adventurer. photographer. wanderer

Bucket Lists and Bali

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on a really, really long flight to Bali. I might be starting my second book, watching a third movie in a row, or just passed out because I’m not sure what else to do or what time it is and the Dramamine has finally kicked in.

But right now I am sitting in a coffee shop in L.A. thinking about how in the world I got here. Let me rewind. 

Bucket lists. It seems like a lot of people have been talking about them lately and it’s the only thing that keeps coming to mind. It all started a few months ago when I decided I wanted to get my diving certification over the summer. You see, ever since my time in Costa Rica I have been fascinated with documenting life underwater. So I put it on my list of things to do for my summer in Austin…next to eating plenty of sno-cones from SnoBeach of course. I guess you could say I completed Steps 1 and 2 of my bucket list making process: be inspired and decide to do it. Okay. Cool. Now what?

From that point on it was like the Law of Attraction and bucket lists decided to become best friends…they were on my Facebook news feed, showing up in Instagram photos, making their way into simple conversations over dinner…instead of the usual engagements and babies, I saw and heard about people’s bucket lists EVERYWHERE.

But like a lot of things we say we want to do in life, they remain just that…words, things written on a crumpled piece of paper. Sure they warrant a glance every time you make a new grocery list, or as you’re frantically looking for where you wrote down that dang phone number or password you swore you didn’t change. And that’s where my attempt to start diving remained. Somewhere between eggs, bananas, and coffee.

It wasn’t but a couple weeks later that I received confirmation that I’d be traveling to Bali with Under30Experiences. The next day I signed up for my dive classes. There was no way I was going to Bali without that certification. It was the realization that I needed. And as much as I love eggs and coffee, there is no comparison to the satisfaction of deciding you want something, going after it, and then crossing it off that list.

I’m looking forward to drawing another line in my journal after I get off this plane and spend the next few weeks exploring Indonesia. Bali is now more than just a four letter word I wrote down once.

My Pack

This time tomorrow I will be on my way to Iceland. My calendar alert just went off letting me know I’m leaving. I guess that means it’s official. The countdown that felt like it could go on forever is finally over. I should probably start packing, but in my usual style I’m waiting until the night before my very, very early flight. 

It’s not that I dislike packing. I actually really enjoy it because it means another adventure is around the corner, a new opportunity to meet people and see places I’ve only heard of. It also makes me go into cleaning mode. My gear bags get emptied and reorganized, old boarding passes that were stuffed into pockets get one last reminiscent look and tossed in the trash, receipts from copious cups of coffee get crumpled up, and so on.

One of the items that goes wherever I go is my backpack. It might sound silly, but it’s basically an extension of myself. It serves as my purse, my photo pack, my lake bag, my snowboard carry, my survival kit, or as I like to call it my Mary Poppins bag. When I asked for it as a birthday gift almost three years ago I had no idea how many miles it would travel with me and how many memories it would hold. 

Since my backpack is also one of my favorite things to go through and clean out before a big trip, I thought I would share what’s inside. So here it goes… a peak at the items that can be found in my pack on any and most every day…

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1. Laptop. Transferring and editing photo files from anywhere is important to me.

2. iPhone. Probably the single best tool almost everyone has within reach.

3. iPad. It weighs and takes up less space than carrying around my reading books.

4. GoPro. Having a camera that is so small and versatile is awesome.

5. Olloclip. It’s a 4-in-1 iPhone lens that I most recently fell in love with.

6. Journal. The actual act of writing pen to paper should never be lost. It’s nice to step away from technology. Try it.

7. Knife. They’re just good to have around. Plain and simple.

8. Multitool. Again they’re good to have around.

9. Headlamp. Reading, camping, or walking back from a sunset hike to the beach in Nicaragua…they rock.

10. Mini First-Aid Kit/Disney Princess Band-aids. You never know. 

11. Hand/Face Wipes. I tend to spill stuff on a daily basis. Plus, between time spent in airports and long car rides they help you feel a little less gross.

12. Earbuds and Earplugs. Crying babies, snoring neighbors, and good tunes. 

13. USB Drive. Sharing files without Dropbox.

14. Pens, Pencils, Sharpies. They pair nicely with my journal. Or airplane napkins.

15. Chargers. Powering my life one electronic device at a time.

16. Surf Key. Removing fins from boards is hard to do without it.

17. Boat Drain Plug. Sucks when you’re launching the boat and forgot about that one. I have an extra now.

18. Sunscreen. Put it on. I sound like my mom.

19. Dramamine. Whether you’re on the water or just generally nauseous and want to sleep through your flight.

20. Koozies. They’re always helpful.

21. Bobby Pins. I’m a girl. But they can be multi-purpose.

22. Deodorant. Be kind to your neighbors.

23. Change/Coins. Nice for toll roads or coffee tips. Just found some in a pocket from Canada, Nicaragua and the U.S. 

24. Deck of Cards. Can’t go wrong.

25. Snacks. Right now it’s my favorite Pink Lady apple.

26. Nalgene. Having an indestructible water bottle is necessary for me. Plus, it holds 32 oz at a time. 

Since it’s now empty it would probably be a good idea for me to start repacking it along with some clothes and my camera gear. But let’s be real it’s only lunch time and it’s pretty outside.

Be on the lookout for some photos from my time in Iceland with Under30Experiences! Here we go.

Ice Drives and Early Morning Flights

Every muscle in my body was firing as my hands held steady at ten and two. It felt like I was holding my breath underwater…18 wheelers spinning out three feet to my right, ice crunching beneath my tires, my eyes searching the frozen road ahead as the temperature kept falling. The day before was 80 degrees and now it was 18. What the hell…why did I decide to book my flight out of Dallas instead of Austin again? This better not be a repeat of that freak ice storm in Atlanta.

Regardless, I had never felt more thankful. About a year ago I purchased my FJ80 Toyota Landcruiser. Ruby, as I like to call her, has been my saving grace from day one. She’s my pal, my travel companion, and in moments like this one my livelihood. Yes, I am personifying my vehicle and yes she is a BADASS. 

You might think I’m overreacting about this ice drive, but let me tell you I-35 is no joke. Even on a good day it’s still bad. Plain and simple it sucks. Now add ice, the dark, and Texas drivers and you’ve got yourself one huge mess. There are times in your life when you wish you could just fast forward and know you’re going to be okay at the end of the day…this was one of them. If only I could close my eyes really tight, click my heels twice and be sitting in my familiar window seat on the flight to Alaska I was trying to catch.

Luckily my sister also had to be in Dallas for business so she rode with me. Usually I am completely content on my own, but sometimes there is nothing more reassuring in the world than having your big sister sitting next to you.

So after passing accident after accident and crawling over every bridge and overpass I had already gone through the mental checklist of what we had in the truck in case we got stuck. Sub freezing sleeping bag? Got it. Three gallons of water? Yes. Backup food, flashlight, emergency kit, tire chains? Yup. Oh yeah that generator is still back there isn’t it? Okay, we’re good. Spending two months on a road trip this fall had outfitted Ruby for moments like this. Good thing I decided not to really “unpack.” I guess I enjoy the idea of being able to leave in a moments notice and like I said, my truck literally is my livelihood.

What normally is a three hour drive turned into seven and then some. There was just enough time to eat a grilled cheese sandwich and take a “nap” before leaving for the airport. I checked in, dropped off my snowboarding gear, and threw my backpack under the seat in front of me. Whew. I finally let out a deep breath. I was happy to be sitting in a plane at 6am…even without coffee in my hand.

Thanks for the ride Rubes!

Happy and cruising pre-ice!

I-35 Ice Drive from Courtney Slade on Vimeo.

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A DAY

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In the last few weeks I’ve surfed, explored, salsa danced, played soccer, witnessed some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises, snowboarded, hiked mountains, gone dogsledding, consumed an extraordinary amount of coffee and fish tacos, been on ten flights, captured thousands of moments through photos and videos, and made the coolest new friends. And that’s just the sweet surface of my time traveling with Under30Experiences to Nicaragua and Alaska.

I’ve been sitting here for quite some time trying to figure out how to describe my life since I boarded my first flight at 5:45am to hang out with seventeen other people I had never met before. And to be honest, I’m not sure I can. So instead of trying to come up with the most effective and eloquent way of telling you about my experience as a whole, I am going to tell you about a perfect day, a single day I will remember for the rest of my life that happened just as it should.

I woke up at 7am in Nicaragua. My alarm didn’t sound, just my inner clock telling me I was 50 steps away from a hot cup of coffee and breakfast under a palapa. I put on my bathing suit, board shorts, and rash guard and walked outside.

After breakfast I grabbed a surfboard and hopped in Dexter’s truck. Matt passed me some sunscreen as we made our way quietly down the pothole stricken road to Playa Maderas. I left my flip flops in the truck, put some wax on my board, and walked softly into the water.

We surfed for an hour or so. It felt good to be back in the ocean even though I was paddling more and catching less waves than I’d like. It didn’t matter. I finally let the water take me back to shore and sat in the sand, watching the rest of the locals enjoy their morning sets.

Twenty minutes later the rest of the U30X crew slowly made their way to the beach. Some laid out their beach towels in the sun while others took off on a walk. We started a pick-up sand volleyball game that ended with the best fish tacos for lunch at Tacos Locos.

I had no money, I didn’t even have shoes. All I had were the clothes on my back and a surfboard at my side. My camera that’s usually within reach was left behind. My friend Kevin spotted me for lunch. I was the happiest I’d been in a very long time. There was literally nothing weighing me down, nothing to distract my attention. I was honestly living in every single moment.

We piled in a truck and left the beach to play soccer with some local school kids. The rest of the day faded into a sunset hike and countless laughs at dinner. I grabbed my book but didn’t get a chance to open it before falling asleep. I had used the entire day and it was perfect.

Salud.

I hope I’ll get to share a perfect day with you on an upcoming Under30Experiences trip! Here’s a glimpse at my time in Nicaragua. Enjoy.

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