I found one from a trip in 2006 when I spent about a week in Beijing, China [and two in Bhutan] and joined a small tour group bicycling through the hutongs of the old city. I'm going to be having a show in late July at Artisan Gallery 218 with photos of bicycles from that and other trips over the years. Details of the show will be on the website and in its Newsletter or you can contact me for further information.
The Pre-Trip Happiness is Good for YouThe benefits of travel don’t come to you just during and after your trip. The excitement and anticipation of going on vacation can considerably lift your spirits. According to a University of Surrey study, people are at their happiest when they have already booked a trip. Such people are also more positive about their finances, health, and overall quality of life.
A Cornell University study found that people rate the happiness of anticipating a travel experience over that of purchasing a new acquisition.
Tip: Download a countdown clock app to help stoke your feelings of giddiness and excitement before the trip. The closer you get to the date, the happier you will be.
Travel Relieves Stress
Our day-to-day responsibilities may be time-consuming, and sometimes we totter under the burden of living hectic, busy days on repeat. Travel is a delightful way to escape the commitments and stresses of our daily life, introducing refreshing change and novelty in the form of new sights, experiences and acquaintances. The goal is to relax to the point where both the mind and body reboots, free from the strains of work projects and burdensome relationships, says Margaret King of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis.
For many, travel is not about discovering new places as much as escaping from old ones that are adversely affecting our spirits. Vacations sever the feeding channels of stress connected to the activities and places we dwell in for work.
Tip: Sometimes vacations to busy cities like London or New York, while exciting, may overwhelm your nerves a tad. During such big urban adventures, be sure to schedule some down time, like a calm picnic or massage.
You Learn to Be Flexible
When travelling, especially in new countries, you step out of your comfort zone and are forced to adopt to new customs and societal differences. This challenge “opens” your personality more, noted a 2013 paper by Zimmerman and Neyer. New societal adaptation calms your emotional reactions to changes in the day-to-day and boosts emotional stability, their paper concludes. At the same time, you meet new people, expand the size of your existing social network, and fortify your sense of congeniality.
Tip: Charm the locals you meet by learning and expressing, from time to time, typical expressions and idioms of the culture. Punctuating your phrases with a word of curious note will endear you to them.
From time to time I become aware of other's writings on topics relating to travel, both encouraging it and providing helpful suggestions. Catherine Workman of WellnessVoyager has written on this topic. She has a great view of travel: "Catherine believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in awhile. She uses travel to boost her physical and mental health and shares about her experiences on WellnessVoyager.
So, here is one of her discussions and I'll publish others in the near future.
Here are a few reasons why springing for a pleasure trip is a terrific idea, coupled with trip-maximizing tips:
It Sows Creativity
Experts on neuroplasticity (how our brain is connected) say our brains are tremendously influenced by changes in experiences and environments. Studies conducted at Columbia Business School have found that creativity is stoked when cultural immersion is deep. Open-mindedness blossoms when you shift your habits and newly tailor your life to the customs of the country you’re visiting.
Tip: Practice more than one creative outlet – such as journal writing, or craft learning – when traveling, to stir your creative synapses.
I just love this guy's face [and beard!]. He is apparently a magician and he spent alot of his time on the portico of the beer hall in the Plaza Vieja, talking to people and performing his magic.
There are basically four main Plazas in old Havanna which were within easy walking distance. The one we visited first, Plaza de La Catedral, had, as you might expect, a cathedral at one end and then a number of other museums and interesting buildings and loads of tourists wandering about.
Plaza de La Catedral
In late December I, my husband and our daughter traveled to Cuba and over the next several days I'll hope to provide some descriptions and photographs from the journey. We started to plan back in June before the policy toward Cuba was changed. We bought our flights to Miami and then to Havana and set off a few days after Christmas.
We categorized ourselves as a people-to-people mission, because it was true: My husband is a lawyer and we wanted to learn about the legal system, I am a photographer and wanted to take photographs and as soon as I can get them processed and reviewed hope to have several to show, and our daughter speaks fluent Spanish and frequently translated for us. We did ultimately make arrangements with a tour agency, Cuba Cultural Travel, to handle the details of the various requirements for our visit to Cuba. They did an excellent job of finding a good guide, a safe and good driver, a variety of experiences to enjoy. It is certainly much easier to travel with the help of a tour agency when you are not familiar with the country and need assistance with some of the paperwork and other requirements.
[We lucked out with our first Casa Particular, a 15th floor penthouse apartment with a delightful host. And wonderful views of the Atlantic abutting the northern shore of Havana, Cuba.]
I wanted to go to Chicago for a long weekend, to attend OpenHouseChicago, which is another story. After pricing airfares [$350+] and asking our daughter about Megabus [$90; she warned me I might not like the bathroom], I researched taking the train.
To take Amtrak from central Iowa to Chicago you have to go to Osceola [an hour south of Des Moines] and get on the California Zephyr. It is the cross-country train between Chicago and Emeryville, California which for the whole route takes a little over two days. The route from Iowa to /from Chicago is about 6 hours, although it can be a little more time coming from the West. That’s because Amtrak travels on freight rails and has to give way to freight train traffic.
But, it cost me $100 to ride round-trip, leaving about 9:30am and arriving about 4:30pm, and returning from 2:00pm to 8:30 pm. That’s $10 more than Megabus, but you have more room, the lounge car is available [as is the dining car], and I’d rather take the train.
Those who complain about the train ‘always’ being late generalize unfairly. After all, even though the flight takes a little over an hour, you have to be there an hour ahead and wait for baggage awhile on arrival and pay three times as much. There certainly are good reasons to fly to Chicago or elsewhere, but if you want to relax, read a book, work on your computer, sleep or play video games, the train beats a plane any day.
I also discovered something new [to me] in Chicago. I arrived at Union Station to leave about 4 hours later. Amtrak has created a Legacy Club for its passengers for $20 for a day pass. That can be money well spent - free wifi, comfortable seating, free coffee and snacks, Clue and other board games, a happy hour twice a day and a place of relevant quiet [it has TVs running which I don’t care for, but that certainly is fine for most people and I can hide in a corner and ignore them].
So, if you have time and want to maximize it and enjoy it, taking the train makes a lot of sense.
We recently returned from a short trip to Montreal and Quebec City - perfect weather, we walked around both cities, but the following shot is just for fun, the Tall Ships were visiting Quebec City just before we arrived and in the basin some small boats were hung near a bridge - a joyous addition to the waterfront.
I love this image, very abstract and yet very commonplace. Napkins stacked in a wooden box in a Paris restaurant.
For a quiet respite from the busy city, go to Lan Su Garden in Portland. This is an image of one of the calligraphy desks. A beautiful place.
At the Hassan II Mosque, light comes in a wood screen over a large window. I love the patterns and reflection.
We rode camels to a Berber tent encampment near/in the dunes then spent a night there. Pure silence, pure black sky. I wanted to see the Milky Way, but there were clouds that hindered that.
The other day I shared a picture of a Des Moines bridge and this is where it was taken from, The Hub, a great place to sit, eat and drink and relax, next to the Des Moines river. Especially on a lovely, sunny day [and not too hot!
A friend called me asking how to use her iPhone 6 while on a trip overseas. Having just returned from a trip for abou two weeks and spending a month in Venice last year, I have some personal experience. But also found an article in MacLife [July 12] magazine on the topic of taking an iPhone overseas. There are a variety of ways to deal with this issue, depending on where you are going and how long you will be there.
1. The first thing to remember is that wifi is almost everywhere [and if there's a McDonalds or Starbucks in the area, those usually supply free wifi]. You would want a VPN to protect yourself from hackers and security issues. But, using wifi should not be an issue in most places overseas. That will help limit the need for data access.
2. However, if you are on the road and need to make a call or use your GPS or search for something online, you will need a data and call plan of some type.
3. For shorter trips, you can work with your carrier [i.e., Verizon, ATT] to get a data and call plan for a flat amount that would provide you with the ability to make and receive calls or texts, etc. I've found also that if you run over the plan by mistake, or through not turning off roaming etc., your carrier will work with you to have you buy a plan and have it retroactively apply [which can be a great savings].
4. For longer trips or if you think you'll be using data, text and calling more than on a limited basis, you can and should get a prepaid [rechargeable] SIM card from a carrier covering where you are visiting. If you'll be in Europe, there are carriers in each country which will cover you wherever you travel in Europe. To do this you will need your phone unlocked, but as I found out recently you can go into the cell store [in my case it was Orange in France] and they'll be able to unlock it for you and then sell you a SIM.
The main caution I have is before you leave the US, be sure you turn off your Data, Cell, and Roaming - or turn on your Airplane mode. And don't turn anything on unless you are on WiFi or have a good plan. Because, not only would calls come in and cost you, but data as well [such as apps updating].
We visited the British Museum and saw some [certainly not all] of its exhibits and lunch [which is at a restaurant on the top of the building to the right] - this image was taken looking up at the ceiling which covers the atrium and building.
A few more images from London, before moving onto other parts of this trip. We dined at the roof-top Portrait Restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery and it has a great view over London. Notice all the cranes, as there's a lot of building going on.
This Saturday, July 11, at 5:30pm to 8:00 pm, Jazz in July is having a free concert at the Waveland Golf Course on University [generally in parking entry area] and some artists will be there. I'll be among them with trivets and images priced inexpensively, so come and enjoy the music and shop.
For roughly the months of September and October, I'll have some of my framed pieces on display at the Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, Iowa. As the date draws closer, I'll update with specifics.