5 Reasons to Travel More

5 Reasons to Travel More

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad Last week, I finished reading a book I can’t stop thinking about. It wasn’t a novel or fiction, like many of the books I read, but a memoir. The subtitle describes it well: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down. But I personally think the book was about something more universal, something many of us struggle to shake. I would subtitle it: One Man’s Quest to Break Free from His Past. The writing is elegant and thoughtful, and the story moved me. Even more, the memoir is about travel, one of my favorite parts of life. In its pages, the author takes the reader through his experiences traveling to various parts of the world–to Patagonia, the Amazon, a remote part of Costa Rica, and opulent Vienna–as he searches for a way to break free from who he was before. He wants to be able to fully love the woman who he wants to marry, and fully live in the day-to-day world of his family and friends. Because of reasons he doesn’t understand, he fights a near-constant need to escape. But through his travels, he begins to understand himself. Through travel, he finds the man he hopes to be. The book is called The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy. Often, especially in American culture, we put travel off as...
Half Moon Bay, California: a Photojournal

Half Moon Bay, California: a Photojournal

“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road   Two weeks ago, my oldest son and I ventured across country for a Mom-Son Road Trip. It was one of the greatest adventures I’ve gone on, and one I hope to make a tradition with my younger two sons when they’re 15-years-old (I wrote about why here last week). One of the most beautiful places we saw while in California was Half Moon Bay, a legendary crescent moon-shaped beach just south of San Francisco. The road leading west into Half Moon Bay winds with tight curves across a high ridge of mountains. We followed a lumbering truck up and around to the peak in the road, and from the east, the colors were brilliant–the blue of an inland lake reflecting a brilliant sky, the evergreen trees and brighter green farmland and the amber-colored hills. But when we reached the top, we expected Pacific blue, as far as we could see, and instead found it shrouded in dense fog, the whole landscape a pale monochrome. After we arrived, we realized even with a wall of fog hugging the coastline, Half Moon Bay is still a stunning beauty. The cliffs at Half Moon Bay are high, and run along the entire crescent...
Why the Mom-Son Road Trip is Our New Tradition

Why the Mom-Son Road Trip is Our New Tradition

Your children need your presence more than your presents. ~Jesse Jackson     It started early in January of 1999 when my first son was a couple of weeks old. I had learned to change diapers from the hospital nurses, and I’d mastered the art of the midnight change. And somewhere in the midst of the sleep, alone-time, and shower deprivation, I realized it all was going way too fast. My son was growing, eating, thriving — all things he was supposed to be doing — and yet I yearned for a way to pause it, to soak in his first attempts at smiles, the smells and the feel of his tiny grasp on mine. Time still marched onward. I count myself lucky. I’ve gotten to be around for the first teeth, the first loose tooth, the first bicycle ride, the first day of preschool, kindergarten, middle, and even high school. And now my first son, about to start his 10th grade year of high school, is taking SAT and driver’s training classes. He’s several inches taller than me (and I’m 5’11”). And he’s working hard and spreading his wings. He’s doing just what he’s supposed to be doing: he’s growing up. The Mom-Son Road Trip I think there is a magical opportunity at 15 years of age when a teenager can’t quite drive on their own yet, but has begun to focus on specific interests. After listening to others who have experience and opinions about doing the same type of trip with their children, fifteen-years-of-age seems to be the perfect time. Our family enjoys having family dinners around...
The Maine I Love: Photos from the Docks

The Maine I Love: Photos from the Docks

  “Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”-L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables In land-locked Ohio, the sea is an enviable thing. When we lived in Prague, its location, too, was a pinpoint in the middle of a great expanse of land. So when I think of vacation, the sea is the first thought which comes to me. Luckily, the rest of my family feels the same — we love to travel to the sea. It doesn’t matter where, just as long as there are waves, the smell of salt spray, the occasional peek of sunshine, and an unending view of the horizon.   When we traveled this summer to Maine, I had one other hope in mind: to have fresh lobster on the docks. One of the first questions we asked once we reached Freeport, Maine, was to ask for a recommendation of where to have lobster. The kind folks behind our hotel front desk pointed us in the right direction, and we ended up at one of the most charming active docks I’ve seen, the South Freeport Town Docks. The Maine I Love: Photos from the Lobster Docks The harbor restaurant was excellent — the Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster.   We ate there almost every night while in Freeport (after days of sea kayaking, paddleboarding, fly-fishing, etc.). That time, sitting on the docks with my family, was one of my favorites from our entire trip. To quote Anne of Green Gables, I couldn’t...
Niagara Falls, a Photo Tour

Niagara Falls, a Photo Tour

“The grandeur of God reveals itself through simple things” ― Paulo Coelho   When my family and I lived in Europe, we traveled everywhere we could, as often as we could. Usually by car, a few times by plane, we visited more than twenty countries and learned more in every way than we ever could have imagined. Actually going to a place and being able to fully experience it — to feel the texture of the land, see the colors and the architecture, hear the sounds, smell the smells, meet the people, eat the foods, speak the language — is crucial to understanding, to having a wide world-view. Travel is important. We visited common places in Europe, ones we knew our boys’ American schoolmates would ask them about when we returned. Most Americans know Paris and the Eiffel Tower, and Rome and the Coliseum. And though we experienced much more than these European landmarks while in Europe, they were also important to touch and see. It is similar now that we are back in the United States. Our boys are older now (two teens, one preteen) and they’re catching up on their knowledge of their home country. While they can identify every European country on a blank map, give most currencies used there, and speak many words in several of the European languages, they have a deficit when it comes to the US. And so we’re working hard to help catch them up … 12 States and 2500 Miles Last week, I wrote about and shared a few photos from our summer road-trip … it was wonderful! As I’m...
12 States & 2500 Miles: My Adventure-filled Summer Vacation

12 States & 2500 Miles: My Adventure-filled Summer Vacation

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams. -Oprah Winfrey   When our first son was about a year old, my husband and I, with little more than two dimes to rub together, set off on a road trip to Maine. Having a baby along didn’t deter us. We set up his portable crib in our tent in Acadia National Park, rose when he did (when it became light at 4 am) and enjoyed hiking and exploring the rocky coast with him in tow. But our sights were on the water. While in Maine that time, we dreamed that someday we might get to take a guided sea kayaking tour.     It’s been almost 15 years since that first trip to gorgeous Maine. So a few weeks ago, when our boys expressed true interest in the Outdoor Adventure Schools through L.L.Bean (they even pulled up all of the programs, and found a hotel room for 5), we knew it was the right year to do it. As my husband jokes, it was the ultimate Man-cation. To tell the truth, though: I had a complete blast.   12 States & 2500 Miles: My Adventure-filled Summer Vacation: For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing bits of the adventure here, from our beginnings at Niagara Falls to Maine to Boston to New York City. Until then, a few of my favorite photos (these, iPhone photos–better ones to come later) …   I’m still working through revisions on my novel (#1 priority work-wise), but the adventure will continue through photos in coming weeks. Thanks for...
14 Favorite Quotes on Life and Laughter, Travel, and Daring Greatly

14 Favorite Quotes on Life and Laughter, Travel, and Daring Greatly

I have always loved inspiring quotes and photographs. In college, I taped cards from Successories to the side of my dresser–photographs of mountains and paths through enchanting forests, of oceans and eagles soaring, all with quotes to remind me that the goal was somehow bigger than the Calculus problem I struggled to finish. Quotes seem to be a lifeline when I’m stuck with a busy schedule and easily forget the Bigger Goals, when I can hardly see the bigger picture and keep me focused ahead on what is most important… … Especially in Changing Times I’m currently working on rewriting my bio on my About page — life is changing for me. My family and I have now lived one whole year back in the US after our four years in Prague. My oldest son is almost finished with his first year of high school and in a week, I’ll have not one, but two teenagers in the house. Everything is different about life in the US as opposed to life in Europe. One major difference is the intensity in which Americans seem to do all things. Almost minute by minute, I need to remind myself that busyness does not equal excellence. Busyness leads to burnout. And so I find myself returning to images and quotes which help me to remember what inspires me, what moves me, and what makes me tick. It seems strange, this passing of time. Laundry and packing lunches, restocking the refrigerator and shuttling my sons to and from their activities fill my days. The most important thing for me during this whirl called American...
Prague: 10 Top Things to Do and See

Prague: 10 Top Things to Do and See

Over the 4 years I lived in Prague, I used and refined this list many times. It is useful as a tour list, the Top 10 Must-Do Things in Prague. The city is relatively small and easy to navigate and tour, but even more, it is, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in Europe. Prague: 10 Top Things to Do and See Day 1: 1. The Charles Bridge: As early as you can, kick off your jetlag and pick up coffee at one of the cafes on the way to the Charles Bridge. Walk the cobblestones of the bridge, which was constructed in 1357 under the rule of King Charles IV to cross the Vltava River. Three tall towers have guarded the Charles Bridge for centuries, and 30 haunting statues gaze over pedestrians as they cross. Read more… 2. Old Town Square: Wander through the serpentine cobbled streets toward Prague’s Old Town Square. With its alfresco cafes, Astronomical Clock, its imposing Gothic Tyn Church and Baroque St. Nicholas Church, you’ll see centuries of history surrounding you in the buildings lining the square. In December, the Christmas markets set up in the square are lively, especially when it snows. Read more … 3. Jewish Cemetery Little more than a stone’s throw from Old Town Square, the Old Jewish Quarter stands near the Vltava River as an inseparable part of the city’s fabric.  The small patch of ground of the Old Jewish Cemetery contains over 12,000 tombs on the surface, with tens of thousands more entombed in countless layers underneath — making the sea of tombs seem to ride on...
On Trying to Be Brave

On Trying to Be Brave

“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it.” – Merida, from the recent (excellent) animated movie, Brave Sometimes life calls us to do big things. Most of the time, all we want to do, naturally, is curl up and be comfortable, to settle and do the norm. I know recently I’ve felt that way, and many times in the past. I’d love to pull up a comfy chair, sink back into the cushions with a cup of great coffee and a book, and stay there, for a long time. But that won’t work for me, especially right now. My family and I are in the midst of moving back to the US from a four-year assignment abroad in Czech Republic for my husband’s job. Physically, I wouldn’t be able to pull up a chair to sit in because our furniture is in transit in a container on a ship plowing across the Atlantic right now. We’re becoming experts at reading, sleeping, and eating on the floor. Ask any intercontinental expat and they’ll tell you a similar story. It’s how it works … the adjustment to a foreign country, and then back again, takes months. Things are going well, smoothly at times, even, but the whole experience is tough and terrifying. I was listening to a favorite music artist, Nichole Nordeman, in the car and her song Brave struck me. She wrote it when her son was born, which means something to me. Don’t we all, as parents, strive to be someone...
St Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland: Stunning Beauty, Incredible Skiing

St Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland: Stunning Beauty, Incredible Skiing

Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads.  -Author Unknown In Winter, there is no better way to spend the dark, bleak, cold days than to hop on a pair of skis and enjoy the snow. Growing up, I skied often at the Purgatory Mountain resort in Durango, Colorado, where my grandmother lived. It was fun, exhilarating, and delightful, but also dangerous beyond belief. I love to ski. When my family moved to Czech Republic, we skied downhill in the Austrian Alps–great experiences filled with deep snow, steep slopes, and frequent stops at the traditional Austrian huttes. But back at our home in Prague, we had snow, and snow, and more snow. The community farms and public parks in and around Prague were covered in deep snow for months, and cross-country skiers were everywhere. It was after the first winter in Czech Republic that I realized I was embracing the wrong kind of skiing. I asked for a pair of used cross-country skis for my birthday our second year in Prague, and the day after my guys gave them to me, it snowed. Since roads aren’t plowed where we live, I could ski right out my front door (no more lugging heavy boots and skis), and after the first time out on the new (used) skis, I was hooked. So was the rest of my family, who also tried out my skis. We bought 4 more pairs of cross-country skis the next week. Since then, we’ve skied every time it snows enough to cover the ground. We’ve traveled and skied in the Italian Dolomites, and last month, we...