I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
Yesterday had been a perfect day in every way. I had the good fortune of spending the day on a road trip to Winter Garden, Florida with my family. Although it is early March when the temperatures typically rise here in Florida, the weather yesterday was sunny but cool. I love the cooler weather and was so grateful that it is here a little longer before the hot summer heat arrives, and the trees were dotted with bright spring green buds everywhere. I couldn’t help but notice how cool it was outside the car, and I needed a jacket. Yet, inside the car in the sun, I took my jacket off.
We at lunch outside at a PERFECT French cafe where the croissants were as good as those I have had in France. The other food was delicious as well and beautifully plated with an abundance of eye-appealing color everywhere.
We bumped unexpectedly into the town center with a pergola covered by what appears to be wisteria surrounding a beautiful tiled mosaic fountain and some swings hanging on the pergola. What an unexpected whimsical surprise.
And speaking of whimsy, we came to Winter Garden originally to start our search for some painted murals in and around Orlando, which are perfect backdrops for fun photo ops. One can squat and sit against the wall in this mural on the corner of South Boyd Street and Plant Street in order to appear to be sitting on this whimsical swing. Whimsy is always good, in my opinion. What a great way to start the day with more whimsy!
After our little day trip, when I returned home, I was riding my bike later in the cold evening when I remembered one of my favorite Aesop’s Fables for some reason. I may have thought of the fable because of the cold day and how I had to take my jacket off and put it on all day long. It is the fable about the sun and the wind disputing who was stronger. They decide to have a little competition with a traveler walking along the road to see who could make the traveler take off his cloak first. The one who caused the traveler to take off his cloak would be regarded as the stronger of the two, they decided. The wind blew and blew relentlessly as strong and hard as it could, but this caused the traveler to wrap his coat around him instead of taking it off. The sun began to shine afterwards, providing a gentle persuasion somehow to the traveler to shed his coat soon, as the traveler found it too hot to walk with his coat on. It was a situation of pleasant warmth after bitter cold. It was a case of persuasion being better than force. It was a case of an impetuous wind versus a diplomatic sun. It was a case of gentleness versus force. However, it isnow and always is truly a case of how kindness affects more than severity.
Life is good; find and show kindness whenever and wherever you can. Carpe diem, friends….
With cruise lines resuming operations at some point in the near future, it impresses me that Royal Caribbean Group invested in research to determine the safety of their HVAC systems during this downtime for the travel industry during the pandemic. All over the world, travelers concurrently experience wanderlust AND hold their breaths at the same time, wondering and waiting for some indication when it is safe to resume travel again.
I am re-posting this article for those who are interested:
Wanderlust during the pandemic? Are you compiling your travel bucket list during the travel restrictions? Starting January 26, 2021, all air passengers aged two and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test that’s no more than 72 hours old to enter the United States. Travel abroad is possible but needs forethought. I am looking forward to the day on the horizon when we are free to easily move about the world again soon. This makes international travel a little trickier, but we still can dream about where to go once things settle down a bit during the pandemic. But that means you have some time to consider some place magical, like the wonders of Waitomo in New Zealand.
Waitomo is a village in the north Island of New Zealand. It is here that a species of glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa, lives within the complex cave system there. At Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you can walk through the caves to see the magical lights emitted by the glowworms, which appear almost as though they are from Neverland and are sprinkled with pixie dust everywhere. They also remind me of Christmas lights or constellations all about the cave. These caves are amazing and are breathtaking. Imagine walking through this place, or better yet, taking a boat ride through this enchanted cave. The boat tours here last about an hour, so remember to wear comfortable shoes and wear something warm, as the caves are about sixty degrees Fahrenheit year round. Prices for adults are about $40.00 USD for the weekend price, and about $18.00 USD for children. They also offer reduced weekday prices and family tickets, which are $74.00 USD for two adults and two children (ages 4-14). They charge about $11.00 for extra children, and children under 4 are free.
Taking a boat ride sounds great to me, but it is really the blackwater rafting that catches my eye. Blackwater rafting is like white water rafting but in the dark! Imagine floating around this cave on a tube with only the lights from the glowworms and your headlight leading your journey. Here you travel about 80 meters (262 feet) below ground, jump off a waterfall with a tube, and get started. Does this sound terrifying or exhilarating? Maybe both. Maybe that’s the point? What’s better than jumping off a waterfall and floating in the dark cave on a tube? A zip line, of course! One of these experiences also includes a zip line. The company offers several options for exploration, but the blackwater tours are either three hours or five hours long. What an incredible experience for a bucket list adventure. The website claims that both tours are appropriate for all levels of fitness; it seems that one only needs a certain lust for adventure.
The water temperature in the cave is around fifty degrees Fahrenheit, so the Waitomo Cave provides helmets with headlights, a thick wetsuit, and rubber boots with admission. The Black Labyrinth Tour adult prices are $109. USD and children’s (ages 12-15) prices are $93.00 USD. Week day admission prices are less. Showers are available after the trip, but bring your own shampoo, towel, and soap. Participants on this three hour tour must be at least 12 years old for this three hour tour.
The five hour Black Abyss Tour, which is more intense, requires participants to be at least 16 years old. This tour offers the zipline and costs $190 USD, although week day prices are also reduced.
Why not get out of your comfort zone to experience something really different soon? The website for the Waitomo is below for more information:
Adventures by Disney recently announced they will expand their offerings to include an expedition-type cruise to Antarctica and Patagonia as well as to Equador/The Galapagos Islands.
An expedition cruise is a cruise for those who crave adventure and travel to far away places. This is not an ordinary cruise with assorted excursions. Rather, this type of cruise is usually a smaller, more intimate ship which offers expeditions, or smaller intimate outings, often in zodiac boats. This is a cruise in which one needs boots, as you can often have a “wet landing” in which you get your feet wet while landing on the beach after you climb out of the zodiac before exploring the area. This type of cruise is full of experiences that offer adrenaline, off-the-beaten track, on-land experiences, often ecotourism, and usually on-board naturalists, who are often armed with a rifle in case of the appearance of an unexpected polar bear. These naturalists guide the small group expeditions and lead presentations about the flora, fauna, and geology of the area. These excursion staff naturalists are truly experts in their fields.
Sometimes there is no internet access onboard the ship for a while, as you may be in such remote places that don’t get internet service for a while (such as parts of the Arctic Circle). This lack of internet from time to time evokes feelings of being a true explore in a time long ago without any electronics to guide you. How exciting it is to think that people once ago navigated through these remote lands without any electronic GPS systems and relied on the stars to guide them.
Besides Adventures by Disney, some other major cruise lines offer expedition cruises such as Quark, Ponant, Linblad, Viking, National Geographic, Silversea Expeditions, Hurtigruten, Hapag-Lloyd, Aurora Expeditions, Seabourn, Scenic, and Crystal Expedition Cruises.
The sights on an expedition cruise take my breath away. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you, or you may be bitten by the exploration bug and travel on several ships instead. It is a journey like no other, however. I have known people that go several times on the same ship with the same operator to the same destination, as no trips are like one another in terms of wildlife encountered and experiences enjoyed.
Life is good; try to find an experience on an expedition cruise in which you are “unplugged” all week but plugged into the world around you.
Saga Cruises recently announced they will require vaccines for all guests sailing in May, and now American Queen Steamboat Co. and Victory Cruise Lines will require guests to have been vaccinated prior to sailing on July 1 or after. These cruise lines have a high number of guests over 65, so they are trying to keep this population safe while cruising. Crystal Cruises will also require full vaccination, two weeks before sailing, for all passengers once operations resume for their company.
Beyond this, Norwegian Cruise Line and Regent Seven Seas is working to require their crew to get vaccinated before they resume operations. In addition, Royal Caribbean Group, which owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea will seek to mandate vaccines for crew and staff prior to resuming operations, if possible, as well. I hope this helps to increase traffic on future cruises after the pandemic has hit the tourism sector so hard.
Life is good; start making plans for your bucket list destination once the travel restrictions are lifted and you can safely resume travel again. Carpe diem friends…
I do like a good “pipedream” where my mind takes me away to a different place or time, where I think about the myriad of things I would like to see or do within my lifetime. “Pipedreams” keep me sane during the pandemic as I compile a list of inspirational travel destinations in my mind for a brighter day ahead when the travel restrictions are lifted.
Lake Hillier or any of the “pink lakes” in Australia is truly a bubble-gum color pink lake on the northern shore “Middle Island”. This island is a remote area accessible by tours only. Contact the following site to get more information about how to book an aerial or boat tour to see the island from a distance.
2. See the wild kangaroos on a white sand beach in Lucky Bay near Esperence, Australia
3. Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
Life is good; find some remote place you’ve always wanted to travel to and find a way after the pandemic is over. Life is short, and we have only “these five minutes” within our lifetime to make the best of it as I always say.
Wanderlust knocking at your door again? Thinking of traveling soon after you have your Covid vaccines? There is a lot to think about when traveling during a pandemic, especially travel insurance and what it covers.
I am re-posting these FAQs from a site that discusses travel insurance during the pandemic:
I started drinking herbal tea when I was in the seventh grade or somewhere thereabouts. I still remember my Mother offering to make me a cup of tea at the time. I threw my head back laughing, telling her I would ONLY drink herbal tea in a beautiful teacup. I told her a mug simply would not do. After that day, my Mother laughed when she saw me drinking herbal time each and every time in one of her beautiful china cups with a delicate floral pattern and a saucer. It’s not so much about the tea as much as it is about creating a small, good, beautiful moment for me somehow.
Tonight, making my herbal tea, I took out my Mother’s china cup and made myself a steeping cup of pumpkin spice herbal tea, and both the tea and memories of my late Mother warmed my heart in a way that I needed tonight. Missing her, I connected my thoughts about her with happy and comforting thoughts tonight, trading my sense of loss for something that made me smile instead.
I decided tonight I would do something that I have not done in a while after a particularly busy week. I try not to structure my life so that it is “too busy”, as I value having time to enjoy my life and try to live my life with intention. I decided I would read by the fire and light all the candles in the room tonight, too, which is something I don’t usually do. I usually read outside at night on the lanai by the fire table, but I decided I would shake things up a bit tonight. There was such a peaceful feeling hearing the crackle of the fire combined with simultaneous scent of the candles nearby. When I need to shake things up, I try to do something I love, see something I love, hear something I love, touch something I love, smell something I love, or taste something I love. The senses invoke such strong memories for me and yet somehow ground me in the moment right now with a small good thing.
Within minutes of reading my book, sipping my tea, watching the fire, smelling the candles, and hearing the crackling of the fire, I felt centered again and quickly found peace. In a world full of turmoil with the pandemic and other disturbing current events from time to time, it helps to draw in a deep breath, exhale, and find peace in whatever way we can dial things down a little to enjoy the moment.
Life is good; try to dial it down a little tonight to find a way to create peace in your heart. Life is good…..
There are those that live their lives with a great deal of routine, finding that routine is helpful to them to navigate their worlds more more efficiently. There are those that live their lives without a great deal of routine, finding that routine is monotonous, dull, and tedious.
No matter which side of the coin you find yourself, it has been said that “sometimes a break from the routine is the very thing you need.” (author unknown).
So it is with me; I found myself needing a break from all this talk about politics and the pandemic these days. I invited my friend to join me for a mini-break while we stole away for a few hours to the beach. I told her to clear her schedule, and we would eat our lunch at the beach today. Little did she know I was creating the experience in my mind, watching detail after detail flash before my eyes, inside my mind, as we spoke.
I have never had a true beach “picnic”. Each and every time I have eaten lunch at the beach here in Florida, the meal has been a blend of pragmatic and quick. I tend to pack my food in that ubiquitous little red and white cooler with a handle that I have had for many years. Normally, I deliberately choose things that won’t spoil if they get too warm on a hot day at the beach here in the summer. Ice packs on those hot days last only so long after all.
Today would be different. Instead of just sitting on my beach blanket, I wanted to create a beautiful moment in time for our “staycation” at the beach. My friend and I are both longing for the days when travel to far away places with beautiful beach parties and inspiring settings is again a viable option. For now, however, since we can’t change our worlds, we need to change our thinking. What we needed was a “staycation” for the day.
I had seen numerous pictures in the past of instagram-worthy “boho” dinner parties at the beach and had admired all the effort it must have taken to create an experience as beautiful as that. When my friend asked what she could bring to the lunch, I told her nothing at all. She is one of those people who is beautiful both inside and out, always doing something for others. I decided today was a good day to “pay it forward” to her, thinking about all that she has done recently for my family and me while covid knocked at our door, and I respectfully declined her generous and kind offer to bring something to our “staycation celebration”. Within a moment or two, I made up my mind to arrive at the beach approximately an hour before she arrived to set things up. The menu would be good but simple food. I recently purchased a sign that said “Good food. Good Friends. Good Times” and used it as my inspiration. Today would be a good time, but it would be simple. It would be different, but it wouldn’t be so labor intensive or costly, as I wanted to enjoy the day, too. I didn’t want to be too tired from all the preparations as the day gradually unfolded with laughs and good conversation. It all had to start with some sort of table, however, and a comfortable place upon which to sit.
I searched CraigsList for anyone who was giving away free wooden pallets, as I had seen some boho picnics use pallets as a table. Because we are very careful in the pandemic, the table would have to allow for a minimum of six feet for social distancing outside, as neither she or I have had covid yet. Although I love the look of using wooden pallets for beach tables, I quickly dismissed the idea, as it would be difficult for me to carry two wooden pallets on the beach myself. I then considered wooden “orange crates”, which would provide a two purpose approach to simplify things.
The crates would allow me to efficiently carry things onto the beach and once inverted could serve as a table. Two orange crates would suffice, I thought. I purchased them at Michael’s for about ten dollars each. After I set up the crates on my living room floor, they looked small and unimpressive. How could I infuse them with a little life to inspire a break from our routines? Certainly color would play a part. I began to think of all the little things I already had in the house that would dress up the scene unfolding in my mind. I decided I needed a centerpiece that was yellow, my friend’s favorite color. I somehow had to weave more yellow throughout the scene unfolding in my mind, too . I found a turquoise table runner with starfish on it that I had put away in the closet. I also had star fish and plastic coral that played a role in my beach-themed living room at home and a vase of yellow silk flowers. I set those out and decided I needed to create a longer “table” instead of two mini tables for this to work. I began thinking of using 2 x 4 wooden boards to join the two creates together versus a piece of plywood. I decided that neither was the right “look” I was going for in my mind and would be too cumbersome to carry by myself. I finally went back to Michaels and then to Hobby Lobby to find some sort of rustic unfinished wooden piece (maybe a sign) that would join the two crates.
I used my 40 percent off Hobby Lobby coupon for a sign that was almost three feet long to lay across the two tables and decided we would sit upon cushions from my couch.
Next, I went to Lowes to see if they had some sort of bamboo plant stake that I could insert into the sand easily at both ends of the table in order to string some tassel decorations from one end of the table to the other above us as we sat. I found some square six foot stakes with a pointy end for ease of insertion into the sand for about two dollars and fifty cents each and decided I would need four with some twine to lash them together.
Next, I decided I would try the Dollar Tree to get some yellow paper decorations and some plastic tablecloths. I spend four dollars there (two table cloths and two packages of decorations).
The menu would be simple and wouldn’t require much to transport. I thought a sandwich made in a hollowed out bread boule cut into pie-shaped pieces would give me a different look, and I would serve it on a piece of slate that I had previously purchased at World Market. A simple, classic dessert of strawberry shortcake came to mind, but how could I break out from my tried and true strawberry shortcake recipe? I decided I would layer it in a mason jar for easy transport and ease in eating at the beach. This strawberry shortcake layered mini trifle would be attractive to look at as well, and I had been inspired by eating trifle at my mother-in-law’s house this week. The sandwich, biscuits, and strawberries had the advantage that they could be made the night before, and all that I would need to do that morning would be to assemble the dessert after making a fresh batch of sweetened whipped cream. PERFECT! Why serve only one dessert when you can have two, though? I ended up making the strawberry shortcake in a plastic mini shooter glass from the Dollar Tree, as well. I made a peanut butter and oreo shooter, too. Two small desserts would be better than one dessert today. After all, it WAS a celebration.
My friend came onto the beach at the designated time today and was so grateful that I had taken the time to make our day together a little bit more special. Our “staycation” was a hit, and we both enjoyed “whiling away the hours” together and felt refreshed and ready for anything on our separate rides home. The best part was we were able to socially distance from at least six feet away (I used my pink tape measure) by setting up the cushions and tables MORE than six feet apart and didn’t even have to think about the covid distance during the meal, as it was previously set up to those necessary parameters. Total price paid for newly purchased items today: about sixty dollars. Sixty dollars for a new experience. I chuckled to myself at the check out with my purchases. As the television commercial says, “Some things in life are priceless. For everything else, there is Master Card.” A great experience and a little slice of humor to go with it somehow caused me to enjoy the day even more.
Life it good; carpe diem, friends. Try to find something out of the ordinary to do today to have a “staycation celebration” of your own if you can.
Another year full of infinite possibilities. 2021 can be the start of something amazing.
It has been far too long since I’ve been on a long trip. With the pandemic still raging on, perhaps it is time to continue with some domestic travel to cross off my bucket list. I have previously decided that I would like to visit all fifty states in my lifetime and have only thirteen states remaining on my list.
Evidently I am not the only person with wanderlust in the country who aspires to visit all fifty states during his or her lifetime. In fact, there is a club called the “All Fifty States Club” where travelers can apply to join. The website even offers tee shirts and commemorative certificates of achievement as well:
A year ago we had a road trip planned to cross off four states from the list, but life happened in the meantime, and our trip got postponed for now. Listed below are some interesting things I have uncovered in Washington State in the meantime that interest me:
I long to stay in the treehouses in Treehouse Point, thirty minutes east of Seattle. These whimsical treehouse lodgings in Issaquah, Washington feature comfortably appointed lodgings with tai chi, yoga, and massage on-site to round out your stay. One of my favorite treehouses there, the Trillium Treehouse, ranges in price from $375-450. per night. Because Treehouse Point is a destination for relaxation, children under thirteen are not allowed to stay overnight in the Treehouses. While there are shared private bathrooms on the ground level on site that are complete with a shower, toilet, sink and shower toiletries, only one treehouse currently has a toilet (the Burl treehouse). The treehouses are not handicapped accessible and are do not allow pets. A home made breakfast is included with all overnight stays. Most of the treehouses accommodate two people, but one treehouse can accommodate up to four people (the Upper Pond Treehouse).
Other places I would love to see in Washington are Olympic National Park, where the rain forest there looks like something out of Star War’s “Empire Strikes Back” movie where Yoda trains Luke in the Jedi arts. At Olympic National Park I would love to search for agates at Rialto Beach within the park, too.
Other places to find agates in Washington are at Damon Point in Gray’s Harbor County , Maxwelton Beach on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, North Beach in Port Townsend, and Glass Beach near North Beach, where visitors can find interesting pieces of sea glass as well.
Seattle, Washington is a great city to visit, too. Of course you can visit the famous Space Needle, Pike’s Market, or you can see Chihuly Garden and Glass if you like modern sculpture. Dale Chihuly was born in Washington and started the glass program at Rhode Island School of Design.
A visit to Mount Rainier is a common destination, too. Why not see something unexpected while you are there, though. There is a troll sculpture called the “Fremont Troll” under a highway overpass in Seattle, too.
North of Prosser, Washington on North Crosby Road (map cordinates: 46.3619, -119.7242), there is an odd site known as “Gravity Hill” where your car appears to roll UPWARD if you put your gear into neutral. It is actually an optical illusion created by our brain, as your car doesn’t really roll UPWARD.
While you are in Washington, be sure to sample Theo chocolate (the first and only organic fair trade chocolate in the United States), Rainier cherries, red raspberries, Almond Roca candy, Dick’s burgers, fries, and milkshakes, apples, cream cheese dog (hot dog topped with cream cheese), and salmon.
Life is good; carpe diem, friends………time to get back on the “road again”….
“On the road again Just can’t wait to get on the road again The life I love is making music with my friends, and I can’t wait to get on the road again On the road again Goin’ places that I’ve never been Seein’ things that I may never see again And I can’t wait to get on the road again..”