If I had to guess, I'd say that the biggest impact will come from the people you meet, so it's worth putting some thought into what sorts of things the people you're most interested in might end up doing (and also whether the thing is conducive to connecting with people). And otherwise, I'd optimize for diversity of experiences. There's so much value in just understanding what's out there and how it can make you think and feel.
Best Independent Women's Liberal Arts College | Cottey College
Cottey College is an independent, women's liberal arts and sciences college in Nevada, Missouri, and is a four-year baccalaureate-granting college. It is currently owned and supported by the P.E.O. Sisterhood.
Women’s historically 2-yr college.
Unbelievable teacher-student ratio, empowerment, support, community.
Really diverse student body (geographically, socioeconomically, etc.)
- Owned and really lovingly supported by the PEO Sisterhood
Probably depends on the particular school founders, but generally an interesting teaching philosophy that fosters curiosity and self-expression and thinking for oneself.
Sierra Waldorf School
"Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility - these three forces are the very nerve of education." -Rudolf Steiner,
In general, I highly recommend study abroad at an early age. I recommend this one in particular because it’s a free scholarship program and by being run by the government, it avoids some of the pitfalls of programs run directly by businesses.
I went my junior year of high school and I think not only was it formative in a sort of “oh my gosh, other countries have come up with solutions to problems my country/culture hasn’t even acknowledged” way, causing me to learn another language in a completely organic setting (which is an experience I think about not infrequently as my mind hunts for words that my native language doesn’t have), but really importantly:
It caused me to meet and become friends with a bunch of other 16 and 17 year olds who were willing to take this kind of bold risk, being away from home for the whole time (through this particular program you weren’t allowed to visit the US), not speaking the language, not having any friends, not having any say in what city or village you lived in or what kind of family you might have, missing your junior prom, etc. etc. — I’m still friends with a couple dozen people from the program; probably one of the most dense collection of friends from anywhere else in my life, despite only actually spending less than 2 months of total days together.
Public applications are accepted. High School Students (15-18 year olds) Participants in the CBYX high school program attend a German high school and live with a host family for their year. The Department of State partners with five organizations for the recruitment of U.S. citizens and placement of German participants in host families in the USA.
BYU Dance Camps
Exceptional faculty from BYU's Department of Dance, along with world-renowned guest instructors, direct and teach our Dance Camps. The BYU Dance Department is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Dance. Due to changes within the Continuing Education Division, Conferences and Workshops has limited the programs offered for Summer 2020.
These are usually offered by the city where you are — they're reasonably priced and they put you in touch with people you would probably not otherwise get to know. I try to sign up whenever I move to a new city. Plus, tennis is a great sport and can be played your whole life long.
(My aunt and uncle are in their early 70s and they’re sometimes the youngsters in the group they play doubles with almost every morning.)
E.g. YMCA Camp Menogyn
Eat lots of gelato, which you can usually get at their street-facing counter (I recommend straciatella as one of your scoops), but also set aside time for a sit-down-and-pore-over-the-menu event to try their version of ice cream sundaes. They're very creative, making spaghetti out of ice cream "noodles" with strawberry sauce or almost creating tropical resort style ice cream cocktails. I happen to really like their yoghurette and Amarena Bechers.
Go to a "Sauna park" like this one near Osnabrück:
Genießen Sie einen Tag Urlaub direkt vor der Haustür in der Loma-Sauna mit angrenzendem Spa & Beauty-Bereich.
(and if you see me in person, ask me to describe the experience)
Eat lots of croissants
Specifically chocolate ones and almond ones.
Eat lots of cheese.
When you can, opt for getting a “prix fixe” where you get to choose a starter, a main, and a desert and they throw in a glass of wine. It’s a different sort of dining experience and a great way to have a leisurely lunch.
Try the duck confit (confit de canard)
It’s slower in the south. Don’t assume that Paris is representative.
I spent a summer near the south eastern coast with my friends after graduating from high school, and of all our adventures, our trip to Cornwall was the most magical. The sandy beaches were lovely and we stayed in a hostel in Penzance that was somehow simpler and yet brighter and more welcoming than anywhere else we’d stayed.
If you go to Barcelona, I have food recommendations:
The people we were with in Barcelona went on this amazing food tour one day ("Devouring Barcelona") and while we didn't go (it was really expensive), we did manage to get their menu and itinerary and we made it to one of people's favorites.
The places I can personally vouch for are as follows:
From the tour:
Carrer de Sant Domenèc, 16
This is supposedly incredible: (so good that the croquette was completely sold out by the time we arrived) "Bomba" potato and ground beef croquette with brava sauce and alioli (this is a classic--sliced potatoes with brava sauce "patatas bravas" is super Barcelona)
In Barcelona you also have to try the jambon iberico--which is some sort of salami.
From a different guide book, we ended up at La Plata, a tiny tapas place that only serves three little things: fried whole sardines (we ordered a couple plates after devouring the first), tomato bread (you also HAVE to eat this while in Barcelona but not necessarily here) oddly topped with anchovies and sausage, and tomatoes/onions/olives on a plate. It's like a place you stop in for a snack, but an amazing artisanal snack not far from the water.
Carrer de la Mercè, 28
neighborhood: Barri Gòtic (they close between 3:30-6:30pm, so watch out for that--this is a pretty widespread problem in Spain; they take their siestas seriously)
The most incredible meal I've maybe ever had--super fancy food yet was something like $70 for three people including wine (we literally took a picture of the receipt it was so astonishing)--was at a place called Somorrostro. Completely mind blowing.
It's in La Barceloneta (a neighborhood on a peninsuala by the water)
Carrer de Sant Carles, 11
Open 1pm-midnight daily
There was approximately 5x as much tomato on their tomato bread than we were served anywhere else in Spain. And there were some sort of epic ahi tartar thingys on crackers with all sorts of thoughtful flavors smooshed together. We also got a pot of mussles in garlic sauce (in addition to a pot full of misc shellfish) and we had to keep protecting that pot as we soaked our bread in the heavenly sauce...omg.
I can't vouch for whichever DJs will be there on any given night, but it's one of the coolest little clubs I've ever been to. It's in a part of town where there are other places to go if it's lame. Look up nightclubs on google maps if you are looking for places -- it's not a strip where you can go from place to place, they are discreet doors in the small alleyway type streets. Speaking of which, it's worth wandering the small streets of the Gothic quarter during the day.
The best time to go is probably the earliest possible during their Thursday night Nightlife. The rainforest closes first.
If there aren't crowds or if you have snacks and time to kill, catch the cablecar from Powell St, up over the hill (with views of the Bay Bridge along the way!), to Fisherman's Wharf.
If you've planned ahead and scheduled a visit to Alcatraz (which I've heard is really cool — there are also spooky night tours I think), you can easily catch the boat from this neighborhood. Otherwise, you can usually get tickets for a Bay cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet and for an hour you'll get to go out under the Golden Gate and loop around Alcatraz. (You can sometimes get discounted tickets via groupon or other similar sites). Just remember it's cold and windy out there, so bundle up!
You can do touristy things on Pier 39 when you get back: clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, chocolate fudge, or just check out the sea lions.
Sometimes I'll walk/hike up to Coit Tower afterwards, but these days the Exploratorium is at Pier 15, so if you're trying to pack everything in at once, you can just walk along The Embarcadero and check it out. Or you can keep going to the Ferry Building and find something delicious to eat.
I used to frequent happy hour at Hog Island Oyster company. Delicious beer, delicious bread and butter, and of course, oysters. They don't have specials anymore, but it's still a fun experience.
I have had very few experiences at resorts, but over a decade ago I was lured to Indian Springs because of their winter special (if you stay one night, you get a free volcanic ash mudbath in their spa — steam room, claw foot tubs, cucumber water, the whole deal — in addition to access to their spring-fed pool). The local grocery store has cheese and wine and other delights for a picnic in the hotel and it's easy walking distance to the main street for a fancy dinner or hearty brunch.
For takeout (there's only seating for a few people at a time), try Avatar's Punjabi curried sweet potato (+meat) burritos or rice plates (cash-only)
To the North, there's Gerstle Cove (you can daytrip to
To the South, there's the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve for daytripping
There's also the Año Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area where you can see the Elephant Seals — you'll need to schedule a tour if you go during breeding season (which I recommend — Valentine's Day is a good target). Bring binoculars.
Near Mammoth: My favorite hike of all time is the 20 mile loop from the Agnew Meadows campground to Thousand Island Lake. While you're in the area, you should visit Devil's Postpile and swim in the (eerily warm) Starkweather Lake. (You can only drive in with your own car if you have a camping reservation.)
Highway 395 is in the rain shadow of the Sierras (which are tall enough to capture the clouds and make their own weather) but is still pretty lush from the snowmelt. With the mountains on one side and the desert on the other, it’s a wonderful drive; somehow the light is particularly magical and as a bonus it also boasts a smattering of hot springs.
In the Valley, highly recommend the Mist Trail (very very popular and very easy to at least get to the bottom of Vernal Falls), but then continue up to the less visited Nevada Falls and loop back along the JMT for a different view and different experience (and to save your knees and avoid the crowds coming down the steps by Vernal Falls).
Also recommend getting drinks and snacks at the cheaper bar inside the Ahwahnee (outdoor seating!) and using it as an excuse to check out the big fireplace and peek in the formal dining room.
Even if you’re just there for the day, it’s good to stop and walk to the base of Yosemite Falls. I think it might even be wheelchair accessible at this point.
During the day, it’s really cool trying to find tiny climbers on the face of Half Dome and El Capitan and even more magical to look again at/after nightfall when you can see even more of them because of the light from their headlamps as they settle in for the night. 🧗♀️
If you’re into climbing, you can often find the climbers’ friends near the base of El Capitan with telescopes. If you’re friendly, they’ll often answer questions and let you get a better look. 🔭
Take the architecture boat tour. Kinda pricey, but well worth it. Great way to see the city and get your bearings + understand cool things about the history of the city and the river. I didn’t know or really care about architecture, but I do care about “neat building with cool backstory” or “new way of thinking about the city as you walk around.”
🚙 If you decide to rent a car, choose one with significant clearance — in the rainy season many roads are partially or completely submerged for long periods after the rain has stopped.
📵 Cell phone coverage is very limited; if you are used to using day-passes from your carrier when traveling internationally (e.g. Verizon travel pass), know that you will probably need to find WiFi somewhere for real internet access.
I’ve never been, but my sister sent wonderful emails while she was living/traveling there in the fall of 2002:
You can get same-day passports in places like SF if you can go in person (usually you’ll need a paper copy of an international itinerary that shows you’re traveling within 2 weeks).
You can process an application at the post office, but also consulates, and sometimes city hall. I’ve never tried the services that claim to be able to expedite.
Global entry requires an appt at a major international airport—if you don’t want to deal with the hassle, you can complete the interview upon reentry; that is, you land back in the US from an international flight, and then you talk to someone and give your biometric data while going through customs.
This is my favorite carryon suitcase — there’s something magical about the way that all 4 wheels can rotate so that it can roll alongside you without being dragged, but the wheels also magnetically stick in the direction you’re trying to go, which leads to a much smoother experience. (and at 21”, it’s just small enough that I don’t stress too much about needing to gatecheck it).
(They make ones with chargers built into them, but the airlines are worried about hazards and I hear them over the intercom telling people they’ll need to prove that there isn’t a battery in the charging slot while boarding, so it seems better to skip that particular upgrade.)
This is similar to my advice for planning events — think through what's going to happen, step by step, and imagine what you'll want/need in each of those moments.
But also: don't worry too much. Figure out exactly what you absolutely need, and make sure you have those things. Everything else you can probably borrow or buy.
(in case other people handle your luggage or for cleaning your seating area—you can store a few in a ziplock bag)
(especially if you are going to take off your mask to eat or if you tend to rub your eyes)
Headphones for listening to your devices or plugging into the in-flight entertainment system
Noise-cancelling headphones are really really calming and wonderful on airplanes. Bose has over-ear models (they come with a carrying case, but do take up room) as well as compact ear-bud models, but as long as you don't need them for long-haul flights/or have something to use while they're recharging, Apple airpod pros are maybe the most convenient because of being completely wireless/headgearless (even though they're not quite as good at noise cancelling).
And/or earplugs for sleeping/blocking out other sounds
I usually bring my kindle, but also earphones for tapping into the in-flight entertainment.
Other people bring tablets and/or extra battery packs for their phones (though sometimes there are actually places to plug in USB A or even regular plugs on flights these days—for security, I would plug a battery pack into the port and then your phone into your battery pack, rather than directly connecting it).
I also like using flights as a chill time to gather my thoughts about what's coming next, and I usually have a small paper notebook to jot things down in.
Remember to download any content before you lose wifi/cell phone signal. I use hoopla for audiobooks, spotify for music, and apple for podcasts.
You can bring a jacket and put it on your lap as a blanket or ball it up as a pillow. I like wearing comfy long-johns to ward against cold drafts and I'll often bring a pair of loose wool socks to put on over my regular socks (especially because I like to remove my shoes during long flights)
Don't use hard clips or they'll bump into the headrest. My favorite hair-ties are listed in
Empty through security, but fill up before you board.
Ear things (see above)
Benadryl (use sparingly, but can be good for jetlag as well)
Some kind of pillow object? (I often just use a balled up jacket)
It's maybe not friendly, but I also like to put on a hooded jacket or sweatshirt backwards and pull the hood over my face to block out light and sound and drafts and to signal clearly that I don't want to be disturbed.
(I always seem to get a runny nose when travelling — maybe all the cold air? but they're also good for handling spills)
(the air is often really dry)
(the air is often really dry)
(preferably an anti-inflammatory for helping with body discomfort)
(for after the traveling: extra exposure to germs + being worn down — use to coat the back of your throat where viruses replicate)
(I try to avoid things that might be messy (trail mix can fall between the seats and chips can crumble and cause oil spots where pieces land and chocolate can melt and somehow get to unlikely places) and I also avoid things that might be smelly (packets of olives are great on the go, as are these meat sticks, but maybe not as nice to your neighbors + if you're wearing a mask you're going to be smelling your own breath for a long while) and these days, I want to be able to eat quickly so I can put my mask back on.)
A flosser (in case food gets stuck in your teeth)
For $80, the regular price of an annual pass, you get access to all national parks for the rest of your life (along with the passengers of your car).
Changes to the Senior Pass (U.S. National Park Service)
On August 28, 2017, the price of the America the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass increased for the first time since 1994. The additional revenue will be used to enhance the visitor experience in parks. Learn more about the changes, what they mean for you, and how the additional funds will be used.
Superior National Forest - Special Places
The glaciers left behind rugged cliffs and crags, canyons, gentle hills, towering rock formations, rocky shores, sandy beaches and thousands of lakes and streams, interspersed with islands and surrounded by forest. This unique area is located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota.
This is a magical area on the Minnesota Canadian boarder where you can paddle from lake to lake to lake, camping along the way.
Note: by default, you’ll have to carry your canoe and your pack overland between lakes. 🏋️♀️🛶🎒But you can also look for routes that have fewer or shorter portages.
I went on an epic ~8 day trip back in the summer of 2011 and this was our rough itinerary: Snowbank*-->Boot-->Ensign*-->Vera-->Knife-->Bonnie-->Spoon-->Pickle-->Kekekabic-->Strup-->Wisini*-->Ahmakose-->Fraser-->Thomas-->Hatchet-->Ima-->Jordan-->Adventure-->Jitterbug-->Ahsub-->Disappointment*-->Snowbank!
(maybe this isn't always an "adventure" but it definitely can be!)
Misc food to try
Apparently it started as a Thai thing, but it seems like every major US city has options now. They basically turn cream into ice cream to order and roll it up for you. I recommend sticking to creamy flavors and toppings with low water content to minimize iciness (e.g. skip the frozen strawberry and try the mocha)
(originally from Safeway) It has semi-hardened fudge swirls that melt in your mouth even when surrounded by ice cream, as well as mini peanut butter cups in a muddy vanilla base. I know the
Engineered in MN to be the best apple in the 1970s, they basically nailed it (and have named it their official state fruit). I keep them in the fridge and they’re always crisp but still very wet, flavorful, sweet and tart without any kind of dry pucker feeling. I always feel a little bad smothering them in nut butter 🙃 but I’m generally after the extra protein and calories and the pairing is delicious, especially with a glass of milk.
Sweet and creamy and strange. You get to decide whether to stir it or drink it unmixed through the straw they come with. Often comes with way too much ice, so maybe look around before ordering if you’d like to make a request.
My favorite Vietnamese food. It’s a noodle salad with veggies and pork and “gio” which are fried spring rolls chopped into bite sized pieces and tossed on top for some crunch
Usually it’s CA roll with raw salmon draped on top and then the thin slice of lemon. In the SF Bay Area it’s often called “49er Roll” — super refreshing.
Until I tried this raw fish, I think I didn’t really understand why dolphins would get so excited about doing tricks for fish as a reward. It’s very fishy, while not being fishy at all.
It’s also beautiful, with swirls of blue and black on its skin.
Not too different from Thai iced tea, but with the inclusion of small chewy marbles of tapioca that you suck up through the oversized straw they give you with your drink. There are many flavors and many alternatives to the default tapioca balls and you can also dial down the sweetness when ordering, e.g. “25% sugar”
Korean food is delicious and I would maybe just go for the many tiny plates of strange foods they bring out while you wait for your order (this is how I learned about kimchi). Their bbq is famous as well and it’s difficult not to order a plate of bulgogi for the table, but my go-to is simple, often vegetarian, and won’t break the bank. Stoneware bibimbop is ~rice with veggies and a fried egg served in a superheated bowl that will continue cooking the rice on the edges, turning it crispy. You’ll want to try adding some of the red sauce on the table (akin to siracha) and you’ll want a small bowl of spicy tofu soup to dip your crispy rice in.
Spicy tofu soup doesn’t have the little cubes of tofu that I was accustomed to growing up. Instead, it’s made with soft tofu that basically flows to fit your bowl, broken up with the lava of a vibrant hot red flavorful broth.
On their special flat spongy sourdough “enjera.”
e.g. Ye misir Wot, Atakilt, Gomen, Buticha and Kik Alicha.
If you are eating with a buddy, I would also recommend adding an order of raw beef (kitfo) and/or some of their saucy/spicy cooked meat options (derek tibs?)
When I was growing up, Brussels sprouts were boiled: over cooked, water-logged, awkward to cut into smaller pieces but big enough to be uncomfortable and very likely to burn my mouth.
Hipsters have changed all this: crunchy, flavorful, bite-sized — a perfect appetizer to share. I wish I could send you to a particular restaurant type or even a chain, but unless you come visit, you’ll just need to keep your eye out. Best bet is a place that’s a bit of a brew-pub.
- See also Food & Entertaining