Bucket List, The World A to Z, travel

How Gilligan’s Island Added Fiji to My Bucket List

I grew up watching sitcoms. One of my favorites was Gilligan’s Island. Who doesn’t love the goofy Gilligan somehow managing to save the day in every episode? It was funny and silly and inspirational. Yep, you read that right, inspirational!

Gilligan’s Island

The professor inspired me to think outside the box for solutions to problems. Thurston Howell, III and Bunny made me realize that money can’t solve all the world’s problems and love is important. Ginger showed me that entertainment has value, especially in terms of morale. Gilligan and the Skipper had a great mentor/student relationship that inspired patience and learning. But most of all the entire show added to my desire to travel.

Sure, the SS Minnow is no cruise ship, but the guests and crew did end up on an exotic tropical island even if it was just a set on a soundstage and, despite a weekly setback, managed to thrive and enjoy themselves. A couple of classic movies I was allowed to watch like Father Goose starring Cary Grant and Leslie Caron and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific with Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor added to my Hollywood exposure to the tropics.

When my dad was stationed in Vietnam, my mom went to visit him in Hawaii for a brief R&R visit. She came home with mumus for me and my sisters, along with photos and stories of even more tropical intrigue. The seeds of romance amid giant green leaves and waterfalls emptying into pristine lagoons were firmly planted.

Our vacation to Hawaii wasn’t quite the Fiji-esque scene I imagined.

Years later someone invented the phrase “bucket list” and I realized I already had one full of places I dreamed of going. No matter how many places I add to the list, Fiji is always at the top. I’m pretty sure Gilligan’s Island has something to do with that!

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. What influences the places you add to your bucket list?

Diversion, Road Trip, The World A to Z, travel

Over the Desert and Through the Hills

NOTE: Greg and I got lucky amid all the Coronavirus restrictions. We planned to spend the spring exploring our new backyard … day and weekend road trips in and around Arizona. That means we really didn’t have to cancel any plans or reservations AND we could still do much of what we had hoped to … until the end of March. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued stay-at-home orders and foiled the rest of our plans. Luckily, we managed to get a fun, scenic road trip in before the order was issued. As long as the new restrictions are in place, we are following the orders and staying put. You should, too.

Route 60 weaves through the Superstition Mountains.

The Valley of the Sun is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation and includes nearly 15,000 square miles of desert and mountain foothills. Top down on the Fiat, we leave the house on a sunny Sunday morning on the west end of the valley. The plan: drive across the valley and up into the Superstition Mountains to Globe. Staying off the highways as much as possible will turn the drive into a six-hour excursion. 

Spring is a great time to enjoy the desert, with moderate temperatures and wildflowers in bloom.We head out Route 60 through the Queen Creek Tunnel and into stone-lined canyons as we climb to nearly 5,000 feet. The views along the route are stunning. Rock formations and twisting roads climb and curve. Around one curve, we spot the old road far beneath us and the historic Pinto Creek Bridge. It appears to be part of a hiking trail today. Several small groups  walk along the dirt road leading to the old structure; dozens of other trails weave through the stone outcroppings.

Through another pass the scene shifts dramatically. The brown and red stones give way to rocks bleached nearly white by the sun and copper mining operations turn natural rock formations into strip-mined flat tiers. A few more turns finds us in Miami then Globe. We stop to enjoy our picnic lunch on the trunk of the car before following the signs to cruise through the old town of Globe. Frankly, there isn’t much to see here, but the drive alone is worth it.

With the sun high in the sky, we turn around and head back down to the valley for the picturesque drive home. At a junction, we turn left instead of going straight to explore some new backroads and areas we’ve not yet seen. 

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. In these hard times of “social distancing,” there’s no getting out to stroll the towns along the way or enjoy tourist sites, but you can still enjoy the stunning views!

Stay safe and keep dreaming of future travels.

Distractions, Food, The World A to Z

The Essentials of Life

A friend shared a book with my husband recently that had an incredible concept in it. The book, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, written by Pellegrino Artusi in the late 19th century talks about the philosophy of food as art. Why is art something to be admired from a distance as it hangs on a wall? Why can’t it also be an incredible dish shared with family and friends? 

Enjoying the aromas of a homemade dish.

Mr. Artusi explains that food and procreation are the two essentials of life, both of which should be enjoyed. Italians are pretty well-known for embracing those two essentials. There are a number of Italian phrases that speak to the lifestyle – la dolce vita (the sweet life), dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing), and domani, dopo domani (roughly translated as “whenever”). 

As Greg was reading passages from the book, I found myself nodding in agreement with Mr. Artusi. It struck me that our approach to travel includes those two essentials. In fact, I often pass up a chance to wander a museum in favor of a long, leisurely meal in a local restaurant. 

When I travel, I embrace local foods! Everywhere I go I try to find and taste local specialties. It’s something I call epicuriosity. Besides the flavors of a place, though, the people and their approach to life fascinate me. My wanderlust is seemingly bottomless. I crave the chance to explore new cultures and foods, be awestruck by the differences in architecture in cities or stunning vistas in the countrysides, and wander the ancient city centers of the world or explore neighborhoods.

It seems like the entire world is locked down right now due to COVID-19, but I am earnestly planning itineraries for more trips. My bucket list seems to get bigger with every trip. I am blessed with a husband who not only supports my limitless yearning to travel, but shares it. 

We’re practicing social distancing for the health of our friends, family and neighbors. We know this crisis will eventually pass and we will once again pack our bags and head off to explore some new corner of the globe. In the meantime, we’re using this time to try some new dishes and enjoy our togetherness …  La dolce vita!

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. It will still be there and I still plan on exploring it.

Distractions, Diversion, Road Trip, The World A to Z

The Great Outdoors as Therapy for Troubled Times

Social Distancing. Mandatory Telework. Who has toilet paper?

The Coronavirus has created a new vernacular; some fear this intrusion in our lives may become the “new normal.” But there is always something we can do to improve our own health and well-being … get outside.

After a week mostly cooped-up in the house — Judy running the business, me doing my day job —  Saturday dawned bright and sunny with temps forecast to rise to the mid-70s. Plans to do spring house-cleaning quickly vanished. We threw a picnic lunch together, hopped in the car, put the top down and headed out.

The plan was simple. After a stop in central Phoenix to pick up some wine we had ordered at a recent festival (see “Spring is Festival Season”), we’d head due south on Central Avenue to the point where South Mountain rises from the Valley of the Sun and enters the South Mountain Park and Preserve. The road twists and turns up the mountain to the TV antenna-filled summit. At 2,330 feet, the views of the valley from Dobbins Summit were spectacular with photo opportunities galore. Farther down the road was the Gila Valley overlook, with views to the south and east of town. The sky was so clear you could almost see Tucson! (not really, but you get the point.)

We ate our simple picnic of sandwiches and iced tea under the shade of a ramada (spanish for open porch), one of many throughout the park. We munched as hikers tightened the laces on their boots and grabbed bottles of water to take on some of the 51 miles of trails the park offers. We didn’t hike this day, but we’ll be back to do so, or to possibly let a horse do the work for us, available from the Ponderosa Stables at the park’s entrance.

On this gorgeous day, we weren’t the only ones enjoying this opportunity to be outside. For the most part, people kept up their physical distancing, but smiles abounded and talk was not about the difficulties but about how great life could be when you simply get outdoors.

Refreshed, we drove down the mountain and went home via side streets and roads, avoiding the highway to enjoy the sun in our faces and the breeze in our hair. All in all, the trip took us about four hours but it felt like we were days away from the daily (and new) routines of our lives. It was a great reminder there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … go outside and see it!

Food, The World A to Z, travel, Walks, Wine/Cocktails

Spring Is Festival Season

Springtime is festival time. When the weather turns warmer, we all want to get out into the sun and soak up some warmth. What better place to do that than a festival?

Everywhere I look there are ads for weekend events … art shows, food festivals, wine tastings, church bazaars, neighborhood yard sales … there really is something for everyone. 

Warm sunny days bring visitors outside to enjoy a street festival.

Greg and I recently spent a few hours at a combination wine tasting and art show outside Phoenix. The 16th Annual Fountain Hills Wine and Art Festival was one of several in the metropolitan area on a sun-filled, blue sky weekend in March. For just $10, visitors can sample wines and spirits while browsing among more than 100 artists under the warm summer sun. 

Ferricreations sculpture

We chatted with Barry Ferich of Ferricreations, his hands blackish gray from working on a new piece of art fashioned from steel cable resembling a women’s hair … or the branches and leaves of a tree … blowing in the wind. Art is in the eyes of the beholder! He shared how he got his start crafting pieces out of found metal parts from building sites like wrenches and sockets, and stories behind his inspiration.

Imported wine tasting

We sipped wines from wine importer Schlossadler, who served up tastes of amazing red wine from Italy and Argentina to us. There were others, but we love Italian reds so we opted to stick with what we knew so we could move down the Avenue of the Fountains to try other offerings. That we came back to buy a case speaks to the quality of the wine and the friendliness of consultant Liza Smith.

We wandered past a writer/illustrator, painters, photographers and woodworkers showing off stunning examples of craftsmanship. We admired a bronze sculpture and swapped jokes with the artist.

Elysian Desert Distilleries offered up samples of Carefree Bourbon and Chakra Vodka … delicious.

Carefree Bourbon

All the while, we chatted easily about life and plans and how the weather makes it so easy to get out and enjoy these events. 

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, often right in your backyard. Have fun exploring at a festival!

The World A to Z, travel, Uncategorized

Wanderlust Amid Health Fears

Covid-19 … if you’re a  travel professional, it’s wreaking havoc on your business and your clients’ travel plans. If you love to travel, it leaves you wondering whether you should cancel all or parts of your itinerary or reschedule because you MUST change your plans.

Whatever you decide to do, being informed will ease your fears and help you make the best decision for you and whoever you travel with. 

First: Be safe. Follow all the medical advice and determine whether you are willing to take the risk to travel. The CDC has pages of information and updates its site often.

Second: Whether you book through a travel agent or on your own, check to see if flights, cruises, hotels, and other providers are canceling trips, offering no-cost changes or even closing. Your travel professional can really be worth her (or his) weight in gold in times like this. 

Third: Don’t give up on your wanderlust! Use this time to look into all the places you’re dreaming of going. Plan some itineraries. Give yourself a reason to look forward to the end of this crisis and start socking away some travel spending cash. Travel within your own backyard … take a weekend road trip or check out a local art show or festival.

Travel to places online. Watch travel shows on TV or the internet. Dream. Add to your bucket list. 

Whatever you do, don’t panic. 

After all, there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. It will still be there when all this crisis passes. 

The World A to Z, travel, Uncategorized

How Do You Travel?

From Washington’s Birthday until the end of May, there are no federal holidays. This season should be embraced by travelers. The need for vacation days, breaks from work and school, are well-studied and documented. A whole quarter of the year without a break built-in is just awful!

The good news is, every school schedule includes spring break. Students and teachers from 5 to 95 have a week off somewhere during this dearth of holidays. If you’re looking for an adults-only type of vacation, you should consider where the spring break crowds may be. After all, HOW you travel is as important as WHERE you travel.

Here’s what I mean: When you plan a trip there are dozens of questions to consider before making any reservations. “Where are we going?” leads to “What do we want to do?” “Do we want to avoid the crowds or head to a popular, albeit crowded destination?” You have to ask about interests – Will I be bored in a museum? Do I want to sit in a beach chair and escape into a good book? What will the kids do while I’m relaxing? Maybe a cruise or an amusement park. Maybe we should send the kids to summer camp and take a romantic vacation for two without them. 

It seems like every question you ask brings up another question … and that’s just the “where” aspect of vacation planning. “When” is also important: “Do we go over spring break?” “Do we take a longer, summer vacation?” If you don’t have a school schedule to worry about, do you take into consideration when you will encounter students or when you can avoid them?

And then there’s the question of “how” you travel. This is the most important question for me – Cruise? Train? Road trip? Flight to a far-off destination? Greg and I are not fans of cruising. We prefer land-based travel because the opportunity for surprise diversions comes up at nearly every turn. We prefer smaller crowds, so we tend to travel during off seasons. That means we give up a few things, though. Sometimes stores and museums are closed at our destination, for instance. 

But there are many times we have opted to head right into a crowd. We took our grandson on a road trip in August. The crowds at the Grand Canyon were immense – busloads of tourists crowded the overlooks and restaurants. He was on summer break with every other school student in the US. We were locked in to his school schedule.

I could go on and on, but by now you get the point. Planning a vacation can be a monumental challenge. You can tackle it alone, with your family or get help. Travel professionals can offer ideas you may not have considered. Researching a potential destination might even lead to a new item on your travel bucket list. Have fun with it! 

Remember, while there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, you have a whole lifetime to see it.