Travel Trippin’

travel to Namibia
I’m infected. It began in 2000, when my neighbors pulled out a brochure on the World’s Fair in Hanover, Germany and invited me to go along. I applied for my first passport and packed my bags. It didn’t take long to be bitten by the travel bug and…you know what happens when that occurs. The only way to keep it under control is to feed it. So each year, I’m planning a big trip and several small ones.

The BIG Trip:

The Fed Ex package packed full of all the final details came earlier this week. I completed the remaining forms, made the final payment and mailed everything back to the Africa Adventure Company. My trip to Namibia is PAID IN FULL.

Why Namibia? I knew I wanted to go back to the African continent. I traveled to the southern part of South Africa and the area around the Okavanga Delta in Botswana ten years ago. It was incredible and someday I’ll visit again. But this trip, I want to see other parts of Africa. Namibia offers such diverse environments and a chance to see white rhinos, desert adapted elephants and other fascinating wildlife.

Here’s the sample itinerary:

Great Namibian Journey Group Safari

I’ll be taking about my planning process as the trip gets closer. Check back for updates.

The SISTERS Trip:

Planning for the trip with my sister, Wendy, is ongoing with all of your great suggestions. We are so excited. We have decided to move the trip to September so we miss some of the crowds.

Here are the original options:

  • Find an event we want to attend, like a concert, and make a trip out of it.
  • Several locations in North Carolina, including the outer banks and South Port
  • Hawaii
  • Puerta Vallarta
  • Tahiti or other Caribbean Cruise
  • Alaska Cruise
  • New England road trip, possibly including Maine
  • Guatemala

We’re adding a few new destinations from your comments last week.

  • One of my favorite nieces suggested the area around Eureka Springs, Arkansas
  • Kirstin from KidsAreATrip: Flagstaff or the Sedona area of Arizona or Puerto Rico
  • Carol Cassara: A road trip in southern Florida down through the Keys

I’ve begun preliminary reviews of some of the locations. It may be difficult to stay within our $1,000 budget (not including airfare), but we’re going to give it a shot. Next week, we’ll narrow down our choices a little and then put the numbers and options together.

So that’s how my travel plans are lining up. What’s on your vacation agenda?

Previous posts:

Help Two Sisters Looking for Adventure

Get Your Travel Agent Hat on- Sister’s Vacation Update 

Get Your Travel Agent Hat On – Sisters’ Vacation Update

vacation

I’m not sure what kind of hats all of you were wearing, but many budding travel agents responded to last week’s request for help planning our sisters’ vacation trip. Thanks! Let me back up and give you a quick overview.

My sister Wendy and I, and possibly our older sister Mary, have decided we need something to look forward to after all this frigid weather. Here’s a link to the post, Help Two Sisters Looking for Adventure, so you can get a little more background.

The parameters:

  • Budget of $500 each
  • Five day trip
  • Someplace off the beaten path (Wendy)
  • No strict agenda (Wendy and Jennifer)
  • Someplace that is or has an unexpected surprise (Wendy)
  • Things to do besides sit on a beach (Jennifer)
  • Wonderful places and people to photograph (Jennifer)
  • Costs for airfare and souvenirs are in addition to the stated budget

The current fabulous results:

  • Kate from Another Clean Slate: Schedule the trip around a fun event. Kate is headed to West Palm Beach to see Jimmy Buffett. He’s on tour in a number of locations this year.
  • My friend Shelly Dennis, a fellow stock photographer: South Port, North Carolina, with all it’s history, an aquarium and beaches.
  • Michelle from Getting Literal: Hawaii. Is there anything else to say about the draw of this location?
  • Kristi from Finding Ninee: Puerto Vallarta or another location in Mexico or the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
  • Mike from Past My Curfew: Cruise to Tahiti. (If we end up doing this, Mike, you are welcome to join us.)
  • Diane from On the Border: She and her husband have scheduled an Alaskan cruise for $550.
  • Clark from the Wakefield Doctrine: My friend from New England recommends a road trip through that beautiful area of the country.
  • Dana from Kiss My List: Small towns in Southern Maine, including Wells.
  • Chris from The Mom Cafe:  Caribbean cruise.
  • Aussa from AussaLorens.com: Guatemala.

Wow! Wendy and I are excited about all the possibilities, especially since we’ve never been to any of those places. Over the couple of months, we’ll be researching all of these destinations and any new ones that get added. In April, we’ll narrow it down to three and all of you will select where we’ll be headed, possibly sometime this summer. Can we do it on our budget? I’m not sure, but we’re going to give it a good try.

Thanks to all of you who have already made suggestions and those of you who offered encouragement. But we aren’t done yet. We still have several weeks to add more possibilities to the mix before we narrow it down for your vote. 

Any other suggestions?

Retirement Head Games

retirement

January 12, 2019…a big day for me. It’s the date I chose for my mandatory retirement. I can retire earlier, but no later than that date. It’s a long story, but ultimately, knowing specific retirement dates helps my employer with personnel planning and there are financial benefits for me.

After spending 30 years (or 35 years in 2019), working for the City of Denver, even thinking about retirement causes some concerns. Financially, I should be comfortable, but what about everything else?

I set the date knowing I have five years to work it all out. My niece, Shoshanna, hit the nail on the head when she suggested the limitless possibilities scare the shit out of me. I hadn’t thought about it until then, but she’s right.

Just think, I could:

  • Move to almost any place in the world, finances and laws permitting
  • Write a book or books
  • Volunteer for a vast number of organizations
  • Run for office (just kidding)
  • Explore the world
  • Be a full time couch potato (an option I’m not considering)
  • Change the world
  • Earn another degree
  • Start a new career

I know retirement will be here before I know it so I’m trying to make a road map.

There are plenty of resources about financially planning for retirement, but I haven’t seen many talking about how to transition into retirement. Here are the questions I hope to answer before then.

  • What do I love to do that I’d like to spend more time doing?
  • How can I make a positive contribution after I am no longer working full-time?
  • How do I challenge myself to continue to learn and grow?
  • How do I maintain my relationships and develop new ones?
  • How do I make sure my retirement is amazing?
  • What can I do now, and in the next few years, to make my transition easier?
  • How to I stay motivated to be active and healthy?

I don’t have the answers yet, but I’ve begun the journey. If you, or someone you know, has any suggestions, I’m all ears…

Help Two Sisters Looking For Adventure

Freezing Cold

The telephone rang early yesterday morning.

Me: “Hmrrr….mrmmrh….mellow?”
Wendy:  “I c-c-c-can’t handle this any…more!”
Me: “Hmmmm?” 
Wendy: “It’s 11 degrees below zero….”

Her teeth were chattering so loudly, I had to move the phone away from my ear.

It has been a very cold winter in Denver just like most areas of the country. We’re 11 degrees below zero while Sochi, Russia, home of the Winter Olympics, is in the 40’s.

After I finally woke up enough to have a semi-intelligent discussion with my sister, we decided we needed to take a trip someplace fun in the next four or five months….some place we can look forward to during this freezing weather. But…where?

There are so many incredible places to go that we don’t even know exist. How do we make the most of our travel budget and still experience a great adventure? We decided to ask the experts…all of you. Can you help us?

Here are the parameters:

  • Budget of $1,000 or $500 each
  • Five day trip
  • Someplace off the beaten path (Wendy)
  • No strict agenda (Wendy and Jennifer)
  • Someplace that is or has an unexpected surprise (Wendy)
  • Things to do besides sit on the beach (Jennifer)
  • Wonderful places and people to photograph (Jennifer)

Airfare and souvenir shopping will be considered extra, so those costs will be in addition to our $1,000 budget. Other than that, everything will be included: meals, rental car (if needed), lodging, tolls, etc.

Not only will we be selecting a place out of those you suggest, we’ll be blogging about our trip, including budget updates and photographs, so you can follow us every step of the way. We plan to travel in late June or early July. Please comment and leave any links you think will be helpful for us to see. Each week, we’ll summarize the suggestions and let you know how things are going.

In April, we’ll narrow the list down to the final three. Then, everyone can vote later in the month and we’ll travel to the destination chosen by all of you. We’ll even send a postcard to everyone who suggested a viable destination and a souvenir to the person who recommended the location we visit. (excludes spammers)

Wendy and I know of a few places, but all of you know thousands. We are eagerly looking forward to your ideas. Please help us expand our search for the perfect sister’s trip destination by sharing this post with friends who may have great recommendations, too.

Making the Most of Your Travel Journal Part 2

This post is a followup to last Thursday’s travel post. Here’s a link to last week’s article if you missed it.

Making the Most of Your Travel Journal Part 1

Travel Journal 3 web

Now that you have a blank book just waiting for your travels to make their way onto the pages, how do you begin?

The First Entry

My first entry, besides a title page, always includes an overview of my trip. Here are a few suggested questions to get you started.

What are you planning to do?
Where are you planning to go?
Who is going with you?
When are you traveling?
Why are you traveling to this destination, in particular?

Documenting the Journey

There are so many ways to organize your journal. I tend to write my journals in chronological order from the beginning of the day until the end, but there are many ways to capture the moments.

Who are the special people you have met along the way?
What were the highlights of each day?
Where did you eat?

I glue almost everything into my journals. I’ve learned lots of unique ways to fold things so they’ll fit and I can still open them up full size to the most important information.

  • Menus from restaurants I’ve visited- Did you know there’s a BadAss Cafe in Dublin, Ireland? Many restaurants have paper menus they are willing to share, especially when you explain what you are doing. Sometimes I search for restaurants to visit based on their fantastic names.
  • Visitor guides- Stop by the visitor information center. They have great summaries and photos of the places you’re probably planning to visit. I cut some guides apart and some I add to my journal in their full glory. It’s an added bonus that most of these guides are free.
  • Post cards- If writing all the details is just too daunting, grab postcards from the different places you visit. It will spark your memory when you find time to write and adds amazing pictures as well.
  • Travel agency mailings- When I arrange travel through an agency, they always mail me great information, including maps and other trip details. In they go. My journal and maybe a photo album are the only things that remain when I’m finished. I’ll never go back through other trip related documents once I’m back home, so I include the most important papers in my journal. I’ll see them there the next time I want to revisit my trip.
  • Receipts and wrappers- I add in receipts and wrappers from things I’ve eaten. I am very careful about not including too much information on receipts. I don’t want my full credit card number available if my journal is stolen. Make sure you clean off food wrappers so that your journal pages don’t get sticky. I’ve made the mistake of adding the cover from a jelly container without fully cleaning it first. Did you know that grape jelly makes great glue?
  • Other stuff- The sky’s the limit here. All of the “stuff” still tells the story of your travel. If it’s of interest to you, include it. This also helps fill the pages so you don’t have to write a book and miss the most fun parts of your trip.

Travel Journal 7 web

The Writers

Some of my favorite sections of my journals are views of my trip from other people’s perspectives.

  • Fellow Travelers- Are your family members traveling with you? Ask them to add their thoughts at the end of each day. Even if it’s just a sentence, the kids will love going back to the journal to see what they wrote and you’ll eagerly wait for the journal to return to you so you can see their thoughts, too.
  • People You Meet- There are drawings in my Africa journal from several of the guides including that of a kudu and a mopane worm. (I actually ate a mopane worm that was sautéed in garlic.) Numerous people have written in my journals including friendly flight attendants, waiters, pilots and guides. Just ask…many people will be honored to add their thoughts. I show them the journal first so they can see what I’m doing. I usually ask people that have touched me in some way. Were they welcoming and friendly when you sat down for a good meal after a busy day?

Journal Rules

I have a couple key rules that I follow when I write my journals.

  • Perfection is out-  I misspell words. I cross things out. I draw right over my drawings if I made myself too thin or too fat. I glue stuff over things I’ve drawn or written that weren’t quite right. Part of the joy of my journey is not adding pressure to make my journal the most beautiful, perfectly organized book. I’ve written the same thing twice after forgetting I already captured the moment. Who cares? Sometimes I only have a few minutes of downtime to write a quick overview, so my handwriting isn’t the best it can be. A messy page more accurately reflects my journey. So get rid of the need to be perfect and you’ll have more fun.
  • Journaling Isn’t the Most Important Part of the Trip- Don’t spend your whole trip journaling. Just like a photographer who only sees the journey through a camera lens, don’t focus all your time on your journal. Experience the magnificence of the scenery and the joy in spending time with special people.
  • Write each day- If I don’t document each day, I tend to forget the fine details of special moments. Take the final pages in your journal to jot brief notes during the day so you don’t forget. I tend to write in the evening just before I go to bed or on airplanes. I carry my journal with me as I wander around, so I can sit at a sidewalk cafe and catch up after I’ve finished my meal. It’s fun to document what you observe.
  • Don’t make yourself fill all the pages- All my journals have left over pages at the back with nothing on them. I fill as many pages as I need to document my journey.

Your journal is just that, your journal. It may be in a book or online. Make it your own, write your own rules and enjoy the journey. 

If you have tips and tricks you use to document your travel, we’d love to hear them.

 

Making the Most of Your Travel Journal- Part 1

My Thursday theme is travel. This week I’m starting with a post about travel journals. Today let’s talk about where to begin.

Travel Journal 4 web

Journaling is a wonderful way to document your travel as it happens. Each journal is a keepsake that will become a family treasure as years go on.

“We found a bumper sticker that said, ‘Beep, beep, my ass!’
My mom said I could write that, so I did.”

Travis, age 9 (now 33)

On December 21, 1989, my mother, son and I headed on a road trip from Denver to Flagstaff, Arizona to celebrate Christmas with my older sister’s family. I purchased a blank log book and we started our first travel journal. The next big trip was a sister reunion to Disneyland in 1993. My younger sister, Wendy, is an artist and drew amazing caricatures. Everything got glued or taped into the trip journal from flowers to used sugar packets.

Since then, I’ve traveled to a number of places including Germany, Africa, Antarctica and my last trip to Canada. Each trip has its own journal. My family members and I love going through the books and revisiting each unique journey. Some of my friends ask to borrow the journals if they are thinking about visiting some of the same places.

Where to begin:

The Journal

Part of my trip planning involves selecting just the right journal, although you can make one, too. On my trip to Antartica, I bought an 8 1/2″ x 11″ hard cover spiral bound drawing pad. I wasn’t going to carry it around with me. It was staying on the ship, so the larger size wasn’t a burden. Smaller journals (5″ x 7″ or less) are useful to put in my purse and carry with me as I travel about town. As soon as my trip is confirmed, I purchase my journal. I have one sitting right here for my upcoming trip to Namibia in May.  The first entry is dated November 2013.

Supplies

  • Pencil bag to store supplies small enough to fit in my purse (I also add brochures and receipts to the bag as I gather them during day so I can include them in the journal when I stop to write)
  • Pens, colored pencils and a pencil sharpener
  • Glue sticks
  • Stickers with travel themes and letters
  • Small scissors I can take on the plane

Travel Information

Not only do I cover the day to day activities, but I also include copies of documents. So each journal has my flight itinerary, hotel confirmation letters, travel agent contact information and travel insurance summaries. My journal then becomes a back up resource to the original documents. I’m careful about not including too much personal information, in case the journal is stolen. It does, however, have my name and email address so that if I lose it, someone can contact me.

For more great information about travel journals, check out these blogs:

Thrifty Travel Mama
Bursts of Creativity
Suzy Cucumber

If you have tips you use during your travel, please add them in your comments. I love to hear about your adventures and suggestions.

Making the Most of Your Travel Journal – Part 2

Next week I’ll share how to write and otherwise fill your journal with wonderful content.

 

Safari at the Zoo in Pictures

Ken

Who’s going to win the football game tomorrow?

“The Broncos.”

My keen observation skills clued me in on the answer before I even asked. Ken has volunteered at the Denver Zoo for four years. What a cool place to contribute your time!

zoofashion1

Plenty of young girls supporting the latest in zoo apparel. Zebra and leopard prints are the latest craze.

zoofashion2

And cool sunglasses, too.

sisters

Don’t forget pink. These three sisters are styling in their pink camo gear! Favorite animal? “Elephant.” I hear ya!

And to close out the safari, here are a couple areas that seemed to be popular.

fish1

Eye to eye with a puffer fish..Fish2

and…”Nemo! Nemo! Nemo!”

Have a wonderful Saturday!!

Tripping My Imagination

I was a bit of a loner as a kid, but I never felt lonely. My mother scheduled library visits on a regular basis. I came home with stacks of books. I couldn’t wait until my teacher handed out the Scholastic Book Club catalog. I studied and deliberated over each page until I made a selection of books within our family budget. The travel bug bit me early on as I took wondrous trips to places like Pern, Hobbiton and Chincoteague Island.

As an adult, I can afford to physically travel to new places every year or two. But I still take regular trips guided by artists who weave words into incredible places inhabited by people and creatures that I can see and almost touch. Bravo to the writers who work and sweat over masterpieces of art that spark our imagination. You have, and continue to, enhance our world.

What are the books that immediately come to mind when you look back to your childhood?

Where in the World

After returning from my incredible trip to Churchill, I began planning my next one for 2014. Where in the world am I headed?

Here are a few clues:

  • On the Atlantic coast
  • One of the least densely populated countries in the world
  • English is the official language

Maybe this will help.

The first five people who accurately guess where I’m traveling on my next trip will receive a postcard from my destination. This only applies for those of you who I haven’t told yet.

Good luck!!

 

Revisiting the Magic

Things are as they should be. The ice on Hudson Bay has frozen and the polar bears have migrated onto the ice. 

I will never forget my incredible trip to Canada, from the start in Winnipeg and rising to the crescendo of seeing polar bears and other wildlife in the remote and harsh tundra. It is a magical experience and I was lucky enough to share it with my good friend, Delia, and some wonderful new friends who joined me.

While I can’t recreate the experience, I can revisit my memories through the photos I took and the journal entries I’ve made.

Enjoy!