Forty Firsts 11-26: I’m really on a roll now! 

I have been busy, busy, busy with regular life but also with lots of firsts! The biggie is that we went to Washington D.C.

 

We, of course, saw lots of museums and monuments. I’m not counting them as individual firsts because they all fall under the umbrella of my first trip to DC but a few of the things we saw were:

  • The Washington Monument
  • The Lincoln Memorial
  • The Roosevelt Memorial
  • The Jefferson Memorial
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
  • Arlington National Cemetary
  • The White House
  • The Capitol Building and Visitor Center
  • 3 Smithsonian Museums (American History, Air and Space, and American Indian)

Some of these were just drive or walk bys because it was a short trip but even a glimpse of the history in this city was enough for us to be in awe. 

Now, a few things I did count as their own separate first even though they happened as part of the larger trip.  Things that we specifically sought out for their own individual attributes, either on the drive or in the city, I counted as a first. 

In the city we went to the National Zoo specifically for our first Panda sighting. The zoo is kind of remote compared to other places we visited and required special effort. Plus we have a much better zoo close by so this was really about the pandas therefore it counts as a first. My challenge, my rules. :p

 
We also specifically sought out Nando’s despite other restaurants being more convenient. Kya wanted to try it because it’s a favorite of one of her favorite artists, Ed Sheeran. 😜 It did not disappoint!   

 

On the drive to DC we stopped at The World’s Largest Windchime. On the way home we stopped at Funky Bones, an outdoor sculpture featured in Kya’s favorite book. We also stopped (just stopping for gas doesn’t count, we have to eat or sleep for me to include it) in six states we’d never been to. 


Since we returned from our trip I’ve had even more firsts including: my first experience on the floor for a concert (or in “the pit” as they called it), my first visit to the Ozark Actors Theater (local theater that I can’t believe I’d been missing!), joined the Chamber of Commerce and attended their First Friday Coffee and monthly luncheon, and attended a crochet class. 

 By my count that’s 16 more firsts since my last post, bringing me up to 26! I’m only a little more than halfway to my goal and already I’ve visited new places, tried new foods, had new experiences, stepped out of my comfort zone, and learned a new skill! I can hardly wait to see what the rest of this year and this challenge bring. 😃 

New Blog!

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted- life has been BUSY! Not a great excuse really because everyone is busy- I think I’ve also been hesitant to write for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a lack of focus. And while starting a new blog won’t help me be less busy it will help me be more focused.

“Why a new blog,” I’m sure you all just asked yourselves. Well, this is my personal blog. A place for me to sort and share insights about my life, what’s happening in the world, things I’m passionate about, etc. The new blog is a professional blog for my new job- I’m working as a travel planner!! So, I started a travel blog as a place for me to share my own adventures as well as offer tips and advice for those planning their own.

I thought about simply using this blog for the new job but that would mean I have to be more careful about the personal things I share and that I’d probably have to go back and delete a few things. And even though I don’t update this space as often as I’d like I’m just not ready to give it up.

Those who are interested in joining me on this journey can follow me over to I Can Show You The World. I may occasionally cross post if I’m writing about my own trips but generally these spaces will be separate. I hope to see you there and wish me luck on this new adventure!

I choose the world

I’m writing this as I lay on my decrepit, sagging, broken-down couch. I’ve wanted a new one for a while but every time I go to buy it I look at the price and I think about all of the places I could go with that money. I guess, ultimately, given the choice between spending life on the couch and spending it seeing even a small portion of this big, beautiful, amazing world, I choose the world.

 

Amtrak made me do it…

Yep, yesterday was absolute failure- but on Amtrak’s part not my own! We got up yesterday morning, packed, took our bags to the train station to check them and then headed out for some last minute sight seeing. We managed to see the Skydeck at Willis (Sears) Tower and have some authentic Chicago pizza before heading back to catch our train. We were ecstatic that it was on time after experiencing four hour delays at the station in St. Louis earlier in the week. All seemed to be going well and we thought our trip home would be much more uneventful than our trip there. We thought wrong.

The first announcement we got stated that the tracks were too hot for us to safely travel at normal speeds so we knew we’d be delayed by about an hour. Next we had several unexpected stops because our slower pace meant we were experiencing more ‘traffic’ than usual (and apparently freight trains have priority over passenger trains). Finally there was track work. We completely stopped in the middle of a corn field while track work was being done up ahead. It was announced that this would be a 15-20 minute delay. An hour and a half later we were finally moving again.

We ended up making it back to St. Louis four hours later than scheduled (yep, four hours both ways) for a total of 10 hours on the train (the drive would have been about 4 1/2). In the interest of trying to be positive I will admit that it could have been worse. There were bathrooms, overpriced but available food (and alcohol!), a lounge car with tables and we could get up and move around as much as we needed/wanted. My kids had plenty to do and there were even outlets so you didn’t have to worry about the battery dying for your electronics. Wifi would have been nice. Customer service would have been even nicer.

It felt like we passengers were a mere nuisance for the crew to deal with and they went up and down the aisles doing who knows what without making eye contact unless directly spoken to. Here is just one example of the quality of customer service we were dealing with:  At one point the car in front of us (which we passed through to reach the lounge and dining cars) received pillows. My daughter asked a crew member where we could get pillows and he told her our car would be getting them very soon. We left the train over two hours later without pillows and without even seeing another crew member to ask about pillows. I hope the people in our car who still had 19 hours (or more if there were more delays) to travel to Dallas finally got their pillows.

I sincerely wanted to love train travel and there are still quite a few advantages to consider- such as how expensive parking is in a place like Chicago (where even downtown hotels charge their guests nearly $50 per day to park) and the fact that 10 minutes of driving in that city would be more stressful than 10 hours trapped on a train. It’s too raw at this point for me to decide if the advantages are worth the disadvantages. My mom and my daughter want to go back for  a girls only trip for Kya’s birthday sometime. It sounds like fun but I’m not sure how we’ll get there. The train was a really horrible experience but driving would not be a better option. I guess Kya’s going to have to get over her fear of flying.

 

A lesson in patience and problem solving…

One of the reasons I love travel so much is that I learn a lot about myself and how I can better navigate my everyday life. Today I learned a lesson in patience. Delays at the station as well as en route had us arriving in Chicago 5 hours later than we planned.  I was angry, frustrated and weary with the entire process. But mostly I was anxious that because of the delays we were going to miss out on something the kids were looking forward to. We only have a few days and lots of things we want to see so these few hours might have to mean giving something up which just stinks.

For a while I was just angry; endlessly lamenting at the horrid conditions of Amtrak and their customer service. But then I realized that being angry was not solving anything- in fact it was probably making it worse. So, deciding that I didn’t want to be part of the reason my kids might be disappointed I just let it go. I pulled out my planning folder and decided to see if I could move a few things around so we didn’t have to miss anything. Thankfully, a minor schedule tweak and a quick phone call to change a dinner reservation put us right back on track. Of course I immediately felt better once the problem was solved but there was more to it than that. I felt better because I decided to feel better.

It was a conscious choice for me not to be angry and this allowed me to be more open and flexible about managing the problem at hand. I think there is definitely something to be learned there and applied to everyday life. And while I’m not typically angry at home I do recognize that when I have something scheduled with a specific time constraint my stress level rises and my temper flares.  Today, I decided that the clock would not rule my moods and I simply let it go. Consciously taking a step back and choosing to problem solve instead of rant not only worked better, it made me feel better.

Chicago, here we come!

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” ~Mark Twain

I’m not sure how to express how much I love traveling. It is a cathartic and uplifting to leave the mundane aspects of life behind for a few days and be filled with new experiences. It is doubly exciting to travel with my children and see the world through their eyes.

At this time tomorrow we’ll be settled into our hotel room after a day of travel by car and by train followed by an evening of fun and exploration. The kids and I, along with my mom, are headed to Chicago for four fabulous days and I intend to fall asleep tomorrow with visions of the rides, games and food of Navy Pier dancing in my head. I’ll be sure to make the time to share it with here but it may be abbreviated until we return. Tonight will be abbreviated as well since the day was full of packing and preparation and now I need to be sleeping since my alarm will be going off in four hours.

I knew I’d be vacationing this month when I decided to take on this challenge but wanted to do it anyway because if I could have any job in the world it would be travel writer. I’m looking forward to the chance to flex these particular writing muscles. Stay tuned…