Posted in #MyGlobalLife, Travel

#GlobalYou365 Challenge – October

October #GlobalYou365 Challenge by Small Planet Studio, is now complete. I got a little behind on this one. But it is now done. You can now read the questions and answers for October!

Small Planet Studio‘s #GlobalYou365 Challenge was created as a “reflective challenge for global adventurers in re-entry” to aid travelers navigating the often choppy waters of returning home from abroad. This Challenge consists of a question a day and is a tool that can be used to help you create a lifestyle that accommodates both your abroad self and home self. Usually it is used for those coming home, but I sought to use the Challenge in reverse, as a great opportunity to reconnect with my traveling self to create a more global lifestyle today. You too can take the challenge by clicking here.

Posted in #MyGlobalLife, Travel

#GlobalYou365 Challenge – May, June & August

I am finally caught up!! I am finally in the month I am currently living for the #GlobalYou365 Challenge by Small Planet Studio! You can now read the questions and answers for May, June and August!

Small Planet Studio‘s #GlobalYou365 Challenge was created as a “reflective challenge for global adventurers in re-entry” to aid travelers navigating the often choppy waters of returning home from abroad. This Challenge consists of a question a day and is a tool that can be used to help you create a lifestyle that accommodates both your abroad self and home self. Usually it is used for those coming home, but I sought to use the Challenge in reverse, as a great opportunity to reconnect with my traveling self to create a more global lifestyle today. You too can take the challenge by clicking here.

Posted in Domestic Travels, Quests, Travel

New Capitol Hit! Trenton Making, Atlantic City Taking

And this time in the year 2016!

I live in Upstate New York. New Jersey is right there. And yet I had not been to its State Capitol building. Until February when a first time trip to Atlantic City for a Brandi Carlile concert included a return trip by way of Trenton. My family did drive through Trenton on our way to visit my dad’s family in Virginia Beach when I was a tween. I remember my dad pointing out the “Trenton Makes the World Takes” bridge, which I was familiar with from watching the film Stealing Home at way too young an age. Tangent: This movie was the reason I always thought when you added rum to coke that it would taste smooth, less carbonated and like cherry coke – a lie and I hate rum and coke. Also, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’s Aunt Zelda is topless in a scene. Image when years later I watched an episode of that wholesome goodness and then asked myself why that one lady looked familiar to me…

Back to this trip.

Since I started dating my partner three years ago, food has become a prime focus of our trips. I cannot complain about this direction/attention shift in destination research. Soon after we arrived in town and did a drive-by tour of the main strip, my partner “Yelp-ed” us an awesome place to eat. The Iron Room was tiny, swanky, and served delicious and unique tapas. Our favorite was the bacon. We also enjoyed their Udon Mac & Cheese, Deviled Eggs, Croquettes and Hangar steak. We were very sated for our concert.


The next day we went to see the boardwalk. We didn’t last long. It was February after all.


After warming up in the car, we headed for Trenton. It would be about lunchtime when we arrived. After almost being blown off my feet, capturing the Capitol building from a couple angles and being reminded a bit of Albany, NY by the historic buildings lining the road around the Capitol, we headed north to Rozmaryn Restaurant for some simple, fantastic Polish food.

We both ordered the Polish Plate comprised of potato pancakes, pierogies and kielbasa, and the White Borscht with kielbasa, hard-boiled egg and potatoes. Another nondescript and unassuming restaurant creating remarkable food and providing excellent service.


Check out these photos and those of other US Capitols from my quest to see them all.


Posted in #MyGlobalLife, Reading Material, Travel

Travel Narratives

In my travel shop, amongst the postcards, luggage, journals, posters and maps, will be a section devoted to travel narratives. I love this section of bookstores, though I am finding them to be shrinking in size, if a store even has one. One of the reasons is probably because many travel narratives crossover into other genres: non-fiction, outdoor, fiction, history, even children’s literature. Navigating the definition of travel narrative can be subjective. It’s easier to just have a section of guidebooks.

Well, in my shop, I’d use my own broad definition of travel narrative and reclaim the stories and have them all in one place. Bill Bryson would be next to M. Šašek, which would be next to Jack Kerouac, which would be next to Robert Louis Stevenson. But in alphabetically order, of course. I want someone coming into my shop to see these book and allow these authors to instigate curiosity, trigger memories, pique interest, further research, challenge assumptions, and induce warm fuzzies.

With this section of my future travel shop in mind, I started a list of those books that have done the above for me. You can check out what I have entered so far on my new Reading List page.

As I am always looking for new books to read, please please please comment with some of your favorite travel narratives.

Posted in #MyGlobalLife, Travel

#GlobalYou365 Challenge – February

Creating a more global lifestyle is important to me, particularly as I have been in a traveling drought for a while now. I know I won’t always be able to take trips when and where I want and for how long, so keeping a connection to the me I become while traveling is proving to be crucial to my overall happiness and life satisfaction. So check out my second month of questions and answers here as I figure out what #MyGlobalLife looks like.

Small Planet Studio‘s #GlobalYou365 Challenge was created as a “reflective challenge for global adventurers in re-entry” to aid travelers navigating the often choppy waters of returning home from abroad. This Challenge consists of a question a day and is a tool that can be used to help you create a lifestyle that accommodates both your abroad self and home self. Usually it is used for those coming home, but I sought to use the Challenge in reverse, as a great opportunity to reconnect with my traveling self to create a more global lifestyle today. You too can take the challenge by clicking here.

Posted in Quests, Travel

The Itch to Get on the Road

I love London. I love Ireland. I love Europe. But where I’m itching hard to go is on a cross-country road trip around the U.S. I might be romanticizing and Hollywood-izing, but I want that sense of freedom. I want to use actual, physical, pain-in-the-arse-to-fold maps. Or to just go by road signs, if I want to. I want to stop at whatever scenic overlook I want because time is not of the essence.

I want to explore. I want to see small places and big places and eat the best food in nondescript buildings and stay in tents, in Route 66-throwback motels, in B&Bs, and even on a couch or two. I want to work toward fulfilling my quest of seeing all the Capital buildings.

I want to work on breaking down my shell and making connections with people. Lend a helping hand and, most likely, be lent one as well. I want to show myself that I am capable of doing certain things, things I know deep down I could – if I HAD to – but in my daily life feel anxious about having to endure. To be brought closer to the self I know is in me, that is the real me. Waiting.

Always waiting. That’s what I feel my life has been like since my last major trip. But it has less to do with the transformative nature of travel and more to with building up my own self-confidence, self-reliance, and courage. I just like to use the best catalyst I know when I feel really stuck. Travel. And then perhaps the waiting will stop.

Posted in #MyGlobalLife, Housekeeping, Quests, Travel

Putting It All Out There

I’m going to put it all out there. I just need to do it. Or else I won’t.

I want to do something more with this blog. My prior writings and musings have served their purpose for me (though I’ll keep them archived for you), but now new travel thoughts, ideas and struggles swirl around in my head and it’s time to let them out.

I want to start a travel business. I envision it catering to women who want to make that first trip – ever, since a divorce, since a major life change – and who don’t want to be herded around on a bus with a bunch of strangers, but don’t want to travel alone. I would be their guide and be fortunate enough to be there while they have these new experiences.

I want to write a children’s story for my niece. It would be a historical fiction piece about an imaginative young girl and a lost little boy in Trafalgar Square. I want my mother to illustrate it. And I have thought about making it a series with the lead character traveling across Europe with her family and new found friend.

I want to open a bricks and mortar travel shop. It would be a gathering space in the community for those with wanderlust. My stock would include, but is not limited to, my beloved postcards, posters, travel narratives, guidebooks and maps, travel art by local artists, specialty luggage and bags. I also want to offer workshops to travelers on topics pre-departure and post-return.

I want to really make progress on my personal quest to visit each of the state capital buildings. I have visited two since I last posted on this blog (stay tuned for their postings). I had not set this quest intention until after reading Chris Guillebeau’s book “The Happiness of Pursuit” and now I just want to go go go!

I want to live a more global-minded life. Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio, a resource I definitely needed, but didn’t have, when I returned from all my study abroad and travel adventures, has started the #GlobalYou365 Challenge and I’ve fallen way behind on answering the questions she poses for each day. I want to make this fun, nostalgic and mindful challenge a priority in order to help me figure out those ways that work best for me to keep feeling global even when I’m not traveling.

And finally, I’ve always had this crazy notion of selling pre-written postcards for “the traveler too busy traveling.”

There. It’s done. It’s all out there. The universe now knows and can help the muses help me. As for the first item on my list, having finally posted again after so long, the hardest part is now over. Look for changes here as I move forward with my goals and pursuits. Please share yours with me too as we all try to figure our traveling selves out.


Posted in Travel

Living it up at the Rossiya Hotel

This past week I saw the latest installment of the Die Hard film franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard. It takes place in Moscow and there are a lot of great panoramic shots of the city. I was itching to return. One thing, however, was missing – the massive Rossiya Hotel looming in the background near Red Square.

The wall of the Kremlin with the Rossiya Hotel to the right
The wall of the Kremlin with the Rossiya Hotel to the right

The Rossiya Hotel, built in 1965 on the foundation of what was to be one of nine intended “wedding cake” buildings, of which seven were built (the Seven Sisters), is where I laid my head at night while on the Moscow leg of an educational tour to Russia. It was torn down in 2006, a year after I was there. When I think back to my stay a few things jump out: the sheer size, the Alexes, the intimidating gentleman who manned the elevator lobby, and the prostitutes.

I paid little attention to these when my group first arrived. I just wanted a shower, and thanks to Diana, my new friend and roommate on this Russian adventure, we got our room key quick. The only thing I noticed was that our bathroom was en suite and there was hot, odorless water (yes!). The walk down our hallway to the elevator an hour later, though, gave me my first inkling of how large a hotel we were staying in. It felt like we passed most of its 3,200 rooms.

Later that evening Diana and I decided to explore the hotel. We never found the movie theatre, or the 2,500-seat concert hall, but we did attempt to dine in one of the restaurants located on the even-numbered of its 21 floors. After running around the huge rectangle of a hotel, we finally found a restaurant with a view of Red Square. But it was closed. We tried another and it was closed too. Finally we found a convenience store on an odd-numbered floor and bought snacks.

View across the courtyard from one side of the hotel to the other with taller structure in center of courtyard.
View across the courtyard from one side of the hotel to the other with taller structure in center of courtyard.

Ill-sated, we walked along the Moskva River side of the hotel. We found some windows that gave us a view of the embankment. Cameras in hand and straps secured around our wrists, we unlocked the windows. To get better angles, while one of us leaned way out, the other would hold on to the other’s legs – just in case. A bit scary but worth it.

The following evening we met Alexei. He was Diana’s and my Belarusian waiter at dinner. Diana was helping me work on my “conversing with strangers” skills. She chose our waiter as my first exercise. He was barely twenty, and very excited to practice his English. By the end of the meal, we planned to meet later at the hotel. He’d bring his friend Alex, also from Belarus, and the four of us would speak English.

Before we were to meet the boys, Diana and I came up with our “safe phrase” to use should we feel uncomfortable or want to leave. Entering the lobby of the hotel around midnight, I noticed a good number of gentlemen in suits with scantily clad ladies draped over them in the seating area to the left of the main entrance. It took a moment to realize they were prostitutes. I had never knowingly seen a prostitute before. And I wondered why the men were not entertaining them upstairs.

Taken out the window. One of the Seven Sister can be seen on the right.
Taken out the window. Two of the Seven Sisters can be seen – one the right and the other in the distance on the left.

When the boys arrived we started chatting and looked for a place to sit. The main seating area was occupied as already stated. There was a bar and lounge on the second level of the lobby, but since we were not buying anything they wouldn’t let us sit there. We thought we’d take the risk and see if they wanted to come to the room.

The intimidating man who manned the elevators halted us to say that the boys were not allowed upstairs. He said that the hotel doesn’t allow prostitutes beyond the lobby. That explained a bit, but we tried to tell him they were not prostitutes. He had no reason to believe us and refused us entry.

Alexei, Diana, Me, and Alex
Alexei, Diana, Me, and Alex

Irritated, there was only one place to go – outside. Diana and I, wearing flip-flops, were ill-prepared for the chilly March Moscow night. But we lasted until the boys had to catch their train. Emails were exchanged and photos taken. We said da svidaniya to our Belarusian boys and the following day we also said goodbye to Russia and the Rossiya Hotel.

If you’d like to see the Rossiya Hotel in a film, you can see it in The Bourne Supremacy around the time of the car chase.

Posted in Study Abroad, Travel

Taste of Hamburg(er)

I had experienced a small slice of Bavaria while in Munich, and it didn’t disappoint. But Northern Germany – most of what I knew of this part of the country dealt with one city, Berlin. When the weekend arrived that the girls I had been traveling with while studying abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands planned a long weekend to Berlin, I didn’t have enough time to go. But I still wanted to experience Northern Germany. So another friend and I planned a short 24-hour trip to the city of Hamburg in early December.

Binnenalster, Hamburg, Germany
Binnenalster, Hamburg, Germany

I actually knew a little bit about the city as one of the exchange students I befriended my senior year of high school was from Hamburg. Peer, the exchange student, wrote to me about his life in Hamburg throughout my freshman year of college. Most of his stories involved the Außenalster, one of the two lakes in central Hamburg, his high school and environs, and Mojo Club on the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district, which I was always jealous to hear about as I was under 21 and there was no local venue that sounded even remotely as awesome.

hamburg 2
Hamburger Dom by day
hamburg 22
Hamburger Dom by night

Because our time was limited and having arrived in the late afternoon, my friend and I made haste as we had just a couple hours to get our bearings before the sun set. The fastest way to get from our hostel to the Reeperbahn, our first stop, was through the Hamburger Dom, a funfair with carnival rides and a roller coaster in the Heiligengeistfeld. We made a mental note to walk home this way to see if the fair was going on that night.

hamburg 12As it was just late afternoon, the Mojo Club hadn’t opened yet but I snapped photos of the coveted night spot. Next we headed towards the Hamburger Rathaus. The Hamburger Weihnachtsmarkt was just opening up for the evening on the Rathausmarkt in front of the Rathaus. All the stalls with gifts, food, and warm beverages, and the lights felt quintessentially German. And why not? These markets were started by German speakers.

Hamburger Weihnachtsmarkt
Hamburger Weihnachtsmarkt

Then we walked along the Binnenalster, the smaller of the two lakes. If the city didn’t seem Christmas-y enough, there was a Christmas tree on a float in the middle of the lake. As darkness set in, we headed back to more familiar parts of town. We spent our evening out of the cold at the Bayern Festhalle at the Hamburger Dom enjoying some polka and bier.

hamburg 4
Bayern Festhalle

The next morning we took the long route on our way to the train station to see a fraction of the port, being that Hamburg is a large shipping city. On the way there we walked through Alter Elbpark where there’s a statue of Otto von Bismarck, whom I studied in my Germany History class the semester prior. I never tire of making those history/reality connections. We were on our way back to Utrecht on the noon train as our short trip came to an end.

Bismarck Monument
Bismarck Monument
hamburg 3
The Rickmer Rickmers

The nostalgia and romanticism Germany produces for me has yet to be really challenged. If Munich was lederhosen and bier, Hamburg was O Tannenbaum and Christmas. I look forward to my next trip to Germany to get to know another part of the country.

Posted in Travel

Moored in Cornwall

I come from a traveling family. When my sister and I were younger we would all pile into our Caravan (sans DVD player, game console, or any other built-in electronic luxury that wasn’t a radio) and head out on the road. My sister, being older, would get the seat in the way back while I got the slightly shorter and less cool seat in the middle. While she would listen to her cassettes, I would ask my mom to entertain me. She would create connect-the-dot puzzles for me. Other times she would tell me tales of two bearcub sisters Shmushky and Bushkie.

Two Christmases ago I thought I would write down some of my favorite family travel memories from our post-caravan years as a gift for my mother. Though it has been years since she told their adventures, I decided to continue in her tradition and write them from Bushkie’s point of view. Who was Shmushky and who was Bushkie in the stories has been highly contested over the years, but as I had authorial power and never wanted to be Shmushky, I took Bushkie. Below is one story that falls under the chapter heading “No Need to Panic, Folks” and is about when my mom (Lynnie) came to England and we went to Cornwall to see where some of her family had once lived.

Downtown Camelford

At the end of Bushkie’s Master’s program in London, Lynnie flew over in order to help her move home, but not before a bit travel, of course. They were headed to Cornwall, the county of Lynnie’s ancestors. They were to stay in Camelford, a town in which family had married and resided. Upon arrival, they stopped by the tourism office and asked about the church where the wedding was held. They found out it had been converted to a private residence. After finding accommodations above one of the two pubs in town, Lynnie and Bushkie boarded the trusty Western Greyhound bus to Tintagel.

This is the Chapel turned private residence.

Tintagel Castle has connections to the legend of King Arthur and is situated almost on its own island in the sea. The fields they walked through to reach the castle were separated by stone fences, which had built-in “gates” to walk through. One such gate was the inspiration for a piece of Lynnie’s artwork.

The schedule said there was a five o’clock bus. They made their way to the high street in time to wait. When the green Western Greyhound bus did not arrive as its timetable indicated, Bushkie asked the local bear in the off-license if the bus had already arrived. She scoffed and said the bus had come and gone and it was the last one of the day. Eek! Lynnie and Bushkie were not prepared to stay over in Tintagel.

After the initial panic subsided, Bushkie started mentally preparing for the potential of having to walk back to Camelford. Desire for a bit of seemingly harmless adventure was gaining momentum. She knew it was summer and the sun wouldn’t set for a number of hours yet. Little did she realize it was almost 17 miles back to Camelford. Lynnie, on the other hand, wasn’t so keen on the idea.

Lynnie and Bushkie were contemplating finding a taxi. Neither was really sure how to go about this. All the shops were closing in town and they didn’t know whom to ask for the information. They decided to wait and hope for a bus for another 30 minutes incase the bear in the off-license was incorrect. At just the moment they were going to start walking, a green bus did come.  Though not heading to Camelford, the kind driver did agree to drive them there if they didn’t mind that he had to stop for petrol. Heaving a sigh of relief, Lynnie replied, “That’s no problem.” Bushkie felt a hint of disappointment that her mom and she didn’t have the greater adventure of walking back to Camelford, but was thankful for the green Western Greyhound bus.