Camping with Puppies

We got an adorable puppy over the winter and decided during the first warm weekend in April to bring the little furry one camping. From this first trip with the pup, we learned a few things that may have been good to know beforehand. Below are those tips for camping with a puppy.

1. She’s young and can be easily scared. If you live in any kind of an urban or suburban area, the noises and smells that your puppy will encounter while camping are entirely different from what she already knows. Be prepared for your puppy to act differently as well. She may not come as readily, bark more, or even be more aggressive. There is no way to know how she will react to these new circumstances the first time because much of the camping experience will be brand new for the pup; if it is a pup, likely she will be a little scared.

Fetching Puppy

Fetching Puppy

2. Remember to bring the essentials: a toy, something nice for it to sleep on, leash, bowl, poop apparatus. You may not want to carry the pup’s water bowl and a ball along with plastic bags, but having these things can make a huge difference. I suggest having the leash with you always-even if you never have to use it. It can be especially helpful while you are setting up camp or if you happen across another set of campers with a dog. Toys are also helpful for distracting the pup while you set up camp or cook or if she needs something to keep her busy while you’re trying to sleep in the tent.

However the thing for the pup to sleep on doesn’t have to be whatever she normally sleeps with. A shirt that you don’t plan on wearing the next day or an outer jacket should be fine (or if your pup is like mine, she will simply love rolling around on top of your sleeping bag and eventually climbing into it with you.)

3. Check tick and flea season! Be sure to protect your pup from ticks and fleas and check to see if tick season is unusually longer (as it may be during 2012 as we had a light winter.) Be sure to have a small bottle of tick spray with you, or a tick collar or whatever you like to use. Lastly, scour the puppy for ticks afterward. Even a strong tick spray may not be enough for a pup that finds a nest of ticks.

O yes. Remember the pup might like to climb into your sleeping bag during the night? Scour yourself for ticks, too.

4. Bring a little patience. Puppy may love camping or hate it. It may take her a while to get used to camping, the new smells and being outside with so many new things to discover. She may not want to hike as long as you do. At any rate, this is a completely new experience for little pup and you must give her time to adjust to the new situation.

You may need to reassure the pup once it gets dark that all the noises she hears are not dangerous ones. You’ll probably also need to show it how to do new things (i.e. how to climb over rocks, tree limbs, stairs, ect.) The pup may also be unsure about whatever food you brought her to eat if it is in a different bowl or a different food entirely. Regardless, this is the pup’s first time and will definitely need a little patience (and maybe also a toy to make her happy).

Happy Pup

Happy Pup

5. Treats. Maybe this should have been number one. Treats are essential and they get their own special category because they probably do in the puppy’s head, too! Basically, bring lots of delicious treats. This is essential if you are planning on letting puppy of her leash, or when giving her any independence. Be sure to thoroughly encourage desired habits (i.e. come when called) by treating well and frequently!

Our first time camping with the puppy was really fun. We didn’t go terribly far or on a rigorous hike. We took it pretty slow and did a leisurely hike with the pup running back and forth between us. Ultimately, the pup loved it as much as we did, but it took some getting used to. She did bark at a lot of strange noises in the night and had to learn that the campfire was hot, but also got to discover lots of new, fun things and cuddle in my sleeping back all night. Overall, I think it was a great camping trip.

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5 Tips to Avoid Being Robbed

It may be an understatement, but for those of you whom it has not happened to-being robbed is no fun. (I know, I have been robbed once and nearly robbed on two other occasions.) The following is a list of tips and advice that I have learned along that unfortunate path.

1. Keep your things with you. Really, try to keep your things either touching you at all times or within your line of vision. On a bus, train, subway or even in the street, always try to keep your bag on your shoulder and as close to you as possible. For example, many people riding the bus in Quito, Ecuador would actually put their backpacks on backwards and wear them on the front to have better control over the bag. (Even the Quiteños did this, not just the gringos!)

Likewise, if you are traveling on a bus, keep your bag with you in your seat (not overhead as someone could grab it as they get off the bus or under the bus when anyone could take it out when they get off.) I think the best method is to sit with your feet planted and the bag resting on top of them. (Not around the bag as a sneaky someone could always cut into your bag from behind.) The only time I would allow my bag underneath the bus is if I could also get a tag ensuring (supposedly) that only I can take the bag off the bus because I have the matching number. (This should work and has for me in the past, however you never really know…)

2. Don’t flaunt.Don’t wear things-especially jewelry- that you would not like stolen. Many thieves will

Ecuadorian Jewelry
Ecuadorian Jewelry

instantly associate expensive looking jewelry with someone that would be great to steal from as they must have lots of money, ect. The potential theif may try for your handbag, wallet, cell phone or the jewelry itself. I suggest purchasing once you are abroad some cheap, neat, local jewelry.

3.  Watch your pockets. Outside and back pockets are much easier for the potential thief to slip things out of without your noticing than inside or front pockets. I have many, many friends that had a cell phone or wallet stolen out of a bag’s side pocket or their own back pocket. This is especially important if you have a large bag that you cannot keep your eyes or hands on all parts it or when you’re on a really crowded bus. Thieves tend to ride the tightest packed trains so there are people touching all sides of you in the hopes that you will not notice a hand in an unsuspecting pocket.

My host mom in Ecuador taught me a valuable lesson after I was robbed there (via knife in my canvas bag): always use your bra (or other undergarment) when carrying large sums of money. Use some consistent spot that no one could get their hands into without you being entirely aware if it. Note that this works well for large amounts of money, but I would still put smaller amounts in front pockets or a wallet (that resides in the front pocket or somewhere hidden in a purse) for paying at the grocery store, taxi, ect.

4. Keep your valuables in multiple places. If you have all of your important documents, money, cards, ect. with you at one time (i.e. while traveling), be sure to have them in different places. I think a traveler’s belt is great if you do not need your passport in hand (otherwise it could be really awkward-use a bathroom to take the passport out and replace it once through customs, ect.) and large sums of money. In general, I always have my passport either in a traveler’s belt, in a zipped pocket in my purse (which is clutched pretty tightly to my chest) or in the safe at a hostel (assuming you trust the hostel staff.)

Pick Pocket
Pick Pocket

However, always be sure to make at least one copy of your passport, visa, whatever essential document, and keep it in a different place! I generally go for one on my body and one tucked away safely in a bag. Just put the copies somewhere different (in case something does get stolen) and remember where they are. I also like to keep an electronic copy in your email.

5. Lastly, be aware and trust your instincts. If you feel wary while traveling, determine exactly what you feel wary about and focus your energy there-you very well may be right and it doesn’t hurt of you were wrong. One of the times I was nearly robbed was on a crowded bus when this smiling, nice woman standing next to me began talking to me. She chatted about the weather, where I was going, ect. and I felt a small tug on my purse. Instead of trying to be polite, I moved my  bag to the other side of my body and put my hand inside it to be sure my wallet was still there. She had cut through the outermost lining of my bag and was working her way through the inner liner when I stopped her.

Be sure to trust your instincts, even if that is not the polite thing to do, and try to do things that make you feel safe. In the above example, moving my bag was definitely the best option (especially as the one time I was robbed the person also cut through my purse while grinning at me.) Always be aware of what is going on around you and plan for that situation. Taking an overnight bus? Don’t use the ear plugs, eye mask and put your bag overhead. Go for one of the three, or maybe two if you feel very comfortable. Even if you have a worse night of sleeping because you were watching your things, you will have a fresh set of clothing to put on when you arrive because you weren’t completely oblivious. Therefore so no one took your bag.

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Touring D.C.

Here are a few different ways one could tour D.C. depending upon how you would like to visit and what you would like to see. A few of the options include a sight-seeing bus tour, on foot, and less conventional ways such as segway tours or kayaking in the Potomac.

Sight-seeing bus tours: This is a great way to get a wide view of the city in the shortest amount of time as well as a good option for anyone that may have mobility problems.  Bus tours can bring tourists around the mall, to the older parts of the city and to any other note-worthy places, such as Mt. Vernon.

My personal favorite bus tour type is the ‘Hop-on Hop-off‘ bus tours. A ticket to one of  these tours means you can literally ‘hop-on’ and ‘hop-off’ at any of their bus stops and on any of their tour lines. The tickets come in one or two-day passes.

The ‘hop-on, hop-off’ bus tour in D.C. has three different lines. The first takes tourists on the classic sights of the city, including around the mall, across the Potomac into Virginia and by the Lincoln memorial. The second line will take tourists farther into Virginia to view the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery and the last time will take you through Embassy row and into Georgetown. This last line also has a stop by the Georgetown waterfront where guests can get onto a touring boat that goes up and down the Potomac. Each tour is narrated by a recording that plays throughout the bus.

When my family bought the tickets for the ‘hop-on hop-off’ busses, we got free passes on the boat tour as well. (I’m not sure if they were running an unpublicized special or if this was included in the price of our tickets.) The boat tour was nice, but not something I would pay for separately. It was a narrated ride up the potomac, but really just plastic chairs on a flat boat with some sights viewable from the water and really expensive beer/wine prices. The commentary wasn’t as interesting as on the busses, but I enjoyed being on the water.

I recommend looking into this bus tour for two reasons. One, you really can get on and off anywhere and switch tours whenever you want. Meaning you are able to set your own schedule and can see whatever you like for however much time you like. (It’s also about the same price as regular bus tours.) Secondly, this is the only set of bus tours that has a double-decker fleet and the top is open-air. The best benefit of the double-decker is that you can see over the other cars, so if on top you can actually see all of the monuments, but it is also nice on a summer day to sit atop the bus with a breeze.

On foot: The on-foot tour is a lot of fun, but you will not be able to see as much within a single day. If you are going into D.C. to have a tour of the mall, I suggest taking the metro in and stopping at the Smithsonian station (orange/blue lines), L’Enfant Plaza (yellow/green lines) or another close one. These will put you in the center of the Mall.

Most on-foot tours center around the mall. As it’s a pretty large area and packed with monuments, museums andmemorials, there is plenty to do on foot in the mall. At one end, there is the Lincoln memorial, then the Washington monument, which marks the western end of the Mall. The Smithsonian museums line the mall from the Washington monument until the U.S. Capitol building.

I recommend one of three ways to approach an on-foot tour of the Mall. One would be to see the monuments. This tactic would be to focus on the monuments and go into each, take a few photos and take in the monument. This type of tour would involve the most walking, but if you are looking to see the sights of Washington, D.C. on-foot, this is the way to go.

Washington Monument

Second, you could focus on the Smithsonian museums. They are enormous museums that could easily consume your time for a day. Focus on just one favorite, such as the natural history (but beware of the wide-eyed children running around) or the art museums, space, American history, whatever, but you could easily see a bit of each museum or focus on a few. All of the Smithsonian museums are free, although they encourage donations. If you want to go to the Air and Space museum hanger, you can take a bus for a few dollars from the Mall and entrance to the museum is free.

Last, your tour could focus on one place. Let the one monument, museum, park, or whatever you really want to see/do determine the rest of your day. This would work well with a tour of the U.S. State Capital being the main focus of the day with side trips to the Library of Congress and the Botanical Garden, or any other close destination. This type would work best for someone who wants to focus on a specific monument.

Finally, there are other less traditional ways of discovering the monuments in Washington D.C. Two fun ones would be to go on a segway tour of the mall or a kayaking tour of the monuments viewable from the Potomac.

Segway: As far as I can tell, the Segway tours mimic a walking tour just without much of the walking. This would be faster and probably good for anyone that is touring during the summer and likely to suffer heatstroke during a very hot day. A few of the companies that offer these tours include Capital Segway, City Segway Tours and Segs in the City. Please note that I am not recommending these companies. They each have differing tours depending on what sights you would like to see around the capitol and prices are about $70 for 2-3 hours.

Kayaking: You can only do this in fair weather, so unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to try out kayaking yet. Kayaking is a great way to see the monuments from the water. This does restrict some of the monuments that you can see, for example you cannot see the white house from the Potomac, but you will get a nice view of the Lincoln memorial, the cherry blossom trees, and the tidal basin (if you are able to go into it).

This would be a good opportunity for the tourists that have already done a walking tour of the monuments, are fairly adventurous/athletic, and like the water. A few of the places that offer kayaking tours include Jack’s Boathouse, which was recommended to me, and Thompson’s Boat Center. Cost is typically $10 per hour and 2-3 hours will suffice for touring everywhere the kayaks are permitted to go (from the Chain Bridge to the Bridge by the Lincoln Memorial).

If you prefer any of these tours, or have a great time with a service I did not mention, please leave it in the comment section!

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