Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Ultimate Ticket

This may be a bit sentimental for a travel journal, but I have a sister who is a year younger than me.  After battling cancer for two years and two months, she passed away last night.  As I think about it, I am devastated, because I loved her and I miss her incredibly.

But the other thought that keeps creeping in my mind, is, where is she?  Where did she go?

I've heard that when your time comes, you go to a place called heaven, and you are an angel.  I can guarantee my sister would be the best angel.  She would win over anyone who crossed her path with her charm, interest, and sense of sarcasm.  She is very generous, and loves to shower those around her with gifts, attention, and care.  She is protective.  But where is this place she resides, this heaven?  I guess since no one knows the answer, I can decide for myself.

I image that she is at a resort, with multiple swim up pool bars and all her favorite celebrities are there.  Amy Sedaris, The Fat Bachelor, Carnie Wilson.  They have the same drink list as Cheeseburger in Paradise, and all the Steak n Shake chicken fingers (with honey mustard) one could imagine.  She can smoke a cigarette while floating in her own root beer float pool, and I bet she flew there first class. No, I imagine she took a cruise there, that took a leisurely float around Alaska, the one place she always wanted to see.  And I image there is a perch, made of gold (but she would decorate it with green streamers), where she can stand and watch me, and laugh with me as I take on new adventures in life.

Lucky girl.  I look forward to the day I can fly there first class, and see her again.  At least I know I'll never be afraid when my time comes, because wherever it is that we go, she will be there waiting for me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Travel Highs & Lows of 2010

I have already started to think about the travel adventures I am highly anticipating in 2011, the places I am hoping to see and the airline miles I hope to accrue (I realize it's only December but I am already planning!).  But what about 2010?  It was a good travel year.  It deserves some reflection.  I almost made it to my resolution to visit one new place each month (fell short in January, February, and July - shucks!).

What lessons can I learn from my 2010 travels, that I can apply to what's coming in 2011?

1. It's OK to take a risk and embark on a last minute trip, as long as you have the right company by your side.  Over the past year, I learned that traveling with someone can break your ability to tolerate them, or it can enhance the enjoyment you experience together.  I won't name who I did not particularly enjoy my time with, but I truly appreciate how lucky I am to share my time away from home with understanding and loving people.  And, I was blessed to find my travel soul mate "down under."

With the man who owns my travel heart, Ian Groff! Sydney, Australia

2. It's OK to leave some wiggle room.  On any typical trip, I plan, plan, and plan - researching restaurants, events and festivals in the area, and reaching out to acquaintances or friends who have recently visited the place in mind.  But on many of my quick weekend trips over the past year, I left some big chunks of un-planned time, and they turned out to be some of my best memories.  Such as enjoying a bar crawl around New York City and having one of the finest meals imaginable at a restaurant suggested after one too many beverages.  Also, in New Orleans, I had a dinner reservation planned at a top notch restaurant, but plans changed last minute to a more low-key, less known spot called the Green Goddess.  Heaven in a meal, and I have raved about the experience ever since.

Enjoying a drink with Eva and Scott, fellow road warriors I adore! New York City

3. Don't be afraid to try something new.  I would never describe myself as athletic, and I am usually a big, fat scaredy cat when operating outside of my comfort zone.  This past year I shivered and shaked at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Would I do it again, no, but I found a new understanding for my fear of heights.  I tried snorkeling, even though I was worried about my little ear drums, and loved it!  But it doesn't stop there!  With the help of an angelic instructor, and the encouragement of my boyfriend, I learned to snowboard this year.  And I wouldn't trade those solitary moments on the slope, in a deep snowfall, amongst tall pine trees and peaceful winds, for anything.  It was worth what I paid for it - $500 and three weeks later, I still have an aching tailbone!

I may be smiling but I am sweating and shaking under that climb suit! Sydney, Australia

4. Spend the cash, if loved ones are involved.  The two meals I described in #2 were pretty pricey, and worth every penny because I was able to share the delicious food with some amazing people who really make me smile.  But more importantly, my weekend excursion to San Fransisco with my beloved sister really wrecked havoc on my wallet. I believe I walked away with a $1500 tab.  But the memories I have, involving tranny's, sea lions, scary dance moves, scary movies, laughs, tears, chicken nuggets, a bridge, cellulite reducing gel, and sweating head to toe after pushing a wheelchair - are truly priceless.  If doling out the cash really gives you a belly ache, shave money from other items during the year (no more taxi's for me!) and put it in a travel fund.

Enjoying good drinks and good entertainment with new friends. San Fransisco, CA

5. Enjoy a stay-cation!  Some of my best weekends of the year were in Chicago, particularly the weekend when my good friends from Indianapolis came to visit me, and so did a dear friend from Germany.  We had the best time looking at Chicago through the eyes of a tourist, checking out a jeans sale at Union Station, enjoying new restaurants and neighborhoods, dancing our hearts off at a rave or at a nearby 80's late night spot, and laughing or telling stories over a fantastic, home-cooked breakfast, complete with yummy espressos.  But, best of all was watching the sun rise on my balcony and wishing the city a loud "Good Morning!" with my best friend.  Beats any weekend at a beach!

We were dancing hard during my stay-cation! Chicago, IL

6. Appreciate each moment.  Given the year of ups and downs with my sister's health, I learned the most important lesson of all - to appreciate.  You may be on a trip that's not quite going as desired, and you may be a bit hungry, tired, and irritated. But breathe.  You are somewhere new.  Look around you.  You are lucky to be able to travel and enjoy your life, and you have good health which allows you to be active and move, smile and laugh.  Don't take a second of it for granted.  You never know when everything could change and you won't have such lucky opportunities in front of you - so enjoy.

Embarking on new adventures with my beloved sister. San Fransisco, CA

That's all for 2010.  Can't wait to start writing about 2011. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A More Sophisticated, Experienced Version of Me!

Today my friend Will turned me on to this travel blog.  The guy is a genius!  It seems he has a better travel budget and higher tastes than I do, which makes for dreamy stories about first class lounges, service on fancy airlines, and boutique hotels with excellent restaurant menus.  Definitely worth checking out!

And, he's happy to clue in his followers on any deals he finds on travel or travel gear, which makes him one of my new best friends!