Weekend Warrior: How Laura Turns Everyday Life into Epic Adventures
Laura Witt
Laura discovers the secrets to having adventures in life, even if it's just on the weekends.
17th Jun | 13 min read

Table of Contents

    When Laura relocated from the Midwest to Seattle in 2017, her fascination with the outdoors really went into overdrive. She had countless opportunities to experience the outdoors while living in Seattle. She devoted a lot of her leisure time to hiking and camping across the Pacific Northwest, particularly in western Washington. But, like many people, she deals with family commitments and does not have a lot of free time to explore. 

    Laura discovers the secrets to having adventures in life, even if it's just on the weekends. She created a blog, Amateur Adventure Journal, to encourage weekend warriors, office workers, and amateur explorers to go outside. She wants to motivate people to go on fantastic adventures and simplify trip preparation so that travelers can spend more time traveling and less time reading about their destinations.

    Tunnel View Yosemite National Park

    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.


    My Journey From Childhood Camper To Outdoor Enthusiast

    My family frequently went camping and hiking when I was a little kid. These were primarily weekend trips close to home, just so we could escape the city for a bit. I mostly remember camping at a park not too far from home, but we apparently went to a handful of national parks too (trips I have zero recollection of).

    Eventually, we moved and never went camping as a family again. I’m not sure if that’s because we no longer lived in a place that my parents felt they needed a break from, or because we got a dog and that made travel harder, or simply because my siblings and I got older and got too involved in other things. But I always missed camping—my parents had gotten me hooked!

    Now that I’m an adult and can go on my own adventures, I keep heading into nature because I feel most alive when I spend time outdoors. Seeing America’s most beautiful scenery, breathing in fresh air, getting up with the sun, and moving my body are all experiences that light up my senses. I always feel rejuvenated after my outdoor adventures.

    Duration Of My Trips

    It really varies. It depends on my reason for planning the adventure. Am I already traveling for a different event that I have to work around? Am I just exploring a park near me that I haven’t seen yet or am I going on a road trip?

    In any case, I typically spend a few days at most in each location whether it’s a short trip to one destination nearby or a group of destinations combined into a longer road trip.

    I tend to take shorter but more frequent adventures. I try to go camping at least 3-5 times per year, oftentimes for an extended weekend. Once a year at most I’ll travel up to two weeks at a time since that’s what works with my husband’s work schedule.

    How I Plan For My Next Trip

    A lot of my adventures have been planned around pre-existing travels. For example, I saw the Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains when I was already traveling to those regions for weddings. 

    I have also moved across the United States twice as an adult, and I used both of those moves to take road trips through national parks. Those moves are how I visited half of the 20 national parks that I have seen.

    And since I moved to new regions a few times, that has unlocked access to new places for me to explore. I’m always eager to tour my new home state, so I keep a local bucket list going that I can pull trip ideas from. 

    Plenty of my adventures have been close to home. Staying within a few hours of home may not always feel exciting, but if you think about it, plenty of people are traveling from far away to see those same places. It’s still a destination worth seeing; take advantage of having a home base nearby!

    Once I’ve chosen a destination, I start planning as far in advance as I can so I have more flexibility in lodging options that are available to me. I start by checking blogs and YouTube to discover the highlights in my destination. 

    When I have a sense of what I want to see, I can more strategically choose my lodging so I don’t have to drive an hour each way between my campground and the highlights. I learned this the hard way on my first cross-country road trip through popular national parks. The trip was only planned three months in advance, so all of the national park campsites were already booked. Figuring out what I want to see also helps me determine how much time I spend at the location.

    Saguaro National Park Sign

    After I’ve done my initial research, I build a general itinerary, taking into account factors like driving times between locations and how many vacation days everyone that I’m traveling with has to work with. Then I book my lodging based on those dates and locations. I usually wait to build a more specific itinerary until my trip gets closer, so the details are fresher in my mind.

    I make sure to take notes that can be accessed for offline use since cell service typically isn’t available in campgrounds and national parks.

    The Non-Gear Junkie's Guide To Stress-Free Packing

    I’m no gear junkie, but on the other hand I typically go car camping and have the luxury of bringing a lot of things with me. I’m certainly no ultra-light or minimalist backpacker. Since I bring so much, I created a packing list in a Google doc with all of the items I typically bring on my travels. That way, I can check off each item as I pack it and never have to wonder if I forgot something.

    At the very minimum, I bring what I need for survival. I’ve surprised myself with how little I can actually get away with - for instance, I once subsisted on foods like jerky and granola bars to avoid bringing a bulky cooler and camp stove. But there are a few items that are non-negotiable for me on any adventure.

    Glacier Point Yosemite National Park 

    For multi-day adventures, my tent is essential for shelter. A sleeping bag and sleeping pad help me get a good night’s rest, too. Whether I’m camping or just going on a day hike there are a few more essentials I would never leave home without for my own safety. Those include water bottles, a headlamp, and sun protection (typically a hat and sunscreen).

    My Most Memorable Travel Experience

    I took a two-week road trip when I moved from the northwest to the southeast. I drove all the way down the west coast touring Oregon’s stunning coast and seven national parks. It was awesome getting to camp and hike every day in some of the most beautiful places in the country.

    There are lots more places I want to visit! The beautiful national parks in Alaska and Utah are high on my bucket list.

    From Inspiration to Exploration: The Amateur Adventure Blog 

    I have two goals for my blog, Amateur Adventure Journal:

    1. to inspire weekend warriors to take awesome adventures, and

    2. to make trip planning easier so people can spend less time researching destinations and more time experiencing them.

    It’s very time-consuming for adventurers to plan a trip from scratch, scour the internet to identify attractions and trails on a map or check out the different reservation systems for campgrounds that are managed by different entities.

    Additionally, reading conflicting crowd-sourced reviews can leave people more confused than before. (This has happened to me so many times reading All Trails reviews that overstate the difficulty of a hike or the severity of potholes in the road to the trailhead.)

    My articles help readers find the information they’re looking for in one easy-to-read place, paired with insights from my experiences, so they can plan with speed and confidence.

    Artists Bluff White Mountains NH

    My journey to launch the Amateur Adventure Journal began in 2020.

    During the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, I consumed a lot of media about hiking and the outdoors. I realized that all of the videos and podcasts that I found were about thru-hikes.

    As someone who still has to juggle the realities of work and a family, I realized that I would probably never embark on these months-long adventures I was learning about.

    That inspired me to create content about outdoor excursions that was geared toward the everyday adventurer—hence the name, Amateur Adventure Journal.

    Connecting Through Adventure: Stories Of People I Have Met On The Road

    It’s always insightful chatting with other people during my travels. Even though many of my trips have been within the United States, I’ve met plenty of people who have told me about their international travels to places I haven’t been to. But it’s even more impactful when I learn more about my own country through other people’s experiences.

    For example, I met a woman who worked at a Native American university and learned about injustices this demographic faces that I was previously unaware of.

    Getting out of your bubble and meeting new people can help you better understand the world.

    Precautions That I Take

    Safety is critical when exploring the outdoors, even if you’re staying in more developed areas.

    Before any outing, I make sure I’m confident in where I’m going. For example, I look for a trail map before hiking to prevent getting lost if the trail intersects with others. On top of that, I keep a charged phone with me and check the All Trails app as I hike to see my location on the trail in real time.

    I also research the difficulty of trails to make sure I bring enough supplies. When I know if I’m going into an easy or strenuous hike, I can pack the appropriate amount of food, water, layers, etc.

    It’s also crucial to know general outdoor safety practices and leave-no trace principles. Know how to prevent a wildlife encounter (like staying a safe distance away and using a bear box where they’re provided), how to react if you do encounter wildlife like bears or rattlesnakes, and how to have a campfire safely.

    How I Manage My Work & Travel

    As I mentioned earlier, most of my travels are fairly short, so they don’t interrupt my work too much. Since I typically travel to areas without Wi-Fi or cell service, that sort of precludes mixing work and travel anyway. Therefore, the bulk of my trip-related work is done before and after my travels.

    In terms of making sure my adventures capture everything I need for my work, I outline my blog articles ahead of time so I know what things I want to do and photograph so I have all my material once I get back home. I factor in what I need to capture for my articles when I build my travel itinerary. I make sure to base my articles around what I actually want to do and see, so the trips are a pleasant experience. The trips become too jam-packed if I’m shoving in extra activities and pit stops just for the sake of my blog.

    Mt. Rainier

    Major Challenges That I Have Faced

    My biggest challenge is planning as many adventures as I’d like to since I don’t live on the road full-time. Like most people, I have to balance my trips with my family’s schedule, physical limitations, and more.

    Another specific barrier I face to planning more adventures is transportation. I used to not own a car, and while it was still more affordable to rent a car a few times a year than to own one, that solution isn’t economical if you want to travel every weekend.

    Even now that I’m in a one-car family, I’m often tempted to set off on a whim, but I can’t leave my husband stranded without a vehicle in our neighborhood that isn’t transit- or bike-friendly.

    Cooking At Campsite

    Despite these barriers, I still prioritize getting outdoors and go on at least a few trips per year.

    I hope this goes to show people that anyone with similar challenges can go on adventures, too. Just start small, and over time, you’ll be impressed with how many places you’ve been! Don’t turn these barriers into excuses to hold you back from traveling at all.

    Travel Apps & Websites I Use While Traveling

    There are certainly perks and joys that come with traveling alone (especially if you’re an introvert). But sometimes a travel buddy can enhance the experience. It can be nice to have company to share a meal with or support you through inevitable travel mishaps. You can use a platform like GAFFL when you want a travel buddy to split costs, share the work of planning a trip, or just switch things up from your typical solo travels.

    For my outdoorsy travels, I use recreation.gov to reserve campsites, NPS.gov for official information on national parks, and All Trails to find hiking trails.

    Social media is also very helpful for finding trip inspiration. I bookmark any enticing locations that come across my Instagram feed and Facebook groups.

    Exciting Travel Experiences That I Can Share

    One of the coolest experiences I’ve had was an astronomy program held at Crater Lake National Park. The event coincided with a new moon, so the sky was especially dark for stargazing. 

    We all got to look into this powerful telescope to see far off planets and other deep space objects. You can’t experience anything like that just looking up at the sky in your backyard.

    Little Baldy Trail Hiking

    My Advice To Adventurers Who Have Full-Time Job

    If your job provides paid time off, use all of it! As soon as your PTO resets, list out any planned events you need to take time off for, like weddings or family reunions. Once you know how many PTO days you need to set aside for those activities, brainstorm trip ideas for your remaining PTO. It can be helpful to have an ongoing bucket list to pull ideas from. When you come up with concrete ideas for your PTO you can more easily prioritize them. That’s when the trips in your daydreams start to actually come to fruition.

    It also helps to combine trips where you can to save on travel time and costs. Tack on a short vacation after personal or work events that you’re already traveling for. Or go on a road trip to hit multiple destinations that are near each other.

    Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I First Started

    I wish I had known that I would start a travel blog so I could have taken better pictures during past trips! Jokes aside, I’ve learned a lot about my travel style, particularly that I can’t plan too many adventures back-to-back.

    Even though it’s tempting to cram trips into the short outdoor season, I need down time in between trips. I need to spend every few weekends catching up on chores or just doing relaxing activities at home. 

    Otherwise, I get too overwhelmed fitting all of my “adulting” into the busy week, and my travels feel more like stressful obligations to juggle.

    Roaring River Falls Kings Canyon National Park

    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.