After the west: travel notes while they’re fresh



Hi everyone! After a trip I jot down my observations and what I learned about travel, packing, shopping and eating.  Hope there are some tips that will help you plan for your next trip!

Packing. For my three week trip I packed a carry-on wheelie with my usual minimalistic flair. Not much room for error.  Still, when I unpacked back home, I set aside what I did not use even once: two t-shirts, two long sleeve shirts, one pair of pants, two undies, one bra, two pairs of socks, bathing suit. Wow, really?

What did I wear?  Well…this could be a little embarrassing…but I got used to roughing it out west and tended to wear the same clothes day after day. So much easier to wash things out in the sink, rather than fill the suitcase with dirty clothes. This trip was not about fashion.  It was about fleece, jeans and hiking boots. Driving for hours, hiking, staring at mountains, sitting by streams, petting horses’ apricot noses and pumping our own gas.  I didn’t wear makeup once.

Lesson learned:  This may sound scary but try it. Pack your bag and then take out one of everything, especially if you plan to buy things along the way. And if you are like me and don’t plan to buy anything along the way…well, leave room for surprises because guess what… there’s always going to be a surprise! I always say I won’t buy a thing but I couldn’t resist a super cool Gallatin Gateway T-shirt, and I did stop in the Kalispell Costco (!) to pick up a paper thin, long sleeve smart wool shirt to layer under the fleece. Tropical Gal loves the cold mountain air!

What I packed

5 undies, 3 bras, 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair jeans, 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of exercise/hiking leggings, 1 tank top, 2 t shirts, 3 long sleeve shirts, 1 sweater, 1 fleece, 1 bathing suit, 1 down vest, 1 down jacket, wool hat, gloves, scarf. Hiking hat, hiking shoes, slip on shoes.


Listen to your stomach. Meals were the challenge on this trip, in the sense that my BFF is reed slim and wants to eat every two hours. (Grrr…)  I am curvy and don’t.  She wanted to eat three full meals a day plus snacks in between.  Lord!  We had to work this out.  By the end of the trip we were nibbling on the motel’s free continental breakfast, sharing one burrito from Taco Bell at lunch in the car and going out to dinner somewhere nice.  This was accompanied by her avid snacking all the rest of the time.

Lesson learned:  For a road trip, buy a small cooler for the car and stop in a grocery store to get the day’s lunch, snacks, fruit and drinks.  This is both for health and for economy. Eating out three meals a day is not only too much food, it gets expensive.  We also learned it’s time consuming. Pulling into town, finding and choosing a place to eat, parking, getting seated, waited on, ordering, waiting, eating, asking for the bill, waiting, paying. Besides, after awhile you get sick of the usual fare that’s served in huge portions.  You crave an apple and a hunk of cheese. Picnicking is definitely the way to go.

On the day we started out, I said to myself:  “Liza, there will be no French fries.”  Everything in the American west is served with fries. I enjoyed a gourmet version of them in a chic restaurant in Jackson Hole, and then asked for salad from then on.  Hooray me.


Shopping eats up a lot of time too.  We learned the hard way when we stopped to shop in a traditional ranch outfitter store in Great Falls and almost missed the Charles Russell museum because it closed at five p.m. It’s so easy to get seduced by the cluttered glitter of stores beckoning.  After buying my cool t shirt, and seeing the usual suspects (mugs, refrigerator magnets, cowboy hats…) we simply stopped shopping. Sometimes just stepping into a shop tells you all you need to know and you can walk right out again.

What I bought:  A braided horsehair key chain to replace my last one that wore out. A collapsible water bottle. Smart wool t shirt at Costco in Kalispell.  Deerskin work gloves from the ranch store in Great Falls.  A barn red, western motif, chunky cotton cardigan and a silver buckled, beaded belt that  looks good belted over the cardigan for the “Ralph Lauren does the west” look. The last two were both made in China, darn it. But what did I expect?

Memorable Hotels

Here are some lovely hotels I stayed in.  Inn on the Gallatin  Sheridan Inn  Broadway Hotel  (I stayed in The Wrangler Room)

The Best Buy in America

What else…?  Oh, the longer you stay on the road, the less money you spend. You learn the ropes and what things should really cost. The best bargain of the trip?  My $10.00 National Parks Service pass which gets me into all of America’s National Parks for free, for the rest of my life.  Requirements to purchase the pass: proof of American citizenship and must be at least 62 years old.


Okay folks.  Back to sitting through the debates and getting a new President.  I’ve already voted early, absentee ballot. Please vote! Wishes for a happy autumn everyone!

xo  Liza

P.S. Any travel notes, ideas, successes, bloopers you can share? We all want to to learn how to be effortless, chic travelers.


Hello my lovelies.  I’m so happy to be back with you again on a weekly basis.  Please leave your comments below — that’s when the fun begins!  Do share this post with friends and on social media.  And if you haven’t already, enter your email so you won’t miss a thing.


15 thoughts on “After the west: travel notes while they’re fresh

  1. Hi Liza,

    I loved reading about your western travels. I, too, have enjoyed trips to that region of the U.S. but have always flown as time, thus far in life, has not allowed for long road trips. That may be in my near future as retirement is getting close.

    Now, speaking of retirement, I have a question for you that has arisen from your post today. I am wondering why you chose to retire in Mexico? I follow about a half-dozen other retirees whom have chosen to live outside the U.S. Most of them claim little interest in returning to the United States even for vacations, and claim even less interest in our government. But it is clear that is not the case for you. Your joy in vacationing here and your retention of interest in the political administration (thanks for voting) make it clear you remain a patriot of the U.S. So, I am wondering if you would share your reasons for residency in Mexico. You may have written about this in past blogs but I am new – ish to your blog and have not seen anything on this topic from you. So, if you are willing, and have a few minutes, would you mind sharing your thought process as to how and why you chose your current location. Thanks

    1. Hi Ronda, Thanks for writing! Briefly: I married a Mexican many years ago, which is how I came to live in Mexico. I met him while I was on vacation. I’ve lived here for 25 years. Raised my kids, etc. So I am not an expat, fleeing the U.S. Rather, I’m retired here because it is my home. I adore the U.S. and am flirting with the idea of moving back, actually, if I can find a place I want to settle in. So, I’m a “reluctant gringa.” A love hate relationship with Mexico and the U.S. Good and bad things about each place. The reason so many boomers are retiring in Mexico is that the cost of living is very low and the health care is excellent. There are many articles about my testy relationship with Mexico on the blog. Use the tags, Yucatan, Tropica, expat life to find some of them. Hope this answers your question. Best wishes to you!

      1. Thanks very much for your reply, Liza. Although the U.S. is undergoing difficult times, as is much of the rest of the world for one reason or another, I do toy with the idea of relocating to another country. Yet, there is still so much to relish about America and I speak no other languages fluently – so I think I most likely will find the U.S. to be my home for my days on earth. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Thanks Liza! It’s so helpful to hear what others pack!
    I just got back from a fun trip to Disney Workd with two of my grandchildren and I did pack too much. It was very hot there and I should have packed much lighter.
    I am going to turn 62 this month and I am going to get the Nationsl Parks pass. And hopefully, visit some.
    Have a great day!

    1. HI Kathleen….packing is such an art, isn’t it? Hard to get it just right. I think practice helps…so travel as much as you can! You can buy the National Parks pass online, or in the mail, I think, or at the entrance to any park. Best wishes to you and thanks for writing!

  3. my advice about packing for trips: always take enough underwear for 7 days. I hate to wash things in the sink so I just plan on laundry every week. I actually like going to Laundromats while travelling – – it’s a chance to see the real working world instead of just the tourist spots. Once, in Ireland, I couldn’t find a Laundromat and learned that the local nuns do people’s laundry, including folding. All of the money they receive helps to support seniors in the town. I told the sister that I wasn’t used to letting anyone else wash my clothes and she said, “relax and enjoy it – – you are on holiday.”

    1. Hi Colleen! I can totally get into your concept of doing laundry at local laundromats as well. I think it is a great idea too. For some reason, on this trip it didn’t work. I love the story of the nuns doing the laundry. I would support that endeavor. Carry on and travel beautifully!

  4. Cotton underwear at Wallmart. Come in a package of 5. I by two and leave them behind each day. Inexpensive and no laundry.

  5. I may have missed this as I am new to your site. Did you publish any sort of itinerary for your trip out west? I would love to see where you went and what specific sights you saw as well as the route you took. Thanks in advance. Deborah

    1. Hi Deborah! Thanks for writing. Briefly: Flew into Denver. Drove to Jackson, Wyoming, through Grand Tetons,into Montana, Yellowstone Park, West Yellowstone, Big Sky, Galletin Gateway, Bozeman, Ennis, Virginia City, Nevada City, up to Missoula, Phillipsburg, Whitefish, Kalispell, Glacier National Park, Great Falls, down to Sheridan, Wyoming and back to Denver.

  6. Hi Liza’ I am From Australia and I am taking my 15 and 11 year old grand kids to America in September 2017 people are saying I am a brave lady. What I am concerned about is we will be in NY for 5 days and friends are concerned about our safety’. I will be with my Daughter but not our husbands, have traveled a lot but first time to NY I think they are being a bit over protective. We will be going all over the country and doing the tourist thing but everyone is only concerned about NY.Would you like to give me some tips. Thanks

    1. Hi Helen! Thanks for writing. You will have a wonderful time in New York. Don’t believe the press. New York City is a wonderful place filled with tourists having a grand time. At the moment I write this it is quite chilly there, so check the weather, dress warmly and have great walking shoes. It’s a tourist friendly town with lots to do and see. Enjoy!

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