Many others have already more eloquently expressed their grief at the passing of late television host, writer, father, and consummate cool guy Anthony Bourdain. There's not much more I can add to the conversation in words other than my heartfelt condolences for the young daughter, family, friends, and fans he left behind. He was the inspiration for many of my world travels; his books and television shows inspired me to travel to Vietnam, Iceland, Sweden, and other places. The best I can do to express my sadness at his passing is to show the places he inspired me to travel, explore, and connect with.
Over the years, I've taken a number of solo trips abroad and closer to home. While I enjoy the freedom that solo travel provides me, I've arrived at the conclusion that I'd much rather travel with friends or my partner. I think everyone who can travel by themselves at one point in their life should; there's nothing quite like having to rely completely on your own wits day after day. But really, if I'm going to spend the money and time on traveling I'm going to do it in the way I enjoy the most: with my friends and loved ones.
Our trip was already planned before I got pregnant, so it was either throw away almost $800 in flights or go through with the trip. Thankfully, we were traveling to a place within the United States, a relatively short flight away (approximately 5 hours), and was covered by my insurance. There was even a Kaiser clinic within a half-hour drive of our vacation rental.
People are anxious during these early weeks and with good reason. Miscarriage is a reality and far more likely in the early months than at any other time. We had our first ultrasound before the trip and heard the babies' heartbeats. Our OB gave us the go-ahead for the trip, so I was relatively comfortable with the risk. However, this didn't stop me from having fears about a miscarriage thousands of feet over the blank Pacific.
I visited two new countries (Croatia and Hungary), four new states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin), one United States territory (Puerto Rico). quite a few new cities, and visited a bunch of friends. The last time I totaled it, I had taken over twenty flights and went through at least sixteen airports. Here are the thirteen best moments from those travels; they're not in any particular order.
I love California. It's got great weather, countless natural wonders, and a diverse mix of cultures that is hard to find anywhere else. What it doesn't have is fall. The weather does cool down, the air gets crisper, and the leaves do change color, but when compared to the colors of the northeast and midwest, it's a pitiful display. This October finally brought me fall in all its vibrant glory with a road trip through the northeast.
As soon as August begins I start looking forward to the cooler temperatures and golden light of fall. Fall is my favorite season for a number of reasons: the air gets crisp, the light becomes golden as the days grow shorter, my birthday, the best holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving), and my favorite seasonal foods. Fall is also a great time of year to travel. The summer crowds thin out, airfare prices decrease, and the weather is still nice enough to enjoy yourself. It's also the time of year I find myself traveling the most. Here are my top twelve travel destinations for fall 2017.
July was a light travel month, a welcome respite after the near two months of straight level I had between May and June. I purchased a 1958 Terry Trailer, fourteen feet long with all the original appliances. It's being used as my home base for working on my Redding property. We're working on making things more livable up there for us including a camp shower and compost toilet (read a bucket with sawdust).
June brought me back to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit family. We explored the lower peninsula including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the largest Christmas store in the world, and Kalamazoo Nature Center. We ventured on the edges of the upper peninsula, staying the night in St. Ignace and visiting Mackinac Island for a day trip. June also brought new and exciting adventures in home ownership.
March and April were slow travel months. In March, I didn't leave the state and opted to stay local to the bay area and southern California. In April, I left the state once to attend the Women in Travel Summit 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I wanted to keep it slow these past couple months to give myself enough energy to handle the travel heavy months of May and June; I will be flying out to Croatia in a couple days and will be in Eastern Europe for most of the month. In June, I will be spending half the month visiting with family in Michigan. It's going to be a hectic few weeks.
This last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Women in Travel Summit 2017 put on by the travel organization Wanderful. This industry event caters to women in the travel industry: tour guides, travel bloggers and influencers, and tourist industry representatives. Hilton City Center Milwaukee hosted the event. While I've attended education and teaching conferences, I've never attended a travel industry conference. Here's what I learned.
I stayed close to home in March, mostly traveling back and forth between southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. Now that I've announced the big news to my family and friends, I'm ready to tell the world my big news: I purchased nearly eight acres of land outside Redding, California and will be building a house there over the next couple years. Making the first steps towards realizing a decade-long dream of owning land I can develop and farm is overwhelming, to say the least. In my best California vocabulary: I'm stoked.
When a man of a certain age, and it's never men in my own generation, tells me to smile, I feel they are telling me how to feel, to suppress how I am currently feeling, invalidate those feelings, and that I am supposed to be cheerful and grateful they have deigned to speak to me. I do not feel like fucking smiling after I've gotten one hour of sleep and have been traveling for the last twelve hours. I want to sip my watery mojito, eat my shitty tourist food, and read my fucking book.
After two months with back-to-back international destinations and the (fun!) exhaustion of the holidays with, I wanted to stay fairly local on the west coast. This doesn't mean I didn't have a great month of traveling, and I visited with friends I'd been missing and explored a city I'd never been to before and have wanted to go to.
On Wednesday, January 25th, 2017, current President Donald Trump signed an executive order to, “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.” The order defines the southern border as the, “contiguous land border between the United States and Mexico.” It would create a physical wall made of the “appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.” It would be approximately 1,900 miles of what would likely be steel and concrete.
In the travel industry, the word "tourist" has become synonymous with the image of the red-faced American traveler wearing a fanny pack and Bermuda shorts wandering cluelessly looking for the closest burger joint. Many travelers in my age range are quick to point out they are not tourists but travelers. They want to distance themselves from the negative connotations of ignorance, lack of adventure, and all around terrible taste in clothing. They claim they get to know the "real" side of a place. Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. Yes, it is good for people to get out of their comfort zones and try things they would not normally experience in their home. Yes, it would be wonderful people to get out of the tourist district and see what everyday life is like for the people living there.
I have a confession to make: travel fills me with dread. No matter how many times I get on a plane, I'm still worried that I will be late (even if I'm two or three hours early), I forgot something important like my visa, or I will be the victim of a terrible disaster. One of the reasons why I travel is to overcome these anxieties and prove to myself they're unfounded. Normally, things go smoothly.
But sometimes things don't go the way we expect them. I would say that this is where we have our best moments when traveling but as I sit here with a wrist wrapped in a brace and a couple hundred dollars in medical bills from my most recent trip, I would say that's a bald-faced lie. Some mistakes and mishaps turn into adventures. Others turn into trips to the urgent care.