Posted on 2 Comments

Fun Times Traveling Europe with My Family

Cinque Terre, Italy

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell a story. Make some light.” – Kate DiCamillo

I am a firm believer in writing our own stories. Life is story and story is life, and life is easy in our comfort zones. Stepping out of our normal routines sometimes means tapping into a long-held dream, saving dollars and coins in a jar, and taking action by making the plans. In this case, stepping out meant the pursuit of fun times and family travel. Destination: Europe, with my three almost-grown teenage sons.

Every once in a while, I note that my sons are far taller than I am, and are growing into themselves, which I love. This has always been the goal. But I also note that times with the four of us won’t always last forever. I love it when we are together. And so, taking action on the “I wish we could go back to Prague” wistful dinner conversations, I booked tickets last fall for us to travel to Europe together. It is a dream trip, and it came true. I am so grateful.

For some reason, tickets across the pond landing in Belgium were astoundingly reasonable, so that is where we began: in Bruxelles.

We had a few hours to spare before our next train, so we took the chance to have a local breakfast of waffles and walked around the Grand Place. With a clear blue sky, the buildings shone. It was beautiful – a place filled with sunshine, the sounds of footsteps across cobblestones and spoken French and Flemish, with the fragrance of chocolate accompanied by pristine architecture.

The hours to our next stop didn’t quite go as planned – our trains got mixed up with a cancellation, which was lost in translations. And so we boarded the wrong train, but luckily still made it to our Amsterdam destination to see best friends, arriving only an hour later than planned. We spent days with them in their native Haarlem and enjoyed days on bikes, at the beach, and at the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh museums in the city. It was wonderful.

We flew out to Prague and landed amidst the celery green fields waving with wheat in the morning. Most things have not changed at all in the five years since we’ve repatriated to our native US after living in Prague from 2009 – 2013. Our favorite nearby restaurant on a pond still serves the same pizzas and goulash. The same heavy trucks still consume the narrow roads. The village potraviny still operates exactly the same way. Daily life has continued without us, which was good to see. Our apartment rented through TripAdvisor impressed us immensely with its views over the Vltava River, National Theater, and Charles Bridge. We soaked up every minute in our former home. (More to come in future posts…)

Our final stop was a bit of a reach, but it, too, wowed us. We flew to Milan and took trains south to the coast and stayed in obscure Cinque Terre. It surpassed our hopes with its fun, natural surroundings, and beauty.

Finally, we boarded trains through Nice, France, and returned for a night in Bruxelles before returning to the US.

More photographs on our adventures to come…

Hope you all are having a great start to summer!

Posted on 4 Comments

Turks and Caicos, Paradise: Dream Destination Come True

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

“It starts with a dream. Add faith, and it becomes a belief.

Add action, and it becomes a part of life.

Add perserverance, and it becomes a goal in sight.

Add patience and time, and it becomes a dream come true.” – Unknown

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

I love to travel. It’s a known fact. But there are some travels which seem too far, too far-fetched, though I have traveled around the world. My dream destination has always been an island in the Caribbean, since I was a girl.

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

I have never been able to visit a Caribbean island until a week ago, when after saving and planning and waiting and waiting, my sons and I set our feet in the powdery sand on the island of Provo in Turks and Caicos. It was a dream come true.

The trip turned out to be more than I expected. I never thought the photographs I’d seen of clear turquoise water would actually be real. I thought Photoshop had helped those photographs to look better than the scene is in real life. But I was wrong.

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

The beach in Turks was pristine, with white sand and the clearest water I’ve ever imagined. I never thought nature could be cleaner and clearer than a perfect swimming pool.

Turks and Caicos, the dream destination

It turns out the color was not an exaggeration. It was incredible. I soaked it in all week.

The goals I’d set for the week: feet in sand, bathing suits only, no shoes, nothing but fun and watersports with my boys on the beach. The snorkeling was amazing — schools of multi-colored fish swimming alongside us. The sailing was action-packed and full of sea spray. The paddleboarding and kayaking and swimming and eating together was all perfect. It was the vacation I had always dreamed of having, together as a last spring break before my oldest leaves for college. I am so thankful.

Turks and Caicos

As for dreams, there is nothing as satiating as getting to do the dream after a long time waiting and working to achieve it.

Turks and Caicos

Here’s to dreams and the places where they come true. Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Have you been to Turks and Caicos or another Caribbean island? Where did you visit? What is your favorite?

Posted on Leave a comment

Keystone, Colorado: a Photojournal

Keystone, Colorado

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
― Ansel Adams

I love the mountains. I grew up traveling to see my grandmother who lived in Durango, Colorado. Not only did she have horses and live on a ranch, but we skied when we visited. I learned to ski as one of the kids on little skis, no poles, following her dad’s ski tracks down the mountain. The nearby ski resort to my grandmother’s house? Purgatory. I learned to love to ski.

In November, I traveled to Colorado for a work conference. It had been twenty years since I’d skied Colorado. My most recent skis had been in Austria, when we lived in Prague. But Colorado — I couldn’t resist. Usually, November is not the time to ski Colorado, but I decided to give it a whirl.

It was at the beginning of the season and the Rockies had had very little snow. I met the shuttle at the airport and rode up into the mountains marveling at the lack of snow. Keystone, where I’d planned to ski, was bare. But Arapahoe Basin? Perfect.

Happy, getting to ski Arapahoe Basin, CO
Happy, getting to ski Arapahoe Basin, CO
Skiing on the first open weekend of the season, happy!
Skiing on the first open weekend of the season before a work conference, happy!

 

I skied for a whole day and bought a shirt at the end that says, “If it’s too steep, you’re too old.” 🙂

The next day, I wandered through Keystone with my camera. The silence — no snow, no skiers, no tourists — was pristine. The terrain is so beautiful, the photographs don’t do it justice. But I will try to share …

Keystone, Colorado: a Photojournal

Keystone, Colorado

Keystone, Colorado

Keystone, Colorado

Keystone, Colorado

Keystone, Colorado

Keystone, Colorado

Keystone, Colorado

Keystone, Colorado

Have you gotten to ski this year? If so, where, and how was it? Lots of snow? Or barely a dusting?

On another note, I am really happy it is almost spring!

Posted on 4 Comments

Journeys, California: San Francisco, Carmel, and Big Sur

San Francisco streetcar

“Make voyages. Attempt them. There is nothing else.” – Tennessee Williams

Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of traveling for work to California. Since I live in Ohio, and the ocean and coast is my favorite place to be, I ventured out a day early to spend some time along the coast.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Big Sur and Highway 1, California
Near Big Sur and Highway 1, California

Many years ago, I drove the length of Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles for the first time. The drive is incredible, with dramatic drops to the Pacific on one side, and steep rises up mountains on the inland side. Highway 1 is an adventure in itself.

On that same trip, I stopped in Carmel-by-the-Sea and took in the surroundings, an artists’ colony nestled into a bay near Pebble Beach. Two weeks ago, Carmel-by-the-Sea was the same charming village I remembered it to be.

Hat Shop, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Hat Shop, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Wine crates as wall decor, La Bicyclette

Wine crates as wall decor, La Bicyclette Restaurant

The perfect garden entrance, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

The perfect garden entrance, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Where to Eat, Carmel-by-the-Sea

There are many quaint restaurants in Carmel-by-the-Sea, but one is definitely a must-do: La Bicyclette. I had the Eggplant Casserole and it was out-of-this-world good. And look at the messages left at each table (definitely my kind of place!):

La Bicyclette Carmel message

What to Do, Carmel-by-the Sea

If you follow the narrow and steep roads through the town, continuing West, you will eventually hear the waves crashing along the shore. Carmel has a beautiful stretch of beach, gorgeous even on a stormy afternoon. A perfect place to dip your toes in the ocean and walk along the surf.

The beach and coastline at Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

The beach and coastline at Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

On the way back to San Francisco, rain blew parallel to the ground, flooded freeways, and uprooted ancient trees. I stopped to see another favorite stretches of coastline, in Santa Cruz. This tree has long been a favorite.

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California

My camera got a bit wet when capturing the image, but I love what resulted.

San Francisco

Every time I travel to San Francisco, I fall more in love with the city, its hills, and its architecture.

San Francisco architecture

We don’t build buildings like this one anymore…

San Francisco architecture

The lines and angles, curves, shadows, and light — all of these make San Francisco its own.

San Francisco architecture

Frills and arches, shadows and light

San Francisco architecture

Inside Neiman Marcus, the beautiful ceiling

The angel at Union Square

The (angel) statue on Dewey Memorial at Union Square

San Francisco streetcar

My favorite site, the San Francisco cable cars

Where to Eat, San Francisco

This trip, I had the privilege of tasting many great restaurants, but one I returned to because I liked it so much: Bouche. Thoroughly French, the food and wine there go perfectly with the casual, intimate atmosphere and French-accented servers.

Bouche San Francisco

California, I love.

Posted on Leave a comment

5 Reasons Coldplay’s Concerts Are the Best

Coldplay, Chicago Soldier Field, July 23, 2016

“Look at the stars, look how they shine for you…” – “Yellow” from Parachutes, Coldplay

It’s no secret I’m a Coldplay fan. Well, maybe not even a fan — their songs and albums form a large part of the soundtrack of my life. I blame it on “Clocks.” It’s genius, I think — played on almost all black keys on the piano. And then the lyrics. It’s the first Coldplay song I loved.

My family and I saw Coldplay in Prague when we lived there in 2012 (I wrote about it here), and this past weekend I had tickets to see Coldplay in Chicago with my oldest son, 17.

In Prague, a newspaper there wrote an article about how the Coldplay concert in 2012 was the first concert post-Communism that the Czechs really got into, really celebrated. That really spoke to me then, and it still speaks now.

After my second Coldplay concert, this time at Soldier Field, I can now say that it’s true. Coldplay has the best show. It’s impossible not to become caught up in the music.

5 Reasons Coldplay Performs the Best Concerts on the Planet

  1. Lights everywhere.

Everyone gets a lighted, automated-to-the-music wristband —

Lighted wristband at the Coldplay concert
Lighted wristband

Coldplay, Soldier Field Chicago, the fun! from Jennifer Lyn King on Vimeo. (30 second video)

2. Fun!

The band, its lights, its music, and the sound is irresistibly fun.

Coldplay, Soldier Field Chicago, July 23, 2016 from Jennifer Lyn King on Vimeo. (30 second video)

3.  Audience / band participation.

Sing-alongs. The band is authentically having fun, too.

Coldplay live at Soldier Field, Chicago, The Scientist, July 23, 2016 from Jennifer Lyn King on Vimeo. (30 second video)

4. Confetti, lights, music, dancing …

All of it equals one amazing time. This was my favorite part of the concert (– 53 seconds of pure joy):

Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, Coldplay live at Soldier Field, Chicago, July 23, 2016 from Jennifer Lyn King on Vimeo. (53 seconds)

5. The energy —

The whole stadium was electric. And I’m not talking about the thunderstorms that wiped out the first two opening acts with about 300 lightning strikes and 3″ of rain, or the thunderstorm that stopped the Coldplay set about 5 songs early and caused the entire stadium to evacuate.

No, the feeling of being in an atmosphere of color, joy, happiness, sound, and fun is almost irreplaceable. I’ve been to many big concerts at giant venues. None equals, so far, the amazing feeling of being at Coldplay.

Lights, Color, Sound: Coldplay in Concert

The Coda:

Rain and lightning overpowered the show about 90 minutes in, and officials called for the stadium to evacuate. By that time, most of us, especially on the field, were swathed in cheap plastic ponchos. The $3.33 I spent on my poncho was the best purchase I’ve made for a long time. The heavens truly opened up and dumped down rain by the stadium-full.

To evacuate, we slogged through rivers 3 – 6″ deep of running water almost the whole way to the north end of the park area, a mile away. The crowd on the other hand didn’t dampen. “Whoa-oh” from some of the choruses continued in song during the mass exodus, flashes of lightning and crashing thunder the accompaniment along the way. And, some turned the walk into a slip-n-slide through the water-covered grass. I had water streaming in my eyes, and it was hilarious.

I loved the Coldplay concert at Chicago’s Soldier Field, apocalyptic weather and all. When Coldplay comes around again, I’ll be there.

Thanks for the fun, Coldplay, and for bringing light and joy to so many around the world.

Posted on 1 Comment

Circling the Sun, Book Recommendation

Women's Airforce Service Pilots

A Woman Who Attempts the Impossible

Years ago, I fell in love with a movie called Out of Africa. It starred Robert Redford and Meryl Streep and was about the relationship of safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and author Karen Blixen, who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen in 1920s colonial Kenya. A woman on their periphery was Beryl Markham, the heroine of a new novel, Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. The cover alone had me, but when I found out it was an extension of Out of Africa, I knew I had to read it.

I’ve written the book recommendation (below), which has gone live this morning at GreatNewBooks.org as well, but here on my personal blog, I have a bit more to say. I love books about women overcoming impossible challenges. Is that because I can identify? I don’t know. But I do know I admire strong women who choose to silence fear.

The original woman I remember admiring for her sense of adventure and complete fearlessness is my maternal grandmother. She grew up in a house full of women, with a few (very tall) sisters and a mother who survived her husband (their father), who died at a young age.

My grandmother decided in her early teens that she would learn to fly, so she took on a job at an amusement park to pay for her flying lessons. Soon, she earned her pilot’s license, and decided to apply for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) in WWII. She was slight in build and apparently on the lower threshold for the weight requirement. She once told me that the morning of her physical, she ate 2 bunches of bananas to try to weigh more. Apparently, it worked.

My grandmother did fly for the WASPs, and throughout her life afterward, she continued to do things most women didn’t do. I love her for that, for setting the example that women can do the same things that men can. And why not?

It’s just another reason why I had to read Circling the Sun, because it opens up that world — it surpassed my expectations.

Okay, for my recommendation:

Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun book recommendationCircling the Sun is a sweeping story about the complicated relationship between an untamable woman, born in Britain but raised in the wilds of Africa, and her love for an untamable continent.

When Beryl Clutterbuck arrives in Africa in 1904 at age three, her family set up a farm in Njoro, in British East African Protectorate, stripped of proper civilization to live in a land with no fences or borders, where huts lacked doors and plumbing. Beryl’s mother decides after two years that “she didn’t want to shoot snakes or her dinner,” and left with Dickie, Beryl’s younger brother. Not long after, the nearby Kipsigi tribe took her in when she was “thin and knock-kneed with unruly white-blonde hair,” and soon, she says, “This was certain. I belonged on the farm and in the bush … For as long as childhood lasted it was a heaven fitted exactly to me. A place I knew by heart. The one place in the world I’d been made for.”

As a teen, Beryl has to face her father’s downturn in luck as a farmer and horseman, and is forced to make a choice: marry and stay, or move to South Africa on her father’s coattails. She chooses to marry and finds herself trapped for the first time in her life. To escape the boundary and restriction, Beryl becomes a horse trainer like her father, something no woman does. It is dangerous and she excels, wins races, and her reputation builds. Her husband becomes angry at what her reputation and choices are doing for his name. It is then that her path begins to cross with a different crowd, Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, the characters of Out of Africa.

In the novel, Beryl at one point says to Karen:

“You wouldn’t want to be free, just on your own?”

“To do what?”

“Live, I suppose. Make your own choices or mistakes, without anyone telling you what you can and can’t do.”

She shook her head as if I’d said something absurd. “Society does that, darling, even if there isn’t a strapping husband on hand…”

My favorite aspect of the novel is found in McLain’s subtleties, her emphasis on Beryl’s unquenchable spirit, the way she exposes Beryl’s heart and the way she breaks gender lines.

No woman flew, but Beryl did. No proper British girl ran with the African natives. No woman tamed, trained, and raced horses. No woman stays in Africa, even her own mother — perhaps that is what keeps Beryl there.

Her story raises the question: What does it take for us to do something unexpected, something impossible, attempt things never done before?

She begins to find freedom when she meets someone with her own wild heart, who treats her as an equal. It is this Beryl pursues, the match she finds in Denys, who encourages her love for adventure, and is the one who gets her into flying. She becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, East to West. She is fearful, yet fearless. It is this that the novel is about — how one woman in a time when no woman attempts the impossible, alone — challenges herself to try and does the impossible. It is about untaming our civilized hearts, and listening to what life can bring, if only we listen and try.

 

Posted on 6 Comments

Midtown Manhattan: Favorite NYC Photos

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world. F. Scott Fitzgerald

Last week, I spent six wonderful days in New York City. I traveled there for a full week of meetings for work, and spent all the in between hours out and about in Midtown Manhattan. A few nights, I had wonderful dinners with friends–the best refreshment for the soul. I walked Madison Avenue in the rain, just to have the chance to see the windows while there. I enjoyed a bit of time in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade revelry which marches up 5th Avenue on March 17th. And, I had the immense privilege of attending a formal gala inside the Waldorf Astoria, listening to author Candace Bushnell speak for a breakfast (a future post here), and Ron Howard in conversation about his amazing career at the gala.

What is it about New York City that I love? The energy, the lights, the people, the sunshine and long shadows cast down from skyscrapers, the life that hums there. I caught New York City as a teen, on my second trip there, when I walked the long streets to go-sees for the modeling world after my foot had gotten in the door and pulled me into. There is something about New York City, especially Midtown Manhattan, that speaks of history and tradition, and also of the new and the modern. Some photos from my week there in that wonderfully unique place in the world:

Midtown Manhattan: Favorite NYC Photos

Midtown Manhattan, NYC
The Chrysler Building, Midtown Manhattan, NYC

 

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Fortitude, New York Public Library, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Fortitude, New York Public Library, Midtown Manhattan, NYC

 

Lexington Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Lexington Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Art inside the NYPLibrary, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Art inside the NYPLibrary, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Architecture and Lighting, New York Public Library, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Architecture and Lighting, New York Public Library, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
A Dark and Stormy Night, Central Park, NYC
A Dark and Stormy Night, Central Park, NYC
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, floor art, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, floor art, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, ballroom, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, ballroom, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, ballroom, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria entry, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, Grand Ballroom, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, Grand Ballroom, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, Grand Ballroom, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Inside the Waldorf Astoria, Grand Ballroom, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
5th Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
5th Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick's Day Parade, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Midtown Manhattan, NYC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 4 Comments

San Francisco in January, a Photojournal

San Francisco, CA

It’s where we go, and what we do when we get there, that tells us who we are. – Joyce Carol Oates

A week ago, I had the privilege of traveling to San Francisco for my job. The reason for the travel? Several conferences were being held simultaneously for the pharmaceutical, biotech, and investing industries. The major news outlets had cameras set up in Union Square, and all described the scene as the “most suits San Francisco has ever seen.” Yes, it was true.

Regardless of the suits and the conference, San Francisco in January was beautiful. Back at home in Ohio, temperatures plunged below zero degrees, and the weather churned up the first covering of snow for the season. But in California, the sun shone bright, temps stayed mild, and of course, San Francisco was San Francisco, one of America’s most charming cities. I loved every minute. Following, some photographs I took while there …

San Francisco in January, a Photojournal

San Francisco, CA
Victoria in Union Square
San Francisco, CA
Old (St. Patrick’s) with the New
San Francisco, CA
Looking up in the Financial district
San Francisco, CA
My favorite part, the cable cars
San Francisco, CA
Sears Fine Foods, since 1938 — excellent breakfast
San Francisco, CA
the Golden city with a touch of sunrise gold
San Francisco, CA
Le P’tit Laurent, San Francisco, CA — incredible French cuisine, beautiful fleur de lis silver
San Francisco, CA
Curran Theater, circa 1922
San Francisco, CA
TransAmerica Building
San Francisco, CA
Jackson Square area
San Francisco, CA
Neiman Marcus, the breathtaking ceiling
San Francisco, CA
Riding the Powell & Market cable car — UP!
San Francisco, CA
About to board the cable car
San Francisco, CA
the views from the cable car toward the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge

 

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark. – John Muir

 

There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. – Christopher McCandless

Have you traveled to San Francisco? What is your favorite part?

Posted on Leave a comment

A Weekend on the Tennessee River

Sunrise Along the Tennessee River

“Where the Tennessee River, like a silver snake, winds her way through the clay hills …” -William Clay Handy

 

Where I live, there aren’t many places to go where you can’t see or hear another person. Cincinnati is like most U.S. cities — filled with cars and highways and buses and buildings. But for those of us with a wandering heart, when we live in a city, it’s especially nice to get away once in a while.

Over Labor Day weekend, my family and I packed into the car and headed south across the Ohio River, through Kentucky and the Smoky Mountains into Tennessee.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve been there, certainly, but this time it was beautiful — maybe more than other times.

Along the Tennessee River

A place feels a lot like magic when the sun shines bright despite a forecast of rain and the water is smooth as glass. It’s surreal when a Bald Eagle soars overhead and an Osprey dives into the river and flies out with a hulking fish. It’s incredible when the sun rises through the Smoky Mountain fog, and when hours later the moon leaves a silver trail upon the midnight water.

Those are the enchanted places which restore the city dweller’s soul. Those are the places where a roadtrip can lead and make a difference in our lives. We can see with new eyes. We can become restored.

That place might be just down the road for you. For me, earlier this month, it was alongside the Tennessee River …

A Weekend on the Tennessee River:

Along the Tennessee River

Along the Tennessee River

A diving Osprey along the TN River
A diving Osprey along the TN River
With a successful catch, the osprey along the TN River
With a successful catch, the osprey along the TN River

Fishermen along the TN River

Along the Tennessee River

Sunrise Along the Tennessee River

Have you ventured on a roadtrip recently? If so, where? Please share in the comments below … thanks and have a great week!

Posted on 12 Comments

5 Reasons to Travel More

Prague's Charles Bridge

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Last week, I finished reading a book I can’t stop thinking about. It wasn’t a novel or fiction, like many of the books I read, but a memoir. The subtitle describes it well: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down. But I personally think the book was about something more universal, something many of us struggle to shake. I would subtitle it: One Man’s Quest to Break Free from His Past.

The writing is elegant and thoughtful, and the story moved me. Even more, the memoir is about travel, one of my favorite parts of life.

In its pages, the author takes the reader through his experiences traveling to various parts of the world–to Patagonia, the Amazon, a remote part of Costa Rica, and opulent Vienna–as he searches for a way to break free from who he was before. He wants to be able to fully love the woman who he wants to marry, and fully live in the day-to-day world of his family and friends. Because of reasons he doesn’t understand, he fights a near-constant need to escape. But through his travels, he begins to understand himself. Through travel, he finds the man he hopes to be.

The book is called The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy.

The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy
The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy

Often, especially in American culture, we put travel off as something we’ll do someday. Only 1/3 of Americans have a passport. We have a beautiful, large, diverse country. But in traveling somewhere new, someplace different, we gain more than we can measure.

Following, some of my favorite quotes from the The Longest Way Home, to pair with 5 reasons why it’s important to travel.

5 Reasons to Travel More

1)  To See:

  • to be alive: when we travel, we see our usual world with new eyes.

“…the glacier appears to be glowing–not reflecting light but emitting it, radiating it. It looks like a pulsing, living thing. The suddenness and surprise of the view has filled me with such a feeling of being alive that in this instant I tell myself it is worth any cost I have to pay to ensure the continuing possibility of such moments…” pg. 38

2) To Learn:

  • the new things we encounter on travels help us to broaden our minds.

“The freedom of being a stranger in a strange place, knowing no one, needing to know no one, with no obligations, elicits deep feelings of liberation, and the farther from the beaten path I go, the quicker the attachment to any idea of how I should be treated is discarded–I’m grateful merely that my needs are met. Without an agenda, or company to distract me, I invariably feel a certain hopefulness than can appear contrary to my aimlessness. Perhaps it’s just the simple joy of being alive.” pg. 104

3) To Heal:

“The acute sense of longing I felt toward my father at the summit and the realization of the place that longing has always occupied in my body is a discovery not to be minimized, and in some ways, it is a relief. In acknowledging that emptiness, I’m released further into my own life.” pg. 226

4) To Awaken:

  • to new possibilities

“Rarely do I take the time to marvel at how fast one can get so far from home, but in this instant it’s not lost on me that just last night I was eating a cheeseburger for dinner on a still-chilly New York City, and I am now sitting in the middle of the steaming Amazon River eating fresh dorado for lunch.” pg. 73

5) To Understand:

  • ourselves and others better, in a new light.

“Travel has rarely been about escape; it’s often not even about a particular destination. The motivation is to go–to meet life, and myself, head-on along the road… I’m forced to rely on instinct and intuition, on the kindness of strangers, in ways that illuminate who I am, ways that shed light on my motivations, my fears.” pg. 19

The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy

One thing is clear in the book: the belief that one of the most important things we can do as human beings is to go, to travel, to see what is outside of the boxes of our daily lives. It doesn’t matter how far we go, what matters is that we take on the attitude of seeing and doing something entirely new. It is in the environment completely outside the norm that we begin to discover ourselves and others.

Travel is one of the most important things we can do, in living well.

Prague's Charles Bridge in black and white
Charles Bridge in Prague

McCarthy’s journey in The Longest Way Home resonated with me, especially with my own recent four years living in Prague. Now, as I write about my time there, I’m rediscovering who I am and how much that time in a foreign country and traveling to 23 countries transformed me. Lumped together, those four years were one of the hardest, yet best experiences of my life.

Travel!

Travel rarely has to be extravagant. When planned well, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The ability to travel simply takes a can-do spirit and a sense of adventure.

This month I’ve focused on writing about health, and this final week, my focus is on the importance of travel. In this new year, don’t hesitate. Go. Travel. See. Do. Become.