Sunday, December 30, 2012

Talkin' About a Resolution

What do you think about New Year's Resolutions?

The past few weeks I've been reading about the most common resolutions, the most commonly broken resolutions, and how to make your resolutions stick.

Of course, I (and you) don't have to wait for the new year to set goals.   In fact, if you read the comments on different blogs and sites, you'll see lots of people who think that New Year's Resolutions are lame.    Who wants to fight for a treadmill at the gym in January with all those people who have resolved to "work out more" in the new year?

Resolutions are goals. 
As you think about planning for the new year, reminder yourself: 
It's a resolution (aka goal), not a wish.   

I can resolve and write down that I want to be a size 10.   I can wish all I want.   I can put up inspirational quotes in my office and motivational pictures on my fridge.  I can buy size 10 clothes for when it (magically) happens.    But without taking steps to achieve my goal, it's nothing but wishful thinking.

Have you ever done this?  Made a New Year's Wish?

According to, the most commonly broken New Year's Resolutions are:
  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quit Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Eat Healthier and Diet
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less
How many of these things are on your list for 2013 in some capacity?

Last year, to have a visual for 2012, my sister and I made "vision boards."  Harnessing that inner scrapbooker from 10 years ago who has fancy scissors and stickers, we were crafty for an afternoon cutting out pictures, goals, and quotes for the new year.   

I've looked at this board almost every day for the past year.     

Some things weren't goals.    I already knew I was going to Greece, so putting a picture on my board was more to remind me that fun was already in store for the new year.   

One of my goals was to pay for a vacation in cash.    This was a success!   It also took a lot of planning and spreading out the expenses over the course of 6 months.  I didn't just wish myself a vacation.  I worked to make it happen.    And when I came back from the Caribbean, I had a tan, souvenirs, rum cake and no new vacation debt!  

There are other things on my 2012 board that, in hindsight, were just wishes.   Things that I wanted, but didn't put in the work to make them happen.     Let's not do that again for 2013.     

I follow The Happiness Project and was inspired by Gretchen's post on December 19, 7 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions.  

Here's a few of the tips that resonated with me. 

Be Specific.   

A vague resolution like "lose weight" or "meet new people" is hard to fulfill.  Think it through.   How will you lose weight?  How much will you lose?   When will you lose it by?  What kind of people do you want to meet?   Where do you want to meet them?   What do you want to do with these new people? Why?

Hold Yourself Accountable.  

I think about my quest to "do more fitness."  One way I hold myself accountable is by having a personal trainer.   Appointments are scheduled and money is paid.   It gets done.  But I need more than six hours of fitness a month.   How can I hold myself accountable?    My goal for January is 15 days of fitness.    I have 6 training sessions scheduled.   So the other 11 days are up to me.    I can ski.  I can go to Zumba.   I can swim.  I can bike.  I can jog in my neighborhood.    I'm holding myself accountable by keeping a calendar where I write down each day that I got my fitness.   When I hit 15, I know I'm done.    Anything after that is the proverbial icing on my fitness cake.      Rather than a generic "do more fitness" resolution for the new year, I'm going to target a specific goal and measure my progress:  15 days of fitness each month. 

Positive Resolutions

Not everything has to be a trial or a punishment.   Not every resolution has to be giving something up.   Think about positive and fun things you want to do.    The list of broken resolutions includes "Travel More."   That's nothing that I've struggled with.  Maybe because it is something I enjoy, so I take the time, energy and planning to get it done.    A positive resolution for me could be "Try a new Denver restaurant, festival, event or museum each month."   A positive resolution is something that you would enjoy working for and planning.   You'll still get the same sense of accomplishment for achieving your positive resolution.


This year I'm using a dry erase calendar and working on my goals by month.   Whatever goals / tasks I identify for the month will be written on the side.   The day that I do them, they get marked on the calendar.    It will be my easy visual.   How many days of fitness do I have left?   How many blog posts have I written?   How many healthy recipes have I tried?   Did I get my external hard drive?   Did I paint the bathroom?    It will be easy to see whether I made excuses or got it done. 

What about you?   Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  How and when do you set your goals?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Le Claire, Iowa

I took a brief trip back to the Quad Cities for Christmas.
What?  You don't know where that is?   Don't worry. 
It's on the border of Illinois and Iowa and has two cities on either side of the Mississippi River.  Moline & Rock Island in Illinois.   Bettendorf & Davenport in Iowa.   
Christmas took me back to the Quad Cities.   I haven't spent much time there since I moved to Colorado.   Mom and I spend time together all over the world.  We just don't spend our time together in Moline. 
The traveler in Mom matches the traveler in me and so she took us to explore Le Claire, Iowa.    Le Claire has a cute little main street with restaurants and shops - most of them have an unobstructed view of the river.   
These were my favorite places we visited in Le Claire.   They are all featured in the collage above.
Our family can't resist a wine tasting.   A little sip of Ms. Chevious?   Don't mind if I do.
Especially at Christmas, it's impossible to pass up the smell of fresh popcorn.   Chocolate and Peanut Butter was my pick of the day.    
Yeah....just like we can't resist wine.   They had some special coffee liquor and strawberry vodka.   Later on, Mom and I doctored our eggnog with their Cody Road.    I also learned about the existence of Benny's Bloody Mary Beef Straws.   Who knew?
A fun and eclectic shop in an old house.   Every room was different.   The basement?  A giant wine cellar with all kinds of gifts and goodies.    I got to snuggle with their golden retriever (I think her name is Lily).   Their previous golden retriever, Brady, got to meet President Obama in 2011 when he came through Le Claire.   Their family even wrote a book about it called Brady Meets the President.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Denver Ugly Sweater Run

'Tis the season for all kinds of festive merriment.    A fun new tradition in Denver is the Ugly Sweater Run 5k.    Even better, we were able to buy discounted entries through Living Social.      As you can tell by this picture, it was not about actual fitness, but more about rockin' your ugliest sweater, taking a winter walk/jog, and having a beer with friends.  
It was a beautiful December day in City Park. 
Thousands of people in their holiday finery from head to toe.  
Dogs in costume.
Hot chocolate aid stations. 
I didn't know that such a variety of ugly sweaters existed in all the world.   As my friend reminded me...all these sweaters were actually made commercially.   Throughout the past 20-30 years there has actually been a demand and desire for all these sweaters.   Including my fine feathered find, complete with shoulder pads and geese with wreathes around their necks.    According to the tag it was from the Christmas Collection 1993.    There I was in high school and someone had purchased this sweater, brand new, to wear with pride in their family Christmas photo.
If you don't have an ugly sweater of your own, hit up a thrift store right after Thanksgiving.   You can find all kinds of treasures! 
Save the date.  The 2013 Ugly Sweater Run will be December 8 next year.  You know you want to.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Passports with Purpose a Success!

Exciting to see that on the last day of the fundraiser everything fell into place and $100k was raised by the travel blogging community (and their friends and followers) to build wells in Haiti.
Thank you to everyone who participated! 
To learn more about Passports with Purpose, click here.
To learn more about, click here
Something to ponder as you go about your day

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Denver Parade of Lights

I had a first time experience on Friday.    I had VIP passes.    

To the Parade of Lights.     Oh yes.

What do VIP parade passes get you?   Grandstand seating at the parade start right at the City County Building.    It was the perfect backdrop to all my pictures.  No scrounging to find a spot on the sidewalk along the route.  Also, access to bathrooms, hot chocolate and cookies.

The parade is a wonderful way to start celebrating the Christmas season here in Denver.    


Passports with Purpose is up and running through December 11.  If you'd like to win hotel stays in Downtown Denver (or other great prizes), click here to donate.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's All So Wonderful

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Wonder.


Looking at the stars is both a beautiful experience and one that boggles my mind.   Space is huge.   I can't fathom how big or wide all that space is.    It makes me feel small and insignificant.   

In early November I was on vacation with a friend.   We stood on the deck of the cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and looked up at the stars.    

We wondered:
How can anyone look at the stars and doubt the existence of God?  

The beauty of nature is such that it's hard to believe that it all happened by accident.   

As I travel, I like to be in the moment and just enjoy what is. 
The moment I'm in is the only one that I'm guaranteed.   








The world is full of wonder.   It can be exciting.   It can be exhausting.

It can be wonderful. 


Five Minute Friday is a feature on Lisa Jo's blog encouraging people to write for 5 minutes completely unscripted or unplanned on a particular word.   FMF is taking a vacation in December...don't worry, I'm sure you'll find a way to use those minutes for something fun.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Passports with Purpose 2012 Starts Today!

Passports with Purpose is here!

This year travel bloggers are helping to raise $100,000 to build wells in Haiti in partership with

Access to safe drinking water is one of the most basic keys to good health.   Right now, 780 million people, three times the population of the US, lack access to clean water.  

In a world that can seem so connected and modern, it's sometimes easy to forget that the ability to drink a glass of clean water is not a guarantee.
If you're sick due to a water-borne illness or have to travel long distances to obtain water it's hard to
  • Go to work and earn a living
  • Go to school and get an education
  • Take care of your family
  • Spend time with friends and neighbors
  • Play sports or enjoy a hobby 
  • Cook / Serve foods safely   
You Can Help!

Click here to make your donation.   The widget on the right column of this page will show you the progress we're making towards the goal of $100,000!   

You Can Win a Prize!

The 2012 fundraiser with prizes started mere hours ago on November 27 at 11:59pm EST and ends December 11 at 11:59pm EST.    During this time, if you donate $10 or more, not only will you feel warm and fuzzy about supporting a good cause, you will also have a chance to win a prize.  A great prize.  Most likely, a travel related prize. 

In fact, every person blogging about Passports with Purpose has secured a prize.   There's bound to be one that you'd be happy to win.

Including this great prize...

I live in beautiful Denver, Colorado.   
If you live here, you know it's a great place.  
If you don't live here, wouldn't you like to visit in 2013?  

Enjoy the best of downtown Denver with Hyatt Hotels!  

The Hyatt Regency Denver and the Grand Hyatt Denver each generously donated a one night stay just for Passports with Purpose.   Read on to see what you could enjoy if you are the lucky winner.

I've stayed at both these hotels and enjoyed their service, restaurants and amenities.   These are the hotels I recommend to friends and family when they come to visit or when they want to stay downtown or celebrate a special occasion. 

These hotels are two blocks away from each other in downtown Denver and the winner will have a chance to stay at both properties.   Or, if you're feeling generous, you could give one gift certificate to a loved one for the holidays, and still have one for yourself.    Your call.   

Photo Credit: Hyatt

One night weekend night stay at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center including breakfast for two.      This Hyatt is right across the street from the Colorado Convention Center and one block away from the 16th Street Mall, within easy access to anything you want to do in downtown.    Peaks Lounge on the 27th Floor has an amazing view of both the city skyline and the mountains.


Photo Credit:  Hyatt

One night weekend night stay at the Grand Hyatt Denver including Grand Club access.   The Grand Hyatt just started a $28 million redesign that includes the guest rooms, lobby, and much of the meeting space.  The renovation finishes in June 2013, so if you visit in the second half of the year, you'll enjoy a "Grand" new hotel!    The Grand also introduced a new restaurant, Pub 17, in July of this year including a lot of locally sourced food and craft beers (this is Colorado, after all, and we're serious about our beer).

Whether you give the gift of water or win the gift of a Hyatt stay, thank you in advance for your enthusiastic participation and support of Passports with Purpose!

The fine print:
The winner of this prize will receive two gift certificates by mail (they will arrive together in one envelope/package).    Each stay must be booked following the directions on the gift certificate.     Each certificate is good for a one (1) night weekend stay (includes room rate + tax).   Parking and other incidental charges are not included.   Certificates are not valid for December 31, 2012.

Hyatt Regency Denver Certificate:  Good for a weekend night accomodation and breakfast for two. 
Expires December 1, 2013.
Grand Hyatt Denver Certificate:  Good for a weekend night stay for two with Grand Club access.  
Expires December 15, 2013.   

*Passports with Purpose will determine and/or draw all the prize winners.   As the writer of this blog, I am not involved in any of that, but my fingers are crossed that it's someone awesome, like you.  Good Luck!*

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thoughts about Shore Excursions

Earlier this month, I went on a Caribbean cruise for the first time in 7 years.   Our itinerary on the Carnival Legend was the "Exotic Western Caribbean."   I picked it because it included two new ports (and countries) for me.    Once you pick your itinerary, it's time to start pondering what you want to do at each port of call.     The cruise lines are more than ready to help you out with that.    You can look through their activity catalog, book online and drop hundreds of dollars real quick.  

For a first time cruiser, selecting shore excursions through the cruise line may be a good choice, especially if you're new to international travel.  The cruise line will hold your hand through the whole process: gathering you in the lounge, herding you to the tender or pier, getting you on to your bus and guaranteeing that the ship won't leave without you.

However, the cruise lines do not have to be your only source for planning your time in port.   Do a little research, just like you would for any place you go on vacation.   Find out what are the must-sees / must-dos, read some reviews (cruise website, cruise critic, trip advisor, etc), and look at other ways that you can book your adventure.   

Supporting the local economy:  In a lot of these ports, the ships really do drive the economy.   The day we were in Grand Cayman, we were the only ship there.   One of the shopkeepers told me in the peak season in January there can be 7-8 ships a day.   Crazy!    Some ports of call are actually built by the cruise lines, so the shops closest to the ships may be owned by the cruise line and the prices are more likely to be fixed.     If you're willing to walk a little farther, or take a cab to the closest "real" town or village, you will probably see a little more of real life and spend your dollars in a way that can really benefit local people in a developing nation.   

As long as you fun and get back to the ship on time for the sail away jams, you're doing just fine.

Our ship docked in "Puerta Maya."   This development was built just for the cruise lines.    It's very clean, colorful, and has all the traditional Mexican souvenirs with the price tags attached.   You might be able to bargain a little in a some of the shops, but in reality, it's a controlled shopping area for cruise ship passengers only.   When the ship departs, the shops and restaurants close down and the employees go home.    

There is a huge taxi stand outside and the fares are pretty much fixed if you want to go to one of the beaches or elsewhere on the island.     We walked across the street and hit up a few of the shops there - prices were very reasonable, you could definitely negotiate, and I was able to have ice cream and an agua fresca.    You know you're having a good time bargaining when the shop keeper says, "Jenni, don't break my heart."

Sometimes booking your excursion through the cruise line has its benefits.    In Belize, all the cruise ships have to stay out in the water and passengers tender in.    My friend and I did the snorkeling and a visit to Bannister Island.     The catamaran picked us up right from the ship and headed straight to the reef.    We snorkeled for an hour in a beautiful section of the reef, then enjoyed some rum punch on our way to this little tiny island for some sun.  We even saw some dolphins swimming by our catamaran.    Included in our stop at this island were the beach chairs, water floats and kayaks.    If you wanted to eat or drink on the island, you needed to pay additional.     After an hour or so of relaxing in the sun, it was time to head back to the ship.     

We decided to take a tender into the port, just to see it.   We didn't have much time, and it was the standard souvenir shops and lots of jewelry stores.   I talked to some other passengers later and they said that if you left the area right by the pier and went outside the "fence" you can definitely tell that Belize is still developing and that the shopkeepers really wanted your business.

Roatan, Honduras
Roatan is an island off the coast of Honduras.   It is beautiful, green and very lush.    Carnival paid $65 million (or so), so develop Mahogany Bay, which is where they dock on Roatan.   It's a complete development: shops, restaurants, beach and even a chair lift.   Yes, a chair lift.  Living in Colorado, the idea of riding a lift in my swimsuit instead of my ski gear makes me laugh.    But you can pay to ride this lift to the beach - rather than walking for 5 minutes.   Something I did like in this little development was a chance to get my passport stamp.   The local Rotary club takes donations to help provide plumbing and toilets for schools and in return you can get a stamp.   What a great fundraising opportunity!

I wanted to go zip-lining and started to research options other than the zip line tour that Carnival provided.   I booked a "Zip and Dip" from Viator for about $30 less than Carnival's price.     There are other third party shore excursion providers and many of them will also offer "return to the ship" guarantees if you're worried that they will sail away without you.   The zip line provider was South Shore Zip Line and they were fantastic.  I would definitely recommend them.    We got a bit of an island tour on our way to the zip line and their facility has something like 13-15 lines so it lasts for quite a while.   All the guides were great - they would ride tandem with anyone who was nervous, or encourage you to hang upside down if you weren't nervous.    It was pouring rain during part of our trip, but hell, you're in a rain forest anyway.  I would say that this was the most fun I've had in the pouring rain.   I'm glad I wasn't wearing makeup - some of the other ladies in our group had raccoon eyes from their dripping mascara. 

After our zip line, we were scheduled to hit the beach.   Since it was cooler and we were all wet, no one really wanted to swim, but we had some rum punch and a chance to pick up some small souvenirs along the beach.   On our way back to Mahogany Bay we drove through the main town and where the other cruise ships dock - if I would have had more time, I would have liked to explore that area.     

Grand Cayman
On my last (and only) visit to Grand Cayman, I went to Stingray City, so this time, I wasn't really interested in an organized shore excursion.   I just wanted to lie on the beach.   Now the cruise line offers a variety of beach excursions costing about $40 or more for an air-conditioned bus to private beach clubs - depending on how much you want to pay, you could get a beach chair or lunch included.    However, there are tons of shared vans/taxis that have set pricing (between $4-7 each way) to take you to a variety of stops on the famous 7 Mile Beach.    We paid $4 and went to the first stop, the Royal Palms.   The $2 access fee gets you access to their showers and bathrooms.  They also have a beach side restaurant and my mahi mahi sandwich was great.    I didn't need a beach lounger.   The sand was just fine.   I had time to get some rum cakes in port before heading back to the ship.

The annual Pirates Week festival was starting the night we departed Grand Cayman.   One of the storekeepers told me that as soon as the ship departed everyone would go home, get changed and come back for the fireworks that kick off the celebration.    

So there you have it.    My take on my shore excursions, or lack thereof, at these ports of call.

If you've been on a cruise, what was your favorite port and/or activity?

Friday, November 23, 2012


The Grand Illumination - Downtown Denver
Always the Friday after Thanksgiving

Today's Five Minute Friday prompt is Thank You.     I can't think of a better prompt for five minutes of writing.    Working in the hospitality industry, there were years that I worked on Thanksgiving Day.    Usually I've worked the day after Thanksgiving (aka today) if I'm not on vacation.    This year, our fantastic office of three decided that we'd all take a vacation day today.     A four day weekend is definitely something to enjoy and celebrate.  

A lot of people are doing the 30 days of gratitude on Facebook, on their blogs, or maybe just in a notebook by their bed.    That's how I'm using my 5 minutes today....

This year I'm am grateful for:
My old job with awesome co-workers
My new job with awesome co-workers (same company, different property)
Visiting 3 new countries (Greece, Honduras and Belize)
Chaperoning the youth mission trip to Joplin, MO - I'm reminded every time I go on a trip or hear the kids talk about it, that taking time for serving others changes lives
The 10 years I had with my Chey dog
Seeing almost all my family either here or there
Lake Tahoe
The ability to cook
My tan (although it's fading daily)
My PHR recertification - and that I didn't have to take the exam again
HR Team of the Year
Cappuccino in a real cup
A day under the laziness cloud
Living in Colorado
Frequent flier miles
The Wisconsin State Fair
Road Trips
Free hotel nights


It's a good thing that time ran out before I ran out of things to be thankful for or people to say thank you to.   I saw a cartoon recently that showed a glass half full.   It showed that the bottom half was water (50%) and the top half was air (50%) and that technically the glass is always 100% full. 

I want to always be able to say my glass is 100% full and be that thankful. 

I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Five Minute Friday is taking a vacation in December - to learn more about how you can get involved visit Lisa-Jo's site

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stay in the Moment

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Stay.


In our over-connected society it takes a real effort to stay in the moment.   Between computers, smart phones, social media and endless other distractions it's easy to get caught up in what's happening with someone else somewhere else.
I just returned from a Caribbean cruise.   I made a conscious effort to stay in the moment.   Enjoy the beach.  The show.  The hammock.  The book.   The food.   I did not need "bow2stern" wifi.    I didn't need to watch tv.    I didn't need to watch the election results come in. 
Over the period of 7 days, I only went on Facebook from an ice cream stand in Cozumel.   Other than that, I was basking in the sun and not worrying about what was going on with everyone else everywhere else.  
It drives me crazy when people are checking their phones at dinner or while being a part of a conversation.    You can't be in two places at once.   Either be present or stay home.  
Sharing your thoughts and pictures with friends is great.   Staying connected with friends all over the world is amazing and important.    It's a matter of balance.
Life is made up of individual moments.    Stay present. 


To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on  Friday/Saturday then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cozumel and Election Day

(at the time this posts, I should be sleeping the sleep of the relaxed on vacation)

The only other time I was in Cozumel was on a cruise ship stop when I was in college.   I don't remember much, other than shopping a bit.    That was my first exposure to Mexico.   Since that time, I've been to Playa del Carmen twice and Tuxtla once - for mission and volunteer trips.  

Today Cozumel is my port of call.    I'm not scheduled to do anything.   And that is freeing.

Today is also Election Day back in the states.   I've already cast my ballot and have been hiding from all the malicious political advertising for about a month.     I'm curious when I will find out the result of the election.   I know it will happen while in "foreign waters."  There is no way I'll make it home without finding out - even though I won't seek it out.  

Will it be on board?   The next port?   Will they post it in the daily newsletter?   Will I catch it when passing a TV in one of the lounges?   

Ohh the mystery!  

My goal is not to stay connected during this trip.   

To relax.   To enjoy.   To be.

The only victory party I'll be attending is the midnight buffet.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Flexibility while Traveling

A friend once told me "Blessed are the flexible because they will never get bent out of shape."

Today our cruise ship is delayed coming in to port.  Epic fog meant the ship couldn't go under the bridge at the appointed time this morning.
Had everything gone according to schedule we'd be listening to the steel drum band during the sail away party right now.

Instead of rushing to wait, I enjoyed a long leisurely brunch...mimosas, oysters, sushi, and bananas foster and great company.  Then a trip to the port and margaritas with friends.

You can get worked up over things you can't control.   Or you can roll with it and smile.

And now I'm in the cruise terminal and the kids are jumping up and  yelling "We can see it!"

I'm jumping on the inside.

Bon Voyage.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Runs Deep In You?

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Roots.

As I'm finishing last minute packing on a Friday and wondering why summer weight clothes weigh so much, I know that I'm not the first in my family to go this route.     Third generation world traveler here.    Not my first rodeo, but still a procrastinator.   

Both my grandmothers had lots of travel experiences.   One grandma when she was newly married before having children.   My other grandma when she became a widow when she was still very able to climb in and out of safari jeeps and tour buses.  

Mom is another one.    She took me to Greece earlier this year.   Then she went off to the Canadian Rockies.    Thanksgiving will be in Spain followed by an early December jaunt to St. Lucia.   

I want those roots.    The roots that take pride in an old suitcase, photos and a well-loved passport.  

In the words of country music, "these are my people."  
To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday Eve (aka Thursday night) or on Friday/Saturday then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your Responsibility: Vote

Photo:  This is my ballot

The ability to vote is something that has been a hard-fought battle all over the world.   
100 years ago, this would have been denied to me as a woman.

Our ancestors fought for some of our rights.
We fight for more rights today.

Your right to vote matters.

Vote for causes you believe in.  
Vote for who you think do the most good (or the least harm).
Vote for your family and friends.

Just vote.    

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yes, You Can Take a Month Off to Travel (The Thailand Series)

I love to travel, and it should come as no surprise that I read other travel blogs as well to get encouragement and inspiration.    One topic that comes up is "How can you take an extended period of time to travel?"   I realize that a month isn't the same as someone taking a year or two to travel the world (I still aspire to that).    But a month is achievable.   I didn't have to leave my job or find a new home for my dog.   I didn't have to cancel anything.   I didn't have to find a renter or put my stuff in storage.   

Taking a month to travel while employed full-time does take some advance planning.    Today is October 27.    If you went to see your boss and said "I'm going to take the month of November off...see you December 1," that probably wouldn't go over too well.    

In the summer of 2008, I talked to my boss about taking my three weeks of vacation, plus one week unpaid for a trip in 2009.   His response "Are you sure you want to use everything at once?" (yes) and "Make sure that your co-workers are ok with this since they'll be covering for you while you're gone." (they were ok with it)

In 2009 I took a month off to go on a volunteer vacation in Thailand.   I did a three week volunteer abroad with Cross Cultural Solutions and then had some pre/post travel time in Bangkok, Chaing Mai and Taipei.  

The truth:  Volunteer vacations are not cheap or free.   Part of what you're doing is supporting the local organization as well as providing employment for the local staff that helps coordinate the work, housing and other activities.   That is what I wanted.    I wanted a safe place to stay, cultural activities, transportation, meals and other volunteers to hang out with.     Budgeting for a volunteer vacation is just like budgeting for any other kind of vacation - but there is a little tax benefit.   My program fee was a tax-deductible donation, and friends and family could also donate towards my program - in fact, I asked for donations in lieu of Christmas and Birthday gifts. 

Without further adieu....if you'd like to learn about Thailand or what it was like to go on this kind of volunteer vacation, pick a few posts and read on!

Countdown to Thailand
Practical Procrastination
It Looks Like Iowa
Fun with International Restrooms
Chao Phraya
Wat Arun
My Amazing Race Moment
The Elusive Kanoon
Thai 101
On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful
Thai Mythology
Aroi Mai?
Makabucha Day
The First Day of School
Saibaidee Tao (Happy Feet)
Too Many Shoes
Ko Lanta
Crazy Transportation
Home Sweet Home Base
Wat Kok Yang Daycare
Pink Day
House Maa
Funny Signs
Ko Phi Phi
Beach Games
Thai Pancake
If it's Bob Marley...
Last Day of School
Sawadee Ka from Thailand
Which Wat?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Use Your Voice

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Voice.   Even more impressive is that I'm writing it on Friday eve instead of on Saturday - my normal style.  
I'm loud.   It's true.    The thought of voice (other than The Voice being the only TV show I'm watching this fall) makes me think of singing.  Talking.  Communicating.  Connecting.
This morning at our 3 person department meeting at a cafe across the street I broke into "Party in the USA."  Just a little.
About an hour later we cranked it up in the office and had a little dance party before a conference call.   We offered to sing on the call.   Very thankful that no one took us up on it.  
We were discussing the Strength Finders assessment on this call.    My number 1 strength?  Positivity.   Didn't shock my co-workers in the slightest.    I practically bounce with it.   
(My second was Woo - Winning Others Over)
It's not always what you say.    In reality, it's what you do.   That's the best way that your voice can be heard.    There is a quote that I'm going to paraphrase:  What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Am I using my strengths to the best of my ability? 
Am I using my voice for good?  
Making my little corner of the world better?  
Even if I don't say a thing?  
I'm excited to use my voice for two blogger events this fall.      
The first event is called Passports With Purpose (read more here) - stop back here on my blog on November 29 and you can start making donations to   All the travel bloggers also have to secure prizes.   Everyone who donates at least $10 will have the option to select a prize they would like to win.
I just read about The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap today which is an online fundraiser and a real cookie swap for food bloggers.    I think I'll have to get in on that over on my food blog: Traveler in the Kitchen.  
To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday Eve (aka Thursday night) or on Friday/Saturday then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wells for Haiti: Passports with Purpose 2012

Photo Credit:  Passports with Purpose

Traveling Friends, I'm very excited to participate in Passports with Purpose this year.   PWP is a travel blogger fundraising event.    This year, the goal is to raise $100k in about 2 weeks time for to build wells in Haiti.    This post is simply an appetizer....whetting your appetite for what's to come.    

I've been fortunate to enjoy safe drinking water every day of my life.  
Participating in this event is just one way for me to help give back.   

As we dive into the holiday season (you know, the one that seems to stretch from Labor Day through New Year's), think of all the things that you enjoy and how rewarding it would be to give a small gift (talkin' $10 here) to improve the lives of others.  

Beginning November 29, a whole slew of travel bloggers (a technical term to be sure) will be posting about Passports with Purpose and how you can get involved.    Each blogger has secured a prize.   For every $10 you donate, you have a chance to select what prize you might like to win.    When this travel blogging fundraising craziness is done, the winners will be drawn.

My good friends at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center and Grand Hyatt Denver have each donated a weekend night stay for this event.   Talk about awesome!

A few water facts from to get you thinking...
  • More people have a mobile phone than a toilet
  • 780 million people lack access to clean water
  • In one day 200 million hours of work time are consumed by women collecting water for their families
  • 443 million school days are lost each year due to water related illnesses
Guatemalan boys win prizes at a run sponsored by
Healing Waters International (Aguas de Unidad)
June 2010

Monday, October 22, 2012

What about 2013?


I don't have ANY trips scheduled for 2013 other than a ski trip with Mom to Beaver Creek.   BC is only 2 hours away and still in state.  It will be fun, but I don't consider it a trip, per se.

Normally I have things on deck.  Reservations.  Visas.  Plans.

Right now, I don't.  

{I'm not much of a planner EXCEPT when it comes to travel.    I have it down.  Just ask my friends.   In the spring one friend blithely asked me if I wanted to go someplace warm later this year.    Before she could blink, the trip was planned and the deposit made.}

I've talked to family and friends.  Pondered volunteer vacations.

I've thought about the states I've neglected. 
Alaska.  North Dakota.  The Carolinas.  Mississippi. 
Rhode Island.  Delaware.  Connecticut.

My blank slate is refreshing.  And terrifying.

What should I do in 2013?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Look! (at the amount of mail)

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Look.
Look!  It's Saturday.   I can't seem to find the five minutes on a Friday.


My sister and I both registered to vote (yay! - sidenote: I hope you are too).    We are not registered with the same party.    In the past 6 weeks or so this has led to an unprecedented amount of mail.   With online bill pay, we don't get a lot of mail other than the store ads and a few magazine subscriptions.

Every day we play a game, "Guess how many political ads are in the mailbox?"  We each make a guess and then get the mail.    Sometimes we even get more than one ad for the same candidate (there is a local candidate who must have a large budget for glossy bulk fliers printed on card stock). 

Some of them are in bad taste, such as the one that had the candidates head superimposed over the cartoon image of a caveman dragging a woman by his hair.    Some of them are positive - just telling what the candidate is about and not bashing anyone. 

Aside from the Look at the mail game, it's Look at social media.   This week I got a synopsis of the debate by reading my friend's news feeds.     And that my friends is how a phrase like binders full of women goes viral in under 12 hours.    It's a whole new world.    Look!  

I can't wait until the election is over. 

To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Kindle of my Own

I'm not sure what took me so long.  

I didn't stand up on a soap box and scream to the masses "If it's not bound, I don't want it!" 
Nor did I jump on it when it first came out "This is new technology and I MUST have it!"

But like almost anything, you need to try it for yourself and see if it works for you.    There was a best-selling trilogy that my sister and I wanted to read (Let's call it FSOG for short).       Good luck trying to get one of the books from the library, you'll be hold #131 and will get your copy in 2013.

And then an unlikely hero saving us from having to spend money or wait endlessly.  A friend loaned us her Kindle.   It was my first time giving an e-book a chance. 

I wasn't sure how I'd feel.    Would it be as comfortable as reading a book?  As easy as throwing a magazine in my purse?  Would the dreaded "blue light" that comes from my computer and cell phone be there, waking my brain up when I was trying to read before bed? 

Yes.   Yes.   No. 

It just took one book (well, actually three, since it was a trilogy) and I became a believer.  

Now I have a little kindle all of my own.   The $69 special.   I don't need color.   I don't need apps.  
I just wanted something small and light.   Perfect for my daily ride on the light rail.   Perfect for my upcoming vacation, and the quality time waiting in airports and flying that it will entail. 

If I needed another reason to love the public library: you can check out e-books for free.  My love for book and magazines won't go away.   I enjoy browsing in the library to see what's new.   What catches my eye.   

I'm not going paper free.   
I'm just expanding my reading horizons.
And lightening my load.

When did you make the switch to e-books?  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Journey or the Destination?

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Race.  Obviously I'm not much of a racer, since I seem to be more of a Five Minute Saturday person...


The word race implies one of two things.    1) a finish line   2) a defined winner

I'm not big into competition.   I don't really care about winning, I just want to have a good time.    It seems there are a lot of motivational memes comparing life to a race.   You can't win if you don't play and all that.    So I feel that I fall into the "journey is the destination" camp.   I enjoy the process more than the final result in many situations.     

A few weeks ago I jogged/walked quickly in a 5k called Color Me Rad.  It was not about the time or the finish, but about being with friends....while people were throwing color on you.     Now, there was in fact a finish line.   And that's where the fun continued with a giant color war.   Two of my friends waited there just to pelt me with color.   And then it was on.  

There is joy in planning, plotting, organizing, and preparing.   I liken it to travel.   The trip itself is always amazing and you come back changed, but the pre-planning is part of the fun.   What are you going to do?   Where will you go?   What will it feel like?  

Coming home with a souvenir or tan is the "finish line."   The training (planning / prepping) and the race itself (the trip) are the real prize. 


To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Two out of Ten Small Towns....

There are lists everywhere.  
What you should do. 
What you should read.
Where you should shop.
What you should buy.
Where you shouldn't go.
Restaurants you should try.
Weird food you shouldn't try.
Things that are stranger than squid on a stick.
Best places for a do-nothing vacation (this was intriguing, since I'm not good at doing nothing)

You name it and someone has written a list. 

In the most recent issue of Budget Travel magazine, there is a list of the 10 Coolest Small Towns in America.   That's the kind of article that I would normally skim right through.   Of all the small towns in America, and there are a LOT, the chance that I've been to one of the ten is very slim.

Imagine my surprise when I read through the list and realized that I had been to not one but TWO of the Coolest Small Towns!    My coolness factor just doubled!  Just now (blink and you missed it).  Of course, at the time I visited, I didn't know of their coolness.

#5 Nashville, Indiana:  I spent three years in Indianapolis and went to Nashville a couple of times.  It's a chill little artist colony.   I have a Christmas ornament (of a palm tree - not very Indiana-like) that I bought there that I put up every year. 

#10 Cooke City, Montana:   I spent a summer working in Yellowstone National Park, and Cooke City was just outside the park. 

Maybe that's what makes a cool small town cool.   You don't know it.  You don't seek it out because it was featured on a list.  You just find it. 

What's your favorite small town?



Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Story of the Pineapple

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Welcome.


What is the international symbol of hospitality?    On one of my college exams, I wrote "smile."  The answer was wrong, but I still got credit.    The pineapple is the international symbol.    Once I told that to family and friends, I started getting random pineapple shaped gifts.   A welcome sign.  A jewelry box.   A magnet.     

I studied hospitality management (under the guise of a degree in Food Science and Nutrition) in college.  Twelve years later, I'm still in the field and I know that hospitality - the act of taking care of others - suits my skills and personality.    My job is to make others happy.   To make them feel welcome.   

I do this outside of work as well.   Often with gifts of food, since that's how I roll.   

A warm welcome goes a long way.   Introducing yourself to a neighbor.   The person who sits next to you at church.    Someone new to your city.    A new co-worker.    The over-worked cashier at the grocery store.  

People may not remember the nice person - they're more likely to harp on the one who didn't tip, or who caused a scene.    But you'll remember.    Be the welcome.   Be the smile.   Be the person who, one small act at a time, makes the world better.


To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gnome Nabbing - Would You Do It?

Photo Credit:  Travelocity
Yesterday I read about The Great Gnome Nabbing contest that Travelocity is running.     The winner and a friend will be taken (hence the nabbing) on a month long trip to six unspecified locations around the world (well...they are kind of specified in the all the official rules, terms and looks like the winner will hit 4 continents.   Awesome.) 

Valued at $65,000.    
I don't think the winner will be hosteling.   
Maybe they will even fly business class.

Side Note:  I aspire to fly business or first class without paying for it.    In all my travels, I've only been upgraded once, and that was on a four hour flight from Puerto Rico.     I milked those four hours for all they were worth.   Another cocktail?   Yes, please.  

The trip departs on 11/29/12 and returns on 12/23/12. 

In under two months.    
This kind of contest appeals to the real adventurer.  
Someone who has at least 10 open pages in their passport. 
The kind who can and will pick up and go.   

The thought of this kind of trip is very exciting.   Not in a "wouldn't that be nice someday" sort of way.   But in a "could I really make it work right now in 2012?" sort of way.    In a "could I sell it to my boss?" sort of way.  

Like the lottery, you can't win if you don't play.    If you want to win you have to submit a 60 second video telling them why.

Where would you want to go if you nabbed?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Colorado: Awake

Love this video!   It highlights a lot of what makes Colorado amazing in under 3 minutes.   I feel blessed to live here rather than just visiting for vacation.   It really is a place where you come to life.

Friday, September 28, 2012

When to Let Go

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is Grasp.    Something I'm having a hard time with this week.


The word grasp is often used in connection with words like reality. 

Grasping is also holding on too close - implying that the other party would like to be let go.   

Grasping for something feels different from reaching, striving, working, attaining.   It seems like you are going after something that you didn't work for or something that you couldn't achieve.   Grasping at straws.  

This week, I'm learning, sadly, about letting go.   When not to grasp too tight.   

My Chey dog has taken a sharp turn for the worse.   A little over two weeks ago we would go for 30 minute walks / jogs.   She chased tennis balls.  She played with the neighbor kids.     Now she can barely walk across the room or go out to the front yard.    Now she rests all day and I try to tempt her with peanut butter or homemade chicken soup.   

I'm thinking tonight I will try to entice her with a Pawbender from Goodtimes.    It's frozen custard with peanut butter drizzle.   She loves them.    I hope I'm not grasping at straws that she'll love it today.  

She's my first pet as an adult, where I am the one who has to make the decisions.   It's very, very hard. 


__________________To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Counting Down to the Caribbean

I love the anticipation of an upcoming vacation.  It's almost as much fun as the trip itself.   That's why I always have something on deck.  Earlier this year, a friend asked if I'd like to go someplace warm later this year.    I suggested a cruise, and before she had time to think too much, we booked the trip.    It's been 7 years since I've been on a real cruise.     I don't consider the few days that I spent on the Louis Cristal in Greece "real."  It was a way from point A to point B, but not really a vacation in itself.  
My upcoming adventure has four ports of call - and since I picked the itinerary, I picked two new ports (and countries) to add to my list:  Cozumel, Belize (new!), Honduras (new!) and Grand Cayman. 
A cruise really is a way to vacation on a budget if you plan it that way.    Here was my approach:
1.  Paying for the cruise up front in cash back in May.   I earned some prize money at work and decided that rather than just putting it my checking account and hoping that I did something memorable with it, I would put it right away towards something awesome.   It's an interior cabin, but really, I'm only going to sleep there.
2.  Free hotel nights in Tampa, the departure port.   Yay for job perks!
3.  Paying for the airline tickets with my debit card.    I bought two one ways at good prices on two different pay days.   Spreading it out helped me pay with cash and resist the temptation to put it on a credit card. 
4.  Food.  The nice thing about a cruise is that your food is included.   Yes, you need to budget for alcohol and what you eat on the islands, but for the most part, you're covered.   
The last thing I need to settle are the shore excursions.   I'm pondering using Viator for some of them if the prices are better than the cruise line.   Shore excursions are definitely a way for the cruise lines to make money, but logistically it often is easier than planning a detailed activity on your own.

I can't wait!!! I haven't made a paper chain, like my sister and I did for Tanzania or Greece, but the excitement is still there and I'm counting down the days.

Recommendations for excursions for my ports of call?  Let me know!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Telluride (and special Colorado songs)

Here's a bit of random country music trivia for you.     On Tim McGraw's 2001 album Set This Circus Down he recorded a song called "Telluride."   It was not released to the radio.  I only know the song because I owned the CD (back when we bought CDs, you know).    When I moved to Colorado in 2005, I heard it played every once in a while.    Apparently since it's a song about Colorado, the radio stations here can/do play the jam.   Who knew?  
It probably also explains the local love of the song "Colorado Christmas" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.   I'm pretty sure that one didn't make the cut when I lived in Nevada or Indiana.
But I digress.  I finally made it to Telluride in August after almost 7 years living in Colorado.   Every person I talked to said that this part of the state (Telluride and Ouray) were beautiful.    No lie.
The pictures above a just a glimpse of the natural beauty of western Colorado.   Enjoy.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wide Open Spaces

Who doesn't know what I'm talking about
Who's never left home, who's never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl's dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn't yet guessed

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes

She traveled this road as a child
Wide eyed and grinning, she never tired
But now she won't be coming back with the rest
If these are life's lessons, she'll take this test

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes
She knows the high stakes

As her folks drive away, her dad yells, "Check the oil!"
Mom stares out the window and says, "I'm leaving my girl"
She said, "It didn't seem like that long ago"
When she stood there and let her own folks know
She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes
She knows the highest stakes
"Wide Open Spaces" - Dixie Chicks

Happy Saturday to you!    This week's Five Minute Friday prompt was Wide.   Here we go.


The first thing that popped into my mind with this word was the Dixie Chicks song "Wide Open Spaces."   This was my theme song for much of my senior year of college and the summer I spent working at Yellowstone National Park.   That summer my friends and I would hop into the car, blast the CD player as we headed out on a road trip or elsewhere in the park to hike.   

There is something about wide open spaces that appeals to me personally.    I first went to Yellowstone the summer after my freshman year of high school.  It was my first time west.  My first time seeing the mountains.   I was in awe and told my mom that I would move out west at some point.   When I was interviewing for jobs to start after college graduation I really only looked at places west of the Mississippi River.    I needed the space.

I moved to Yellowstone not knowing anyone and then three months later moved to Lake Tahoe again not knowing anyone.   I wanted my space.  I wanted a chance to make my own decisions.   People were shocked that I was willing to just up and move.    It was my chance for adventure, so I took it.  

Even now, when I travel, I look for space.   I like to visit cities, don't get me wrong, but the things that usually resonate are the wide open views.    The ocean.  A big lake.  An expanse of mountains or plains.    It's heartening to know that there are big beautiful places that aren't jam-packed full of people.


To participate in these scribing shenanigans either today or next week visit Lisa-Jo's page here on Friday (or Saturday) then write for five minutes on the topic she provides. Then you can post a link to your post on her page. Finally show some love to the person who posted before you.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Traveler in the Kitchen Update - September 20

Stay hungry my friends....

Here are some of the new things I've posted over on Traveler in the Kitchen recently:

What I've made


Fresh Tomato Salsa

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Toffee Cheesecake Bars

Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

Tasty treats while traveling

24 Diner - Austin, Texas

Mouse's Chocolates - Ouray, Colorado

O&H Danish - Racine, Wisconsin

What's the best food you tried this summer?


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