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Last month I celebrated something special… Endless Distance’s third blogging birthday! Well, I didn’t much celebrate, rather than let it quietly pass in wonderment that yes, I have actually been blogging for three entire years.

It was a humid May in central Ohio when I started my blog – I was graduating from a tiny, idealistic liberal arts college on a hill, and felt like I was plummeting into the “real world.” Since then, this blog has seen me through a stressful summer of visa applications, a move to England, a Master’s degree, months of longterm travel throughout Europe, and… my current life. Back where I started, in Midwestern USA, getting ready for the next adventure.

And what is the next adventure? If there is one thing I’ve gotten out of blogging these past three years, it’s that my life is what I make it. I don’t need to live in foreign countries, or constantly travel (although that’s nice too ) to have a meaningful life. There is opportunity for adventure in every day, and it is my responsibility to invest in the adventurous life I dream of. A blog post isn’t naturally good because it’s about a cool place, rather it’s good because of how authentically you write it. I think life is the same way!

Endless Distances has certainly changed over the years, from something only my Grandma read, to the more professional endeavor that it is today. I’ve had so many opportunities through this little space, that I never dreamed of when I started. From ziplining through the Alps, to press trips in Michigan, to being hosted at the world-famous Stratford Theater Festival…and so much more.

My top blogging tips after 3 years of blogging

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was eight years old and our third grade teacher posed the question. But I never thought it would happen because of a little website I made myself. I am finally at the point where I feel like I know enough about blogging, freelancing, and travel writing to share some of my expertise with you all. So I will end this whimsical little post with 5 tips to bloggers:

  1. Write in your own authentic voice. The internet has enough top 10 lists to last a (few billion) lifetimes. What you can offer lies in your uniqueness.
  2. With that said, top 10 lists have their place. A good SEO-optimized top 10 list or city guide will bring the readers in. However it is your authentic voice that will make them stay.
  3. Jot notes as you travel. There is no way you will remember the names of all the restaurants, sights, hotels, and more when you get home. Be poetic. Be real. Forget about grammar. Write something that will bring you back to that moment, and then use it in your blog post.
  4. Interact with other bloggers. I became so much more invested in my own blog when I invested in other bloggers! Comment, follow, and regularly check up on your favorite bloggers. I love the Wanderful Wednesday linkup and Bloglovin for this. This will give you ideas for your own posts, and form a community.
  5. Create a contact page & reach out to companies you love. This one is two-fold, and is for anyone who feels ready to professionalize their blog. You do not need a huge following to do this (trust me!)… it is the age of the micro-influencer. Your first step is to create a very visible contact page. After I did this last year, I immediately started receiving so many emails! Next, reach out to the companies/destinations you want to work with. They do not magically know you love them/are visiting them… it is your responsibility in many cases to do the ground work. I have had great partnerships with brands who I reached out to myself. This doesn’t make you less of a blogger!

Here’s to many more years of Endless Distances!

Sarah xx

The post Blogging Birthday: Three Years of Endless Distances! appeared first on endless distances.

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endless distances by Sarahccbence@gmail.com - 1w ago

Today I’m bringing you not just any gluten free travel guide, but my most researched one ever! You could say I’ve been researching it my whole life Jokes, but today I am telling you all the best greater Lansing gluten free restaurants. I grew up in Lansing so I have had years of doing my own research! I also recently went on a press trip hosted by the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, who showed me even more gluten free restaurants in Lansing. And finally, I managed to pick the brains of my new Dietitian, who gave me an entire book about her recommended Lansing gluten free restaurants!

a yummy salad from Lansing Brewing Co!

The Greater Lansing Gluten Free Scene

A word before we begin – If you are visiting Lansing, you may know that this is Michigan’s capital city! However, it is also a metropolitan area (that’s where the “greater” comes in) covering three counties. I’ll be sharing mostly gluten free finds central to Lansing city, but there are some a bit further out in the metropolitan area that are just so good I can’t leave out!

Related: Things to do in Lansing Michigan: Touring my Hometown!

Greater Lansing Gluten Free Restaurants Red Haven

This is my favorite restaurant in the Greater Lansing area for reliable gluten free meals. I worked here for one summer but it was my favorite restaurant even before that… when I applied for my job they referred to me as “gluten free girl” haha. Red Haven makes gourmet food with unusual combinations in a tapas style. ALL ingredients are locally sourced! They do not have a separate gluten free menu because their menu changes every few weeks… but they always have gluten free options. Just ask you waiter/waitress who will provide a marked menu for you.

Also check out Red Haven’s associated food truck, the Purple Carrot Truck, which brings their yummy gluten free meals on the road. It was even featured on Diners, Drive ins, and Dives!

a film photo circa 2015… my friend Essie took this of me working in the purple carrot truck! Yum yum.

Maru

This is a sushi restaurant with a location in Okemos and a location in East Lansing. The sushi is incredibly well-made and tasty, and they serve cocktails too…they even have a sushi brunch! Maru carries gluten free soy sauce.

Sansu

Sansu is your other stop for high quality sushi in East Lansing. Their rolls are bigger than Maru’s, which means more sushi but also they hold together worse. Sansu has a special area where you sit on the floor which is fun. They carry gluten free soy sauce.

Envie

Envie is a contemporary French bistro located walking distance from the capital building in downtown Lansing. They have a long menu with lots of gluten free options (ask the waiter for the marked menu, there is no separate gluten free menu). I had the special when we went, a roasted duck Benedict with roasted vegetables. It was soooo good!

Tavern 109

Tavern 109 is located in the small town of Williamston, east of Lansing. It is in a rustic-looking building that is a repurposed bank! Tavern 109 has a separate gluten free menu with tons of options. I tried the cauliflower crust margarita pizza which I was so impressed by. It was the first cauliflower crust pizza I’ve ever had that actually tasted like normal pizza!

Flapjack Shack (DeWitt location ONLY)

This is such a wonderful breakfast option for anyone looking for a gluten free breakfast in the Greater Lansing area! Here you can find gluten free waffles and gluten free pancakes (and a separate gluten free menu)!! How excited for us celiacs and gluten intolerants. This is ONLY at the DeWitt location of the Flapjack shack. You can read an in-depth blog post by fellow gluten free blogger Margaret here.

Lansing Brewing Company

I have to mention the Lansing Brewing Company because it is so popular in Lansing! They do not have a gluten free menu or gluten free items like bread or buns, which is a bummer. However their staff if informed about gluten and there are gluten free options such as the fabulous salads. I think this is important to know for those of you traveling with gluten-loving friends who are looking for a good brewery! You won’t go hungry here

Greater Lansing Gluten Free Coffee Shops

I have a special place in my heart for boutique coffee shops and cafes. Lansing is definitely entering this scene with two new coffee shops opened within the last year. Both serve gluten free pastries!

Strange Matter

There are two locations, both in Lansing, for this minimalist yet aesthetically pleasing coffee shop. Bonus, they carry GLUTEN FREE DONUTS!!! I recommend getting a blueberry glazed gluten free donut, paired with an iced NOLA coffee.

If you live in the Lansing area, keep up with the Strange Matter Facebook page as they host lots of events!

Blue Owl Coffee

Blue Owl is located in the up and coming Reotown neighborhood of Lansing. It is beautifully decorated and the specialty pottery mugs make my heart pitter patter. Grab one of their specialty “nitro” coffees, which are brewed like beer! After messaging with the management, I can confirm Blue Owl carries gluten free pastries and granola bars, although make sure you get there early before they sell out.

If you live in the Lansing area, keep up with the Blue Owl Facebook page for events!

Glazed and Confused

Glazed and Confused is a new bakery in the Lansing area offering gluten free pastries and donuts! (Can you tell I have a thing for donuts?). They recommend calling the day ahead if you plan to visit so they can make sure the gluten free donuts are fresh.

Greater Lansing Gluten Free Chain Restaurants Grand Traverse Pie Co.

A lovely Michigan franchise serving pies, salads, and sandwiches. They carry gluten free bread and can make any sandwich gluten free. They usually have gluten free desert options out on the counter, such as gluten free cookies and brownies. There are locations in Lansing, East Lansing, and Okemos.

Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mike’s is your one stop shop in Lansing for sub sandwiches… on gluten free bread! This is truly a treat, especially for a chain restaurant. Check out the more in-depth review of Jersey Mike’s gluten free sub safety practices here.

Cottage Inn Pizza

Cottage Inn has multiple locations across the Lansing area (downtown and metropolitan). They have a MASSIVE gluten free menu and are my family’s go to place to order takeout pizza! In fact, I am writing this blog post after having a gluten free pizza and garlic bread dinner from Cottage Inn Check out their entire gluten free menu here.

Culver’s

Culver’s is a chain restaurant specializing in burgers and custard. They are fast food but I would say a step above places like McDonalds or Burger King. At Culver’s you can not only have fries cooked in a separate fryer, but also gluten free buns!! Yes, a fast food place with individually packaged gluten free buns…. I swoon.

Denny’s

This is a well known chain restaurant themed on a classic American diner. You can find breakfast at Denny’s 24 hours a day! Their menu marks all gluten free items. Notably, the sausages are gluten free and they even have gluten free english muffins. Check with your server about cross contamination practices at your specific location.

Other Greater Lansing Gluten Free Restaurants…

All of these Greater Lansing area restaurants carry gluten free menus. I have put a * by the ones that are chains:

Thank you to my dietitian for providing the above list!

Other Resources for Gluten Free in Greater Lansing

There are many more options for Lansing gluten free restaurants! All it takes is a bit of research. Here are two useful resources in addition to this blog post:

  • This blog post by the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • The MI Gluten Free Gal blog… with useful tips for celiac and gluten intolerants all over Michigan!
  • Sparrow dietitians. I see a dietitian at Sparrow hospital and I know that many others in the area who are either celiac or gluten intolerant have had very good experiences here. If you live in the Lansing area and feel like you’re struggling maintaining your gluten free diet, see if you can get a referral to Sparrow.

I hope this was helpful for any locals or visitors to the Greater Lansing area! The Lansing gluten free scene may be hard to find at first, but I promise it is there and…. ready for the eating Feel free to email or message me with any questions about being gluten free, traveling gluten free, or visiting the Lansing area!

Sarah xx

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*This blog post is in collaboration with the Greater Lansing Tourism & Convention Bureau. My meals at Tavern 109, Envie, Lansing Brewing Co. and Blue Owl were complimentary of the Greater Lansing Tourism & Convention Bureau. Envie was new to me but the other three I was already familiar with and can recommend based on multiple visits! As always, all opinions are my own.

The post Greater Lansing Gluten Free Guide appeared first on endless distances.

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I am very lucky (in a lot of ways) but here is a big one: When I was an expat in England, I didn’t have to do UK taxes because I was a student on a Tier 4 Visa. However, I did have to do my US taxes. Even though I wasn’t living in the US! Many people from the US don’t know that when you live abroad, you actually still have to file US taxes on your worldwide income. That’s a pretty important wakeup call because you do not want the IRS hunting you down, my friends! Think how complicated doing taxes for expats is: You have income in multiple countries, bank accounts in multiple countries, multiple jobs (hello blogger life), and more. Taxes for expats is no mean feat.

I literally cannot imagine doing this on my own! Up until last year, I was still able to be a dependent in my parents’ taxes because I was a student under 24 years old. My mom is also a former accountant/tax adviser/numbers pro so that helps This year, however, I am both no longer a student and no longer 24! I’m diving into this whole adulting thing, which includes taxes. When Taxes for Expats reached out to me to write this post, I honestly first felt such relief that a company like this even exists because if I am ever an expat again, I will need professional help! I also know that so many of my readers are expats/immigrants so I thought I would share a bit about doing your taxes as an expat, and the Taxes for Expats company!

*This post is sponsored by Taxes for Expats. All opinions remain my own.




What to look for in Taxes for Expats as a preparer

I think most people hate taxes, and this is largely because of what a confusing and frustrating process it can be. Going to a tax preparer can help, but when you are an expat you may find most tax preparers aren’t, well, prepared for you! There are some great things Taxes for Expats has in place to help with that:

  • Real human tax preparers. Each one has at least 10 years experience.
  • Fair and transparent pricing shown here. A quick search shows me that the average price for a tax preparer is $273. Taxes for Expats runs at $350 which is marginally more expensive but tbh seems very reasonable considering the extra skills and complications that completing taxes for expats requires!
  • Great and secure system. They do not use third parties to store your personal information.
  • Top rated tax preparer for expats! There are nearly a thousand verified reviews from expats all over the world.
  • Women-owned. Gotta add this one in because girl power.




How to complete your taxes with Taxes for Expats

The Taxes for Expats system is pretty simple. There are only 5 steps! I made an account and started going through the process and I have to say their interface is really user friendly. I’ll share a few screenshots below!

1. Register

This is just entering your basic info and creating an account. After you register you will have to answer 8 simple questions, and then you’re set!

2. Telephone consult

After registering you can have a free telephone consultation here.

3. Tax questionnaire

In your user panel, click on the “tax questionnaire” tab on the left (in black below). Then click the orange “create new questionnaire” button.

After you’ve made a new tax questionnaire, just fill it out! This form is actually online and built into your browser – no faffing about with PDFs and word documents required (is it just me or is that always the *worst* and most time consuming?!?). Below you can see some of the basic questions you get.

4. Track your progress and upload documents

In your user panel you also have access to a “documents” section where you upload and download all your relevant tax documents. You can see it below.

5. That’s it… you’re done!

All in all I am really impressed by the interface of this. It is a lot simpler than you expect when you think “taxes”!

Final Thoughts: Should you use Taxes for Expats?

Okay, having an explore is quite different from actually shelling out $350 for a service so… is Taxes for Expats worth it?

First of all, taxes aren’t optional. They are a necessary responsibility that everyone has – so it’s not deciding whether to splurge for a special treat, but rather whether to just do something you need to do, in an easier way. Preparing taxes for expats is very complicated and Taxes for Expats is transforming a usually obscure, complex, frustrating thing (taxes) into something achievable!

I know first hand that living as an expat has its fill of bureaucracy woes. From visa applications, visa renewals, and ever-changing legislature that affects everything from where you can live to how many hours a week you can work… bureaucracy is the price we pay for the privilege of living abroad. Personally, I don’t want to add any more than I have to onto this bureaucracy mountain pile. Deferring to a service like Taxes for Expats is 100% worth it in my book, especially considering the fair and transparent pricing.




Like I mentioned, my mom is a tax preparer and my boyfriend (y’all know Dan) is currently getting his chartered accountant license. I have my fair share of people to help me with taxes and give advice, but eventually that reaches its limit. In the complicated case of taxes for expats, well, thank goodness for companies like Taxes for Expats!

This post is sponsored by Taxes for Expats but I hope it was useful for all of you expats! When the next tax season rolls around, at least you will know you have options. Have any of you used Taxes for Expats or another tax preparer before… or do you dare to do them yourself?! Also just checking… all you Americans *did* know you have to be filing US taxes while you live abroad, right?!

Sarah xx

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*This post is sponsored by Taxes for Expats. All opinions remain my own.



The post Taxes for Expats: How to Survive, Thrive & Not Get Hunted Down by the IRS! appeared first on endless distances.

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endless distances by Sarahccbence@gmail.com - 3w ago

I had a flying visit to Toronto on my way home from the Women in Travel Summit. After an 8-hour day road tripping from Quebec, I arrived to Toronto sticky, cramped, and exhausted with my family. My dad was there to receive an award at a conference, but I had only 17 hours in the city before I had to hop on a Greyhound bus back to Michigan and cut the family road trip short. Due to, ya know, work. Besides just being exhausted from all the conferencing and driving and just wanting to stay in one place and CHILL, I think I also wanted to stay in Toronto because it’s… cool! As in, sunglasses emoji cool. It reminds me a bit of a Canadian Chicago. I only wish I had more time to explore, so I’m hoping I can make that happen soon…

In the mean time, I’ll be sharing my short impressions of Toronto from my 17 hour visit.

Toronto is…

A window to wide blue lake, gleaming skyscrapers

The stripe of pink on the lake’s horizon, reflecting out of glass buildings

A layered city: columns of windows reflect columns of windows. I’m caught in the mirror-maze of Toronto.

Gritty wind on the 42nd floor balcony

Signs that read “washrooms”

The silver foil of Chipotle takeaway we leave crumpled on the apartment table

The fact that unites us across borders: Guac is still extra

Sticky, crinkled exhaustion. The kind that is specific to a long car ride, and the shedding of it into a steaming shower.

Leftover and smuggled hotel-sized rose scented shampoos, lathering the memories of Quebec

Sleek pillows and sheets on my cheek

The blink and breath of a still-beating city at 4am as I stumble to the bathroom (washroom?)

Cinnamon granola, hot coffee, and almond-cocoa smoothie slurped at an 8am food court

My mom, and dad, flanking me on the sidewalk as we laugh, yell, laugh, yell

The simple Greyhound station, and the woman who I teach ‘bus protocol,’ who confesses to me in polite undertones that this is her “first time”

“Soooooorry” and “Ouuuuuut”

Glimpse of teal mid-morning lake as the bus heads West, to home, Toronto mirrored behind us

Until next time, Toronto.

Sarah xx

The post Travel Impressions | Toronto is… appeared first on endless distances.

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endless distances by Sarahccbence@gmail.com - 1M ago

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know I just had a 16-hour road trip to Quebec for the Women in Travel Summit! I love road trips because they are cheaper and better for the environment than flying, and you can stop off at so many fun places. However they are also hard. I always feel exhausted after a day in the car, and if you take into account the occasional flat tire or getting lost… well, sometimes road trips don’t seem worth the hassle! Which is why when I was recently contacted about publishing a guest post* on 5 tips for a stress free road trip, I thought it was perfect timing. I don’t usually share guest posts but I think you guys will like this one!

*This guest post is in collaboration with 1Cover. All opinions remain my own.

Follow these tips for a stress free road trip… 1) Know the driving rules of your destination

We all know that the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road, but there are lots of other sneaky driving laws. For example, in France you legally must carry your own breathalyzer in your vehicle! In Slovenia you need a vignette, and in Sweden, you need to have your headlights on at all times – even in broad daylight. In the US, driving rules and speed limits change state to state. Make sure you do your research to avoid any surprises and have a stress free road trip – you may even want to invest in travel insurance if you’re driving across borders.

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2) Be prepared

Road trips can be long, and in some cases pretty boring if you are driving through some dull, flat terrain, so make sure you have plenty of things to entertain you. Put together a playlist, or download some audiobooks or podcasts to listen to. Make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks to get you through the drive and dress in layers so that you can adapt to the weather. Keep a first aid kit in the trunk and various other emergency supplies, that you will hopefully not need to use, but will be good to have, just in case.

 

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3) Plan the route + stops on the way

This seems obvious but make sure you plan your route carefully. Be sure to schedule in the various places you want to stop off on the way as these may change the way you decide to go. You can look up your route on Google Maps and then use the “stops on the way” option to search for stops. It will also help if you know when you will be able to stop for toilet breaks and food. Allow yourself plenty of time to account for traffic and perhaps getting out and looking at particularly nice views or quirky roadside attractions. After all, in a stress free road trip the journey is as important as the destination.



4) Pack carefully

Make sure you don’t over pack your car as it will make it heavy, cramped and actually use even more gas! Use a trash bag in the car to clean up any snack wrappers as you go, and utilize your car’s lighter port or USB port for charging your devices (make sure to also have a USB-phone cable on hand). Tissues, anti-bacterial and wet wipes will also be useful when you’re on the road!

 

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5) Inspect your car

There is nothing more stressful than having to cut short a road trip because there is something wrong with your car. Check your lights, oil and tires to make sure your vehicle is ready to roll, and make sure you have plenty of gas to get to your destination, or at the very least, the next gas station.

If you follow these tips, you will have an amazing stress free road trip adventure, but be aware – they’re addictive! If you have any other tips, let me know in the comments!

Sarah xx

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*This guest post is in collaboration with 1Cover. All opinions remain my own.



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