Traveling to Hawaii has been on my Bucket List for about, well, EVER. And I did get to Hawaii, a little over 3 years ago, for a media trip that lasted about 72 hours; and while it was lovely, it wasn’t even remotely the same thing as taking a vacation with my family to some tropical isles for major downtime and big fun adventures.
So this Summer when my son qualified for the Western U.S. championships of swimming, to be held in Maui, Hawaii, I grabbed on tight and didn’t let go. We decided to be awesome and support our son (and brother) by traveling to Hawaii with him for the swim meet.
We’re definitely the most supportive kind of people in the Czarnecki family.
We also decided that if we were going to pay for a family of 4 to fly to Hawaii, we might as well stay and make an actual vacation-vacation out of it. The swim meet took up a solid week of our time, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. so we extended by an extra week to have some work free, hang-out-do-nothing-all-day or do-all-the-adventre-things-we-can-think-of vacation time. So we did. And it was marvelous.
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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico holds a special place in my heart. I’ve visited three times, and each visit is better than the last. In fact, I love Puerto Vallarta so much I wanted to honeymoon there, but we were young and broke and ended up going somewhere closer to home (read: cheaper) instead. But a year ago, my husband and I decided it was time for a romantic getaway to Mexico, 17+ years and two kids later. It was magnificent, like I knew it would be, and I cannot wait to go back.
What’s so great about Puerto Vallarta? Well, besides everything, I’ve made a list of my top 5 favorite reasons to head to Mexico as fast as your little feet can carry you.
Top 5 reasons to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico:
- The beach
- The cost
- The food
- The ocean
- The people
- The beach
Mexican beaches are absolutely breathtaking. I mean, the sunsets alone are worth the trip. Beautiful sand, great waves, shell collecting, snorkeling, surfing, warm water, you name it; the beaches in Mexico are wonderful. We laid around and played on the beach for a solid week, and found the whole experience to be nothing … >> find out more...
Last month I was in Kenya. Nestled along the borders of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania, I find this part of East Africa to be inhabited by some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It’s as if smiles are a permanent part of their facial features. It’s beautiful, really.
On last month’s excursion to this land of kindness, I went to a dump in Nakuru. I wasn’t scavenging for some trash to treasure pieces to craft a Pinterest masterpiece. No, I went to visit the people that dwelled there. You heard me right. There’s a whole community of people who call this dump “home.” Shocking as it sounds, I wish you could have witnessed it with me.
The wind was a blowing that day, and so the debris wafting about in the air caught my eye as did the pungent odors that reached my nose. It was a sensory explosion before I even left the confines of the van we were traveling in. Those marabou storks, though. They were everywhere, perched atop the piles of trash like they owned the place. Perhaps it actually was their territory seeing as how carrion and feces are their delicacy. … >> find out more...
A slum is defined as a squalid and overcrowded urban street or district inhabited by very poor people. If you’ve never visited such a place, then I’m sure the word “slum” conjures up all sorts of images from noise to filth. While there is merit in those thoughts, it would be ashamed to stop there, because you would be missing the greatest asset that gives life to such a place, and that’s the people.
I recently returned from my third trip to Kenya, a land that I love dearly. Each time I’ve visited Kibera, the third largest slum in the world nestled 5 kilometers from Nairobi’s city center. Two of those visits I actually lived in the slum. It proved to be a rich experience, because it gave me a taste, a glimpse, of what life is like in a place that is so foreign to my upbringing. It’s noisy. It’s dirty. It’s hard, but the people are gold. Their smiles and warmth melt away the rough edges of life in a place marked by hardship.
The inhabitants of this slum used to live in a forested part of Nairobi that was pleasing to the eyes. It was a land … >> find out more...
Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? Frolicking among the penguins. I always assumed that penguins made their home in the cold depths where no person wanted to venture, like Antarctica. Isn’t that where Happy Feet takes place? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out not ALL penguins are from Antarctica. Shocking, isn’t it?
At the very bottom of Africa, there lives an appropriately named species of penguin called the African Penguin. They are more affectionately known as the Jackass Penguin. I first laid eyes on these exotic birds about twelve years ago when my son was not even a year old. His photo among the “jackasses” still brings a smile to my face as I remember what a novelty it would be to snap a photo of him right in the middle of them. Panic set in as they got a little too close for this Mama’s liking. He was oblivious to the scene when I scooped him up to safety.
Nestled in the quaintness of Simon’s Town, South Africa, you will find a colony of jackasses in the form of penguins. The shores of Boulders Beach are dotted with the black and white creatures. At … >> find out more...
There’s a castle. In Kenya. Just outside of Nakuru town, to be exact. When I think of castles, I think of Europe, not Africa, but in November, I saw it with my very own eyes. It belonged to Lord Egerton, someone I had never heard of. His story encapsulates true love and heartache like I’ve never heard before.
Maurice Egerton was born the fourth Baron Egerton in Cheshire. He was a keen photographer and aviator, even calling the Wright Brothers friends! After being granted some land and buying a further 21,000 acres from his pal Lord Delamere, he found himself a resident of the luscious Kenyan farmland in the 1920’s. He established a school, currently known as Egerton University, to teach young people about agriculture and farming.
The story gets crazy circa 1938 when he met a nice young lady that he fell in love with while on leave in England. Knowing a proposal was in the future, he took the lady (whose name no one really knows) to Kenya to see her future home. Apparently the four room structure wasn’t up to her standards. She exclaimed that she would not live in that chicken coop!
In an effort to … >> find out more...
I recently returned from a trip to Kenya where I got to go to the Equator. I’m sure we learned all about the Equator in school, but really my only recollection was that the Equator was the line on the globe that ran through the middle of our continent. When you see the Equator in person, there’s no visible line, but I assure you there’s an imaginary one. Let’s explore, together, life at the Equator. I promise you will find it fascinating.
Since I moved to the Southern Hemisphere, I’ve read about the gravitational pull and how it’s different than the Northern Hemisphere. It really is true that when you flush a toilet in the Southern Hemisphere, the water goes counter-clockwise rather than clockwise like it does in my home country of the USA.
I was fascinated by the simple science experiment that our friendly Equator guide did for us. Let me indulge you. Standing at the imaginary line Equator sign, we walked about ten meters toward the Northern Hemisphere. He poured water into a bowl with a hole, and we watched it swirl downward in a clockwise direction. We then walked ten meters on the other side of the … >> find out more...
I’m not a dreamer. I don’t mean I don’t have dreams while I sleep. I mean I don’t naturally sit and dream up things about my future. However, as a healthy exercise for the mind and soul, every so often, I sit and make myself dream. Recently I did this around travel destinations. I encourage you to do the same. Make a travel bucket list. If anything, your search on the web will be delightful eye candy to all the beautiful places in the world!
My travel bucket list consists of…
1. Bali. My husband and I both have a fascination with Bali. The beauty of it simply takes my breath away. A bungalow right on the beach? Yes, please.
photo credit: The sunset@kuta beach via photopin (license)
2. Brazil. I have LOTS of Brazilian friends and I’ve yet to step foot on the South American continent. I think it’s high time to see what all the fuss is about. A vacation in Rio, perhaps?
photo credit: Blue Hour in Rio de Janeiro via photopin (license)
3. Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland, but it was a short visit. Our “tourist” day was misty and cloudy, so we didn’t get to … >> find out more...
I have never taken the time for a girls’ weekend with friends. I’ve done girls’ night out, lunches, breakfasts, and day outings, but never an extended period of time, with just my girlfriends. I’ve been married for 14 years, come this October. Those of you that have had girls’ weekends, bravo!
The truth is, life is so busy, it’s difficult to find the time. With our family, we treasure travel time, and each weekend together, and work to maximize our moments together. With family as our primary priority, fun extras like a girls’ weekend, tend to get pushed further down our list. I was thrilled to participate when Choice Hotels said they want to get people out there, into one of their 5,000 locations across the US, and connect face-to-face. You can do the same. Remember to sign up for a free membership with Choice Privileges and start earning points, and perks, with your stays.
So being forced to get out of our routine, and get together with my friends from middle school days, was invigorating. Most of us hadn’t had a girls weekend, since we’d been married, and the trip to Napa was the first for a couple of my friends … >> find out more...