Entries in vacation (16)


Summer 2016: My Review

This post marks an attempt at something new on this blog, something more diary-style, though necessarily selective in its details.

We’ll see whether I keep it up. This may turn into a one-of-a-kind. Yet in case it becomes a regular feature, I’ve decided to craft it as a season in review, and to cover June through August.

Here goes:

Work, Work, WorkWorkWork

The FrogDog team's two wins at the IABC Bronze Quill Awards. June 2016.

Let’s get the professional matters out of the way first, as they probably have less interest for the most of you and, out of necessity, I can only and always keep relatively mum on specifics in this life facet.

In June, my FrogDog strategy team and I won two Bronze Quill Awards from the Houston IABC for our work helping a client redirect its marketing strategy and message through primary research and analysis.

Otherwise, the summer brought a number of evolutions to FrogDog:

  • We worked on setting an aggressive road map for the rest of 2016, for one.
  • For two, we started assessing our strategy for the year ahead.
  • And third, we had some staff changes: In addition to bringing on board an amazing new FrogDogger I’ve tried to team with for a couple years at least—a big win!—one of our staff transitioned out due to her husband’s transfer back to Australia and another left as planned a full-time MBA program at The University of Chicago. A couple other teammates moved on to other roles. We miss them!

Ahead for fall: Our end-of-year plan and our strategy work will kick into action, which excites me. Also, we’ve applied for the next award up from the one we won in June—the regional Silver Quill—for which the IABC will announce nominees in late September or early October.


For one reason or another, spending time with friends became a big focus of this summer. No huge doings: Just getting together over food, drink, fireworks, parties and celebrations, porch sitting, and even pedicures.

In most cases, these friends and I live near enough in Houston to see each other more often than we do—and shame on us that we don’t—yet a few of the occasions brought in friends from as near as Corpus Christi and as far as Guelph, Canada.

Life feels better on all levels with close friends to share it. Not long ago, I took my friendships for granted. Not so much in recent years, in which nurturing my friendships has taken priority.


The gardens across the street from The French Laundry. July 2016.

In July, my mother and her husband, my brother and his wife and two young children, and I met up in Calistoga, California, for a long weekend of family time.

Nonstop time, actually, as the swimsuit and extra books I brought for relaxing and reading by the pool went untouched: We visited a couple wineries, saw some of the Redwoods, feasted at The French Laundry, ate at other fabulous restaurants (frankly, I munched my way through Napa Valley), and had a photographer come along to take varieties of posed and candid family photos.

After that, I needed a vacation from the vacation. (Didn’t happen.)

In August, a cousin threw a housewarming party that brought together members of the family I rarely get to see though with whom I grew up.

We didn’t have nearly enough time together as I’d have liked; it feels melancholy, a bit, to spend so little time with people you saw weekly as a kid. Though distance makes it a challenge, I call for more such gatherings in the future. (Too bad I don’t have a backyard pool to lure people!)


I’ll say here that dating this summer has held some interesting surprises. And I will leave it at that.

When I have more distance through which to distill the lessons learned, I might. Stay tuned.


My blindingly, awesomely vibrant new Adidas boxing shoes. August 2016.

Can’t say much changed in the fitness arena—I still ran four to six miles four or so times per week and boxed on the nonrunning days—except that the importance of exercise increased with my eating. Even when not with friends or on travel, I managed to feast on everything terrible I could find, from cookies to chips to crackers to cake to… You name it.

This fall, I’ll need to keep my mouth shut in addition to keeping the body moving to atone for my sins.

Thankfully, I now have a pair of super-sweet Adidas boxing shoes that help. (Think I’ll blind ‘em?) And watching Claressa Shields, Heather Hardy, and Shelly Vincent fight on the national and international stages gives me motivation, as does a 10k with a good friend coming up on Thanksgiving morning. (Love when I can mix two loves at once: Friends and fitness!)

World Events

I can’t hark back to a golden era—a time during which truth and beauty and light infused the majority of this planet. Yet this summer, the world looked sad and dark, indeed.

I have so much more to say—and have written so much already on some of this summer’s predominant tragic themes—but I’ll hold the additional words for some other, future post.

Tell me about your summer.


Does Travel Change You?

A stretch of private beach at sunset. Florblanca, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. December 9 2014.

I have bad news: You’re not Aeneas or Odysseus.

In fact, muse on the entire genre of the epic novel or poem. Do any of the tales you can recall parallel any travel experiences you’ve had?


Journeys can change us, but journeys can take place anywhere, even at home, and require internal work more than external experiences. A journey can happen while on the couch, chewing through a book. (Perhaps even while reading The Aeneid or The Odyssey).

The vast majority of travelers take vacations. We want easy ways to escape the daily norm for a long weekend, a week, or maybe even a couple weeks.

Unlike Aeneas and Odysseus, we don’t quest. We don’t go places to change the world or even ourselves.

Instead, we go to theme parks, which curate our fun. We stay at resorts, which cater to our every desire, or we stay in hotels and hostels, which may serve only basic needs but which most certainly do not provide deep experiences of lives lived in different places. We go on guided tours, which show us historic sites and take us on adventurous treks that don’t mirror the daily life of the locals and remove all the guesswork and risk of traveling in unknown areas. We participate in sports that can only happen in certain places at certain times, like surfing, golfing, or skiing.

We have fun, take breaks, recharge.

And I see nothing wrong with that.

After all, we can’t expect travel without any goals beyond rejuvenation to change us. We can’t truly live like the locals if we only stay away from home for a week or two. We don’t accomplish something monumental within ourselves or within a new environment when we ride in taxis and tour buses and eat at restaurants.

And as for life-changing incidents that do happen while on vacation—whether negative or positive—many could have happened at home. Chance alone caused them to happen while on travel.

I have incredible moments from trips caught in the aspic of memory. I caved with a friend to see a Mayan ritual-sacrifice site in Belize. In a bakery in Madrid, I found a fantastic chocolate-dipped pastry that I munched in tiny bites as I meandered the winter streets alone. I tried every tiramisu I encountered in Florence to find the best version. I met one of my closest friends on the way to spending a summer in Russia; she and I later traveled Route 66 in a rented moving truck and even later visited Glacier National Park.

Yet I haven’t grown into someone different through traveling. (Living abroad was another matter.) Travel hasn’t significantly altered my worldview or the fundamentals of how I live my life in the ways that formal and informal education and everyday experiences accumulated over time have changed me. (Discovering a love for strained yogurt drizzled with honey while on vacation in the Greek Isles doesn’t count.)

Journeys—intellectual more than physical—have changed me. Travel has not.

Do you believe travel changes you?

P.S.—This is the second post in a monthly series for which a set group of bloggers post on the same topic on the same day. For other takes on whether travel changes you, check the following writers:


I Have No Clue about Beach Gear and You Probably Don’t, Either

Surfside Beach, Texas. September 27, 2014.

I had a near-miss visit to a large volume of salt water recently (horrors for me, as you readers know), at which I realized that I don’t actually have a clue what people wear or bring to the beach.

Neither do most people, it turns out. (Or perhaps I only know city folk?)

When I turned to Twitter with the query, I received the following recommendations:

  • An umbrella. Jenna Sauber later clarified she meant a beach umbrella. How would I know such a thing? And do people actually cart massive equipment to the beach?
  • Alcohol—particularly beer and vodka. Upon reflection, beer made sense. I’ve seen plenty a commercial with sand, ocean, and cerveza. Vodka, though, @Erwin_Doug_1971?
  • An truckload worth of supplies. @slojuk and @JohnBladon trudge to the beach with “a Frisbee, crossword puzzles, books, sunscreen, hats, towels, Nerf balls, fruit, and ice water.” They claim all this stuff fits in one cooler. Right.
  • High heels and a sequined dress. I don’t know what @C_LosRun does at the beach, exactly. Let’s assume he meant the suggestion in jest. (If not, hey, no judgment here.)

In in addition to recommending that I add beach-umbrella cartage to my workout routine, Jenna had a few actually practical suggestions: Sunscreen, a book, a blanket, and a change of clothes. The ever thoughtful @ChrisCarville put in another vote for sunblock as well.

These sunblock reminders have garnered Jenna, @slojuk, and @ChrisCarville gold stars on their medical charts from the American Academy of Dermatology, which actually exists (even if a gold-star program from the organization does not).

What do you bring to the beach?


Travel Souvenirs: What Do You Collect?

Caught in an experience, I forget to take pictures—so no one can possibly expect me to remember to purchase a vacation souvenir. Sure, I spend money while traveling, but on food and adventures, not on tchotchkes.

I rarely even notice the tchotchkes.

I might collect a t-shirt, but only rarely, and only if it has a modicum of style and evokes a particular experience from the trip—not if it just has the location name on a plain field. But even if it meets both requirements, I probably won’t buy a t-shirt. I don’t have much occasion to wear branded t-shirts, even featuring things I really love.

The t-shirt I bought in 2012 from a couple conducting yoga classes on a roof in Caye Caulker, Belize. August 16, 2014.

However, when I do think to collect something by which to remember an experience—and, usually, a display has to prompt me—I buy a mug. In fact, without consciously considering it, I’ve accumulated quite a few mugs from my adventures over the years. Some of my mugs don’t even have vacation or travel connections: I have a mug from a half-marathon I ran with a friend, for example. Another couple mugs have my alma mater’s logo and seal stamped on them.

After all, I drink a lot of tea. I use mugs daily. And these memento mugs pack a lot of memories. When I select them from the cabinet and sip from them throughout the morning or afternoon, I remember what brought them into my life.

Mugs I've collected during my travel, from Glacier National Park to Route 66 to Indiana. August 16, 2014.

I have a travel mug that reminds me of a trip to Glacier National Park after a really difficult spring. It reminds me of my emotions at that time in my life, the hikes and animals and snow and hippie outposts on the trip, and the vacation’s travel dynamic between a long-time travel buddy and me.

Another mug reminds me of a Route 66 road trip taken with the same travel buddy; we stopped at Lucille’s along the way—a gas station and convenience store from the road’s heyday—when Lucille still lived. She invited us in, chatted with us a bit, and signed our souvenir mugs. Her signature didn’t last, but the mug did. It prompts nostalgia for a time when I experienced the vestiges of a disappearing America with a truly good friend at pivotal times in our lives.

Yet another mug, on which the printing has mostly worn away, marks my trip to Indianapolis to bury my mother’s mother. I didn’t know when I’d return—yet I knew that when I did come back, I’d no longer visit as a granddaughter in a family home. Instead, I’d return as a tourist. To mark the transition, I bought this mug in the airport, waiting for my flight back to Houston.

What mug will I acquire next?

What do you collect when you travel?


Vacation Guidance—Pretty Please

My Smithsonian World Atlas, Sixth Edition, open for contemplation. August 6. 2014.

When I take The Great Trip of 2014, I’ll have gone two years without a proper vacation and I have no idea how long I went without one before that. As a big believer in the value of time away from the everyday, I’d better actually take some.

Great news, right? Excitement reigns, right?

Alas, no.

Taking a vacation just feels like one more overwhelming to-do—and one with nebulous definition. The world needs travel agents, after all. Can’t someone else just plan this for me? If I had even the broad outlines of a plan, I’d feel better. An image in my head evoking fun ahead would help me feel excited in the here and now.

So desperate have I grown for leads, I’ve veered from the norm for this post. Instead of musing on a topic and inviting dialogue, today’s entry provides parameters and requests ideas.

I need your help, dear readers.

Collaborate with me on defining The Great Trip of 2014. Given my broad guidelines for the vacation, I invite you to share your travel adventures, best destinations, and great ideas:

  • The destination and activities should rate as safe for single women traveling alone. Also, road trips don’t typically translate into fun for solo travelers, so I’ll pass on one this time—although I do love them.
  • I like a mix of adventure, activity, culture, and relaxation. Some pampering sounds nice, too.
  • Drink and culinary adventures don’t entice me.
  • I don’t “rough it” without a significant experience payoff. For example, you won’t entice me to camp or stay in a hostel unless I can find no other way to see or do something I really want to see or do. (And if I’m lukewarm on the sight or action, I’ll pass.) I need at least a decent hotel.
  • As I will need to check in with the office at least once a day on weekdays, I need a spot with fairly decent and widespread Internet connectivity.
  • I’ve lived and traveled widely in Europe and Britain, so I’d like to see other parts of the world.
  • I have about a week to ten days, so I need to identify a destination that won’t consume too much time in travel or jet lag. In my thinking, that indicates spots in Central and South America, but I welcome other notions.
  • Given current commitments, the trip needs to take place in first two weeks in December or the first couple in November.

And so I beg your guidance, my friends:

Tell me about your best vacation.