Where we’re at: I’ve wrapped up blogging the second quarter of 2019, of which this is a huge roundup.
I realize for some this is a difficult time to read about travel. I am writing often about our current global crisis — the impact it’s having on me personally, on the world of travel, and on the world at large — regularly on my social media channels, covering topics like wellness-focused practices, and giving away generously to charities helping those in need.
However, my blog audience has spoken and they have overwhelmingly requested a break from COV-tent (content about, well, you know…), and a place where they can mentally escape right now. So, I will continue to post from my past travels to inspire those who wish to daydream about the day it is safe to travel again. Wishing all of you love and peace in this time of reflection.
What a roundup this one was to write. It was my busiest three months of the year, I think, as I took several trips for work, including conferences, meetings, and retreat coordination. I also traveled for personal reasons, including my deep desire to recharge after nearly a year of full-time caretaking took its toll. So it was a time busy with travel and movement, at least compared to the great stillness that defined much of the rest of the year.
It was also a time busy with loss; deep heartbreaks that shifted who I am.
And like any period of great devastation, it was also one that brought a deep gratitude and appreciation for all the strength, friendships and kindnesses that got me through it.
Where I Went
• Four nights in New York, New York
• Four nights in Albany, New York
• Three nights in Riviera Maya, Mexico
• Four nights in Tulum, Mexico
• Eleven nights in Albany, New York
• Three nights in Portland, Maine
• Three nights in Bar Harbor, Maine
• One night in Northampton, Massachusetts
• Fifteen nights in Albany, New York
• One night in Lexington, Ohio
• Five nights in Albany, New York
• Three nights in Liverpool, England
• Three nights in Anglesey, Wales
• Two nights in Cavan, Ireland
• Three nights in Dublin, Ireland
• Seven nights in Tel Aviv, Israel
• Five nights in Dahab, Egypt
• Two nights in Cairo, Egypt
• Three nights in Albany, New York
• Four nights in Boston, Massachusetts
• New York, New York. Considering I spent the year so close to one of my favorite cities, I do wish I’d been able to spend more time there. But the trips I did manage were magical — I was so grateful for getting to attend my college friend Liz’s impromptu engagement party, getting time with high school bestie Kristin (even if we didn’t love Mean Girls on Broadway, we did get $40 rush tickets), discovering the delightful restaurant BoCaphe, meeting Brenna and brainstorming our future retreat collaboration, and spontaneously heading to a stand up show with homegirl Amanda. Every day is different in New York, and that’s why I love it.
• Gracias for giddiness. I could not have been more tickled over going to a true vacation in Mexico (I literally got a frozen daiquiri a the airport the moment I walked out of baggage claim). I was at first a little salty at first about the cost of an all inclusive, but I’m so glad we splurged on the fancy room and a day at the spa, and otherwise did basically nothing but chill and hang out with Ian’s friends gathered for the wedding he was a groomsman in. And honestly, I was glad I got to do something for Ian, for once. It was a hard time for us.
• Cenote magic. I’m a sucker for a cenote. And on this trip, I got to swim in two and even got to dive in one. Spending the day with my badass female dive guide from Mexico City and hearing her insights into life in Quintana Roo was fascinating and fun — I can’t wait to go back and dive more.
• Tulum, full stop. I don’t really pick “destinations of the year” or in this case, “destinations of the quarter,” but if I did, Tulum would top the list (tied with Bar Harbor, for a totally different vibe.) Although I ache to return for longer, I really cherished our time here soaking up all the things we love and feeling connected to our old life of sunshine and sea. While there were some downsides, and I’d been incredibly stressed about doing Tulum “right,” from our yoga class in a jungle wonderland to the best street tortas I’ve ever had to driving around looking at street art from the back of a motorbike, I felt like I was back home, even somewhere I’d never been before.
• Abby and Avenue Q. I think my year plus in Albany would have looked a lot different had Abby moved to Saratoga sooner. It makes such a difference to have even one single, “yes girl” friend in the area. We were both thrilled to meet in Cohoes for a night of dinner at cute Caskade restaurant, and seeing Avenue Q at the historic Cohoes Music Hall. The show has been on my list forever — I was thrilled to check it off, and have a night with a friend.
• Fake Easter. We were at all corners of the globe for real Easter, but what’s a date on the calendar anyway. We held a family Easter a week later and reaped the benefits of discounted candy and the world’s most adorable discounted dog bunny costume, which Prada was none too thrilled to wear (but humored me like the sweet baby she was.)
• Playing tour guide. I really loved having friends come to Albany to visit me. Let’s just say it was almost easier to get people to Koh Tao, a remote island halfway around the world from most of my friends, than it was to get some of them on a bus a few hours away. So I was super touched when Heather made Albany a stop on her US tour from Cayman! While our hiking plans got rained out, it was a blessing in disguise — we were both blown away by the Larry Kagan exhibit we found at the Albany Institute of Art.
• Seeing my name under “keynote panel.” I could not have been more honored to be asked to be a keynote speaker at the Women In Travel Summit — or more grateful that I could make the journey, a long drive from Albany, happen. I was so impressed with the values of WITS, so happy to be onstage with one of my best friends Angie, so grateful for the inspiration that struck and the connections that I made. It was a really meaningful career moment for me. Oh, and I went to a bomb foot spa after. Long live Soakology.
• Amazing Acadia. So, it might not have been the ideal time of year to visit, but I still cherish my trip to the East Coast’s first National Park with my sweet friend Liz. From our quaint sunset strolls, to the world’s most adorable quirky movie theater (you’ve got to see Woman at War), to our badass final hike to Big Bubble, Bar Harbor and Acadia were worth the wait.
• A Sister Stopover. To break up the eight hour drive from Acadia back to Albany, I spent a night in Northampton with my oldest sister’s family. She and her home have such a peaceful, calming presence — I need to spend more time there. Wouldn’t a Northampton blog post be nice?
• Our last Mother’s Day. I guess this falls into the large swaths of my roundups these days where I don’t even know where to put things… was it a cherished memory or a traumatizing moment? Sometimes, it’s a hard call. Knowing it was without question our final Mother’s Day together? Unbearable. But a beautiful Mother’s Day brunch, running into one of our kind chemo nurses, seeing my mom surrounded by her beloved spring flowers at Tulip Fest after a long, sad winter… I guess those things were sweet, if bitterly so.
• Mary Jane Day. I’ve written before about Unity House, a Capital Region charity that my mom was president of the board of until her passing, and that both my parents were deeply involved in throughout my life. Mary Jane was one of my sister and I’s godmothers, and she was the founder of Unity House — she was like a grandmother to me; an altruistic, F-bomb dropping, fiery former nun. For Mary Jane Day, we went to Unity House’s food pantry to celebrate the founding of Unity House. Those days, anytime we got my mom out of the house was meaningful and emotional, but this one, wheeling her into the facility where she once vibrantly ran the show and where her name is on the front door with the other donors who brought the new building to life — this was another level. It brings me pain to think about all the good my mom still had to do in the world — but comfort to know how many lives she had already touched with her big heart.
• Flying my drone over Tulip Fest. It was one of the best angles I saw of Albany all year. I really need to get myself proper lessons — it’s a shame I’m so scared of the thing.
• Drive-in season. I’m a cinephile, as long time readers know. Nothing made me happier or more nostalgic than two weekends in a row of drive in movies with Ian and Prada, the trunk popped open and packed with pillows and blankets; cuddle-filled memories of our final week together.
• The Real Housewives of Koh Tao reunion. After a mind-numbing month of losses (see below), I was almost on auto-pilot as I left for my delayed trip to the United Kingdom. But as I settled into my seat for my transatlantic flight I thought wow, I needed this. And I did. I can’t imagine a more healing trip than one spent with my closest confidantes of the last decade, who I’d just spent the last year painfully missing. It was wild how many current or former Koh Tao residents descended upon England and Wales in that short week. I really cherished hugging and simply soaking up the company of every one of them.
• Spicing Up My Life. Honestly, the concert of a lifetime for me. From running through Liverpool in full costume to catch our train to a drunken dinner at Pizza Express to crying our eyes out in a stadium of thousands to dancing the night away in Manchester’s gay club scene, it was a night to remember. A highlight of the year.
• Eight years of blogging. Well, my travelversary and my blogaversary happened in this period, which I suppose technically is an accomplishment that counts as a highlight, but I didn’t really acknowledge them in the moment. I think the passage of time was just freaking me out at this point.
• Dumplings in Dublin. I admitted that Dublin wasn’t exactly at the top of my bucket list, but I loved spending more time with my favorite people, and enjoyed kinda doing my own thing there in going to yoga and eating dim sum and drinking, well, anything but a Guinness. I appreciate having the confidence to know what I like when I travel, now.
• An Irish wedding. Wow, was it fun to see the whole Banyan crew all cleaned up for Gemma and Tommy’s I do’s. I loved dressing up with a fascinator on! While we didn’t spend long in Cavan, I loved our lazy day at the spa and feeling like we got a really true glimpse into another culture at the wedding festivities. And I loved seeing Gemma so happy.
• Landing at Ben Gurion International. More than anything else that happened since I’d moved back to Albany, this felt like my “me” time. I was traveling solo, back in a country that made me feel deliciously young and wild and free. I still remember the butterflies I felt when my plane dipped over the Tel Aviv skyline. It was so good to be back.
• Social butterflying. I adored reconnecting with so many amazing friends in Israel — from being scooped right up at the airport by my friend Or to the most fun girl’s night tearing up the town with Omer to a night of cocktails and hummus and sunset-watching with Jannah that ended with an invitation to her wedding. After a year in the suburbs, it felt so good to be somewhere so vibrant and lively again.
• A dream come true. Okay, maybe the real dream would have been having my submission accepted. But it’s been a goal of mine for years to finally submit to Modern Love. And sitting on a rooftop in Tel Aviv, I finally pressed send.
• The confetti explosion that is Tel Aviv Pride. I went looking forward to a glittery fun parade. What I didn’t expect was all the rest of it — a city-wide, weeklong party with intimate rooftop Elton John cabaret tributes and heaving raves in Israel’s answer to Central Park. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.
• Joy-filled retreat research. It’s what I came to the Middle East for, after all. And gosh, did I have fun. For the first time, I started to see the general shape of my future Israel retreat take shape as I traipsed around the city looking at properties, taking a SUP yoga class and running away to join the city’s circus. In Egypt I was so excited to finalize all the details, so hard to do from afar, and relieved to test out our accommodation and the epic dive day trip to Gabr El Bint. This is the life I missed.
• The joy of being completely alone. Unlike in Israel, I don’t have a friend to meet up with every night in Egypt — which I actually enjoyed. I relished in the long-forgotten joy of ordering a pizza to my hotel room and spending an evening eating and watching shows in bed, no one in the world knowing where I am.
• TravelCon. Honestly, I struggled with where to put this event, and ended up with bits of it in my highlights and my lowlights. I appreciated the keynote speakers, loved connecting with friends, and even found some cool things to do in Boston — including an all night karaoke bender in their Koreatown.
• All the small things. Making some meals that I actually felt proud of. Taking my mom to see Dumbo with her best friend and my sister. Opening the mail and finding a photo album one of my past retreat guests made for me. Takeout from my favorite empanada restaurant in Albany. Long nights in the aerial studio. Making blueberry pancakes for my mom with ingredients straight from Maine. Tulips delivered to our door. Baby birds in the front lawn with those beautiful blue eggs. Walks along the Hudson River with Prada and my mom. Sometimes, looking back, the little things were my favorite.
Let’s just say that there will be a chapter in my future short story collection about the time I accidentally spent two days on a bender of fun, living out of a suitcase in the left luggage room of a hostel in Tel Aviv and narrowly missed my flight because I couldn’t tear myself away.
Lowlights and Lessons
• Mega-resort moodiness. Granted, I haven’t spent too much time at resorts with thousands and thousands of people at them. But I found the service at the all-inclusive we stayed at in Mexico kind of lackluster for the cost. I was shocked when the bride’s very reasonable request for the rained-out rehearsal dinner was brusquely denied, and there were a couple times we came up against a really aggressive “no” for what felt like well, no reason.
• Tulum Ruin regrets. Ha, well, that did not go according to plan. I was super excited to see the scenic Tulum ruins for myself but well, we picked a bum tour guide, had an absolutely packed day (note to self: no more trips to Mexico on Easter Week) and nearly melted in the heat after attempting to arrive before the doors opened. We laughed and made the most of it, so this is less a crushing blow and more of a funny flop.
• Making sacrifices. It’s a long story, but nearly six months earlier, I’d impulsively and somewhat desperately signed up for a two week yoga immersion training that fell over the same time period as the wedding in Mexico. It was hard to give up when I was eager to use my time in Albany to teach, but it was my turn to do something for Ian. And I’m glad I did. Thankfully, the company kindly offered to transfer it to another one of their semi-annual trainings in the future, in light of my situation.
• Playa Papaya Project. After a week with Ian’s best friend and his girlfriend, much of it eager for a night out, of course Tulum’s famous Full Moon Party was the night after they left, our one night in Mexico alone. We definitely would have preferred to have partied with a crew and enjoyed a quiet night alone together, but we kind of forced ourselves to go instead and it was a bit of a comedy of errors. I guess I’m glad we saw it, but it was definitely a long and expensive night just to satisfy our curiosity over Tulum’s famed nightlife — from what we saw, it fit in with every unflattering cliche of Tulum there is.
• Camper cancellation. Honestly, in the end, I’m super happy with the way our Maine trip unfolded so I almost didn’t even mention this here. But, it was a huge cluster that I went to so much effort to arrange a camper van rental, do all the campground research and reservations, and even make an appointment to get a hitch on my car, only to have the host cancel our reservation when he found out it would be my first time towing (I mean fair enough but put that in your listing! And I have been a passenger on some towing adventures so it wouldn’t be totally foreign to me.) I was super bummed, especially not to be able to bring Prada, but I was able to get refunds from everyone (even for the non-refundable hitch installation, once I explained the situation!), so I’m grateful for that.
• Crippling anxiety in Maine. Throughout the year, I struggled with a lot of anxiety whenever I was on the road, but without question, it reached a peak on my trip to Maine. I was almost obsessed with the thought of getting back to Albany, which was so frustrating because whenever I was there I was struggling with depression and aching for the freedom of travel. Looking back, I’m not sure what about this particular trip made it so debilitating — perhaps it was thinking back to my last trip to Maine, with my mom, maybe it was some intuition that something was not right with Rachel, as it was so unusual at that time for us to not be in very regular communication. The destination was a dream and the company was divine (and very sympathetic) and I’m glad that as always, when I look back on this trip the rosy memories supersede the challenging ones in my mind, but I can’t erase knowing I was sitting deeply uncomfortable with my anxiety at that time.
• Losing Rachel. I was blindsided. I barely remember anything about getting to or from Ohio for her funeral — I think I was in shock. I’m grateful for the opportunity Silvia and I had to do a tribute to her at TravelCon, which was a small healing step. To this day, it feels surreal — and so, so deeply unfair — that she is gone.
• Our last weekend with Prada. I know, I know, believe me I know — this was a brutal time. But when I think about how this was actually my busiest time of the year, I feel so grateful that I was able to be by Prada’s side for her final days, and that we managed some true quality time and sweet memories while our hearts were being ripped out of our chests at the thought of losing her. Going for a hike, cuddling at the drive-ins, and mercifully, having some privacy for a few days (Miller had taken my mom to Martha’s Vineyard for a few days, and I can’t imagine trying to explain what was happening, to her) — I’m really grateful for all those painful but cherished memories, as well as the peaceful way we were able to end her life at home (I found a compassionate vet that came to the house.) I was just so not ready to say goodbye, and so wracked by guilt that I was too distracted by my mom’s care and my grief over Rachel to take proper care of this sweet angel who it was my responsibility to care for.
• Being alone. Maybe it was all the goodbyes. Maybe it was just the way it was. But I felt lonelier than ever that spring. My every attempt to cheer myself up only seemed to end in further blues — I went to a movie solo after inviting just about every person I knew, and cried on the way home. I volunteered to teach a fundraiser yoga class at my local studio after feeling frustrated with myself for not using the time at home to teach more, and only my sister and her boyfriend came. I know I’ve shared this before, but in a time when I was constantly surrounded by my mom, my mom’s caretaker, her friends, and my stepdad, it was simultaneously the most lonely and never alone I’d ever been.
• Cancellations. While I was on the road more than any other quarter of the year, I also cancelled many of my travels, too. My trip to the Finger Lakes with Rachel, a weekend yoga retreat with my teacher trainers from my Y7 vinyasa teacher trainers, my time in London, and a weekend trip to Vermont with Ian all got scrapped for various tragedies.
• Spice girls spending. So, way back when we’d bought our Spice Girls tickets, I was up in the middle of the night along with the other four girls attempting to get tickets for all of us. We had been in the virtual queue for hours and been kicked out of checkout a few times already when we kept seeing posts saying the shows were entirely sold out. When I saw tickets pop up on a resale site disgustingly marked up, I was impulsively more horrified at the idea of missing the show than I was at the concept of paying so much for a Spice Girls ticket. Of course, literal moments after I pressed purchase, Amy got through to the checkout page and bought us direct, reasonably priced ones. Considering the shows sold out in hours, I figured I would be able to resell them at a reasonably small loss. Then, the Spice Girls announced the next day, surprise! They were adding several new show dates. I was so annoyed, as demand for resale tickets dropped drastically. I kept lowering the price and lowering the price and they finally sold on the day of the show. I took a big loss which was tough when I was on a much reduced income. But, to comfort myself, I guess I’ve lost money on less fabulous things than seeing the Spice Girls with all my best girl friends.
• Great expectations. Oh, my old friend anxiety. Those overwhelming emotions I’d been feeling in Maine were back in Israel, though this was a slightly modified variation. The highs were high but the lows were low — it was a true roller coaster of a trip. While I’ll keep the details for my future book, the expectations I’d had for the trip were a lot to live up to, and I did a lot of crying walking up and down the beach and struggling to eat anything that wasn’t cold produce (a bizarre anxiety manifestation that I haven’t had since my crushing breakup with my first real love nearly a decade ago.) On the upside — please do know I’m being sarcastic here — I received a flood of DMs on Instagram about how great I looked. Doesn’t that say a mouthful about societal beauty standards for women.
• My “what was I thinking” moment. Also in Israel, I had what was probably one of my closest calls ever — an accident that could have turned into a true tragedy if I hadn’t been so lucky. Or who knows, maybe I’ve had loads in the past but they were before I knew how fragile life can be. Anyway, after endless warnings about the danger of motorized Bird scooters, after an all-night rave in Yarkon Park, I…. accepted a ride home on a motorized Bird scooter. Unsurprisingly, we crashed moments later, and landed in a heap on one of Tel Aviv’s main thoroughfares, our heads exactly where a car’s wheels would be, had there been one there at the time. Definitely not my savviest travel moment, and I’ve still got the scars on my knees to remind me of it.
• Border frustrations. I’ve crossed the border from Egypt intro Israel before with no issue, so I wasn’t too fussed as I attempted the other direction for the first time. But upon entering Egypt my cab driver furiously chided me for his long wait (um, sorry?) and then drove me to a checkpoint where I was meant to pay 400EGP. Except I had no Egyptian currency. Cue mad chaos and miscommunication while we spent an hour trying to procure cash for me — eventually returning to the border and going through immigration again to use an ATM on the other side of the border after being driven to a sketchy alley where someone attempted to rip me off blind with an exchange rate so insulting I laughed when he told me. I mean, it was one of those travel stories that rolls off your back the moment it’s over, but I highlight the story to explain part of why I’m so involved with my retreat research — even the Dahab experts I was working with didn’t know about that fee for entering Egypt at that port of entry. What if we’d had a guest that did so, and I hadn’t known to warn them? This is why I’m so obsessively detail oriented when it comes to all my retreat research.
• Boston blues. It’s weird now, writing this section, because it’s full of such a bizarre mix of levels of pain — like, one bullet point about oh, I lost my favorite jacket I’ve had since high school in Boston and that’s such a bummer and the next about the existential trauma I felt returning to the city where my mom had emergency brain surgery that changed my life forever.
Being back in Boston blindsided me. The conference was days before the one year anniversary of my mom being med-evaced to Mass General for emergency brain surgery that would reveal her advanced terminal brain cancer diagnosis. I had never really loved Boston but that week, living on the neuro ICU unit watching the woman who gave me life fight for hers, I hated it. And I got there and I got off the bus and I don’t know why I didn’t anticipate this, but it just hit me, this whole wave of bitterness towards Boston. The next morning I walked late and distracted into Cheryl Strayed’s keynote and and sat down and felt her words sear straight into me as she spoke of purposely destroying her life after her mother died. “It was the only way I knew to prove to the world how much she had meant to me,” she said, and I felt suddenly very much like everyone was looking at me, a suspicion confirmed by the well-meaning flood of messages in that moment from blogging friends. Later, I went to a conference meetup, and when the host began discussing their service of providing medical evacuations for travelers, time stopped, and all I could think of was my mom, who we’d all been laughing on the beach with the day before, getting strapped into a Coast Guard helicopter because there was a storm too strong for the hospital’s own chopper to take off, like even mother nature was setting off alarm bells for us to wake up to all the ways our lives were about to change. It just felt like everywhere I turned in Boston, something hurt. Oh. And I lost my coat.
Best and Worst Beds of the Months
Best: It’s a tough call between our hotel in Tulum or our Airbnb in Bar Harbor, but considering the Airbnb host sent me some accusatory texts after we had a very simple miscommunication (which left me with a terrible pit in my stomach), I’m going to go with our cute and cheery (and reasonably priced!) design hotel in Tulum.
Worst: My red eye to Manchester. I can’t quite sleep on airplanes the way I used to.
Best and Worst Meals of the Months
Best: Dinner at ARCA. It was worth the hype! And we couldn’t go to Tulum without one overpriced bougie meal, right? Honestly, I love memories like this because this is somewhere I probably wouldn’t have thought to go on my own, but got to experience because of Ian’s passions. That can be one of the best parts of a relationship. A close second would be Pizza Express while dressed as a Spice Girl because well, it’s so rare to get to combine so many of life’s passions like that.
Worst: Whatever I ate or drank that got me a bit sick for my week in Egypt.
Things definitely got a bit harder to balance, this period, as I started to take back on more and more of my work responsibilities. But while complicated and challenging, it felt empowering to do so. Taking a business trip to New York for work events and meetings, traveling to Portland to speak at WITS and heading to the Middle East to proactively keep moving on my retreats all made me feel like I wasn’t going totally off the rails. And I was able to work at home, too, thanks to a social media partnership with an eco-brand for Earth Day, and my ongoing contract with Discover Albany.
I enjoyed really diving into the retreat marketing cycle and waking up in the morning thinking, “what can I do to promote these life-changing trips today?” It was fun to use my brain in a new way.
I also, perhaps over-ambitiously, signed up for an online continuing education yoga teacher sequencing course which I listened to one lesson of and promptly never touched again. It was a crazy time — but perhaps something to revisit now.
Health and Fitness Update
While my travels threw my super regular fitness routine for a bit of a loop, I stayed pretty active on most trips, seeking out occasional classes and fitness adventures. But, I also kind of started to understand why some people take a break when on “vacation.” When you are home the majority of the time and have a really dedicated fitness regimen there, you might not went to spend your precious travel time in a hotel gym.
And when I was home, I was a kind of borderline crazy fitness addict, often having to talk myself out of doing two classes a day. One of my fun fitness highlights of the quarter was getting to do my first aerial photoshoot, which was great practice for future retreats where I’d run them myself.
What Was Next
With summer in full swing, I balanced family time in Albany and Martha’s Vineyard with trips to Syracuse for a wedding, to Montreal to see Ian, and to California for another wedding.
I also entered retreat season, leading my first ever aerial arts retreat in St. Pete, Florida, and eventually heading back to the Middle East to Lebanon, Israel and Egypt to hold my long-awaited Red Sea dive retreat.
Well, that was a hard one to write. Thanks for following along on this journey, friends.
Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.