Last fall I hosted 14 friends from Pennsylvania and took them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Massive and well designed, the MET truly has something for everyone, including the option for New Yorkers to pay what they wish, and to bring their friends along on this discounted opportunity. Now, I realized that perhaps there was a limit to how many friends I could get this discount for, so I asked. I never got a real answer on the limit though because apparently it is inconceivable that someone in their 30s would have so many friends! We had quite the string of questioning to get to the bottom of our friendship. Surely we were part of a club. Or a church group. Or someone, somehow trying to take advantage of a discount when they should be paying the group rate. We did get it all ironed out eventually, but it reminded me again, of how fortunate I have been to have a group to adventure with, both domestically and internationally.
Then, a few weeks ago I was editing the pictures from my trip last summer. It was a whirlwind- around the world in 6 weeks kind of trip- and the pictures brought back memories of sweaty hikes, scenic surprises, and the refreshing taste of peach iced tea. Travel is not without its challenges, confusions, and disappointments- but I love it. So much! The world really is SUCH an interesting place to live!
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and while I can’t say that I’ve invented anything, needing something to do has definitely birthed some interesting ideas. In fact, the start of this blog came from a winter boredom lull. And, if you may remember, back in 2020, I plotted, planned, and booked a ladies’ trip to Italy, during a similar winter lull.
Well, here we are in winter again and, while I’m not bored, I cannot help but wonder if I would have liked that ladies’ trip that got COVID canceled. I definitely still love to travel. And plan. And do things as a group.
And somewhere in my brain, connecting all these little thoughts about the gift it is to travel, with friends, and my love for organizing trips, and wondering what I, myself, am doing this summer- I had this nagging question. So I asked some of you- What if I planned a summer group trip? Would you be interested?
And really, the question is- Is there anyone out there who wishes they could travel more but they don’t like planning or they don’t have a group to go with? And, would those people like to go with me?
Well, bless your hearts because some of you said yes!
And so I began the exciting process of trip planning. Yay!
And now it’s ready. As ready as it will be. To share with the world and see – is there anyone who wishes they could travel more? Who would like someone else to plan it for them? Who would like to go with a group that isn’t totally random people from the internet? Who would like to go this summer?
Here’s what I have to offer. Thanks to the responses from my friends and followers, and my own obsession with travel planning, I have decided to offer 2 group trips this year (I do have the whole summer off, after all!) . The choices are:
Spain and Portugal: Ten day group trip of the highlights of Spain and Portugal. This includes 2 nights in Barcelona, 2 nights in Granada, 1 night in Porto and 3 nights in Lisbon. The target dates are July 18-July 27, 2023. The target group size is 8-10. Price: $1300 + airfare and food. You can read all about it here. You can sign up for it here.
South Korea: Ten day group trip of the highlights of South Korea. This includes 1 night in Seoul, 2 nights in Busan, 1 night in Gyeongju, and ending back in Seoul for 4 nights. The target dates are August 3-12, 2023. The target group size is 8-10 people. Price: $1300 + airfare and food. You can read all about it here. You can sign up for it here.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for even entertaining this idea. I am hopeful that together we can make a summer of incredible, unforgettable, memories. If you have any questions or just want to talk about it, I’m always down for a conversation about travel.
This trip took place a little over a year ago and came together on one man’s spontaneous idea to pursue the cheap flights he saw online. West Bound! was the name of our trip planning google doc for this adventure.
Here’s how our itinerary broke down:
Days 1-2: Seattle
Our first stop was the Boeing Factory Tour. If you are into airplanes, I definitely recommend. If you aren’t, you will probably still find some of it interesting like I did.
The next morning we started our day at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. We figured that we had to get Starbucks at least once in Seattle, so we settled for the Reserve. I’m not a coffee snob so I guess you can take my review with a grain of salt, but I thought it was delicious and beautiful.
Next stop, Pike Place Market. We didn’t spend much time there but I think we easily could have. The shop owners we met were very friendly and the booths were endless.
Around the corner from Pike Place is the gum wall. We were slightly grossed out and highly entertained.
Then we went up the Space Needle. Personally, this is my favorite thing we did in Seattle. You probably don’t want to do it every time you go, but the moving glass floor is fun and the views are phenomenal!
We had brunch at the Fat Hen. I can only say, do that. Wonderful eggs Benedict. We were seated next to some cops who chatted with us and gave some great local recommendations. We decided that Seattleites are pretty friendly.
Next stop was the Ballard Locks. It’s no Panama Canal I’m sure, but still very interesting to watch the boats transfer from the fresh water lake to the ocean. We also got to see a salmon swimming upstream, even though it was not really salmon swimming season. I definitely recommend taking the tour as it gave me a better understanding of what all we were looking at.
We stopped at Gas Works Park to kill some time. It was an interesting park with great views of the city.
We ended our day at Waterfront Park. It has a Ferris Wheel we didn’t ride, lots of food, and views I highly recommend. Obviously, I’m all about a good city vista.
Day 3: Mt. Rainier
Mt. Reiner is pretty self explanatory. We drove to the visitor’s center in Paradise and did a little hike on the Nisqually Vista Trial. There was still snow on the trail in June but it was a perfect short hike for us. Our group loved the nature time after a few days in the city.
Day 4: Oregon Coast
Day 4 had us trolling down the Oregon Coast, stopping on our way for beaches and views as needed. My favorite stop was in the town of Seaside, because of the ocean views. It’s also the end of Lewis and Clark’s trail, so that was pretty cool.
My second favorite stop was at the Tillamook Creamery. The ice cream is delicious but they also have cheese and food and a fun little tour about how it’s all made.
I can’t remember any more where all we stopped, but these views are pretty easy to find, so if you pass a stopping point, pull off and hike a little.
Day 5 & 6: Portland
Our first day in Portland was very rainy, as to be expected I suppose. We stopped that the Multnomah Falls, just east of Portland, before tromping around the city for Blue Star Donuts and Powell’s Books.
Our last day in Portland, and of the trip, was spent flying through all of Portland’s main attractions. We started with the Pittock Mansion. One thing that is very interesting about the West Coast vs. the East Coast, is that the ‘old money’ of the city isn’t as old out west. Case in point, this mansion was built with electricity and fancy shower jets.
Next we rode the aerial tram for elevated views of the city.
A walk through the Rose Testing Gardens and a stop at the “Keep Portland Weird” mural concluded our day in Portland before our ‘red eye’ flight home.
And that was it. Thanks to Dervin for the idea and everyone for pulling it together. It came together like magic.
Why you should visit the Pacific North West:
- As you can tell from this post, Washington and Oregon offer a beautiful variety of scenery. It’s especially nice for groups because, as long as you keep it moving, everyone enjoys some part of the trip.
- It’s very tourist friendly but not overly touristy. While we definitely ran into other tourists (some from Australia even), most of our stops didn’t feel like tourist traps.
- The weather was delicious. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy heading north in the summer. There is something refreshing about needing a light jacket when all of your friends are sweating it out at home.
Yes, I am in quarantine. Because while I was in Indiana it was added to NY’s mandatory quarantine list. And because I’m not above the law, so I’m observing it. The minimum $2000 fine if I’m caught it also pretty compelling. I’m half way through and I can honestly say, I think I’ll survive. It feels a lot like last April except that I can’t go on walks and I’m not working full-time.
On the plus side, I finally have time to do what the rest of the world did in April and catch up on little projects and hobbies. Welcome to Quarantine Chronicles. For this final week of quarantine I will be posting daily, to catch up on all the blogs I’ve been thinking of writing for the past year but haven’t made time for.
What to expect:
Monday- Travel Guide for the pacific northwest, based on my trip last summer that I never talked about.
Tuesday- Travel Guide for Toronto, also based on an undisclosed trip last summer.
Wednesday- Summary of my summer ‘travels’ 2020. It’s a lot of family, beware.
Thursday- What it was like going out in May in Brooklyn, post pandemic peak.
Friday- What Manhattan was like in May with the world shut down and no tourists!
I hope you join me for the ride!
Life is weird.
So far I’ve had to cancel 3 big trips, including my girls’ trip to Italy! :(, and 3 adventure weekends of visiting/hosting, among other things.
But I’m not angry, I feel I have too much to be thankful for.
So I will leave it at that.
I felt for a while like I can’t really travel blog because.. I can’t make any recommendations right now. The world is crazy. My only recommendation is to stay home or be outside.
And then I realized, maybe this would be a good time to reminisce.
So here is a post about a place that I went once, that you should go to too, some day. It’s going to reflect more of the feelings/vibe of the place rather than any kind of ‘how to’ of where to eat or what to do. It’s an ode to life gone by and the good old days. And a wave to what we hope the world will return to some day, in some form.
In the summer of 2011, between my junior and senior years of undergrad, I spent a month in Antigua, Guatemala studying Spanish. I went with my sister, friend, cousin, and cousin’s friend (who became my friend by the end). We did 6 hours a day, 5 days a week of 1-on-1 Spanish lessons. We went to a little school called ‘La Enseñanza’ that a lot of Mennonites tend to go to. It was incredibly influential in how far Spanish has taken me now, especially since I now use Spanish every day at work. (This schools is actually offering video courses during all of this, so if you’re interested, DM me.)
But aside from the hours of study, we had weekly field trips and weekend adventures. If you ever go, I recommend hiking volcanoes and the lake area of ‘Lago de Atitlan’.
In sweeping terms, Guatemala is a beautiful place, teaming with natural beauty, colorful homes, and crumbling ruins. I highly recommend going in the summer. It’s not too hot (like South East Asia) and all the flowers are in bloom.
Like many ‘developing nations’ Guatemala is a place with a story. Native people walk among ruins left by their conquerors, to sell hand made items to travelers from around the world. The juxtaposition is startling at times. My advice: observe. It’s not a place you can figure out before you go. Just watch. It’s interesting!
To end, I will share one picture of my sister and I, as the babies we were on this trip. And, I will say, if you want to see the breadth of a Spanish city, sit in the ‘parque central’ (central park) for a few hours. Picnic. Talk to the people that talk to you. The whole world will walk by eventually. It quickly became our favorite thing to do.
Guatemala was the place I first experienced nutella crepes, started sorting out my tu and usted forms in Spanish, and rode ‘chicken buses’ to remote towns during Corpus Christi. Remembering it all reminds me why travel is so rewarding. It truly is a gift. We aren’t entitled to it, so I think we should be grateful for it. IMO.
As of late, the only thing that’s traveling is this virus. So, I don’t have any travel updates (especially since my trip to Europe got cancelled for this week). But I still get messages, almost daily, from friends near and far, checking in and asking how I’m doing. (Which I love!) This is my attempt to answer that question.
I am good, with an undercurrent of added daily stress. I am toiling out the balance between safe and sane. And I’m staying home.
I still have church Sunday mornings and cell group every other Sunday night. I still work full days doing speech therapy. I still exercise after work. I have prayer night with church once a week and regularly hang out with my upstairs neighbors. I meet up with friends for coffee chats and catch ups.
Of course, church and cell group and prayer night and even coffee chats are all online. As is work. Six full hours of paperwork and back to back sessions, talking parents through logging onto new programs, leaving messages and calling back. It’s all from the little corner of my apartment. For prizes I give students video tours of my home.
How I stay sane:
I work. Several people have asked if we are doing elearning through the end of the year. We don’t know. Firstly, because our school year doesn’t end until June 26th. Secondly, because in a city of 1.1 million students and zero preparation, every part of this elearning process has been a ‘figure it out as we go’ situation. We know this is lasting through the end of the month. That’s enough information for me right now. All in all, switching to elearning has been overwhelming, but I’m thankful for productive things to do and enjoy seeing my students.
I walk. My gym is closed and my house is small. In fact, my ceiling is too short for jumping jacks. But I’ve been blessed with miles of well paved sidewalks all around me. So I walk to the park and meet up with people from church to make a loop around the reservoir, trying to keep those precious 6 ft between us.
I visit my neighbors and their children visit me. We live in the same house, I below them. And they were friends from church before they were my neighbors. They feed me meals and I make them cookies. We chat where we can and it is balm to the brain of this extrovert who lives alone in a basement during quarantine.
I open my curtain. I have a window on my door. I have noticed that the simple act of opening the curtain on that window makes a difference to my sanity during my water breaks from teletherapy.
Church community. We have sharing time on zoom, prayer meeting on zoom, even Spanish class on zoom. I have been gifted care packages, drawings, donuts, dinners, and songs, all from the safety of outside, looking in. By that I mean, they stand outside my door and I stand in. We keep our distance. But there is something like salve on an itchy mosquito bite when we see someone face to face.
How I stay safe (the usual):
- I stay home. As much as possible.
- I wash my hands WELL and LONG.
- I try to keep my distance.
- I used to hold my breath as I passed people on the street, but now I wear a scarf in public. Don’t worry, someone is making me a mask.
- I’ve started disinfecting things, like my groceries and my door handles.
- I’ve started wearing gloves, specifically in stores and places where I will be touching public surfaces.
How I stay calm:
- God. He is growing my faith. Giving me peace as I watch the death toll in my city rise. As I hear daily of it’s affect on people I love and care about. It’s comforting to know this does not surprise Him, He’s in control, and He won’t leave us.
- Perspective. This is not the first time in history that a pandemic has rocked the world. Maybe the first time in my life. But not ever. Historically, humanity has survived.
- Perspective taking. My trip to Europe for spring break got canceled (as did my spring break, but it is what it is), which means I won’t get to visit Anne Frank’s house in the Netherlands as planned. Or the tulip festival there either. But I found a link to do a virtual tour of Anne Frank’s hideaway home. So I did, and I was struck by the irony. She was stuck in this little space with nothing to do but homework. Same, sister! Except I’m not running from Nazis. And I can probably go to the Netherlands some other time. So like, how incredibly lucky am I!?
What I pray for (please join me):
- Health care workers, especially in hardest hit hospitals. Yes, the stories of refrigerated semi’s repurposed as portable morgues are true. The protective gear shortages. The long hours. The turning of most floors and offices, as well as conference centers and tents, into patient rooms. True. Please join me in prayer for the people working in these environments and their families who long to support them.
- The believers. That we would find the balance between safety and courage. That we would creatively love others in meaningful ways. And take opportunities to speak truth and love into such a vulnerable time.
- Peace. We humans aren’t so good at trusting God. It takes practice. Pray that the world would seek and find that lasting peace that God promises.
A parting note:
There seems to be speculation on the internet about the ‘truth’ of the virus. It’s hard to hear “it’s not true” when I’m living that truth every day. Please remember that these numbers are people. And people are connected to people. If you aren’t sure what that should look like right now, read Romans 12: 9-21. I’ll leave verses 10- 13 for you here: 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Please, be kind.
This weekend marks 6 months since moving back to Brooklyn. On Saturday I posed a question on Instagram asking y’all to vote on what I should write about next, and ‘More New York’ got the most votes. So, here you go, as requested, more about New York.
My Thoughts on Becoming a Local Again:
When I lived here before I didn’t have a car and my commute was farther. This means, I spent over 12 hours a week in the subway system. My life in New York was exciting and normal and frustrating in the span of a week (and even an hour some days). Moving back with a car and finding a job that is closer has definitely changed my experience. When I lived here before I always said I lived in New York. Now I say that I live in Brooklyn. I think this means my world has become smaller, more focused. It definitely means that it’s more sustainable and I like that.
Another thing I like about living in Brooklyn is that adventure is nearby. Unlike my guests, who have to cram all of New York into a weekend with hour long train rides between, I get to savor it. The food, the museums, the shows, I don’t have to do it all at once.
What I’ve Been Savoring Lately:
- Street food. If you happen upon a street fair, DO get an arepa.
2. Hosting large groups. I hosted a passel of friends from PA. Our highlights were free food via a Netflix promotion in Little Italy, and getting rush tickets to ‘A Christmas Carole.’ Oh yeah, that’s another thing I like about New York, last minute tickets to amazing shows and random pop up events.
3. Hosting smaller groups, including but not limited to friends and family (including babies! yay!) What I liked about these were the people and that I didn’t have to work too hard to entertain my guests because there are so many options. Also, I like that New Yorker’s only have to pay ‘by donation’ prices to the MET, which happens to be my favorite art museum. Glad to be back in the museum sphere again.
4. Parts of my daily life. Like when I get parking quickly (praise the LORD!), this old church by my school, walking the reservoir by my house with friends, eating with friends, and little corners of my apartment that I have a crush on. Because this means my real life is full of good things, not just the vacation parts of my life.
Why You Should Visit Major Cities Multiple Times
- In my experience, I have about 4 layers of tours that I can do, depending on how many times my guests have been here. There is just forever more to do and the more you visit the more you see the ‘real New York.’ I’m not sure the first time even counts. Or rather, the first time it’s enough to say you saw it.
- When you really see a place for what it is, can you better empathize with the people who live there. This isn’t something you can get a grasp on in one weekend trip; it takes time. Personally, I think we all need to do a little more of this in order to overcome some of the political divides in our nation.
- It’s fun. Most of my visitors have said at some point, “Oh, it’s just so nice to get away.” This is not a petition for y’all to crash my apartment. I’m just saying, look around you. I think most people live within a day or weekend trip from some urban space that they haven’t fully taken advantage of. This is my challenge for you to do so.