Exciting travel news!

I have exciting travel news to share with you all!  Yesterday evening, I stumbled across Rick Steves’ blog post on Facebook about travel conventions that he speaks at.  It passed without much thought.  Obviously, as with any industry, there will be conventions and trade shows.  However, it wasn’t until I had a lull in my morning that I took a deeper look at what exactly a travel show might be about, and who might be speaking.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I clicked on the link for Washington, D.C. (one of only two places Rick Steves will be speaking at, because, honestly, who the f* wants to go to smoggy L.A.???!) and saw this banner along the top:

Washington DC Travel & Adventure Show ScreenshotOMG, Rick Steves and Samantha Brown??!  Holy cow – they’re like my ideal travel- and lunch-mates!  I have read, watched and listened to Rick Steves for a few years now and just came across Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe show within the last couple of months.  I bounced some ideas off my friend/coworker and decided, what the hell.  I emailed my aunt (my aunt and uncle live in a suburb of D.C. and I visit them every so often), got an OK, got approval from my boss to take the time off, and booked my plane ticket!

Thinking about it later today, this is the fastest I have ever booked and planned a trip.  Usually, I agonize for days and weeks about what to do, where to go, when to go (OMG, winter travel – that’s always fun!), how much I want to spend, etc., but this trip was a total impulse!  I realized tonight that I probably wouldn’t have booked my tickets if I had thought about it for a long time, as I’d find many excuses to not do something new or even remotely out of my comfort zones (conventions can be so, you know, blah), so I’m glad I had an overeager clicker today to make it happen!

I’ll be leaving in just under three weeks and will only be there for the weekend, but I’m so excited!  I will get to meet, get my picture taken with and get my books signed from two of my favorite travel icons!  How awesome is that??!  Andrew McCarthy, Todd Carmichael, Don Wildman and Pauline Frommer will also be speaking and presenting.  As if all of that wasn’t enough, I might even be able to (read: WILL) sneak in a performance at Woolly Mammoth and dine at some old favorites and discover some new eating places – how fun!

I am committing, right now, to blogging throughout this trip – everyone, hold me to it!  I can’t wait to browse the hundreds of tour operator, tourism board and goody booths and catch some of the other cultural and foodie demonstrations!  I also need to finish one of the books by Rick (I feel like I’m on a first-name basis with him) that I am in the middle of and watch some of their TV shows  so I can be all read up and ready to be inspired in D.C.!

Eek!  Fanboy post did and done!!  😉

31-Day Blog Challenge: Why Do I Blog?

Day 31/31 – My final post of the 31-Day Blog Challenge!!

Well, it’s the 31st and final post of this month’s blog challenge – I honestly can’t believe I stuck with it!  Usually, by day, I don’t know, two, I would have already fizzled out and moved on to something else.  I’ve learned a lot about myself throughout this process and found myself getting exciting most days to sit at my computer and write for you all.  (I’m sure you could all tell the days I wasn’t excited!)

It’s interesting to me how I started this blog largely with the idea of it being a travel blog, but that it has turned into more of a philosophical one and I have posted, to date, like 3% about travel.  But, that’s OK!  This year is already shaping up to be another full of travel, so I have plenty of opportunity to mend that.  🙂

Why I blog:

  • To self-reflect.  Writing is therapy for me, and it’s how I best communicate.  Sometimes I can’t verbalize out loud the words I want to say, so my blog is my opportunity to do that.
  • To help others.  My friend and fellow blogger, Laura, encouraged me to write from the perspective that something I write could help someone out there who may be going through something, and stumbling across a post on my blog could impact them in a way I may never comprehend or know about.  When I share deeply personal experiences or moments from my life, this is for those people.
  • To inspire.  What if a post I write about a gorgeous lake cruise in Switzerland or the most delectable, to-live-for crepe in the world inspires someone to travel?  What if a review I post compels someone to pick up a book and read?  What if a recipe encourages someone to cook and eat healthier?  What if a tip I post helps turn someone’s life around or help them with a struggle?  What if a story or quote I post just makes someone, you know, just think?
  • To memorialize.  As I get older, my memory isn’t so great because I just keep putting stuff up there and can’t ever stop thinking and analyzing!  As such, this blog is my place to write down and permanently memorialize my thoughts, writings and photos.

If I have done all of the above, then I have succeeded.

Thanks to my ever-so-faithful followers and new readers for your likes, comments and reads throughout this month!  I printed out a a whole bunch of challenges and hope to cobble some of them together to keep this blog up and going when my “normal” inspirations and ramblings don’t quite cut it.  As I focus more time and energy on my art and passions – writing and photography, food and travel, to name just a few – I am eager and excited to share those developments with you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

31-Day Blog Challenge: Where I’ve Traveled

Day 29/31

Have bags, will travel.

Have bags, will travel.  I sometimes think I’m more excited about the idea of travel and foreign locales than I am with the actual act.  The anticipation is a joy in and of itself.

Before I get started – Happy Birthday, Kansas!

OK, now that that is out of the way…

I am fortunate to have been able to travel as much as I have, and hope I can continue to do so going forward.  I owe this in part to parents who placed high value on travel, as well as my own desire to see the world.  I’m lucky because I’ve had opportunities to travel with groups from my community that others may not have, as well as the resources to travel – thanks to my job and (can I really apply this label to myself??) frugality.

As I move out (hopefully, later this year) and life gets in the way, I know that traveling will become more difficult and more sacrifices will be required to, in the words of Tim Gunn, “make it work.”  Everyone says, “Travel while you’re young!” and that’s true.  At this stage of our lives (I’m 21), we should be doing all of “those things” that we want to do and desire to do.  People are shocked that I want to do a trip abroad at least every other year, but what they don’t understand is that is why I have a job.  I really don’t see the point of a life that isn’t filled with travel, seeing and doing new things – this is different for each person, but that’s how I see my life.  That’s why I work!  Yes, I could have a fancy house and a fancy car (and, as you know, I would like both), but those are just so insignificant when compared to the joy of travel that I experience each time I get in the car or hop on a plane.

  • United States (traveling from left to right!)
    • Utah – My parents and I have been to Utah a couple of times while visiting friends we know who live in western Colorado.  We didn’t travel extensively, visiting mostly just Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  I was shocked that you can’t get that postcard-picture-perfect view of Delicate Arch without doing a bit of a hike; as it was hot out and we didn’t have water or the other necessary supplies/apparel for a hike, we just saw it from a distance.  I was disappointed, but that’s just another reason to go back!  It’s a great place to visit.  I absolutely loved Canyonlands (even better than the Grand Canyon, dare I say) – it was such an amazing, incredible place that had a lot of variety and wonderful lookout points.  We were there when there was a storm brewing in the distance, so we saw a thunderstorm with lightning above part of the canyon – awesome!
    • Arizona – I flew down to Arizona for a long weekend in December a couple years ago while my brother was on a business trip for a training.  While there, we did a little nighttime driving around Phoenix, as well as drove through Sedona on the way to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.  We got into town just early enough to see the Canyon before the sun set for the day, which sounded like a great idea.  Mind you, it was freezing cold with winds coming up from the canyon after the recent snow.  I was so cold and bundled up that I just couldn’t appreciate it.  We went back the next morning after a delicious breakfast at The Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, and although it was more enjoyable, I think the Grand Canyon is just a bit overrated; if not overrated, then at the very least, overhyped.  Is it pretty and amazing?  Yes, but I preferred the variety of Canyonlands, and seeing it first probably didn’t help matters.  Oh, and my brother going on and on about I had to see it and setting the bar very high.  🙂
    • Colorado – With my family, I’ve traveled extensively in Colorado – the destination of many family vacations throughout the years.  In particular, we love Leadville, Salida, Ridgway and Montrose.  Our friends live near Grand Junction in Fruita, and that is a beautiful place, surrounded by the Book Cliffs, fruit vineyards and Colorado National Monument.  I’ve also been to Aspen, Vail, Glenwood Springs, Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, Cañon City, Pueblo, Denver, Creede, and many other, smaller towns on the way to these places.  Colorado is such a gorgeous state, and it is always a joy to visit and explore the state – there’s so much to see and do, mostly dealing with nature – and it’s a relaxing retreat.  We’re lucky to be so close!
    • New Mexico – When we were younger, we used to visit friends in Santa Fe fairly often, usually by car but a couple of times by train (always fun!).  We also visited Taos and other places I can’t remember very well as it’s been a number of years since we’ve been.
    • Nebraska – My mom’s best friend from college’s family used to live in Callaway, so we used to go up for the Kite Flight.  I don’t recall very much from these visits.
    • Kansas – I do live here, you know!  I’ve traveled quite a bit throughout the state, but mostly South Central and Western Kansas.  I’ve actually been to Paris the same number of times as I’ve been to Kansas City, so that tells you how often I get out to that side.
    • Oklahoma – My mom’s hometown is Okeene, so we’d visit my grandparents there and occasionally (unfortunately) for funerals and other events.  One of my mom’s brothers and her sister live in or near Tulsa, and I always enjoy those visits.  My dad’s brother’s family lives near Bartlesville in a little town called Nowata – we always enjoy visiting them, and the pace is a lot slower in small-town America!  I’ve never been to Oklahoma City, but that’s on the list for this year!
    • Texas – One of my uncles used to live in San Antonio, but it’s been too long ago to remember much.  However, in full memory, I recently traveled to Austin for a training at Apple’s offices there – it’s a great city!  I’ve been to the airport in Dallas more times than I can count, although I’ve never stepped foot in the city otherwise.
    • Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia – Do airports count????
    • Missouri – I’ve mostly just passed through Missouri on the way to Indiana, for example, but about a year ago, my team and I went to the National Quiz Bowl Competition in St. Louis.  STL’s downtown is one of the most boring, ever.  There is literally nothing to do after dark, and really even before.  I’m sure the rest of the city is more vibrant with the colleges, but I wasn’t super-impressed with St. Louis.
    • Arkansas – We have friends and family in Arkansas, so we have visited the area in and around Walmartville (Bentonville), as well as the Heber Springs area.  It’s a gorgeous state with lots of lakes and wooded forests.
    • Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky – We passed through southern Illinois and made a dip into Kentucky while visiting my uncle for his graduation from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana.  What a gorgeous and amazing, peaceful place!
    • Pennsylvania – On one of our trips to the D.C. Area, we visited Gettsyburg.  One thing I vividly (weirdly??) remember is eating at the Lincoln Diner in Gettysburg – what a dive, and the bathrooms were disgusting.  I want to visit the battlegrounds again as an adult so I can appreciate the site more, as well as visit Philadelphia.
    • Maryland – Baltimore and Annapolis.  Baltimore is great because of the harbor, and Annapolis is a beautiful, historic town that was great to visit for part of a day.  It is a wonderfully walkable city.
    • Delaware – I visited Delaware with my uncle on one of my trips to D.C. and we visited Smyrna and Dover, where we visited the state capitol building.  Earlier in the day, we came across a field of snow geese – my uncle honked his horn and I got some greatly-composed shots, but alas, they were taken with a crappy camera.
    • District of Columbia – I’ve visited D.C. I think six times over the years – two times with the whole family, once for a leadership conference in junior high, once for a journalism conference in high school, once by myself for Christmas Break, and then again with my parents for my birthday last year.  I always enjoy visiting the area as it is the seat of politics and history in our country, the museums, theaters and restaurants are great, and it’s a very nice place to visit.  My aunt, uncle and cousins live in a suburb in NoVa, so it’s great to visit them and be able to see these places as well.
    • Virginia & West Virginia – Since my aunt and uncle live in Virginia, I’ve visited it fairly frequently and have been fortunate to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, as well as many battlegrounds and other historic spots (Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown come to mind), as well as Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Occoquan (where I had my first wine tasting and bought my first bottle of wine!) and Shenandoah National Park.  I heart Virginia.  I visited Harpers Ferry in West Virginia as part of the leadership conference in junior high.
    • Florida – I’ve visited Florida twice now to visit my friends, Laura and Charlie, who live in the Fort Lauderdale area.  I’ve been to Kissimmee/Lake Buena Vista to visit Disney World, as well as several beaches and the Coral Springs/Boca Raton area.  I’ve already written recent posts on these, so I won’t go into too much detail here!
  • Europe
    • United Kingdom – I visited London in 2011.  It was the first place I visited in Europe, and of course, the first after a long international flight.  I was just a bit crabby, and look forward to giving it a better chance in the future.
    • France – Paris. Paris!!  Awwww, Paris…  As Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.”  Paris is where I fell in love with Europe, and, really, with travel.  There is so much to eat and do, it is gorgeous and stinky, and I love it.
    • Spain Barcelona.  Barcelona isn’t the first place I think of when daydreaming about exotic lands, but it is a fairly relaxed and cosmopolitan city – great to finish a trip with!
    • Germany – Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Dachau, Füssen, Munich.  I am part German, so it’s natural that I would love that country.  Berlin is a place still trying to find its identity, and the afternoon Third Reich Walking Tour we took made the city meaningful and helped bridge a lot of connections in my mind.  In Dresden, a teacher friend and I met up for lunch with a foreign exchange student I’d had some classes with at the high school in Kansas and who lived a few hours away.  Nuremberg – the history and the flowers and the pretzels…pretty amazing.  Füssen – this is where we made the wet, long trek up the hill to Neuschwanstein Castle – amazing inside but I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the traditional view of it and it was covered in scaffolding.  Munich – super clean and the food/beer scene is unbeatable – wonderful place to visit and I definitely want to go back.
    • Czech Republic – Prague.  Oh em gee.  The rooftops, the spires, the history, the architecture, the FOOD – we were fortunate to have been shown the city from a Southwest Kansas native.  Prague is one of my favorite cities and I have a number of great memories from there, all as vivid as if they’d happened yesterday.  One standout – eating dinner at a great restaurant in the Old Town Square while the Fan Park for the World Cup was a festive meeting of people and music just steps away.
    • Lichtenstein – Vaduz.  I almost wouldn’t count it, but we did stop for a bathroom break and hot chocolate (it was misty, cold and foggy as hell!), so count it I will.  Particularly since I likely won’t be back.  🙂
    • Austria – Innsbruck.  We made a quick visit to the Swarovski store in Innsbruck and saw remnants of the Winter Olympics on our way in and out of the city.  Unfortunately, the Golden Roof was covered and we couldn’t see it, but that’s travel for you!
    • Switzerland – Lucerne.  This region is the most naturally beautiful place I have ever visited – the greens, the blues, the forests, the lakes, the mountains…  The city of Lucerne is so incredibly clean and the trip up and down Mt. Pilatus and across Lake Lucerne are standout memories and made for stunning photo ops.

I sort of rushed towards the end and have a sinking feeling I used a lot of words repetitively and lost the great opportunity to post travel pics, but it is what I’ve made it…  Where have you traveled?  Share below!

31-Day Blog Challenge: What I Look Forward To

Day 28/31

We never know how much time we will have on this earth, but here is what I look forward to…

  • Seeing my niece grow up into a beautiful, smart, capable and strong young woman (as I know she will).
  • Traveling and living a life full of adventure, food and fun throughout the world.
  • Writing that novel I’ve been putting off for years.
  • Growing old and wise and sharing that wisdom and advice (solicited or otherwise) with others.
  • Having a place/space that is mine and enjoying life there.
  • Making a difference in the world and others’ lives, even if it’s in smaller, less grand ways.
  • Continuing to keep up with and post on my blog.
  • Taking more (and better) photos and sharing them more frequently, quickly and with more effort.
  • Focusing more on the important aspects of life and eliminating sources of distracting or negative energies.

What do you look forward to?  Share below!

31-Day Blog Challenge: My Favorite Recipe

Day 27/31

Three-Bean Vegan Chili, made non-vegan with the addition of some shredded cheese.

Three-Bean Vegan Chili, made non-vegan with the addition of some shredded cheese.

Many thanks to my friend, Laura, for making this recipe for me while I visited her in Florida, which I’ve slightly adapted for what me and my family best enjoy!  It’s perfect for a winter eve, and it will serve around 6 people with good-sized bowls.

Three-Bean Vegan Chili


  • 3 Cans Tri-Bean Blend Beans (or 1 can each of following:  Dark Red Kidney, Pinto, Black)
  • 2 Cans Italian Recipe Stewed Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano
  • Vegetable Broth (I need to find out the amount – I could have sworn I posted this recipe.  Can I find it??  NO.)
  • ~1 1/2 Medium White Onions, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I can’t remember the specific amount, but I used closer to 1)
  • 1/2 – 1 Tablespoons Cumin
  • Crushed Black Pepper & Pink Himalayan Salt


  1. Heat broth in a nice, big soup pot and add onions, cooking until they get to that nice, brown color.  Go ahead and add in those spices so the onions and broth can soak it all up.  Don’t forget to add your garlic!
  2. Lightly rinse and drain the beans in-can and pour the beans and tomatoes in the pot.
  3. Simmer and make that baby cook!
  4. Serve over corn chips or with cheese and a dash of sour cream.  Or, you can eat it by itself – delicious!  (Shall you serve it with a nice red wine??  Sure – why not!)

*I recall posting this recipe somewhere else.  As I feel like I’m forgetting something as I’m going off a note on my iPhone, I will try to fill in the inconsistencies later.  Enjoy!!

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Arbeit Macht Frei:  "Work Makes (You) Free"

Arbeit Macht Frei: “Work Makes (You) Free”

Arbeit Macht Frei…  “Work Makes (You) Free”

Visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp a year and a half ago in June 2012 was a humbling and, I’ll admit, slightly anger-inducing visit.  The deception that occurred during the Holocaust (clear in the phrase in the entrance gate, as shown above) was rampant, and it was harrowing to be in a place where senseless violence occurred – a sacred ground and the ultimate resting place of many.  Thousands of innocent people died there.  You talk about “seeing history” when you travel, but when you connect to it, that’s something altogether different.

It’s difficult to imagine that something like this could happen today, but if you think about it, it is happening, in places like Darfur, Syria and Somalia.  And, to think that it was only about 70-75 years ago that the Holocaust happened is just disturbing.  That is not a long time ago, and we have a duty to do what we can to stop this from happening again.  We say Never Forget, and we have to remember that.

A little over a year ago, I posted (again briefly) about my experience at Dachau, proving that life does indeed find ways to flourish in a place of tragedy.  I wanted to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day by sharing this photo.

31-Day Blog Challenge: An Old Photo of Me

Day 26/31

photo (1)


Bonus:  You get to see not just one – but two – old photos of me!  Apparently, in the first photo, denim jackets were “in.”  I shudder in horror at this, but it is what it was…  I was big into Legos when I was younger, and built that blue house with my dad – fun!  On the opposite side of this spread in my Moleskine are some film negatives of photos I had taken many years ago that I found.  I cut them into a few pieces (in hindsight, the arrangement didn’t really work  – oh well!) and wrote about my experiences with photography from the beginning with a small, simple, silver point-and-shoot camera I received for my birthday.  It’s gotten a lot more fun (and expensive!) since I started…  So, there you have it – old photos of me!

31-Day Blog Challenge: Favorite Blogs

Day 25/31

Today’s prompt is to write about a “minimum of 5 favorite blogs.”  I think I’m going to hold off on that post for a while as I continue to immerse myself in and embrace the blogging community.  As selfish as it may sound, it’s true that I have taken this month and this challenge to focus almost solely on my blog, with only the occasional visit to other blogs.  Once the flurry of this blog challenge is over, I look forward to perusing my Reader and catching up on all of my favorite bloggers – I haven’t forgotten about you!  This has been such an incredible community to be a part of, and I look forward to becoming a more active user in the coming days, weeks, months and years.

All of that being said, I do feel the urge to give a shout-out to my friend Laura (who I frequently reference in this blog!), who encouraged me to pick up again on my blogging and to really give it a go this time around.  It is in part because of her own inspiring blog, Where the Gold Bees Dream (and her new blog, Girl Birder), as well as her encouragement for me to keep my creative fire going, that I am blogging today.  Thank you for being my creative and life mentor, Laura!!  Friends and readers, please check out her blogs – even though she doesn’t post as frequently as she used to (nudge, nudge!), I promise you will be inspired to create more and live a better life.

31-Day Blog Challenge: Fave Childhood Book

Day 24/31

arthurI was a big reader when I was younger…  I think I read more back then than I do today!!  Gosh, that’s sad…  Anywho.  My mornings and afternoons were filled with storytime, whether it was at home or a few blocks away at the public library.

If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you know how important I think reading is, especially for young people.  You will also know that I have a horrible memory concerning events that happened prior to yesterday that don’t involve travel or work.  Because of this and the sheer quantity of “first loves” I had in books – it’s difficult for me to pick one.

I read Shel Silverstein, for sure, but Marc Brown’s Arthur is most vivid in my mind.  Arthur, Francine & Buster’s daily life and adventures with all of their other friends were so much fun to read about and watch.  As a matter of fact, I know what I’ll be searching for on my Roku tonight…time to reminisce!

Have a great weekend, everyone!!