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My Bucket List Trip is here!

Denver, Colorado.

The chances are likely, that as you’re reading this, I’m on my way to, or have already arrived at my Bucket List Trip destination: Denver, Colorado.

But why Denver for a Bucket List Trip? I’ll explain.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to take a trip to a city I’ve never been to and see a concert. So, when a band or a musician I like goes on tour, I always look at the entire list of the cities they’re visiting to see what might work for a possible Bucket List Trip.

Several years ago, I booked a Bucket List Trip with my best friend to Las Vegas to see John Mayer. I bought our concert tickets and was ready for the trip of a lifetime.

And then John Mayer had to have surgery on his vocal chords, and he cancelled his tour. I refused to believe it until I checked my email and saw the refund from the ticket company. My friend and I still went to Vegas, and we had a blast, but it didn’t end up being one off my Bucket List.

As many of you know, I’ve been going through it (what I would consider Hell) since September, when my dad had brain surgery to remove a mass. He passed away in February, shortly after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

I am still very much in pain, and sometimes it feels worse than it did the day he died.

In November, after my dad’s surgery and diagnosis, I saw on Twitter that R&B artist Khalid was going on a new leg of his tour. I’d wanted to see him so badly, but the tickets were always so expensive.

I looked at the stops on his tour, and yes, he was coming to Austin, but he was also performing at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre – a place I have ALWAYS wanted to see a concert. If you’re not familiar with Red Rocks, it’s the only natural acoustically perfect concert venue in the world. Basically, it’s at the bottom of a canyon, and the pictures look insane.

The tickets for the show went on sale just a few weeks after I saw the tour list, and I vowed to get myself a ticket. So, on a Saturday morning between dance classes, I locked myself in a dressing room at the studio and purchased a ticket for the show at Red Rocks.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre; photo from Denver.org.

At the time, I had no idea I’d be grieving, no idea that I would so desperately need a vacation, but alas, here we are, and I’m so thankful I’ve planned this trip for myself!

But I’ve been waitin’ all year to get the hell up outta here
and throw away my fears.
– Khalid

I started listening to Khalid about a year ago. I heard his single, “Location” on the radio during my commute to work and I liked it so much, I wrote it down in my phone.

Months later, I took a trip to Indianapolis to see friends, family, and a guy I liked. Well, one of my friends refused to see me, my family lied to me, and the guy turned out to be an asshole with a house straight out of an episode of “Hoarders” (and recently confessed to my best friend that he actually liked her all along). 

I couldn’t get out of Indiana fast enough. When I got to the airport, I decided to download “Location” and I had it on repeat for a few days. Slowly, I started buying other songs off his album, “American Teen”, and before I knew it, I was listening to the entire album on a loop.

In September, when I flew to Chattanooga to see my dad before his surgery, I was listening to his album to comfort me while I was hysterically crying in the airport:

I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.

The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.

I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.

Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.

It’s cheesy, but music has always comforted me, and it’s something my dad and I had in common. He loved all sorts of music, and my very first concert was with my parents, seeing one of my dad’s favorite bands, Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.

So yes, I’m AMPED to see Khalid, and I’m as equally excited to see Red Rocks… I will probably cry over stimulation overload and I’m okay with that.

The thing about Red Rocks is that there’s always a 99% chance of rain given its location and natural setup. Part of planning for this trip meant reading lots of guides and other blogs from people who’ve been to Red Rocks before. From that, I learned what kind of shoes to wear, and what to pack: an empty water bottle, warm clothes, and a rain poncho.

The concert is rain or shine, and many times it does rain, and the concert keeps going. But sometimes, they cancel it. And I will be damned if this turns into another John Mayer/Vegas/Non-Bucket List trip!

I’ve kept this trip very close to my heart – I’ve only told a few people – because, well, this trip is for me. I’m traveling alone, as I often do, and I’m experiencing this on my own. So many people I know have been to Denver already and I wanted to keep things new to me – sometimes it puts a damper on things when people share their experience with a place before you even get there.

Ever since my dad’s passing, I’ve been very aware of my own mortality. I’ve always felt some sense of pressure to live life, and do things, and don’t regret a moment… but that feeling is very amplified as of late.

I’m also very aware of people around me and what they’re doing with their life: whether it’s planning and taking trips, or building a business, or having a family… I’m just here, and I feel like I’m being left behind. So, this trip is coming at a perfect time – a time when I feel like I need to just get out there and live, and do something I have only dreamt of doing.

I wanted to plan my own activities and make this trip a complete getaway. So, aside from the concert, I do have a list of restaurants and breweries that I want to indulge in, and I’ve got a few sightseeing things on my list. I also treated myself to a fabulous hotel right in Downtown Denver. I’m looking forward to a true adventure.

For the sake of being present, I’m keeping the social media documentation to a minimum. I plan on posting a few Instagram pictures (@OrangeJulius7), but will be staying off other channels.

I’ll tell you all about it when I get the chance.

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Checking off my ATX bucket list!

The Austin skyline at sunset.

As of September 1, I’ve been living in Austin for two years. I came to this city with the intention of furthering my career, and really taking it as an opportunity to start fresh, leave the past behind me, and just LIVE my life.

So, I made a bucket list specifically for Austin, and I’m proud to say I’ve tackled at least half of it (if not more). Many of the items on my list got checked off this past weekend, when my best friend came to visit! We had so much fun, I wanted to share some of the things we did.

See the bats on Congress Bridge


Each fall, the biggest bat colony IN THE WORLD assembles itself under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. These are Mexican free-tailed bats, and they stick around until it gets chilly and then fly off to Mexico. Everyday, they sleep in the crevices of the bridge, and fly out at dusk to find dinner. And crowds come out in hoards to see them.

So, my friend and I took a “bat cruise”, where we got way too close (pretty sure we got pissed on) to said bats, but were in complete awe when the 1.5 million of the little guys came flying out from underneath the bridge. The sound of them squeaking will possibly ALWAYS be a memory.

Hike Mount Bonnell


Okay, so this wasn’t on my bucket list, but it’s one of the most well-known hikes in the city, particularly because of its stellar views all the way around. It’s a fairly easy hike and you can see the downtown skyline, the tower and stadium at the University of Texas, and there’s a great shot of the Colorado River. Absolutely gorgeous!

Paddle board on Lady Bird Lake


This wasn’t on my list either, although I did list “Have an adventure on Lake Travis”, which I did in August when I went on a pontoon boat across the lake! However, I have never been paddle boarding! I’ve been kayaking once, on the Colorado River, so my friend and I decided to grab some paddle boards, and we were able to paddle behind one of the stages at ACL and hear some live music before paddling back to the dock. It was fantastic!

Tour Jester King Brewery


The Jester King Brewery is basically out in the middle of nowhere, but I’m ALL about these sorts of adventures, especially in Texas. So, my friend and I drove southwest, and ended up on the working ranch where the brewery lives, right next to Stanley’s Pizza, which is a glorified barn, complete with a fire oven. This place made all of my Texas dreams come true: beer and wine served in mason jars, a pasture, live chickens, fresh beer, and chandeliers hanging from beams in the barn. And that pizza was delicious!

Hit up Rainey Street


I’ve already been to 6th street several times, but Rainey Street is supposedly more of the local’s place to get rowdy. We checked out Icenhauer’s, where we both got some fancy cocktails (her’s had grilled pineapple in it), and then we went to the Parlor Room, which seemed a little more college-esque. But still, a very good time.

Go to ACL


Also not on my bucket list, but a recent wish of mine has been to go to ACL, because why not? I live 15 minutes away! So, we got 1-day passes and completely lived our best festival lives and saw Tank and the Bangas, Run the Jewels, Vance Joy, The Killers, and about three minutes of Gorillaz. We both fell in love with the Silent Disco, drank our fair share of beer, and enjoyed a local favorite: Torchy’s Tacos. The frozen sangria was also tasty.

See Graffiti Park


This was a perfect stop on the way to the airport – closing off a three-day weekend of Texas fun. The Graffiti Park at Castle Hills has art on art on art. People are tagging it every day, and there were already messages of hope sprayed on the walls for Vegas and Houston. Plus there were plenty of owls, skulls, and pop culture references. A must see!

When I visited Indiana in June, many of the things I was told we could do, we didn’t end up doing, and that bothered me. I meet lots of people who are happy living where they were born and raised, and that’s great – but these are often the people that let life pass them by. I’m a firm believer in being a tourist where you live; making the most of each situation; and just going for it!

Other things I’ve crossed off my list include: get a pedicure at Caesar’s salon, eat at the Hula Hut, and one upcoming thing will be eating sushi at Uchiko!

Vegas recap.

Howdy! I’m still very much in recovery mode after a fun-filled trip to Las Vegas over a long weekend. I am tired, and completely off-schedule given the time difference, and in general I feel like I need to do a juice cleanse and/or eat a bunch of acai bowls until I feel clean again.

But of course, life doesn’t stop, work is nuts, my apartment is in shambles, and my calendar is full. Whew!

However, I was so excited to take a look at ALL the pictures I took (it’s a lot, just look at my Instagram @OrangeJulius7), and definitely wanted to post my favorites here – in no particular order.

I landed in Vegas late Thursday night, checked into the Palms, and promptly made myself a drink and hit the slots – losing $20 nearly immediately.

On Friday, it was a little chilly outside so we skipped on the pool and ventured to The Strip to partake in street drinking, gambling, sight-seeing (particularly the fountain at the Bellagio), and overeating at Wahlburgers.

Friday night was the Backstreet Boys concert at the Axis near/in Planet Hollywood, which was difficult AF to find. But, the hunt for the venue was worth it, because BSB pretty much made all of my boy band dreams come true. They played ALL of their hits, danced a lot (they even did the same dance from some of their music videos), and even wore glittery suit jackets for a few songs – and I about lost it. It was fantastic!

After the concert, I was on a mission to find two “secret” gems in Vegas – the Moet champagne vending machine and the unmarked pizza spot. We found them both, met a few cool people along the way, and saw some great views of the city. And, that pizza was some of the best I’ve ever had.

View from the Palms pool + lounge.

On Saturday, we hit the Palms pool (which was laced with security), shelled out the cash for a giant Palms Punch (nearly $50 for a souvenir cup filled with rum and champagne), and relaxed until it was time to get ready for the John Mayer concert. We even enjoyed a yummy dinner outdoors along the strip, before screaming our faces off at Mayer’s last show before meeting up with Dead & Co.

He mixed things up, singing several songs from “Room for Squares”, and of course, several from “The Search for Everything” – but I think he shocked everyone when he brought out the John Mayer Trio for a few songs.

After the concert, we noticed the roller coaster at New York, New York was eerily close to the T-Mobile arena, so we rode that… which was pretty terrifying, and thankfully was a drunk decision.

On Sunday, we had another day of adventure, hitting Linq for the delicious, huge plates at Hash House a-go-go (I got the Indiana pork tenderloin). Then, we checked out the Linq promenade for the Sprinkles cupcake ATM (I got the chocolate marshmallow), and to check out the High Roller.

Then we caught a ride to Fremont Street – Vegas’ original strip – where there are lights covering the street, live music, and several old casinos (some even spit quarters). To close the night we headed back to the strip for a nice dinner at Hexx – a bottle of wine, impressive charcuterie, shrimp pasta, and a sunset view of the Bellagio.

On Monday morning, we headed out for one last adventure: the Neon Museum. Neon signs are a signature of Las Vegas and have been since it was born, but many casinos change their names or simply lease their signs, so many of these signs end up in a “Boneyard”, which is what we got to tour. It was dozens upon dozens of neon bones, complete with a tour guide who told us all sorts of great history, and we even talked about the history of fonts and how neon is made. It was fantastic!

I flew home to Austin Monday afternoon, and although I felt my body was ready to get back to my usual life, I was sad to leave. That was my second time in Vegas, and both times I’ve just had SO much fun. I always feel like I need to make massive life changes once a vacation is over. I sure was sad driving the country roads home – with no neon or flashing lights to guide me.

But, who knows what’s in store for me over the next few months! I know I’m going to try and keep things exciting. I hope you enjoy my pictures 🙂