Travel choices: When ethics, community solidarity, and ambition for personal growth collide

But first, let me tell you how spreading ignorance, fear, and misinformation of a place has influenced me personally.

When my husband and I decided to get married, we decided to do so in the Dominican Republic. It is not only a beachy, sunny, beautiful destination, it is also where half my family is from. Because my father owns vacation rentals there, we were able to secure a few beach apartments free of charge for my husband’s family all of which were traveling from Wisconsin and had never been to the island. We were all going to be close to each other and they would never have to navigate the area alone as I would always be around to translate.

We gave everyone a year’s notice to plan their trip and settle their budgets. Almost all of them were excited to come.

Except for one of my husband’s closest relatives. They were unsure about the safety of traveling to a “Third World Country”, a descriptor that no longer applies to the small island, whose technology is the same as that of the U.S. and which leads in comparison to most Latin American countries.

Making the case for the “newbie” blogger

When I started blogging, in 2008, I inadvertently joined a world that I was completely unaware of and unprepared for. What started as a way to talk about my life in NYC with my then toddlers and tween, while also sharing what there was to do here when you visit – specifically targeting my family out-of-state – turned into a step into a digital world I never even knew existed.

I confess, I hadn’t really read a blog. I didn’t know the key players, I didn’t understand this ever-changing landscape, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. All I had in my pocket were the years of working in public relations, an industry which itself hadn’t really caught up with blogging either, and a lot of sudden noise online.

Romantic weekend getaway to the Hamptons, off-season

While sitting here planning and booking our summer escapes, the kids summer camps and activities, and seeking out all the potential available during the summer months, it’s easy to ignore that 1) I am in desperate need of a vacation and 2) there are some really great options now.

For example, the Hamptons is a fabulous escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The warm beaches, the bars and eateries, the activities hosted all throughout this seaside community and its neighboring towns. Things tend to pick up mid-June and continue on well into September.

However, if what you are needing is something more of a quieter escape without the traffic or the crowds, the area delivers that and more during the off-season as well. It’s true that most businesses are seasonal and not open during these months, but that isn’t to say you will have nothing to do.

Finding the best of Jerusalem

I arrived to Jerusalem with eyes wide open with excitement for my first visit to a country I had only heard so much about.

The city itself is very segregated, divided up into 4 quarters (Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian) and I was curious about how this influenced the feel of the city. Would it be unpleasant at times? Would it feel dangerous navigating any one area as a foreigner?

I only had 4 days to spend in Jerusalem, so I made sure leave sleep for when I got home and focus on seeing and learning as much as I could in my short time there. Here are some of the best ways I was able to do that:

The awakening that is Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem, Palestine

I woke up looking forward to my venture into Bethlehem. I had been in Jerusalem for 3 days now and after several walking tours and meetings with state officials, I was looking forward to experiencing something more.

Before visiting Jerusalem, I was very much like the average American traveler and their first time in Israel. I knew about its significance religiously and I knew a lot of the struggles politically. I also knew whatever was already shared online; that it was beautiful and exciting and a wonderful place to visit.

What I didn’t know much about was what laid on the other side, in the West Bank. In fact, what I did know was shaped by American discourse and that narrative told me that this was a place of danger. Terrorism stemmed heavily from these parts, as did the terrorists themselves. In talking to anyone at home about my visit to the West Bank their first question was, “Is it safe?”

Road Tripping in Los Angeles

Driving through Los Angeles means getting stuck in traffic. Unless you plan on staying put in one neighborhood (and why would you?) you might as well prepare yourself for the inevitable.

With every trip I have gotten better at being more patient with what is a true LA experience and reaching out to locals who are great at letting me know about travel times to avoid and expressway to skip all together. But if you do get stuck in traffic, the best thing to do is take a deep breath, find a fun tune, and enjoy the ride.

Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, California

With every trip to Los Angeles, I understand more and more the allure, the affection, and why so many of my East Coast friends and family have escaped to its warmth. This latest trip was extra special because I had my husband and kids with me, something which always makes travel to anywhere more fun.

On my last visit, I was able to connect with a lot of local friends who showed me the best of their neighborhoods. I invite you to check out Los Angeles from a New Yorker’s Point of View for a list of these must-see areas.

On this trip, we had a small list of suggestions, but mainly did a lot of exploring on our own and found a few more gems in the process. Most importantly, on this trip, I got to take part in my favorite activity: hiking.

Coastal Maine escape without the crowds

One of my favorite times to travel anywhere has been during those seasons when, depending on the destination, there isn’t too much going on, the weather might not be exactly what most people want, and not too many families are traveling because of school schedules. 

The Story of an Iranian Refugee: My Sister

The discriminatory and un-American immigration ban set forth by the U.S. President has targeted and impacted many innocent people and has lead to the detention and deportation of families, professionals, students, and other hardworking members of our communities, legal residents and Green Card holders. The ban heavily targets immigrants of Muslim countries.

Though this feel very personal, I did not want to come on here to explain why I have joined protests and supporting groups that are fighting against this bigotry. 

Instead, I wanted to open up the platform for someone else, a former refugee herself, to share her story and the story of many others targeted by this ban.

Travel through Turkey in Photos

I arrived to Istanbul with eyes wide open, eager to learn its history and hear the stories of those I met along the way. I found out almost immediately that the Turkish people are very aware of the preconceptions that they thought I, as an American, might have of them. They wanted to make sure that I walked away from every experience with a deeper understanding of their culture, religions, and people. This made me feel ashamed, and yet grateful for the opportunity they extended to me at every turn. What would follow then would be the welcoming of everyone I would meet, whether it was through the generosity of food or offering of cultural knowledge.

As I wondered around I found people fascinated by the fact that I was from America. I often found myself approached by teens and kids wanting to practice their English with me, locals curious about where I was from. I found this warm reception humbling. I also was embarrassed that we Americans rarely extend this kind of warmth to them in our own country.