Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Compromises

Awhile back, I had shared a post about my husband, Brian, and my different styles in travel, and life. Things haven't changed much over the years. As we have continued to travel together, we have struck a good balance of how we go about planning the trips we take together. Either Brian or I plan the trip as a gift to the other person (by far the easiest and most fun way) OR we plan it together (where we try to find some middle ground).

Brian's style tends to be more laid-back and "vacation-y;" while I lean towards kooky and adventurous. As we go through websites and guidebooks, Brian does reasonable things like seeing how far apart things are, what the fine print is, how much things really cost, and what's in season. I read 'igloo' and figure there's probably a slight possibility we can make that happen in July in XYZ place. Brian can peruse things for hours, while I start getting impatient and defer to Brian's decisions (where I secretly hope he'll read my mind, we're soon to celebrate our 11 year anniversary after all). Brian picks things he probably would rather not do and I give in on activities I worry will make me sleepy.

Despite all this, we end up making a pretty good team and the results are a well-balanced, quirky vacation for both of us. Luckily, some things we easily agree on are trying new things, enjoying great food, and finding good drinks. We are in the homestretch of finalizing our summer vacation to Vancouver in July, YAY!, and we have some pretty fun ideas/plans to share, but I guess, for now, I can pretend to be patient and wait until tomorrow when things are actually finalized. Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Hidden Side

I was reading this article the other day about five areas where people waste money when traveling. (I love that they included buying a SteriPen for on-the-go water purification!) It got me thinking about some of the things I've learned that might help you too (these are in addition to some posts I did awhile back - Part I - Flights, Part II - Lodging, and Part III - Food and Activities). Here they are, in no particular order:
  1. Avoid surprises. If you don't see a price listed, and you feel the need to ask, you likely can't afford it. (This advice comes from my Nana and goes for more than just travel, but it works here too.)
  2. Consider how often you are in car accidents in your daily life, if it is a reasonable number, turn down the extra car rental insurance. (If you are in a foreign country, it may be wise to consider, check out a guidebook/travel agent for their advice in advance.) In most cases though, you are covered by the credit card you made the reservation with and/or your personal car insurance - no matter what the agent at the counter tells you.
  3. Unless you are all alone in the middle of the night and you're not going five miles or more, walk or use public transportation instead of a taxi. It's easy to have "vacation brain" and think, "I deserve this, I'm on vacation" but then you waste your hard-earned money on a car ride you could duplicate easily at home. So stroll to your next attraction and get lost a little, that's half the fun!
  4. Trade magazines with other people on the go. I figure if I buy on brand new magazine (or better yet, bring one from home that I got with those pesky 5,000 airline miles that are about to expire) and someone across the gate area is finishing one up, we should trade. You can screen their taste easily and avoid the Trout Weekly lovers if that's not your speed.
  5. Borrow things from your friends. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say they needed outlet adapters! I have these things: money belt, mosquito net, backpacks, suitcases, plug adapters, Kindle, tent, cook stove, tarps, inflatable neck pillow, cross country skis, travel books, packing lists, sleeping bags, dry bags, shoe bags, space bags, headlamp, flashlight, ski goggles, and on and on. If you need these things, you can borrow them!
  6. Double check what you packed or work off a list. This is especially true when you are traveling abroad. Forgetting something critical makes it hard to avoid buying replacements wherever you are going (just ask Brian Beard about our trip to Italy!). In addition to paying more because you're desperate, you return home with double whatever it was, which is likely more than you reasonably need.
  7. Make a few calls. When you are traveling abroad, check with your bank and/or credit cards to find out what the fees are to make transactions. Usually debit cards charge you a flat rate plus a percentage for purchases and cash withdrawals (usually lower than a credit card) but some credit cards are better. It can be annoying to make these calls before you go, but it's better than finding out how much multiple cash advances cost in daily interest rates when you get home. Not that that's ever happened to me...oh wait.
  8. Trade pet-sitting, cat-sitting, house-sitting, plant-sitting, or bill-paying (depending on how long you'll be gone) with a friend or neighbor who is planning on traveling in the near future. That way, everyone is pitching in and no one feels the need to pay anyone back (or bring home expensive gifts for) since you built in reciprocity at the beginning.
  9. Read your timetables carefully. I learned the hard way, literally (I had a bruised tailbone for months - another time on that), that other people (without mentioning any names) didn't grow up on military time. This resulted in a missed bus and ticket repurchasing. This is a crappy way to waste money on vacation, period.
  10. Plan ahead. Traveling on a budget can be a fun challenge and can help you go a lot further on a vacation, like a week vs. two days. However, sometimes it's worth the splurge to have the best meal of your life, take a tour of a glowworm cave, or experience your favorite band on the road. If you plan in advance, you can put aside the dough to take the plunge and not be paying for it later; which, in my opinion, is the best way to really enjoy your vacation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Training for Travel

Yesterday I got an email from REI regarding my September trail-maintenance trip to Yosemite with my dad:

"Trip conditioning: Upon arrival in Yosemite, you should be capable of hiking 2-4 miles with a 10-15 pound daypack over terrain with some steep grades. Take the opportunity to enjoy training outdoors and practice trail hiking with the pack and boots you will be wearing on the trip." (They didn't include the 5-8 hours a day of manual labor.)

As most of you know, from reading along, between work and school I have found little time for anything else, including exercise. I have made it to about two yoga classes a month for the past couple of months, taken 15 minute walk breaks 1-3 times a week at work, and forgone the parking garage elevator in favor of the stairs. This has not been very effective at maintaining much in the way of fitness, as you might imagine.

When I started thinking about training for Yosemite, I was reminded about how I trained for my week of yoga and surf camp in Costa Rica about five years ago. It was a fun trip to get motivated and in shape for. I was practicing yoga about four times a week and working out in the gym on the off days. Mostly, I was intent on not drowning so I wanted to increase my cardio endurance, in order to tread water in case I got washed out to sea. I think trying to keep pace with my dad is motivation enough for this trip.

Now with three and a half months to go, I need to figure out a way to get ready. The 2-4 mile hike with a pack should be fine, but I am not sure I am currently up for it seven days in a row, with the addition of labor. I wanted to buy a kayak or a rowing skull to train but then Brian reminded me that we don't really have any water nearby, a place to store said watercraft, or a way to haul it around. Oh well, enter my new running shoes instead:


I used to enjoy running but I haven't run since I graduated from college; I am hoping I can pick it back up again. I made it a whole mile last night! I am going to try to get a good head start on things before school starts heating back up again. After that, I am hoping I can keep it up as a good way to de-stress in the fall. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to keep me honest by joining me for a run!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wings Unclipped

Yesterday was my last day of school for the year. While preparations for Year 2 start in just six short weeks, I am taking full advantage of the break to get a little traveling done. In case you were wondering where I'll be, or want to meet up along the way, here's the lineup:
  1. Rochester, NY - visiting my best friend from college, her toddler (who I haven't met yet), and my old college town
  2. Blaine, MN - road-tripping just north of Minneapolis to attend one of my college roommate's weddings
  3. New York City - attending a PR News conference for work, staying with my wonderful friends (Jessica and Brian), and trying to cross off one more of my travel bucket list items (taking in a Moth Story SLAM)
  4. TBD - with life being what it's been lately, I am sad to say that we have still not decided or made any plans after this post from February. At this point, I think we'll be lucky to sneak away for a long weekend. 
  5. Branson, MO - Brian's side of the family-family reunion #1 (the second one is in October with the other side of his family); I am vowing to create at least one post about the hip and cool things there (wish me luck, I'm currently operating on stereotypes, I know)
So, that's it for the formal upcoming plans. Hoping to find myself on a few one-day road trips here and there. It's going to be so weird to not have to go to class for a couple of months. Really looking forward to that. Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Travel By Food

Yesterday was Brian's birthday. In the Beard house, this usually means one thing - dinner out, preferably foody and new (at least to us). Enter, Affäre. This trendy, German tapas restaurant, located in the Crossroads District, was the perfect choice for Brian, who loves German food and beer. Affäre opened two weeks ago and has already garnered a fair bit of press, in fact the KC Star was photographing the chef when we arrived for our reservation. As Brian and I perused the menu, it dawned on us that we had no idea what modern German cuisine was like. Our most recent experience with this genre was on our trip to NYC where we enjoyed the most stereotypical, German Oktoberfest time. This latest experience was 180 degrees from beer steins, accordians, and roasted pigs.

From top left (clockwise): Red beet salad with flower blossoms and leaves, goat cheese and spiced pecan nuts; Textured Alaskan halibut, tomato-ginger mélange; Slow roasted, Wacholderbeeren rubbed elkloin, bing cherry sauce, Butterspätzle (Brian's); and Seafood Allerlei in liaison with lemon risotto.
Unfortunately, the photo of Brian's salad (Lollo rosso, oak leaf and frisee greens on edible soil, green asparagus, radishes, flower petals) did not turn out blog-worthy so you will have to check it out in person to see your own personal garden on a plate. The meal was wonderful, our waitress was lovely and the front wall panels were open to a nice breeze. Our only complaint was the bread which was too hard to eat without looking like a Neanderthal, tearing chunks off with your teeth, trust me - no ladylike pinching possible. Hope you can check them out soon and if you go on the weekend make a reservation on OpenTable. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blogless


This past week I was in D.C. for my Public Policy residency. Between learning sessions, field trips and late nights of quality time with my classmates, I found no time for blogging. The day before I left town I got a formal offer for my new job*, which I start tomorrow and my free time (with two weeks left of school) is narrow. I almost skipped the recap but I know at least my mom is wondering what we did all week. Here it is in random order:
  • Touring the monuments at night, which I had never done before
  • Touring the Pentagon, which my dad (retired from the U.S. Coast Guard) had never even done
  • Listening to a pre-Presidential debate between Joe McLean and Bay Buchanan, followed by dinner at the National Press Club
  • Lunching at the Capitol Hill Club while listening to Sallie James from the Cato Institute talk about trade policy
  • Checking out the new Visitor's Center at the Capitol before our tour
  • Interviewing representatives from Senator McCaskill, Senator Blunt and Congressman Cleaver's offices for our project
  • Simulating a freshman Congressman's first year on the Hill via a computer program
  • Learning about lobbyists (Ben McKay), the political party process (Mickey Edwards), the Middle East (Marc Ginsberg), the role of the media in politics (Steve V. Roberts) and federal budgeting (Jeff Holland)
  • Figuring out what the problems are in Washington - divisions/polarity between parties, fundraising, re-redistricting and the economy
  • Finding out where my classmates stand on the issues through conversations and debates
In all, it was a great week, albeit tiring, and I am looking forward to finishing up this class and being halfway done with school. Thanks for checking in!

*In case you couldn't hear my cheering from where you might be, I am the new Digital Marketing Programs Manager for Water.org!