Does Amazon Prime Make Us Boring?

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...
Taking the Plunge:  Jamaica’s Blue Hole

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...
Your Friday Escape:  Dubrovnik, Croatia

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....
Your Friday Escape:  Les Baux de Provence

Your Friday Escape: Les Baux de Provence

This Week’s Destination: The tiny village of Les Baux de Provence, France Population: 427 Closest major airport: Marseilles This week we’re traveling to another continent and another millennium. Imagine scanning your eyes across a vast plateau from inside the thick walls of a fortress built high on a rocky outcropping. Les Baux de Provence, as this village in southern France has been known since the Middle Ages, has provided a vantage point and place of protection since prehistoric times. A major building program initiated in the 13th century replaced the early fortress with a keep and expanded the castle to take advantage of the natural rock foundation. As a Disney-fied American, I tend to think of a “castle” as a single building, but real medieval castles were often a collection of buildings enclosed within a wall. A “keep” is a self-sufficient structure at the center of the castle which served as the residence of the lord and the place of last refuge if the castle came under attack. Over the centuries the village’s population decreased from a peak of near 3,000 during the 13th century to about 400 by 1900.   After World War II , tourists drawn by the opening of a world-class restaurant revived the village.  Careful restoration earned it the official title of “One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France” in 1999. Today you can stroll its narrow, automobile-free streets, visit museums and small shops, and dine on Provencal cuisine. Things to do Cycling: The village’s official visitors’ website suggests cycling because it “allows you the time to meet people, and you only have to put out your...
Your Friday Escape: Jamaica

Your Friday Escape: Jamaica

This Week’s Destination: Jamaica Population: About 3 million Where: In the Caribbean, South of Cuba Things to do: Here’s where I’d love a little help. We just booked a family trip to Jamaica, but I’ve never been before, and I’m looking for suggestions of unique things to see and do. Obviously we’ll be hanging out at the beach and pool, but what can we do in Jamaica that’s different than other places in the Caribbean? At least 3.5 million people visited Jamaica in 2014, so someone must have some ideas for me. Here’s what I found with a little internet searching: Tour a Rum Distillery: It’s no surprise, but rum is Jamaica’s national drink.  Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth provides guided tours of its unique copper pot distillery and oak barrel aging house while educating visitors on the history of the estate and Jamaican rum production. Yes, the tour includes samples. Guests can also buy the Appleton Estate Exclusive Blend, a rum not available for purchase anywhere else. Hours: Mon-Sat 9-4. Go Bird Watching: Interested in unique birds? At least 305 species call Jamaica home, and 28 of those are found nowhere else. Conde Nast Traveler recommends two essential items: the Birds of the West Indies field guide and a pair of binoculars. That’s a lot easier to pack and haul through the airport than a set of golf clubs. Winter provides the greatest variety of species. I suppose that’s because of the snow birds. And I don’t mean the featherless ones who arrive by plane. You can hire a local guide or book a group trip through Jamaica Birding which offers...