These past few months have weighed heavy on many of our hearts and minds. It’s difficult for me, as a woman, as a person of color, child of immigrants, and mother to biracial children, to process it without feeling overwhelmed with the gravity of it all. Though I don’t recommend travel as an escape to our problems and reality – as they will always be there when you get back – I do think that a little retreat is needed for healing, for soothing of our souls, calming of our minds, and some perspective in our lives. For inspiration in finding those things worth fighting for and speaking up for.
We were on a bus on our way to do some volunteer work with other travelers from the Fathom cruise. Our project leader, a local employed by the organization heading the activity, was pointing out highlights of Sosua, the beach town we were entering and where we would do our work.
“And here is one of the first synagogues established in the Dominican Republic,” she exclaimed proudly. The group immediately looked out the window, surprised to learn that there was a Jewish community on the island, let alone a historic synagogue. “I didn’t realize there was a Jewish community here. When did they arrive?” asked a group member.
“Well, in the 1930s Rafael Trujillo who was a dictator here at the time, took in the Jewish refugees looking to escape the Nazis. He did this when no one else would and they came and settled here,” she replied.
It’s taking me a bit to share my experiences while cruising to and volunteering in the Dominican Republic with Fathom Travel because it was such an overwhelming experience on so many levels. First, it was the very first time my youngest boys had visited the country. Yes, I lived there for many years (from 9 to 18) and yes, my father and other family still live there, and though I have been back a few times, taking my kids is just something we have never done. Second, it was a trip that involved getting into the communities, at times even into someone’s home and offer a service, through volunteerism.
Volunteerism through travel, or voluntourism, has been covered by many often highlighting the good and mostly bad in the efforts (and profiting) of companies who organize these types of experiences for travelers looking to do something more meaningful and a bit more impactful with their vacation time. I grew up spending a lot of time in hotels and resorts on the island because of my dad’s work in hospitality and so I learned a lot about tourists and their expectations and behaviors from a very early age. Though I have been critical of the Dominican Republic’s politics, I am also very proud and protective of my heritage and people. So, it was with a strong sense of curiosity and emotions that I embarked on the journey.
It was a beautiful summer day when I arrived to Dijon, France. I quickly dropped off my bags in my hotel room at the trendy, Michelin rated Le Chapeau Rouge, slipped into some comfortable walking shoes and headed out. I hadn’t been to this beautiful city in two years but I remembered how much I enjoyed walking through it. I also noticed how much it had changed during that time.
Trams were now operating across the city and more areas had been renovated and designated as pedestrian-only. It felt airy and open.
One of the highlights of our road trip through northern Italy was our stay in Lake Como. Most of our stops were in the Lombardy region, where there are lakes galore. Lake Como, the third largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest, is heavily visited by locals and tourists alike, especially during the summer months. Finding a place to stay can be difficult, and though parking is difficult, finding a home rental – our choice for this stay – was even more so.
We lucked out because we arrived just before the travel season had really kicked-off. We also arrived on a weekend, finding a parking spot just down the hill from our apartment rental that didn’t need us having to pay or move our car during our entire stay.
I have enjoyed visiting Colorado in the winter in the past but it is no secret that summers are my favorite and when it comes to finding fun things to do, Steamboat Springs delivers.
And the word is out.
It used to be that the energy of the town and even that of the Steamboat Resort was limited to the colder months. Though it still is, when compared to the bustle of skiers and snow lovers the visit the mountain town annually, it is by no means sleepy. Here are some of the fun things to do, in photos!
One of the things that I have loved in visiting France over the years is that no two cities are ever completely alike. Sure, there is the architecture and food and of course language, but even these are influenced by elements unique to its historical past and region. Even the language is different throughout the country. I haven’t learned to identify the differences, but my French friends swear that they can tell where a person is from based on their accent. Just like in the U.S., just like in so many places.
Mâcon is one of those places with unique traits that make it different from other cities I have visited. Though the colors of the shutters and buildings may remind visitors of Southern France, Mâcon is considered part of the Saône-et-Loire region in Burgundy.
If there is any rite of passage as a kid, besides braces and the incredibly awkward preteen years, it’s sleepaway camp. Bonfires, s’mores, first crushes, cabin pranks, trumpet wake up calls. At least this is what I envisioned camp to be. As a kid I never went to camp. My dad says he and my mom loved me too much to send me away. Haha. But really my house during the summer months was a camp in itself. Always packed with friends and activities. We would take days trips to the beach and hang out in our backyard treehouse. I can’t say I really missed out on the quintessential camp experience. But when I was given the chance to go, as an adult (with unlimited booze), I just couldn’t say no.
We were in the middle of an ocean cliffs ranger-led tour in Acadia national park, when my 9-year-old chimed in to add to the discussion that baleen whales, attracted to the shores of Bar Harbor each breeding season, can’t eat more than a balloon size amount of food which is why they mostly prefer to eat small fish, plankton, and krill. The ranger replied in delight that he would not only share this correct fact, but do so confidently. I was left in awe that he even knew that.
Later on, he would go on to also share that it was the Wabanake people, not the European settlers, who were the first to settle Mount Desert Island, where the park is located. He had only learned this the day before during a museum visit.
This wouldn’t be the first time I have seen my boys enthusiastically share information with tour guides and others whom we meet in our travels. Yet it was during our time in Italy, and again during our recent trip to Acadia, that I was left convinced that we were ready for homeschooling.