United States

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The place I have chosen to write about is Rincon, Puerto Rico, USA.  My husband and I have been coming to Rincon for over thirty years.  We have brought our children here and look forward to bringing our grandchildren.  It is a small piece of paradise.  An area with simple people and beautiful resources.  This is an island surrounded by beautiful beaches, palm trees, natural wildlife, rainforests and tropical overgrowth.  The people of Rincon are friendly, accomodating and not commercialized.  Life on this side of the island is simple yet abundant in beautiful color, flowers and wildlife.

As surf enthusiasts, we look forward to indulging in our favorite sport.  There is vast variety of local beaches and something for everyone.  There are beaches that boast larger than life waves and beaches that offer the calm, tranquil waters, equivalent to a lake.  The beaches are vast, yet mostly vacant.

I feel as though we have uncovered a small hidden gem in this vacation hideaway.  A place where we can escape and get back into tune with mother nature.

Like so many tropical hideaways, Rincon offers the visitor many options.  You can zipline through the rainforests, you can take a canoe ride through the luminescent bay.  You can party at one of the local bars, or you can simply sit on the beach and take in the breathtaking sunset each and every night.

The island offers accomondations that can fit into anyone’s lifestyle.  There are five star resorts that are fit for the “rich and famous” and small inns that are both affordable and modest.

My family has taken such a liking for this spot that we have purchased a piece of land.  It is our dream som day to build our own little piece of home here.  A place where we can visit and stay and a place that will always stay within our family.

Rincon offers a variety of fantastic restaurants for evey travelers pocket book.  From the lavish restaurants to the side street bodegas, there is truly something for everyone.

So take this advice from our family, not your typical world travelers. just your average family traveling on an average budget.  Research the place, pick where you would feel comfortable in staying and just go.  You will not be disappointed and most likely will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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“What colors do you want your room painted?” my dad asked me when I was in 5th grade. I could have picked pink or gray or anything in between, but I’m just going to assume I was colorblind back then because I responded with green and purple, noting that I have a peach colored carpet. I think we can all conclude that I should not aspire to be an interior designer. Though the colors did not go well together, my room slowly became a piece of art that I stayed in from the time I got home from school until the time I had to go back to school.

My room is me. The bookcase shows my love for words, and the piano shows my love for music. There are pictures all over my wall of the people I love and the friends that have become strangers. The clothes scattered all over my floor and the dishes on my nightstand show my messy habits and love of chaos, and the pictures my nieces and nephews drew that are taped to my wall shows my appreciation for the artistic genius that is in every child. But then there’s this quote on my wall. In big letters it says, “We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known” (McCullers). This bedroom that has become my utopia, is an escape from the familiar world I’ve known. My room hears me scream songs at the top of my lungs and try dance moves that should never be seen in public. This bedroom has been my only stage, but now I must go find my Madison Square Garden. Even though this piece of art I spend most of my time in is Heaven on Earth, there’s another paradise waiting out there for me. I have no guilt for the life I have lived so far, but I have no guilt for the one I want to live. Whether it’s Venice or San Francisco, I can hear the place calling my name, whispering in my ear. I long for something more than just my bedroom, than just Pottstown, Pennsylvania. This room is like a best friend I feel obligated to never leave, but this room also inspires me to step out of my comfort zone. It reminds me of the adventures waiting to happen, and it reminds me of those rare moments where you feel infinite and that every cell in your body is made of the strength that holds the planet together. I have been a princess, waiting for the prince to save me from boredom and take me on an unprecedented adventure. Now the pictures on my wall and the books are collecting dust, inspiring me to be my own hero, to be my own prince. I’m homesick for the place I have not yet known, and I want to step into rebellion because that’s what travel is. Travelling is rebellion and freedom in its purest form, and I am ready to answer to that whisper in my ear.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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  BRAVERY: “DON’T GO INTO THE WOODS”

How many times had I dived my whole being into something, or someone wanting it to become a success? This is how I felt exactly about my personal life’s journey; but, I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to go into the woods. Then, a time came when I finally said “enough, no more illusions”! I was over the lifestyle I was creating or not creating for myself. Each time I thought I was being lead into a career, a relationship or a place to become complacent as home. Nothing had manifested the way I truly wanted things to happen. I mean things were happening but, I wasn’t content with them. I had no idea what I was doing, or where I was going. I had some serious unveiling and unraveling things I had created. I needed to evolve with my experiences. I really had to go deep within myself and ask my soul what it was seeking. I had to go into the woods.

 The woods became a symbolism for morphing my truth. I gave up everything; job, potential partner, home, family and friends to find out what my soul and heart were trying to tell me. I literally packed myself up, moved across the country, with what little l salvaged over the years. Then, I needed to find a place; a space allowing me solitude, peace and quiet that would nurture me back to knowing who I am. Well, it didn’t take long for my inner guidance, divine source or whatever one calls getting to know one self; guided me right to a quiet rural horse boarding farm. My good friend offered me free room and board for a while in a renovated barn as her home. It sat off the beaten path surrounded by horses, dogs, geese, a cat and nature. During my stay, I walked and wandered the unknown land discovering a nature trail that paved thru the woods.  This was the unveiling my soul was seeking, exposing and expressing for me; to enjoy the fresh air, scenery, awaken my dormant senses, and lighten up my darken mode. Instead, of “don’t go into the woods”; I could not wait, because I was happy being out in the woods. Oh, there were times I was being forewarned to;” be careful there are things that happen to people out on trails”. However, I thought about this warning and took it as a message to be brave, have the courage, and the guts why “don’t go into the woods was so scary.

The woods became a ritual, a sanctuary; I had not only walks in the woods, I stayed and played in the woods, veered off to explore other trails, sat by a stream to write and read poetry. I visited the woods on crisp, cold windy days meditated with the trees. I watched joyfully the animals, birds, and foliage that lived and inhabited the woods. I observed and learned there’s a synchronicity to our life’s natural rhythm; our cyclic patterns are not really any different than natures. We’re all living and breathing beings created by the same divineness, source, or creator. This vitality empowered my heart and soul; wanting it to expand to everything and everyone surrounding me. I could feel the magic arousing my imagination boldly with authenticity and creativity; by sticking it out and going into the woods.

I became like an innocent babe though, not naïve, gullible, lost or afraid anymore of the woods but, revered, wiser, tranquil and reborn. I became no longer the same person who first thought she fought a losing battle with her personal life. Now, I am the woman who knows she can create and experience her life as she pleases. I can appreciate living and loving my days freely with much gratitude; guided by my intuitive divine guidance. I enjoy my moments more often; paying closer attention consciously and mindfully to what I think, say, and do before I act. I act upon using my skillful perception balancing my motives and intentions to what I might cause or effect for the greater good. I understand better I transform with my life’s flow; I can always change or transpire the way I live. I have more confidence and a clearer vision my future will have joy, peace and much love. First, I had to surrender my fears holding onto a life I had no longer serving me. I had to release it all to become who I am. There’s one thing I am certain about the cliché “don’t go into the woods” I will always have a break through within my life’s story. I’ll take a deep breath and venture back into the woods.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

lisa niver  travel tales podcastFrom Lisa & We Said Go TravelWe Said Go Travel Newsletter 63: May 20, 2015

  • Thank you to Mike Siegel from Travel Tales Podcast for interviewing me for his show. It was wonderful to talk about travel and We Said Go Travel with him. Enjoy the hour episode on his site. Click here to listen now to the full podcast.
  • My two USA Today articles about Ireland are now live. I am writing about all destinations for USA Today 10 best not only Los Angeles. Enjoy Whiskey Tasting in Dublin, Ireland and A Day Trip to Wicklow.
  • Thank you to KLOUT for assigning me topics and an EXPERT rating in 19 categories. In Blogging, I am listed as the top 0.1% out of 44,000 experts identified. Out of 180,000 experts in Marketing, I am listed in the top 0.2%. There are 74,000 experts in Travel and I am in the top 0.1%. See them all:
  • My Klout designated expert categories: Adventure Travel, Social Media, Blogging, Social Networks, Education, Tourism ,Food, Travel, Journalism, Travel Writing, Leadership, Traveling with Kids, Los Angeles, Writing, Marketing, YouTube, Photography, Publishing, SEO  
  • Thank you to OOAWorld for including We Said Go Travel in the Top 10 Best Group Travel Sites!

 

Klout topics may 2015

Courage

At this time between Passover and Shavuot, I am counting the Omer with readings by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar. Thank you to Rabbi Faith Dantowitz for the introduction.

From Day 36:

Courage to live. Courage to love. Courage to risk. Courage to fail. And patience. It takes time to become the person we want to be, to grow and unfold, to fail and persevere. There is a vastness between what is possible and what is real; an expanse of uncertainty, ambiguity, and doubt. When we are afraid, we are paralyzed, suspended in midair between imagination and manifestation. It is the natural course of things to have our dreams lay fallow; only care and determination make the ground rich and ready to bear fruit.

When we see our limitations as failure we are afraid. Be brave and step into your life.

Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, Counting the Omer

We Said Go Travel Writing Contest

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I am aware that I could’ve written about one of my favorite vacation spots, places where I feel I can lounge, relax, and regroup. However, when I think of a place that helps me feel brave and inspires me to save the day, no place stands out more than my mother’s house. Just to clarify, my mother’s house is not where I reside. In fact, I have not lived with my mother since I was three years old, a mere young one! Ever since then, I have lived with my grandparents in Pfafftown, North Carolina, a small, friendly town just outside of Winston-Salem. My mother resides in Graham, North Carolina, a small town outside of Burlington. Now, obviously, this is not very far from my home. Yet, emotionally, it is quite far from me.

I have been separated from my mother for most of my life. It’s not great, but hey, I’ve gotten used to it. What I have not, and will not, grow accustomed to is being separated from my two younger brothers. Hakim, the older of the two, is ten years old, friendly, and bubbling with enthusiasm! The younger of the two, James, is seven years old, just as enthusiastic as the former, and very, very loud. The physical wall that has separated us from each other is not the only characteristic that makes my brothers unusual and different; they are both autistic. To me, this is a difference that can be sad, disturbing, and yet also adorable; it is a difference that I have accepted easily and with open arms. I have taken them under my wing, so to speak, and when I go to visit them, we do practically everything together.

When I see my brothers, mentally and verbally handicapped, and educationally and communicationally stifled, I feel the strongest motivation to be brave, a desire I always attempt to share with them. And saving the day?? The day I want to save is tomorrow…the tomorrow that my brothers will have, the tomorrow that they could have. Who knows who they could be? Autism is a disorder, quite a powerful one. But it is not powerful enough to stop thoughts, dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It can’t be!! If it is, then what is the point of life? What is the point of life if you are to be stopped by a handicap or the ones you love are to be stop by a handicap? Seeing my brothers inspires me to want to do something, anything to save their day. Their yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Their yesterday because I insist that they not have fought through all of the obstacles they have faced in their young lives, all of the tough times and struggles, for nothing. Their today because when I see their faces, their smiles, their frowns, and their tears, I am moved…not only moved, but forced, to do something to help them. Their tomorrow because each time I say goodnight to them, I promise myself that I will make tomorrow a better day for them than today was. Tomorrow must be their day! And I must save it. I do not know how I will, I do not know when, but one tomorrow will be saved, one day they will have what they want, need, and deserve.

These feelings that seeing them brings upon me are not just basic emotions, such as sadness, happiness, love, and determination. They are all a very strong feeling, one that I sum up as bravery. I must be brave for them! If they are to believe the things I believe about them, they must see that I believe them! They must understand who they are, who they were, and who they can be. Not who they will be, but who they can be. No one’s future is set in stone. And my brothers’ futures are definitely not set in stone if I have anything to do with it, if I can save their day. I must. And for this reason, I can find the strongest, most viable reasons to be brave when I am in Graham, North Carolina.

 

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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When my nine-year-old son, Ben, gets scared, I tell him, “Bravery is about being scared, but doing it anyway.” When it was my turn to try something scary, though, I realized that it’s much easier to tell someone else to be brave than it is to be brave myself.

 

I’ve always had a fear of heights. When I was Ben’s age, I had to be rescued from the top of a jungle gym. I never learned how to dive, because I was afraid to jump off of the diving board. Yet here I was, at age 42, about to zip line across a seemingly bottomless canyon.

 

Zip lining across a cactus-filled canyon isn’t one of my usual Sunday afternoon activities. I normally spend my Sundays grocery shopping, doing laundry, and relaxing with a good book. So what led me to zip line across a canyon? Cub Scouts. Ben and his friends were going zip lining as a Cub Scout activity. He will do just about anything to earn a new patch for his uniform. Parents must go along on all of the Cub Scout field trips. “Come with us,” my husband said. “It will be fun.”

 

My idea of fun is definitely different from his.

 

Driving to the Boy Scout park in Irvine, California, I tried not to think about the rattlesnakes that probably lived in the canyon, or the cactus I would land on if I fell. I wondered if there was a graceful way to back out without Ben’s friends thinking I was chicken.

 

After a quick picnic lunch, it was time to go zip lining. While I put on my safety harness, I was told I could go across the canyon four times. Four times? I wasn’t even sure I could to it once!

 

For me, the hardest part of zip lining was overcoming my fear of heights. Stepping off of the wooden platform at the rim of the canyon and trusting that the rope and harness would sustain me was a huge hurdle to overcome. I couldn’t believe I was entrusting my life to the teenager who hooked me onto the line.  But by now, there was no turning back.

Zip lining is a high-speed, adrenaline-filled adventure. I had visualized soaring triumphantly with the wind in my hair, but the reality was a bit different. I had to braid my long hair so it wouldn’t get caught in the harness, and the safety helmet kept my hair from flying majestically behind me. Looking back on it, the hard hat probably wouldn’t have helped much anyway if the line snapped, hurling me to the canyon floor.

 

I spent most of my first trip across the canyon with my eyes closed. Zzzzziiiiiiipppppppp! The ride was faster than I thought it would be, and it was over very quickly. I dragged my feet in the gravel to slow down at the far end so I wouldn’t slide back across the canyon, and another teenager unhooked my rope. I caught my breath, then crossed a wooden bridge and walked back to the starting line to try it again.

 

My second time across wasn’t as scary, because by then I knew I could survive the trip. I kept my eyes open, and took in the spectacular vista. The sky was a bright, cloudless blue, and the sandy-brown rock of the canyon contrasted vividly with its green vegetation. I was fascinated by the rock formations that surrounded the canyon. It was actually quite beautiful, in a rugged sort of way.

 

By my third trip, I realized that holding onto the rope for dear life didn’t make a difference, since the rope would fall with me if it detached from the line. I tried letting go. It felt better than I thought it would. I was finally conquering my fear of heights.

 

For my last time crossing the canyon, my zip line partner was the seven-year-old little sister of one of Ben’s friends. She was eager and excited to zip line again, and she encouraged me to go along with her. We made a great team. By then, I was really having fun.

 

When it was time to go home, I took off my harness and walked back to my car with my family. My son was proud of me. “You were awesome, Mom! You were scared, but you did it anyway.” We all went out for frozen yogurt to celebrate our victory over the canyon. My bravery paid off, and I ended up having a wonderful day.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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“Scenic route” said the sign on the side road, and nothing more. Too quaint to pass up in this quaintest of countries, so I took it, motoring on up into the hills for miles, until the road faded into a shadow of a goat path, replete with real goats. I shivered. It was just after Christmas, and I was traveling in the offseason to see the land of my forefathers, the place my mother told me stories of, wild stories of warriors and artists and wild Irish shenanigans. During the touristy summer months, the mild weather and luscious greenery hid the bones of a brilliant country. But here in the damp chill of January, the bones were laid bare.

 

My mother had told me tales of a legendary land and people. “In 472 BC,” she always began that way, “An ancient warrior king, Milesius, came to Ireland from Iberia to avenge the death of his son. We are descendants of this king.” I had no reason to believe her stories any more than any other child would believe a fairytale told at bedtime. Still, it was better than the usual sleepy kid fare.

 

The road ended at a small parking lot and a gate. I parked and approached the gate on foot, finding a small tin box and another quaint sign which said “Admission – 10p.” I looked around. There was no one to see whether I paid or not. Tickled, I plunked my pence into the box and listened as it hit other coins. This was already worth the price of admission.

 

I was high up in the mountains above the coast of Killarney, and the breeze picked up a bit. A goat watched me for a moment, then disappeared over a ridge. I followed him, hiking over the rise to a grand scene. He turned out to be my tour guide to an ancient ringfort, a monstrous monument built of stone upon rough-hewn stone. Shaped like a huge horseshoe, the fort commanded an incredible view of the ocean. The walls were at least twelve feet high, six feet deep, rock tucked deftly into rock ages ago. The entire thing was open to the sky, and the goat was grazing contently as I turned around in the middle of the fort taking it all in. It was then that I found the plaque.

“In 472 BC, King Milesius invaded Ireland…” I was standing directly in the middle of my great ancestor’s landing place. As I gathered myself, the fort seemed to spin around me, and I wondered at the odds of the world whirling for nearly 2,500 years to have me come round to the very same place, with the same blood flowing through my veins as had this vengeful king, while the wind swirled around me and history.

The goat and I peered out at the ocean.  We could see the skelligs, natural, sharp, stone spires sticking out of the ocean hundreds of feet high. Beautiful but brutal, legend has it that monks would climb up and out on the skelligs to kiss a cross and hopefully live to pray again.

 

There was something about completing a life ring, of coming full circle around to stand in the spot where my brave ancestor stood, that made taking my time a bit more reasonable. After 2,500 years, what’s a few more days? Stumbling upon such a personal, historical point gave me a perspective beyond words, beyond my little life, to know that my strength came from the valiant ones before me, urging me to be bold in my life, to venture into vast, uncharted places and conquer that which others fear.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Trees on the Ridge

When I looked over the photos I took at Bryce National Park memories come flooding back. I can remember one of the walks from the car to the path, there were small banks of snow I had to cross as well as muddy areas I had to skirt. To most people it was a short walk measured by yards and not miles but I was towards the end of my chemotherapy treatments and it was daunting. By the time I reached the pathway I was out of breath and needed to rest. I remember looking out at the canyon and letting its grandeur sink in. The red rocks with white snow on them were a sight to see. As were the magnificent trees that lined the ridge. Their twisted roots above ground somehow found a home in the harsh environment.

In a way I felt like those trees. It had been a long hard battle; the form of lymphoma I had was rare, very aggressive, and it hid well. Before my diagnosis, I went to several doctors and each time I was prescribed a stronger dose of antibiotics. I was always hopeful that this time it would work, that I’d be able to walk up the short flight of stairs outside my apartment without it feeling like I had just ran a marathon. But each time I was disappointed. However, like the trees at Bryce the buffeting made me want to hold on to my life, to fight for the strength to continue.

When I first received chemotherapy it was amazing how fast it started to work. In just five days my lungs had cleared enough that I was able to lie down on my bed. It was Christmas day and after a month of sleeping sitting up it was heaven. That first week I also lost twenty pounds of fluid. I was luckier than I could have imagined, without chemotherapy I probably wouldn’t have lived to see New Year’s Day. And while at first chemo was a miracle and I thought it wasn’t so bad each treatment was harder for my body to take. I needed a reprieve, a chance to forget about the fight and just live.

Thankfully two of my sisters and my niece were able to travel with me to Bryce. While there, my older sister told me about when she had last she visited. She and her family walked the trail which led to the bottom of the valley and then back up. She said it was a great hike that wasn’t too hard. Obviously I wasn’t up to it then, but I remember thinking when I am feeling better, I will come back and take on that trail.

I wanted to see the valley from below, I wanted to immerse myself into the surroundings, to feel alive and healthy again, and now that I remember this conversation I have a renewed desire to go back to Bryce and take on that trail. We drove around to several lookouts and saw the valley from many angles. My little sister and niece ran up to the higher viewpoints but I was content to stay below and take pictures of the canyon and its amazing trees.

Chemo was hard but it didn’t last forever. It was something I had to deal with and like the trees I had solid ground below. Doctors, neighbors, coworker, and especially family who took care of me in the days following each chemo session all buoyed me up and kept me strong. They were like roots; helping me survive on a rocky ridgeline.

 

That little trip rejuvenated me and helped me endure my last few treatments. It was also quality time with my family and I’m very grateful that I’m still around to appreciate them. Whether they are near or far vacation can bring out the best in you. They can make you braver than you are and connect you with people from both around the world and your own back yard. I have been cancer free for two years now, and while my life isn’t perfect, I hope that I have deep enough roots so that I can brave whatever trials the future holds.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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On Hold

            It’s nine thirty in the morning. Intrudingly bright sunrays are piercing their way through the curtains, almost peeling them back, forcing me to face the day. Waves crash on the hard-packed sand outside the house, which statuesquely stands alongside Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Monica and Malibu, in which I’m staying. Aside from letting Baxter, the dog I’m watching, out to do his business, I have no morning requirements. Baxter is a scruffy little terrier and he’s scratching his crate to get out and greet the day. His beard is untidy, but he neatly combs it on the carpet after I let him out.

After brewing coffee, I let Baxter out into the backyard and he starts panting in the blistering heat. He persists to sniff his way around the confines of the yard to find the perfect spot to do his business. I go to stand in the shaded part of the yard, courtesy of the bone-dry Santa Monica Mountains. I check to see if Baxter’s stool is normal because I found a condom in his ritual morning dump the other day. I don’t know where he ate it, but I’m glad nothing out of the ordinary is in his shit today. Baxter swiftly returns to my feet with his already shredded rope toy between his crooked teeth. His unkempt tail whips back and forth. There’s an eagerness in his onyx eyes, as if the subtlest thing inspires him to attack each waking moment with tenacity. I throw his toy a few times before he drops it and barks at the cawing seagulls gliding above the house. He’s brave and doesn’t know it. I used to feel like that. What happened to that fearlessness? I think it vanished after my aunt, Lyn, died several years ago. It feels like I’ve been on hold ever since, waiting to rediscover it.

Baxter has convinced me to shift myself into gear and apply for jobs to climb out of this self-dug rut. We go back inside, I feed him, cook some breakfast, and turn on my computer to scour the Internet for all the appealing jobs. I have tired of filling out draining job applications. I agree that those double negative questionnaires weed out the people who pay attention to the questions from the people who don’t, but I cannot say that I don’t disagree with most of the questions. While I call previous places I’ve applied and wait on hold, preparing to be boastful in order to dazzle managers, Baxter devours his bone, ripping it to shreds. Perhaps I could learn from Baxter in that he finds joy in the little things that I can’t seem find pleasure in. There’s a pristine beach outside the door and I’m wallowing in a valley of lost hope.

Baxter stands near the counter, on which his treats reside. He scratches the cabinet to get my attention. I get up to grab the treats, he wiggles with excitement, and, without my command, sits, lies down, rolls over, and stands in attempt to earn treats. I can’t leave him hanging because I know the feeling all too well. I toss him a treat and he eagerly awaits something more, just like me. The way Baxter acts reminds me of the vantage point I used to see the world from. It was like I was trekking a mountain range, conquering life as I progressed, but it I’ve lost momentum. With the right inspiration, however, I might find a trail marker to guide me into the next chapter, where I’ll ride the wave rather than watch it ripple into the distance.

 

Everybody needs a kick-start now and again and Baxter has managed to restart my engine. I grab his leash, clip it to his collar, and we walk out the door to head to the beach. The warm sand between my toes is comforting. Baxter stops every ten feet to dig a hole, determined to find that one grain of sand only he can see. We walk to where the cold, brackish water rushes up the beach and Baxter stops. He’s afraid for the first time, which is shocking to me because the ocean has always empowered me with a sense of bravado and has been a regenerative haven. I look down at Baxter, he’s shaking and there’s a fear in his eyes. I nod to acknowledge his fear and shift my gaze out at the expansive blue mass. Without looking down at Baxter, I walk into the water and Baxter willingly follows. The wet stand sticks to my feet as if to hold me back. Impossible. This is where I’m strongest.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean at sunset

I have had a crazy 18 months. I knew I would (finally) have some free time, so I planned a vacation where I could really get back to myself. I set out on a restorative trip to find some peace. I went to Santa Barbara, and stayed at Four Seasons The Biltmore.

I had been there before as a teenager, but had never experienced the place as an adult. I’ll admit, I wanted a lazy vacation where I never had to get in the car. I wanted good books, poolside drinks, and palm trees. The gorgeous views were expected, but there was no way I could predict how relaxed I’d feel only a few hours into my stay. Here are the highlights of my trip:

Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean
Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean

1. Outdoor dining. For three days, I didn’t eat a single meal indoors. Breakfast on the patio, lunch by the pool, dinner across the street on the balcony at Tydes. I never got tired of the spectacular ocean views available from the Bella Vista restaurant at the hotel. It’s quite easy to spot dolphins swimming by every day. Some of the hotel staff told me they have spotted an occasional blue whale, as well. Above, you can see our drinks the first night, over looking the ocean. The poolside lunch menu was clean and delicious, featuring an amazing chicken salad that I couldn’t help pairing with a decadent piña colada.

2. The service. Having stayed in top notch hotels all over the world, the Four Seasons Santa Barbara has some of the best service I’ve ever experienced. By the pool, the wait staff came around with complimentary smoothie shots and fresh fruit. The concierge were always happy to rework a dinner reservation, and even afforded me a luxurious late checkout, so I could squeeze a few more hours by the pool. My book was just too good to stop reading!

Lounging by the pool
Lounging by the pool

3. The incomparable atmosphere. The pueblo-style compound immediately put me in the mindset of warm-weather vacation. The sound of the ocean drifting through the windows while I got a massage was amazing. And the beautiful, colorful decor in the rooms, including some fantastic, artful tiles, made me want to stay in my room almost as much as I wanted to hit the pool.

4. The beach. Santa Barbara is not your standard SoCal destination. It’s on the cooler side (during my visit the weather stayed between 68 and 72 degrees), but the beach is perfect for surfers and taking scenic walks (with a sweater). There is even a very unique graveyard on a cliff overlooking the ocean within easy walking distance. If you want to stay out of the cold, both pools at the hotel are wind protected and it feels way warmer on a sunny day!

Morning coffee on my balcony
Morning coffee on my balcony


After such an intense year and a half, it was amazing to sink back and feel the stress melt away in only a short, three day trip! I highly recommend taking a lazy vacation. Perfect weather, perfect pool days and perfect piña coladas!