s Island, GA

$5 FOR SOUVENIR

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need t-shirts, large posters, or some giant statue to remember where I went. That’s what cameras and memories are for. My memories mean more to me than any physical object. I use my camera to make sure I never forget those memories. BUT, it doesn’t hurt to take a little souvenir. I have an obsession with postcards. Postcards are always the first thing I look for when I go to a gift shop at the nature park or museum. Postcards are usually only a dollar, so ten dollars allows me to splurge on something you may not find online, like local art sold through the gift shop. Treat yourself… It’s worth the trip.

I know, I know. You may be thinking that you will need a hell of a lot more than forty dollars to enjoy your day trip. You may be the type who likes to “go big or go home.” Perfectly fine. You’re the captain of your ship. You spend how you see fit. But it’s much more enjoyable to take a million affordable day trips than several big-budget day trips. Numbers don’t lie. In my three days off, I can afford two-day trips for under $90. OR, think of it this way, if I take one day trip every weekend, that’s $160 a month in traveling (more or less depending on how much you spend.) That’s not bad if you’re a lover of traveling as I am.

The Blue Ridge Mountains

As long as you discipline yourself and stick to your budget, you can enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, it’s not about the money you spend but the memories you make.

Travel Break: Quarantined Water Art

In the past decade, the word “Travel” ignited the imagery of beautiful beaches, exotic forests, and the City of Lights, Paris. With the world at a standstill due to COVID-19, the new norm is “boredom.” Any form of travel for me is freedom. From a hike on Cumberland island to a four day trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina was what I lived for in my free time. Now, for the sake of preventing the spread of the deadly virus, I have had to dive deep into my favorite past time hobby, watercolor painting. With so much time on my hands, I could do more than just paint for a hobby. I can find a way to let it benefit me financially.

I recently went to the Riverside Arts Market in my home city, Jacksonville. I bought two pieces of watercolor art from a painter and fashion designer named Teresa Cook. Her work was original and fun to me. I envied her technique and the confidence she has in her work. It didn’t hit me until I got home that I might have the talent to make a little money on it myself. I only use to paint when I became too stressed out or my bad days with depression would take hold of me. I never wanted my hobby to become work, and it would take away the therapy I received from it.

Until I can get myself together with how I will come to make watercolor art financially beneficial for me, I will enjoy my thoughtless doodles and splashes of imaginary wonders on paper. I can’t wait for the moment when we could all get back to traveling and appreciating this gorgeous Earth.

Check out Teresa Cook’s instagram page, @teresacookartanddesigns.

Travel Break: Small Car, Big World Pinterest Project

The day I discovered Pinterest was the day I truly lived. In fact, on one of my Instagram accounts, I labeled myself as a “Pinterest junkie” in my bio section. Since COVID-19 has everyone self-quarantined, Pinterest has been my primary source of entertainment. Every day I’m discovering new projects to take part in. So far, I’ve done everything from spray painted mason jars, to designing watercolor bookmarks.

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In my search for something new to do, I came across a photo of a tiny vintage car sitting on a beach shore. It was clearly a photoshop project, but the photography was stunning. The artist manipulated the image to make it seem like somehow the car fits perfectly into the big world. I just had to try this. I ran to Walmart and luckily found a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. The next day I headed to Sister’s Creek and took some really great shots. The objective is to use the right camera angles to show the car somehow being a part of the bigger atmosphere. Yes, the scale will be evident, but that’s part of the fun! I spent an hour walking around and taking shots of the car on different surfaces doing different things. The results are fantastic!

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My friend, Maddy, also made great use of her time indoors. She’s taken an interest in building things from scratch using whatever wood boards she could find. Her recent project includes a bookshelf, a new dog bowl holder, and shelves for her succulent plants.

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My other friend Jheanel, has taken up with painting and colored pencil drawings during her quarantine life!

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It is the amazing things that come from boredom. Commercials of people all over the world, creating ways to stay connected, show our infinite creative abilities. Hopefully, when this virus finally goes away, we can continue to be just as innovative. I know I will. Pinterest is in my blood and isn’t going anywhere!

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Search “small car photography” on Pinterest to see more cool small car photography.

Great Makeovers for U.S. Road Rest Areas

I remember traveling at a young age, and we would pull into a rest area for restroom breaks. They were the absolute worst places to go but, when you got to go, you got to go. Often times you go into a rest area, and the bathrooms look like something from the pilgrim era. The entire restroom smelled like a port-o-potty exploded. Sanitation was beneath passing. Honestly, I couldn’t see how the state would allow this.

In the coming years, though, I’ve seen a significant change to rest areas. I would think the improvements would only extend to making the restrooms more pleasant, but rest areas makeovers are doing so much more. It was my thought that rest areas represent the state. Think about it, travelers and tourists go to a rest area in Texas. If the rest area is filthy, they may assume the worst about the state in general. It sounds unlikely, but humans often judge a book by its cover or generalize because of one little thing happening. It happens.

Now, these rest areas are being built with so much more to offer now. They aren’t just a place to get an overpriced soda and a quick place to potty. They come equipped with hiking trails for dogs, jungle gyms for kids, museums, libraries, game rooms, and other stuff to entertain people while they break. The rest stop I visited in Arkansas had a library and a museum displaying Arkansas as the world’s leading source for quartz minerals. A rest stop and visitor center at the Texas state line had an entire boardwalk you could walk on and catch alligators and other wildlife in the preserve.

Where in the hell was all this when I was little? The most we could get out of rest areas back then playing with rocks outside the building sat at picnic tables that were covered in bird poop, and boring brochures desperately displaying the vacation hotspots of the state. Now rest areas are a bed short of a hotel.

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I am glad that the rest areas have made big changes since I was young. Tourism is everything to any state or locality. It would be wise to improve first impressions.