El Fin- 30 Days of Indie Travel

Today is the last prompt for BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel. I did pretty well trying to keep up with the daily prompts. Overall, I completed 19/30 prompts. Not bad! This challenge was fun in that everyday provided a different platform of discussion. Not to mention, it got my lazy ass blogging pretty frequently, which we all can attest can be challenging when life gets in the way.

Prompt #30: 2012 TICKET

Where are you going in 2012?  Why is that place great for indie travelers? 

 

I promised myself a trip to Costa Rica for my 25th birthday. Since my birthday has come and passed, I really need to get going. I want to have an extended stay (somewhere between 2 weeks-month). I’m planning on visiting my friend Kelly in Burbank, California in February for about 5 days to escape the cold and check out Southern California. I also have a proposed trip to Italy in March with my friend Erica. You better believe I’ll be studying up on my Italian before I go. I’ve already memorized Due birre, per favore (Two beers, please.)

 

As far as any of this goes, and as all travelers know, I will most likely end up in other places not even mentioned above. That’s the beauty and uncertainty of life. One day you can be going along your merry own way and the next you’re on the open road to somewhere you’ve only read or dreamt about.

 

I’ve worked hard this last year to try to make goals for myself and promised myself that 2012 will take me in a new direction. 2011 has been the most eye-opening, fun, difficult, freeing and confusing year of my life thus far. I’m hoping I can solidify some travel plans for the new year and make 2012 just as weird and interesting (if not more!) than 2011 has been.

Wanderlust & the video that inspired it

Today’s prompt for BootsnAll’s  30 Days of Indie Travel Project is WANDERLUSTShare a photo or video that just makes you want to GO. RIGHT. NOW.

Watching this video for the first time changed my life. It made me realize that I needed to sign up for MatadorU as soon as I could scrape the money together. Video credit to Matador Network, of course.

 

 

 

Ode to the Mint Julep

So, you think you’re a professional drinker? Partied with the best of them in college, always the last one to pass out? It doesn’t matter how many people you think you can drink under the table. NOBODY (no normal person, anyway) could possibly be ready for the drinking Olympics that is the Kentucky Derby.

People travel from all over the country and world to flock to Churchill Downs in their Sunday’s best. Women don the biggest sunhat they could find, linked on the arm of a tweed jacket-wearing old money fellow (if they’re lucky). That’s just the rich folk, though; ie: the ones who actually have seats. Someone like me, woefully broke and on the dime of a few friends, had tickets to the infield, arguably one of the raunchiest, drunkest, hillbilliest drink-a-thons known to professional sports (maybe besides NASCAR, but that’s in a league all its own).

We took a school bus. Don’t judge.

After being dropped off by our “private ride,” our party pre-gamed in the parking lot with cases of Natural Ice and other high class brews. Five hours of flippy cup later, we followed the mass exodus of drunks to Churchill Downs to watch the Derby. Never before have I seen such debauchery from misbehaving adults. Though it was all in good fun to buy beer by the can off the street, there was little to be said about those whose bladders were so full, they squatted behind cars and garbage cans to take a piss.

The infield of Churchill downs is essentially a backyard BBQ. Different tents are set up selling grill fare and drunks meander about musing over how much to bet on the big race. Lawn chairs and coolers make campsites and the young and old challenge each other to beer chugging contests.

Derby goers indulge early and often, I’m sure

As I perused the different tents feeling warm and fuzzy, one thing was certain: I HAD to have a Mint Julep. Ah, the images a Mint Julep conjures up: Sipping whiskey on a warm southern evening, bare feet up after a long day of hard labor. I was drunk from the romance of it all (or was it all that Nattie Ice?).  I imagined someone like Colonel Sanders would be passing out Mint Juleps nearby.

“Hey where did you get that?” I asked one unsuspecting, busty blond woman sucking one down.

“Over there sweetie! Just follow the loop of tents around and you’ll see the line! Nothin’ like a Mint Julep on race day!”

Score! The line was long and I was feeling hot and dizzy from all the cheap beer and the hot sun. When I finally ordered my Julep from some college girl working the tent (totally disappointed), I felt like I was livin’ the southern dream. I took one sip and I knew I was in a whole other league of hard-balling drinkers. They made these Juleps for professionals, not some beer chugging amateur like myself. I was taken aback at how strong this drink was. Traditionally made of bourbon, water, sugar and fresh mint sprigs, the julep isn’t much unlike a Mojito. It was something about that Early Times whiskey that washed over me in the wrong way.

I drank half of it and gave the rest away to a friend. I traveled half way across the country to have a Mint Julep and it was so strong I couldn’t even finish it. At least I made off with the souvenir glass!

Me and the Julep. My friend Dan’s face says it all

There’s no place like…New York City?

Another week, another roundup. Here’s this week’s BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel  prompts and responses!

Prompt #13: HOME
For some people, no matter how much they love traveling, there’s always no place like home. Other travelers make their homes wherever they happen to be. Tell us about your home – where is it and why do you consider it your home? 

This song always reminds me of the importance of home in Chicago. Whenever I go home, I’m surrounded by people that love me and I love dearly. Family, friends and neighbors are almost always still there and willing to get together, to catch up and have a good time. Going home is sort of like a good stretch in the morning; sometimes it only lasts for a short time, but the familiar sights, sounds and tastes fill me with a tingly goodness from my head to my toes.

“I feel home when I see the faces that remember my own.”

Prompt #14: QUOTE
What’s your favorite quote about travel? Why does it stand out to you? 


This may come as no surprise that the quote at the top of my blog,Wisdom is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go,” is certainly a favorite of mine. It was Anthony Bourdain who said that. He also said something along the lines of, “The more I travel, the less I know.” Isn’t it the truth! Some things you encounter while traveling are truly stunning. My sister and I had a moment in Montreal where we wondered, “Are we in Heaven?” We really are just a small piece of everything going on out there in the world. Travel puts into perspective just how beautifully dynamic and culture-rich our world is, all while sparking the desire to see MORE.

Prompt #15: CITY 
What is your favorite (or least favorite) city and what do you love (or hate) about it?
 

I have a love/hate relationship with New York City. Every time I arrive, I step off the bus in Midtown, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for a Big Apple adventure. I’m filled with awe and wonderment at all the movement around me. I muse over how fast people move and contemplate how everyone’s unique lives intermingle in a common surrounding. I’m always astounded at how MANY people there are and equally impressed that New York City really IS the city that never sleeps! People hang out in the parks and walk the streets, conduct business meetings meet up with old friends, you name it, at any hour of the night. It’s incredible.

That being said, the feeling of claustrophobia becomes too much to bear. Subways are crammed full of people like sardines in a can. People can be rude or worse, dangerous. Although I love NY, I don’t get that feeling that I’m able to stretch out (that’s my Midwest roots talking) and really make the place my own. But isn’t that also the beauty of it, too? So full of struggle, strife, happiness, food, culture, art. New York City is life.

Prompt #16: BAGGAGE

Mental baggage can weigh us down as much as physical baggage when we travel. How do you travel lightly – either emotionally or physically?

As much as you can let baggage get you down, as Kanye West says, “I can let these dream killers kill my self esteem, or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams,” you have to convert negative energy into positive action. A major reason for my moving away from home was to get over a broken heart. Instead of sitting home, lulling over the guy who wouldn’t call me, hurting myself further, I took that negative mindset and developed it into a positive, proactive mindset that led me to want to explore the world, one small step at a time. Sometimes baggage can get you down, but if you can find a way to tread lightly and true, your travels will be that much more rich in meaning.

Me and my best girlfriends in St. Louis. I felt free.

Indie Travel Week 3 Roundup: Photo Essay

Time for this week’s roundup of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel project. Each new day brings a new travel topic to expand upon. This week, I present a photo essay of the prompts.

Prompt #9: One Day  
Travel helps us better appreciate the present moment instead of always looking to the next thing. Describe one perfect day you had while traveling this year. Where were you? What were you doing? And what made it perfect?

 Site-seeing in my new city Philadelphia, strolling through Olde City, enjoying a beautiful fall day alone. 

Prompt #10: EARTH
At what point in your travels have you felt most in tune with the Earth? Share a story of how you interacted with the local environment or nature.

It sounds crazy, but this photo is from a trip that changed me forever. I traded in corporate drudgery just days earlier. Here I am in Gulfport, Florida (near Tampa), selling fresh watermelon on the Gulf with my best friend in life. Suddenly everything was right in the world.


Prompt #11: FEAST
For some of us, food isn’t just a part of our travels, it’s the reason why we travel. Whether you travel the globe to try new foods and use food to form a deeper connection with the culture or just eat to live, food plays a big part in the travel experience. Share a food-related story from your travels or describe your best meal.

So many good meals shared at this South Philly spot called Oregon Diner. Just take one look at the pastry selection!

Prompt #12: MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS
Travelers meet dozens, if not hundreds, of new people on every trip. They may become friends, enemies, lovers, and resources; they may stay in your life forever or be forgotten the next day. Tell about a time you felt a powerful connection – for however long – to another person while traveling.

 Perhaps the only existing photo I have of Mike (far left), our Australian friend/tour guide in Montreal, QC for the day. He showed us such good times!