A Year in Review | 2020

During a post-Christmas clean, I found a journal entry I wrote on 1st January. Incidentally this was the only entry I made all year, but looking back I started the year out filled with a lot of hope and ambition for 2020. Reading it made me realize just how much growth I have had in many areas of my life. The global pandemic has certainly brought some challenging and depressing days, but there have also been some wonderful moments this year that I want to remember. So before 2020 is over, here are just some of my highlights from this incredibly strange year:

  • I attended my auntie’s wedding right at the beginning of January and who knew that would be my first and last big social event for the year?! The day was filled with carefree dancing, toasting, laughing, hugging, and all without wearing a mask or obeying any rules of six…

  • This year the U.K. has really enjoyed some glorious weather, which I really appreciated particularly throughout the first lockdown. This meant there were lots of walks (often twice a day!), as well as days filled with various kinds of outside exercise or sunbathing with a glass of cold Pimms.

  • Being at home and having a lot more time back in my day, meant it was the perfect opportunity for more blogging, with this post being number 58 of this year! I pushed myself with writing challenges and also concentrated more on uploading videos to my YouTube channel. Overall this has resulted in more traffic with readers/viewers from different parts of the world – thank you! I can’t wait to continue creating next year.

  • There wasn’t a homemade sourdough in sight on my end, but I did get some baking in here and there. My new favourite discovery was a Sangria cake I baked for my Mum’s birthday – so easy and delicious! I also tried cooking some new recipes which emphasized how much I love trying new things. I am excited to do more of this in 2021 too!

  • I was devastated when my Summer flights to America were cancelled as I planned on going to Chicago for the first time, as well as attending my brother’s wedding! However we all still celebrated virtually via a live stream, complete with video calls for speeches and toasts. My family and I made the effort to dress up and we also decorated the house, the garden and the table. I even cooked a slightly elaborate meal! Overall, it was a bittersweet but a memorable and special day.

  • Despite all the challenges working from home, I am super proud of my progression in my 9-5 job and the impact I have had this year. I am giving myself a huge pat on the back well done… something we all need to do now and again!

  • Living an active lifestyle was my main goal for 2020. At the start of the year I was focused on getting beyond the 8 week mark of regular exercise (before I typically lost interest). From HIIT, running, pilates, hikes, walks, online classes and various other videos and IGTV’s, I’ve LOVED every moment of it. I am feeling stronger both mentally and physically, with my relationship and attitude towards exercise being completely transformed. Here’s to health in 2021!

  • Finding out I would be an auntie for the first time has also been a highlight for this year. Roll on early 2021 where I get to meet (virtually but hopefully physically soon) my little niece.

  • Becoming a dog auntie to the wonderful @cosmoandsherlockadventures has brought me so much joy and firmly helped me get over my fear of dogs! I am now one of those people who would coo at a dog rather than run away from it, haha!

  • In a way I am hugely grateful to 2020 as it meant I was able to save money faster and led me to buying my first home with my boyfriend. I am so excited to move in January 2021 and begin a new and exciting chapter of my life!

This year may not have always gone to plan, but 2020 has helped me be thankful for what I do have and enjoy the small moments along the way. Whatever way you are ringing in the New Year, I wish you a wonderful , happy, healthy and safe year ahead, filled with lots of positivity and light. Let’s hope 2021 will be filled with more times seeing our loved ones and squeezing them tight once again.

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8 Minute Total Body Workout

If you have followed me on my blog throughout 2020, you will know that living an active lifestyle has been a main focus of mine this year. I am pleased to say that I am now into my 11th month of consistent exercise and I am feeling better than ever. I personally love exercise routines which have a combination of both Pilates and high intensity interval training (HIIT). I find them fun, but also challenging enough to build up a sweat. Pilates is great for improving your posture and muscle tone, as well as improving your strength and flexibility. HIIT however focuses on quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by a short recovery period which will be sure to raise your heart rate, and burn fat in quickly! If you are looking for a new workout to try, here is my current favourite total body routine. Save the below workout for either your next warm-up, or use as a basis for a circuit. For a warm-up I would recommend that each exercise should be completed for 30 seconds and be repeated twice through. Let’s get that heart rate pumping!

1. Mountain climber variations
Mountain climbers or floor sprints as they may also be known, are sure to get your heart rate up!

Mountain Climbers | Illustrated Exercise Guide
  • Variation 1. Begin in the plank position, with arms directly under the shoulders and lift your right knee straight forward, as if to sprint towards your right elbow. Repeat with left knee.
  • Variation 2. Bring your right knee diagonally to your left elbow. Repeat on left handside.
  • Variation 3. Bring your leg to the outside of your elbow and repeat on both sides.

2. In and out’s
Not as evil as a regular burpee!

  • Position yourself in the plank, but jump forward to bring your knees directly under your chest.
  • Next jump back into the plank and repeat.

3. Forearm hip dips

This one targets your core, but specifically your obliques!

  • Position yourself in the plank but this time rest on your forearms.
  • Twist your core from side to side, trying to keep your back as straight as possible, without dipping into the floor. It’s harder than it looks!
70+ Core Excerises ideas | workout guide, abs and obliques workout, spotebi

4. The 100
Time for some Pilates! This classic Pilates move is sure to burn your abs!

Pilates Illustrated: Your Core-Strengthening Workout!
  • Sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front, bring your legs up into the tabletop position. Make sure to keep your head, neck and shoulders lifted off the mat.
  • Your lower back/spine area should be on the mat. Imagine there is a string going from your belly button, through your back to the mat to keep you centered.
  • Taking deep inhales and exhales, begin to bump your arms up and down for 100 reps (or however many you can do in 30 seconds).

5. Dish tuck
Another Pilates fave – remember to exhale for power!

Seated Knee Tucks | Illustrated Exercise Guide
  • For beginners, place your arms just beside you on the mat. If you are looking for a bit more of a challenge, extend your arms back and out.
  • Tuck your knees into your chest and repeat, exhaling as you bring them in, and repeat.

6. Oblique side plank
Wake up muscles you never knew you had!

Side Plank | Illustrated Exercise Guide | Workout guide, Abs and obliques  workout, Oblique workout
  • Stack your feet either on top of each other as above, or put the top foot just in front of the bottom leg for extra support.
  • Either hold for 30 seconds with your hand on hip or hand in the air, or do pulses towards the floor.
  • Repeat on the other side on the second set and feel the burn!

7. Tricep dips
Give a new meaning to couch potato

Tricep Dips | Illustrated Exercise Guide
  • Using either your sofa or a chair, place yourself just over the edge, extending your legs forward and elbows back.
  • Slowly lower your body into a 90 degree angle, keeping your elbows straight back and close to target the triceps, rather than pointed out wide.
  • Lift yourself back up and repeat.

8. Squat jumps
End on a high!

Squat Jacks | Illustrated Exercise Guide
  • Standing with feet hip width apart, lower yourself down into a squat, keeping your upper body as straight as possible.
  • Push back into your heels and jump up in an explosive movement, landing back into the starting position and repeat.

Let me know if you tried the workout and what you thought of it!

The above sporting images can be found on Spotebi, Style Blue Print and The Every Best of

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How To Make Exercise a Habit | 7 Months of Fitness


We’ve all been there. On that cold and dreary first week of January, we dig out our trainers and barely worn exercise gear. We complete a couple of workouts and feel great afterwards. We vow that we’ll keep it up, imagining how we will be looking a year from now. Then life’s distractions come a-knocking and our trainers get dusty. Some months later the sun comes out to play, signalling that summer is on it’s way and we reach for those shoes once again. Although this happens intermittently throughout the year, the whole fitness thing doesn’t seem to quite stick.

I am by no means an expert on fitness. I am just a regular gal who (probably like you) always dreamed of getting fit, and more importantly wanted to keep it up. If you’re not up to date with me, check out this post and this post to find out more about my relationship with fitness throughout 2020 so far. But to summarize, back in Jan 2020 I was determined that this year I would live a more active lifestyle. Over the last seven months I have ensured that fitness is a regular part of my routine. As a result, I have noticed both mental and physical positive changes. I may not be the strongest, most toned or most flexible person I know, but boy have I improved. I feel fitter, happier and calmer and I’m certain this has helped me cope better and navigate my way through the pandemic.

If you’re wondering what my secret is, carry on reading to find out my tips on how to make exercise a habit!

1. Establish what your motivations are, both for the short and long term

It is important to not skip identifying both of these goals as you won’t see results overnight. This will help you have something to aim towards, in both the immediate and distant future.

Examples of short term goals = Get more flexible, become stronger, run three times a week
Examples of long term goals = Live a more active lifestyle, complete a half or full marathon, lose xx kg

2. Choose an exercise you enjoy or have an interest to start

This sounds simple but don’t just run because it feels like everyone else is. If it doesn’t interest you, try pilates, swimming, strength training, HIIT workouts or perhaps something more unique like joining an aerial hoop class! Whatever it may be, each week gradually build up the intensity and the frequency of your workouts.

3. Research how to properly do movements you aren’t familiar with

Whether it’s how to do a squat, easier push-up variations, or maybe something more advanced, make sure you research! Search on Google, YouTube, ask a friend or a personal trainer etc., on the correct form of these moves. Then practice these movements in front of a mirror to see if you’re holding them correctly. This will help your workouts be far more effective and will prevent injury in the long term.

4. Equipment

Buy basic equipment you may need such as a yoga mat, a skipping rope or some weights. There are some great pieces of equipment you can invest in which will also help change up your workouts, keeping them varied and you interested!

Best of both; A little bit of jiggle and a little bit of ab

5. Get the gear on!

Set yourself up for the day by changing into your exercise kit or workout clothes first thing in the morning, so you have no excuse. Matching sets and hair buns are optional!

6. Time your workouts

No one wants to workout after indulging, so if you can keep yourself from reaching for the biscuits for your morning snack, you may be a bit more likely to workout. I try to keep myself hydrated throughout the day and eat well leading up to my workout time. This has definitely helped me follow through and improve my performance during exercise.

7. Commit to the workout

Exercise with someone, or at the very least tell someone about it! This will hold you accountable, committed and motivated!

8. Music is a must

Get a good playlist to keep you motivated and focused on the workout. Spotify and YouTube have some great music to get you inspired to move!

9. Eat well before exercise

When is the best time of day for you to fit this in? Make sure you are realistic! 6:00 AM workouts won’t work if you simply aren’t a morning person. Make sure you also plan to leave time in your day for rest and any other commitments you may have. If you don’t, you may be at risk of quickly resenting your workouts and ultimately not seeing them through. (I like to exercise in the morning between 9:00 – 11:00 AM so that the rest of my day is free).

10. Remember, exercise is not a punishment for food

If you think like this, it’s time to change that perspective! Exercise is something we should reward our body with, and ultimately look forward to. Exercising releases endorphins, hormones that leave you feeling calmer and happier! It can be a stress reliever, a time for team socials, a time to recharge or challenge yourself! For me, exercise allows me to temporarily switch off from everything else going on in my life, and resets my mind to focus on the here and now. Plus, it’s all about balance. I definitely still eat my treats in the week!

11. Document your progress

Keeping track of my progress such as how many more push ups, burpees etc., I can do in a minute, every few weeks has really helped! I’d recommend to also take photos to document how your body changes every month. Seeing how my body has toned as I have gotten stronger and leaner, was a booster on days I felt unmotivated. It’s easy to forget where you started, and had it not been for this I probably would have felt defeated and given up.

12. Believe in yourself

You may not be able to keep up with all the moves or run as fast as you like at the beginning, but challenge yourself and do not compare yourself to others! Push yourself a little more each week. Over the coming weeks and months, you will notice yourself developing more self-discipline & self-confidence! Take it easy and remember, there is no reason why you can’t do it.

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A Not So Blue Monday

Monday 21st January is apparently the most depressing day in the British year of 2019. I suppose this makes perfect sense if you consider that we are coming down from the highs of Christmas, the joy of that weird in between week on the lead up to New Year where time seems, well – timeless. That is until now. Where we find ourselves (impatiently) waiting for our next paycheck, as we reluctantly admit that the resolutions we set some 20 days ago are now proving a tiny bit tricky to hold. To top it all off, the weather is cold; we wrap up in our wooliest hats as we face those zero degree temperatures on our way to work. Before you know it, your curiosity to “just have a look what’s new in knitwear online” crosses your mind, and you’re dipping into your already low dispensable income to buy even more but totally cute and (un)necessary knitwear on the train, just to soothe your pain of starting and ending your working day out in the dark. I definitely sensed this Blue Monday slump among the other commuters on my way into London this morning.

Although this does all sound rather bleak, and frankly makes me want to just throw on my dressing gown (because a dressing gown solves everything from a hangover to the meaning of life itself) and admit defeat as I turn on yet another episode of Friends, longing that I too could join the gang in Central Perk and drink coffee all day and wait for it… not have to work! It’s then pretty surprising when you find out that Blue Monday was actually intended to inspire individuals to spark change and make bold decisions in their lives. So, as I sat there on the train this morning, picking up on the low and tired energy of my fellow commuters, I got thinking about all the ways I can make bold decisions in my own life. I was also lucky enough to attend a motivational talk at work by Muireann Carey-Campbell, otherwise known as Bangs, from her blog – Bangs and a Bun. Bangs gave me even more food for thought on how we can do this – (the inspiring changes part that is, not the hanging out with Rachel and Monica in New York part!) So, in order to spark some change in your life and reinforce this as a habit in mine, here are a few of the tips that I am pleased to say I either learned from Bangs’ talk or are my own tips that she too reinforced in her own witty, insightful and realistic way.

“Small steps make big changes” – Bangs and a Bun

Feed the Hanger
First and foremost, I find I’m the most productive when I make the time to have breakfast. Not only does it feed the hangry lady who lives inside me at 7am, but it helps me get focused and kick-starts my metabolism for the day. Set aside an extra 10 – 15 minutes of your morning to have a good breakfast, it’ll do you wonders.

Sleep is Not for the Weak!
I have no idea why sleep is meant to be considered a bad thing! I’m more alert and find myself much better company and more productive when I’ve gone to sleep by 10:30/11pm. Bangs also emphasizes how sleep is so crucial for us to be able to function and how we as a society need to break the idea of, as NaS puts it that, “Sleep is the cousin of the death”.
Bangs’ Tip 1: Bangs also expressed my enthusiasm for sleep, despite being a raging insomniac herself. I’m happy to see I’m not the only one!

Plan Ahead
I always plan what I need to achieve and complete the next day, in advance. I.E. before I leave the office, I write a list of what I want to achieve tomorrow. Similarly before I go to sleep at night, I set reminders on my phone or add to my “Notes” on my phone, to give me the helping hand I need to remember to complete my own life errands, such as to ring the dentist/ book a gym class/ take a break (yes, I plan that to!) or whether it is to prepare my lunch for work the night before. My only issue at the moment is that I need to be more strict with the allotted time and try to be more consistent in following through on them.
Bangs’ Tip 2: This tip was the overarching theme of the talk, that small steps make big changes. For example, one goal of mine this year is that I want to eat healthier and save money, so I know that if I prepare lunch at home I’m one step closer to doing both. Although I’m not at my super organized stage at the moment, planning small and realistic steps to the overarching goal is definitely a smarter approach in achieving them. Plus it means I won’t completely give up on my healthy eating when I decide to treat myself at lunch time!

Journal
Bangs’ Tip 3: She recommended to write down three things that made you smile or happy today. Some days there will be so much and others it may feel like there are none. Nonetheless this is a really nice challenge for us to reflect on to find the good in our daily lives.

A Start Date
Don’t be afraid of saying your goals out loud, scientifically you’re so much more bound to achieve them if you do.
Bangs’ Tip 4: Sharing your goals makes you accountable for them. She emphasized to put it out there in the Universe by sharing it with a good friend, or someone you can trust. This will make you accountable for it and your friend can give you the push or encouragement and faith in yourself that you need when you begin to slip.

Move
Back in October, I made the conscious decision that I wanted to start taking better care of my body. I love how much stronger, refreshed and clear headed I feel after a workout. I’m lucky enough to now have a gym at my work with various classes on offer, so there is no excuse. However, typically in the past I wasn’t a “gym person”, so I used to either go for a walk every lunch time in my local park by my old work for 30 minutes, or go for a run after work or mix it up by doing an at home Pilates class by following a YouTube video. I can confidently say that this really helps me beat my blues and is a great stress reliever!

Bangs’ Tip 5: With pure passion, Bangs lit up the room as she explained how achieving our goals is directly linked to movement. Bangs discussed the joy that toddlers experience when they first learn to walk; they love discovering what their body can do and every time they fall, they just get back up again, arms waving in tow. Finding some kind of activity or sport that speaks to you and brings you joy is so important! It also teaches you self motivation and resilience. We’ve all had that moment where we think that we’ve given that run all we can, or we have reached our max on how many press ups as we can do. That is until we find the strength within ourselves to go that bit further, to give it 5 more. Similarly, within our own goals, movement can teach us how small and often changes can lead us to our goals as well as give us the emotional strength to overcome the challenges that we may face in our personal lives.

Acceptance
Bangs’ Tip 6: Something that didn’t spring to my own mind, that Bangs articulated so eloquently was accepting what we didn’t achieve, but still seeing the good. For example, I didn’t pack my lunch for work today instead I bought my lunch from the canteen at work, but instead of shaming myself for spending that money, I appreciated that I caught up with one of my colleagues by chance when I was there. It was really nice to just take a moment out of our day to have a chat and share a laugh together. I accepted that although I didn’t save some of my money today, I did build a relationship more, and I’m okay with that.

Rest & Rewards
Bangs’ Tip 7: Take time out of your “goals” to do something completely different. Watch a film and switch off for 2 hours. You deserve it! Take the pressure off yourself and remember you don’t have to consistently be “on”. As much as consistency pays off, Bangs reminded the group that it’s all about balance and you have to give yourself some time off to have fun, so that you really can be your best self!

I hope this blog post gave you some realistic but inspiring ideas on how to make some bold and attainable changes in your life! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

You can find Bangs and a Bun here and you can sign up to attend her spin classes here. If you enjoyed this post you should subscribe and read:

The California Travel Diaries: Yosemite

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The California Travel Diaries | Yosemite

Waking up at 5am usually isn’t a highlight of any day of my week. But when you wake up at 5am to travel to Yosemite, well that certainly is the exception to this rule! Yosemite National Park is based in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, where many across the state vacate to for their Summer holidays. It is an iconic landscape of California and is full of breathtaking views, scenic walks and hikes of a lifetime. When it came to planning my California road trip, I knew that I would be kicking myself if I didn’t go to Yosemite. Quite honestly, I never knew how much it should be on everyone’s bucket lists until I got there.

The Basics – Accommodation
Should you wish to take the great outdoors in your stride, camping at Yosemite books up fast. I’d advise to definitely book a few months in advance! This is something that I did not take into consideration when I left booking accommodation until 8 weeks before my visit. Surprise, surprise… I didn’t manage to book a camping spot within the heart of Yosemite. If you are planning just a day trip like I was, this isn’t that big of an inconvenience. Of course you miss out on some of what the National Park has to offer such as rowing, going to their cinema and bonding with other campers. However you will most likely miss out on a bear rifling through your food (perhaps it’s not the worst thing after all!) It is also worth bearing (pun, sorry!) in mind that Yosemite is so huge that your camping spot can actually be an hour drive away from your next planned hike or activity! Nonetheless, if you are an active or outdoorsy type of person, you could easily spend a week or two in Yosemite, soaking up the sun whilst you climb, canoe in the river and enjoy some good old fashioned fresh air. However as my boyfriend and I were traveling in from Napa Valley, we planned to break up the drive by stopping off along the way for the night. Driving past romantic vineyards and acres of ranches, we arrived in Coarsegold where our next Air b’n’b was. This was located near Raymond and cost a steal of £17 per person for a lovely big double room with an en-suite and free parking! This meant that we were only a two hour drive away from Yosemite rather than the four hour drive it would have been from Napa Valley.

Travel
Plan your travel in advance as there could be a closed route depending on weather and the time of year. I believe that there is also a YARTS bus you can catch from Fresno on Highway 41, this also includes the fee to get into Yosemite.

yosemite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me at 7am by Bridalveil Falls

Parking
Arriving at Yosemite at 7am, we luckily found parking in Curry Village; leaving early is key readers! Especially to avoid any traffic getting into Yosemite! There is also a toll charge to pay for entering Yosemite; this is valid for 7 days if I remember correctly. Remember to have cash on you for this. Parking itself is free in Yosemite and there are lots of shuttles you can catch within the Valley to take you to your next hiking destination (yes, it really is that huge!) You will have to drive to go to see Bridalveil Falls, but you can see this on your journey in depending which way you enter (see above!) There are also so many other scenic views such as Glacier Point, Mariporsa Grove and Wawona that you can visit.

38888269_1836332163079514_678505116512288768_n

Just one of the stunning views I saw on my hike in Yosemite National Park

Day Visit Packing Checklist:

  • Water! Bring water in a Chilly’s bottle or a similar one that has the function to keep cold drinks cold for 12 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours too. This is very convenient, better than a plastic bottle and also great for the environment!
  • Suncream (sunscreen)
  • Hat/Cap
  • Activewear
  • A few snacks – beware of the bears! We packed sandwiches, cereal bars and fruit in advance to have for breakfast upon arrival to Yosemite.
  • Comfortable and durable trainers or walking boots (that have been broken in!)
  • A camera! Capture those memories, you won’t be sorry!
  • A basic First Aid Kit. Accidents happen!

What We Climbed:

Happy Isles (Towards Mirror Lake) – Easy
An easy 0.5 mile we warmed up with an easy flat route. This hike leads on towards Mirror Lake – a 2.5 mile walk, however as we were short on time we headed on back to our next hike, Mist Falls.

Mist Falls – Strenuous
I didn’t think that a 3 mile round trip could be strenuous, that was until I realised we would be elevated 1000ft. Why is it called mist? You literally get misted by the waterfall!

50580522_2085741838129707_7024674906759495680_n

P.S. For those adventurous hikers – This is the first leg of the trail to the very popular Half Dome which you need a permit to climb (also difficult to obtain). On the Half Dome you are suspended on a harness as you climb up a rock in the shape of a dome! Thrill seekers, beware!

Nevada Falls –  Strenuous
The 7 mile round trip includes a sighting of Vernal Falls. I’m smiling on the below left because I was happy thinking we were nearly at Nevada Falls as we could hear the waterfall. Oh and how beautiful it was of course! How wrong I was though.
On the right I am ecstatic because we actually were so close to the waterfall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mist falls

Nevada Falls from a distance

mist falls 2

Nevada Falls with all the colours of the rainbow!

After the hike we stopped off to rest at the local store where we bought a baguette to share, (we were worried about traveling with too much food without the appropriate bear locks!) We then had a wander around Curry Village and some local camp sites where we saw the canoes and a cinema hall!

Lower Yosemite Falls
To finish off our day we visited Lower Yosemite Falls. An easy flat 0.5 mile route that is very popular with families and young kids.

At the end of this “Pinch me, I’m dreaming” kind of day, we drove to Clovis. A nearby town to Fresno and a great mid point to Yosemite and Sequoia National Kings Park, should you wish to visit. Tip to the wise: Maybe leave a day’s rest in between hiking so your feet have recovered!

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