Costa Rica, Coming Right Up!

We are incredibly lucky,  because we have so many trips coming up that it is difficult to focus on just one. In a later post, we will get into the twists and turns of planning our Alaska family vacation and I will begin to illuminate you on my trip with my soon-to-be-high-school-graduate niece to … Italy. So stay tuned. I know you won’t want to miss all the excitement.

Not bad, huh?

But for now, it’s less than a month from our first trip: Costa Rica, here we come again. Our incredibly hospitable friends Karl and Guiselle are graciously allowing us to stay with them again. Now they live in Playa Flamingo, so the sites will be different. It is the hottest area of the country,  but it’s also the beach, so I’m sure we will be fine. Steven will definitely be “working,” (no, really, he will) – seriously I will be working, we are going to Costa Rica to get away from the miserable Chicago weather – and I hope to have a paying project or two myself. So far, we have only had a dusting of snow followed by days warm enough to melt it all. Yay! But we know that cannot last, so we are grateful to be thinking of the tropics.

Even if I am working, I will be pursuing scuba certification in the mornings with Rocket Frog Divers. We may have mentioned that Steven is certified and that I gave it a shot in Hawaii, but this time I think the water will be plenty warm and I will be doing the full course including classwork and pool work. I am determined to get it done, seasickness be damned. We haven’t planned much beyond that, but who cares. We may do a cave tour, we may see some sea turtles, we may walk on the beach and enjoy the sun. We will definitely be relaxing with friends. Maybe I will even be brace enough to try out my very limited Spanish.

Steven will have his own challenge. While I am used to spending vacations through the kindness of friends, he is more of a hotel guy. We’ll see how long he lasts sharing a space with three other humans (and some cats) Cats!!! No one said anything about Cats!. If it weren’t for all the other trips we have coming up (and friends, family, and dog), I would probably rip up my return ticket. I guess, we’ll see how the rest of this year goes before we make that drastic move. In the meantime, sun, sand, surf, and a cerveza are on the horizon.

Midwinter Break All Set

If you are a loyal reader (and thank you if you are), you will know that we were struggling to decide where to go the first week in March. Well, we decided, but it’s nowhere warm. Maybe a little warmer than Chicago (but that’s not hard), but not a bask-in-the-sunshine trip. That’s OK. Costa Rica and Houston will both be significantly warmer than Chicago, where as I write this, it is 20 degrees. But at least I saw the sun.

For our fabulous mid-winter break (yes, I know it will be March, but that’s barely halfway through winter here), we will spend the first half of the week in New York. Can’t go wrong there. Then we are headed to Boston. Steven can work in both places and I can work, too, (I hope I have work), see friends, family, and feel like I’m home again.

Somehow, it doesn’t matter if it’s warm in New York. We don’t have any specific plans, aside from pizza. We don’t really need them. If Uncle David (also known as Unky) is around, we will have dinner with him. Otherwise, we will wander, shoot photos, eat, and maybe take in a play or some music. Who cares? It’s New York.Moakley_Courthouse_and_Boston_Harborwalk_02.JPG

In Boston, we will stay with Steven’s brother, Phil, and sister-in-law, Naomi. Family hospitality. They don’t have a choice! Plus, I hope to see some friends of mine from college.

In case you were wondering, yes, I do realize that I am effin’ lucky. I love to travel, and we have four trips planned before the end of summer. That doesn’t even include my niece’s graduation trip. She is as of yet undecided about where she wants to go, but is thinking somewhere in Western Europe. Stay tuned.

 

Life Messes With My Vacation Plans

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Early November to May weather in Chicago. No, really, it snowed on Halloween and last April.

I already mentioned that we are passing on our latest dream vacation: Southeast Asia. Instead, we have decided to jet off somewhere warm the first weeks of February, March, and April. I know what you are thinking: Isn’t it warm in April. NO! April is the beginning of the last third of winter here in Chicagoland. That week, we are planning a trip to Houston to see family and then on to Mechanicsburg, PA, for Passover seder with the other side of the family.

Did you ever notice that places you don’t consider tourist destinations are expensive to fly to? Four hundred dollars to fly to Harrisburg, PA?!?!?!?!? Four-fifty to get to El Paso!?!?!? And I don’t get to check a bag and I have to sit in the back of the tiny plane? Yuck. I really want to go to Big Bend, but we may end up folding it into a roadtrip.

OK, that leads me to the toughest decision. I really want to go to Big Bend, but I really don’t want to spend $450 a person flying to El Paso. I think that’s off the table, but then where to? Somewhere warm, but not expensive. San Diego? Tucson? We need a place with reliable, fast WiFi so Steven can “work.” We’re still pondering that one. Steven has to work during the week, so we want to go somewhere that I will have things to do, unless I manage to find some work. Anyone looking for freelance writing or editing? I’m your woman!

We did get the February trip solidified. We are headed back to Costa Rica courtesy of our friends Karl and Guiselle, who have moved to Playa Flamingo from Arenal.  Can’t go wrong with sun, surf, and friends. I don’t know if it will work out, but I may have to try scuba again. Plus, I have been Duolingoing for a while, so maybe I will even be able to speak to someone in Spanish. This time, I want to see turtles.

I am excited to go to Houston, not because I like Houston, but it’s been more than a year since I have seen my brother, sis-in-law, niece, and nephew. Way too long. It’s more fun to spoil them in person and it will almost be our niece’s birthday. Crazy aunt and uncle fun time!

 

Slumber Party

 

I love traveling with my husband, but sometimes I need something different. Travel with my women friends feeds a different aspect of my soul. Friday, I drove to Sawyer, Michigan, where three of my friends and I spent a night drinking wine, talking, and creating soul collages. As much as I love Steven, I don’t think he would spend a day losing track of time as he hunted through magazines for the perfect picture to complete his collage (So right on so many levels). In fact, I got the quizzical look I expected when I told him what we had done.

20191109_145315There wasn’t really anything to do: no WiFi, no TV (horrors of horrors! No TV or Internet! – I am so happy I wasn’t invited), no real town to go to. It was fabulous! We were surrounded by woods, apple trees, and quiet. I am blessed with amazing friends around whom I feel both supported and loved. I feel like I can be my true self around them. In fact, I am at an age where if I can’t be my true self around someone, I don’t bother, but these are women I feel at peace around.

As you already know, when I travel, I want to be on the go: doing, seeing, exploring. I didn’t understand the power of stillness. I’m not saying I want to do this every weekend, or even once a month, but the restorative nature of it was amazing. Plus, I got to pretend I can create artwork without words.

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Soul-collage table

We are lucky that one of us has generous friends who lent us their beautiful home. While I don’t want to own a second home, I now understand the appeal.

Update: We have decided to put off our grand adventure to Southeast Asia for a year. We are in the midst of too much uncertainty and upheaval. I am sad, but I am also sure we will not give up on it.

Back to Planning

spreadsheet.pngWhen we talked last time, which was some time ago (oops!), about our desire to go to Southeast Asia. Steven and I talked in circles for a month or so because of all the other upheaval in our lives (trying to sell a house, deciding where to move, trying to develop a freelance writing career) but then we decided to plan in earnest and worry about finances, time, physical fitness⁠—you know, the little stuff⁠—later.

Instead of getting into trip details, I’m going to focus on the how we plan. We’ve only just started this time, but here’s our process:

  1. Get bug about a certain far-flung location. This time Vietnam for the caves and Cambodia for the oldest known zero.
  2. Tell ourselves it’s completely unrealistic.
  3. Admit to each other that we’re still thinking about it even though it’s completely unrealistic.
  4. Decide that maybe it’s not completely unrealistic.
  5. Do some Internet/print (what? a book???) research.
  6. Use up many sticky notes listing places within the country/region we want to visit.
  7. Steven makes a spreadsheet. (I know it’s weird, but this gives him joy.){Happiness is a good spreadsheet – and if I am lucky – a bit of a macro too!}
  8. Realize that this trip will take two months {a minimum of 2 months}  and start scaling back.
  9. Make some hard choices {I hate making hard choices!}.
  10. Mourn the places we won’t be able to see and convince ourselves we will go back.
  11. Figure out how much this will all cost by checking into flights and other transportation, hotels, food, attractions {Wow! that much!}.
  12. Start booking! or not, if we magically become grounded in reality.

We are about to hit Stage 10. Notice that we already have our hearts set on this trip, which is now Cambodia and Vietnam if we do the cave tour, and Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos if we don’t. We’re figuring about three weeks plus a few days. That’s a chunk of time not to be working, especially if you’re trying to build a freelance business. On the other hand, we aint getting any younger or richer, so if not now, when?

Dreaming Again

Southeast Asia.jpgIt seems as though we will be stuck in Chicago for another winter. Not our first choice, to be sure, but given that our desire to move is simply a desire and not a necessity, not the end of the world either. However, since I am now a full-time freelancer and Steven’s job is somewhat flexible, we have begun to dream of far-flung destinations once more.

Southeast Asia fills the top spot at the moment. We can go in semi-shoulder season, maybe February, when there aren’t as many school vacations, and it will be warm! We had been thinking in that direction anyway, but this dream was reinvigorated by Travels with My Father, a show about 28-yar-olds comedian Jack Whitehall’s “gap year” travels with his decidedly stuffy 77-year-old British dad. Guess where they went in season 1? You are so smart! Yes, it was Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Steven has had this notion about seeing the oldest recorded zero in Cambodia, and I am about to disappoint him because I think the real oldest zero is iImage result for son doong caven India. (Hmmm, maybe that’s a way to get him there!) Then he decided we should go on a four-day Vietnamese trip into Son Doong, the world’s largest cave. Hmm, he hates camping, can barely sleep in a comfy bed, and is afraid of heights. There is a 90-meter rope climb to begin the tour. I give him credit for advance bravery, that’s for sure. Image result for son doong cave

Now that I am looking at these pictures, I am thinking this may be totally worth it!

Reality bites, as we all know, because if we spend five days getting to and being on this tour, that takes a real bite out of the rest of our trip. Our style is to get overly grandiose in our vacation dreams and then scale back as we add up the costs in money and time. How can we go to Thailand and not hit the beach and explore Bangkok? How can we fly all the way to Southeast Asia and not see Angkor Wat or the Silver Palace in Phnom Penh? Or go scuba diving? Then, a friend said, “Oh, you have to go to Laos.” Sure, we’ll add that to the list. Why? I’m not sure yet, but it’s right there.

I am so relieved. A few months have gone by without a crazy, exciting trip to plan and now we have one again! Life is much more fun when you don’t have both feet firmly planted in daily reality.

Next Stop: Somewhere Near Baltimore

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A reminder of why we don’t want to stay in Chicago

We didn’t take a big trip this summer for many life reasons. Don’t you hate it when reality gets in the way of travel? We’re dreaming of Vietnam and Cambodia, but our next jaunt is to the Baltimore area to see Steven’s son and daughter-in-law (and my stepson and stepdaughter-in-law). While we’re there, we’re going to look around and think about permanence. This whole time of life is a little bit travel, a little bit leap into the unknown. One thing I know for sure, though, Steven does not want to live through another Chicago winter and if Farmer’s Almanac is right, it’s going to be a bad one.

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Desert beats snowstorm any day

That’s why the trip to Utah; it was a fact-finding mission. Do we want to temporarily live in St. George? Would it be possible? Do we like it? Is the the right semi-long-term trip for us? The jury is out. For sure the winter would be easy. Plus, it is a wonderful vacation spot: Beautiful, warm, sunny, plenty of hiking and we did get in a beautiful hike, so no complaints there. But….vacation! travel! Someplace new and crazy. Not happening.

I wish at least we had time to drive East. The shorter the flight, the less I see the need to get on a plane, but, again, reality. Plane=quicker, at least if there’s a pilot, no weather, no random delays, no mechanical problems, no luggage that doesn’t match a passenger. I love to travel and see planes as a necessary evil. If I am flying over an ocean I can’t think about how I would rather be driving and then I get a free checked bag and maybe some food.