The No Repeat Rule

I have a very strict “no repeat” rule when it comes to travel. My travel to-do list is ridiculously long and even with my generous (by American standards) vacation time, it’s just not enough. Also, traveling is expensive. I like a mid-range budget holiday, not $50/day and not $500/day. But having the flexibility of splurging on that one “thing” i want to do or experience (hello, dog sledding!?!) is important to me. To be blunt, I have a hard time spending cash to go someplace that i’ve already been.

Recently, in the throw’s of planning a big trip, it’s been suggested that i need to “go back” to certain vacation destinations for a redux. Specifically South Africa so i could pursue my new found desire to cage dive with sharks. I wish i had thought of this 8 years ago when i was there. But i didn’t.

After i argued my case, i shut up long enough to hear my friend out. His point was, having been somewhere once you know what to expect and it becomes more fun. I see where he’s going but i don’t buy it. Once you’ve been somewhere, you are trying to “re-live” the first experiences. To make them as unique and novel as the first time. Or you are retracing your steps, not going to new places but instead spending your day trying to find that one coffee shop in Paris. Sorry, not for me. Why? See my first paragraph.

Yes, when i go somewhere it’s pretty much “all in.” I’m constantly on the go and it’s not necessarily a vacation where i sleep all day. I’ll sleep when i’m dead. But that’s what i love and that’s what refreshes me personally. I find it exhilarating to explore new cultures, places. That’s the adventure in travel.

I will say i have one exception to this rule: India. India was my first experience in Asia. Boy was i not ready. We hit a bit of turbulence (aka, major riots between tribes in Northern India) and as a result spent a week in Rajasthan. It’s an interesting city but the shops and sites were all closed while we were there. Everyone had to protest and fight. Limited site seeing options and entertainment can put a sour note on your trip. Another unexpected drawback of the insurgence: the highway that gets you to Agra was shut down. So, i flew all the way to India and didn’t get remotely close to the Taj Mahal. My biggest travel disappointment and regret in one vacation. So there you have it. The one clause to my no repeat rule.

As i mentioned, the conversation came up because i’ve been trying to plan a big trip for 2013. Just agreeing on the destination has been a major, major headache. It’s even more frustrating when people try to help by suggesting we go back to certain plans like Italy (2008), South Africa (2004), Iceland, (2010). The planning has, as a result, been slow and arduous. More on that in an upcoming post. Rest assured, it will be a no repeat vacation.

Life Lessons from Grandma K

Last week i was in Las Vegas for CES. My intention was to spend my last non-working, six hours exploring something other than fine dining so i could write a blog post on my travels. Alas, life had a different plan.

My Dad rang me in the afternoon. As soon as i saw his name on the phone, i knew something was wrong. My Dad never calls me in the middle of the day. Ever. Come to think of it, he rarely calls.

My wonderful grandmother, who has been battling Alzheimer’s, had been admitted to the ICU and was being treated for Sepis. Unlike me, my father is not dramatic and he is short on words. It’s strange we are related to be honest. By the end of the conversation, i was a wreck just from listening to him be a wreck.

I live far away from my parents but close to my Grandparents and my Dad’s sister. He was coming down DC for the weekend and i said i would come out to help. Helping turned into spending all day Sunday at Inova Hospital where we learned the Sepsis was no longer the issue. She had pneumonia, her right lung was full of thick fluids and her left lung has half full of the same crap. Recovery would be long and arduous, if at all.

Without getting further into the details, my Grandfather had to make difficult and important decisions for his wife of 70 years. I don’t envy him but i love him for his compassion and ability to put her life and wishes above his own.

After a painfully long, emotional week my grandmother passed away this morning. She passed as peacefully as possible, in comfort (thanks to modern medicine) and hopefully knew that she was loved by all who met her. I’m fortunate that my Grandparents are in their 90’s and have enjoyed (relatively) good health.

For some reason, the thing i think of the most today are the life lessons i learned from my grandmother. It’s odd the things we gravitate towards in moments of grief.

So, in loving memory of my grandmother here are three life lessons i will carry with me.

1. Thank you notes. It’s important to write them when people give you a gift or help you. It means a lot to the recipient. And, it’s a good way to practice and develop proper writing skills. In the age of social media, a letter in the mail goes a long way. That’s why you’ll always get a handwritten note from me. Always.

2. Don’t lock your knees. My grandmother used to come up behind me and tap me knees so they would not be locked. She would always say, “if you lock your knees you’ll have back problems like me!” Who want’s back problems? Not me!

3. Enjoy dessert. My grandfather has a huge sweet tooth. Actually both of my grandfathers did/do; i was destined for addiction before i even existed. Kidding side, my grandmother used to always say that dessert is worth enjoying. Not all day, every day but once a week. It’s one of the finer things in life. Being a child of the depression her point was, it’s important not to overlook the little and good things in life.

So friends, enjoy the good things in your life this weekend.

Come to Think of It, Cards & Cookies Mean Alot

I have been meaning to write this post for at least week and kept getting side tracked. Work turned out to be busier than i expected and then i got sick. Reading Carmen’s This is Not a Test finally spurred me to action. It was refreshing to read that someone shares some of my feelings about the holidays. It was also the perfect reminder to just sit down and put the proverbial “pen to paper”

I am not a “holiday” person and i do find Christmas to be a test. If not a test, it is an intense exercise in keeping up with the Joneses. I have four nieces and a nephew. Every year i fight a battle with myself about how much money is enough and appropriate to spend on gifts. I save in advance, i plan and then the requests come flooding in: iPods, American Girl Dolls, video games and the like. No matter how prepared i think i am, it’s just plain overwhelming when the letters and emails start coming in.

Add to that, friends who like to live it up and think its acceptable to spend $500.00 on dinner. And the other friends who throw parties and expect a hostess gift not just your presence. Of course i have family that makes me feel like they want the title of “most likely to make you feel guilty while claiming they are not trying to make you feel guilty.” It is enough to make me cry. Literally. How is it that some people are so demanding and selfish especially at a time of year when it’s about giving and helping?

Despite my stress over the holidays and distaste for them, there are two things i truly enjoy doing: writing New Year’s cards and making cookies.

Since i am an adult now, i am slowing learning that what i love needs to be incorporated into the insanity if i want to stay sane. That’s not a novel thought, i know.

But last year, I skipped the cards and the cookies and regretted it. It was so disappointed with myself for letting go of the small things i enjoy doing. So, this year, i got scoured the Internet for a great Cyber Monday deal and got my New Years cards. Sitting down to write short notes or just address them was like therapy. I even got out my fancy art pens and pretended i was a creative genius by using different colors and styles. It was the quiet reflective time i desperately needed to sooth my aching mind.

I skipped baking last year at the request of my partner. He was right but i still missed it. So i jumped at the opportunity for an impromptu cookie day at the office this year. Again, it soothed my soul to spend time in the kitchen baking. As the last 10 days of 2012 stare me down, i’m feeling the need to make some more cookies. Not necessarily for me to eat. People who love me know the love i put into baking. And of course, they cookies are a great hostess gift for those last second get togethers.

Thank you Carmen for the motivation! Here’s to staying sane and crossing the finish line.

Being Thankful

We took a road trip this year for Thanksgiving. It’s not like we went on vacation, just the two of us. No, we broke with tradition and made the trek to New England to visit our respective families.

When i moved to Washington DC, i stopped traveling North for Thanksgiving. With traffic and two dogs, it was just too much time in a car for what ends up being a short visit. And honestly, i find my family difficult to be around for long periods of time and holidays. I know that’s not a unique perspective. It’s probably more blunt than what people are used to. Like many families, we just haven’t evolved from our childhood-teenager roles to our adult roles. My parents are still this, my brother is still that and i’m somewhere in the mix, too.

To be even more honest, i find our relationships even further challenged because of money or the perception of it. My family (mistakenly) believes that because i work in a large metropolitan area, i am wealthy. Like 1% wealthy. There is this expectation that when we visit, we will pay for everything. And the expectation has moved into reality. I’ve been stiffed on bills repeatedly. I have also been hit up for gifts from nieces and nephews that i know they would never dare ask their parents for. I have tried politely discussing this, directly discussing this and even splitting dinner bills. It never works and a week-long visit can cost as much as a trip overseas.

This holiday, we threw all this to the side in a “what the hell” moment. Actually, that’s not completely it. A family member has been ill and unable to travel. Without airing news that isn’t mine to share, i can say our “what the hell” moment was rooted in the need to see this person while we can.

Armed with a new strategy on coping with family members, we let everyone know their would be no “friendsgiving” feast this year, packed up the car and took off.

The visit was as good as can be expected. We spent wonderful time with our niece and nephew. We had some unexpected adventures and discoveries hanging out with my brother. We managed to escape without spending too much money and family drama was kept to a minimum. It was as close as i will get to an all around lovely visit.

But, i did realize on the way home that i neglected to reflect on what i’m actually grateful for. With the hustle and bustle, it’s so easy to gloss over this. So, here goes:

  • I am thankful that despite stresses, we were able to visit our families. It was wonderful to see our nieces and nephew.
  • I remain thankful that i have a roof over my head and relatively good health.
  • While i don’t have endless friends, i am eternally thankful for the ones i have. They are a constant source of support and laughs.
  • I am ridiculously thankful that we have a new neighbor who collected the mail and looked after the condo

I am also thankful i was able to spend another year honoring Thanksgiving and not spending it in line at Wal-Mart. Call me old-fashioned, this is a holiday for family not shopping. That’s my opinion, you don’t have to share it.

Anything you forgot to give thanks for?

Digital Detox Vacations: Dream Trip or Personal Nightmare?

Digital Detox Vacations: Dream Trip or Personal Nightmare?
At almost $4,000 i can’t decide if it would be torture or fun to do this. I could do a lot with $4,000 including going to a country where i have no Internet access and therefore “detox.” Just me i guess…

Caribbean nation St. Vincent and the Grenadines is challenging travelers to leave smartphones, tablets and other gadgets behind as a part of their new digital-detox vacation package, complete with a guidebook explaining how to function on a trip without tech, and a life coach. St. Vincent …

Digital Detox Vacations: Dream Trip or Personal Nightmare?