So…this is awkward.

Is anyone even out there anymore? Or did you all just disappear like I did?

Sorry to leave you hanging…that was wrong. I just wasn’t really sure what the heck I was doing for awhile. But all that has changed!

I’ve decided to close the Near and Viajar chapter of my life and start something new. I’ll keep all of my digital travel memories up here of course, but I won’t be updating this blog anymore.

If you’re still around, thanks for waiting. Feel free to start following along again over at my new blog, Raising The Barre.

Why We Travel

Can everyone just take a few minutes out of their day and read this article?

Generally speaking, I feel like I adjusted back to my pre-travel life fairly quickly after I returned from studying abroad. Maybe it was because I was in college and my life was still changing at a relatively constant rate. I had new classes and roommates every few months, new concepts to grasp each day, and long breaks from school to refresh and recharge. I suppose I didn’t realize it at the time but in a way, I was still traveling. My physical journey had just been replaced by a mental one.

Then I spent another year abroad and was constantly being exposed to something new and different every single day. New languages and cultural norms. New food, new friends, new experiences. I could practically feel my mind expanding.

And here I sit, more than six months after returning from one of the greatest adventures of my life, and I can’t help but feel as though I’ve fallen into a rut. I’m restless and I can’t stop thinking about traveling. I wake up at the same time every day, eat the same thing for breakfast, drive the same route to work, sit at the same desk, blah blah blah. Being the type of peson that absolutely thrives on change, the minute my life becomes even the least bit routine, my brain goes straight into “auto pilot” mode. I’ve been fighting an internal battle for too long now, telling myself I can’t write anymore because I’m not creative and I can’t find inspiration like I used to. That being said, you can imagine my relief after reading the article mentioned above. There’s actually some scientific evidence to help explain this feeling of being stuck-in-a-rut. Of course, nothing in the article actually came as a shock to me. I already knew why travel was so beneficial and why my mind, body and soul craved it. I knew why I traveled…but it’s not just me…it’s we.

A few excerpts:

“When we escape from the place we spend most of our time, the mind is suddenly made aware of all those errant ideas we’d suppressed.”

“The larger lesson is that our thoughts are shackled by the familiar. The brain is a neural tangle of near-infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. As a result, creativity is traded away for efficiency; we think in literal prose, not symbolist poetry. A bit of distance, however, helps loosen the chains of cognition, making it easier to see something new in the old; the mundane is grasped from a slightly more abstract perspective.”

Seriously, read this article.

 

 

Greek Salad Pita

Pretty sure this is what my lunch is going to look like every day this week:

This pita sandwich came together in a snap since many of the ingredients are already staples in my refrigerator. It also made the perfect post-gym snack this afternoon. It tastes extremely light and fresh, but packs some serious staying power-I can tell I’m going to be full for hours!

All I did was toss romaine lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes in lemon juice with a few dashes of pepper. Then, I spread roasted garlic hummus (my fav!) over a whole wheat pita, topped with quinoa, added the salad mixture and sprinkled with feta cheese. It was that easy.

The Kalamata Olive Hummus from Trader Joe’s would also be kickin’ in this. Try it!

Greek Salad Pita

1 whole wheat pita

4 T hummus

1/4 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup of romaine lettuce

2 T each diced tomatoes and cucumber

1/2 ounce of feta

lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Toss lettuce with lemon juice, salt and pepper according to taste. Layer hummus and quinoa on the pita, add salad mixture and sprinkle with feta cheese.  Fold, eat, enjoy!

A Trip Down Memory Lane.

I have vivid recollections of escaping the schoolyard with my fellow auxiliar during the breakfast breaks at the school where we were teaching. Those precious 30 minutes were never wasted. We used this time to properly prepare ourselves for the rest of the day (read: CAFFEINE) and share the ridiculous stories we had from teaching our first period class. Believe me, there were always plenty.

We would jam ourselves into a tiny cafe full of older women and men and usually a few construction workers. We were always the only non-natives, and even though we were “regulars”, the patrons always stared at us as if we had three eyeballs or a rare deformity. Once we found a spot, the same waitress would come over and take our order. For 10 months, our order never changed, but for 10 months we replayed the exact same scene, over and over, like clockwork. My friend and I would laugh to ourselves and wonder why she didn’t just bring us our usual order (like she did to the regular Spanish customers), but we always played along and began to count on this exchange as a constant in our foreign lives. A rarity, to say the least.

“Que te pongo?” (Sort of like saying What do you want? only always sounding more like a passive statement rather than a question).

“Dos cafes con leche y dos pitufos con tomate y aceite.” (Two coffees and two tomato and olive oil sandwiches).

Oh yes, two pieces of a toasted baguette, drizzled (sometimes soaked) in olive oil, topped with slices of juicy tomatoes and sprinkled liberally with salt. Occasionally eaten sandwich-style and at times eaten separately to make it last longer.

After realizing I hadn’t had olive oil and salt for breakfast in over six months, I decided to recreate a favorite staple from my Mediterranean diet at home this weekend. Of course, it wasn’t quite the same, but it definitely brought me back…if only for a little while.

Unlimited Vacation Days

I read this article today and, try as I might, just can’t seem to get it out of my head.  It’s about this company called Red Frog Events (ever heard of the Warrior Dash?  It appears they are the brains behind it…) and how their employees are allowed unlimited vacation days.

UNLIMITED VACATION DAYS.

I mean…can you imagine?  Here I am spending every waking second trying to strategically plan ALL of my allotted vacation days for 2012 in order to have the most travel-filled year possible, and there are people out there getting unlimited amounts of vacation?!

After I read the article I was instantly reminded of a quote I saw on Pinterest awhile back.  It said, “taking time to live your life will only inspire your work.” Another bullseye.  I’ve found that I always produce my best work when I’m inspired by something.  This sort of model would be perfect for a person like me who finds travel to be one of the richest sources for inspiration out there.

In the article the author and founder of the company outlines several reasons as to why this approach works, but I have a few more.

1.  Technology.  Let’s face it, technology has made all of our jobs easier or more efficient in some way or another.  The beauty of technology in so many industries today is that it allows work to be done from just about anywhere in the world…as long there’s an internet connection.  Who says you have to be sitting at your desk in a dimly lit office for at least 8 consecutive hours in order to get your work done?

2. Time. In my eyes, a vacation is a vacation no matter if you take 1 day or 10.  It doesn’t matter if you go far or stay close to home.  It’s a time to explore and recharge, and, at least personally, it’s a time to become inspired by the extra exposure to new and exciting things.  Just because you give your employees unlimited vacation days doesn’t mean they are going to disappear for weeks on end.  It was only a year ago that I learned to master the “long weekend vacation.”  I literally packed a backpack and jetsetted to a different country or town virtually every weekend for about three months straight.  Oh, and I never missed a day of work in between my travels. I’m telling you, this sort of thing could work for us!

3. Trust.  It’s a two-way street.  It’s about having trust, and it’s about proving that you deserve it.  I think if more people were given the opportunity to prove they could be trusted, we’d be surprised by the outcome.

Now, let’s have every business adopt this ‘unlimited vacation days’ model so we can all become more inspired, relaxed and better workers, ok?

Also, so my weekends can go back to being full of this:

If you had unlimited vacation days this year, where would you go?

The Garden District [NOLA]

New Orleans Itinerary:

  • Eat…a lot.
  • Drink.
  • Bourbon Street
  • Ride St. Charles Streetcar
  • Eat.
  • Cafe du Monde
  • See Garden District
  • Wander French Quarter
  • Listen to jazz
  • See a cemetery
  • Plantation or swamp tour

For Andy’s sake, I sort of feel bad about not being able to go gator huntin’ on a swamp tour, but I’m sure he loved gawking at houses in the Garden District so much he doesn’t really care.  At least that’s how I feel about it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before our trip, I printed off this walking tour, gave it to the guide (Andy) and half listened while I became more and more mesmerized with each corner we turned. I could not get over how breathtaking these homes were! I mean… people actually live here?!


The best part of our little walking tour was that it ended in Lafayette Cemetery.  I know a cemetery as a tourist attraction sounds a bit questionable, but the cemeteries in NOLA aren’t the ones most of us are used to seeing every day.  The city of New Orleans was built on a swamp so early settlers frequently had problems with floating caskets (awkward..).  Eventually the city adopted the Spanish custom of using above ground “vaults” and viola!  Problem solved.  The tombs are so enormous the cemeteries got the nickname “Cities of the Dead.” I guess it could be kind of creepy at night, but during the day…

beautiful.