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Posts tagged: World travel

Travel: Family Travel Gives Children the Gift of Independence

 

 

   As we were driving across mountain passes and through a wide Montana valley to take her to college, my youngest daughter sat in the back seat, surrounded by the boxes she’d packed. The three of us fell into a familiar and comfortable pattern, with her teasing us, making us laugh, as the miles flew by.

 

   For a moment I managed to forget that we were taking her to leave her, to start her new life as a college student. I forgot that with her went our last child, leaving us with an empty house. I forgot that I have no clear idea of what comes next. For a few hours It was just the family off on an adventure. There was an easy affection in the way we spoke to one another and all of the stresses and irritations of the last few months disappeared.

 

   When we got to the campus we checked her into her dorm. We hauled the boxes out of the car and shopped for what else she would need. We went out to dinner and then shopped some more. We unpacked the books and bedding and keepsakes she’d taken with her, plugged in the small refrigerator, put her clothes in the closet and we were done. I realized she was being very patient with us but she was clearly ready to be on her own.

 

  Moving to college is a journey into the unknown, but watching my daughter I realized she was uniquely prepared for this new life. She is no stranger to foreign places. 

 

 I reminded myself that this is the girl who ran ahead, turning around to tease me for being a slowpoke as we climbed the Great Wall in China. This is the girl who stood up to and challenged the arrogant and vaguely threatening transit officer who bullied us in Prague. This is the girl who didn’t let the man on the flight to Budapest get away with taking an aisle seat that wasn’t his; he was in her father’s seat and she made him move. This is the girl who lost her way for a few minutes in Rome and managed to find us on her own before we even realized she was gone. This is the girl who led us through Vienna and this is the girl who ordered our meals on our last trip to Paris—in passable French—and who, judging from the way she walked blocks ahead of me as we moved around the city, would clearly have preferred to been there on her own.

 

I didn’t think of it at the time, when I was planning vacations and saving for tickets to faraway places, but our travels did more than open her eyes to other people and other lands. She came back from each trip with confidence in herself. She may not know it’s there, but I know she’ll find it when she needs it.

 

She may be anxious and a little unsure now, college is a big leap, after all. But I have confidence in her. This is the girl who can find her way.

 

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

  

Travel: Four Good Reasons to Consider a Family Cruise

   The family vacation season is almost here. Soon, the kids will be out of school and families will set out to spend some time together and see a few things along the way. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional road trip (‘Don’t make me pull this car over!) but more and more families are opting for cruise vacations. Here are a few reasons to consider taking your family on a cruise adventure:

Save money, see more: Traveling with a family adds up. Flights, hotels, meals and all the other expected—and unexpected—expenses can take a toll on the budget. The beauty of cruising is all those expenses are bundled. Many cruise packages—often deeply discounted—include airfare or car rental and, of course, lodging and meals are all part of the deal. A cruise can be the most economical way to see a destination or part of the world. (Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case for single cruisers but more lines are offering single cabins or designated single supplement-free itineraries.)

Time together, time apart: Think about it. Your meals are prepared, the housekeeping is done while you’re out at the pool and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world is right in view. All that’s expected of you is to relax and enjoy the ride. Of course, there are times when too much togetherness can be tough on families. That’s the time to take advantage of the ship’s amenities. Let the kids spend some time in the designated children’s center and enjoy a few hours at the ‘adults only’ deck and pool option. Book a date-night dinner at the ship’s premium dining restaurant. There is an additional charge for these meals but the food and wine options are usually topnotch.

Peace and Quiet: Is it really possible to find quiet moments while trapped in a floating hotel with thousands of other people? Absolutely. When choosing a stateroom, a balcony is almost always worth the extra cost; it gives you a private view and a place to get away from the crowd. If your travel budget is tight, put your money toward a small piece of personal cruise-ship real estate and forgo expensive pool-side cocktails and soft drinks.

Let the World Come to You: Travel, even for those of us who love it, has become a complex and frequently expensive proposition. Airfares are high, highways are crowded, gas is expensive and navigating crowded and sometimes unfriendly airports can elevate stress. Just getting from one place to another can be exhausting. But the beauty of cruising is that once you board you can relax and enjoy your vacation while all the details are taken care of by someone else.The ship gets you from one port to another, excursions are organized and arranged for you, room service is almost always complimentary and transportation to and from the airport is a snap. Tip: Work with a travel agent to help you find the perfect fit for your family budget.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Travel: Five Things You Should Always Pack

It shouldn’t cost a fortune to outfit your travel kit and many of the most practical items you can pack are things you may already have around the house. I sometimes fly out on short notice so my bag stays ready to go. Here are five inexpensive items I don’t like to leave home without:

Duct tape: I pick up small rolls in the hardware store $1 bin. The strong tape has helped me mend a broken sandal, patch a tear in my day pack and keep my sunglasses together long enough to make it home.

Small bar of hotel soap: The soap does more than lather up. I keep a bar of good soap in my my luggage to keep it smelling fresh and occasionally slide a bar along the zipper on my suitcase to keep it zipping smoothly. (My favorite scented hotel product has to be the Time to Chocolate line offered by the historic Sacher Hotels. Yum!)

Sewing kit and folding scissors: Buttons fall off, hems come unstitched. I’d rather do almost anything than sew, but sometimes a stitch or two is necessary. Most upscale hotels provide a tiny sewing kit. It there isn’t one in your room, just ask. The tiny pair of folding scissors can help with everything from opening packaging to a quick trim of the bangs.

Wet wipes: It’s been years since I changed a baby’s diaper on the road but I still keep a small packet of fragrance-free wet wipes with me to use for everything from wiping down the germy airplane seatback tray to cleaning mud off my shoes.

Extra reclosable plastic bags. The TSA isn’t the only reason to have a stash of extra baggies around. They’re handy for bagging up sandy beach souvenirs and separating prone-to-leak toiletries. Larger bags can be used to sort and compress clothing to create more room in your suitcase.



Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Travel: Five Tips for Travel with Teens

   Packing up the kids for a family road trip is one thing, but flying off to Europe with a teen is a totally different experience. With a little planning and patience you can share a travel experience that you’ll both cherish.
Here are five tips for international travel with a teenager:  

Think ahead: I ask my teen if she wants to sit with me or have her own space before I book the tickets. Then I pack a large ziplock bag with everything she will need to help her stay comfortable during the overnight flight. The kit includes an eye mask, a small inflatable pillow, a pair of lightweight socks and several sets of disposable ear plugs. All she’ll need is an airline blanket.

Take it easy:  Traveling on my own, I usually push on after an overnight flight and crash at the end of the day. But traveling with teenagers is different. Teens need a lot of sleep and you don’t really know how well he or she rested before departure. After checking into the hotel I usually suggest they nap for an hour or so while I unpack, go over guidebooks or catch up on emails.

Please feed the bear: We usually eat a good breakfast before we set out each morning (a hotel with a hot buffet is always a good thing) but I pack nuts, chocolate and fruit (dried or fresh) for those moments between meals when we need to sit down (sometimes in separate places) and recharge our batteries.

Be flexible: Give your teen (some) freedom to wander. They crave independence and it helps young travelers develop the skills they’ll need when they go out on their own adventures. Be sure your child knows the address and location of your hotel and can reach you in an emergency. (I keep the texting function open on my phone when I travel.) Bonus: There can be unexpected benefits to letting your teen pick the itinerary for the day. One of my daughters read about a small designer outlet on a side street off St-Germain.  She led the way and we spent an hour browsing with the oh-so-stylish locals and scored the jacket of her dreams.


Practice patience. Teens play it close. It might be a few years before you get to realize just how much they enjoyed themselves, but eventually the poker face will disappear and you’ll hear them admit it was the trip of a lifetime.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Travel: Fighting for Space on Crowded Flights



   I followed the thread of passengers though the 737 to my aisle seat. The man sitting in what my boarding pass indicated was my seat was a friendly giant. He was huge in that former-college-linebacker-who-has-put-on-a-lot-of-weight way, and he smiled up at me while I stood there looking first at him, then my seat assignment and then the number above the row of seats. Finally, I said “I’m sorry. You are in my seat.”
He looked confused for a moment and then when he realized the window seat was already occupied and I owned the aisle which meant he’d bought a ticket to the middle seat, he looked desperate. Beating back the polite Southern girl who still owns a good chunk of my brain and often insists I defer, I waited for him to slide into the middle seat and then took my own. Of course, he didn’t really fit in the middle and sprawled out into my space was well as the man on the other side.

   After a bit of shuffling, we silently sorted out our seat belts and the plane took off. I surreptitiously took a photo of the three knees, two of mine and one of his, in front of my seat.

   It was a long and uncomfortable flight. He immediately fell into a deep sleep, snoring loudly and sprawling even further into my seat.  I moved to lower the armrest between us but it was somewhere in the middle of his back. Unless I wanted to put my arm behind him, and risk either having it trapped there or waking him up, the armrest would stay up, removing what little barrier there should be between us.

   I felt a little guilty for not surrendering the aisle but the thought of sitting between the two men for a four-hour flight from Denver to Fort Lauderdale filled me with panic. I spent seven hours in a middle seat on two different flights last week. The thought of doing it again was like being asked to wear a plastic bag on my head.

   When our drinks and snacks were served, the man woke up and promptly rested his left arm against the edge of my tray and his right arm on his tray while eating his hamburger. After lunch he was was asleep again. The flight was full, there was nowhere for any of us to move, so I bit my tongue. But it seems personal space has become the weapon of choice for the airline industry. They count on our need—some of us need it more than others— to drive us to pay for the privilege of being the sole occupant of a seat. And that’s what I usually do. I’d tried to upgrade but both First Class and the expanded economy option were sold out. On this flight, an aisle seat was the best I could do and it didn’t do me much good at all.

   Some people will see my complaint as a dig at the man’s size, but it isn’t that at all.  My point is it’s not always about how much space we take up. It’s how we use the space we have.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She is the author of Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Travel: Technology and Family Ties

    If I’d known then what I know now, it would have been no surprise that three of my four children came into the world after waking me up from a sound sleep. (The fourth missed out only because we beat her to the punch and induced labor.) All these years later, they’re all still robbing me of my sleep.
    I can be exhausted when I crawl under the comforter, but one nagging worry, one random thought of how long it’s been since they called or how they’re faring at school or work, and my eyes fly open and refuse to close.
    Just as they were when they were babies, these grown children of mine are always on my mind, just under the surface, only barely covered by the details of my own day.
    Last night, well after midnight, I was still staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t sleep because my mind was on my son who, the last time I’d spoken to him almost two weeks before, was heading out of India and into Nepal. I had no idea where he was or what he was doing. One part of me knew he was OK. But the other, involuntary, side of my brain kept playing out a string of possibilities and ‘what-ifs.’
    I tossed and turned, irritating the cat enough stretch and give me a nasty look before hopping off the bed in search of a more peaceful spot, until I finally surrendered, turned on the light beside the bed and picked up my phone.
    In a chatty “Not that I’m worried or anything…” tone of text, I sent a short email asking how and where he was and mentioning it had been a little while since we’d heard from him. I put down the phone, pulled the covers over my head and went to sleep.
    The next morning, when I sat up, put on my glasses and checked the morning’s email, I saw what I’d been hoping for: a reply. He was safe. He was happy. He would write more later.
    That was all I needed to know.
    For the rest of the day I thought about the solace of communication at the right time and just how easy it is these days for us to stay in touch.
    Like everyone else, I gripe about the flood of emails in my inbox, the frenzy of a 24/7 news cycle and the constant distraction of social media. But as a traveler and the mother of kids who seem bound to wander, I'm immensely grateful for technology. Imagine the wives and mothers of sailors and soldiers in the not-too-distant past who would have given anything for the comfort of one or two lines or a quick Skype call.
    Of course, if I’m honest, there is a more selfish reason I depend on this modern ability to reach out and connect. It allows me to wander now, too.  A freedom that was also denied to wives and mothers in the past.
    Tethered by technology, I can fly away for a day or a week and still be within the sound of a voice should my family need me. I can send a text to say good morning or a virtual kiss at bedtime. I can send or receive photos from around the world. I can be the woman whose heart remains at home but whose feet still itch to travel new roads.
    Technology is sometimes a nuisance, but it is always an amazing gift. Using Google Earth, we follow our son’s path through the Himalayas and with the aid of a maritime program we track our geologist daughter’s ship through the Pacific. Off on my own at even the most remote spots, when wireless is nowhere to be found, I can almost always sit down to a hotel’s computer and connect with the ones I love.
    That’s why, on the table beside my bed, I keep the things that matter most to me so they are always close at hand: A family portrait, a pen and notebook, and the device—my smartphone—that binds us together wherever we may roam.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com You can read previous ‘Home Planet’ columns at www.spokesman.com/blogs/homeplanet
  

The urge to fly and the need to nest

    (Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

   The wind had picked a bit up the night before, sweeping through the tall pine trees, taking with it loose branches and needles, dropping them to the grass below.


    I noticed something else in the litter on the lawn and as I got closer I could see it was a small bird’s nest, still intact after its long fall. I picked it up and studied the way it was made. I have never seen a nest that isn’t, in some way, beautiful.  A marvel, really. But this one was exceptionally so.


    Made almost entirely of long strands of dried grass woven around what appeared to be wool or even dryer lint, the inside was lined with a soft, golden, feathery material. At first I thought it might be the bird’s own feathers but then I realized it was a layer of shredded cattail blooms, the tall plant that grows in ponds and marshes and bends and dances in the breeze. The compact bloom had been pulled apart and separated into downy fibers.


    I held the nest for a long time, thinking about what an engineering and artistic accomplishment it was. And to what lengths the birds had gone to to create it.


    Grass and lint are all around us. That could have come from any house nearby. But the cattail had to have come from the park down the hill, several blocks away. It would have been no small feat to bring home, bit by bit, enough of the fibers to fill even such a petite shelter. What compelled her to use that particular plant? Surely there must have been some easier way.


    I carried the nest home and set it on the mantel in my living room. For days, every time I walked by, I would stop for a closer look. One afternoon I sat down on the sofa—a piece with a new slipcover, sewn by a friend who does beautiful work. I searched and searched for just the right fabric before settling on the natural cotton and now every time I look at the sofa, it pleases me.


     Still cradling the fragile thing in my hand, still puzzling over the curiosity of it, I reached behind me to adjust the cushion at my back and felt the fine weave of the soft linen pillow cover under my fingertips. Immediately, I remembered the day I’d purchased it in a small shop in Estonia. I’d spent an hour pulling out cover after cover until I found a pair that were exactly right. 


     I glanced at the curtains hanging at the window and recalled discovering them in a second-hand store in Reyjkavik. I hadn’t given a thought to how I would get the four panels home, I just had to have them. The eight yards of material had stretched my already-full luggage to its limits and when I got to the airport I was told it was overweight.  The gate agent listened as I told him how I’d found the curtains. How they were old and soft and the color was perfect and that I would never again find such beautiful fabric. Still looking at me, without saying a word, he tagged my heavy bag and sent it away without charging me the extra fee.
   

 I turned to look at the small Native American rug behind the glass doors of the secretary standing in the corner. I’d spotted it in a weaver’s studio outside of Chimayo, New Mexico, picking it up and putting it down twice before committing. I tried to be practical, but I simply had to have it.


    My own nest is filled with soft things from unlikely places. Things which, although I stumbled onto them at the time I was, in some sense, seeking. Who am I to question a bird’s choice? After all, exposed to the elements, at the mercy of wind and rain and sly predators, she had fragile eggs to protect and tender fledgelings to care for. I have four sturdy walls and a roof over my head.


    The delicate nest is still on the mantel. I think I will keep it there as a reminder that the real difference in a shelter and a home is what surrounds us when we are there.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Traveling Mothers

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

  My son has been on a boat out on the Pacific for weeks now and every so often a few lines arrive by email.     
    “This has been a great trip,” he writes “The hurricane turned so the seas are not so rough now,” he writes. “Work is going well,” he writes. “Saw some whales today,” he writes.
    

   I see one word: Hurricane!
    

   I’d just settled into my usual routine of vague worry and superstitious bargaining with fate when, and, as usual, it was the last thing I expected, my daughter—the brand new geologist—was assigned to a job on a boat off the coast of Greenland. (Wait, isn’t Greenland melting?)
    

   Already living 200 miles away from me, with less than a day to prepare, she packed and flew away without my being able to see her face or hold her close. Now I’m left to wonder how two little land-locked children could grow up to sail so far away. At the same time.
    

   My friends point out I shouldn’t be surprised. Don’t I fly over oceans every chance I get?  Why would I expect any less of my children, especially these two adventurers? Stop worrying so much, they tell me.
    

   Of course, I have an answer ready. I’m not green. I’m not confident like my son. If anything, I’m overly cautious and too careful. I’m not young and beautiful and vulnerable like my daughter. I’m just another middle-aged woman on a train or in an airport, hugging her purse and keeping one eye on her luggage.
    

   But, truth be told, I finally had to admit to myself that what’s bothering me as much as worry, is guilt. I’m consumed with guilt. I can’t shake the feeling I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. I’d already booked a work-related trip to Alaska before I knew my children were going to be traveling; not that it even occurred to me to ask. And now, thanks to me, we’ll all be scattered across the globe. How will they reach me if they need me?
    

   Children are meant to fly, some tiny voice inside me whispers, mothers are not. It’s our job to be home base, the place our children come back to. If I am not here, what will become of us? What kind of home base goes to Alaska where cell phones and computers don’t work? The swallows only return to Capistrano because it’s there waiting for them.
    

   Before my children came along, even after I was married, I came and went as I pleased.  I bought plane tickets and train tickets at the drop of a hat. But after the babies, when the occasional chance to travel solo came along, I usually let the opportunity pass.
    

   Occasionally, when I would mention some place I’d been or adventure I’d had before they were born, they would look at me, confused, trying to imagine me anywhere else.
    “Well, Mommy wasn’t always Mommy,” I would tell them, laughing at their confusion. “I used to be another girl.”
    

   But if I'm honest, what held me back was that I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving them. Overwhelmed with love and responsibility, I wasn’t just afraid of something happening to my children. I was terrified something would happen to me. How would they survive without me? Who else knew them so completely?  If something happened to me and they asked their father or grandparents ( or their new mother!) for a Sadie Sally story, no one would know the world I’d created for them in my head. No one would know that Johnny was the little boy who kept a dragon named Jimbo or that Sadie was the sister who always discovered magic dust in her pocket just when it was most needed or that a road divided the enchanted forest and one side was a wonderful, magical, place but the other was dark and frightening and no matter how hard they tried something always lured Sadie, Sally and Johnny into that dark place where they had to rely on their wits and the dragon and a little magic to escape. Who else could tell Sadie Sally stories? Nobody but me.
    

   Only I knew who preferred her milk warmed. Who was afraid of the dark. Who liked to talk about dreams first thing in the morning. Who needed an extra kiss and glass of water before bed. I knew them on a cellular level. After all, each had peeled away from me, physically dividing us at birth. We were, at least in the beginning, two parts of one.
    

   Imagining the possibility of not being there for my children unhinged me. Just thinking about it, I whimpered and paced like an animal separated from her young. I didn’t put my traveling shoes back on until the three oldest were out of the house and on their own and the youngest showed an independent streak I wanted to encourage.
    

   I thought I’d left all that worry and guilt behind me, but again they’ve exposed me for who I really am.
    

   Mommy is always Mommy.
    

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Forget the app, there’s a map for that

   In the jumble of odds and ends I carry around in my purse, a mix of grocery store receipts, loose change, lipgloss, hairbands and bobby pins, mints, a small leather notebook and a pen, there is an honest-to-goodness map of the world. And I don’t mean the Google Maps app on my iPhone.
   

   The portable, purse-size Oxford World Atlas was a gift from my daughter, something I asked for last December, when, for once, I had an answer ready when asked what I would like to unwrap on Christmas morning. She bought it, brought it home and put it under the tree and now it is almost always with me.
 
   I pull out the book often and I am never disappointed. In less time than it would take to type in a keyword and track the tiny virtual map on the tiny screen on my phone, I can check the milage from Tokyo to Mumbai. I can, using the graph, measure the distance in miles or kilometers from one side of Paris to the other. I can daydream and make plans. I can follow along with the BBC or NPR news anchors when they’re talking about a drought, or disaster in some distant part of the world. Or, if I’m in the mood for something closer to home, I can look for unexplored places just a day’s drive from my backyard. And it isn’t all maps. At a glance, I can see what the national flag of Luxembourg or Montenegro looks like. I can find the capital city of the Slovak Republic, the population of the Mariana Islands, a list of the world’s busiest airports, the annual rainfall in Rome and even the average income of residents of Berlin.

   The information in the atlas is random and immediate. No searching for service or wireless. Just as men and women have been doing for centuries, I open a book and find a place that sparks my imagination. I like the satisfactory sound and feel of crisp, glossy, paper when I turn a page or trace my finger along printed highways, railways and rivers. I get swept away by possibilities and before I know it I’m connecting the map-dots of cities and countries. 

   I know a few facts may have changed since the book was updated, in fact, I’m sure of it. The world in always in flux. If I need to confirm the data, I do. But, for the most part, I’m sure of what I see. The socio-economic situations, politics and migratory habits of people are constantly changing but, and I find this immensely comforting, the continents, islands and land masses that make up the physical world as we know it are all still, barring any meteor strikes, volcanic eruptions and other cataclysmic surprises before this goes to print, exactly where they are supposed to be. And thanks to my daughter, I’m happy to say they are right at the bottom of my purse, between yesterday’s to-do list, a white shirt-button and my phone.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

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Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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