Category: travel

Tropical Vacations

Maybe it’s because I just finished one vacation and I have a second one lined up for the end of this week. Or maybe it’s because it was just above zero this morning when I headed into work. (Not that I was cold. I had my nice LL Bean coat on, so the cold doesn’t bother me much.) But one way or the other, I’ve got vacationing on the brain, and I’d like to ask you lovely people for some advice.

I’m debating going somewhere tropical. I’ve toyed with the idea of Hawaii, but that’s like . . . over 5,000 miles away from me, which seems a bit much. Slovakia is only 4,000 miles away, after all. I want to go someplace tropical, but not “farther away than Eastern Europe” tropical. That said, I’ve been to Hawaii. It’s lovely. I’d love to go back.

But I haven’t been to the Caribbean (unless you count the many voyages I went on to see the Pirates there over the years). I’ve been looking into different islands. Puerto Rico (no passport needed!), Aruba (I’ve already got a passport, so what does it matter?), the Bahamas, Jamaica, etc. What I’d really like is to hear from people who’ve been to these places. I’ve talked with a friend who went to Puerto Rico recently and loved it. I’d like that kind of experienced feedback on other places.

How hard is it to get around? What do you do with your time there? How expensive was the food? Favorite experiences? Places to avoid? When did you go? Any general tips? Have you been to Hawaii? How did it compare to there?

Anyway. I’m all ears (or eyes, I suppose, though I’d be happy to discuss this in person as well.) If you got suggestions/thoughts, please share!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

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The Hero’s Journey and Travel

I jetted down to San Antonio for Thanksgiving last week, taking some time away from the frigid tundra this November seems to be like in Maine to go enjoy some sun and 85 degree weather with family. Of course, that also meant I had to get on a plane to get there, and faithful readers know just how I feel about planes. (Hint: it’s not a fond relationship.)

But today’s post isn’t about my hatred of planes. Instead, I’d like to focus on a positive aspect of travel. I love being at different places: exploring and discovering things I haven’t seen or done before. This trip had plenty of that. We went to a number of delicious restaurants. (Mi Tierra, The Magnolia Pancake Haus, Torchy’s*, Duck Donuts, and we explored the vastness of HEB (pronounced H. E. B., as opposed to “heb”), a San Antonio grocery store named after Howard Edward Butt. I tried to argue he should have called it “Howard’s End.” Talk about a missed opportunity.) We checked out the River Walk and the Alamo. We did a scavenger hunt downtown. We ate guacamole by the bucketful. San Antonio is a lovely city (though I was glad to get back to some winter and snow when we returned. Because Christmas.)

But instead of focusing on all the things we did on the vacation, I want to center in on the act of returning after the vacation is done. I know that’s often the saddest part of the trip, but in many ways, it sometimes feels like the most interesting to me.

Whenever I leave home, there’s a fair bit of stress that goes into it. The packing and the plane, but also the process of learning the ropes in the new city where you arrive. Where do you get the rental car? How do you get to where you’re going? Where can you eat?

When you’re on your way home, you’ve got that all figured out. You know the area. You pass stores you recognize. Places you’ve been. Maybe I did one too many papers in college on the Hero’s Journey, but that’s what it always reminds me of. You come back to the place you left, but you’re different than you were before you left it. Wiser? Who knows. But definitely more experienced.

A trip changes everyone on it in different ways. Seeing new places and new people opens your mind up to ways of thinking that might have been closed to you if you hadn’t seen or met. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I continue to travel as much as I do, even with my intense loathing of airplanes.

Anyone else out there do any traveling over vacation? Got any cool stories to share?

*Torchy’s Tacos did lead MC to proclaim it “the worst dinner ever” after she had an unfortunate run in with some jalapenos that led to her spitting her food out faster than Regan in the Exorcist can spew out pea soup. The rest of the family found it quite spicy. I loved it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

And He’s Off! Fiddlers 2019 Trip

Tomas headed off on the road early this morning to go with his school music group, the Franklin County Fiddlers. They’re going throughout Maine and Boston as they zig zag from place to place, fiddling all the way until they come back on Tuesday. As he was packing up and getting ready for the big trip, I couldn’t help but think back over some of the different school trips I went on.

Funnily enough, there are quite a few of them that I just can’t remember anymore. I’m pretty sure I went on a whale watching trip in . . . 6th grade? I think I remember being on the boat, and I seem to recall watching some of my classmates eat lobster, but I can’t remember where exactly we went. Boston? I couldn’t tell you if you paid me. The trip is a blur. There are even later trips that are also really fuzzy. We went to Baltimore one time for orchestra. Or was it Annapolis? I remember going to King’s Dominion. I think. (Man, when did my memory get so bad?)

On the other hand, there are some trips I still remember very clearly. Our marching band trip to Paris my Junior year of high school. We were there for the New Year’s Day Parade. I remember seeing Notre Dame in the rain. Marching in the parade. The New Year’s Eve dance. Seeing Paris from the Eiffel Tower. Having lunch at the cafe in the Louvre. All of that’s up there in my memory no problem.

My senior year, I went on another orchestra trip, this one to Germany and Austria with the All American Youth in Concert group. I remember that very well, too. Well enough that when we visited the places I played back then this past summer, I still recalled what they looked like and what we did there.

And of course, none of these count the tons of marching band trips to competitions across the area, or the Dixie Band trips to nursing homes. Small little day trips here and there that when I think about them, formed a big chunk of my high school schedule.

As I look back at all of that as a whole, I’m surprised at how much I did. I think it’s important to go on trips like that away from home. It gives you a chance to do things on your own and find yourself a bit better than when you’re always near your parents. Of course, it also gives you a chance to do stupid things, but you’re going to have that chance sooner or later. Better to have it on a chaperoned trip so you get used to the “freedom” one step at a time.

Anyway. You won’t see Tomas around for the next few days. Unless you’re down in Boston, in which case you can catch him this weekend. Have fun, Tomas!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

New Orleans for Families

I headed down to New Orleans last week for ALA Annual, and I took my family with me on the trip. I’d never been to the city before (never been to anywhere in the South other than Florida, really. Well, Texas, but that’s got a feel all its own.) Ahead of time, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I spoke to a lot of friends who had been, and they had mixed things to say about it, ranging from their favorite city ever to a place they were glad they’d only spent a day or two in.

We had eight days slated, and three kids (ages 14, 10, and 5) who had to be entertained. I would have been less worried, but the hotel I booked didn’t have a pool. My kids all love swimming, so if there’d been a pool, I would have known there always would have been something they’d enjoy to do, even if they swam for 8 days straight.

I’m back now, and I’m pleased to say we had a grand time. There were loads of great family activities to do, and my kids all enjoyed the trip, as did Denisa and I. Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights:

  • Plantation tour. We rented a car for two of the days, heading out of the city to Oak Alley Plantation, where we toured the grounds, the house, and the slaves’ quarters. I’d heard better things about Whitney Plantation, but I’d also heard it was a really heavy tour focused on the slave experience. I wasn’t really up for putting my 5 year old daughter through that, hence Oak Alley. It was beautiful and somber, and I thought it was a great mix and just what I had been looking for.
  • Swamp tour. I’ve never been to a real swamp. We got on a 2 hour boat ride that took us into the Honey Island Swamp, right on the border of Mississippi. Gators, turtles, raccoons, boars, and awesome vegetation. Let’s just say I’m very glad I’ve never met an alligator in the wild, while I’m in the water. They look like snakes as they slither up to their prey. Snakes with big mouths and teeth and claws and they’re huge. Yikes. Though really, the scariest part for me was when we went to a dead end and we had a pack of raccoons come right up to the boat for food. I’ve seen raccoons at work and read all about just how rabid they can get, and the whole time I was wondering what I’d do if one of them jumped in the boat.
  • The National World War II Museum. Ranked the number 2 museum in the world on Trip Advisor. I’m not sure of that ranking. I think it’s overselling it a fair bit, but it really was a great museum. Tons of displays and information all about the war. We all enjoyed it, though my 5 year old got a bit bored.
  • The Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium. Two of the days I was at my conference, Denisa took the kids to the Audobon properties. There was a water park at the zoo that everyone loved, and the insectarium had a butterfly garden my girls thought was awesome. A great way to spend a few hot days in the southern climate.
  • French Quarter. After we figured out which street was Bourbon Street (naturally the first street we picked to walk down), the French Quarter was lovely. Tons of great shops and restaurants, live music, people watching, churches, and more. I loved the architecture. It was so different from anywhere else I’ve been.
  • Jazz. Denisa and I left the kids at the hotel one evening and headed to Preservation Hall, where you pay $20 a person for a 45 minute concert they have four or five times a night. Live jazz. Incredibly talented musicians in a teeny tiny room that looks like it might fall apart any moment. We loved it.
  • Food. Beignets, po’ boys, muffalettas, jambalaya, gelato, eclairs, croissants, and more. I gained 6 pounds. (Sigh.) Need I say more?
  • Alabama and Mississippi. As long as we were all the way down there, I figured we might as well knock a few more states off my To Visit list. We went to the USS Alabama in Mobile, which was a hit with the whole fam. (And made me appreciate even more what sailors went through in WWII. I have no idea how anyone can navigate that maze. We went on a submarine, as well. I could barely fit through the doors. After that, we headed to Gulf Port, Mississippi to go to the beach. It was rainy off and on, so we didn’t do more than wade, but it was a fun time.
  • Museum of Art. We’ve spoiled our kids, perhaps, by starting them out with Parisian art galleries, but they still had a good time at this one. I was at the conference, so I can’t say much more than that.

The conference itself was also a great experience for me. I went to a ton of fantastic panels and came home with new ideas for the library. Always a plus.

Anyway. If you’re thinking about heading to New Orleans and you’re not sure if your family would have a good time, don’t worry about it. We took public transportation to most places, and it was a fairly easy to navigate city. I will say it wasn’t particular kid-friendly after about 8 o’clock. Lots of public drinking, smoking, and even some nudity on the streets, so I was glad Nickelodeon was playing Double Dare each night. (My kids loved that.) It’s definitely a city where many of the visitors go to get plastered. Not really my scene. But there’s a wealth of things to see beyond that. I was really glad we had the chance to go.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

New Orleans Bound

ALA is in New Orleans this year, and I’ll be attending once again. (In June. Not sure if that’s the time of year New Orleans would be the most pleasant to visit, but it’s the time I’ll be going.) Outside of Alaska, this is really the one part of the country I’ve never been anywhere near before. Checking out the map, the closest I’ve come to New Orleans in all my travels would be San Antonio. After that, it’s a layover in Atlanta, or all my vacationing in Orlando. So this is filling in a huge hole in my American Experience.

I’m planning on heading down a bit before the conference and/or coming back a bit after it, and I’m going to bring my family with me. (Again, not sure if New Orleans is the best family friendly destination, but it’s a huge area of the country I’d like my kids to have some exposure to. Very different from Maine, I’d imagine.) The good news is that I’m flying them all down for free on points. (My first time using points for anything other than cash back rewards.)

While we’re down there, I’ve already got a short list of things we’d like to do. That includes driving around outside the city and checking out the area some. I’d like to go to a jazz concert or a dixie concert. I’d like to eat cool new things. But I don’t have any real idea beyond that what we should be doing. (I don’t even know what I should be eating.) That’s where you come in. Any of you been in the area before? What are some things to check out in the city and within an hour or two around it? Any good beaches? Any and all suggestions would be welcome!

And if you’re going down to ALA this year as well, let me know. Maybe we can meet up!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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