03 Aug

The Great Descent From The Great Wall

This is a guest post by my friend Glenda of PapersScissorsRocks. She has traveled the world for work and always manages to get a great story!

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to China on a business trip in the fall of 2008. I say fortunate now but I have to say that I was pretty apprehensive about going. How was I going to manage with the language, the food, or the culture? I knew I was going to be accompanied by some local business colleagues for part of my trip but I was also going to be on my own for a while.

It turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Well, mostly….

I had a busy week, working both in Beijing and Guangzhou. Fortunately, I finished up work on a Thursday and wasn’t leaving until Sunday afternoon so had two and a half days to explore. Friday was spent visiting Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Everything was absolutely amazing, the architecture, the colours and the sheer size of everything. I have to say that when I first saw Tiananmen Square, I thought “Wow, that’s BIG!” The same thing was going through my head when I kept walking and walking and walking through the Forbidden City. It is amazing to see but be prepared to spend quite a while there (and wear comfy shoes). The smaller Temple of Heaven is beautiful also, being set in amongst a lovely green space.

A friend of mine worked in Beijing during the Olympics and she kindly put me in touch with friends of hers who worked at the Canadian Embassy. I spent that evening with my new Canadian friends eating the most delicious Schezuan food I’ve ever had. Oh…and the hottest… the sides of my tongue were numb by the end of the meal.

No trip to China would be complete without a trip to the Great Wall. My friend recommended I go to a less popular, more rustic (not restored) but absolutely spectacular section of the Great Wall called Simatai. I was lucky enough to find tour company that went there and piled in with nine Chinese tour mates for the drive.

Fortunately, two of the women in the group spoke a bit of English. They helped me out and ended up being my saving grace that day. The drive was harrowing as drivers were using the two lane highway as a four lane by using the shoulder as a lane. People pass going around curves and more than once I feared for my life as we stared down a big truck!

Luckily, we arrived safe and mostly sound. My new friends helped buy my ticket for the wall and we headed off for the first leg of the trip. It was then that I realized that we were to board a small, open, two person gondola. I held on tight as we went up; the creaking and groaning of the cableway was a little unsettling.

Once at the top it was a short 20 minute walk found to the top. The views took my breath away as I marveled at this feat of engineering more than 2000 years old.

My new friends and I spent the next few hours exploring. I didn’t spend my whole time with them as I didn’t want to impose on them too much but we did take each other’s photos. I hadn’t thought to bring food with me either so ended up having to buy a package of Ritz crackers from a little refreshment table. The wind picked up significantly while we were up there so, with steep stairs and no guardrails, I definitely had to watch my step. I’m known to be a bit clumsy so was missing having someone or something to hold on to sometimes!

The wind made for an interesting change of plans.

We realized it was time to head down to meet the van to return to Beijing but tlearned that the gondola was shut down due to the wind. Plan B, hike back down… quickly. I had no idea where to go so I followed my friends. We went down what seemed like endless amounts of stairs. It must be noted here that these stairs were built for small Asian feet not large size 9 feet in Doc Martens like mine. I almost got vertigo going down as I had to keep watching my feet.

All of a sudden, we stopped. They spoke to a guy…I was handing over money…getting a ticket (which I didn’t look at and shoved in my pocket)…and walking down a small spiral staircase. There I discovered how we were going to get back to the van in time. We were going to be ziplining over a large body of water!

Going on a zipline was on my ‘to do’ list but I didn’t think was going to be doing it in order to descend from the Great Wall. All I can say is WOW, what a rush! I was absolutely giddy. Words cannot describe the feeling and alas, I have no photos either (in to much of a panic to get down in time for the van as well as tucking things into my jacket so they wouldn’t fall out!). I did find photos and video to get an idea of the extent of it.

People often ask if I had a helmet. My response “Helmet? No helmet…what I really needed was a lifejacket”. We made it back to the van in time and back to Beijing. I was so thankful that those two women had befriended me. They were my saving grace! A note on this adventure – I discovered, sadly, this section of the Great Wall is closed indefinitely.

That evening was spent relaying my adventures to my friends and a bunch other Canadians, over another absolutely amazing meal (where I discovered the only way I will eat eggplant is if it is breaded and deep fried).

I absolutely loved China and would definitely go back but would want someone who spoke the language with me.

My words of wisdom for China?

  • Take cabs (they are cheap, I usually hate cabs but loved them in Beijing)
  • Take the Beijing subway (it’s cheap and clean)
  • Take a travel guide with you that has Chinese characters in it (so you can point to it when you are taking a cab to tourist spot of choice)
  • Get your hotel to give you their business card (again, for the cab driver)
  • Be prepared for squat toilets (carry tissues with you)
  • Don’t sit in the front of a tour van or bus (makes the drive that much scarier)
  • Go to the Great Wall (any section you can),
  • Try all the different kinds of delicious mushrooms (I was in heaven!)
  • Don’t be afraid to try any of the food (you’ll rarely be disappointed… I hope).

See my Flickr Set for more photos of China.

23 May

A Letter From The Past

This is a guest post by Kim of So Many Places. She reminds us that, often, our dreams have been with us for a long time; we just have to take the time to listen.

Pen and Paper

Photo Credit: Ramunas Geciauskas

 

Last weekend my husband Brian was out of town and I planned a few days of alone time with me, myself and I. I cleaned the house, made an unrealistic list of 8 million things to accomplish, and then set about crossing things off the list. Oh how I love a good To Do list! But somewhere between “make homemade soup” and “write 3 query letters” I began to understand that what I really wanted to do with my quiet time was reflect. Yeah, I was in one of those moods.

So I pulled the ladder in from the garage and made my way up to the attic where I dusted off the Rubbermaid container that holds my old journals and pictures from high school and college. Then I poured myself a big ol’ glass of wine and spent the remaining hours of the day thumbing through my past.

Shoved into the back of one of my journals I found a letter I had written to myself ten years ago when I was in college. I’d gone on some kind of retreat and we’d been tasked with writing a letter to ourselves that would be mailed to us one year into the future. It was nothing I ever would have done on my own and I’d completely forgotten about it. I’d probably received it, read it once, and then shoved it into the back of that journal never to be read again.

So you can imagine my surprise when I rediscovered it. And though most of what I was writing about at that time was a cringe-worthy montage of boys and parties the letter was sort of insightful.

And it made me realize that I’ve been dreaming of, and struggling with, the same things for a very long time. I’ve said on my own blog that I’ve always known what I wanted to do but I’ve also always lacked the belief that going for my dreams was possible, or at the very least, responsible.

Here is an excerpt of the advice I gave myself at 19, sitting against a tree in the springtime under the bright stars of southeastern Ohio:

Be true to yourself! Listen to that inner voice, feed it, never lose it. Stay passionate and write things down. You may not be good with the spoken word but you can still get through to others. Write it down and set it free! (Kim’s note: at that time in my life I had a horrific fear of public speaking. I just simply could not do it without panicking).

There are many journeys to come, so many that you can’t even begin to imagine. Don’t hold yourself back, which you are guilty of sometimes. You do a great job believing in others- go ahead and believe in yourself.”

I read the letter a few times. Then I curled up on the couch and I wrote back to my 19-year-old self. I told her that I had received her letter and that it was beautiful and it meant a lot to me. And I told her that she was right, things had happened in her life that she could have never imagined. I told her that her life was bigger than she had dreamed and that there was a peace in her that she wouldn’t have believed possible. And I told her that she had given me permission all of those years ago to believe in myself, and that it had been a long road, but I wanted her to know that, finally, I do.

Then I wrote my ten-years-into-the-future self a letter. I told her that I wished her bravery and clarity and joy. I told her I was excited to meet her some day and that I hoped she’d have what she dreamed of. And then I told her that I loved her and I sealed the letter up and stuck it into the back of the journal, where it sits today and where, one day, I’ll discover it again and marvel at how far I’ve come.

About The Author: Kim is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She and her husband are in the process of selling their things and quitting their jobs so that she can (finally!) follow her dreams of writing and traveling. Kim writes about her journey at www.So-Many-Places.com. You can also find her on Twitter @rtwsomanyplaces or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SoManyPlacesTravelBlog

 

16 May

How To Handle Naysayers And Would-Be Dream Slayers

This is a guest post by Michelle of Wicked Whimsy. Here, she helps us manage those times when we step out and tell others of our exciting plans only to be met with misunderstanding and negative feedback. I am lucky to have had experienced almost no negativity with my plans, but I also don’t make room for it; if I feel it coming I use many of the tips that Michelle outlines below.

Get Creative!

Photo Credit: JD Hancock

 

We’ve all experienced it; we share a dream with someone, eyes alight with excitement, only to watch the other person sniff in disdain and say something akin to “Well, that’s not very realistic, is it?”

If you’re not prepared, this can be a crushing blow to both you and your dream. Dealing with people who would slay your dreams with one fell swoop can be frustrating, confusing, and heartbreaking, if you let it be. And it probably won’t ever be easy, especially if those naysayers are close friends or family. However, there’s a few tips and tricks that can make it easier on you, and less likely to impact the way you view your dreams.

With Compassion

The first thing you’ll want to remember is that most people react that way to other peoples’ dreams because of the way they think about their own dreams. The person who is fast to pooh-pooh the ambitions of others is very rarely acting on any of their own ambitions or dreams. Since they aren’t valuing their own dreams, you can hardly expect them to value yours.

The other reason many people react that way, especially people who care about you, is that they’re trying to protect you. Misguided though it may be, they think that surely things will be easier on you now if you just give this dream up, instead of trying it and possibly failing. They don’t want to see you get hurt, so they’re trying to prevent it.

When you remember that these two things are the motivation for the way most people react, it’s a lot easier to avoid getting riled up or upset, and to stay calm instead.

With Firmness & Calmness

The best way to react to these conversations is by staying firm and calm. If you aren’t firm with the naysayer, chances are they’ll take that as an invitation to further try and convince you of their viewpoint. You might think you’re being polite, but responding with something like “Oh, why do you say that?” will only further the conversation, which isn’t going to help you out at all.

Instead, respond firmly and calmly, and change the subject afterwards, making it clear that you don’t want to talk about it any more. If they bring it up again, remain calm & say “I don’t want to talk about it”, then ask them a question. People love to talk about themselves, and bringing up their favorite subject makes them less likely to try and change the subject back again.

Avoid Them

This is certainly a last result, and it doesn’t work in all situations, but it’s worth considering. If nothing else works, and if the person insists on attempting to be a negative influence, avoid them entirely, or at least the subject. Ask them questions before they get a chance to ask you questions, have a mental list of “safe topics” that you both agree on, but make sure that if you’re talking to them, you won’t have to talk about whatever dream it is they’re intent on slaying.

And if that doesn’t work, make them not a part of your life any longer. Stop talking to them or interacting with them. Even if this person is someone you have a relationship (of any kind) with, if they’re constantly dogging your dreams, consider ending the relationship. Life is short, too short to be surrounded by un-supportive people!

How do you deal with naysayers & would-be dream slayers?

About The Author: Michelle is a 22 year old rainbow haired writer & blogger, who writes at Wicked Whimsy, at the intersection of creativity, aesthetics, productivity, & personal development. She recently released Build Your Own Castle, a free interactive guide for getting yourself together.

02 May

A Local’s Windy City Food Tour

This is a guest post by Kim of To Uncertainty And Beyond. She takes us on a mouthwatering tour of her home town, Chicago. Belly up to the bar and be prepared to feast your eyes!

Visitors to Chicago are bombarded with glorious, calorie filled food options. There’s pizza, hot dogs, fried chicken, and great bars on every corner! (Not to mention the great dessert options!)

While there are also wonderful healthy, fresh, vegetarian, vegan, and high-end places. I thought it would be more fun to focus on the “bad for you” places that I know and love. I’ve lived in Chicago for about 6 year and have made it a priority to seek out and find the best of the best in lots of different cuisines. Hopefully my hard work (and hard eating) will help you on your next visit to the Windy City!

Deep Dish Pizza

A Chicago style pizza is deep dish, stuffed with ingredients, and lots of cheese. It’s served in what looks like a round cake pan and the buttery crust is usually about 3 inches tall. each pizza takes about 35-45 minutes to bake, so order a beer, an appetizer, and be ready to wait!

deep dish at lou malnati's

The original deep dish is said to have been invented by the guys at Gino’s East. So, that is always a popular place to go. It’s good, but always really crowded and packed with tourists. You’ll find lots of variations of Deep Dish pizza in the city. My tip? Head to Lou Malnati’s or Pequod’s for the best pizza in town.

Lou Malnati’s is one of the most popular chains in the city, and for good reason. Their pizza crust is crunchy, the ingredients are fresh, and the sauce full of flavor. Also try the Malnatti salad. Yum! Pequod’s is famous for it’s “caramelized” cheese crust. To me, it almost tastes burned, but it does have an interesting flavor. There are only two locations, but Pequod’s definitely holds its own up against the big chains.

Lou Malnati’s Locations:

  • South Loop: 805 S. State Street (near the Harrison Red Line stop)
  • River North: 439 North Wells Street (near the Merchandise Mart Brown Line stop)
  • Lincoln Park: 958 W. Wrightwood (near the Diversey Brown Line stop)

Pequod’s Location:

  • Lincoln Park: 2207 N. Clybourn Ave (15 minute walk from Armitage Brown Line stop)
  • Morton Grove: 8520 Fernald Ave Morton Grove Il (out in the burbs, you have to drive)

Gino’s East:

  • Downtown: 633 North Wells Street (near Grand Red Line stop or Chicago Brown Line stop)
  • Northwestern Campus: 162 East Superior Street (near Chicago Red Line stop)

Hot Dogs

Chicagoans don’t hesitate to line up and wait for the best hot dogs in the city. A Chicago- style hot dog is made with very specific ingredients. It begins with a boiled all-beef frank placed on a steamed poppyseed bun. This basic dog is topped with diced onion, bright neon green pickle relish, yellow mustard, tomato wedge, a pickle spear, and a hot pepper. Do not ask for ketchup, it does not belong on a Chicago dog. You will likely be ridiculed by the employees and fellow diners if you order ketchup.

You can get a fairly decent hot dog pretty much anywhere in the city. Make sure you look for the signs of a higher quality dog like the all-beef frank and poppyseed bun! If you want a higher class hot dog, give Hot Doug’s or Franks ‘n Dawgs a try. You’ll pay a lot more, but get a gourmet hot dog experience. Be prepared to wait in line for at least 45 minutes at Hot Doug’s. Especially on the weekend when he’s serving up his famous duck fat fries!

Hot Dog stand locations:

Fried Chicken

Harold’s Chicken Shack is the place to go for fried chicken in Chicago. This joint originated on the south side in the 1950’s and many of the original locations will take your order and hand your chicken over from behind bullet proof glass. It is the “dive bar” of the chicken world and it’s tasty!

The chicken is fried to order in a half beef tallow and half vegetable oil to give it a unique taste. If you’re craving some good, old fashioned, southern fried chicken. Harold’s is for you!

You can also find the southern delicacy of chicken and waffles in Chicago. The best place to go is on the south side as well, Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles. How can you pass up a delicately crispy waffle topped with a peice of mouthwateringly juicy fried chicken and maple syrup? Doesn’t sound good? It’s not just good, it’s AMAZING.

Chicken n Waffles

Harold’s downtown locations:

  • South Loop: 636 South Wabash Avenue (near Harrison Red Line stop)
  • West Loop: 518 W Harrison (near Clinton Blue Line stop)
  • West Loop: 804 West Washington Boulevard (Near Clinton Green Line stop)

Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles: 3947 S King Dr (near the Indiana Green Line stop, but driving is also a good option)

Beer

Chicagoans have access to some great locally brewed beer from bigger companies like Goose Island to the smaller Half Acre brewery as well as microbreweries from Wisconsin and Michigan. You can find restaurants and bars with lists so extensive that it makes your head spin.

Chicago is a great place for a beer-tasting night out with friends!

Bar and Brewery locations:

Dessert

I love dessert. Who doesn’t? Chicago also has some amazing places to tempt your sweet tooth. The best frozen custard in the midwest (believe me, I’ve nearly tried them all) can be found at Scooter’s Frozen Custard. If you’ve never had frozen custard, it’s a must when visiting Chicago. It’s a thick, creamy, version of ice cream that is just too darn good to pass up. Fozen custard joints only offer vanilla or chocolate. However, you can choose from a plethora of ingredients for concretes, which is a better version of a blizzard.

Another great ice cream option is The Original Rainbow cone, which has been a Chicago institution since 1926. They have thier unique rainbow cone as well as other yummy options.

If ice cream isn’t your think you can go the baked route. Chicago has some wonderul bakeries serving up cupcakes, cookies, cakes, sweet bread, muffins, and my personal favorite, pies.

Hoosier Mama pies is quickly becoming the hottest spot for dessert in the city. They serve up amazing sweet and savory pies with perfect crusts and fresh ingredients.

Locations for great sweets:

  • Scooter’s Frozen Custard: 1658 West Belmont Avenue (10 minute walk from Belmont Brown Line stop)
  • Original Rainbow Cone: 9233 S Western Ave (driving is your best option)
  • Original Rainbow Cone: Loop – 177 N State St (State/Lake Brown, Orange, Green Line stops, Lake Red Line stop)
  • Hoosier Mama Pie Company: 1618 1/2 Chicago Avenue (15 minute walk from Chicago Blue Line stop)
  • Molly’s Cupcakes: 2536 North Clark Street (take bus 22 or 36)
  • Bake: 2246 W North Ave (near Damen Blue Line stop)
  • Sweet Mandy B’s: 1208 W Webster Ave (10 minute walk from Fullerton Red Line stop)

Great eats in Chicago

Visitors to Chicago are bombarded with glorious, calorie filled food options. There’s a

pizza, hot dog, fried chicken, or a great bar on every corner! (Not to mention the great

dessert options!) While there are also wonderful healthy, fresh, vegetarian, vegan, and

high-end places. I thought it would be more fun to focus on the “bad for you” places that I

know and love. I’ve lived in Chicago for about 6 year and have made it a priority to seek

out and find the best of the best in lots of different cuisines. Hopefully my hard work (and

hard eating) will help you on your next visit to the Windy City!

Pizza

A Chicago style pizza is deep dish, stuffed with ingredients, and lots of cheese. It’s

served in what looks like a round cake pan and the buttery crust is usually about 3 inches

tall. each pizza takes about 35-45 minutes to bake, so order a beer and be ready to wait!

The orignal deep dish is said to have been invented by the guys at Gino’s East. So, that is

always a popular place to go. It’s good, but always really crowded and packed with tourists.

You’ll find lots of variations of Deep Dish pizza in the city. My tip? Skip Giordano’s (a

favorite for some reason) and head to Lou Malnati’s or Pequod’s. Lou Malnati’s is one of the

most popular chains in the city, and for good reason. Their pizza crust is crunchy, the

ingredients are fresh, and the sauce full of flavor. Also try the Malnatti salad. Yum!

Pequod’s is famous for it’s “caramelized” cheese crust. To me, it almost tastes burned, but

it does have an interesting flavor. There are only two locations, but Pequod’s definitely

holds its own up against the big chains.

Lou Malnati’s Locations:
South Loop: 805 S. State Street (near the Harrison Red Line stop) – MUCH LESS CROWDED
River North: 439 North Wells Street (near the Merchandise Mart Brown Line stop)
Lincoln Park: 958 W. Wrightwood (near the Diversey Brown Line stop)

Pequod’s Location:
Lincoln Park: 2207 N. Clybourn Ave (15 minute walk from Armitage Brown Line stop)
Morton Grove: 8520 Fernald Ave Morton Grove Il (out in the burbs, you have to drive)

Gino’s East:
Downtown: 633 North Wells Street (near Grand Red Line stop or Chicago Brown Line stop)
Northwestern Campus: 162 East Superior Street (near Chicago Red Line stop)

Hot Dogs

Chicagoans don’t hesitate to line up and wait for the best hot dogs in the city. A Chicago-

style hot dog is made with very specific ingredients. It begins with a boiled all-beef frank

placed on a steamed poppyseed bun. This basic dog is topped with diced onion, bright neon

green pickle relish, yellow mustard, tomato wedge, a pickle spear, and a hot pepper. Do not

ask for ketchup, it does not belong on a Chicago dog. You will likely be ridiculed by the

employees and fellow diners if you order ketchup.

You can get a fairly decent hot dog pretty much anywhere in the city. Make sure you look for

the signs of a higher quality dog like the all-beef frank and poppyseed bun! If you want a

higher class hot dog, give Hot Doug’s or Franks ‘n Dawgs a try. You’ll pay a lot more, but

get a gourmet hot dog experience. Be prepared to wait in line for at least 45 minutes at Hot

Doug’s. Especially on the weekend when he’s serving up his famous duck fat fries!

Hot Dog stand locations:
Hot Doug’s: 3324 North California Avenue (Not really near the L, take a cab)
Jim’s Original Hot Dog: 1250 South Union Avenue (15 minute walk from Roosevelt Red Line

stop)
Portillo’s: 100 W Ontario St (Near the Grand Red Line stop)
Flub a Dub Chub’s: 3021 N Broadway (Near the Wellingtong Brown Line stop)
Superdawg: 6363 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL (really far out there, you have to drive)
Franks ‘n Dawgs: 1863 N Clybourn (Near Armitage Brown Line stop)

Fried Chicken

Harold’s chicken Shack is the place to go for fried chicken in Chicago. This joint

originated on the south side in the 1950’s and many of the original locations will take your

order and hand your chicken over from behind bullet proof glass. It is the “dive bar” of the

chicken world and it’s good! The chicken is fried to order in a half beef tallow and half

vegetable oil to give it a unique taste. If you’re craving some good, old fashioned,

southern fried chicken. Harold’s is for you!

You can also find the southern delicacy of Chicken and Waffles in Chicago. The best place to

go is on the south side as well, Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles. How can you pass up

a delicately crispy waffle topped with a peice of mouthwateringly juicy fried chicken and

maple syrup? Doesn’t sound good? It’s not just good, it’s AMAZING.

Harold’s locations:
South Loop: 636 South Wabash Avenue (near Harrison Red Line stop)
West Loop: 518 W Harrison (near Clinton Blue Line stop)
West Loop: 804 West Washington Boulevard (Near Clinton Green Line stop)

Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles: 3947 S King Dr (near the Indiana Green Line stop, but

driving is also a good option)

Beer

Chicagoans have access to some great locally brewed beer from bigger companies like Goose

Island to the smaller Half Acre brewery as well as breweries from Wisconsin and Michigan.

You can find some restaurants and bars with beer lists so extensive that it makes your head

spin. Chicago is a grea3t place for a beer-tasting night out with friends!

Half Acre Brewery: 4257 N. Lincoln Ave (near Montrose Brown Line stop)
Goose Island Beer Co: 1800 N Clybourn Ave (near North/Clybourn Red Line stop)
Revolution Brewing: 1800 N Clybourn Ave (near California Blue Line stop)

Bars with Great Beer Lists:
Hopleaf Bar: 5148 North Clark Street (15 minute walk from Berwyn Red Line stop)
Map Room: 1949 N Hoyne Ave (10 minute walk from Western Blue Line stop)
Villains: 649 South Clark Street (near Harrison Red Line stop)
Clark Street Ale House: 742 N Clark St (near Chicago Red Line stop)

Dessert

I love dessert. Who doesn’t? Chicago also has some amazing places to tempt your sweet tooth.

The best frozen custard in the midwest (believe me, I’ve nearly tried them all) can be found

at Scooter’s Frozen Custard. If you’ve never had frozen custard, it’s a must when visiting

Chicago. It’s a thick, creamy, version of ice cream that is just too darn good to pass up.

Fozen custard joints only offer vanilla or chocolate. However, you can choose from a

plethora of ingredients for concretes, which is a better version of a blizzard. Another

great ice cream option is The Original Rainbow cone, which has been a Chicago institution

since 1926. They have thier unique rainbow cone as well as other yummy options.

If ice cream isn’t your think you can go the baked route. Chicago has some wonderul bakeries

serving up cupcakes, cookies, cake, sweet bread, muffins, and my personal favorite, PIES.

Hoosier Mama pies is quickly becoming the hottest spot for dessert in the city. They serve

up amazing sweet and savory pies with perfect crusts and fresh ingredients.

Scooter’s Frozen Custard: 1658 West Belmont Avenue (10 minute walk from Belmont Brown Line

stop)
Original Rainbow Cone: 9233 S Western Ave (waaaay out there, you should drive. It’s a cute

shop though!)
Rainbow Cone: Loop – 177 N State St (State/Lake Brown, Orange, Green Line stops, Lake Red

Line stop)
Hoosier Mama’s: 1618 1/2 Chicago Avenue (15 minute walk from Chicago Blue Line stop)
Molly’s Cupcakes: 2536 North Clark Street (take bus 22 or 36)
Bake: 2246 W North Ave (near Damen Blue Line stop)
Sweet Mandy B’s: 1208 W Webster Ave (10 minute walk from Fullerton Red Line stop)

?

About The Author: Kim quit her job in 2010 to travel the world. She and her husband Clark went on a crazy eight month journey around the world. They visited more than 20 countries! Their blog To Uncertainty and Beyond features tips for travel, budget, food, culture, photography, videos and more! Follow them on twitter @2UNB.

25 Apr

The Kindness Of Strangers

This is a guest post by Adam of WorldTravelForCouples. He reminds us that it is the small parts of travel that can be the most memorable; you tick the big things off your list, but it is the small things that stay in your heart.

One aspect of our RTW trip that continues to stick out now that we’re home was the kindness of random strangers we encountered in places all over the globe. Some of our most memorable moments from our travels happened in the most random places at the most random times by the most random people.

While I will always remember moments like walking through the Sun Gate and seeing Machu Picchu for the first time and getting my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, it’s these little random moments that keep us traveling and coming back for more. These acts of kindness will forever be etched into our memories, and they are the stories we tell most often.

I will always remember Buenos Aires. When a friend of a friend, who we had never met before arriving in Argentina, invited us to spend New Year’s Eve with her and her family. New Year’s Eve in Argentina is traditionally a family holiday, so being invited to the outskirts of the city to someone’s home to celebrate with extended family was an honor and one that I will always remember.

I will always remember being in our hostel room in Bogota just relaxing. We then heard a knock on the door. The owner was there and asked to come in. He informed us that it was International Women’s Day, and that he had presents for all the women staying in the hostel. He then proceeded to give a little present to Megan as part of their celebration.


I will always remember arriving in hectic Cartegena in the middle of rush hour with no place to stay. Colombia was probably king of random acts of kindness because Colombians are just incredible people. We wandered around, and upon entering our fifth hostel and hearing that they were also booked, we looked at each other with that exhausted look. The worker told us to wait, picked up the phone, made a few calls, and told us to follow him. After walking a few blocks he brought us to a new (and nicer) guesthouse where we ended up staying for several days. Even though their rates were higher, we received the same price as the hostel we were originally checking out.


I will always remember our time in the quirky little town of Dalat, Vietnam, when the sweet girl working the front desk ran out after us as we left to go grab lunch. Dalat is in the highlands of Vietnam, so it gets a bit chilly compared to the rest of the country (chilly by Vietnamese standards means highs in the 70’s). She was extremely concerned that we were heading out without jackets and hats. “It’s very cold,” she exclaimed, “you should have a hat and jacket.”

I will always remember leaving that same guesthouse in Dalat and receiving a present. A clearly homemade craft that we still have to this day, sitting on my desk. They just wanted to thank us for our stay, and this was how they showed their appreciation.

I will always remember India. While India was easily the most difficult, maddening, and challenging places we traveled, we had perhaps one of the best experiences of our trip there. In the city of Jodhpur as we were traipsing through the labyrinth-like streets, we entered the studio of a man who taught art to youngsters. We looked at much of his art, and he was very nice, friendly, and not at all pushy (a rarity in India). Later that day we decided to return and purchase something. He was so excited that we did that he invited us to lunch the following day. We happily accepted and had a home-made Indian lunch with him, a student, and a friend of his while sitting on the floor of his studio. We spent the entire afternoon there chatting and hanging out, and it is something that I will forever remember.


It’s easy to pick out the really memorable moments from traveling. Those famous sites we visited, those festivals we attended, that food we ate. But what really fuels that love for travel is the people we meet along the way. The locals, the hostel and restaurant owners, the other travelers. They all contribute to what it is that we love to travel, and why it is that we’ll keep coming back for more, time and time again.

About The Author: Adam Seper is a lover of travel, bacon, sour candy, pizza, spicy food, beer, dogs, music, and sports, not necessarily in that order.  My wife, Megan, and I embarked on a year-long RTW trip two years ago, taking us to South America, New Zealand, SE Asia, and India.  To say it was life-changing would be an understatement.  I currently run World Travel for Couples and do freelance work for BootsnAll.  You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

18 Apr

End Of The Line

This is a guest post by Eric of  HelgothPhoto.  He gives us a glimpse into the anxiety he is feeling as he prepares for a year long trip through Africa. He tells me that he feels his ‘End Of The Line’ photo correctly identifies how he is feeling. I tell him that we all feel this way; that’s it’s normal; and that it’s supposed to be hard.

Photo Credit: Eric Helgoth

WTF am I doing? This thought and many more have been dodging through my mind lately, and with greater frequency, as months draw down to weeks, then days until I leave on my next adventure.

Outwardly I may appear calm, cool and collected but the reality is…I’m freaked out! I like to think of myself as the adventurous type but what makes me think I can do this….travel solo around the world’s second largest continent, for a year?

The whole notion of living life on the road and carrying everything I need to survive on my back for that long has me unnerved to say the least. What makes me think I’m qualified? Yes, it will be an awesome experience but I’ve read a lot of stories about other travelers mishaps and I’m a bit concerned. I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t consider myself naive, by any means, but I only speak one language and have traveled very little outside the United States.

It’s unfamiliar land, language, and culture. A year is a long time. The last time I lived outside my home country for that long was South Korea and that was over twenty years ago with the military. I was stationary in one country and they took care of me!

This is different. I know very little to nothing about where I am going, nor do I have a base I can retreat to. This is pushing me way outside my comfort zone, I will be exposed and vulnerable!

There is something both liberating and daunting about buying a one way ticket to anywhere. I would be unencumbered with having to be anywhere or returning to any place by a specific time. But, that is also the problem. Freedom without any restrictions.

I realized  a couple years ago how encumbered I was with restrictions as I was going “home” from an extended trip in Turkey. At the time, I bought a round trip ticket because I was fully expecting to come back to work and pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I could have stayed in Europe longer if it weren’t for this round trip ticket. I felt tied, I couldn’t exchange it and was too stubborn to just let it go and get a new ticket later. Now I’m looking at a trip with no return ticket and I feel just as anxious.

I’m sitting in my office staring at piles of clutter, nothing is packed…I’m stalling.

I have just about everything I need for the trip, save one. Admittedly, I have not yet bought my ticket and I’m not sure why. Perhaps buying it will ultimately seal the deal and force me to own it instead of just talk about it, force me into my big unknown where there is no safety net! I’ve much to do and somehow I tell myself there’s still time so I put it off for another day.

Immunizations, international driver’s license, store cars, ask someone to pick up my mail, set up auto payment for bills and most importantly health insurance. I keep a written list of things I think need to be done and even though I might have everything in line, I still somehow feel completely unprepared.

Sometimes I secretly hope a job will fall into my lap so I can postpone or (gulp) cancel this trip altogether.

The big problem with not doing it now though is I may never take another chance and I’ll always wonder. Sooner or later I know I’ll buy the ticket because, I’ve talked it up so much I can’t not do it! My friends and family think it’s great and are excited for me but that isn’t helping ease my anxiety.

I’m not sure what is fueling these feelings: perhaps it’s because the infrastructure isn’t what I’m used to, so traveling from place to place will be more challenging and downright tough in some areas, or it’s because I’ll probably be traveling alone and could be considered an easy target to rob.

Maybe I’m trying to do too much before I leave, other than what really needs to be, and I’m afraid of not getting it all done. Perhaps I should quit reading and “just do it” as Nike says, knowing there may be some difficulties or challenges along the way and be prepared for them as best I can.

Ultimately everyone’s experience is each their own. The cultures will definitely be different than what I’m used to but then again, isn’t that why I’m going?

My life would be a whole lot simpler if I would just commit to doing something and get it done. Unfortunately I spend too much time contemplating and turning over “what if” scenarios in my mind until sooner or later I back myself into a corner. I will either break or move with such lightning speed I won’t believe I did it. But I’ll finally be free!

About The Author: Eric is an architect, a photographer, and a friend that I met while traveling in Turkey in 2009. He has started to document his travels through the lens at HelgothPhoto.com His photos are stunning and I, for one, can’t wait to see how he shows me Africa.

 

 

 

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11 Apr

Taking A Small Bite Out Of The Big Apple

This is a guest post by Glenda of PapersScissorsRocks. She and her partner, Karl, recently returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City. She takes us along and shows how, no matter what you do, you can have a great time!

New York City skyline

Photo Credit: Wilhemja

 

I am thrilled to be here doing some guest posts for my good friend Gillian. We have been friends for a several years and I love reading One Giant Step.

My name is Glenda and my regular blogging gig is PapersScissorsRocks for my paper crafting hobby. So what am I doing here? Well, I’ve also done a bit of travelling in my time (more than 20 countries over the last 8 years) so I’m here to share some of my travel stories with you. Most of my travelling has been done for business (frequently solo) so my perspectives and experiences may be a little different from what you are used to reading here. I hope my stories are enjoyable for you and maybe a little helpful too.

I’m going to start off by contradicting myself by talking about a vacation, instead of a business trip….

New York City has never been on my long list of “must see” places but when my partner Karl came home with a NYC travel guide that he had found on sale, I started thinking about it. I had been going a bit stir crazy at home and needed to get away but we are currently on a limited budget so going somewhere really exotic was out of the question. The wheels kept turning and the next thing I know, I’ve checked my frequent flyer mileage balance (no problem there) and emailed my girlfriend in New Jersey (could we stay with her for the weekend? No problem there either).

I decided to make the trip a belated birthday present for Karl but wanted to keep it a secret. Booking his time off work was easy. Snooping in his calendar (to anticipate any potential conflicts) and trying to keep it a secret for six weeks was not. In the end, the secret was kept until I met him at the door the night before our departure, welcoming him to his five day weekend and handing him a cocktail.

It was dusk on St. Patrick’s Day as we descended into the greater New York area. As soon as we could see the city out of the airplane window, we started to try to pick out landmarks in the enormous expanse of city. We managed to see the Statue of Liberty, which we both thought looked rather diminutive! My friend Cheiron picked us up at the airport and, after a quick and delicious home cooked meal, we headed out to the local watering hole. It was St. Patty’s Day after all! The evening was spent in a Jersey pub, enjoying a few pints of Guinness and observing the locals. Couldn’t think of a better way to start the trip.

There was no specific plan for the weekend other than to see the city. You might call us ‘foodies’ (although I really don’t like that word – in addition to the words peeps, deets, sched…) so we were looking forward to sampling some great food.

Friday was an amazing 18 Celsius with glorious sunshine so it was a perfect day to wander around and explore, with our expert tour guide along to make some suggestions. We started off with a wander through the fabulous Chelsea market to do a bit of shopping and get a bite to eat.

We ended up at Bar Suzette for some amazing savory crepes. Mine had goat cheese, Parmesan, prosciutto and fresh greens – absolutely divine. After a bit of shopping (we were in New York after all), we grabbed a coffee and settled down to people watch in Central Park (Karl’s ‘must see’). It was a perfect day to get a flavor of the park as everyone and their dog (literally) seemed to be out enjoying the beautiful weather – running, walking, cycling, skate boarding. We could have stayed there all afternoon but thought we should continue on.

We walked down 5th Avenue passed the huge Apple store (didn’t go in, too much temptation), Armani, Prada, Tiffany’s (did go in, couldn’t help myself), and dozens of other stores where I couldn’t even afford to breathe the air.

Photo Credit: Glenda Wyatt

We caught a glimpse of the Empire State building but didn’t think we needed to go up. My only absolute ‘must see’ for the city was the Chrysler building and I was not disappointed. It is a stunning piece of architecture and was absolutely perfect that day, glistening in the sunshine.

We also wandered through Grand Central Station which lived up to it’s name – grand size, grand design and probably several ‘grand’ worth of people buzzing around inside.

Cheiron is also a crafty gal so we did a bit of crafty shopping in Greenwich Village and then went back to Jersey for supper with Cheiron’s hubby.

If Friday was our day to sight see then Saturday was our day to eat, and eat, and eat some more. Before the feasting began, we started the morning at the Teardrop Memorial in Bayonne, NJ. Karl had seen a story about it and it was close by where we were staying. It’s a bit out of the way but definitely worth seeing. An amazing and touching piece of art.

We then headed into the city on the train (a side note here is that I love being able to get all over the city using subway or light rapid transit…when we weren’t walking, we were on the train or subway) and started in Greenwich Village with some amazing traditional Italian pizza at No. 28. A long, narrow, thin crust pizza with green pepper and sausage … oh so delicious.

Right around the corner from there is an amazing place called Sweet Revenge which pairs up sweets with beer and wine. Booze and sweets… it was fabulous! We all had very different pairings and they were all amazing!

Photo Credit: Glenda Wyatt

Photo Credit: Glenda Wyatt

The remainder of the afternoon was spent just wandering through Soho, China Town and Little Italy, taking photos and people watching. We stopped in Little Italy for some coffee and canoli (crack-your-teeth sweet but Karl quite enjoyed it).

After a bit more wandering, shopping (I did have to buy a pair of shoes in NYC, even though I’m not a big shoe shopper), and browsing we settled in for an amazing meal at Ed’s Lobster Bar. The menu isn’t huge but what is served is absolutely amazing. This funky little place does everything right. We all had different things – lobster roll, pasta, pot pie – and they were all spectacular. Karl and Cheiron had a great IPA (Harpoon from Boston) and I had the best gin martini I’ve ever had.

We down shifted on Sunday and spent the afternoon watching Bayonne’s St. Patrick’s day parade and eating some amazing home made food courtesy of Cheiron’s Irish/Italian sister-in-law. It was great to spend time with a big family and be welcomed so warmly. I always feel so fortunate when I am invited into someone’s home when traveling. It gives me a true sense of the local culture. A few more pints of Guinness finished off our second St. Patrick’s celebration.

Gillian always extols some words of wisdom on her posts so I would like to do the same. I guess my bit of wisdom here is that you don’t have to see all the ‘main attractions’ to enjoy traveling. We didn’t get up close to the Empire State Building, see the Statue of Liberty or go to a Broadway show and we still had an amazing time. Wander around, pop into nooks and crannies, and discover your own main attractions – you may just enjoy them more…

I also wanted to leave you with a memorable photo. One the great things about staying in Jersey was the views of Manhattan. This one is from Saturday March 19th and has the Perigee moon in it….

 

Photo Credit: Glenda Wyatt

About The Author: Glenda loves to travel and is suffering a bit of withdrawal lately since not being able to travel for work as much as she used to. She regularly blogs about crafting at PapersScissorsRocks but every once in a while a travel story will sneak in there too!