Category Archives: Travel

The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent…

The calendar says it’s Summer but the weather here is San Francisco is a little too brisk to even consider wearing shorts or running through the sprinklers.  I’m pretty used to it after spending four summers shivering through Fourth of July fireworks and craving heart soups instead of light salads while the rest of the country basks in sun.  But having spent my whole childhood sweating through 100 degree temps, hosing myself in the backyard and laying on top of the comforter listening to the hum of the air conditioner at night, I still find myself checking the weather expecting to see the optimistic sun graphic in the ten day forecast.

It’s around the end of June that I start craving real Summer.  I head down to Manteca to get my 15 minutes of relentless heat (all I can really handle before I’m pining for the cool breezes of SF) under the guise of visiting my parents.  I convince Roem to take a Zipcar across the Golden Gate to warmer pastures; intent on getting my monthly dose of Vitamin D.  Sometimes though, it all gets to be too much.  I need some time on a beach without wearing a sweatshirt.  I need the freckles across my nose to return in all their spotted glory from winter hibernation.  I need a good excuse to read trashy books without hiding them behind more studious covers.  I need sun in 12 hour cycles.

So last month, Roem and I discussed some possible summer destinations on our rather meager vacation budget.  I originally had my heart set on a European adventure but quickly decided that spending $1,500 a plane ticket for a 9 day trip just wouldn’t work for us.  Even with visions of freshly baked baguettes, runny stinky cheeses and glorious picnics in Provence, I couldn’t justify it.  We tend to budget our trips based on a daily price tag, so $3,000 in airfare over three months wouldn’t be inconceivable at $33 a day, but $333 a day is way over our daily price point.  Unfortunately, due to increased gas prices, extra flight surcharges and a decrease in capacity from the airlines, flights this Summer are more expensive than ever.

I am not a patient person by nature but I took a deep breath and waited. When you are working with a small budget, it’s never a good idea to have a single destination in mind because in the end your budget will pick the location.  So I compulsively checked airfarewatchdog.com for possible sales and read every blog online looking for deals.  I included previously dismissed locations like Hawaii, the Carribean and even a few locations within the continental US.  And finally a few weeks ago, I came across cheap tickets to Mexico that were $450 inclusive of taxes and fees bringing us to a reasonable $100 per day flight budget.

Street food near the bus station in Playa del Carmen.

You may recall that last year for our honeymoon, we traveled to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.  The only destination we traveled to in Mexico on that trip was Playa del Carmen and, while beautiful, it wasn’t really our style.  It was perfect for our relaxing, luxurious honeymoon but we still yearned for the more authentic side of Mexico we only caught glimpses of during that trip.  For this trip, we consulted the well traveled foodies over at Tacolicious for some advice.  They showered us with recommendations for beautiful guest houses, amazing resturants and great off the beaten track attractions.  It wasn’t long before our flight into Mexico City and out of Puerto Vallarta was booked for the first week of July.

Our itinerary will include a few days in Mexico City, then a bus to San Miguel de Allende, another bus to Guanajuato, and an overnight bus to Puerto Vallarta with our final destination being Sayulita.  It’s a full itinerary but with our main objective being to stuff our faces with as many street tacos, fresh seafood and authentic mole as we can find, I think we will be in good shape (or not, based on aforementioned taco consumption).  So any thoughts/suggestions/admonishments for us?  Have you been to these locations?  And most importantly, where do you recommend we eat?

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Filed under Airline Travel, Lifestyle, Mexico, San Francisco, Travel, Uncategorized

Planning a Budget Honeymoon: Affordable Luxury

Once we bought our tickets and knew the beginning and end of our honeymoon trip, we got to work on the destinations.  In looking at the map, it seemed like the best route was to stay in Cancun a few days, cross into Belize and go down to the Cayes before heading into Belizean jungle, going over to Tikkal and ending up in Antigua, Guatemala. It kind of looked like this: Roem really wanted a nice hotel room for our first few nights so I researched Cancun and was just really hesitant to stay there after reading about the touristy

Our first night in Playa del Carmen at the Casa Ticul.

nature of the area.  We decided to stay right outside of Cancun in Playa del Carmen and booked a 4 star hotel room  for about $110 on Expedia.  Our room was at Casa Ticul, a well appointed, adults-only boutique hotel that was well situated to the beach, restaurants and shopping.  It is highly rated on tripadvisor, which is our go to travel review website and we felt pretty confident that our budget accommodations would be luxurious and relaxing.

The next leg of the trip was traveling from Playa del Carmen to a destination in the Belizean Cayes.  We knew the pricey flight from Cancun to Belize City was out, but Roem was resistant to taking a long dusty bus ride that would eat into our limited vacation time.  We decided to avoid a 12 hour trip to Belize City and instead take a bus to the border town of Corozal before taking the early morning ferry to the Cayes the next day.  We chose Corozal instead of the more popular crossing at Chetumal, because most reviews seemed to agree that Corozal was a charming little town with better accommodations.  We both decided that the night’s hotel would be a budget accommodation and we chose the Mirador Hotel for its convenient location and small price tag of $40.

As for the Belizean Cayes, we had heard Ambergris Caye was beautiful, but we were craving a more off the beaten path destination for our honeymoon.  A friend of mine had traveled to Caye Caulker a few years ago and raved about this secluded, sleepy village.  I did some reading on the wikitravel site and was

Reading from a hammock on our balcony in Caye Caulker.

bewitched by the description of Caye Caulker as “popular with backpackers and budget travelers for its (relatively) cheap prices, laid-back vibe, and abundance of restaurants and bars.”  I had also heard there was a popular bakery on the island that baked fresh cinnamon rolls each morning and that lobster was reasonably priced in July, so that sealed the deal for both of us.

There are very few hotels on Caye Caulker and the one that stood out to us right away was the Seaside Cabanas for its laid back vibe, beautiful rooms and excellent reviews.  Because we saved money on our room in Corozal, we could afford the $125 price tag for three nights.  Caye Caulker was also said to have more affordable dining and recreation options, so we knew our budget would go further by staying there than one of the more pricier islands.  A comparable room in Ambegris Caye would have cost us about 60% more so we ended up with more money to put into our beer fund.

To get back onto the mainland from the Cayes, we had to take a ferry to Belize City and then another bus to our destination in the Cayo Region of Belize.  For this stop, I had dreams of a romantic hidden property that would be cut off from the rest of the world where we could enjoy each other and have some amazing food.  It was only a short search until I found the place that fit the bill and I knew I had to find money in the budget to stay at Table Rock Lodge.  The website described

Roem taking a walk at Table Rock.

Table Rock as “a sustainable lodge in a canopied rainforest setting unlike any other in the Cayo District of Belize” and it looked like the ultimate honeymoon destination.  It was about a half an hour from the main town so all-inclusive meal options were available and every review raved about the quality of the food.  There were a few other lodges that looked beautiful so I waffled on this decision for a few days but ultimately went with Table Rock Lodge because of their timely email responses and exceptional customer service.  We booked the Aracari Room for $95.00 a night and added the breakfast and dinner option for $29.00 a person.  A full review will come in a later post but if you are considering traveling to this area of the world at all, please book a few nights at Table Rock.  It was easily the highlight of our entire trip.

Upon leaving the Cayo District, we planned on heading into Guatemala to tour the Tikal ruins.  There are only two options near Tikal and both get average reviews and tend to be pricey.  We booked a room at a budget hotel in a good location called Hotel Santana because there really wasn’t one a stellar option in our price range.  The Hotel Santana was $50 and we figured our room would only be used to sleep in considering the main objective in Flores, Guatemala was to see the ruins.

Our inexpensive hotel in Flores, left us with a little extra money for the last few nights of our honeymoon in Antigua.  We were both really excited to end our trip in Antigua as we’d heard it was a magnificent city with lots of attractions.  We decided to leave our accommodations open and gauge our budget a few days ahead of time before we booked a hotel.  We did not know at the time that we were visiting this ancient town during a religious festival and most hotels had been booked for weeks.  This led to an experience that included one of the worst hostel rooms in my entire life and one of the most beautiful hotel rooms I have ever stayed in.  More on that experience in our next installment of the Booking An Affordable Honeymoon.

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Filed under Beer, Belize, Finance, Food, Guatemala, Honeymoon, Lifestyle, Marriage, Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized

Planning a Budget Honeymoon: Finding the Finances

When we first started talking about planning a wedding, we set our budget at a modest $5,000.  I had visions of a self catered, do it yourself affair with plenty of cash left over for a lavish, European honeymoon.  As Roem and I discussed our ideal wedding, I started adding up costs in my head.  Let’s just say that modest budget was doubled once we added in a photographer, my dream dress, and paying people to do a few things that were causing me to dissolve into tears on a regular basis.

Photo by: Karen Ling

I had my heart set on a romantic and extravagant honeymoon, and I was despondent over the fact we might not get to jet off anywhere.  Traveling is so much a part of our lives that I really wanted to take a trip and connect with my new husband.  We talked a bit about a destination wedding but knew it would put a strain on some our loved ones we really wanted to be there.  So we began planning the wedding and I put away whatever extra money I could into a savings account with all the optimism I could muster.

A few months before we were set to tie the knot I revisited the idea of a honeymoon.  Our reserve savings account had grown to about $2,000 after accounting for unforeseen wedding expenses.  I wasn’t tied to any one location and I was determined to plan a kick a$$ trip on a small budget with a few luxurious touches, even if it was in my own backyard.  After scouring the web for good deals, I spotted a 48 hour sale on flights to Mexico with tickets running about $300 each.

I love Mexico, but I hesitated to go there because I really wanted something a little more exotic and adventurous.  On a whim, I check flights into Cancun and out of Guatemala City, a place I had always wanted to visit.  Turns out the open jaw ticket was even a little cheaper than a round trip to Cancun, so I quickly purchased them before putting together a complete itinerary.  I think it’s always a good idea to act a bit impetuously when booking travel.  If you’ve done your research, then you will know a good price range for your ticket. That way you can act quickly when you find a deal, as chances are it will sell out fast.

I knew our meager budget wouldn’t cover our whole trip, especially with Roem requesting more luxurious accommodations than our usual budget hotel or hostel.  I did some research on virtual honeymoon registries  and finally decided to sign up for honeyfund.  I was a little nervous about how our guests would respond to this, but I liked honeyfund because it allowed guests to purchase “experiences” for you instead of just sending a paypal payment.  We set up our website with lots of different price points and added things like romantic dinners, casual meals on the beach, cave tubing and even hotels to our registry.  We personalized the site and wrote about our philosophy on travel and our plans for the trip.  The response from our guests was overwhelming.  Everyone from my Grandma to my Parents, loved the online registry and we had to scramble to add items because of everyone’s generosity.

You can check out our registry for ideas here: http://www.honeyfund.com/wedding/amberandroem

Sneak preview of our blissed out faces on our honeymoon.

We started plotting the route and decided to spend a few days on the beach in Cancun before heading to the border and crossing into Belize and ending up in Guatemala for our flight back home.  I began searching for some budget-friendly stops along the way before I passed off the research to Roem.  It was hard to give up some of the control, but I knew I was overwhelmed and really couldn’t deal with another thing on my plate.  As we approached the one month out mark, I revisited the honeymoon and started booking what would be one of the most amazing trips we would take together.

Next up:

Planning a Budget Honeymoon: Affordable Luxury

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Filed under Adventure, Airline Travel, Belize, Guatemala, Honeymoon, Mexico, Travel

South By South…What Just Happened?!

 

I’m sitting in the Austin airport after a wild week of music, more music, brisket and beer. (With a side of music.) Yes, folks… I “did” South by Southwest. What is SXSW, you ask?

Well… in short, it’s city wide film, technology and music festival and conference in Austin, Texas.

The first week is for independent film, the second for technology innovators and

startups, and the third week for independent and upcoming musicians… well, sorta.  Not just.  The last week of SXSW is how it all started and so the draw for music week is the most compelling, I would say.  So compelling in fact that anyone and everyone that has even so much as pressed play on an iPod shows up.  And every single place is a music venue.  Houses, corners, even elevators.  I’m not kidding.

It is a beast of a music festival, if you can even call it that, and it’s an event I’ll never miss after this one. How I’m saying that after sleeping so little and the fresh hum of guitar amps still ringing in my ears?  It’s hard to explain.  I can only attest to the energy around here. People are buzzing still, after non stop music 20 hours a day for a week.  The paint still hasn’t dried on some of the venues that were painted, rebranded and reinvented for SXSW.  Needless to say, for Austin, SXSW is a VERY BIG DEAL.

And here at the airport, flights are delayed. People are updating their Facebook status’ with “I made it through SXSZzzz.”Everyone is tired. Or hungover.  (Mostly both.) Everyone has raccoon eye tan lines.  And a guitar strapped to their back like a Baby Bjorns at a Lamaze convention.  I just realized that I have been walking around with BBQ sauce smeared on my tight jeans by seeing it on someone else.  And I don’t care.  It was delicious.  There are arms tattooed in multicolored, crunched paper bracelets from VIP parties and uber exclusive secret shows and unannounced mayhem at 4am where P-Diddy sang karoake and Kanye healed the sick. It was epic. It was also somehow, in all this craziness it manages to be special. Dare I say, intimate. Maybe it’s southern hospitality, the sweet drawl and manners, or simply too many Shiner Bocks, but Austin, in all her Lady Gaga-Madness managed to charm me.

  • Foodtrucks sell Migas

Austinites love tacos. And they love that they love tacos. And they want you to love tacos too. My first night in Austin after landing was spent in a Mexican food joint with my cousin Kalyn on the outskirts of town eating “Migas” tacos and waffles, while drinking cold Negro Modelo. Not a bad start to the week, if you ask me.

Migas is a breakfast taco, essentially, my local tour guide informed me.  And since I’m not the Food Editor of this blog (or any blog, unless, if by “editor” you mean, “Nomnomnom…”, then yes, I “edit.”) so I’ll not wax poetic about the flavors, but they’re good. Eggy, peppery, veggie-y, good. I give them 3 out of 4 Nomnomnoms.

You’ll quickly notice upon arrival that Austin is a hotbed for foodtrucks. They’re EVERYWHERE. The locals call the gathering of foodtrucks “trailer parks” (probably because most of them are fat little mod’d airstreams) and when they gather, wagons circled in a little powwow, they deliver delicious foodie creations ranging from cupcakes to snowcones, paninis, crepes, waffle tacos, korean tacos, brisket tacos, breakfast tacos, and also… yes, you guessed it. Pizza.

  • Beers of Austin

There are some very proud brewers in Austin. And rightly so.  I could go on and on about all the fabulous beers I tried, and probably will in a future post, but let me make 2 recommendations.

Drink a Shiner. It’s the unnofficial “good” beer of Texas (I’m not much for the fizzy yellow stuff), and it tastes better there than it does imported to your local corner store.  I have no scientific evidence to support this, but if we had enough of them, I’m sure I could convince you.

Go to The Ginger Man. If you’re a brewer or a fan of strong interesting beers, you’ve got to check this place out.  They’ve got everything and are quick to show you to the Texas Micro-brews if you ask, which I like.  A little local pride. The staff is very nice and drunk informed, and will make sure you get a cab find something delicious for you to try.

Now, to be honest, this is really just the tip of the iceberg for how many thousands of shows and activities that went on over the week at SXSW.  But you simply can’t make them all.  (I barely made my own show.)  Some more advice?

  • Book Hotels EARLY

If you can book it a year in advance, great.  We booked ours a couple of months early when I booked the gig.  I recommend it.  We grabbed our comfy 2 bed La Quinta Inn room just a few minutes from downtown and took one convenient public bus right into the heart of the action.  Bus tickets are $1 each way or $2 for the whole day.  That’s a no-brainer for WPP. And busses run till 2am during SXSW.  Holla!

Also, when you get there, go with the flow.  Find friends.  People are nice there.  Don’t rush.  There’s so much to see in Austin.  I fell into an early trap of trying to make this huge schedule with times, and shows, and bands, and parties, and sharing that document with the entire world, whew.  I’m tired just trying to wrap my head around what a mess that would have been.  Luckily these guys did a much better job, and it helped.  But spontaneity is really where the fun is at SX.

  • Don’t Forget H2O!

Get yourself a foldable water bottle.  (I know.  Why didn’t I invent that?!)  They’re genius, can fit in a man-purse (what?) and will keep you from falling down and going boom.  Not to mention, the oows and aws when you open that baby up.  Oh man…  I’m gonna go drink out of mine right now.

(Oh, and don’t forget the flush-able baby wipes!  Amber scoffs, but just trust me on this one.)


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Filed under Austin, Beer, Food, Music, SXSW, Tacos, Travel

How to Eat Your Way Through Seattle: Part 1

Every time I want to go somewhere I add the destination to my Airfarewatchdog feed and wait until the next deal pops up.  As this past weekend lasted a full three days, I knew I wanted to take a trip somewhere and Portland was near the top of my list, mostly because I spend way too much time on this site.  The sheer number of amazing breweries and other beer related experiences is ridiculously awesome.  The problem was tickets for President’s Day weekend were $300+ and there is no way this bargain traveler could justify that, even for beer.  Instead I noticed a ridiculously amazing deal for tickets to Seattle for $110 round trip and I began dreaming of coffee, rain and flying fish.

Roem’s been busy recording his album which means I see his inert form before I go to work and hear his key in the door at some insane time in the wee hours of the morning.  My dreams of a romantic weekend away were dashed after

The Vintage Park Hotel is a great place to stay despite the fact they stock leopard print robes and name each room after a Washington Vineyard.

looking at his production schedule before SXSW, so I shelved my plans after some minimal pouting.  But I just couldn’t let it go completely and I continued to check the flight schedule, incredulous that the tickets remained insanely cheap.  Finally about two weeks ago, I convinced my sister to join me on a girls’ weekend away after a few homebrews.  We also persuaded BFF Courtney to come along and booked our ticket along with a 4 star hotel on Priceline we scored with an $85 bid.

Friday night we got into Seattle around 11:30 pm and easily made our way to the hotel via the Link which cost us about $2 each.  Seattle has us at hello with its clean, reliable and cheap mass transit.  We ended up taking the bus and monorail all weekend and I have nothing but positive reviews for the system.  Cabs are pretty cheap so if it’s freezing and/or raining it’s definitely a worthwhile splurge but we were able to cover diverse areas of the city on the bus for around $10 for three days.  We were also lucky enough to have beautiful weather and comfortable shoes, so getting around was easy on the budget.

Saturday morning we started our day off with a recommendation from the doormen at the hotel.  I rarely trust concierage advice on the must see destinations in any city because I prefer off the beaten path attractions and they are usually catering to a different clientele.  The guys chatting us up in the lobby were young and opioniated with definite ideas on what we should see our first hours in Seattle.  They shot down our plan to visit a local coffee chain and directed us instead to Stumpstown Coffee in Capitol Hill and advised us to then head over to Cafe Presse next door for breakfast.

As seasoned urban walkers, we took on the challenge of a 30 minute walk with bravado.  By the time we reached Stumpstown we were freezing and in need of major caffeine.  The coffee there is ridiculously good.  April and I opted for the individual, Chemex brewed, single origin coffee, while Courtney ordered an iced latte.   I tried the Burundi brew sourced from West Africa and it was a medium bodied roast with a rich mouthfeel and lots of body.  Courtney claimed her latte was the best she had ever had and as a former barista, the woman knows her coffee.  Stumpstown Coffee also has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn so those may on my next travel itinerary.

After we were foritfied with caffeine, we headed to Cafe Presse for some much needed sustenance.  Committed to

Eating our meal took precedent over taking pictures, but you get the idea.

sampling as much food as possible during our short trip, we opted to split most meals three ways.  This was logistically challenging at times but guaranteed we were able to try an outrageous variety of food without being completely glutonous.  For breakfast we ordered two eggs broiled with ham and gruyere, a croque monsieur and pain au chocolate.  The broiled eggs were perfectly cooked and delicious in their simplicity.  The croque monsieur had lovely caramelized bits on the broiled, creamy bechamel sauce while still maintaining the  integrity of the bread and was the perfect foil for the salty ham with the sharp, creamy cheese.  The pain au chocolate was high quality, bittersweet chocolate on a crunchy baguette that was pure heaven with the medium bodied drip coffee from Caffe Vita.

After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with our friend Emily, a recent transplant to Tacoma from the Bay Area.  She took us through the Pike Market and we snapped the obligatory pictures of the sights.  I’m not going to say the market is overrated, but I probably wouldn’t tour it again on a Saturday.  After the market, Courtney used her librarian skills to take us on a tour of the Public Library and it was a perfect diversion from the nonstop eating with an amazing view on the 10th floor.

When Rick (my brother in law) suggested we head to Serious Pie for lunch, we decided to dive right in.  If you go anywhere in Seattle, please make it Serious Pie and order the Yukon Gold Potato, Rosemary and Pecorino pizza.  The crust is perfectly thin with good charring and the toppings were well seasoned and flavorful.  We also tried the pizza with sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers and provolone and the rich, well devleoped toppings were heaven on that crust.  If you do visit Serious Pie, do me a favor and order the yellowfoot chanterelle and truffle pizza, as it smelled ridiculously good and just sounds like Seattle to me.

April and I had the Schooner Exact King St. Brown Ale while Emily and Courtney went for the Spire Mountain Cider. The Schooner Brown Ale is a medium bodied, brown ale with nice caramel notes and a balanced hop aroma.  The Spire Mountain Cider poured a beautiful liquid gold color, and tasted rendolent of crisp, sweet apples balanced with dry acidity and medium carbonation.  It was so good, I have a cider fermenting in my primary right now trying to reproduce that perfect balance.

Our hotel offered a complimentary wine tasting, so we finished up our day with some wine by the fireplace followed with a rest before dinner.  We decided to again take Rick’s advice and head to Bathtub Gin and Co. in Belltown for an illicit cocktail in a speakeasy behind an unmarked door.  A group of guys graciously offered us the open seats at the bar and we had some of the most delicious, expertly made drinks I have had the pleasure of drinking.  They were every bit as good as Bourbon and Branch but about half the price.  Between the well mannered men, strong cocktails and affordable luxuries, I was swiftly becoming a huge fan of Seattle.

We headed from Bellmont back to Capitol Hill for dinner at a popular gastropub called Quinn’s.  After learning there was an hour wait, we skipped Quinn’s and went a few blocks up to Boom Noodles as we were all starving.  We started with the five spice pork buns and all ordered bowls of steaming noodles.   All the dishes we tried were good but none were outstanding.   I had the pork ramen and it was better than some bowls I’ve tried in San Francisco, but not better than my go to spot, Genki Ramen.  It did fortify us after the strong cocktails and we really didn’t have any complaints.  Full, drowsy and satisfied we headed back to the hotel and introduced Courtney to the TV show/train wreck known as Cheaters.

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Filed under Airline Travel, Beer, Food, Lifestyle, Seattle, Travel, Uncategorized, Wine

Oh mon Dieu!

About a year ago, I was going through the laundry and I came across the strangest thing.  It was a black beret that had somehow made it’s way into my pile of clean clothes.  It was now about the perfect size for my little dog Sadie as the wool had felted (doesn’t that word sounds naughty!) and shrunk.  When Roem came home later that day I quizzically asked him, “Do you have a beret?”  He burst into laughter and admitted he had found the beret on a park bench earlier that week and wanted to “surprise” me with it.  I will never know what would posses him to pick up a beret off a park bench in SAN FRANCISCO and bring it home as a gift for his fiancee.   Whatever the reason, anytime I feel the need to dissolve into laughter with my spouse i just intone “Do you have a beret?!”  It works every time.

The secret language of couples is a topic that has always intrigued me.  It turns out this habit is a sign of a close relationship and can really help bond a couple.  You can read more about it here.  These code phrases are developed over time and result from shared experiences and memories.  I’ve noticed that we pick up a lot of our vernacular while traveling because we are spending so much time together, and a lot of it is stressful.  Sometime the only way to remember I love the guy after he leaves our camera in a public restroom is to giggle about the time he dropped me on a dance floor in Costa Rica.  It’s these shared experiences that bond us together and keep us sane as we live our crazy lives.  There is nothing better than telling a travel story with Roem or recounting a funny memory when we are bored.

Wondering how I will ever sleep considering the rabid cat hunts at night.

You take all these little moments and somehow they add up to a life together.  Without fully realizing it, you are creating a unit and becoming a team.  The insider talk and couple code creep into your vernacular and you skip the beginning to get to the middle.  So the next time I heave a sigh and start to become exasperated Roem has forgotten to take out the garbage again, he can just meow to remind me of the time he held a dead rat by the tail and flung it into the bush to distract a rabid cat.  Because, in the end, those are the things that matter.

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Filed under Marriage, Sadie, Southeast Asia, Travel

Throw Off the Bowlines

Picture from Flickr l Jack Anderson Photography

My parents are somewhere out in the great abyss right now, on their way to one of the greatest adventures they’ve ever taken.   In just a few hours they will be dropped right in the middle of the swarming, sticky hub that is  Southeast Asia.  I imagine them stumbling off the plane, grubby after their 18 hours of flying about to be assaulted with foreign smells, heavy humidity and the dull excitement that pervades the exhaustion.

There is nothing better than getting off that airplane for the first time in a new place.  On my first trip through Europe as I hurtled through countries at a breakneck speed, I remember feeling anxiety that I was rushing through it all.  Never again would I have that first chance to see the city lights in Paris, party all night in Barcelona, or stumble home from the beer garden in Munich.  But then I started feeling smugly protective of those first few experiences.  I realized that this first trip into the great big world would be all mine, never to be marred by a fight with a traveling companion or a subsequent break up with a lover.  I still feel proud of that teen aged  girl who booked herself a trip for three weeks in Europe without knowing a soul and I’m forever trying to capture that sense of discovering.

That same sense of adventure I had at 18, my parents seem to be inflicted with in their fifties.  Sure they are a little more unsteady and fearful as they make their way, but the commitment to discovery and leap of faith is the same.  They aren’t trying to strip down the experience to expose only the safe, antiseptic parts  like so many other tourists.  They are willing to get dirty, be tired, get sick, be frustrated and challenge themselves.  There are no four star hotels on their itinerary, instead they are following our meandering path through budget accommodations and street food recommendations.

I admit I pushed them a little so I now take full responsibility for their well being.  They expressed interest in a few places I had been, mainly South America, Africa or Southeast Asia.  At first I thought South America would be a perfect trip for them.  With the amazing food, great adventure and the relative ease of travel, I could guarantee they would have an amazing time.  They seemed interested in Africa but it has been awhile since my trip there and I wasn’t positive it was the right choice.  When my dad began to show interest in Southeast Asia, I began to get really excited.  Roem and I had come back from our trip there last year changed forever by the people, the culture and the experience.  I began to sketch out an itinerary and work on a budget.

We began to work on some possible routes and connections, trying to get them everywhere they wanted to be in only two short weeks.  This is the kind of challenge I thrive on and we  spent hours researching modes of transportation and destinations.  My dad was especially interested in Vietnam so I added Hanoi to their itinerary.  We took out the four day trek Roem and I barely survived (okay that was just me) and swapped out Luang Prabang for a few days in Hanoi and one more day in Saigon.  My mom replaced out a few of our more “primitive” hotels and did a ton of research on the destinations, learning every useful tip on the internet.

I still worried about my dad.  See, he prefers more “Americanized” food than the more adventurous females in his family.  Our suggestions of Thai or Vietnamese restaurants are usually met with a grimace of distaste and a suggestion for Italian.  But to my surprise he fully embraced the challenge.  He did a ton of research on Travelfish and watched every episode of House Hunters International and No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain ever filmed in Asia.   He bookmarked websites, took notes and has become basically the most informed traveler I have ever come across.

I admit my eyes tear up  just thinking of them  decked out in wick away shirts and matching khaki pants with their rolling duffles about to plunge headfirst into Bangkok.   I am just so PROUD of them.  I wish I was there to hold my Mom’s hand when she freaks out on her first tuk tuk ride or take a walk with my Dad at the crack of dawn when he can’t sleep because of jetlag.  I want to be there to help them order the perfect plate of steaming noodles or exclaim over the cheap price of a huge bottle of Chang beer.  I even want to bring them back some coconut water when they puke their guts out after some bad food (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen).  But this is their trip.  They know it inside and out and are ready for whatever comes their way.

My parents truly embody the spirit here at White Picket Passport as there is really no time like the present to get out there and experience the world.  I plan to keep you all updated on their travels and will do my best to persuade both of them to write a guest post.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.   Catch the trade winds in your sails.   Explore.   Dream.   Discover.”

– Mark Twain

We love you Mom and Dad!  Bon Voyage.

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Filed under Adventure, Family, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Travel, Uncategorized, Vietnam