Travel Truth

We’ve all heard it said that if you really want to know someone better, travel with them. Somehow I always thought of this advice when it came to friends and people with long-term romantic potential.

But who’s to say you can’t do this with one of your kids? Especially a teen, those mysterious creatures who often withdraw from parents from ages 13-21.

sebastian-leon-prado-547564-unsplashI have these really cool older cousins who raised two children. My family would get their annual Christmas letters and I’d read in awe about how one parent took one of the kids on a trip in high school somewhere in the US, just the two of them, and then they’d switch out where the other parent would take that same, now college-age kid on an overseas trip, just the two of them. They did this for both children.

Being a travel buff, I thought that was an AMAZING idea. My cousins’ kids were so fortunate! And now as a parent with means to do the same, I am taking action. So many years I wanted to travel but virtually none of my friends had the time or means to go so I went solo, aching for a companion. Little did I realize that one day I would give birth to them.


oakie-696139-unsplashIt all started when our oldest turned 13. Growing up he loved geography and soccer and we’d talk endlessly about the places he wanted to visit one day. Seattle was consistently at the top of his list, so he could see the Sounders play. I planned to surprise him with a long weekend trip to Seattle, just the two of us, but by the time I worked out a mutually agreeable weekend, a whole entire year passed. We made the trip the summer before he started high school instead of the year he became a teenager.

Our Seattle trip was so much fun he wanted to do it again, so we traveled to New York City for a long weekend this summer too.

My oldest is beginning to think this is an annual excursion for us, and while I’d love that, I have two more kids in the hopper, so I hope I can afford all this when their turn arrives. Sure it seems doable today, but the other two are closer in age so these trips will add up quickly. I don’t want to over promise, but let me tell you: our time together was magical.

I drove us seven hours to New York, so we got a lot of talking done in the car. We had an almost adult conversation where I shared some things that have been bothering me and he gave me the advice we always give him. He even admitted that he was coaching me to take my own medicine and I chuckled over how I couldn’t argue with him or I’d invalidate the advice I dole out as parent.

We visited Ellis Island, talked about today’s immigration challenges, and discussed my immigrant grandparents and what it must have been like for them to leave their homes and family forever 100 years ago. We visited the 911 Memorial Reflecting Pools and I recounted the story of that frightening day and how worried I was for my friends who lived in the city. We marveled over the endless number of foreign languages we heard over and over again, all day long. I suggested to him that all Americans should visit New York City at least once in their lifetime to see first-hand what a melting pot the city is, almost like Muslims are expected to travel at least once to Mecca, and maybe just maybe as a result, Americans wouldn’t be so afraid of “others”.

We talked about travel, anthropology, sociology, art, movies, musicals, Hamilton, celebrity, history, politics, Manhattan neighborhoods, gentrification, the cost of living, what he wants to study in school, where he wants to live, religion, sex, family, weddings, marriage, and child-raising. Yeah. What didn’t we talk about?

rob-bye-319816-unsplashI took him to a high-end restaurant and he navigated his way through the menu, ordering process, and all manner of dining etiquette through tip calculation. I bought him a New York style slice of pizza and taught him how to fold and eat it. I taught him how to hail a cab, orient himself on the streets and avenues, catch a ferry, and use the subway. I’m excited that I taught him the ways of New York City, and I hope he always remembers it.

He asked a ton of questions and I answered them all without reservation.

My son, who is very content playing video games, talked the whole time. We laughed. He was attentive to whether I was tired or thirsty, and he opened doors for me and others. He was unceasingly polite. He couldn’t get enough of the people energy in Times Square and had to walk through it each day.

He asked if he looked like a tourist or if he was behaving more like a resident. You see, he might want to live in New York one day. I could see him trying it on for size and vibe and watch his face light up as he recognized one landmark after another. I like how he’s a worldly kind of dude for his age.

I saw glimpses of the man we’re raising, and he’s only 15. Last year he tried to engage me in a pillow fight. This year, he gently asked me about something that was tugging at my heart and making me sad. The amount of personal growth he demonstrated from one year to the next and the level of compassion he had shown me was remarkable, and I was dumbstruck over how mature, deep, and intimate our conversation was, because we were talking about things I don’t even discuss with some of my closest friends. I doubt we would have connected at that level had we been at home and stuck in our normal routine. Correction: I am certain we would not have connected at that level.

Do you have any idea how precious this time was? It was New York, and as Midwesterners, we don’t walk nearly that much on a daily basis or cram so much into our day. It was go-go-go the whole time. Exhausting but equally exhilarating. I didn’t want our trip to end.

I better start saving for next year, and for two more kids after that. He’s already got fingers crossed for me to show him around Boston next summer.

Are you longing to connect in a more meaningful way with your kid? Go on a trip, just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be big thing, but go somewhere overnight you’ve never been. You just might find that where you actually travel is deeper into each other’s hearts.

Photo #1 by Sebastián León Prado, photo #2 by oakie, and photo #3 by Rob Bye, all on Unsplash

Road Trip to Hocking Hills

bryan-minear-315814-unsplashI can barely contain my excitement: before long we will be hitting the road for a little mini spring break with the kids. I took today off of work to run errands and take care of a few things around the house but tomorrow we hit the road headed south.

Initially I had planned some time for us at one of the water park hotels near Lake Erie but stories about bedbugs and an accident at the pool a few weeks ago made me change my mind. I don’t know…visions of an overcrowded hotel and young families with spring fever flashed through my head like a nightmare. You know you should always listen to your gut!

Besides, my body is itching to move and get outdoors. It’s finally spring, glorious spring, and the weather will be a perfect 60° to enjoy.

We are driving in-state but in the opposite direction, to an area in southeast Ohio called Hocking Hills. It’s still very early spring here so the trees won’t start blooming for another few weeks but I can’t wait to go. This area reminds me of where I grew up: woodsy, hilly, and a little bit more on the country side versus urban or suburban. There are several parks and nature preserves with a variety of hiking trails within a few miles drive of that area.

We’re renting a cabin for the five of us. It has a nice wrap-around porch, an outdoor hot tub, lots of windows, indoor fireplace, three bedrooms, three baths, and a loft. Hopefully some good, quality family time inside.

And when we aren’t hanging in the cabin, we’ll hike to Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, and maybe a few others. My husband and oldest will have just returned from an exhausting week-long trip to Disney with the marching band, so they may be a little road weary but the three of us at home are raring to go!

It’s the first time we will take the kids to Hocking Hills. I hope they like it and like living in a cabin. It’s only a 2.5 hour drive for us which makes it a pretty nice getaway….far enough but not too far.

I thought we’d make our way down there all the time now that I live in Ohio again, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Last visit was already seven years ago when my husband and I booked our 10th anniversary trip. We stayed for a long weekend but it was so nice, I cried when we left. Even though it was November and the leaves had fallen off the trees, the setting was so lovely, so calming. Trees were outside every window. We will need to make this trip again in the summer when you are surrounded in cool greenery and can hear the breeze whistle through the leaves.


We didn’t have “spring break” when I was growing up in public school. At the time, it was something exclusively for college kids. You see, in the US, college kids typically get a week off in the spring and many of them carpool to Florida or somewhere beach-bound and party all week long.

However I didn’t get to enjoy the classic spring break experience like many other college students. I didn’t have the money to take a trip and asking my parents for it was out of the question.

For me, spring break was a week where I could work full-time and save up money to pay for my next semester of tuition. Those were the years of barely getting by…and I wasn’t very resourceful or creative in finding ways to travel back then. Talk about a missed opportunity! I have a handful of regrets in life and finding ways to travel and explore in college is one of them. That’s the perfect time to bond with others and discover what brings you joy….and I didn’t know how to make that happen. Given how much I loved travel even then, in retrospect it’s surprising to me that I didn’t search for ways to make it a reality.

And this is one of the ways we try to guide our kids differently so they either have or make those opportunities.

I count my blessings that things have changed altogether for the positive since then and we are fortunate enough to take our entire family on our trips. I want them to see and experience the same places I have over the years, and foster that love of adventure.

It wasn’t until my oldest started public school that I really experienced spring break for the first time. Our school district allocates a week in late March for this purpose. Now every year we take advantage of the week to either escape the generally colder weather here or just to have a change of scenery. We’ve gone to Florida, Washington DC, Sandusky (OH), and Traverse City (MI) in years past. It’s usually the first excursion of a few within the year, but this year I am particularly eager to get out of the house.

Can’t wait to go go go…

 

Photo credit: Bryan Minear on Unsplash

 

 

The Standardized Vacation

On a recent Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, the host and her co-host sister talked about the benefits of a “standardized vacation”. It struck a chord with me.

I’m a travel buff. Have suitcase, let’s go! I’ve been one to explore new places as often as I can for as long as I’ve lived but there is something to be said about hitting the easy button especially now that we have kids. Enter: the standardized vacation.

Here’s the basic premise: same location, same hotel, same time of year, same length of time, same people, same restaurants, same activities.

Beautifully simple.

Nothing to think about, nothing to plan. Just do what you did last time, and build upon what you know, if you want.

anton-sharov-133628-unsplashMyrtle Beach, SC, has become our go-to vacation, like 5 million other Ohioans if I had to guess! We found our favorite hotel about 10 years ago, and we even get booked to the exact same room each time we go. It’s glorious.

We know exactly what to pack. Rule #1 is more bathing suits, fewer clothes. Rule #2 is bring a laundry basket and a small bottle of Tide so I can do a quick load mid-way through the trip and recycle what we wear. Rule #3 is bring whatever gadget you can’t live without and the charger. We’re not hard-core enough to unplug entirely while we holiday.

Last night my husband and I laid in bed and talked about how excited we were for this trip. We drive it. He’s not a fan of the drive, but he talked about how he was actually looking forward to it this year because he knows exactly what to expect. No thinking involved whatsoever.

Seriously, we laugh the whole way to South Carolina because nearly every car on I-77 has Ohio plates and we know where they’re going: Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head. It’s 11-hours non-stop, which means we have found ways to minimize the number of stops along the way and make it a 12 hour trip max, barring traffic.

Our routine involves hitting the road at 5am. We gas up and load the suitcases the night before. The kids sleep walk to the van with their pillows and PJs on, and they’re crashed out for the first four hours of the trip. From our house in Ohio this takes us to Charleston, WV, where the kids change clothes, we all get a potty break, we gas up if need be, and switch drivers. I’m better on the curvy roads though West Virginia regardless of the weather, courtesy of growing up in the tri-state area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, & West Virginia.

Waze is my favorite travel app for this trip. It’s crowd-sourced in terms of traffic jams, road hazards, and speed traps monitored by police or state highway patrolmen. Waze conveys the speed limit and whether you’re over it, and gives you that wonderful metric, the estimated time of arrival, otherwise known as the “time to beat”. LOOOOOOVE Waze.

The car is still pretty quiet as the kids are now awake but on their devices with their headphones or maybe they watch a new movie we buy and laugh. The two of us adults get loads of time to talk and talk, or we take turns napping while the other drives.

I drive four hours till we hit the North Carolina border while all of us nosh on ham sandwiches, snacks, and drinks we’ve packed, and then we stop again for a bio break, gas up and switch drivers for the last time. Then my husband drives the final four hours to our hotel where we check in, unpack, relax for a bit, and then head out to dinner.

We hit up Walmart for some food while we’re in the area. Our hotel has a kitchenette so we alternate meals out and in for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is free at the hotel so we eat up and take our time feasting on all kinds of hot and cold food items.

I remember the first time we made this trip as a married couple with an 18-month old baby in tow. I basically had my husband back the van floor to ceiling with the entire nursery: you know, Pack-n-Play, stroller, tub toys, travel high chair, lovies, baby food, an entire box of diapers….it was endless. You couldn’t even see out the back window. He looked at me like I was nuts. I wanted all the comforts of home. Nothing like having a baby attached to your hip on vacation. It defeats the purpose of getting away for a few days if you don’t have a way for your precious kid to be mobile, clean, and safe.

Now it’s funny how little we need. Beach towels, beach toys, electronic gadgets, headphones, chargers, bathing suits, sunscreen, sandals, laundry basket with detergent, clothes for three days to last us through eight, sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and that’s it. I don’t even sweat it anymore. If we forget something, we just buy it down there.

It helps that we go the same week each time, for the same length of time. We know what restaurants we’ll hit up. We rent beach chairs for the week. There is nothing else to even think about other than which putt-putt place we’ll visit on which day. If we want to sleep, we sleep. If we want to splash in the pool or lazy river, we do. If the kids want to build sandcastles or boogie board, they do. No debating, no thinking about it. We just rotate between 3-4 activities at most. It’s as low key as vacation can get.

And me? Mama Louie? I sit and read under a giant umbrella with my coverup, sunglasses, sunhat, and SPF maxed out, courtesy of a melanoma diagnosis 25+ years ago. It’s a bummer as all the kids just can’t quite understand why I can’t play with them in the sun. Thankfully they have these bronzed bodies courtesy of their Hawaiian and Asian genes and didn’t inherit my pale Eastern European skin.

Man, we love the ocean. Now some people prefer lower-key, very scenic Hilton Head over Myrtle Beach because they think the latter is over commercialized. Parts of it are, but we don’t do that stuff. We don’t walk Ocean Boulevard at all hours, slipping in and out of the souvenir shops. We just skip that. It’s pretty easy to avoid the mass of humanity while you’re there.

Yep, our hang is the beach itself and the amazing putt-putt places. Our kids think putt-putt (mini-golf to some of you) is the most glorious thing ever. It doesn’t take much to entertain our kids and we’re fine keeping it that way, at least for a few more years.

We’re all excited to go back. Hawaii, California, Utah, Colorado, and Florida have been incredible these last few years but it’s time to hit the easy button and return to our home away from home, just the five of us. We have often wished that we were there with a larger group but then we realize that others may not enjoy the next-to-nothing we like to do, so our week away is always just us.

I can already hear the waves in my mind.

Image by Anton Sharon on Unsplash.com

Itching to Go Go Go

Saturday morning. For the first time in ages we don’t have anywhere we need to go, anything we need to do. Seriously. I just checked our online family calendar and the last time our Saturday was completely clear was July 22. Almost seven months ago.

Sigh. Life as an American family in the Midwest.

For the last two weeks, I had forewarned the whole family that today was the day we would clear out this storage room in our basement, the one we have dubbed the “yoga room” ever since we moved in 13 years ago. I always thought it would be cool to have a little sanctuary in the home, a room where you could light a candle, go to be still and quiet, meditate, pray, or maybe even stretch and do some yoga. All these years later, it’s still a storage closet.

I should take a picture of this room to show you what it looks like today. It’s a total mess. We just throw things in there when we don’t have a home for it or don’t know what to do with it, or maybe the kids have outgrown something. But today that room is out of control. We still have empty boxes from when we moved in stored in there.

So today is the day we’ll clean it out: stage what we’ll keep, donate, and trash.

Except I’m itching to go. Go anywhere. Oh man, the travel bug has bitten me hard today.

Honestly we have a WHOLE DAY with total freedom and we can just get in the car and go. I don’t know where. Maybe we’ll make a trip to Detroit and visit the Henry Ford Museum. We’ve never been to Detroit, really, and my friend’s visit to the museum last year inspired me to go check it out. It’s three hours away from our house. It’s a day’s round trip, if we want to make it that. I suppose there are other places we could go but they aren’t novel. Traveling to Columbus is pretty close, and our family there is wonderful and the shopping is amazing, but it isn’t something NEW. Besides, I’ve got that new year’s resolution going about not buying one stitch of new clothing. That’s mostly a rule for myself, but there is no need for temptation.

So now I’m torn between the knowledge that June 30 is likely our next totally free weekend when we can tackle the yoga room (believe me, it’s a family of five effort but why in the world would we want to spend a potentially beautiful summer day in the basement??), and the wanderlust I feel right now. Darn it. I don’t want to be the rational, responsible adult at the moment. I just wanna go go go.

I’ve always loved road trips. Seeing new places. Anything, anything at all, to inject a little diversity into the same old, boring, day to day experience.

And I am bored. I don’t travel for work like I used to. I used to get my fix of travel as I often flew to a new city every week, sometimes a couple of times during the week. Now I commute 30 minutes one way on a country road to another small town which is a remarkably pleasant, bucolic drive. Sometimes the sunrise will leave a blanket of pink fog on the gently rolling farmland and it takes my breath away. I wonder if any of my coworkers making the same commute see how beautiful it is, or whether they take it for granted. Equally as lovely are the golden sunsets I sometimes catch on the drive home; honestly the scenery is what you’d see in a movie, it’s that gorgeous. And once in a while, I am completely mesmerized by a huge swarm of starlings dancing over the countryside, morphing into their fantastical shapes. Sometimes the air is black with starlings, like you’re staring at a lava lamp in the sky.

I never stop to take a photo because I can’t possibly recreate the beauty I see with my own eyes on an old iPhone.

 

Beautiful as that commute can be oftentimes, I am itching to go go go!

I’m trying hard to resist the urge to take a random day off because that’s not really enough to satisfy the travel bug. Every single day, I’m reminding myself that we are using a few days of the kids’ spring break in late March to hit up a water park an hour from our home. It will definitely be a change of scenery, but I’m a little worried that it won’t be enough to tame the travel bug. I also get to head to Georgia for two days in March for a conference.

And if those two trips aren’t enough, then at least our trip to Cuba in April should do it. My husband turns 50 next month. He loves cigars and music, and obviously neither of us have been to Cuba before so boom!  Royal Caribbean had just the right offering to satisfy him. As a musician, he had the good fortune of traveling the world a bit more than I have, so the usual ideas of where to go to celebrate his golden birthday were not so novel but Cuba fits the bill.

He and I have an ongoing rivalry as to who will visit all 50 states first. He’s currently beating me 47 to 45 or something like that. I am a teeny bit miffed about it because I had been way ahead of him for years, but during one of our anniversary trips he got to knock off Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi when we road tripped it from New Orleans to Destin, Florida. He hadn’t been to any of these states before. So not fair!

For the record, I haven’t been to Alaska, Oregon, New Mexico, North Dakota, or Delaware. I’m sneaking in one of those states this year. Don’t know how. Don’t know exactly when. But I’m going.

I’m itching to go go go. But today, the yoga room is calling my name.

PS – Four hours later the yoga room has been mostly emptied out. Some stuff has been already been donated, and the rest has been staged for this week’s trash. I’ll be channeling my inner om inside that room in a few months. I promise to share pictures.

 

New Year Blessings

ian-schneider-108618

Image courtesy of Ian Schneider on Unsplash.com

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018. It’s my sincere hope that you be happy, healthy, and prosperous in the new year. Count your many blessings.

Following the example of a relative of mine, I thought I’d recap the top highlights of 2017 concluding today. Earlier this afternoon we held our family meeting, the Louie Scoop, and recounted 219 celebrations we acknowledged as a family over the year.

219!

Items both big and small. It brought smiles to our faces to remember the wonderful things that happened. In a year when so many crummy things can bring us down, whether it is the state of politics (I’m really struggling with this), natural disasters (how horrific), or other matters of chance that bring bad luck, it’s imperative that we remember the things that make us happy and bring joy. They are everywhere.

So here’s my personal year in review…and an attempt to look at the bright side of things…COUNT MY BLESSINGS.

1) Celebrating my 50th birthday first with family at one of my all-time favorite restaurants Gervasi Vineyard, then with my husband on a last-minute cruise to the Bahamas, beating the hurricane the entire time. Relatively healthy and happy. Living in a warm, welcoming home in a charming, safe, small town. Blessed beyond measure with my family. Working professionally in a job that I mostly enjoy at a good company.

2) Traveling with my oldest son to Seattle for a special mom-son getaway. Eating dinner at the Space Needle, catching the Seattle Sounders play, and seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors in person at the Pacific Science Center. It was so good we may make it an annual event each year he is in high school.

3) Celebrating a dear friend’s successful battle against ovarian cancer with a girls’ weekend trip to Bedford Springs. You MUST celebrate moments like that.

4) Connecting and reconnecting with so many friends this year, most involving travel and trips of some kind…a high school friend I haven’t seen in over 30 years. A couple of friends from my Pittsburgh days that I have lost touch with over the years. A couple of friends locally whose friendships have strengthened. Thank you all. You have no idea how you warmed my heart and I hope that I can return the favor. After years of intense loneliness and honestly wondering why can’t I be “normal”, it was a huge relief to just be me around these friends of mine, not having to worry about putting on an act, if I’m talking too much, or not enough, or wondering if I’m likable enough…. These friends of mine, God bless them, love me for exactly who I am. What a gift!

5) Taking that amazing 9-day California trip we took with the kids to Los Angeles and San Diego in the summer. I didn’t think I’d enjoy LA since I didn’t particularly love it during my prior work trips out there but through the lens of my kids it was incredible. How I love the internet and the ability to search where to go at the touch of a button! True to form, I reconnected with a couple of other friends I haven’t seen in years (I kinda do have friends all over the country). We jammed so much into that time: the film studios, Hollywood, USC and UCLA, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, Zuma & Huntington Beaches, the USS Midland, San Diego Zoo, and Coronado…and it was incredible. Tried an AirBNB condo for the first time in LA and it was huge, clean, tastefully appointed, the right price, centrally located, just PERFECT. Breaks my heart to think about how much of this area was caught up in the wildfires…

6) Watching our kids excel in something they love. The oldest playing snare in the marching band as a freshman, our daughter dancing her heart out and performing her first duet, the youngest learning the piano and loving every second….and performing an accidental solo without missing a beat (since we forgot his music book at home and I  didn’t realize he was performing at all that day!)

7) Having Easter dinner with my three siblings and three cousins at one cousins’ home for the first time together in 40 years. Our mothers were sisters and we seven cousins may as well have been siblings, we spent so much time together. This was true until I turned 10, when my aunt died. Most of my cousins and siblings are much older than me, so they were adults then or almost adults. Two of the cousins and two sibs moved away, then it was my turn. So not only did we have a death to change the family dynamic, we had distance to do it too. Now all of our parents are long gone, and most of us have married with kids of our own, and now some grandkids in the bunch. I don’t know how many of us gathered at the home….40-some people? Tables everywhere. Some tears of remembrance. It was pretty old school and awesome having the seven of us cousins all together like that, like we haven’t really done in 40-some years. Plus watching my brother and my youngest play baseball together was priceless.

8) Welcoming one of my nephews back to Pittsburgh from Colorado just last week. He moved away for college, traveled in Europe, moved to Austin, and then Loveland for the 13 years or so. As an extended family we get together for holidays but there were many times he wasn’t there, and I definitely felt his absence….I’m so glad he’s back among family and we can see him more.

9) Finally buying a new car, a white Honda CRV after nine years of driving Rocket, my red Jeep Patriot (Rocket was named by my oldest, using Little Einsteins as his inspiration…) . “Puff Betty” is her name, a mash-up of contributions provided by my kids and friends.  “Puff” because being white, the car reminds my kids of a cloud. “Betty White” was the suggestion of my friend. I decided to pull a Sean Combs and call her Puff Betty. My heart was originally set on “Bianca” which is white in Italian but I decided that a Honda CRV wasn’t nearly sexy enough for that kinda name. Maybe one of these days I’ll drive a sports car and name her Bianca or something even better.

10) Starting this blog. 33 followers so far after three months. I warned you guys I would be all over the place in terms of what I write about. Hopefully you like what you’ve seen so far.

So take a moment and count your blessings from this past year. Wish a happy new year to the people you love the most. Kiss. Hug. Mean it. And give 2018 all you’ve got!

#1: Travel More

Growing up, we didn’t really vacation. A couple of times we drove down to Florida to visit my cousin, once or twice we went to Washington DC to do the same for another cousin, and every summer we made a road trip to Cleveland to see the aunts and uncles, and that was about it. In the meantime, I discovered my childless aunt and uncle traveled most of the national parks in their camper during their vacations. It was fascinating to imagine doing that.

But that wasn’t us. No, I was the kid in the backseat of the family’s light blue Chevy Impala driving down I-95 at 60 miles per hour, in the thick of the summer with all the windows down, head sticking out of said window to stay cool, as if I were the family dog. My long, fine, light brown hair would be a wild mess from the wind….and I’m surprised I wasn’t sunburnt. My cheeks always felt numb after hours of riding just like this, but hey, we didn’t have air conditioning in the car, so what did you expect me to do? Nevertheless, we were going on vacation!

Now why I didn’t think to craft a career in the travel industry, I don’t know….

But after college I found work in public accounting and along with it came the need to travel to different client sites wherever they happened to be. It was awesome. I used to go go go… and man, I loved it! At some point I was traveling five days a week for weeks on end all over the US, and I liked it so much I traveled more for vacation, visiting the friends I made all over the country.

Still, traveling constantly got old after a while, and I wanted a ‘real life’ so after several years I quit that job, married at an age you could say was a little later in life, and then finally had kids. Waiting as long as I did to have all that, I would rather spend my time with my family.

Actually, I’d rather travel with my family and we do. Rarely do my husband and I go anywhere without them, although that’s almost a function of there being very few options to watch the kids so we can have some alone time.

Still, for several years while the kids were young, the wish list of places I wanted to visit was growing faster than I had a means to satisfy it. I kept saying “one of these days”….and it never came.  3D Realistic Travel and Tour Poster Design Around the World

Enter my high school friend Barb who set a girls weekend away one of as her 2017 resolutions and she invited me to go. Me. I hadn’t seen her in roughly 30 years. I was humbled and thrilled.

Boom! That was the avalanche that started it for me. Yes, I definitely had “More Travel” on the list of 2017 resolutions but before you knew it, 2017 became a year of “yes” and “Why not?” Between fun and work this year, long weekends and bigger trips, I’ve been to New York, Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Bedford Springs (PA), Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Scottsdale, Traverse City, Orlando, the Bahamas, Savannah, and Amelia Island (FL). These weren’t trips with the whole family each time…these were just the trips I happened to make. Before 2017 is over, I will sneak in Raleigh, and maybe Dayton and Hocking Hills (a beautiful, hilly region in southeast Ohio). What can I say? Wanderlust is in my blood.

I’m not even sure which was my favorite! Amelia Island was beautiful. Barb and I were supposed to go to Cumberland Island to see the wild horses, but we didn’t plan properly for that. Plus the weekend we went was blistering hot. I mean, Denise-is-dripping-wet-hot. I think she realized there was a good chance I would DIE on Cumberland Island had we tried to hoof it for a day. I’m grateful she was cool with hanging at the pool.

Bedford Springs was wonderful in that it was a celebration for a friend after her winning battle against ovarian cancer. The Omni Bedford Springs is a beautiful venue, and we enjoyed our long weekend in April at the hot springs and spa.

Traverse City was a joy to see again. It had been nearly 20 years since I had been there. We took the kids over Spring Break when it was a bit too chilly to enjoy hiking the sand dunes but overall we liked it enough to want to return.

California was the big family trip this year. We crammed a ton of activities into our 10 days in the Los Angeles metro area and San Diego. This was our first time using AirBNB and our apartments were perfect. The kids thought California was exceptional and I’m so glad we got the chance to take them there. We visited Zuma, Venice, and Huntington Beaches, the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers Studios, USC, UCLA, Santa Monica Pier, Beverly Hills, La Jolla and the sea lions, the USS Midway, San Diego Zoo, and Coronado. Just incredible.

My husband and I even managed a cruise to the Bahamas in early September for my birthday getaway, but it was cut short given Hurricane Irma. I’m telling you those Floridians are fearless in the face of doom. There we were, disembarking at Port Canaveral, and they showed up to their jobs to help us, cheerfully, with the storm nipping at our heels. Humbling.

So you think with all that travel, I’d get rid of the travel bug. Nope.

For the last few years, I had been targeting Iceland for my 50th birthday trip but that was before I turned the whole year into a travel adventure. I haven’t abandoned the idea: I WILL go to Iceland ideally within the next two years.  I took it as a sign from God that I’m meant to go now that Wow Airlines has cheap direct flights from Pittsburgh today and from Cleveland this May.

Iceland is not as easy to plan, though. I see pictures of places I think are breathtaking, but the names are, like, 20 letters long and well, ICELANDIC, so I have no idea how to say things like Eyjafjallajökull.  Do you? I mean, come on. Wikipedia says it’s pronounced [ˈeɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥].I still say, “huh?”

So I’m tabling Iceland for the moment, and letting the travel bug wind down for a brief moment so 2018 can be focused on some other goals.

But 2017? You were AWESOME in terms of travel. I spent a lot more than I had ever planned on all these trips but it was worth it. And I no longer feel like time is getting away from us and all the places I want to take the kids as a family. We will hit the road again in 2018 for sure, but 2017 will be a year for the memory books. 2017 New Year resolution #1 achieved, with gusto.