How I Scored Permits to Havasupai This Year!

Before I write this, I have an admission to make…

I had never heard of Havasupai before this year.

I KNOW, I KNOW.

How can I call myself a travel aficionado (I don’t) and not know what this majestic place is!?

For those who are as uninformed as I was, Havasupai Indian Reservation is considered one of the most remote Indian reservations in the good ol’ USA.

Actually, it’s THE most remote village in the lower 48.

In fact, folks who LIVE in this village still get their mail delivered by MULE.

Did I mention this reservation is tucked away IN the Grand Canyon and the only way to get there is to traverse 20+ miles RT on foot? (I mean, okay, yes you can helicopter in but WHAT FUN IS THAT!?!)

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And did I mention that you need a PERMIT to even attempt the hike there?

It’s apparently a BIG DEAL and there are folks who have been trying for YEARS to score permits. They go on sale just one day a year: Feb. 1

I came to find out about this magical place through a fellow couchsurfer I met while in Montana. Remember Montana? And my undying adoration for it? Anyways…

I kept in touch with this fella and he reached out to me at the end of January asking if I’d ever heard of Havasupai. I immediately Googled it and was like, holy bananas, HOW HAVE I NOT HEARD OF THIS WONDERLAND!?

Fast forward to a few days later, Feb. 1st. Everyone and their mothers are visiting this website to try for one of these coveted permits.

Pro Tip: You have to make an account to even attempt to get a permit, so make one IN ADVANCE! Then, as soon as the window opens, you’ll be logged in and ready to go!

I was logged in half an hour before the window even opened to start buying…once 10AM (EST) came around, I was click-click-clicking away!

By 10:51AM, I had gotten through to the calendar page – where you pick out the dates you want (it’s a set parameter of 4 days/3 nights, no exceptions) – THREE times but the site kept crashing on me.

At 11:03AM, IT WORKED!

I had gotten through and I had the confirmation email to PROVE IT!

Beginner’s luck! It took me over an hour but I was persistent.

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I also kept trolling Twitter with the #Havasupai tag to see how others were making out. I saw a lot of folks having trouble but there were also some beacons of light who encouraged folks to keep clicking through — and that’s exactly what I did!

I also kept refreshing my browser, which I think many folks were afraid to do…fearing they’d ‘lose their place’ — but those were the people who ended up with no permits at all.

Keep in mind this is not a FREE trip. The below info is straight from the website:

ALL campground reservations are 3 Nights / 4 Days.

$100 per person per weekday night
$125 per person per weekend night (Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights)

These prices include all necessary permits, fees, and taxes.

This means that a 3 Night / 4 Day stay will be a total of between $300 and $375 per person (depending upon how many weekend nights are included).

I’ve been told that the prices have gone up significantly (again, I had no idea because I’d never even heard of this, whoopsie!), but I figured it was a solid investment for memories that’d surely last a lifetime.

So, when am I going?! THREE WEEKS FROM TODAY!!!

April 28 – May 2

Fun Fact: This will be my FIRST time legit camping in a tent outside.
It’ll also be the most challenging hike I’ve ever done. Eek!

Stay tuned for my packing list and TONS of photos.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

Dear Denver…

Ah jeez. Just when I had my heart set on moving to Montana, I had to go and venture to Colorado. Another beautiful state with an abundance of snow-capped mountains. 😍

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Sure, folks come here for the good ol’ cannabis…in fact, one of my hostel roommates who introduced himself as “Ty Ty” said:

“I just travel to the weed states. I’m going to Seattle next.”

God, I love hostels.

Anyways, I’ll pass on the pot. Not my thing. Luckily, Denver is so much more than dispensaries…though Hostel Fish is conveniently located NEXT DOOR to one if that’s your thing. No smoking IN the rooms though unless you feel like handing over $150. Think of all the edibles you could buy with that! I actually have no idea. Anyways…

I decided to jet to Denver because it’s a hella cheap flight from Detroit.

Like, just 50 smackaroonies. Wooooooo!

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If you’re traveling solo, you should ABSOLUTELY stay at Hostel Fish.
Weird name, right? Denver’s not known for fish…wait, what about rocky mountain oysters?

NO, THOSE ARE TESTICLES. DON’T LET THEM TRICK YOU.

Okay, okay, the owner’s last name is Fish. The hostel is NOT fish-themed or anything. Nothing fishy about it.

If you’re looking to come to the Mile High City (named for its elevation not the pot stuff jeeeez you guys!), you may come across the 11th Avenue Hostel. DO NOT STAY THERE. I’ve heard that it allegedly smells and there may or may not have been a thrash of bed bugs. I can’t say for sure, but, like, why take a chance?!

I’ve stayed at tons of hostels both in the states and in Europe– Hostel Fish has BY FAR the friendliest staff I’ve ever encountered. Like, they actually hang out with the guests and every single one of ’em has an interesting tale to tell. Plus, the rooms are themed, clean, and – holy heck! – the beds are legitimately COMFY.

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There’s a fun bar area (guests get a free drink each night!) and a kitchen too. Every Thursday, the hostel hosts a pub crawl – all the main bars are literally around the corner from Hostel Fish. I went on the pub crawl and tbh the highlight was spotting this WOLF at one of the bars:

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Her name was Aspen and she was SUCH a mush and I spent a solid 25 minutes sitting on the floor petting her.

The hostel is also located above a super cool restaurant/bar/dance joint called Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox. Even the locals recommend this spot, so you know it’s good. We actually ended our pub crawl at Ophelia’s and had a super fun time on the dance floor.

Much more to say about Denver but this gal needs to get her butt up for an early flight to CA tomorrow! 

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

Montana is the best but no one there wants you to know it

A bit of culture shock is expected when you leave your own country, right? Like, oh, I’m going to Paris and everyone is going to smoke everywhere all the time and I don’t have to tip anywhere and I’m going to get dirty looks for even trying to speak French…TRES BIEN. I get it. This is not America and the servings here are not large and I’m ok with that (no I’m not). But, hey, life’s great and I’m eating my weight in croissants on quaint little streets named Rue Saint Dominique and such. Ya know?

But what about culture shock IN America? AS AN AMERICAN?!

I present to you, Montana.

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M

O

N

T

A

N

A

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Glacier National Park

I’ve been to the South. I’ve been to Utah. I’ve been to Texas. I’ve been here and there.

But…

MONTANA.

GUYS.

I loved it. I smiled the entire time I was there minus when the power went out in my Airbnb just as it started to snow and I was all alone but ANYWAY.

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Mission Mountain Range

LOOK HOW PRETTY EVERYTHING IS.

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Lake McDonald

Montana’s the kind of place where folks are friendly for no good reason and it’s weird because NY is, like, well…not like that. I mean, NY is my home and I adore it and I too hate when tourists stop in the middle of sidewalks and/or walk on the WRONG side (people, sidewalks are like ROADS…there is a right way and a wrong way to walk) and people who think Times Square and 5th Ave. are New York City, like, hello no bye.

New Yorkers are blunt, brash, bonkers, and bankrupt because the rent is too damn high.

We run on Dunkin’ and Montana runs on these adorable little coffee shacks that I quickly became obsessed with but oh so embarrassed to drive through in my dumb Cadillac (quick story time: I rented a car and they gave me a Caddy which most would love but I was like UGH and it didn’t have a CD player and I was SO mad because I brought my Man of the Woods CD because duh and I missed my little 2000 Toyota Camry and I felt like I was driving a spaceship and it had Cali license plates to make things worse and it was just so not Montana or me but ANYWAY).

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Cowgirl Coffee where they claim to have “the best hot chocolate ever” so naturally I got it and it was not the best. City Bakery in NYC is still THE BEST but whatever it was chocolate and it was hot so it was nice.
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Not my Caddy but the car I wish I had been driving bc I BET that puppy has a CD player.

Things I did in Montana:

  • Went camping for the first time.
  • Saw the Milky Way with my own four eyes.
  • Saw a half-full milk jug on the side of the road.
  • Saw a few bison!
  • Went to Wyoming.
  • Drank huckleberry wine.
  • Wait, Wyoming is NOT in Montana. Whoopsie daisy.
  • Changed my mind about dinosaurs existing. I blame Zack.
  • Hiked a mountain by myself and thought I saw a bear but it was really a large deer.
  • Pulled over several times to let other cars pass me because I was driving grandma miles per hour to really take in my surroundings. SO MUCH BEAUTIFULNESS.
  • Said “Wow, everyone here is SO nice!” approximately 2,945 times.
  • Said “Wow, everything here is SO gorgeous!” approximately 2,946 times.
  • Couchsurfed for the first time and met the coolest family and fellow couchsurfer.
  • Fell in some mud in a field after dancing to JT on the side of the road. I blame Zack.
  • Turned bright red when my tour group and guide sang ‘happy birthday’ to me on a red bus tour in Glacier National Park the day after my actual birthday only to find out that there was another lady and it was her ACTUAL birthday and then the tour guide was like ‘sorry, we’re not singing again’ and I was like omg I just stole her thunder WHOOPS.
  • Saw Old Faithful erupt! That might’ve technically been in Wyoming but– oh, look! A bison!

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I’ve been to quite a few places. And I always ask myself, “Hmmm, could I see myself living here?” whenever I travel somewhere new. I compare everything to NY. But we all know NY is incomparable. It’s electric, magnetic, rat-infested, and smells like pee most of the time.

But it’s wonderful.

And it’s safe and cozy and I know where all my favorite things are because the grid system is INCREDIBLE but hot damn huckleberry pancakes!

Montana sure felt like home.

Like your favorite worn-out book with all the soft, wrinkly dog-eared pages that you keep going back to, re-reading it over and over because it’s just so damn GOOD and you find new details and bits of gold and coffee-stained spots (whoops) each time you read it and it never ever gets old.

THAT’S MONTANA.

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But the locals don’t want you to know it! They want to preserve the great treasure state– and I don’t blame them.

Here’s the thing. If you go to a place like Missoula or Bozeman, you can’t expect it to be like LA or NY or wherever, right? You have to EMBRACE the simple life. I mean, it’s not all dirt roads and log cabins and fishin’ and all that– in fact, I saw the prettiest Walmart while in Montana. And by “prettiest” I mean it was literally a regular Walmart SURROUNDED by gorgeous mountains and it was unreal and it almost made me want to shop there but I didn’t.

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Ok, so where did I go, exactly?

  • Kalispell
  • Whitefish
  • Missoula
  • Helena
  • Bozeman
  • Big Sky
  • Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, into the woods, down some streets, here and there, you get it.

Right after Montana, I flew to LA for a weekend to visit some friends and, let me tell YOU, flying from the tiny little airport in Bozeman (complete with dinosaur fossils) to LAX (complete with yoga rooms) was culture SHOCKKKCKCKKCKCK. I was like, wait, what IS Starbucks and where are my little Cowgirl Coffees at and why is everyone wearing full make-up and talking about acting and avocados?

I found myself missing Montana as soon as I left. 😭

From the sweeping landscapes and the abundance of mom and pop shops to the suspiciously friendly residents and the unpredictable weather, I am HOMESICK for this state.

So, au revoir New York! I’m excited to call Montana my actual home beary soon.

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Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

“This Is the Best Cheesecake Ever,” Said a New Yorker in Berlin

Ah, New York. Home to the best of the best. From pizza and pastrami to bagels and bodegas, if you want it, NY has it. And it is the best.

Also, apparently home to the “best fly fishing east of the Rockies,” according to the New York State Conservationist MagazineWho knew? 

Of course, the Empire State is also known for its infamous New York-style cheesecake. From Junior’s to Eileen’s Special Cheesecake and S&S, it’s hard to argue with the feeling of your arteries closing as you take ‘just one more bite’ of the creamy cake made of fromage.

I mean, it’s hard to argue with a New Yorker in general. Colin Heinrich offers a guide “how to win an argument with somebody from New York” …but he’s not a native New Yorker so I wouldn’t trust him.

Anyway. 

Back to Berlin. Remember that time I was in Berlin and it was awful? Ok, it wasn’t that bad…just, like, weird and grungy with a real sex, drugs, and rock & roll house music type vibe. Sounds like my kind of place, right?

*Taps ruby slippers off-white BOBS Skechers together, desperately trying to get back to NY*

BUT WAIT.

The cake made of cheese, guys. The cheesecake. 

I was led to a little place called Five Elephant by Loic, the photographer I booked for an Airbnb Experience. More on that in another post…but here’s a sneak peek:

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Dammmnnn, nice photo skills, Loic! Ok, back to the cake.

Loic asked if I’d like to stop somewhere for a drink (beer) or a coffee.

Me: ‘Oh, yeah! Cawwwfeee for sure!’

Loic: ‘Er…’

Me: ‘Great!’

On we went. Loic insisted that the place we were going not only had great cawwfee but the *best* cheesecake as well.

*New Yorker skepticism sets in*

 ewis1.gifWho does this guy think he is? He’s not even from Berlin and now he thinks some random cawwfee shop has the ‘best’ cheesecake. We’ll see about that. Has he ever been to NY? Nope, he hasn’t. WHAT DOES HE EVEN KNOW?!

But…GUYS.

Five Elephant is on an unassuming street in Berlin’s more artsy fartsy district, Kreuzberg. And, well, I’ll try to describe the cheesecake…but first, a photo:

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Do you see that thin layer on the top? Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. But cheesecake will never be the same without it.

And that crust? Yeah, again, I don’t know but it was THE BEST.

And the actual cheesecake? ‘Holy bananas’ is all I can say.

It was as if the cheesecake was whipped for days on end by little elves. Magical, delightful, cheesecake-making elves. (Sidenote: I am ready for snowy weather and Christmas. Can you tell?)

GUYS. I know I can be dramatic, but LOOK at Jonathan’s review. He is a “LOCAL GUIDE.” The internet doesn’t lie! 

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Yo, that guy Jonathan that reviewed this place WAS RIGHT. 😂

The comments go on and on…I’ve noticed folks have knocked off stars for the cafe’s lack of WiFi, but seriously. You will not need to connect to anything except your inner soul once you take a bite of that cheesecake.

I almost don’t want to ‘publish’ this blog post for fear that this place will really catch on and turn into a chain and then it’ll be awful.

But I’m not that popular, so publish I shall! 

Alas, it was a cake made of cheese that left me beguiled by Berlin.

You win, Berlin.

You win.

Spread kindness and cheer (and cheese and cake), xo
Jackie

Geneva: A Beautifully Boring City but a Hilarious Airbnb Story You Need to Hear

Isn’t it a drag when you expect so much from a place only to realize it’s rather quite dull? It’s like meeting a really pretty/handsome person and then realizing he or she has zero personality. Bienvenue à Genève! 😂

Ok, Geneva wasn’t all bad and I’ll even give y’all some tips if you decide to venture to this Swiss city…but don’t expect any nightlife or culture or affordable food or, well, anything.

😂

The lower your expectations, the better time you’ll have!

But First…Our Airbnb Host

Alright, this is too good not to share with y’all. Mon got to our Airbnb in Geneva before I did and she recounted the following exchange with our host:

Anna: Just so you know, none of my neighbors know that I run an Airbnb. So, if you see anyone and they ask anything just say you’re visiting.

Mon: Ok, will do.

Anna: Great. My kids and their father are on holiday right now and they don’t know either.

Mon: 🤔😅😂😂😂😂

I DIED WHEN SHE TOLD ME THAT. Mind you, we stayed in HER CHILDREN’S ROOMS!! And her Airbnb has over 100 reviews!! This woman has been conning her family for A WHILE NOW. 😂😂😂 What if her family returned early? What if they arrived in the middle of the night to find us sleeping in their beds!? SO many questions!!!

Plus, while we were there she had another Airbnb guest staying in her other child’s room! 😂

We opted for an Airbnb over a hostel in Geneva because they were essentially the same price and the hostels didn’t look particularly lively.

What to do in Geneva?

If you love the outdoors, great. Head over to the lake and take in the views. For just two francs (cash only), you can access a dock area called Baines des Pâquis.

Mon and I went to a grocery store called Coop and grabbed a bottle of wine (Geneva is open container), some food, and spent the day by Lake Geneva.

There was a cool structure that folks were jumping off of into the lake…Mon did it twice and got a huge bruise on her ass after landing the wrong way…both times. 😂 Whoopsie!

What else is there to do?

You can venture across the bridge to St. Pierre Cathedral. For just five francs you can climb to the top and take in the panoramic views. The staircase up is narrow and not ideal if you’re claustrophobic like me, but having my best friend with me helped. I probably wouldn’t have done it by myself. 😂 It was worth the initial stomach pains though! (I was literally that nervous about getting trapped in the staircase.)

If you’re looking for another cool view in Geneva, don’t miss La Jonction! This stunning spot isn’t too far from the main city center…it’s where the River Rhone and the River Arve meet. The Rhone is the pretty side, while the Arve is rather murky (and smelly! 😮).

See that little viewing platform above? That’s where the walk will take you initially… but see that tree? It perfectly blocks the view of the divide! So, Mon and I saw this bridge (from where these pics are taken) and were determined to get up there…we found a path and made our way up! It was a fun adventure and I definitely recommend it!

Other Tips for Geneva

When most people think of Switzerland, they think of fondue, etc. Well, that’s not really a thing for locals here. In fact, I couldn’t get a good read on what their go-to cuisine was other than expensive. Even fast food will cost you a good $15-20 francs! Stick with grocery store food to save money!

The public transportation is easy to use…there are plenty of trams and buses. It’s similar to Berlin in that it runs on the honor system. Apparently, there are random checks for tickets but Mon and I never had ours checked.

If you take the bus/tram to a stop called ‘Nations’ you can see the UN building, as well as the famous ‘broken chair’ art installation. It’s literally across the street from the UN.

While there are cool sights to be seen in Geneva, there is zero nightlife! I’m glad I was with Monica because it would’ve been less fun venturing around alone during the day as there’s not tons to do.

So, I probably wouldn’t recommend Geneva for a solo trip. 🙅 Have you been? Let me know!

Will you runaway with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie