How A Cruise Transformed These Adventurers' Lives
What is GAFFL?

GAFFL connects solo travelers with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

17th Jul | 13 min read

Table of Contents

    Rachel is from New York and works as a Physical Education teacher at a middle school. She actually works at the same middle school where she was a student! 

    Dana is a clinical social worker from a small town in Germany. Before meeting each other, traveling meant something completely different to the two of them. Dana, like many Europeans, traveled to many different parts of the world. She worked and traveled in Southeast Asia, and she studied in Portugal. Whereas Rachel's travels consisted of weekend warrior adventures across the United States. 

    You can check out their blog here

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

    Join our subscriber list to receive the best tips on solo travel, helpful travel guides, inspirational travel stories, and more. You can unsubscribe anytime with just one click.


    Traveling, Exploring, And Adventures Are What Keeps Us Going In Life

    We both share a passion for traveling and exploring new places. After meeting each other on a cruise in the Caribbean, we fell in love, got married, and have been traveling together ever since. Traveling, exploring, and adventures are what keeps us going in life.

    Every time we go on another trip, we can’t help but fall more and more in love with the world around us. You don’t even have to travel far to find astonishing places and make the greatest memories.

    How Often We Travel

    We travel as often as we can, at least once a month. Our full-time jobs at a school provide us with the opportunity to make this work. We spend most of our weekends traveling around New York and surrounding areas in our DIY camper van, while extended weekends and holiday breaks allow us to reach farther places within the United States. During our beautiful 9-week summer vacation, we can travel for 2 months at a time. 

    How We Prepare For Our Trips

    Choosing where we want to travel next is sometimes a difficult decision. Our travel bucket list is quite long. As individuals, we had certain travel goals. Now, as a couple, we have altered and added more destinations we wish to visit together. 

    The first thing we do when it comes to deciding where to go next is to turn to our bucket list. From there, we try to figure out what is best to accomplish in the time frame that we have, also keeping in mind the weather and costs for the time we could go. Once we have made a decision on our destination, it is time to plan. 

    Here is a quick synopsis of how we prepare for our trips:

    • Determine a time frame
    • Determine a destination
    • Research on blogs, Google, books, and social media about everything there is to know about the destination, such as:

    • Best things to do
    • Places to eat
    • Where to stay
    • Hidden gems or unique activities
    • Weather
    • Time zones
    • Necessary or recommended gear to have
    • Create an ultimate list of things we would like to do and see.
    • Create a tentative itinerary
    • Occasionally, we book activities in advance, when necessary. We also like to keep our itinerary a little flexible.

    A List Of Our Must-have Items For Adventure Traveling

    Packing for any trip, big or small, can be overwhelming. So, to help ease the frustration, we created an ultimate packing list. We use this list for every trip we take to ensure we do not forget any of the essential items. Creating this ultimate list has really been a lifesaver because we can now pack for our short trips, long trips, and a range of adventures in half the time. As we mentioned before, if necessary, we also make sure to pack special items which will be useful in the area we travel to. 

    Here is a list of our must-have items for adventure traveling:

    1. First Aid Kit

    2. Columbia Newton Ridge Hiking Boots

    3. Tropicfeel Multi-Purpose Shoe

    4. Chacos or Bedrock Outdoor Sandals

    5. Olympus Mark ii Camera + camera remote

    6. GoPro + accessories 

    7. Rollei Travel Tripod

    8. Peak Design Capture Clip and Peak Design Camera Strap

    9. Deuter Speedlite 22L Daypack

    10. Rain Jacket

    11. Solar Charger

    12. Travel Pocket Blanket, Travel Journal

    13. Pacsafe 

    14. Swiss Card Classic 

    15. Insulated Water Bottles

    Here are some of the top apps we use while on the road:

    1. Campendium

    2. Dyrt

    3. iOverlander

    4. Google Maps

    5. All Trails

    Our Favorite Memory Of Meeting Someone New While Traveling, Is Meeting Each Other

    We meet a lot of new people wherever we go. You can easily get in touch with others when you stay somewhere for an extended period of time or when you travel alone. Dana made lifelong friends while getting her scuba diving certificate in Thailand years ago.  Being passionate about the same things and sharing similar experiences can lead to a great friendship. 

    But, by far, our favorite memory of meeting someone new while traveling, is meeting each other on the cruise. We were both traveling with our best friends and coincidentally sat together at the same dinner table every night.  Traveling is what brought us together, causing us to fall in love and now travel the world together.

    We've Visited 35 States And 38 National Parks Together So Far

    We've visited 35 states and 38 national parks together so far, all in the last three years. Our two main travel goals in the United States are to visit all 63 National Parks and all 50 states. We've spent a lot of time exploring our home state of New York over the last year.

    Here is a list of our favorite cities/towns:

    1. New York City, New York

    We are very fortunate to live just an hour outside of NYC, one of our favorite cities and places to visit. What we love the most is the diversity of activities to choose from. No matter how many times you visit, there is always something new and exciting to do. We are forever adding new places to our NYC bucket list. 

    Read more: 20 Best Day Trips From New York City

    1.  Chicago, Illinois

    For us, Chicago is a big city with a small-town character. We totally fell in love with the atmosphere, architecture, and history of Chicago. And, of course, it is a plus that it is a pizza-loving city, just like NY.

    1. Nashville, Tennessee

    If you have ever been to Nashville, you know the party never stops. There is fun and excitement around every corner. But we also love the strong country music history of the city where country music was born. 

    1. Sedona, Arizona

    Sedona immediately captivated us with its striking red rock landscape and exciting outdoor adventures. It wasn’t until our second cross-country road trip that we visited Sedona, and we both couldn’t believe we had not gone before. It is still one of the more unknown areas in the USA, but a real paradise for outdoor lovers. Every hiking trail offers special features, like hidden caves or spectacular rock formations. 

    1. Key West, Florida

    It is all about the vibe in Key West. While you visit the southernmost city in the continental United States, you feel like you are in the Caribbean. Everyone enjoys life to the fullest, which is understandable with the beautiful landscape and good food. Something unique and interesting we loved about Key West was spotting roosters and iguanas around the city.

    1. Las Vegas, Nevada

    Las Vegas is probably at the top of many travelers' bucket lists because of its popularity for gambling and entertaining atmosphere. Everyone needs to experience the Las Vegas scene at least once. What we actually enjoyed the most was experiencing the old, more traditional Las Vegas on Fremont Street. By the way, Las Vegas offers way more than just casinos and shows. The area around Las Vegas has stunning hiking trails and breathtaking state parks like the Valley of Fire.

    Read more: 20 Best Day Trips From Las Vegas

    1. Ithaca, New York 

    Ithaca, which is located in New York’s Finger Lakes Region, showcases the state’s whole beauty. It is one of the best places to go chasing waterfalls since you find them literally everywhere.

    1. Moab, Utah

    Moab is an alluring little town located just outside of two U.S. National Parks, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. We were drawn to Moab for the parks and outdoor adventures. Just like much of Utah, Moab’s landscape is absolutely breathtaking. 

    1. Burlington, Vermont

    Burlington, located along Lake Champlain, is a charming town full of personality. Before visiting, we weren’t really sure what to expect. But once we got there, we fell in love with all the local shops and eateries. We spent most of our time in the city riding bikes along the coast of Lake Champlain, enjoying the outdoor areas, and catching the sunset on the lake. According to Dana, we ate the absolute best bread at a local restaurant in the United States.

    1. Beacon, New York

    Beacon sits perfectly along the Hudson River, about 1 hour 40 minutes from NYC. It is a very trendy, industrial town with unique shops, restaurants, and art. For outdoor lovers, the town is only a few minutes away from some of the best hikes in the Hudson Valley and New York. 

    Every national park in the US has its own beauty and charm, but if we had to pick 5 parks we could go back to immediately, we would name these:

    1. Rocky Mountains

    2. Yellowstone

    3. Zion

    4. Yosemite

    5. Grand Canyon

    We have written a detailed post about our ranking of visited national parks from best to worst based on our experience and what each park has to offer. 

    Our Mission At Traveling Found Love Is To Inspire And Excite You To Get Out There And Explore 

    We started our travel blog, Traveling Found Love, because of our strong passion for traveling and exploring the US. It gives us the chance to share the things we love the most with others. 

    Our mission at Traveling Found Love is to inspire and excite you to get out there and explore and create your own journey.  We’re here to help you prepare for any USA adventure from planning your dream journey, to finding the best route, to enjoying the great outdoors.

    We have you covered with our first-hand experience, authentic advice, and unique inspiration to make your trips even more enjoyable. We also believe that traveling can fit into any lifestyle. Whether it is traveling permanently, sporadically, or on the weekends. 

    As true nature lovers and National Park Geeks, we follow the Leave No Trace Principles and encourage everyone to travel responsibly.

    Visiting Traveling Found Love You Will Find: 

    Individualized state by state guides.

    Detailed itineraries for must-see USA destinations

    Off the beaten path adventures around the USA

    All things National Parks from itineraries to top things to do

    Outdoor adventures such as hiking trails and guides, camping, and water activities

    Most scenic American road trips

    We Travel On A Budget

    Most of the time, we travel on a budget. But that does not mean we don’t splurge here and there on something we really want to do. 

    We try to outweigh the cost of expensive activities by finding cheap or free accommodations. We either camp in the DIY campervan that we built for our cross-country road trips, backcountry camp, car camp, or use reward points for cheap or free hotel accommodations. 

    Another way of saving money during our travels is to cook on our camping stove. That does not mean that we don’t go out to eat to enjoy the area’s specialties. We always love to try new, authentic foods. We just try to reduce our restaurant visits to cut some costs. Spending less on sleeping arrangements and food really frees up our budget to do more fun activities. 

    Normally, we don’t really set a strike budget for our travels, but we write down all of our expenses in our travel journal to keep track of them. We know what we would like to do and are trying to find ways to accommodate that in other ways. 

    Some Of Our Cool Travel Stories 

    On every trip we have taken, we have experienced memorable moments, but the most memorable ones are usually with other people we have met while traveling.

    One story that comes to our mind is taking a self-guided overnight kayaking trip on the Colorado River from Willow Beach, AZ to the Hoover Dam. To reach the dam, it was about a 12-mile paddle up the river. The trip was very scenic, offering various sea caves and massive canyon walls, but our ultimate goal was to admire Hoover Dam from the river. The longer we paddled, the stronger the currents got and we had a really hard time moving forward. After 9 miles, we reached a camping area with hot springs and decided to set up our camp for the night, being a little disappointed that we didn’t have enough energy to paddle the rest of the way.

    When we arrived, we met an older gentleman who was very familiar with the area and gave us some incredible advice for our stay. After a while, he even asked us to go for a ride on his jet ski to see the Hoover Dam. We couldn’t resist and happily hopped on the back.

    When we returned to camp, he introduced us to another family who was staying in the same camp for the night. They were super welcoming and even shared their dinner with us and invited us to join them on a night hike and soak in the hot springs. It turned out to be such a cool experience with some awesome people.

    We have really lucked out while traveling around the US, meeting so many like-minded travelers along the way. 

    Some Of The Biggest Challenges To Traveling

    The biggest thing that prevents us from traveling even more than we do is our full-time jobs. We would love to have the financial freedom to travel full time.

    However, we are lucky to work at a school and have more time off than other professionals. Nevertheless, one big setback to working at a school is that you can only travel during the busiest and most expensive times of the year, which impacts our budget. 

    A challenge of traveling is learning how to be flexible and know that everything may not work out as planned. There may be times where you have to alter your plan due to unforeseen situations, whether those are good or bad. 

    My Advice For New Solo Travelers

    Some advice we can give to our readers who are planning long-term adventure travel around the US is to find YOUR perfect method of traveling. When we started long-term traveling around the US, we quickly realized how expensive it is to rent or buy a camper van.

    Since we could not afford all of these expenses, we had to think of a way to cut costs. This is when we decided to buy an older used van and convert it into a campervan. Having our own campervan really cut down on the cost of sleeping accommodations and food, which opened up the door to spend more money on adventures/activities. Traveling in a campervan also gives us a lot of freedom. 

    Another important thing about planning to travel in the US is to remember its size. The United States is massive. After learning firsthand, we realized you need to plan more time than you think. Don’t forget to take into account the driving distances, how long an adventure takes on average, and room for things you find along the way. 

    We have traveled around the US for more than half a year in total and we could easily spend at least a year to two years exploring the rest, as well as revisiting some places we absolutely loved. Every time we check something off our US bucket list, we end up adding 5 things in its place because we discover even more exciting things to do and see. 

    Lastly, do your research. Do not skimp on the details. If you want to see more of the US than just the surface and the so-called "best things to do", you need to put in the time to find all the hidden gems off the beaten path.

    In our eyes, the lesser-known places are usually the better adventures! But that does not mean we would skip over the most famous things to do in an area because they have a reputation for a reason. When you get a little of both, then you are really exploring the United States. 

    Other cool travel stories you might enjoy! 

    Join The GAFFL Newsletter

    Join our subscriber list to receive the best tips on solo travel, helpful travel guides, inspirational travel stories, and more. You can unsubscribe anytime with just one click.