• soufriere, Dominica, Soufriere View

    Are Travel Memories Sugar-Coated?

    Our brains have a way of making us forget not-so-great travel moments - anyone else find that to be true?

  • Lunch Spots in Anguilla, Rendezvous Bay

    Anguilla: Best Beaches for Lunchtime Lazing

    Visiting Anguilla? Enjoy lunch on a different beach every day! Some great spots that combine good food + beach chairs for the ultimate in relaxation.

  • Lake Yojoa, Honduras

    Honduras: D&D Brewery at Lake Yojoa

    Heading to Honduras, and adding D&D Brewery to our accommodation mix!

  • Machu Picchu

    Pre-Parenthood Travel List

    Re-evaluating my bucketlist with pre-parenthood priorities!

  • Grand Case, St. Martin

    St. Martin: Lazing in Grand Case

    After a couple of days at La Samanna, we changed the scenery with a trip to Grand Case and a night at the LOVE Hotel.

soufriere, Dominica, Soufriere View

The value of recognizing good and not-so-good travel experiences

“Oh my gosh, we spent time in the Amazon during our honeymoon, and it was spectacular!” “Yes, I’ve been to Barcelona – such a great city!”

I hear myself saying things like this a lot when recounting trips, and I can’t help but wonder: am I remembering the trip for how it actually was? Alright, don’t get me wrong: cruising down the Amazon River was cool, it really was, but what I’m actually remembering when I say that is the incredible sunsets, a few hours in a local village, and spotting wildlife from our skiff. It was a really unique experience and I’m so glad that we did it, but Scott spent 1/3 of the time on the boat sick from a brush with something in the Amazon, and we both got fistfuls of poisonous spines from a tree (Scott’s were much worse) that had to be removed by a medic. We spent a day in the Amazonian town of Iquitos and while it was interesting (I can’t think of a better word), we were surrounded by people who had been tripping on ayahuasca for a week. Plus, it was one of the first places we’d visited where we honestly felt a little on edge in terms of safety. There was a moment that I thought someone was going to whack me with a machete as we set off across the Amazon into the middle of nowhere. And Barcelona? I seem to be the only person that missed the memo on Barcelona being the most magical city in the world. I liked it, but I wasn’t as over-the-moon as everyone else seems to be.

What I remember:
Amazon, Amazon River, Sunset, Aqua Expeditions, Amazon Cruise

The other reality:

Aqua Expeditions

Yet when people ask about Peru and about the Amazon, I can’t help but say, it was spectacular!  And when people mention their undying love for Barcelona, I echo their sentiments.

I don’t think I’d be totally off base in assuming that we’re all a bit tempted to respond with the positive, instead of genuinely reaching deeper to share the nuances of an experience. Perhaps it’s because we’d rather not bother people with the pesky realities, lest we dissuade them from undertaking a trip of their own (I definitely fall into this camp sometimes; I’d hate for a mediocre experience of mine to dampen someone else’s travel ambitions). On a more selfish note, perhaps it’s because we actually want to believe that a trip was made up of sunshine and rainbows like we’re telling people; as if we share our sugar-coated story enough it makes it real in our minds. Most of us have limited time and limited money to spend on travel, so perhaps to admit to ourselves that a trip wasn’t as magical as we’d imagined is where the disappointment lies. Read More

Lunch Spots in Anguilla, Rendezvous Bay

7 Days of Beachy Lunches in Anguilla

At the Frangipani, we’re fortunate that we’re smack-dab in the middle of gorgeous Meads Bay. It’s easy enough to spend an entire week lazing under a palapa here, but for those looking to get out and explore, you’ll want to pick your beaches wisely if you’re not toting your own beach chairs.  The same goes for villa renters on the island that often times don’t have easy beach access from their front door. Unlike some other islands where you’re likely to see a sea of beach towels strewn around the beach, that’s an insanely rare sight here.

There are a number of wonderful restaurants in Anguilla that provide beach chairs for guests that dine and drink with them, and for many guests to the island (and locals for that matter!) this ends up providing an excellent opportunity to see and enjoy a range of beaches during a getaway. If you have 7 days in Anguilla, here are a selection of great lunch spots that provide wonderful dining, beach chairs and a great atmosphere.

Da ‘Vida | Crocus Bay

Drinks at Da 'vida

1da ‘Vida is just edged out slightly by Straw Hat as my favorite lunch spot on the island. In my opinion, it really is one of the best spots for great food, great value + awesome beach service. Their chairs aren’t rickety plastic chairs that you’ll find many places (not that there’s anything wrong with those); these are super plush, comfy loungers that deserve poolside status at a luxury resort. Lunch is divine, service is generally attentive and quick, and you’ll have the added benefit of being a short boat ride or kayak away from Little Bay if you want to head over and take a peek. Musts include the seafood wrap or mahi salad + a frozen mojito.

$15 – $20 for lunch + $10 each for cocktails

The Sunshine Shack | Rendezvous Bay

Garvey's Sunshine Shack

2Garvey, the owner and operator at the Sunshine Shack, is nearly reason enough to head to Rendezvous Bay. A personal friend of ours (he bartended our wedding!), his charming personality and wicked blender skills keep you coming back for more. He’s done something pretty great at the Sunshine Shack and for that reason it’s often a go-to when we have friends and family in town. A simple white shack on the middle of Rendezvous Bay (look for the rasta handprints on the shack!), he grills up chicken, ribs and fish and keeps the coolers of beer headed your way for a cool down. He’ll set you up with a chair and a table, and you can easily laze the day away here. Alongside of Meads Bay, Rendezvous is a personal favorite of mine – a gorgeous long stretch of beach that’s relatively undeveloped. If you want a sweet concoction, try Garvey’s BBC (Bailey’s Banana Colada) – it’s my grandma’s personal favorite, and she’d never lead you astray.

$18 – $25 for lunch, drinks from $8+

Blanchard’s Beach Shack | Meads Bay

Blanchard's Beach Shack.

3Blanchard’s Beach Shack is arguably the most kid-friendly place on the entire island when it comes to lunch. Serving up burgers, street tacos, sandwiches and frozen yogurt (+ root beer floats!), kids and adults have a hard time resisting at least one lunch – and maybe a dinner! – at the shack. Their menu is huge by most lunch standards and everyone’s nearly guaranteed to find something that hits the spot. Enjoy lunch under umbrellas or head down the beach to use their beach chairs for the day. Vegetarians: their house-made veggie burger and their goat cheese salad are both great options!

$8 – $15 for lunch Read More

Lake Yojoa, Honduras

I mentioned in a previous post that we’re gearing up for our first real getaway of year: Honduras. We will be spending the majority of our stay in Tela, a coastal town on the Caribbean Sea with a strong Garifuna influence, which will give us a glimpse into indigenous life. We typically like to stay at smaller properties or spots with a distinct cultural feel, but this go around we’re staying in pretty luxe accommodations (a bit atypical for us), the highly acclaimed Indura Resort, which is new in the Central American landscape. It’s slated to be on par with some of the region’s finest (think Mukul in Nicaragua and Four Seasons in Costa Rica) so we’re thrilled to get to experience it for the week! 

Indura Resort, Tela, Honduras

D&D Brewery

That being said, we wanted to counterbalance the luxe digs and get a taste for a different side of Honduras. We’re going to head away from the coast, and head to another body of water: Lake Yojoa. Central American countries dig their lakes: there’s Atitlán in Guatemala, Arenal in Costa Rica, Cocibolca in Nicaragua, and, of course, the lesser-known Yojoa in Honduras.

Lago de Yojoa, Honduras

 

What better than a little glamping to enhance the lake experience? We’re staying at D&D Brewery, a brewery/lodging/restaurant right on the lake that offers dorm-style accommodations, alongside of private rooms and private cabanas. We’ll be in two private cabanas ($35 each) for our experience – one for my sister and I, and one for Scott & his travel buddy. The owner, who’s roughly our age, started the brewery as a way to give back to the local community and highlight some of Honduras’ natural wonders. Honduras gets a bad rap, and it’s no wonder. With the highest homicide rate in the world, people are a bit apprehensive to set foot in the country when there are nearby locales with more tourist-friendly reps. Even with that in mind, we’ve come to realize that those stats – while probably not inflated – rarely reveal local attitudes towards tourists; often times those stats reveal the sad realities about the effects of things like drug trafficking and the associated gang activity, which is perhaps more telling of limited opportunities for local youth. Much like the media vs. reality takeaways that I brought forth from our time in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, I’m excited to do the same here. It’s a different region, but brings about similar security concerns for many travelers. Beyond the accommodations, D&D has expanded to include D&D Adventures which offers small group tours to nearby hot spots, including waterfalls (yes, please!), an ‘enchanted cave’, and lake-based adventures. We’re looking forward to hiking to some waterfalls, ziplining, and spending a bit of time kayaking on the lake. More than anything, I’m excited beyond belief to have a week-long getaway with my sister! We haven’t traveled together to a new destination since 2010 when she came to visit me in Europe. Things have changed a lot since them (I’ve gotten myself husband and she’s finishing college) and I’m excited to escape life’s stresses and decompress with two of my favorite people.

Stay tuned for stories from Honduras – I’m excited to share photos from our experiences in Tela and at Indura Resort, plus to showcase our contrasting experience at the lake with D&D. If you don’t follow me already, check me out on Instagram and Twitter for updates during the journey!

Happy travels,

Shannon Kircher

Machu Picchu

I’ve talked about this before: my pre- vs. post-parenthood travel list. I’m a firm believer in the fact that you can travel with children and I’m truly hopeful that our travel style and prioritization won’t change too drastically after we become parents (whenever that may be). That being said, I recognize that there are certain trips that are perhaps better done in adulthood and without little ones in tow (e.g. wine tasting in Napa or hiking in Nepal). In thinking about trip priorities – those bucket list getaways that are best done sooner rather than later – here are the top five pre-parenthood trips on my radar:

A Culinary Tour through Basque Country

Pintxos, Basque Country

1I wouldn’t generally consider myself a foodie, and until I met my husband I could have really cared less about spending hard-earned dollars on food, wine, and fancy cocktails. Flash forward to 2015: I still can’t get behind spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for a meal, but I do appreciate the cultural experience of dining; of exploring a new location through its cuisine. I don’t think that necessary has to take the form of a Michelin-starred restaurant; in fact, many times I find the hidden gems – the mom and pop establishments – tell the greatest stories about an area’s evolution. There are two foodie adventures on this Top 5 list and this is one of them: spending a week in Northern Spain noshing on pintxos and sipping rioja from the region’s best producers. Much like a trip to Napa Valley or Tuscany, this can probably be done with children, but I’m a bit doubtful that it would be done in the same way. A day of wine tasting and a 10PM dinner with a toddler in tow? Doesn’t sound like quite the same adventure. Read More

Grand Case, St. Martin

After an exceedingly luxurious couple of nights at La Samanna on Baie Longue, we ended up extending our St. Martin stay by a night due to some transportation issues. We would be leaving bright and early on Sunday morning to make it back to Anguilla for work, but we had another full day and night ahead of us, and thought we’d take the opportunity to explore an area of St. Martin that we’ve always enjoyed: Grand Case.

Love Hotel, Grand Case

We work with Grand Gase-based Tijon as a stockist at our resort’s boutique and as such have been to Grand Case on a number of occasions, but only for a quick pick-up or a long lunch at most. We’d never taken the time to properly explore the area which is overflowing with quaint boutiques, great dining options and a decidedly French feel. Many guests who stay with us at Frangipani in Anguilla choose to stay at a boutique resort in Grand Case as well if they’re splitting their time between Anguilla and St. Martin. L’Esplanade, Le Petit Hotel and Grand Case Beach Club are the most common add-on, but LOVE Hotel has been mentioned by a few guests and constantly receives rave reviews by online publications. We wanted to investigate on our own so we headed to the LOVE Hotel, a relatively no-frills hotel right in the heart of Grand Case.  We paid for a room for the night on the spot (115 euros during high season for a no view room), dropped off our bags and walked down from the bar to the beach.

Love Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. Martin I will say that the beach at La Samanna is more visually stunning than this, but we found the beach at LOVE itself – the powdery sand and shallow waters – a bit more inviting for a quick dip or a nice float. As you may expect, the feel is entirely different than that of La Samanna, too – much more laid back, and a mostly younger crowd frequents the resort. We traded in our $18 cocktails at our previous resort for a $20 liter of white sangria which was a great complement to a sunny afternoon. Accompanied by a couple of orders of tapas, we were perfectly positioned to marinate for a few hours. We met a few St. Martin transplants during our afternoon and ended up joining them on their boat for a champagne cruise out to Creole Rock. Floating for a couple of hours, we watched the sun set over the Caribbean and the lights ignite in Grand Case and on Anguilla, which we could see shiningly brightly from across the sea. It was an incredibly generous invitation from them, and an awesome way to cap off our final evening in St. Martin before our last supper at Grand Case’s Ocean 82 (divine).

Love Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. MartinLove Hotel, Grand Case, St. Martin

So, which did we prefer? Luxuriating at La Samanna or basking at LOVE Hotel on Grand Case? Honestly, it’s a tough comparison. If you’re all about luxury, La Samanna is the answer (isn’t Belmond always the answer?), but if you want something a bit more approachable (read: a bit more ‘fun’ and a slightly younger demographic), then I would vote for some of the smaller properties in Grand Case. The rooms we experienced at the LOVE Hotel were definitely more on the no frills side, but they were totally fine for what we needed, and we benefited from the beachfront locale and the beach service for food and drinks. A spot like L’Esplanade, Le Petit Hotel or Grand Case Beach Club would probably provide a bit more on the amenity side without sacrificing the Grand Case location. Major thumbs up to Grand Case for great food options, fun shopping and perfect beach bars (toes in the sand without being too bare bones). Thanks to everyone for the food recommendations, too – Ocean 82 was wonderful and there were a handful of others that looked equally delicious within walking distance!

What are your favorite spots in Grand Case?

Shannon Kircher

Escargot

Many of us have been there: sitting down for a glass of wine or a bite to eat in a foreign country, excited to nab a taste of the local fare, only to find ourselves looking around casually trying to make sure we’re approaching both the ordering and the eating side of things with the finesse of a native. (Bonus points if you’re dealing with a major language barrier.)

How do I properly order tapas in Spain? Is there a right way to go about delving into escargot in France? Is there a way to make this looks as good as French women do? When is it okay to use my hands? This fun little guide to eating etiquette abroad highlights well-known local cuisines from across the globe with a few fun tidbits on how to order and nosh with the panache of a local.

Eating Abroad

 

What countries are your favorites for their local dishes? Have you committed any cultural faux pas that left you hiding under the table?

Shannon Kircher

La Samanna, St. Martin

You guys, we finally did it.

After living in Anguilla for over two years, we finally decided to enjoy a couple of nights in neighboring St. Martin. Yes, we’ve been there dozens of times before but those trips were either work-related (i.e. we were spending our days at Ace Hardware or buying glassware for the hotel) or were for a quick night before an early flight out of SXM.

Never ever have we actually gone over to St. Martin and really just had a couple of days to hang on the beach and disconnect, and after the whirlwind that has been the 2014/2015 season thus far, we kind of found ourselves needing a few days.

Belmond, La Samanna, St. MartinBelmond, La Samanna, St. Martin

Okay, so I realize that everyone think that we sit on the beach and drink rum punch all day, but that’s not actually what happens, unfortunately. It’s an awesome gig, mind you, but it is a seven day a week job and it’s hard to disconnect when we’re in Anguilla. If we’re here, we’re working, and so far this year there have been few exceptions to that. So, this past weekend -knowing we’d have a half-day of errands to run in St. Martin – we decided to extend that stay a bit to luxuriate about thirty minutes away from home on the beaches of French Saint Martin.

Typically when we overnight in St. Maarten before heading out for a flight, we opt for affordable accommodations on the Dutch side; either Flamingo Beach Resort, Mary’s Boon, or previously (before their prices became entirely too uncompetitive), Sonesta Maho. We’ve strayed from those on occasion, but haven’t ever really spent time on St. Martin’s French side to explore the chic shops, world-class restaurants, and boutique hotels.  Read More

Visas for American Travelers

Our Brazilian Visa Wake-Up Call

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember the post below:

Brazilian Visa for US Citizens

Yeah, not so fast. Many people who hadn’t visited Brazil (or hadn’t looked into it) didn’t realize that Americans even need visas to enter the country legally. You do, and they can’t be handled at the border. $160 per visa in the form of a money order, plus a visa application that needs to be filled out and submitted online, plus an appointment at the embassy to get everything processed.

Scott and I scheduled a visit to the Embassy of Brazil in New York during our time in NYC in December. Documents in hand and freshly printed passport photos prepped, we approached the window, anxiously awaiting the visa processing. Visa processes are handled differently around the world: some don’t require visas at all, some allow visitors to acquire a visa upon entry to the country for a fee (this was the case in Jordan, Kenya, Turkey, etc.), some allow an eVisa process, some require a visa in advance that can be processed same day, and some take a much longer time to process. Apparently Brazilian visas take a while to process.

I’ll be honest, Scott and I felt like novice travelers sitting there with the representative as she explained that no, we wouldn’t get the visas the same day, and that yes, we would have to leave our passports at the embassy for roughly three weeks for the visas to get processed.

THREE WEEKS?! Lady, we’re going to Brazil on an eight day vacation, I’m not trying to open a business there! Though we already understood this factoid, she explained to us that the visa requirement for entering Brazil as an American is a show of reciprocity. Brazilians are required to acquire visas before entering the United States and the cost is — you guessed it! — $160. For other nationalities, the visa fee is significantly lower, if it’s required at all.

Well, shoot. What now? She suggested we follow up with the embassy in Miami which would likely be the location we’d go through as residents of Anguilla. This was our biggest conundrum: we live on an island wherein any real movement requires a passport. If we go to neighboring St. Maarten to pick up supplies – a mere 20 minutes away – we need a passport. If we had to actually go to Miami to process a visa, we’d have to stay in Miami until the visa was processed since we couldn’t actually return home without a passport. 5 – 10 or more days in Miami to get a visa to go to a place for 8 days?! None of this made sense.

I spoke with the team in Miami. Mailing in our passports wasn’t an option; we’d have to be present – us, not a third party – to ensure the visas could be processed. After explaining this, they also informed us that as residents of Anguilla, we’d probably fall under Barbados’ jurisdiction.

Score. This was turning into quite the run around but I was finally getting somewhere.  

After reading Barbados’ rather convoluted website and trying to figure out this process, it was clear that residents of Anguilla would fall under Barbados’ umbrella, and that we could, in fact, send our passports in as part of a ‘third party’ option. Instead of the $160 per person, the price would be $201.02 per person, but that additional $40 was a heck of a lot cheaper than a flight to Miami or Barbados.

So, with applications filled out, money orders processed, passport photos taken, bank statements produced (they require this to show that you can sustain yourself while in country), and original documents gathered, we FedEx’d our most prized possessions – our passports – to Barbados for processing (a $90 FedEx fee, mind you, for some lightweight docs to be shipped to the Southern Caribbean). So, $500 later, we’re thisclose to finally having our Brazilian visas. On the bright side, these visas should be good for a 10-year period which means there’s a fair likelihood that we’ll be visiting Brazil again within the next decade (gotta make these visas worth it!).

Moral of the story: know the legal requirements for entering a country when you’re planning a trip, and do not underestimate the time it will take to get everything processed. Scott and I have done a fair bit of international traveling and have dealt with visa issues before (in a number of capacities), and we felt like utter amateurs this time around because we took for granted our status as American citizens. We tend to think that with a US passport, we can easily be granted access to any country by flashing our photos and putting down a few dollars for an entry stamp. Not always, guys!

Do you need a visa?

Planning an upcoming international trip? If you’re traveling within North America or to Europe or South America, you’re probably okay for the most part (there are a few exceptions, like ours). If you’re traveling to Asia, the Middle East or Africa, there’s a decent likelihood that you’ll need to secure a visa, either in advance or at the border. The following countries require visas for American travelers, to be acquired in advance (this list is ever-evolving and is probably not inclusive of all countries, though it represents the majority). Some smaller territories require documentation of their own to enter legally (e.g. places like Crimea):

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Benin
  • Bhutan (special travel requirements)
  • Brazil
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • China
  • DRC
  • Congo
  • Cuba (special travel requirements)
  • Eritrea
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Iran (special travel requirements)
  • Iraq
  • India
  • Libera
  • Libya
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nauru
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea (special travel requirements)
  • Pakistan
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tibet (special travel requirements)
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen

Have you run into any visa issues in your travels? Have you ever been turned away at the border? 

Shannon Kircher

Lake Yojoa, Honduras

What, you haven’t heard of Tela?

I hadn’t either. In fact, when it came to planning our first annual #SibTrip, we evaluated a slew of options including Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands and Colombia, and never once did Honduras really come to mind. Beyond Roatan, it’s not exactly on most people’s radar for a vacation destination. Costa Rica has taken the lead on Central American getaways, followed closely by Belize, but the remainder of Central America’s destinations are largely considered too dangerous or too poorly developed to be worthy of the annual vacation splurge.

What’s #SibTrip?

#SibTrip

Let’s backtrack here. First, what’s #SibTrip? It’s a new tradition-in-waiting that we hope to kick off this year with our inaugural getaway. SibTrip is short for Sibling Trip, a trip that involves Scott, myself, and our siblings (both younger, both same-sex siblings). There’s this thing that happens as you get older: you begin forging your own path, moving forward with your own career, living in a new city (or country!), and generally building your own life and your own family. While life is happening, we sometimes forget to nurture important family relationships and keep up to speed with our siblings. Scott and I are generally fairly good about staying in touch with our siblings but we really get very little quality time to bond; to find out what’s really happening in each other’s lives. This trip – hopefully an annual  getaway – was proposed to do just that; to provide us with one unadulterated week of bonding, of relaxing and of making memories together in new locales. We’ll democratically pick a new location each year – preferably a location that none of us have been to, and preferably a location that makes sense for everyone in terms of travel time (i.e. a somewhat central point).

Here’s the kicker with our sibling trip: it was dreamed up as a way to spend time with our siblings, not as an excuse for a romantic week together. This means that my sister and I share a room, and Scott and his brother share a room. I’m not sure how it works from a guy’s perspective, but some of the best conversations I’ve had with my sister are hanging out before bed, in pajamas, being real, and laughing until our stomachs hurt. For those interested in starting a SibTrip of their own, I’m happy to share other details with you (like what you do when a sibling wants to bring a significant other in the future; naturally, we’ve discussed this and have put rules and regs in place). Read More

Travel Resolutions for 2015

In general, I’ve gotten away from making lofty New Year’s resolutions since they tend to be rather fruitless and generally unattainable aspirations (e.g. I’m going to begin juicing, or I’m going to buy fewer shoes, etc.). Somehow I do feel okay making travel resolutions though since those goals can be wrapped into my bucket list and trip planning. My travel resolutions for 2015:

To enjoy the moment

Travel Resolutions

1This one’s easier said that done, and chatting with fellow travelers during our time in Israel made me realize that this is something many people struggle with (it’s not just me!). I’ve had this nasty tendency to be in the middle of a trip, thinking about our next trip or the next destination that I’d like to see instead of truly savoring every moment of the present. I tried to live in the present during our time in the Middle East, taking in the little things that make trips memorable. This year, I’m vowing to truly do that with each trip we’re on: to remember the color of the sunsets, the smell of a new place, the taste of a local drink, and the sensation and exhilaration of seeing a new place – all of that, without comparing it to another destination or daydreaming about our next getaway.

To truly disconnect

Travel Resolutions

2I struggle with this, as I’m sure many millennials do. We grew up in a hyper-connected generation. There’s wifi everywhere, and we have our email and social channels at our fingertips with our iPhones in hand. Our recent trip to New York in December was actually one of the first trips that I’ve been on where I didn’t feel the need to check my email incessantly or be totally connected to the world. I was too engulfed with enjoying my surroundings and making memories with friends, which is precisely what every trip should bring. I know I won’t be able to do this on every trip, but my hope is that our week in Honduras with our siblings (#SibTrip) will bring a week of real peace and a chance to disconnect with technology + reconnect with each other.

To travel light

Carry-on Only

3You all know how much I struggle with this! No matter how many trips we go on and how much I tell myself that I need to pack light, I always overpack. I’m telling myself that this year will be different. It will be the year of the carry-on, and I will master the art of mixing and matching, and finally learn that it’s okay to not pack ‘what if’ outfits.

To use points… wisely

Flight tickets

42014 was the year of accruing points and 2015 will be the year of masterfully using points. We’ve accrued points on American Airlines (for better or worse, our go-to carrier) and on our Chase Sapphire Card, a card that I swear by. Our goal this year is to find ways to maximize our point usage and finally enjoy some of the fruits of our spending! If we’re paying for tickets, I’m hesitant to allow booking a first-class ticket (I’m frugal and I’m proud of it!), but when the point conversion makes sense, it allows us to enjoy a more luxurious experience without breaking the bank. Our first successful usage of points thus far: first class round-trip tickets from St. Maarten to Las Vegas on Copa Airlines for just a touch more than economy.

To do something new & exhilarating in a memorable location

S & I Parasailing over the Med

5Hiking to the Boiling Lake in Dominica, parasailing in Malta, snorkeling in Kenya — all of those things just add an additional, memorable layer to already great trips. This year, I’m vowing to do the same: not just to see a new place, but enjoy a really unique experience, too. Two things on the radar: hang gliding in Rio + snorkeling with whale sharks in Utila, Honduras.

Brush up on foreign language skills

Travel Resolutions

6In Palestine and Jordan, I got to test my hand at Arabic, and in Peru, Scott and I seriously honed our Spanish skills when we were in less touristy areas. Foreign languages are something I so greatly value and admire and something that I wasn’t really raised with despite growing up in a multicultural family. This year, we’re heading to at least one Spanish-speaking location and I’m vowing to refresh my skills and put them to use while we’re traveling. Grandma would be impressed!

Visit a new US city

Belvedere Hotel, NYC

7Last but not least, I don’t want to neglect my own home country. We focus so much on exotic, far-flung locales that we sometimes forget how wonderful the United States is and the great diversity housed within America. We have a new US city on the list, but I’m keeping it under wraps for now… whether or not it comes to fruition, seeing a new great American destination is a must!

Reflecting on 2014: Successes

Petra, Jordan

I do have to say that 2014 brought a major improvement for me on one front: generally speaking, I stopped comparing. Especially with the prevalence of social media and the associated need to share all of life’s highlights (and none of life’s obstacles), I think we all have a tendency to compare our lives to others. We see snapshots from other people’s seemingly glamorous lives: securing a great apartment in a big city, picture-perfect vacations on a far-flung island, getting a promotion, having children, etc. and we can’t help but compare our own lives to those snapshots: why can’t we live in NYC? Why can’t we have family reunions in Italy? Why can’t I get this dream job that my friend managed to secure? Why can’t we do all of these great things that our friends are doing?

I felt a lot of that for a long time (as we all do), but 2014 brought a huge change for me on that front. It was the first full year that I can totally say that I felt genuinely happy in nearly every facet of life. We have achieved this great work-life balance which perhaps is the key to unlocking bliss. Yes, when we’re at home, we pretty much work seven days a week, and our days are often a bit longer than a typical 9 – 5 gig, but I love what we do and I love where we work. Plus, we have vowed to always have a light at the end of the tunnel; a trip that helps break up life on a tiny island. Yes, living here is beautiful and wonderful, but the key to sanity for us is getting away on a regular basis (every few months or so) to delve into a new adventure for a brief period or enjoy the buzz of a city. I’m entering this year greatly looking forward to what lies ahead!

What are your resolutions for 2015?

Shannon Kircher