Travel Considerations

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This summer is a low-key one for travel around these parts. So far this year I've been to Vegas, Yosemite, and Modesto, so my hotel expenditures are on hold for the time being. That doesn't mean I haven't been dealt a healthy dose of wanderlust, though. It doesn't help matters that I've had a few conversations with friends about potential future trips, and that Sawyer is turning out to be such an excellent little traveler. 

In the past I've taken some pretty great trips- Italy, Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, NYC, etc...- but not really since Sawyer has been born (just Tahoe, Yosemite, and Modesto). My husband is not a traveler, which is totally fine, but taking a young kid alone on an airplane, and then navigating through the logistics of a car seat and whatnot, have admittedly been a little daunting. But in the next year or two he will be able to move into a booster, which will make things a lot easier to manage, and will also be easier to leave at home so that I can go alone or with friends (I have left him for three nights before, but the older he gets the less guilty I will feel about maybe five or seven days, since he is less trouble and a better sleeper). Given these developments, I've been doing a lot of daydreaming about potential trips and scenarios. I have some savings goals I'd like to hit first, but hopefully 2018 or 2019 will allow me to get back into the big wide world. Here are some of my current considerations:

As a Family

Seattle, Washington
Scott and I have always wanted to got to Seattle, and a few years ago our good friends moved up, so I have been bugging him for ages to go. I think this would be a great first plane trip for Sawyer, since it's only a few hours and a direct flight. Judging from all the pictures I have seen of the area between friends and family, it's beautiful and full of plenty of family-friendly activities.

Scott and I went together for Christmas in 2010 and had a blast (this is actually the only time we have ever flown together!). I think Sawyer would have a really great time and there are so many family-friendly resorts. We stayed at Turtle Bay on the North Shore and I loved it SO much I wouldn't be opposed to returning. 

With Just My Husband

Scotland or Ireland
This is really the only international trip he has expressed significant interest in, so if he's willing I'm ready! I don't think this is a trip I'd want to take a Sawyer on anytime soon, although I am no longer against paying to take him abroad like I was before I had a child (my opinion that Europe should be a rite of passage for a young adult who can pay his/her way has been replaced with my own selfish desire to have a guaranteed travel buddy). It just seems like there would be better options if he was tagging along. 

With Just Sawyer

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada 

Sawyer and I love nature and hiking very much, and I have had my eye on this place for years. I think it would be amazing to go during the winter, but probably more practical during the summer in terms of outdoor activities and my lack of experience driving in the snow. I'd stay on Lake Louise, I already have a few hotels in mind, and it seems pretty easy for Americans to rent cars there, so I feel like this trip would be pretty manageable. Plus maybe we could hang out in Calgary for a day or two as well! Out of all the potential trips on here, I am actually most excited by the prospect of this one. 

Portland, Oregon

Despite there now being a Voodoo Donuts in Southern California, I still want to visit Portland. I hear nothing but great things about it, and it too would be an easy flight from Southern California for Sawyer and I. 

With My Fun, Spirited, Adventurous Friend

Parts of Europe or Iceland 

Recently a friend and I started throwing out some travel options for the two of us to consider for the next few years. We talked about Europe (Switzerland! Germany!) and Iceland, for starters. I have never taken a trip with her before, but I am pretty confident we could travel well together. A lot of things we are on par with (like willing to splurge on, say hotels, for example), so that makes a huge difference.  

With My Book-Loving Friend and Colleague

Nashville, Tennessee 

This is mostly because I want to go to Ann Patchett's Parnassus and this friend and I go to readings and other literary events together (she has no idea about these hypothetical plans, haha). We've traveled together for work a few times before, so we definitely can handle that part (the logistics of leaving our families and jobs would be the hard part, not surprisingly). 

With My Mom and Brother

Denali National Park, Alaska

I really haven't had an overwhelming desire to ever take an Alaskan Cruise, as I am confused about what the time at sea would be spent doing (I am pretty confident there aren't people sunbathing on deck sipping margaritas while lathering on suntan lotion, which is my preferred sailing activity). But flying up and spending some time exploring Denali? That sounds wonderful. I WANT TO SEE A MOOSE. My mom has always wanted to go and my brother is the young, outdoorsy type, so I know we'd have fun. 


Washington, DC

I want to spend a day alone in the Smithsonian. Maybe two. Is it bad that there are a lot of American-y places I have no desire to go to at all? Sorry Abe.

New York City

I have been to the Big Apple before, with my mother-in-law, and we crammed basically every touristy thing one would want to do into three days. It was basically the survey course for NYC and it was fantastic. I'd love to go back alone and revisit some of the places we went to (The Natural History Museum, the Guggenheim, Central Park, etc...), try some more obscure, well-reviewed restaurants, and see some places I didn't the first time around. 

A Spa Somewhere Fairly Remote

Honestly, I don't care where exactly it is, as long as it's quiet, there are massages, and I can look at my windows and see trees and water. While there are some really beautiful ones on the West Coast, it would probably be good to go somewhere new. Maybe... Maine? There are some really, really beautiful ones there and I've never been.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. Today is the last day of our first heat wave (supposedly). We've been up at 100 for a few days now, and I while I know other places in the country have it far worse, it's still pretty disgusting. I must say how thankful I am for our attic fan (or whole house fan), that cools off our upstairs once it gets cool at night for pennies, compared to the AC.

2. I love my life, most of the time, but I can't sometimes help wishing I had become an OBGYN so I could join up with Doctor's Without Borders and go help women deliver babies and learn about prenatal care in developing nations. I really, really feel called to do that, but I can't because talking about themes and motifs and everything else I am trained to do probably would not be helpful as they're trying to push something the size of a football through a hole the size of a grape (or something like that).

3. Am I the only person distrusting of Airbnbs? I love the price and the idea of all the variety, but it just seems strange to me.

4. I've had this fear that the preschool Sawyer is set to start at soon somehow lost his paperwork and didn't save his spot (it's hard to find a good, secular preschool where we live), so I finally put on my big-girl pants and called and we're good to go (I had signed up in February, so it's been awhile). They also invited me to come pick up some of the calendars for the next month so he can go on field trips or participate in family night, which I thought was nice. He is SO excited to go and give his love of the teachers and kids at gymnastics I think he's going to do well.

5. I made the above cake for an early birthday for my mom, who has been visiting. I love The Milk Bar's style of cake making so much- sure it's a little bit of a pain, but it's so forgiving and you don't have to worry about a crumb coat. 

6. I got back on the Goodreads train! I spent an entire nap time last week putting in all the books I have record of since starting my blog many years ago and the ones I haven't gotten around to yet. I'm not putting a widget on the blog, since I don't want to screw up the design I didn't make, but I'm going to attempt to put one in below so that anyone can follow me if they want (who knows if it will work).

 Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

7. I am reading Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen right now and am really enjoying it. It's about a doctor in the deserts of Israel who kills an African refugee and must then pay the price in an unexpected way once the man's widow arrives at his doorstep. 

Lemme Tell You a Story (4)

My perfect compromise to not joining SnapChat but still having fun with the idea- Instastories. Every month or so I pop a few of mine up here to lighten the mood:

TED Talks to Watch

Have fifteen or twenty minutes to spare while drinking your coffee in the morning or while folding laundry? I highly suggest these fascinating TED Talks (links are in the titles and I have embedded the videos, but we all know what a b-word blogger can be, so they might not work, especially on mobile platforms):

I try to read up on this topic, since dementia is something that is currently impacting my family, and there were a few things in this talk that I still learned (this is the author of Still Alice). For example, learning things in depth is the best way to stay cognizant, even if afflicted with the condition. The more neuro pathways you can create about a topic the more likely you will retain memory as you start losing connections. Also, just in case you need a refresher, maintaing cardiovascular health (exercise! stop eating red meat!) and getting sleep is also really important. 

This is definitely one of the most controversial talks I have watched, as it is the discussion of a rape between the rapist and victim. When Thordis Elva was only fourteen Tom Stranger, her older boyfriend, raped her one night after they were both intoxicated. He returned to his home country while she dealt with the psychological aftermath for over a decade, finally reaching out to him in order to catalyze a long healing process. Their story is obviously very unique and personal (they have also written a book), and many are angered by it because Stranger was never held legally accountable. I too want to get on my feminist, human-rights soapbox, but I also must remind myself to take a step back and remember that I have never been in this position and should probably listen, be empathetic (towards her), and not judge (it's hard!). 

Here's another talk where empathy is incredibly necessary. As parents, we all want to say that our sons or daughters would never be capable of a horrific attack as the world witnessed in Columbine. Sue Klebold is here to keep us in check, reminding everyone that she was unaware that her son was suffering until it was much, much too late. While as a parent and educator I do in fact disagree, or at least question, some of the things she says, I do wholeheartedly agree with the fact that mental health awareness is one of the most important things we can do for our society. We can't assume that teens are just angsty or that people are "fine" just because they say so. 

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a member of the extremist church Westboro Baptist, priding herself in protesting and judging others. As she got older, she took to Twitter and a few who were respectful, firm, and informed took to engaging her in debate. Eventually, her views softened and she decided to leave the church with her sister, with the help of a social media friend. They traveled the country and met people of different backgrounds and faith and learned that people who were, say, gay, or Jewish were actually not from satan and should be treated kindly. Phelps-Roper talks a lot about engaging in productive dialogue with others, which can be applicable to any sort of disagreements. 

Nonfiction Nagging: The Stranger in the Woods

I just finished The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel and feel a little... conflicted.

This is the story of a a man named Christopher Knight, who lived in the wilderness of Maine, reportedly, for twenty-seven years. He claims to have never used fire for fear of being caught, and fed himself by burglarizing empty cabins and camps (and also stealing propane for his stove). Everyone in the area spoke of his presence, but had never really seen him or could confirm his existence. One night, he was caught, and Michael Finkel was captivated by his story and decided to pursue the truth. He met with Knight many times when he was in jail, corresponded through letters, and then also meeting with him upon his release, once he was living with his family. Knight relished in his freedom, silence, and time to reflect and read while he lived outdoors. He is blatantly honest in all regards, especially when discussing his dislike of associating with others- he partakes in no social formalities. Various psychologists speculate he has some form of Autism or a personality disorder, but Knight brushes these diagnoses off a typical desire to label others. 

Many hesitate to believe his story, especially those victims of his theft. People are also very skeptical about his desire to survive in the frigid winters of the area, where temperatures can get to far below zero (especially when he refused to have a fire). But, there are many that did accept his story and credit his ingenuity and resourcefulness. People from all over the country have offered him land, jobs, and companionship, all of which he has declined. 

Finkel mixes in some historical accounts of other hermits, as well as a dose of psychology. Finkel certainly seems to be quite the fan (see title), being a man who enjoys nature and solitude himself. Interesting to note about the author is his past issues with reporting; about fifteen years ago a major publication cut ties with him after he compiled a series of interviews from different people into one voice. He was shunned for awhile but then slowly made his way back to the journalism scene. I did appreciate him mentioning this earlier in the text, but also doing due-diligence at the end by mentioning his two fact-checkers and his reporting methodology. Nonetheless, while Finkel maybe was a bit of a fanboy, and maybe a little bit of a thorn in Knight's side, I think his interest came from a place of good and admiration. 

At one point in the narrative there is a discussion about how long one can go without human contact. Finkel includes information about solitary confinement and past accounts of sailors who have spent great lengths of time at sea. He himself has only gone a few days. Me? I really had to think about this, and I'm guessing perhaps no more than a day, back when we lived in our apartment and my husband was gone overnight during a summer when I was home? Maybe? How long would I like to go? I often fantasize about going away for a few days to spend some time reading, writing, hiking, and sleeping in a cabin up in the High Sierras (but one with electricity and good water pressure), but I really think I'd start getting a bit too lonely after, say three days? It would be an interesting experiment if I ever have the luxury of conducting it.