Category Archives: Ramblings

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.

Advertisements

How Has Travel Changed You?

I truly believe that travel has helped me to become a better person.  In my case, I feel I’ve become slightly more humble by realizing how wrong I can often be–case and point, The Great Europe Trip.  That sure was a bad idea, eh?  I sure was arrogant, thinking I’d planned everything so well, right?  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong, and for some reason I’m ok with admitting that (perhaps because it is so glaringly obvious?)

I’ve also been wrong about things I didn’t think I’d like.  I shunned Disney World for all of my life, only to find that I freaking love it there.  Las Vegas?  So unsophisticated–the adult version of Disney World.  And I love it there, too.

Finally, I’ve met so many people both in real life and online who share my love of travel, and most of these people are genuinely helpful, friendly, and full of enthusiasm.  You could stay my faith in humanity has been restored through my love of travel.  If you said that, you might sound a little pretentious, but you’d be 100% correct.

So–how has travel changed you?

 

Sorry!

Sorry for the long absence.  I’ve not forgotten about this blog.  I was just doing some top-secret travel writing related things for a while now.  But I’m back!  More posts to come, asap!

My New Look

You may have noticed the fact that Blog on the Run has a new look.  I felt that it was time for this change for a number of reasons.  First and most importantly, I was tired of the baby blue, and I found the squished format of the previous template less-than-ideal.

I also wanted to make all of my blogs more cohesive.  To this end, I chose a basic theme and changed the header for each.  If you visit The Suitcase Scholar, it will look very similar to this, but with a header featuring the glass ceiling of The Great Hall in the British Museum.  My third blog, Virtual Passenger, is a bit more colorful; the header is the glass art ceiling at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Are you sensing a trend?  I’m a big fan of taking photos of ceilings–especially glass ones, or domes.  I’ve finally found a use for all of those photos.  It is actually shocking how many I have–before I settled on the ones I chose, I passed over 1.  The ceiling of the Opera Garnier in Paris, the dome of Sacre Coeur, and the beautiful glass dome of Galleries Layfayette department store.  The only reason that last one didn’t make the cut was because the photo quality was poor.  Man I love that dome.

As the subtitle of Blog on the Run is ‘The Travel Blog of a Hopeless Nerd’, the header above celebrates said nerd-dom; it is a photo taken of the dome of the US Capitol, on a trip inspired by reading the book The Lost Symbol.

Can I get any nerdier?  I don’t know…but right now I have to go watch the Discovery Channel’s series ‘Life’.  My husband was given the entire series on DVD.  As a gift.  For presenting at an educational conference.

Nope.  I could not be any nerdier.  I’m surprised I wasn’t born with leather patches on my actual elbows and a slightly tweed-y hue to my skin.

Travel Writing is Better than Sex

Travel and leisure do not always go together.  In fact, ‘to travel’ and ‘to go on vacation’ are two very different things–trust me, I learned that in Paris last summer.  Some people travel as part of a job requirement.  Many people travel so they can volunteer in areas where help is needed.  Others travel for academic or spiritual purposes.

I travel so that I can write about it.

There is nothing more satisfying than setting out on a mission to collect information with the intention of turning it into words to be shared.  Nothing.  It is better than ice cream, it is better than sunshine, it is better than…well, I’d say ‘it is better than sex’, but I’m not allowed to say ‘sex’ on this blog, lest it get me fired.  But ooops–I did it anyway.

Travel writing is better than sex.

My next trip–which, ironically, I’m not talking about on here at all–is a trip with the singular purpose of writing.  It is to be trip number one of many committed to that goal.  I cannot wait.

But in the meantime, I thought I’d ask you, dear reader.  Do you travel for purposes other than leisure?  What are these purposes?  How do they add to your travel experience?  Or do you think I’m crazy, excitedly boarding a plane with a netbook and a notebook in my purse?

And Not To Yield

This morning I woke up with the opening line of Tennyson’s Ulysses in my head.  I write this fully understanding how sophomore-in-college-fake-pretentious it sounds.  But that doesn’t make it any less true.  As I lathered and rinsed, I shook my head trying to either rid myself of the repeating line, or at least figure out what came next.  Only ‘It little profits that an idle king’ remained from my obviously obscure dream, and I’m not enough of an English teacher nerd to be able to recite the entire monologue from memory.

Clearly, I had to read the entire thing to get it out of my head.

I have always loved this poem.  In fact, my favorite line from any piece of poetry is from Ulysses–‘I am a part of all that I have met’.  I’ve loved that line since I was an actual fake-pretentious college sophomore.  In fact, it may well be my second favorite line from literature ever (after the last sentence of James Joyce’s short story ‘The Dead’.  I swear I am not a loser.  It is a REALLY good sentence.)  But until today and my insane dream, and the resulting re-reading of said poem, I did not realize how obvious it is that I should like it so very much.

I’ll not post the entire poem–if you’ve never read it and actually care to do so, you’ll google it.  But if you have read it (or if you did just google it) you’ll understand why I’m posting this story here.  You see, I’ve been trying to figure out when I became someone who had to travel (even when it is a bad idea for many reasons).  If something in this (admittedly kind of cheesy) poem spoke to me, I was a traveler long before I even knew ‘traveler’ was a kind of person.

Because really, who doesn’t want to ‘follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought’?

If right about now you are thinking ‘hmmm…it seems like she’s having a midlife crisis, or at least a fairly major nervous breakdown’–you’re probably right.  Thus, you shouldn’t find this next item all that surprising:

We really are going back to Europe.

How to Win Arguments and Influence Husbands

After writing yesterday’s post, I continued clicking around on the internet to see if there was any way I could further decrease the cost of our Universal Orlando trip.  Very few clicks resulted in an answer–yes, there absolutely was a way.  How?  By changing resorts.

Now, this was obvious to me from the very start–after all, we were staying on-site at Universal, and at the most expensive of the three resorts, Portofino Bay Hotel:

It’s supposed to look like an Italian fishing village.  In…Orlando.

As I’ve already discussed, this was my husband’s decision.  He wanted to stay on property for a number of reasons, all convenience-related.  But yesterday I discovered that if we switched to a different on-site resort, we could save over $400 from what we originally booked–using the annual pass rate.  I then set about convincing him to make the switch.

I showed him videos of the other resort–Royal Pacific Resort–online.  I showed him photos, like this one:

Doesn’t a tropical theme make more sense?  I think it does.

I explained to him the concept of pool hopping, proximity to the parks, and how important it was to me to save money.  Nothing worked.  At least not until we changed the subject to our not-yet-planned summer trip.

During dinner–which I cleverly planned at his favorite pub (who am I kidding–all pubs, as long as they serve wings, are his favorite!)–I told him that he got to pick where we went on our summer vacation.  My stipulation was that it had to be a cruise, because cruises are inexpensive (relatively speaking) and relaxing (unless you are traveling with me and I have a clipboard and a netbook).  He then announced that he’d go on any cruise…as long as it left from Amsterdam.

Seriously?

Now, cruises don’t leave from Amsterdam.  Well, actually, river cruises do, and while that’s number seven on my travel dream list, there’s just no budget for that any time soon.  But he conceded that he’d be fine with just spending a week in Amsterdam–no cruise needed.  He got very excited about this idea, and started listing off the things we didn’t get to do when we were there that he wants to do on a return trip (though the pastry shop with the apple turnovers was also on the list)  He concluded with ‘and we can stay at that same hotel as last time’.  At which point I grabbed the opportunity to point out one interesting fact–the amount we’d save by simply changing Universal Orlando resorts would pay for FIVE NIGHTS at that particular Amsterdam hotel (The Convent Hotel, if anyone is wondering.  I reviewed it here.)

I’m happy to report that the change has been made.  ‘Cheaper’ tropical resort has been booked, and insanely expensive Italian fishing village resort has been canceled.  I feel so much better already.

Oh–and for those of you dying to know–there’s a near zero percent chance that we’ll actually be returning to Amsterdam this summer.  I squashed that dream rather quickly, after a brief survey of flight prices.  He’s since selected Northern California as his runner up choice (note the obvious lack of CRUISE), though even that may be out of reach this year…but we shall see.

As I write this, I realize that I’ve not written my typical ‘here are our travel plans’ posts for my next two…er, three…trips.  So stay tuned for posts on the mother’s day Disney extravaganza, more details on this trip–the long weekend with the husband at Universal–and hints about super-secret mission impossible solo research trip I’ve been planning for over a month now.