Earlier this year I was featured on Dates In the States, an American-based travel blog. They interview various different bloggers to share their travel stories so I was really excited when they approached me. It was a pleasure to work with Crystal and Shane and I love their work, so I thought I would return the favour and interview them back.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your blog and how it all got started.
My name is Crystal and I am the writer and creator of Dates in the States. Shane, my boyfriend, is the brains and helps me come up with the content and ideas. Without him, Dates in the States wouldn't be where it is now! We've recently grown our social media exponentially, created an online course, and a Patreon Membership for our followers.
Our blog, Dates in the States began shortly after our 5-week road trip touring the United States. We've both developed a love of travel and our relationship has grown because of it. We've always been taking road trips and going out on fun dates together. We wanted to record those travels of ours with this blog and tell the world about them.
2. A lot of people want to travel but can't afford it. How do you make it work?
In all honesty, we both have day jobs. Unfortunately, our blog doesn't pay our bills! With each paycheck we set aside a certain percentage to go into our "Travel Fund". Within a few months, we have enough to travel comfortably. Although, we can't splurge!
From our blog, we receive complimentary travels and experiences from Hotels, Events, and Restaurants. They provide us a free stay, free attendance, or a free meal and in return we provide them blog posts, photos, videos, and so much more. Our online course, "Email Your Way to Free Travel" explains how we sometimes get complimentary travel and services like these from businesses. It's a great interactive course that will take you through each step from start to finish. To learn more, please visit: https://dates-in-the-states.teachable.com/
We also watch very closely for deals online. We signed up for Next Vacay (https://nextvacay.com/), a service that sends you emails daily for cheap flights. This has been a great help when planning getaways! When traveling in cities, we use the BestParking app(https://www.bestparking.com/), which saves a boat load on parking. Parking can be very expensive especially in cities like Chicago and Nashville and a lot of people don't think about that when planning their budget.
I've always been very budget oriented, and creating a budget that you can stick to when traveling is very important. Plan out how much you can afford for a hotel, a flight/gas, how much you can spend on food, and don't buy a lot of souvenirs. We also love finding free things to do in every place we travel to. This involves a lot of research beforehand. Usually the free things are the most fun things! Did you know, many cities have "free" walking tours? The only cost to these are the tips – you decide how much to pay the tour guide.
Those are just a few ideas that we love sharing about different ways to afford travel. Not only do we teach a lot in our online course, but on our Patreon (www.patreon.com/datesinthestates), we share our budget outline, discount codes, and we even giveaway Groupons for hotels and restaurants!
3. You've been a lot of places, but do you have an absolute favourite?
This is a tough question! We have so many places that we've loved and want to visit over and over again. My top choice is New Orleans. I've been there twice and it has become my favorite city in the United States. There are so many things to do, to see, and to learn. We love the French and Spanish culture and the Voodoo history.
We also love Zion National Park. This was one of our stops on our 5-week road trip across the U.S. It was my second time visiting Zion, but Shane's 1st. The views were breathtaking and we were disappointed we didn't get to hike all the trails we wanted to. This was due to a major hailstorm that happened on our way to the Narrows. We had to take cover under a cliff overhang! It was so crazy. Ever since then, he's been begging to go back and see the rest of it.
4. Is there a location at the top of your travel bucket list? Where is it, and when do you plan to go?
We both have such a long list of the places we want to travel to. At the moment we hope to visit Colorado within the next year. We have a goal of visiting all the National Parks and Colorado is home to three of them that I have yet to visit. Another place is Japan, but that might be a few years from now due to finances.
5. A lot of people are leery to travel to the United States right now. You're in a good position to show people otherwise. What would you say to people who aren't sure about travelling to the United States?
No matter where you travel to, there always seems to be some sort of misconception that people have in their minds. Some countries can get a bad rap, but that shouldn't stop anyone from visiting all the breathtaking and natural beauty that each country, like the United States has to offer in one way or another. That is what our blog is all about - to showcase the beauty of the United States and things to do in our country either solo or with a loved one.
6. Share a quick picture of your last big trip and tell us a bit about it.
We recently traveled to Florida to visit my parents who have a vacation home in Cape Coral. I've always done this trip just about every other year, but this was only my third time taking Shane. This time, we flew into Orlando and met up with my parents where we spent three days in Disney World. We enjoyed Epcot's Food & Wine Festival for 2 of those days and then spent time at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
After spending three days in Disney, we drove 3 hours South West to Cape Coral to stay at my parent's house for the rest of the week. They have a house right on the canal and it's just so peaceful to lounge by the pool all day, enjoy the sunsets, and catch glimpses of manatee's and dolphins in the canal.
7. Where is the best place to travel this autumn?
Well, since we just got back from Florida, we must say Disney World! September is one of the best months to go and visit Disney World because many people are back in school and not too many families are taking vacations at this time of year. So, the lines for all the rides were so short we were able to enjoy rides that we hadn't had the opportunity to ride in years because they are so popular and the lines were always horrendous. Also, you can enjoy Disney's Not So Scary Halloween decorations and celebrations.
Another place we would recommend is Letchworth State Park in our home state, New York. Some people call it the "Grand Canyon of the East" and is one of the most scenic areas in the eastern United States. Fall is a beautiful time of year with all the stunning fall colors that New York has to offer.
8. Where do you plan to go next?
We've been talking a lot about traveling to Colorado. It's a state that we've never actually been to. We always seem to be finding ourselves driving around it, never actually through it! We'd love to see Colorado Springs and hike the Garden of the Gods and soak in a natural hot spring. We also have a goal of visiting all the National Parks, and Colorado is home to three of those that we need to mark off our list (Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison).
9. There are a lot of social medias out there, but what is the best place to find you?
We are on all social media platforms and they are updated regularly, but here are a few of our most popular platforms:
10. I love what you're doing and I'm excited to learn more about the United States. How can I support you?
Thank you. We actually receive our greatest support from our Patrons on www.patreon.com/datesinthestates. Patreon is an online membership that offers our followers a chance to receive rewards and amazing content not found on our blog. Meanwhile, it helps us to continue our travels and provide free content. All support is accepted and appreciated in any form. Even just by you visiting our website or following us on social media means a lot to us!
Don't forget to pin it!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
A few articles ago I listed Ogema as one of the top destinations to visit in Saskatchewan. Immediately after I wrote the article, I put my money where my mouth was and booked a weekend trip to Ogema for my girlfriend and me. I figured it wouldn't be fair to my readers to recommend a place for them to visit without actually visiting it myself, and after getting my new Galaxy S7 from TELUS I figured I needed a reason to test it out.
Earlier this year I took my Galaxy S6 to La Ronge, and had very little coverage. I wanted to use Facebook's new Live Video option, but I couldn't get enough service to even send a text message. I was pretty disappointed by the coverage with that provider, so I was interested to see how TELUS' network was in Ogema.
The result was pretty darn good! We streamed Spotify all the way there, were able to do a Live Video from the Deep South Pioneer Museum and took some really great pictures and videos of the trip. It also helped to have a reliable network when I got lost driving there (don't ask me how!). TELUS has invested over $29 billion into their network since 2000 and it has really paid off. It's a great feeling knowing that no matter where you travel, you can rely on TELUS to keep you connected.
Long before I started my blog, many, many years ago, I visited Innsbruck, Austria. I was on a Contiki trip through Europe and visited a plethora of locations such as Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Lucerne and Innsbruck, just to name a few. It was an incredible experience and one that I think was a transformative moment in my life.
Off the record (or, on the record now, I guess), of all the places I visited, the only one I didn't like was Innsbruck. I couldn't get into it. We visited it in late March, so the weather wasn't the best. The trees didn't have any leaves on them, the grass was brown, and everything had a post-winter grey look to it. After visiting Munich and spending the night in St. Goar, my mind wasn't thinking about Innsbruck at all. Instead, I was more excited to go to Venice the next day, and the Vatican the day after that. My time in Innsbruck was uneventful, and all I wanted was to get back on the road.
That was in 2011, and now it's 2018. Has my opinion on Innsbruck changed? I would say yes. I'm more mature now and if I went back, I would better appreciate what I was seeing. As I've gotten older, I've been less impressed by the massive buildings and more enthralled by the history that created them.