Category Archives: 14 Months of Travel

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.


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.

My Travel Cost Guidelines

Today I have a new problem–it is called ‘indecision’.  Yes, I know, it seems clear that I’ve been struggling with this issue for years now.  Case and point–my lack of a summer vacation plan.  But today, said indecision reached a new level.

I found a fare sale for flights to Phoenix.  I really want to go to the Grand Canyon, and Phoenix is where you fly into to do so.  I got all the way to the point where you click ‘buy now’, and then I closed the window.  Why?  I’m thinking the answer is either ‘fear’ or ‘indecision’.

Something must be done.

Next year, I’m going to travel.  I’m taking an entire year off from work to travel.  I’m traveling next year, damn it.  And my main travel plan is ‘go places where I can afford to go’.  Clearly, a $117 round-trip flight to near the Grand Canyon fits into those parameters.  But there are other things to take into account–for example, how much is a rental car going to cost?  ($600 for two weeks)  How much will lodging cost?  (at least $700 for two weeks, if I’m very lucky and very cheap)  Total cost for said trip–$1417.

Is it worth $1417 to be in Phoenix and the surrounding area–namely Sedona and afore mentioned Grand Canyon–for two weeks?  Yes.  Yes it is.  Clearly I should have booked it.

Did I mention that something must be done?  Well, I’m going to do something.  I’m going to come up with my own travel cost guidelines.  Observe (and note that I’m coming up with this as I type it)…

A good airfare is…

1.  Less than $150 if in my own time zone.

2.  Less than $200 if at least two time zones away.

3.  Less than $250 if coast to coast.

4.  Less than $500 if international AND outside of my time zone.

5.  Less than $250 if international AND inside my time zone.

But, as I stated above, a good airfare does not a good decision make.  The trip also has to be worth the extra costs–lodging, car rental or other transportation…the list goes on.  Thus, I need to come up with some places that I need to go.  I made a ‘dream travel list‘ back in December, but those were dream trips.  I need to think about what I want to do that is within reach, that I’d be willing to do alone, and that are examples of great family destinations–as my main goal is writing about how to make said destinations educational.

I will travel to the following places if they fall within the airfare cost guidelines…

-anywhere in Europe, particularly England and Iceland.  And…Paris.  Because I need to go back.



-Anywhere drive-ably close to a national park


-San Francisco



-Costa Rica



-Anywhere with a major cruise port

-Vegas (because I’ll need a break from making things educational)

I’m open to other suggestions–though I feel as though number four really allows for lots of destinations…like, oh, I don’t know…Phoenix!

I Think I’m Going to be Sick

For whatever reason, it seems I’ve subconsciously deemed this week as ‘the point of no return’ week in regards to the whole ‘I’m going to write educational travel books’ thing.  On Tuesday I told my boss I’m taking a year-long leave of absence.  On Wednesday I told my team (they didn’t look thrilled).  Thursday was a wash, as it was a snow day–thought I did get a lot of work done on the marketing section of my book proposal.  Friday I talked to the head of HR.  And today…today I purchased not one but two different annual theme park passes.

I think I’m going to be sick.

To be fair, it makes financial sense (am I the only person in the world who can say that after having just spent almost $800 on amusement park admission?!?)  I knew I’d need the Disney Annual Pass all along, and it was technically a birthday gift from my mother anyway (thanks mom!)  But having actually ordered it makes it more…real.  I’m taking a year off and researching and writing this book.  No.  Matter.  What.

The other Annual Pass is for Universal Orlando.  Yes, I just bought an annual pass for a place I’VE NEVER EVEN VISITED.  Why?  In the interest of saving money.

You see, my husband and I are going to Universal for a long weekend in May, attached to the end of my mother-daughter Disney trip.  There’s no undoing if this, no matter how much I may want to undo it–his heart is set.  To Universal we shall go.  I figured out that the difference between the 4-day pass I’d be buying for just that trip and an annual pass was $80.  I then called to see what the AP rate was for the room we’ve booked–and of course they don’t have the ‘basic’ room we booked available at an AP rate.  They did have a ‘better’ room available, and it was still a savings of over $100 from our original booking.  So I changed it–and bought the pass.

To be fair again, to write the Universal Chapter, I have to go back to the parks.  And I would have had to pay for admission, which would have been anywhere from $150-$200.  Instead, I’m saving $20 on our next trip and getting in for free for however many days I need for said research.   If that’s not ‘financial sense’, then I don’t know what is.

So then why am I still feeling moderately ill?

One Small Step

If you’ve seen my New Year’s Day post, you know that I’ve decided to take my travel addiction and my writing compulsion and combine them into a career.  Am I crazy?  Probably.  Am I going through with it?  Absolutely.

Yesterday I informed my boss that I’m taking a one year leave of absence, starting next school year.  This was a big step.  Since then, I’ve been waffling back and forth between over-the-moon excited and under-the-covers horrified.

I mean really–who does this?  Who leaves a perfectly good, moderately-paying job for an entire year to try to ‘make it as a writer’?  The answer?  I do.

I realize I’ve been rather vague with descriptions of the book I’m working on, but since I’m out of the one-year-leave-taking closet, I might as well out the book idea as well.  Clearly it is travel-related, or else I would not be posting it here.  So without further ado…

I am going to write destination-specific travel books that help parents make every aspect of each particular destination an educational experience for their children.  Book One–Walt Disney World.

I have a plan, of course.  I wouldn’t be me without a plan.  I’ve been saving up to do this, so we won’t lose the house.  In fact, we will live exactly as we have been for exactly the one year I’m taking off.  I’m also following all of the book publishing rules.  I’ve been working on the book proposal for over a month now, and have begun working on my ‘platform’ which, apparently, is something all authors must have before they become authors.  To help me out with this goal, please visit the website I’ve managed to create at and/or tell all of your friends to read this blog.  I have several back-up travel writing plans if this book idea does not pan out.  Finally, and most importantly, starting at the end of June, I’ll have 14 months to make the dream a reality.  If it doesn’t work out, well, I’ll have at least spent a year and two months working my butt off trying.

If I’m going to regret something, I’d rather it be something that I did–not something that I didn’t do.

Wish me luck!

Farewell 2010–Post 3: Risk and Joy in 2011

This year shall be my best year ever.

I fully realize everyone thinks that every year.  However, my plans have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight or quitting ‘insert vice here’.  This year is all about risk and joy.  And how can a year go badly when started with such great intentions?

This year…

–I am going to Disney World with my mother.  During the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.  To make up for a terrible trip she took me on 21 years ago.  With a childlike sense of wonderment.  With that many prepositional phrases, how can I go wrong?

–I am taking a leave of absence from my job.  That’s the first time I’ve typed that, so if you work with me and are reading this, you should be slightly confused.

–I am writing a (travel) book.  Whether or not someone buys and publishes that book is still up in the air, but I sincerely believe it will happen.  I am taking everything I’ve ever done in my life, every skill I’ve acquired, and using it to make the world a better place…through writing.  Additionally, I am following all of the rules one must follow before trying to publish a book.  I’m spending hours each day working on the proposal.  I’m immersing myself in my subject matter.  I’m taking the time to build a virtual platform, creating a realistic time line of goals, and investing actual money and time in research.  I.  Am.  Writing.  This.  Book.  Go ahead–try and stop me.

–I am continuing to make travel plans–for my research trips, my mom-trip, and for trips ‘just because’ with the husband.  They may be more budget-oriented than past trips, but we shall still travel.  Because we must.

I think that is an impressive amount of goals for one short year.  We shall see how it all works out, but as of today–January 2nd, 2011–I feel pretty good about all of it.

In other news, WordPress sent me this great email today with information on how this blog ‘did’ during 2010.  They even allowed me to VERY easily post it here.  It seems that while 2010 wasn’t my best year, it wasn’t a bad year for this blog.  According to WordPress, it seems clear that people like to read about things gone wrong.  I knew this already, but it is nice to have solid data to back it up.  So, without further ado, here are Blog on the Run’s 2010 Stats:


The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 145 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 177 posts. There were 97 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 146mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 19th with 622 views. The most popular post that day was Bienvenue a Paris…? .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for elbodans,,, blog on the run, and

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Bienvenue a Paris…? July 2010


About Me January 2010


Why This Trip Sucks July 2010


Rick Steves-Style Travel Forum May 2010


Europe: 2, Tracy: 0 July 2010