The Wave Project: 5 Happiness Inducers

This post is coming to you courtesy of a wacky little idea I came up with this past week when I was hiking one morning near my house. As I trekked on down the road, I came upon some sort of major project with tons of workmen driving trucks, graders, and all sorts of large vehicles.

At first I was a teeny bit (ok significantly) cranky about the disruption but then I realized that I was out for a leisurely walk in the heat while all these workmen were engaged in hard labor in the same heat and that had to have made it a lot hotter to them. Feeling guilty, I waved at a few of them and smiled lamely and they in turn gave a genuine greeting. This brought on a bit of sheepishness but also lightened my mood and had me now feeling pretty appreciative so I thought “hmm… maybe it’s impossible to be cranky while smiling and waving?” and that is when the light bulb went on.

First I focused on waving at all of the Department of Water and Power workers on my walk but then I extended it to anyone I crossed paths with. And then I upped the ante and got exuberant about it. Now for almost a week I’ve been waving and grinning at every single person I come into contact with while hiking. And my mood has been a heck of a lot better despite the fact that I am navigating some life challenges that might impact it negatively.

Years ago, I learned about banishing negativity and fanning the positive flame when I sold real estate and did time answering the phones and praying a call would result in a listing. The manager of the agency placed a mirror in front of me and explained that I should smile when answering the phone as it’s difficult to be unenthusiastic when smiling. It turned out to be true even though the forced Miss America smile felt pretty silly at first.

So, here are five mood lifts that might seem quirky but go ahead and try them and see what transpires.

1) WAVE – Yes, wave at as many people as you can. I dare you to go for a walk for even fifteen minutes, wave at everyone you encounter, and I mean joyfully. It’s possible a few people will return this with a confused look but most will pony up a cheerful return wave and that is going to feel nice.

2) SMILE – This one is harder if you are feeling punky but I did it and it truly did lift my mood. The interesting part is that you are smiling at strangers and you realize they know nothing about you which sometimes is not such a bad thing. It felt liberating to just be a “happy person” in a bigger world than my personal one and taking a break from a singular point of view was also a relief.

3) CHAT – Not going to lie, this one I will have to report back on but I will be trying it out starting tomorrow. You see, I noticed tonight at the store that a man in front of me asked the cashier – with genuine interest – how he was doing and how his night was going and the exchange was more connected than the rote, usual retail convo. The cashier brightened, the customer was cheerful, and I instantly wished I’d thought of this rather than being in my own head but then knew it would be beyond idiotic for me to repeat the same happy chat when it was my turn as I was only four feet from the conversation. Tomorrow, I am on it.

4) ACT – Yes take action. We’ve heard it before and I thought of it this morning and it worked. I picked up garbage on my hike and grabbed a few moments of feeling like David Sedaris, an author who is so well-known for many hours picking trash up near his home that he had a garbage truck named after him. I only spent about fifteen minutes so I’d settle for a garbage can with my name on it and stenciling it on my own would suffice. Just pick any form of beautification that appeals and do it, whether it be trash collection or sweeping a section of a street or planting a vacant lot like a wonderful man we profiled months ago.

5) VOLUNTEER I ebb and flow on this one but the thing to know is it is a completely selfish endeavor, yes you read that correctly. Selfless is when you do something that is unpleasant and brings no real satisfaction. Volunteering is blissfully self-indulgent as I always feel a bit better about myself when I get out of my own head and do something tangible that feels like a contribution. I am not a hero, I am just an ordinary person, spending a tiny amount of time aiding those bigger contributors who are bent on making the world a better place. And I encourage you to only do “selfish volunteer projects” as you will expand your world, make new friends, and return again and again if you love your choice. If it is difficult for you to take on a tangible commitment, just look around and ask yourself how you can be of service to one person i.e. return someone’s grocery cart, let a harried commuter in before you at the gas pump, or call a manager over to make them aware of a great interaction with an employee.

Life is short, make it more joyful for yourself by making it more joyful for those around you and if you see a hiker in a silly red hat, waving gleefully, don’t leave her hanging.

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10 Ways To Enjoy Traveling Alone

A recent solo, five day trek across four states by car left me with a new understanding. This understanding did not culminate in a – never before experienced – deep enlightenment, rather it culminated in a realization of what I truly value. This came about by simply being present to, not all, but most moments. Magnifying pieces of time that were finite, one sunset, one foggy morning, one hail storm – thankfully only one hail storm.

These steps should help imprint a solo trip right onto your heart and soul and create meaning and awe in simple, teeny – tiny slices of time.

1) Drive – Significant miles, as in 1,345 miles for moi, across New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada before turning back toward Los Angeles. If you enjoy driving like I do, the miles will encourage a hypnotic trance that allows for all of life’s junk to just fade away.

2) Pause – This refers to stopping along the way and the style I chose was to avoid truck stops and gift shops and instead pull over in areas where the landscape rocked my soul. One note, watch for ants in Arizona. I was stung/bitten by some python anaconda viper boa ant that had my foot on fire for hours – talk about pause.

3) Chill – Bring a cooler and fill it with healthy food and drinks and skip the fast food along the way. To share specifically, I carried peanut butter, bagels, apples, and trail mix as well as iced tea, coffee, and water. Picnicking is more appealing when you pack goodies so I included chocolate chip cookies and banana bread as well as some favorite candy. It is much more relaxing to stare across a magnificent landscape than a busy McDonald’s at lunch rush.

4) Read – Books are a boon when traveling alone and I had a delicious one along. I ended one evening in a rain/hail storm by reading for hours and it was sublimely cozy.

5) Sing – This is one category where I part company with most solo travelers. I decided to do my five days in silence. No radio or music of any kind. I checked out of news and media with the exception of stopping and posting to the On A Dime website. I found that the silence went from a bit intimidating to a relief, however, I did engage in a bit of loud a cappella singing with the windows down. The music choice is purely subjective so if it enhances your trip then by all means, include it but if silence is enticing, go for it.

6) Write – If you enjoy keeping a journal, immerse yourself now. Consider a scrapbook with notes, mementoes, and photos. Artistic sketches and/or watercolors are also nice and don’t worry about how your art/words will appear to others, this can be just for you.

7) Watch – One morning, leaving the Grand Canyon after camping alone, I debated about where to stop for coffee when the location was suddenly right before me. A huge meadow with wildflowers. I popped out my stove (see gear) and quickly made coffee while watching the wildflowers open as the sun hit them. Another stop had me enjoying baby birds as the mother flew back and forth, bringing them food.

8) Unplug – As mentioned above, checking out of social media or even taking big blocks of time away can bring about a peace and renewal. I fall victim to thinking I am somehow unfeeling or irresponsible if I step away from news and current events and yet I know that truly the world moves right on whether I am actively in the mix or not and maybe being in the mix also means physically soaking ourselves in what came before Macintosh.

9) Reduce – This refers to your packing, your daily routine, and your place in the world. Pack lightly, eat simply, and grab the realization that not a whole lot matters beyond where you are headed and what you will pull from  the cooler for your next meal which can occur whenever the heck you get hungry, not when it’s time. As for your place in the world, revel in the fact that you are not your job, you are not your hobby, and you are not your opinion. You are only this teeny, tiny, stunningly wonderful traveler upon a new uncharted territory that is open to your visit.

10) Play – Yes, play. Claim any interpretation of this that pleases you. Splash in a creek, photograph flowers, partake in yoga on a mountain, sip herbal tea in the forest, or simply do nothing. As long as you are leaving no trace, your experience of the places you visit is yours to define. If taking a guided tour is a pleasing break from being alone, then do it or if staying solo and meditating for hours rocks your soul, then carve out the time for that. This is your play time and in this world of hard work and struggle, play time should be more highly valued. Start a trend.

Don’t wait, begin immediately. Even if it’s a weekend or a day or an hour, take some moments and call them your own. Getting better acquainted with the joyful, creative you, will be something you’ll never regret.

*Safety? See our articles on traveling and feel free to “like”/share on Facebook and/or Tweet. Grateful.

10 Safety Tips For Camping Alone 

10 Road Trip Tips

5 Things To Know About Free Camping

10 Safety Tips For Camping Alone

Camping alone can be a time of discovery. Discovery that you are adept at making a fire on your own and discovery that the crinkling sound of a new rain jacket can convincingly mimic a stealthy animal creeping up behind you. For the record, I only swung around in terror three times.

To keep terror at bay and peace and Zen flowing, we’ve compiled a little checklist that seems to aid in times of sneaky rain jackets. This list is also designed for the purpose of being prepared and putting your loved ones at ease as you strike out to explore some righteous beauty.

1) Leave an itinerary with a point person and check in daily to let them know your whereabouts. *Obviously this is subjective and if your aim is to spend some solo time off the grid, adjust your plan accordingly but do make a plan and leave it with someone responsible. If you still doubt this wisdom, watch the movie 127 Hours.

2) Photograph your car tag and message it to your point person.

3) Take plenty of water. On my recent road trip, which included a piece with my 15 year old son, a piece with my guy, and then the final leg – just wrapping now – solo, I carried no fewer than 3 gallons of water and depending on dispersed camping plans, up to 6 gallons as well as my purifier. I also had a large ice chest filled with ice and assorted drinks.

4) Pack plenty of food. It’s unlikely you’d get into trouble with hunger on road trips or car camping but having plenty of snacks is a boon on long drives.

5) Look around your camp-spot and note other campers as it can give piece of mind to connect with neighbors. I connected with a variety of individuals that included a young fly fisherman, a group of college kids, a retired couple, and several other solo female campers. The point is, reach out and connect with others unless – once again – you are really craving 100% solitude. I had hours and hours of solitude but still felt a sense of connectedness that was reassuring.

6) Touch base with rangers and get the lay of the land. They are your greatest allies in any time of trouble.

7) Bring extra warm clothing. I encountered temps in the 30s in CO in Aug.

8) Check weather. I chose a campsite under trees and off the lake in one area due to storm forecast and sure enough, pea sized hail appeared and had me hoping for no overachieving golfball hail to follow. If lightning joins your campout like it did mine on the north rim in the Grand Canyon, get in your car, turn off all electronics and make certain all windows are rolled entirely up.

9) Be conservative with alcohol. This was not really a consideration for me as I found I had absolutely no desire for spirits while alone. A few times I considered a beer or hot toddy but felt chamomile tea was more in keeping with my solo mood and spirits fit better when I was with loved ones. Dulled senses are not the best scenario when a middle of the night scuffling calls for a loud “go away, bear!” tone in order to scare off chipmunks. Hey, I figured if they heard “bear”, they’d also wonder if there was one around and scoot.

10) Be discreet. By this, I mean fly under the radar and no need to tell anyone along the road that you are camping alone and where you will be. Despite the fact that my latest road trip was designed to share with On A Dime, I waited to list places I’d camped until after I’d gone. The excitement of passing along amazing sites and great finds was very doable after the fact. No need for paranoia, just pragmatism.

A solo trip can be a learning experience on many levels. There will most likely be moments of frustration, nervousness, joy, peace, introspection, awareness, humor and a myriad of other emotions. And any time fear has wandered into your psyche as in a devious rain jacket, try redirecting thoughts to the coming sunrise and the beautiful sites on your agenda and if that doesn’t work, yell “go away, bear!”

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5 Great/Cheap Locales & Links

On occasion – ok frequently – here at On A Dime we extoll doing as we say and not as we did. In other words, skip sleeping in the car during a lightning storm but be sure to enjoy the sunset (calm) before the said storm.

This list, links, and overview offer some 20/20 hindsight from our recent road trip that will have you bypassing snafus in favor of success and we’ve broken it down into a concise little list to aid in visiting these awesome places. More in-depth articles to follow on individual areas of interest.

1) ZION (UTAH) – Utah’s first national park and well worth the time to visit. Do as we say, take time. We did this in too big of a hurry due to weather and enjoyed a hike in The Narrows but will return to explore more in depth. Weather, and we’re saying it again as it determines so powerfully how the visit goes and if you can roll with speeding things up – like we did – or delaying them then weather’s impact can be lessened. Absolutely take the EARLY shuttle from the visitor center as the popular hikes get more crowded throughout the day. Camp? Yes, however, make a reservation or get to the state campground at the noon checkout time for first come/first serve.  And here are your links. General Info. Camping (1/2 mile from the entrance). Free camping? Yes but always check current status by reading comments at the bottom of the camp listing.

2) GRAND CANYON (NORTH RIM ARIZONA) – This experience was so close to perfect that we cannot wait for the article to share. **Update – here’s our article on FREE camping at the north rim! We would’ve hit perfect if not for the weather, we endured a nasty lightning storm. This are is free. No park fees, no camp fee and there is a stunning view as well as trailhead within the camping area. You will traverse 27 miles of dirt/rock road but our Hyundai made it just fine. And here are your links. General Info. Camping. Free Camping at Locust Point.

3) LAKE POWELL (ARIZONA & UTAH) – In terms of lakes, you cannot go wrong with Lake Powell. The park entrance fee is $15 for 7 days but then the camping, ON THE BEACH, is free. You can choose fee camping at the resort or free camping and this place is heaven. And here are your links. General Info.  Camping fee and free. Top Ten Beaches.

4) PALO DURO CANYON (TEXAS) – We’re talking Texas and it’s pretty grand which is why this canyon is touted as the mini grand canyon. The soil is red and the sunrises and sunsets are stunning. We spent $5 per head to enter the park and then $12 per night to camp. There are a number of camping choices but none offer rim view sites. Recommended book to take along, LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. And here are your links. General Info. Camping. Free camping (an hour away, Lake Meredith, all sites are FREE looks worth investigating and we were sad to not have the opportunity).

5) WICHITA WILDLIFE REFUGE (OKLAHOMA) – If you ever wonder what it might have been like over a hundred years ago when Bison roamed free, wonder no more. You can camp on the Wichita Wildlife Refuge where Bison and Longhorns roam free. That’s correct, they’re not fenced in and it is stunning to see them placidly grazing on the open range. And here are your links. General Info. Camping.

These five stop-offs offer freebies and very inexpensive fees. If you are in any of these areas or road tripping, put them on your list and sit back and enjoy the money that is still in your pocket.

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Hike Narrows

10 Road Trip Tips

Secrets from the road, that’s what we’re talking about today. We are aware that many choices are subjective so please make your own list and structure it according to your likes and dislikes. For us this is still a work in progress and we welcome new tips and ideas. Feel free to leave your secrets in the comment section below, we are grateful.

Road Trip

Let’s get right to it:

1) DAWN – As in get the heck out of the bed or sleeping bag and hit the road. If you can get started early you avoid hours of traffic as well as heat in the summer.

2) DUSK – As in polar opposite of dawn. If you despise getting up early, consider driving later. In this On A Dimer’s case, the distance glasses are a must at dusk as well as snacks and coffee but late driving definitely worked on an overnight drive from Los Angeles to Zion and passing through the desert areas at 85 degrees rather than 100 degrees was very welcome.

3) BATHROOM – Carry a little kid porta-potty with plastic bags. We are talking brilliant if you are camping and little ones need to go in the middle of the night. This also is wonderful when you want to avoid less than stellar truck-stop bathrooms. Finally, not denying that more than one adult in the On A Dime crew has used the kiddie potty and been joyful about it.

4) FOOD – This is subjective and only you know what works for you but here’s what we’ve settled into. We do partake in fast food but limit it to once a day max and generally it’s breakfast on the road. We have noted that even heating water w/ either our Coleman or single burner stove saves money on coffee to the tune of $10-$20 over the course of a trip. A crate that is stocked with bagels, peanut butter, pretzels, apples, trail mix etc. will save you a great deal of cash in the long run and if you have room in the back seat to have the snacks accessible, that is terrific. On our current road trip, we knocked back an enormous bag of cherries over 4 days and found that to be great in that it was prolonged nibbling.

5) CLOTHING – Fellow travelers, we confess right here that we pack pretty lightly and then make use of a laundry about 1/2 way through a trip. It takes one hour and voila, clean clothes. We keep outfits simple and we do repeat wear when we are not getting filthy. Check the packing video by The Minimalists for an example of packing Zen as well as our former article.

6) DIRECTIONS – Subscribe to what works for you, however, we recommend a paper map for every area you are traversing. Paper maps give perspective as well as an idea of what is nearby as you are racking up the miles and the real boon is that they don’t suddenly cease to function when your cell/WIFI service goes on hiatus. Side note, when your teen is smug about their expertise with SIRI, ask them to fold the map and then when they cannot do it, quickly accordion it shut and then make the parental “hummpf” noise.

7) BATHING – When camping or just on the road, have a kit handy with toiletries in a small bag. We put our shampoo/conditioner/liquid soap in neat (and a bit larger than the norm) plastic travel bottles from Target. It is perfectly reasonable to either make use of camp showers which generally run a couple of dollars for a shower or to simply wash up in sinks where you are gassing the car. Next section brings up another tip.

8) WATER – This cannot be stressed enough, bring plenty of water (extra). On a 3,500 mile road trip, at the outset, we froze 4 gallons of water and had 2 in the cooler and 2 stashed in the trunk. We also had an additional gallon in the back floorboard. 5 gallons total as well as about another 2 collectively in smaller bottles. The ice chest contained ice around the bottles and 6 smaller frozen iced teas. If you are ever caught out with either car trouble or just simply at a campsite in hot weather, water will save your bacon.

9) PLAN – Share your plan even as it morphs and shifts. Text friends and family your route and locations of where you are staying. Remember that highway patrol (despite speeding ticket fear) and rangers are your best friends. Ask them about the area, respect what they tell you, and let them know your plan. If you backpack, leave your plan visible on the dashboard of your car. A good tip is also to photograph your license plate and message it to family for ease in case they need it.

10) CAR – Your car is your home on a road trip so have it checked out before you leave. On A Dime travelers always have the car gone over by their trusted mechanic prior to hitting the road and rotate the tires on schedule. When traveling in hotter climates, watch your temperature gage and make certain your air-conditioning is not stressing the system.

These tips will get you started and we’re hoping, make the experience easy and smooth. Although we did not include this on the list, going with the flow is a strength when you can pull it off. We tested this one when we rode out a lightning storm in the car while perched on the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (more on that in our future article) We also were privy to the most amazing display of calm by expert travelers at Lake Powell when their boat ponied up a small explosion and fire and they never even flinched, just put the fire out and then matter-of-fact spent hours fixing said boat. This stellar couple and their kids should offer seminars on travel challenges and how to navigate them with optimism. Rock on Hibmas and rock on to all you road travelers.

Here’s hoping we connect with some of you out there while exploring the great unknown.

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