Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Mini Travel Re-Do

For those of you amused by my return-to-Paris plans, here’s another good one–I’m leaving for NYC tomorrow.  I’ll only be there for the weekend, and I’m going to attend a conference, but still.  You may remember my I Hate New York post from last July, which turned out to be merely the amuse bouche of the eight course tasting menu of suck that was my Europe experience.  If you do remember that post, you are likely laughing and, again, rubbing your hands together in anticipatory glee.

Fortunately, I think I’ve learned from my mistakes.  We’re staying at a hotel that is walking distance from the bus station and from my main destination–a conference I’m attending.  We have dinner reservations for both nights–at Le Colonial tomorrow night and at The Modern on Saturday night.  I’m super excited about the second one–I’ve wanted to go there for some time.

Another exciting part of this trip is that I may finally get to visit the Met.  It is open late on Fridays, so depending upon what time we arrive tomorrow, it may be possible.  This is me crossing my fingers.

If you can’t wait to see how badly…er, well…the weekend goes and  want to follow along, check out my real-time travel blog, Virtual Passenger.  You can subscribe, and my updates will appear in your inbox in all of their awful…er…awesome glory.


Why I Travel: The Long Answer

This post is dedicated to Randy, a very helpful man who answers many of the questions that I pose about European travel on the Rick Steves message boards. Today he asked me a fantastic question that I feel deserved an answer on Blog on the Run. He asked me why I like to travel.

It’s such a simple question—why do you like to travel? But it’s more complicated than it seems. You see, I like to travel to different places for different reasons. There are places I’ve been that I’d like to return to some day. Alaska was beautiful and desolate. I loved the feeling that every step I took was farther and farther away from civilization. Martha’s Vineyard is also naturally beautiful, and the people there are extremely well-mannered. Ever walk on a beach surrounded by non-screaming children? I have—on Martha’s Vineyard. I enjoy Vegas because it is the only place where my husband and I have ever really had a ‘date night’. We get to get dressed up and go out for dinner every night, and it gives us time to enjoy each other without having to worry about picking up dog poop or weeding the garden. Bath was the oldest, most quaint place I’ve ever been. In Amsterdam, every single person I interacted with was friendly and welcoming. I love Walt Disney World because, simply, it is fun. Every single aspect of Disney is set up for enjoyment. Who wouldn’t love that? Vancouver is my favorite city in the world, and I love it because it has everything mentioned above—all the excitement of a city combined with the beauty of the outdoors. It is fun, its people are welcoming, and my husband and I can explore Vancouver’s restaurants and nightlife.

Additionally, of all the places I’d like to go, I’d like to go there for different reasons. I want to see Iceland’s bizarre landscape, learn about Islam in Istanbul, and challenge myself physically by hiking the Inca Trail (that last one is going to take some serious training!) I’d also like to spend a week at an all-inclusive resort with my husband and a week at a yoga center by myself, completely unplugged from the internet. I’d also really like to visit Germany—Munich and the surrounding area in particular—to try out a new European destination, and I’d like to give Paris another shot, mainly to prove to myself that by adjusting my attitude, I can change my experience.

But I still haven’t answered Randy’s question. In keeping with the spirit of this blog, which is honesty at all costs, the truth of why I like to travel in general is this: I like to travel because it makes life less boring. No matter which destination I choose, or why I like that particular destination, I like to—no, I need to travel because it breaks up the mind-numbing monotony of life. Even if it isn’t fun—as in Paris—or even if it is completely devoid of any cultural significance—as in Vegas—it is different. And if I don’t introduce some ‘different’ into my life every now and then, I may perish.

In my regular life, I am a middle school teacher—at least for the next two months. I have been a teacher for eight years. Here’s my day, every single day:

I arrive around 7:15. I put my lunch in the faculty room fridge. The custodian, who is always sweeping the faculty room floor at 7:15 a.m. says “Morning Tracy.” I say “Morning.” He says “How are you?” I say “I am.” He continues to sweep the floor, and I exit the faculty room.

I continue down the hall. I greet the Spanish teacher as I pass her room—it’s on my left. I continue to the mail room, get my mail, and repeat the whole ‘how are you’ thing with the secretaries in the office.

Upon arriving in my room, I put my purse under my desk and turn my computer on. I write yesterday’s Daily Word on the board, and flip the daily word chart over to a new word. I write the day, date, and day of the cycle on the upper right hand corner of my whiteboard. I write ‘Today in L.A.’ on the board, and underline it with a squiggle.

The kids begin arriving for homeroom. I take attendance, do the pledge….

Is anyone getting bored reading this yet? You should be. It’s so amazingly, eye-poking-out-ingly boring. I haven’t even described for you how we have a restroom break every day at 9:28am, or how my day is broken up into the exact same increments every single day—period 1, 8:04; period 2, 8:46; period 3, 10:12… It makes me want to scream. And I’m typing this from my desk, in my classroom, waiting for it to all start over again.

That is why I like to travel. Because it gives me something new to look at, do, and learn. Travel is educational in the best possible way—no matter where the destination. I’m at the point in my life where I need to take a break from teaching the same things over and over and start learning something new, something that I’m interested in, and that others may be interested in as well—thus this blog. And this other blog. And this other blog. And this book. I need a change. Travel gives me that change.

Is that escapism? Probably. Is that wrong? I don’t know. What do you think?’ Want to see a discussion of travel as escapism? Click HERE.

Decision Time

I’ve asked for input on the Paris plan here and elsewhere, and I’ve received a lot of feedback.  All of the feedback is good and helpful.  However, it is all contradictory, and now I’m torn.

Yet it is time to make a decision.  I have the contract for the Paris apartment rental I’m considering.  I put a lot of thought into my lodging decision, and I think it is a good option.  Now I just need to fully commit to Paris.

Did I mention that I’m torn?

Tune in tomorrow, when I will post a breakdown of all the good advice I’ve been offered, and come to a final decision.

My Big Fat Stupid Travel Announcement

This is as close as I got to the Eiffel Tower

I’m going back to Paris.  That’s right, you read that correctly.  I’m going back to Paris.  Next year.  In April/May.  By myself.  To Paris.

For those of you who have been reading this blog since last summer, this may come as a shock.  Hell–it came as a shock to every single person I know.  I didn’t like Paris at all.  Yet I’m returning, for reasons that I will eventually divulge.

But the point of this post is this–given my last summer experience, what should I change?  What things did I do wrong when planning my Paris trip, and how can I fix them?  I’m very, very, very open to suggestions!


I realize I’ve been slacking with my blog posts.  This is the first time I’ve had such an issue since I started this blog almost two years ago.  So what’s going on?  Several things.

Thing one is the fact that I’ve started two other blogs and a website–all travel related.  And those are taking up a bit of my time.  But don’t worry–I will not forsake Blog on the Run.  It was my first child, if you will, and as such it will always be my favorite.

Thing two is that I’m also working on a book proposal, which is taking much more time than I ever imagined.  Thing three…well, thing three is the biggest problem.

You see, I typically get all excited when I book a trip, and then have to write all about the trip planning.  However, lately, I’ve been having some trip-booking issues.  It is April 23rd, and I’ve not yet even decided upon a summer vacation destination.  We’re still all over the place, pricing Caribbean cruises and flights to Spain or Germany.

But this is soon going to come to an end.  I’ve officially begun the process of planning my next year’s travels, as that’s what next year is all about–traveling.  And so I have some exiting news…that I’ll save for another post, because it’s just that exciting.

Additionally, I have several trips coming up in the very, VERY near future.  I’ll be ‘traveling’ to NYC next weekend–traveling in quotes because I only live 70 miles outside of the city.  The week after that, I’ll be in Walt Disney World (again) and Universal Orlando (for the first time).  A week after that, I’m back in NYC.  I plan to maintain my live blog whilst on all of these mini-adventures, so feel free to follow me on Virtual Passenger.

I also hope to come home with many great educational ideas for each destination, which will be shared on my edu-travel blog, The Suitcase Scholar.

Stay tuned for my big fat stupid travel announcement for next year.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll totally rub your hands together with evil anticipation.

Travel Tuesdays? Not So Much.

A few months ago, I learned that the best time to search for low cost airfare is on a Tuesday, specifically at 3pm EST.  Of course, as is often the case, because I want to look for fares at 3pm EST every Tuesday, I always forget to look for fares at 3pm every Tuesday.  Well, yesterday I remembered.  And I searched.

And searched.

And searched.

I used Kayak, I checked out actual airline websites, I stalked travel discount sites on Twitter and Facebook and in my inbox.  And do you know what?  I found nothing.

The ‘cheapest’ trans-Atlantic fare for travel in July was over $1200.  Anywhere Caribbean–over $400.  California?  Around $600.  Seriously?  We flew to London last summer for $695.

Oh–and remember that fare to Phoenix I found last week for $117?  It is three times that now.  Damn.  I will not hesitate again.  Ever.

To a Mountain in Tibet: A Book Review

In a previous post, I wrote about being excited about being invited to join Amazon Vine, a program that provides reviewers with free copies of books in exchange for reviews.  Well, it is almost the end of my first month as a member, and I ordered the maximum four books, and have read and reviewed three of them so far.  One of them was for the book ‘To a Mountain in Tibet’ by Colin Thubron.  It is just as it seems to be–a travel memoir of a journey to Kailas.  As promised, anything travel-related that I review for Amazon will also be posted here.  So, without further ado, I bring you my review…enjoy!

This is not a book about traveling ‘to a mountain in Tibet’.  This is a book about life, and death…and everything in between.

I must admit that on first read, I was not excited by this book.  I deemed it ‘not my kind of memoir’.  And yes, the language is rather flowery.   If you like flowery language, you’ll like this book.  But even if you are like me (and don’t), you’ll still enjoy ‘Mountain’.

I’ve never traveled to this part of the world.  Now I very much would like to do so, but only if I can take someone like Thubron with me.  As you follow him on his journey, you learn about everything from the flora and fauna of the areas he passes through, to the social, political, and spiritual history of the peoples and places explored, to his own relationship with his mother and father.  Even better, all of these aspects are woven together brilliantly.

Oddly, parts of ‘Mountain’ read like high fantasy, no small feat for a work of travel memoir.  I loved the line ‘I have too much imagined these mountains as mine’, and at one point the phrase ‘carved from the living basalt’–in reference to the Kailasa temple at Ellora (itself sounding high fantasty-ish)–drips with fantasy-writer-charm.  Of course, the undertones of high fantasy were not entirely due to the place names, but the place names do help–did Tolkein ever travel to Kailas?

One aspect I did find difficult was the ability to visualize places I cannot even imagine.  Much of Thubron’s work is, obviously, landscape description–but having absolutely no reference point I found it difficult.  Thus, I found myself frequently resorting to Google Image searches.  Was this a negative aspect of the book?  Absolutely not.  I’ve now learned about the geography of a part of the world of which I’d previously been unaware.  The only negative part is how difficult (impossible?) it would be for me to actually visit Tibet myself some day.

If you are even thinking about picking up this book, do it.  You won’t be disappointed.  You will be moved, inspired, awed, sometimes shocked–at one point I actually almost cried–but definitely not disappointed.