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Choosing To Travel the US And Not the World

12 Feb

It’s fun to meet folks while traveling. And when writing about travel, we also meet virtually.

The kind people at Inspiring Travelers opened their blog to guest posters; and fancy that, they took my submission.

What did I write about? Why Americana the Beautiful, of course. And choosing to travel the US, not the world.


6 Reasons PowerPoint is an Excellent Vacation Planning Tool (Yes, PowerPoint)

7 Feb

You’re ready to plan a vacation. Destination is chosen, guidebooks are ordered, and you’ve begun scouring the tourism website(s).

Help! So. Many. Options.
If you’re like me, you don’t want to make many/any decisions on vacation. Playing it by ear while actually on vacation appeals to some; but at the same time, who wants to go to Arizona and not know that the Grand Canyon is there?

Enter pre-trip-planning. And enter PowerPoint as the tool that saves your sanity.

Seriously. PowerPoint.

6 Reasons PowerPoint is an Excellent Vacation Planning Tool

  1. While reading books, brochures and websites, things will catch your fancy. Create a PPT slide for each mini-destination within your trip and type up activities, descriptions, factoids, restaurant recommendations. This is the organizing phase. And it’s the most fun.
  2. Go to your favorite web-based map tool and plug in all the destinations. This shows their proximity to each other and drive time between excursions. You’ll find that the majority of what you want to do is centralized in a geographic region. Phew. But there are outliers, hours away; and now you have to decide how important they are to your trip. This is the filtering phase. It’s the most stressful.
  3. Put the PPT slides in order by geography and driving time. Shazzam–you just created a day-by-day itinerary. Truly allocate the days: these two activities can be done on Saturday; Sunday we’ll be driving for three hours and there’s a diner famous for pie along the way. How many nights are booked at this hotel/campground? (it’s nice to know how much unpacking to do at each stop) This is the anal-retentive phase. It gives you great peace while on vacation. No immediate gratification.
  4. Add visuals–PPT accepts them graciously. This is helpful if you tentatively booked multiple excursions in the same area and can’t decide which you want to do. A picture of the bog vs the rocks-and-ferns can help you decide once there. Because even though you have a smart-phone, you may not have great reception in the middle of glorious nowhere. If you’re a craftsy person, have fun and treat this like part of your scrapbook: logos, clip art, whatever inspires you. This is the optional phase. Do what works for you.
  5. Remember what still has to be done. Got a checklist? Great. Instead, try visual reminders, like changing the background color for things that still need to be planned: car rental, lodging for the third night, reservations for the canopy tour. Why? Because a trip will be planned over the course of several weeks, and possibly by several people. Color-coding lets you know what’s done and also keeps all the info there for when you’re ready to make the reservation. Revert to white backgrounds when a task is done. Sigh, getting closer to vacation. This is the reality phase. It may be a tad bit stressful.
  6. And now, you’re on vacation. Happy day! Use your printed-out-PPT to jot down anything and everything.  Restaurant recommendations from locals. Tips from bikers (engine, not pedal) who always know the best places to explore.  And capture impressions and experiences of the trip. It’s a ready-made journal. This is the vacation phase. It’s wonderful.

Five minutes of planning saves fifteen minutes of work. Or in this case, gives you peace of mind that your vacation is exactly what you want it to be!

A Day at the Beach

6 Feb

What’s your pleasure? Reading, surfing, tossing a ball, building a sand castle, napping? The beach makes them all possible.

Yet there’s a high risk of finding sand in unpleasant places, which is why I’m more of a mountain girl. But the beach has MUCH better people-watching than any hike.

Enter the beaches of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. People are active here. Playing games, water sports…very little lollygagging. I’m not saying there’s no lollygaging, all that activity warrants a nap, for sure.

When you go to the beach, what do you like to do?

Can’t see the slideshow? Click here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Why Do We Say “Beach Umbrella” and not “Beach Parasol”?

23 Jan

I ask because as it turns out, parasols were frilly and meant to protect from the sun, while umbrellas were given the duty of rain defense. But somehow we’ve mixed the terms up when it comes to the beach – or maybe it’s just that no one uses “parasol” anymore.

If you’re curious, the concept of a parasol is indeed ancient–depicted in sculptures and paintings of Egypt.

And if you’re curious as to why I’m writing about umbrellas and parasols…it’s because their color caught my eye while on the beaches of the Outer Banks.

Can’t see the slideshow? Click here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Beach Umbrellas, posted with vodpod

What’s the Origin of the Phrase “Here Fishy, Fishy”?

20 Jan

Not a clue. Sorry to tease you, but I’m hoping you can help.

See, the phrase came to mind while thinking about this post and I wondered why exactly it did come to mind, and therefore how did I know it. Couldn’t find anything helpful on the web. Seriously. Not even Wikipedia! It is a popular phrase, though, because there are stores galore with the name.

Now, I said there wasn’t anything helpful on the web. There was one (feeble) idea on Yahoo! Answers.

  • Lyle G: Does anyone know the origin of this saying? And who said it? (asked 4 years ago)
  • 4u2nv: some little boy or girl at an aquarium, a pond or a river calling a fish to feed it or something (answered 4 years ago)
  • IRENE: Yes, when someone called a fish and it didn’t come. (answered 4 years ago)

All of this ambling is to introduce a post about fishing at the Outer Banks of NC. Folks fish there. In the ocean. I’ve never seen that. So I took pictures. A lot of pictures.

The end.

Do YOU know the origin or the phrase “Here fishy, fishy”?
Want to take bets on whether my Dad will be the first (and only) one to reply with the answer?

Can’s see the slideshow? Click here.
Vodpod videos no longer available.


6 Ways Flickr Enhances your Vacation

29 Nov

Enhance my vacation? I’m in!

Via a photo sharing site? Yeah right.  Show me what you’ve got.

Flickr Makes My Heart Flutter
Run by Yahoo, Flickr is a web-based photo sharing site for amateurs and professionals. You can share pics with your friends or the world. Tag by keyword and anyone can find topical photos . Even better, depending on the photographer’s settings, strangers around the world can download high-res images for their own non-commercial use.

Yahoo reported on their blog in June 2011 that Flickr had a total of 51 million registered members and 80 million unique visitors. In August 2011 the site was hosting more than 6 billion images. That’s a lot of photos to explore – and to add to your vacation album.

Excuse Me, You’re Suggesting  Using OTHER People’s Pics in MY Vacation Album?
Absolutely. We all buy postcards for the shots we could never get, right? Flickr is the same thing, but more personal and in exponential volume. The key is to caption those photos as coming from Flickr – don’t unintentionally impress your friends with work that’s not yours.

6 Ways Flickr Enhances your Vacation

  1. Fill in the gaps. All those lights of the Eiffel Tower look gorgeous in life but the picture is blurry. There’s a telephone pole in the background ruining a lovely landscape and you don’t have the skills to take it out (neither do I). You went into a cavern, a winery, on a candle-lit tour and your pictures look grainy and dark. But the experiences were so fabulous that you don’t want them absent from your album. Enter Flickr. Search on the keyword and find pictures from people who got the exact shot you want. Download the highest resolution available and, happy day, you’ve got those visual cues to remind yourself and share with others.
  2. Download in Bulk. If you travel a lot (like I do), you need to supplement photos with regularity. Buy a Flickr add-on called Bulkr ($40), which lets you download faster and with abandon. The traditional Flickr method downloads one photo at a time. It takes F.O.R.E.V.E.R. With Bulkr you select multiple photos to download at once. Zipadeedoodah!
  3. Learn to take better pictures. Flickr is an innate, yet passive, photo tutorial. Look up your destination and see what people did well and not so well – both are good lessons. I prefer to look AFTER the trip so I can call on my own creativity in the moment and not simply mimic what someone else did. But once home I’ll look through destinations where I felt photographically stumped and see how others captured the space. It gives me ideas for how to handle future situations without being a copycat for that specific attraction.
  4. Pay it forward. Surely you captured a moment or scene that someone else wants. After using Flickr to supplement your trip album, return the favor and share your pics, too.
  5. Something for everyone. The true bonus of sharing your pics is that if you tag them very specifically, like “rusty mailbox,” you’ll find out that there are Flickr groups both for mailboxes and for rusty things.  They get pinged when their tag is used and invite you to join the group. And why not – perhaps you like to photograph rusty mailboxes (I do – take a look) and you’ll virtually meet others and learn from their skills.
  6. These kids today. You’ll also learn the spectacular value of At a festival I innocently took pictures of sno cones–I liked the vibrant colors. Then the pictures became a favorite of person after person, all with, um, creative screen names. So I looked up Sno Cone on Urban Dictionary and learned that it’s slang for getting stoned. Of course it is. Read more about my innocence lost.

Vacations are ripe with sensory input – a key one being visual. If you aren’t a talented photographer, or if you have limited skills in certain settings, benefit from the generosity of those of who have talent and share it. It’ll help bring your vacation to life every time you revisit it.

What other tricks do you have for keeping vacation memories fresh?
For capturing or leveraging the stimuli from the moment?
Want to see my Flickr page? Go for it!


The Journey vs. the Destination: Bish Bash Falls

9 Nov

Bish Bash FallsIt’s fun to say, isn’t it? Bish Bash Falls. Go ahead, say it out loud–you know you want to.

This Massachusetts state park is beautiful and the falls are indeed impressive, but the hike itself was actually more compelling for me. And in fact, the hike back to the car, not the anticipatory hike to the falls.

It’s a steep and cumbersome climb down and logic predicts that the return is even more breathless.

On my labored way back up I met an Indian family with a grandmother dressed in magnificent sari and flip flops. She had a hard time maneuvering the log bridge across a moderate gap and trickle of water and she was already out of breath. Her family asked about the rest of the trek and I answered honestly that they had a ways to go and it wasn’t an easy path. Grandma decided to turn around.

My steady pace suddenly slowed and this Grandmother and I were now holding hands. I gave her my hiking pole and we began our journey together. This was unfamiliar territory for her–she didn’t know where to place her feet, to look out for tree roots, how to let others pass on the path. And she didn’t speak English. Or have water. I motioned, guided, and shared my drink.

This isn’t a post to boast of a good deed. But to recognize that what feels like home and adventure for one is scary and difficult for another.

I thought about the guides who helped me learn to hike on high school excursions. I thought about the friends who taught me about gear and pacing.

We reached the summit; in this case, the parking lot. And to her it was beautiful. She smiled, pressed her hands together in Namsate style, and did a head bobble I’ve been told can mean many things and knew in this case meant thank you.

In truth, it was a gift for me to stop and enjoy the hike instead of plow through to the top. To experience my comfort in a place that wasn’t always so for me. And to think about the nameless people who have figuratively and literally lent me a hand.

When has someone given you a metaphorical hiking pole?
When has a stranger walked the path with you until you felt safe?