We drove to Sanibel Island from the DC area because we wanted to avoid flights, and while there we experienced some of the coolest thunderstorms ever. Here’s the only lucky shot in the dark – literally – I got of one flash of lightning during the nighttime, from the balcony of our condo.
There’s a phrase in Chinese: pao lai pao tu. It translates to “running here, running there.” My college roommate’s father, after hearing about my various travel shenanigans through the four years, one day declared that I was very pao lai pao tu and my own family agreed, and I do not dispute this.
Our trip to Maine two summers ago (2018) is exemplary of this motto and my personal philosophy, even though it causes those around me to grumble while I plan all the details. We decided to embark on a two week trip camping trip to Maine (with a two-day stop in Boston and three nights in an Airbnb farmhouse in southern Maine). This includes, but is not limited to, driving about 12 hours to Maine with a 4- and 6-year old in the backseat of our CR-V and then sleeping in a tent with them for nights on end. Now, a CR-V is a nice small-medium SUV which is not really designed for a two-week camping trip to Maine, especially when your kids are still confined to carseats, but in all my years of pao lai pao tu I had succeeded in packing everything tightly, from suitcases to car trunks, like a winning Tetris game. Our kids may have complained about having their feet propped up with bags underneath.
Because we had a then-4- and 6-year-old, one of whom gets carsick from watching an iPad for more than 2 minutes, I planned out our trip to break up with a stop at Rye Playland in Rye, New York, where the end of Big was filmed and where I spent my summers as a kid; then in Boston for a few days where Jon could work from the Cambridge office of his company while I dragged the kids around the Freedom Trail; then an extended lunch at the Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery, Maine where I ate many a lobster when I used to work in Boston; and a stop at a waterpark in southern Maine before we reached our first destination in Lincolnville, Maine before we headed into Acadia National Park. We spent a few days hiking and checking out the cutesy New England towns before we went into the woods to camp lakeside in Acadia for a week. To make things extra complicated, I piled some camera equipment with me, of course, to document the whole experience, though I did leave my flashes behind – we were going au naturel on this camping trip.
There’s a difference between a photoshoot and photographing your vacation. I didn’t take pictures the whole time—for example, whenever sand was involved. Or if it was raining, which was most of Boston, so there are no Boston shots except on my iPhone. My camera weighs a lot and sometimes I just didn’t feel like dragging it up a mountain. I also didn’t want to be stuck behind the camera the entire trip—I wanted to actually be on the vacation itself. Also, when you have two kids tugging at your clothes or complaining through a hike, there’s only so much creativity you can have.
In any case, I was able to capture a lot of great moments, anyway, so here are some of my favorites.
Ah, France. In May, I met up with my friend Ha in Paris and we traveled to the South of France, just because. It had been ages since I had an uninterrupted conversation with a good friend and sat in a cafe for hours eating and drinking. And was even able to take photos of pretty places without having a little person tug at my arm every few minutes or trying to make sure one didn’t wander out into the street or off a cliff. You’ll notice there are far more images from this trip than from previous ones I might have posted.
I went to the South of France a few weeks ago. Because sometimes you just need to go to France. Here is my friend Ha, who met up with me from Shanghai, and we’re hanging out on the beach in Cannes, right outside the Cannes Film Festival. More to come from Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, Nice, more Cannes, and Monaco!
Outside the Blue Lagoon
When on earth would we ever go to Iceland? And then the opportunity arose – thanks to a very clever marketing scheme between Iceland Air and the Icelandic government to lure people to their little frozen island. Fly Iceland Air on your way to, say, Amsterdam, and have a free layover up to seven days where you can wander around the island. We rented an awful car from a place called, appropriately, SAD cars, which rents them for dirt cheap, and drove ourselves through the Golden Tour to hike around waterfalls, rock fissures, a crater lake, the original geyser, and other scenic beauty that looks like Mars. We also took a dip into the very expensive but worthwhile Blue Lagoon, wandered Reyjavik, didn’t even try to understand any of the Icelandic language that was spoken, and ate lots of seafood. I was busy wrangling two small children that it wasn’t very easy to take all the amazing landscape of Iceland, but here are a small, select few.
The Blue Lagoon
The remains of Temple of Castor and Pollux (Dioscuri), Agrigento
Jon brilliantly scored a paid conference trip to Sicily in July, so of course Little One and I had to tag along on the ride. Sicily is truly the “land down under” Italy, with its grand history of once being Greek, then Norman, then Italian. We visited Greek ruins, Norman palaces and churches, Italian gelato and pastas. Our first stay was to Selinunte di Marinella, along the Mediterranean coastline, where we had views of the Selinunte archaelogical park. We drove our rental car to Agrigento, another UNESCO world heritage site of Greek ruins, and to the small town of Erice on the mountaintop, and visited Selinunte archaelogical park, before spending the rest of our week and Jon’s conference in the city of Palermo. Thanks to strep and a resulting tonsillar abscess, I got to experience a little of Sicily’s emergency room healthcare, all in Italian. Here are the photos I did get when I was not being treated for an enlarged tonsil.
“Temple S” at Selinunte, overlooking the Mediterranean
“Valley of the Temples” – Agrigento
Temple of Hera at Selinunte
Temple Concordia, Agrigento
Sicilian flower blooming at Agrigento
Jon and little one playing in the waves of the Mediterranean, Marinella di Selinunte
Outside a ceramics shop in Erice
Near the Castle of Venus in Erice
The Duomo in Palermo
Dusk falls over the Duomo, Palermo
Cheetah resting on a rock, judging.
I’ve been a *little*busy recently (sigh!) but finally found a chance to post some of my favorites from Tanzania.
Few places could be more exotic than places like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, all which come with some fantastic names as well. We went on a grand camping safari through those places before we flew to Dar es Salaam and then to the magnificent Arabian island of Zanzibar. There was so much to see and too much to photograph, but I did my best. I also can’t remember the specific names of all the animals, so I’m not going to try to label them all here. You can read about how to safari in Tanzania on my other blog, www.MyTravelHats.com. Check back for pictures from Zanzibar next! Enjoy!
Quiet over the Serengeti
A car appears. Olmaroroi Village, Kenya.
What a long, strange trip it’s been. Jon and I went to Kenya in early August to do some volunteer work with the International Volunteer Headquarters and were assigned to the Olmaroroi Primary School (grades K-8) in the Maasai village of Olmaroroi, about an hour outside of Nairobi. Down the dustiest, bumpy pot-holed red dirt road we traveled precariously to spend a week with a Maasai family of 13 kids, two wives and one head of household, in a village that was seeing a swift transition from very old traditional Maasai way of life to a modern way of thinking in just one generation. They still didn’t have running water or electricity, so we grew fairly dusty and dirty by the end.
Where we stayed was like a step back in time, to a simpler way of life, I suppose. It was an extraordinary experience and a beautiful land barely touched by more than people, animals and an occasional bicycle. Three matatus (public mini-bus) traveled down the road a day to pick up passengers, and a motorbike or a taxi might swing by as well. We saw a lot more goats, cows and even giraffes than vehicles on any given day. Kenyans generally do not appreciate having photos taken of them without permission, but the Maasai are also very curious people who rarely see pictures of themselves, so showing them digital images was a treat they really enjoyed. Here are some of what I captured in Kenya.
The Great Rift Valley
Jon by the family compound
Olmaroroi Primary School
Some of the host family kids
Our host mama, Grace
Watching themselves on a digital camera
Giraffe at the Giraffe Centre (African Fund for Endangered Wildlife) with Nairobi cityscape in background
Medicinal tree outside family compound