Day Trips – to go or not to go?

Caribbean, Cruising, europe, France, Ireland, italy, mexico, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

There are times in life where preconceived notions have to be put to the test and nothing has challenged me more than the subject of day trips (in regards to travel anyway). Well before I started venturing into the world on my own I had in my head that the best way to travel was to travel with no rules, no script, and no one telling you where and when to do things. I thought of all the school trips and family vacations I had been dragged around on and knew that there was no way I wanted to travel in a massive bus with less than knowledgeable guides trying to sell people on things. No, I wanted to explore on my own and find the best things without rules. I wanted to wander and forge my own path and take the path less taken and be amazing! All without any knowledge or experience!

In 2010 I obsessively made my own plans and scheduled in times to pee and blow my nose and shove an apple in my mouth. Read more here. Which in reality all went to shit within one week, because of nature, thank you Icelandic Volcano. The truth was that I had no idea how to plan or manage two months, let alone a week, or a day traveling because I didn’t have a clue. My trip went okay, I saw plenty of things, but I also learned where to worry and what to forget, and how to get help when I needed it.

Fast forward to 2013 and a study abroad trip opened my eyes to the value of guides in foreign countries, especially when you don’t speak the language. What I realized is that no matter how many signs or guide books or snippets I read, I was missing valuable information whenever I looked around at the world, the castle, the street, the odd carving in a wall. I missed the stories, myths, and legends that made different corners of the world remarkable. It was then that I realized that, in fact, guides are invaluable and important people when visiting a city for the first time.

Even in a day of endless information and content, guides offer insight, and an intimacy that no amount of paper and signs can ever give to an experience. Having a guide walk you around Florence will allow you to truly experience the details of the experience, versus aimlessly wandering trying to make sense of everything that is around you. Having a guide takes you to the best gelato, or the tastiest lunch in a town, and it lets you better understand the people that are hosting you in their home. Since 2013 I make sure every trip has at least one tour, but I am very selective on how and where I take these tours. Here are some of my fast tips on selecting the best tour for you and your travel companions!

  1. Start with researching and finding as many tour providers as you can that will cover what you need. This includes group and private tours, and companies like Viator, or independent companies that you find.
  2. Review all of the itineraries and inclusions, then figure out what seems like a reasonable price for the tour either for a large, small, or private tour and then decide what is friendliest for your budget.
    1. For private tours you will likely need to email guides, and explain what you want. However, they will be able to fully customize your adventure from the locations seen, the time spent in each place, and the routing taken. This is definitely worth paying extra for, if you can afford it.
  3. Read up on the vehicles being offered. This seems silly, but sometimes something will be listed that won’t actually work with your family of six, and two car seats. Read up, email with questions, and call if you have any concerns.
    1. My husband can attest to the discomfort of small Mexican vans for 5 hours of driving to Chichen Itza, I majorly failed on researching that one. My short self is now much more mindful that 6’4” doesn’t fit in cars as well as 5’2”.
  4. Read as many reviews as you can, either through TripAdvisor, Facebook, viator, etc. this will give you a better idea of what to expect and what to watch out for. Remember, most people will complain before they complement, but it’s important to check all the resources for consistency and safety.
  5. Ask your travel companions about their preferences. Sometimes they won’t care, but brain storming may mean they think of unforeseen issues, or other ideas to make the trip better.
  6. Ask an expert for advice! This is especially important if you are working with a travel agent for your trip. They will likely have direct connections to some of the best guides and experts in an area, and if they don’t they will know who to ask for help.However, experts can be other people like friends that know the region, a hotel concierge, or your credit card concierge and travel departments!
  7. Make a choice – yes you have to pick. It’s far better to pick SOMETHING and not have the best tour, but get to SEE something versus never going at all. I say this because so many people hesitate to take a tour and then they don’t ever get the experience they should have tried for. It’s scary to put trust in another company or guide, but I promise that it’s worthwhile more than staying behind.

Support Women on Your Travels

Travel

As I look at my next adventure around the world I often take moral and ethical choices to heart. When I have to go with a guide or a group, I want to make sure that company supports women domestically and internationally and that my money goes to lifting women up.

I have talked about in previous posts the importance of acknowledging workers and people in other parts of the world. Today, I want to draw sharp focus on how you and I can support women better when we are on the road.

  1. Bring supplies that go to schools, and if possible, to schools that focus on girls.
    • Pack for a Purpose organizes donations for local schools in developing regions around the world. Their comprehensive list makes drop offs easy, and even resorts in places like Riviera Maya offer drop of spots. This includes where we honeymooned in Mexico, Sandos Caracol. There are also drop points in the United States, or you can send some stuff with a traveling friend!
  2. Choose tours that support women’s arts and initiatives
    • Companies like G Adventures offer tours to women’s weaving co-ops in Peru, or cooking classes in Spain. Ultimately this connects travelers to life-changing experiences, and supports local non-profits. Make sure if you are visiting crafters to buy a small purchase or two as a phenomenal souvenir and to continue the initiative.
  3. Do some voluntourism
    • If you have extra time a little can go a long way to support a cause that supports women. A few days to a few years can leave positive impacts. However, make sure you do your research and your mind is in the right place for aiding the country you’re visiting, not yourself.
    • An example is working directly with girls and women in India, or working with kids in South Africa to have nature experiences.
  4. You don’t even have to travel
    • If you are planted for a while, the simple truth is that you don’t need to travel to help people in need. Your community probably has numerous organizations that could use some help.
    • Think of women’s clinics that just need a loving hand, or a domestic violence shelter you could sew blankets and scarves for.
    • Maybe take some time to help a Girl Scout troop learn a new skill or volunteer at your local school.
    • Even simple things like food banks, diaper banks, and medical clinics could use some additional kindness and helping hands.

While these are just a few examples of how to get out there and support women, remember the biggest and most important goal is lifting each other up and supporting those around you. We don’t need stickers or shirts or roses and candy for that matter, we need all people to value all people as equals. Feminism is the radical notion that all women are people ~Marie Shear.

Cheyenne Frontier Days – Adventure of the Week

adventure of the week, History, musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

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A few weeks ago I got invited to join in on a work event to the Cheyenne Frontier Days. While I had my hesitations, as playing Wild West is not really my forte, it ended up being a great day out of the office.IMG_4723.JPG

The Cheyenne Frontier Days are one of the longest running annual events in the west, and it has been putting together its annual shindig since 1897 when it started as a meet up and spin off of the Wild West shows. Think Buffalo Bill Cody.

Today, much of the same traditions hold. There is a rodeo which showcases the insane talent of bull and bronc riders, barrel racers, and roping professionals. All of these are sports that bring me too much anxiety to watch often. Also all sports I have watched more often than I would like to admit having grown up in the middle of nowhere, Colorado Mountain Town. Think South Park.

Beyond rodeo antics the area is home to a wide variety of artisan goods such as jewelry, leather working, trinkets, and odds and ends. Further afield a massive carnival blows full steam with endless treats of deep-fried havens, and dizzying rides. There also seemed to be a lot of trash bins to handle this combination.

Late night brings in country and rock music, such as Nickelback and……other people I have no idea about.

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I spent my day wandering with two work friends talking about the art we saw and trying on hats, overall just having an enjoyable and laugh-filled day.

However, beyond all of the typical Western American novelties and goods there was a unique and special feature to the Frontier Days, an Indian Village.

This Native American haven provided probably the most authentic presentation of the peoples of this area circa 1890s. The artists selling pottery and jewelry presented their history through dance, music, and living in tee-pees (common for plains native peoples) for the duration of their time at the Frontier Days.

There I found friendly and warm pottery makers, and jewelry designers, all with laughing kids in tow, or older kids learning a traditional craft. There is where I sat and enjoyed some great traditional dance and story telling from beautiful matriarchs grinning in pride at their children and grandchildren. It made every moment of the day worthwhile.

I truly enjoyed my shenanigans at the Frontier Days, and maybe the day-drinking buzz and a party bus helped with the journey. But overall the people I spent the day with made it a memorable and delightful experience.

Next year it starts all over again, come and check out the west!

Happy Travels!

A Shoutout to “Moms”

family, musings

I imagine at least a few of you are “moms” that read this blog. By “moms” in parenthesis I mean several things. I mean those that have physically given birth, I mean those that raised or helped raise a child, I mean those that take in animals needing a home, I mean those that are role models and loving and supportive members of their community and the children that live there.

This extends to family friends that gave me guidance. This extends to aunts that shared presents and hugs. This extends to cousins that opened their homes and shared wisdom. Being a “mom” is much more than the equipment and the birthing. It is the love, compassion, patience, knowledge, and joy shared with children.

Of course I thank my own mother, but in the sense of “it takes a village” I feel I have many “moms”. I have my grandma that lived in my own house and taught me many great things. I have aunts, great, great-great, and beyond that shared more wisdom than I can ever describe. Then there are adopted grandmas and aunts and other people I have brought into my family that have been like mothers, even if they are just a good shoulder to cry on.

Being a “mom” at any capacity is not easy, but please know that it’s appreciated.

Our culture puts a lot of emphasis on these “DAY” holidays, but I know it can be a painful reminder to those women, and men, that have lost or have not been able to achieve certain cultural norms. Please know that your value is so much more than the norm, and your participation has been a world of difference to others.

Some of you are teachers, ones that inspired learning and growth (not just in the school sense).

Some of you are comedians that have brought much needed laughter to those in need.

Some of you are makers that brought gifts and food when it was desperately needed.

All of you were kind, and all of you were powerful, all of you are wonderful!

So “Happy Mother’s Day” however you want to take it, just know that this woman appreciates all of you.

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