Sunday, September 11, 2016

Unique Off Base Adventures

(Hey fellow readers! This post is a guest post written by, I hope you enjoy it!)

Where to go, what to do? If you’re not the wild, crazy, adventurous type, living in a place you’re not very familiar with — such as a new PCS location — can make getting out of the house and heading out into the great unknown feel like a chore. Why? Because… first you have to figure out what is even out there that you want to see or do… then you have to figure out how to get there and how long it will take… and then you must invest even more time in figuring out getting back home. Phew. That can be mentally and emotionally overwhelming for some of us.

But… consider this: if you’re living on base/post and too afraid to venture out on your own — away from the known environment — you could be missing out on all of the special things that make your present hometown so unique. So how do you rally your adventurous side to get up and go out?

Here are 5 quick tips to start you off on your journey:

1) Consider how far you’re willing to go. Feel the need to stay close to home so you can return within a reasonable amount of time and distance? Map out a 20-minute adventure radius.

2) Decide what you’re in the mood for. Do you want to go see a new movie? Are you in the mood for outlet shopping? Want to take a long bike ride along a forested trail? Choose one thing you’d like to accomplish with your outing and figure out where you can go to do it within your 20-minute zone.

3) Research the area. Before you blindly head out to accomplish your adventure, make sure the area you are heading into is a comfortable one, with familiar stores or restaurants nearby. If it looks like you’ll be heading out into a bad area, choose a different direction.

4) Think about who’s going. Will you be on your own? With your kids? With a friend? With a group? If you’re taking separate cars, make sure everyone remains in sight. If you’re going it alone, be sure to take your phone or other communication device with you.

5) Take provisions. Even if you’re heading into an area with restaurants and shopping venues, it’s important to keep a selection of snacks in your car, backpack or purse. That way, you won’t go hungry when you’re sitting in traffic, or walking a footpath that takes longer than expected. You should also keep a first-aid kit handy… just in case.

Now that you know where you’re going, what you’re doing and how you’ll get there… it’s time to venture out. When you do, woe of the most important things you need to keep in mind is that people live here all year round… wherever you are (unless, perhaps, you’re in an untamed wilderness). There are many people around who can help you navigate your way, point you in the right direction, help you figure out the local language, etc., if you need assistance. You just have to ask. And remember to be smart: Start simple.

If you’ve lived in a big East Coast city all your life, you probably don’t want to trek out into a hot, dry desert on your own, since you won’t have the necessary first-hand, life-long survival skills ready to go, should you or anyone else in your party need them. Conversely, if you lived on a Midwestern farm throughout your childhood and now find yourself surrounded by cars that zoom past pedestrians without a thought, you will need to be prepared to experience the local culture in a blur… and accept it for what it is. Embrace the environment you’re in. Meld yourself into it as best you can. That doesn’t mean becoming a whole new person just to blend in. It simply means focusing on your end goal… which should always be: happiness.

So what if you don’t like country music and everyone around you only line dances? Look at it not as a personal issue but as an opportunity. Instead of saying, “I don’t want to go there because they do [fill in the blank],” flip the thought around and be curious. Get excited about experiencing something new. At home, you can always be the full, real you… rocking out to Indy tunes or oldies on your iPod. But when you’re out and about, allow yourself to dive into the mood, history, culture, sights, scents and sounds of your duty location. It will broaden your horizons in ways others never experience in their lifetimes.

But… what if you’ve moved to a location that is more secluded, with clear boundaries and an imbalance of excitement and activity that you’re used to in your “normal” daily life? Again, do a little research online to see what is unique about the area, and then go out and see it. Even just visiting a nearby library can yield interesting clues about what’s important in the area. Find out how the town was first established. Visit local museums. Learn a new craft. Taste new foods. Enjoy listening to local accents and colloquialisms. Take a group tour around town.

Look for things that are “missing” and see if you can fill that gap by creating something or adding your talents. For instance, are you a skilled writer? Maybe a local organization could use your help producing its monthly newsletter. Do you love animals? How about volunteering at a homeless pet shelter. Are you good with kids? Help out at a neighborhood school. Like helping the elderly? Visit a home with old folks who will look forward to seeing you every once in a while.

The real trick to any adventure is being passionate about it… and true to yourself. Think of yourself as a tourist, not an outsider. Don’t let your on-base/post status keep you from enjoying the world around you. Every experience you have will provide you with information you can share with others — whether or not they are in the same situation you are — because sharing all kinds of experiences with others is one of the ways we make life itself an adventure.

Have fun out there!


AAFMAA is the longest-standing not-for- profit association that empowers current and former military with affordable financial solutions including, life insurance, investment management, and survivor assistance. AAFMAA is also the creator of SpouseLink, a free website for Military Spouses that was created to support, inform and inspire users with a variety of content–anything from pop culture to important Military information.

Cathleen Karlsson is the daughter of a retired Navy Captain. Growing up, she lived with her family in five Midwestern and East Coast states before earning her B.A. in fiction at the University of Pittsburgh. She is an experienced, award-winning marketing writer who has worked in several advertising and online media roles, including her current role as the Editor. In her “spare time,” Cathleen volunteers with a homeless animal shelter and serves as the vice president of the board for a ballet company. She also enjoys dancing, sewing and crafting, and spending time with her young daughter.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Second Anniversary Pt. 2: Partnach Gorge & Olympic Stadium

Read Part One Here

Another gorgeous experience we had was going to the Partnach Gorge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It was a long wet walk through the gorge but a beautiful one. The colors of the water were unbelievable and it was nice and cool walking through the area. Nature is such a beautiful thing and seeing something like this really makes you realize just how awe-inspiring it is.

 Inside the gorge

 The gorge walls

Beautiful colored water

 And here is the beautiful end result of the walk through the gorge

The final opening after the gorge walk was breathtaking. It all opened up and the colors of everything around us was magical.

Not far from this famous gorge is another famous part of history. Now before I tell you what this piece of history is, you have to know the story behind it and the town that its in. The town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen was originally two separate towns, Garmisch, and Partenkirchen. To this day they even consider themselves to be separate towns even though they are legally combined.

So why were they forced to become one town? Well in 1935, Adolf Hitler was determined to have the Olympics in this town. He thought of it as the perfect representation of Germany with its charming feel and gorgeous scenery. But, his idea was turned down to host the Olympics because the town was simply too small to host such a thing. Hitler then decided to fix this issue of his by forcing the mayors of the two towns to combine into one big town. After this, the Winter Olympics of 1936 were held here just as Hitler wanted. The two towns were never happy about being forced together and still are bitter about it to this day. They still consider themselves as two separate towns even if it legally isn't so. Now this Winter Olympics stadium that Hitler had built still stands there today. And, its just a short walk away from the gorge pictured above. And yes, of course we stopped there!

Here are parts of the stadium building itself.

The inside of the stadium with the seating on the left and the slopes (without snow since we went in July) on the right!

I have always been fascinated with learning about World War II and the history behind all of it. So being in a town like this that had such rich history of things related to that time period was amazing for me. This town with the Alps, its resort, and all the lovely and exciting things in between is an amazing place to visit! It made for one eventful trip of ours!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Second Anniversary Pt.1: Edelweiss Resort, Germany

It was most definitely a benefit that we were able to spend our anniversary while we were in Germany. If you didn't know, the Army owns a resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria called the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort! This beautiful resort is open to U.S. Military, and more. It's located right next to the Bavarian Alps giving a spectacular view to visitors. And if you haven't guessed by now, yes, this is where we stayed for our anniversary!

We loved the opportunity to stay at Edelweiss. Like other Military owned places to stay, they rate their rooms by the Military members rank, which makes it greatly affordable for many. They often have deals going on but book up fast, too. We stayed in July (over our anniversary, duh) when the weather was perfect and the colors all around us were vivid. Our room had a small balcony with some chairs that we sat on every day to stare at the gorgeous view that we had.

(Our view from our room)

(Hotel lobby & view from hotel)

The resort also had many trips that you could book through them every day. It made it so much easier to see things near by because they took care of the tickets, transportation, etc. The first thing that we did was head to Austria (which is very close to this resort). We hiked up to first climb and explore through a castle that was built in 1293, called the Ehrenberg Castle. The views from the castle were amazing. We were lucky that it was such a nice day the day we went on this adventure.

(The Ehrenberg Castle, 1293)

Next to the Ehrenberg Castle is the worlds longest pedestrian suspension bridge (say that ten times fast). This thing was crazy! We walked the whole thing to the other side and back though. It was definitely scary, but I'm so glad that I did it. Not many people can say they have done it, after all! The bridge opened in November of 2014, stretches 403 Meters long (about 1322 ft), and is 110 Meters high (about 361 ft).

(Ticket to cross the bridge)

(The look down on the bridge)

(Highline 179 & the Ehrenberg Castle)

(Taken from the other side of the bridge after crossing it once)

Part two of our Anniversary trip will be posted later, stay tuned!