On day 135 of the Nowhere To Be Project, Vail, Colorado (my chosen hometown) was bestowed with the elusive title of “sustainable destination”. This is quite an honor considering that no other mountain resorts in the world have the right to carry the moniker. Exciting, I know, but what does it really mean?
We’ve all seen the signs in hotels asking us to reuse towels to save water, but true sustainability goes way beyond that. A sustainable destination is one that focuses on environmental, cultural and economic preservation. In other words, formal procedures must be in place to protect and preserve nature, wildlife, regional history and customs, and to contribute to and support the local economy.
In Vail, plastic bags were banned quite some time ago and every public waste receptacle provides an education on items that can be recycled versus those that will end up in a landfill. There is also a profound focus on the restoration and preservation of natural resources and wildlife. Citizens benefit not only from an outstanding quality of life here in the mountains, but from a fabulous public transportation system and a push toward environmentally responsible affordable housing. All of these things (and many more) helped contribute to the title of sustainable destination.
All of the hoopla made me wonder how many travelers really consider sustainability when choosing a destination. According to recent research, that number hovers at just over half! As a frequent camper, the practice of “leave no trace” is a personal mantra, but I had no idea that so many other travelers prioritized it as well. It demonstrates that a zero footprint approach to travel should not end when the tent is packed away and the fact that one of the most popular resort towns in the world sees this is very encouraging.
I was feeling bad for my pooch today, day 134 of the Nowhere To Be Project. We rescued him nine years ago after he was found (as a puppy) wandering the streets of Orlando. He had been abandoned by his mother and was malnourished. I think that this is when his wanderlust began because since then he has visited 41 states and one foreign country. The only time he does not accompany us on our travels is when we fly. At 90 pounds, he’s just too big to bring on board and I refuse to cage him in cargo. That will change should I ever win the lottery…I’ll buy a private jet so he can see the world!
I was feeling sorry for him today because he loves travel as much as we do and has been home bound for the past several weeks. While he loves the long hikes and brief car rides we squeeze in each day, he just doesn’t get the same thrill as that of life on the road. He especially loves staying at Kimpton hotels (he’s been to more than three-quarters of their U.S. locations) because they out and out pamper their four-legged guests. His bunk on our R.V. runs a close second likely because it has a panoramic window to the world (see photo above).
The good news is that he’ll be knocking off the remainder of the continental United States by early March of 2019. Not bad for a pup that was days away from being euthanized, huh? Adopt don’t shop! You never know, you might just find your next travel partner.
As a constant traveler, I understand the assumptions and misconceptions that people have about the jet-set lifestyle. This flawed thinking literally robs people of travel…”I can’t afford it”, “I’m too busy” and so on. Therefore, the focus of day 133 of the Nowhere To Be Project is the notion that travel is accessible to everyone, all the time.
People assume that travel is only for the wealthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth because travel comes in all shapes, sizes and price points. It is what you make it. I’ve splurged a few times on what might be considered luxury trips. More frequently though, I’ve camped for free with just a book and a backpack full of homemade treats. I’ve also hopped on last minute cruises where one all-inclusive week at sea can cost much less than one on land. Low cost travel is a real possibility for the diligent and prepared. For some things it pays to plan well in advance, while others require the ability to get up and go on a moment’s notice. Some think that frequent travel is limited to the very young and very old. TRAVEL IS NOT JUST FOR COLLEGE KIDS AND OLD CRONIES!!! While constant travel has become easier since my retirement, I never let life get in the way of my wanderlust. For example, my kids are very well-traveled because I never saw them as a barrier to travel. Some people think that it is too much of a pain to pack up the kids (and the diaper bag, playpen, toys, etc.), but I always viewed their presence as a bonus. I strived to use travel as a learning tool because I believe that it teaches us much more than any textbook ever could. The time crunch of working full time and accommodating busy schedules can certainly make long trips more fleeting, but day or weekend getaways are always a possibility. It could be as simple as a Saturday visit to a state park in an adjacent county, or a house swap weekend with a family in a bordering state. There are those who think that travel is self-indulgent and that any extra money should be squirreled away for a rainy day. I am all about living beneath my means. What I mean by this is that the spending choices we make each day can profoundly impact our financial bottom line. Over time, a frugal approach really adds up and opens the door to travel. For instance, I’d rather make my own coffee each morning (whether at home or on the road) and take trips. I refuse to spend $10 a day at Starbucks not only because I like my coffee better, but because over time it would rob me of travel opportunities. Case in point, I flew to Paris round trip last year for $300. I just can’t imagine who’d choose thirty days of prepared coffee over Paris!
What excuses do you use to rob yourself of travel?
Day 132 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought me the sudden realization that I pretty much live out of a bag. I do have a home base that is filled with a lifetime of memories and possessions, but with a life of near constant travel, my suitcase definitely gets much more use than my closet. Even when I’m home (as I have been for the past couple weeks), I keep the bag packed.
You may be wondering what the heck is in this always-at-the-ready travel bag? Besides about ten monochromatic mix and match (always black except for summer when white is prominent) wardrobe staples, I have several must have items with me always.
1- Small Toiletry Kit stocked with essentials: medication, toothbrush, SPF moisturizer and lip gloss. I use a zippered clutch that doubles as a purse with a pop of color.
2- Eye-mask and Earplugs – I protect good sleep no matter where I might be in the world! These two are sleep’s best friends!
3- Inflatable Pillow and DreamSack – These small luxuries are the (slightly larger) natural extensions of the eye-mask and earplugs. They take just a few cubic inches of space yet create a clean sleeping space anywhere.
4- Smartphone with Charger – A globally-enabled smartphone is a no-brainer. It provides basic tools like a compass and flashlight along with the ability to communicate and stay entertained. Mine is loaded with favorite travel and entertainment apps.
5- Noise Canceling Headphones – The tiny pocket headphones that we all use everyday may seem more practical for some travelers, but I find that they are not as effective in noisy conditions…R.V., airplane, ship, etc. Noise canceling headphones make movies, music and audio books a possibility in any setting.
On Day 131 of the Nowhere To Be Project I took a mental vacation with the help of the souvenirs that grace my home. I’m not talking about the typical types of mementos collected by tourists. While I’m traveling, you won’t find me within a mile of a souvenir shop selling t-shirts and stuffed animals. I’m speaking of the meaningful trinkets that hold the power to magically transport me back in time to the joy of a specific locale.
One of my favorite practices while visiting a new place is connecting with the terrain. That might mean gathering sand and shells on a beach, mining small rocks from a mountain trail or retrieving a feather in the forest. These free and priceless items literally carry the DNA of a place. This makes them perfect souvenirs. As a bonus, they usually won’t take up much space in your suitcase!
When I’m not trekking through foreign landscapes on my travels, I’m looking for the local artisans. Street markets, fairs and thrift shops are usually the best places to find one-of-a-kind objects to reflect the uniqueness of a place. Over the years I’ve purchased watercolor paintings, handmade ceramic tiles, carvings, and needlework, among so many other things, to grace my home and warm my heart. What could be better than cozying up under a shawl that was painstakingly knitted by the hands of an elderly Russian grandmother? One perk of buying these types of homespun souvenirs is the direct support of the local economy.
In sum, I believe that souvenirs should reflect the people and experiences gathered through travel. How could a tacky t-shirt ever accomplish that?
What are your favorite types of souvenirs and where do you find them?
On day 129 of the Nowhere To be Project we scheduled a tour of the original Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Dublin. We’ll be visiting Ireland in a few weeks and knew that it was an essential excursion. No matter where we are in the world, one of our favorite things to do is to seek out the local vintages, brews and spirits. We usually prefer to do it in local pubs because they usually provide an intimate connection to the culture of a place, but visiting distilleries, microbrews and vineyards offers unique opportunities for connecting more deeply with the libations of a locale as well. Some of our favorite tastes along the way have been the wines of France, the vodka of Russia, the Kölsch in Cologne, Germany Related Blog Post and the gluhwein of the European Christmas markets. We’re currently abstaining from alcohol as a sort of cleanse for the liver before the storm that will undoubtedly ensue on our upcoming British Isles Explorer voyage on the Viking Sky. If traveling tipsy is wrong, we certainly don’t want to be right.
On Day 128 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself smack dab in the middle of a travelhole. Travelhole is the word I use to describe non-travel days. I also use it more broadly to verbalize the gap between trips. With three weeks since my last big trip and twenty days until my next, I’m in the throes of a travelhole. For travel addicts like me, a travelhole can be exacerbated when there are no planned travel days on the horizon. This conundrum could lead to the terminal travelcoma, an unconsciousness of sorts where travel is at a stand still. This must be avoided at all costs!
One benefit of my travel addiction is that I’ve learned a few tricks for keeping the desperation of a travelhole at bay. Here goes:
1️⃣ Visit a new-to-you place in your hometown. Seeing new things (even in familiar places) keeps the travel flame burning.
2️⃣ Replicate the best meal you’ve eaten while traveling. The scents and tastes of travel lay dormant during a travelhole and a luscious bite can help revive them.
3️⃣ Listen to the music of a favorite travel destination. Getting lost in a groove to the tune of a well-loved country can take you back in time to the moment where you first fell in love.
4️⃣ Create a vision board adorned with maps, photographs, quotes, fabric swatches, recipes and anything else that will inspire you to plan a new trip, or to refine already booked vacations. Seeing it helps to transform dreams into reality!
5️⃣ Follow and engage on social media with a few travel bloggers who share similar goals. Connecting with people who are passionate about travel will help keep your wanderlust intact and safe from a travelhole!
Day 125 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought me to the town of Eagle-Vail. You’ve probably never heard of Eagle-Vail, but it is an astoundingly popular destination for Vail Valley visitors and locals alike. It is just a few short miles from the resort areas of Vail and Beaver Creek and yet appears as if it could be on the other side of the Earth. The town’s popularity isn’t a result of great views or killer ski runs though. Okay, I’ll give you a hint…Eagle-Vail is nicknamed the “green mile”. You guessed it, visitors mainly come to this I-70 adjacent town to legally purchase marijuana because it is the one of the few spots to buy weed in Eagle County.
The main drag in Eagle-Vail is Highway 6 and it is most definitely peppered with pot shops. I am not a marijuana user, but if I was I would compare these establishment to Parisian boutiques in terms of their originality and coveted designs. From chocolates to gummies to plain old ganja, there is something to satisfy each and every doobie brother and sister. From what I’ve been told, the staff in these retail outlets are highly trained thus able to make suggestions for recreational and medicinal use. Not surprisingly, many tourists navigate pot tours much like wine lovers chase the best vineyards throughout Napa Valley.
Not to be a party-pooper, but I come to Eagle-Vail solely for the food. My favorite is Ti Amo, a northern Italian trattoria that serves deliciously homemade and creative dishes (many vegetarian and vegan).
The prices for entrees are about one-third of what you’d pay for a comparable meal in Vail Village making them much tastier! Other notable Eagle-Vail attractions include the Vail Brewing Company and a public golf course. No matter your motivation for visiting, you’ll no doubt find something to satisfy in Eagle-Vail.
On Day 124 of the Nowhere To Be Project we headed up to Leadville. Leadville is about 45 minutes by car from Vail and is a couple thousand feet higher in elevation. Leadville, a city that was once rich in silver, was founded in the late 1800s. At its peak, Leadville rivaled Denver for the most populous city in Colorado.
Leadville’s current claims to fame are largely based in folklore of the past. For instance, Doc Holliday had some raucous times there before heading on to Glenwood Springs. The historic Tabor Opera House, Delaware Hotel and Silver Dollar Saloon are rumored to be haunted. I inquired with the front desk clerk at the hotel (still in operation) and was told rather brusquely that “ghosts aren’t real”.
Whether they are real or not, ghosts might be the only inhabitants that could still find some sparkle in Leadville. Sadly, it is one of those places that you pass through on the way to somewhere else. The views on the way up and down are well worth the ride (making the local railroad and bike trails popular with tourists), but I would be hard-pressed to recommend it as a destination in and of itself.
I spent day 123 of the Nowhere To Be Project at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail. I come here quite often and today it provided a lovely escape from the hubub of the Sunday Farmer’s Market. The botanical garden is the world’s highest at an impressive 8200 feet. Alpine plants from around the world are featured in this scenic and peaceful space.
The gardens were named in honor of First Lady Betty Ford who contributed her time and talents to their formation. She and her husband, President Gerald Ford (38), spent a great deal of time in Vail. When I was a little girl, it was not at all uncommon to see them surrounded by Secret Service in town and on the slopes. The garden opened in 1988 and has been delighting visitors ever since. There is no cost to enter although donations are appreciated and the park is open year round from dawn to dusk. Plan on spending an hour or two at the gardens, the adjacent museum/shoppe and the educational center. Be sure to pack a picnic to fully enjoy Ford Park just steps from the gardens.