The Summer I Became a Nomad

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Mendenhall Glacier – Juneau, Alaska

Once upon a time I had a normal life. I had my friends I saw all the time and homework and a normal job at a photography studio. I would travel more than the average person (my parents worked for various airlines, after all), but mostly visiting family, trips with my parents, college roadtrips, and daytrips up north to go hiking (I really just didn’t want to go to class). One summer in college everything changed and I have never been the same. I called a friend who was working in Juneau, Alaska and told him I would be there the next day. While there I made friends with his roommates and visited them a few months later. I visited a friend who had moved to Colorado and made friends with his friends and the pattern continued, grew, and took on a life of its own. I had become a nomad. I started living out of a suitcase and was out of town anytime I could get away. It’s not that I didn’t like being home, but rather my true nature was revealed and I couldn’t be still. I had to see what was out there, I had to move and live. I collected every new experience and memory with joy. Eventually it just became how I live and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But maybe I’m wrong. There are a lot of large bugs in Alaska. Maybe one of them was a travel bug.

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Colorado

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Airports Can Be Fun!

Anyone who has been stranded in an airport can testify that it’s tedious, stressful even hanging out at the airport, especially if you have kids with you. However, the airport doesn’t have to be a boring place where you sit continuously signing into the wi-fi to keep yourself from going insane. There are plenty of ways to stay entertained while hanging out in the airport. Window Shop

Magazines

WikiCommons/ Benzoyl

The first stop in entertainment, and by far the most accessible, is to go window shopping. First, hit the magazine and book shop and peruse their travel magazines. Pick one adventure from one of the articles and then hit up a clothing shop with a mission to find an outfit for that adventure, something like: pick an outfit fit for sailing in the Bahamas or find the ultimate accessory for a visit to Paris. Ride the Train Plane TrainGet a different view of the airport with the airport trains. Take the train to different terminals and check out the fun activities there or maybe grab a bite somewhere new. If you have kids this is guaranteed to keep them entertained for hours. Pretend you’re on a ride at Disneyland and relax while people watching. Make Up Stories

People Watch

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Speaking of people watching, my favorite airport activity is to make up stories about the other passengers at the gate and passers by. Is the bearded guy who looks like a mountain man on his way home to Colorado or is he meeting his team before heading for an expedition in Antarctica? Is the girl with sunglasses really a celebrity or just hungover? What did she do the day before? The possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Exercise 10487556_10152542966196215_1961011593696387441_n So many airports are offering “walking routes” through the airport so you have no excuse not to get up and move those feet! Phoenix Sky Harbor has one in Terminal 4 complete with a little brochure, telling you about the sights and history of Phoenix. Not to mention the long windows offer stunning views of Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, and other surrounding landscape. Dallas/Forth Worth’s Terminal D also offers a walking route, with option step program, and even a yoga studio at gate D40. A yoga studio! What?! Other airports that offer post-security walking routes include Seattle’s Concourse A, Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Atlanta. Philadelphia also has a few stationary bikes just across from the food court where you can burn that cheesesteak you just ate. Hit the Gallery Airport Art Almost every airport has an art gallery featuring local artists and various works hanging throughout the airport. Denver has by far the most terrifying artwork while Philadelphia offers fascinating glass working and odd little exhibits on your way into Terminal C. Freshen up at Duty Free

Duty Free

WikiCommons/ Pigsonthewing

If you’re traveling internationally stop by the Duty Free shop and try on a new scent (lightly, though, so you don’t gag your fellow passengers) and maybe a new lip shade. Heck, don’t even do your makeup before you leave, just hit the MAC counter, or Dior if you’re feeling very posh, and doll yourself up for that handsome stranger in the plane. Won’t he be stunned by that bold new shade!

6 Tips for Traveling with Babies and Kids

Recently a friend of mine asked me if I had any advice for traveling with babies. Not having any children of my own I had to really sit down and think about it, but I think I’ve seen enough traveling parents doing it all wrong to give you a few insider tips.

Check your suitcase.

We’ve all seen those parents trying to lug six bags, a baby, and a car seat down the aisle, hitting everyone in the shoulders along the way. To avoid looking like the lady in Labyrinth who carries everything she possesses on her back first thing to do is check your larger bags of clothes and things you won’t need. That gives you a few less things to lug around. Also, you won’t get stopped during boarding for having too many items.

Pack light and give your kids some credit.

Bring only what you absolutely need onto the plane. If you have kids old enough to wear a backpack put a few entertainment items in there and help them pack. When I was a kid my parents would make me carry my own bags. All of them. I learned really quickly what I needed and what I didn’t. I have them to thank for my being a pro-packer.

Walk Around

If you have a fussy baby get up and walk around the aisles (if the seatbelt sign is off). Your fellow passengers would rather have you moving around than listen to a screaming child. Just don’t stand in the galleys. The reason for this is, one, should an emergency occur there aren’t enough oxygen masks for you and your baby. There is, however, one additional oxygen mask at every row of seats. Two, there are many moving parts and sharp corners in galleys and should something not be stowed properly, you or your child could be injured.

Preboard

Most airlines call for passengers with small children to board early. Take advantage of this! It will give you a few additional minutes before the aisles get crowded to get your family together and everyone strapped safely into their seats.

Bring your own supplies

Most airlines don’t carry diapers or wet-wipes. Bring what you need and you won’t have to stress. Likewise, if you or a member of your family has a special dietary restriction or medical condition do not forget to bring their special snacks and medication. Selections on the plane and airport or not usually “special diet friendly” and you never know when a passenger is going to bust out a bag of peanuts or other allergens.

Please use the facilities

Don’t forget to take your kids to the restroom before you board. Either you’re going to get stuck by the lavatories while everyone boards or everyone will hate you when you get up to take your kid to the restroom on taxi and they have to stop the aircraft and delay take off. Also, most aircrafts have changing tables that drop down in the lavatories. Everyone will thank you for not changing your baby on the seat or tray table, which is unlikely to get cleaned before the next flight. Ew.

13 Places to Go in 2015

Cruising with Rock Stars in the Bahamas

FloggingMollyOne of my favorite bands, Flogging Molly, is taking to the seas with various punk bands (including Gogol Bordello who has the best live performance EVER) for a three day, pirate-themed St. Patrick’s Day cruise extravaganza. On the Salty Dog Cruise you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the artists and are treated to special performances and DJ sets. I don’t even know what a punk DJ set would be like, but I really want to find out.

Thailand

Phuket

Photo by William Cho

I was supposed to go to Thailand a few months back with friends, but unrest and protests broke out and I thought the better of it. In hindsight I wish I had gone. Thailand boasts amazing night bazaars, glittering beaches, astounding islands, and vast palaces. It’s also on The Blonde Abroad’s list of safest places for solo female travel.

New England in Autumn

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WikiCommons/ bdesham

I live in the desert. Leaves don’t really change colors here and I never get to wear scarves. I just want to see some leaves and wear a scarf. For everyone else who actually has a change of seasons, you can take a drive up the scenic Mohawk Trail, one of the countries first official scenic drives, or engage in some outdoor activities like canoeing.

Connemara

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Inagh Valley

While staying in Dublin I took a tour over to Connemara and it was love at first sight. I don’t know if it’s because it reminds me of Seward, where I once lived (sort of), or if it’s just some sort of ancient magic, but there’s a sense of home there and interconnectedness to the land. Connemara, especially in the spring/summer months, offers a myriad of activities including, kayaking, hiking and cycling, and horseback riding. You can also take a drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, the ultimate road trip through the West side of Ireland.

Horseback Riding in Scotland

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visitscotland.com

I’ve always wanted to see a country on horseback and I can’t think of a better place to do this than the Scottish Highlands. Highlands Unbridled offers an Outlander ride for all my fellow lovers of the novels and most companies offer a stop at the Glenlivet distillery for lunch and tastings.

Running of the Bulls, San Fermin, Spain

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wikimedia commons/ Mortorell

Just a few weeks ago I was having lunch with my family in Chicago and my cousin looks at me and says, “Taylor, you can run, right?”
“Yes… why?” I warily replied.
“You want to do the running of the bulls?”
And that’s exactly how I was recruited into doing the Running of the Bulls in San Fermin, Spain. We threw La Tomatina in Valencia for good measure because great family vacations are running from angry beasts and large-scale food fights.

Chile

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Lago Chungara (Wikimedia Commons/David Guallini)

I’m currently watching the Dakar rally race and felt rather inspired to pick one of the countries through which this race goes. With 8,000 km of trails, I’m sure you can find plenty of hiking or cycling to occupy your time. Chile also has mummies, the famous Easter Island, skiing, a ton of National Reserves, and volcanoes. Chile really has it all, especially for you outdoorsmen.

Ur and Nineveh, Iraq

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Adad Gate at Nineveh (Fredrarch/ WikiCommons)

While in college I had to do a massive project that focused on the archaeological sites at Ur and Nineveh. Ever since then I have been dying to go and trek the cities I know so well on paper, cities that played an integral role in the urbanization of the rest of the world. More than that, I want to see these fascinating sites before they are destroyed (ISIS recently issued a threat to destroy the walls of Nineveh).

The Stampede Trail and Magic Bus in Alaska

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Erikhalfacre/WikiCommons

Like every good adventurer I am a fan of Into the Wild. It’s a bit macabre to visit the site in which this young man perished so needlessly, but I suppose if you’re going to be hiking the Stampede Trail anyway, you should probably get this one in soon or wait for the river to freeze again so you don’t get stuck on the other side of the river like Christopher McCandless. If you don’t care about the trail then go visit the replica made for the movie in Healy.

Any City Hosting an F1 race

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photo by Studebaker Hawk Photography (my dad!)

I love Formula 1 and all the cities on the list are dream spots. From Monaco to Sochi, to Budapest and Catalunya, and my favorite U.S. city, Austin. If travel were free (and I didn’t have a day job) I would be at every race.

See the Northern Lights in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Wikimedia Commons/ McKay Savage

Reykjavik isn’t just fun to say, it’s a fun place to be! Not only can you go searching for the Game of Thrones filming locations (oh goodness, now you all know how nerdy I am), but there are dozens of outdoor adventure tours on horseback, ATV and pretty much anything that moves. Let’s not forget all the Viking sites to visit.

Up Helly Aa in Scotland

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WikimediaCommons/ Mike Pennington

In a nutshell, Up Helly Aa is a festival where a bunch of Scots dress up in Viking costume (obviously I have a thing for Vikings), carry torches through the town, and light a galley on fire. This is followed by parties that last until morning during which the Jarl, who is head of the celebration, makes a stop at every one. I want to go this year since I will be so close, but I read that the parties are private so I will need a friend in Shetland first.

Oktoberfest in Munich

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photo by Andreas Steinhoff

I have been trying to make it to Oktoberfest for quite a while, but I always forget that it’s not actually in October. Who wants to go?

Another Year Over

2014 was not they year I thought it would be. I had a really rough 2013, so I expected 2014 to be filled with pizzazz and sparkles falling from the sky every time something amazing happened and I expected it to happen a lot. I was going to do everything and I was going to do it with gusto. Looking back I realized I spent most of they year healing the physical and emotional wounds from the previous year and that’s really ok. I also had the whole year to really pin down what it is I want to be focusing my attentions on. All of this brought me to where I am right now and I couldn’t be happier. So, this year we’re going to get really crazy. I have decided to invest the majority of my efforts on this blog (read: traveling like a mad woman), one or two new travel show projects (you’ll all see it in the coming months and I cannot wait to share it with you), pitching some ideas to some people who matter. Needless to say, I am really looking forward to 2015.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

The Art of Packing Like a Pro

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Once upon a time I took a 2 ½ week trip to Europe with my high school. All my classmates, lugging around suitcases the size of coffins, were astounded when I showed up with a standard sized suitcase and backpack. “How did you fit enough clothes and toiletries in there?” they asked. Through many years of travel and my mom making me run numerous times through the Chicago airport I’ve gotten the hang of packing precisely what I need and packing it well. I would like to impart to you a few tips on the art of packing.

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Multi-Use Items

When packing go for not only colors that go together, but also layers and items that can be worn numerous times, like jeans. For ladies, bringing a few camis or light shirts you can wear under other items means you can reuse a few tops.

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Michael Mohr

Roll It

I know there are people who swear by packing cubes, which I have yet to try, but I prefer a simpler method. Bring clothes that don’t wrinkle easily and roll them as tightly as you can like they’re a sleeping bag. This creates more space for the important things (Tip: When returning with fragile souvenirs, roll your clothes and socks around them for protection).

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Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

I rarely forget items because, one, I never really unpack. Two, my method of packing is infallible (at least for me). I start from the top and work my way down. What does my hair need? A brush, products, and a hat or headband, etc. Face? I have eyes so I need glasses, contacts, blah blah blah. I go all the way to my feet and then worry about what goes in my backpack later.

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Spaceballs

“Take Only What You Need to Survive”

Often times people don’t know what to expect so they bring everything but the kitchen sink and end up not even touching half of what they bring. Know the environment you’re going to and rethink every item you’re bringing. Can you live without it for a few days? Probably. My best example is a hair dryer. Almost every hotel or accommodation has one and with the right product you don’t actually need one. So don’t waste the space.

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Don’t Skimp on the Skivvies 

The one item you’re allowed to bring way too much of is underwear because you never know when you’re going to get stuck somewhere and your grandmother would be so disappointed if you weren’t wearing clean undies. Plus, it’s a pain to wash them in the sink and I guarantee they won’t dry as fast as you want them to.

I hope you all found this helpful. Share your favorite packing tips in the comments below!

4 Free Places to Get Christmasy in Arizona

Many snowbirds and visitors flock to Phoenix in the winter months to escape the colder temperatures of the rest of the country. However, it sometimes can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit with all that desert around, but you can bet the temperatures will be right. Here are a few FREE ways to get into the Christmas spirit in the Valley of the Sun.

Riparian After Dark

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Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert is all done up in beautiful lights and luminaria. It’s free to walk around, but each night they team up with a non-profit to collect items they need. So check their website to see what they need. It’s like a smaller Phoenix Zoo Lights. So throw some hot chocolate in a thermos, load up the family, and go take a stroll through the wonderful preserve. If it’s a clear night be sure to stop in the observatory and catch a glimpse of the stars.

Chandler Tumbleweed Tree

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Peter Bronski

Residents of Chandler have been building the very unique tumbleweed tree since the late 1950’s and it’s the only one of its kind in the Southwest. If you’re looking for a truly Arizonan Christmas experience look no further. When you’re done hop into one of the many shops and restaurants nearby.

Christmas Lights at the Mesa Mormon Temple

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robertbody.com

There is no more impressive display than the lights at the Mormon Temple in Mesa and they stay open until December 31st. The grounds are huge and completely covered by millions of tiny, twinkling lights. It’s really a sight to behold.

Cherry Lane

There is a cup-de-sac with the most glorious Christmas display that we discovered the other day. The display is on Guadalupe, between Alma School and Country Club Way. Go north on Cherry Lane and you can either drive through or park and walk around the neighborhood to see the lights. If you park you can go into the yard of the house at the end of the cul-de-sac which is set up as the little town of Bethlehem. So, round up the kids, pour a cup of cider and take a stroll down Cherry Lane.