Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day: What Will You Do With 24 Extra Hours?

Credit:Travel Channel
February 29...it only comes around once every four years. And while it seems like just another day, its elusiveness and rareity make it special, almost mysterious. Why do we have this one extra day tacked on to the end of February? What is its purpose? What makes it so different? (Other than the fact that it doesn't happen each year.) What about people who are born on a leap day, when do they celebrate their birthday? And how old are they really? And how do most people spend this "holiday?"

To answer one question, it actually doesn't take the earth 365 days to circle around the sun, it takes 365 1/4 days. Those six extra hours add up to 24 over four years, and so we add Febraury 29 to the calendar in order to stay in sync with the sun. Basically, without this day, annual events would slowly shift seasons. Can you imagine Christmas in any other month but December?

"Leaplings" or "Leapers" are people who were born on February 29. Since they can't celebrate their actual birthday every year, many people will choose between February 28 or March 1 as the day to acknowledge their birth. As far as legal allowances--driving and drinking--those are granted are whichever day a region deems official.

When it comes to traditions related to Leap Day, one of the most noted is the Irish tale where women are not allowed to propose to a man, except on Leap Day. According to legend, St. Brigid, who lived in the 5th century, ran a convent for women angered by the fact that they could not propose marriage. Brigid approached St. Patrick and asked that the rule be changed. He agreed, but with the stipulation that they could only do it once every four years on Leap Day.

Now that we've gotten a little bit of the history and mystery about February 29 out of the way, what do you plan to do with this extra 24 hours?

If you happen to live around Orlando, Fla. or Anaheim, Ca., you might want to venture over to a Walt Disney theme park, becuase it is officially "One More Disney Day." Both parks will be open 24 hours straight today. If you didn't get there right when the gates opened at 6 a.m. this morning, maybe make a trip later in the evening, the lines probably won't be very long, providing plenty of time to ride.

If you find yourself near Martha's Vineyard, why not try to get a free bottle of wine? Vineyard Square Hotel will provide one on  the house if you snap a photo of yourself leaping over something. The Sanderling resort in North Carolina offerd a "Leap to the Beach" room deal that costs $250 for the first night, and $29 for the second. This deal is good Sundays through Thursdays in March, and reservations must be booked on February 29. Kimpton's properties rolled out a "Leap into Spring" sale today, that gives guests a 29% discount on stays March 1-April 15 at three of its properties in Alexandrida, Va.

A number of online travel websites and hotels are offering special deals for Leap Day. If you are a leapling, there are plenty of dicounts and offers made especially for you. Mammoth Mountain in California is offering leaplings a free nights stay at any of the four resorts. Luxehotels.com and leapyearday.com both posted a list of hotel offers around the world that include free rooms for leap year babies, $29 upgrades and 29% off the best available rates.

Leap Day Greeting Card
And in case you didn't know, there is a Leap Year Capital of the World located right here in our very own country. Anthony, Tex., and New Mexico, has been given this title because it "leaps" the border of the two states. It hosts a worldwide festival every four years, with an official parade, car shows, golf tournaments, ice hockey games, and much, much more. So if you're nearby, head on over and join the party.

Whether you were born on this "holiday" or not, it is certainly a unique day that everyone should acknowledge in some way. Do something different, crazy, out of the ordinary, because you won't get to celebrate this day for another four years.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Seating: The Ultimate Way to Pick Your Seatmate

Have you ever been the first to take your seat in a given row and wondered who your potential seatmate will be? Have you sat their anxiously watching each passenger board, hoping and praying that you would get someone cool, attractive, funny, etc. sitting next to you? Have you ever worried that you would get a smelly, annoying, mean seatmate? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions, then you will probably appreciate a new program that a few international airlines have adopted.

The programs let passengers share their social-networking profiles or photos and pick seatmates prior to the flight.  KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Malaysia Airlines both now offer "social seating" on select flights.

KLM's Meet & Seat program is available on flights between Amsterdam and New York, and San Francisco and Sao Paulo. It is completely voluntary--which should be nice for everyone who is concerned about privacy and potential stalkers. Passengers can select the option to share their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles with other passengers, and they can edit their profile and photo so they only share the information they want. A seating map displays seat choices and profiles of other passengers who are participating in the program. Travelers can contact them before the flight and choose to sit next to them if the seat is open. If a flier finds out ahead of takeoff that they are seated next to someone they do not want to be next to, they can change their sear and even withdraw their profile. All profiles are deleted after the flight.

Malaysia Airlines' MHbuddy is a Facebook application. Travelers book their flights using the app, and as they check in, they can view pictures and seat selections of any of their Facebook friends on the flight and can choose seats next to them. MHbuddy also informs passengers if any of their Facebook friends are planning on traveling to the destination in case they want to meet up while there.

Some people see this initiative as the ultimate social-networking dream, while others see it as a little creepy, and still others are very concerned about privacy.

So far, no U.S. airlines have made plans to offer social seating, though a couple have said they looked into it.

There are certainly some positives to the idea, but I feel it could cause some real problems down the road. There is always the potential for stalking, and having too much access to a person's personal information, as well as their travel itinerary, can pose a security issue. And then their's the whole social dynamic of it. What if you decide you want to sit next to someone, so you reserve that open seat; then a couple days later, you go back on and find that person has moved. What then? Was it you? Did they look at your picture and decide they didn't want you as a seatmate? Did they find someone better to sit next to? What a blow to your self-confidence. A move like that can be crippling to a person's self worth. Would you really want to go through something like that?

So, what are your thoughts, readers? Do you think social seating is a good idea or a step in the wrong direction?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lights in the Sky

The Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights, is nature's impressive light show that dances through the night sky in a number of the world's northern most regions. Most of us have heard about the magical colors that blend and shimmer so seamlessly its as if they are being controlled by some master digital artist. And when you think about it, they are, Mother Nature herself, the most skilled artist ever--in my opinion. And while most of us have heard of the Northern Lights and seen pictures, few have had the privilege of seeing them in person.

I usually don't give much thought to the Northern Lights, I just view them as one of nature's mystical wonders meant  to be admired. However, when I was out to dinner with my friend B last night, she spoke so enthusiastically about wanting to go see them. She was adament about booking a flight anywhere that she could see them--Finland, Norway, Sweden, though Alaska seemed like the easiest and most economical option. When I asked what was so great about it, she simply replied, "I've always wanted go!" It doesn't hurt that this year, the Northern Lights are expected to be especially vivid thanks to increased solar activity. Now through the end of March is the best time to see the lights, according to experts, which only adds to her eagerness to get out of the city. Much to her chagrin, her job as an accountant makes it near impossible for her to go anywhere before April--thank you, busy season.

But for those of you who actually can make it up north to see the show, it certainly is a spectacular site.

Break for a science lesson:

An aurora is a natural light display that occurs at high latitude regions, caused by energetic charged particles colliding with atoms in the thermosphere. The charged particles are generated in the magnetosphere and are directed by the Earth's magnetic field, drawing them into the atmosphere. Most aurorae occur in the auroral zone. There are a couple kinds of aurora: the diffuse and the discrete. Diffuse are featureless, usually a glow in the sky that is barely visible. Discrete are sharply defined and are usually only seen in the night sky. These are the ones that show the magnetic field lines or curtain-like structures, and can change within seconds or remain unchanged for hours.

Obviously, there is a lot more advanced science behind this, but that's the basic overview. All you really need to know is that these particles provide us with a stunning light show that eclipses anything we could create through technology.

So, where can you go to see the Northern Lights?

Some of the best places to go are in Scandinavia. 

Norway: The lights can be seen from all over the country, but the best place is above the Arctic Circle in the northern region. The belt hits the Lofoten Islands in the north and follows the coast up to the North Cape, so anywhere along this strip is prime for viewing.

And while you're waiting for the lights--since there is no guarantee of when they will appear--it's a good idea to take part in some kind of activity or tour. Hurtigruten is a cruise company that offers six- to 12-day sailings along the coast. Guests can relax on the deck, or in their spacious cabins, enjoying great Scandinavian food and champagne. Each room has an aurora borealis alarm clock to notify passengers when the lights appear.

If you prefer to stay on dry land, why not try a snowmobiling or dog sledding excursion. There are plenty of guided tour operators for both, so just select one and get going!

Finland: Even though the aurora borealis is elusive sometime, it is visible about 200 nights a year in Finland. For unhindered views of the lights, while staying warm, check out the Hotel Kakslauttanen's Igloo Village. It features 20 glass igloos with thermal panes, so you stay nice and toasty as you gaze at one of nature's true wonders. It is a little pricey, $220 per person per night, but the experience is definitely worth it. Another service from the hotel is a panorama bus.

For something a little closer to home, Alaska is a great option.

Most of the time, the ribbons of light are visible as far south as Juneau, but become more vibrant the further north you travel. Anchorage, the epicenter of Alaska, has some decent views, and there are tons of activities, attractions and entertainment to enjoy during the day.

Continuing north, Talkeetna is a tiny town of about 850 people situated in the foothills of the Alaska Range. It's mostly a summer tourist spot, but locals will head to this quirky town in the off season to enjoy the lights.

Fairbanks, known as the "Golden Heart City," provides some of the most phenomenal views of the aurora borealis. It's proximity to the active area over the arctic and its long winter nights give guests a clear view of the nights sky. The city welcomes guests with open arms, providing tours, hotel deals and special events for the light show. The city has heated "aurorium" cabins where people can comfortable see the lights. If the cold doesn't scare you, why not take part in an overnight sled dog trip?

The more I write about this natural phenomena, the more I want to go see it myself. Unfortunately, I'm a little late in getting my plans in order, and I don't think I'd be able to pull off a last minute trip north. But I strongly urge anyone who can make it up there to drop what they're doing and go!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras Around the World

A packed cobble-stone street covered in colorful confetti, shaking with thousands of festively dressed people all dancing and singing as beads, kisses and much more, are exchanged between strangers. This is Rio de Janeiro during Carnival season. And this setting is most likely a "blocos," an open-air dance party where crowds sing along to a medley of Carnival songs.

Source: google.com via Shea on Pinterest
Rio de Janeiro, also known as the "marvelous city," is the party capital of Brazil, not only during Carnival, but year-round. Of course, the Mardi Gras holiday draws more crowds to the city than usual, with as many as two million people on thre streets of Rio for the five-day festival.

The main Carnival parades usually take place on the Sunday and Monday evenings before Fat Tuesday, with the Sambadome as the main arena for the events. However, many of the participants can be found in other locations, mostly at the 40 some odd "blocos" and street parties that are common during the festival and are frequented by most of the locals. Anyone can participate in the street parties, where music and dancing are just as lively, if not more so, than the elegant and extravagent balls that take place in the Copacabana Palace. Anyone who finds themselves at these gatherings better expect to be dancing the Samba, the heartbeat of Carnival. While Samba is the main dance, others include the lundu and maxixe. But even if you don't know all the steps, it really doesn't matter. As long as your dancing, twisting and shaking your body to the rythm, you'll fit right in.

One of the most exciting parts of the celebration in Rio is the samba dance competition between the major schools in the area. Each school picks a theme to portray in their floats, costumes and routines. Each entry can include as many as eight floats and thousands of participants. The competition moves into its second and final day on Monday, and is the culmination of the parade event. The winner will be announced at the end of the week.

To keep your energy up for all the dancing, make sure you pick up some traditional Brazilian food. Feijoada is seen as the national dish of the country, and can be found all over the city. It is a pork and bean stew, origianlly prepared by African slaves when they first arrived. Now, it is a delicacy, and should not be missed. Since you will be spending most of your time on the street, why not sample some great street food, like Acaraje, fried dumplings of shrimp, onions and black-eyed peas, or Coxinha, chicken croquettes that resemble drumsticks. Finish all that off with some dessert--like Quindim, made of egg yolks, ground coconut and sugar, or Brigadeiros, chocolate bonbons--and you'll be good to go!

Source: google.com via Marci on Pinterest
Since making it down to Brazil is not exactly the easiest trip to make for many of us in the U.S., why not venture somewhere a little closer, but just as wild and exciting during Mardi Gras. You all know where I'm thinking: NEW ORLEANS!!  The Crescent City is invaded every year by thousands of tourists for Mardi Gras. There are over 50 parades that take place in the city during the Carnival season, and the 12 days leading up to Fat Tuesday offer some of the best options.

Many of these take place on less hectic routes outside of downtown, so for those looking to ease into the insanity, these might be good starting points. Although, you really shouldn't miss one of the "super-krewe," the large-scale parades like the Endymion or Bacchus. And here's a little bit of Mardi Gras history for you. A Krewe is an organization that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season, and the term was believed to be coined as early as the 19th century. Usually, a Krewe parade features a hierarchy, with a king and queen chosen from among the group's members, and each one features floats and aspects that are unique to each one. The Endymion has its own motto, "throw til it hurts!" And it has its own beads, cups and extremely popular doubloons. The parade I would try to catch is the Bacchus Krewe, as it is named after the Greek God of wine. The group was also the first to allow tourists to participate in the parade. Attendees of this parade will get grape cluster beads that blink, Bacchus medallion necklaces, theme medallion necklaces, themed cups and plush animals.

While wandering the streets, maneuvering through the crowds of people and trying to manage all the beads you've collected, why not stop off somewhere to grab some of NOLA's fantastic bites. Po' boys are a classic and delicious option, made with toasted French bread, butter, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and freshly fried oysters. If you want another traditional sandwich, try a muffuletta, made with layers of italian meats, cheeses and olive salad on a flat loaf of muffuletta bread. New Orleans is also known for its sweet treat, the beignet, French-style, powdered donuts.

New Orleans is known as a part city, especially during this time of year, and many people may not want to get pulled into the craziness, but still want some of that atmosphere. Pretty much every major city around the country features Mardi Gras celebrations on a smaller scale than NOLA. Here in Chicago, I could hit up Heaven on Seven for some great Cajun-style food. The restaurant will feature jazz bands and other entertainment for the night, and perhaps I'll even get some beads.
 Bottom line, no matter where you go to celebrate, make sure to indulge just a little, because after Fat Tuesday, it's time for 40 days of Lent...and we all know what that means. Goodbye chocolate, I'll miss you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Single's Awareness Day Activities

It is that time of year again, when red, white and pink decorations blanket every store front; heart-shaped candies and cards are bought and sent by the cart load; and thousands of red roses are bundled in bouquets to be given to a loved one. It is also the time when people without a significant other can really celebrate their singledom. Because the beauty of being alone on this holiday is that you are not forced to acknowledge it--you can completely ignore it if you want to. We don't have to spend money on sappy gifts that convey our "love" for another person, because, let's face it, this is not a real holiday. As Dean Obeidallah said in his opinion piece on CNN, "What may have started out as a holiday intended to bring couples together has been transformed into a commercial spectacle peddled to us by florists, greeting card companies, jewelry stores and makers of stuffed animals." He goes on to say," My issue is not with being romantic or expressing your feelings to the person you love. My issue is being required to do so on February 14. This date has zero connection to us. Each year on February 14 we are in essence commanded to be 'romantic.'"

Well, I could not agree more with Mr. Obeidallah, and since I am one of those lucky individuals who does not have to do anything on this day, I decided to look into other ways to celebrate.

Obviously, there are dozens of bars around Chicago that are throwing "Anti-Valentine's Day" parties and "Screw Cupid" shindigs, so those are always an option. But what about something a little more special, a little more upscale.

If I were back home in Denver, I would definitely check out the Girlfriends' Getaway Package at the Oxford Hotel in Lodo. It includes an overnight stay in a Parlour Suite, 24-hour town car service within a two-mile radius downtown, a choice of a 50-minute facial or swedish massage, and a signature martini from the Cruise Room. Personality Hotels in San Francisco is also offering an A Non V-Day Package at its Union Square, Kensington Park and Diva properties. Ladies get two bottles of OPI nail polish (paint it sexy), a bottle of wine, 30% off town car service, a box of chocolates and deluxe accommodations. The Night Hotel in New York City provides a Cupid-free package with 24-hour access to "adult entertainment" and dinner for one with a comped double shot. Guests can stay in a decked out room, complete with goth-themed bedding and decor, with bottomless ice cream and tequila.

If you want to do something completely opposite of romantic, why not try a tour of a sewage treatment plant or a penitentiary. The Wastewater treatment facility in Brooklyn offers visitors a special glimpse at how "digesters" break down waste into sludge and gas. Bonus! One Valentine's Day, you get a Hershey's kiss! At the Philadelphia Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the world's most famous prisons, offers two-for-one admission on Valentine's Day, plus a special themed tour. So grab a friend and head over to check out this slightly creepy old prison where thousands of people lived for almost 150 years. These were just some weird ideas from USAToday, but I'm sure if you look into it further, you could find some other off-the-beaten-path activities.

One part of Valentine's Day that I definitely appreciate is the treats--chocolates, cookies, cakes, the list goes on and on. But since I don't like all the heart-shaped, bright-colored foods, I like the idea of Anti-Valentine's Day foods. The Shoppe A Bakery in Denver has a special cupcake for those who don't like this holiday. It is a chocolate or vanilla cupcake with black frosting (so black it will stain your teeth), and buried within is a Things That Hurt zipper pull--who knows what you will bite into. The Cupcake Bar in Austin, Texas, is hosting a special cupcake and wine pairing to celebrate. Some of the cupcakes featured are: "All the Single Ladies" Cupcake, a strawberry cupcake topped with strawberry buttercream, topped with "Ring Pop;" "I'm too Sexy for This...." Cupcake, a dark chocolate cupcake filled with whipped cream, and topped with dark chocolate icing and a cherry; "Pour Some Sugar on Me" Cupcake, a vanilla cupcake with a raspberry filling, topped with vanilla buttercream icing and copious amounts of sugar crystals.

If you have the funds and the free time, why not book a solo trip somewhere? Even if it's just a quick weekend trip somewhere nearby to a spa or an exciting hiking trip in the mountains. I realize that most people don't like to travel alone, but it is definitely a liberating experience, and quite a different way to embrace singledom.

Cupcake Project
Obviously, there are a lot of ways for single people to have a good time on this "holiday." These are just some ideas, but there are many more options out there to discover. So if you don't want to sit in on your couch watching sappy movies and downing ice cream by the pint, check out some local happenings around your city and go spend sometime with some other singles. After all, 43.6% of Americans over the age of 18 are single (according to the U.S. Census Bureau). So you're bound to meet someone, right?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Yet Another Way to Earn Miles


We've all done it. Forgotten that we had a gift card to a retailer or never used the full amount on the card. Now you're left with funds that will most likely go unused, money down the drain. Well, if you're a United MileagePlus member, you are in luck.

United Continental wants your unused gift cards...and in return, you get miles.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

The airline just launched a new program that will reward members of its frequent-flier program with miles in exchange for their unused gift cards. United said the program was the first of its kind.

There are more than 60 retailers participating--Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Pottery Barn, to name a few. Members just log on to their accounts, find the retailer for their card and enter the information. The amount left on the card will be converted to miles and deposited in their account. There is a minimum balance of $25, and cards cannot be combined to reach that limit.

To learn more about the program, check out the website.

Going to the Extreme

When it comes to travel, some are more daring than others. I recently came across two articles that both talk about extreme travel, but in two different respects.

The first one was based on a survey of workers who were asked if they would take a business trip to a dangerous location if their boss asked them to, or would they refuse and risk losing their job. Given the economy, it isn't too surprising that 23% said they would refuse the assignment, compared with 21% who said they would go on a perilous trip at least one time. About 14% said they would go to an unsafe place for work, but would look for a new job when they returned.

I guess my only question in this case is what classifies a place as unsafe? I would probably lump most of the places that have been popping up in the news in the dangerous category: Syria, Mexico, Egypt. Those destinations are all experiencing political turmoil and drug-related violence. But other than places like that, what really makes a location unsafe, at least on corporate standards? I should probably pose that question to the people who administered the survey or to a company that sells travel insurance, since they assess risks and liabilities for a living.


Boeing 737 Factory. Credit: Ben Mutzabaugh, USA Today

The second story is a bit more entertaining--and something I had never really heard of until today. It focuses on extreme fliers--people who love to fly, and I mean really love to fly. So much so that they chose to participate in a grueling week-long trek to five cities and two continents, all to experience a behind-the-scenes look at the airline industry.

One hundred and seventy travel fanatics paid from $799 to more than $4,000 to participate in the event, dubbed MegaDo, sponsored by American Airlines and its Oneworld alliance partners. They flew from New York to London, to Dallas/Fort Worth, to Seattle and then Los Angeles. While on the trip, they got the inside scoop on everything, from why flights are canceled to a ride down a plane's emergency exit chute. The events were created for the whimsical travelers, the most extreme fliers who love air travel. This is basically a hobby for them.

Some of the previous activities of MegaDo get-togethers included visits to the Airbuss factory in France, and the headquarters of Lufthansa. Some CEOs of major airlines have talked to the MegaDoes, answering questions and giving advice, as well as taking suggestions from some of their most loyal customers.


Smith Museum. Credti: Ben Mutzabaugh, USA Today

Most of us know at least one person who is an ultrafrequent flier, probably someone who has to travel a lot for work. But these guys are a totally different breed. Even those who travel a lot are irked by everything that comes with flying, such as security lines, crowded planes, delays, cancellations, etc. But these travelers just enjoy every part of it, especially the pay off after a flight: frequent-flier points. Many of the participants at MegaDo have hundreds of thousands of miles, with some saying theirs reach the millions.

MegaDo earned them even more. Attendees, in addition to VIP access, collected a minimum of 17,500 miles and about double that for anyone who bought first- or business-class seats. There was a special promotion for the event that offered the chance for up to 55,000 more points. The flights also earned them "elite-qualifying miles," which help them reach elite status.

Emergency evacuation. Credit: Michael Rubiano
While many people hang onto their miles until they need them--for instance, for a family trip abraod for two weeks--many of these extreme fliers travel for the sake of traveling, and to earn more miles. One such traveler took a flight to Sydney, Australia, only to spend six hours on the ground before heading back to his home in Winnipeg. Flying time was 24 hours each way, including connections. The reason: to top off his frequent-flier account.

As someone who travels as often as I can, but generally hates the whole process of it, I think these extreme travelers are a little crazy. When I hear that their travel passions are based on earning points and miles, I wonder about their validity. Is it all just about the numbers? Or is it about the experience? I love earning miles when I can, but it is not the main reason I travel. I go to enjoy a trip someone, to experience a new place, to learn about another culture or take some time to relax. My concerns were somewhat eased when I reached the end of the article. Two of the travelers made points that I can definitely agree with, and I think should be part of every traveler's philosohpy. The first said that it wasn't just about the flying, it was about the people you meet. I strongly believe that you can meet some of the most interesting people while traveling, and those individuals can turn into a great friend that you can reach out to if ever you are in their city, and vice versa.

The second traveler said "the more you get to see the world, the more you realize what else there is out there to see. Travel really brings the world together." If ever I become an extreme traveler, this is the kind of attitude I want to maintain, the kind of message I want to convey.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Win a Dream Retirement...For A Month

If you of (or close to) retirement age and wondering about where you should spend the rest of your days after leaving the workforce, then listen up!

Cuenca. Credit: Hugo Ghiara
InternationalLiving.com is looking for two people to spend a month living in Ecuador to experience retirement living in the city of Cuenca. This was named the top retirement spot in the website's 2012 Global Retirement Index, thanks to its low-cost of living, ideal climate and friendly locals.

Basically, the winners will get the spend 30 days relaxing, shopping, dining and exploring, and then writing about the experience for International Living. (Plus, they'll get paid for the article.) It seems like a pretty sweet deal. This might be the only time that I will ever say that I wish I were at retirement age.

So, for those who can enter this contest, you have to post a three minute video on YouTube explaining why you would like to retire overseas and why you want to try Ecuador. The deadline is March 15.

Winners get free airfare, a place to live for four weeks, plus $1,500 in spending money.

So, is Cuenca worth it?

It is the country's third largest city and is located within the Andes region. It is known for its cobble-stoned colonial streets, where you can view its old-world cathedrals and parks. It is also famous for producing more notable writers, poets and artists thatn anywhere else in Ecuador--so there are plenty of museums and sites dedicated to those individuals. It has an eclectic, bohemian nightlife, with incredible bars and restaurants. And there are dozens of hiking trails in the countryside just outside the city where you can explore its natural beauty.

I have always wanted to go to South America, and I certainly would love to check out Ecuador. Although, I think Chile and Argentina are higher up on my list. But if I were to be sent to Cuenca, I certainly would not complain. It sounds like an incredible city, especially considering its literary background. As far as retiring there, I'm not so sure I would want to live there for a long period of time. But I'm sure many others would be eager to kick off their shoes and stay a while in Ecuador.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ask and You Shall Receive

One of my goals for the New Year was to make more things happen for myself, especially when it comes to my travel writing. Over the last month, I have had more freelance projects than ever before, which has its positives and negatives. While it is a lot of extra work on top of my full-time job, and there are times where I get very stressed out about interviews and deadlines, it is also an indication that my editor and publisher at Premier Toursim Marketing really trust me to write their content, and like what I produce. Of course, the extra bit of money every month is certainly nice, and being able to add to my writing portfolio is priceless, but there is another perk that I greatly hope to take advantage of by working for them: Traveling!

So, when my publisher reached out to me yesterday to assign me yet another project, he mentioned how he was not blind to the fact that I had been taking on quite a lot, and that he greatly owed me for it. And so I took a shot, and asked if there was a chance that I could be sent somewhere for an actual editorial assignment. And guess what? HE SAID YES!!

So, now I have to choose among more than a dozen different destinations stateside that I would want to visit and he agreed to arrange an editorial trip! You cannot imagine how excited I was when he made me this offer. Not only do I get the chance to travel somewhere comepletely new, but I get to write about the experience, and enjoy it pretty much free of charge. Now the only question is, where do I want to go?

My options are:
  • Alaska
  • Utah
  • Arkansas
  • Kentucky
  • Idaho
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Louisiana
  • Hawaii
  • Arizona
  • Maine
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
There are a few other states in the Midwest that I could visit, but I can go to those anytime I want, really, and most of them I've already been to.

At this point, Alaska and Hawaii are at the top of my list. Yes, I have been to the tropical islands, but why not go back again, especially if I get sent during one of the colder months of the year. I think Alaska is up there just because it is so exotic and different compared to what I am accustomed to. Plus, I would love to see that sprawling landscape of soaring mountains, thick forests and artic deserts; it all seems so magical on television and in pictures. And who wouldn't want to check out the glaciers and the ocean wildlife? Sign me up for a whale watching tour or polar dive any day!

As far as the other possibilities, I am sure I would have fun in any location, though Oregon, Maine and Louisiana seem to be calling my name more than the others.

Even though I get to select a couple that I really want to go to, where I inevitably end up will be up to my publisher, since he's the one who has to organize the trip. But I will be happy with whatever he arranges for me, because, let's face it, he's giving me a great opportunity, so it really doesn't matter where I go.

So what do you all think? Which ones should I go for?