Monday, December 23, 2013

The Joy of Tiny Planes and Airports


 
Two weekends ago I took my first trip off-island to visit a friend who is spending the holidays in Oahu.    Honolulu is the "big city" of Hawaii and a popular place to go shopping.   Hello...they have Target.  
 
I took a little commuter plane from the little airport in Kapalua.   I think this was the smallest plane I've ever been on - the flight from Aruba to Curacao being the second smallest plane ever.    This is the kind of plane where they weigh YOU to evenly distribute the weight.  
 
It's flight seeing with a destination.   The pilot gave us permission to use cameras or phones in airplane mode.   And the Kapalua airport is about 5 minutes from home.   So easy.
 
The view from the Kapalua airport
Security even pointed out the whales!
 
 
Hi Molokai

And the pilots have a map
 

Woo!  Big city from the air.

Have you gone flightseeing or taken a tiny plane?   Yay or Nay? 
As for me....it's so easy and convenient, I will definitely do it again.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tree Lighting Lahaina Style: The Annual Lighting of the Banyan Tree

Aside from one Christmas spent in Egypt, I've always been in cold-weather climates for Christmas.    Maybe it feels like tradition just because it's what I'm used to.    Or because the all the carols refer to fireplaces and snow.  
 
{As a side note, my sister has been asking friends to post a picture of themselves in their snowflake, holiday or other comfy pants, on Facebook.    This is her way to try to embrace the ridiculously cold weather that hit most of the country in the past week or so.    I've been taken to task for not participating.   And that's because I no longer wear pants.   Except at work.  Because, you know, it's work.}
 
I'm determined to capture the spirit this year, just like every year before.    And that means jumping in with both of my tan, bare feet and embracing the Christmas celebrations here in Maui.
 
There may be banyan trees all over Hawaii, but in downtown Lahaina we have the Banyan Tree.   It's huge and it's a central fixture along Front Street.   On the weekends, and maybe more often, the local artists showcase their craft under the giant tree.  And every year there is a Christmas celebration at the lighting of the tree.  
 
I proudly present the annual lighting of the Banyan Tree in Lahaina.  
 
There's a sign = it's official
 
The tree pre-lighting


The Lahainaluna High School Band playing carols
 
Beautiful Banyan

Lights!
Why hello there Hawaii Snowman!



 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Pretty Big Deal in Lahaina (The Pioneer Mill Smokestack)

Check out the size of that....smokestack?

Damn, it's tall!
That's right.   The Pioneer Mill Smokestack is a tall piece of Hawaii's history in the sugar industry.    This stack was the tallest structure in the Hawaiian islands in the 1920s (I believe 1928 to be exact).   It was such a recognizable feature from the sea that it was used for navigation.   The city chose to to keep and refurbish it as a part of the local history.

Yesterday, when I stopped for some coffee at Maui Grown Coffee (on Lahainaluna Rd if you're visiting), I explored the little historic park right next door.   Home of this giant smokestack and information on Western Maui's history in the sugar cane industry.  And trains.   I don't have the same love affair with trains that some of my family has...but I certainly climb on them for photos on occasion.   This time, I kept my feet on the ground.

There, you can see actual color of the
smokestack when it's not in a giant shadow
Another train...Mom this is for you!

Now that I'm a little more settled into my new life, with my car here and my household goods on their way, I'm looking forward to doing a lot more Maui exploration.    I can't wait to share it with you!

If you have a favorite anything on Maui, please let me know in the comments or share on Facebook

Learning to Give and Receive this Thanksgiving

In a little over 3 hours (Hawaii time, that is), I will have been in Maui for a month.   Moving by yourself  is stressful.   When it happens closer to the holidays, it's even more challenging.   

You think about what you'd be doing if you were at home.     
Activities that you'll miss.   
Friends that you'll miss.   
Food that you'll miss (it is Thanksgiving after all).   

I didn't know what would happen this year.   
Would I just sit by the pool and soak up the sun?   
Take a little road trip?   
Enjoy a movie marathon?  (Harry Potter on ABC Family, I'm talking to you)
Would I feel like it was a holiday or just a day off work?

Here's the good news:  I was blessed this year to both give and receive the gift of Thanksgiving.
My first Aloha Thanksgiving 
Giving Thanks
We brought Thanksgiving Dinner from work to serve local families in need.   Turkey and all the fixings. Pumpkin Pie.   Coffee.    We served the buffet, poured the drinks, bussed the tables and delivered the pie.   After dishing up the pie, I got to the fun stuff:  helping  make turkey hats.   We brought the supplies for crafts, not knowing how many kids would attend.  Would they be interested?  Yes.   Now we know.   You can't go wrong with turkey hats.   On adults or children.   I wore my hat with pride.    

It is a blessing to serve others.

Receiving Thanks
I was also invited to be a guest for Thanksgiving.   It's tradition here for those from work without family on-island to get together to share the holidays.   Turkey.  Ham.  Stuffing.  Potatoes.  Green Bean Casserole. World Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake.  (it really was that good!).   Wine.  Karaoke.  

Now karaoke may not be a traditional Thanksgiving activity, but it made for an awesome evening.  We sang for hours.  Summer Nights?  Check.  Don't Stop Believing?  Check Check.   

For years I've invited friends for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I like hosting and cooking.     It's been a while since I've been on the receiving end.   It is such a good feeling to be included.  Especially when you're new and far away from home.   

The holiday season is just starting.   If you have a chance this December, please share some joy with someone new.   Invite them to the tree lighting, parade, cookie exchange, ugly sweater party or dinner.   Introduce them to your friends or family.

It makes a huge difference.   
Both for the giver and the receiver. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

10 Things I've Learned Moving from the Mainland to Maui

Moving is not glamorous.  
 
Organizing, selling, donating, packing, loading, unpacking?   Saying goodbye?
NOT GLAMOROUS.   Not one bit.    
 
In the past 13 years, I've made the following moves:  Illinois to Yellowstone to Tahoe to Indianapolis to Denver.
 
But this move?   Denver to Maui?   That's the biggest move of my life.  And it's not just the 3300 miles from here to there.  A lot of different, challenging moving pieces.   More than just driving from point A to B with a moving truck in tow.
 
All I can say is that I've learned A LOT as a part of my recent move to Maui.  And I'm going to share it with you.   Even if you aren't planning to move to paradise.   Yet.
 
Paradise, is that you calling?
 
10 Things I've Learned Moving from the Mainland to Maui
 
1.   Know that it's going to take a while for your household belongings to get to the islands.   The farther away you live from the shipping ports (primarily in Southern California) the longer it will take.    My stuff was packed up by the movers on October 29 and it's scheduled to arrive on December 2.   If you're going to need it within the first 30 days, you're probably going to want to put it in your luggage.   Moving to Hawaii was considered "international" by my relocation company and they needed me to complete an inventory of my household goods and their value to be replaced at my new destination.   If your company is paying for your move, they are probably going to limit the number of pounds of goods you can bring (maybe 2000 - 5000lbs).   If you are paying for your move, you're going to want to be frugal as well.   If you don't love it, leave it.    
 
2.  Shipping your car?   It's probably going to have to be empty and clean.   The shipping companies are not interested in you packing your car like it's an extra piece of luggage.   It's not.   Also, the gas tank has to be pretty empty.    Get a copy of the walk-around inspection so that you can audit your car for damage when it arrives.
 
3.  Let your car insurance company know that you are moving to Hawaii.   Find out if they will cover you there.   You will have to have Hawaii coverage in order to register your vehicle.   You'll also have to have an original copy of your Hawaii insurance with a seal/impression for the safety check.
 
4.   Looking for a house, condo, apartment or ohana to rent?   Many landlords will not talk to you or rent you a place without you being on island first.    The long-term rental market can be challenging.   If you see something that you like, you'd better get on it.  (What is an ohana?  It's a cottage/rental either attached or unattached to a home for rental purposes.   Ohana is the Hawaiian word for family.)
 
5.  Get on it means get on the phone.   You'll learn more faster.   When it comes to rentals, not everyone emails or texts.
 
6.   Craigslist is your friend.   There are no "apartment guide" magazines here at the checkout at the grocery store like you might find in a major metro area.  If you see something on Craigslist that you want, refer to #4 and #5.   Get on it. 
 
7.  Word of mouth.  Ask friends or co-workers if they know of a place to rent.  And then....you know.  Get on it.
 
8.  The health/dental insurance companies, for the most part, are different than what's on the mainland.  If you are transferring with your company, your HR department should be able to give you information about your new coverage.
 
9.  At least here on Maui, I've found that the banks are Hawaii / Pacific specific.   Before I left Colorado I checked to see if any of the big banks (US Bank, Wells Fargo, etc) were on  Maui.   They are not.   I haven't yet opened an account at a local bank, but I probably will for the ease of rent payments and ATM convenience.  
 
10.  There is a word for "locals discount."   As my co-workers teased me, you can't ask for it if you can't pronounce it.  And you'll probably need to have a Hawaii ID to back it up. 
 
I'm pretty sure my learning is in no way done.   There may be another list in my future.
 
Any other advice for those moving to Maui (or Hawaii in general) from the mainland?
 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November: 30 Days of Gratitude

I've been seeing friends posting daily about what they are thankful for.   It's a good exercise.   Some days your cup is over-flowing and it's easy.  Other days when your cup is at that half-empty day old coffee stage, it really is an exercise in thinking long and hard about what's good and what you have.

I will endeavor to keep my list updated here over the course of November.    Feel free to share something you're thankful for in the comments or over on the Traveler for Good facebook page.


November 29
Black Friday has never been my thing.   I'm already frustrated with it creeping into Thursday.   Working the hospitality industry, I've worked my fair share of holidays, and I know how it feels to be at work when everyone else is celebrating.   Today I kept it chill and went shopping locally for some Hawaiian gifts for my family.   No lines.   No drama.

November 28
Holidays when you move someplace new can be lonely.   So happy to be adopted for Thanksgiving for a big dinner with others whose families are far away.   Delicious food and awesome people.   And just when it couldn't get any better - we had hours of karaoke afterwards!

November 27
Service to others!  I'm glad my parents led by example when it came to volunteering.   We served Thanksgiving dinner to families in need on Wednesday.   And made turkey hats with the keiki (children).

November 26
I'm learning a lot at work from others - I'm thankful that I also have knowledge that I can contribute to develop others.

November 25
My car!   It was picked up on 10/29 in Denver, CO and today I got to pick it up at the port in Kahului.   I am back to being mobile whenever, wherever.   And I can't be too made at gas being $4.15/gallon when I live on a small island.   Where can I run up the mileage?

November 24
Beachside worship in the morning and mimosas in the afternoon.   Check out the most awesome baby shower game prize EVER!

Ever.  Right?

November 23
Woo!  My sister got through her surgery and that pesky GB (aka gall bladder) is gone.

November 22
Just like watching football with friends makes life seem more normal, recent invites to things like baby showers and cookie exchanges makes a difference.   But still sad to miss Friendsgiving in Denver tomorrow. 

November 21
Approved and signed my lease!  Grateful for a place to live nearby - 10 minute commute, here I come!

November 20
I'm thankful for technology that allows me to continue to check out e-books from my library in Colorado from 3300 miles away.   That luggage space had to be saved for shoes, you know. 

November 19
Being in good health to work out....even if I don't want to.   And the gym has a view of the ocean.

November 18
Trying more delicious menu items at Japengo.

November 17
Watching the Broncos win with a  view of the ocean!

November 16
Meeting a nice family that may be my future landlords - and walking along the boardwalk - and stopping at a pie shop.   Yes.   I am thankful for pie shops.   And for drinks with some visitors from Denver (who both used to live in Hawaii so know all about the things that I'm just discovering). 

November 15
Going out for coffee with a co-worker - that's how I know I've settled in a little bit. 

November 14
Thankful for a (short term) lack of responsibilities that allow me to go to bed early...but I feel better knowing the rest of Maui does it too.

(side note - I have gotten behind!)

November 13
So grateful to work someplace that fosters and encourages creativity.  

November 12
Sitting out on a patio, enjoying a little happy hour, and having the musician segue from Bob Marley to Katy Perry...complete with falsetto.

November 11
Thankful for all who have served our country and those who continue to do so.   My dad is my favorite veteran!

November 10
Holiday decorations that look a little different.
November 9
Thankful for finding a lead on a possible place to live - the housing market here is definitely a challenge.  Hiding from the rain at the Bad Ass Coffee Company.  I also got a Safeway card - someday I'll have an apartment and a kitchen and can buy groceries again.
November 8
Sushi chefs who feed you based on what you like.   And who let you try clam foot, just because.    And for a complete stranger sitting next to me who wanted someone to join her in a sake shot with a quail egg and I was the lucky recipient.  
November 7
Spending three days training with fun people.   Going out for pizza and drinks with friends/colleagues is fun - wherever in the world it is.   (though large pizzas are significantly more expensive here in Maui)

November 6
Spending the day with the specific goal of "awesomizing" something.  Ahi poke tacos.

November 5
Tiny smore's.  And attending training in a room that has a view of the ocean.

November 4
Maui Gold Pineapple - so delicious
Also, a "first day of work" lei given to me by my co-workers!

November 3
I haven't even set foot out of my hotel room yet, but already I'm thankful that my new boss stayed up late to pick me up at the airport and make me feel welcome.   

November 2
I spent more time than I cared to in the Phoenix airport.   Friends sympathized and offered suggestions of what to do.   Courtesy of Facebook, I found out that friends from church were also at  the airport, so there was time for a fly-by hugging.    In a shallower sense,  a lot of people on the rest of my flight were bummed because they lost out on a day of their Hawaiian vacation.   Since my adventure has no set end-time.   It was easier for me to be relaxed and nice to the airline staff (I think they got chewed out by LOTS of people...some using choice words that shouldn't be used).  The ability to travel at all is at the top of my gratitude list.   Every day of my  life.

November 1 
I am so thankful for the community of friends that I had in Denver for the past 8 years.   Even though I felt like I  spent a lot of time crying and saying good-bye, a friend reminded me that it was a good sign.   If saying goodbye and moving isn't hard, then something is wrong.    I got to spend time with my friends in HR goofing off at the History Colorado Center and then at Punch Bowl Social.   A drive by  hugging by my friend Becky, who just arrived in Colorado for some of her missionary training was an added bonus and could have been a Hallmark commercial for the way we were crying, hugging and carrying on. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tales of Dering-do at Sky Harbor Airport

If you would have asked me 8 hours ago about my adventures in the Phoenix airport, I would have asked "is eating a chorizo and egg breakfast burrito an adventure?"  And you would scoff, "Weak.  Chorizo isn't an adventure, it's just delicious."
 
I should be landing in Maui right about now.  Instead I'm eating pepperoni pizza Combos (an airport snack if there ever  was) while alternating sitting on a chair and sitting on the airplane patterned carpet and pondering which lucky airport F&B outlet should be the recipient of my $10 dinner voucher. 
 
I've known all along (at least for the past 4 weeks since I knew that I got my job offer) that moving to Hawaii was going to be an adventure.  I assumed that my actual arrival there today was a given and then the adventure would start.  
 
After an hour+ of sitting on the plane (one row behind first class - what kind of sick joke is that), they let us know that there was a concern with a piece of equipment that we probably wouldn't need, but that must be operational for flights over the ocean.    Hooray for safety awareness!
 
But the safety hooray starts to fade after 6 hours of delays.
 
Trying to fix the part and then possibly replacing it and then the air crews shift timing out have all played together to create a community of tired and antsy travelers who were all expecting to be drinking mai tais on the beach tonight rather than diet coke in the airport. 
 
{and there are Trader Joe's in Phoenix!   I could be eating cookie butter out of the jar right now if only I could escape.   And if only all my luggage wasn't at maximum capacity.   And under the plane}
 
I'm thinking enviously of my chatty seat partner on the flight from Denver to Phoenix this morning.   After non-stop conversation  for the entire flight where I heard about her husbands, children, grand children, her Sky Mall purchases and the time that her current husband got amnesia, she is probably comfortably relaxed in her Hawaiian party pants in Kauai at this point.   I am in my traveling pants. Alone. Without a sisterhood.  Not the same level as party pants.   Not in the slightest.
 
Again I am reminded of the immortal words of a previous co-worker, "Blessed are the flexible, for they will never get bent out of shape."
 
What was your last airport adventure?

 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Where did all the stuff come from?

These were made by my sister in 1993.  
I put them in a box in 1997.
I reopened the box in 2013.  
This is what happens when you, your family and friends
have large basements or garages.

This whole downsizing and moving to an island in the middle of the ocean thing has put me face  to face with everything I own.

Everything.

Scary porcelain night light with pink roses that has been in a box since my freshman year of college,  I'm looking at you.   

Awkward photos from all phases of my life including junior high mission trips?  Check.  
Coffee cups that I didn't like but hadn't bothered to give away?   Double check.
Animated singing, stuffed pig from a white elephant exchange?  Checkity check.

Having a garage is great for extending the life of your car.  Not so great for living in a more minimal way.  Instead of getting rid of it,  you put it a box in the garage.   Out of sight, out of mind.  Until later.

Friends,  later has arrived.  

My company will move a max of 3000lbs of my stuff.   After that it gets really expensive. 

Next Tuesday the movers come to pack my stuff.  It's either coming with me or going to a new home. Possibly your home.

Over the weekend when friends came to visit they left with additional door prizes.   
Thanks for taking my couch, would you also like an ice cream maker?   
What?  You like those floral prints on the wall?  They're yours!

For a long time I've considered myself a person more focused on experiences than things.   
I was really sure that I gave away more than I accumulated.  

Who was I kidding? 

Should my new motto be more sea turtles and less stuff?  
More mai tais and less material?   Less fleece, more fun? 

I can only hope I learned my lesson after living in the same townhouse for 7 years.

The lesson?  Love it or leave it

Do you have any downsizing or moving advice? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Moving 3300 Miles Away (and the ensuing panic)

It's been almost a month since I posted here on Traveler for Good.    In the 5+ years that I've had this blog, I don't think I've ever gone that long.    I love you.   I love to write.   I love travel.    It all works together for good.

And then it happened. 

I went to Wisconsin in mid September.    

Ahh, Wisconsin

I happened to be scrolling through Facebook, as I'm known to do.   
I notice that a friend who works for the same company as I do posts that her family is moving to Florida.

If she is moving to Florida, then her position will probably be open.   

She works in Hawaii.   

My mind starts to race.    
I've been in Colorado for 8 years.   
I love Colorado.   
Every day, I'm like "damn, I'm lucky to live here."  

My mind continues to race.  Hawaii? Me?   Living and working there would be the experience of a lifetime. I'd get to experience and learn about a place that many people only visit for a week's vacation.  I'd be halfway to Asia - opening up a whole other part of the world for easier exploration.  It would be my first time living near the ocean.  My first time living on an island.   An island 3300 miles away from Denver, Colorado.

Had the job been posted a year ago or two years ago, would I have given it a second glance?   
Would I have been ready to go?

I went from contemplation to action.    
I talked to my family.  
I talked to my Director.   
I threw my name into the ring.

And in three weeks time, I'll be living in Maui.

Until then, I move at lightening speed.     My mind is constantly racing and my body follows.    I can't sit still. I have to de-clutter.   I have to purge.  I have to clean.    I have to drink the wine because the moving company won't take it.   I have to make my second trip to Goodwill in two days time.  I have to breakfast, brunch, lunch and happy hour with friends.  I have to cross-train my awesome co-workers.   I have to get my house ready to put on the market.   I have to determine whether I take my well-loved high mileage car or if I get something smaller and more efficient since gas is $4.23 per gallon.   

I need to buy a one way plane ticket to Hawaii.     

And I look forward to sharing my adventure with you.




Thursday, September 19, 2013

Something New: Lodging via Air BnB

Where has September gone?   

The Labor Day holiday, nine days of work and then a four day trip to Wisconsin and suddenly, I'm here, on the 19th day of September.    Today is also my thirteen year anniversary with my company.    I've been at five different locations in three different states with about ten promotions and different job titles.   We went out for "anniversary coffee" at Starbucks this morning.   I stayed firm in my resolution to not have pumpkin spice anything until the first day of fall (Saturday for those playing along at home).   

Snowmass has views like this...from the grocery store
Anyway....back to the end of August where I did something new again.    Back in February my sister and I bought tickets to the Jazz Aspen Snowmass festival over Labor Day.    Grace Potter, Jason Mraz, Little Big Town, Keith Urban and Journey over three days?  In the mountains?  Yes please.    Every few weeks we would say to each other, "we need to figure out where to stay."   Ideally in Snowmass Village so that we could walk or take a local shuttle bus to the concert.  

Keith Urban rocked in the pouring rain
I kept tabs on a variety of different hotel and lodging websites but didn't want to spend $500 for a holiday weekend (this goes against the grain since I often stay for free or discounted rates with my employee benefits).    I had read about Air BnB in different travel articles, but I'd never looked at their site.    

Air BnB allows people to rent out a room or their entire house/condo so that travelers can have a more local experience.   It's also a way to support individuals and the local economy and you'll probably be staying in an actual neighborhood where people live rather than a tourist or hotel district.    There are a lot of FAQs on their site if you're wondering how it all works.   

Lo, and behold, there was an apartment available for a very affordable rate right in the village.    Nothing fancy, but all we needed was a place to park, sleep and to drink coffee.  The host and I communicated through email and text message.    Because of our schedule we didn't end up meeting in person, but she had all the details nailed down and even contacted me at the last minute when roads were closed unexpectedly and provided new directions.  The apartment ended up being a five minute walk to the concert venue.   PERFECT!   

This also happened  

Have you had success renting rooms / homes online when you travel?    
What was your best experience?



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Best Sign Spotting: Leadville, CO



What is the criteria for "Best Wild West Saloon in America"?     
Who gets to decide that a sign that says "great food" should be posted?

While taking the scenic mountain route to Snowmass, we stopped in Leadville for lunch.    Leadville is North America's highest incorporated city.    We thought that stopping at a legendary saloon would be fun.   After all, it was voted the BEST.    The wild west is big.   Of all the saloons in the wild west, this was the BEST.   

{we interrupt this post for a quick rant}

I'm not sure who determined their status.   It had some good wild west saloon decor, but that was it.   Service was slow and indifferent.   French fries and the burger were cold and dry.   Some unfeeling guest decided to select a 15 minute Pink Floyd song on the juke box that was probably called Death Sounds of Halloween.   A table complained to the bartender that their food was taking too long and they needed to head out. She told them the kitchen was busy and backed up and they would still have to pay for the food even if they didn't stay to eat it.    What restaurant does that?   If you don't receive the service, you shouldn't have to pay for it.     

{end of rant}

The good news?    This was the only poor experience we had on our trip.    I have warm fuzzy feelings towards Slice and Big Hoss in Snowmass, The Meatball Shack in Aspen, the Quesadilla Mobilla and the Mac Shack at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival and the Buena Vista Roastery.   

Across the street from the "best" saloon was a distillery that had this sign.     .  


Of the two signs we saw in Leadville, I'm thinking this one would have been the better choice.  
Awesome is much better than best anyway.  


Have you been somewhere recently that met or missed your expectations for being the BEST?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Life and Times of a Travel Cheerleader

I am a self-proclaimed travel cheerleader.

When a friend asks "should I go (anywhere, everywhere, Texas or Spain)?"    I respond with a resounding "YES."   Travel is always a good idea.    Even if your hometown, state or country is the awesomest place in the universe and you can't imagine living anywhere else, you should leave it every once in a while.  Even if it's just to try the doughnuts, or the dim sum, or to climb that mountain / bridge / hundreds of stairs up to that temple.

I like to hear the stories as friends or co-workers are planning a trip.    The thrill of the hunt to find the best airfare.   Links to the hotel / lodge / airstream trailer that you are staying in.     What you are excited about.   What you are nervous about.  What you can't wait to try.   What you hope they don't have to eat.

If you have a crazy international bathroom experience, I want to hear about it in detail over a cup of coffee when you get home.

Travel Cheering is the warm and fuzzy fraternal twin of Travel Jealousy.  They share the same parents but have entirely different personalities.   You celebrate what others get to do rather than muttering under your breath about how it's not fair that someone else gets to have a special dinner in a bell tower in Prague (Mom, I'm talking about you....).  

I was helping a co-worker finalize some details for her upcoming trip to Hawaii. This is her award for winning Employee of the Year, which sure beats a watch with the company logo.   I thought Hawaii was great fun and I can't wait to go back.  But it's not about me.   I am equally stoked for someone to experience a new place for the first time: their excitement before they go and their stories when they get back.

A dear friend of mine is preparing to go on a mission trip to Cambodia next week.     We've been talking about this adventure since she first learned of the opportunity last year.    From "I think I'm called to do this" to "How am I going to pack?" to "What do I do on a 14 hour flight?" to "OMG I can't believe this time next week I'll be there."    This is her first time flying overseas.  This is her first time leaving the North American Continent (as she says).   She's going to a place that is going to look, feel, smell and taste wildly different from Colorado.    It's exciting and scary at the same time.

My Travel Cheerleader has definitely come out to play.    I've read the itinerary.   Talked about how to sleep on the plane.  Shared my experience from traveling in Thailand.   Evaluated travel snacks.   Discussed outfits. And I'm not going.    

I haven't been to Cambodia.   She's going to see Angkor Wat this month.  She's going to learn about the Killing Fields.   She's going to play games with kids in an orphanage.   And I'm going to live vicariously through her experience.

I was there when she first applied for her passport.  
I was there last year when she got her first stamp in Honduras.
Now she's going to have a passport stamp that I don't have.
And that is awesome.  



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Maroon Bells - Fish Eye Style

Welcome to Traveler for Good!   Join the adventure on Bloglovin' or on Facebook.   


I realize it's been about two weeks since my last post and that's slackerific....even for me.    After that crazy Saturday where I pulled a plane, I ended up traveling unexpectedly back to the Midwest.   
Then it was the theater.   And some fitness.   And lemongrass cotton candy.   

Cotton Candy as big as my head!
Finally Labor Day weekend arrived.  
(Seriously...it's too long between the 4th of July holiday and Labor Day.    All that work.   Let's not think about how long it is until Thanksgiving.  Fortunately I've got two trips planned between now and then.) 
   
Concerts.   Sun.    Rain.  Lots of Rain.   
God Bless Jason Mraz and Keith Urban who played their shows in the rain without missing a beat.    

Along with all the concerting and eating and drinking, there was some nature.   Nature in the form of Maroon Bells.    One of the most photographed places in Colorado....and rightly so.   But rather than share with you standard photos (they may come later), I'm going to share with you photos taken using the fish-eye filter on my phone.    

I've never thought about how fish see.    What in the world would happen if fish could use cameras?   It would be Shark Week in reverse....our finned friends would call it Human Week and use hashtags like #humanswimmer and #twoleggedkiller.     

Fish Eye or Human Eye? The Maroon Bells are awesome.    


What fun filters are you using on your camera or phone right now?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And now? We pull airplanes

Just when you think that you've exhausted all the ways to get teams together to raise money for a cause, a new one comes along.

We do a lot of team events for good causes at work.   In June it was Bike MS.   In July it was Relay for Life.   In September it will be Light the Night.     And this doesn't include the endless array of "fun runs" in the Denver area that are primarily about fun, rather than fundraising, but still benefit a local cause.   Like Color Me Rad, the Color Run, the Electric Run, the Ugly Sweater Run, or the hilarious gem of an event that some of my friends did yesterday, the Tap 'n' Run.  

In early August we were recruited to do something new as a fundraiser.

Pull a plane.

A 757.

Here's our plane!

The concept is pretty simple.   Your team raises at least $1250 for Special Olympics.  You can have up to 25 people on your team and the goal is to see which team can pull the plane 12 feet in the fastest amount of time.    And you get to play out at the airport.

Airport humor on the snow plows
Plane pull in action

When you first start pulling you feel like time is flying by while your airplane is standing still.   And then it starts to move.   That whole science thing "a thing in motion stays in motion"?   It's true.   Once it starts to move you move 12 feet quickly.    Most teams, including ours, were done in under 10 seconds.   

Learn more about the Special Olympics Plane Pull here.  

What's the wackiest fundraising event you've done?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Peter and the Starcatcher

There is a long standing love of Broadway shows in our family. 

I blame my mom.

Living in southern Wisconsin and then in western Illinois, Chicago was our destination for theater.   And we had homework.   We read the story.   Saw the movie.   Got the album from the library.   Played the music on the piano.     

And now, if called upon in a national crisis, we can sing along with Les Mis from start to finish.

One of the many awesome things in Denver is our Center for the Performing Arts.   Every year they have a full slate of nationally touring Broadway shows.   Over the past few years, I've seen everything from the Lion King to Wicked to West Side Story.    And if you plan ahead, they have great "limited view" seats in the orchestra level that are usually $25-35.   Score.   

My sister and I were given tickets to see a new show.  From friends who have swanky season tickets.   With center orchestra seats. Denver is the first stop of the national tour for Peter and the Starcatcher.      

The plot in six words:  it's the prequel to Peter Pan.   
And damn funny.   With mustaches.   

Last night they were having special activities for kids.    We are just big kids.  
As exhibited by this picture. 



Peter and the Starcatcher is here in Denver until September 1.    
See everything the DCPA has to offer here.

Do you have a favorite Broadway show? 




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Something New: First Time as a Guest Blogger

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

For the first time, I wrote a guest post on another site.   As a part of Guest Bloggers Week on Fit Bottomed Girls, you can read my contribution:  How to be a Workplace Wellness Heroine.      I discovered FBG about 6 months ago - I like the fun factor as well as the commitment to living the best life possible.  

I've been the coordinator for our weight loss / fitness challenge at work for the past five years.   If you have suggestions of fun things that you have done at your workplace, let me know!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gem Lake Hike - Estes Park, CO



Oftentimes my visits to Estes Park, CO look something like this.    My hands full of Grandma's Mountain Cookies.    And this story is no exception.    Except that we got some fitness first.

Did you know that there are sites where people review trails and hikes?    They give them ratings, just like you would a restaurant on Yelp or a book on Amazon.    In my brief research, I read about Gem Lake.  It was 1.8 miles each way and rated as moderate.   You don't have to enter Rocky Mountain National Park to get to the trail head - there's free parking in the lot just a few miles outside of Estes. 

It's a people only trail.   No dogs.  No horses.   Although it is a lot of uphill climbing - the trail was full of families making their way up to the lake - a small, shallow, clear lake, perfect for splashing around after a picnic lunch.  If little kids can do it, so can I.

Here's the hike in photos.    If I haven't mentioned it recently, I love Colorado.   Because this can happen on a random Saturday morning.             






Baby pine cones!

Hi Gem Lake!

Very bold you are, Mr. Chipmunk





Have you been on a good hike recently?    Where did you go?



Friday, August 2, 2013

Australia Week: Cute Animals


No trip to Australia is complete without seeing the animals.    Kangaroos and Koalas have always been "exotic" here in the States.   All these pictures were taken at Koala Park in Sydney, hence the closeups (and me feeding a kangaroo), but we did see 'roos hopping around in the wild when we went on a 4x4 trip into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

What's the exotic animal that you most want to see in their natural habitat / home country?


Other Posts Down Under:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Australia Week: Barrier Reefin'

Otherwise known as the finest photos you can take with a disposable waterproof camera when you were really more interested in the colors, the fish, being in the ocean, being visible from space and the hope of finding Nemo...


GBR (aka Great Barrier Reef) Fact #1 
It's the world's largest reef system


GBR Fact #2 
17 species of sea snake live in the reef
I didn't see any snakes, thankfully. 
Have you seen a sea snake?


GBR Fact #3
The GBF can be seen from outer space!


Other Posts Down Under:


Monday, July 29, 2013

Australia Week

Yay, G'day Australia!

I've had this blog for almost five years.   I've been traveling for a lot longer.   Lots of my pictures are in scrapbooks, complete with borders and cutsey stickers, with the negatives in boxes in my basement.  And not every picture ever taken should be shared with the world at large (pretty sure there are some of us belly dancing in Egypt that will never see the light of day).   When I wanted to share some memories of my time working in Yellowstone, I used my cell phone to take pictures of my pictures.    Not everything will make it into digital format.

Over the weekend, my sister and I were having a conversation about travel memories and she said that her two favorite "active" things that she's done included a great white shark cage dive in South Africa and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.    And then I realized that all of my Australia and New Zealand photos are in fact digital and ready to share.

WOO HOO!    It's Australia Week on Traveler for Good.    You may see kangaroos, didgeridoos, and the Great Barrier Reef from the comfort of your hammock (or office chair...whatever you've got goin' on).  

Check out Traveler for Good on Facebook to catch some other fun throughout the week.    One of our guides gave us great perspective when we went to the land down under.    Australia is the size of the continental US.   We were only there for a week.    If someone came to the States for a week, there is no way he/she could see close to everything.    The same was true for our adventure.    Just bits and pieces of a big country, encouraging you to come back again.

Not a lot of places in the world where you'll see a sign like this
Australia is one of those places

Have you spent time in the land down under?    What was your favorite spot?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

In the normal course and scope of vacation, I don't sit around and think to myself, "Jen, you know what would be awesome?   Climbing on top of a bridge!"


Except in Sydney, Australia.    As you're in the park or on a harbour cruise, you take a bazillion shots of the bridge (similar to Mt. Rushmore syndrome).     If you crank up the zoom, then on the arches of the bridge you see tiny dots.    Are they giant, man-eating ants?    No.   They are bridge climbers.  

There they are....tiny bridge climbers

It's definitely a once in a lifetime experience.    And one where you cannot take photos while you're doing it. You just have to enjoy it while it happens and file it away in your memory banks.    Why can't you take a camera?  Because you are climbing above a bridge where there are people driving below you.    One careless fumble of your camera or phone, and it drops down and potentially breaks someones windshield and causes a 15 car pile up.  They take a photo of your group at the top...now you have a souvenir (other than a stylish before or after picture in a jumpsuit).  

Oh yeah....this was the 2007 jumpsuit
Now, every time I see a picture of Sydney Harbour, whether it's the bridge or the opera house, I think of this bridge climb.    And it makes me smile (just like I did in this fabulous photo).  

What's one of your favorite "once in a lifetime" vacation memories?

If you're interested in climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, click here



    

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Something New: Dog Fostering

My furry weekend house guest.
Isn't she cute?

Last fall I had to say goodbye to my Chey dog.   It was rough.    
After almost 10 years of having my dog as a constant companion, I was pup-less.    

For the first few months, I knew it was too soon.

And the weather got warmer.   Everywhere I went there were happy dogs with their happy people.   
In the park.  At the farmer's market.  Relaxing on patios.

I was happy, but where was my happy dog?

Then someone let me know that there was a local service dog organization that needed weekend fosters.

Weekend fosters?   It's brilliant.   For both dogs and people.  

For the Dogs
The dogs are being trained throughout the week at their facility.   On the weekends they get to break free of the kennel and enjoy a relaxing weekend in someones home.

For the People
During the week, it's crazy.   Between work and play I'm not home very long.   But now on the weekends that I am home, I can have a furry four-legged house guest.   A house guest with very good manners. 

The Verdict
I'm still pretty new at this.   I've only had my foster pup of awesomeness for a few weekends.  
So far?   I love it.

If you're interested in fostering a dog, contact your local rescue organizations.    Many organizations rely on fosters to help with dogs in transition on their way to forever homes.             


Monday, July 22, 2013

Film on the Rocks - Party Bus Style

I have a confession.

I've never been on a party bus.   Not for a wedding.   Not for a bachelorette party.   Never.  

All across the country people are laughing uproariously and living the glamorous life.   Others look at them with envy.    Who are those people having such a good time?

Now I know.   I've been one of those people.

Every summer the Denver Film Society hosts Film on the Rocks.   Go out to the beautiful, world famous, Red Rocks Amphitheater, listen to a local band, and watch a movie.    Tickets are about $12.   If you want the Red Rocks entertainment experience on a budget, this is the way to do it.

Just one view of Red Rocks

Taking advantage of a Living Social offer, we went all out earlier this month, buying a ticket on the VIP party bus to see Point Break (ahh, Keanu in the early '90s...all is right in the world).     The fun starts at Rackhouse Pub at the Stranahan's Distillery with free beer and vodka drinks and some munchies (pulled pork and smashed potatoes, anyone?).     


Hello, whiskey

And then it's time to get on the bus.   Did I mention it was a party bus?    Not a school bus.   Not a van.   Not a motor coach.    A party bus.   Complete with mood lighting, TV, and a sound system.   And more adult beverages.    Other people are sitting in traffic and dealing with the parking.   You are enjoying a cold one with your friends.   

Cue the mood lighting

Of course, the real show is at Red Rocks.   Red Rocks is gorgeous any day, time or season.   But on a clear summer night?    Colorado doesn't get much better than this.



Do you have a favorite Red Rocks experience?




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