Hiking Breakneck Ridge, in photos

Obviously I took a million (OK, 85) photos when we went hiking at Breakneck Ridge a couple weeks ago. While I spent most of the climb with both hands firmly planted on the rocks, my phone safely tucked away in my backpack, the views were just too spectacular to go undocumented. Whenever I reached a point flat enough to stand on safely, I was snapping photos and taking video.

View from Breakneck Ridge, New YorkView from  Breakneck Ridge, New YorkHiking Breakneck Ridge, New York

(After my friend Jordan took this one I climbed right back down and took the easier ascent.)

Breakneck Ridge, New YorkView from  Breakneck Ridge, New YorkView from Breakneck Ridge, New YorkView from Breakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New York

Like I said last week, I felt (and still feel) SO accomplished! I never thought I’d be able to say I climbed a mountain and conquered one of the most difficult hikes in the Northeast.

On the descent, there were still plenty of adventures to be had. The woods were filled with streams to splash in and old buildings to climb and explore.

Breakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New YorkBreakneck Ridge, New York

After the hike (it took us about four hours), we headed into Cold Spring and ate ALL. THE. FOOD. I’ll be sharing more of that with you soon!

If you want to go: You can take MetroNorth from Grand Central to Cold Spring and walk about a mile to the trail. There’s also a stop at the trail, appropriately called Breakneck Ridge, with trains making stops three times a day on the weekends only. The hike is challenging but not impossible, even if you’re completely out of shape, as I am. It took us about four hours.

Hiking Breakneck Ridge: A video

Yeah, you read that right. I went hiking. On a mountain called BREAKNECK Ridge. My neck is not broken, for the record. I could have broken my friend’s neck, though, when I discovered that this “hike” I had been lured on was in fact more of a vertical rock climb. The phrase “blood, sweat and tears” has never been more real.

Breakneck Ridge from Leigh Anne Zinsmeister on Vimeo.

But you know what? I’m ridiculously proud of myself. I didn’t turn around and get on the next train back to the city. I didn’t give up and require a rescue team (apparently a common occurrence at Breakneck). I powered through, I wasn’t afraid to have my friends literally pull me up at some parts, and by the end of the day I had climbed a damn mountain. I had a very delightful day, and though there are photos and details to share later on, I just want to share that and bask in it for now.

So, enjoy!

25 delightful things I did while I was 25

Today, friends, is my twenty-sixth birthday. And for some reason, that fact has me completely freaked out. Twenty-six just feels so much older than twenty-five. I don’t know why. It makes no sense. But instead of dwelling on this, I decided to compile a list of delightful things I accomplished whilst 25 – big and small – and to think about all of the delightful things ahead! Here are some things that have happened in the life of Leigh Anne over the past 366 days…

Brunch at Egg, Williamsburg

Brunching on my 25th birthday

  1. I launched my delightful city guides, a huge project that I put – and continue to put – a lot of heart and soul into
  2. I took my first completely solo trip to Boston, and loved every minute
  3. I visited three new countries (South Africa, Swaziland, the Bahamas) and a new continent (Africa!)
  4. I read 44 books (thanks for the stats, goodreads!)
  5. I had my photos featured by Strand Bookstore, The New York Post, and more cool brands
  6. I drove a car for the first time in two years (this was less than delightful itself, but the ease of getting around was amazing!)
  7. I explored more of my own neighborhood, Crown Heights – after a year of not venturing much beyond my block, I now have a favorite independent coffee shop, burger joint and cocktail bar
  8. I went to and volunteered at the first-ever She is Free gathering
  9. I saw three Broadway shows (Mamma Mia!, An American in Paris, and The Lion King)
  10. I went to Sleep No More, which is officially my favorite thing I’ve done in New York
  11. I discovered a bus that’ll take me from Trader Joe’s to my apartment (you’ll only understand how delightful this one is if you’ve lugged groceries around NYC)
  12. I spent a week watching MLB spring training in Arizona
  13. I was asked to be a bridesmaid for the first time
  14. I went to the top of the World Trade Center (twice!) and Top of the Rock
  15. I spent a weekend helping designer Jennifer Adams with events in Manhattan, which lead to a regular (paid!) freelancing gig for her blog
  16. I met my brother’s cat and my best friend’s second pug
  17. I upgraded to the iPhone 6S and it completely changed my photography game
  18. I went behind the scenes at the New York Public Library
  19. I started running my church’s Twitter account
  20. I spent an entire day inside during a crazy blizzard
  21. I surprised my mom on HER birthday
  22. I launched my mission to Make Mondays Magical
  23. I went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  24. I saw a ton of Christmas trees in the city
  25. I started sponsoring a little girl in Swaziland and got to go visit her

… and I could go on and on! Truly, I know that 26 is going to be just as delightful as 25 – and I’m excited to face it, head on. Here’s to another year of adventure!


Looking back: London

When I returned from my first trip to Europe in 2010, everyone asked me what my favorite place was, and the answer was always the same: Florence was my favorite city to visit, but London was a city I could imagine myself living in.

Looking back at my photos, it makes sense: All I have pictures of is St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. Lest you think I was only there for a day, I actually spent a week and a half in the city, and spent most of it living as a local – visiting coffee shops, exploring lesser-visited neighborhoods, and, well, working. It was study abroad, after all. I missed many touristy things I’d love to go back and see someday, including the London Eye and the British Museum. But for now, here the photos I do have from that first trip.

Outside Buckingham Palace, LondonOutside Buckingham Palace, LondonUnion Jack outside Buckingham Palace, LondonBuckingham Palace, LondonInside St. Paul's Cathedral, LondonView from St. Paul's Cathedral, LondonView from St. Paul's Cathedral, London

London will always hold a special place in my heart. Can’t wait to go back – and take some higher-quality photos!

How to save money while traveling

You probably know by now that one of my goals for 2016 is to take 12 trips, and I’m doing really well: I’ve already taken five! A couple friends have asked for my tips on how to keep expenses low, so I thought I’d share some advice here too. To be clear, I’m certainly not an expert here: This is not a be-all, end-all list, and I do splurge in some areas, when travelling and at home. (I mean, I spend about 45% of my take-home income on rent. Thanks, NYC!) But if I didn’t at least try to be frugal, my financial situation would be dire, so here are the ways I cut back while still having a good time.

Stay with friends

Hanging out at Jordan’s house in Phoenix

Maybe I just have super generous friends, but if I know someone at my destination, they’re usually willing to offer up a couch or guest bed. So far this year I’ve stayed for free in D.C. (thanks Courtney), Dallas (thanks Mom and Dad) and Phoenix (thanks Jordan and Mom and Dad!) Be a good person, though. Buy them dinner or some groceries so they invite you back. And I also reciprocate when people visit NYC!

Use Airbnb
Sam Adams Brewery in Boston, Massachusetts

Never would have made it here without Airbnb!

If you do need to find accommodation, don’t go straight for fancy hotels. I’m a big fan of Airbnb*, which I’ve used in Brooklyn, Boston, San Francisco and the Bahamas. A lot of people have safety concerns; my personal rules are that I only stay with female hosts, and at properties that have reviews. I’ve never felt any less safe than in a hotel, and it allows me to stay in better parts of cities than I could otherwise afford. PLUS you have the added bonus of getting to know a local who can give you ideas of things to do. My host in Boston even treated me to dinner at a local tavern, and if not for her I never would have visited the Sam Adams Brewery!

Consider alternate modes of transportation…
Grand Central, New York City

Take a train and travel through Grand Central!

Whenever possible, I travel by Megabus. They have fares as low as a dollar, which are hard to find, but I’ve still never paid more than $25 round-trip. You get what you pay for, and I’ve heard horror stories, but it gets you there – and I’ve never had a bus arrive late by more than 30 minutes or so. There are other bus companies, too, and if you’re hesitant you can also consider Amtrak.

…but if you do fly, watch for sales and use miles

There are no buses to Africa. Sadly.

Tragically, it’s just not feasible to take a bus across the country  (or the world!) when you only have a few days off from work. That’s why I’m a big fan of Southwest and Jet Blue. They both offer cheaper fares than a lot of other airlines, and they both have great rewards programs. I even flew round-trip to Dallas for less than $70 this year thanks to rewards points! I’ve heard great things about airline credit-card programs, as well, but I’m not a part of one so I don’t have any great insight. In general, I track my ideal flight route on Kayak, set a price point in my mind, and buy when fares are around that price – regardless of the airline. By flying at weird hours (leaving early in the morning or taking a red-eye), I’m almost always able to find reasonably-priced direct flights. I’m also a member of pretty much every airline’s loyalty program!

Use public transit
At the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco

The cable cars in San Francisco are not only touristy, they’re convenient!

I’ve taken public transportation not only in New York, but in London, Dublin, Rome, Amsterdam, Boston, D.C., San Francisco, the Bahamas and Phoenix. I’ve never rented a car and I only take cabs at night. This keeps my transit costs once I’m in a place crazy low – usually within the $20 range for short vacations. Plus, it lets you feel like a local.

Grocery shop
Homecooked breakfast in the Bahamas

Homecooked breakfast in the Bahamas

Decide which meals are most important for you to eat out for, and buy groceries to cover the others so you save money. This is especially feasible if you’re in an Airbnb with a kitchen! When we were in San Francisco, Jordan and I got a loaf of bread and peanut butter for sandwiches for breakfast (her) and lunch (me), so we’d feel less guilty eating dinners out. In the Bahamas, we stocked up on snacks and breakfast food (our Airbnb host drove us to the grocery store!), and ate big dinners out. (We also hit up a liquor store, if that’s your thing, to save at the bars).

What are your favorite ways to save money on the road? I’m always looking for tips!

*If you use this link to register with Airbnb, you’ll get $35 off your first booking and I’ll get a credit too! Everybody wins!