Get to know our Travel Insurance Master Affiliates, Ashlee and Pablo of The Happiness Function! Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they are on a mission to inspire happiness through travel and outdoor recreation in the US.

The Happiness Function

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Ashlee, when did you start your blog?

We started our blog in October 2020.

Walk me through how or why you started?

Pablo and I have a fun and unique love story!

I (Ashlee) grew up in a military family in the US, and we moved around quite a bit. Growing up, we lived in California, Japan, Illinois, and South Dakota. The wanderlust bug was sparked in me from a young age!

My family moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota in the late ’90s when my Dad retired from the US Marine Corps. I attended late middle school and high school in rural South Dakota. Because we lived in such a remote place, my love for the outdoors blossomed. I got into solo hiking and being outside. I also met many wonderful friends who taught me how to be outdoorsy.

I landed a scholarship in Colorado, where I did my undergrad and graduated with a B.S. in Biology. My love for the outdoors is why I decided to be a Biology major in the first place.

While working on my undergrad in Colorado, I was part of the Outdoor Program (The OP). The OP taught me how to do so many adventure sports activities from rock-climbing, whitewater rafting, whitewater kayaking, mountaineering, canyoneering, as well as backpacking through international countries with little money. For example, in 2006, while in college, my friends and I literally spent three weeks in Mexico for less than $500! We drove from Grand Junction, Colorado, to La Paz in Baja, Mexico, in a van with our sea kayaks! We camped on the beaches, stayed in hostels, sea kayaked, and explored Baja. So many fun stories about wandering aimlessly through Central and South American countries in college.

As a Bio major, I also had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad in Ecuador. We spent a little under a month studying the diverse ecosystems and plants in the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Basin. Being outdoors in nature is and has always been my happy place.

After graduation, I had a summer internship where I worked for the National Park Service in Utah. I helped with qualitative and quantitative plant and soil surveys at Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. During this summer, I lived in a tent for three months! It was a wonderful experience. It taught me so much about myself…

I’m also really conscientious about biological soil crust in the desert now and try to talk about protecting it as much as possible on our blog! I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the importance of biological soil crust on the Colorado Intermountain Plateau. We try to stress the saying, “Don’t bust the crust,” and educate on the importance of staying on the trail while hiking in the desert.

Pablo is from Argentina and spent years doing back-to-back ski seasons as a ski and snowboard instructor in Colorado and Patagonia (South America). Along with helping me with the blog, keeping our outdoor equipment organized and maintained, Pablo is also a wastewater operator who helps protect water supplies in the local area. He’s working on his BA in business right now too!

We met in Breckenridge, Colorado, eight years ago, and both share a passion for the outdoors. Pablo and I started snowboarding, camping, and hiking together. The next thing we knew, we were getting hitched! We adventure eloped alone with our dog, Sunny, on the Colorado National Monument during a snowstorm. It was awesome!

We have been documenting our trips together for years, and I kept telling Pablo I wanted to write a book. He suggested I start a blog!

In December 2019, my Dad passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack, and I ended up leaving my corporate job due to depression and the devastation from the sudden loss. Pablo and I talked about moving back to South Dakota or somewhere north, closer to my family. Then, COVID happened, so we decided to stay put in Oklahoma. After months of soul searching, praying, meditating, overcoming grief, being jobless, along with the forced downtime of the pandemic, I decided to get off my butt and start the blog! I was ready to put my voice out there to help others live their best life!

We have been writing about the backlog of our US adventures over the years for the last seven months while sprinkling new adventures in about Oklahoma and Arkansas. We have just been loving exploring Oklahoma and Arkansas. We had no idea Oklahoma and Arkansas were so beautiful, especially coming from Colorado.

Our newest goal is to see all of the incredible state parks Oklahoma and Arkansas have to offer! We have absolutely fallen in love with the South.

Do you feature a specific type of travel or area?

We write a lot about the states we have lived in, such as South Dakota, Colorado, and Oklahoma. We also write about the neighboring states to places we have lived, such as Utah, Arizona, and Arkansas. Primarily, our blog focuses on the Western US.

Our long-term bucket list goal is to visit all 50 US states together someday and write about them as we go.

Our big thing with the blog is promoting the freedom to travel and road trip from your car with little planning. We don’t make a big “to-do” to adventure. We look at maps, throw our camping and hiking gear in the car, the dog, and go! We like to explore places close to home that don’t require elaborate planning. However, a few times a year, we will make big road trips. This summer, we are doing a multi-week road trip from Tulsa to the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida. We can’t wait! And, we have our travelers' insurance ready for this big road trip!

We recently splurged and decided to upgrade from tent camping and purchased a small Aliner camper. We are getting older and are ready to experience RV life! Sleeping on the ground hurts these days, so we’ll be writing about RV life too!

What is your favorite part about being a blogger?

My favorite part about being a blogger is inspiring happiness through travel and outdoor recreation. That is why we named our blog “The Happiness Function.” Our big thing is inspiring people to get outdoors, recharge in nature, be happy, free, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life like enjoying a hike, campfire, or watching a sunset.

We like to keep things simple and hope to spread that message – you don’t have to plan elaborate vacations and spend a lot of money to have a good life or have a good time! You don’t even need to take vacation time from work! Just explore places close to home!

What is your favorite or dream destination?

Our favorite state is definitely Utah. We spent a lot of time in the backcountry entirely off the grid and loved every minute. We miss those days!

Our favorite dream destination that we splurged on was to visit Hawaii twice! We have been to Oahu and Maui, and I can say the hype is real!

We tried to travel like locals as much as possible in Hawaii. We made our food, hiked, brought our snorkeling equipment, and rented a car. When we visited Oahu, we stayed with friends! Both visits to Hawaii were magical, and we would love to go back someday. 

What is your favorite travel tip?

Our favorite travel tips are to bring your own food, pack snacks, and know how to read a map! Making your food helps you stay healthy while traveling, and you don’t spend as much money. Being able to read a map is key to adventuring outdoors, so you don’t get lost, but also so you can appreciate natural treasures off the beaten path.

Another critical travel tip is always to buy travel insurance for international travel or when flying. In the last year and a half, we had two major international trips prepaid and canceled due to unexpected life events. In December 2019, Pablo and I had prepaid an entire trip to Mexico, and my Dad passed away two days before we were supposed to leave. The trip was refunded 100%. In March of 2020, Pablo and I had plans to fly to Argentina to visit his Mom. One day before international flights were canceled globally due to the pandemic, we decided not to get on the plane. We received a full refund on tickets that were thousands of dollars each. Always buy travel insurance – you just never know…

What other suggestions do you have for travelers?

Don’t wait to retire until you decide to travel and live your best life! We have to live our best life every day! In the last year, we have lost so many people that had no idea their days were numbered. Don’t wait to pursue your dreams.

What suggestions do you have for bloggers, or what has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome with your blog?

The biggest obstacle for our blog has been learning to run a company, create content, build a website, and market all simultaneously.

Most companies have multiple people who have specific job roles. As a blogger, we do it all. So, be patient and kind with yourself. Hire expert help if you need it. Invest in your blog and treat it like a business!

How can our readers follow your travels?

We would love to see new faces at The Happiness Function. We are trying hard to create a community of adventurers that like to keep it real and keep it simple!

We want to help people find unique places to adventure in their own backyards.

Be sure to follow The Happiness Function on their blog and social!

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