Travel

Perplexing pre-trip perceptions

All vacations & trips are accompanied by a sense of excitement and anxiety, right? I find that the magnitude of the adventure always scales perfectly with the level of excitement.

When I was planning my trip to Asia, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d never been abroad and all I knew of the Orient was based on half-remembered history lessons, American interpretations of cuisine, and a sampling of anime friends forced me to watch (and I’m so glad they did!).

Now that we have left Dayton and are in Chicago, it’s starting to sink in – I’M GOING TO CENTRAL AMERICA (henceforth known as ‘CA’)! What will it be like there? In Asia, I was surprised at the [lack of] traffic laws. So many scooters going all the time with no lanes or order what. so. ever. Are scooters a primary form of transport in CA? Will there be plentiful street food? How about stray animals abound? Or will it be very similar to America with blue jeans and cellular service?

Of course, the obvious answer is: It will be just like it is – Central America, its own unique culture. I enjoyed traveling through Asia successively, it allowed me to notice the differences across the various Asian cultures. With each nation having its own language, and CA being primarily Spanish speaking, will the countries be as notably different as they are in Asia?

Tonight, I’ll start finding out. We arrive in Mexico City this afternoon. I’m crossing my fingers for some overlap in the “street food” category – I’d love to get my hands on some street corn (elote) for dinner!

Wish me luck!

Travel

BIG SUMMER NEWS

HellloooooOOOOoOOooOOooo!!! Guys, I haven’t updated you in forever. That means something big must be cooking, right? Right!

Just like everyone else in the world, I’ve just been ‘so super busy’ that I haven’t been able to sit down and post. There’s some truth to that – this last year was crushing. I’ve been super busy with school & work, but deeper than that, I didn’t feel I was doing anything that was so awesome it was blog post worthy. I try to have little adventures and change it up, but do you need to know about that strange new road I took to work? I wouldn’t want that info clogging up my inbox! This post though, yeah, totally inbox worthy.

While it wasn’t announced on ZoomGoes, this time a year ago I fearfully took the first step into an adventure I wasn’t sure I was ready for – folding back into the ranks of ‘college student’. Up until this point in my life, I was a terrible student. Like, barely-graduated-high-school terrible.

Its been a wild 12 months. I’ve sprouted more gray hairs than a rotten potato, completed 1/4 of a bachelor’s degree program for computer science, worked 5 months at an internship I didn’t have to apply for, received my first EVER academic award, was on the Deans list the entire year, and suffered through a litany of digestive issues. My friends, this has been a different type of adventure. Asia was immersive while I traveled, but this adventure was a lifestyle.

Now that its summertime (omgyayayayayayayay!!!), I’ve been reflecting. The transformation is incredible – and I’m not just talking about the freshman -15 (yes, I lost weight)! Mental math is easier, I can code a solid web framework without any Googling, and I’m much better at problem-solving/creative thinking. In short, school is working!!! 

I’m so proud of my accomplishments this semester – it feels incredible to know I can actually do it. While we are still at the base of the mountain, I’m excited about the climb.

SPEAKING OF CLIMBS AND MOUNTAINS…… I’m going backpacking in Central America this summer!

A pillar of support for me this semester has been my job at our local pizza shop. The owner is wholeheartedly supportive of our personal goals, and I have some amazing coworkers who inspire me in my studies and support (indulge) me in crazy ideas like backpacking near the equator in the middle of summer. As such, myself and two of my coworkers (I’ve already introduced one of them to you) will be spending about a month-ish backpacking through Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama! Will you be with us every step of the way? We’ll be bringing you funny stories, wild ordeals, itemized spending for budget building and trend recognition purposes….oh, and PLENTY (maybe mostly) food pictures.

With the clock ticking (we fly to Chicago the 11th) my excitement is building for this new type of adventure. Not just a break from the grueling year-that-was, but for the experience of traveling with friends vs. solo. Of course, each will have its pros and cons, but I think with this group, I’m going to have the best pros I could have and the least con-y cons I could have.

In closing guys, this is the tip of the perverbial exitement-iceberg…so stay tuned for future annoucements!

Inspiring Stuff, Trip Planning, USA

Hayden Hits New York City

It’s been a while since I posted on here guys. Even though it’s not an excuse, admittedly I have been really busy! I’m back in school and most of my current homework is not overly riveting – but, if you’d like, I’d be happy to tell you about the USA’s average propensity to save or maybe you’d prefer the 7-layer OSI model?

(this is usually when my audience runs in terror)

That being said, I’ve been saved from the dullard of the day to day via the adventures of someone else. Something I hope I provided to you while I was traveling 🙂

The Big Apple, The City of Dreams, The City That Never Sleeps, The City So Nice They Named It Twice – no matter what you call it, NYC is one of the most renowned travel destinations in the world.

Annually, New York City attracts more than 58 million visitors, bringing in over 42 billion dollars worth of tourism revenue. Visitors from both domestic and abroad, but no matter where you come from, NYC is a sight to behold, making it a top destination on any traveler’s list.


When dipping your toes into the traveling adventures pool, it’s typical to start with something like the capital of your region, or perhaps a road trip with a group of friends or a family vacation.

If you know me either personally or through this blog, you probably know I like to go big or go home! I love this about myself and love to see in others. My first camping trip was to travel to Burning Man (solo) to spend 9 days in the desert with a bunch of people I met on the internet – sounds totally safe, right? It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.

Since returning home from Asia, I’ve set up shop working at a little pizza dive in my hometown while I’ve started my degree. We serve up delicious, unique, New York style pizzas made from dough we make daily and produce that we cut ourselves. It’s so good, it makes you cry (or maybe that’s from all the onions we’re cutting?).

I hear from a lot of people that travel seems like something they’ll never be able to do. Too expensive, too busy, too [insert reason]. While all of that is valid, I try to show people who are interested that it truly can be done by anyone.

It may have been our pizza, it may have been my constant reminiscing about previous travel adventures but no matter the persuasion my still-under-21 coworker Hayden recently went on his first big city solo travel adventure – hostels and all – to New York freakin’ City! 


Behind the scenes

Spending about $600 he enjoyed all the Big Apple had to offer over the course of 5 days.

  • $35 for a metro pass for the week
  • Kept meals under $10
  • Hostel accommodations: $300 (prime location is worth it!)
  • Gas and parking: ~$80

From dining atop the highest restaurant in the Western Hemisphere to fending off cash-hungry homeless people he was able to experience the full monty that often comes with big cities.

Straight from the source

Q: What’s some advice you would have for first-time, solo travelers going to NYC?

A: “Advice would be to write down the subway directions and a notepad and keep your phone off in the subway because it drained my battery. I also used my phone compass a lot in the subway to make sure I was going in the right direction. It’s super easy to get on the wrong train. And, it sounds bad, but if someone comes up to you on the street or subway be quick to make it clear you don’t have any cash or they will hassle you.” 

Solid advice, I would give the same!

Q: Did you ever feel unsafe or have to ask a local for assistance? 

A: “I never felt unsafe, [there were] police on almost every block. I never even reached for my pepper spray. I never asked for help from locals but I did help a ton of other people who didn’t know where to go.”

Hayden always does the nice thing.

Q: What did you see that you didn’t expect? 

A: “There was trash everywhere, but it wasn’t too bad.” 

Some of the highlights of the trip were meeting people from all over the world at the hostel he stayed at (NY Moore Hostel), just walking around observing the city, and (duh) the amazing food. Specifically, the New York style pizza made by ‘real Italians who argued the whole time they made it’ (lol). We all know that frustration crushed tomatoes and roughly punched dough tastes the best! Maybe we’ll have to implement these techniques at my shop.

We’re all thrilled to have Hayden back at work (though maybe he’d rather still be in NYC) and I’m so happy to have someone else to talk about how delicious big-city food is compared to my tiny town. Though, I find myself in a bit of an inspiration maelstrom. I’ve passed the travel torch to another and now I’m losing hours on the internet scheming my next travel adventure after being re-inspired by him…I guess that’s not so bad. 😉


I hope that you feel moved to take the torch from us and give a go to your own adventure. It doesn’t have to be big or drastic, but if that’s the way you like it…you can do it!

Until next adventure……

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Travel

An American Christmas & a happy new year!

It’s all over?!?!

I’m not sure if I’m happy, sad, relieved or distraught. I’ll be honest here, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. Like, ever. EVVVERRR. I start listening to Christmas music as soon as the wind gets a bite to it (and sometimes even in Summer!). This year though, Christmas felt a little funky.

Since I got back from Asia, a few things have felt a little funky. For better or worse, I find myself looking at my life and the world around me through a different set of glasses than before. Everything from laundry to scrambling eggs to city infrastructure to dating, and yes, even Christmas.

This year, my Christmas was just out of a fairy tale. A beautiful tree, surrounded by family, presents galore and cherry waffles. I got an array of amazing gifts that I’m more grateful for than I have been for any gift I’ve received in the last 27 years.

I kept thinking about what it would be like in Asia – not just weather wise either. Do they have a tree to decorate? What about presents? As Americans, chocolate is a pretty common gift for us to give. What about in Asia – do they give mangoes or sticky rice? What is an Asian Christmas like?

One of the most glaring differences between Americans and Asian cultures is our consumerism. Needing to buy more, bigger and better all the time – I didn’t get a glimpse of this anywhere except Japan. Even then, most products either had “this” or “that” (vs. just “this”) as a choice. Not this, this, this, this, this OR that. Some of  you might remember  the wall of ranch I found in Krogers (overkill guys, waaaay overkill).

Some of you might wonder: “Isn’t Asia a heavily Buddhist country? Do they even celebrate Christmas?” Naturally as a huge Christmas nerd, I had the same question! While I was in Japan, I asked my Japanese host about this. She said “the country is mainly Buddhist, but we’re flexible, so we’re Christian in December! Japanese like presents.” (haha, her words!) The family I stayed with in Vietnam also has a beautiful Christmas tradition. So, just like America, not everyone celebrates Christmas, but most people do in one way or another.

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Children with Santa from the school I worked with in Vietnam

 

If  you’ve ever seen Family Guy (an adult cartoon) there is an episode where a child from Mexico receives a “ball in a cup” as a gift – and he is just so excited about it! The joke being that his family can’t afford anything better than that, and that the ball in a cup is one of the best things he’s gotten in his life so far. For me, that joke used to be stereotyping-racist, but funny. Now, it’s ‘oh-shit-just-got-real’ not so funny anymore.

When I looked at all my presents I got this year, I thought of families in Asia. By American standards, the southeast Asian countries are poor. The children that I taught at the school in Thailand would have probably killed to have a Christmas like I did- this made me feel guilty. Like I was unworthy.

Why should I get all this stuff while there are people out there who aren’t getting anything? People who would ask Santa for medicine, clean water, or bread instead of Furbys, Pokemon games, and designer jeans.

Even in America, there are plenty of people asking for the same things. The homeless, the mentally ill, elderly people, orphans and so many more. While I always knew this, it was just a concept or a fact. Having now seen extreme poverty first hand, it’s become much more real to me.

So, instead of sitting around feeling guilty about my status, I’m putting that feeling to work! For my new years resolution, I’m going to take an active role this year to help those less fortunate in any way I can. Monetary donations, volunteering, donating food, supplies – or something – every month for the next year. I challenge you to do the same!

If you’re not able to (or ready to) contribute in a physical capacity, at least challenge yourself to have a conscious appreciation for what you have in your life. The fact that you have a device to read this post on and an internet connection is a good place to start 🙂

Happy New Years everyone – welcome to 2017, the year of appreciation.

 

 

 

Travel

6 things you’ll want to know about working in a food truck.

Food trucks, those grubby ol’ things?

Yes, food trucks. It’s been a hot topic for me lately, one I wanted to share with you!

BUT FIRST!

We’ve got a lot to catch up on guys! I can’t believe it’s already been over two months since I got home. It seems like just yesterday I was eating breakfast at cat cafes.

After arriving home, I fell into the deep hole of post-trip depression. Not to say I’m entirely out of the rut, but I’m making the climb. I found myself back living at my parent’s house, unemployed, and poor.

After having so many amazing ‘checks’ on my record – a great job in the heart of Chicago, traveling through Asia, breaking through barriers I never thought I’d be able to break through – it felt like suuuuuch a step back to be where I was. In a basement. At my parents house. In Ohio. Surrounded by Trump-Pence signs, lots of white people, and McDonalds.

I had to start getting back on my own two feet. The best way to start would be to find a job.

We all know working sucks. I bet only 1 out of 100 of you reading this (ha, I wish there were 100 of you reading this lol) truly love their job. Isn’t that unfortunate? So many people across the world spend their lives working somewhere they hate, or worse, somewhere they are just going through the motions with no feelings at all.

I didn’t want that to me be.

Starting the job hunt, I was picking from the top of the tree. I only applied to jobs that I thought I’d enjoy doing. Hopefully I’d get one of these before I found myself in the position of applying to everything and been desperately forced to accept a job I would hate.

Scrolling through hundreds of job listings across various fields, I was focused on certain aspects of a role before I applied to it. No uniform. Not a corporation. A small team of less than 50 employees. Accepting of dreadlocks and tattoos. Offered the chance to have new experiences – maybe travel a bit. Somewhere I could learn new skills. And, last but not least, somewhere that aligned with my personal hobbies and goals.

I finally found it – Mohawk Freestyle Grill!

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Working on a food truck

Food trucks sometimes get a bad rap. There’s a lot of mystery around them. People might think they’re dirty, or worse, that the food isn’t as good as if it was from a restaurant. While each of these might be true for some food trucks, it isn’t true for all of them and it certainly isn’t true for us at Mohawk Freestyle Grill.

Most misconceptions (not just about food trucks) are conceived and birthed from a lack of knowledge and experience. I’m here to help shed some light on the mystery of food trucks!. 🙂

1. The food is better than restaurant quality – love really is an ingredient.

Okay guys let’s think about this.

Restaurants: Often times a chain corporation, usually employ about 50 employees. In restaurant kitchens, there’s usually a manager but often times it’s not the owner of the business. I can tell you that the kids in the kitchen are as invested in your meals up to as much as they are getting paid.

VS

Food trucks: Only employ a handful of people. This means that these few select employees are always on the job, becoming experts at what they do. Additionally, the owner is almost always on the truck – either cooking the food or taking your order.

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Aaron Hanover, a classically trained chef, is the proud owner of Mohawk Freestyle Grill – but he’s not the only food truck owner who takes pride in his truck and aims to REPRESENT! at every event. Having the head honcho on board all the time raises the standards of the truck, making sure that delicious food is coming out just the way it was meant to.

2. The food truck-ers are a strong community.

Most food trucks have teams of 2-8 people. In terms of company size, this industry is one of the smallest I’ve encountered across my 20+ jobs in my lifetime. While in a big corporation it’s easy to just become a numbered machine, food truck employees don’t have that luxury. Most of them are honest people just like you and me, trying to make a living doing what they’re passionate about.

Working in a food truck, you’re in the front lines. Being there in the grit of it allows you to see how your success is the truck’s success. You really can’t help but to feel a sense of pride and ownership. They look out for each other and help where they can.

3. You’re going to touch butts.

Yeeppppp, there’s definitely going to be some of that. A food truck is not a big space and sometimes it can get real personal when you’re doing the dance of “it’s 8 pm at a high school football game, why are we getting slaughtered right now?”

There are brushes, grazes and excuse me’s sometimes, and that’s just part of it.

4. It’s not always like that Bob’s Burgers episode (but sometimes)

I looooove Bob’s Burgers. As in, it’s pretty much always playing in the background at my house.

One episode, Bob buys a food truck and they take the show on the road. While getting the truck ship shape, they accidentally blow it up because they turned the grill on while the engine was running – a big no no because of how they had to wire it!

ouA6U

When I met Aaron for the first time he told me that he did a lot of the work in the truck himself. I immediately pictured this scene in my head. While we haven’t had any explosions, we’ve had to get creative with our problem solving. Yes, that door latch is made of Velcro. You gotta do what you gotta do!

5. We’re all in this together – buy local!

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from my experience so far is that we’re all in this together.

When we come to an event to serve good food, we’re serving it to our neighbors, our friends, our family. When you get a meal from a food truck, your supporting the people you see there – not some guy in a big chair, or on a golf course.

While the world is a small place, we can make it a little smaller by helping each other out. Here comes the hippie: buy local and help support your community!

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6. It can be incredibly inspiring

I talked earlier about how I felt that I had fallen, or taken a step back when I got home and set up shop in Ohio.

While working on a food truck may not have the same glamour that a “big-girl-downtown-Chicago” job does, the last few months working under Aaron has been incredibly inspiring. He and his wife put in long hours, extraordinary effort, and are fierce in their passion to make this dream come true.

I’m learning new skills that I’m able to practice at work or at home, like how to properly cut onions or clean a pineapple, making my personal hobby of cooking more satisfying. In a way, I feel like I’m doing an apprenticeship to learn a great, long-forgotten, craft. Maybe I’ll even open my own food truck someday!

Closing meditation exercise –

Now, before we part ways we’re going to do a little meditation exercise together. Read carefully!

You want to go online and look for food trucks in your area.

You want to eat out of the food trucks and support your community.

You are getting very hungry…….

Happy munching!

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Travel

Who won the giveaway?

Congratulations Bitsy! You’re the winner of our adventure clutches giveaway!

A few weeks ago, Zoom Goes held it’s first giveaway. Thank you Bitsy for entering, being a Zoom Goes supporter – and congratulations on your win! Send us a picture of you sporting your shiny new clutches!

ZoomGoes Giveaway

In keeping with my full transparency policy, the giveaway was an activity designed to help build my email subscription list. I’d say it was successful at bringing my list up to 32 subscribers! Thank you everyone who participated, don’t worry we’ll be having another giveaway soon (and because you’re on the list, you’re automatically entered, ba-zing!). In the meantime, welcome to the Zoom Goes tribe!

Traffic and Social Media Report

As part of our mission to grow Zoom Goes, we’d also like to share with you some numbers for where we are right now regarding traffic and social media followings. For us, this is a good record of a baseline. For you, I hope you’ll find it insightful if you’ve ever wondered about starting a blog of your own!

Without further adieu (all numbers represent the month of September):

Email list subscribers

We started the month of September at 9 email subscribers. Today, we’re at 32! While the giveaway definitely worked, it wasn’t entirely self-serving.  We’re so happy to hook someone up with something they love! Congrats again Bitsy!!! 😀

Blog Traffic

Unique visitors (individual people who visit the site): 351

Views (if you click on the home page, and then another page, that’s 2 views): 1,170

This is a great baseline. I look forward to seeing what our numbers will be for October! Grow baby, grow!

Facebook

Facebook is my primary referrer for traffic and sharing content – I think it’s a generational thing. Simply put, all the other platforms are complicated. Hashtag this, hashtag that….we all know who I’m talking about.

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Instagram

Oh hey Instagram, we were just – uh….So, how’s it going lately with those hashtags and the giant world of an internet filing system?

Hashtags are a giant part of how Instagram operates and how your content gets found by the people you want to find it. And there’s no real manual on how to do it! During my research into hashtags and Instagram, I found that it was actually a little bit of a mind game.

When trying to get your posts viewed, you have to think “if I were looking for this exact thing, what would I search for?”

Sounds simple right?

 

ZoomGoes | Instagram

Pinterest

Surprised to see Pinterest at the party? Okay, maybe I’m just projecting my own surprise on to you. When I found out that people were using Pinterest to promote their blogs I was bloggled (see what I did there?)! Wasn’t Pinterest just for recipes and awesome dreadlock beads?

Turns out that’s not the case – I get pretty decent traffic from Pinterest referrals. If you’re not following me there, you should! If you’re trying to promote your own business, etsy store, recipes or anything else online make sure that you put Pinterest to work for you.

Zoom Goes | Pinterest

Twitter

 

Twitter, can you talk right now? Do you have enough characters? Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter is more about conversation than information. Still though, it’s great for little announcements, reminders and pics!

There’s a lot of “twitter talks” that happen regularly. Users tweet about travel, hobbies, awards and more. Similar to Instagram, these talks are all categorized with hashtags. #TravelTalks for example. I’d love to get more involved in these!

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Income report

Last, but not least, is what everyone is interested to know about – income! How much money did my blog make in the month of September?

Google Adsense: $0.51

Amazon Affiliates: $0.00

In the Amazon Affiliates program, I get a commission for any items that sell using a referral link that I place in my site. So far, I’ve only done three of these – The Rose Cup, Bandelettes (the biggest seller) and Packing Cubes. Usually, there is a spike in this number when do a product review, but I only do those when I’m truly moved by a product. I don’t want to do it just for the money, ya know?

I’m laughing a little! I know, I know – it’s pennies, but that’s okay! There’s more in it for me than the money – you guys!

Thank you again everyone for helping me have a wonderful first giveaway!

Do you have any questions about blogging? Leave me a comment 🙂

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