Category Archives: Wanderings

Nothing important, just me rambling

My Travel Hats New Year’s Resolutions

Normally I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, especially since I make other goal-oriented lists already (like the before-30 list, the before-33 list, the before-35 list, the Summer List, Autumn List and now Winter List). However, I felt there should be some for this blog which was once quite popular and then sorrowfully neglected through the year. Usually we blame the animal of the Chinese zodiac, in this case, the seemingly innocent and furry little rabbit, but don’t be fooled by those creatures’ ability to wreak havoc on your year.

Anyway, here are some resolutions brought to you by your editor and creator of your favorite travel blog:

1.  2012 will be the start to a soon-to-be expanded My Travel Hats! Editorial plan still in the works.

2. I will be documenting more places to travel. So far I’ve been sent requests for Istanbul, Budapest, Delhi, Boston and southern California.

3. I will find myself in a foreign country sometime this year. I don’t know when.

4. I will report back what it’s like to drag a small infant around through airports and all the unnecessary necessities to pack along.

Any other requests, please let me know! Happy new year everyone!

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Kids: Traveling while pregnant

The only time anybody welcomes a small child on a flight is if it’s still in utero, and for some reason, people just love pregnant women. I recently flew to Chicago for the weekend with my kid, even if it’s still in a fetus stage and doesn’t count as an extra passenger. You get smiles out of the airline agents, which is rare these days, and suddenly everyone is dropping their luggage to help you with yours. People let you ahead of the lavatory line, and maybe even the flight attendant offers you an extra snack, if they have such a thing (snacks at all).

Still, I had to lug my luggage around the airport by myself for a while, since I was traveling alone. Fortunately I only have about three pieces of maternity clothing that fits at all, so that’s all I packed into a roomy laptop briefcase, along with several snacks. A month ago  Jon and I flew down to the island of Anguilla, and even though he was there to drag our suitcase around and help me out, we still managed to get a bit of star treatment.

It’s amazing how a protruding belly can suddenly get in the way of a lot of ordinary habits. For example:

  • You can’t lift your own luggage to put in the overhead anymore
  • You can barely bend over to access the bag under your seat
  • Airline seats are designed to make you hunched over, which is even worse when all your want to do is bend in the opposite direction (and there are no pillows or blankets to be found anymore)
  • You and the tray-table compete for space, especially when the guy in front reclines his seat. Makes typing on a laptop difficult
  • If you don’t have an aisle seat, your neighbors start to hate you for needing to pee every 20 minutes.

Some benefits, however:

  • I ended up on a “priority lane” at the TSA security point and skipped ahead of everyone, and nobody questioned me
  • Nobody saw me naked on those new X-ray machines since I opted for a pat-down instead
  • The pregnant belly distracts people enough so they don’t notice you are still wearing a cardigan or have three carry-on items as you enter security.
  • People feel sorry for the solo pregnant traveler.

Some tips for pregnant travelers:

  • Pack light. Seriously. You can’t expect someone else to do all your hauling, even your spouse.
  • You already look disproportional and weird, so don’t worry what your shoes look like. Sneakers go a long way. Wear them in the airport.
  • You already look disproportional and weird, so don’t worry what your clothes look like. Pack light. Pack few. You probably don’t own much that fits anyway. Less is easier to haul around.
  • Bring snacks. Lots of them. Granola bars, saltines, pretzels, fruit, raisins. And bring enough for your husband who will have “sympathy hunger”.
  • If you’re going to a beach, just wear a bikini and ignore the comments more conservative people make about pregnant bellies and bikinis. There were plenty of potbellied men on the beach who looked like they could go into labor any minute, and I think I looked better than they did. Same applies to overweight women.
  • Bring Tylenol (for headaches), ginger candy and/or tiger balm (for nausea), hand sanitizer and drink lots of water.
  • Give yourself plenty of time before your flight. You really don’t want to be racing through the airport, even if you’re wearing the sneakers I recommended.
  • Have fun. This is going to be nothing compared to the next time you travel, which is with a kid and all the accoutrements kids come with.


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Wanderings: I have no weddings this summer/ Eat Pray Love is cliched and trite

(This is a picture of my friend Boris on the bike we rented in Goa, India – in reference to the way we “prayed” in India (or didn’t pray, just had fun like normal people)

It is an unbelievable summer: we have no travel plans! In fact, this is the first summer neither of us have weddings – which means every weekend is open, available, for adventure (we do have three for next year). The other reason we are entirely free is because I used up all my vacation time for China this past April, and partly because we decided maybe we should be grounded for summer after all the hubbub that’s been circulating our lives since December.

As a poor substitute, I sit around reading Food & Wine magazine for their latest recommendations in travel and watch bad TV on our new (and terribly serviced) Comcast. Last night I watched about 15 minutes of Eat Pray Love before I had to switch channels because she bothered me so much. Now, I like Julia Roberts, but the woman she was playing was particularly annoying (apparently the author of this memoir). Ooh, she’s tired of supporting her husband and wants to travel the world! She goes to Italy to – eat! No way! and then to India to – pray! Is she Hindu now? Does she think doing yoga makes her spiritual now? And then I don’t comprehend the Indonesia part to love – she wants to meet an Indonesian? Why does it have to be Indonesia? Hasn’t she been reading the State department warnings about traveling to Jakarta? It’s also incredibly expensive to do all this stuff. I don’t feel very sorry for her. In fact, I’m rather jealous that she got to travel the world for a year, although I would have taken Jon along because it’s more to explore things together. (To be fair, I only watched about 15 minutes, but that was all I could take).

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sit around dreaming of our next escape. For example: how can we go to Cuba legally? Should we go to Maui or Kauai over Thanksgiving? Maybe we can take a wine trip to Bordeaux for a week! Or what’s the latest we can go on an Alaskan cruise? And did you see -the Westin in Paris is on sale through Travelocity for 199 euros a night (a steal for that hotel – but I still prefer staying in a Parisian apartment with a kitchen so we can take advantage of the farmers markets).

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Just because we’ve picked up a very busy full-time job doesn’t mean we’re not still traveling. In fact, we’ve been to the island of Culebra (Puerto Rico) and to lovely Orlando, Fla. since the last entry. And we’re hoping to head to the great land of China in mid-March. So heed patience and stay tuned for more updates!

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My Travel Hats back from hiatus!

It’s been a very exciting month of August, filled with travels galore – from the Great Rift Valley to the San Fernando Valley, I’ve been galavanting around through northern and southern California to New York. Apologies for the lack of postings, but I will begin resuming after this Labor Day!

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Wanderings: We’re back from Africa!

Photo: Sunset over the Serengeti.

We’re finally back and fairly jetlagged! Jon fell asleep in the middle of eating his burger last night but we managed to sleep through the night, even though our bodies are about 7 hours ahead. And oh, the things we take for granted here in America. The things we take for granted! It took us about 45 minutes to get back to my sister’s house from Dulles Airport – the same distance the Maasai village was from Nairobi, yet it did not involve super dusty dirt roads with potholes  and giant rocks for miles on end. I absent-mindedly flushed the toilet – flushed the toilet! and brushed my teeth with the tap running  (although I should have turned it off, I know). And pulled food out of the refrigerator  and stood around munching on a variety of items. Then I piled all our clothes into this machine that – imagine this – washes the clothes for you! One of the Kenyan staff of the volunteer organization, who was a city girl herself from Nairobi, commented on how nice it was that we Mzungas (white people, or non-black foreigners) had these machines that washed your clothes while you sat around sipping a cup of coffee.

Our flight home was interesting: in Zanzibar, my luggage was stopped at security for seashells, seashells… not the liter of water Jon was carrying or the nailclippers they tried to find in Ethiopia security… but my seashells. However, for a small tip, I can still remove them out of the country.

Then we flew from Zanzibar Island to Dar es Salaam (a nice 15-minute flight in a Boeing 737) and then to Addis Ababa where we changed planes and wandered the gift shops for Ethiopian treasures that looked suspiciously like Kenyan and Tanzanian and Indian ones, then to Rome for a quick refueling of our jet although I was asleep for all of Rome. Then finally back to Dulles, where my brother-in-law and niece kindly picked us up from the airport and we took hot showers and drank water from the tap.

I’ll post more stories about our adventures, and I’m sure the novelty of electricity and running water and all that will wear off quickly. In the meantime, I have to figure out how to get pictures of my defunct memory card (everyone pray that I am not about to lose all my Africa pictures!) but here are some from Jon’s point-and-shoot, when we wanted to be discreet. People did NOT like having their pictures taken, even if you were just taking a picture of the street.

Jumping around to a Maasai song by the crocodile park in Nairobi

Zebras in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (they stand this way to keep watch for predators)

Me, trying to appear like a nonchalant shopper at the market in Arusha, Tanzania.



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Wanderings: Wild Things (our Tanzanian safari)

Lions! Tigers! Bears! No, actually no tigers or bears, but lions galore, like a female chomping loudly away at a baby gazelle, bones and all. We just completed our four-day safari through the vast Serengeti (Maasai for “endless plain” which is really was) where we saw elephants, gazelle, giraffe, zebras, wildebeasts, buffalo, impalas, and even two cheetahs perched on a rock. We camped in lion territory and were forewarned not to go out of the tent in the middle of the night. The next day we headed to Ngorongo Crater, which was a former volcano that erupted once and formed a crater and became a lake supporting pelicans and “lesser flamingos” (the pink ones) and “greater flamingos” (the whiter ones), zebras, lions, gazelle, etc. Finally we headed to Lake Manyara, which was more of a jungle-like area which hosted more baboons, monkeys, and over 400 species of birds (plus hippos and elephants and giraffes and all those again). I’ll have more details on the safari when I get back to stateside, accompanied with pictures, of which we took more than 700.

We’re now in Dar es Salaam, staying at our friends Natalia and Brian at their new place by the ocean which is clean, white and sparkling (her apartment, that is). Brian works for a coffee company and Natalia is a nurse at one of the new emergency rooms (a new concept here). We took real showers and slept in their spare bedroom and are learning much about Tanzania. We head out by ferry to Zanzibar tomorrow, land of white sand beaches lining the Indian Ocean. Of course, I don’t need another tan, because after looking in the mirror for the first time in five days I realized I had gotten pretty dark. Dark or dirty, it is unclear.

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