adventurous accounts : rachel ridings


observant nomad | adventurous accounts : rachel ridings

Adventurous Accounts is a semi-regular feature that gathers the experiences from adventurers to learn what travel has meant to them. My good friend Rachel has found herself in the strange, beautiful, unique and sometimes difficult position of traveling a ton lately. And during her travels, she finds herself spending a lot of time on her own. So I asked her to share with us a little bit about her experiences and how seeing the world has shaped her. 

First off, thanks for sharing your experiences! Now tell me, what’s your favorite kinds of trip? Solo, family, significant other, or gal pals?
Almost all of my travel has been by myself. My boyfriend is a touring musician, so I’ve spent a ton of time flying around the world to see him for a few days and then I go off on my own. I think having a travel buddy would be my ideal way of traveling though. When you have a friend to go with you feed off each other’s bravery and do more. When I travel alone I force myself to get out and have fun, but I think shared experiences are the most lasting ones and the ones I cherish the most.

How did you inherit the ‘travel bug’?
Honestly, I didn’t. My family has never been on a single vacation. It’s definitely something I found all on my own. I think I’ve never been one to settle for the mundane and that characteristic has driven me to being one of the most avid travelers I know!

What motivates you to get out into the big blue yonder?
Weirdly enough, photography and blogging have really motivated me. Seeing my boyfriend is another big one that’s unique to my situation. I’m just that kind of person though; I really can’t sit still for long.

observant nomad | adventurous accounts : rachel ridings

How much planning do you do before you go?
Depends on the trip, but for big ones or ones where I go alone, I do quite a bit. I book all transportation tickets and sleeping accommodations before leaving and bring two copies of every ticket. I always leave time for unplanned exploring too. It’s good to take care of the essentials before leaving though, especially when you’re on a budget.

So, what are some ways you balance touristy things with an ‘authentic’ feeling trip?
I think it all comes down to being open to new people. I have so many examples of this. In Amsterdam I met some Australian girls in my hostel. We signed up to go on a very touristy bar crawl and ended up making good friends with our tour guide. At the end of our tour he asked us if we wanted to see “real” Amsterdam and we ended up in some outrageous goth club until 8am away from all the tourists.

Another good one happened in NYC, I went out in the middle of a snowstorm for some ramen. I was the only person in the whole restaurant until a pair of middle-aged British investment bankers came in and asked to buy me a drink. One drink turned into the three of us hopping around all of NYC together. They took me out for a 5-star dinner and paid for my cab back to my hotel. Use your instincts and be smart, but don’t avoid adventure out of fear!

observant nomad | adventurous accounts : rachel ridings

observant nomad | adventurous accounts : rachel ridings

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life lately


observant nomad | life lately 06 park

observant nomad | life lately 06 beer

observant nomad | life lately 06 art

observant nomad | life lately 06

Morning my friends, thought I’d drop in to give you a little glimpse into my life lately…

01 Before the cold front that dropped in last week, the weather around here has been gorgeous. It was sunny, cool, and perfect for bike rides. So for the first time in a while I got back on my bike and took a short 10-mile ride around town. I threw on my new favorite podcast, Serial, and listened to a few episodes during the ride. I realized how much I missed all the training I was doing for my triathlon last year, and promptly ran home to stock up on warm workout clothing for the winter. Don’t call it a comeback…?

02 Rus has been gone for most of October doing what he loves the most, hunting. We’re a bit of an odd couple, and that’s the way we like it. So while he’s been doing man-things, I’ve been spending a lot more time with my girls. Lunches at The Source. Drinks at Crooked Stave. And happy hours here or there. Some friends and I even got all dressed up for Halloween and went on some brewery tours in Fort Collins. We had a blast! I’ve been giving myself a lot more permission to get out there and stop working so much. We all need balance in life, and it’s something I’ve been working harder at.

03 My amazingly talented friend Rachel is rocking her new gig, the design manager at the MCA of Denver. They had a huge art exhibition opening for Mark Motherbaugh, called Myopia, and I was able to attend the strange and amazing show. She was kind enough to invite me and I brought along a new Denver arrival, Cassie from The Veda House. I’ve had a lot of fun showing Cassie around Denver and seeing her view of my hometown. I feel like a fish in water since I grew up here, so I can’t always see it from the outside. Denver’s really exploding right now and going through a renaissance culturally. New restaurants, shops, breweries, and small businesses are opening everyday and it’s been really exciting to see old neighborhoods really evolve.

That’s it for now. If you’d like to see more of my life as it happens, follow me on Instagram @observantnomad


winter days


observant nomad | inspiration: winter days

images clockwise / pine / scarf / wood / wreath / boots

There’s a cold front moving into Denver and we’re expecting snow sometime this week. The first snow of the year, which by CO standards is a little late. I mean it’s November! It’s even more surreal because it was so gorgeous this weekend. So much so, that I went on a nice bike ride and people were sunbathing in the park. Crazy Colorado.

Honestly I was a little anti-holiday after stores had christmas decorations up before halloween :( But today with the temps dropping, I’m getting excited for winter. So I threw together some quick visual goodies of chilly winter inspiration to get me in the mood.

Rus and I were talking about a taking a mini weekend retreat to the mountains (like last year), and even my pal Rachel wants to set up a girls trip to possibly Aspen this year. So I got plenty of snow day plans that need to happen. Now it’s time to shop for some cozy sweaters.


not what ships are for


observant nomad | not what ships are for

image from social properbuy this print

Beginning earlier this year, the direction of my career at the agency has begun to shift. I haven’t written about it here because I wasn’t sure how to accurately express the confusing emotions I was experiencing. But now feels like it’s the time. While there are many situations and experiences I could list, it wouldn’t really matter. All that you need to know is that it has caused me many sleepless nights, ugly cries, terrible moods, and plenty of worried thoughts.

But, It’s not for the reasons you might think. My bosses tell me I’m a huge asset on the team, I’m producing quality work on time, helping navigate challenges along the way, and can quickly move to ACD if I stick at it. In theory I should be happy and excited to be where I find myself.

But I’m not.

I’ve realized that where my life is at right now, is a far cry from where I need it to be. For most of this year I’ve found myself not quite sure I’m moving forward, creatively or professionally. There have been many situations that arose where I’ve had a difficult time trusting and respecting the decisions being made around me, and tolling away for someone else’s dream has really driven my pain home.

Don’t get me wrong, having a job is a huge blessing. Some days still I wake up and pinch myself, saying “You get paid to create things, to have an opinion, and add value to a team.” Plus, I get to pay my bills on time. Pretty sweet deal. The security of agencies (no matter how much of a facade it is) can be a huge draw.

But I’m almost 27 years old and have never worked outside of advertising, if you don’t count freelancing. And if blogging has exposed me to anything, it’s that there are a million ways to be successful and truly happy with our journeys and careers. Fulfillment don’t always come out of a 9-5 for everyone. Sometimes it resides in the last place you’d expect.

Designer Vaca exposed me to that truth. Surrounded by so many accomplished and amazing women, I knew I wanted what they had. I wanted the ups and downs, the unknown, the struggles. I wanted them because they would be my own. After so many years of little control over my work and my life, I knew I was willing to take on the bad if it meant I could exchange it for some good. In Palm Springs, I found my own little tribe, and knew I could join, if only I believed in myself to do it.

My revelation took over a year to incubate. But now I call these last many months of confusion and struggle my catalyst. After attempting to hold onto my sanity and happiness for so long I hit a wall and the revelation came. I knew what I had to do. Because sometimes, you have to throw yourself to risk and take a chance.

While I can’t say just yet what my next steps are, I do know that these last months of personal struggle, have only opened my eyes to the path my life needs to take. I know that’s vague, and as soon as I can say more I will. Don’t worry, you’ll get to follow along the way too. But for now I think this quote from William G.T. Shedd sums it up…

A ship at harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.


minimalism with character


observant nomad | minimalism with character

image by Eve Wilson for The Design Files

Every so often I get the redecorating bug. Usually toward the end of the year when it’s chilly outside and I’m spending more time at home, I start to notice all the little things I want to change about every room!

This year it feels twice as noticeable. Being an itchy-footed person by nature, I’m always looking to change my surroundings. So when I renewed my lease for another 6 months I was feeling a little blah about not having an excuse to redecorate. So I’ve decided to start redecorating anyway!

For right now, my method to the madness is to start slowly. Instead of focusing on just the aesthetics, I’m going to organize and de-clutter my items first. There are plenty of things I could probably get rid of or figure out how to better put it together. Once I’ve landed on a strategy to the organization, then I can go out and find the right ‘things’ to hold all my stuff and make it look pretty.

observant nomad | minimalism with character

clockwise: bedroom by eve wilson for the design files / shelves via the cozy space / credenza brittany ambridge for domino /
dining table by studio oink for the style files

So when I decided I was going to tackle this ’winter redeux project’, I started sorting through my pins on Pinterest to find the right aesthetic I wanted to move towards. What I noticed is that my natural progression of aesthetics has shifted subtly over time.

For a while I wanted to be one of those people who can live in an empty white box with a window and be happy. But I found that the more I took away the color, texture, and decor of my home, the less I actually liked it. So it’s refreshing and liberating to accept that I’m someone who needs art, textures, and little pops of color here and there. I can’t wait to shape my home into something that feels more like me.

These little images of homes above feel like my sweet spot; rustic, eclectic, modern, yet minimal as well. If you want to see what my apartment looks like now, you can take a tour of Apartment 203. To see more rooms like these, check out my interior board on Pinterest.