If a Millennial travels and doesn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

No, really. We’ve all heard someone say “pics or it didn’t happen” about something. In this age where we carry cameras in our pockets, travel has become a key target, especially among millennials.

I try to take photos whilst traveling to remind myself of the places I saw and the people I met. When I look at the pictures months or years later they really help jog my memory and bring back stories that would have otherwise been buried. I like turning the pages of printed photo albums and remembering that those moments were real.

That said, I’ve tried to take fewer pictures as I’ve explored more. The ocean may not look exactly the same everywhere, but it’s blue and made of water. I don’t need to take 25 shots of the ocean every time I see it. If the weather is particularly unusual or the landscape surrounding the ocean is unique, yes, definitely. Even better if the photo includes people (either people I’ve just met or those I’m traveling with) as that’s when the pictures truly stop time forever: seeing a day, a moment, a person exactly as it was.

With social media, we now see everyone’s photos all the time. Moments don’t stop. They just keep piling up. People are booking vacations just to get a photograph of a particular location because they saw it on Instagram. While it’s great people are exploring more of this beautiful world, it’s not great when travelers aren’t earth-conscious or respectful of others. Ecosystems are suffering from an influx of human activity which they cannot handle. Economies are booming from tourism and yet the residents are still living without basic necessities. All this, just to get a better Instagram photo than someone else?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t travel. But maybe we should put some thought into our goals and reasons for traveling. Posting a cool pic on social media isn’t really well-thought-out criteria for selecting a travel destination (nor the best use of one’s time, in my personal opinion).  What matters to do? Do you have a list somewhere of things you’d like to accomplish and places you’d like to see? Focus on that. Take pictures and don’t worry about posting them on social media. Stop following people whose posts “give you wanderlust” and choose your own adventure. Seriously, unsubscribe. We’re pummeled with messages about the next coolest destination and the most beautiful locations. Let it go. Those do not have to be your adventures.

It is entirely possible to travel to really awesome places without taking the whole world with you in your pocket. You may find you’re able to enjoy it more because you’re more focused on the moment than the perfect filter for the frame. Don’t travel somewhere because everybody else is. Travel if you want to, where you want to, when you want to. Your adventures are real, whether posted on social media or not. Share your life and adventures with people in real life instead of “sharing” with a screen. I guarantee your grandma will love looking at a photo album and hearing your stories and she won’t care whether it’s the most beautiful picture of the Pacific Ocean she’s ever seen. She cares that you enjoyed yourself and your life is richer because you went somewhere new.

Try traveling and not posting all your pictures. You’ll like it, I promise.

No more newsletters

I’ve mentioned my daily email digests a few times before. They’re how I discovered the Saugerties Lighthouse and Isla Mujeres.

They’ve also inspired a super-long list of places that might be nice to go to, but were never on my personal list for any particular reason. Instead, they fueled a wanderlust I didn’t really have. It’s true, I still want to experience everything on this planet, but do I need to experience the same things as everyone else? If someone else already went and showed me the photos, I can go somewhere different. Just because another person went there and said it was life-changing doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for me.

It’s important to carve our own paths in this wide world. It’s important to seek out experiences that speak to us as individuals, not just following a list of ideas from a trusted travel site. It’s important to be true to ourselves without letting fear of missing out drive us to a new experience that doesn’t change our lives.

I’ve unsubscribed to these travel newsletters. I know where to find the sites, should I need a recommendation for a location to which I’ve traveled, but I don’t want a website to tell me where to go next. I want my inner voice to tell me.

On the Go

If you missed the first post in my “wander lost” series, check this post for some back story!

I love exploring new places – this a blog about going places, after all – but I prefer my adventures to have purpose. I’m not talking about necessarily volunteering everywhere I go (voluntourism can actually hurt some areas, but that’s another post). I also don’t want to travel somewhere new just to work, as Travis has often had to do this year. Rather, my purpose in traveling is to gain an experience I wouldn’t have otherwise. But let’s look deeper. Why can’t I have these experiences in my own backyard? And how can I ensure I have them when I travel?

I’ve been on a plane/out of state at least once per month for the last few months. With the exception of our trip to Hawaii, none of the trips were simply to explore a new locale. We did some house-hunting in different states, attended some events, and connected with old friends. What we didn’t do (again, except for Hawaii) was gain a lot of new experiences. Sure, we checked out new restaurants – with the help of Yelp or recommendations from friends. We hiked and biked in new areas – with the help of park and trail websites allowing us to plan our routes ahead of time. But we didn’t hang out with locals, take chances off the beaten path, or try something we’d never tried before. We were simply doing what we enjoy doing with a new backdrop.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but it does make me want to ensure we’re discerning when it comes to places we choose to experience. Hopping a plane to an area similar to ours – suburban, established, close to a large city, commercialized, relatively flat – wouldn’t be our first choice for adventures. If we have to go for work, that’s different, but if it’s our choice, I want to see something new: huge mountains, old trees, desert that extends past the horizon, animals I’ve never heard of. I can’t have THOSE experiences in my backyard because they don’t exist. I can seek them out when I travel, but only to an extent. I can’t create adventure, but I won’t end that with “where there is none” – adventure can always be found. Where we live could be perfectly unusual for someone living somewhere very different, and that’s fine! I think it’s awesome to learn about different ways of living. While working as a nanny in college, I met an Austrian au pair who had never eaten peanut butter because the grocery stores there don’t carry it. I couldn’t imagine a life without peanut butter. She couldn’t imagine why I thought it was so great.

I guess the point is, not every single place in this world is going to excite me. Therefore, I don’t need to go to every single place. The double-edged sword of technology driving travel these days allows me to virtually visit any destination prior to buying a ticket. I won’t see everything, but I can often get enough of a sense (especially in the US) if it’s a destination I’ll find interesting. Can I play outside? Is there fresh produce? Can I have an experience I can’t have where I live? But I don’t think it’s worth my time trying to just check locations off a list. True, without technology, I might want to go more places I’d only heard of once or twice and never bothered researching. But will that truly enrich my life, or has technology allowed me to narrow my focus as to what I really like, so I can cut out the noise and pressure to go somewhere I’m not sold on going?

More to come, as always.

Lake Champlain Sunshine

I’m trying to crank out a few extra posts per day at the moment, and I have lots of photos to share. There are stories behind each. I realized some I’ve shared to Instagram without much backstory. Here’s a photo of the sun lazily hanging above Lake Champlain in September, and the story behind it.

We went to Burlington to find a house. We were also visiting friends and riding bikes, but we wanted to see if it would be a good fit for us to live. We found the perfect house about 35 minutes outside of downtown Burlington, but neither of us managed to secure a job. I’d been scouring job boards for months with no luck, so we weren’t sure whether this was going to work out for us or not.

We still don’t. I wish I had an update on where we think we’ll end up next, but we don’t (yet).

That said, all adventures enrich our lives. Riding our bikes on the causeway out into the middle of Lake Champlain was beautiful and a reminder that, even when it feels like we’re all alone in the world, we have each other. I took this photo after maybe 15 miles or so of riding one afternoon. We watched the sun set after this and – although we didn’t have answers – we had each other.

Suggestion to airlines

We’ve returned from Hawaii! Or, as we dubbed it, Hawa-whee! There was so much to do and experience on the Big Island.

 

Since I’m typing this on my phone (to knock out some of those remaining posts), this won’t get too detailed. But I’ll start with the travel. Sometimes a trip isn’t just about the destination, but the journey. Cliche, I know, but I’ve had some adventurous journeys (flat tires in Arizona? Grabbing beers in London en route home from Israel? Meeting Travis in the woods?) that led to good stories.

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. We had two layovers each way, for a total of about 19hrs travel time. Eek. We flew Delta and I have to give them a huge nod for delivering us on time to every stop – even though our first flight took off 40mins late. Impressive!!

That said, I have one suggestion for airlines in general. Is it possible to have child-friendly and child-free sections on planes? I know first-class already exists, but I’m talking maybe a few rows in economy where you could guarantee you won’t be kicked in the back for 5 hours, or sneezed on, or poked in the arm, or being tripped over by a too-eager kid.

We both experienced some fairly challenging parents on this trip too – the parents were generally worse than the kids. The child who tripped over my backpack was not told by his parents to wait their turn to exit the plane (they were a few rows behind me and as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, he dashed up the aisle). Travis spent hours being kicked by a screaming toddler whose parents completely ignored the child’s behavior. Most infuriating for me was a couple with a sleeping infant. The child was great, but as the parents moved him between one another’s arms, they arranged him with his head lolling over in my direction. I’d been reading the entire flight with the help of my reading light as it was dark. They did not say a word to me, but saw the baby’s face in the light, reached up, and redirected my reading light…into the aisle. Not cool, guys. Seriously, just ask politely first. I would have had no issue accommodating a polite request, but that was totally disrespectful.

So, for the sake of the many types of travelers everywhere, can airlines consider child-friendly and child-free zones? I don’t need the leg room and service in first class, but I would like to be able to read in peace.

 

Thoughts??

One more day in the office

and then we head to the Big Island of Hawaii for ten days. It’s been far too long since I’ve had a big adventure. I have had a tough time focusing in the office this week while daydreaming about living on a volcanic island for the rest of my days.

Wander Lost

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we travel. I love the thrill of getting on a plane and heading off to some faraway place as much as anyone else, but seeing three VERY DIFFERENT friends post the EXACT SAME photo of the EXACT SAME SPOT in Iceland within the past six months has me wondering: what do we get out of traveling now? If you’ve already seen the photo on Instagram and you followed your friend’s Facebook Live tour while they were there, why do YOU  need to go see it too? Are we really traveling more than generations before us did? I think the media wants us to believe that, and I’m not necessarily saying I disagree, because travel is absolutely easier now than ever before, but it’s also very, VERY different. A century ago, authentic travel might have involved a rickety wooden train somewhere in Europe, or a khaki outfit in the African bush, or a very long boat ride to Australia. Your experiences would live within you, probably in your journal, and perhaps only if you were quite fortunate, in photographs. Your friends couldn’t easily click a button and have the same experience two weeks later, as long as their bank accounts approved.

So why do we do it? We say we’re seeking “authentic” experiences, but those are so few and far between now. Is it REALLY authentic if you’re taking the SAME photo as every other visitor? What was this area like before travelers decided it was a worthy destination? Can the environment support the amount of human traffic now passing through?

These are very real questions. There’s a village in Norway that’s become an Instagram destination that can’t handle how many tourists have recently swarmed in. National parks are full of people who drive in (or drive to the top of the mountain), take the same quick snap of the same spot everyone else does, and hop back in the car – or worse, people who’ve never hiked want to get a picture so badly, they head into the wilderness wildly underprepared. I can’t tell you how many people we encountered last weekend who were lost in Harriman State Park, hiking without food, water, shelter, compass, nor any directional sense whatsoever. We aimed them in the right directions, but the sun was setting fast and they had miles to go. Even extremely remote areas like the Colombian Amazon are becoming top destinations.

And yet, as this happens, we know less and less about the world immediately surrounding us. I’ve lived in my condo for nearly a year and just last month, finally saw the inside of my downstair’s neighbor’s place, when he sheepishly asked if I had jumper cables. I don’t event know his last name. In another country I might be able to ignore a fussy baby at a restaurant because I’m preoccupied with an unfamiliar view outside the window, but at home, I would likely be very frustrated a child was interrupting my nice meal. I can meet people once or twice, befriend them on Facebook, and then not even say hello next time we’re in a group setting together.

What is going on? We go on these epic adventures that, if we’re speaking plainly, really aren’t that epic compared to the travels of generations past. We’re going farther faster, but I’m pretty sure American pioneers are 100% more badass than ANY of us catching a plane in yoga pants these days. And then we come home, and go back to work, and complain about our daily life, and how we wish we could travel all the time, and we’re back in our ruts. We’re more hypermobile than ever before, and that’s not a good thing. Our health is suffering as we sit in front of screens and earn our vacations by straining our eyes and flattening our backsides. We get “inspired” to visit certain destinations because someone else went there first. How about we just spin the globe and go where our fingers land? No, that would be too difficult/too time-consuming/not interesting (or Insta-worthy) enough. So what are we getting from traveling?

Lots more on this topic to come.

Why do you travel?

Artistic Overnights in Saugerties, NY

I have a longwinded post about travel and what we seek to find when we leave our homes, but it’s not done yet. I apologize for the lack of posts while I’ve been putting it together. However, I’ve continued to have adventures, so here’s a short recap on our recent weekend in the Catskills – and how you can spend the night in a historic lighthouse AND a work of art in one trip!

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If you’ve read some of my posts before, you know I really like the Saugerties Lighthouse. I first discovered it in an email roundup of the world’s most unique hotels, and although it took me nearly a year to sneak into a last-minute cancellation, I have now made three overnight trips. The peace I feel when walking along the trail to the Lighthouse is enough reason alone to bring me back, but the views – regardless of season – and the warm hospitality of Anna, Patrick, and Cricket really make it worth returning. Last time we went (in November) I had been going through some very difficult emotional events and our weekend at the Lighthouse was the first time in weeks I felt happiness. I’ll write about that another day, but believe me when I say the peacefulness of simply being out on the Hudson can really refresh you, even in the darkest of times. At that point we booked our return trip for May – last weekend.

It was raining hard when we left New Jersey and we ended up pulling into the parking area about ten minutes before the tide was supposed to come back in. Patrick called while we were walking along the trail to ensure we were still planning to check in, and I appreciated him looking out for us. With rain boots and umbrellas we bumbled in the front door and were met by Patrick to check in. Up to the East Room we went to drop our bags, and then back out to get food.

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This time, we didn’t climb the tower to watch the sunset due to the rain and heavy fog – which finally showed me why there’s a lighthouse in the first place – but instead went to the Dutch Ale House for a drink. They had the rare Founder’s Kentucky Barrel Stout on tap which definitely helped us to unwind from the week. Then it was off to  Miss Lucy’s on Partition Street for dinner. We had checked it out for the first time in November and loved the food – local, healthy, hearty. Just what we needed after a long, rainy drive.

While wrapping up our delicious dessert – which is pretty much a requirement if you’re there – we were informed another table bought us a round of drinks. We figured somebody probably thought we looked like we were celebrating a special occasion…until I turned around and saw my former boss – who now lives in Baltimore – with his wife a few tables away. I knew they’d been in the Catskills for their first anniversary last year, but we had no clue we were both going to be in the area, and neither of us live in New York now. Small world!

Travis and  I finished dinner and headed back to the Lighthouse after letting our friends know how to find it. (It’s very easy to find – put “Saugerties Lighthouse” into Waze and it’ll take you right to the parking area. There are also signs all over town. The only reason we let them know was because it was dark and rainy).

We accidentally left the Lighthouse key in my car at first so Travis waited on the porch for me to run back and grab it. I didn’t use my headlamp and instead let the misty moon guide me until I heard rustling on the trail. I flicked on my lamp just in time to see Anna, Patrick, and Cricket approaching.

“I’m so sorry for blinding you!”

“It’s okay. Are you good?” Always calm, Anna made sure I was okay before they continued on their walk home. I grabbed the keys and walked back in the darkness, explaining why I was out there once we were indoors.

“When we saw it was you, we thought, ‘oh, she gets it.’ You really don’t need a light here. And you’ve been here often enough…you know the way,” Anna smiled as I took off my muddy shoes. At the Lighthouse Travis and I got our jackets and a bottle of wine and went out to the porch area to once again enjoy the refreshing stillness that is increasingly difficult to find in today’s fast-paced life.  Our friends met us outside and we enjoyed quiet conversation, catching up on the last year until it was time to sleep and for them to return to their hotel.

Morning followed with delicious French toast prepared by Patrick, Travis and I booked a room for next year, and then it was off to hike at Overlook Mountain. Weather for the afternoon was supposed to be decent but the evening called for thunderstorms and even hail…so we weren’t planning to camp as usual. Patrick let us know to be careful with parking because the lot fills up on the weekends – and it was packed. We waited about 20 minutes for a spot to open up before hitting the trail. The plan was up to the Overlook ruins and then down to Echo Lake – about 10 miles in total. The weather held and the views – including the storm clouds – were beautiful. Next time we’ll likely look into camping at Echo Lake, but we’d want to arrive early – there were many people at the designated camping spots around the lake by the time we got there in the early afternoon. We’ve noticed in the last year especially these outdoor areas where we find peace and quiet are slowly becoming busier and busier…and thus our choice of destination is also becoming less well-known to ensure we still get the respite we seek.

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Since we knew we wouldn’t be camping we had called Opus 40 on the drive up to the Lighthouse to see if we could spend our second night in Saugerties with them. We’d visited last fall on the recommendation of friends who had recently been in the area, and – just as with the Lighthouse – appreciated the stillness and beauty of the environmental sculpture during the troubled times. I’d received an email with an inside tip that they now offered a room in the house Fite built himself on Air B&B. Although Tad and Pat were out of town, they warmly welcomed us, thanks to the caretaker staying for the weekend who would be our host. It was getting dark when we arrived after dinner at Joshua’s in Woodstock (great Mediterranean food and tasty drinks that were perfect after a day of hiking) and all we really wanted was a shower and a bed. Our host greeted us, gave us a tour of the perfectly-rustic area of the house we would have for the night, and left us to wash off and relax. The shower was hot, the bed was soft, and the kitty outside our door was friendly as we sat on the steps and stared at the stones in the moonlight.

I’ve been awoken by rats digging through my bags in the middle of the night before, and I thought I knew what scratching and squeaking like in the night meant when it happened at Opus 40…but to my surprise, the scratching and squeaking were not coming from the floor below us but the window above the bed. I scared the mated pair of cardinals nearly as much as they scared me when I sat up straight and whipped my head to face the source of the sound in the predawn moments. Snuggling back into bed to sleep for more hours I kept thinking how funny the birds were, trying to fly through the window, but instead scrambling on the ledge when their beaks met glass.

When we finally awoke from our hike-induced sleep Travis pulled back the blinds to reveal a perfectly beautiful morning and the centerpiece of Harvey Fite’s environmental sculpture just outside our sliding glass door. I also saw the cardinal pair sitting in the tree right outside our window, occasionally flying back to the window ledge to try again to fly through. We took our time getting the car packed and our host gave us a small tour of the rest of the house too – a very unusual treat indeed. It was quite a privilege to see the sculptures Fite created inside the house he built while hearing stories about his life. After our little tour we wandered the grounds a bit and then headed out to get breakfast before beginning our drive home.

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If you’d like to experience a unique and artistic getaway,  you may need to be patient: the Lighthouse books up often over a year in advance, but you can occasionally catch a last-minute cancellation if you sign up for their email list (which is how I got in). Opus 40 had considerably more availability but has only one room compared with the Lighthouse – and I would wager this best-kept hidden hospitality secret won’t stay that way for long. Those in search of an insider peek of an artist’s world will definitely want to stay here.

Saugerties Lighthouse: (845) 247-0656, www.saugertieslighthouse.com Free to visit the trail and porch area from dawn until dusk year-round, room rates from $225

Opus 40: 845-246-3400, www.opus40.org $10 adults, $7 students, $3 for ages 6-12, 6 and under free. Open seasonally from Memorial Day through October, Thursday through Sunday and holiday Mondays 11am-5pm. Call to schedule an off-season visit or request special event information. Room rates from $200 – book on Air B&B

Sweet Potato Protein Cookies & Why Recipes?

It’s finally here…my first recipe posting! This isn’t a recipe I created – that credit belongs to the Lean Green Bean – but I did make some changes and they are a hit in our house!

 

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First, the obvious: why “wanderings, writings, and recipes?” Shouldn’t I just pick one thing to focus on – whether I’m a travel writer, or a memoirist, or a food blogger? I don’t think so. I think I’m a pretty solid blend of each of these (and more – most notably, musician) and having a little place where I can combine them all and share my ideas with the world sounds pretty awesome to me. It helps me streamline too. Instead of attempting to maintain a separate identity for everything I do, I can filter it all into one outlet. Who knows, maybe somebody will stumble upon Sarah Goes Places looking for a particular recipe and end up with a new adventure in mind. That would be really great, actually. My goal as a music teacher is to inspire a love of music to my students, so I suppose my goal as a writer is to simply inspire. Whether you’re intrigued or appalled by my adventures, want to try my recipes or think they sound way too healthy, or you read one of my musings and think, “me too!”, I hope you leave here inspired in some way.

The second part of the “why” is this: being an active and adventurous health-conscious person is NOT DIFFICULT. I know so many people who struggle to learn how to cook or prepare their own food. I was one of them for many years. Too often my dinners consisted of a frozen veggie burger and a mug of mixed veggies, or a frozen dinner. What’s even *in* those? Eating fresh, simply-prepared foods on my travels got me inspired (there it is again) to do more of it at home. I’ve started working on recipe “formulas” for many dishes to help break down how to throw a healthy meal together quickly, whatever you have on hand. I’m also getting into preparing healthier versions of desserts, protein bars, and energy-packed snacks. As athletes maintaining plant-based diets, getting our nutrients from our food is crucial. Although Travis’s metabolism is much faster than mine, we’re both watching our sugar intake. Preparing our own versions allows us to control exactly what we use to fuel our bodies.

With that out of the way, I give to you: Sweet Potato Protein Cookies!

I saw the recipe thanks to this post on Greatist a couple weeks ago. I bookmarked a couple to add to our protein-snack rotation. Sweet Potato Protein Cookies were an obvious choice: Travis loves every single ingredient on the list, and I liked that they didn’t use any protein powder – it was all from whole ingredients.

My version is slightly different from the original – I left the oats whole and used raisins instead of cranberries to give them a bit more of an “oatmeal raisin” feel. The rest is pretty much the same. ENJOY!

 

Sweet Potato Protein Cookies

Sweet Potato Protein Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3 Tbsp maple syrup (depending on desired level of sweetness - I used about 3 to finish a bottle)
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Instructions

  1. Combine sweet potato, peanut butter and eggs in a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and raisins.
  3. Add oat flour and baking soda and stir to combine.
  4. Scoop onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper - we made 10 cookies.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. I let mine bake just under 12 minutes and they came out perfectly.

Notes

Recipe adapted from The Lean Green Bean