Most travelers, myself included, spend a lot of their time searching for the perfect spot. It might be a locale, a resort, a restaurant, a chair on the beach, or even a parking spot. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and what seems just right for one may be the exact opposite for another. Take a second to consider what these might be for you:
❤️your perfect spot for watching the sun rise or set
❤️your perfect spot for being one with nature (sea, mountains, lakes, forests, plains…whatever lights your fancy)
❤️your perfect spot for feeling at peace
❤️your perfect spot for feeling inspired
❤️the place where you can truly be yourself
Okay, where is your spot? How did you find it? Maybe you’re not quite sure yet and if that’s the case, keep on searching!
On Day 109 of the Nowhere To Be Project I languished in the luxury of my perfect spot. I awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains. I had coffee on the deck as I listened to the rushing of the nearby waterfall. I meandered through the village enjoying the farmer’s market packed with fresh local foods. I’ll doze off tonight to the cool mountain breeze flooding through my open window. My perfect spot is Vail, Colorado. It is my chosen hometown. Give it a visit if you’ve never been. You never know, it might just be your perfect spot too.
Day 108 of the Nowhere To Be Project took place largely on the top of Vail Mountain. This is because once we reached it after two hours of climbing, our legs were too tired too budge from our scenic perch. We hiked one of our very favorite trails, Berry Picker. It gets it name from the plethora of wild raspberries that line the path. It is a 3.2 mile climb through breathtaking terrain and ending at Eagle’s Nest. I’ve been hiking this trail for over 40 years and never tire of its challenge.
Today marked the first hike of the season and that one is always the toughest. The altitude paired with the ascent help make the climb a trek in all senses of the word. Many people choose to take the gondola to the top and hike down, but I always do the reverse. I want to earn that view because it makes me appreciate it more. That’s the thing with life and travel. We must amble through the rough patches tirelessly to be capable of feeling true gratitude for all of the lovely flat ground.
On day 107 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself back in the mountains of Colorado. For some reason, the mountains always nudge me into a contemplative frame of mind. I got to thinking about a conversation I had yesterday on a shuttle with a couple who had been up for 36 straight hours as a result of travel. It reminded me of the countless times I’ve promised myself that I’d sleep on the plane or nap during layovers. It almost never works out that way though, does it? If you’re anything like me and my husband, you make all sorts of empty promises to yourselves to rationalize travel…
“We won’t eat out”
“We will stay out of the gift shops”
“This is our Christmas, birthday and anniversary present to ourselves”
The list goes on and on.
The reality is that when we’re in the heat of a trip, we do anything and everything available to immerse ourselves in the experience of the place. We relish in the reckless abandon of each moment betraying the promises we made to ourselves at the outset. Oh, the wicked webs we weave when travel is our mistress!
On Day 105 of the Nowhere To Be Project I was faced with a new side effect of constant travel. It came in the form of well-worn jeans that decided that today was the day they’d simply refuse to button. This happens to everyone, right? My mind immediately attempted to rationalize the affront by blaming the dryer for shrinking the pants, but deep down I knew that my Nowhere To Be Project lifestyle was the real culprit.
A life of constant travel brings temptation in so many forms. Food is a big one because for me, truly experiencing a place hinges on indulging in local dishes. Add to these bites the local wines that absolutely must be tried and I’m headed for trouble. So, even though I exercise daily and follow a plant-based diet, the jet-setting mojo is catching up with me. What to do?
Well, as tempting as it is, I’m not going to buy bigger pants and I will always aggressively shun the Spanx-life. I also refuse to change my pace of travel because who knows how long the opportunity to wander aimlessly will last? I will, however, do my very best to add additional exercise (e.g. more cardio and at least twenty burpees a day) and cut back on portion sizes a bit until that button on my jeans relents. How do you battle the side effects of fun?
On Day 104 of the Nowhere To Be Project I received “good mail”. When I was a kid, all mail was exciting! I had a pen pal that shared the foreign-to-me ins and outs of rural life through her letters. I also belonged to a book club that had me running to the mailbox with glee on delivery days. These days, mail is rarely exciting. No one really writes letters anymore and my box is usually filled with bills instead of books. Today, the contents of my mailbox brought back the childhood joy of mail with the delivery of my cruise documents from Viking!
In August, my husband and I will take our first ocean cruise with Viking. We’ve taken five river cruises with Viking and have been impressed and beyond pleased each and every time. We’ve also taken oodles of ocean cruises over the years on other lines. Ocean cruises were especially appealing when the kids were little because there was literally something to keep everyone entertained. As we’ve all grown older, we traded in the huge ocean liners for smaller, more intimate travel adventures (river cruises, small group tours, RV trips and so on). While the Viking ships are still very small compared to the mega liners, they offer more amenities and a broader range of itineraries than is possible on a tiny river vessel. The British Isles Explorer itinerary was the draw for us: Norway, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Of those countries, England is the only one I’ve already visited!
Truth be told, we are a tad bit worried that the things that attracted us to Viking initially will change…small ships, very few passengers, cultural immersion, educational opportunities, etc. I’m literally chomping at the bit to answer these unknowns and am extremely hopeful that Viking will deliver excellence once again! It is so thrilling to have the British Isles journey in my sights and I promise to share a blow by blow of the highs, the lows and even the in-betweens.
Several days ago I blogged about Burgerfi’s version of the vegan Beyond Burger. After that post, someone enlightened me about what he described as “the absolute best vegan burger out there”, aptly named the Impossible Burger. That conversation led me to hightail it to Wahlburgers in Orlando, Florida on Day 102 of the Nowhere To Be Project (Waterford Lakes location). This was my first visit to a Wahlburgers and I’ve never seen the show, so wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Unfortunately, neither Marky Mark nor the Funky Bunch was present (yes, I’m that age and I did have the infamous Calvin Klein poster on my wall as a teen) but a very chipper server was. I looked the menu over top to bottom and did not see anything about the Impossible Burger. I finally spotted it when I turned to grab a napkin from the dispenser on the table. It was featured there in full color on an insert. Wahlburgers version includes several non-vegan additions (bun, smoked cheddar, Wahl sauce) though so after a brief consultation on food preparation and ingredients with the server I created the “Nowhere To Be Burger”. This vegan masterpiece took the Impossible Burger to a truly plant-based pinnacle with toasted sourdough (no butter), avocado spread, sautéed mushrooms, chili spiced tomatoes, caramelized onions, pickle, mustard and catsup. With my additions, the price of my burger totaled $14.95, which is a bit high when compared to my son’s regular beef Double Decker which was just $8.95! I threw caution to the wind and went with a side of the sweet potato tots as an accompaniment. My son, a Mac ‘n Cheese aficionado, chose Wahlburgers’ Smoked Bacon version as a side.
After about fifteen minutes of marveling at the sheer number of Wahlberg-centric movie titles plastered throughout the industrial-vibed restaurant, our food arrived hot and fragrant. It was at first bite that my love affair with the Impossible Burger began. It looks, smells and tastes like a traditional beef burger. The mouth feel is absolutely identical. The flavor reminded me of a White Castle burger, delightfully greasy, oniony and mustardy all at once! I am a huge fan of Beyond Burgers, but the burger I ate today is now the king of my plant-based burger-loving heart. It was so authentic that I asked my son if they could have made a mistake and given me a regular beef patty. He assured me that they did not and I greedily gobbled up the remainder of the doppelgänger. The tots were really tasty too with a crisp, very slightly sweet and savory flavor. My son described his burger as “very good” and the mac ‘n cheese as “alright”.
After a quick Google, I learned that the Impossible Burger is not a Wahlburgers creation, but the brainchild of a company created by scientists called Impossible Meats. They are available at select restaurant locations only with no retail options for do-it-yourself patties. There is some laboratory engineering involved in the creation of these vegan marvels, so if you’re sensitive to that you’ll want to check it out fully before indulging. Thankfully, their website indicates that they are working to make them more widely available. Music to my ears!
*As always, I have no affiliation with any of the products or locations I write about and am not compensated in any way.
I spent day 101 of the Nowhere To Be Project in Mount Dora, Florida. It sits at a whopping 184 feet above sea level which is most definitely considered high altitude in Florida. I’ve been coming to this town for years because is represents one of the last strip-mall free corridors in the state. The charming downtown district is situated adjacent to Lake Dora and was founded in the mid 1800s by Dora Ann Drawdy who arrived there from Georgia in search of the frontier life.
These days you’ll find a scenic scattering of independently owned shoppes and restaurants throughout town. My personal favorites are the Hospice Hope Chest, where all proceeds support palliative care, and Goblin Market, an adorable restaurant with a cool library treehouse vibe. Their menu is not rich with vegan options though (hint, hint to the proprietors), so I’m mostly limited to salad when dining with them since my transition to a plant-based diet. There are many options for lodging as well including several b&bs and a hotel making it a very popular weekend and wedding destination.
It was 93 degrees with full humidity during my visit this afternoon which made the open air design quite stifling, but useful for the loss of a bit of water weight, haha. Mount Dora is a wonderful stop for those who are seeking an authentic taste of old Florida, but I would recommend visiting during winter months unless you’re interested in a nonstop steam bath. Welcome to the swamp sauna that is Central Florida for the better part of nine months each year!
On Day 94 of the Nowhere To Be Project we ran out of gas. I’m not speaking figuratively! We actually ran out of gas. Well, not so much me, but my husband (on his scooter). Luckily, we were just about a mile shy of our RV, so the push, pull and drag of his empty scooter wasn’t too treacherous. Even though he knew he needed gas, he decided to wait because we had groceries on board. On a tiny scooter, the gas tank is housed within the storage area. He was fearful that a fill up at the gas station might have spilled onto the food. That’s RV life, I guess. We’re living in a tiny, tiny space. Once parked, our only means of transportation are even tinier scooters.
For instance, we spent the day at a cute lakeside town in Michigan called Glen Arbor and I did a bit of shopping. When all was said and done, I had two small shopping bags of goodies that I WANTED and two grocery sacks of food that I actually NEEDED. Living tiny forces me to second-guess every single purchase because there is not an inch of extra space. If it isn’t absolutely necessary, I just can’t buy it (tell that that to the t-shirt and dress I bought today🙄). Prioritizing needs over wants is good because I’m learning just how little we actually need to live comfortably. It also requires me to be more creative by reworking the same garments into different looks and basic pantry staples into satisfying meals. The whole experience of living with less highlights the importance of treasuring life’s moments over possessions. Like right now, I’m sitting lakeside at our RV Park watching a mommy duck teach her brand-new ducklings how to swim. This moment is enriching my spirit in ways that the silly t-shirt I bought could never. Moments take up no space at all, yet satisfy the soul in ways that trinkets and doodads simply cannot.
On day 27 of the Nowhere To Be Project I contemplated the purpose and power of reviews. I was reading a fellow blogger’s post about a recent stay in Sydney, Australia with bated breath as I’m visiting there as a newbie in a few weeks. Selfishly, I was bummed when the blogger had absolutely nothing positive to say. My takeaways from the post were that the city is overrated, beyond expensive and anything more than two days there is a complete waste of time. By the end of the post, I was wondering if I had made a mistake in booking my trip. It felt awful to have my excitement about the trip dampened! Then I recalled a recent hotel stay at The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.
My husband and I were road-tripping with our dog. We decided to stay at the pet-friendly Peabody. When he mentioned this to a friend who had recently stayed there, he was told to avoid the place like the plague. According to this friend, the hotel was rundown, overpriced and offered horrible service. We considered canceling our reservation in light of the information. I am so glad that we didn’t as we had a delightful stay! Our 100 pound Mutt was welcomed in grand fashion with amenities and treats made just for him. We were given a beautiful room, served delicious food and experienced top-notch service throughout our visit. We found the Peabody to be a fabulous old hotel offering immense charm and luxury.
Who knows what happened with his friend to taint his opinion of the hotel so intensely? Same with the blogger who hates Sydney so. While I value their input, I can only take it with a grain of salt. It isn’t their job to plan my travel. We all have different expectations, desires, likes and dislikes. Blogs are great at sharing the perspectives of their authors and reviews can be extremely useful tools for planning travel. However, neither should make or break a trip. Bloggers are not responsible for telling readers what they want to hear. That is the beauty of blogs! I’ll remain totally addicted to blogs and reviews, yet I’m going to trust myself and my gut a bit more when it comes to my journeys. I think I’ll call it gut travel!
Day 20 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent catching up and commenting on the blogs of my peers. One blog, in particular, got me thinking. The author was talking about the importance of purpose in writing. His point seemed to be that one must have a clear purpose in writing for without it, the written word becomes meaningless. I completely disagree. I believe that purposeless writing can unlock the truth. Sound crazy? Let me explain.
In middle school, my friends and I had slam books. These were simple spiral notebooks that we would pass around in between periods. The point was to write something (anything) in the slam book before passing it along to the next person. One book was usually shared by four or five friends. Sometimes what was written was silly. Sometimes it was dark and personal. The book included fears, accomplishments, crushes, confessions, apologies, jokes, poems, song lyrics and even a list of curse words. There was no real purpose in the writing. It just felt good to share our words with ourselves and with one another.
Similarly, when I taught AP English Literature and Composition, at least fifteen minutes of every period was spent free writing. The students could write about anything, but they had to write and do so by hand on paper. No cell phones, laptops or tablets were permitted. Many students struggled with this. How could they write when absolutely no parameters were given? What should they say when there was no defined purpose? Why couldn’t they use their devices when that was how they wrote everything? That was the entire point. I wanted them to free themselves from the limits that scholarly writing and technology place upon us. Writing by hand engages areas of the brain that typing on a keyboard does not. No other rules. No word counts. Nothing to hold them back. Borrowing from my work and research in the mental health field, I called it stream-of-conciousness-writing and I sneakily used it to help them connect more deeply with the works of fiction we were studying. It worked because the themes presented in the works we were reading often bled into their free-writing. This showed me that they were connecting in some way with the literature.
I recently started another slam book just for myself. It began in the shape of a planner, but it is morphing into stream-of-conciousness rambling. How fun it will be to look back over these pages in a year, or five, or even ten and see what thoughts brought my pen to the page in line after line of glorious purposeless writing. Come to think of it, this blog might just be my modern take on the slam book.