Wednesday, January 04, 2012

When a 9 year old Visits

Wow, where to start? My nephew Trae and my daughter were with me here in Chicago for a week over New Years. It was a great experience. Being able to see and experience things in the eyes of a child....

This time did show me how ingrained consumerism is in our culture. At every attraction, beyond the ticket price....there were added costs for exhibits and attractions. At every stop, there is not just one but multiple gift shops...there is no way around them! At Shedds Aquarium, we went through the Jellies exhibit and the ONLY way to exit was THROUGH the gift shop. This was the case at most places.... How do you teach a child that it's not about the purchase but the experience?

We visited many of the tourist landmarks in Chicago and each and every was the gift shop that provided the most draw to my nephew. "How much can I spend", "what can I buy", "can you buy this for me?". With all the amazing sights, sounds and tastes of the city surrounding was the gift shop that pulled him in. I don't blame him, it's a way of life here in the US.

Where did we go? What stood out? What did we buy?

- The Museum of Science and Industry
What stood out for me: The massiveness of it all
What did we buy: Postcards, a toy that Trae made.
Best Moment: (sorry, nothing comes to mind)

- Shedds Aquarium
What stood out for me: Shark Tanks
What did we buy: Postcards, a penguin keychain for Trae
Best Moment: Watching Trae play with foreign children on the fake rocks.

- Sears (or Willis if you like) Tower
What stood out for me: The 'City Pass' was a GREAT buy...avoid the lines!
What did we buy: Postcards,
Best Moment: Trinity stepping out on the skywalk (she is afraid of heights)

- The Billy Goat Tavern
What stood out for me: Great food and an eclectic history.
What did we buy: Burgers!!
Best Moment: Getting our picture taken outside by a stranger

- Millenium Park
What stood out for me: NO GIFT SHOP!
What did we buy: NOTHING
Best Moment: Walking away after getting kicked out with Trae on my shoulders

- The Cultural Center
What stood out for me: People were polite
What did we buy: NOTHING
Best Moment: Goofy guy jumping on bull with Trae

- The Field Museum
What stood out for me: It was peaceful and I want to go back
What did we buy: A dino keychain for Trae
Best Moment: Pretending to run from Sue the T-Rex

- Navy Pier for Winter Wonderfest
What stood out for me: Tons of families enjoying themselves. I noticed very little to no arguing, fighting, mis-behaving children.
What did we buy: A pressed penny and some odd toys for Trae @ Navy Peir. A lightup item at Winter Wonderfest.
Best Moment: Watching Trae ice-skate without help

- Wandering Michigan Avenue
What stood out for me: Summer MUST be better ;o)
What did we buy: Hot drinks
Best Moment: Watching Trae delight in taking photographs..and telling Trinity "I want to be a photographer like you".

In addition to the above, some of my favorite moments were:

- Hearing the sound of Trae's voice, the excitement over the phone while waiting for the train to bring him to Chicago "I've got to go Aunt Candy...the train is here!!"

- Trading a frappuccino at McDonalds for cheeseburgers handed out to the homeless.

- Watching Trae's eyes light up during our cab ride and train into the city

- Huggs....goodnight kisses...and family-time!! As a full-time traveler, I miss all of those.

I know that I have left Trinity out of much of this post.... We have traveled together on multiple occasions and this trip was more about Trae and providing an experience for him. I loved spending time with my daughter during this trip, watching her interact with Trae and just being together.

When a 9 year old visits.....PRICELESS!

BootsnAll's Indie Travel Challenge 2012: 2012 Indie Travel List

BootsnAll is one of my premier go-to sites for travel related information. For anyone contemplating a RTW (round the world) trip. This is the place to start. Recently, they had a 30 Day Challenge, in which they highlighted a question a day for 30 days for travel bloggers.

I don't by any means consider myself a travel blogger....just a gal that  likes to travel and write about it. It's fun for me to be able to share my thoughts and experiences with anyone willing to listen/read. Hopefully, providing inspiration along the way. I gained so much from reading other's blogs and I am just hoping to give back a little.

BootsnAll will be issuing one challenge/task/subject each week in 2012 for bloggers to write about. The first of which is: Share with us your 2012 indie travel list.

I've already shared some of my upcoming South America list in my blog What Is My Motivation?   I'm going to break it down a little more here and add to it my other travel plans for 2012.

In February, I am heading off to South America with a very good friend of mine (a fellow Travel Nurse), Teresa. We have tweeked and adjusted the plans so many times that i am now at a point of 'whatever happens....happens'.

The current plan is to arrive in LaPaz, Bolivia. From here we are hoping to take bikes down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road, explore the Salt Flats and the Train Graveyard. Continuing our way through Bolivia, we will head to Peru. Exploring along the way to Cusco and the ruins of Macchu Picchu. I was originally intent on doing the hiking/camping trek that runs four days arriving at the sun gate over the ancient city. These plans have changed due to physical inabilities brought on by a recent foot surgery. I am very disappointed that I will be unable to hike the trail but am still very much looking forward to seeing this ancient city.

From Cusco, Peru the plans are not set in stone (not that any of our plans really are). We are hoping to make it to Ecuador and possibly explore the Galapagos Islands (money and time premitting) then on to Quito, Ecuador for our departure.

We have about 7 weeks in South America and although there is no way to explore all of this vast continent...we will see and do as much as possible.

A quickie list of the things that I hope to accomplish during my time in South America:

- Visit as many markets as possible.
- Eat cuy (guinnea pig).
- Have a meaningful conversation with a local in their language.
- Learn something about the culture.
- Observe a local ceremony/tradition.
- Experience ayahuasca ceremony.
- Explore the wonders of the Amazon Rainforest
- Complete one adventurous activity ie: biking most dangerous road, zip-lining, etc
- Complete at least on full day hike.
- Learn how something is made/cooked/produced.

After South America, I will separate from Teresa and head to Cancun, Mexico. I am attending the wedding of a good friend. I'll spend a week in Cancun enjoying the wedding festivities.

This is where it gets complicated...

I really want to go to Central America from here and find a place to plant myself for about a month, before coming back to the US and work. The budget isn't what I had hoped for at this point and I'm not certain that I am going to be able to swing the extra month off of work. If Central America doesn't work out, there might be a possibility of a US road Trip along Route 66 with my daughter.

Ulike most of Americans, I am lucky to work away from home so my working time will also be spent exploring. I'm debating at this point on coming back to Chicago (still tons to explore here) or heading off to someplace new. I'll be sure to update you when plans are solidified, probably sometime in May or June

The remainder of 2012 will be spent working with a possibility of a few short side trips within the US. Scrimping and Saving for the RTW I'm planning in 2013

What are your plans for 2012? Is there something that you have "resolved" to do/see/experience in 2012? Share them with me! If you have enjoyed reading, think about subscribing to my blog via the links on the right. It's easy. Also, I love when I hear from my readers. I encourage you to leave comments, say hello, offer advice, etc.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How To Tame A Monster

This week is very special for me.  I am privilaged to be able to share my love of travel and new places with someone very close to my nephew, Trae.  Trae is 9 years old and lives in the same area that I grew up in, in the mid-west.  It has a very small-town feel to it and people that live there, tend to stay in the area.  I'm certainly the oddity when it comes to leaving.  I've gotten accoustomed to being the odd man (or woman as it may be) out.

It's been a joy to be able to share all of the new experiences with my nephew.  The excitement in his voice while waiting for the train to bring him to thto the e 'city' was palpable.  It gave me the same excitement just hearing him.  The look on his face when he saw his first sky-scraper was priceless.  I'm enjoying every minute of sharing the city with him.

I feel very lucky that I am able to travel and I try to share my love of travel with others in my life.  My Mom and step-dad have been able to travel to see me in many new places, my daughter has more 'air' time than most adults that I know, my Son traveled with me for a while before he decided to plant himself for the time being.

In addition to family, I can now add my nephew to the (hopefully) ever growing list of those that have been exposed to the world of travel.  Several of my kids' friends have joined us on adventures over the years and each one of those times was special to me.  I loved being able to share my love with them and hopefully open their eyes to the fact that there is a big world out there to be explored.

Through all the joy....there is always a downside.  One that I have been able to hide away, locked up; like a monster in the closet... somewhere in the back of my mind.  It surfaces once in a while but I continue to push it back and try to forget that it's there.  This holiday season...the monster came for my daughter and hit me harder than ever.

What is my Monster?

It's the fear and the reality of being left out, forgotten, overlooked.  How-ever you want to look at it; it's the time when those that should be close and concerned ie family and good friends forget or neglect to think of you.  Forget to invite you to the holiday dinner....your usually gone anyway.  Overlook the thought that you might be available....even though you usually aren't.  Leave you out of the festivities and events....because they are certain that your celebrating with someone else.

I can deal with MY monster.  I've learned to make my own happiness.  When my monster rears it's ugly head, I can put it back in the closet with all the fond memories and experiences that my lifestyle has allowed me.  It still hurts; but I can deal with it.

But now....?   Now, my Monster and I have an issue....and i don't know how to tame it.  I can't push it back into the closet with MY isn't after me this time.

How do I tame a monster when it isn't attacking me?

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Round-up

Since it's getting close to the end of 2011, I thought it fitting for me to post a round-up of people, places and events that occured during the year.

I've worked in three locations this year.  Here is a summary of each:
  • Kansas City, MO ~ North Kansas City Hospital
    • High nurse patient ratio's 1:8
    • Largest unit I've ever worked on at 52 beds
    • Traveler friendly on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best: 6/10
    • Busy...busy....busy!
  • Providence, RI
    • Average nurse patient ratio's 1:5-6
    • 20 some bed unit
    • Traveler friendly: 9/10 (These nurses were very welcoming)
    • Nice slow easy work pace
  • Chicago, IL
    • Average nurse patient ratio's 1-5-6
    • 20 something bed unit
    • Traveler friendly: 5/10
    • Moderately busy but not overwhelming
Places that I've traveled (I'll include my travel nursing locations here as well)

  • Kansas City, MO
    • Tons to see and do
    • Surprised me on it's diversity
    • COLD (I was here in winter)
    • I would consider going back (during warmer months)
  • New Orleans, LA
    • Traveled here twice this year.  Once for MG and again for French Quarter Fest
    • Always love NOLA
    • I WILL go back.
  • Minnieapolis, MN
    • Surprisingly fun city
    • Always something fun to do/see
    • Would go back to explore more
  • Louisville, KY
    • Stayed here with a friend to recouperate from surgery
    • Somewhat of a home away from home for me
    • Visited with friends and family
    • I'll always come back due to family in the area.
  • Road Trip across Pennsylvania (twice)
    • Loved the covered bridges
    • People were helpful and friendly
    • Great comfort food
    • Hated Hershey, PA
  • Hoboken, NJ
    • Went to see Carlo's Bakery (for Trinity)
    • Small town feel with all of the big city ammenities
    • Would love to go back
  • Providence, RI
    • Got robbed twice
    • First place I lived was ghetto...moved into hotel
    • People at work were the only redeeming quality
    • Would return but have to find a good spot to live
  • Chicago, IL
    • Always tons to do/see
    • COLD (winter in Chicago...not smartest choice)
    • Live too far from the 'city'
    • Would return if I could live closer to downtown.
So it looks like I managed about 8 states.  Not too bad for a girl that had two surgeries this year and was down and out for a good two months.

No international travel this year which is a bit disappointing but I'm heading to South America in how is a girl to complain?

Where did you go in 2011?  What was your favorite and why?  Have you been to any of the places I went in 2011?  If so, were your impresssions different?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Living Debt Free

When I share my plans for my upcoming trips to South America (Feb 2012) and RTW in 2013, I am constantly being asked "How can you do it" or being told "I wish I could travel like that."

How Do I do It?

- I don't own a home
- I drive a vehicle that is nearly 15 years old and paid off.
- I scrutionize EVERY purchase.
- I don't own a credit card.
- When I am working...I'm greedy; picking up extra hours as much as possible.
- I worked very hard to become DEBT FREE
- I choose half-price or discount tickets when attending an event/theater.
- I purchase clothing based on wether or not it will match at least 3 things already in my closet.
- I choose to eat out for lunch instead of dinner.

Do you wish you could travel like I do?            

You CAN.  It's all about what is important to you.  Only you can decide if traveling is right for you.  Only you can determine the things important in your life.  Only you can make the changes necessary.  It's up to you.  

I tell people all the time that there are penty of sacrifices that I make to live the life I have choosen.  I had to decide if these sacrifices were worth it.  To me, they are.  Maybe to you they aren't and that's ok.

- No pension when I am old.
- Retirement planning is up to me.
- There is no pay when I'm not working, no paid vacation.  I have to plan.
- I am constantly away from family and friends.
- I miss birthdays, special events and the day to day lives of those I love.

On the flip-side of the sacrifices are the benefits.  These are the things that make it worth the sacrifices worth it for me.

- Experiencing new places, food, culture and people
- Learning to not take advantage of life in America
- Facing my fears
- Being able to share my love of travel with those I love 
- Avoiding the feeling of being 'stagnant'
- Knowing that I am doing not just dreaming
- Replacing my retirement fund with a memory fund.

How did I manage to be DEBT FREE?

First, I STOPPED SPENDING.  Then, I made a budget and was able to see how my spending today effects my life next month or next year. This was very important for me.  It was encouraging to see my savings grow as I paid off debts.  Think of the carrot at the end of a stick.  My savings budget was my carrot; and still is.
  • Starbucks latte now  vs Water Puppets in Vietnam
  • Coach purse vs Train tickets in Italy
  • New Car (with payment) vs Airfare someplace exotic
  • Gourmet dinner/drinks  vs A week worth of meals in South America
You get the idea.  I think of every purchase now in terms of what it could/would buy me in experience someplace else.

There are a lot of web-sites, self-help books, seminars, etc. out there that will teach you how to be debt free.  I purused message boards, forums, and blogs for inspiration and advice, all of which were free as well as informative.

Do you live Debt Free?  What is your inspiration?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is Travelng Solo for me?

A recent post by a fellow female traveler Why Solo Travel Is Not For Me made me think about why and how I travel.  I'm scared to travel alone and scared to travel with thers.  With an upcoming trip to SA with a good friend in the final stages of planning; I'm nervous about traveling with someone else.  At the same time, my trip into Vietnam at one point, was very lonely and all I wanted was someone to share it with me.

I find myself constantly thinking about the 2013 RTW trip that I am planning.  Will I go through the same loneliness issues that I experienced iin Vietnam?  Will I thrive on being out there alone?  Will I be able to meet others?  With a good majority of backpackers under the age of 30 and myself much older than that, it is sometimes difficult to meet and interact with other travelers.

I enjoy being on my own and not having to clear my plans with anyone.  Being able to do exactly what I want to do.  But on the other hand,it's also nice to be able to have someone to share experiences with and also share the burden of travel arrangements and constant decision making.  Whch train do I/we take, where do I/we go to eat dinner, is this a good deal or am I/we being ripped off....  The day to day issues are endless. Sometimes it's a relief to be able to share these issues with others.

You can read about my trials in Vietnam here:

Do you 'solo' travel?  How do you balance being alone with spending time with other backpackers?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The 5 Year Plan

The past couple of days have been spent purusing through tons of blogs.  Reading about RTW (Round The World) travel, from those that have been there or are out there doing it. I do this a lot in preparation.  While reading, I realized that I have never shared my 5 Year plan.

A little background for you.  My initial international travel trip was to Vietnam in 2008.  The inspiration for this can be read about in the "About Me" section.  If you haven't read it, go ahead....I'll wait......

Finished?  Yes, I know it's really long but I really wanted to make it a point that I am not rich, did not come from a family with a 'silver spoon' in my mouth.  I'm a regular gal with an average American family.

Vietnam was so many things for me.  Inspirational, scary, lonely, dramatic, enlightening...I could go on but you get the idea.  Most importantly, it was during my Vietnam trip that I figured out my 5 year plan.

As I recall, I didn't spend a lot of time planning it out.  Didn't make my lists that I am so fond of.  I didn't mull it over.  I just knew!  One evening while sitting at dinner, I struck up conversation with an Australian couple; Bob and Clare at a table near me.  We ended up spending several days together exploring and getting to know one another.

I don't remember exactly the setting or the conversation but at some point Clare asked me about my future.  I didn't give it a second though and spilled out my 5 year plan to her.  I didn't even know I had decided on a plan, but there it was spilling out of my mouth.

Afterward, I wondered to myself why I told Clare all about this 5 year plan that I didn't even know I had?  Was I being a braggart?  Was I trying to be more adventuresome?  When did I even decide that I had a 5  year plan?

Ever since that day, the 5 year plan has continued to be a part of my longing.  I knew that this was something that I needed, something that was attainable, and something that I would DO.

So, what is the 5 year plan?

It's simple.  I told Clare that within 5 years, I wanted to be at a point financially that I could work for 6 months of the year and travel the other 6 months.

After coming home from Vietnam (2008), I continued to think about the 5 year plan.  I budgeted like a crazy woman, spent a stupid amount of money to take my nearly grown kids to Italy to backpack (see my travel blog: Treft Family in Italy),  budgeted more, spent an unfulfilling year in Germany (See: Travel Nurse in Germany), and never gave up on the 5 year plan.

So, where am I today?  How close am I to fulfilling my 5 Year Plan.

I'm THERE....or as nearly there as I could ever hope to be.  I've posted previously about my upcoming trip to South America.  This trip is only 2 months long, not 6 as my 5 Year Plan would intend.  However, I am gearing up for 2013.

What's special about 2013?

2013 is the 5 year mark for me.  I'm ready to take the leap.  Let me fill you in on the plan (I suddenly just got a sick feeling...just putting it out here feels like a huge commitment.  One that I am ready to make but putting it here brings the anxiety of potential failure).

I'm planning to book a one-way flight into Northern Europe April 2013.  The final route isn't confirmed or set in stone and I'm not sure that it will ever be really set in stone.  I want to leave it open to be changed, adjusted, modified along the way.  There are a few goals that I have and a couple of specific activities/events that I dream of completing.

May 2013: Hitchhiking Competition from Gdansk, Poland to Prague
July 2013: Compete in the Mongol Rally

I think that these are the only two time-specific items on my list.  Other things that I plan during 2013 would include:

(photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Take a freighter across a large part of the ocean (possibly China to Australlia)
  - Read more about this HERE.

Move slowly; taking several weeks/month at a time in choosen locations.
  - I am hoping that by traveling slowly, I will be able to extend my trip

  - I don't have any specific plans for this right now but I know that I want to give something back.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments.

Find Other Unique ways to get from point A to Point B
  - Again, if you have any suggestions; please post them in the comments below.
  - I shared my ideas with a fellow traveler at the 2011 MEET, PLAN, GO! event and he shared with me one of his favorite travel days.  Check it out: The Winding Road to Bulungula

I Feel like I have a ton of people to thank for being my 'inspiration'.  It's through other's stories/blogs that I have gained a lot of my inspiration to do this.  I have found that traveling isn't something only for the rich...but for anyone that has the desire.