Traveling Cleverly Since 2001

on Friday, August 31, 2012 | 0 comments
This will be my temporary home:

My days will be spent riding bikes, playing on the beach, yoga-ing, and frolicking with the young 'uns.

It's going to be great.
on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 0 comments
On my way to the car this morning, I saw that our cat vomited in the stroller. The $750 Baby Jogger City Select stroller. Penance for such extravagance?

Nevertheless, a cat may die today.

And, the other night? I sat in pee. My child's pee, which he had carelessly spilled on the seat and floor as he attempted to empty his child's potty into the big toilet. Mr. Nomad saw the spillage, but in his words, "it was chaos" as the baby was attempting to crawl through said pee. Mr. Nomad conveniently forgot to clean it up, and I ended up with pee on my legs.
on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | 0 comments
We live in the suburbs on Atlanta. We ended up here, not by choice, but by circumstances. Right after Mr. Nomad and I got married, I started law school. Like, six weeks later. I went to UGA in Athens, which is way east of Atlanta, and the Mr. worked on far west side of Atlanta. This meant we had to live kind of in-between. So commenced three years of horrible commutes for both of us. Where I found that kind of energy and drive still baffles me.

We purchased a townhome in 2004 while I was in law school. Then, we rented it out when we purchased our home in 2006. Yes, THAT 2006, the one with the highest home prices ever record. The bubble of all bubble years.

So, like many 35-year olds that I know, I am now the proud owner of two homes - our starter and our second. We never planned to keep either of the houses this long, especially the one we're living in now. The house itself is fine, it's the location that's the issue. It's a nice neighborhood, but many of our neighbors don't speak English. We live in a heavily Korean area, and those that are friendly simply don't speak our language well enough to forge anything beyond pleasantries. Many aren't friendly at all - I've learned that, despite efforts, some cultures are very closed. It makes it tough for our toddler to have playdates and make friends. We've got a couple of friends in the immediate area, but that's it.

Though I want to move abroad, I do have to be a bit practical (dammit!). We've got kids to educate and student loans to pay. We've been considering different areas of Atlanta for years and have settled on where we want to buy. Problem is, we've got to wait a bit to sell our house, if we can sell it at all. Still underwater, don't you know? We're going to take a huge loss on the house, but I want it behind me. Plus, we have to save some for the NEW house, so yeah. It sucks.

We're looking at the Decatur/Oakhurst neighborhood. Decatur is not Atlanta, it's a separate city with its own taxes and schools. Good schools, too. Lots of parks, festivals and family-oriented activities. All within walking distance if you buy in the right area. It's going to be tough to find a house within our desired budget that is large enough for our needs, but I'm ready. It's going to be "the" house. The one to stay in for a long time. The family home.

I just want to get started. Waiting is very frustrating. Oakhurst even has its own flag - see?

on Monday, August 27, 2012 | 0 comments
One of my next adventures is going to be a girl's weekend in the North Georgia mountains. This area is really popular for Atlantans because (i) it's within a 3 hour drive, and (ii) the temperature drops, like, 5 or 10 degrees, which matters to us. It's the difference between tank tops and tank tops with cardigans. So, yeah.

The area around Dahlonega, Georgia, is a little micro wine country. There are lots of nice vineyards with tasting "rooms," many of them outdoors. Examples: Frogtown, Three Sisters, and Wolf Mountain.

The main town, Dahlonega, is home to a small public university and a busy downtown area. Like you would expect from a college town, there are a number of coffee shops, vegetarian and/or vegan inspired cafes, and a bookstore. Of course, it's a tourist town, so the obligatory chocolate shop and art galleries also populate the square.

I went with two attorney friends last year; this year we will add one more. It's becoming a yearly tradition, and I like it. It's inexpensive, it's quaint, and I don't have to go through a TSA checkpoint. Score.

A view like this close to home? I'll take it!

on Friday, August 24, 2012 | 0 comments
I've been on my replacement thyroid hormone for three weeks now. The doctor said it would take 6-8 weeks to reach it's full effect. I feel so good right now I cannot imagine how much better it could get. In three more weeks I may be able to run a small country. Or maybe just a 5K. Yes, that's slighty more reasonable.

This is really sexy talk. I feel like my 75 year old aunt. More about me.

So, my energy has slowly come back. It didn't hit me immediately, but it returned over the course of the last few weeks, bit by bit. I no longer wake up tired. I no longer yawn every 10 minutes. I no longer walk around in a mental fog.

I think the exercise is helping, too. When I found out about the hypothyroidism, I made a promise to start taking very good care of myself. I now make exercise a priority over housework. The dishes can wait. My health cannot.

I'm also tracking my daily food intake on My Fitness Pal. Love this app - it tells you how much to eat to reach your goal, and at the end of every day it tells you how much you'll weigh in 5 weeks if every day was like that day. Down 1.5 lbs this week, so it's working. Just 25 more to go. Hmph.

I decided to make another change as well. I've been on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug for over three years now. It was prescribed to me during a very rough time in my life: job layoff (bad economy) and inability to conceive. Honestly, I needed the meds at the time. I was in a bad, bad place.

But, those circumstances have resolved, obviously. Especially the conception one, since now all Mr. Nomad and I have to do is think about a baby and we're gifted with one. Yes, yes, I know we're lucky. And tired. And broke.

Anyway, I've been tapering off that medication for a month now. I'm down from a dose of 20mg/day to 5mg/day. Besides occasional edginess, I've not experienced any withdrawal symptoms. I hope to be off it for good in about two weeks. I hope I can stay off of it, but the anxiety is what worries me. Prior to 2009, I was a very anxious person. I've become relatively chilled out in the last few years and I don't want to lose that. I like being laid back. I like not having panic attacks on airplanes.

But, I am trusting that I've changed in the past few years. I've definitely grown and matured. I am now okay with the fact that I can't control everything. Control is kind of boring anyway - it removes the excitement and unknown from life.

I mean, would an anxious person do this?

(Sky Trek Zipline, Arenal, Costa Rica, 2008) - okay, that's the Mr. there. In my defense, I added the pic really late last night and in the thumbnail I thought it was me. Apparently, I have crazy muscle arms in my mind. Never mind, I'm leaving it.
on Thursday, August 23, 2012 | 0 comments

on | 0 comments

To know me in real life is to know that I have a Caribbean obsession. How in the hell a girl born in Indianapolis in the middle of a February blizzard has the sea in her veins is anyone's guess.

My first visit was in 1999. Jamaica, on a reward trip with Mr. Nomad's employer. Ah, we were wee then, just an unmarried couple on our first "nice" trip. The pina colada's flowed, hangovers were nursed, I was bitten by a yellow jacket in my abdomen. It was nice, but it didn't hit me "there." You know, the heart (not the groin, you sick bastard).

For our honeymoon, we went to Aruba. We were halfway in to our first drink when I looked at my new husband and proclaimed, "we need to buy a house on this island." Annulment was still an option for him at that moment; he should have considered it.

I've tried on other islands over the years as I've depleted our expendable income: Grand Bahama, Sint Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, but a one day cruise stop in 2005 changed it all. We pulled in to port at St. Thomas, and our day was to be spent on St. John, a short ferry ride away.

It was August, it was overcast. "Shouldn't we just stay here," asked Mr. Nomad as we stepped off the boat in St. Thomas, knowing my answer was "no" as soon as his question came out of his mouth. So on that ferry we went. (Annulment was no longer an option, it had been four years and we aren't Catholic. He had to tag along.)

"Welcome to St. John," proclaims a rather banal sign as you step off the ferry and walk by the pumpkin-colored ferry terminal. Welcome, indeed.

We took a jitney cab ride to the North Shore beaches. Though the driver was moving fast, the vistas glimpsed between the trees revealed St. John to be no ordinary island. Unlike St. Martin or Anguilla, where it was rare to find an ocean vista unspoiled by development, the North Shore of St. John embodies unspoiled with a few exceptions.

Don't get me wrong, I love the water and beaches of Anguilla, Mexico, the Bahamas. But the landscape is boring. No, I couldn't handle a flat island. Florida? That's out. I need points of reference, points of interest. A mountainous island for me, thank you very much.

St. John protected by law. Dedicated to the US Park Service by the Rockefellers. Caneel Bay, Peter Bay, and small portions elsewhere (a homesite or two) are all the development the North Shore has seen to date. 

Our day in 2005 was far from perfect. The heavens opened up as soon as we dipped our toes in the water at Trunk Bay. But when I look back at photos from that day, my smile in the pictures as we took cover from that storm says it all: I was happy.

See? Happy... and young. Good to see you, 27 year old face and clavicle. May we take a pause here to remember?

Moving along.

We went back for our first land-based trip in 2007. Then again in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I haven't been back since, which is hurting my soul. St. John is truly my place. See that picture above? That's no photoshop trick; it really is that beautiful. And that's just one of the North Shore beaches. That scene is played out, over and over again.

St. John even has a smell. It's earth, salt, decay... nature, really.

I don't mean to make it seem as if this is some deserted island. There is plenty of development. 1/3 of the island is not protected, and many millionaires (billionaires?) have chosen to build large monuments to their egos. Cruz Bay, the main town, is slightly seedy but serviceable. I always have fun there. The people are overwhelmingly friendly. I love it.

I'd love to move there. I think. I ponder this often, but holes are always punched in my plan. Private schools are required to the tune of $18K/year. Housing is through the roof expensive. Salaries are poor. Third world living at first world prices. That's how I've heard it described. There's an element of truth to that. But, there are things I cannot find in Atlanta: a small town feel, those views, no Apple stores, a sense of community.

For now, I must be content with visits. Perhaps I should stop typing and get to looking up airfare?

Maaahhho Bay.
on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 | 0 comments

Now that the babies are almost 1 and 3, I'm coming up (a little) from that all-consuming baby phase. Don't get me wrong, we're still plenty busy, but a 1-year old is infinitely easier than a newborn or even a six month old. I'm starting to do a few things for myself again. Yoga. Running. Food journaling. Thinking about traveling.

There were a few big trips I wanted to make before we had children. I did all but one of them. Africa would have to wait. Because I started this blog in 2009 and didn't transfer posts for my earlier blog, I've never really shared where we've been in the past. Here's our list of major travels (this list excludes lovely trips to Chicago, NYC and North Carolina to visit family and friends), followed by the "to do" list for the future.

Where I've Been:
1. St. Maarten/St. Martin: 2003-2005, 2007
2. St. John/BVI: 2007-2010
3. Maui: 2006
4. Costa Rica (Osa Peninsula, Arenal Volcano and San Jose): 2008
5. Italy (Amalfi Coast, Rome): 2009
6. England (Manchester, Telford): 2001
7. Jamaica (Negril): 2000
8. Bermuda: 2011
9. St. Croix, Dominica, Grenada, Tobago, St. Kitts: 2011
10. Puerto Rico: Several times, can't recall years
11. Grand Bahama: couple of times, can't remember when
12. Anguilla
13. Belize (Ambergris Caye): 2012
14. Mexico (Cancun, Riviera Maya, Isla Mujeres): 1997, 2009, 2012

List for the Future:
1. Africa: Tanzania and Kenya
2. St. Vincent and the Grenadines sailing
3. BVI Sailing
4. Santorini, Greece
5. Istanbul and Cappadoccia, Turkey
6. Paris and South of France
7. Amsterdam
8. British Columbia
9. Alaska
10. Kauai
11. Japan
12. Thailand
13. St. Lucia: To see the Pitons

I once said that when it comes to travel, you either have the time or the money, but rarely both. Now we've got the money (I mean, we're not rolling or anything, but we could make it happen), but the time! Oh, only if we could find it. I'd love to work remotely for a period of time and live in Europe with the boys. That way, we could see a lot of that fabulous continent in a short time. I can get Mr. Nomad on board, don't ya think?
on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 | 0 comments
I have a lot to say. Finding the time to say it is a different story. I've made this blog mostly about my family's personal travel experiences, but I'm wanting to branch out a bit more. I've got so much going on: full time job, two young kids, weight loss challenges, my changing perception of self as I get older... I've got lots to say but don't often take the time for self-reflection.

Does anyone care? I don't know, but I care. My life has changed so much in the past three years. Here's a rundown of where I am:

- FT working lawyer at a small firm. Not sure I ever want to make partner. Not sure I even want to work FT going forward. I kind of hate being a lawyer somedays but I'm not sure what else I could do. Is cutting back even an option? At least I enjoy my workplace.
- Mom of two young boys. Trying to balance being "fun" with also raising respectful and responsible young men. It's a job.
- Wife. We barely have time for each other any longer but are struggling to maintain closeness.
- Former beach junkie dealing with the fact that I don't fit into my impressive bikini collection at the moment. Will my recently discovered thyroid issues prevent me from ever getting back to where I want to be (need to be) to be healthy and confident?
- Former good friend who is now not so good. I don't have time for long phone conversations and my best friends live outside the state. Texts and short emails will have to do.
- Wanderer. Nomad. There is still that part of me that wants to travel the world. I want to learn how to sail. I want to learn to speak Spanish. It's easy to say "later." I've seen enough to know that later isn't guaranteed.

on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | 0 comments
I am 35. No longer young, but not yet old. I guess I'm middle aged? In the middle of writing my Belize trip report (which I still have not completed), I got sick. It was early stage bronchitis, and it knocked me down in a serious way. I couldn't get out of bed one day. Literally - no energy to move. I haven't been feeling well lately anyway, but I realized I was way off when I had bronchitis. It was such a mild case, yet it hit me so hard and took too long to recover.

I went to the doctor. It's my thyroid. Apparently, it's slow and lazy. Which explains why I've been exhausted, unable to get out of bed, unable to lose weight, etc. It was easy to chalk this up to depression and stress. After all, I am a FT lawyer and mother of two children under 3. Hypothyroidism is a common enough condition, but I'd never realized the impact an incorrectly functioning thyroid can have on your entire health.

So basically, I'm on thyroid hormones, likely for the remainder of my days. The solution seems simple enough, though getting the dosage correct is a moving target. I've only been on meds for 10 days, and it should take 6 weeks for full effectiveness. I have to be diligent about my food intake and exercise, as it's going to be harder to lose and easier to gain weight than someone without this condition.

So, now I begin to try to lose my remaining baby weight in earnest, realizing that I have a handicap that normal dieters don't face and that this will be a long process. I've started running again (slowly) and I'm going to one vigorous 90 minute yoga class a week. I'll add more in as my energy (hopefully) returns.