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Homeaway (VRBO) vs. AirBnB – Costs to Owners

airbnb - my listingThis article is to help those with a home that they want to rent decide which site will yield them the greatest return, AirBnb or Homeaway (VRBO). [if you’re a renter, know that in my opinion, AirBnb provides the most seamless and easy experience – here is a referral link for $25 off your first booking].

I’m assuming that you already have a basic understanding of what both of these companies do. In essence, they allow you to provide your home as a rental on a short term basis, whether that’s 1 night or longer terms like a month or so. For us, the average, has been 2-3 nights, with folks coming to town to visit, vacation, do business, etc.

Homeaway was started in 2005 and is more focused on vacation rentals. It has acquired a number of other rental sites in order to increase its market share and help with productivity tools for owners and property managers (a large part of their model).
AirBnB started in 2008 and was more geared towards the tech savvy traveler looking for a room to rent. But it’s grown and has expanded into full home rentals and vacation properties, since in essence any home can be used for vacation.
Both are close in terms of their number of listings and worldwide presence, but I feel that AirBnB is much better positioned for growth. They seemed to have the vision from the start and Homeaway seems to be playing catch up and acquiring companies that can help them make things easier (which I find in the short term can have an adverse effect and be more difficult for their users, owners and renters alike).

Maybe you’re thinking about renting your home using these platforms or maybe you’ve already done it a few times. You may have known about one but not the other. I’ve found that after close to 6 months of renting my home full time that we get close to 50% of our bookings from AirBnb and the other 50% from VRBO, so I’d definitely recommend setting your rental up on both of the websites. It also helps if your property is close to where people want to be (downtowns, beaches, lakes, quiet peaceful country, etc.)

Understanding the costs is pretty simple, but you have to spend a bit of time studying closely to understand them, so let me break down what I’ve found out.

AirBnB: Takes 3% of the overall rental price (plus added fees) as their charge. This includes credit card processing fees also. (note: guests are apparently charged 6-12% of the booking as a fee to them, so keep this in mind when pricing your home compared to your competition).

VRBO: They have the option of no listing fee and 10% fee per booking. This includes the credit card processing fees also. You can also choose to pay a yearly fee starting at $349 for the year. It says there’s a 0% fee, but it’s a bit misleading since you still have to pay for credit card processing. So in reality it’s a 10% fee with no yearly fee or a 3% with $349/yr. (or more depending on plan).
We are actually in the process of determining if that net 7% booking fee will cost us more than the $349/yr.   And it’s looking like it may. If that’s the case, we may be upgrading and paying the yearly fee in order to lower our fees from 10% to about 3% (credit cards).

So the net effect to the renter is that clearly AirBnB will leave more money in your pocket.
But what will your pricing need to be to stay competitive?
Will you have more renters from VRBO?

My advice is to get your home on both platforms and measure your experiences over time, both with finances and your enjoyment of the experience of working with both.

Happy Renting!


Life List Updates

So I keep a Life List – these are items that I want to do during my lifetime.
Some will take years.
Some I could do in the next week if I really wanted to.

I don’t believe in a fixed list.
As my interests change I add to and take away.

I keep a list in an app that I use (Trello) so that when something cool hits me I can add it.

Here are my latest additions to my Life List:

Own a car that runs on vegetable oil.

Get sprayed by pepper spray (still debating).

Solve a rubik’s cube.

Complete the rubik’s cube in less than 1 minute.

Raise backyard chickens.

Experience sea turtle hatching.

[I've got the white side down on the rube.  A Long way to go].
White Side Conquered - Rubiks Cube











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If you’re keeping up with projects that I’m working on, you’ll see that a recent project that my wife and I recently took on was Bottega Collection, a women’s clothing boutique. We’ve chosen to use Shopify as our tool of choice to run it and I wanted to write this post in order to explain why so that you can see if it’s the right fit for your small business.

Shopify - Women's Clothing Boutique

Shopify is a full e-commerce platform tool that you can use to create your online store. If you have a physical product to sell, this is a great outlet for you to use. All of the independent items that you’d have to figure out — payment processing, order fulfillment, inventory management — are all done on the back end of this easy to use website.

Here are some of the highlights of what shopify does for our women’s clothing boutique and why we chose it as our tool:
syncing of our inventory
payment handling
simple setup
mobile payments option
ability to provide coupon codes
a free facebook store
ability to add apps (many for free)

Let’s discuss these a bit further and why we find them so useful.

Syncing of our inventory: Once you load your inventory (read widgets) into shopify, shopify tracks that inventory. So if you sell a dress or other item from your website (or in person using their mobile app!) shopify will automatically update your inventory.

Payment handling: There are lots of payment processing systems out there (paypal, square, etc.) and shopify also integrates with a payment processing system so that you don’t have to worry about doing so yourself.

Simple Setup: You can literally be up and running the same day. If you’re familiar with wordpress, then you’ll find the back end of shopify fairly easy to design and navigate. And if you have questions, the support is excellent. I had what I considered to be a complicated issue, but I was stoked when I was able to hop right on the phone with a shopify consultant and get it handled in under 10 minutes.

Mobile payment options: Just like most payment processors (paypal, square, etc.) you have the ability to collect payments on the go. For a women’s clothing boutique, this is perfect for trunk shows and other in person sales opportunities. Shopify has its own branded card reader (you have to purchase additional ones). The cool thing is that using it along with the mobile app (currently only for apple ios) allows your inventory to be synced.

Ability to provide coupon codes: We are able to provide our ladies with coupon codes. We can have them activate and expire on cue. We can give out specific codes to groups or individuals. You also have the ability to allow customers to purchase gift cards but this doesn’t come with the basic account.

A free Facebook store: There is no effort needed on your part. All you have to do is install the app and your customers can now shop from your small business boutique directly from Facebook!

Ability to add apps (many for free): There are tons of great apps, many of them for free. Email newsletter integrations, coupon code pop-ups, order fulfillment and printing shipping labels; there are over 800 apps in the app store, many great apps starting with a FREE price tag.

All in all, shopify is a great option for businesses like women’s clothing boutique that sell physical products. It doesn’t matter whether you do $1,000 in revenue per month or $1,000 per hour. Shopify has a solution that will work awesome for you.


So, What Do You Do?

This is a question that I get typically within 5 minutes of meeting someone.
After getting a name and maybe where they’re from, this is typically the next one.
What – Do – You – Do.
For some reason, I haven’t been very good at asnwering this.
So I want to take this time to flush it out.

A good friend of mine said that I need to narrow what I do down to a paragraph.
Good advice, but I think I want to go a bit shorter.

I’m thinking if I’m talking with someone that I may never talk to again that I’ll keep it simple.
I’ll say “I’m in sales” or “I’m an entrepreneur.”

But my regular answer probably needs to be a bit longer.
But I don’t want to put my new friends to sleep now do I?

“So Brooks what do you do?”
“I’m in women’s clothing, real estate investing, metal art work, and other online projects.”
[recently added women’s clothing to my project list ha!]
Too vague?
Short enough not to bore but long enough to entice them to ask more questions if they’d like?
Well, in that case maybe I should change the order (as if the first thing I heard out of a guy’s mouth was women’s clothing, I most likely wouldn’t hear the rest).

So in that case “I’m involved in real esate investing, metal art work, and an online women’s clothing boutique.”
I think I like that better.
Thanks for Listening.



unconventional marriage weddingOne of my life list items was to get married to a beautiful woman (both inside and out). 

It happened.
As of this writing, I’ve been married about 2 months and it’s still blowing my mind.
But it was an unconventional marriage and didn’t happen at all as I would have expected.
Let me explain.

Over the last few years I’ve realized that I’m just not good at being like everyone else (see one of my favorite books, the Art of Non-Conformity).
That it’s ok to not do things the way that others do.
That nothing is perfect.
That you learn as you go and correct along the way.
All of this assisted me in getting married.

Where I live, folks date.
After they’ve dated for some pre-determined amount of time and they still like each other, they get engaged.
I’ve been told figures about how much a man is supposed to spend on a wedding ring (I choked on my sandwich the first time I heard).
Then they start planning on the wedding.
Typically the female has dreamed of this moment but sometimes the man is just as excited (often times, he just wants to please his future bride).
Then the marriage.
I’ve been to a lot of friends’ weddings.
And they’re beautiful.
But they always seem so dang stressful.
The bride and groom want everything to go perfectly on this one perfect day.
They have lots of people to say hello to and they’re whisked from place to place (my buddy that recently got married joked that he had calculated that he had 2 minutes and 40 seconds to speak with each guest that came up to say hello).

None of the above fit my personality and apparently not my wife either (which I assume is one of the reasons why we’re married!)
What’s a “perfect” wedding day for anyway?
Don’t you have each day to wake up and attempt to be the best you can for each other?
Why is the day you get married supposed to be the most important?
Why not EVERY day?

Wouldn’t it be incredible if we treated the 100th and 1,000th day with our spouse the same as the 1st?

Ok, so I said that I wouldn’t have guessed this is how it would have ended up for me.
Here are a few of my wedding’s fun facts:
- My step-son (he now calls me Dad2!) was snacking on a banana during our ceremony. It was awesome!
- The only people present at our ceremony was God, the court pastor, my wife, myself, and our son.
- Rings weren’t even yet present for the ceremony.
- We didn’t know 100% that we were able to be married until the day of our ceremony.

Family was told first and friends have slowly come to learn of our unity.
We get 2 main reactions:
“I had no idea you guys were getting married!” to which we respond “We really didn’t either!”
“I didn’t even know that you guys were engaged!” to which we say “We skipped that part!”

So why did we do what we did?
I think the honest answer for me is “Why Not?”
Over the course of the past year that we dated, we discussed everything that you would need to know about a marriage partner — life goals, spiritual ideas, finances, which way the toilet paper roll should be installed, etc.
We looked at getting pre-marital counseling, but we wondered what in the world that they could tell us that we didn’t already know about each other?
We had asked countless folks, learned from other’s experiences, read books, etc.

The only real thing that was holding me back was FEAR.
Fear of “if I could do it.”
Fear of “will she love me if she sees what I’m like every day”
Fear of “settling down.”
Fear of “children.”
Fear of “fear.” – yep it started getting ridiculous.
So I finally said, “What else do we have to figure out? What are we waiting for? Let’s do this.”
My woman happily moved forward (she knew all along that we would be an incredible team and was patiently waiting for me to get off of the fence that I ride — yet another incredible reason why I love her).

But of course we wanted to find a way to include all family and additional loved ones.
So we’re in the process of planning a reception celebration.
At a barn? Shrimp Boil? Human Sized Banana Split? Art painted by guests? Signature Conkle-lotta Cocktails? Wii Dance Contest? Bonfire? Hot Dog Roasting and Smores? Inflatable Games?
Yes, our reception will clearly be unconventional as well.
But it’s our reception.
We’re not living our lives the way we’re “supposed to.”
It’s a time for us to celebrate and we want to express that in a way that makes us feel comfortable.

So live your unconventional life.
Do what makes you happy.
Do what makes you come alive.
Because what the world is begging for is more folks who have come alive.


5 Real Reasons to Consume Less

Reuse-Reduce-RecycleLet’s start out by pointing out that folks today are more aware of recycling goods and taking care of the planet more than ever . And the symbol, accompanied by the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is important.
Most folks think about the word “Recycle” but the first is actually “Reduce”.
If you are able to Reduce, then there is no need to Reuse or Recycle.

I’m not necessarily advocating that you own less. For me it’s relieving to keep my items limited. But I am proposing that you keep an open mind as to what owning less can actually do for you, both physically and spiritually.

Without further delay, let’s get down to it, the 5 reasons why I prefer to consume less.

1. Consuming less saves you money.
I know, it seems obvious. If you buy less, you keep more. But think about it. If you have credit card debt or other short term debt and are complaining about money being tight, take a quick inventory of what’s around you. What have you not used in the last few months? The last year? Years? A test that I like to do when I’m in the organizing mood – if I haven’t used it in the last year it often gets the boot (sold or given away).
Think about this a step further. Every item that you purchase needs some sort of maintenance. Larger purchases can break down. They need protection in the form of insurance. They beg to be stored.
Are you ready to shell out all of those costs?
A lot of folks aren’t.
In real estate, I’ve unfortunately seen a number of foreclosures happen. It’s amazing to me to see how much “stuff” is left behind. What this says to me is “These items have no value to me. They don’t mean enough for me to figure out how to take them with me.”

2. When you Consume Less, you Have Less.  And therefore more.
Again, obvious.
But read deeper.
What will you have less of? Less things. Less distractions. Less clutter.
What will this give you more of? More time. More money. More peace.
I can’t speak for all when I say that having less is somehow less stressful.
But I can speak for myself.
It relieves me to have less to take care of.
It relieves me to know that I won’t get buried when I open a closet.
It relieves me to know that if I need something that I’ll be able to find it without digging deep.
It relieves me to have space and room.
It relieves me to be able to focus on experiences and relationships rather than things.

3. Consuming less gives you more flexibility when making choices.
Do you want to travel? Move homes? Lower your costs?
Just because you consume a lot doesn’t mean you can’t do these things. But if you consume less you’re more flexible and it’s easier to do all of them.
Lowering your costs is obvious (see #1 above).
But travel is a big one. I can tell you personally that many people I know say “man, how did you travel to New Zealand for 18 months or Guatemala for 6 weeks?
A large part of my honest answer would be “Consuming Less.”
Most folks take a typical 2 week vacation.
1. It’s what their employer gives them, which I understand.
2. But it’s also because they have to pay for expenses both at home and on the road for those 2 weeks.
For a vacation you save up a huge chunk of money to spend for that time period while at the same time having your ‘bills’ back home.
When you have the flexibility to travel long term, you actually only have one set of expenses for the most part.
Your travel expenses ARE your living expenses.

4. Consuming less can create more time for you.
Everything we buy takes a real measurable amount of time to purchase.
This means that every item that you choose not to purchase is that much more additional time for you on a personal level.
Use it for business, personal life, whatever.

5. If you own less then you have less to take care of.
If you have less to take care of, then you have less to maintain.
To me this is huge!
I don’t own a boat, 2nd car, motorcycle, multiple gadgets, tools, etc.
This means I don’t have to fix/repair a boat, 2nd car, motorcycle, multiple gadgets, tools, etc.
This saves me time. This saves me money (again #1 above).

To me owning less is an upward spiral.
I get to save money.
I get to save time, which saves me money.
I get to have more choices, which can lead to more money and time saving.
They are all beautifully interwoven and each item accelerates the others in that upward spiral.
Each upward spiral releases earthly anchors and allows me to grow.



10 Rules for Success in Business

10 rules for success in business [This 10 rules for success in business list is based on a real estate investing business, but can be applied to any business model successfully]

1. Positive attitude is a MUST.  I could dwell on all the deals that didn’t work out and all the challenges of being self-employed.  But instead I focus on opportunity and possibility.  there has been a lot of doom and gloom recently.  But this is still the land of opportunity.  You know who realizes that more than anyone?  Immigrants.

2. FOCUS!  Even more than hard work.  I’m kind of lazy.  I spend many days at the park, at cafes, at movies, etc. But I have put systems into place to generate potential deals on a regular basis.  And when there is a deal, I’m like a shark, like a bulldog.  I bite and I don’t let go without a fight.  If there is a way to make it work, I make it work!

3. Don’t deal with flakes.  Associate (in business) only with people who are successful or have the right attitudes to become successful.  Also be aware of those who over promise but under deliver.  Talk is cheap.  But I guess that’s a form of flakiness too.

4. Use multiple strategies for getting deals.

5. Use massive and consistent effort.  Don’t expect meek and weak efforts, or occasional efforts, to yield any impressive results on a regular basis.

6. Become and expert in your market, and learn to adapt to changing markets and different market and property types.

7. Is greed good?  Depends.  Be SMART GREEDY, not dumb greedy.  Smart greedy = trying to maximize your profit on each deal through negotiation (most profitable activity known to mankind), deal structuring, cost controls, etc.   Stupid greedy = taking foolish risks; cutting corners that shouldn’t be cut; destroying relationships for short term gain; etc.

8. If any ONE deal, agent, client, investor, etc. can make you or break you, you’ve put yourself in an overly vulnerable position.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

9. Business, like life, is filled with ups and downs.  Try not to let either affect you too much.  That said, do re-evaluate and readjust as needed if you aren’t getting the results you desire.  First, review 1 through 8, and ask which one of these you could be doing better.

10. Always aim higher!  Demand and expect more from yourself than anyone else would.

I saw this 10 rules for success in business list on a Facebook post a few years ago.  I printed it out and it’s been on my office wall ever since.  If you’re the author, please let me know so that I can credit you ;)

Have any success tips to add?  Would love to hear them.


How much does it cost to travel the world

I recently traveled to Guatemala for 6 weeks in order to work remotely, travel, and study Spanish. After returning I crunched numbers on my finances and figured out that the cost for me to travel the world for 6 weeks was equivalent to my cost of living at home. Had I stayed for longer than 6 weeks it actually would have been cheaper, as the cost of the flight would have been spread over an even greater period of time.

When I say it was equivalent to living at home, I mean that. My costs of travelling weren’t in addition to my expenses at home but instead were in place of.

I’ve structured life so that most of my expenses are variable, meaning I only pay when I use them.
My only fixed expenses (mortgage and utilities mainly) are quite low and I was able to cover these by finding a renter.

We’ll review my expenses while on my trip and what I learned from this particular travel.

Let’s dive in.
$615 – Flight cost
$165 – Cash from Airport Money Exchange
$1,163.66 – Cash Withdrawn from 5 ATM visits

$615 – The cost of my round trip ticket to Guatemala. I did a good bit of searching prior to my trip. I was willing to fly out of 2 nearby airports, but surprisingly, my local airport was the same price (actually slightly cheaper) than those.

$1,328.66 – Total expenses that I incurred in Guatemala for 6 weeks. This included 80 hours of Spanish Lessons as well!
I didn’t write down each of my expenses, but instead kept up with my ATM receipts since I lived on a cash basis the entire trip. I could judge approximately how much I was spending per day by averaging the amount I had taken out the last time with the number of days that had passed (i.e. if I took out $250 the last ATM visit and 6 days had passed then I was spending approximately $42/day). I made 5 ATM trips on my travels, approximately one per week.

I’ll also admit that I didn’t actually do the above math during my trip, as I could obviously tell that things were inexpensive and that I was spending less abroad than I would be back home.
I just wanted to be able to do the math (for this post) after the trip so that I could really see how my finances worked out on my travels.

$23.02 – ATM fees were charged and later reimbursed (so no real expenses incurred here) — I recommend a Fidelity Account as I’ve had great experiences with it thus far (I also have a credit card that pays me 2% cash back on ALL purchases through them). Using the ATM is best because it uses the current exchange rates, not a created exchange rate like money changers do.

*A lesson learned prior to using the ATM. When I showed up to the Guatemalan airport I was anxious to go ahead and get some cash. A professional looking money change company (with no fees or commissions) talked me into changing money. The more I changed, the better rate I received. So I exchanged $175 or so. But guess what I didn’t know. What the current exchange rate should be. Even the ‘great’ rate that they gave me was terrible. So I lost about $27 on the transaction. So the ‘non-fee’ company turned out to cost me approximately 15% in exchange. Remember that when you see nice employees in suits at a business. Clearly it’s a successful business, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best deal for you.

$47 – Travel Health Insurance through Seven Corners — large company, recommended.

When you travel/live you lose your food, travel, fuel, entertainment, and other similar expenses back home. They are included in your travel budget.

$750 – Back home, I still had to pay for my mortgage and utilities, but this was offset by the $750 that I received by renting out my home for the month (a great win/win because some friends needed a place to live while they were renovating a section of their home).

$197.60 – Amount I made from renting out my Jeep via RelayRides while I was gone. This was incredible, as clearly I didn’t need to use it while I was gone. Of course, I had to get help to meet up with the renter to get them keys.

In conclusion, the financial net effect to me being in Guatemala was as if I never left.

The effect to my bottom line was basically the same. It’s difficult to measure perfectly, due to the number of variables involved. But when calculating for total income made during my trip, my total trip costs, as well as money saved for giving, taxes, and long term savings the net affect to me was literally equivalent.

Not only was the net effect the same on my expenses, but also on income since while traveling in Guatemala it was business as usual.

So I’m living proof that you can travel for the same that it costs you to live at home (depending on your travel location of course).

I always hear it.

“I wish I could, but I can’t do that.”
“I don’t know how you do it, it’s impossible for me.”

They’re right.
If they don’t open up their minds and destroy the box then it will always be impossible for them.

If you have the desire to take long travel, then know that you can do it too!
Where have you been?
Where do you want to go?
How you done the math to figure how much it will cost you to travel the world?
Might not be as much as you think…

What steps are you taking in order to get there?!?


How to Get Paid $3,000 to Climb a Volcano

how to be an entrepreneur

Ok, so maybe the title is a bit misleading.
No one actually directly paid me $3,000 to climb the volcano.
But we did in fact make this amount in income in our real estate company while I was climbing and reminding myself how to be an entrepreneur.
It was more proof that working remotely is possible – even in the real estate industry.

On a sidenote, there are 3 active volcanoes in Antigua, Guatemala at the moment.
One of them is puffing out huge stacks of smoke every few minutes – this one is illegal to climb (and is pictured in the photo I snapped).
The one we climbed to see is semi-active but last erupted in 2010 (one person died).
This is what I wanted to see.  This is what I saw (still cool no doubt).

We also had a 6.5 magnitude earthquake that lasted for a solid 20 seconds – this by default helped me complete a life list item.
It was wild and a bit scary.
It wasn’t a violent shake, but was more of a rolling sensation.
I’ve felt 2 others in my life (one 2 weeks ago) but they only lasted for a few seconds.
This one went on long enough for you to question your safety, question if you should be running outside, and questioning if buildings were going to start collapsing.
But the locals acted as if all was well, so I hid my fear and carried on.

The Deals:
The reason why I was able to do these deals remotely was because of a few things.
1. Technology – my phone worked in Guatemala and my Chromebook kept me connected (surprisingly, there is more Free WiFi in Guatemala where I visited than I find here in the U.S.)
2. Relationships – I have cultivated who I work with. I choose to work with a select few clients (investors) that understand [well] how the real estate business works. This allows for me to have them share in on the physical burden of doing deals while I’m able to charge them less money. It’s a win/win for both parties.

So we closed 2 different deals – each of them grossing us $1,500 for a total of $3,000 for our company.

Years ago I respected the idea of working remotely.
I even thought it was awesome and that “maybe one day…”
But I never thought I would be able to sit here and tell you that I did it.
That I made money remotely.
That the net effect on my finances was the same as if I were sitting here in Alabama – even after my expenses.

I’m – living – proof.

If I can do it, you can for sure do.
In fact, for many, becoming a lifestyle entrepreneur will become imperative.
As job security disappears.
As more young folks take jobs where their degrees aren’t required.
As more people shift jobs more often in their lifetime.
As the idea of working life long with a company disappears.

Creativity will be needed.

This scares some folks.
For me, it’s exciting.
While yes, it means that whatever I’m doing may not be secure.
It also means that there are new opportunities that are looking for me.
And for you.
For all of us.

Necessity opens us up to creativity.
So climb your volcano and make $3,000.
Then tell me us all about it!




Half Dome was the most beautiful natural site that I had laid eyes on.
It’s a movie scene.
In fact, that’s how I mostly describe Yosemite National Park.
I remember recently seeing a picture of 2 friends at Yosemite and wondering if it was actually a picture they had taken with a green screen and later inserted the background image.
It’s that picturesque.
Acutally Hiking Half Dome was even better (a bucket list item).

hiking half dome

We set out around 8am.
I’m surprised that I didn’t fall on my face, considering I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful surroundings instead of the trail in front of me.

We arrived at the base of half dome.
There’s a huge pile of gloves that people left behind – how kind.
Why the gloves?
Because we have to climb.
You reach the top of half dome (a granite top the size of multiple football fields) by climbing up an incline granite face while holding on to cable ropes (not a good idea if a storm is approaching).

It – Was – Awesome.

We headed down and began the second leg of our 14 mile day journey.
Keep in mind that a 14 mile day hike is a big day and that 2 in our party were not used to long hikes nor necessarily in shape for a long hike.
I noted to the group that at our half way point it was X time and that at the same pace we would make it back at Y time (Y = Darkness).
I noted that we needed to pick up the pace.
It was agreed upon but I’m not sure it was truly taken to heart.

And so it got dark.
Miles from our destination, it was dark.
[We later learned that our family talked with the Rangers about search and rescue operations, and since we were dressed and prepared they wouldn’t take action until the following day. While this upset my family, I want to take this time to thank the Park Rangers for not embarrassing us with a night time helicopter spotlight mission at an extreme cost to the American taxpayer].

We hiked on in the darkness.
My uncle found a shortcut route via the map.
And it was and shortcut.
What the map didn’t say is that it was a slippery rocky trail beside a waterfall with no handrails.
Difficult enough by day I’m assuming (not sure, because I never got to see it in daylight) but potentially deadly by night.
I can still see the moonlight glistening off the roaring water just yards off to our right side.
I remember at one point needing to balance and reaching out for some type of handrail and there not being one.
I’ll admit; looking back, this was quite dangerous.
But at the time, we were just focusing on making it back.
Our safety was in Other Hands.

2 more miles to go.
My sister said that she had insane blisters on her feet.
We looked – they were insane (we later found out that her boots felt a bit tight from the start but she hadn’t said anything).
I took off my boots and gave them to her.
How bad could barefoot hiking in the dark be?

1 mile to go.
We reached a road that headed back to the lodge.
We saw headlights. Our family saved us the final paved mile! (they had been driving for hours hoping to spot us – thank goodness they had).

Plenty of Lessons were learned from this trip:

1) Even the youngest person in the group can have insightful information, as their insight may actually be useful (in my case, I was correct that we would arrive well after dark if we didn’t pick up the pace). So never refuse to listen to someone simply because they’re younger than you.

2) Be prepared (Boy Scout motto of course). Take overnight provisions just in case.

3) Always try on boots well before the day of a hike. This carries over to plenty of other issues of life as well.  Measure twice, cut once.

4) Don’t hike down wet slippery trails beside waterfalls with no handrails – especially at night.

5) Record life and take lots of pictures.

6) Dangerous experiences turn out to make the best memories (as long as you don’t die of course).

7) My uncle was determined to get into better shape and learn orienteering (understanding maps and how to read them). He began competing in orienteering races – not only did he become great at reading maps, he got in great shape during the process. Tough situations can turn into a huge motivator. Use those to your advantage.

8) I also learned that this was not my last visit to Half Dome.
It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve been there, but I have a huge desire to go back.
I read this article in Backpacker Magazine about it being such a crowded hike and how the real purists set out via moonlight and headlamp around 3am arriving to climb the granite face just in time to watch the sun rise.
Then heading back down to pass the first set of hikers heading up for the day.

I have a deep desire to do this and if you’ll stick with me long enough, you’ll see it crossed off my life list.

Have you started your life list yet?
What is one goal (big or small) that you have a burning desire to complete?
I’d love to hear about it!


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