Michigan Road-Trip: 8 Places for Summer Adventures!

It’s May!! That means only one month until summer! And summer means travel, even if it’s just around your hometown. That’s why in this post I’m going to guide you around my own state, Michigan. The “Great Lakes State” lends itself quite well to summer exploring, and no matter how much time you’ve spent here, there’s always more to see and discover!

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Chapel Falls trail

Mackinac Area

We’ll start with one of the places Michigan is most famous for: The Mackinac Bridge (and the surrounding area). Similar in style to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, the suspension bridge links Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. On one side lies the popular Mackinaw City, famous for its fudge and ice cream. On the way over the 5-mile bridge, you’ll get to glimpse Mackinac Island. Though I’ve never been there, it is a popular destination for many Michiganders. With no cars allowed on the island, it’s the perfect place to slow down and relax. Reaching the other side, you’ll arrive in the small town of St. Ignace. Though much less popular than Mac. City, it’s also less touristy, giving it a little more authentic small-town-Michigan feel.

Tahquamenon Falls & Paradise

Yes, I said Paradise—it’s the real name of a town! And it’s a town that’s pretty much surrounded by wilderness! Whitefish Point & Lighthouse is worth a drive, and Tahquamenon Falls is a must-see. Gorgeous in all seasons (even winter), Tahquamenon is made up of two waterfalls, one a little way down the river from the other. There are viewing platforms at each of the falls, and a nice trail connecting them.

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Pictured Rocks

Another of Michigan’s prized possessions, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is named for its colorfully striped cliffs spanning 15 miles of Lake Superior’s southern shoreline. We went on a guided kayak trip along the rocks and were able to get so close that we could touch them. Over the course of the day we squeezed through small crevices formed by boulders, and paddled under archways and overhangs. It was incredible (even though it was drizzling the whole time!). You can also take other types of boat tours, usually half-day or full day. And after seeing Pictured Rocks, don’t miss out on the great hiking trails in the area, my favorite being Chapel Falls trail, a short ways east of Munising.

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Marquette & Presque Isle Park

A short ways west of Munising and Pictured Rocks, Marquette is the perfect spot for lunch…and cliff jumping! About a year ago, I thought it would be fun to go cliff diving (typical me), so I started researching places to go in Michigan. Presque Isle Park (just outside of Marquette) seemed to come up a lot, so I decided to check it out! Commonly known as “Black Rocks” for the unusual black rocky shoreline, this is one of the most popular spots for cliff jumping in Michigan. The drop is only about 15 feet, and the water is a welcoming turquoise color, but be prepared for the cold! Lake Superior is chilly! So after you dry off in a towel, you might want to find a cozy restaurant or coffee shop downtown Marquette to get warm.

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Canyon Falls

Well, last summer, this became one of my favorite places in Michigan! I could have stayed there all day! This small roadside park southwest of Marquette has more in store for you than what meets the eye. Walking along the gorgeous trail, we couldn’t actually find the jumping spot until I talked to some kids hammocking in the trees nearby a waterfall. They told me where to jump, I trusted them, and then stepped off the 25 foot cliff (after watching another guy do it once)! It was the most incredible feeling, and I’m not exaggerating. But when you hit the water you don’t have much of a chance to think about it before you get swept away by the current. I think swimming to and climbing up the rope ladder was the scariest part!

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Petoskey, Charlevoix & Traverse City

Yes, I know this technically counts as three places, but depending on your time and interest in cute towns, you might only stop at one or two. Petoskey is the smallest of the three, with Charlevoix second, and Traverse City as the biggest. You can find great restaurants, shops, and nice waterfronts with trails and parks at all three. Great places to stop for an afternoon of shopping and dinner.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

I haven’t been here since I was little, but I am hoping to drive up sometime this summer. Because let me tell you—sand dunes are fun. Very fun. Whether you just look at them, take pictures, or run down them, I assure you the trip is worth it. All along the Lake Michigan coastline you will find gorgeous dunes, but Sleeping Bear Dunes is special. It, like Pictured Rocks, is considered a “National Lakeshore” for its spectacular nature. Much bigger and much steeper than most other dunes, it’s quite a chore to climb up!

White Lake!

Spending a great deal of time here, I have many suggestions for things to see and do! We’ll start off with our beautiful and beloved White Lake itself. At one end of the 6-mile lake, you’ll find a nice river that you can explore with a kayak or paddleboard, available for rent at Waterdog Outfitters. One of my favorite things to do is pull up in your kayak to Dog ‘N Suds, a drive-in style restaurant famous for its root beer floats. Then you can enjoy your treat all the way up the river! For exploring the lake itself, you might want to rent a boat at Duneshore Boating! At the other end of the lake, a channel leads out to “The Big Lake,” or Lake Michigan. The coastline of Lake Michigan stretches for miles on either side of the pier, and is the perfect spot for a nice long beach walk at sunset, or a day of chilling in the sand. If you don’t take a dip, it could even be mistaken for the ocean. However, it’s usually much chillier than your typical Florida beach, so if you jump in, be prepared to get a little cold!

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Kayaking and paddleboarding on the White River

 

 

There are two little towns in the area, each on different sides of the lake, Montague and Whitehall. It won’t take long to explore their downtowns, as they are both quite small! There is a nice bike trail running through the towns, and you can rent bikes at the same place you get your kayak! There are also multiple parks and trails to hike. Clear Springs Nature Preserve, Duck Lake State Park (also a great beach spot for families), and Meinert Park are some of my favorites. If you venture a little ways south along the coastline, you’ll find the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex. I know “winter” is in the name, but they also offer various summer activities, ranging from their summer luge to archery, to a zip line course (currently still in planning stages). While you’re there you can explore Muskegon State Park, or even go camping!

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Lake Michigan Sunset

Well, there you have it: my suggested itinerary for a Michigan road-trip! I’ve listed the travel times to get from place to place below (taken from Google Maps). You can do this trip in as short as a 4 day weekend, but 6 or more days is best to enjoy each place a little longer! Last summer, my family and I went on a very similar trip and found nice campgrounds to stay at all over northern Michigan. There are also hotels available in the towns if you’re not into camping!

Mackinaw City – Paradise: 1hr 22min

Paradise – Munising/Pictured Rocks: 1hr 49min

Munising – Marquette: 48min

Marquette – Canyon Falls: 1hr 8min

Canyon Falls – Petoskey: 4hr 43min

Petoskey – Charlevoix: 24min

Charlevoix – Traverse City: 1hr 4min

Traverse City – Sleeping Bear Dunes: 34min

Sleeping Bear Dunes – White Lake: 2hr 11min

 

Travel Inspiration – 6 Travel Bloggers and Vloggers You Need to Be Following

At this time of year, many of us are sick of the cold weather, and if you’re anything like me, you can’t stop dreaming about some far-off destination. Wishing that instead of putting up with the rain and cold weather, you were climbing volcanoes in Central America or exploring ancient temples in Southeast Asia! This is where travel bloggers/vloggers come in to save us, and make us feel as if we’re actually exploring the far reaches of the planet ourselves, and ultimately help us make it through the last couple months of cold! But beware, there is a high chance that you’ll get sucked in to exploring the world on your computer, and find yourself a couple hours later, still scrolling blog posts and watching YouTube videos. But oh well, it happens.

Bloggers:

Nomadic Matt—Ranked the top travel blog in the world, this blog is everything an aspiring travel writer hopes to be. Matt, the author of the blog, has been traveling the world for the past ten years and counting. Aside from his blog, he’s written best-seller, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, which I’ve read and would recommend to anyone planning on taking a trip. On his blog, Matt offers endless helpful tips and how-to’s, as well as guides to many different countries and cities around the world. The other great thing is that you can shoot him an email if you have any questions (regarding trip planning, writing, overcoming fears, anything). I’ve emailed him in the past and he’s been very supportive and helpful!

Be My Travel Muse—This blog, run by solo female traveler Kristin Addis, is a great place to find inspiration! Literally just click on one of the countries on her map and start reading about it! She writes about off-the-beaten-track destinations, and usually spends a good deal of time in each place in order to get to know the culture and people better. I just finished reading her book about backpacking in Southeast Asia, called A Thousand New Beginnings, and absolutely loved it. She also wrote Conquering Mountains: The Guide to Solo Female Travel, which is next on my reading list.

Expert Vagabond—This blog by another Matt, is actually quite similar to Nomadic Matt’s site. He offers great travel tips, from saving money before you go to packing guides, as well as advice on starting your own blog (which I found incredibly helpful), and posts about all the different places he’s been.

Vloggers:

Hey Nadine—Nadine is a solo female traveler who makes great videos of her travels, as well as packing tips, advice for fellow solo female travelers, and sometimes collaborations with other vloggers! She has a beautiful website as well as a YouTube channel. Her personality is great—she’s super positive, energetic, and funny—and I’m sure you will love her.

Fun For Louis—This YouTuber makes DAILY vlogs of his adventures while traveling the world! He makes them quite funny, while at the same time informative. He’s often with his girlfriend, Raya, who has her own channel as well, Raya Was Here, so be sure to stop by there, too! They are a really fun traveling couple (hence the name FUN for Louis), and you can be transported almost anywhere you want just by watching their videos! Also go check out his Insta, @funforlouis to see some great travel photos!

Sailing La Vagabonde—Now this isn’t your typical travel vlogging couple, but if you dream of hopping on a boat and sailing around the world, this is the channel for you. The adorable Aussie couple, Elayna and Riley, have set out to circumnavigate the globe on their sailboat, named La Vagabonde. Elayna narrates most of the vlogs, and they document their travels to gorgeous destinations, as well as just their daily life onboard La Vagabonde.

I also want to mention some of the travel photographers/videographers you might want to check out on YouTube. These guys make some incredible videos and vlogs that I promise will inspire you to go have an adventure of your own! Rob Strok, Sam Kolder, Nainoa Langer, Sam Evans, and Thomas Alex Norman.

Exploring Close to Home: To Travel, You Don’t Always Need to Go Far

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If you’re itching to get out and have an adventure, take some nice pictures, and have fun, but don’t have the time or money to hop on a plane to some exotic destination, just look to your own backyard! There are likely plenty of parks or cities nearby that you haven’t had a chance to explore, or maybe ones that you have, but still provide a good change of scenery. Trust me, there are ways to travel without going far from home!

You might have heard the term, “be a tourist in your own town” before, and thought, ‘How could I possibly find anything new to do in the same town I’ve lived in my whole life?’. Well, you probably can. I’m serious, get online and look up things to do in your area, or check out your town’s tourism website and just find something that sounds interesting. Then all you have to do is get out a map and go there!

Another thing to do is to just start driving. Grab a camera and hop in the car. You can either look at a map to find a nearby park or don’t–just drive. Maybe it sounds crazy, but even if you just take a road you don’t normally go on, you might find a great place to explore.

A couple weekends ago, my friend Anna, and I wanted to go take a hike somewhere, so we hopped in the car with my parents (and dog) to go out to the dunes at Meinert Park. Once we found the trail (which took a little looking), we set off hiking. It was freezing and very windy, but we still had a lot of fun. Anna and I immediately ran up to the highest dune to look out at the lake and take pictures. When my parents decided to head back to the car, we thought we would find a different way to get back! So we ran all the way down the dunes to the beach–and that little decision was what started what will forever be known as “the adventure.”

Once we got to the beach we realized we would have to find a place to cross the little river running between the lake and where our car was. We looked for places to get across as we slipped and fell on the invisible ice covering the sand, but every spot was just a little too far to jump! So Plan A was shot. Plan B was to climb onto the partially broken bridge a ways back from the lake, hoping that it wasn’t as bad as it looked. It was. And soon we were stuck climbing the same dune we had run down just 20 minutes before. It might sound like a bad turn of events, but really, that was what made it fun! We got to the car eventually after an extra mile or two of hiking, where we continued to laugh most of the way home while telling my parents what had happened.

If you have a little more time, say a weekend, find an interesting city/town an hour or two (or three or four if you want) away and book a hotel room. Or, for a more affordable and adventurous option, pack up your camping gear and pitch tent at a park campground. You can have a mini road trip!

Last summer I convinced my parents to take a short trip up to the U.P. to go camping and cliff diving. We spend a weekend where we kayaked along Pictured Rocks, hiked to numerous waterfalls, and of course, jumped off a couple cliffs! It was great!

 

No matter your budget or amount of time off, there is an adventure to be had! Don’t let the “travel is expensive” myth slow you down, and definitely don’t think you don’t have the time–just an hour or two one weekend can help clear your mind and partially fill that desire to travel!

Live Like the Locals: 3 Ways to Get to Know Your Destination Better

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Over the days we spent on the small island of Exuma, we met a variety of locals who helped us see further into the lives of the people living there. I fully believe that the only way to really get to know a place is to live like the locals as much as you can! Go to the same restaurants and bars as them. Go to the same local events as them. And most of all, talk to them!

Restaurants and bars

Upon arriving in Exuma, we began to hear two names tossed around quite a bit: Fish Fry and Chat N’ Chill. Both were pretty catchy and fun sounding names, so we decided to give ’em a try. Fish Fry ended up being one of our go-to places for grabbing a bite, and Chat N’ Chill made for one relaxing, or should I say “chill” afternoon! The latter was more of a tourist destination, with far less local/tourist interaction than Fish Fry. We did engage in a nice conversation with the water taxi driver on our way to Chat N’ Chill, as we were the only passengers in the boat!

 

Fish Fry was a little rougher around the edges, and on each of the multiple times we came, we encountered a different friendly Bahamian. The first person was Cat…or “key-at,” which is how it sounded to us. It took him actually spelling out C-A-T for us to understand! He paints signs for resorts, restaurants, and shops around the island. My favorite part of our conversation happened when Aunt Liz spotted a rat, and Cat says, “Oh, that’s just Mickey.” Upon which we looked at him strangely, asking if Mickey visited the bar often. (Which he evidently did!) We also talked to Buzzy, a locally-famous sailor who won the sailing regatta we watched. At a downtown hotel, Peace N’ Plenty, we chatted with the owner, Doc, who had worked there for 30 or 40 years. And these are just a few of the extremely welcoming people we met.

Local events

When you go to local restaurants and bars, you hear about local events! Even just going to the grocery store you might find a bulletin board where flyers advertising events are hung up. These events are great ways to experience the local culture, and besides meeting locals, you can meet fellow travelers!

There were two events that we went to on our trip: the New Year’s Eve party at a casual resort, and the Bull Reg Regatta at Fish Fry. The New Year’s party was open to tourists and locals, and there was a good mix of the two. We even saw my dive instructor Jonathon there! I also got pulled into dancing with a group of twenty-something-aged tourists from different cities in the U.S. who had most likely mistaken me for being a bit older. At the regatta, we talked to multiple people, and learned more about sailing and racing in the Bahamas

 

Talk! Chat! Engage in a conversation with a local!

This, above all, is the best way to get to know a place. Whether you’re standing in line at the grocery store, having some food and drinks at a local bar, or just walking around the streets, you can be sure there will be an opportunity to chat it up with a local. And chances are they will be happy to talk to you, so don’t think that your tourist status changes anything! And in addition to the insights into local culture, you will gain information and recommendations about places to eat, events, and things to do while you’re there! Talking to locals completes the circle: you first talk to someone and get a recommendation, then you go to that bar/restaurant that they recommended, where you talk to another local and hear about an event, then you go there and talk to yet another local, and hear about yet another bar! It works great and is the best way to get immersed in local life.

Sailing the Bahamian Way: Ridin’ the Pry

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On the very first day we went out on the dive boat with Dive Exuma, I noticed the beautifully painted wooden sailboats that were moored near the dock by the dive shop. They were definitely racing boats, with their names streaked across the hulls. When Jonathon, my instructor, saw us admiring them, he told us about the upcoming Bull Reg Regatta, an annual sailing race that was going to take place in a few days. We learned about “ridin’ the pry,” which refers to the outrigger boards for the crew to sit on to keep the boats from tipping over. It was like hiking out on steroids. We immediately decided we wanted to go watch the races, and he told us that Fish Fry was the best place to watch. Fish Fry was a local hangout made up of colorful shacks, all bars and restaurants, located along the shore a ways up the road from town. We had already heard the name thrown around a bit in the few days we had been there, so we figured it was a pretty happening place.

A few days later, the morning of the regatta, we decided to go down to one of the shacks that served as the hub for sailors on the island. The race was advertised to start at 9, so we came down around 10, expecting that 9 meant about 10 in Bahamian time! There were no boats racing, so we chatted with a few locals to find out what was going on with the regatta. We found out it was postponed until the next day, in hopes that the currently-howling winds would calm down a bit. 

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One of the bars at Fish Fry

We came back the next day to find that the races were on! Locals gathered at the shack pictured above, chatting and drinking beers at 10 in the morning, and waiting for the races to start. The start–wow! The one minute horn went off, and the eight or so boats were still sitting anchored with sails un-hoisted! Aren’t they going to get ready? The race is about to start! I was thinking. But then, when the horn blasted to signal the start of the race, bam! Within 5-10 seconds, all of the boats had their anchors up, sails up, and were racing! I couldn’t believe how fast they got moving! And when they did, we found out just how big of a thing sailing was in the Bahamas. The locals were about as bad as Americans watching football! They were pointing out the window of the open air bar, yelling “red boat!” and “Long Island boat!” …And that was about all we could understand through their thick Bahamian accent and the fact that there were about 6 people talking over each other. I had no idea how they could even see what boat was ahead, let alone which boat it was (if it was the red boat or the blue boat, etc.), since by then they had sailed far from shore, and all you could see was their graceful white sails. When they came around the mark close to shore, we were able to see better, and watched as the crew scrambled out onto the pry. It looked incredibly fun! Buzzy, the son of Bull Reg, who the regatta is named after, won the races. 

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On our third to last day on the island, we came back to Fish Fry (which by then was our 4th or 5th time there), and tried to find a sailor to take me out as crew. My dad and I were talking to some men, and we asked if Buzzy was around. They all started laughing, and soon we figured out that we were talking to Buzzy himself! He told us he had to put his two boats on a barge the next day to take them to Nassau for another regatta, so he might not have a boat to take me out on. We said we’d meet him down at the dock after our dive that day, but when we got back the barge was already there and they were getting ready to load the boats. So, I never got to sail, but that’s just one more reason for me to come back again!

5 Reasons Why You Should Learn to Scuba Dive

It’s fun! – Learning to dive was definately one of the best experiences of my life! I’ve been snorkeling ever since I was a little kid, and I absoulutely love it. I’ve wanted to try diving for a while now, and I was always certain I would love it even more than snorkeling – and I was right! If you like swimming or snorkeling, diving will be twice as fun! It might be a little weird or scary when you first breathe underwater, but I quickly got used to it. By the second dive, everything just clicked and it was amazingly relaxing and easy!

You’ll learn something – I used PADI’s eLearning program to do the classroom portion of the course, as well as Dive Exuma (the island’s local dive shop) to do my required dives to become a certified Open Water Diver. The only surprise was how much classroom work I had to do on eLearning! You had to learn a bit of the science and technical part of diving, understanding the pressure increase as you dive deeper, and using a dive table to plan your dive time & depth. It was pretty interesting stuff! I am glad that I had to learn it because it made me appreciate diving even more.

You will get to see a completely different world underwater – My favorite animals have always been sea animals (dolphins and turtles). Diving in the Bahamas let us get close to sea turtles, sharks, and various species of beautiful fish and corals. Unfortunately, no dolphins. The shark dive we did was at a reef about an hour long boat ride from Exuma to a spot off the shore of Long Island. And it was incredible! We descended to a sandy bottom about 40 feet below the surface, and were immediately encircled by reef sharks. They weren’t scary at all, and were quite small, only about 6-8 feet, and as my instructor Johnathon encouragingly said beforehand, “If they bite you, you’ll survive. You’ll just have a big scar!” We also visited 2 blue holes (one diving, one snorkeling), which are quite literally just big holes in the sea floor. They are like caves, with circular openings and steep walls. Some are deeper than others, for example the Angelfish Bluehole that we visited with the dive group was about 90 feet deep, with the surrounding sea floor only about 25-30 feet. There are so many things underwater that you just can’t experience without scuba diving, and for me, that alone is why I wanted to learn.

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It opens up job and travel opportunities – I (obviously) want to travel when I’m older! Even before learning to dive, I fantasized about being a dive instructor at different locations around the world, spending every day underwater. And besides teaching, there are tons of cool group dive travel opportunities as well! You can find fellow divers on PADI’s ScubaEarth website and go on dive trips to places all over the world, with divers from all over the world! Just in the few days we spent with Dive Exuma, I met two divers from Austria, one from France, and two snorkelers from Italy!

You can help protect our oceans – When I went to the Grenadines two years ago, the coral there was not in great condition. Most of the corals were “bleached,” where the color is gone and it appears dead. It was really sad because it didn’t used to be like that! You can read more about coral bleaching here: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html  Being a diver, you can get involved in marine conservation projects to study the damage being done, as well as play a part in working to reverse the direction that our oceans are going in. Debris is also a big problem, and as a diver, you can help by picking up trash and other objects, or by checking out organizations like Project AWARE, an organization that teams up with PADI to clean up our oceans. Visit them at http://www.projectaware.org/

 

 

We Found a Haitian Shipwreck!!

New Year’s Day, 2017 was a day of unexpected discoveries! That morning, my mom and I were trying not to step on any snails living in the tidepools of the rocky shoreline by our adorable pink house in Exuma, when we saw a backpack full of clothes. Shrugging it off as nothing interesting, we kept walking. But then we found another backpack. And another! Up farther we could see a deflated grey dinghy with yet more clothes and backpacks strewn around it. There were lifejackets, some of them ripped and stuck in the branches of little shrubs, as wells as dozens of packages of crackers. We realized we had stumbled upon a shipwreck! At this point we were looking for people, or bodies even, thinking that if the people in the wreck were alive they would’ve collected their stuff, not left it for some tourist to find on a morning beach walk.

We continued to explore the shoreline, and found a total of around 10 backpacks! One of the backpacks was full of a young girl’s clothing, with jeans in a size much smaller than my own. There were packages of crackers, packets of water, toothbrushes and other toiletries, and the thing that really helped us piece things together—a book called “Parle Anglais Rapidement,” or “Learn English Fast.” We already suspected this wreck was from either Haitian or Cuban refugees, going off the contents of their packs and the small size of their boat, but this little book showed us that whoever was on this boat spoke French, meaning we were probably looking at a Haitian shipwreck! Inside the soggy book there was a picture of three women that had been transferred like a temporary tattoo onto one of the pages. The whole thing then became kind of eerie to look at, as we wondered if they had died at sea or if they made it to shore and their stuff washed up later.

The next thing we found confirmed it all. After searching each pack for some sort of identification, Aunt Liz was the one to finally find a wallet inside one of the backpacks! Just as we thought, it contained a couple of ID’s proving that they were Haitian. There were some other papers in the wallet as well, but even with our limited knowledge of French, we couldn’t quite tell what they said. So we rushed back to the house to tell the others and get out Google Translate. We determined one document was a “declaration of loss,” which we weren’t sure was a death certificate, a missing persons document, or what. My dad and Aunt Carol wanted to see the wreck too, so I went back with them to look at it again. This time I walked a little farther from shore and found a second wallet! Again containing a Haitian ID, as well as Haitian, Bahamian, and American money. I yelled to my dad to come look, and together we walked farther from shore and found a little road. Along the dirt road my dad found another backpack and a Bible (written in French), and I found a big plastic cooler with silverware, twine, tape, and other supplies in it. On the beach in the other direction from our house, there sat small sailboat that was also full of clothes. We found that a couple days ago, but simply thought it had wrecked in the hurricane that came through a couple months ago. We weren’t sure if the Haitians had come in the dinghy or the sailboat, but either way, the boats were far too small to fit 10 people comfortably. The more we found the sadder it became, trying to imagine how desperate these Haitians must have been to risk their lives trying to make it to another country in a boat suited for only about 4 people!

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Back at the house, we called the police, but since it was New Year’s Day, they didn’t answer. Onike (the house rental lady) said they were probably recovering from a hangover from the previous night! The next day, after still not hearing from the police, we met our neighbors, who had just moved in to a different rental house down the beach (in the other direction). We mentioned finding the wreck, and told them how the police never did come. But they did…or tried to. And they scared the bejesus out of our neighbors! Our new neighbors told us how men in military uniforms, with army boots and guns over their shoulders came to their house the previous night—yes, at night, in the dark! The family asked if they could help them with something, and in all serious tones, the men replied that they were looking for a cottage called Sophia’s Rest. Of course, since that is our cottage, our neighbors replied they didn’t know of a Sophia’s Rest, and the men went away. The road between our cottage and our neighbors’ had been washed out in the hurricane, so that made it slightly harder to get there, accounting in part for the police’s mishap.

After meeting our neighbors that morning, we went to the police station to drop off the wallets and give them directions to the right house. They must have come to our house when we weren’t there, because after that we didn’t hear any more about the investigation. We did find a business card for a Haitian minister, and we are thinking about emailing him. We take for granted the freedoms we have and the comfortable lives we live, and often forget how lucky we are in comparison to people like those Haitians that risked their lives to get out of their country.

Some Do’s and Don’ts of Trip Planning

Planning for this trip to the Exumas, an island chain in the Bahamas, has been quite crazy experience. It started a few months ago when I decided I wanted to learn to scuba dive. I’m not really sure how I got this idea in my head, but anyhow, I started researching places to go. My parents had dived in Bonaire before, so I began my search there. I had found hotels, dive shops, and other things to do on the island, and I was super excited! And then I checked the flights. There’s my first “don’t.” Don’t get your heart set on a destination and waste your time finding hotels and such before you check for flights! At the very least, do a quick scan for flights on the rough dates you’re thinking of traveling just to see if prices and flight times are good. This was not the case for me. Bonaire is relatively far away so travel times were long, and apparently it’s pretty expensive to fly there!

I continued to search for a destination, changing from Guadeloupe to Turks and Caicos to St. Maarten, and back again, and that’s just naming a few. There are a lot of things to consider when planning a trip somewhere—flight dates and times, prices, accommodations, how touristy is it there? are there interesting things to do? etc. And for planning a dive vacation there were even more—dive shops, condition of the reefs, is there shore diving available? and on and on. One thing to keep in mind is there is no perfect place! There are pros and cons to every destination and it is simply up to you to know your priorities and go from there.

Another thing: you never know what can happen between the time you book your flights to the time you actually get on the plane. I learned this the hard way. After finally deciding on the Exumas, booking the flights, booking the rental house, signing up with the dive shop…hurricane Matthew hit. Of course with our luck, the storm came from an unusual direction, and aimed itself right at our house in Exuma! We watched on the news as it came through, waiting for the island to regain power so that we could call to see if they were okay. When we did manage to contact the property rental people, they told us it would be unlikely that the house would be fixed in time. So suddenly we were back to square one!

For about a week we went back over our other options, and began to get really excited again about one of them, Turks and Caicos. And then the property company called us back! They said that they inspected the house and that it will be ready by the time we get there! At this point, we weren’t sure whether this news was good news or bad, because now we couldn’t use our flight insurance to refund our tickets to Exuma, and we had just gotten excited about Turks and Caicos!

In the end (after checking with the dive shop to make sure that wasn’t damaged beyond repair), we kept our flights to Exuma, and are hoping for the best. So in conclusion: Don’t get ahead of yourself. Do roughly check for flights early on in the planning process. Don’t get too frustrated when trying to find a destination, since there are always going to be downsides. Do be prepared for the unexpected, and don’t let something like a little hurricane ruin your trip!

 

Update: Because there is limited Wi-Fi here, I was not able to post this until a couple days into our trip. So, I’ll just end your curiosity about how things are going—it is great! The house is in pretty good condition and we are having lots of fun!! Be sure to check back later for some stories from beautiful Exuma!

Why People Love to Travel

Traveling is a concept that has been around for a very long time. If you think about it, most of our ancestors were travelers. Like us, they felt the need to do something new, to explore, and lucky for them, there was a whole “new world” just across the ocean! They packed their bags and set sail on an adventure that would completely change their lives.

So here we are today, wanting to do the exact same thing. Well, minus the part about pilgriming to a “new world.” But we do find ourselves feeling the need to explore and travel to places that we’ve never been. Maybe this history of travel has been embedded in our genetic makeup, maybe not. But either way, we humans love to travel.

Curiosity

Humans are naturally curious! It often gets boring to do the exact same thing every day, at your job, or at school. We are intrigued by things that we don’t know anything about. It might just be me, but exploring a place that no one else has ever been to, sounds like one of the best adventures possible! That desire to experience something that few people have, is part of what makes me want to travel. Being curious about what’s out there is a huge reason that people are drawn to traveling. And it’s a good thing! It’s good to be curious and to want to get to know the planet you live on.

Learning

Curiosity and desire to learn are two very similar things. We want to learn new things because we are curious! Learning about other cultures is incredibly important to developing a broad view of the world. My parents, having sailed around the world, met people from many different cultures, and learned about their way of life, sometimes a little of their language, and about their traditions. These learning experiences are part of what makes travel appealing.

Challenge

Many of us like a challenge in our lives. Usually, things are challenging at the beginning, and then become easier. Once that something becomes too easy, it becomes boring, and we crave a new challenge. Traveling offers a lot of different challenges, most of which I have yet to encounter, but because of the nature of travel, almost every day brings a new challenge of some sort. This lifestyle of unexpected situations teaches you a lot, both about yourself and about whatever challenge you’re encountering, and people love it!

Catching the Travel Bug

For the most part, people want to travel because of different, personal reasons—many because they’re sick of their job, they just finished a chapter of their lives, or maybe because they just read an article about a place that seemed interesting to them. All these reasons, and many more, are what start people on their travels. But more often than not, whatever reason you had at the beginning of your trip tends to fade away a bit, and then turns into what we call a “travel bug.”

This means that you are now hooked on traveling! I got this “bug” about a year or two ago, even without much travel experience. I started reading a few travel blogs, planning imaginary trips, and mapping out places I wanted to go. I began to add “stars” to Google Maps on my phone, to mark different destinations I want to travel to. Now, that map is covered with stars, and I have learned to accept the fact that I simply want to travel EVERYWHERE!