“Wow, this year is going SO fast! I can’t believe it’s the end of August, it feels like summer just started.” “School has started already, it’s unbelievable. My baby is a junior. He’ll be graduating next year! “It’s September? Wow, I need to get more work done.”
And likely in three months, you are going to say,
“It’s almost Christmas! 2012 has almost come and gone.“Another semester under my belt, it went faster than I thought.” “Time goes so fast… it feels like yesterday that I…”
The changing of seasons, the start of a new school year, birthdays; starts and ends have a way of demarcating the time and pointing out how fast, how very fast life goes. Often acute feelings of nostalgia and anxiety follow suit, for a brief moment. Then we settle comfortably back into our normal blur.
We can go through life in a haze. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Stuck in a constant cycle, we run in place until we dig a rut for ourselves so deep that we can’t see the life going on around us at the surface.
Routine kills our ability to celebrate life. Winning the rat race still makes you a rat.
So, how do you snap out of it? How do you climb out of your rut and live in the beautiful life on the surface? How do you slow down time? When will you say, “Wow, it’s still August?”
Call them tricks, call them strategies, call them goals, call them resolutions. Call them whatever you want as long as you do whatever you need to do to wake up, to shake up your life, to become acutely aware of what you are doing right now and how truly blessed you are right now. When you wake up, when you savor, when you notice, life does and will slow down. My suggestions:
Around You, to you, or you, because of you: Journal, blog, or write letters (yes, real letters). Document what is happening to you, for you, because of you, and around you. The process of putting your experiences into words renders active reflection and causes you to notice. Most importantly, you think about things instead of moving on to the next immediately. Make bullet points to save time, just reflect.
Pack up and go: When you travel, life feels richer because you make time to slow down, to be adventurous, and to notice your environment. If you are in a new place, you are constantly taking in more information and learning. You are soaking in every moment. I encourage you to travel more, even to the town close by. Make more time for adventure, for enjoyment.
Shutterbug: Take more pictures of daily life. Take pictures of the dinner you just made, of your neighbor’s dog, of your friends. Don’t reserve your camera only for travel. Take a photo a day. Make a conscious effort to document small special moments and life will slow down. You will look back over them and smile, remembering that day.
Catch Z’s: No one likes the guy who brags about sleeping for 3 hours. They don’t. When you are rested you are ready to take on the day’s challenges. You think more creatively, are more productive in your day, and hold more interesting conversations. You are happier and more fun to be around. When you are really awake physically, you can be awake mentally. Life is better, time slows down. Live with intention and make it happen.
Celebrate: Make a big deal out of small victories and small moments. Go out for ice cream, toast at dinner, do a happy dance. Say I love you, say thank you. Again, make a conscious effort to both notice and pay tribute to small moments in the everyday.
Be Skillful: What have you always wanted to learn? Take an active effort towards it. Sign up for a class, subscribe to a blog, read a book. Then you will remember this season, this year, as the time you learned x,y,z. You will remember that experience.
What will you do to slow down time? What do you already do that works for you? Comment below!
Ahh, airplane etiquette. Some days I think a debriefing should be included after the airline safety presentation. Common courtesy goes a long way in making the flight enjoyable for everyone. Having flown 20 times since June 1, I have compiled a list of events that won’t be added to the Olympics any time soon, despite what some passengers may think.
- Bag vs. Passenger Face Boxing: When boarding the plane, carry your purse/bag in front of you; not to the side, not overhead, not behind you. Stop hitting people in the face, in the shoulder, and in the ankles. No one likes it.
- Window Seat Vaulting:You have an aisle seat. They are at the window. When they want to sit down, unbuckle your seat belt and stand in the aisle. No one is skinny enough to maneuver the three inches of space available, nor agile enough to vault into place. Get up!
- Drink Cart Jousting: You have to pee. The flight attendants are serving drinks to 200 people. Let them finish and then use the bathroom. You can wait another 20 minutes and avoid royally inconveniencing them.
- Seat Back Climbing: When walking down the aisles or entering your row, avoid grabbing the seat backs. You likely just woke up someone who spent the last 30 minutes trying to fall asleep.
- Chair Luge: Just because your seat reclines, doesn’t mean it should!
- Armrest Wrestling: Let’s settle this once and for all. The person with the middle seat gets both armrests. If you are by the window, lean against the window. If you are in the aisle, you have the outside armrest and easy aisle access. Stop being greedy!
- Synchronized Standing: When the seatbelt sign turns off and you are in row 27, there is no need to stand. Relax for 15 minutes, you have time. If the guy across the aisle exits before you, it really is OK.
- 40m Aisle Dash Immediately After Landing: The people in the rows ahead of you have the right away. They exit first. Unless you have a connection in the next 20 minutes, wait your turn.
What events would you add? Comment below!
This is a guest post by Sherry Dryja. Sherry blogs at Jet Planes and Coffee and is most at home when traveling the globe, meeting new people, and exploring their communities. She and her husband spend half the year visiting places near and far. Each location is experienced to the fullest by taking tours, eating where the locals eat, and soaking in as much culture as can be found in museums, theater offerings, markets, and festivals. Jet Planes and Coffee documents her travels while sharing what she learns along the way. I have truly enjoyed reading her articles and have gained both knowledge and inspiration from reading them!
Forget about renting a car. Book your stay in the heart of a city and get walking! Walking is one of the best ways to learn about a place and get fit at the same time. Below are six tools to make it easier to choose walking when you travel.
1. A well-placed hotel or vacation rental: This will make or break it for you if you’re trying to integrate walking into your travel plans. For a more local experience, try a vacation rental. Both VRBO.com and HomeAway.com can help you connect with property managers and home owners with condos or houses near the places you’d like to visit. Save some pennies by eating in for breakfast and lunch. There are lots of options available, both domestic and international, which fit all types of interests and budgets.
2. A map app: This probably goes without saying, but a good map app on your smart phone or computer goes a long way in strategizing integrated walks.
3. FitBit or other step-tracking device: Pedometers are great motivators.
Knowing how many steps you take or don’t take in a day can help you make little decisions that have a big impact on your fitness goals. I choose FitBit because it not only tracks my steps, it helps me keep track of calories I’ve eaten and burned, and hours of sleep I get.
My recommendation for excellent winter footwear is any boot by Aquatalia by Marvin K. These boots are truly meant for walking in any weather, rain, snow, or shine, and they are are built for comfort and durability. They’re also surprisingly stylish.
5. Clothes that can take you from the sidewalk cafe to the theater: My go-to brand for travel wear is Eileen Fisher. They move easily from one situation to another. Plus, they pack easily, hardly wrinkle, and layer well.
For budget shoppers, try eBay to pick up deals on pre-owned Eileen. Her clothes stand up to abuse and time, so don’t be ashamed about seeking out the pre-owned stuff. I do it all the time.
Hubby finds Original Penguin to be a good brand for mid-range-priced items which can be dressed up or down. For the summer he’s living in Original Penguin shorts and graphic tees he finds on Zazzle.com. When he wants to dress that up, he throws on a dark pair of jeans or dress pants, keeps the graphic tee, and adds a lightweight blazer.
6. Cross-body bag or backpack: A good, lightweight cross-body bag or backpack is a must. Cole Haan’s Jitney Ali Crossbody is great for accessing ID at the airport quickly and tooling around town with all the essentials, including cell phone and Chapstick. The brand “Picnic Time” makes an insulated backpack I’ve been eyeing for trips to the farmers market or grocery store. It could double as a carry-on. I also own an elastic belt called the “SPIbelt” that hides pockets beneath loose-fitting tops when I don’t want to carry a purse. Trust me. It’s not your grandmother’s fanny pack!
Who Lived There: Mount Vernon is where George Washington lived as well as his wife Martha, his step-children John and Martha, and his grandchildren George Washington and Eleanor.
Where is Mount Vernon? Mount Vernon is located on the banks of the Potomac, 16 miles south of Washington, D.C. and 8 miles south of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, at the southern terminus of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
What You Can Do There:
- Tour the Mansion: See George Washington’s chair, bedroom, kitchen, etc. The rooms are restored to their 1799 appearance, the year that George Washington died. The outside of the mansion appears to be sandstone, but it is actually pine! The wood was beveled, painted, and then sand was added to give the appearance of sandstone.
- See the tomb of George and Martha Washington.
- See the demonstration by the working blacksmith.
- Visit the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center which included over 500 original artifacts and video presentations. You must see the 4D-film on the Battle of Yorktown, Trent, and Boston. You feel the vibrations of cannons in your seat and snow falls during the movie!
- Watch the inspiring film, We Fight to Be Free, in the Ford Orientation Center
- Visit the heritage animals, including hogs, chicken, sheep, lambs, oxen, and more.
- Talk with a Martha Washington, a character performer who is happy to discuss life at Mount Vernon.
- Visit the dozen original structures on the plantation.
- Walk through the vegetable and flower gardens.
- Dine at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant
- Hang out on the back porch of the mansion and gaze out at the Potomac
- Shop at the shops at Mount Vernon
- Walk to the demonstration farm and go inside the 16-sided barn.
When You Should Go: Plan to spend several hours there, 2-3 hours passes very quickly! Mount Vernon is open 365 days of the year. April through August, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. March, September, and October, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. November through February, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m The least crowded time of day is in the afternoon, as school groups tend to go when Mount Vernon opens until right before lunch. Mondays are the least crowded days of the week. Peak season is during holidays and March 15-May 31.
Why You Need to Go: Personally, I think visiting the home of our first president is an incredible opportunity. The fact that it even exists should be enough of a reason to go. However, visits to Mount Vernon are very enjoyable. Life at the plantation is active, the grounds are beautiful, and there is plenty to see and do. It is a great place to spend an afternoon outdoors and you inevitably walk away knowing something you didn’t know before you arrived. The education center will teach you in an hour what you likely learned in a year of school using engaging, hands-on exhibits. Go see Mount Vernon! You won’t regret it.
Have you been to Mount Vernon? What did you think? Comment below!
This is a guest post by Sara Harenchar. Sara is the Audience Development Manager at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, PA. You can learn more about her at www.saraharenchar.com. Follow her on Twitter @Sara_pittPG.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit, but until this past year, I’d never traveled solo. I always thought it would be too risky and a little lonely. But a week before the fall trip abroad I’d planned for 2011, I found out I’d be traveling to Italy and Croatia alone. My friend’s student visa got held up in UK Customs and she couldn’t leave England.
Should I really do this?
At first, I panicked. I was meeting up with some Italian friends and also planned to meet my relatives in Italy for the first time. Now I’d have to worry about navigating everything, and finding a safe place to stay – by myself. Although I’d been to Italy, I’d never been to Croatia and had no sense of the culture or navigating the area.
I could have easily gotten out of traveling alone by opting to stay in London. But what was so wrong with trying it on my own?
After a short day spent in London, I tried to sleep for a few hours before a 6AM flight. I had a panic attack, not knowing where I would stay, if I would reach all the destinations I wanted to, if I would make it back safely. And then something inside me said, you have to just DO this. Had I been all over the world, even on the Great Wall of China, just to chicken out over a little Eurotrip? By the time I got in that 4AM cab, I was exhausted.
The relief and the reward
When you see Venice, you will never want to see a representation of it again. I chose a group hostel after reading reviews online, and asked for a single room. I ended up being placed in a group room and met people from all over the world. Best of all, I got a good night’s sleep and heard about other’s adventures.
I met up with my friends in Vicenza, Italy, exploring the culture, trying to communicate through our language barriers, sharing delicious meals and each other’s company.
I met my ancestors Udine for the first time, and stood in the church where my Great-grandparents were married. It was better that I was on my own: how could anyone else appreciate in the same way I could, seeing my 85-year-old cousin Carlo point out the graves of my ancestors in an Italian village in the alps? Or eating homemade spaghetti and bread made by his wife, Stefania in their tiny kitchen? Or sharing gelato with my 5-year-old cousin Fabio?
I spent a day in Trieste, a beautiful coastal city near Carlo’s house where a bus would depart for Croatia. I could no longer go to Zagreb as originally planned – It was too far away. So I chose the coastal city of Pula. I kayaked on the Adriatic sea, ate delicious meals, enjoyed the hotel’s daily brunch, and spent time just basking in the sun – perfect for the wandering traveler. I spent a few final days in London – best parts? Cheese at Gordon’s wine bar, strolling through shops in Islington, and Gordon’s Market.
When hitches come up in your plans, you always have to make choices. The key with travel is to ask not “Why now?” but “Why not?”
Important Tips for the Solo Traveler:
- Luggage drop offs: really, its ok. Try it.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night.
- Be careful about where you use an ATM or computer.
- Purse/bag on front of body, passport on your person. Repeat.
I must admit, I don’t mind long car rides. It gives me the chance to relax, enjoy great conversation with my husband, and let my mind wander. Although I can still tap into the 3G network on my phone, there is something comforting about being forced to detach myself from my computer and the internet. Inevitably, however, some external force is still needed to keep me from gauging my eyes out. Here is how I stay entertained:
- Magazines: Rarely do I actually allow myself to sit down and look through a magazine at home. I’ll hoard my magazines in anticipation of an upcoming car ride. Once in the car, however, I let myself devour Backpacker, Bicycling, and (somewhat shamefully) Better Homes & Gardens. J
- Audiobooks: After I become nauseous from looking through magazines, I’ll set myself up with audiobooks. Lately I’ve been into History in an Hour. They’re tagline is “history for busy people”… perfect.
- Podcasts: Podcasts are my driving hero. In 5-25 minutes, I learn something, feel productive, and am entertained. My favorites? TED Talks (audio only), RSA, Convince and Convert, and Michael Hyatt.
- Daydreaming/Writing: Driving often causes me to brainstorm or to run ideas past my husband (he can’t escape now, can he? ) If I feel particularly inspired, I will crack open my computer and do some writing. Again, the lack of internet provides a welcomed focus!
- Car/Road Sign Games: I won’t pretend that I’m above the annoying memory or road sign games. David and I actually get pretty competitive about it, which makes it more fun.
- ABC: Go through the alphabet finding a word on a sign that starts with A, then one that starts with B, then C etc. Race whoever else is in the car to see who can go through the alphabet first. You can cheat for X using exit. A major shout-out to Zaxby’s restaurant and Quality Inn for existing and causing this game to be shorter.
- Categories: Pick a category. Go back and forth naming things in that category until someone can’t name one. Whoever wins gets a point. Figure out what point value you are playing to ahead of time.
- Ghost: The objective of ghost is not to finish spelling a word. The first person says a letter, the next person says a letter, etc. If you finish a word, you get a letter in “Ghost”. First person to spell Ghost loses. For example, First person says “A”, second person says “R”, first person says “T”. Since ART was spelled, the first person loses. They get a “G” in ghost. The next time the first person loses, they get a “H”. If they lose 5 times, spelling ghost, the game is over.
How do you entertain yourself on long road trips? Comment below!
In no particular order, here are some of the amazing things I have seen or witnessed this month during my travels:
- Witnessed a full honors wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns
- Stood beneath the space shuttle Discovery
- Toured the Capitol
- Saw a performance of Shear Madness at Kennedy Center
- Saw a giant squid
- Looked through Thomas Jefferson’s library
- Went on a ghost tour of Alexandria
- Stood where Abraham Lincoln spoke the Gettysburg Address
- Walked through George Washington’s home
- Saw a duck ramp, and watched a duck almost go down it.
- Cheered for the red and yellow knight at Medieval Times
- Saw Roberto Clemente’s jersey and batting helmet
- Saw a $100,000 bill
- Saw Franco Harris’ helmet
- Walked around the SR-71
- Saw Pieces of the Berlin Wall
- Cruised on the Potomac
- Saw the hat and shoes of the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz
- Met a Holocaust survivor and heard his story
- Saw the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz
- Saw dinosaur fossils
- Saw the Hope Diamond
- Watched students reading excerpts from the Martin Luther King’s“I have a dream” speech on the same spot where he stood
- Saw Archie Bunker’s chair
- Watched my husband balance the following, jenga-style, in or attached to our truck (at the same time): a sailboat, 2 kayaks, 4 bicycles, 15 bike tires, 5 fishing poles, 2 oars, 2 kayak paddles, and varying yard tools. He proceeded to drive for 8 hours with all in tow.
- Saw a 16-sided barn
It has been a very busy and exciting month in Washington D.C.! I feel so blessed to have experienced what I did and I look forward to the exciting adventures of the summer!
What have you experienced this month? What are you looking forward to experiencing this summer?
Let’s get the litany of excuses for the lack of blogging out of the way:
- I’ve been leading tours of Washington D.C. for the majority of May.
- Blogging hasn’t been prioritized.
- I’m moving to a different state in less than a week.
- I’m packing for 6 weeks of international travel.
There, fine. I said it and it’s all out in the open. My plan to write ahead of time failed! I have been fully immersed in tour leading this month and have loved it! It has been such a wonderful, welcomed challenge. Tour leading has developed and used so many skill sets including:
- People Skills: Adults, students, teachers compose the groups. Each person begins the trip with varying expectations and apprehensions. Relating to the different types of people, gaining their trust, and making sure their expectations are exceeded (not just met) are the responsibilities of a tour leader.
- U.S. History Knowledge: When traveling through Washington D.C., all U.S. history is fair game for questioning. All people, events, and buildings with even a minor tie-in to the past or present workings of our country is on the table.
- Navigation: To be effective, a tour leader must know the efficient routes around the city, where buses can and cannot park, what building entrances groups can use, and alternatives to all of the above in case of a road closing. A few weeks ago, President Obama decided to return to the White House during rush hour at almost the exact time the bus was to pick our group up on 15th street, which had just closed.
- Public Speaking: Tour leaders are relating facts, stories, and directions for days on end. If you have a fear of public speaking, you overcome that very quickly.
- Handling Logistics: There is so much to see in D.C. Figuring out how to fit it all in, while keeping the group interested and happy is certainly a developed skill. Coordinating meals, hotels, buses, night security, etc. also plays a major part.
- Entertainer/Story-Telling Ability: Tour leaders must not just relate facts, but must also entertain and be a great story-teller.
- Fitness: D.C. is best seen on foot, no questions about it. Miles are covered daily
Scholastica Travel tour leaders aren’t city guides who step on the bus, show you around, and then say goodbye at the end of the day. We are with our groups from the time they leave their school until when they return, including at hotels, for all meals, and for all bus travel. These multi-day tour elements certainly add new challenges along the way, but allow you to get to know the people and customize the experience to their interests.
This month I’ve traveled with students who have never left their home state, who have never stayed in a hotel, who have never been to a major city. I’ve also worked with students who likely wouldn’t have an opportunity outside of this trip to experience the nation’s capital. I am so grateful to the teachers who are making these experiences possible for their students and am honored to play a role in the process, to teach and to hopefully inspire.
Our house just sold. The fleeting feelings of extreme excitement have been quickly replaced by heartache. I love Chapel Hill. Over the past three years, I have certainly found my nearby favorite things, places, and people that have made it my home. The fantastic weather, UNC sports, and the two hour drive to the beach are a given, but here are my other favorites:
Jordan Lake: There are few better ways to spend a weekend than at the lake. Since we’ve lived here, we have taken sailing lessons and now are proud owners of a Hobie Cat and kayaks. Being on or around the water gives me peace and immense happiness. Last Friday we went kayaking and saw FIVE great blue heron, all hunting for fish.
- Dairyland Biking: It is tough to imagine a better place to bike than out on Dairyland road and the surrounding area. Rolling hills, smooth pavement(mostly), stretching farmland, and little traffic. Cars expect to see you and are respectful. I have a 50 mile route and can count the times I need to stop at lights on one hand. Glorious is an understatement.
- Eno River State Park: Great place for leisurely day hikes.
- Duke Gardens: Beautiful, active gardens and garden center. I have enjoyed volunteering at the gardens in the education department and recommend that you get involved!
Maple View Farm: Nothing beats homemade ice cream at the dairy. Carolina Crunch is my all-time favorite ice cream (sorry Ben & Jerry’s!)
- Pint Night at Tyler’s: 95% of the glasses in my home are from Tyler’s. If I break a glass by accident, no worries. Back to Tyler’s I go.
- Shiki Sushi: Blue Sea, Caterpillar, Superman, Marry, Woman in Red, Outer Banks, Toro, Toro, Toro, Special Maguro… I haven’t tasted a roll I didn’t like!
- Carrburritos: Big burritos, fresh ingredients, punny name (It’s in Carrboro).
- Mama Dip’s: Sweet potato biscuits. That is all.
- Breadmen’s: Get the french toast with french bread.
- Allen & Son’s: Best BBQ Ever.
- Beer/Wine at Grocery Stores: I grew up in Pennsylvania, and will soon be moving back to Pittsburgh. The ability to buy beer and wine at a grocery store is a luxury I have yet to take for granted and will certainly miss. I will also miss being able to buy New Belgium beer, but am looking forward to the land of Yuengling.
North Carolina Zoo: I love the expansive layout, creative exhibits, and interspersing of artwork and bronze statues at this zoo. It would make for a gorgeous park alone!
- NC Theatre: My husband and I are season ticket holders for the NC Theatre shows in Raleigh. Every performance has been extremely well done and truly deserving of the standing ovations received.
- ASL Classes at Durham Tech: I am finishing the intermediate level American Sign Language class at Durham Tech. Let it be known that Raven Sheridan is one my favorite professors I have ever had, in any discipline. I have learned so much from her in such a short period of time and am very grateful!
- Go Heels!!
Do you live in Chapel Hill or have visited? What are your favorite things that may not have made this list?
There really is an app for everything these days. With the continually improving quality of iPhone cameras as well as the numerous post-processing apps available, I often default to my phone when traveling without sacrificing too much quality. I either shoot with the Nikon D300 with 18-200 lens or my iPhone. The middle man point-and-shoot has been replaced!
As a contributing author for The Scholastica Postcard, a blog by Scholastica Travel Inc., I want to refer you to their recent post, “iPhone Camera Apps for Travel Photography, Tested in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.” as it provides a relevant review of 7 great iPhone apps that I use frequently. The post shows photos taken in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia using the following apps, ScratchCam FX, CameraBag, Dramatic Black and White, Photo Artista Oil, NightCap, PicStitch, and Phoster. Here are a few photos from the review:
Personally, NightCap is my favorite. Although the iPhone flash is very powerful, it tends to washout my photos in lowlight environments. The up to 15x extended shutter speed truly improves the photo quality. Using the app itself takes some getting used to, as it isn’t entirely obvious when you have taken the picture. Download NightCap and use the flash only as a flashlight.
Additionally, I recently purchased a Glif and a GorillaPod and love the combination. They’re lightweight, easy-to-pack, and improve my photo taking capabilities. The Glif provides a stable tripod mount and can accommodate the phone in multiple vertical and horizontal configurations. It can also act as an independent stand.
GorillaPods are an obvious giant in the photography industry due to their ability to mount to just about anything and stabilize cameras in virtually any configuration. Using the GorillaPod has helped tremendously in setting up timed photos while hiking, and in other situations where a flat surface isn’t readily available. Furthermore, tripod use works well with NightCap since it stabilizes the camera during the lengthened shutter speed time.
Take-Home Message: Read this post. Download Nightcap and extend your capabilities with a Glif and GorillaPod.
I am looking for writers to guest blog on Traveling Chicha while I am in Hong Kong and Costa Rica during June and July. Travel bloggers, photographers, and food bloggers welcome!
Although I will certainly write about my experiences when I return (or as internet access allows), I am reaching out to the travel community to add vibrancy to this blog by sharing their experiences in Costa Rica and Hong Kong.
I will publish a post each Tuesday and Thursday in June/July on the following:
- Hong Kong/Costa Rica Travel: That is where I will be!
- Hong Kong/Costa Rica Food: That is what I will be eating!
- Hong Kong/Costa Rica Photos: That is what I will be taking!
- General Travel Experiences: Compelling insights or personal travel reflections welcome. I hope to have them as well!
Preference will be given to posts on Hong Kong and Costa Rica. However, general travel writing may also be submitted and accepted. Post length should be between 250-600 words and include a relevant photo.
If you are interested, please email your idea(s) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include Casting Call: Costa Rica, Casting Call: Hong Kong, or Casting Call: Travel in the subject line, as appropriate. All entries will be approved by me in advance. Your posts will introduce you as well as link to your blog or website. All entries must be received by May 5, 2012 to be considered. Thank you, ahead of time, for your contributions! I am excited about this opportunity to further network with my readers and the blogging community.The Blissful Adventurer has already signed up!
All the Best,
Rain or shine, Philadelphia can be a surprisingly fun town. Here are five fun things to do if you find yourself in the city of brotherly love:
1.Mural Mile Walking Tour: With over 3,000 murals covering building exteriors in Philadelphia, it is difficult not to pass several when doing anything in the city. However, organized themed tours make for a fun afternoon and add meaning to what you are seeing. The mural mile walking tour is free, self-led, and covers 17 gorgeous murals. I highly recommend it!
2. Reading Terminal Market: Foodies rejoice! At the Reading Terminal Market, you will find all the fresh produce, meats, seafood, baked goods, and poultry you could possibly want. Enjoy your next meal at the market and feast on soft pretzels, crepes, or a famous Tommy Dinic’s roast pork sandwich. Many say Dinic’s rivals the Philly cheese steak. After tasting it this past weekend, I’d have to agree!
3. Fairmount Park: Fairmount Park follows the Schuylkill River along Kelly and Martin Luther King Drives. The long paved pathways are great for running, biking, or walking. Watch the rowers as they practice or race on the river. Spring is welcomed by beautiful blooming cherry trees.
4. Magic Gardens: The Magic Gardens cover what seems like a full city block in mosaics, adding a whimsical touch to the entire area. Mosaic materials range from colored glass pieces, to bike wheels, to glass bottles, to coffee cups, to plates. The gardens add a whole new meaning to “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Admission to the gardens costs $5, but you can get your fill of mosaics for free by just exploring the area.
5. Photo Ops:There is no shortage of fun places to take pictures and goof around in Philadelphia. Pretend to hold up giant dominoes in Municipal Plaza, run the steps of the Art Museum like Rocky Balboa, or grab three friends and spell out LOVE in John F. Kennedy plaza.
Additional photos from these locations:
- America’s Best Public Markets by Frommers
- Dinic’s on Man V. Food
- On Philly’s Walls, Murals Painted with Brotherly Love by NPR
What are your favorite things to do in Philadelphia? Comment below!
I am very thankful that I live in area that experiences four distinct seasons, as seasonal change is always a time of reflection for me. As March draws to a close and spring kicks into full gear, I am reminded to do a quarter year check-in. Am I growing? What lessons have I learned over the last three months? Am I on track with the goals I laid out in January? How can I improve this quarter? Spring is a great reminder to let go of what happened in winter, to look forward, and to grow!
Last week I had the immense privilege of being in Washington D.C. for the peak bloom of the cherry blossom trees. This year holds special significance as it is the centennial celebration of the gift of the cherry blossoms from Japan. Beyond the layer of whimsy that the blossoms added to the city, the scent was unbelievable! It was a wonderful feeling to close my eyes, take a deep breath of the blooms, and feel the cool breeze of spring. Happy Spring!
More Cherry Blossom Photos:
What have you been doing to celebrate Spring? What do you look forward to about this season? Comment below!
1. Travelers are the ones who “really live”. Happiness and adventure are a mindset. If you want adventure, change your routine. If you want happiness, hunt it down. A fantastic life is staring you right in the face, waiting to be embraced. You do not need to travel to the far corners of the earth to live a passion-filled, exciting life. That is a mindset you must adopt and actively pursue. Live your life on purpose.
2. Countdown until vacation. It is perfectly acceptable to plan and be excited for your next vacation. However, do not idolize the trip to the extent that you miss the joys of everyday life.
3. Vacation is the week to let go. The other 51 weeks of your year are meant to be enjoyed, celebrated, and lived just as fully as that week. Eat dessert, wake up to see the sunrise, try new things, and read the novel you have been saving.
4. Vacation will bring contentment. Vacation should not be what you are living for. Don’t fall victim to staking your happiness in your next vacation and grumbling for weeks after it is over. Daily life is an incredible blessing and meant to be enjoyed. Be a blessing to others. If it is within you power to change your circumstances, do so. Your happiness depends on it.
5. Travel will help you “find yourself”. You are the same “you” whether you are in Ho Chi Minh or at home. If you feel lost in self-identity or career path, do not buy into the Eat, Pray, Love paradigm. That paradigm being that you need to quit your job and travel for 12 months to a far-flung country to find the man of your dreams and the life you always wanted. Make time for quiet and work first on being honest with yourself. A change of scenery may do you good, but it does not need to be drastic.
What are other travel myths? Which do you buy into? Comment below!
You know the feeling. You step on the plane excited for the adventure that awaits you at your destination. You are almost looking forward to the flight, to relaxing and devouring the book you just bought at the airport. But by the end of it you feel nothing but gross, as if you haven’t showered in days and with a sick feeling in your stomach. All you want is a shower and a nap. Here’s how to ensure that you step off the plane bright-eyed and ready for adventure:
Before the Flight:
Ditch the Sweats: Yes, it may be early and the flight may be long. However, once 7AM hits or you step off the flight, sweatpants are no longer socially acceptable. Dress for comfort, but not for bed. Try jeans with additional stretch or pants that won’t wrinkle.
Layer Up: Plane temperatures can range from stifling to artic. Wear layers to maintain comfort and pack something warm just in case.
Slip ‘Em On: Wear shoes that are easily taken on and off. Take your shoes off for a little while at your seat and rotate your ankles. You will relieve a surprising amount of tension.
Seat Selection: Choose your seat wisely. If you frequent the restroom, choose the aisle. If you slip into catatonic sleep, choose the window.
Grease Monkey: Avoid ‘travel belly’ by dodging greasy foods the night before and the morning of your flight.
During the Flight:
Ginger Ale: I rarely drink soda but always drink ginger ale when flying. Somewhere between the carbonation and sugar, I find it extremely refreshing.
Hydrate: One of the main culprits of the gross-after-flight feeling is dehydration. Breathing recirculating dry air for hours will do that. Ask for a cup of water along with your ginger ale or bring a bottle with you. Hydrate as much as possible.
The Nose Knows: Long flights also dry out your nose. Bring saline spray and use it intermittently throughout the flight. Trust me, the awesome after use feeling trumps the awkward during use feeling.
Balmy: Your lips will also dry out! Pack lip balm and use it often.
Snack Right: Avoid ‘travel belly’ by skipping snacks high in sugar or salt.
Move and Stretch: Avoid feeling stiff and cramped by walking around at least every two hours. Don’t wait to use the restroom.
After the Flight:
Switch-A-Roo: Pack an extra shirt and pair of socks in your carry-on. Switch into them after the flight for a refreshed and pseudo-clean feeling.
D.O. for Your B.O.: Use deodorant as necessary.
Chew: Remove the layer of grime in your mouth by chewing mint gum or brushing your teeth. Admittedly, I’ve never brought myself to brushing my teeth in an airport though.
Tums: Couldn’t dodge ‘travel belly’? Snag a few tums from your carry-on.
Small Amount Caffeine: Drink something with a little sugar or caffeine, but limit the quantity. You want something to perk you up but cause you to crash after a sugar spike.
What do you do to stay refreshed after flights? Comment below!
I have been waiting a long time for a site like farecompare.com/maps/. As a disclaimer, I just found out about this site last week and have yet to pay money for a ticket. However, the features were so enticing that I wanted to share immediately. Additionally, farecompare.com is currently only available for departures from US airports.
What Is Awesome About the Maps Feature of FareCompare.com
The maps feature of farecompare.com allows you to quickly see literally how far your money can take you. Enter your departure city and fares around the world are immediately displayed. Adjust for month of the year to view what is available at the time you can travel. Best of all, you can narrow results down by price range! Save up $200 to travel in May? See where you can go! Is it on your bucket list to explore New Zealand? Determine what a realistic flight will cost and when, on average, is the cheapest time to go. Additionally, you book directly through the airline, not farecompare.com.
Alerts Feature of FareCompare.com
Setting up a free account on farecompare.com qualifies you for the alerts feature. Alerts are powered by a proprietary airfare database that deliver messages on the cheapest flights as prices drop. The database is based on current and historical data. After specifying your desired destination, farecompare.com will email you alerts or message you on facebook regarding lowered airfare prices. Also, a FareCompare iPhone app is available that will send push messages for your saved alerts.
Downsides to FareCompare.com
- Price drops are fleeting. When you receive an alert, you need to act fast to take advantage of the low-rate window. This reflects the fact that the airlines are constantly changing prices, not farecompare.com. Prices are displayed in real-time.
- Flights are searchable by months on the map, but not specific dates. While I can look for flights under $200 in May, I cannot look for less than $200 on May 8-10. I first have to search for the month of May, and then click on the price for further calendar dates.
Have you used farecompare.com to find flights? What do you feel are the advantages and drawbacks? Comment below!
What movies shoot my wanderlust through the roof and make me want to purchase a ticket RIGHT NOW? Here are twelve, in no particular order, that make the list:
1. 127 Hours , Moab, Utah
2. The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de Motocicleta), South America
3. Rio, Brazil
8. Eat, Pray, Love, Italy, India, Bali
What movies inspire you to travel? I’m looking for ones I haven’t seen! Comment below!
Ziplock bags are absolutely indispensable to my packing for any outdoor excursion. Why? Ziplock bags are water-resistant, lightweight, and see-through. Items are easily compartmentalized and organized. Bag space frees itself after compressing the air out of clothing contained in each Ziplock. Without having to dig through your entire pack you can quickly find the bag holding your desired clothing. On top of it all, Ziplock bags are relatively cheap and disposable. Here is how I organize my packing:
- Lay out all items to pack in one location.
- Divide toiletries between three bags. In one bag pack the daily hygiene items that are likely to get wet (toothbrush, soap, shower items). In the other bag pack dry toiletries, such as medicines, which aren’t used as frequently. When you bathe you only need to grab the first bag, which should be packed in an easily accessible location. The second bag stays dry and out of the way. Pack a third bag containing sunscreen and bug spray.
- If you have a set or two of ‘city’ clothes, pack those items together in one Ziplock. They are now protected by a moisture and smell barrier from impending nasty hiking clothes.
- Pack outfits in day sets (pants, shirt, underwear, socks).
- Before sealing or resealing, compress the air out of each bag. Push, squash, flatten bags using your body weight (elbows or knees are helpful) to remove the air and significantly decrease the needed bag real estate.
Pack wallet and cell phone together in one bag.
- Pack your camera in a separate bag.
- Food gets its own bag. If possible, arranged by meal.
- Utensils/cookware are organized in their own bag.
- Pack several extra Ziplock bags for dirty clothing or a just-in-case scenario.
- Clothing bags are stacked vertically in my pack so that I can quickly see which bag I need from the side access of my Osprey pack. ‘City’ clothes are on the very bottom of the stack.
- Food is packed on the side of my clothing, closest to the side access.
- Utensils and cookware are in the compartment on top of the pack.
- Toiletries are packed on top of the clothing and food and are accessed from the top of the pack.
- Wallet and cell phone go in the zippered compartment on top of the pack, along with the extra Ziplocks. Camera either joins the wallet and cell phone or stays near my pocket.
My gear is now organized, compressed, and relatively protected from rain and streams. Happy trails!
Videos to get your hiking juices flowing:
Do you pack with Ziplock bags? What items are indispensable to your packing? Comment below!
This past weekend I had the immense privilege of traveling to Washington D.C. with Scholastica Travel Inc. The trip was a blast! I feel so blessed to have seen authentic historical artifacts, to have walked where influential leaders have before me, and to have witnessed the memorials dedicated to great leaders of our country. Washington D.C. still holds its place as one of my favorite cities in the world.
Two posts were published on the Scholastica Travel blog detailing where we went and what we saw. I shot many of the photos (Nikon D300) on their FlickR page, which offers a play-by-play picture view of the trip along with informative details of each location. Please check it out!
Although I have traveled to Washington D.C. on numerous occasions, there were several things I did this trip that enriched the experience. These include:
Revel in ‘Real’: This trip I made a conscious effort to revel in the authenticity of what I was viewing. I can comprehend when something is a replica, but the concept of the real thing can often be difficult to grasp. It’s hard to imagine that in one weekend I saw personal belongings of Holocaust victims, the inaugural dress worn by Jackie Kennedy, and the gun that killed Abraham Lincoln. I stood where John Adams sat in the Old Hall of the House and where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke “I have a dream”.
Read Ahead: It is always on my to-do list before a trip. Read about the culture, the location, the history. Unfortunately, it soon becomes read the week before, on the plane, or while I’m there. This trip, however, I made it a point to read ahead of time. Each monument, statue, and building took on greater significance as I thought about the symbolism behind the design and the great men and women who inspired it.
Go on Foot: The best way to see Washington D.C. is by walking, no exceptions. This trip we walked from 8AM to almost 10PM. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It is a truly beautiful city and the monuments, museums, and parks are located very close to each other. The city just isn’t the same through a car or bus window.
Go with a Professional: I traveled through Washington D.C. this weekend with numerous professional tour leaders. Not only was their company and guidance very welcome, but I learned a great amount just from hearing their stories! Each knew intriguing and hilarious historical tales that you can’t find in brochures. For example, did you know that there is a house on Embassy Row with cat sculptures built into the architecture? That takes a cat obsession to a whole new level!
- Washington D.C. FAM Trip 2012 (scholasticablog.com)
- Washington D.C. FAM Trip 2012 Preview (scholasticablog.com)
Have you been to Washington D.C.? What has enriched your experience? What are your favorite things to do or see in Washington D.C.? Comment below!
In no particular order, I present to you my bucket list!
- Travel to as many countries as my age (19 down)
- See Ireland and Scotland on bike
- Drop down in a cage in the ocean and chum for sharks
- Hang glide
- Visit all countries in Central and South America
- Learn calligraphy
- Learn to play the drums
- Become a black belt
- Become a Mom
- Hike in Patagonia
- Hike in Nepal
- Hike in New Zealand
- Scuba dive in the Philippines
- Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef
- Scuba dive in Thailand
- Scuba dive at night with manta rays in Hawaii
- Rock climb by Angel Falls in Venezuela
- Take a helicopter ride over Denali National Park
- Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
- White water raft on the Colorado river
- Bike to California
- Catch lobsters in Maine
- Own a house in South America
- Meet the pope
- Travel to all 50 states
- Travel to all 7 continents (5/7 down)
- Ski out west for a month
- Work at a bookstore
- Own two pugs
- Ski in the French Alps
- Ski in the Pyrenees
- Visit Petra
- Plant a (productive) vegetable garden
- Own a bed and breakfast
Bucket List Items I Am in the Process of Crossing Off:
- Become fluent in American Sign Language
- Become fluent in Spanish
- Read all books written by Paulo Coelho
- Become a licensed Washington D.C. tour guide
- Maintain a travel blog
- Travel with students
Bucket List Items I Have Crossed Off:
- Own a house
- Become a certified open water scuba diver
- Marry the man of my dreams
- Run marathons
- Compete in triathlons
- Complete the LIVESTRONG challenge (100 mi bike ride)
- Complete a half ironman (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run)
- Learn to sail
- Work at a veterinarian clinic
- Conduct field research in the tropical rainforest
- Hold a red-eyed tree frog
- Get published
- Bike from Kitty Hawk to Ocracoke and back
- Complete the Rachel Carson Challenge
- Bike through Sonoma and go wine tasting
- See the birthplace of Christ
- See the pyramids of Giza
- Indulge in chocolate, cheese, and wine in France
- Take a west coast road trip
- Hike in the Great Smokey Mountains
- Ski in the Swiss Alps
- Ski in the German Alps
- Ski in British Columbia
- Learn to water ski
- Learn to wake board
- Become a ski instructor
Bucket List Photos:
Have you done any of the things on these lists? Do you have any recommendations for me? What is on your bucket list (I’m very curious!)? Comment below!
Our honeymoon was the best trip I’ve ever taken, but for reasons you might not expect. We didn’t go to an all-inclusive resort, or even somewhere tropical. Instead, we went on an unbelievably spontaneous road trip; spontaneous to the point that even the ‘road trip’ part was unplanned. It turned into the most action-packed, fun-filled 8 days of my life!
A Delayed Start
We initially hadn’t planned to take a honeymoon within the first 6 months of getting married; little money, no time. We were moving to a different state, juggling two mortgages, and I was starting graduate school. However, David’s sister had been raving about Lake Tahoe (where she worked), and when reasonably priced tickets to Reno popped up, we bought them. An 8-day trip squeezed in between finishing a research fellowship and starting another in a different state (almost to the day), and a month after our actual wedding.
Spontaneity at Its Best
The summer had been so busy (July 3rd wedding date), that we never made plans beyond the first two days of the trip (and honestly, David’s sister made those for us!). She booked a hotel for the first two nights, and as a result of her work, several significantly discounted activities. Afterwards, we bought the Lonely Planet California and Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks guide books, downloaded the Priceline iPhone app (our first time using Priceline!), and got in the car. We stuck to the following:
- 3-Hour Rule: We decided not to drive more than 3 hours in a given day. This was mostly done in the evenings. That way, we capitalized on daytime exploration, didn’t exhaust ourselves with driving, and could focus on the conversation.
- Book Hotel Mid-day: We figured out that if we bid on a hotel on Priceline around 4 or 5 o’clock for the same night, the rates were significantly lower. We stayed in several 4-star hotels for less than $100! We even stayed in downtown San Francisco for a shockingly cheap price.
- I’ve Always Wanted to Do That! : Typically, after we finished the days’ activities, we would decide where to go next by looking through the guidebooks and finding someplace we had never been or something we had never done that was within a 3-hour drive. We would then get on Priceline, book a hotel in that area, and drive there in the evening. The process was an adventure in itself!
What we did in 8-days on our honeymoon:
- Flew to/from Pittsburgh and Reno
- Kayaked on Lake Tahoe
- Wakeboard/Water ski on Lake Tahoe
- Parasailed at Lake Tahoe
- Dinner cruise on Tahoe Queen at Emerald Bay
- Hiked Half Dome at Yosemite National Park
- Explored San Francisco
- Visited/took pictures at umpteen scenic vistas
- Biked 35 miles through the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma
- Visited 3 wineries for wine tasting
- Skydived in Lodi (cheap rates for skydiving! $100 for tandem jump)
- Hiked around Vikingsholm at Lake Tahoe
When have you allowed yourself to be spontaneous? Where did you go on your honeymoon? Comment below!
Every so often it is essential to leave our routine to refresh ourselves, regroup, and gain perspective. But how can this be done when both money and time are tight? Get the most out of your weekend and your wallet:
When to Leave:
Early Saturday morning. Although it may seem like you will miss out on the weekend, in reality you will feel better sleeping in your own bed after a long work week. Leaving early on Saturday saves money (no Friday night hotel) and avoids heavy traffic.
Where to Stay:
- In a tent: Camping is cheap if you have the gear! If not, check out your local REI, outdoor club, or college for gear rentals.
- In a cabin: Many national parks or major hiking trails have cabins or three-sided shelters on the trail that are free to use. See if you can register/reserve online ahead of time or check at the ranger station when you arrive.
- On a couch: Stay with someone you know, or don’t know.
- In a room: Stay at someone’s house with AirBnB.
- At a hotel: Book/Bid with Priceline the DAY OF your trip for substantially lower hotel rates.
What to Eat:
Eat breakfast at home Saturday morning. Pack lunch and snacks for both Saturday and Sunday. If staying at a hotel, find one that includes breakfast. If not staying at a hotel, pack breakfast too. Think quick, lightweight, and easy: instant oatmeal, whole fruit, tuna packets/crackers, chocolate bar, etc. Eat out Saturday night.
What to Do:
- Be a tourist in your own town: We often settle into a routine where we live and then overlook exploring many fun activities that are at our disposal. Explore the museums, history trails, and free offerings of your town or city. Think WWTD (What would a tourist do?). You may be surprised by how much fun you have!
- Check out a college town (When school’s out): College towns are often packed with quaint shops and restaurants. Walk around campus and explore the town. Visiting during the summer months will likely result in cheaper hotel rates and restaurant deals as it is the ‘off-season’ for most businesses.
- Take a hike: Hiking is free, fresh air is rejuvenating. Plan a short walk in the woods, an all-day hike, 2 day hikes, or a 2-day overnight excursion. I recommend the free Trails.com app which uses GPS to find all the trails closest to your current location. Selecting a trail provides reviews and a general description.
- Rent a boat: Almost every lake or river has an outfitter nearby ready and willing to rent affordable row boats, canoes, and kayaks. Spend the day on the water and get a workout at the same time. Go fishing. Paddle to an opposite shore to eat your packed lunch. Spring for a whitewater rafting trip if the budget allows.
- Rent a bike: Rent a bike for the day and explore. You’ll be surprised at how your perspective can change going from 4 wheels to 2, even in your home town. Pick a distant location, pack lunch (or find a fun diner), and eat at the halfway point. Take your time and go at your leisure. See if there is a winery nearby, or a wine biking trail.
- Take a foodie tour: Visit a town and eat the foods that make it famous. Think Primanti’s in Pittsburgh, cheese steaks in Philadelphia, southern BBQ in Atlanta.
- Brewery/Winery: Brewery tours are often free or very cheap (Sam Adams suggests a $2 charity donation) and are accompanied by, you guessed it, beer! Local wineries offer affordable tastings. Buy a bottle and drink it as you relax on the property lawn.
What are your favorite ways to getaway on a dime? Where will you go next? Comment below!
You have got to feel bad for oil birds. Amerindians would boil the young down and use their incredibly high oil content for cooking or to light torches. It is even said that the young were used to create torches directly; impaling them a stick and igniting could provide light for hours! I had the opportunity to see this unique species while conducting field work in Trinidad. A day-long hike in the Northern Range brought us to the mouth of their cave. If you are an anti-socialite, take a few tips from the oil birds:
Live in a remote location: Make sure to live as far away as possible. The oil birds of Trinidad live in a cave, in the mountains, in the rainforest, on an island. That is tough to beat!
Alter your sleep schedule: Figure out when those you want to avoid are most active, and then adjust your lifestyle to live oppositely to that. Oil birds are the only fruit eating nocturnal bird species in the world!
Develop your own spy gear: Create an early warning security system for intruder detection. Oil birds navigate in the dark using echolocation.
Avoid cleaning to ensure a good stench: Learn to love living in your own feces. Oil bird nests are created predominately from regurgitated matter. Cave living results in large amounts of guano covering rock surfaces. If there is a sure-fired way to avoid your enemies, a good stench will do it.
Cohabitate with the like-minded: If you must make friends, do so with those who share your perspective. The oil birds share the Aripo caves with many bat species.
Photos from the hike:
What is the craziest animal that you have seen? Where did you see it? Comment below!