Tag Archives: travel

2018 in Review (and the Reason I’ve Been AWOL)

2018 has been a life-changing year. Yeah, every year is technically life changing. But on the spectrum of change, pregnancy and the birth of our son, little A, is kind of up there.

So that’s my excuse for being an absentee blogger. I think it’s a pretty good one. Pregnancy was as terrible as I imagined, and so much worse. Not that I wasn’t thankful and blessed. I tried to remind myself every time I heaved my innards into the toilet how lucky we were, but the day-by-day process was torture… for nine months. There isn’t any reason to sugarcoat it. I was nauseous, exhausted, starving, nauseous, achy, oh, and nauseous. I’m pretty sure my husband looked at me every day and said to himself, “I”m so glad I’m a guy.”

Traveling was hard to say the least. Our June trip to Greece, Israel, and Poland was both amazing and difficult. Besides for feeling physically sick, I struggled to get used to this new, limited version of myself. Old me wanted to climb up to the Acropolis and take a million pictures of everything. Pregnant me wanted to stay in our air conditioned hotel and sleep for hours. Pregnant me often won out.

Here’s a small taste of what I managed to see and what I’ll eventually blog about.


View of the Acropolis in the distance. Athens, Greece


Ethereal light on a Greek island. Aegina, Greece


Sun setting on the Mediterranean Sea. Tel Aviv, Israel


The gate to Birkenau – one of the biggest Nazi concentration camps. Outside Krakow, Poland


Old town square. Krakow, Poland

I achieved one of my travel goals of getting the Southwest companion pass last year, but I was too tired to use it. By the time we got back from our June trip and I was well into my second trimester, I promised myself I wouldn’t go anywhere unless I absolutely had to.

But all that changed on November 27th – 24 minutes into his due date – A was born. It’s been five weeks and we’ve officially decided to keep him. Just kidding. We love this little guy to bits, but he does make it a lot harder to do the things we used to do. Now that the nausea is gone, the travel bug has returned with a vengeance… at least until we have our first diaper blowout on an airplane.


My goals for 2019 are more limited in scope: Get back in shape (I have been seriously wedded to the couch for 10 months), use my Southwest companion pass to see some awesome places in the U.S. and show A our awesome country, plan a big family trip for next November/December, and sleep for more than three hours at a time.

Extra emphasis on the last one.

2018 in numbers:

0: New state visited. I have still visited 39 out of 50 states. (I hope to change that this year!)

2: New countries visited – Greece and Poland.

4: New credit cards (but three for M as well)

4: Countries visited, including the U.S.

12: States visited, including Washington D.C.

27: Flights.

26,000: Number of miles flown, 30,000 less than last year.

222,500: Number of miles redeemed. This includes two tickets from D.C. to Athens in business class, a roundtrip economy ticket for M to Rome, two tickets from New York to D.C., and  one ticket from Chicago to Knoxville.

215,000: Number of points redeemed at hotels, including two free nights due to credit cards. This includes five nights at the Hilton Athens, two nights at Hyatt Regency Amsterdam for M, and one night at the Marriott in Columbus, OH for M.

Too many to count: Car trips to West Virginia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York.


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Up Next: Greece, Israel, Poland

I probably should finish writing about our Thanksgiving trip to Central Europe, because it’s now six months later, and we’re about to embark on another adventure. What can I say? I get lazy sometimes.

This trip is motivated by an occasion — namely, my sister-in-law’s wedding in Israel. The original plan was to fly from D.C. to Athens, spend a couple of days in Athens, hop over to Israel for a couple of days, and then fly home. Then, we were invited on a trip to Krakow to tour the city and visit a new art exhibit. How does one say no to that?

What’s the plan and how did we do it?

D.C. – Athens

There are no direct flights from Washington D.C. to Athens, and I desperately wanted to fly business class. The pickings were slim but after obsessively checking United several times a day, I finally found two seats on Lufthansa from D.C. – Munich – Athens for 70,000 miles each. I scraped together every last Chase point and we were off!

In Athens, we will be staying five nights at the only Hilton in the city for 200,000 points. Thanks to my work travel and credit card sign-ups, this was an easy decision. Hopefully, my diamond status will come in handy.

While I would love to visit Greek islands one day, I’m too old for hopping to a new place each day. I enjoy settling into a hotel and having a base. Hopefully, we’ll take a day trip or two to some of the closer islands, like Hydra.

Athens – Tel Aviv

Since this is a short two-hour flight, we purchased these tickets with cash on El Al for $119 each.

Tel Aviv – Krakow – D.C.

I had originally booked us premium economy on Air France from Tel Aviv – Paris – D.C., but redeposited those miles for a mere 40 euros when the Poland trip came up. We will be in Krakow for three to four days (I leave a day earlier than M), following a packed itinerary of Jewish history, tours of concentration camps, and other important sites.

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Prague Part 2: Prague… My Favorite European City

Prague Part 1: The Worst Train Ride Ever

If you have not been to Prague, go now. Do not pass go; do not collect $200; go to Prague.

Prague is officially my favorite European city. No, it’s not one of Europe’s massive metropolises. It’s not Paris or London or Rome. But it is beautiful, and its size and low-cost makes it imminently accessible. I fell in love with Prague instantly – as we walked from the train station to our hotel and cursed ourselves for not realizing cobble stone sidewalks and wheeled suitcase do not mix.

Walking through Prague’s Old Town feels like being transported back in time.


View of Old Town from the Charles Bridge tower


A beautiful stone street in Mala Strana


Bubbles in the Old Town Square


View of Mala Strana and Prague’s many bridges

Our three and a half days in Prague felt insufficient. I could have easily spent more time there. Even in the freezing cold, I loved wandering through the neighborhoods, exploring random nooks and crannies, soaking up the charm, the colors… oh, I’m getting nostalgic.


The Lennon Wall in Mala Strava


The Prague astronomical clock in Old Town


A trolley zooming past on Svatopluk Čech Bridge


Bubble in the Old Town Square (I love photographing bubbles)


More bubbles!


Leafy view overlooking Mala Strava


A beautiful reflection in Old Town

Prague is also rich in Jewish history, a stunning feat compared to nearby countries who saw historic Jewish communities laid to waste during World War II. The Altneuschul (the Old New Synagogue), for example, is the oldest active synagogue in Europe! In addition to the Jewish tour we lined up, M and I had the chance to attend services at the Altneuschul on Saturday morning, and M read from the Torah during services. It was a special experience to participate in the same traditions that have linked Jewish generations on the very same spot in the very same building since 1270.


The famous Old New Synagogue


The old Jewish cemetery in Prague dating back hundreds of centuries

I will post in-depth posts on each of these places, but wanted to share my love of Prague. Even in the freezing cold and dreary rain could not the dampen my  love for this city. So if you are thinking about going to Prague, go now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just go.

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Impressions of Iceland

Iceland is hot these days – figuratively, of course. The weather is quite chilly, even in May. Here are some of my thoughts on the trendy destination.

  1. Iceland is beautiful. No question about it, Iceland is stunning, and we only got to see a small part of it. With more time (and money), I’d recommend renting a car and doing a loop around the entire country. The further in you go, the more stunning and unreal the scenery gets.
  2. Iceland is an ethereal experience. From the ashy grey skies, to the insane winds, to the 11 p.m. sunsets, experiencing Iceland is unlike most other traveling experiences. Even walking down the street in Reykjavik, I felt the remoteness of the island. Of course, we experienced Iceland on the cusp of summer. I imagine the winter is a similar and altogether different experience at the same time.

    Black sand beaches!


    Geothermal activity

  3. Iceland is expensive. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. The cost of enjoying the country was definitely a downer, and would make me think twice about going again (unless I win the lottery). I’m all for splurging on vacation, but Iceland made me feel like I was emptying my bank account in one week. By the end of the trip, it would piss me off every time I had to pay $4.00 for a diet coke. And sure, I can forgo diet coke for five days, but why in the world would I want to???As I understand it, the cost is due to the inflated value of the Krona, the fact that Iceland is an isolated island, and extremely high taxes. While this is great for people working in the tourist industry, it’s not so great for the tourists (or the rather large percentage of Icelanders working in the export industry).
  4. Iceland is worth a trip – at least once. The relatively short flight and the proliferation of cheap airfare makes Iceland more accessible than ever before. Even with the high cost, it’s definitely worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime.
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Happy Birthday!

Crap, has it been a year already?


Here’s the one nice part about getting older. It is the only way for things to change. For wounds to heal, for memories to fade, for new people and opportunities to present themselves. This year came along when I desperately needed something in my life to change. So I am happy to be older, happy to look back on the past year and remember all the amazing, new things.

I am happily in a new relationship with the wonderful M. Most importantly, my almost-four-year-old niece has given M her imprimatur of approval. I literally traveled around the world to Vietnam with one of my best friends and added two new national parks to my list (Arches and Canyonlands) with my sister. Finally, I have a bunch of exciting trips to look forward to, from Spain to Cleveland to a potential trip to Cuba (!!!!).

M and I - baseball game

Our first baseball game together. Cubs vs. Nats. Cubs win!

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Lisa and I laughing it up in Vietnam.

Life is far from perfect. There are stressful, difficult, blah-filled days. Like every human being, I worry about mundane things and big life things. There are things I should worry about, but stupidly push them to the space in my head where thoughts magically disappear. I struggle to remind myself that I can’t control everything and everyone (though the world would be a better place if I could). But….I am affirmatively happy. It is amazing how one person can change so much. I am thankful for that gift every single day. And I am looking forward to the many things M and I plan to share together. Especially the end of this oppressive heat wave. Until then, I am ensconced in my woman cave and have no intention of leaving.

Here’s to another year. And here’s to me.



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I used to think no. But now I’m thinking yes. Yes, there is such a thing as too much travel and I have experienced it. Some of the trips were part of a long-planned vacation and some were for work, but put together, it was just a little too much. After a month of constant and cross-globe travel, I am so glad to be home.  

Travel Map - One Month

 My itinerary from November 21st – December 9th:

  • Washington, DC – Austin: A work trip with a stopover in Houston
  • Austin – Dallas: Road trip to check out the Bush presidential library which I did not see thanks to SNOW in Texas. Yes, snow.
  • Dallas – New York City: Flight to NYC for our Asia trip
  • New York City – San Francisco: First stopover of our Asia trip
  • San Francisco – Seoul: Second stopover of our Asia trip
  • Seoul – Siem Reap, Cambodia: We arrive at our first city of our Asia trip
  • Siem Reap – Bangkok: Our second city of our Asia trip
  • Bangkok – Hong Kong: Our third city of our Asia trip
  • Hong Kong – New York City: Our flight home from Asia with a stopover in Vancouver
  • New York City – DC: A train ride home for some meetings
  • DC – New York City: A train ride back to New York to see The Boyfriend and a work party
  • New York City – Pittsburgh: A work trip to Pittsburgh with a stopover in Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh – DC: Home

Updated Map: Where I’ve Been

It’s been a banner year for traveling to new states, and I realized it was time to update my “where I’ve been” map.

To date, I have been to 36 states and the District of Columbia. My new map:

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My Crazy Travel Week

It’s been a busy week travel wise. As much as I love traveling, it is nice to be home in my apartment with my television and my bed and my DVR, and most importantly, it is a pleasure not to be hauling a massive camping backpack around.

This is what my week and a half has looked like:

Travel Map 08-28-09-09

Baltimore – Charlotte, NC: Stopover en route to Arizona

Charlotte – Phoenix: Hiked the Grand Canyon! (more on that later)

Phoenix – Cleveland, OH: Stopover en route to Boston

Cleveland – Boston: Visited family for the Jewish holidays

Boston – Philadelphia: Stopover en route to New Orleans

Philadelphia – New Orleans: Last minute work trip

New Orleans – Charlotte: Stopover en route to Baltimore

Charlotte – Baltimore: Home!

More to come on all these travels!

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Is there anything more depressing than returning from a great vacation to a cold and dreary January and the prospect of another two months of freezing tempuratures? Probably, but I’m having trouble getting past the two more months of winter and the lack of any big travel plans on the horizon. Have no fear! There are still a number of big (and small) things to look forward this month.

1. New job: I’ll be switching jobs later this month. Here’s to all the adventures and craziness that big life changes inevitably bring. I shall embrace thee.

2. Running: Yeah, I never thought I’d utter such a blasphemous statement, but the downside of vacation is that I always come back feeling like a female version of the Pillsberry Dough Boy. No matter how many times I vow to use the hotel gym on vacation, it never actually happens. It’ll be nice to start running again and feeling more like a person and less like a dough girl.

3. Charlotte: I’ll be going to Charlotte, NC for work later this month. Granted, it’s not the most exotic destination, but I like exploring new cities.

4. Planning new trips: I love planning trips almost as mich as I love taking them. I’m not sure what our next big trip will look like, but I’m hoping to plan some weekend hiking outings in the spring. Any suggestions for the Northeast?

5. TV shows return: No more being forced to watch dopey holiday movies on the ABC Family Channel.

6. Music: On a similar note, the end of Christmas music on every radio station.

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2012 has been a pretty good year for travel and points redemptions. We rung in 2012 in London nearly 12 months ago and kicked off 2012 with a weekend trip to Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee in May. In August, I abandoned The Boyfriend for a nine day trip to Croatia with my friend Lisa. Early September, we hopped over to Canada for a quick, last-minute trip to Niagara Falls, and capped off the year with a trip to Paris and Brussels. And, of course, there were the occasional trips to Boston and New York throughout the year to visit The Boyfriend and our families.

Here is my year in numbers:

  • 1: The number of national parks I’ve visited this year – Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • 2: The number of new states I’ve visited – Tennessee and North Carolina.
  • 4: The number of new countries I’ve visited – Croatia, Bermuda, France, and Belgium.
  • 6: The number of new credit cards I’ve applied for and received. It was a slow year for me.
  • 45: The number of Amtrak trips I’ve taken, all to New York, Pennsylvania and D.C.
  • 15,550: The number of Amtrak Rewards points I’ve earned this year.
  • 19,848: The approximate number of miles I’ve flown this year.
  • 498,000: The number of miles/points I’ve redeemed this year: Ten free Amtrak trips, one round-trip business class flight to Croatia, two round-trip business class flights to Paris and six hotel nights in Paris.

How was your travel year?

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