Inspiration, Travel

Rustic pathways.

This title could mean so many things. But today, it’s about a company pioneering travel and service projects with a focus on providing unique and real-world educational  experiences. (Think interviewing elders in Laos.) Also, they have Gap Year programs. How cool is that?

Blair and I both dream about traveling across the country on “educational vacations” with our son. We’d, of course, travel in something like this. But I think we should add a Rustic Pathways experience to the dream list. And so, today I created a new Pinterest board, “Future adventures with Owen“. You know, just in case.

Do you keep a list of future activities for yourself or your family? How often to you add/update it?

PS A family of 5 and a cat traveling the country in a Airstream


Inspiration, Travel

Repeat vacations.

Do you vacation at the same spots each year? I have never been prone to that philosophy. But I can certainly see the convenience of it. You don’t have to spend energy learning the area, figuring out where to buy essentials, wasting time or money on the restaurants not worthy of your service. We do end up heading to Bar Harbor most every summer with B’s family for a car camping extravaganza. And each year we go, we are able to explore a bit more. Two years ago we went rock climbing! And of course, there’s always one more hike, bike ride or swimming hole to explore.

One of my friend’s is exploring the idea of a designated vacation retreat now that she has a family of four to entertain. It’s not so much the physical spot as it is the idea of carving out intentional family togetherness — and not of the forced fun nature. She shared a story of one family who has been quite good at making this happen on a lake in New Hampshire. And even though her three boys are all grown up, they continue to be very comfortable and supportive of one another because they had so much time to bond and be themselves while retreating to their space on the lake. I think this is a beautiful idea. And as much as we race around to finish our errands, help out our friends, and keep up with our jobs, it’s more important that we are just as protective and determined to be still and enjoy just being together.

So maybe I’ll rethink the idea of go-to vacation. How about you?


Design, Home, Travel, Uncategorized

Tiny home.

image from Viralnova.

image from Viralnova.

It’s becoming a pretty sure bet that B & I will eventually make our way further north. Whether that’s Maine or Vermont is still to be determined. And whether it’s permanent or just for the weekends is also to be determined. But we have time. After all, we just moved to the north shores of Boston.

When we finally do get serious about what we want, I am pretty sure it will be some sort of tiny home. I sure hope some of these resources are still around. But then again, I suppose they may just get better and better. Here are some great sites to build tiny homes away from it all. I absolutely love the idea of having a hideaway somewhere. I think I would go bonkers if I lived there all the time, but oh, how wonderful to know you have the option to get away and disappear for a bit.

ESCAPE – your unique, lovely faux-cabin is build in Wisconsin and shipped to wherever you are. There’s an article on it here.

weeHouse – From Alchemy Architects. Pre-fabricated, so not as flexible, but still tiny and quite sleek. Definitely on the modern side.

How about you? Could you live in a 200 square foot space?

PS There’s actually a whole tiny homes movement you can be a part of. Pretty rad.

PPS Thanks Amanda for the heads up re Viralnova.

Inspiration, Travel

All for bicycling.

Bike safety has become more and more of a thing lately. Don’t you think? Unfortunately, in our neck of the woods, there’s been one too many stories of bicyclists hit by vehicles. I know we’re not alone in this. And I do feel guilty about not doing more to promote bike safety. (I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I’m just sharing my feelings.) I stumbled upon this article about how to create bike ways in your neighborhood and decided to join the bigger movement at People for Bikes. This organization exists to help create a united voice in speaking up on rights for bicyclists.

I am very much looking forward to getting back on my bike soon, and I can’t wait for Owen to fall in love with his own. (That’s an automatic thing, right?) We’re thinking of going the balance bike route (as opposed to the tricycle) for the little guy. And for me, I’ve been keeping an eye on this company. And I could very easily see myself riding to the beach on this lovely come next summer.

if you’re interested in learning more on lifestyles with bikes, there’s an over abundance of resources. Here are a few you may enjoy:

Lovely Bicycle!

LGRAB (Short for — Let’s go ride a bike!)

Cyclelicious This site has a celebrity tab too.

And for those who speak French: A Parisian Cyclist

Guest Blog, Inspiration, Travel, Uncategorized

Berlin baby! – part 1

Hello there A&Hreaders, it’s guestblogger Tanja signing in on behalf of Karen as she’s swaddling and diapering and loving on her new little baby. Congrats is definitely the first order of business. CONGRATS!

So let’s jump in, shall we?  My summer has been 180% different than Karen’s. In lieu of nesting and settling in to a home and newborn, I packed my suitcase multiple times and traveled well and often this summer. First stop: Berlin!

I had heard for quite some time that Berlin was the new epicenter of all things creative. And as an artist, my curiosity could no longer be contained. It had to be seen! Luckily a good friend scheduled her wedding in Belgium this summer so I had more than one reason (not that an excuse is ever needed) to plunk down the cash and cross the pond.

One week is just enough time to fall in love with this city and swear to return again and again. Berlin is a “new” old city. If you know anything about world history, you will remember that until 1989, a giant wall divided Germany in to East and West after World War II. West being free and democratic, East being under Communist rule. Thankfully, in 1989 both sides were reunited in to one Germany. Berlin’s history is deep, rich, tragic and triumphant—for a broader understanding, read this.

It’s important to understand the east/west distinction when traveling to Berlin. While it is a unified city there is still a very different feel/vibe/look between the 2 sides. Because the east side is essentially only 15 years old, it’s very much in a phase of rebuilding and reinventing itself. Buildings once neglected, bullet-ridden or covered in graffiti, are re-imagined, renovated and redesigned. Some are brought back to their original pre-war beauty, others are completely modernized. Part of the raw beauty of Berlin is that one stands next to the other—a constant reminder of past and future and an assembly of what’s good about both. Revitalization requires creative vision, which perhaps is why the energy there is so appealing to artists. The potential is massive! And because of this, we spent the majority of our week exploring the east side—our appetites for history, art, shopping and of course food glorious food were satiated.

This post will focus on the sites and views. Next post: food and shopping! Viel spaß…

(L): Remains of the Berlin Wall (M): Communist era block housing (R): "Traby" graveyard, pretty much the only car available in Communist East Germany

(L): Remains of the Berlin Wall, visit the Mauer Museum and Checkpoint Charlie to understand the magnitude of what this meant to Germany. (M): Communist era block housing still seen throughout eastern Berlin. (R): “Trabi” graveyard, pretty much the only car available to East Germans prior to 1991. They are no longer manufactured and are now considered novelties.

(L): Fernsehturm in the middle of Berlin, worth a trip to the top for the view (M): Museum Island, where most of the city's museums are situated (R): Brandenburg Gate, a signature must-see which is best seen at night

(L): Fernsehturm in the middle of Berlin, worth a trip to the top for the 360 view (M): Museum Island, where five of the city’s museums are situated on the Spree River. (R): Brandenburg Gate, a signature must-see which is magnificent at night.

Schloss Charlottenburg, worth a leisurely afternoon stroll through the garden and of course afternoon coffee and cake!

Schloss Charlottenburg, built in 1699, is Prussian architecture at it’s best. It’s worth a leisurely afternoon stroll through the sprawling grounds. And of course, coffee and cake in their garden café!

Berlin's "Central Park", endless winding paths for walks or bike rides. You can rent a boat and idle away an afternoon or find your way in to the hidden biergarten and stay put.

The Tiergarten is Berlin’s “Central Park”. Endless winding paths for walks or bike rides. You can also rent a boat and idle away an afternoon or find your way in to the hidden biergarten and stay put. Or all of the above.

The Reichstag Building or parliament building with rooftop views that are breathtaking at sunset through the crystal dome. There is also phenomenal restaurant on the rooftop which is definitely worth the splurge.

The Reichstag Building or parliament building holds rooftop views that are breathtaking at sunset through the crystal dome. There is also a phenomenal restaurant “Käfer” on the rooftop which is definitely worth the splurge.

Special thanks to my traveling companions for use of some of their photos. Particularly Jenny B., she’s the real deal

Guest Blog, Travel

My Four Favorite Bolivian Fun Facts (Guest Blog)

Hello All,

Karen is officially “out of the office” getting to know a new special person in her life. (I’ll let her share the details!) I’m Elizabeth, and I’m excited to be your Guest Blogger for this week. I hope we’ll have some fun while we eagerly await Karen’s triumphant return.

As Karen mentioned, I’ve been taking short-term trips to Bolivia at least once a year for about 6 years – originally for my job as a volunteer coordinator for a public health organization and, over the past couple of years, as a volunteer myself. Bolivia has become a beloved second home to me.

Where in the world is Bolivia?

Where in the world is Bolivia?

I’ve found that most people in the U.S. (including myself six years ago) associate Bolivia with three things: poverty, llamas, and Lake Titicaca. Yes, Bolivia is considered the poorest country in South America, llamas are spectacular, and Lake Titicaca is, impressively, the highest navigable lake in the world. But there is so much more to this amazing place! Here are four of my favorite (possibly surprising) fun facts about Bolivia:

1.      Bolivia is the Home of the Potato.

The potato actually originated in Bolivia (not Ireland, as I would’ve guessed). There’s some disagreement over exactly how many different types of potatoes there are in Bolivia. It might be 100 or it might be 600. I don’t know for sure but I can guarantee you they will stuff you full of them while you’re there. (And it’ll be delicious!)


2.      Bolivia is the only land-locked country in the world with its own navy.

This is partly because Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and straddles the Peruvian border, and also, I suspect, partly because the Bolivians are still stinging from that time in the late 1800’s when Chile took their Pacific coast and never gave it back. At any rate, they have a navy and, more importantly, if you ever go to Bolivia be sure to visit Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca because it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.

As a side note: On my long list of Moments When I Wish I Had My Camera Ready is the time during my most recent trip when I saw a group of four guys from the Bolivian navy walking around a port town on Lake Titicaca… all wearing life jackets over their uniforms.

The view of the lake from the top of Isla del Sol is well worth the hike.

The view of the lake from the top of Isla del Sol is well worth the hike.

3.      The Incas were not the original natives of Bolivia.

We just think they were because they happened to be in charge when the conquistadors arrived and because when most of us think of the Andes, we think of the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. However, around the same time that Columbus was sailing the ocean blue, the Incas were conquering the Aymarans – an older civilization believed to have lived in the area for as long as 5,000 years. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest the Aymarans had the most advanced irrigation system on earth and may have built pyramids even bigger than those in Egypt. Aymarans (along with other indigenous groups like the Quechuas) still make up over half of Bolivia’s population and many continue to speak Aymara as their first language.

Bonus Fun Fact: The civilization the Spanish encountered upon arrival were not called “the Incas”. According to my go-to Bolivian Tour Guide, Victor Ballesteros, Inca was the name of the people’s leader at the time and the Spanish started referring to all of them by his name. Like if aliens conquered us this year and we were forever after known as “the Obamas.” (I should note that although I trust Victor with my life, I haven’t actually checked his sources. It’s a fun story so I’m going with it.)

Aymaran mamas call their babies "wawas".

Aymaran mamas call their babies “wawas”.

4.      Bolivians have larger hearts than Americans. Literally.

Although part of Bolivia lies in the tropical Amazon basin near Brazil, the Western part of the country (where I’ve spent most of my time) is perched high in the Andes, where it’s cold all year round, dry as a desert, and difficult to breathe. La Paz is the highest capital city in the world at about 12,000 feet above sea level – about twice as high as Denver which is 5,280 feet above sea level. Oxygen is scarce at that elevation, and most visitors take medicine to avoid altitude sickness. The Bolivians of the altiplano (the highlands) have adapted to this by developing bigger, stronger hearts that allow them to better process and distribute oxygen throughout their bodies. According to my experience, they use this power primarily to mercilessly slaughter American visitors in friendly games of soccer and basketball.

The gorgeous mountains are one of my absolute favorite parts of traveling in Bolivia.

The gorgeous mountains are one of my absolute favorite parts of traveling in Bolivia.

So, there you have it – a not-so-brief introduction to Bolivia. I hope you enjoyed the fun facts and pictures. If you’re game, I’d love to tell you more about my personal Bolivian experiences in my next post.  Thanks for reading!

Guest Blog, Travel

Guest blogger: Elizabeth.


Soon,  I’ll be away for a bit getting to know our newest family member, and so in the meantime, I wanted to make sure you had great content and interesting stories to entertain you! I’ve asked a couple of guest bloggers to come by for a week and share some of their expertise on subjects near and dear to their heart.

One of those bloggers will be Elizabeth! Not only is she a great friend, she is also kind of an amazing traveler. She spends a good chunk of her time making sure she’s traveling both near and far — including a stint living in Ghana. She’s just recently returned from her too-numerous-to-count trip to Bolivia. (The count is over 15!) And she’s going to plan on sharing some stories related to this last trip and travel. She also may have a fun baby post for you. I’ve asked her to answer just a few questions so we can get to know her a bit more. Enjoy!

1. How would describe your travel philosophy?
It’s all part of the adventure. The best part of being in Travel Mode is that I’m much better at taking things in stride. Unexpected “set backs” like lost luggage, bus breakdowns, etc. make for the most interesting experiences and stories. (I need to be better about applying that mentality to everyday life!)

2. When you travel what are the three things you can’t live without?
Passport. Sunblock. Baby wipes. Most other things can usually be scrounged up somewhere if absolutely needed.

3. What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
Completely unpack and put all my stuff away. It’s a slightly obsessive-compulsive ritual that helps me transition from traveling to home. Then I sleep for as long as real life will allow.

4. Is travel something that will always be important in your life?
Definitely. There are so many places to go! Also, my grandmother made it a goal to take each one of her grandchildren on an overseas trip while we were in our teens/twenties. It was life-changing, and I really hope to carry on the tradition with my nieces and nephews.

Thanks so much Elizabeth!