Into Everyone’s Life A Little Motivation Will Fall

Six hours

I have six hours until I need to be on a flight to the UK, followed by three days “on”, a day to fly home, two days of laundry, groceries, and prep then four days in Chicago, five days in Rome, and one week home. Then it’s on to one week in New York, a long weekend in Louisville, a few days of baseball practice, birthday parties, and laundry, a week in Dusseldorf, a week at home … two weeks in Eastern Europe. Then, finally, I’ll get a nice long six week break before I start it all up again.

I’ll earn this year’s Gold Medallion status in just one quarter of work travel.  But, today, I just can’t seem to must two f*cks to give. 

I love my job. I love to travel. I love to pack, and head out on a great adventure.  But sometimes, I love to sit on my bed, with a nice glass of Pinot, and watch Keeping Up With Kardashians.  And, until July – there will be no time for such luxury.

So, right now, instead of going to get the mani-pedi I desperately need, or packing up my still empty suitcase, or tackling the laundry mountain that is threatening to swallow me whole, I am wallowing. I’m still in last night’s T-shirt, snuggled under the covers, too pre-emptively tired to even reach across the bed for the remote control, and Pinteresting packing ideas (as if that will magically fill my suitcase with clothes).

For those who’ve never experienced it, pre-emptive exhaustion is the practice of being exhausted not by what you’ve done, but by what you’re preparing to do. I haven’t yet flown for 15 hours straight, haggled to get a trunk full of sample merchandise through customs, and then been charming and “on” for four days of double-face-kisses and global sales dominance, before washing, rinsing, and repeating in another city, another W hotel. But, I know it’s coming, and right now, just the thought of it is more than I can handle – exacerbated by the fact that following her performance review, the world’s worst assistant quit, with no notice, and an inbox full of To Do’s.

Damn, I wish the liquor store opened before 11:30, it’s the perfect Pinot-and-Kardashians kind of morning.

I

One Day in Rome

The thing which never happens, has happened! On my upcoming trip to Italy I will have 24 full, unscheduled hours – all to myself.

No colleagues to entertain

No meetings to attend

No children to attend to

Just me, my map, and an ungodly amount of Frascati

I’ve visited Rome before, years ago, and after two weeks in Venice, Sienna, Cinque Terre, Bologna, and Florence I found it a sore disappointment: dirty, crowded, and overrun with tourists too lazy to do more than visit the big ten greatest hits.

But, Rome is the Eternal City for a reason. With a history that spans nearly 3,000 years Rome is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. Rome is commonly considered the birthplace of western civilization and was the capital city for the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.

So, yeah, I get that it is important … but so is Detroit; I don’t exactly want to visit every Christmas.

In fact, I’ve always kind of considered Rome the Italian city that tourists visit when they don’t really take their time to research the beauty that is Italy (hence the endless brigade of tourists marching nose-to-tail behind a flag wielding tour guide).

As for my interests, want amazing ruins, visit Turino, want breathtaking chapels – Venice, and don’t forget the art, culture, and food that is Florence!

However, I recognize that I’m sorta … well … wrong.  In 2011, Rome was the 18th-most-visited city in the world, 3rd most visited in the European Union, and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy (which is exactly the type of description that would keep me away). But, people love Rome. People eat, pray, and love their way to Rome and back year after year.

Rome is ruination and reinvention, thriving, bustling, sleepy, and special.  There is no denying that moment when you walk around a corner and come face to face with iconic ROME – the Trevi fountain, the Vatican, Hadrian’s Arch, or any of a thousand other spectacular glimpses into the astounding history of this eternal city.

So, I am putting on my rose colored glasses (they fit quite nicely after a catastrophically shitty trip to Bali, strep throat in Istanbul, and a July heat wave in Shanghai) and prepping for the next great adventure.

My itinerary for one day in Rome:

1. Skip the Caesar Shuffle and the Vatican, I’ve been there and done that. Instead I’ll start the day with a leisurely stroll and cappuccino in Trastevere.

2. Then, I’ll continue across the Tiber to the Parthenon, a visit to the daily markets of the Campo De’ Fiori, and a stroll through the Piazza Navona .

3. After a full day of wandering, I’ll end the afternoon with the Dolce Vita stroll (as coined by travel guru Rick Steves) starting with a glass of wine and snacks at the Piazza del Popolo then a saunter down the Via del Corso and up Via Condotti to the Spanish Steps to surround myself with smooching lovers and that feeling of being painfully alone … for just long enough to make a Skype call home to my family as they settle in to their day.

And, hopefully, this time Rome will leave me aching to return, understanding what those nose-to-tail tour group tourists have been raving about for years.

My 30 Day Adventure: Prologue

My 30 Day Adventure, as I’ve taken to calling it, has now ended, with an extra 10 pounds, three new passport stamps, and so many emails and unpacked bags awaiting me I wish I could start the trip again just to get away from it all!

That said, when I think back on where I have been for the past month, and all the wonderful experiences, it was more than worth it – and I still think someone should pinch me that the universe has decided that THIS is my life.

The past year has been an amazing whirl wind of travel, adventure, growth, love, and good fortune along with tears, loss, and stress.  Looking forward to 2015 I can’t wait to see what life has in store, but of course I’m also carrying just a bit of trepidation, as if happiness tempts fate.

Over the next few weeks I’ll try to get caught up sharing all about my adventure, from dipping in a hidden Jacuzzi in Utah’s Red Rock deserts to mixing up my airports and getting followed by the Mafia in southern Italy. But, for now a place holder to begin sharing my adventure from …

The Itinerary*:

Leg 1: Four days at the Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah

Plotting the German OffensiveLeg 2: Three days in Vienna (via Paris)

Leg 3: Two days in Germany – Berlin, Hannover, Stuttgart, and Mannheim

Leg 5: Four days in Amsterdam and Rotterdam

Leg 6: One quick day in Dublin

Leg 7: A Day in Milan

Leg 8: A Day in the South of Italy – Bari

Leg 9: An evening in the lovely Torino, Italy

Leg 10: A quick jaunt home, four hours, a shower, and a second suitcase to begin our family’s alternate Christmas.

Dreaming of a white Christmas!

Dreaming of a white Christmas!

Leg 11: Fort Lauderdale

Leg 12: The Cruise (The Review is posted, but the late David Foster Wallace said enough in his Harper’s Magazine Article: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again)

Leg 13: Orlando, Universal Cabana Bay Resort, Epcot Center, and Disney World

Leg 14: Pompano Beach

And, on the final day, Christmas morning, 2015 – Home!

*Hotels that I particularly loved will get hyperlinked, further reviews to come.

Christmas in Berlin

Planes, trains, and automobiles – I am in the midst of a 30 day journey that will take me from the red rock deserts of Southern Utah to the domed spires of the Milan cathedral, from the salty shores of the Adriatic sea to the warm Caribbean waters of Jamaica.

I’ll pause and post when I return to civilian life, but for now, my greatest hits.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Trading Gifts for Experiences

I can count the number of people I can tolerate for a 7+ day stretch on one hand, using one address, and the status of two members in that exclusive club is dubious at any given moment1. Add to that list the variable that is a 500 square foot hotel room and/or 250 square foot bunk aboard a floating vessle and my tolerance, even at the best of times, becomes rather questionable. But, I recognize this is my curmudgeonly deficit, and not their causing. Plus, as easily annoyed as I can be by travel companions, my work causes me to travel often enough that it is expected a few bones of “travel-perk-kick-backs” will be thrown their way, by means of a luxury vacation for four to enjoy pre-scheduled family fun, gluttonous indulgence in the finest sugars throughout the world, and room service, at all hours, by starched attendants who respond eagerly to our thank you’s with “It’s a pleasure.”

All these elements in mind, it is decided!  Rather than a gluttony of gifts and frenetic holiday parties, our family of four will depart the cold winters of Utah this December to set out on a 16 day adventure throughout the Mediterranean, by air, sea, and rail.

Cinque Terre

In 2009 the DH and I took an 11 day journey through Italy – Venice to Vernazza, Rome to Bologna, and it was delightful.  We relaxed, we rushed, we learned, we vegged, and we marvelled, then we marvelled some more, then we ordered cappuccino, gellato, and “una caraffa di vino rosso della casa, per favore” and we discussed how wonderful it would be to bring our two boys back, to experience it all, together.

But, boys grow, and schedules collide, and suddenly we found ourselves at that moment where making this trip happen could become a serious challenge unless we undertook the endeavor before baseball practice, science fairs, and “participation points” began to truly dictate our schedules.  Plus, year after year during the Christmas morning gift orgy that takes place on the floor of our living room we comment that there must be a better way to celebrate the holiday as a family, reflecting in our appreciation and abundance, rather than growing it. So, it was proposed:

“This year, we’re taking Christmas off!  Instead of stuff, we’re going to experience the world.”

There were grumbles, there were plaintiff whines, there were melancholic wales about new iPods, and peanut brittle, and the fragrance of pine wafting through the house (that one coming from me in a moment of self-doubt).  But, we held firm.  The best of Christmas can be found anywhere, but one more electronic gadget brought into our house might officially push our sons past the breaking point, and turn them into the weebles displayed on Wall-E.  So, we held firm – a Christmas vacation it will be.

The destination: Italy, Greece, and Turkey
The date: December 12 – January 28
The details: Stay tuned

Related Articles

1. To Italy with Your Own Mob (Star Tribune)
2. Burano and Torcello (Sweet Miel)
3. Cruising with Kids (Tbird’s Travel Blog)
4. Essential Travel Gear for Families (Kids Are a Trip)

1. Said, of course, in the most loving way in a moment when the aforementioned members are not currently roughhousing, whining, demanding, or playing “gimme’s” at the grocery store.

My Travel Items: The Holy Grail

Everyone who travels eventually finds their must-have travel items. These are mine …

Shoe Fresh Sachets

1. Dryer Sheets – I love the way dryer sheets ensure everything comes out of your suitcase smelling fresh and clean.  I use them when packing, then store my empty suitcases with a few dryer sheets tucked into their nooks and crannies so they smell clean even after a muggy trip to the tropics.  I also recently discovered Downy Unstopables for making shoe sachets.

Passport Cases

2. Passport Case – I keep my passport in my purse or day bag and travel with it at easy access when going to other countries (it’s amazing how often you need it: booking trains, checking into hotels, exchanging money).

Monogrammed Beach Bag

3. Day Bag – I use this as my airplane carry on (make sure your purse will fit inside the bag so that you have one, easy-to-carry item for the airport). My day bag becomes the beach bag, my filing cabinet, and in a pinch a pillow during long layovers in lousy airports.

4. Lounging Clothes leggings make the perfect lounging pants, they can be paired with a nice tunic to make an outfit, and they can also take you to the gym (if you get ambitious). I don’t like to fly in leggings (for airplanes I like loose-fitting clothes) but they can roll up easily and tuck in your carry on if you have a long lay over and might want to change your clothes.

image

5. My Tried and True Travel Outfit

Passport Case and Travel Book

6. The Book – I always buy a book on the place I’m going.  I prefer Rick Steves Guides when available (A lifetime of watching his travel documentaries on PBS and the amazing value-adds he brought to my trip to Italy – skip the line at the Sistine Chapel, yes please – have made me a life long advocate. Plus I can hear his voice in my head when I read his travel guides and it makes me feel like I have a buddy traveling with me.)

Recessed Outlets

7. Phone Charger – this goes without saying, but it’s one of those last-in items that can result in an expensive airport purchase if you forget.  Be sure you have the right adapter (they’re expensive for what they do, and every country is unique do your research).  My tip, get the smallest adapter you can, sometimes the outlets are recessed and although you ave the right adapter, you still can’t plug in because those American-bought adapters won’t fit. It’s hard to describe, but I gave you a picture for example.

Universal Adapter

Do not buy the universal adapter, they almost never fit into outlets in airports and low-end hotels, and even in high-end hotels it’s hit and miss.

8. Carry On Essentials

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hair tie
  • Swimsuit or one critical wardrobe item so that even if your bags are lost your trip isn’t ruined (this has been a life saver)
  • Print outs of the hotel you’re going to first, and the name of the car service you’re using for the first stop (I book a car for the first location on international travel; it makes landing and transitioning simpler when arriving in unfamiliar places where the difference between legitimate taxis and gypsy cabs can be hard to determine – hence the gypsy cab-tastrophe that happened to me in Qingdao, China in 2011.)
  • A good book that travels well (don’t take Anna Karenina through 18 hours of travel, it’s a door stop, not a travel read)
  • A notepad

9. Local Currency – Always have at least enough $$ in the local currency of where you’re going just in case.  My just in case turned out to be the Jakarta, Indonesia airport where I had to take a taxi from one terminal to the other.  It cost about $2.00 and I would have paid $6.00 to pull money out of the ATM, then would have had a hassle getting change.

10. Print Outs of the Itinerary – Often enough I’ve loaded my luggage in the back of the taxi, climbed into the back seat, then realized the address of where I am going is sitting in my suitcase in the trunk.