6 Free Tools That Make My Online Life Easy + Awesome

free-blogging-tools
This blog post has been gathering dust in my drafts folder for, oh, always. I want to write posts for you guys that are clever, inspirational, and filled with ideas that make your online life more awesome.

I also assume that you already know about the piles of tools/apps/platforms available to you. But one person’s obvious is another person’s you just changed my life with this information, right?

If you’d like to know about the free tools I use, hop over to my small business blog. If you don’t care about free blogging and social media tools, here’s a cool cat hoodie.

You don’t owe anyone your pretty (or your intrigue or your ambition, for that matter)

you don't owe anyoneWhen my friend Amy* was in her twenties, she was competition-level Maneater. If you could medal in OkCupid and making out with dudes in bar bathrooms, she would have made it to the podium.

Every time we’d meet for drinks or dinner, we’d all wait with baited breath to hear about her latest hijinks – how were things going with The Handsome Dumb Dentist? Was she going to see Shy Professor again? On some level, those of us who were partnered up (or less romantically aggressive) were living vicariously through her dating and smooching choices.

About a year ago, Amy found her Person – she’s so happy and we’re so happy for her! That being said, I’ve heard more than a few joking/not joking mumbles of “She’s not nearly as fun now” and “If Amy partnered up and boringed out, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

Amy does not owe us a fascinating, frequently changing, hilarious personal life.

Maybe you’ve been wearing Pinterest-worthy outfits for the last ten years, topped with carefully styled hair and a flawless cat eye. But your life is changing – because you moved, got a new job, had a kid – and you’re turning into a jeans/t-shirt/chapstick kind of lady.

We do not owe anyone our pretty. We’re allowed to look and dress and style ourselves in a way that works for the life we’re living right now.

You’ve been clawing your way up the corporate ladder for years. You head All The Committees, you have the corner office, the assistant, the shoes that clickity clack importantly when you walk down the hall. And allofasudden, you’re over it. You bail on the six figure salary to reassess and retrain.

We do not owe anyone our ambition. We don’t need to exist for anyone else’s professional inspiration.

You’ve lived in 15 cities in the last 12 years. You’ve switched careers three times (photographer > graphic designer > entrepreneur) and dated people who have adjectives for names. You’ve ridden your share of elephants and camels and your life looks amazing on Instagram. All you really want is a two-bedroom house in the suburbs near your parents, a steady paycheck, and to stop assessing life through your phone.

We do not owe anyone our intrigue. We don’t have to keep living a life we’re finished with just because it looks good on the internet.

We all want to be (and have) supportive friends. When someone’s life changes and it’s no longer a source of ‘entertainment’ or ‘inspiration’ it’s probably because they’d rather be the person we see in front of us now.

….

Have you ever struggled with this – either evolving out of the life that people expect you to lead or having a friend dramatically change? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

*Not her real name because I want my friends to keep talking to me

photo by Death To The Stock Photo

Yes Spaces: Ben’s Airy Southern Loft

After a bit of a sabbatical, we’re back with house tours of real homes (aka: furniture that doesn’t cost $2,000) belonging to real people (aka: not celebrities). We’re starting with my friend Ben’s loft; when I stopped by on my road trip I fell all over myself asking him to photograph it for us!

southern loftInternet homes: blog // instagram
Length of time in home: 6 Months
I share my home with: I’m 99% sure I share it with a ghost from when the building was a tobacco factory


BP_11loft kitchen ideas

What are the three things you love most about your space?
1. The history of the building
2. The abundance of light
3. The fact that I find it inviting to myself

What’s the least awesome, must-work-around aspect of your space?
The complete lack of storage and the electric stove top that I am convinced is the work of the Devil.

BP_14shelfieTell us the story behind one of your favorite pieces in your space!
When I relocated to Winston-Salem I came with absolutely no furniture for my living room knowing that a nearby city (High Point, NC) is the Furniture Capital of the World. I now had access to some of the most beautifully made furniture in the world (and at a discount!). Taking my time to find these pieces was like a treasure hunt that actually paid off.

What are some of the DIYs you’ve tried here?
Though I came with no furniture, I did come with lots of tchotchkes and personal items that I have accumulated over time. I worked with a great friend who has an eye for pairing the unique items I brought with me and the new pieces I’ve acquired since landing here.

BP_10BP_19What’s the strangest place you’ve found stuff for your home?
I wouldn’t call it strange. But one of my favorite pieces in my home are two cuts of wood that a friend of mine in Minnesota had originally intended to use for cutting boards. I like knowing that I have a bit of the Northwoods with me here in the South.

What are your top five sources for design inspiration?
1. My first inspiration is always the space itself. I’ve always been very dedicated to filling a space with pieces that reflect a time when it was built. Here I’ve used more industrial shelving, maps from ages ago, and pieces that are dated but still relevant.

2. Oddly enough I spend most of my free time putzing in the kitchen. So often I am inspired by what is trending in the culinary world.

3. Keeping myself open to see what other people see. There are many pieces in my apartment that I would never had incorporated but because I was forced to step back and look at the total picture by others these same items have become “must haves”.

4. I still troll magazines at the book store. Bon Appetite, Living, and Garden & Gun are some of my current periodical haunts.

5. Online I am obsessed with Orlando Soria at hommemaker.com. His Instagram game is strong.

Thanks so much for sharing, Ben! If you guys have any loft-decorating questions for Ben, he’d be happy to answer ’em!

True Story: I Accidentally, Unexpectedly Gave Birth At Home

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Aya and her unexpected home birth.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am an almost-thirty year old mom of three living in Toronto. I work in administration at an NGO I am passionate about. I love cooking for my family, stalking ASOS for new arrivals, refreshing my Feedly reader, and watching movies with the subtitles turned on. I speak three languages and there is a 90% chance I am taller than you. I blog, too!

What was your pregnancy like? 
It was my first pregnancy. It was a very stressful time as I had just gotten married, moved to a new home, and gotten a new job at the same time as getting pregnant. Medically, it was uneventful except for crushing, debilitating, “morning sickness.” I suffered from nausea and vomiting all day long from the beginning of the pregnancy up to and including the birth. I recall vomiting in wastebaskets at work and in my lunch bag on the bus.
How did you imagine the birth going? 
I tried to avoid imagining it! I was so preoccupied with other things going on in my life at that time that I did not even have a hospital bag packed when I went into labor. I wanted to deliver in my hospital, but I did not want an epidural. Besides for my concerns about their side effects, I am utterly terrified of needles. Having to stick a needle in my back is much scarier to me than giving birth.
Tell us about the night before you gave birth.
I was 37 weeks along in my pregnancy and I had just stopped working the day before. That night we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. My husband and I went out to eat at a Middle Eastern eatery and ate a delicious meal of greasy shawarma and fries. Afterward, we invited our family over to our home for drinks and a triple chocolate cake. We had a great time together and I went to sleep feeling wonderful.
When you woke up feeling sick, what did you think was happening?
I woke up at around 6 am with a churning, crushing pain in my stomach. I woke my husband up and told him that I must have gotten food poisoning from the sketchy restaurant the night before. He said that he didn’t feel anything amiss and it would probably pass if I got some rest. I tried to go back to sleep, but the pain just kept getting worse.
At what point did you call for help? When did you realize you were actually in labor?
I called my mom around 10 am and asked her to come over. At that point, I was stuck on the toilet, vomiting nonstop. I was afraid to leave the bathroom because kept feeling like I needed to poop. Sitting on the toilet felt more comfortable than any other position. After a couple of hours of this, my mom tried to convince me to call an ambulance but I wouldn’t hear of it. I think my exact words were, “I refuse to get up from this toilet ever again.” I refused to accept that I was in labor. It was three weeks too early, my water hadn’t broken, and the pain did not feel like contractions.
Was it scary giving birth without any medical help?
I am extremely fortunate that my mom is an MD though not an obstetrician. Eventually, she dragged me off the toilet and ordered me to lie down on my bed. It was just in time as she saw the baby’s head crowning. She called 911 on my cell phone. Believe it or not, they told her to push the baby back into the birth canal and wait for the paramedics! She ignored them and told me to push. A few minutes later my daughter was born and my mother caught her.
It actually didn’t feel any more frightening than giving birth with medical help, which I did two more times in the hospital. What this experience taught me is that on a fundamental level, a woman’s body knows how to give birth without outside intervention. I felt safe at home with my mother by my side, and I had no preconceived fears or notions about what should happen or what I must do. In this respect, it was possibly even less scary than my subsequent births.
What happened after help arrived?
Right after my daughter was born, an army of emergency personnel showed up. The firefighters were the first to arrive and they were very happy and excited for me. They cut the cord and wrapped up me and the baby in warming blankets. The paramedics and police officers arrived next. The paramedics checked me, put the baby on me to breastfeed, and stabilized us both in preparation for transport to hospital. A male paramedic scolded me in the ambulance for not getting to the hospital quicker. The nurses and doctors in the hospital seemed quite surprised that I had managed to have a healthy baby all on my own! I feel so blessed that this story had such a happy ending.
I’m sure this is a story your child will be telling for the rest of their life! What does she think about it?
She is still young enough that she doesn’t really comprehend the details yet. We live in a different home now and she likes to point out the apartment building where she was born when we drive by. She knows that most babies are born in the hospital and she feels being born at home is special. I imagine the story will be more interesting to her when she gets older. I hope it inspires her to consider an unmedicated, natural childbirth when she has children.

Thanks so much for sharing, Aya! Do you guys have any questions for her? Do any of you have non-traditional birth stories? My partner delivered his youngest son in a bathtub because they couldn’t get to the hospital in time!

Web Time Wasters

 I’m on a six-week road trip around the U.S. and Canada (you can follow along on Instagram) so I’ve asked some of my favorite internet friends to fill in while I’m out and about!

image - Sarah guest postHi, I’m Julie.  Doctor, mom, and blogger. I spend part of my day teaching big people about health (my clients) and the rest of the day teaching little people about life (my four children).  Through all this, I’ve learned couple of things: One, neither life nor health are destinations. They are journeys.  And wherever you are on your particular journey is just fine, as long as you keep moving forward.  Two, whenever you’re not feeling good about yourself, refer back to number one.

Here are some secrets to living a long, happy life on this planet, while looking great in shorts. Because let’s face it, being healthy feels great, and looking good feels great.  But when you combine the two?  Unstoppable.

Are varicose veins stopping you from fully embracing shorts season this year? It turns out the bacteria in your mouth might be to blame!   But all hope is not lost – oil pulling may help.  Here’s how to do it.

We’ve all heard chocolate is good for our health but usually it’s that really dark kind that most of us don’t eat. Here is a study that says even milk chocolate appears to have health benefits. But don’t eat too much fat and sugar if you want to keep your memory sharp! As with most things, it all about balance.

What if I told you there was a diet that enhances mental performance, increases lifespan and is anti-aging?  A brand new study shows that a four-day, reduced calorie diet may do just that!

If you want to achieve menopause earlier – just keep rubbing toxic chemicals on yourself, including those found in personal products. Here’s the proof.

Unique Advice from 10 centenarians – includes minding your own business, learning to relax, and pigs feet?

Why would we want to live that long? According to this study, emotional well-being improves with age! Happy now = happier later.

And finally, if you’re looking good and feeling good, how about doing the same for the planet. Did you know that paper towels aren’t recyclable? I had no idea! That’s not good considering we use billion pounds/year in the US alone. Did you know that by ditching paper towels you could save an extra thousand smackers in five years? Hello, extra vacation funds! Here are some DIY unpaper towels if you’re feeling crafty. Cute city!

Thanks so much for reading & come visit me here for free, personalized health advice!

June Network Of Nice Hookups – New Florida friends + Career advice + Free writing help

june network of nice
It’s that time of month again! Time to make up for undertipping, not returning your shopping cart to the corral, and not letting that minivan merge.
Here’s the deal:
1) Read through the hookup requests. You see someone you can help? Email them.
2) Read through the hookup offers. You see someone who can help you? Email them.
3) Write kind, thoughtful thank-you email to anyone who was lovely enough to share their time and expertise with you because you’re A Nice Person not an Ill-mannered A-hole.

I need a hookup

I want advice about moving to the North East
I am really wanting to move to the North East  (NYC, Boston, Baltimore, D.C., etc.) and continue to work in Higher Education. I currently work as a student affairs administrator at a large university in Texas. I am looking for advice on the best ways to job hunt, apartment hunt, and friend hunt in these areas. I would also just love correspondence with some fun, intelligent people on what makes their city so great. Motivational pen pals to keep me inspired to make a big move!
hannah.bergren@gmail (dot) com

I am looking for someone to give me some guidance on writing a book
I have dealt with depression for over ten years and am finally making some progress. One thing I really wish I had during my struggle was a guidebook with advice, stories, and insight on how to get through the day today while being depressed. I am a very creative person and have a vision of writing a book that is in a diary/scrapbook format that also offers insightful tips for others with depression. I am in the very early stages but would love some help simplifying my concept. If you are a publisher, editor, or writer please contact me!
catherine@life-collection (dot) com

I’d love to meet people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I’ve recently moved to Philadelphia, and America for that matter, and I’d love to meet some new and friendly faces. This is my fifth big city move and actually fourth country (counting my home country of NZ). I love eating my way through new cities and trying to explore and see as much as I can by foot. If you’re into podcasts, art, gin, crafts – or attempts to craft – baking, cats, and seeing as much of the world on a shoe-string budget, want to grab a coffee with me? Or any advice on how to make the most of this very cool city, I’m all ears!
rozlonsdale@gmail (dot) com
I need advice on living in Seattle, WA.
My husband and I just moved to Seattle from Portland, OR, and I’m trying to get acclimated to our new city. I’d love to know about some good places to take our dog (hikes, bars, dog parks) and about fun adventures to have in the city and surrounding area. I’d also really love advice about the local university / community college scene — I have a PhD and am looking to work in higher ed, but kind of don’t know where to even start!
imisslincoln@yahoo (dot) com

I’m looking for new friends in Florida (or anywhere online!)
I’m a27 year old finishing up a graduate program.  I’ve lost touch with my friends from undergrad, and I’m itching to meet new people. I love crystals, cats, and tea. I’m looking for work in a field that speaks to my soul, but, in the meantime, I’mwatercoloring my guts out. I’d be happy to chat about anything, read your tarot cards, or just exchange pictures of cats doing adorable things.  If you don’t mind cat hair in your cuppa, send me a message.
xspiritedxawayx@gmail (dot) com
I need advice on moving to San Francisco
I’ll be moving to San Francisco in August and starting my first full-time job there. I’ve never been to the area, so I have a lot of questions about where I should live, especially in terms of safety, public transportation, and things to do. If you’ve lived in SF for a while and wouldn’t mind fielding some (or many!) of my questions about living there, please email me!
shelawang@yahoo (dot) com
I’d love to meet someone who is in the outdoor education field
I’m thinking about changing my career from video producer to outdoor educator (or maybe even combine both!). I’d love to meet anyone who has experience in outdoor education teaching and/or guiding outdoor excursions. I’d like to know more about what it takes to become an instructor or program manager in this field and how to get started.
megsimps@gmail (dot) com
I need advice on creating a professional teaching artist website
Hello! I’m a teaching artist and poet, who also works as a freelance writer— and my website needs help! I created it a few years ago, and now that I’m marching off into ‘adulthood’, I need some outside advice on how to create a website that speaks to my many different hats without losing sight of myself. Is it developing a blog? A more interactive portfolio? Help!
downing.cb@gmail (dot) com

I’d love to meet people in Florence
I am a Canadian student studying in Florence for the summer! I would love to meet people to chat with and possibly do language exchange. I’m 24, I love yoga, running and being outside! I love travelling and exploring new places. I love trying different kinds of food. I also really want to do Spartan Race in Milan in June and I’d be interested in travelling to the UK to do Tough Mudder as well. I also like to sing. All of that is a little random, but that’s me!  I’m looking to meet people in order to make the most of my time here!
cberry610@hotmail (dot) com

I want to meet fellow horse riders in the Bay Area
I am looking to meet people in the East Bay of San Francisco who like to go horseback riding at least once a month through a ranch because they don’t have a horse
rhebaestante@yahoo (dot) com

I’d love to meet people in Ottawa, Ontario!
I’ve recently moved to Ottawa, Ontario and would love to meet people in the area!  I’m 24 years old, I’m an elementary school teacher by day and on the side I work in community health.  I love trying new things, happy hours, baking and cooking, big cups of tea, going to the dog park, Barre fitness, thrifting and exploring my new city!  If you’re looking for a new friend, I’d love to hear from you!
9hcb1@queensu (dot) ca

I can give you a hookup!

I can help you learn Mandarin Chinese
I’m a Mandarin/English tutor. So if you’re considering learning Mandarin (Chinese) as a foreign/second language, I can answer any questions you may have and help you decide if you want to go for it. Or if you’ve picked up Mandarin (and have a reasonable command of the language) and you don’t want to get rusty but can’t find anyone to converse with or write to — let’s be friends!
msjaneprivatetutor@gmail (dot) com

I can help you write.
I can generate copy for your business, blog, or whatever else you need! I am also excellent at editing college application essays. I’ve helped many people gain admission into selective universities and programs. If you/ your child/ your cousin’s best friend’s sister is stressing about getting into their school of choice next year, I’m your lady.
rachelpahrnsen@gmail (dot) com

I can talk to you about college
I currently work as an academic counselor at a large university (class, major, life, career counseling). I can offer advice to younger college/older high school students on picking a major, changing majors, receiving disability accommodations at a college, feeling overwhelmed at not knowing what you want to do with your life, or any other issues that age group tends to struggle with. I love helping students figure that stuff out (or vent if nothing else)!
hannah.bergren@gmail (dot) com

I can offer advice on PhDs in literature
I recently finished my doctorate in American Literature at a tier-2 university. I can tell you about the admissions process, the kinds of training and fellowships you can hope for, the job training you can expect and will want to seek out, and the overall job prospects in our field. While I’m very glad to have done the PhD, I am also totally realistic about the dismal tenure-track job market, so I can help you go into your doctoral work with your eyes wide open.
imisslincoln@yahoo (dot) com

I can make you a tutorial of a dance move
I love dancing. If you’ve been searching for tutorials for dance moves and they still don’t make sense, hit me up. I will make an easy to understand and short tutorial. Just email me with the dance move you’re trying to master and what about it is confusing you.
udokaomen@gmail (dot) com
I can give you a free angel reading
I can hook you up with a quick angel reading about business, love or creativity. Any questions you’d like to ask are fair game, as long as you believe they are for the highest good. I will send you a high-definition picture of the reading and an audio recording of the reading for good measure. Come get some cosmic guidance!
therobinrobison@gmail (dot) com

I can write things for you!
Struggling to write about what you’re selling online? I’m a copywriter specializing in helping creative entrepreneurs (that’s you, artists, photographers, writers and crafters!) write clear, authentic copy. I’ll help you describe your work to create an emotional connection with your audience and convince them to click buy. I can write or rework your Etsy page, descriptions, bio, or anything else you need that’s less than 500 words.
cristinsteding (at) gmail (dot) com

If you have an un-Googleable, non-promotional request or offer you’d like to see in next month’s Network of Nice, send 100-ish words at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org!
photo by elsie the sailor // cc

Gym inspiration for normal people + July ad space

I’m not always as good about working out as I ‘should’ be – I’m quite happy to walk everywhere and do a few granny pushups when the spirit moves me, thanks. But after watching this video I’m ready to book myself into a Zumba class!

But we’re not here just to talk about sweating. Let’s talk about how you can introduce your blog/product/services to more people. Like, 12,000 more people. I’ve got ad space – you might want it.

And as you may have noticed, Yes & Yes was redesigned and my ad space is bigger – but the same price!

Who advertises here? Life coaches. Etsy shops. Indie fashion labels. Travel websites.  Artists.  Designers of all types.Who reads Yes and Yes?  Smart, funny, awesome women.  Mostly 18-35 English speakers – though there are plenty of teenagers and above-35s who stop by as well.If you’re a Big Deal Brand and you’re interested in working together, check out my past partnerships with Blowfish ShoesShutterfly, Uncommon Goods, and 15each.co among others.

Sidebar ad space is available in one, two and three-month packages with pricing discounts at two and three months. All 220 x 100 sponsors will be included in the mid-month sponsor introduction post.

10060300

80 and $200 sponsors also have the option of offering discount codes to Yes and Yes newsletter subscribers (4,400+ people!) at no additional charge.

newsletter screenshot

Some facts about Yes and Yes?
Daily unique visitors: 3,200 – 3,500 a day
Page views: 240,000+ per month
Twitter followers: 7,610+
Facebook fans: 4,820+
Instagram followers: 2,080+
Google Page Rank: 4
RSS feed subscribers (between Feedburner, Bloglovin’, Feedly)12,000+
Newsletter subscribers: 4,400+

Some of the nice things that previous sponsors have said about Yes and Yes?

Having advertised on Yes and Yes in the past, I knew Sarah was the person to contact when I was launching my 21-Day Instagram course. I made nearly a 500% return on my ad investment. If your target client is a smart, savvy young woman with a desire to better herself and the world around her, advertising with Sarah will help you reach her. –Melissa Camilleri, Founder of Compliment, Inc. and the 21-Day Insta-course

I’ve sponsored with Sarah a few times, and each experience has been amazing! The day my sponsored post went up I got five times my usual traffic! Not only is she a breeze to work with and prompt with communication, but she is also genuine and really does want to support other bloggers. So many times, advertising on another blog is a one-way street, but when I sponsor Sarah I feel like we’re supporting each other. It’s wonderful to have someone like her in the blogosphere! – Stephanie, The Loudmouth Lifestyle

Sponsoring Yes & Yes is the single best thing I’ve done to grow my blog’s readership and community.Sarah is a joy to work with and has shared thoughtful ideas to make the sponsorship a real partnership. My data-loving jaw dropped when I looked at site statistics for readers from Yes & Yes: the average (lovely) visitor from Y&Y stayed on my site for 3:22 minutes compared to an average 1:22, the bounce rate was 44% compared to the average 78%, and Y&Y was my second largest traffic source for the month. The community Sarah cultivates on Y&Y is a supportive, engaged group who have kept reading and commenting since I first sponsored Y&Y in March. Thank you, Sarah! – Alicia Johnston, Jaybird

Intrigued? Drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and we’ll get you started!

How To Have The Absolute Best Road Trip Ever (Insights from 6 weeks + 9,000 miles)

roadtrip tips
If we’re friends on Instagram you’ve probably seen me eating southern biscuits, sweating in NYC traffic and visiting weird museums; for the last 45 days, I’ve been working my way around America and Canada on the biggest roadtrip I’ve ever attempted.

While I’m no stranger to road trips, this trip took things to a whole new level and I learned many, many new things about how to drive all over the country without losing your damn mind.

The actual driving part

1. If you, like me, have an old, janky car, consider renting
I know this seems ridiculously, insanely decadent but hear me out.  Rental cars are new, reliable, get great gas mileage and feature things like heated seats, OnStar, and Sirius. My own car features things like roll-down windows, slightly questionable brakes, and 27 mpg.

If you’re road tripping alone or through the mountains, everyone who loves you will appreciate this choice. You will appreciate this choice when you’re driving Highway 1 by yourself as the sun is setting and you’re working your way through those brake pads.

Also: if you’re like me, renting a car for six weeks is literally cheaper than all the repairs necessary to get your car up to par. Also also: if this is a business trip, a rental car is tax deductible. Car repairs are not.

If you’re renting a car, be sure to check if it’s covered by your own car insurance before you take on that super expensive loss damage waiver. 99% of the time, you don’t need it!

2. Have a backup plan for your phone’s GPS
There are huge swathes of the country that a data-less (I’m looking at you, most of Montana). It’s scary to drive through the mountains alone with a phone that’s crapping out. My Garmin uses satellites so it works 99% of the time, even in the middle of nowhere and it never hurts to grab an actual, paper map at those state border welcome stations.

If you don’t have a Garmin, download the amazing Navmii app; GPS with downloadable maps that doesn’t require data.

3. OMG, get AAA
IT IS 100% WORTH IT. You’ll get discounts on hotels and attractions, they’ll jump your car, tow you, and help you when you lock yourself out of your car. It pays for itself in one use and you’ll feel sooooo much better knowing you have it.  (It’s also a great birthday/graduation gift for the traveler in your life!)

4. Fill your phone with awesome, free audio treats
You should be able to check out audio books from your public library or take advantage of Audible.com’s free 30-day trial. Of course, you should also download a jillion podcasts – my favorites are Oh No Ross And Carrie, My Brother My Brother And Me, and You Made It Weird.

If you want to take it to a whole new level (which I always do) you can listen to audio books that match your destination: Grapes Of Wrath for California or The Shipping News if you’re visiting the Maritimes. Or put together a playlist that matches! We listened to surf rock the whole time we were in L.A.

5. Stock your glove compartment with the right stuff
Sunscreen for your left side (yes, really), wet naps, snacks, gum, face spritz so you’ll feel refreshed and clean, cash and change for tolls.

6Limit your driving to less than six hours a day
This is a personal preference, but I don’t like to drive more than six hours a day; I actually prefer about four. Four hours of driving means you can have a leisurely start to your day, make a few fun stops on your route and reach your destination before dark and in time for dinner. More than six hours and I’m cramped, cranky, and too exhausted to actually enjoy the wood paneled supper club with all the horse paintings.

7. Use your cruise control and know the local laws before you go
In my experience (cough, cough) you’re a lot more likely to get pulled over when you’ve got out of state license plates, so just set that cruise to two miles above the speed limit and let people pass you if they’re in a hurry. Right turns on red are illegal in NYC and Montreal and a lot of state troopers want to see your registration – not just your proof of insurance (which is what they ask for in Minnesota).

All these insights are brought to you by my own learned-the-hard-way experiences.

The lodging part

1. (Probably) don’t book your hotels ahead of time
I know this seems counter-intuitive, but when you book lodging ahead of time you’re locking yourself into a location. You’ll feel obligated to stay there even if you find something cool along your route that requires attention and dawdling. You’ll feel obligated to stay there even if the museum is closed and you’d prefer to drive for another two hours that day.

Of course, if you’re staying somewhere specific and awesome (like the Madonna Inn or a bizarre ‘wigwam’ hotel) you should book ahead. Otherwise, I’ve had great success using the Hotwire app once I’m done driving for the day.

2. Make your cheapo motels a bit more homey
I’m a regular patron of the $45 motel. This means I’m extremely accustomed to those horrible, shiny, infrequently washed bedspreads and hard pillows. I make my less-than-luxurious spaces nicer by bringing my very own high-thread count duvet and perfect feather pillow.

Yes, I feel slightly ridiculous every time I trundle them through the halls of a Motel 6, but good sleep is important! Feather pillows are important!

3. If you’re staying with friends, be an awesome guest
I’m sure you already know how to do this, but here’s a refresher, as learned from Mom Von Bargen. Let your hosts know when you’ll be arriving and when you plan to leave. Make your bed every day and/or fold the sofa back up so you’re not monopolizing the living room. Take them out for a meal. Bring them a host gift. Send them a postcard as a thank you note.

4. Ask for a motel room on the upper floors and/or at the end of the building
You won’t wake up when cars pull up and shine their lights into your window and if you’re on the end, it’s that much less likely that you’ll have noisy/creepy neighbors.

The food + health part

1. Bring your own water bottle and coffee travel mug
This is a bizarrely specific suggestion, but I love water bottles with a flip up straw – that way you’re not fumbling with twist off caps or tipping water bottles in front of your eyeballs while you’re driving. When you bring your own coffee travel mug you’re not filling your car with discarded styrofoam mugs from all the delicious gas stations cappuccinos you buy.

2. Eat cheap (and healthily) on the road
IT IS SO EASY TO JUST EAT COMBOS but this is not a good long-term plan. I do the best I can with free motel breakfasts (raisin bran and all the fruit I can manage). Hearty whole wheat bread holds up in a car for several days and makes for great avocado and tomato sandwiches; if you buy cherry tomatoes in the clam shells they’ll last for a few days and not get smooshed.

The other healthy, cheap travel meal I discovered? Those ‘microwave in a bag’ vegetable meals from the freezer section. Most motels have microwaves and most grocery stores carry these. For $2.50 you can make yourself ‘asigo parmesan risotto vegetables‘ or ‘brown and wild rice with brocolli and carrots.’ I’m just dorky enough to travel with my own ceramic bowl and plate so these motel room microwave meals don’t feel tooooo depressing.

4. Start your day with a walk around the town where you’re staying
Let’s be real: I’m not going to maintain a workout plan while I’m on the road. I will, however, lace up my pink tennis shoes and start the day with a 45-minute wander around the town where I’m staying. It’s a nice to feel like you’re actually seeing a place, rather than just passing through. (It’s also a good excuse to ogle front porches and landscaping.)

5. End the day with stretches and a few exercises if you’re feeling ambitious
Driving for 4+ hours every day is hard on your back, shoulders, and hands. These yoga poses help or even these hand stretches. If I’m feeling super ambitious (which I’m usually not) I’ll do 10 minutes of pushups, planks, and sit-ups or I’ll just stretch on the floor while I watch the news.

6. Sunscreen and hats, obviously
But you already knew that, right?

The money part

1. If you’re self-employed, find a way to make your trip at least partially tax deductible
I’ve spent much of this trip meeting up with internet friends and clients, gathering insights and information for future projects, and documenting everything on Instagram – all of which means that I can count certain portions of my trip as a tax deduction. Dreamy, right?

You can do the same by working a conference into your trip, blogging or Instagramming about your adventures, or creating products inspired by it. Use an app to track your receipts; I love Smart Receipts.

Here’s more info about how to make your travel tax deductible. If you’re not 100% sure, schedule a call with your accountant. I work with Fox Tax, an agency that specializes in self-employed creatives – they’re amazing!

2. Use Groupon
If you have the Groupon app on your phone, it will sense your new location and alert you to deals in your new city! My BFF and I saved 40% having all off our skin scrubbed off at the famous Korean spa Tikkun!

3. Eat out for breakfast or lunch
One can not exist solely on motel breakfasts and microwave-in-the-bag meals, but eating out can be expensive! Breakfast and lunch out are always cheaper, rarely require reservations, and you can sample local specialties like cheese grits, chilaquiles, biscuits and sawmill gravy.

4. Travel with a friend
There are many reasons to travel with a friend: it’s a bonding experience and you’ll have someone to share memories with. They will also make gas, food, lodging half as expensive. Here’s how to travel with friends without killing each other.

5. Use a credit card with travel rewards
Credit cards are great for emergencies and they’re great for reward-earning. I put e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g on my Capital One Venture card and on this trip alone, I earned 20,000+ miles. Of course, pay off your card at the end of every month.

The safety part

A note about solo travel and safety: I think it’s important to walk the line between being prepared and being paranoid. In 15 years and 32 countries, I’ve never been mugged, touched, or seriously harassed. 99% of the people in this world are good and kind and they want to help you.

That said, traveling isn’t just about you. It’s also about the friends and family that you’re leaving behind and they will probably feel better about your trip if they know your itinerary and they know you have a good method of self-defense. This self-defense key chain costs $8 and it’ll take you 15 minutes to throw together an itinerary; it’ll make everyone feel better. Just sayin’.

1. Be sensible and trust your intuition
This is the best and most important safety-related advice you’ll ever get. Don’t wander around dicey neighborhood at night by yourself. If a place or person gives you bad vibes, leave – even if it’s awkward. Don’t let your gas tank get too low, don’t drive when you’re tired, pay attention to your surroundings.

2. Be prepared
Here’s what I’ve got in my proverbial and literal ‘not scared box’
* a Garmin for those moments when my phone is out of range
* real actual maps (you can usually get them for free at visitor centers)
* a usb phone charger (one for your car and one that’s portable)
* this self-defense key chain (which the Canadian border guards actually confiscated)
* a gallon of water
* a shared Google calendar with my itinerary and phone numbers of the friends I’ll be visiting
* a road kit with ‘fix a flat’ and road flares
* a list of important phone numbers if I ruin/lose my phone (which happened on this trip)
* a tracker app so a few people can see where I am (for those times when you inadvertently book yourself into a remote ‘man camp’ in the Bakken oil fields)

All the other tips I have

1. Use Roadtrippers.com
So how do you actually find awesome things on your road trip? Things like deep, cold swimming holes in northern New Mexico? Or an ancient pueblo built on top of a butte?

Roadtrippers.com is – hands down – the best travel tool I’ve found. It’s basically Tripadvisor + Googlemaps + Roadside America in one handy, dandy website. It allows you to map routes and see the best stuff in any number of categories – independent restaurants, natural wonders, even “weird stuff.” I looooove it!

2. Ask your social media friends for insights + advice
I bet your Twitter and Instagram buddies have some good ideas for you! My Instagram friend Sarah told me about the Spy Museum in Washington DC (which I loved) and two years ago my world was changed by the reader-suggested Sleep No More which can only be described as “Eyes Wide Shut + a haunted house + performance art?”

3. Know that you can’t see everything ever
At various times on my trip, I’d get disappointed and stressed out that I couldn’t stop and see absolutely every awesome thing that ever existed. I kicked myself for missing the valley of Buddhas in Montana and I didn’t make it to the Esalen hot springs. But the nature of travel (and life) is that we have limited amounts of time and money and that’s okay.

4. Don’t force yourself to see ‘important’ things you don’t care about
I’m not particularly into art museums, cathedrals, or historical tours. I will, however, happily hand over all my money for a ‘sound bath‘ or mermaids. I literally went to Athens and skipped the acropolis. If you don’t feel like seeing something, YOU TOTALLY DON’T HAVE TO.

5. Give yourself a ‘day off’ every once in a while
If you’re traveling for weeks at a time, you will need do laundry, return emails, fill your cooler, and maybe just watch some Netflix in a quiet, dark room. It’s okay to set aside a day or two every couple of weeks for general maintenance, planning, and calm. This time doesn’t mean you’re ‘traveling wrong,’ it means you’re a human and you need time to recharge your batteries.

6. Find a way to capture memories that works for you
I’m way too lazy for scrap booking, but I love to ‘set’ the memories of a trip by using a new perfume. Scent is the sense most closely tied to memory; from now on every time you smell the perfume you used on your trip, you’ll be hiking through the hills of Idaho all over again! I’m also a big fan of the ‘100 memories’ list if you’re traveling with someone.

7. Don’t force yourself to buy souvenirs
For a long time, when I traveled I was obsessed finding The Best, Most Locale-Specific Souvenir Ever. So I accumulated some lovely Chinese teapots and Fijian cannibal forks and Brazilian blow darts guns … and all of that is awesome, but they’re mostly gathering dust in a trunk or bookshelf.

These days, I buy things I love when I travel – tops, earrings, shoes, books. They might not have anything to do with the city where I bought them, but I use them more often than I’ve ever used that cannibal fork. If you really want that cannibal fork, buy it. But you can also buy a cute pair of earrings, a cd from a local musician, or a bottle of wine.

Roadtripping is both an art and a science. I hope this small novel has helped you – if you know someone who’s planning a roadtrip, pass it along!

I’d love to hear from you – what are you best road trip tips? Share them in the comments!

True Story: I’m A Young Latina In The Tech Start Up World

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Jacqueline Ros and her experience working in tech start-up culture as a young woman and a minority. Latinas make up 2% of the tech workforce
Tell us a bit about yourself! 
I’m from Miami, FL and I’m 24 years old. I’m Cuban-Colombian. My love rock climbing, eating desserts and dancing for hours.
I am the CEO and Founder of Revolar. I started Revolar because my little sister was attacked twice before the age of 17. From her experiences, I learned that we can and should do more to keep our loved ones safe. So I patented and developed a wearable personal safety device allows you to connect with your loved ones when at risk.
When you were a kid, fantasizing about your future career, what did you imagine? 
Oh gees, I wanted to do everything! I wanted to be a kung fu master, marine biologist, President of the United States, ambassador, ninja, UNICEF emergency services, social worker, Supreme Court justice… you name it. I’ve always enjoyed learning about a wide variety of topics and am inherently curious about all people and the world around me.
When did you realize that you were particularly good at math, science, and technology-related stuff? 
I was an excellent student because I loved reading. I’m a daydreamer and reading always took me to new worlds. However, I was totally captain of the Brain Bowl in high school and competed in math competitions. My family was very proud and wanted me to go into medicine. My little sister went into nursing, but my passion for learning evolved into a passion for creating. I love seeing the fruit of my labors after a long project. I love building, creating, and bringing people together to work on a common mission.
Tell us a bit about your educational and professional path. 
I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Florida with dual degrees in International Studies and Spanish. I spent every single summer traveling abroad and widening my view of the world. The most influential internship I had was with UNICEF in Geneva, Switzerland.
There are lots of ways to work in tech. What appealed to you about starting your own company?
Creating my own company was a necessity. I needed to keep my sister and family safe after her attacks and the passing of my father. I built a company because it was the best way to get this technology in the hands of my loved ones. From there, I fell in love with the industry and the challenge. It is a continuous learning experiencing and it motivates me every day.
When you were finding investors, hiring programmers, just generally navigating the world of tech startups – how did people react to you? 
Ha! The reactions have been all across the board. I’ve had people tell me they don’t want to work for a woman. I’ve had people say that I’m too young and should let someone else come in. However, overall people have been incredibly gracious, kind, and considerate. My team is the best and I have a whole community rooting for us here in Colorado. I like to live by the motto that the one saying it can’t be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
What are some of the most ridiculous comments you’ve heard?
Unfortunately, a lot of people do not understand how many women have been victims of sexual assault and how many people live in fear every day. They’d like to think it doesn’t affect them. It couldn’t happen to their loved ones. I get it, but it makes it hard. For example, I was once trying to explain to an investor that one of our strengths is that I am a woman in our target market. I am a female between the ages of 18-30. His response was frustrating, “Don’t pull that gender card. I’m from Canada. We don’t have those problems there.”
Have there been any pleasant surprises?
The overwhelming community and team support. I cannot gush enough! So many people have been so kind to us. We are here because of the kindness and support of so many different people at different phases of our development.
Are there any benefits to being a woman in tech? A minority?
I believe it gives me a unique perspective but honestly, the court is still out on this one.
Launching a company is incredibly hard work – without the added challenge of sexism or racism. How do you take care of yourself? How do you keep your spirits up? 
Honesty. I am a reflective person and I take the time to check in with myself. When I need a break, I take it. I surround myself with positive funny people and when I need to get away, I go hang out with them. Also, rock climbing is incredible for helping decrease stress but music can make me happy no matter how I am feeling. My team and my loved ones keep me going to. They make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
What advice would you give to anyone else who’s navigating a challenging professional culture?
If you want it go for it! Just always do your research and due diligence. Energy is not enough, there has to be focus, vision, and a plan.

Thanks so much for sharing, Jacqueline! Do any of you ladies work in male-dominated fields? Do you have any questions for Jacqueline?