Monthly Archives: December 2010

Farewell 2010–Post 2: Be Here Now

The day before New Year’s Eve seems a fitting time to think about the present; the year is practically over but the new year has yet to begin.  There is one problem with writing about travel in the present–and I don’t mean the confusion of verb tenses (though I do have my own issues with that).  You see, right now I’m not traveling anywhere.  I’m sitting at my desk, glass of cheap white box wine to the right of my mouse, legs curled up in what I’ve determined is the most attractive but least ergonomically correct antique desk chair that exists on earth.

But that doesn’t mean that right now–as in today, December 30th, 2010–I’m not doing anything travel related.  I’m planning a number of trips–Disney with the mother, Universal with the husband, Disney yet again for research purposes, and a handful of short and long summer trips that will likely involve cruise ships–and each day that takes an effort.  Maybe not the typical effort involved in trip planning–looking up flights and hotels and the like–but making daily decisions that will make travel possible.

For example, the husband and I just got back from the store where we purchased makings for an at-home New Year’s Eve dinner.  Did we spend more than we typically do at a grocery store?  Of course–we got fancy cheese and two nice bottles of wine, and that’s just for the ‘before’ dinner part.  But did we spend less than we would have going out on New Year’s Eve?  Absolutely.  Why?  Because every dollar saved–saved RIGHT NOW, in the present–is one more dollar that can be added to the pile of ‘money for travel’, or, even better, ‘money for when travel (and writing) is what I do’, rather than ‘how I escape from what I do’.

Which brings me to my next present moment occupation–I’m working on a book proposal for a book in which I believe quite strongly (yes, that’s awkward grammar, but unfortunately it is correct grammar–no wonder my 8th graders hate Grammar Mondays!)  It is my true belief that this is something that will take me into 2011, and hopefully beyond.  But that’s all a story for Farewell 2010–Post 3:  Welcome 2011.

Farewell 2010–Post 1: The Ghost of Travel Past

I can’t decide how I feel about this past year.  On the one hand it was not the best year–several health-related issues arose, I became generally disenchanted with my job, and we went to Europe.  On the other hand it was a pretty great year–several health-related issues were resolved, I decided the direction I would like my career to take…and we went to Europe.

Thus my three-part series of a mostly photographic journey.  First, the best (and worst) of 2010…

Traffic on the way to the Philadelphia Flower Show

Our first trip of 2010 was a minor one–to the Philadelphia Flower Show one cold weekend in March.  We don’t typically travel during the winter months–the weather is too unpredictable to risk it.  But last year we decided to do a last minute light-packing trip to see the flower show.  It was…crowded.  Beautiful, but crowded.

Me at the flower show

Little did I know how much of theme this was to be for all of 2010!

During this trip we also visited the Philadelphia Art Museum for the first time.  It’s kind of sad that we’ve never been there considering how close we live.  It’s a great museum.  There was a Picasso exhibit during the weekend we were there, which was the selling point for the whole weekend trip for my husband.  Little did he know how much of a theme THAT was to be for all of 2010!

The husband at the Philadelphia Art Museum

We’ve not been to a museum since The Great Europe trip, though we would definitely consider returning to the Philly museum.  In fact, if it were not such a pain-in-the-butt to organize, I’d be all over taking my 8th grade class there for a field trip this year.  But alas, that is not to be–those kids have tests to take, after all.  How dare I interrupt that with something as silly as art and culture?  But I digress…

On to trip number two for the year–no big surprises here, it was yet another nerd trip!  On a blisteringly hot day in late May, a coworker friend and I boarded a bus bound for NYC to attend Book Expo America.  The mission–bring back as many free galley copies of YA books for our students as humanly possible.  How successful were we?  Check it out:

The spoils--both backpacks are packed full, too!

Books, books, and more books!

A photo for our students

The next stop on our 2010 Travel Tour–Vegas, baby! We returned to the bright light city after absolutely

Sloth, thy name is Vegas

loving it there last year.  This time we were quite ironically staying at the Paris Las Vegas hotel; we were also

Outside Paris Las Vegas, Day One

determined to do as little as possible.  We spent our days lounging by the pool and our nights enjoying the best food Vegas has to offer (ok–the best food that Vegas has to offer AND that we could afford) and taking in the sights and shows.  We both gambled away a grand total of…drum roll please….$20.   Though I did find a $52 voucher abandoned in the ladies room–so I consider that a win!

The husband at LOVE, his main reason for returning to Vegas

Luxembourg Gardens--slightly more cheerful.

As everyone knows, the trip after Vegas was The Trip.  The great Europe Trip.  The trip that made me sing ‘God Bless America’ in my head all the way

Who doesn't love Paris? I don't--clearly!

across the 59th street bridge on our way home.  I do not regret this trip.  We did some pretty amazing things, and got to see some pretty amazing sights.  Would I re-do a lot of the trip, had I a flying-time-traveling DeLorean?  Absolutely.  But, to use a phrase my husband hates–it is what it is.  I learned a lot about the world and, more importantly, about myself.  Thanks Europe!  And Paris–I’m sill annoyed with you (but Amsterdam–you are still my second favorite city in the world!)

Will we be returning to Europe?  Of course.  Will we plan a completely different kind of trip?  I’d bet many, many euros on it.

After Europe I was nervous to go anywhere else–even my most favorite city in the good ‘ole U S of A–Washington D.C.  But back to D.C. we went–you simply cannot keep a nerd out of a book festival.  Our second visit to The Library of Congress’s National Book Festival was great–we once again got a great deal on a conveniently located hotel, and this time we took nerd friends (they really are the best kind of friends).

The National Book Festival

The husband in Epcot!

Our final trip of the year was–dare I say it–my favorite trip of the year.  The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention was

Happiest place on earth!

held in Orlando this year.  More specifically, it was held on Disney property.  I was once a hardcore Disney NON-fan, but after this trip I’ve been converted.  I’m returning at least twice in 2011…but that’s a story for another post.

So, in summary, this year we visited Philadelphia, New York City, Las Vegas, London, Bath, Paris, Amsterdam, Washington D.C., and Walt Disney World.  I vaguely remember writing something like ‘this wasn’t a great year’ back at the beginning of this post–why did I write that?

Here’s hoping 2011 brings even more adventures!

Money Follows Values

Priceless

How much does the average American spend each year on travel?  This is not a rhetorical question that I’m about to answer in my own post–it is an actual question that I have that  I cannot answer.  Even Google can’t help me.  Why are there no studies or statistics done on this?

I have my own selfish reasons for wanting to know this–basically I want to justify my own travel expenses.  But I also want to understand the importance our culture places on vacations–and travel in general.  The amount one spends on any given item or experience indicates how much that person values that particular item or experience–according to our recent credit card statement, I REALLY value travel.  And wine.

According to the overstretched years-old sweater I’m wearing, and the hand-me-down winter coat I’ve adopted this winter (it originally belonged to my husband’s college roommate whom I’ve never even met), I don’t really value what I look like.  I also don’t really value safe or reliable transportation, as my six-year-old Scion has been flashing all kinds of warning lights lately.  But I’m still planning on at least one major summer trip this year in addition to the double-feature Spring trip in May.  I also discovered several different conferences of the writing variety that I’d like to check out–both of which require minor travel (and somewhat major expense–don’t these people know that writers are poor?)

I can’t help but wonder if this is normal.  Are there other people out there like me, driving old cars and wearing pilly sweaters to save money for yet another trip?  And if so, can we form some sort of club?  Obviously there would have to be no dues involved….

EDIT:  A very helpful commenter (is that a word?) gave me the link to The Bureau of Labor Statistics page that answers my question–yay!  Thanks helpful commenter!  The answer?  In 2008, the average amount spent per household was $1,415, with almost half of that money going toward transportation.

My Calling

For years I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  Sadly, those years started after I’d already grown up.  Fortunately the thing I ended up doing–after giving it VERY little thought back in college–turned out to be something I’m rather good at and frequently really enjoy–teaching.  I can’t see myself doing it for the next 25 years, but the last eight have not been so bad.  In fact, several of them were pretty stinking awesome.

But recently I realized a way to ‘do it all’, if you will.

What are the things that I love?  Learning.  Writing.  Travel.  Teaching.  I also love research, organization, and meeting new people.  Helping people is up there, too.  How can I do all of these thing at once?  I’ve figured it out–I’m going to write a book.

So why am I posting this here, on my travel blog?  If it is not already obvious, the book is going to be a travel book.  A travel book written by a teacher.  A travel book on how to make your trip to ‘fill-in-the-blank’ educational.  Fill-in-the-blank shall be filled in with a number of destinations–as such, I should really say ‘I’m going to write books’–not ‘a book’, as I have plans for many, many such books.  The title?  The World is Your Classroom.

This is also the title of the website I’ve started.  Please click and visit.  Soon there will be a forum where visitors can share their travel-related learning experiences.  I could not be more excited.

Please note, in keeping with the informational nature of this blog, my website sells nothing.  As it is a paid site–meaning I pay for it to exist–it is completely, 100% ad-free.  I do not promise it will stay that way forever, but for now and for quite some time, ad-free it shall be.

Good News and Bad News

The good news:  my husband is on board with a last minute holiday trip (in lieu of any Christmas presents…or birthday presents…or Valentines day presents…you get the idea).  He even selected Belize as his number one option–yay!

The bad news:  there really is no such thing as a last minute holiday travel deal.  Crap.

Oh well.  I guess that’s what summer vacation is for, right?  Sigh….

Last Minute Holiday Travel Deals–Do They Exist?

There are nine work days until Christmas break.  And do you know what I want to do over Christmas break?  GO SOMEWHERE!

This should not come as a shock to anyone.

So I googled ‘last minute holiday travel deals’, and I had very little luck finding anything.  Boo.

My new theory is that it is not quite last minute enough.  You see, several years ago, my husband and I wanted to take a week long summer trip at the very last minute.  And had we possessed passports, we would have gone to Bermuda.  But we didn’t, so we ended up in Ocean City, MD–one of the top three places I’d never like to visit again (right under Paris–yes, that’s right, Paris is worse than Ocean City, MD!)  But we were searching only a few days in advance, and we were not looking at a holiday trip.  So my new plan is this–wait until Christmas eve, and then book the best darn trip ever.  To where, I have no idea, and how we are going to get there is beyond me–a Bermuda cruise would be great, but I don’t think they leave from New York in December.  Wish me luck!

If that plan does not work out, I’ve set aside a week in June for a last-minute trip.  We shall go to the nicest place we can get for the least amount of money.  And I don’t even care where it is–as long as it isn’t a beach in Maryland or the city of lights!  (though Amsterdam wouldn’t be a terrible place to revisit…)

The Spirit of the Season

I’m an only child, and as such I’m quite selfish.  I feel that being aware of this and openly admitting it helps–others would disagree.  But sometimes, very rarely, I do something to make someone else happy.  Even less often, that person I’m making happy is my husband.

For days, my husband and I have been going back and forth on what to do with our spring long weekend trip.  We settled on Orlando and booked the flights–he’s going to be joining me at the end of the Mother-Daughter Disney trip.  In my world, we were going to stay in Disney and I was going to get to have a split-stay at two different Disney properties.  But then my world came tumbling down when the only resort we actually liked AND could afford became unavailable (damn you convention center!)  Thus began the great Orlando debate of 2010.

I wanted to stay in Disney.  I was even willing to stay in a ‘moderate’ resort, complete with overly bright counter service restaurants (shudder!)  He wanted to go to Universal, complete with a four night stay in the most expensive Universal resort (because, he said after much research, it was ‘the least kid-friendly’). Guess who won?  Drum roll please…HE did!

Somewhere in the middle of the travel book section of Borders I came to a realization–the spirit of the holiday season has two main messages, and were I to book the hotel and vacation he wanted, I would be respecting both.  Message one–do things to make other people happy.  It would make my husband so happy to be able to take a 15 minute cab ride from the airport and then stay put ‘on-property’ at Universal.  It would make him happy to stay in the super-fancy Italian-themed hotel with the three pools.  It would make him jump-up-and-down little kid happy to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  So why not grant him that wish?  Isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?

The other message of the holiday season–spend more money that you’d typically be ok with.  So I booked the trip.  Universal, here we come!

I hope he's this happy! (though this IS in Disney!)