Category Archives: Travel

Follow Your NOLA (a love letter to New Orleans in pictures)

Follow Your NOLA

Did you know that Carnival season in New Orleans kicks off on January 6th? So many people think it’s all about Fat Tuesday. Much like just about everything else in this city, there is so much more to it. 

I’m reviving this post published after our first family trip to the Crescent City to introduce you to some of the many reasons we love this magical place more than any theme park or cruise ship. Who couldn’t love a place that has a parade for everyone from Joan of Arc to the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus

It isn’t just the parades though. Yes, there is food and oh boy, is there drink. But there is also art, music, workshops, and so much more. While this is our love letter to New Orleans, you’ve got time to go this year and write your own too! 

For some, there are places in this world that call to them even if they’ve never been. I’d always thought that was the truest definition of wanderlust, a need to go places we’ve never been. A recent trip to New Orleans changed my perspective. If ever there were a person in this word for whom the tagline Follow Your NOLA applied that would be my youngest daughter. 

From a very young age, maybe about six or seven, she’s been fascinated by New Orleans. One might think that came from tales of my travels, but no. Long before my first visit she’d seek out shows on the History Channel or Discovery that talked about the folklore, food, and stories that cling to this city like so much Spanish Moss. It was actually rather sweet to sit huddled on the sofa and shiver at the tales of The Myrtles Plantation. Frankly, I was nearly as enamored.  

After my first trip to NOLA when she was eight the fascination grew. I think she wore beads and a mask to school for a week. Her room began to take on a distinctly French Quarter vibe and by the time her ninth birthday rolled around, it was clear the theme would be… Big Easy. 

 I’ve often wondered over the years if perhaps she was drawn to this city not by wanderlust, but by something deeper within her. In my travels, I’ve become certain that there exist in this world people who are simply old souls.

These people seem to have deeper connections to places, customs, and cultures than most of us do. They needn’t have grown up near or been raised in the places and things they love. They are simply a part of them no matter time or distance. My daughter is an old soul and New Orleans her muse. 

She recently celebrated her first double-digit birthday. How? With a trip to her city. 

Never have I seen such instant love. The child who is usually first to start fussing about long walks, couldn’t sit still. She nearly prowled the streets of the French Quarter. Night fell and she lit up like one of the gas lamps that dot the streets. She savored every spice (even tried alligator) lingered to look at every piece of art, got her cards read and sang Ella Fitzgerald songs on street corners with bands from around the globe. 

This is her city and she is its child. They belong together. Here is a short love letter to New Orleans in pictures that she chose. 

Laissez les bons temps rouler, mon amis!  

 

Visiting Iceland in Winter

How many travel blogs have you stumbled upon in your quest to figure out if visiting Iceland in winter is a good idea? I’d love to tell you that you’ve finally found the post that will answer all your questions and ensure that you have a magical trip. Here is the thing though, I had no intention of visiting Iceland in winter… until I did, sort of

In our family, we aren’t big on big gifts to mark occasions like birthdays or graduations. What we are big on is escaping whenever a good excuse can be found. So, when my husband’s big Five-Oh rolled around, he asked for an epic trip to Iceland. 

I started plotting and planning well in advance and then life happened. Our planned Spring expedition soon became an early Summer aspiration.  Before I knew it, Fall had rolled into town and we had yet to get our tickets booked. 

Like any good one-time-award-winning-travel-blogger I scoured the interwebs in search of last-minute trip ideas. Right around the time that I’d annoyed every travel writer pal of mine with copious questionings, I tossed out any idea of a well-planned trip.

I hit the book button on tickets through WOW airlines and contacted a homeowner on Airbnb. Nothing like phoning it in for the half-century celebration of the birth of the man who makes my every day an adventure, huh? 

All of that lack of planning had us touching down in Keflavik on a late November morning around 5 am. It also meant that we happened to embark upon our Icelandic adventure in the midst of a freakish cold snap that had the average temperature hovering somewhere around, oh… say thirty degrees Fahrenheit. Thus we were for all intents, visiting Iceland in winter. 

Cold though it was, it was none the less magical and amazing. More to come on all of that and some planning advice for those who hope to do better than aspire to be me, in a future post. For now, I will let photos tell the story. 

 

 

Is Travel Elitist?

This post has been brewing (festering, if I’m being honest) for nearly a year now. I’m not sure why it has been so hard to write. I feel very strongly about the point I hope to make yet still, the words haven’t flowed.

It all started when a stranger on social media accused me of being an, “out of touch elitist with no ability to understand that most people don’t enjoy the privilege of being able to travel.”  My knee-jerk reaction was a mix of anger and bewilderment. Months later I feel myself still struggling with a question… is travel elitist?

Let’s start with a little context. The comment was in a forum where the topic of discussion focused on traveling with family. In retrospect, I believe their reasoning may have been to point out to the group that not everyone has the means to plan a trip around the globe with children in tow.  Point taken. Honestly, I don’t have the means to do that either!

Wouldn’t we all want to be able to do that? The truth is nearly none of us can or ever will. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still go places. Maybe that is the crux of the issue. Perhaps it isn’t that travel is elitist but that one’s definition of it can be.

Travel has looked very different to me at many stages in my life. Growing up there was a period of several years where the state we lived in teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. My father, an employee of that state, lost his job and was without work for a longer time than my family was equipped for.  Young parents to three small children, my mother and father had to scrape to pull things together often finding that ends still wouldn’t meet.

Still. We. Traveled.  

Mom would raid the garden, bake some bread, fill a canteen and off we’d go. Be it to the next town over by car or on foot into the wilds of the high desert, we went places.  Years later, when finances had improved, we’d embark on a cross-country trip by train. I was probably around ten and to this day I vividly remember most of that adventure. Seeing America glide by as the sun rose and set is where my insatiable wanderlust took root.

cathedral doorway Harlem, New York

Many years later my military service would take me far from home, a nineteen-year-old living in a foreign country a world away from all she’d known.  I didn’t just explore, I thrived. Travel became a need, not at want. 

The small town where I lived in southern Spain served as a base camp. From there I’d adventure into Morocco to ride camels by the sea, to Portugal where I’d eat the best meal of my life for less than three American dollars, into small towns and bustling cities I’d wander, get lost, find myself and go again spending more time than money.  

As began my own family travel just naturally became part of our fabric. When there wasn’t enough change under the cushions of the sofa to put gas in the car, I’d pick up a Lonely Planet guidebook and we would mind-wander together. Growing up my kids loved our semiregular Travel Nights at home. They would pick a place they wanted to see and I’d make them research the area, find out what made it unique and build a list of the things they’d like to do there. We’d find music from that culture and cook dishes that you’d find there.  We couldn’t afford to get on a plane and go to Germany, so we’d bring Germany to us.  

None of that early travel was made possible because I had means, it was because I was open to seeing travel as more than a hotel and a passport.  I truly believe that your definition of what it is to travel plays a big role in how accessible it becomes. 

Now that I’m all grown up (yeah, right) traveling to far off places is easier.  My job as a freelance travel writer has helped facilitate adventures beyond both my wildest dreams and my budget. Because of that work, I was able to take my father back to the country his family came from and yes, we stayed in a five-star hotel… because I worked hard for it and that hard work gave me the privilege to do this. How is that elitist? 

blue sky day on the Chesapeake Bay

A desire to see and experience as much of this world as I can, has forced me and my family to give up more things than I’d ever imagined I might consider going without.  In return, it has given us back more than my wildest dreams. My hope is that making my kids travel when what they really wanted to do was play little league or have a dog, will help them see the world though eyes of compassion and have a healthy sense of our contentedness to each other and our planet. 

To that person who felt compelled to say what they did I say, go somewhere, anywhere! Hop on a bus, take a walk to the next park over, visit the library and grab a book about a place you long to see. I know it isn’t always going to be easy and may never get to that place, but you will still have gone somewhere, seen more and learned more. Then I’d challenge them with one question… is travel elitist? 

what does it mean to be a global citizen?

What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?  Is it just about living in different places, exploring unfamiliar cultures? In an effort to understand the concept and how we may differ in defining it, I’ve asked for input from journalists and Reiki Masters, expats, veterans, an octogenarian and even a middle-schooler. Their answers may surprise you. 

I’ve long held a  belief in travel as a catalyst for transformation. But, often wonder if travel alone is what imbues one with a sense of contentedness. What I found in researching this piece is that travel is not necessarily the common thread, it may be something deeper. 

The following are unedited quotes given by a wide range of people, of varying ages with a tapestry of backgrounds and life experience. Some have never traveled beyond the borders of the United States, while others are global nomads. Is there a commonality in how they’ve responded to the question, “What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?”

What Does It Mean To Be A Global Citizen? 

 

“When you become a global citizen, you stop seeing people’s race and color, your home is where you are currently located, your interest in people’s culture and background is genuine and you sort of want to be a part of their experience. You stop judging people. Instead of judging, you ask such questions as “why they do things differently, why they eat different food, and wear different clothes, and behave differently in some situations.” As a citizen of the world, you look for similarities instead of differences, or try to tear down the borders instead of building them up; and then, at the end of it all, you realize how alike we all really are.”  

~ Svetlana G. (International businesswoman who has lived in Russia, Germany, Peru, Ukraine, and the US. Speaker of four languages, currently working on her fifth)

“My dad joined the military when I was 7, and it was the most important decision he ever made for our family. While the military generally skews conservative, it opened us up to experiencing people, places, religions, food, music, etc. we would never have had we stayed in Arkansas, where both my parents were born and raised. 

All that to say, being a global citizen isn’t just a progressive/liberal mindset. I’m extremely liberal now but grew up rather conservatively. Being a global citizen, at the very least, means being aware that there are other people, countries, religions, other than your own. Of course, a more progressive mindset takes it a step further, considering how the actions of our government and our own actions impact others. That is also the difference between being a global citizen and a GOOD global citizen.”

~ Brent A.  (Graphic Designer, advocate, author, blogger, husband and father) 

 “I’ve tried to teach my four kids that because they’re had access to great opportunity in the US doesn’t mean they’re entitled to success. And it certainly doesn’t mean that people who have had less opportunities are less worthy of succeeding. As the great Barry Switzer said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” I try to instill a sense of gratitude, responsibility, and respect for all cultures.”

~ Lindsay M.  (Mom, DIYer, advocate, author, and wife of a musician) 

“A Global Citizen to me is someone who does not feel the boundaries of certain areas and has the sense of responsibility to be wary and cautious of the land and world around them. They know what needs to be done to take care of this world and they act upon it.” 

~ Tyler B. W. (Surfer, rapper, dog-dad, husband, and currently serving United States Marine)

“Having respect and compassion for people of different cultures within our borders and beyond. Recognizing that we are all of the same world and taking care of that earth and its occupants together.”

~ Julie C. (Journalist, travel expert, wife, mother and Doxie lover) 

“Global Citizenship means, connection. I have been blessed to travel and live in other countries, this has allowed me to experience different cultures and traditions.    I choose to believe that we are connected to each other by and invisible thread that I call God/Spirit.  We all share the same responsibility of nurturing and protecting the land/sea/air for future generations.  I have found although our traditions and cultures differ our consequences to this planet has an overall impact on the rest of us.”

~ Carolyn G. (Seeker, singer, mother, wife, former British expat now U.S. Citizen)

“Being in touch with the rest of the world and having concern/interest in all of our Human race brothers and sisters. None of us had a choice as to which country we would belong to when we were born.”

~ Robin R. (Manufacturing Executive, father, husband, mountain biker and veteran) 

“Global citizens feel at home in multiple locations as they roam the world, and feel the sense of belonging to others despite their cultural, racial, societal or economic or other differences. They thrive on learning new things and appreciate local cultures. At the same time – their own roots can weaken and their own cultural habits diminish as they learn and adapt to other cultures. At best global citizenship is when you teach your own culture to others as well learn from others.”

~ Katja P. (Author, Editor, expat, mother, influencer, photographer, entrepreneur, global nomad) 

“Sending aid to victims of the Mexican earthquake the same as you do the victims of Harvey or Irma. Feeling empathy towards the Palestinians and the various African people starving due to drought and war. Recognizing and celebrating the connectedness of all people from wherever they originate. And whatever your beliefs are about your creator and whatever the person on the exact opposite side of the planet (or city or state or country) believes about the creator, it is the same being. Remember that in dealing with your brothers and sisters from across the globe. And maybe someday from across the galaxy.”

~ Kevin H. (Financial planner, singer and husband)

“It means we are all on this big rock (Earth) together and we are all connected in some way even if it is only by the internet. It means knowing that we may not all agree but we will need each other at some point. Our differences can slip away over the common ground of a basic need of survival or compassion for one another. The only place that I have traveled out of the USA mainland is to Vieques, Puerto Rico. Having seen the beauty of the island and of the people, I am extremely concerned about the recent hurricanes they have been sustaining. How will this impact their way of life and the island. I am more connected having actually been there because I have first-hand knowledge of the kindness of the people who live there.

It is important not to be or become desensitized to others around the world because when we do, we become desensitized to our basic humanity.”

~ Beth F (Nurse, homeopathic wellness expert, Reiki Master) 

“It means one who is dedicated to stewardship of our planet while seeking education for them self and others through kindness and compassion.” 

~ Sarah Jane C.  (gardener, reader, enjoying life at 81 years young)

“It is when you care about people because they are people and the earth because we share it.” 

~ Emily D. (11-year-old traveler, lover of dance and her French Bulldog)

I came away from this little experiment in social consciousness with an unexpectedly profound revelation and more questions.  With such a diverse group it seemed logical that the responses would have a wide range. Yet, they really don’t. 

We seem to have an innate understanding of our own connection to one another and to our planet. Whether we’ve seen much of the world or rarely ventured beyond our hometown, we feel a sense of community in our shared humanity. But do we foster that connection, act on it, practice the understanding we have? If we don’t, why not?

In a time where so many forces seek to polarize or isolate, I see hope in our understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. With that said, I also wonder how we turn that knowledge into action. How do we move beyond answering the question and becoming true global citizens through action?  

This week I’m in New York city attending my second travel bloggers summit on study abroad and global citizenship. It is my hope to find ways – both big and small – that can help us all take meaningful action on behalf of each other. 

If you’d like to take part, follow along on social media using #StudyAbroadBecause 

Lighthouses & Sunken Submarines: St. Mary’s County, Maryland

What is it about lighthouses that sparks such fascination? A romanticized notion of the lonely keeper of the flame. Perhaps it has something to do with a mix of quite heroism and tales of the sea. Then again it could just be all about the view.  I’ve set out on a quest to visit the lighthouses of Maryland to try and answer that question. 

Up first is a unique lighthouse with some hidden treasure you won’t find anywhere else. 

Piney Point LighthousePiney Point Lighthouse

Do you imagine a lighthouse as a towering presence standing watch at the water’s edge? Me too. In fact I’d always sort of thought there was a height requirement. Which when I stop to think about it makes no sense. As long as the view is unbroken, the job gets done.

The Piney Point lighthouse isn’t even the largest structure within the historic park in which it resides. It sands only thirty-three feet high.

“…and though she be but little she is fierce.” ~Hermina

Opened in 1836 the lighthouse stands watch over the Potomac River. In the course of its service (it was decommissioned in 1964 by the US Coastguard) the lighthouse and its adjacent quarters were occupied by twenty-one Keepers and their families. Four of those keepers were women.

Some of these women were spouses, trained in their husband’s profession out of necessity. Lighthouses tend to be placed in remote areas where assistance was often hours away. Wives served as backup keepers. Following a ship wreck, Mrs. Goeshy (wife of one of William Goeshy – Keeper in 1939) swam repeatedly out into the water to rescue victims. She may have actually been one of the Coast Guard’s first, famed rescue swimmers.

Who knew lighthouse keeping was a beacon for feminism? I sure didn’t.

I’d also no clue at there was a German U Boat sunk in the waters just off the coast from where the lighthouse sits century. That’s one of the amazing facts that had our entire family’s rapt attention when we toured the Piney Point Lighthouse, Museum and Historic Park with historian and former Park Ranger, April Havens.

One could say that U-1105, or the Black Panther, was one of the first-ever stealth submarines. Commissioned 1944 she was outfitted with a synthetic rubber skin over her hull. One of less than ten in her class U-1105 was turned over to the Allies after the war. The intention was to bring the Black Panther to the United States in order to study the unique radar/sonar blinding technology.  Ah, but the sea had plans of its own.

On day four of U-1105’s journey from England to the States she was caught in a hurricane while surfaced. A section of the submarine was ripped away by the force of the storm causing it to nearly keel over. A portion of the synthetic skin lost to the sea. After what research that could be done was completed the sub was scuttled in the Potomac River in St. Mary’s county Maryland in 1949.

The Black Panther sunk 91 feet in 20 seconds on that day. The boat was quite literally lost, for decades. In June of 1985 divers rediscovered the  wreckage. Today U-1150 stands as Maryland’s first historical shipwreck preserve.

These enthralling tales are just two of the many we learned from during our visit to the Piney Point Lighthouse.

Piney Point Lighthouse

Tips for visiting the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Historical Park

Start at the Museum – There is surprisingly a lot of ground to cover here in the way of things to see and learn about. The main museum is self-guided with lots of vignettes to read through in a small space. They score bonus family travel points for having a small Kiddie Corner with activities for the littlest kiddos.  

Ask Questions – When you head out to the marine portion of the museum you’ll have a guide. These guides are experts with a passion for the history of Piney Point. Asking them questions makes the visit all the more an EDventure. Be sure to ask about the torpedoes! 

Bring a Picnic – The museum sits on a coveted water-front. All that gorgeous beach you pass on the way in with cute decor and colorful beach chairs is private property. Can’t stop for a snack there, but there is a dock, picnic tables and small stretch of sandy beach at the museum.

Great for Kayaks – There is a public peer to launch your kayak from for free. The parking is free as well. The launch closes at sunset but if you let the staff know what your plans are they can make arraignments.

Hit the Gift Shop – Not only are there cute, crafty and even beautiful treasures to be found in the shop, but spending your money here helps support the preservation efforts.