The longer I live in New Jersey, the more I fall in love with all it has to offer. That’s a big change from 6 years ago when living in New York and not thinking much of my neighboring state. It’s been s much fun venturing out in search of new hiking trails and learning more about the area and all the beauty around us.
Our latest venture took us about an hour away to the rolling hills and farmlands of Sussex County. High Point, as the name indicates, is the highest point of New Jersey with a monument standing at the 1,803 feet above sea level marker.
Milan was the very first Italian city I visited 28 years ago. I had visited the country for the Christmas and New Year holidays. I remember how cold it was and often even gray, but I also remember being incredibly impressed by the stylish people, many of whom reminded me of those I saw along 5th Avenue in NYC. I was also really captivated by the architectural beauty of the city, the cobblestone streets reflecting an older time and how it all fit so beautifully with the cosmopolitan flair of the city life. Spending the winter holidays in Northern Italy was a highlight in my life as a young traveler.
On my most recent visit, this time with husband and kids, I only had one full day to share as much as I could with my family, since it was their first time in the city, and reconnect with the city that had so impressed me years ago.
I remember the first time I took my kids to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They were so little and so fast that I questioned my judgement. I am sure that others did as well. Why would anyone in their right mind bring a toddler into a museum with things that can fall and break? Expensive, ancient, irreplaceable things, at that.
What got me there was the family programs they offer. Some museums, like the MoMA, offer their family friendly programs to members on early weekend mornings (before the museum opens to the public), and since we were parents of little ones already awake and ready to go, we thought, why not try it?
Recently, I decided to take my boys out for a day of hiking. There are some short hikes around the reservation near our home here in New Jersey, but I wanted something a bit more challenging, so we headed an hour away to Pennsylvania to explore the trails along the Delaware Water Gap.
It was a gorgeous day, a nice break from the humidity and intense heat we have felt so regularly this summer. The kids and I were in high spirits and we were excited to explore nature. The radio kept playing all our favorite songs and we cracked jokes. There was no traffic and the drive was easy.
Then I spotted it. A pick-up truck had merged in front of me and across its back cabin window was a large sticker that took up almost the entire glass. It was the confederate flag. I felt my body get tense. I honestly don’t know if we had crossed the border into PA yet, it really didn’t matter. I was heading into rural America, alone, with my kids.
As I take on this homeschooling journey with my kids, I am slowly starting to step away from the computer and getting to what we enjoy the most, which is learning through experiences and travel. What I am loving so far, besides my boys’ enthusiasm and ability to go with the flow our days, is that I am getting back to how I started my journey in blogging a few years ago, which is taking noting of the vast local resources available to us to enjoy.
Our latest adventure took us on an 1 1/2 hour drive to the Poconos, by the Delaware Water Gap. My initial plan was to go on a few hikes around Dingmans Falls. We parked near the visitor’s center and did the easy trail through the hemlock forest leading up to the falls. We climbed the stairs to the top and stopped for a light lunch but left feeling like we could do a lot more.
There are so many lessons I try to teach my boys when we travel. Some have to do with travel itself (always carry the essentials with you; stick to drinking water on flying days, and don’t ever be afraid to ask for directions or help). Others have more to do with patience, tolerance, and making the best of every day, especially days of travel. Life can be hard enough without us contributing to it. Travel can be stressful enough without us contributing to it. As a mother and wife, I have had my share of stress, meltdowns, and moments of complete overflow of emotions. And that’s all just coming from me. When it comes to dealing with my kids, or even my husband’s own personalities and “special” moments, it can sometimes be too much to bear.
Before I made my way to Glacier National Park, the oooh’s and ahhh’s and expressed envy from those whom I told about my travels made it clear that I was in for a treat.
Since first setting foot in a national park in 2009, I have yet to find one I didn’t love. But my affection has always been for something different as it is already my experience that all the parks have something uniquely beautiful to offer. Glacier National Park is no exception. The hiking, over 700 miles of it, takes you through waterfalls and cliffs, lush forests and vast plains. The wildlife is everywhere, so it’s always great to be prepared. The diversity of the park, even if just from East to West is so great that it almost feels like you are in two different parks. No photograph can ever do it justice. This was an undiscovered park for me and I was lucky enough to meet some awesome people along the way to show me all the wonderful it had to offer.
This is one of the first years we have been home all summer. We have loved it though at first it was hard.
For my kids the start was bumpy because they suddenly found themselves with not much to do (I also didn’t sign them up for all-summer camp!) and most of their friends had gone away somewhere. The start was a bit bumpy for me too, home all day with two restless boys and tons of work to do. 2 months in we are learning to balance it all and find ways to make the most of summer here in our New Jersey home, which I still feel we take for granted far too often.
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.