Posts Tagged ‘travel advice’

Happy New Year and New Blog

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

To all the subscribers who regularly read this blog: Thank you, happy new year, and please visit my new blog!

I launched a new site a few days ago to combine my passions for running and travel. It’s called The Runner’s Trip, and the tagline is Run Long, Travel Far, Discover More. The first post and about page describe its mission. In many ways it’s an outgrowth of this blog and my first running blog. I’m mothballing Away Together and encouraging readers here to subscribe to the new one.

I greatly appreciate all who followed our family travel blog and shared their comments on our posts. I look forward to traveling more with my family and blogging about the destinations on The Runner’s Trip.

Thanks again for taking the time to read this. I hope you find the new blog inspiring, motivating, informative, and entertaining.

Yosemite’s Curry Village: Good Times with the Bear Necessities

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Our Curry Village tent cabin

I was carrying my bag into Yosemite’s Curry Village, about to check into a canvas-sided, one-room shack that’s a hybrid of a tent and a cabin, when suddenly I came within an inch of stepping in one of the biggest piles of poop I’ve ever seen.

I know dog doo, cat scat, cow pies, horse manure, deer droppings, feral pig dung and, of course, human feces, and I knew this cake-sized coiled turd was none of the above. Barely disguised with dust, and resting a mere 10 feet or so from our door, it looked frightfully fresh, thick, dark, and flecked with something nutty and grainy — a hapless hiker’s granola bar, perhaps?

“A bear did that!” I said out loud to no one in particular. Then I found Morgan to show him, and we in turn showed it to a man we had just met in the neighboring tent cabin.

“I’m not surprised,” the man said. “You should see the patch job on my cabin,” and he held up his hand and mimed a menacing scratching motion while describing a large ursine claw mark still visible underneath a patch on his unit’s flimsy excuse for a wall.

“Well,” I said to Morgan, “We’re not in The Ahwahnee anymore.” (more…)

One Year Later: The Time-Capsule Travel Letters and the ‘Eat Pray Love’ Backlash

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Midway through our trip, my world-traveling friend Carolyn suggested that each of us write a letter to each other describing our feelings about the travel so far and our hopes for the remainder of the journey. This was in late January, when we had been away for five months and were living outside of Queenstown, New Zealand, for a couple of weeks. She told us to keep the letters secret and not share them until the trip ended.

Morgan, Colly, Kyle and I each sat down and wrote letters reflecting on the experience, showed them to no one else at the time, sealed them up, and then opened and read them out loud over dinner in June on our last night before driving home. Now, the letters sit on my desk as reminders of what the round-the-world trip was all about. Today, for a couple of different reasons, I re-read them to reflect on how the 10-month trip affected us individually and as a family.

One reason is the snarky backlash, prompted by the film release of Eat, Pray, Love, to long-term travel for the sake of change, education and self-reflection. (more…)

What A Long, Strange Homecoming It’s Been

Monday, July 12th, 2010

“Let’s sleep with the kids,” I said on our first night back in our house, which echoed from emptiness because our belongings remained in storage. Morgan agreed, and with relief I unrolled my sleeping bag on my daughter’s floor, putting her and Kyle on one side of me and Morgan on the other.

I wanted to hear their breathing and feel their closeness one more night before everything changed back to our non-traveling life — before the movers came and filled our house with so much of the furniture and boxes of stuff that I now feel ambivalent about owning, and before my kids moved back into their own rooms and we all established our separate domains in this house that feels too big and fancy. I wanted to curl up in my sleeping bag and fantasize we were camping the way we did on the banks of the Colorado River or on the beach of New Zealand’s Abel Tasman Park.

Everyone has been asking how it feels to return home. The short answer is: weird, and tiring! I haven’t felt this conflicted and unsettled since … well, since we pulled out of our driveway to start the trip on August 15, 2009.

The penultimate stop: We drove through Yosemite on our last day and arrived home about four hours later.

(more…)

83 Places, 5 Continents, 10 Months

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Less than 24 hours after our plane from Heathrow landed in Los Angeles, the four of us walked into a Noah’s Bagels on Sunset Boulevard for an early lunch. Our sense of time and place were thoroughly out of whack from jet lag and from the strangeness of waking up in Southern California, drinking Peet’s Coffee and tuning into the Disney Channel as though we’d never been away.

As we stood ordering bagels, we suddenly remembered we had eaten lunch at the same Noah’s on the day before we flew to Buenos Aires in early October. “I feels like we were just here,” Colly said, and I agreed while my chest hiccuped with anxiety.

It felt as though all those months abroad — which had stretched so elastically and netted so much in a single week, so that on the first of every month I’d express disbelief at how much we had experienced — had snapped back and condensed into a blip to make mental space for the task of reorganizing our lives and getting ready to move back into the house.

Checking out of a hotel in Marlow, England, on our last morning before flying back to California.

I’m feeling profoundly mixed emotions upon our return and need to think more about the transition before trying to write much about it. I got weepy on our last night in Marlow, a lovely town outside of London, as we checked out of a hotel a final time and toasted our trip; then, I got teary with joy as we approached my hometown of Ojai last weekend for a reunion. I also am in the process of thinking through the next phase of this blog, so stay tuned and thanks to all of you who’ve read it regularly!

In the meantime, I’m publishing the following list as proof and as a reminder to myself that we really went to all of these places. We called this our “sleepover list” and had fun updating it as we traveled. Most are linked to previous blog posts if we wrote about that destination. Three places are listed twice since we visited there twice, so the number of places totals 83, but the bottom line is that we moved and unpacked 86 times!

The Sleepover List: August 15, 2009 – June 15, 2010: (more…)

The Cure for the Brighton Hangover

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Colly does the bungee jump trampoline against the backdrop of the Brighton Pier.

Like cotton candy, Brighton is a brightly colored swirl of sweet temptation that’s tantalizing to taste but leaves you sticky and queasy.

We went there for a couple of days for the same reason we make an annual pilgrimage to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or Santa Monica Pier — because rickety amusement rides on the beach are guaranteed family fun — and we did indeed love to watch the kids on the spinning rides.

On the pier, the world travelers became hurled travelers.

But, good grief, I haven’t seen so many drunk, swearing, sweaty and scantily clad young adults since the time we spent New Year’s Eve on the Las Vegas Strip. (more…)

Essential Gear For Long-Term Travel

Monday, May 31st, 2010

A year ago, as we packed up our house and got ready to go, I scanned various lists developed by travel experts of essential items to pack, and I invariably ended up more conflicted about what to bring for our round-the-world trip. We made a commitment to travel light — just one easy-to-carry clothing bag each, plus a communal gear bag and as few carry-ons as possible — and yet all these lists were telling us to bring so much stuff.

After 10 months of family travel, I don’t have a comprehensive packing list to share (here’s a good one for starters if that’s what you’re looking for), but I can detail some of the gear and clothing we found indispensable. (more…)

The Swiss Cascade and Castle That Inspired Poets (and Us)

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Lauterbrunnen

Over the past few days, we’ve glimpsed Switzerland at its prettiest and most poetic (which is such a relief after the stormy sky and mercurial moods detailed in the previous post).

Standing under Staubbach Falls.

The drive from Lucerne to Interlaken revealed alpine beauty that rivals even the Colorado Rockies and New Zealand’s Southern Alps. We checked into a cozy family room in a friendly little hotel, aptly named Hotel Splendid, and immediately headed out to explore before rain returned.

I’ve never seen as many waterfalls as we saw on the drive to Lauterbrunnen, a small town seven miles up the valley from the better-known Interlaken. “Lauter brunnen” means “many fountains” or “loud wells,” and there are 72 of them in and around town.  The waterfalls stream over sharp cliffs colored with alternating shades of dark and light gray, and then they’re swallowed by swaths of forests where the lighter green of new growth contrasts with the darker evergreens.

We stood in a meadow under Lauterbrunnen’s beloved Staubbach Falls, all of us feeling warmed by the sun and awed by the stream of mist floating down in the wind. I thought the moment couldn’t get any better, but then it did, because we saw a little plaque that indicated we once again were following in Goethe’s footsteps. He visited this spot in 1779 and was inspired to write the poem Spirit Song Over the Waters, which we read and discussed right there at the base of the falls until Kyle ran off to chase some sheep. (The next day Kyle wrote in his journal about the beauty of the waterfalls and concluded, “But most of all I love the mountains. They give me ideas for my mind.” I agree!) (more…)

Some Days Are Like That, Even In Switzerland

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Our view of Lugano, Switzerland, from the hills of Campione.

“This is one of those days,” I said on our first full day in Switzerland as rain fell in sheets outside the window, obscuring the Alps.

We were sitting cross-legged on a hotel room floor and eating lentils out of a can for lunch while making innumerable Skype calls to apartment managers, hotels and the One World airlines ticket desk. While the kids gloomily plugged away at their math lessons, Morgan and I busied ourselves with research to redo our itinerary to avert freak Swiss snowstorms and British Airways strikes. When I needed a break, I washed clothes in the sink (“No laundromats in Switzerland,” the hotel clerk informed us, “everyone have their own washer”) and blew them dry since it was so cold they wouldn’t dry on their own. (more…)

Eat, Run, Love

Friday, April 30th, 2010

A view from the Cinque Terre coastal trail, with the town of Vernazza coming into view.

Last night I read Goethe and ate divine pesto, and this morning I ran across a mountain and climbed back into bed with Morgan.

It’s all about life, Italy and the pursuit of happiness.

(Bear with me while I explain what Goethe has to do with it …)

I didn’t expect to pick up 18th-century German Romanticism more than twenty years after my last college lit class. I’ve been eating up delectable novels and memoirs like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and told myself I should ingest some historical fiction or classics (similar to how I reach for bran flakes and skim milk to balance out the pasta and wine).

Then, around the same day, we serendipitously stumbled upon Goethe. His name was everywhere. We were in the town of Malcesine on Lake Garda, a giant drop of blue in Northern Italy hanging like a bead off the skirt of the Alps, and were spending five nights there for no better reason than because three months earlier, in New Zealand or somewhere, Morgan had looked at Italy on Google Earth, saw the splotch of blue and the steep topography around it, and said, “I wanna go there!”

Kyle on a snowy ridge in the Alps above Lake Garda during a hike he took with Morgan.

As we drove the freeway up from Verona and the steep mountain pass down through Turbole, we started noticing inns and restaurants named after the German literary great.

Once we settled into our lodge, Morgan logged on to research why Goethe was such a big deal in this neck of the woods. “You gotta read this,” I soon heard him say. (more…)