Blog Love & Role Models

One of my favorite aspects of blogging is learning to see the world through other's eyes. I especially enjoy gaining tidbits of insight both through the comments on my own blog as well as in the blog posts from others. Today's #LoveBlog2017 topic being "role models", I thought I'd share a few of the blogs I've learned the most from over the past few years:

If you ever need a pick-me-up or need to hear that your concerns and worries aren't unfounded, go here. Brandon Stanton goes around New York City (and the world) photographing people and telling their powerful, emotion-filled stories about love, life, loss, and so much more. Some break your heart while others bring you joy beyond comparison. Either way, you won't leave his blog unchanged.

I am a photography nerd. I love learning more about how to develop my skills and art, but I don't always love paying for it. Luckily, Phlearn offers tips and tricks in their blog so that I can learn a little bit at a time, as I want to learn it, without it costing an arm and leg in the hope that I haven't learned the thing before. Check it out if you are as much into photography as me! :)

She hasn't posted in a while, but every time she does post I learn something new – how to write better, how to pronounce certain words, tips and tricks for remembering grammar rules. Whatever you need to know about writing, she's probably posted about it before; just make your way over to her website and try a search. You are bound to come away with new and helpful knowledge!

When I was planning my trip to Hawaii, I stumbled across this site. And then read and read and read… all night! The images are beautiful and the information is useful. If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, and more specifically have Oahu in your sights, be sure to check out Exploration Hawaii for great tips on which restaurants to eat and awesome hikes that will fill your days with beauty. Trust me, you don't want to skip this.

If you are struggling to learn a language like I am (or become more informed about a particular culture), there is probably a blog out there for you. For me, one of those blogs is German is Easy. To be totally straight forward with you all, I suck at following this blog as intently as I would like. And for that matter, I suck at practically everything having to do with language learning. I'd love to be fluent in German, but the practicing can get overwhelming … and I'm not a quick learner. But, even if I'm not the best at practicing my language skills, I am super grateful for blog writers that break down a language and make it easier to understand. Even if I only pick up on or remember one word from every five posts, that is still one more word that I wouldn't know otherwise. And the way German is Easy breaks down the meaning of a word allows you to learn some of the many nuances that may differentiate that word from any word you will have to compare it to in English.

So, if you are learning German, check this site out.

If you are learning a different language that is not German, do a google search and see if you can find a similar site to follow along with. I promise that it will make all of the difference! :)

P.S. German is not easy. In fact, it is hard. :-/

Even though this is only a few of the hundreds of blogs I follow and comment on, I hope that they will be of use to you or encourage you to find and utilize similar types of blogs for helpful information regarding the topics that most interest you.

Now that you know of a few sites I use to learn from, share with me some of the websites you use! Are there any that you find particularly helpful and can't imagine living without?

Wordless Wednesday #6

New York City wasn't my first vacation nor did I have my family with me the first time I went. No, my trip to New York City was with my high school orchestra class. We were suppose to take our instruments and play at Radio City Music Hall. (And what a story that would have been!) But alas, that didn't come to pass. Radio City Music Hall, unsurprisingly, pulled that opportunity from us and we ended up visiting New York City for purely leisure purposes. (It's probably a good thing, because I had no idea how short little me was going to carry a suitcase and a cello through the airport! – One of those times when it's better to be in chorus, so that you only have to carry yourself as your instrument!)

Anyway, I remember being torn about going. My best friend wouldn't be, and I didn't want to be "alone". Luckily, it was a great opportunity for me to branch out of my comfort zone and meet new people – my classmates, essentially.

I'd love to say that we all are still close friends, but that just didn't come to pass. A trip like this brings you close for a while, but eventually everyone goes their own separate ways.

I think the key lesson I took from this trip is that I don't need to cling to friends and family when I travel. I can have a great experience even if I don't know anyone I'm going with – even if I go alone! It's all about attitude. If you decide to have a great time, you will.

What was the first meaningful travel experience you ever had? Was it the place that made the experience or something inside you? Would you ever return to that place?

* I'm participating in #LoveBlog2017. Today's prompt: Travel. (How fitting!) Come join in and share your travel experiences (first or last or anything in between!) with the world (or the link-up, whichever)!

Upon Returning From A Vacation…

Traveling brings out a mixture of emotions –

One: You are happy to have gone but sad to return. Real life can suck. It's even worse when you are traveling to see friends or family and you wonder, after leaving them, will I ever see them again? (Or maybe I'm just super pessimistic and always fear the worst?) Of course, I also wonder if I will ever visit a place again. Even the places I dislike, I still hope to someday return to and have a better experience at.

Two: Sleeping in your own bed after travel is always nice. Your pillow(s), your blanket, access to the fridge in the middle of the night… Books, movies, internet, your dog, your car, your couch, your family, your language, and customs… You might miss things about travel, but it's always nice to have the familiar upon return.

Three: Happiness in sharing your experiences with those you love. Justin and I brought back so many souvenirs to share wth our friends and family. We gave my mom fancy, expensive toiletries from our hotels. We have macadamia nuts, coffee, salt, sugar, honey, chocolate, banana bread, wine, rum, "donkey balls", banana bread, and lavender spices for eating… Plus stories and recipes.

Even though travel can be a whirlwind experience with ups, downs, and everything in between, we always find a way to continue the trip long after it ends.

Do you celebrate upon returning from vacation by sharing your discoveries with family and friends? What types of souvenirs do you bring home with you?

• Participating in #LoveBlog2017. Join in! Today's topic: celebration.

Collecting Wisdom: 8 Books I've Read to Prep for Vacations in the Past Few Months

Recently I've taken up travel planning with more than just the internet; I've been using books as well. This is new for me, because in the past I've just incessantly searched online. This all changed when Justin and I were on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and we had no idea which sites to stop and see. I had an online guide, but it didn't really show me what I would be missing if I didn't stop, and it didn't direct me as to which sites might take extra time compared to others. Plus, the internet was slow… Then, when we were planning Montreal and Quebec City, I needed to be able to research without the internet at all on Amtrak, so we purchased two guidebooks. From there, I started marking up maps (that came with the guidebooks) which ended up being incredibly helpful to us. So, here I am doing the same thing for Hawaii.

While the internet is an invaluable research, travel guides have provided me with even more resource to take my trips from amazing to magnificent!

1. The Photographer's Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway by Jim Hargan (buy)

2. Michelin Green Guide: Montreal & Quebec City (buy)

3. Frommer's Montreal Day-By-Day by Leslie Brokaw (buy)

4. Maui Revealed by Anthony Doughty (buy)

5. Oahu Revealed by Anthony Doughty (buy)

6. Frommer's Maui Day-By-Day by Jeanette Foster (buy)

7. Frommer's Oahu & Honolulu Day-By-Day by Jeanette Foster (buy)

8. Driving & Discovering Hawaii: Maui and Molokai by Richard Sullivan (buy)

How do you obtain "wisdom" before traveling? … Or do you even bother?

Wordless Wednesday #5

Last summer I had the opportunity to visit Brittany, France and explore with a few close friends. Even though we may have several thousand miles between my husband, myself, and our friends, we still enjoyed making time to visit and travel with them.

Do you have friends in far off places? What do you do to make sure you stay connected?

* Linking up to Love Blog 2017. Today's topic: Distance.
** In other news, I am out of town this week! In Hawaii, to be specific. It may take a day or two for me to respond to your comments, but I will as soon as I get back! Love to you all! :)

Traveling With Friends

Up until about a year ago, I had never traveled with just my husband. All of my previous travel experiences were with family and friends. And, honestly, I can't say that one type of travel – with family and friends vs with just my husband – is better than another. Each experience is different, each place we visit feels unique, even if we have visited that place a million times! There is always something new to see and explore! :) And one of the key differences that I love the most about, not just traveling with friends and family, but also about reading blog reviews of places is learning to see a place from another's' perspective.

Nevertheless, each time you vacation with someone new, you run into struggles. That's just how it is. You and that other person have different ideas about what you want to see and do even if you both want to visit the same location together.

For example:

1. My husband loves to eat fish. I don't.
2. I'm always up for new experiences and am willing to throw caution to the wind by not planning extensively if I don't have time. Another friend of mine: not so much. He may not plan six months in advance, but there has to be SOME plan.
3. My immediate family prefers to go, go, go, go, go on vacation. I usually need a vacation from my vacation. This took some getting used to the first time my husband vacationed with my family.

So as you can see? Differences exist when traveling with anyone other than yourself. More people, more differences.

Add a husband; go to a fish restaurant.

Travel with a particular friend when you haven't had time to make plans? Plans magically appear.

It just happens.

Now, what can you do to combat those differences? To go on vacation and still have family and friends at the end of the trip?

Let me refer to a post from 2014: the 5 C's of traveling with friends.

1. Communicate.

This is especially true if you have never traveled with this person (or these people) before.

What do you want to do at X location? What do they want to do? How much money is there to spend? What does their budget look like? Will you cook or eat out?

There are so many minuscule decisions that one makes before and during a trip that can complicate your experience if you aren't open to discussion.

Don't be that person that blows your budget in a day, because you weren't open and honest with the person you are traveling with. Don't have your expectations ruined because you weren't brave enough to say "I want to do X" and then not being able to because they have the whole vacation planned before you have even agreed to go.

2. Confirm

Just because you have talked doesn't mean everyone has reached an understanding. Ask specific questions, so that they have an opportunity to say no. Say, for example, "I'm booking this hotel on these dates for this trip. Is that ok with you? Do you want me to book your room there as well?" … Or "I intend on spending X amount a day. If you plan on doing anything beyond that or that costs more, I'm going to have to pass." This way you give the person your traveling with ample time to say "no" or "maybe we should do this (like each of you renting the same car vs. two different ones) differently than we originally planned".

No hurt feelings.

No broken expectations.

3. Compromise.

I'm sure this will be natural, but along with communicating and confirming, you ought to also be compromising.

No, this isn't a necessity, but I promise it will make your travel better. :)

Allow one person to plan one day and then you plan another. Unless it's hiking that the other person wants to do; at which point, I totally understand! :) But seriously, you will enrich yourself and may discover something new and surprising, perhaps unexpected, if you try what the people you are with want to do. If you don't try it (or at least some of the things they want to do), you'll never know if you'd have liked it.

4. Be Considerate.

Arguments happen. People get angry and their emotions take over. And that may be all it is – triggered emotions. Keep that in mind as you continue your trip with this other person. You friendship/relationship can survive if you don't hold the anger and frustration against the person you are with. Vacations are exhausting, sometimes mentally and physically. Forgive and forget. Be kind. Assume the best in the person you are with. Most likely, the argument wasn't over anything serious (what to do, where to go, what to eat), and you can either split up for a bit (eat at different restaurants, for example) or discuss the matter later or after your vacation when you've both cooled down and can think more clearly.

Of course, under the "considerate" heading I would also argue for kindness. Treat the person or people you are with, with respect. Treat them like you would want to be treated.

5. Celebrate!

You're on vacation, duh!

So, thoughts? Is there anything I missed that you think is important with regards to traveling with friends and family? Do you prefer to travel with others or are you more of a lone wolf?

* I'm participating in #LoveBlog2017. Today's topic: Friends.

Images from the Women's March on Washington D.C.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead

But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right

Build bridges not walls!

There has been an awful lot of hate being spewed across the media. I just want to remind people to keep fighting for what they believe in, even if it's not women's rights/Muslim rights/environmental concerns or anything else that has been protested for (or against) in the past three weeks. Keep fighting for your friends and family. Fight cancer and aids. Fight poverty. Fight homelessness. Just manage to get your kids to school today. :) Donate and help where you can. But most of all – love.

Love your neighbors, your friends, your family, your community, the world.

We all want to change the world. :)

What are you doing about that?

* Participating in #LoveBlog2017. Today's prompt: Service. Come join in!