The Evolution of Travel in the COVID Age; A Trip Inside a Travel Agent’s Own Adventures.

I have been saying for a while that folks CAN travel during COVID, but two key words right now are Flexibility and Adaptability

I am living proof.  Here is a glimpse into the mind of someone who NEEDS to travel to survive.  I know that sounds dramatic, but I am a nomad in a first world country.  I need to move.  I need to explore.  I need to be challenged. COVID has presented a particular type of struggle for people like me.  But I persevere…..and here is what it looks like.

Plan A – An AMA Waterways river cruise on the mighty Rhine

Early this year, my hubby and I booked a FAM trip (this is travel agent speak for a FAMiliarlization trip – it is an opportunity to scope out a particular travel vendor, sometimes at a discount) with AMA Waterways – a luxury river cruising company that I have wanted to patronize for a while.  I love their itineraries and commitment to clients!  I was super excited about this opportunity. 

Our river cruise departed from Basel and ended in Amsterdam.  Since we are particularly adventurous, we booked flights to Paris three days ahead of our cruise departure, giving us a chance to hang out in Paris, go to Disneyland Paris, then drive to Basel, Switzerland to meet our cruise.

We held out hope….then on September 15th, we received confirmation that our river cruise was cancelled.  We waited another couple days then figured Europe probably would still be closed off, so we scrapped Plan A.

Plan B – Costa Rica

In September, Costa Rica opened it’s borders to select US states, and Maine was one of them, with restrictions (negative COVID test and the purchase of additional medical insurance in case of contracting COVID while in Costa Rica resulting in a prolonged stay).  We were cool with this opportunity – I mean, my brother in law and his lovely wife had agreed to come stay at our house during our absence to be with the kids and pets and hang out, so we really wanted to take this time as a couple.

I found FABULOUS airline tickets on JetBlue with direct service to Costa Rica and the plans were made.  We were going to stay in an all inclusive and I made sure I purchased the Travel Insurance PLUS option which allowed me to cancel for any reason for a full refund in the original form of payment.  I purchased our additional medical insurance and we were ready.

Just this week, I was dotting the I’s and crossing t’s (like every good travel professional should be doing) and saw on my JetBlue account that our flights had been cancelled – no communication – no nothing from JetBlue (and I am surprised about this as I really like JetBlue and expected more from them. I later found out that somehow the email linked to these particular tickets was different than the email attached to my TrueBlue account….so that explains it!).

So, to rebook on another airline would have been crazy town expensive, so I called our resort vendor and cancelled for a full refund.  I was also granted a refund for our additional medical insurance.  On to to Plan C.

Plan C – the Great American Road Trip

OK – I didn’t have to think about this Plan long…..I am in love with Charleston, South Carolina.  I have been since I taught middle school there right after I graduated college (winter of 1997).  I have only been back once in 2000 and I have been telling my hubby ever since how much I love this city and want to bring him there.  Enter Plan C!!!!!

Our plan is to road trip to Asheville, North Carolina via an overnight stop in Winchester, VA, and see American’s largest private residence, Biltmore.  We will stay there two days so I can get my “castle/mansion” fix, then we will spend four nights in Charleston at a fabulous B&B.  We have plans to visit friends and family a couple nights, do a ghost/pub crawl in Charleston, tour Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place Rice Plantation and also drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I cannot wait!!!!  Oh, we will also have fun listening to Harry Potter books on Audible as we drive (this was a wee bit of a concession on my part since our road trip is very history heavy – my love, not as much Kelly’s, although he has grown in his appreciation of all things old as of late).

So, there you have it.  Adaptability and flexibility.  If you want to get out there….go!  Sure, some things will be different but get out there and explore!  Use this time to do things you haven’t done before.  And follow our adventure right here!!!  Don’t miss out!

Sweating out the Crazy

Last weekend, one of my BFFs from High School and I decided to go on a backpacking adventure. We headed up to Mt Chocoura, NH for two nights of solace and time together. We got that and so much more!

My friend, Sherry, has never been backpacking. I have been a couple times but I am by no means an expert…but since I have an almost Eagle Scout, I had all the gear we needed for our trip.

We packed two very heavy frame packs to include a tent, 2.5 gallons of water (no water up there), food for 48 hours, Sterno in case the fire went south, fire starting material, warm clothes, poles, sleeping bags and mats, books, chargers (because we couldn’t totally unplug), phones and some nips. We had everything we needed but didn’t feel like we over packed.

Setting off from the car at 4pm.

My pack was about 60lbs and Sherry’s was around 50lbs.

We almost died.

Chocoura isn’t a big mountain but we aren’t in the BEST of shape, hauling 50+ pounds of gear and finishing our hike in the dark Thursday night to a full moon…..we made it but were a bit anxious by the time we found the shelter on the dark, not marked trail.

It rained most of the day Friday but we had gotten up early to collect downed firewood in the area for a collection for the afternoon, evening and our last morning….Friday night and Saturday were COLD and the fire was a blessing.

We talked, told stories, laughed A LOT, did Mad Libs, didn’t read as much as we wanted to but learned a lot about Mt Chocoura and it’s history. Our intent was to complete our hike to the summit on Friday but the rain gave us an excuse to not do it. We Googled it.

We didn’t find the outhouse until the second day…..it’s so cute, isn’t it?

This time away with my friend was priceless. I almost feel overwhelmed with the nothingness that is going on. Time to think. Time to push myself beyond a physical limit. Time to be scared. Time to project some hope.

Sherry and I will plan another escape this winter – but we are thinking a nice cabin in the woods with hot water and fire wood we don’t have to hunt for!

Sangria by the Lake

While camping this year at Long Lake, I decided to make a “sangria a day” for tasting.

You see, I really do not like wine – GOSH – I TRY so hard to like wine, but I just don’t.  So I thought I would try many different “mixers” with wine to see if it helped.  Not only that, but I have had some lovely sangrias in Spain and wanted to try my hand at it.

I have enjoyed a fall themed sangria in the past (think caramel apple), but looked to Facebook to find some tried and true summer time refreshers for this little experiment.

Here is my picture diary, the recipe link and my assessment for each sangria I made!

Red, White and Blueberry Sangria

Red, White and Blueberry Sangria Recipe

I served this our first night along with a Maine feast of lobster rolls, corn on the cob, clam chowder and salad. This sangria was one of my favorites – it was light and I might have a little less Prosecco in mine, but overall it was light, bubbly and refreshing.

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Red, White and Blueberry Sangria

 

Sparkling Rose Sangria

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

This sangria was again, very refreshing and had a little kick to it with the addition of vodka.  I served this for our anti pasta night (even though I made a putenesca) – meat, cheese, bread and yumminess!  This pared well with dinner and was fabulous after a long, hot day on the lake!

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Sparkling Rose Sangria

 

Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

This twist on two fab drinks really rocked!!!  I served this with a traditional summer meal – hamburgers, hot dogs and pasta salad.  My kids were feeling totally left out of this whole sangria experiment so they did get to enjoy the sweet tea before infusing it with the wine!

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Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

 

Mystery Sangria – contributed by Jennifer Smith (a dear friend from HS who warned me not to drink this too fast – maybe it should be named Knock You On Your Can Sangria

Approximately 1/2 gallon of red wine

1 to 1 1/2 cup apricot brandy

1/2 cup to 1 cup triple sec

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot nectar

1/2 cup to 1 cup Sprite or equivalent

Half an apple, chopped

Half and orange, chopped

Cinnamon

Combine the liquid ingredients in a large pitcher, chop the fruit into bite size pieces and add to pitcher.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the top.  Chill

My sister cooked this night and we had a Greek chicken and salad meal.  This sanrgia would kick you in the pants if you drank too much of it!  It was a bit too alcoholy for me, but others enjoyed it and luckily, I only made one batch!

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Knock You On Can Sangria

 

Pink Sangria – contributed by my girl Cheriene who loves this recipe as her go to for summer sangrias!

1 Bottle dry white wine

1/2 cup pink moscato (sparkling)

1/2 cup peach liqueur

1 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1 large peach wedge

1/2 an orange, sliced

1/2 a lemon, sliced

Combine all ingredients, allow time for the flavors to mix and serve chilled.

We had this sangria pared with skewered Italian Meatballs and pasta!  It really hit the spot!

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Pink Sangria – I know mine doesn’t look very pick, but it must have been the lighting!

 

Cider Beer Sangria

https://www.howsweeteats.com/2016/09/cider-beer-sangria/

One wouldn’t think that beer and sangria would go hand in hand, but this one was delightful!  We had pizza this night for dinner and a Cider Sangria fit the bill!  It was a little fall tasting, but we did’t let that stop us!

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Cider Beer Sangria

 

I do so love our time at the lake every year!  The sangrias added a fun touch and I have to admit, with a background like that, how could you go wrong?

Social Distancing – Day 155

Coronacation continues…how surreal this summer is.  I keep thinking of the Bananarama song Cruel Summer.  It seems to fit.

It hasn’t all been cruel, of course – and I like to focus on the positive – so I’ll tell you what we have been doing since June 24th!

Gardening – lots and lots of gardening!   It amazes me every time I have a garden how quickly vegetables (and weeds) grow!  We have had a great harvest in green beans, zucchini, lettuce galore and I feel like we will be soon overrun with cucumbers!  My tomatoes are coming along nicely as well!

As for the rest of the garden – some things are doing great – I need to harvest my lavender soon but it has been so hot out in the mornings that I want to wait.  Speaking of hot – I think we have had a REAL summer here!  Super-hot days – we have had our pool heater off for almost a month and still the pool is 91 degrees!

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Exploring at home.  Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine

We were able to do our annual camping trip to Long Lake.  I treasure this week long vacation every year and this year was no different!  We enjoyed great family time, amazing food, fabulous weather, tons of boating (skiing, tubing and trips to town for ice cream) and made memories to last a lifetime and hold us over until next year!!!

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Our home away from home.

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Two tubes, twice the fun!

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Pine Island, Long Lake.

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Storm closing in.

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What 17 year old boys do early in the morning.

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We made some cool masks!

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Drive-bys with the Songo River Queen.

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Making new friends!

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The 2020 crew – I love these people!!!

It’s been 155 days in some type of isolation because or COVID-19.  Boy, this world is a weird place!  My daughter starts high school in September.  My son begins his senior year and in a week we are going to be in Disney.  Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in this strange season is a challenge, but still this point on our timeline has offered us quiet times of contemplation and opportunities to do something new.  Let’s see what good can come out of this cruel summer.

Social Distancing – Day 101

Well, we’ve exceeded 100 days – and many are still social and physical distancing.  I won’t get into the debate – there are so many opinions out there, but the fact is, for us, life is still not quite normal.

Our circle is still small, and while we are attending our first in-person church service this coming Sunday, it will look different – masks required while moving, family groups sitting together in pre-determined spaces 8 feet apart, and outside.  But we will be together in a way!

One hundred days is a timeframe we use to measure events in our society – the first 100 days in a presidency; our kids mark the 100th day of school; Phineus and Ferb seem to have 104 days of summer….

I have marked a few significant things in our house for the 100 days of Coronavirus…

100 days at home with my kids mean I have had, on average, spent an extra 420 hours with my children that I would not have had if they were in school.  That is like getting an extra 17.5 days with my kids that I would not have had.  THIS has been a blessing!!

100 days at home has resulted in about 90 loads of laundry – of which NONE were folded immediatly after I took them out of the dryer!

100 days at home meant that I prepared way more meals, ate a lot more food, and worked out a lot less…..

100 days at home means that I have watched more than 75 episodes of a Escape to the Chateau.

100 days at home has allowed my hubby and I to work closer together and we are still happily married.

100 days at home has meant long walks in the woods with Cooper, gardening, building, painting and attempting to declutter my house (still working on this).

100 days at home has brought more good to my life than bad (the lost income from no one traveling and the prospect of travel is still too daunting for people to explore has been tough, along with the isolation).  It has given me precious time with my family that I otherwise would not have had.

It will be almost fall when the next 100 days rolls around – I wonder what that will look like?

101 Days and counting….

Social Distancing – Days 88-94 – A Diary

UGH – OK – I am kinda over this.

It’s like groundhog day again but now the weather is nice.

I am not complaining.  I love the gorgeous weather, but seriously – nothing new is going on!

The She Shed is done, the gardens are just being maintained, school is done.

Char is still going to the barn.  She is seeing her “inner circle” of BFFs.

Kelton started work this week.

Kelly is working harder than ever with in-person outdoor church services begining next week.

I am starting to get more and more inquiries for travel for next year.

The kittens at the barn are growing!

I am thinking I will start updating the Social Distancing Diary every week….soorner if anything goes on!

In the meantime, happy Father’s Day on Sunday and I will leave you with a few evening pictures of my gardens.  Enjoy.

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Social Distancing – Days 86 & 87 – A Diary

Tuesday and Wednesday – cloudy and no meatballs!

Well, let me take a few minutes and celebrate my kids!

Char just turned 14 on Monday – and after only video chats and an occasional porch viewing since March 12th, she finally got all of her BFFs together to celebrate.  This was super precious and there were tears of pain, joy, loss and hope.  These young ladies really know how to tug at my heart strings!  They have been together for years – have had their ups and their downs, but they always look out for each other and THAT is worth all their weight in gold!!!!

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They all are officially high schoolers next year – even though we don’t know what exactly that looks like!  All but one of them stayed over last night in the She-Shed and I hope it is a summer filled with memory making, laughter and joy!  I am guessing some, if not all of them, will be working next summer!

Kelton picked up his metal and award yesterday from his Technical School.  This guy is going places!  We are so proud of him and as he enters his senior year (GASP!) we have high hopes that he will follow through with his invitation to National Honor Society and attaining his Eagle Scout award.

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Ya know, I love teenagers.  Some people think I am crazy, but I just do!  They embody, represent, and personify endless possibility.  They have no frame of reference for the advice we give them – and the goodness and unhindered future I can see for them will continue to be lost on some – but man!  I do envy them!

Days 86 & 87 and counting….

Social Distancing – Days 82 – 85 – A Diary

Friday through Monday – perfect “summer” weather – sun, clouds, thundershowers, rain, then more sun!

We spent the weekend at my dad’s camp again.

We brought our boat up this time so the kids could go tubing.  It was a blast!!!!  This is our second year with our boat and it has helped us make so many fabulous memories!!!

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This 3 person tube was the best buy ever!!!

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The back cushion was loosing air so they had to improvise!

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Cooper going for his first kayak ride with Char.

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A lovely loon family.

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Trying to switch tubes mid ride!

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Cooper the lap dog!

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Zuzu was happy we returned home!!!

Monday was catch-up day, of course!  How is it that plants can grow so quickly over a weekend???  Weeding to do, gardening to do, mowing, fertilizing, laundry and more…..

And Monday, we celebrate Charlotte’s 14th birthday and she is officially a high schooler!!!!!  How can that be???

Kelton and Char 6.2020

And my handsome young man is officially a senior!

Days 82 – 85 and counting….

Social Distancing – Days 80 & 81 – A Diary

Wednesday and Thursday!  More great weather – random rain showers Wednesday but it was great!

Not a lot to report…..except our first date night since March.

Kelly and I went out to dinner and sat on the porch at Patty Bs in Dover.  We LOVE Patty Bs and were so excited to visit them first!!  I love Patty’s matter-of-factness!

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The food there is amazing and there is always enough to bring some home!  We always get fried calamari for an appetizer.  Kelly got penne a la vodka with spicy sausage.  I usually get grilled romaine lettuce with salmon – but they did not have this on the menu right now, but I DID get pan seared scallops with pasta and basil – and it was incredible!!

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We had no room for dessert but brought some home – limoncello cake and carrot cake!

Days 80 & 81 and counting….

Social Distancing – Days 78 & 79 – A Diary

Monday and Tuesday – Nice days and a bit cooler – although Tuesday afternoon proved to be lovely in the sun.

Well, drum roll please…..the She Shed is done “enough” for some pictures…..

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I also want to give a shout out to good friends.  So many of them have reached out to me during this time knowing that my dream business is literally in pieces at my feet.  This year, only my second year as a Travel Professional, I had goals of doubling my previous year’s sales and had a fabulous first quarter.  Then coronovirus.  I won’t bore you with the details, but it has been hard to be the bearer of such bad news to such good people dreaming of their own vacations.

Thank you for the beautiful flowers, my friend!!!  They are gorgeous and make me smile!

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Days 78 & 79 and counting….