Monday, July 25, 2011

Musings of a Thirty Something

This weekend I celebrated my 31st birthday. Last year, hitting the milestone of 30 felt like a big deal and cause for a party, as I ushered in a new decade and a new number with which to start my age. 31 feels like the 1991 of ages. 1990 is still too much like the 80's to be distinct but '91 starts to really be "the 90's". Using this logic, 31 means I'm really in "my 30's" so I spent this weekend quietly reflecting on what that means, both to me and in the broader society. 

Some researchers talk about the concept of a "thrisis", a wordsmash for a thirty-something crisis. (By the way, what is it about the world these days that everything has to be combined....brangelina? speidi? Are we really in such a hurry??) The premise is that people have bought into an idea of happiness that includes getting married, getting a house, getting a good job, etc. but once they get those things, they finally step back and wonder if that's what they wanted all along. Unlike the mid-life crisis we grew up seeing in movies and expecting in our 40's, thirty-somethings realize there's still time to make changes and get life on track. The trouble then becomes defining what happiness means to you, as an individual. 

On the flip side, most people I talk to express that their thirties were the most fun. They often talk about being confused and figuring things out in their twenties and getting to sit back and enjoy their thirties. Many people relate to feeling more confident, less worried about what others think, as they leave their twenties behind. It seems like we have set ourselves up to be molded up to this point and get to really define ourselves now, a true coming-of-age experience. I definitely find myself keeping a smaller social circle and investing more in myself and the people and activities that really bring me joy, rather than trying to keep in touch with everyone. But maybe that's just because Facebook keeps everyone in touch all the time! (not in an unwelcome way, in my opinion)

So I look forward to 31 beginning a new chapter. I can be proud of the things I have accomplished, going down the checklist: marriage, home, education, career. People can continue to bug me about the next item on their checklist: baby. And maybe that will be next, who knows. But I can also revel in the fact that these things have brought me to a point where I can create opportunities for myself. In many ways, at 31 I have more options open to me than I did at 21. Real, viable options that can come to fruition in a year instead of a decade. I have enough stability to pursue my love of traveling and enough youth left to make those adventures really exciting. For an example from real life last week, in one day I met with the sheriff about prison programming and went to a Poison concert in a mini skirt at night. Here's to the 30's being the most fulfilling decade yet!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Where I've been: USA

 Thanks to my friend Sarah at I mean really happy for posting this cool map and link to show where you have traveled. I have been to 34 states (68%). Not too shabby! A lot of these were not for long visits but were via car as I road tripped. The summer after I graduated from college, Sarah came and drove from Massachusetts to Utah with me. From Utah that summer, I took a trip with my first girl posse of travel (using the Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road, of course, ). We went to Las Vegas, Nevada and to California. Eventually, I had to drive back home. I did that with my mom and had an eventful stop at a great zoo in Omaha, Nebraska and got to see all the flowers at Graceland marking the 25th anniversary of Elvis's death. A year later, another girl posse used the Bad Girls Guide to get from Massachusetts to Florida to hop on a very memorable and eventful cruise (my first at the time). It's amazing how much both the landscape and the culture varies across this one country and it's absolutely stunning to see it all change right before your eyes from behind the wheel!

PS. Airplane layovers don't count, folks!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Best Tapas Bar in Massachusetts and a taste of Morocco in Boston

This weekend was filled with birthday celebrations and restaurant trips that were reminiscent of my recent Spain trip. Both places were fabulous so I have some recommendations for good eats in the Boston/Worcester area.
Friday night we went to Tangierino Restuarant followed by heading downstairs to the Koullshi Lounge. This is a Moroccan establishment in Charlestown, Ma. The menu was a little pricey for me: meals were around $30. The harira soup appetizer was excellent, as was the hummus. Next time I think I would stop there and not even get an entree. My favorite part was eating on a couch and being greeted by the resident belly dancer! Downstairs is a hookah lounge with lots of atmosphere but music so loud it was hard for our group of 9 to keep the conversation going. I guess I should mention that the Moroccan theme is relevant because when we were in Seville, we were only about 2 hours from Morocco. We ardently tried to make a side trip but we were unable to change our Ryan Air flight. Booooo Ryan Air.
Saturday night a group went to Bocado Tapas Bar in Worcester, Ma. They had a great package where we got to choose 4 meats or cheeses, 8 tapas, 1 paella and 2 desserts for $125. It was meant for 4 people but more than filled 6 girls! I feel a little guilty admitting it but the tapas were some of the tastiest I've had-both at other tapas spots and even en Espana! The pan con tomate is always high on my fave list but we also had some out of this world fried honeyed goat cheese. I have all sorts of analogies about the lengths I would go to for this cheese but they are all so outlandish, they are gross when written out. Suffice it to say, it was incredible. Truly incredible. Also very tasty: rice balls, a panko crusted mac and cheese, and a duck dish. They had all sorts of interesting flavored Sangrias which kept most of the ladies jovial, as well.
I love conjuring up travel memories via my taste buds!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Glacier Hike and Climb

During a week in Boston where the temps have been hovering around 90, I am slightly fascinated by these pictures from my trip to Iceland. I have never really shown pictures from that trip here and I think it's about time they start surfacing! Trouble is, trying to spell any of the places I saw there is near impossible. The combinations of letters is way more than my simple English only brain can comprehend.

This ice arch was dripping ferociously and the guide said it probably wouldn't be there the next week. He pointed out the fissure, which you can see in on the right, sloping down from the top. He then proceeded to walk us under the arch:)

The black lines are from volcanic ash. We drove by the volcano that had erupted the year before (and I think just had another, less major, eruption in May, perhaps).

These black lines, again volcanic ash, show all of the volcanic activity that has occurred during this ice's lifetime.

I strongly suggest you use a guide if you plan to hike the glaciers. Sink holes and other crazy crevices like this one can be lurking under what you think is snow. Isn't this pretty, though?

I had only wanted to do a glacier hike but one of the tour companies offered a climbing experience as part of the hike for about the same price. This was seriously one of the coolest things to do!!

Rappelling down was even more fun, though!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

One Airline You Should Never Fly

In the midst of my travel blog reading frenzy, I stumbled upon a post that brought me more joy and validation than any other blog post ever created. The travelling editor wrote a great, ranting post about Ryan Air. To say that my traveling companions and I had a bad experience with this airline while traveling from Seville to Magaluf and onto Madrid is a huuuuuuge understatement.

It is strongly recommended that you read the above post and my comments about Ryan Air, below, before you take the bait of alleged cheap fares. It will save you so much drama and frustration on your otherwise lovely travels. What a lesson on reading the fine print!

To get really specific, let me just give one clear example: One girl I was with had to pay 350 Euro to get her luggage on the plane and an additional 40 Euro to check her carry on bag, which fit the regulations for every other airline. Oh, and once you print your boarding pass, you can't make any changes to your flight so, in an effort to save the money they charge you to print your boarding pass at the airport, we had printed our tickets before the trip. You know what that detail cost me?? A side trip to Morocco!!

I seriously wish I had seen this post prior to my friend booking our Ryan Air tickets to travel within Spain. It was, by far, the worst experience with an airline I have ever had. They epitomize the corporate devil. Pay to print boarding passes?? Crazypants! We spent time we could have been enjoying beautiful cities in search of Internet cafes to avoid giving Ryan Air one more cent. The weight limits, though, are the most absurd of their protocol. I honestly don't think I can even write about it without sweating. And, yes, the crazy carry on baggage sizes…although I have to admit I found this one amusing for all the trouble it caused a travel companion who was irritating me. Once you finally get on the plane, you can't even get water without pulling out your wallet. And who sells you scratch tickets when you are above the clouds? Cheesy. I HATE RYAN AIR! I am so glad to find a community to support my anger.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Self Care: More than a Concept

Right after I wrote up and published my post about my blogger identity crisis, I had a bit of what Oprah would call an Aha! moment. It's like airing my personal frustration and putting it all out in the Universe cleared my mind again.
The things I write about actually have a common thread of which I wasn't totally aware. They are all about "Self Care". Unsure of if this term is actually used in the real world or if we just made it up in the human service field, let me clarify that this self explanatory phrase is just a shortcut to capture any activities that help you replenish yourself. For me, these things include physical activity, spirituality, mind numbing pop culture, reading, humor, fixing up the house and, of course, travel! Those are the things I tend to blog about, too. They are the things that bring me pleasure, relaxation, escape.
At work, people sometimes tease me about being the self care queen. Part of the ritual I have worked into the closing of our support groups is to have everyone "check out" at the end of group with one thing they will do that week to take care of themselves, treat themselves. Sometimes it's as simple as getting a fountain soda! (I actually had a woman call me last week to let me know she had bought her very own soda, not to be shared with her kids.) One survivor of domestic violence that I have worked with for years, when asked what the organization has done for her so eloquently reported " taught me about self care as a concept and that I was deserving of it".
How amazing is that? What a gift! That, to me, totally speaks to the "give a man a fish/teach him to fish" proverb.
Maybe that's what my posts bring to the blogging world: A reminder to do the things that make you happy. To indulge a little bit each day. To take at least a brief break from nurturing everyone around you to nurture yourself.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blogger Identity Crisis

The blog has been quiet for a few days because I'm having a blogger identity crisis.

Do I write about whatever I want to on a given day or do I need more of a theme? Is there anyone out there who would be interested in the same things I am? At the moment, I'm addicted to reading other people's travel blogs but I don't think I travel enough yet to warrant that being my only focus. (I'm working on it, though!) A couple months ago, I was all about home decorating blogs (but then I ran out of rooms to keep playing with).

A friend who runs a writing group told me that some of the unique categories I fit into would be interesting fodder for a blog: domestic violence victim advocate, religious minority, triathlete. But here are some problems with that:
1. I am pretty sure I am the only not-great-at-practicing Mormon who is passionate about social justice and is a mediocre multi sport athlete.
2. Which gets to my next problem of not being great or conventional at most of those unique categories.... Religiously, I practice in a way most others don't and hold some beliefs and behaviors that are clearly outside the norm. Athletically, while I love to swim, and like to bike, I don't have very warm feelings or strong skill sets around running and am only doing one race this summer.
3. On the work front, I usually can't write about specifics because of confidentiality and safety and, let's be honest, it's not what I look forward to coming home and expounding on after a long, hard day.

So the point is that I don't know what my point is. Most days I want to write about what I am most excited about, which, at the moment is traveling. But some days I just want to write about the wacky story in the news, a good book I read, a great movie I saw, or the fun I have found in every day life that week. Most of my friends write Mommy Blogs so may not have run into this existential crisis:)
I am open to ideas, here, folks!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Lost Girls

I just finished reading The Lost Girls, which I now want to recommend. It's about three girls who leave their NYC jobs to do a round the world trip for a year. I was immediately drawn to this when I stumbled across its existence while indulging my current favorite time suck of reading people's travel blogs.
I have dozens of pages earmarked for future blog inspiration and am definitely passing my copy along to my "road sister" Siobhan, who I know will start creating spreadsheets about future trips to at least a handful of the countries the Lost Girls visit in the book. Thanks to their travels, Laos may have just been added to my to-see list.
Speaking of, what's on your to-see list? I think I need to commit mine to paper ala the Bucket List. (I do have a mini bucket list already jotted down, do you?)
I can't wait to discuss some travel epiphanies with someone else who reads this. Thanks to the authors for representing the nexus of the quarter life crisis with wanderlust!

Fireworks for the 4th!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

First off, I love a 3 day weekend!! And a 3 day weekend with amazing weather? Pretty much the greatest thing ever.
There's really no need to travel in the summer. New England is at it's loveliest from June-November. It's the other 6 months we should all hit the road. For now, though, I am blissed out from multiple days of amazingness.
Thursday night I went to a wedding at the Crane Estate in Ipswich. The Crane Estate had amazing ocean views and was truly stunning, despite far too many buggies in residence.
Saturday I went to my cousin's annual Fourth of July barbecue. (I ended up bringing Oreo truffles at the host's request). It's great to spend time with family who are fun!
Sunday was wedding celebration part II in Cambridge. We ate our fill of Haitian food and Hubby wrapped two plates to go just like my grandmother would:)
Today was just amazing. Clear skies, sunshine, temps in the high 80s, pool water in the low 80s. I had a solo pool party and was extremely content. I don't think I am ever more relaxed than when I am in the sun by the pool, reading. I was a little like Dr. Seuss; I read in a chair, I read in the pool, I read in the sun, I read where it's cool. I sat outside for about 6 hours before I decided Hubby might send out a search party.
For the first time in a while, I didn't think about my next trip abroad but was thinking about all the days ahead on the beaches of Cape Cod and Maine and New Hampshire I could squeeze in. I think my wanderlust might settle down while the sun sticks around home.......

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bbq Dessert Poll: Please Vote

I need your help today. Tomorrow I am going to a bbq and am bringing a dessert but haven't decided what to bring yet.
Should it be:
a. oreo truffles
b. devils food cookies with mint frosting
c. caramel popcorn (which would be my first time making it)
d. muddy buddy mix
e. other (im open to suggestions)
Please vote as soon as you can so I can make it tonight:)
And, for the record, I think this is my first non-travel related post in like 6 weeks. Then again by saying that did I just make it travel related? Tricky