Travel Journal: Austin, TX – Day 1

Over the next few posts, I’m going to catch you up on how I recently spent 4 days in Austin, TX (okay, 3 days + 1 in San Antonio, and actually… the total trip was really only 72 hours due to flight schedules, so this theoretically could all be done in one very busy 3-day weekend):

Day 1 – Saturday – Austin, TX

My plan lands at 5:30pm, and my friend B. picks me up at the airport. I check into the hostel (Drifter Jack’s) and even in the few minutes I’m there before we leave, I’m impressed with how friendly and welcoming everyone is. Plus, they have very cool art painted directly on the walls by local artists, giving the hostel a very Austin feeling.

Next, we check out the South Congress neighborhood, known for its unique shops and delicious food. I definitely recommend coming here, especially if you like exploring different neighborhoods within the same city like I do.

It’s very fun to see the Big Top Candy Shop, a store with a giant selection of bulk and packaged candies, an old-fashioned soda fountain, ice cream, and hand-made desserts. I buy a Lollihops candy for my brother (lollipop with hops in it, made by Yakima Hop Candy, which as it turns out, is located in the state I live in, so it’s a bit weird to buy as an Austin souvenir, but I buy it anyway, opting for their chile lime flavor which seems very Texas to me). I also have to get some of their random bulk candies for myself (like a gummy chicken foot! It looks weird and tastes about the same).

Among the other places we explore:

  • Monkey See Monkey Do (a novelty gift shop that seemed like they were low on inventory today, so I can’t really say if this is normally worth a visit)
  • Uncommon Objects (an antique marketplace with a very random and sometimes freaky collection – I see a doll missing part of its head and all of one arm, a taxidermied zebra head, and other strange things, but there are some nicer/more expected things as well – see picture below. Everything is fairly expensive.)

Janette Bibby's space is a dream. Come see the magic! 1512 S. Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78704

A photo posted by uncommonOBJECTS (@uncommonobjects) on

Despite the wonderful smells coming from the nearby restaurants, we decide to go elsewhere for dinner (perhaps motivated by the questionable legality of our chosen parking space). The Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill is supposed to be very good, so we go there, and since they don’t take reservations, we put our name in the list and wait for 2 hours (!) before getting a table. (For part of that time, we walk around Palm Park, attracted by what looks like the ruins of a small castle, but then we stay for a bit when we find a playground with very unique twisty swing-type rides. I’m glad we did that before we ate!) The food ends up being pretty good, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

After dinner, we continue our journey by heading toward the Capitol building. The Texas Capitol grounds are beautiful at night. The building is lit up, and so are the trees (not with wrap-around strung lights, but with big spot lights, so you can see the shapes of the branches against the night sky). There are many statues honoring people significant to the history of Texas, and while we’ll have to revisit during daylight to read the signs for some, we’re able to see most of them tonight.

CapitolBuilding-3354.jpgTexas Capitol at night – Photo Credit: nateClicks via Flickr – Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Finally, we take a walk down to the 6th Street district. I’m not into the party scene, but I want to see what 6th street is all about since people were making such a big deal about it online when I was planning my trip. It was described to me as similar to Fremont Street in Vegas (which I thought felt really scuzzy), but thankfully, 6th Street is less unpleasant. It reminds me of the street full of bars near the campus where I went to school, and is filled with as many people drinking way more than they can handle. It’s not a pleasant experience to end the night with, and I can’t help but feel bad for the people having an even worse night – one person was sick with her head in a very dirty trash can. Like on Fremont Street in Vegas, there are a few people in costumes requesting tips so you can take photos with them, however, unlike on Vegas’ Fremont Street, the guy on 6th Street dressed as Batman is fully clothed. Despite feeling not as uncomfortable as I expected, it still isn’t a place I want to be, and we leave within a few minutes of arriving.

I think we made the most of the first day. It’s very late when I return to the hostel, and I’m exhausted, but I can’t wait to find out what else I’m able to see while in Austin!

Stay tuned for more Texas adventures. Day 2 coming soon! Sign up now so you won’t miss it.

Travel by bus

Bolt Bus

Photo credit: GoToVan via Flickr – Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

There’s something innately exciting about every mode of travel, but travel by bus is the very picture of budget travel from books and movies, allowing you to have more travel experiences with the same amount of money, especially when compared to flying.

I went from Seattle to Portland on the Bolt Bus, which had an interior like that of a small puddle-jumper airplane. The driver was friendly and the seats were comfortable enough. The bus was air conditioned, and there were two free Wi-Fi channels, one for streaming video/music and the other for everything else. Power outlets were in most rows of seats (mine didn’t have one for some reason, but luckily I didn’t need it). The bus was only half full on both trips so I got the full row to myself (it’s choose-your-own seating), which made it even nicer. Even in the rows that had both seats filled, the people still had as much room as they would have had if sitting next to each other on a budget plane.

I’d heard horror stories of bus bathrooms, but on the return trip I decided I was brave enough to check it out myself. Anticipating a tiny, disgusting box that could rival the gas station bathrooms we used during family road trips, I was pleasantly surprised that it was clean and about the size of the bathrooms on small airplanes.

There were only two small drawbacks: the legroom and the location of the bus stops.

The legroom wasn’t much of an issue for me (yay short legs!) but for taller people or those with longer legs, you might feel that you are as cramped as on a small plane, despite Bolt Bus’ efforts to give more legroom (according to their FAQ page, it’s 3 inches more than a standard bus seat configuration).

The bus stops were okay if you were trying to get somewhere central/downtown (Seattle’s is in Chinatown and Portland’s is in the Downtown neighborhood). There are many local bus routes that serve each area and getting to where you need to go from there, so it isn’t much of a problem, except that they’re in high traffic areas and it can be difficult to estimate where the traffic will be at what time if you’re not from the area. I ended up needing to get a ride from someone back to the bus stop because I realized I wasn’t going to make it back in time on the local bus during rush hour. However, now I know to plan ahead for things like traffic, and am more mindful of the time I book my trips for, so I doubt that it would be as big of a issue in the future.

The only other thing I was bummed about was that, unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky people to be able to buy a $1 ticket (a few tickets each route are offered at $1 one-way), but it was still so much cheaper than flying. Round trip, the cost was $34. I could have also brought one luggage free, which would have gone in the compartment near the wheels, plus two carry-ons.

Overall, I think it’s a great deal, as comfortable as flying on a small budget airline, and with the same perks (or more, depending on the airline). I’d travel by bus again in a heartbeat.

Do you have bus travel stories? Share them in the comments!

Everyone Has a Story: Adam Luff

Today’s mini interview is with Adam Luff, a screenwriter and filmmaker currently living in the UK. Read below as he tells us about some of his dreams and inspirations (and shares one of his short films!).

Photo provided to The Goal List by Adam Luff – Used with permission

Photo credit: Quentin Brooks
Photo provided by and used with permission from Adam Luff

What is one of your dreams for your life?
To immigrate to the United States. The ambition began when I studied in San Francisco on a Masters program in Motion Pictures and Television. When I came back to England, I kept connected with my classmates and continue to write screenplays for their film projects as well as finding new clients to write for.

What is something on your bucket list?
To attend the Day of the Dead in Mexico. I had this in mind for a while but when I recently saw Spectre it was as a big reminder to get on with it.

Who or what inspires you?
I can be quite a nostalgic person, always looking back. I’d love to make retro films, for example a film that’s far out and colorful like the old spy films of the swinging sixties and a classic movie serial complete with over the top cliffhangers. So far the films I’ve been able to make or contribute to have been things set in modern times but one film I’m proud of is Hat Trick (2012) which is based on the old silent movies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Thanks for sharing your time and dreams with us, Adam!

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

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Baby steps

Tiffany has been posting a picture of a sticky note every day for the past year. Each day she puts something different on the note, and over time she built a habit and completed this big goal. Thought you might want to see this note – any forward progress, even a baby step, is a little closer to accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. Happy 2016!

2016 Bucket List Subset + 2015 Review

Charles Kettering quote - Read more at TheGoalList.com

Last year was slow for me in terms of bucket list progress and growth (I added only one thing to my list!). It’s a little disappointing that I didn’t have more success (measured by goal achievement), but I think the way I spent my time last year was worth it. Much of the time that would have gone to bucket list activities went to building new friendships and strengthening old ones. I also did several things that were bucket-list worthy but not actually on my bucket list (retrospective list in progress), so I feel that although I didn’t make as much progress as usual, I had a good bucket list year.

In 2015, I accomplished only 5 things on my list (I’ll add links as I write the posts):

  • Ride in a train (I plan to redo this one in more of a “travel by train” experience – this train ride was fun, but only an hour long)
  • Go to a drive-in movie
  • Leave motivational sticky notes in random places
  • Watch a roller derby bout
  • Ride in a convertible

The roller derby bout list item (#129) was also the only item that I added to my bucket list this year, and I added it on January 1st and completed it less than two months later – probably one of the fastest completion times so far!

The 2016 Bucket List Subset

Every year I make a subset list of 10 items for goals I want to give myself a little extra pressure to finish before the year’s over. The purpose is to move me closer to the chosen goals, even if I don’t complete them that year. These aren’t the only goals I work on during the year, and they may not even be the most important goals to me. They also don’t include any goal I know for sure will happen this year (that’s almost like writing a to-do list with things you’ve already finished!)

So, here’s the subset list for 2016 (as with my full list, some are hidden until I complete them, and this is in no particular order):

  • Ride a motorcycle
  • (hidden)
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • (hidden)
  • Go geocaching
  • Look out the window of a room in the top floor of a downtown skyscraper
  • Make an animated video
  • (hidden)
  • Release a floating lantern
  • Complete the 100 Happy Days challenge

What’s on your list this year?

If you’re excited about joining me on this journey, click here to get each post, interview, and helpful resource by email. If you have a list or bucket list blog of your own, please let me know in the comments!

Everyone Has a Story: Blake Johnson

Today’s mini-interview is with Blake Johnson, who describes himself as a “PhotoSapien and TV Picture Optimizer” on Twitter. Below, Blake shares about making the jump to self-employment, the thing he really wants to photograph, and the conversation that reminded him that he was more capable than he thought he was.

Photo provided by Blake Johnson – Used with permission

Photo provided by Blake Johnson – Used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
To be working for myself doing things I enjoy.  To be more specific, lately I have branched out away from a day job to give myself a real chance.  I actually realized today I am finally starting to live this dream that I’ve had for many many moons.  I saved up and waited until a good time to jump.  I am taking as many jobs as I can which covers a wide variety of things, but I feel like I need to at this point.   I am taking photos,  fixing computers (and other tech support type things), calibrating TVs, website updates, helping with social media marketing, and loving every minute of it.  Coming home as the sun goes down energized instead of worn out and stressed is SUCH a game changer.  I highly recommend it.

What is something on your bucket list?
I really want to shoot products like TAG watches at least once.  It’s one of those things that I knew I wanted from the day I picked up a camera.

What is the best advice you ever received?
I was a teenager working for my dad’s business.  I think it was summer time.  I was having a conversation with the lady in charge of the ice-cream parlor where we sold our own homemade goodness.  I can’t remember the entire conversation, but somewhere in there she told me… “You’re one of those people that does whatever you set your mind to.”  That has always been in the back of my mind.  I guess she saw something in me.  I don’t think I saw it back then, but others have since said something similar.  It wasn’t so much advice as it was guidance or enlightenment.  I feel like most people need that outside force to show them a mirror.  Otherwise we end up like that mammoth in Ice Age thinking we are just a rat.  The truth is we are more capable than that.  We can build and create greatness in our lives.  It just takes knowing.

Thanks for sharing your time and dreams with us, Blake!

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

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Scott Wyden Kivowitz Interview – “I don’t want to box myself into a niche corner”

Photo provided by Scott Wyden Kivowitz, used with permission - Photo by Emily Feinsod

Photo provided by Scott Wyden Kivowitz, used with permission – Photo by Emily Feinsod

On his website, Scott Wyden Kivowitz calls himself “a photographer, blogger and educator in New Jersey.” He’s also an author, father, and former band member who got to go on tour with his band. Today Scott shares about his commitment to always speak the truth when blogging, his tattoos, and the thing his music professor told him that affects everything he does.

Name and blog: Scott Wyden Kivowitz

Fun fact about you:
I love komodo dragons. I’ve only seen them behind glass, but they’re underappreciated and an endangered species, even though they’re one of the oldest living species on the planet.

Funner fact:
I have multiple tattoos including a komodo dragon, a few Shel Silverstein drawings, a satellite from the band Cave In, and my father’s initials.

Funnest fact:
I love talking geek with other geeks.

What do you think has been essential to your success so far as a photographer?
Being myself and not worrying about “making it big” has been my key for success. From day one I pledged to always speak the truth. To always keep things simple (KISS if you will) and to get my work out there, and my education out there as easily and straightforward as possible. I also decided to not hold back any “secrets” that others might have decided to try and hide. Things like how I processed a photo, or where a photo was captured.

What was something that surprised you about photography?
I knew that digital photography was going to make a big splash, but I honestly didn’t expect the drastic shift in the industry like what happened. I would say the point when Nikon released the D70 camera in 2004, everything changed into a rapid speed towards pure digital. The industry has never looked back. Yes, film is still made and many photographers still use it. But majority of clients across the spectrum of photographic niches request digital.

If you had to describe your blog in 6 words or less, what would you say?
Oddly enough I already do this: Simple, Creative, Professional, The Everyday Photographer. I use the term The Everyday Photographer because I don’t want to box myself into a niche corner. I like to try new techniques and niches and not limit myself.

Who or what inspires you? 
First, my daughter. At the time of this interview she’s just a few days shy of 9 months old. Every day she learns something new and the expressions and challenges and achievements she goes through are just inspirational. They make me want to keep doing more.

But also photographers like Zack Arias and Chase Jarvis are inspirational. In a very different way than my daughter, of course. Zack because he went through some extremely tough financial times, learned valuable lessons and came back in the industry with a vengeance. He’s now very successful and teaches other photographers to not make the mistakes he made. And Chase because he built an empire between his photography and CreativeLive by doing what he loves and in a similar way as me, not holding back.

What is your all-time favorite bucket list item (of yours or someone else’s)?
Growing up I never wanted to go to Israel. I had many opportunities and always passed on it. Maybe it was fear of how the news portrays what’s happening there. I don’t know. But now I regret it and am determined to get there. My wife had her Bat Mitzvah in Israel and is always talking about how great it was and sharing stories from the trip.

If you aren’t doing anything related to your photography, what are you doing in your free time?
Photography isn’t my full-time job, so I’m typically doing my daily activities for Photocrati. When not working or doing photography I am usually hanging out with my family, at the park with my daughter, or doing other activities that she can be involved in.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Before changing my college major to photography I was a music major. One music professor said to me something super epic that has always stuck with me within everything I do.

“Practice makes permanence.”

He says that because practice does not make anything perfect. Because nothing is perfect. But practice will help to make whatever the task is permanent. Think about it and you will understand just how true that is.

Readers: Join me in thanking Scott for sharing his time, stories, and advice with us! If you want to learn more about him, check out his website, which also has his links to the usual social media sites.

Want more interviews like this? Leave a comment and let me know who you would like to see featured, and be sure to sign up to stay updated on all the latest posts!