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Checking in on our 2016 Game Plan

April 13, 2016

We figured since it’s over a quarter of the way through the year, now would be a good time to check in on the 2016 game plan we set at the beginning of the year. How obvious is it that I’m left brained? I blame work for making me think of the year in terms of Q1 , Q2, Q3 and Q4. Anyway, since Q1 is now complete, we are practicing what we preach by holding ourselves accountable and evaluating where we are on our goals. This is good because it gives cause to celebrate and pat yourself on the back, as well as realign the next section of the year to focus more on the goals that haven’t gotten a lot of attention yet.

As a recap, our goals are listed below:

  1. Visit 10 different cities
  2. Continue downsizing
  3. Continue paying more on our mortgage
  4. Spend more time with family and friends
  5. Improve photography skills
  6. Bedroom remodel
  7. More collaborations
  8. Save $15,000 by using rewards points
  9. Learn a second language
  10. Add yoga to the workout routine

To be honest, I’m fairly shocked that we have even started this list. To say I’m proud of our progress is putting it lightly. I’m ready to celebrate how far we are on our game plan! Let’s see how we are doing:

  1. So far we have been to two cities (San Diego and Houston) this year, and in another month we will add five more to total seven. We have more destinations on our list for the remainder of the year, but nothing is officially booked yet. I have been to San Francisco, but since Mat wasn’t with me, I figured it wasn’t fair to count that.

    Gas Lamp San Diego

    San Diego was a blast.

  2. Well, we did it. We sold Mat’s car and are now down to one! Oh my gosh are we crazy or what?! Our plan with this goal was to find out the Kelly Blue Book value of his car and put it up for sale at that price; no budging at all. We planned to leave it up for a couple of weeks and then if nothing had happened we would re-evaluate. The car sold in less than three days! I wasn’t entirely sure I was even on board with the whole one car thing, so I panicked a little. I will admit it does take a little more pre-planning, but so far, totally worth it!
  3. We were paying double on our mortgage, but since we sold Mat’s car, we put that extra money toward our condo each month. We are trying to have a free place to live as soon as possible! Seeing the principle balance on our mortgage go down each month is motivating and slightly addicting. We understand that we might not always be at a place in our lives where we are able to pay extra, which is why we are trying to take advantage now!
  4. We are known to be homebodies, especially in the winter, so we have been making a conscious effort to spend more time with people we love. We have been meeting up with other couples for dinner, drinks, brunch, etc. We spent the last three weekends in a row with family. We also plan on meeting up with five friends on our next big trip! Anybody else want to join in on the fun?
  5. We just purchased a camera and plan on meeting up with a friend (who just so happens to have been our wedding photographer) to learn more about it this weekend! As I type this, Mat is messing around with the different settings. I may or may not have just made him do some karate/ninja moves to test out the action setting. We definitely have a ways to go on this goal, but at least we have started!
  6. We also have a ways to go on our bedroom remodel, but we have completed the most important task-getting a king sized bed! Oh it’s so wonderful. I always feel like I get in it too late and have to leave it too early in the morning. I want to lounge in it all day because it’s so big and inviting. New West Elm bedding doesn’t hurt either. 😉
  7. We sort of fell into a collaboration of sorts with Venture Magazine and are stoked about it! The individuals we have met through this magazine are amazing and we can’t wait to get even more involved in this community! We also did a rad photo shoot collaboration with the ever entertaining Damon of Dynamic Shutter Photography. I also was a part of a photo shoot/event for an amazing cause, Speak Your Silence. More on that when I can give some sneak peeks. I also have another collab coming up next week that I am SO excited about! All I can say at this moment is that it involves some insanely talented individuals, including personal stylist (and my friend!) Laura Tully, amazing photography duo Ben and Joella, and Will from Flowers at Will.

    Couples Workout

    Some fun collabs with Venture Meridian Magazine so far!

  8. So far (thanks my brilliant husband) we have saved roughly $10,000 in travel costs. This includes flights to San Diego, our hotel in Houston, as well as flights and hotels for our big trip coming up to New York, Italy, Malta and Chicago. We have a few more tricks up our sleeves, but will wait until things are finalized before sharing.
  9. To be honest, we have done nothing to further our learning of a second language. Now that we carpool to work, I talk the whole drive (not surprising, I know) so Mat isn’t able to listen to his Rosetta Stone. We need to carve out some time on the weekends for this, as it helps immensely when traveling. Mat picks languages up MUCH faster than I do. I actually think it’s not possible for me to learn another language. This is me. For real.
  10. Guess how many times we have been to a yoga class this year? The answer is zero. We need to work on that. Any suggestions on where to go? Please let us know, we need help in this area!

Now is a great time to check in on the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. Remember, don’t focus on the negatives, but celebrate the positives! That will give you more energy and encouragement to get back on track with your goals. I’m always down to celebrate any accomplishment, no matter how small it might be. Speaking of that, I think it’s time to open some wine to celebrate our progress.

2016 Game Plan

photograph by Ali Smith Photography

2016 Game Plan

photograph by Ali Smith Photography

Tips Travel

Travel Prep Part 1 – Public Transportation

February 6, 2016

Anytime someone tells me they have a vacation coming up and I ask “got everything dialed in for your trip?” and they answer “meh, we’ll figure it out when we get there”, I wanna blow my brains out.  Not because they don’t have a bunch of events/excursions/tours booked, but because they haven’t put thought about ANY of the details that could literally make or break their trip.  Packing, food, transportation, hotels, dining, site seeing, etc. are all things you can have figured out before you head to your destination.

Being that Lacey and I are super OCD when it comes to this topic, we’re going to share our thoughts in a multi-post, Travel Prep, series.

First up – Public Transportation

Alright, so let’s say you’ve just arrived at your destination (by using our best practices for booking a free flight of course 😉 ).  When you walk off the plane and out those airport doors to a city you’ve never been to, do you have a plan? If not, you’re already wasting precious vacation time and you’re likely feeling super awkward and uncomfortable…not to mention standing out like a sore thumb as being a dumb shit tourist.  Not only does it totally suck to be in this position, it also lets any scam artist know that you’re a easy target.

We’ve all been there, I know I have.  It is an overwhelming and embarrassing feeling.  Well here’s the good news, you never have to go through this again if you spend a little time before-hand doing some public transportation Travel Prep.

Start by doing a Google search on your destination city.  Get an idea of all forms of public transportation available.  Do they have a metro? Do they only have buses? Do they have both? I know most cities have taxi/uber services, but why spend $50 getting to your hotel when the metro costs $2?  Spend that extra cash on a celebratory “we’re here!” bottle of booze at dinner that night.

Louvre Paris Bus Stops Travel Prep

Buses in Paris will drop you off right outside the Louvre.

Did you pick your preferred form of public transportation? Now find out if you can pre purchase a travel pass online and have it mailed to you.  Overkill? Maybe, but this will help you avoid a confused walk around the metro or bus station looking for a way to purchase your ticket.  You’ll already have your pass in-hand, ready to use, like the rest of the locals.  Even though it’s pretty easy to find a ticket machine at a metro or bus station, I’ve run into many cases where the ticket machines are out of order OR for some reason they only accept certain types of payment.  Just a couple of the reasons to buy your pass before your trip if it’s an option.

Taking this a step further, most transportation services now have YouTube vids on how to use/swipe their cards at the station.  Watch these vids a few times to get super comfortable with the process so by the time you get to the station you’re a pro.  No more holding up lines while you get stuck at the subway turn style.

Below is an example vid for Chicago’s Ventra Card.  Kind of a silly video, but at least you’ll feel dumb in the comfort of your own home instead of in a crowded train station.

Ok, great, so you made it to the train station and through the turn style gates.  Now what?  None of the giant signs have the name of your exact stop on ’em…shit!  Are you in the right place? Where do you go? What train are you supposed to get on? Again, the feeling of being an awkward dumb ass rushes over you.  But wait, you can avoid this hiccup too!

Here’s where the internet comes in handy again.  Once you’ve decided which form of public transportation you want to use (before your trip), look up their daily routes and departure/arrival times.  You’re looking for a map similar to the one I found below for our upcoming trip to Rome.  I know that we’ll be starting at the TERMINI station and that we’ll need to get to the S. Pietro (St. Peter’s Basilica) stop.  The Ottoviano/S.Pietro stop will NOT be on the main signs in the TERMINI station.  Instead the signs will have the final destination of that route on the sign.  So for the example below, I will be looking for the red line to Battistini.  I know that our Ottoviano/S.Pietro stop will be the 6th stop along the way.

Roma Termani Routes Travel Prep

Making this even easier, nowadays there are TONS of public transportation apps you can download that will help with your trip.  These apps will give you all of the routes and arrival times.  Here is a really cool public transit app that we’ve been using lately.  You can also do a simple AppStore/Google Play search for “Your City + Public Transportation”.

Simple enough right? For a lot of you, this might be common sense.  For the rest of us that drive cars everyday instead of using public transportation, this can be intimidating.  It definitely was for me.  By spending just a few minutes researching this stuff before your trip, you can take the stress off of a big portion of your trip.  Being in a new city is overwhelming enough with all of the new sites and sounds, the last thing you want to worry about is getting lost.  Spend less time being lost and confused and spend more time enjoying your trip!

Rio Maggiore Train Station

Train Station in Riomaggiore, Italy the day after getting engaged!

 

I hope this helps! Let us know if you have any questions.

Lifestyle

Game Plan for 2016

January 16, 2016

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, we decided to make an entire game plan for 2016.  A lot of our goals will require weeks or months to plan so we’re starting now to make sure we get as much of this stuff done as possible.  From travel, to home remodeling, to learning new languages…our list is kinda all over the place.  Check out our process and decide if making your own list might help you achieve more this year.

Right away we noticed some immediate benefits from making this list.  First of all, making our list forced us to think about and talk about 1. WHY it was a goal? and 2. HOW could/would we be able to accomplish it? Adding notes to our goals helped us get an idea of how much time and planning each goal will require.  Sharing our list with you guys is already resulting in us feeling a greater level of accountability for achieving these goals.  We realized that now that we have this list, we can check back in on it every month to track our progress.

We set our sites on a few lofty goals because we want to do our best to keep up with the eventful pace we set for ourselves in 2015.  You can read more about that here.  I don’t think we’ll ever be able to top last year (cuz we got married!), but below is how we’re going to try…

Visit at least 10 different cities

  • With 7 cities already being booked (with rewards points), we should be able to hit this mark.  So far, we’ll be visiting San Diego (for Rihanna), Houston (for the Final Four), New York City, Florence, Rome, Malta, and Chicago.  If all goes well in the coming months, we should be adding Maui to this list
  • To make sure we get to the last few cities to complete our goal of 10, we’re going to keep learning about the points planning/travel hacking process through our friends at 10xtravel.com
Florence-Duomo | DitchingNormal

very excited for Florence in May

Continue Downsizing junk and bills

  • Right now, we have 2 cars.  While it’s pretty awesome to have 2 cars, we don’t need both and could eliminate about $4,000 in bills by getting rid of one of ’em. That being said, anyone wanna buy a suburu outback sport?
  • We’re about to do some major spring cleaning and plan on getting rid of any unnecessary items we find.
Donation Bags | Ditching Normal

Haven’t worn it in a few months? Take it to GoodWill!!!

Continue Paying off Mortgage ASAP

  • We’ve been able to keep up with paying double on our mortgage for the past 6 months or so, but we’re hoping to paying a bit more once we ditch a car.
  • How are we going to do this? By utilizing credit cards rewards points to discount our travel costs.  You can read more about this process here.
Downtown Boise Condo | Ditching Normal

Hopefully we can pay off this little guy soon!

Spend More Time with Family and Friends

  • Travel, live events, and life in general is more fun when you’re spending it with loved ones.  Get ready to spend more time with the Thompsons this year!
  • We’re going to reach out to friends and family to travel with us more along with other things.
excited to meet this crew in Malta this summer

excited to meet back up with this crew in Malta this summer

Improve our non-existent Photography Skills

  • This includes getting a decent camera and finally learning how to use one.
  • We’ll be bugging our friend Vlad from Radion Photography a whole lot for help!
Muir National Park | DitchingNormal

A favorite pic from 2015

Bedroom Remodel

  • Our downtown condo was pretty beat up when we purchased it as a short-sale a few years ago.  We’ve successfully remodeled every room except for the bedroom so far.  A bedroom remodel, including some new carpet/flooring, larger bed, and a better closet space, are LONG overdue.
  • How are we going to do it? Well, with some help from YouTube DIY videos, we’re hoping to cut costs by doing the work ourselves.  We’ll likely use the money from (hopefully) selling a car, to help us get a king sized bed.

More Collaborations

  • We’re looking forward to working with as many creative minds as possible this year.  Photogs, bloggers, travel addicts, and anyone else that has a passion for making life exciting.  If you fall in this category…hit us up!!!
  • How are we going to do this? By stepping out of our comfort zones and initiating communication with the talented folks we’ve grown to admire.  Emails and social media messages will likely lead the way!
Vintage Style Bride

recent collaboration with Radion Photography, Ira and Lucy, and Next Adventure Studio

Save $15,000 or more by Traveling with Rewards Points

  • Wouldn’t that be awesome to say at the end of the year?  We’re over half way there so far.  It’s going to take some serious planning to finish out this goal though.  We’re all ears to any tips you may have.
  • How are we going to do this? By continuing to plan a head with reward points traveling.  The planning we did last year has resulted in us saving nearly $9k already this year.
Our recent trip we booked on points was featured on 10xtravel.com

Our recent trip we booked on points was featured on 10xtravel.com

Continue Gradually Learning a 2nd Language

  • Lacey’s going to be working on Spanish while Mat keeps puttering through Italian.  The plan is to try and make traveling a bit more comfortable while visiting these countries.  Comprende?
  • How are we going to do this?  We have the Rosetta Stones for these languages and are going to start scheduling at least 2 days a week to sit down for an hour or two of studying.  Once we get the basics, we’ll look for some in-person classes we can sign up for.

Start Mixing in Some Yoga

  • We’ve had a few more aches and pains over the past year that are likely due to our lack of flexibility.  While lifting weights is fun, we need to start taking care of our joints as well.  We’re thinking of trying out Sage Yoga in Boise.
  • How are we going to do this? This ones fairly straight forward.  We’ll get signed up for classes at Sage! Stay tuned for possible review of Sage Yoga.