Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Visiting your home town again

I've lived in Boston for nearly 8 years now. It is home. When I travel, and people ask me where I am from and I choose to go with the easy answer, I respond, "Boston." But Boston is not "my home town."

I am not a Bostonian. I'm not a New Englander. I am, and probably always will be, an Alaskan. If I could avoid ever going back up there, I would, though. I hated living there even more than I love living in Boston.

So what draws a person back to a home town they couldn't wait to leave?

In my case, it's family. My sister and her family moved back a few years ago. They aren't in a position to find opportunities to visit me. So if I want to see them any time in the next decade, I need to make the pilgrimage back home and visit them. And since I'm going, I decided to make a trip of it. I'll be there for 8 days.

Trip is not until October, but I am already thinking about things I want to do:
  • Moose's Tooth pizza and beer
  • Movie/s at the Bear Tooth
  • Crab and macadamia nut stuffed halibut at Simon and Seafort's
  • DRINK ALL THE KALADI BROS COFFEE EVER!!!
  • Letting my nieces (ages 15, 7, and 7) and nephew (age 13) decide on the next color of my mohawk and help me dye it.
  • Rage City Rollergirls - there is a game my one (non jetlagged) Saturday in town. I will have to play this by ear.
  • VivaVoom Brr-Lesque show. :)
  • Drinks with friends
  • Lunch with friends
  • Long walks along the coastal trail
  • Board games with my sister and her family.
  • Games with friends
  • Taking the kids book shopping (Amazon and UPS lost the package with all their Christmas gifts last year) at Title Wave - my favorite bookstore.
 What are the things you look forward to when you return to YOUR home town?

Going back home comes with it so many memories. Good and bad.  And so many changes. It's been five years since I was last in Alaska. Five years since I last saw my sister and her family. I'm excited about revisiting old haunts and seeing how things might have changed. Visiting with old friends. And I can't wait to see the people my nieces and nephew are becoming.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Travel Preferences

A friend recently put together a list about traveling preferences that I think is extremely helpful. :) So I stole it to put it here! *grins*

Practical Stuff

Budget: Frugal - Moderate. For 1-2 weeks overseas, I would budget around $3000 - $4000, including airfare.

Languages: I don't speak any language fluently other than English. However, I do make an effort to try to learn some of the local language/s of where I will be going. And I always use my translation app for situations where being able to stumble my way through in the local language is easier or more respectful than just hoping someone nearby speaks English. Traveling with someone: If they speak other languages, that's awesome! Particularly as it will give me someone to practice with when we are on our own.

Housing: I prefer inexpensive, but still well-located. I'm also willing to spend a little more for cleanliness. It doesn't have to be the cheapest thing in sight, but within stone's throw, price-wise. Traveling with someone: Sharing a room to cut costs is fine with me. But I do snore, so I recommend earplugs. And sharing stuff like shampoo, sunblock, body wash, etc, just makes sense to me.

Sleep and body clock shifting: I don't get jet lag going forward in time, but I do when going back in time. So first day in new place I am fine out exploring on my own. But then my usual schedule has me up at 7 and in bed by 11. Traveling with someone: I can get up and sneak around before they wake up as long as it's not sleeping in so late half the day is wasted. And I am bad at getting to sleep while lights are on or someone is active in the room.

Food: I love love love eating out when I am traveling. It's where most of my budget ends up going.  Everything from street food to nice restaurants. I'll eat just about anything, but do lean to omnivorous. Traveling with someone: I love sharing meals with people! It means either getting to try twice as much stuff or splitting a meal and cutting the cost in half.

Packing: My trip to India was the first time I did a super lengthy trip (I've always done trips that were 1 week or less this way) while packing super light -- just one backpack. It was AWESOME. I could walk to get most places I wanted to be, and when I took buses and trains it was easy to get aboard and keep track of my stuff and get off quickly. I didn't have to worry about where to keep my stuff after the hotel checkout time, I just took it with me. No lost luggage or waiting at the baggage carousel at the airport either. It also helped stop me from over spending by buying too much STUFF. Traveling with someone: I have a strong preference that they not check luggage. Any version of "just a carryon", I can cope with.

More General Stuff

Activities I like: Walking, light hiking, seeing gardens/parks, churches, cathedrals, opera houses, vineyards, architecture. Sitting in cafes/restaurant bars. Shopping (either window or real). Visiting market places. Boats. Anything high up. Carnivals (ferris wheels are a MUST). Picnics. Breweries/wineries. Talking to people. Traveling with someone: Company is always preferable for me than solo. But I am more than happy to do any or all of this stuff by myself. I don't go into open water when traveling solo anymore, though, so beaches are something I'm more likely to do with company than without.

Activities I don't do: Museums, nightclubs, (most) tours, casinos (I'll admit, I've never been to a casino, but it just doesn't seem like my kind of scene), swimming, heavy hiking/backpacking. Traveling with someone: I actually love to swim. I just don't do it by myself, anymore.

Pace: Slow. Generally I'd be up for doing one thing in the morning and another in the afternoon after lunch. Or just wandering around. Wandering around is good too. Traveling with someone: they should either also be slow paced or willing to split up. "Let's hit these six museums today" is not fun for me.

Planning ahead: Moderate . I like having a general idea of things as back-up in case randomness fails to turn something up. My "plans" are never set in stone, though. Everything is flexible. I just feel more comfortable with some advanced research when possible. However, if I'm bored somewhere, I'll leave. And if something unexpected pops up that I hadn't looked in to, I will go there. I've been to some stunning places that way! Traveling with someone:As long as you don't want everything overly planned out and set in stone and you're fine with me doing some advanced research, and don't expect me to travel entirely by the seat of my pants, we're good.

Flexibility / stress at change: Since India I have mellowed tremendously when traveling. More patient, and more able to cope when the very unexpected (or even catastrophic) happens. But I do have a severe anxiety disorder. Panic attacks happen. I have medicine and other tools to help, but sometimes I just need time. Traveling with someone: mellow is a must. I cannot cope with someone who stresses over every little thing that is imperfect or Not The Way I Do It At Home. And being able to not freak out if I have an anxiety attack is essential.

Encounters with other people: I am SUCH a wicked extrovert that I always end up talking to strangers. I love joining other travelers for an activity or even an entire adventure and part of the trip. They may have information about an activity or place I don't have, that turns out I am quite interested in - and the more is quite often the merrier! Traveling with someone: My travel companion absolutely cannot be resistant to meeting new people. It is so horribly uncomfortable for me. 

Splitting up for the day: Sure, have fun! 

Did I miss anything that you'd want to know before setting out for a trip with someone?

Hold this spot for my trip to Arizona

I went to Arizona back in November, but failed to write about it.

I will catch up. I promise.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chicago by train


I had looked at so many options of things to do or places to go during my vacation this summer. The train to Chicago seemed like the best option.  So I am going to Chicago in July!

Got train tickets. Leaving July 2 (arriving in Chicago the following morning). Will be there for a few days (staying with a local Boston friend as he so happens to have planned a trip to Chicago the same dates as me and got a lovely hotel room right near everything I want to visit!) over the 4th of July, then back to Boston July 5/6.

I've been on the train twice here in the States. Once to Portland ME, and once to NYC. Both were great adventures. I remember looking out the windows as we went through Maine, thinking to myself "Wow, I feel like I just got dropped into a Steven King novel!" I wonder what thoughts will cross my mind while on board the Lake Shore Limited (though both trips have overnight segments, so I won't have my nose glued to the window the WHOLE time). I've heard it's a beautiful trip. I can't wait. I also can't wait to add a third blue line to the giant map I have on the wall at home of all the places I've been to in the US (red are flights, black are roads, and blue are trains).

In general, I'm not planning a whole lot for while I'm there. I've got most of all day Thursday, all day Friday, and most of all day Saturday in the city. Definitely plan on going on an architecture boat tour, of course. Fireworks over Lake Michigan on the 4th itself. Going to the Navy Pier to ride the Ferris wheel. Bringing my camera and my sketchbook and journal. I sincerely dislike museums, so not interested in museuming (really, I went to Paris and did not go to a single museum, and had the time of my life there). I don't want to trek out to the boonies. Trying to keep to a minimum things that cost a lot of money (due to item in next paragraph). I may look into seeing the White Sox play on Saturday (the Cubs will be out of town) but it would depend on if I'd be able to haul my backpack into the stadium with me (just a normal backpack). But I'm mostly going to just explore. Hang out. Have some fun.

Anyway... one other thing I *do* want to do is go out for one AWESOME meal while I'm there. Four different people recommended I go to a Rick Bayless restaurant. Topolobampo looks amazing, but I looked at reservations and it appears both it and his other restaurant are both already solidly booked for the days I will be in Chicago. So... other thoughts?

Anyway. I'm excited. New city to explore. I love it.

Wheee!

(And hey - I just found out via Facebook that some other local Boston friends may also be in Chicago those dates! But they're not 100% sure yet. That'd be hilarious and awesome.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vacation plotting

I've got some time off in July from the 1st through 6th. I was told at work I needed to use some of my vacation days, and since I was already taking days surrounding the previous weekend off I figured I might as well extend my vacation. But what was I going to DO with these days off?

I started to plot.

Now see - my idea for the road trip in December isn't going to happen. I'm moving into a new apartment in a few days, and it's going to end up eating much of my income. Too much to spend thousands of dollars on a trip. But what if I only spent hundreds?

Since my best friend visited last October (and came by train) I have gotten it into my head that it could be a lot of fun to visit Chicago and take the train there from Boston. And when I looked into that as an option I also discovered that it was cheaper than flying! I'd also eliminate two nights of figuring out housing to boot and get to see pretty scenery along the way.

So my idea is to leave Boston on the 1st. I'd arrive in Chicago on the 2nd. Look into couch surfing for three nights. Spend those days before and during the holiday in Chicago checking out the fireworks over Lake Michigan from the Navy Pier. Maybe going on the architecture boat tour while I'm there. Laying on a beach and swimming in the lake. It will be summer, after all! Then take the train back on the 5th and get home on the 6th.

I will wait until I move into my new place and get my finances back in order after getting everything settled into place there. But this idea has gotten rather stuck in my mind, and I am more and more interested in following through with it.

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Remarkable places to travel solo

Today on Buzzfeed I saw an article on Remarkable Places For Solo Travel and it got me thinking about that again. I've done most of my travel solo. I've really only had a few non-solo trips (short, just overnights or weekends) that have worked out well, so I really do lean toward solo travel and that's why so many of my postings deal with that topic.

But anyway. Back to the Buzzfeed article.

I looked at the 26 places on the list, and my interest definitely got sparked for a few places I'd never really considered as places to visit before.

Portland, OR. I've been to Oregon. My family lived in Eugene for a year when I was a kid, and yet I've never been to Portland. I've got friends there, too, who I would love to visit. And I know my cousin Lesley told me once that she could easily see me living there. (Now that I am re-energized about Boston post breaking my leg, that isn't going to be happening, but I think visiting should definitely be considered!)

Iceland. I've had a lot of friends visit Iceland just in the last year. All of them have come back from the experience with nothing but positive things to say. I've got to say I'd definitely be more tempted by a summer trip than a winter, though. After growing up in Alaska, there is absolutely nothing that could tempt me to visit a Northern location in the winter.

Kenya. Africa is one of the three continents I haven't visited yet, that I want to visit before I turn 40. Most of my interest there has been to either Morocco or South Africa. But I have started becoming more interested in more of a safari-style trip. I'd been leaning toward Tanzania or Zambia... but the little blurb in this article about Nairobi, Kenya does make it sound rather appealing to my adventurous heart.

(I'm not including places from the Buzzfeed list that I already DO want to visit.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A bit of brainstorming - Idea #1 for big trip of 2014

I had an idea for what to do with my holiday break next/this year...

Road trip! (*)

I have wanted, ever since moving to Boston, to go on a good long road trip. See parts of the country I haven't seen before and maybe visit friends I haven't seen in a while/family I haven't in a while, and places I've just always wanted to see.

So here is my initial idea... take 2 days off (December 22/23) to give me a few extra days to play with before Christmas Day.

Day 1 (Friday after work) - Fly or take the bus to Washington, DC. Visit overnight with my cousin John and maybe on Saturday get the chance to see friends who have moved down there.

Day 2 - Pick up rental car and head south to Raleigh, NC area (4.5 hours)... visit additional friends.

Day 3 (Sunday 12/21) - head down to Savannah, Georgia (4.5 hours). Spend a couple of days.

Day 5 (Tuesday 12/23) - Drive to North Port, FL (6 hours). Visit my parents through Christmas Day.

Day 8 (Friday 12/26) - Drive to New Orleans, LA (10.5 hours). Spend  a long weekend in New Orleans.

Day 12 (Tuesday 12/30) - Drive to Nashville, TN (7.5 hours). Visit friends for New Year's Eve.

Day 14 (Thursday 1/1) - Drive back to Washington DC (10 hours). Fly home.

Take off January 2 to give me a three day weekend to recover.

Quick estimation of potential costs:

Flight: $200
Rental Car: ~ $500
Gas: ~ $500 (3150 miles roughly of driving.)
Food: $300
Lodging: $500 (just for Savannah and New Orleans, unless I choose to try couch surfing - which I may well do... I could stay with friends and family in DC, Raleigh, North Port, and Nashville)

TOTAL: $2000

That is significantly less than other trips I have been on. My last trip over the holidays cost nearly that much just for the plane ticket. And costs are pure guesses. I tried to pretend plan this over Thanksgiving to give me estimated costs over a major holiday because none of the websites will let me plan into late December yet.

* Keep in mind, this is still me just brainstorming. I may do something else entirely. This is just idea #1.