While I have so much still to say about the Himalayas and the trek to Everest Base Camp, I also want to give a nod to Kathmandu, Nepal. The brown city I flew into, the plane circling above Kathmandu’s thick layer of smog for an extra hour, idling until we could land. My first Asian city. And what a contrast it presents when you compare Kathmandu’s hectic streets to the rocky paths of the mountains. I only spent a couple days in Kathmandu, and as I was part of a tour group, we got shuttled around to the important sights. It’s maybe the first city I’ve visited where I’m glad I had this more canned experience. I’m not sure how I would have navigated its streets otherwise.
Completing the Everest Base Camp trek was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. I posted daily updates about the trek to Instagram, but I also kept a pen-and-paper journal during the trek. I wanted to remember the Everest Base Camp trek in the most authentic way – and for me that’s through writing. So I brought along a notebook and every evening I spent a few minutes recording my thoughts on the day.
When Dan and I were booking our most recent stay in London, we wanted to experience the city differently. We’ve both been to London countless times, and while it’s a city that it is difficult to grow bored of, I still wanted to see it in a new way. A big part of that comes down to accommodation and location. That’s when I started looking for an eco hotel in London — a phenomenon I’ve experienced in Amsterdam and seen across the USA, so I was curious how London would compare. From my searches, it was obvious that the best eco hotel in London was Qbic in East London. It’s the only hotel that has completely branded itself around its efforts at sustainability. Which honestly came as a surprise to me in a city as innovative as London, but maybe nobody wants to compete with Qbic? We stayed at Qbic for three days, and this is what we thought!
I grip the handle tightly in borrowed mittens. Through thick ice fishing boots I feel my feet wobble on the tire-treads of the sled runners. Breathe. In and out. Ahead of me five dogs pull their lines taut and stare intently at our guide, Kyle’s, sled in front of us — they’re waiting for his signal. My friend Mary sits as a rider in Kyle’s sled. But me, I’m driving my own sled. I didn’t expect to be this nervous for Michigan dog sledding. But here I am, quite literally shaking in my (giant) boots. The long list of Kyle’s instructions swivel through my head: Feet on the tire treads. One foot on the drag pedal to slow. Stomp on the claw brake to stop. Keep the dog’s lines tight. And whatever you do, don’t let go if (when) you fall.
When in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you need to stay somewhere grand. And really, in Michigan’s second biggest city, there is no better option than the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. This historic and luxurious riverside hotel is well known among us Michiganders. Personally, I’d wandered its halls at Art Prize festivals past, or walked the skywalk that connects the Amway Grand to neighboring buildings (it’s useful in a Michigan winter… trust). But I’d never actually stayed at the Amway Grand… until our recent visit to Grand Rapids with Experience Grand Rapids!*
It was travel that introduced me to the magic of day spas. From the baths in Bath, England, to the hammams in Marrakech, I was easily converted to this type of wellness tourism. Not only do day spas give you a respite from jet lag or travel-related stress, but you get a peek into local traditions. So when my friend Amanda, who I met up with in NYC, sent me a photo of a rooftop infinity pool with views of the Manhattan skyline… I knew we had to go! Meet Sojo Spa Club, the best Korean spa in NYC, that’s well, not actually in NYC.
New York City is truly a gluten free mecca. Actually, NYC is the first place I traveled to when I originally had to go gluten free back in 2012. I remember that trip vividly – I had only been gluten free for about six months (filled with many cross contamination experiences and a lot of sickness and frustration). I was living on bland salads at my college’s dining hall and dreading travel to a new location. Then I arrived in New York City to a huge array of high standard gluten free restaurants serving safe food that tasted … GOOD. The gluten free restaurants NYC scene has grown exponentially in the passing years, just as awareness of celiac disease, and the pop culture and scientific research on gluten free lifestyles have grown too. Yet, some of those original restaurants still remain. I have been back to NYC so many times over the passing years, now having both best friends and family living there. Each time I love revisiting my old favorites, and exploring new gluten free options.
You don’t need to choose between travel and life… you can have a travel life. Stop looking at instagram and wondering how some people travel so much, and instead start making targeted changes in your daily lifestyle. Building a travel life isn’t an overnight change, and it doesn’t mean you have to give up all your small pleasures. It just means you have to shift perspective and make room in your lifestyle for choices that support travel.
I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for months, y’all! There is something special about travel planning at the beginning of the year. A new year can be a beautiful blank slate of opportunity. As different travel plans flit through my mind, I’m not only imagining individual adventures, but also how they will piece together to create the year as a whole.