Cover photo for Matt Mayo
London: Oct 10 - 17, 2023 Istanbul: Oct 17 - 23, 2023 During the last couple of months I embarked on my first international adventure since the pandemic. An old friend of mine invited me on a trip to Egypt and I couldn't resist. This summer has mostly been solo travel, and I jumped at the chance to travel with a companion. I had done countless hours of YouTube research, booked Airbnbs in Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor. A couple of nights before our flight war broke out between Hamas and Israel causing a re-think of traveling to Egypt. Furthermore, there was a report of tourists and their guide being shot and killed by an Egyptian officer. That was just enough to feel like traveling to Egypt might not be the right time so a decision was made to do London and Istanbul instead. A week in London in the fall was quite nice. A jacket was sufficient in the mostly sunny and dry with occasional misty rainy days. All in all I checked into 31 places. Many coffee shops, famous sites, restaurants, parks, and Uber boat ride down the Thames. Getting around in London was fairly easy. The tube pretty much takes you everywhere. Pro tip: Don't buy the Oyster card. You can use NFC payments via credit card or digital wallet. There are daily maximums that will keep you below the weekly pass amount. You also won't have to figure out which zones you'll be in. [London Tube Pocket Map] A week at this Airbnb was fantastic. It was in Parsons Green a posh looking neighborhood full of row houses with food and groceries within a walkable distance. The bnb was the penthouse suite of a three story home. The hosts, Omar and Nadia, were from Egypt and avid travelers, which made for very interesting conversation. [The bnb in London with the door knob in the center of the door!] [Penthouse suite with a view of the neighborhood rooftops.] [Mandatory fish and chips from Fishers] [One of the many London cafes] The next stop was Istanbul, Turkey. I checked into about a dozen locations. Missing out on quite a few as they all weren't present on Swarm. The bnb was again a penthouse suite of a multi-story apartment building, but this time the whole place vs just part of the home. It was located in Besiktas close enough to the most visited locations, but far enough to get local vs tourist prices. [Checked in places in Istanbul, Turkey via Swarm App] Getting around was easy. It's most recommended to user a taxi from the Airport. Or Uber, which is just a way to hail a taxi, but simpler. Using Uber you can pay via the app and it seems harder to get scammed. Being a transit enthusiast I opted and encouraged use of the metro via underground and overground trains. It was a little intimidating at first, but easy enough after a few trips. [Metro Map in Besiktas] Istanbul was full of new and unfamiliar sensory inputs. The most surprising thing (to me) was that there were cats everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are more cats in Istanbul than people! [Kitty guarding the shop entrance] I had to try the Turkish coffee, which was gritty and strong. I have to admit I prefer espresso, but when in Turkey...[Traditional breakfast pastry and Turkish coffee] This was also my first foray into a predominantly Muslim country. There were mosques everywhere. And Adhan, call to prayer, was beautifully to hear throughout the day. [The Hagia Sophia] [Central chamber of the Hagia Sophia] Seeing the Hagia Sophia was surreal. I remember seeing the building in video games (Civilization series) and history shows. Although not always, it currently serves as a mosque. During times of prayer you cannot walk in the center. The Blue Mosque, another famous mosque, is located across the way. Pro tip: the restrooms at Blue Mosque are likely the cleanest and most fancy in the city. [Turkish tea] Turkish tea is super popular among the locals and quite good. You can pretty much get it anywhere on the cheap (usually). I've also been riding my mountain bike around Missouri. There's a trail that just about goes from Saint Louis to Kansas City called the Katy Trail. Not to be confused with the trail by the same name in Dallas, which I visited a month or so prior. I rode a 10 mile segment from Jefferson City to Hartsburg. It was absolutely beautiful.[Stop on the Katy Trail, Missouri] [One of the many bridges and passes] [The Missouri River along the Katy Trail] It's officially winter time here in Missouri with nights dipping below freezing. Due to Ill Niño December has been mild. Up until recently I was able to ride my bike, but now I'm thinking it's a bit too cold! I'm planning to take the bike and to head to California for the winter.
Read newest post →

More recent posts

Dallas, Little Rock / Oct '23 Update

Trip Dates: September 6 - October 9, 2023 After leaving Bella Vista last month I ended up heading to Dallas, Texas staying at 3 Airbnb's for 3 weeks to check out what it was like.  My journey began in the northwestern part of the metro area in Garland, Texas. I stayed at this Airbnb, located in an older home. It had a private entrance located in the back of the home and a spot in the driveway to park my car. It was designed like a suite with its own bathroom. It was a little different from my previous bnb's, which were normally connected to the main house and have some shared space. This spot was isolated and it felt more like an efficient studio apartment. I also never met the host in person, but he was very communicative via messaging and other than a few mosquitos that got into the space, it worked well for what I needed. It was triple digits upon my arrival, and after getting a little too much sun the month prior, I decided to focus on some indoor activities until the temps cooled down. After my stay in Garland, I checked into this Airbnb  in Carrolton, Texas, which was a room rental in a modern ranch style home in a suburb just north of Dallas. There I chatted with the host Nathaniel, who was a civil engineer and enjoyed a hybrid schedule. I had brought my Nintendo Switch for entertainment during the times where I was escaping the heat and taking a break from outings. Nathaniel also played on his Switch while I was there, which was nice to hang around another gamer. Up to this point there was a ton of driving. Dallas as a city and metro area is a lot of driving. It felt like a bigger Phoenix, Arizona. An outing would often take 30 minutes or more 1 way. My next spot and final spot was in the downtown area, where I stayed at this Airbnb. It was a room in a 2 bed 2 bath apartment with a private bath and shared spaces including the entrance. This spot was really convenient due to location and because I was able to park my car in the parking structure and leave it there for the majority of my stay. Here I met the host, Stephen, lively guy, who often joined me for coffee at Ellen's West End location across the street. It was a nice diner where I enjoyed bottomless coffee, oatmeal, and a side of scrambled eggs in the mornings. I went to quite a few coffee shops in and around Dallas. I also could not leave Texas without some decent barbecue and I found a spot called One90 Smoked Meats. It was a little counter shop, with excellent brisket. The kind that jiggles and melts in your mouth at an affordable price. The highlight of Dallas was visiting the 6th Floor Museum that memorialized the assassination of JFK. This event cast a shadow on the city of Dallas to the rest of the nation. I also made a less memorable stop at the Dallas World Aquarium, which was setup more like a jungle themed zoo. [Eiland Coffee in Richardson had this amazing breakfast egg sandwich.] [Brisket and Brisket Mac from One90 Smoked Meats] [Downtown Dallas] [Downtown Dallas at Night from the Airbnb] [6th Street Museum. The window where Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK] [Dallas Aquarium - more like a jungle.] Another highlight during my visit in Texas was this Buc-ees! It's the biggest gas station and convenience store that I have ever seen. Something I had seen on YouTube and wanted to check out. This unplanned stop was a welcome diversion on the way back to Arkansas. [Buc-ees in Royse City, TX]After leaving Dallas I made a one night stop in Little, Rock Arkansas. The highlight of the trip was stopping by Central High School. Known as the most beautiful high school for its time featuring gothic architecture. When I was a kid learning about the segregation and desegregation in the US, I didn't recall the local context and depth that you can learn by going to the adjacent National Park Service Visitor Center. The building continues to serve as a high school so you cannot enter it, so I observed it from the outside. During that visit I realized I was in the south. The line that separated the North from the South during the civil war separated Missouri and Arkansas. Two states that I have started to become intimately familiar. [Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas] My final stop was in Eureka Springs. A small mountain town in Arkansas known for its various hot springs. It reminded me of Hot Springs, Arkansas which I visited a month before. Just smaller. [Eureka Springs, Arkansas]
Read more →

RV Camping in Arkansas / Sep '23 Update

Trip dates: August 9 - 31, 2023 I spent the month of August RV camping at 7 different spots in Arkansas and 1 in Oklahoma. This was the longest contiguous time that I had spent living out of my Airstream camper - a full month! If you're curious about Arkansas state parks take a look here -> Arkansas State Parks Guide. Living up to its namesake, the natural state, there are over 50 state parks. Here are the places where I parked my trailer in the northwestern region of Arkansas. Spending time in the heavily forested and Arkansas river and lake areas. • Hipcamp in Little Flock, Arkansas • Lake Dardanelle State Park, Arkansas • Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas • Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas • Mount Nebo State Park, Arkansas • Sallisaw KOA, Oklahoma • Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas • Hipcamp in Bella Vista, Arkansas I started in Little, Flock Arkansas which is part of the Bentonville/Fayatteville metro area. This is also known as Northwest Arkansas (NWA) to the locals, which is somewhere around 500,000 people in a series of small towns that stretch across Interstate-49. I stayed at a Hipcamp for a week and camped with only electrical, which was needed to have AC in the heat that went up to triple digits. My hosts Tami ad Gene were very hospitable and made the stay as comfortable as could be. They gave me some tomatoes and a slice of strawberry shortcake pie. They also invited me to watch the lighting storm one evening, which was spectacular. The sky was lit up with lightning strikes every few seconds. Gene also helped me swap out a tow hitch ball on my mount. Very handy. I saw so many deer on this property just outside the town of Rogers Arkansas. One afternoon I saw about 20 just off their driveway! [Tami's Strawberry Shortcake Pie] Next was the beginning of my Arkansas State Park adventures in Lake Dardanelle State Park. My camper was setup in a nice level spot just inwards from the lake with full hookups.  [Lake Dardenelle State Park, Arkansas] I enjoyed evening walks by the lake and a hike through the forest just behind the lake. [Lake Dardenelle, Arkansas] After few days I went off to Lake Ouachita State Park somewhat close to the town and national park in Hot Springs. Spots in the Hot Springs campground were not easy to come by so I figured I'd camp out here and then head into Hot Springs when I could get a reservation. Lake Ouachita turned out to be really nice. The state park is in a ridged area that borders the Lake. Like many lakes in Arkansas and across the country this is a reservoir, but I couldn't tell just by looking. I did two hikes. Dogwood was a short in the forest hike and Caddo Bend was their flagship hike that went across a ridge by the lake that was once hit by a tornado. See these videos for a peek into those experiences. • Dogwood Trail • Caddo Bend Trail [Hiking Caddo Bend Trail in Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas] After doing the 4 mile hike in Caddo Bend I started to experience heat rash from being out on so many 90+ degree days. Arkansas typically has high humidity and the heat index is often about 10 degrees higher than the temperature. My body is still acclimated to the California coastal weather having lived there for over a decade until moving out this way earlier this year. My next stop was Hot Springs National Park where I camped at the Gulpha Gorge Campground with full hookups. I was able to snag a spot along the creek. It was the best camping experience I've had thus far. I drank coffee and watched the little fish swimming around and water bugs surfing the surface of the creek. It was still quite hot and due to my heat rash situation and I decided against hikes, but would love to return to hike and also bring my mountain bike. [Hot Springs Gulpha Gorge] I climbed the stairs up to Mountain Tower to see the spectacular view of the surrounding areas of the park. Here's a video for a tour of the tower and view. I also drove around the park and stopped at several lookout points. The nature in and around the park is simply beautiful and heavily forested. [Mountain Tower at Hot Springs] [View from Mountain Tower] I also ventured into the town of Hot Springs. The park itself encompasses bath row in the town of Hot Springs and about 8 buildings that are still or were former bath houses. They bath houses reside on park lands. All of the hot springs are enclosed, unfortunately, but there are several places the public can access free spring water. The water that surfaces from the 100+ springs is water that fell onto the land thousands of years ago. The park material states that water today comes from the time of the great pyramids in Egypt! I then went off to Mount Nebo State Park, which also had tons of deer in the area and the campground was well spaced out and peaceful. This is the highest peak in Arkansas. It was still pretty hot so I decided to head off to the Fort Smith area after a couple days and seek out a place to rest and recuperate with good cell access, laundry, and facilities. This resulted in a stop the Sallisaw KOA just across the border from Fort Smith, Arkansas in Oklahoma. A great place for full timer RV'ers that need a clean comfortable place to stay, but not something I would recommend for a weekend camping trip, as it's in the middle of nowhere and dang hot in the summer. [At a rest stop in Oklahoma] After a couple of days in Oklahoma I went to Lake Fort Smith State Park. The campgrounds here were by far the most spacious and nice. It was still hot so I spent my days in Fort Smith. If you're looking for nice coffee shop in that area I recommend Fort Smith Coffee Company. They have two locations in town great for working with good coffee and things to eat. After Fort Smith I went back into the Bentonville/Fayettle metro area and stayed at the Bike Camp Hipcamp (in Arkansas) with just electrical - for the a/c.  The highlight for me is their outdoor shower. Nothing like showing outdoors! That was my last RV stop and right after I stayed in a room at an Airbnb in Bella Vista, Arkanas. This was a nice break from all the summer RV camping. It made me want to ride bike trails. [AirBnB in Bella Vista] My big takeaway from this camping trip is that I don't think the full-time RV life is for me. It can be a bit lonely on the road by myself and difficult to build community when I'm always on the move. As a secondary reason, there's also a lot of things that need to be done to operate and maintain the trailer such as tank dumping/sanitization, tires, electrical, etc., that you don't have to worry about when living in a typical house or apartment. The trailer is now in storage and my next adventure is in Texas and Louisiana.
Read more →

August '23 Update

Trip dates: July 4 - August 6, 2023 I'm sitting at a bustling coffee shop in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas called Onyx Coffee Lab. Their other location, Apple Store-esque, looks like it could have existed in pre-pandemic San Francisco. If you've ever been to Sightglass where the roasters uniforms seemingly appear to be denim, slicked back hair, and tattoos - here you're more likely to see a mullet probably covered in a hat, among other middle of the country vibes. I've just finished up a 4 night stay at a room I rented through Airbnb. It was a beautifully kept 3 bedroom 2 bath home in Cave Springs, AR. Mark, the host, was very welcoming, and on top of the comfortable place to crash and relax, there was Archie. I'm embracing this nomad life and I wonder why I didn't do this sooner. [Archie, the Siberian Husky] Over the last month I've gone on the most epic road trip of my life driving through 11 states, tent camping for 6 nights, lodge 3 nights, hotel 2 nights, and having slept in my car a few more nights at truck or rest stops to maximize the speed at which I could travel. It was exhilarating. It all started with a stay at The Bike Inn, which I shared briefly in my last update. I was inpsired  to get my own mountain e-bike and travel the country exploring national parks and riding their trails. [Neon lights abound at The Bike Inn] [My Most Epic Roadtrip] My first stop on the trip was in Kansas City, and then a couple of nights in Nebraska and Wyoming before I made to the world famous Yellowstone National Park. The first national park. It was massive and could have been the size of a small country. [Yellowstone, where the buffalo roam] I can't express enough about how beautiful Wyoming is, at least in the summer. The caldera that Yellowstone exists upon has created such rich natural features from geysers to waterfalls all nestled in the high country. Here's a short video I put together from my time in Yellowstone. The beauty of Wyoming doesn't stop there. On my last day in Wyoming I decided to spend it in Grand Teton National Park. The park felt like a smaller, more intimate, bougie place with expansive flat lands to view the picturesque Tetons. I rode my bike over 20 miles to experience it. [Parking out by Jenny Lake where I started the 20+ mile bike ride] And the bike riding continued. After departing Wyoming I headed to Utah. The bottom of the state. It feels and looks like Arizona. I spent 3 nights at Zion National Park. The most visited portion of the park is nestled in a red rock canyon with the virgin river streaming through it. [Biking in Zion National Park] And then there was Vegas. An unexpected diversion from touring national parks, but I had to see Jimmy Eat World and my buddy Patrick. We had a blast and all the comforts of modern civilization. [Elevator at the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Resort] After 2 nights doing all the things in Vegas I was ready to head to the mountains. From there drove out to Colorado to experience some hikes and tent camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Alpine lakes, tundra, and trees as far as the eye could see. It was a different mountain experience that I was so happy to have had. [Nymph Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park] Next up is establishing my home base in the Bentonville, Arkansas area. This mostly involves moving all my stuff to a storage unit for easy access while I live nomadically and use the area as a central point of all my travels. I'll be dreaming about where to travel to next.
Read more →

July '23 Update

Trip dates: April 16 - June 25, 2023 Hello folks! What a whirlwind month it has been! I can hardly believe all the incredible experiences I've had in the past few months. From the west coast to the middle of the country, I've embarked on an unforgettable journey filled with unique places and thrilling adventures. First on the list was my unforgettable RV caravan experience at Lake McClure. Nestled amidst the ridge of a lake reservoir, I found myself surrounded by stunning vistas that took my breath away. And let's not forget the magical "superbloom" that graced the area, turning the landscape into a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. If you're curious to relive the magic, check out a more detailed account, RV caravan at Lake McClure during the Superbloom.  As if that wasn't enough, my wanderlust led me to the mesmerizing oases hidden within the Joshua Tree National Park. From surreal rock formations to captivating desert flora, every step felt like a journey into another world. The tranquility and natural beauty of Joshua Tree left an indelible mark on my soul. If you're yearning for an escape to nature's desert embrace, take a peak into my enthralling adventure, Journey to the Oases in Joshua Tree. After spending some time in California I embarked on a roadtrip to Missouri, my final destination. [Roadtrip from California to Missouri with my camper]But hold on tight, because there's more to come! I've still got a treasure trove of thrilling tales waiting to be shared. So, stay tuned as I prepare to unveil my next escape. Get ready to immerse yourself in the majesty of the pinnacles, a cross country road-trip and desert camping. Here's a preview. [I stopped off at many Love's Truck stops to rest including this one in Boron, CA.] [I camped out in Arizona at a Homolovi State Campground.] [Stayed a night at this RV park in New Mexico.] [I drove right through thunderstorms in Texas and Oklahoma before making it to my final destination in Missouri.] After arriving in Missouri I went out for a mini trip sans camper in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. I stayed in a few hipcamps glamping tent, bike motel, and storage container. I also made a stop in Oklahoma City, which gives me Phoenix Arizona vibes. For reference I lived in Phoenix for almost 15 years so it's my goto reference for hot urban sprawled cities. The highlight of my trip was visiting the Oklahoma City Memorial which spans across 3 floors. I learned about the connection to incidents that occurred in Waco, TX. Must visit for history buffs! [Screenshot 2023-09-17 at 11.51.23 AM (1).png] [I stayed on a farm in Southern Missouri and ventured into Bentonville, Arkansas.] [I rented a Sea-Doo and took it for a couple hours on Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma.] [Rented a mountain e-bike in the US capital of mountain biking, Bentonville, Arkansas] [Oklahoma City Memorial - Remains of the Murray Federal Building] My next road trip will be to the vibrant and electrifying city of Las Vegas! I'm thinking of doing some tent camping in Colorado or Utah along the way.
Read more →

Journey to the Oases in Joshua Tree

While I waited for some follow up repairs to be done on my tow vehicle (more on that later), I decided to book a modern glamping cabin in Joshua Tree. I was in search of an Oasis. Literally and figuratively. I'd been eagerly waiting to venture out of California and see the rest of the country. In the meantime I planned to adventure places I could get to from central California in less than a day. It all started with my stay at this spot that I booked on Hipcamp. It was beautiful, comfortable, and private. Light and fresh air was abound.[Wide open space at the Sarah House] After settling in I found a cowboy. Joshua Tree, the town, is small spot but has all that you might need. Coffee shops that roast their own. Eateries with vegan food options. Diner spots with steak n eggs. And of course a few gift shops. I recommend checking out The Station if that's your kinda thing. I'm not really trying to collect things, but I like to see interesting stuff and there was no shortage including a viewing garden in the back with hand made sculptures. [The Station gift shop in Joshua Tree (town)] After getting settled in and fed I ventured into Joshua Tree National Park. I tend to look for places less crowded and started with a hike to the Fortynine Palms Oasis. This hike has its own entrance is not accessible from anywhere else in the park. It's about 2 hours or so and like everywhere else there is no shade so bring plenty of water. [Hike to Fortynine Palms Oasis] It was May and it was warm and dry all the way until the Oasis. Upon seeing it I could immediately feel the cool and wet air. Trees abound. And shade. The good kind. [Fortynine Palms Oasis] After a nice long hike I retreated to the cabin for rest and relaxation. The sunset was spectacular. [Sunset at Sahara House] I took a few long drives in the park stopping at the Cholla Catcus Garden. Also known as the jumping cactus, it was like one of those levels in Mario Bros. Don't get too close else you'll get poked! [Cholla Cactus Garden at Joshua Tree National Park] Blooming catcus up close - but not too close! [Cholla Cactus in Bloom] There was also another water filled feature, Cottonwood Spring. I could hear rushing water. This was a short walk from the parking area. A nice spot to check out in the blistering summers. [Cottonwood Spring at Joshua Tree]And I couldn't finish my trip without seeing at least one more oasis. This one is very accessible, The Oasis at Mara. Sadly, this oasis was fed with underground pipes as the natural water tables are too low to support it. [Oasis at Mara in Joshua Tree] The trip was rejuvenating. There is still so much more to see. Next time I've got stargazing on the menu as it's very dark in the park at night. You can go into the park any time of the day as it's open 24 hours year round.
Read more →