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On the Eve of History

Loitering low on the horizon, casting slowly spreading embers, the sun has begun to set. It sets on a day that will never again be. On a world that will change forever come tomorrow. Tonight we sit on the eve of history, the sun glowing brilliantly upon us all in equal measure. 

I rarely use this space to talk about politics – unless it’s in the form of championing veterans causes or prodding you to think about ways to do social good – but today the sun sets. Tomorrow Americans head to the polls to cast their ballots in an election that, no matter the outcome, will be historic. I’ve a few things to say about that. 

In life choices must be made, the consequences lived with. Some of those choices lead us to wonderful things like love, puppies and winning lottery tickets (not that I’ve ever chosen one of those, dammit!) Others choices can take us down some dark and winding roads. The one thing all choice has in common is that it is something that must be decided upon from within. 

Though we may tell ourselves that we’ve been forced into making choices, the simple truth is that just isn’t possible. You choose. Yes, you may have had to make some pretty crappy choices, but in the end the choice was yours to make. My opinions, what your partner says, brow-beating by the media, none of those truly matter in the end. Choice is a solitary endeavor. 

This is the bedrock of democracy. One person. One Vote. Your choice. 

Those who live in democratic societies have been given a rare gift of choice. We are allowed a voice in the shaping of the country we live in. That isn’t to say that our voice is often heard, that we always get what we want, or that our countries conform to our ideals. But, we do have a choice. One that a large swath of humanity does not have.

I can’t say that I joined the Navy to defend your right to make choices. At nineteen I was mostly just looking for a way out of the one-tumbleweed town I grew up in, and to escape some of the youthfully irresponsible choices I’d made.  Again, I chose. 

That said, I can tell you that seeing places during my service and in my subsequent decades of travel, where many choices were denied to women, those with little means, those who love differently and entire ethnic groups lit a fire in me to exercise my right to choose whenever I could. Not just vote but to choose the type of person I wanted to be, the types of people I wanted to lift up and admire. I understood that by doing this I may have an impact on the world I’d one day hand down to my own children.  Again, my choices. 

Tonight we sit on the eve of history. Tomorrow I’ll go to the polls and take my children along to witness history.  No matter the victor tomorrow, my children will know that I made a choice. I can only hope the majority of us choose wisely. 

Plan Your Next Trip with Instagram

Instagram Travel Planning Instagram has always been great for making mouths water. It’s a great place to daydream about far off places too. But can you use it for Instagram travel planning? Yes! Here is how I’m using it to plan our trip to Iceland. 

Instagram Travel Planning

Step One – Follow the Right Folk

There seem to be nearly as many junk accounts on Instagram as there are stars in the sky. Look out for perfectly shot photos that are so amazing they’d easily be found in the top travel magazines. That’s not to say that there aren’t completely legitimate Instagram accounts out there that take amazing photos, but just to keep an eye out. If a “gramer” posts that they’re lounging in the crystal blue seas of Tahiti one day and two days later they say scaling Machu Picchu, it’s a safe bet they aren’t actually doing those things and may not be the best resource for your Instagram travel planning.

Quality accounts that are actually the resource you’re looking for usually are also great story tellers. That personal connection to the photo and the story that goes along with it is why I follow these types of accounts and also why I find them the best resources for using Instagram to plan trips.

One of my favorites – both for his photos, stories, and honest take – is Matt Long of @landlopers

 

As the owner of three Siberian Huskies it’s always with mixed feelings that I approach dog sled experiences. On the one hand I love being around dogs almost more than anything else but part of me worries about whether or not the experience is an ethical one. With dog sledding the only real way to know is by visiting and almost right away I knew that Valentijne Beets’ company Bear Hill Husky was the real deal – no one cares THAT much about their dogs if they don’t treat them well. Located right outside of Roveniemi, Bear Hill has dozens of Alaskan Huskies in their kennel and it was 5 of these hard working dogs that took me out into the chilly woods of Finnish Lapland today. I love dog sledding because of how quiet it is. Mushing through the snow, the dogs clearly love running more than anything else and the only noise is their fierce panting. It’s a beautiful way to be a part of nature without loud motors or anything else around. It’s also one of the best ways to experience the amazing landscapes in northern Finland without leaving a trace. #nbeFinland

A photo posted by Matt Long (@landlopers) on

 

 Accounts that curate content from others, I’m on the fence about. These accounts tend to be fairly high up in searches because they get tons of likes and interaction. Who doesn’t like to  be featured? It’s awesome. Why they aren’t my favorite though is the lack of story. Often it’s just the where and who of the photo. You can always track back to the original post and draw inspiration and information from there. 

Step Two – Hashtag Searches

Yep, this is the most obvious place to start. Search for the place you’re planning to visit. Not all of what comes up in that search is going to be what you’re looking for. Um, bikini-clad babes standing in the middle of a fjord don’t really help much. There will be some good stuff in there though. Keep a list of things that spark your interest.

Narrow your search with hashtags for the cities you’d like to visit. This is a great way to find unique things off the beaten path as well as get a feel for how crowded {in my book that’s the measure of whether it’s worth it or not} popular places may be. 

 

#ship in the #frozen #fjord at #Akureyri #iceland. My first post with @ambercharrison

A photo posted by keV (@macrotech2) on


Step Three – Click on the Location

Next to whom you follow this is one of the best tools for Instagram travel planning. Actually, it may be even more important because the results you’ll be getting will span a spectrum of experiences.

For example one of our favorite places to eat in Washington, D.C. is Le Diplomate. When you click on the location in this photo I took of the world’s most amazing profiteroles, you can see where the restaurant is located on the map Instagram provides. Say your goal is to stay as close to those profiteroles as possible, you can plan your stay in that area.

 

Great way to end a lovely meal. Profiteroles, cafe Vietnamese, and my guy at @lediplomatedc

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola (@dipaolamomma) on

Some locations listed are simply the cities. Which is great too! We’re pretty familiar with New York City, my husband being a native. That said, it’s a BIG place… big apple if you will. A city that is always changing, adding new things to experience.  

I found one of our more unique stays through Instagram – the Hotel Bellclaire where Mark Twain once lived. It’s off the beaten path in a great residential area that’s a short walk to Central Park and pretty much across the street from the Beacon Theater.

Step Four – Stalk Brands

Airlines, hotels, attractions and even your favorite luggage brands are almost all on Instagram. Why should you follow them, they rarely follow back? One word – SAVE. Many of these brands will post information on discounts, special offers, flash sales and from-time-to time even offers exclusive to their followers on Instagram.

So when you start planning your next getaway look beyond the booking sites and tip websites, dig in and start Instagram travel planning.

 

This post was inspired by weekly #VZWbuzz chats that often feature ways that technology impacts our daily lives. As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events.   All opinions – and playlists – are entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

What Makes it a ‘Travel’ Blog Anyway?

The heart beat quickens. A quiver runs through your being. You’ve a bag at your side, a ticket in hand. That first step toward a new discovery has been taken and the thrill is an inescapably rapacious. You are a travel junkie.  And I sympathize. 

what makes it a travel blog
take the world with you wherever you go

Of late in groups I belong to, across small tables laden with half-drunk coffee, in checkout lanes and on welcoming sofas I’ve experienced a marked increase in conversations about travel blogging.  Some are of the mind that to travel you must have a dogeared passport filled with ink blotches blending together into barely readable smudges. Others are a little more philosophical about it. They subscribe the idea that the minute you set foot outside your comfort zone, you’ve gone somewhere. Per usual, I seem to fall somewhere in the middle. 

When I started writing this blog years ago it was a whole different being from what it is today. And yes, a blog is a living thing. You might even have guessed that simply from the title. Let’s be honest, I totally get that “Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom” doesn’t scream travel blog. 

Much like travel itself, blogging – or writing of any sort– is a journey. In the early days I wrote about the chaos of life as a mother to four with an ever lessening grasp on her sanity. At one point I had children in high, middle, elementary, and preschool all at the same time. To wine or not to whine… that was the question. Often times the answer was, both.

In sharing those stories of maternal struggles and the rare triumphs, I found not just an audience but a community. What I didn’t find as much of, was a reason to talk about the things I got excited about, that I loved doing. Which pretty much mirrors the experience of any mom with younger kids. 

What, mom wants to do something other than feed us and drive us around? NO WAY! 

and then they grew up…

One day things got easier. The kids could all use a toilet {if not always managing to flush the damn thing – seriously, I must have failed at potty training these people} and the world was our tidy bowl. 

what makes it a travel blog
oh the places we have gone. now to go to all the rest!

I’ve always been a wanderer, never liking to sit still for long. I was – and am – sure there something new to see if only I could get there. Now I could take the kids along, make travelers out of them. And I did.  So I started blogging about it – after all this was always a blog about ME! Give me a minute, have to adjust my tiara.

Okay, maybe it’s about more than me. I’d like to think that the two people {not related to me} that read every post have gotten a little something out of it. Maybe it was that sense of community from the early days, or the inspiration to visit one of the places I’ve fallen in love with. Either way I know one thing for sure… the journey continues and I plan to enjoy the ride.

Come along with me!