Confessions of a Former Disney Hater

I’ll admit it.  I was wrong about Disney. As a childless, city-dwelling, 20-something professional, I viewed Disney as a perpetrator of mass consumerism, sexism and middle-class mediocrity.  Calling a girl a princess meant telling her she was incomplete and weak on her own and needed saving by a man.  My vision of Disney World:  herds of shuffling, unsophisticated Americans pushing their sugar-filled, snot nosed stroller kids from one fake land to another.  It turns out I was kind of a snob. I didn’t start out that way.  I first visited Disneyland on a family vacation at age 6, during the park’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration.  I loved everything about it, from the red-eyed yeti in the Matterhorn to the singing bears in the Country Jamboree to the Small World animatronics.  We flew on Dumbo’s back, spun in Alice’s teacups, listened to Abraham Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address and shrieked at the Haunted House ghosts. As the years went on, and the memories faded, snarky cynicism settled in.  And then, at age 36, I became a mom.  As every parent learns, it’s a humbling experience.  Your body changes, your priorities shift, and you become a lot less judgmental of other people with kids.  Not that giving birth transformed me into a Disneyphile, but as our daughter grew into a toddler, I softened up enough to let her watch Disney Jr.  I loved seeing her break into a smile as Mickey came over the hill during the opening song of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. When our little sweetie was about 18 months old, we joined my parents and my sister’s family for a... read more

Does Amazon Prime Make Us Boring?

A few days before Christmas, caught up in a last minute shopping crunch, I signed up for Amazon Prime.  Free, two-day shipping guaranteed that my purchases would arrive before the holiday.  But it also opened up a whole new world of opportunity.  I can get basically anything I could ever want, from designer boots, to organic vitamins to exercise equipment delivered to me within 48 hours.  I don’t even have to leave home! “In our current culture of immediacy,” says author Keri Smith in The Pocket Scavenger, “we have lost the experience of ‘the quest,’ the search for that elusive item and the stories we create in our attempt to find it.  These stories, the process (vs. the object itself),” Smith claims, “are often what make life interesting.” A quest—a search to find something; a challenge, requiring sacrifice in pursuit of a clearly defined goal.  Driven on by a motivation perhaps no one else understands, you push forward, and often change in the process. Chris Guillebeau, in his book The Happiness of Pursuit, recalls a night in the Dakar airport during his quest to visit every country in the world: Far from home, there’s a feeling you can experience even when you’re bone-weary.  No matter how exhausted (Eighteen hours of flying!  Two hours of sleep on a plastic chair.), and no matter how ridiculous the situation (I’m flying to Guinea-Bissau for no good reason!), you can still savor the thrill of adventure.  As the caffeine kicked in and I stretched my legs, I began to feel better.  As crazy as it may have seemed to some people, I was... read more

My First Travel Tip of the New Year: Go Nowhere

“2016 already, can you believe it?  Wow, where did the year go? Is it my imagination, or does each year speed by more quickly?”  How many times in the past week have you overheard or participated in this conversation? Maybe it’s just friendly chit chat with a grocery clerk or co-worker, the type of universal topic, like the weather, that puts us on common ground, but it also conveys our shared anxiety.  We’re all keenly aware of the invisible timer, running in the background of our lives, counting down the moments left.  And maybe we’re afraid of hitting 0:00 and discovering that we’ve wasted it, or missed out on something essential, or just weren’t paying attention, distracted by our busyness from what’s real and precious and true. I haven’t shared anything here in the past few months.  A new day job has demanded more time and energy, but that’s just an excuse.  Honestly, I’ve been thinking about what I want to say.  I don’t want to write just to put out content and add more noise.   Instead, I’ve been asking how can I use this platform, my voice, to reach people in a meaningful way? Clearly I love to travel.  That’s why I started this blog.  I want to see it all, experience it, soak it in, go, go, go.  But maybe the place to start is by going nowhere.  Acclaimed author, Pico Iyer, gave exactly this advice in a 2014 TED Talk, a seemingly surprising suggestion from a travel writer.  Yet, as he explains: I really began to feel that if you were lucky enough to walk around the candlelit temples... read more

Taking the Plunge: Jamaica’s Blue Hole

On my 42nd birthday I chose to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise advice:  “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Since childhood I’ve maintained a healthy sense of physical self-preservation.  I kept my hands on my bike handlebars, but also kept my bones unbroken and my teeth intact.  I’m not timid by nature, but jumping off cliffs, and letting my 5-year-old jump too, falls outside my comfort zone.  However, in search of adventure and new challenges, our family visited The Blue Hole near Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  Result–best birthday ever! If we hadn’t read about the Blue Hole on TripAdvisor before leaving the States, we wouldn’t have known about it.  The larger excursion companies don’t go there (something about it being privately owned we were told) so we arranged for a taxi from our resort.  About 15 minutes after turning off the highway outside of Ocho Rios and ascending an increasingly narrow and bumpy road, we were warmly greeted in the parking lot. TIP #1:  Bring cash. My husband and I were in flip flops, and were told we’d need water shoes, which we rented from ladies in the parking lot for $6/pair.  I suspected this was simply a revenue opportunity, but we really did need them for walking on trails, climbing rocks and swimming.  There’s no way we could have done it in flip flops.  Our daughter wore her Crocs, which worked fine. TIP #2:  Bring water shoes (aqua socks) or plan to rent them on site. Next we paid our $10/pp admission fee and met our guide, Lloyd, who led us down a short trail to the lower... read more

Your Friday Escape: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where:  Croatia, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea Today’s weather forecast:  Sunny, High 92*F, Low 78*F Population:  42,615 (2011) Approaching Dubrovnik for the first time, you may sense that you’ve been there before.  It’s ancient stone walls rise from the sea, protecting a city of towers and winding marble streets.  In your mind you hear the crazed laugh of an evil, blond, teenage king.  Yes, Game of Thrones fans, you’ve just arrived in King’s Landing.  Dubrovnik, one of the world’s finest preserved medieval walled cities, fills the role of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms in the wildly popular HBO series. Things to do: Walk the top of the city walls.  Dubrovnik’s defensive wall dates back to the 9th century and by the 15th century enclosed the entire town.  The 2 km wall rises up to 25 meters high and is 1.5 to 6 meters thick.  Look out to the north from the Minceta Tower and imagine that it’s 600 years ago and it’s your job to watch for invading Turk armies.  On the west side, peer out of the Lovrjenac Fortress over Blackwater Bay, and, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, remember Tyrion Lannister bravely defending King’s Landing from Stanis Baratheon’s bloody naval onslaught.  Look for evidence of shelling by Serb and Montenegrin soldiers during a 7 month siege of the city in 1991. Of course, there’s a Game of Thrones guided tour. Ride the cable car.  For amazing views of the coastline and entire city, take the cable car to the top of Mount Srdj.  Up top, visit the museum to learn about the 1990-95 war with Serbia which broke apart Yugoslavia.... read more

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