Victoria Falls

I left off with our arrival to our first hotel, Pamusha Lodge (which we highly recommend). After a small meal and a much needed shower we discussed our options for our time in the country. Jay wanted to go white water rafting, so we booked that for our second and last full day in Zimbabwe to give us plentyof time to acclamate to the time difference. The next day we decided to spend the entire day at the falls, with the option for an evening booze cruise. But with a good chunk of the day ahead of us, we decided to start our trip with an early dinner at the Buffalo Bar at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge which overlooks a watering hole.

We arrived at the lodge at about 4:30, a good hour before sunset and settled in with a few beers and front row seats to the watering hole. Shortly a gifraffe arrived instantly confirming our reasons for coming to this bar from dinner. We then enjoyed a nice meal and a few drinks as we watched the sun slowly set over the horizon. Just after sunset, we were pleasantly surprised to witness a heard of elephants refresh themselves in the watering hole. A great way to end our first day on this miraculous continent.

The next day was dedicated to the falls. We woke on our own and enjoyed breakfast at our hotel before heading out for the day. Our driver from the hotel recommended 3 hours at the falls. Not convinced we requested he return after 4 hours. There are two things we wish we would have done differently, one of those was we should have requested more time at the falls. It took us about 2.5 hours to view the falls the first time. They are miraculous from all angles. The falls create a pretty mighty mist, so grab a poncho on your way into the park.


After our first round, we grabbed lunch at the Rainforest Cafe before taking a second walk around the falls. This is where we felt rushed. At this point we had about 45 minutes to view the falls. We could have easily spent another hour viewing the falls as they appear differently at different times of day. Alas, we met our driver and returned to the lodge where we booked an evening booze cruise.

The sunset booze cruise, while not anticipated, was a fantastic choice. We were on a small cruise with a nice Australian family originally from Zimbabwean. We saw hippos and crocodile and easily drank our fare.

That evening we went to bed early, anxious about our white water rafting trip on the mighty Zambezi river.

I will admit, I was terrified to go white water rafting and even attempted to cancel. But, it was one of my favorite experiences at Victroia Falls. We woke early for a full breakfast before being picked up by Wild Horizons. We then met our group and guide at their cafe ( Lookout Cafe) overlooking the Zambezi river before heading to our starting point. Since it’s high water, we started our ride at rapid 11. But first we received a safety briefing, hiked down the gorge to the river and practiced our paddling.

About two hours later we were paddling our way toward the first rapid (Rapid 11). The Zambezi offers some of the best rapids in the world. Thankfully, for me, the high water resulted in only one category five rapid. While I had a great time, met some great tourists from Aussie and Russia, I don’t think I’ll be rafting the Zambezi in the low water when the rapids are stronger. I will consider white water rafting in the future and may even be brave enough to get in the water. Jay had a great time, experiencing a whirlpool and a rapid while holding onto the raft. While we did lose one person during a rapid, but she held on tight to the rope and was quickly pulled back into our boat.

After finishing our journey down the river and climbing out of the gorge we sat down to lunch with our guides. I can not stress how impressed we were with Wild Horizons. All of our guides were professional and made sure we had a very fun day. As we loaded back into our transport back to town, we had the opportunity to purchase a few souvenirs. Knowing we weren’t bringing back some of our clothing items, we traded vibrams and a shirt for a few souvenirs. We often leave clothing behind on trips, I almost wish we were further along and could have traded more clothing. Apparently clothing and shoes are hard to come by in Africa. If I were to go again, I would purposely bring old tennis shoes or Keens and trade them at the end of my rafting trip.

After washing up at our hotel, we decided to go back the Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe for a drink. Our hotel driver hesitantly dropped us at the falls entrance and we walked the 400 meters to the cafe (2nd mistake – we should have let our driver drop us at the cafe as were harassed the entire walk). At the cafe, we ran into some friends from our rafting trip. We compared travelers stories and watched our new friend do the Flying Fox before hitching a ride back to the falls entrance (see we’re quick leaners). From here we went through Zimbabwe customs and walked to the center of the Victoria Falls bridge to marvel at the Zambian portion of the falls (a must).

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed some traditional African food prepared by our hotel and chatted with some German women. All in all we had a fantastic time at Victoria Falls and would highly recommend it to friends. While some of the towns people were only out to scam us, all of the guides at the hotel staff at Pamusha Lodge were fantastic. Besides our brief walk from the falls entrance to the Lookout Cafe, we felt completely safe. That ends our Zimbabwe/Zambian adventure. Next stop, Kruger National Park.


Traveling to Africa

I can’t believe we have already finished the first leg of our trip in Zimbabwe! We left Washington DC at 10 pm Thursday and landed at Heathrow outside of London the following morning. 

We had over 10 hours to kill so we went through customs and took the free 428 bus into town for lunch. No fish and chips as they just changed fish vendors, but the beer and burgers were delicious.  


Back at the airport for a few more hours before boarding our 11 hour flight to Johannesburg. This was by far one of our best international flight experience. We were on the second level of a ginormous plane near a window which had a convenient storage box for our carry on items. Yes, no luggage under the seat, beside you under the window. We both slept well thanks to a few drinks and some Ambien :). 

When we landed in Johannesburg we had to switch airlines. This meant we had to go through customs, claim our luggage and checkin with our next airline. Believe it or not we had more than enough time to do this in 3.5 hours.

Our last flight took us to Zambia and the smallest international airport I have ever scene. I prearranged all of our airport transfers, which was a good thing considering we had to cross into Zimbabwe. 

Our first taxi driver took us to and over the bridge (ie no mans land). He escorted us through the Zimbabwean customs and delivered us to a representative from our hotel. This may not sound impressive, but after talking to other travelers who took 3 taxis for the same journey, we were pretty impressed. 32 hours later we checked into our first hotel and started planning our stay in Zimbabwe, which I will detail tomorrow. 

Student Loan Resolutions for 2015

It is 2015, which means it’s time for some new resolutions. Last year, I vowed to continue my student loan pay off rate of $40k (which we successfully accomplished). I also vowed to pay off our loan with the highest interest rate (which we did) by June 2014 (which was a little ambitious). While we eventually reached our resolution, we did not make it in the anticipated time due to our choice to be on the Income Based Repayment plan.

This year is a whole new ballgame. This year we are debating about buying a house. We are not worried about our credit score or debt to income ratio, but we are worried about the down payment.

I have been saving for years, so we have a pretty chunk of change in the bank. We just need a little bit more money. This is when Income Based Repayment comes to our favor, as I learned last year. Since we aggressively over pay our student loans based on interest rate, we have a few months this spring to save those aggressive payments (learn more about why here). The trick is how do we save those payments and still pay off $40k of student debt in 2015?

Continue reading on the SmarterBucks blog.

Checking in and Whole30

Hi y’all! I know its been a while… probably the longest stretch I have gone without blogging.

While I may not have been writing, I did spend a little time last weekend cleaning up the back end. Lately I have been spending a lot less time writing. Therefore, I am considering moving this blog from a self-hosted site (as it is now) back to a hosted site. I started this blog on blogger. While many would not recommend blogger, the site helped me learn a lot of code. I self coded personalization’s that I like to believe make the site feel less generic. My self hosted journey happen right after our honeymoon. But with less time spent on this hobby, I think it is time to move back to a free service. Later this year I plan to move this site to I will keep you all updated on that journey and would love other bloggers opinion on my move.


Since early January, I have also been busy traveling to warm places for work (I know tough life). I visited California for a week long class and squeezed in a visit to see our former roommate Mary. I then headed to Orlando to participate in a millennials and golf task force, which is why I was learning to play golf. I played in my first scramble and had a lot of fun. I have been anxious to get back on the course, but unfortunately February hasn’t been as warm as December and January. While in Orlando I stayed with Charlotte and enjoyed catching up with her. And I closed the month with a quick trip to Atlanta to proctor a certification exam for work.


Like December, I spent a lot of time with family as we celebrated my grandmother (Oma’s) life. She followed my grandfather, Opa, by five weeks to a better place. Heaven has gained two angels these past few weeks.



In the midst of all of this, I also started the Whole30 program. I am currently on day 23 and not feeling the benefits as I thought I would. Jay and I decided to partake in this crazy journey after the girls I eat lunch with at work all decided to take part in the program until our annual conference. While I have learned things (like I don’t need creamer in my coffee), my stomach has also been in havoc since day 9. I am going to tough out the next 7 days, but I found solace reading these two articles:

The latter I plan on replicating from my experience.

Well, I believe you all are now up to speed on my life. I hope everyone has had a fresh start to the new year!

A Look Back at 2014

Happy New Year! 2014 was a pretty good year. Jay and I were blessed with the opportunity to travel internationally twice as well as several trips domestically. We both achieved athletic accomplishments and continued to pay down our student debt.

While every year has its low points, we were fortunate to have very few this year. We started the year off with an unexpected tax bill from the feds and ended it with the passing of my 94 year old grandfather, Opa. We learned from our tax mistake and bumped up our contributions. And while we mourned the loss of my grandfather, we all know he is resting peacefully. With mostly ups and a few downs, here is a look back at my 2014:

Jay and I started the year off right with a trip to Iceland.


In February, I traveled to Savannah to celebrate Liz’s bachelorette with friends from college.


March was pretty busy. At the beginning of the month Jay and I drove to South Carolina to celebrate Jason and Liz.


We closed out the month by visiting Beijing, China and Chiang Mai, Thailand.


In April, I watched as our friend Veronica ran her first marathon with Jay by her side.


In May, I ventured up to visit my friend Lauren in Nantucket and run a half marathon with my cousin in Vermont.


Our summer was pretty quiet. We spent our time hiking the Appalachian Trail and kayaking on the Potomac.


In September, Jay and I ventured out to California to sightsee with friends and celebrate Chris and Niharika.


Jay ended the month with his first Half Ironman in Augusta, Georgia.


In October, I ran PRed at the Baltimore Marathon and six weeks later I was crazy enough to run the Philadelphia Marathon.


We closed out the year with plenty of family time. We traveled to South Carolina for Thanksgiving with Jay’s family. In December, we have managed to see my family every weekend between parties, a funeral and the actual holidays.

As we walk away from 2014, I have to say I am very grateful for this year. Both Jay and I have steady jobs that we enjoy, good friends and a loving family. Here is to a fantastic 2015!


Marathons and Student Loans

I wrote this post for the SmarterBucks blog back in October, days before I ran the Baltimore Marathon. While slightly delayed, I think it is a great reminder for those of us evaluating our 2014 resolutions and fine tuning our 2015 resolutions before the new year begins. Enjoy!

This weekend I will complete my second marathon. As you can imagine I am a little nervous as it has been two years since I successfully crossed the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. While thinking about my upcoming race, I realized that student loan repayment can seem a lot like a marathon.

Both running a marathon and student loan repayment are huge time commitments and achievements in their own right. I dedicated months to training for this race, just as we will spend years repaying our student loans. Below are some of the tips I hope to put into practice on race day that I often find myself following as we repay our student loans.

Continue reading on the SmarterBucks blog.

December 2014


Oh December, how interesting you have been! A lot has been going on in my household. Jay and I were gearing up for the holidays the first weekend of December when we got word that my grandfather was rushed to the hospital with high blood pressure.


Due to my parents hosting a house warming/ holiday party (oh my parents moved too!) my mom asked us to stop by the emergency room on our way up to Baltimore to get a read on the situation. Little did we know that the interaction with my grandfather would be his last conversation.

In the emergency room, my grandfather looked fairly good, he was showing signs of a stroke but was responsive enough to tell us that he didn’t like my mom’s (his daughters) new house. We also ended our conversation talking about travel and his favorite destination: Turkey! He looked tired and dozed off so we checked in with the doctor and nurse. We learned there was nothing we could really do right now and that he was in good hands until my mom stopped by that evening.

That evening and the next two days he continued a downward spiral and never regained consciousness. At 94, two days before his 73rd wedding anniversary, my grandfather, Opa, passed on. While sad, we all know that he has gone on to a better and happier place.

Once my family had said our goodbyes, Jay and I returned to NOVA. The one thing about death is once all the funeral is over and all the family goes home, you are still mourning but also struggling to return to normalcy.


It seemed strange, but without being part of the real world for a good 5 days, I decided to join my girlfriends for the 12 Bars of Christmas (the motto: “I believe… I’ll have another beer”). I started with the idea of just one bar and then stayed for quite a few bars. While strange to be out celebrating with friends so close to a family death, it also felt very normalizing.


My other adventure in December… golf! For work, I was asked to join a task force focusing on the millennial generation and golf. As a non-golfer, I have a very important task at hand: Learn the game of golf and reflect on how to get other non-golfers into the game. With a new set of starter clubs and 6 golf lessons, I am starting to feel like a golfer! I have also learned a lot which I plan to detail in a series of posts in the near future.


Finally, work! This week I also had the opportunity to participate in my first professional conference since college. Overall it was a very positive experience where I not only learned a lot about the e-learning landscape but also made a few new friends along the way! The best part about participating in a technology conference is all the fun new gadgets. It is interesting (but also scary) how far technology has come. One of my favorite tools they used were beacons. Beacons track conference traffic through attendees smart phones. This conference used the system anonymously just tracking those who had the app and turned on their Bluetooth. Beacons can also be used to track individuals to record data like who you visit and CEUs. Pretty cool right?

Next month continues to be a little chaotic with work travel, friend visits and my first golf tournament! But as the year winds down I hope to refocus to this space as an outlet for all the fun and crazy things currently happening in my life. Stay Tuned!

When we crush our student debt, we will…

One question I often get is what we will do when we crush our student debt. Honestly, my answer is we will finally breathe financially (or at least I hope we will). I feel like we have put a lot on hold because of our student debt including buying a new car, a home and having children. But at the same time I wonder if we would have made those decisions sooner without student debt… I really don’t know because I don’t know if we are ready for all of those responsibilities.

At the 10,000 foot view, I can honestly say both my husband and I are happy and healthy. We can still afford to do things we love like traveling internationally and running crazy races. So what are we really missing out on?

If anything I would say we are missing out on doing the things we love more often. Because of our student debt we travel internationally once a year instead of maybe twice (and using mostly frequent flier miles and credit card points). Because of our student debt we both try to limit the number of road races we run and triathlons we compete in. Because of our student debt we think twice, maybe three times as hard every time we buy anything. But really, we both agree we don’t feel like we are missing out on anything by having student debt. We are just working harder to afford the things we love… not the things we want.

Continue reading on the SmarterBucks blog.

Philadelphia Marathon

Happy Thanksgiving! Today I am grateful for finishing my third marathon. Yes that’s right, I finished my third marathon last weekend. I have to say this marathon was tough. Philadelphia was my second marathon this fall and while I liked the challenge, I don’t know if I would run two marathons in another season again.


But thankfully, last weekend wasn’t all about the marathon. It was also about my friend Courtney as she celebrated a birthday and ran her first half marathon. We left DC early so that we would arrive at the race expo around noon. After picking up our packets and grabbing a quick lunch we headed out to see the historic sights.


First we stopped by the Liberty Bell. The line to go inside was long so we opted to peer in from the observation area from the outside. Afterward, we wandered around Independence Hall and took a group picture.


With lots of miles between us and the finish line, we decided to head back to the hotel and relax after our historic tour. That evening we headed to a friends house for dinner. Andrea and Andrew graciously hosted us for pizza, subs and birthday cake!


The next morning we were up early to walk to the race start. We stayed about a mile away from the start which was the perfect warm up walk.


Then we were off! Courtney and I started the race together. At about mile three, I told Courtney to go ahead. We were running at my Baltimore pace but due to the cold weather and my asthma I slowed down about a minute per mile.

From there I plugged into my podcasts and chugged along. After slowing down, my breathing steadied and I continued on happily for the next 15 miles. Originally I was supposed to run this race with Kyle, but she sprained her ankle a week and half before the race. Knowing I was alone, I told myself I could bail out at the half marathon split if I needed/wanted to. I also knew if I bailed I would regret not finishing the full that I trained for. Thankfully the middle 15 miles were very pleasant. I even enjoyed them!

But boy did that change at mile 18! At mile 18 it felt like I was running two marathons this season and I hit the wall hard. I managed to make it through the next three miles by sticking with the five minute run and one minute walk. By mile 21 I switched from podcasts to Taylor Swift. She carried me through the next few miles, but they were rough and included a little more walking. By this time I was rounding the corner of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and used the spectator energy to power through that last mile.


I crossed the finish line at 5:01:59, clocking my “slowest” marathon to date. Even though it was not my prettiest race, I am so glad I did it. Besides the first three miles with Courtney, the only other on-course support I got was a wave and shout from Kyle at mile 6 (thanks ladies). I was really nervous about marathoning with so little support but proud of myself for sticking it out and completing the entire race.

As for two marathons in one season… I am not sure I would recommend it. I felt amazing running the Baltimore Marathon, but my body hated running Philly. While I hit the wall when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, my body didn’t feel tired like it did during Philly.

If I were to do it again, I think I would allow for a little more time between marathons. I had 5 weeks between Baltimore and Philly, but I think my body needed 6 to 8 weeks between races. I felt so strong running Baltimore, but I still needed a good two weeks to recover. One of my worst training runs was a 16 miler on Halloween between the two races. After that run I spent the entire evening in bed with the chills and an upset stomach.

So would I do two marathons in one season again? I don’t know. But I do know that I am taking the spring season off!

The Financial Advice That I am Most Thankful For

Tis the season to be thankful, therefore today I bring you a post I wrote last year for the SmarterBucks blog on the financial advice that I am most thankful for. Enjoy!

When I was asked to write about the financial advice you are most thankful for, I immediately turned to some family and friends to ask for their advice. Of all the advice that was given the one thing that stood out while encompassing them all was “live below your means.”

This is something that my husband and I decided to do when we entered the world of the DINK, Double Income, No Kids. Within a month of each other, I got a raise and he graduated from grad school and got a job. We knew our income was about to grow instantly. The usual response to this is to splurge and buy a huge TV, a new wardrobe or a new car. We knew, however, that splurging would be the beginning of a difficult and dangerous path.

Continue reading on the SmarterBucks blog.