Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Minimalist Gift Ideas

You can have a joyous, fulfilling, heart-warming Christmas without piles of gifts pilling out from under the tree. There is also nothing inherently wrong with giving someone a physical gift, but most of us have more than we would ever need.

These minimalist gift ideas will help you give a meaningful, clutter-free gift to anyone on your list. They are also great ideas of what to ask for if you would like to avoid receiving physical gifts.

Minimalist Gift Ideas for Everyone

Minimalist Gift Ideas


Exercise classes

Give a voucher to their favorite class or a gift card for somewhere new that you think they will love. If they love a bunch of different workouts/studios, you may want to look into something like ClassPass.


Hobby gift cards

It can be incredibly difficult to purchase an item that will fit in with your recipient’s hobby and what they already have. Gift cards are a great way to recognize what they love to do and allow them to get something they will really value and use. Great places to consider are art supply stores, yarn shops, cooking stores, local running shop, tech centers, local golf course, or anywhere else that supports a specific hobby. I personally love getting a gift card to my local running store and it supports their small business too.


Museum tickets

Take your friend on a museum trip or just purchase a gift card and let them buy tickets for the day that’s best for them. Even your local museum/aquarium/theater should offer a gift certificate.


Event tickets

Concerts, sports, movies, shows, the list goes on. You can buy specific tickets, offer a self-made voucher, or give a gift certificate for the location or ticketing company.



Or dog sitting as it may be.


Favorite food

Cookies just for me? Yes, please. You can also make their favorite meal and freeze it or give a coupon for a fresh batch in the future.


Other edibles

A bottle of wine, an assortment of local beers, coffee beans – the list goes on. Bonus, these are easy to tailor to your recipient’s taste and they are easy to buy in bulk.



Many years ago (before it was cool), my mom gave my grandparents a Netflix subscription. My tech-savvy grandpa loved it. There are so many subscription services today – although I would encourage you to avoid any that send stuff unless it’s quickly consumable like wine. Subscription boxes can quickly add clutter and feel overwhelming.


Homemade consumables

Soaps, candles, beauty products, and other homemade consumables are a great way to cover multiple people on your list without adding a ton of clutter. Once they are used up they are gone.


Your time

It sounds so cheesy that my face is getting hot just writing it, but some of the best gifts really are spending time with your friend or family member. Take them on a picnic or a hike. Invite them over for tea and snacks. Offer to help with a big task like painting the room that’s driving them crazy or decluttering an overwhelming closet. If you can’t think of anything great, make an open-ended voucher for an afternoon of your time and let your recipient cash it in on whatever they want.


No gifts please

When someone specifically asks for no gifts, it’s best to respect their wishes and not get them a gift. But that doesn’t mean you can’t clarify and see if something on this list (like spending the day together or a bottle of their favorite beverage) would still be alright.

You can also ask to not receive gifts without causing a kerfuffle. The best way is to explain why you don’t want any physical gifts this year and offer alternatives (like the list above) to people who are adamant about getting you or your family something. (This article or this forum may help you broach the subject.)


Looking for more ideas? Check out these great posts.

Minimalist Gift-Giving from The Minimalists

90 Clutter-free Gifts and 18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children from The Minimalist Mom

21 Minimalist Gift Ideas Under $100 from The Minimalist Vegan

You can read more about my previous minimalist Christmases here.

A Long Weekend in Portland

Portland has been on my list for a while, and when a trip to New Zealand was no longer possible after my ankle surgery, it seemed like a great time to go. My boyfriend and I spent a long weekend in Portland last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather was quintessential fall – clouds and a slight chill in the air. It hardly rained while we were there. I left feeling ready for the holiday season (but not ready for Christmas decorations or music. It’s too soon people! Give Thanksgiving a chance!).

To be clear, this is less of a direct ‘you have to go here!’ and more of a list of the things we did and enjoyed on our long weekend in Portland. We were only able to explore Southwest Portland around the Pearl District. I know there are amazing things in the rest of Portland and outside of the city.

Also, despite spending three days in Portland, I only have four pictures to show for the trip. This is partly to blame on my inability to ever remember to take a photo, but also a conscious decision. It was important to me to really see the city and be present. While we used a phone for directions or restaurant advice, for the most part we didn’t use our phones outside of the hotel room.

highly recommend trying this. Instead of taking photos I journaled daily about all of the things we did and ate so I can look back and remember what we did/saw/experienced.

Long Weekend in Portland - Case Study Coffee SW Portland Mocha



The downside of only having a long weekend in Portland is all of the food we weren’t able to eat. Our first dinner in the city was my favorite restaurant meal from the past few years. So good!

We went to the city without any plans (other than a place to stay and a general idea of how to get to our hotel), and we spent our entire time blissfully planning out our day based on where we wanted to eat. My kind of vacation.

Here’s what we ate:


Cheryl’s On 12th

Not my favorite. Our flight landed during lunch and it took us a couple hours to get off the plane and to our hotel. I had been dreaming about eating for hours by the time we got into Portland proper, so I wasn’t super picky with our first meal. I just wanted something hot and fast. Cheryl’s was a minute walk from the hotel.

The vegetarian fried rice was alright, but I left dissapointed. I saw something about complementary beignets on Yelp and was under the impression that they came with every meal. Totally not true, totally my misunderstanding. Also, turns out I’m not a fan of “cheesy” hash browns sprinkled with a sprinkling.



I honestly would have eaten here for every meal. This was our first dinner in Portland, and we got so lucky. We found Imperial on Yelp that afternoon and ended up being able to snag a spot at their dinner service.

The restaurant was packed! They squeezed us in at their chef’s counter facing their open wood fire cooking area. It was hot and the kitchen was busy. It was like watching the Food Network while eating dinner, but way more satisfying. I loved watching the kitchen and seeing what everyone was ordering.

For dinner I had a killer kale salad that puts all tough, boring kale salads to shame. It had a citrusy goat cheese dressing that didn’t taste anything like goat cheese. The salad was topped with sunflower seed brittle (mmm, sugar) and shaved winter veggies. I paired the salad with a coal roasted sweet potato that I slathered in butter and their pepita salsa. It was flavorful, comforting, and filling.

This is killing me. I want to eat it all again.

I also snagged a couple of bites of their buttery, flakey, didn’t-leave-a-single-crumb Parker House Rolls and their house made fettuccine with yam, kabocha squash, brussels sprout leaves, chanterelles, and pepitas. (Do note that the menu changes daily and none of these may be on the menu if you visit).

Imperial had fantastic gluten free and vegetarian options, and they clearly marked everything on their menu. Yes, you should definitely go.


The Daily Feast

The Daily Feast is small and cozy with a nice mix of classic and healthy options. Our breakfast was solid, although I’m still craving their oatmeal. I made a last minute decision to go with fried eggs and hash browns instead, and I’m still not sure if it was the right call.


Food Carts

I’ve never seen so many food carts in one city. The grilled cheese was calling me, but since I can’t really eat that I went for juicy vegetable tacos. According to Yelp, there are a ton of food carts definitely worth trying.


Oven and Shaker

After multiple meals of stuffing our faces, it seemed like it was time for some vegetables. We headed to Oven and Shaker for a glass of red wine and a salad… and pizza. Unfortunately the pizza wasn’t gluten free, but I made up for it with rosemary-parmesan fried chickpeas. Yummy! They were almost as satisfying as fries.

Unfortunately my salad was disappointing – super salty and otherwise bland. Rumor has it the pizza was good.


Byways Cafe

A table of locals brought their own hot sauce and shared it. This place felt far from touristy. Byways serves classic breakfast and lunch food. It felt like a diner without the shitty menu and soggy potatoes. It’s worth the wait.


Pine Street Market

I panicked that there wouldn’t be anything for me to eat at the market and picked up a salad at a local salad chain on the way. Major regrets. I got to choose what was in my salad, but it was so under-dressed that it was a crime. Nothing will make you feel like a cow quite like eating a dry kale salad. Yum.

I had major ramen envy. And the glutenous pita bread was like tasty pillows for your mouth.

Before you feel too sorry for me, you should know that I had a mind-numbingly delicious, non-dairy strawberry soft serve. Oh man it was good. I also got the best of both worlds with a few bites of their vanilla soft serve covered in their homemade hard-shell chocolate sauce. (*insert homer noises here*) I’ll eat a dry kale salad every day if you give me a cup of soft serve from Wizbangbar. (Don’t click on that unless you are going to go there or you’ll end up depressed with a top-notch soft-serve craving. Trust me, it just happened to me.)



It’s a tough call between Imperial and Bamboo. This was my first time ordering sushi at a restaurant (hey, tempura is amazing). While I enjoyed the sushi, it was the rest of the meal that I really loved.

Their twist on a French 75 is possibly even better than the classic. I wanted to sip on one all night despite the fact that half a glass in I was feeling it. 

I’m still craving the sweet and sour cauliflower. I can’t tell you the last time I had sweet and sour. There was no frightening red sauce anywhere to be seen, and the flavor was impeccable. Deep, acidic, lightly sweet – I could have eaten them all night.

Also, major bonus points for being incredibly sustainable.


Final Breakfast

Our last breakfast was so bad I’m not going to include it. My steel cut oats were watery and tasted strongly of soap. This is why I ended up eating leftover sushi at the airport at 9 a.m. The restaurant we went to had okay reviews online, but it was the only place open on the way to the light rail station. It turns out most places aren’t open at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. Life lessons.



Case Study Coffee

You cannot go to Portland and not get coffee… or maybe you can. I might have done it.

Case Study Coffee’s homemade chai tea was spicy and creamy without being painfully sweet. I could happily drink it daily. I’m heavily considering emailing them for the recipe.

The space was perfect for hanging out and slowly sipping a hot drink. We went here twice (I got regular tea the second time), and both times we spent at least an hour writing and reading. The staff was ridiculously, genuinely nice and easy-going, and the space was both gorgeous and comfortable.

I’m so jealous this coffee shop isn’t in my neighborhood.



This is on the list so no one yells at me. We shamelessly went to the one in the airport. I heard that their drip is good, although I can’t taste anything for the next week after scalding myself on their chai latte (made with actual tea! Hallelujah!).

I think it was good? I’ll let you know my ultimate decision when the nickel-sized heat blister on the roof of my mouth finally heals. Seriously.


Things to Do:

There are so many things to do in Portland and it can be difficult to fit them all, especially if you are only visiting for a long weekend.

We didn’t really sight see or do any outdoor adventures. We were honestly lucky I was able to walk around at all. (We’ve been home for days and my ankle/feet are still punishing me for the amount of walking and standing we did.) For the most part we tried to keep each trip under .5 mile of walking, and we walked everywhere.


Powell’s Books

I 100 percent picked our neighborhood and our hotel based on its proximity to Powell’s. Our hotel room looked out on the sign for the famous bookstore. This was the only thing I wanted to do in Portland.

This place is stuffed with millions of books, and it felt like just as many people. Our first 15 minutes in the store were completely overwhelming. I almost asked to leave. But once we got out of the main entrance area and into the actual shelves the crowds thinned out and I was only overwhelmed by the amount of books.

Long Weekend in Portland - Powell's Books

The multiple floors were crammed with high shelves and more books than I have ever seen in one place. Powell’s is easily a book lover’s dream, although I had trouble figuring out their categories and as someone with decision problems, it was anxiety-inducing.

If I were to go again and I wanted to buy a book, I would go in with a few titles in mind and look them up on their handy computers. It would be a much more relaxing experience than trying to see every title in their literature and memoir section.


Ground Kontrol Arcade

This was my first time to an arcade that wasn’t attached to a pizza parlor. We went during the day before the bar was open so it was a nice mix of adults and kids. About half of the space is full of pinball machines and the rest is classic (and a couple new) arcade games. True to form, Tetris was my favorite.



A lot. Eating was our main activity. You should also definitely consider going to breweries if you visit. I’ve heard good things.



We took the light rail to and from the airport and walked everywhere else. It was great! Although I didn’t love clomping around Portland in the boot. Maybe don’t go until you are fully recovered from ankle surgery. It might make things easier.



We originally looked into staying at an Airbnb, but there were so few listings left that we decided to go for a hotel in a great area for the same price.

Long Weekend in Portland - Ace Hotel Portland

The Ace Hotel felt a bit like staying at your hipster friend’s house. The decor is minimal but stylish. The design is somehow old school and modern. There are weird quirks (the glass shower enclosure was in the room proper. Highly entertaining.) and touches of home. Also, there may be scents of pot wafting through the halls and a live band in the lobby.

Long Weekend in Portland - Ace Hotel Portland

Overall we really enjoyed our stay. The Ace is in a great location, the staff was incredibly friendly, and the room made a good home base for an easily tired traveler. The bed and the pillows were not as comfortable as I had hoped and I wish the room had been darker, but I’m spoiled at home. The sleeping comfort is on par with most hotels I’ve stayed in.


Have you ever been to Portland? Where did you go?

Women of the Road: Is #Vanlife Really Instagram Perfect?

It all started with following a couple people on Instagram. Then I found the #vanlife hashtag and it was all over. I was obsessed.

For months I played with the idea of interviewing people about what it’s really like to live and travel in a van for weeks or months at a time. Is it really as great as it seems? Does it look anything like it does on Instagram? I had so many questions.

While holed up in bed with a casted ankle, I finally got to speak to incredible women who have traveled in ways I have only dreamed about. Their solo trips around the U.S. and New Zealand were incredible. And if anything, it only made me more obsessed. Their stories were refreshing and honest and left me just as captivated as before.

Is #vanlife really Instagram Perfect? Mandy Ferreira for Misadventures October 2016

This story begged to be written for months, and I just couldn’t help myself from sharing it. The story is now live on Misadventures!

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

We spent a whirlwind day in Yellowstone on our trip to Wyoming this summer. While that’s really not a lot of time, especially when you sit down in front of a guidebook or map about Yellowstone and factor in drive time to and from the park, we got to see just about everything we wanted to.

What to see if you only have one day in Yellowstone National Park

Since we were staying just outside of Teton National Park, we entered Yellowstone through Teton via the south entrance. The drive there was gorgeous, and well worth the time in the car.

1. Old Faithful

We somehow missed the signs (there had to be signs… right?) for West Thumb – our intended first stop. Instead we ended up going to see Old Faithful first.

I had heard mixed reviews about the geyser, but I really couldn’t imagine going to Yellowstone and not seeing it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful

I felt like a brat – Old Faithful did not live up to my expectations. You only see pictures or short video clips of it shooting into the air with force and stamina. In real life it spent maybe 10 seconds at its full height and the rest of the time half as high if that. It also took forever to get enough steam. There were a lot of false starts and disappointments. It didn’t help that we were parking during an eruption and thus had to wait 90 minutes or so to see it.

2. Area around Old Faithful

While we waited to see the geyser, we walked around the pools and crazy landscape around it.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Boiling Thermal Pool

The experience was surreal, and way better than Old Faithful if you ask me.  I’ve never seen a landscape like it. The pools of boiling water were like something out of a dark-magic movie.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

3. Gibbon Falls

We just happened to pull over because the area looked beautiful and there was a turnout. I’m so glad we didn’t miss these falls. They aren’t the most impressive of the (many) falls in the park, but they were a nice little stretch break and a great view.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Gibbon Falls

If you visit, you’ll likely be just as impressed looking at the valley below the falls.

4. Canyon Village Upper and Lower Falls

I was impressed from the lookout at the top. I was even more impressed from halfway down the cliffside.

One Day in Yellowstone National Park – Lower Falls

We took Uncle Tom’s Trail down to the lookout along the canyon. The trail featured many flights of stairs after zig zagging a bit on a regular trail. (We also saw a deer who could not care less that we were all standing there. S/he really held up traffic while lazily eating in the middle of the path.)

The stairs were a bit frightening. I’m not huge on heights, and I particularly didn’t like that you could see straight down into the depth of the canyon below through the metal stairs. They were also wobbly in places or had (small) holes in others. The stairs cling to the side of the canyon in a not so comforting fashion, and they had a tendency to move a bit as people waked on them. Add in the huffing and puffing from climbing stairs at elevation, and I was thankful to get back on solid ground.

Despite the scare, they are 100 percent worth the views at the bottom (and along the way if you aren’t freaking out and staring at the hand rail calculating if it will really save you). Bonus, you get in a good workout before hopping back in the car.

5. Yellowstone Lake

To be fair, we just drove around the edge of it on our way home, but this expansive lake was incredible. It’s the largest high elevation lake in North America. With 141 miles of shoreline, it felt like it went forever. It blew my mind that the lake is frozen for nearly half the year. I can’t imagine what it takes to freeze a lake that’s roughly 20 miles long and 14 miles wide.

I’ve spent my fair share of time around Lake Tahoe, and this lake didn’t stop impressing me. It went on for miles and miles. Stunning.

So much more

There is plenty more to see, but if you only have one day in the Yellowstone National Park, this southern loop will give you a good start. There are plenty of places to pull over along it to see jaw-dropping views and wildlife (between the two parks we saw bison, elk, a wolf, lots of adorable chipmunks, squirrels, unidentified birds, and cute dogs traveling with humans). We got to the park a little before lunch and left around five or so.

One Day Yellowstone National Park

One Day Yellowstone National Park – Chipmunk

After a day of exploring (and what does start to feel like too long in the car), we were spent.

Helpful Tips

There are water bottle filling stations at just about every tourist information station.

The food sold at Old Faithful did not look appealing – I’m very thankful I brought my own lunch.

We stayed with other people in well-populated areas and didn’t have to worry about bears. If you do want to hike around and have a little more space to yourself, it’s a good idea to bring bear spray and take the snacks out of your bag.

7 Days in Wyoming

For a girl who loves the ocean, I sure do feel at home in the mountains too.

My family and I spent seven glorious days in Wyoming just a mile outside of Teton National Park. After having a blast in Whistler last summer, we couldn’t resist Teton Village’s hiking, biking, and more. This trip was my last hurrah before surgery. My doctor gave me the green light to hike and bike to the best of my ability before I left, and I definitely pushed those limits. Teton Village Wyoming Hiking Wildflower Trail

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming 11

Hiking in Teton Village

I went all out on vacation. Some people drink or eat like it’s their last chance while on vacation – I hiked my heart out until my ankle couldn’t take it anymore. That said, it held up so much better than expected. All taped up I was able to hike four miles with 2,677 feet of elevation gain. Not too bad for an old, hobbled lady.

My little ducklings on today’s gorgeous hike. #hiking #wyoming #tetons #vacation #travel #mountain

A photo posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

Teton Village Wyoming Hiking Wildflower Trail Teton Village Wyoming Hiking Wildflower Trail Piste

On our first hike we made our way up to the gondola stop and took it all the way down. Man were we happy to sit down, but the fast ride was a bit depressing given how long it took us to get up there.

We had originally intended to hike to the summit, but lunch and hunger got in the way. Instead, we took the tram up to the very top a few days later and hiked back down to where we stopped earlier in the week. The hike down was beautiful, but a bit much for my mom who hates heights and the feeling of walking along a drop off/mountain side. We did all get some good laughs at her attempt to use her hands as blinders to avoid looking down. (Don’t worry, karma paid me back with some wicked ankle pain. Downhill on loose rocks is bad news for me.)

Also, shout out to the bear between towers three and four who had been making appearances (and apparently sniffing the faces of friendly staff members). Super thankful you decided not to come play with us.

Downhill Mountain Biking

My mom desperately wanted to downhill mountain bike. No joke. She was so stoked to try this out, and her excitement was contagious.

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking Beginners 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking Ski Lift

I think this was the highlight of the trip. We all suited up and hit the trails. I felt like a princess being toted up in the ski lift so I could ride back down. It felt like cheating to downhill mountain bike without riding the way up too, but oh man was it fantastic. We got in around 12 runs.

I’m proud to announce that no one got hurt. Less proud to say that everyone knew when my mom and I were on the trails. We might have squealed around some of the turns, but we got braver and braver and by the end we were tearing up intermediate trails. (We also laughed so hard once that we had to stop riding until our tears cleared up. I might have started it by narrowly avoiding a wipeout…)

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Downhill Mountain Biking Trails

The two in the helmets are my parents. They claim to not be ashamed to be seen with us, but this picture suggests otherwise…

We returned dirty, exhausted, and giddy. Wicked fun.

Teton National Park

My heart broke a bit standing in front of these majestic mountains, broken. I wanted to hike around and explore them, but instead I was confined to the car and the mile or so I could walk from there. I’d love to come back one day and really backpack around these beauties.

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton 7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton and Little Teton from REI

I’ve been joking for years about taking Little Teton (above) home. I’ve had the little guy since outdoor ed in 6th grade. From Warped Tour to hiking to kayaking, we’ve been places together. I hope he enjoyed his trip to his namesake.

7 Days in Teton Village Wyoming – Teton National Park – Grand Teton – Jenny Lake

While we spent most of our time in Teton Village, we also got the chance to see Teton National Park and Yellowstone. I’m so glad we were able to see both parks, especially since this year was the National Parks’ centennial and Yellowstone was the first national park. (Stay tuned for more on our day trip to Yellowstone.)

Pictures via my phone and my dad. You can check out more of his stuff at Dean Ferreira Fine Art or Pinterest

Beginner Trapeze Class

The first few steps of the ladder didn’t seem so bad, but the higher I got and the more the platform swayed, the less I thought this was a good idea. I got to the top and the stood on a plank the width of my feet. I refused to look down to the net or the ground 20 or so feet below me. Why am I doing this?

The first time the instructor asked me to grab the trapeze and lean waaay out, I wanted to get back down. I spent what felt like forever gripping the platform and ignoring the instruction.

But I made it!

When I (secretly) signed my boyfriend and I up for the beginner trapeze class at Circus Center in San Francisco, I did my best to not think about what it actually meant – heights and terror. But I’m so glad I pushed myself out my comfort zone. The other six students were encouraging and incredibly friendly. The staff was beyond amazing. Our instructor, Jennings McCown, had the most soothing voice – it almost made me forget he was basically asking me to jump out of a two story window.

Beginner Trapeze Class Basics

The class (thankfully) started on the ground where we learned the basic movements, cues, and terms. We were quickly strapped in to our tight waist belts and encouraged up the ladder.

We each got five swings on the trapeze. Three basic (like the one above) and the last two times on the trapeze we actually got to be caught!

The class was an hour and a half, but it felt like 20 minutes. Between the adrenaline and chatting with the other students and instructors, time flew even faster than we did.

The Landing

While I won’t be running off to join the circus, I had a blast. If I lived closer I would absolutely go back. It was thrilling and a great memory. I’ll be honest, it never really got easier to jump off the platform, safety net/harness and all. But I hesitated less and less each time I never dreaded going up there.

My bum ankle has gotten in the way of a lot of things, but I feel like I’ve finally (at least a little bit) lived up to my intention of doing more things that scare me.

PS. If you try the class at Circus Center I highly recommend eating at Zazie after. The food was incredible!

10 Best Summer Vacation Books

I can’t help myself from packing like Rory when I go on vacation. To be fair, I rarely return with an unread book. Vacation is synonymous with relaxation and reading for me.

These are some of my favorite books and books I have read around the world. From the plane to the beach to the tent or luxurious bed, these books will keep you hooked. You won’t regret making room for (at least) one of these great books.

10 Best Summer Vacation Books

Best Summer Vacation Books

Modern Romance
What’s a vacation without a little romance? This book was insightful (and also vaguely terrifying). When did love get so complicated?

My Life on the Road
I can’t imagine how one woman can travel so far and accomplish so much. Gloria Steinem’s story is incredible, and you will meet dozens of women who made history along the way.

All the Light We Cannot See
You might not see much of your destination either. This book dragged me in and I wanted nothing more than to read it continuously. I had trouble pulling myself away from it. I read it on a ski trip (where I conveniently couldn’t ski, more time to read!), but I don’t see why it would be any less good on a beach or by a pool.

Station Eleven
I read this book last year while in Whistler, which means this book is forever synonymous with vacation for me. Don’t let the doomsday vibe deter you – this was an engrossing story that I would have gratefully read everywhere. I loved the traveling troupe and the rich story. Although fair warning, you may never look at an airplane the same again.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Nothing says great vacation like death. I’m kidding, but despite making my cry at the end, this book had me laughing frequently. It will also help you appreciate your trip even more.

The Martian
Sand. Heat. A rough flight. Astronaut Mark Watney’s experience on Mars is sort of like a tropical vacation. A really horrific vacation. I loved the snark of this book, and it will forever remind me of the train ride from Barcelona to Valencia.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
I started this book on a flight and refused to do anything else until I finished it (I know, I’m a fantastic travel companion). Set in a quirky community in Seattle, this book follows Bee and her quest to get her agoraphobic mother and her disengaged father to Antarctica. Instead, Bee ends up on a search for her missing mother. Bonus points if you read it while on a cruise to Antarctica.

The Happiness Project
A trip is a great time to pull back and take a hard look at your life. What really makes you happy? What makes you miserable? Dive into happiness and extend the vacation glow long after you return home.

Packing for Mars
Your hand guide to the ultimate trip. Mary Roach dives deep into the oddities of trying to get humans on Mars. And you thought trying to get everything into your carry-on was hard.

I can’t end this list without one of my favorites. I may never lace up my boots and take on the Pacific Crest Trail, but this book inspired me to get outside more and push my travel limits.

Best Mineral Sunscreen

Let’s be real, I use a lot of mineral sunscreen. Anytime I’m outside or driving for more than 10-15 minutes I’m usually slathered in something or wearing sun protective clothing. After years in the sun, I take sun protection and sun damage very seriously.

Why Mineral Sunscreen

For years I have avoided non-mineral, or chemical, sunscreens. After reading the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide, I refuse to use anything that has oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, or nano particles. I want to know that my skin is safe and I’m actually being protected. With that in mind, I would much rather drench myself in mineral sunscreens that will protect me better and not seep toxic chemicals into my body.

The Best Mineral Sunscreens

the best face body waterproof mineral sunscreen-mineral-sunscreen-face-body-waterproof

Face: MyChelle Sun Shield SPF 28
I had been unhappy with my face sunscreen for a while, so much so that I was neglecting to put it on at all. But after doing a ton of beauty research for this article, I was motivated to find a new one.

I picked this one up on a slight whim before my last camping trip, and it exceeded my expectations. It goes on SO easily for a mineral sunscreen. There’s not endless rubbing and constantly having weird, white streaks down your face from where it didn’t get rubbed in enough before it dried. It also doesn’t leave you looking like an Edward Cullen wannabe. Finally, a face sunscreen that goes on clear!

While I’m usually wary of putting anything on my sensitive, temperamental face, I haven’t had any problems with irritation or breakouts. After I do my morning skin routine, I apply it before I leave the house, including before I exercise. The only time I notice it is when I sweat a little bit. My face feels like I have something on it, but it’s not bad and it feels pretty similar to other sunscreens. The rest of the time it’s incredibly light and I forget I’m wearing it. Bonus points for being untinted – no more staining my clothes! You can find it at many natural food stores and Amazon.

Body: Solar Body Moisturizer SPF 30+
When I was commuting hours each day in the sun, this beauty was my best friend. It goes on like body lotion and makes my skin feel moisturized. There’s no heavy, oily coat on your skin, and it works great. I took this all across Spain with me. It’s so easy to apply it on the go. I frequently bring a little bit with me in a smaller tube if I’m unsure of the weather or I think I might end up taking off a layer (or two).

It’s not water or sweat proof, so it’s not great for extended exercise or a dip in the pool. I do, however, put it on my legs before I run and it stays on great. Whole foods and a few other markets carry it – although Amazon is usually cheaper.

Water/sport: BurnOut Eco-Sensitive SPF 35 Sunscreen
This little tube is by far my hardest working sunscreen. I wear it when I ride by bike, go for a run, swim, or do anything else where I’m going to sweat or otherwise get wet.

From the tops of my feet to the part in my hair, I use this sunscreen everywhere. I haven’t had any trouble putting it on my face. It’s a bit more work to rub in than the other two, but once you’re done you can’t really tell it’s there. I’ve tried a few other sunscreens from BurnOut, and I think this one goes on the most clear. It stays on in water pretty well, and based on the burns I’ve gotten when I’ve missed little spots, it definitely works. This one is usually a bit more expensive in most natural food stores, but it’s also on Amazon and it looks like it might be cheaper at other random online stores if you Google it.

In case you missed it:
All the sunscreens I’ve tried in the past
Sun Safely, my article in Yoga Journal