Amanda Dorough | The Beautiful Journey


Budget Travel: What I’m packing for 8 days in London *updated*

*Now that I”m back from my trip scroll to the bottom to see the things I’m really glad I brought and what I wish I would have done differently

You guys, excited doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel right now.  I haven’t traveled, like really traveled since I got home from Bolivia in 2012.  Now for any of you that follow me in Instagram you know that this whole trip to London came to be because I found a hard to resist deal on a flight.

Austin to London Heathrow direct on British Airways for $474.01?  Ya that’s hard to pass up.

What I haven’t mentioned though is the awesome cheap fare I got is what’s known as “Basic Economy.”  The means I don’t get to the advantage of typical perks you get on international flights like picking or seat or checking a bag without paying an extra fee, and what kind of budget trip would this be if I went round paying all the fee’s?(Food however, is still included.  Hooray!).

So I’m going to be doing this whole adventure with only a carry-on and personal item.  Is it ideal?  No.  Trying to stuff cold weather clothes for 8 days into a carry on bag isn’t ideal but my friends I have done it!

So why bags am I taking?  Behold! IMG_0037

Personal item= Black cross body bag by Baggallini that I got on clearance at TJ Maxx. This is a new bag I got for the trip but I plan on using it for any travel I have to come so I’m looking at it as an investment. My criteria was that the bag be big enough to fit my iPad in through the opening, be in a neutral color, and be suitable to use as an everyday purse while traveling.  A suprisingly difficult combo to find but I did it!

Carry On= Allpa 35 Travel Pack by Cotopaxi.  I bought this pack when it was first released through Kickstarter two years ago. Since then the brand has grown and the price increased.  I honestly don’t know if I could afford the pack for what it costs now ($200) but I bought it in my pre- debt free journey days and I’m so happy I did!  I’ve only used is for one weekend trip so far so this will be the longest (and farthest) trip I’ve used it on, but it’s exactly the kind of trip I bought it for so I’m pretty excited!  It has a lot of room inside and several compartments to keep things organized.  *side note: I know there are several brands out there like eBags and Eagle Creek that have similar travel packs for cheaper prices so if you’re in the market for a new pack but can’t shell out $200 I recommend you do a search!)

So now that I’ve covered the bags I’m taking how about I show you what I’m packing in them?  Let’s start with my personal item…


Semi Clockwise from L-R:

Compression Socks:  Last time I spent all day on a plane I ended up having painful, swollen feet for a week.  No thank you. I have to much to see and do in London and to many places to walk, so I bought some compression socks to hopefully keep my circulation going!
Wallet:  I’m going to be leaving my trusty Bella Taylor cash system wallet at home in favor of this more streamlined wallet.
Small Notebook:  My plan is to take notes of the places I go, cool things I see, as well as money I spend everyday so I have an accurate tally when I get home.
Travel Pillow:  I love a good memory foam travel pillow as much as the next person but mine was just to big to take on this trip so I picked up this inflatable neck pillow from TJ Maxx.  It’s got a fuzzy sleeve on it it so I’m hoping it makes it a little more comfortable…
Plane Snacks:  Like I said they feed us on the flight but I get hungry when I’m fly so might as well have some emergency snacks lol
Everything Bag:  This has all the little things that can get lost in a purse in it.  I’ll give you. closer peek at what’s inside in a minute.
Electronics Bag
Passport Case: This is actually a pencil case by Yoobie that I got on back to school clearance and Walmart but it’s awesome!  It holds everything I need.
Collapsable Water Bottle


Passport Case:
Pens, Pencil, Dual tipped highlighter
Custom Envelope for Reciepts
Notecards with directions to hostel and other important information I thought it wold be good to have.  And yes, they’re laminated, you know just in case they get wet lol.

Electronics Bag:
Dual Port Fast Charger (USB & USB C)
Portable Battery Pack -I’ve tested it and can get at least 3 full charges on my phone before I have to charge the pack which should be more than enough for a day walking around London and taking pictures.
Phone & iPad cords
Headphones with USB C adapter
Fitbit Charger


Everything Bag:
Wet Ones– I definitely don’t want to get sick this trip so I’m going to pull a germaphobe move and wipe down my tray table etc on the plane.
Ear Plugs 
Emergency Tampon
Hand Santitizer
Hair Clip
Glass cleaning cloth
USB Thumb drive
*I’m probably also going to throw an extra hair tie or two in there because a girl can always use more hair ties.

And then in my carry on…


Semi Clockwise from L-R:

Packing cube with my clothes inside (scroll down to see what’s inside)
Travel Towel– The Hostel I’m staying in rents towels for £3.  I still have my travel towel from the World Race 8 years ago.  One less fee to pay!
Makeup removing wipes
Hair brush
Toiletry Case (scroll down to see what’s inside)
Travel Umbrella
Packable Backpack
Camera–  I debated whether I wanted to bring this or not.  My go to awesome camera is a DSLR but it’s huge.  Then if I brought it I’d want to bring lenses too and it would all get out of hand.  My phone takes awesome pictures so it’s going to be my go-to, but this little guy will be taken out of retirement to be my backup.
Food–  So I purposefully chose a hostel with a common kitchen area.  Food could easily be my biggest expense (next to the flight) on this trip so I decided I would attempt to do at least one meal a day at the hostel.  I plan to hit up a store once I get to London but these I can all bring from home without spending extra.  It includes Easy Mac, Oatmeal, Hot Chocolate, granola bars, Honey packets, Emergen-C, & PB packets I got at ALDI.
Toms–  I waterproofed both pairs of shoes I’m taking otherwise these would be terrible and wet in the rain.  They’re comfy and light to pack so I hope these do me well!
Light Jacket
Rain Coat
Flip Flops for the hostel shower
Hair Straightener (it’s dual voltage)
Plug adapter


Inside my packing cube and Toiletry Bag:
2 T-shirts
1 Nice Shirt
5 long sleeve shirts/sweaters
Black Jeggings
Black Cotton leggings
Athletic Shorts – For sleeping in because I hear the hostel can get hot.  If it’s cold I’ll wear the leggings instead.
Contacts– Enough for every day I’m gone.  I’m so paranoid something will happen to my glasses but I don’t want to take two pairs with me so this is my answer.
Dry Shampoo
Body Wash
Hair Claw
Deoderant– I got this tiny Native sample from PinchMe and it’s awesome!
Hair Ties
Tiger Balm– For my neck in case my headaches start acting up
Shampoo and Conditioner (I’m taking the sample pack too because the two containers aren’t full)
*I may switch a couple items of clothes out still.  I’m keeping an eye on the weather then I’ll make my final choice.

And finally, what I’ll be wearing on the plane.  It’s supposed to be 95 degrees in Austin when I leave so I’ll be pretty miserable with all this stuff, but’s its going to be in the 50’s in London so it will be OK.  They’re all my bulkiest things so I’m doing what I’ve gotta do…


I’m wearing:
Jeans (with belt)
Coat– I’m debating between taking my Northface Denali ( was a gift from a friend years ago) or my REI down Jacket (got on clearance when I lived in AK).  It’s another thing where I’ll probably make the final decision before I leave.
Shoes–  I got these Blowish shoes at Ross for $14.99.  I’d been on the hunt for a pair of stylish water proof shoes for a couple months.  I found several I liked but all where way out of my price range.  That’s when it dawned on me that I could waterproof basically any shoe on it’s own.  Most of the shoes I own are either so breathable they’re not good to waterproof OR not comfortable enough to spend all day walking it, hence the new pair.  I’ve been wearing these around to break them in for the last couple weeks and so far they’re awesome.

Not pictured that I’m bringing with me:  cell phone, small credit card size phone tripod, Fitbit, eye mask (for sleeping on the plane…and maybe the hostel), lock for my hostel locker, copy of important documents (ie. passport), copies of all my confirmation letters (for flight, hostel, etc.)

So there you have it.  Everything I’m bringing with my on my super budget adventure to London next week!  Stay tuned to hear more about my frugal adventures and for tips from across the pond!



Ok everyone so now that I”m back from London I have a few updates to the list.  Some things thatI brought were very very right and others, well, I regret terribly, so I thought I would share it all with you.

(And note, if I don’t mention something from above just assume I’m glad I brought it but it wasn’t especially exceptions)

Ok we’ll start with the good

Passport “Pencil Case” by Yoobie: Oh my gosh this thing was amazing.  It kept me super organized.  I always knew where to go for a pen, kept my receipts here, my passport, and any paperwork or brochures I got during my days exploring.
Black Waterproof Jacket:  It wasn’t pictured above because I ended up picking it up at Marshall’s just a few days before I left but it was fantastic.  It had a light faux fur lining and a waterproof shell and I ended up wearing it every day.  It also allowed me to leave my specific rain jacket at home (and it replaced my black fleece) so that I had one jacket in place of two.
Hat, gloves, and scarf:  I didn’t wear them all the time but there were some points where it was really chilly and I was happy to have them all.
Portable battery pack:  This was so great to have.  This kept me mobile without having to look for a place to charge my phone.  I’d typical have to recharge my phone at least once mid day since I was using it so much for pictures so it was definitely a life saver.

Now The Bad

Footwear. Oh my gosh I have so many regrets.  Before leaving everything I read said that people in London were fashionable and you’d stick out like a sore thumb if you were to colorful etc. and if you were unstylish footwear.  The truth is Londoners walk a lot and everyone is wearing good shoes.  Even women in dresses wear tennis shoes as they go from points A to B because they recognize the value of their feet.  Now to be honest I thought my shoes were good.  I broke them in before I left and they gave me no problems but to be fair I wasn’t walking 30,000 steps a day in them either.  After 1 day of walking around in my Blowfish shoes I had shin splints and a massive blister on the ball of of the left foot.  I then spent the rest of the week in misery with every step and a profound limp.   Now when it comes to the Toms my feet had gotten so swollen from the trauma inflicted that I couldn’t fit the toms on while wearing socks and it was to cold to go without socks.  If I could do it again I would bring the two most comfortable pairs of shoes I own regardless of how stylish.
Second coat:  This wasn’t specifically bad, I just didn’t need it.  I ended up bringing my lightweight REI down jacket which was easy to pack but I was always to fearful of rain to wear it.  If I did it again I might bring a lightweight fleece instead.
T-shirts:  Also not specifically bad, I just didn’t need them.  It was to cool outside to wear short sleeves, even under my jacket, and I rarely took off my jacket when I was out and about to.
Packable backpack:  Not bad just didn’t need it.  My Baggelini crossbody was more than good enough to use everyday.  I did wear the backpack the one day I planned to ride a bike and it actually hurt my back/shoulders more than the crossbody.
Packable water bottle:  Ugh, the thing leaked horribly. I ended up throwing it out day two and just reusing a water bottle I got from the store instead and it was sooooo much better.


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New Look and the “She’s Paying It Off” Story

Well hello all.  If you’re reading this right now it means you found your way to my little corner of the internet, my blog.  Maybe you’ve been subscribed to me for awhile, maybe you founds me through social media… however you made it here, welcome.   Over the last 6 years this blog has covered everything from my time volunteering in Bolivia to my life going to Paramedic School in Alaska.  If you’ve been around here for awhile you may notice a bit of a different look and purpose currently.  Just as seasons change so is my blogging season, and out of this new season has grown “She’s Paying it Off.”  A place where I can share about my current journey to become debt free.  A place for victories and struggles, ideas and advice.

Now, without further ado, story time, or moreover the story of how I got to this place financially and why I decided to so something about it. I promise to make it concise *wink*.

Just after I turned 18 my mother took me down to the bank and helped me open my first credit card.  I needed to build good credit she said and this was an important first step. A couple weeks later I left for my freshman year of college.  I hadn’t worked that summer and didn’t have much disposable income at the time.  I still remember my first purchase on that card, Finding Nemo on DVD.  The thrill of the purchase, the idea that I could spend money even though I didn’t technically have it.  Still though I was very careful with the card, typically only using it for needs.  I was lucky I went to college before social media became very big (everyone was still using myspace at this time, and it was new, just to date myself) so the temptation of comparison and the luxury of online shopping wasn’t commonplace.

Fast forward 4 years to graduation.  By the time I was granted my diploma for my Bachelors of Science in History I was well aware of what debt was.  I had maxed that same credit card just a couple months earlier to pay for a spring break trip to Disney World and had approx $35,000 in student debt under my belt from my silly degree as well as a semester spent studying abroad.  Some of you may be confused as to why I refer to my degree as silly but it really was.  I had no plans to do anything with History, I just enjoyed the subject.  Everyone had said I needed to go to college after high school, so I did.  No one told me I should probably have some idea about what I wanted to do with my life first (trust me, I’ll elaborate on this much more later).


Studying abroad with Semester At Sea, Fall 2006

I assumed after I graduated college just the fact I had a degree would land me a good job and I could pay off my debt and live the life of my dreams.  Spoiler alert, it didn’t.  I moved back in with my parents and after putzing around for a year was hired as a second grade teacher at a school in Bangkok, Thailand.  The job definitely wasn’t lucrative but it gave me adventure, something I craved more than anything.  My student loans were deferred, and I had a blast for 2 years.

I won’t go into all details of my life between Thailand ( I moved back to the US in spring 2010) and when I first discovered the way, er, *cough,* I mean Financial Peace University.  We’ll just say I traveled the world and made very little money.  I don’t regret a minute of it but in hindsight it probably wasn’t that smart.


My second year teaching in Thailand, 2009

So on to FPU… my church always offered the class a couple times a year, but it was finally in late 2013 that I decided to take the plunge and invest $100 into the kit, and I flourished.  I did so freaking well.  I budgeted my little heart out and because I had few expenses (lived with my parents at the time and my car was paid off) I was able to save a lot of what I made even though my hourly wage was piss poor.  I knew a life change was coming so instead of applying everything to debt I put it in savings…

Then a lot of change came.  I made the decision to go back to school to get my dream job. I moved to Alaska to do that and bought a new to me car that could survive Alaskan winters.  I hadn’t forgotten everything I learned in FPU, but my debt started to increase and I kept telling myself that was OK…

Now here I sit.  5 years later.  I”m approx $80,000 in debt give or take, but I”m making headway.  I did finish that second degree and got my dream job.  I now make double what I did before which is fantastic, but I still have a long road ahead of me.

If you’ve made it all the way through my story I must say I’m impressed.  I know it’s not that exciting, but it’s also so necessary on this journey.  I need accountability and I’m hoping you can help me with that.  I don’t know how long this journey will take, but I know I’ll get there eventually.  I believe it.

Thanks again,





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Life Right Now: Bristol Bay

Well y’all it’s been a year since I last posted here.  When it comes down to it there wasn’t a lot to report on honestly.  I spent last fall in TX completing my final internship so that I could finish paramedic school.  By early December I had finished all the tests and details I needed to take me national exam, and I passed!  Oh it felt so good, because, I can’t lie the NREMT Paramedic exam is dang hard.

After that I worked most of the spring at a clinic in Soldotna before being offered (and accepting) a seasonal paramedic position with the Bristol Bay Borough Fire Department, which is where I’ve now been since late May.

Today I thought I’d go ahead and give you guys a little snapshot of my surroundings out here.

Bristol Bay…Bristol Bay… how do I describe Bristol Bay?  Picture Alaska in your head.  Whatever you think Alaska should looks like.  Got it?  Ya Naknek (the town I live in) looks  nothing like that.  If I squint real hard on a clear day with no haze I can see the mountains in Katmai about 50 miles away.  Naknek itself is tundra as far as you can see. Tundra meaning flat boggy low bush plant life with little to no trees.


Tundra leading up to the bay.  You can see the Peterson Point Cannery in the distance to the right.

But people don’t come to Naknek to play tourist, they come here to fish.  With about a dozen canneries in town the population swells from less than 1,000 to over 10,000 for the Salmon fishing season, hence why they hire people like me to help out in the summer.

The Bristol Bay Borough Fire Department (henceforth referred to as BBBFD) actually only has one full-time year-round paid employee, my supervisor Deb, whose official title is EMS Coordinator, but she really does everything.  Everyone else with the department is a volunteer.

There are three fire stations.  One in Naknek, another in King Salmon, and another in South Naknek (which is only accessible by boat or plane), but almost everything is run out of the Naknek station.


The Naknek Fire Station.  It isn’t big, but don’t be fooled, there can be 5 different apparatus squished in there.

The town doesn’t have a hospital but it does have a decent clinic, so if you’ve got a cold or cut your finger they can handle it, but anything worse and there’s a good chance you’ll get medevac’ed to Anchorage from the airport in King Salmon, and expensive event ($30,000+) if you don’t have medieval insurance.

While we actually have 4 ambulances in the area, our primary rig, Rescue 1 is kept in a “barn” next to the clinic and our bunkhouse, which is about a mile from the fire station.  This way we can have access when we’re on call (during the work day we just drive it to the station).  Currently we also have our Reserve Ambulance, and the oldest in our fleet, parked out front as well.  We typically only use it if we have two calls/patients come at the same time, which has happened twice since I got here.  I personally had to run one call in it just last week, and well, it was interesting.  A blast from the past.


The ambulance barn with Rescue 1 inside.


Our reserve ambulance parked outside.  That thing is at least as old as me.


Our clinic, the Camai (pronounced Chuh-my) Medical Center, which is about the size of your average doctors office.

Behind the clinic is the Fire Departments bunkhouse, which me and my two coworkers stay at,  although right now we also have a seasonal police officer, a parks dept. intern, and the engineer working on the towns sewer project living with us as well.  All in all the bunkhouse is a pretty nice building.  There’s a guys wing and girls wing with 4 bedrooms each and a bathroom. Then in the middle there’s a living room, kitchen and laundry area.  There’s not a whole lot to do in our down time, especially since we’re on call 5 nights a week, so we’ve been watching a lot of movies and playing a lot of board games lately.


There’s also a lake right next to the bunkhouse which has some pretty killer sunsets over it.  I’d actually have a pretty awesome view of it too if I didn’t have that garish yellow  connex right out my window.  You win some you lose some.

Ill go ahead and leave you today by introducing you to my team this summer…



L-R: John, a paramedic from Texas, Nate an EMT 2 that actually volunteers with me at the fire dept back in Soldotna, and then of course me!  I should also mention that this picture was taken by the Heart ‘o The Shire, a coffee shop/cafe (I guess you would call it that) here in town that has THE BEST cinnamon rolls.  Just sayin 😉



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Ways I Saved In July

This type of  post is new for me and a bit of a departure from my usual life recap posts.  See, July posed a bit of a challenge for me.  Because it was the end of the fiscal year I found out I would have to wait 6 weeks for my next pay check instead of the usual 4.  On top of that I also had to pay my tuition for summer semester, so when all was said and done I was left with a pretty empty bank account to get me to the next paycheck and I had to get a bit creative.

I can’t lie, having a severely restricted budget for the month was super difficult.  For example, there was one Saturday when the weather was gorgeous and I had nothing to do so I thought I’d take a road trip down to Homer.  Unfortunately road trips require gas and gas costs money, so it didn’t happen.  However, despite the frustrations that came along the way, I actually enjoyed coming up with ideas and figuring out how to make my few dollars stretch further.  In the end I compiled a list of things I did, ideas that worked, and blessings I got, and I thought I’d share it here .

So without further ado, here’s how I saved in July 2016:

  •  Cooking with what I already had:  My cupboards have never been bare.  I always have a few packages of pasta, pancake mix, ramen, etc., I just usually skim by these items until I crave them, instead favoring what I want right now (pizza anyone?).  So, in July I made the decision to only cook with what I already had with the exception of buying milk and eggs since most recipes call for one or the other. In the end I never went hungry, I found new recipes, and I appreciated what I had that much more.
  • Planning a Potluck:  Speaking of food, as an RA (Resident Assistant) I’m expected to plan and execute one event in the Residence Hall every month.  Since fireworks are difficult in Alaska (thank you 22 hrs of daylight), one of my fellow RA’s and I planned a Fourth of July Potluck and Movie night for our event.  I brought cupcakes (which I already had the mix for on hand, see #1 above) but got to enjoy other dishes like beer battered halibut and home made mac n’ cheese.  Not a bad dinner at all.  Then on top of the food we also had free entertainment by watching Independence Day on our big screen.
  • Went on ResHall Grocery Runs instead of driving myself:  In the Residence Hall I live in (picture college dorms but better), since we have kitchens but don’t have a dining hall we offer grocery runs every week to the local store.  Anyone can go on them so long as there’s space left in our Sprinter van.  More often than not we go to Fred Meyers, which is my store of choice, so instead of hopping in my car and driving myself (therefore using gas), I joined in on the grocery run.  I was able to pick up the few items I actually needed and the transportation cost me nothing.
  • Biked into town–  I needed something from the grocery store and it was a non grocery run day so I borrowed a bike and rode to town instead.  It wasn’t easy considering it’s been years since I’ve been on a bike, but it was free!13880374_10102722653168578_8337803630607402409_n
  • Cancelled my CBS All Access subscription–  A few months back I subscribed to CBS All Access so I could watch Survivor and The Amazing Race.  Both shows are currently out of season and I found I wasn’t using the app at all, so I cancelled it therefore saving me money.  I’ll pick it up again sometime in the future, but there’s no need to pay for something you don’t use.
  • Earned Amazon giftcards for things I needed:  I’ve been a product tester for awhile and one of the sites I go through, Crowdtap, also gives you the ability to earn giftcards for answering various questions or surveys on the site.  Another site, Swagbucks, is similar in that you can earn giftcards for doing various different activities.  When I watch TV etc. I usually like to multitask so I decided to put my multitasking to good use and try to earn some giftcards through these sites for a couple things I needed.  In the end I had $20 to work with, and while I won’t do this consistently it’s a good option, especially for those who like to shop on Amazon a lot.
  • Went on vacation for free:  Ok, this one is a little more of a blessing than something I did for myself.  Back in May my Dad called me and asked if I would like to come down to Washington to visit this summer and offered to use their air miles to get me a ticket.  Of course I said yes!  My parents ended up renting a house on a Lake in Eastern Washington for a week and it was absolutely perfect. See my post here to read more about it. My parents also covered everything which helped me out a lot in the end.   Some other ways I was able to save on this trip were:

-Used my Club 49 membership to get free checked luggage on my flight

-Brought my own snacks for the flight and an empty water-bottle to fill up in the terminal to save money.  I did end up buying a soda from McDonalds, but the McDonalds in the Anchorage airport is on of the few that still honors $1 drinks instead of jacking up the price like other airports.  They also don’t have tax so I was able to pull a dollar bill out of my wallet and be done.

13901328_10102734786158968_7224316368299274631_nSo there you have it, some of the ways I was able to save money during July.  This is most definitely not an exhaustive list, but I thought I’d throw a few things out there.  Right now I’ve continued the challenge into August.  While I’m not quite as strict as I was in July I’m really doing my best to save more, especially with my internship coming up next month!


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Sweet, Sweet, Vacation

You guys, it had been years since I had a real honest to goodness vacation.  You know the type of week where you can just sit, relax, swim, basically do whatever you want to do without obligations.
And guys, boy was this vacation so sweet.
Honestly it couldn’t have come at a better time.  This past year has arguably been one of the most difficult of my life.  With Paramedic school and everything that comes along with it and then working 60+ hours a week on top of that.  Man I was tired.  So when my Dad called me in May asking if I’d want to come down to Washington for a week this summer and my parents would use their airmiles to get me there I was all about it.
I really lucked out too.  My parents rented a house on Long Lake, just outside of Spokane, and everything about it was perfect.  The house was adorable, the yard was huge (with fluffy grass!) and the water was the perfect temperature.
I spent the week doing what I’ve been dreaming of doing for a year, reading and swimming.  I polished of 3 books and started 2 more.  There’s just nothing like getting into a good book.  The location also had the added benefit of limited/no cell service (forget about data), so it was a completely unintentional social media fast.
The second night we were there we had a family bocce ball tournament.  Red team vs. Green team.  The stakes?  $50 and the ability to use it to choose whatever type of desert you want for the family.  Unfortunately my team didn’t win, but fortunately for me the team that did had good taste in desert.  Root beer floats the first night, then ice cream sundaes later in the week.  So good!
On our second to last day my cousin Andrea and her family who live in Coeur de Alene came over to visit and brought their families boat.  We had been watching the boats out on the lake and practically drooling all week so it was exciting to finally get out on the water!  Tubing is one of my favorite water activities.  The more extreme maneuvers the better!
I could have stayed there forever, sitting by the lake shore and reading my day, and roasting marshmallows and stargazing at night.  While my time at home was super sweet it was also way to short.  We literally drove back to Seattle and I was at the airport to fly back to Alaska just a couple hours later.
I have no idea when my next vacation will be, but if it’s half as good as this one was then I’ll definitely be blessed.


Wrapping Up P-School

P-School aka Paramedic School aka the hardest year of my life thusfar, is officially over, well the school part at least.  I still have my internship to do, and my exit exam, and my national exam…. but that’s neither here no there.  The sense of freedom I feel now that class is over and there’s no more homework or clinicals is absolutely incredible. Incredible I tell you!

For those of you that are blissfully unaware of what this journey was like, well let me try to sum it up for you…

Photo May 05, 12 10 10 AM

Ok, maybe that’s being a little dramatic, but it was really, really hard.

I will also take this moment for a public education moment.  See ladies and gentlemen, there is a difference between an EMT and a Paramedic (I know, most of you are probably thinking mind blown right now).  I’ll forgive you for not knowing this fact considering most of the population as NO CLUE and I myself didn’t know there was a difference 5 years ago.  Yes they both work in an ambulance but the real difference comes in skill-level and training.  It took me exactly 1 semester (approx 150 hrs) to become an EMT (in Alaska EMT 1 in the entire country they’re called EMT-Basic).  As an EMT you can do basic life saving stuff and it’s all fine and dandy in many cases.  Paramedic’s on the other hand possess a scary amount of medical knowledge, can do some pretty insane procedures (surgical cricothyroidotomy anyone?), and deal with a ton of medications.  Also, when all is said and done a Paramedic degree is like 2000 hrs or something, and that’s on top of the EMT- Basic hours since you have to have that cert before even thinking of applying to Paramedic School.  So ya, there you have it in a nutshell, EMTs and Paramedics are different.


Top: My EMT 1 Class, Fall Semester 2014; Bottom: My EMT 2 Class Spring Semester 2015. Alaska has 3 levels of EMTs before you get to Paramedic.

Ok, back to the topic at hand.  I can still remember the first day of Paramedic school last August vividly.  My class of 11 all showed up with our crisp new uniforms and blank notebooks ready to learn.  Fast forward 11 months later and our uniforms are tattered (I seriously have holes in my job skirt aka sweatshirt) and faded, we have dark circles under our eyes, and there are coffee stains on pretty much every piece of paper we deal with.

Paramedic school literally wrecks you.  But at the same time my medical knowledge base now compared to a year ago is insane.  It’s a pretty cool feeling when all of the cogs in your brain click and you suddenly understand why your body does the things it does.

While classroom time was like at least 75% of the program, those hours of lectures were also supplemented with clinicals.  During fall and spring semester we were in class 4 hrs a day M-Th then in the summer semester that changed to 8hr days M-W, leaving weekends, aka what everyone else calls break-time and uses to do fun things, like sleep for example, for us to get a crap-load of clinicals done, and by crapload I mean somewhere around 15 a semester.  I spent countless days riding around with different fire departments, but even more than that I spent what felt like endless hours in places like the Emergency Room, ICU, Cath Lab, OR, Pediatrics and my personal favorite (or not) OB.  Ya that’s right, if I could go through my entire career as a Paramedic and not have to birth any babies I would be OK with it.

Beyond that I think pictures speak the most words for me, so I’ll let some photos from this past year do the talking…


The UAA Paramedic Program is split onto two campuses, Matsu, which is North of Anchorage, and Kenai, which is where I went. In September we all came together in Anchorage to get clinical orientations at the sites there. This picture was taken outside of a Anchorage Fire Department Station.


In the fall we spent a lot of time going over airway skills. These pictures are from our “Airway Races” where each of our platoons (our class was broken into 3) completed against eachother.


In the Fall we got custom shirts made for Breast Cancer Awareness month. I designed the graphic on the back so it was a pretty proud moment.


In February the Matsu campus came down to work on Cardiac Mega Codes and ACLS with us.

Then summer semester is when things started to get really fun.  We’d been working on medical issues/treatment all year so we finally got to do some Trauma scenarios…

Photo May 29, 4 36 29 PM

Working some trauma scenarios in our vehicle simulator outside of the school.

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Learning some high angle rescue skills with the Nikiski Fire Department. This was before we were belayed to 60 ft in the air…

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While we are NOT “Ambulance Drivers” learning to drive the ambulance and get CEVO certified is still a necessary skill.


Extrication training with Central Emergency Services.  Nothing like using the jaws of life to make you feel like a bada**.  In this pic we’re all sitting in a van we cut the roof off.

So there you have it, like 10 of at least 1000 photos from the year, but I did say summary right?  If not we would be here all night!

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, as I mentioned before I still have my internship left to do, so I’ll be spending 2 months this fall just outside of Houston, TX, putting all my paramedic skills to work and probably dying of heatstroke considering Alaska has ruined me forever.  Then afterwards I’ll come back to Soldotna, take all my final tests and hopefully find a job and actually have money again.  Hooray!

So there you have it, P-school in a very small nutshell.  Thanks for coming along for the ride with me everyone!

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That Time I Ran With the Reindeer

I’ve often spoken about how my love for history and all things travel was sparked and fueled by my fathers (and grandfathers) extensive collection of National Geographics.  The sites, the cultures, the experiences, all so different from my little corner of the world.  I was completely captivated.

One of the events that has always captivated me was the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.  While I never actually had any spark of desire within me to run with the bulls myself, the concept was just so interesting.

Enter Alaska.

Every spring, around the start of the famous Ititarod, Anchorage celebrates Fur Rendezvous aka Fur Rondy.  Being as this is Alaska and we have a lot of great nature things to do but not many non-nature activities, I always keep my eye out for new and exciting opportunities. So, when I took a look at this years Fur Rondy schedule and noticed an event called “The Running of the Reindeer” I was immediately intrigued.  I did a little research and immediately knew I had to do it.  I mean, a three block dash, in the snow, being chased by reindeer, while wearing costumes, what could be better?!

I immediately recruited a couple friends to do it with me and then we officially faced our first challenge.  What would we wear?  We considered many different options.  Mario characters, animals, minions…. Eventually we decided on Where’s Waldo.  A fun, cheap, and easy option.

Now lets fast forward to race day.  It’s no secret that our winter here in Alaska has been less than steller.  It’s been warmer that normal and slightly dry.  They actually had to bring in snow to cover 4th Ave for the race and other events there (Including the most important event of them all, the Ititarod, which had it’s ceremonial start that same morning).

Although our winter had been warmer than usual, the race day was still fairly cold.  I’m actually pretty impressed that I managed to fit three layers of clothes underneath my striped Waldo shirt.  Thank goodness for stretchy fabric!

About 30 minutes before the dash was about to start everyone began congregating in the middle of the street and it became such a fun atmosphere.  People were dressed in all sorts of costumes and it became one big photo-op with all the different groups wanting to get pictures with eachother, whether they were people you knew or not.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many photos we were in that day.

PicMonkey Collage1

The dash itself happened in 4 heats: Men, Women, Groups, and Tourists.  We signed up for the group heat because we were originally going to have our guy-friend Skylar join us, but afterwards we were definitely wishing we had done the womens heat. Why? Because the group heat was HUGE.  Definitely the biggest of them all.

Photo Mar 05, 4 14 35 PM (1)

We found more waldos!

When our time finally came to run we were pretty frozen from standing so long so we were ready to go.  Finally the announcer called for us to get ready, Hobo Jim started playing and song, and we were off.

Everything was great at first, but let me tell you, y’all, running in the snow is dang hard!  I probably made it 100 ft before I had to slow to a trot, but that’s ok because the reindeer were still nowhere in site (since our heat was soooooo large).  It actually got to the point where I thought I would finish the track before I even saw a reindeer so I slowed to a walk, and finally, about 2 blocks in the first reindeer came whizzing by, wedging itself quickly between me and my friend Leslie.  Soon there were reindeer all around.

PicMonkey Collage2

*I got these pictures off of Instagram.  I was obviously a little preoccupied during the dash

And then there was the last reindeer.  My empathetic side came out and I felt so bad for it.  It seemed scared and confused.  It would stop, turn around, run in circles.  By this point I had started jogging again and before I knew it this little scared reindeer was right in front of me… and then it stopped, and I bet you can guess what happened next.

Yep, I ran into a reindeer.

That’s right, the reindeer didn’t run into me, I ran into it.  Poor little thing.  Fortunately neither of us were knocked over.  Also fortunately it was one of the reindeer without a rack.

By the time we reached the end of the track my lungs were on fire and I was seeing stars.  Of course the paramedic in me started to diagnose myself.  It was like everything I had learned in class about perfusion and ventilation was coming to life, and I didn’t want it to.

Photo Mar 05, 4 45 18 PM (1)

After the dash.  Completely real emotions.  Feeling death.

In the end we all had a lot of fun. Would I do it again?  Possibly.  If I had a good group and good costumes to go along with it.  I will say it’s definitely a must-do at least once in your life.  You just can’t beat the experience!


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Dying Hair and the Unfortunate Event

As many of you know about 2 years ago I got involved in the world of product reviews. Over the course of this school year I kinda let all that take a backseat since my schedule is SO packed with all the paramedic-ing and learning and all that jazz.  You know, adulting.  Well, recently I started picking up products again, and one of the sites I do it through is Crowdtap.  I’ve had a lot of real winners these past couple months, but then came last week…

Let me back up a bit.  My hair color has never been fantastic.  It’s a kind of dull brown with more and more gray sprinkled in as I’ve gotten older (it still hurts to admit it!), so I’ve colored my hair for years.  Recently I got the opportunity to host a Garnier Olia party.  I was shipped a box of 7 different shades of Garnier Olia and the aim was to get a group of friends together and have a big ‘ole hair dying party.

So I did.

I couldn’t find 6 people (and lets be honest, finding one person to love every single shade that came in the box would have been a miracle, even living in a college residence hall like I do), but I did find 3!  I quickly reserved the red shade for myself and let the others pick from there.


I must say I was a pretty big fan of the packaging, and especially the instructions.  They were a lot easier to read than the Loreal hair dye instructions I had used in the past.  I also liked that it didn’t make my scalp itch as I waited for it to set like other dyes do.

And that is where the liking stopped.

First of all the dye didn’t turn my hair a beautiful auburn like the box.  It turned my roots a fiery, unnatural red.  So much so that had my paramedic instructor told me it was verging on being out of dresscode.  On top of that the dye did not easily wash out either.  The night I colored it I stood in the shower for at least 30 minutes rinsing it and letting the color flow out so I thought I was good.  Two days later I washed my hair again and noted streams of red coloring flowing from my head.  Odd I thought, but again, I spent at least 30 minutes shampooing and rinsing it. I put on a white t-shirt when I got out off the shower and went on my merry way.

Bad idea.

The next day I took a look at the collar of my shirt (which was also new by the way) and it was stained red, FROM THE STUPID HAIR DYE.  I was so upset.  I immediately bleached it and thankfully the dye came out, but the point is it shouldn’t have happened in the first place!

Two of my other friends have also dyed their hair so far with the Garnier Olia I gave them.  As far as I know the one who dyed her hair black is happy with it, the one who went blonde however is not.  In fact the resulting color is so different than the one on the box that her mom immediately offered to pay for her to go the salon to get it fixed.

So the conclusion?  Garnier Olia is not a hair dye I will be using again or can stand behind unfortunately.  There are some good things about it I’ll admit, so if they can make some changes I would be willing to give it a second try, just not the way it is now.


  •  I received the product mentioned for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.


Eye Candy: Homer, AK

Hello my name is Amanda and I’m a tired Paramedic student.

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way… Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about how blessed I am to live in not only in Alaska, but on the Kenai Peninsula.  Guys, this place is really gorgeous!  Mountains, oceans, lakes, it’s never ending!  So, I thought I’d share some pictures today from my last trip to Homer, one of my favorite spots on the Peninsula, from when I visited at the end of last year.  It’s a small town without much to it, but it’s oh so beautiful.  While it’s fun to visit during the tourist season (the end of May to Labor Day Weekend) while everything on the Spit it open, there’s a certain magical quality of visiting Homer during it’s winter abandonment.

Homer Spit

Look across the Spit and Kachemak Bay.  The day, while freezing, couldn’t have been more perfect.

Homer Spit

The beach felt absolutely abandoned.  It’s such a unreal feeling to have a place like this all to yourself.

Homer Spit

The iconic Salty Dawg Saloons’ lighthouse rising up from the Spit.

Homer Spit

So, in the afternoon, as we were leaving the Spit in search of food we looked to the left and saw a bunch of creatures floating in the slushy bay.  Upon closer look we found at least 50 sea otters relaxing and playing in the surf.  I’d never seen so many otters (my favorite animal) in one place!

Homer Spit

Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall, no matter the season eagles can always be found hanging around.

Homer Spit

So there’s this spot, up on the hill behind Homer, where you can get a great vantage point over the city and the bay.  The absolute best place to watch the sunset.

And finally, just a quick shot of us and our freezing selves.  The air temp was in the teens so with the wind and Lands End (at the far tip of the Spit) it had to have been close to 0 degrees!

Homer Spit

So there’s some eye candy and travel inspiration for the day.  If anyone wants to come visit let me know!



My Quest for the Perfect Planner

My quest to find the perfect planner has been long on hard fought. If only it were as easy as picking up the first cute planner that sticks out to me and then successfully using it to manage all of life’s craziness.  For years I’ve tried and for years I’ve lost.

Thus far in my quest I have learned that:

– Filofax style planners don’t work for me
– Daily layout planners (ie. The Day Designer or Purposeful Planner) don’t work for me
– Planner with busy designs on the pages don’t work for me

Through trial and error, over the last 5 or so years I’ve learned the above facts.  I’ve always had good intentions but somehow, after a week or two of use, the planner would fall to the wayside.  Instead of collecting plans they collected dust.

And then came this school year.  Between the Paramedic Program, clinicals, work and volunteering for the fire department I can barely focus on the important things let alone try to keep my schedule straight.  A planner that worked became an absolute necessity and so my quest continued.

I started the year with the Purposeful Planner.  It had a lot of elements I liked, but as I mentioned above the layout just wasn’t right for me and to be honest it is quite large.  Most days it felt like I was carrying an extra text book, so I ruled it out quickly.  Next I attempted using the planner my college provided for free.  It wasn’t cute or anything but I thought hey, you can’t beat free so I might as well give it a chance right?  It wasn’t horrible, but the pages were filled with quotes and inspirational pictures which overtime began to overwhelm me, so I knew I needed to start looking for something different.

I took to the internet attempting to discover my perfect planner from other people’s reviews.  For a while I seriously considered getting the weekly edition of Emily Leys Simplified Planner, but after really looking through the page styles and focusing on the design, while it was visually appealing, I just knew it wouldn’t work for me in the long run, and $70 is a lot to shell out for something that isn’t going to work.

I tell you, the hunt was getting discouraging, and that’s when I found it, my perfect planner, the Erin Condren Life Planner.  I knew from first glance that it was a great product, but before I took the plunge and bought it I wanted to be sure of its greatness.  Over the next few days I spent a lot of time pouring over blogs and video reviews from people that had gotten Life Planners.  With the craziness of the semester weighing on me I couldn’t wait to long, so after a week I threw caution to the wind and ordered a Life Planner, and from the day it arrived I’ve loved it.  The page sizes are perfect, the spaces for each day are perfect, it’s just perfect for me and I can’t tell you how relieved I feel that my long hunt is finally over.

Erin Condren Life Planner

I do want to mention that the Life Planner comes in two versions, a vertical layout and a horizontal layout.  While most bloggers I’ve seen have the vertical layout and swear by it I went with the horizontal layout because I knew it would meet my needs (and my likes) better.  Obviously this preference isn’t the same for everyone and if you want to see examples of the vertical version I definitely recommend checking out her website.

Now what is it that I exactly like about this planner?  Well let’s see…

I like that the covers are interchangeable and able to be personalized.

I like that there is a pouch in the back of the planner to keep stickers and other miscellany in.

I like that there are pockets to keep loose papers and small notebooks in (I keep my May Designs budget book in it).

Erin Condren Life Planner

I like that I have tons of space to record all my to-dos and plans for each day.

I like that there is a big notes section at the end of each week.

Erin Condren Life Planner

I like that there is a place to list goals for every month, and that the monthly view calendar is super spacious.

I like that each month is color coded.

I like that there are full note pages at the end of each month and even more at the back of the planner (in lined, graph and blank paper)

I like that there are pages of blank labels at the end of the planner so I can personalize them for my own needs

I like that it’s so easy to clip accessories to the planner (ie coil clips and the snap in dashboard)

My last like isn’t part of the planner itself, but I like that they slip a couple little extra goodies into the box, just because 🙂

Erin Condren Life Planner

I also recommend getting elastic bands for the planner. They’re definitely an “extra” and not necessarily needed, but I like that they keep my planner bundled together.  It also keeps the pages from getting bent when I shove it into my backpack, and the OCD person in me hates bent pages!

Erin Condren Life Planner

In the end I am so happy I found this planner and I know I will be using it for years to come.  Unlike many of my other posts this one wasn’t a result of product testing, this was just something that I found that I really liked and wanted to share with others.  I personally think anyone can benefit from using it but I also realize that just like in my case, different personalities require different planners, but if you’re looking at the Life Planner and like me thinking “that’s perfect!” I would say get it!  It’s definitely worth the money!

The good news is I also have a way to help you save a little money if you wanted to get one.  By following my link you will get $10 off your purchase.  I didn’t have one of these handy dandy offers when I bought mine so I would encourage you to take advantage of it!

*Get $10 off by clicking here*

(you will need to create an account right off the bat to take advantage of it just FYI)

Hope you all have a great day and happy planning!