A Hike up to Iceland’s Newest Volcano: Fagradalsfjall

On July 29, our family of four took our first trip out of the country since before the pandemic to the magical, surreal landscape of Iceland. I had first visited Iceland back in 2008 with my father and was spellbound by her unearthly beauty and astonishing mystique. While I had wanted to return to this phenomenal country and explore it more, the idea quite frankly did not pop back into my head until late in the Spring when our family had all been fully vaccinated and heard the news that Iceland with its small population of roughly 368,792 hearty souls was welcoming back vaccinated tourists. As someone who follows travel news closely, Iceland’s clever tourism pitch got my attention.

Icelandair has long had direct flights from Minneapolis to Keflavík, and to meet the increase in demand, Delta Airlines also launched a non-stop flight from my home town airport as well. The flight to Iceland from Minneapolis is roughly six hours. The only downfall is that the flight is too short to really get any sleep and the time change is a difficult five hours ahead meaning jet lag was going to be an issue that first day. The good news is we would have nine full days to adjust.

The route from Minneapolis to Iceland takes you directly over Greenland. The view was jaw-dropping!

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George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

Minneapolis: As the world watches, we wait

It is hard to believe that it has almost been a year since that fateful late spring day in May on the corner of Cup Foods, roughly three miles away from my house. For the past eleven months, like most Minneapolitans we have struggled to understand the trauma that has happened in our beloved city. And now here we are once again, with our stores boarded up, police and National Guard patrolling our city, awaiting in anxiety over what the verdict will be. While we pray for justice and peace, we wonder what will become of our city. Minneapolis is not a bad place. Yes, it has many problems but so does so many other places around the world. Racism exists everywhere and always has. Dismantling such a powerful system will take generations and generations of hard, relentless work. While I have so many opinions about what is going on and wish I felt that I could share them,  I also have hope. Hope in our children who understand a lot more than I ever did at that age. So, as we await the verdict we will pray for a better future for all.

While many of these incredibly powerful murals have disappeared, their messages still remain strong.

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Mural at Cup Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

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Northernair Lodge, Ely MN

When COVID hits your home

It started as a cough. At first, we thought nothing of it except that it was our 15-year old son’s normal fall cold. He gets a bad cold every single year and it always starts with a cough and then a stuffy nose. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that this cold was about a month earlier.

Besides the cough, our son was fine and continued to get up to do his online school. Over the weekend, we hosted our usual small “bubble” of friends at our house, one of my daughter’s friends and our neighbor, the small group who we have been hanging out with since the pandemic began. We told them about Max’s cough but honestly thought nothing of it. We live in a city of a million people and out of everyone we knew, only one person in our circle of friends had tested positive for COVID. It still felt like something we only read about every day in the newspaper but that hadn’t truly reached us.

Like most of my family and friends, we have spent the past eight months following all the Covid rules and living a pretty boring, isolated life. We wear masks everywhere (thankfully it is a state mandate), my husband works from home, we don’t go out to eat indoors at a restaurant, have not flown anywhere, don’t go to the gym or do anything considered risky. We have hardly socialized with friends except for outside, socially distanced. Since March, we have basically lived a very sheltered, limited life and have only allowed our small bubble inside our home. The only risk we took was allowing both of our teenage kids to play outdoor sports. I had felt as a parent that so much has been taken away from them, and sports was the one thing they had left. The risk was small since they were outdoors but it was there.

Despite all the precautions we took, somehow Covid made it to our house, and when I got the call from our doctor that my son tested positive, I was completely shocked and terrified.

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George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

The George Floyd Murals of Minneapolis: A Demand for Justice, Hope and a Better Humanity

This is a developing story and I will be updating it regularly with new murals as they go up around the city. While not every mural is not of George Floyd, I used the liberty to call them the George Floyd murals because every single one of these murals has been painted since his tragic murder on May 25th. Please check back often and let me know if I am missing any murals. My goal is to document the murals throughout the city over the coming months. I will also interview muralists and artists to learn as much as I can about why them. Therefore, as I receive more information I will update the accuracy of this post. Finally, if you plan on visiting these murals, please do so with humility and respect. There have been many complaints from residents that George Floyd’s memorial site at 38th and Chicago has become a “tourist attraction” which is not at all what it is meant to be. Please be respectful. If you would like to make a donation to one of the many social justice groups in our city, I am including a list at the end of this post. Thank you. 

May 25, 2020.  A life is tragically taken. A local and then global protest began demanding justice and systemic change. A movement begins. George Floyd is just one of the countless other people who have been a victim of violence, racial injustice, suffering, and pain.

Monday, May 25th is a day that changed my city, Minneapolis, forever. That tragic day, a white Minneapolis Police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds outside of Cup Foods on 38th and Chicago. Following Floyd’s brutal murder, thousands took to the streets of Minneapolis, some peaceful others violent, demanding justice for George Floyd, systemic change, and hope for a better, more just world where black lives not only matter but are treated with equality and respect.

Without diving into all the social justice and moral issues of George Floyd’s death and the immense racial inequalities in our city, our country, and our world, I want to use this space as a living museum to document the incredible art that is going up on the boarded-up businesses around our city. Artists are using their voice to demand social justice, antiracism, systemic change, and hope by painting powerful murals all throughout Minneapolis.

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

What started as a cry of outrage for the brutal death of George Floyd outside of Cup Foods has grown into a citywide movement of representing pain, suffering, tragedy, and hope. It is my commitment to document and share this voice throughout the coming months. I will be updating this post with finished pieces of art and new murals on a regular basis, and I will also be speaking with local communities to learn more about what each piece means and who created it. It is my commitment to myself, my children, and my community that together we can make this city and world a place where all people are treated equally with humility and respect. A country where every single human being is treated with freedom, liberty, and justice for all.

Powderhorn 

38th Street and Chicago Ave South

One of the first and now most renowned murals to be painted as a tribute and call to justice for George Floyd was done shortly after he was killed by Good Space Murals artists Niko Alexander, Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Xena Goldman, Pablo Helm Hernandez.  The artists began painting the mural three days after Floyd was killed on the side of Cup Foods and completed it in less than 12 hours. For the artists, it was a way for them to heal and demand justice for George Floyd. Today, this site continues to have peaceful protesters and those coming to pay their respect often leaving flowers. There are also ways to donate to community initiatives and outreach for those impacted by the protests. Several community groups have set up pop up food shelves and are collecting canned food items and essential supplies. More murals are going up around the Powderhorn neighborhood and I hope to document them soon.

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Mural at Cup Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).    

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Street Art Minneapolis

My Heart is Broken for My Minneapolis

The last week has been utterly heartbreaking and traumatic as we’ve watched our city fall apart. My family is all physically safe however our hearts are broken and it will take years and years to rebuild our city. Instead of focusing on all the scary, heart-wrenching news, I wanted to share a post I published two years ago that shares some of the beautiful multicultural street art that paints these very neighborhoods which have been destroyed. As we slowly start to mend and rebuild as a city, I hope that these murals will bring a sense of culture, community and much-needed hope in such dark days of grief, pain, and heartbreak. As soon as things calm down, I will add the new George Flloyd mural that has gone up at 38th and Chicago. 

Street Art Minneapolis

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Life in the midst of a pandemic: Keep Calm and Carry On

Wow, so much has changed since I penned my last post on the coronavirus. From a major concern to a global pandemic life as many of us know it has indefinitely changed. I would be lying if I wasn’t filled with worry or concern about all of the uncertainties of how this will all play out. So much is unknown. However, I am trying my best to keep calm and carry on. That is all we can do in such unnerving times.

While toilet paper has officially run out at most stores, and life is slowly but inevitably shutting down, it just all feels surreal. As I try to go about my day to day business, I’m constantly reminded even from the pet food supplier of what I need to do to prepare for the dreaded virus. You can’t escape it no matter what you try to do. Turn on your computer and log on to email, it is there. Turn on your car radio, it is there. Schools, gyms, museums and even churches have closed. Offices have advised employees to work from home. Every day something unexpected shuts down. Even going to the grocery store feels odd while shoppers hurriedly rush through the aisles, stocking up on supplies that could last a year, and God forbid, you accidentally cough and then come those accusatory looks of fear that you may have it. I feel like we are living out a bad dream.  It is simply not like anything we have collectively ever experienced in our lifetime.

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Travel in the Age of Coronavirus

To Travel or not to travel. That is the question.

We’ve all been following the news of the spread of the Coronavirus. It is hard not to. With the overload of information coming out online it is hard to ignore it and also at times hard to not fall into the media hype and worry. What makes matters worse is that every single day the situation is changing and there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how this will all play out. The shelves at the store are running bare of hand sanitizer, hand sanitation wipes, canned goods, and even toilet paper. Doctors’ offices and clinics are resorting to hiding their once free face masks since people are running out the door with them. Grocery stores are passing out hand sanitizer wiped down grocery carts, and the list goes on.

The World Health Organization warned that panic buying and market manipulation are depriving health workers with the supplies they need to fight the virus while others are profiting by buying all the supplies up and making money off the panic by selling marked-up face masks on eBay.  Life in the age of coronavirus has become for some people clear pandemonia and for others a wait and see approach. While the situation is alarming, I am tending to lean more towards the wait and see how this all unravels before stocking up my basement with supplies and going off the deep end of fear. I also am doing my homework and reading good, reliable articles on the situation so I can remain educated and informed.

So what do we do when it comes to travel? Obviously, I’m not going to go to a place that has a large outbreak however I’d be lying if I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about getting on a long haul flight or a cruise ship with a bunch of strangers. Fifteen years ago I caught full-blown influenza from the passenger next to me who was slouching in his seat and coughing all over the place. It was the sickest I have ever been to this day but I recovered. No one in my family got it. I never wore a mask. I didn’t wipe down the house. But I washed my hands and stayed home in bed, away from people that I could spread it to (which was my biggest fear). Since that day, I have always gotten my flu shot, washed my hands frequently and followed basic hygiene that you always should do regardless of an epidemic.

As of now, I’d get on the plane and fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it) we have an international flight approaching soon for Spring Break. But it is hard to know how I’ll feel this summer as we have a cruise booked leaving from Rome in June. Do we panic and cancel now? Of course not. First of all, it is hard to know what will happen. No one knows. It could all simmer down with warmer weather or else it could become a lot worse and a lot will change. Second of all, if we canceled all our travel plans now, we would lose an awful lot of money and things may be fine to go by the time the trip comes.  While we purchased trip insurance (I always do for every trip)  I did not purchase “cancel for any reason” which I have sometimes booked in the past. Cancel for any reason is the only travel insurance that will cover something like coronavirus.

So for now, all I can do is “keep calm and travel on”. The future like with anything is uncertain.

Instead of reading the “Breaking News” headlines, I stay connected to real news and have found these resources very helpful for keeping informed of this constantly changing situation. Here are a few of the best resources out there:

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Caye Caulker Belize

Welcome 2020, So long 2019: Highlights of 2019

As 2019 draws to a close it is time to take a moment to reflect with gratitude for those special memories of the past year. While of course there were plenty of difficult times and mountains to climb, as there always is throughout the journey of life, for me those hard times led to a newfound understanding and insight into myself. A bit of a silver lining. For if it wasn’t for those really hard times, I wouldn’t have personally grown and changed the things that I could and brought peace to the things I could not change.

I stepped out of my comfort zone plenty of times in 2019, taking more chances with travel and even with my day to day life. I got a part-time job, traveled on two small group trips without knowing a soul, I skied with my family, went on a three-generational hike around Mont Blanc and finally got my feet back onto solid ground (something I’d been searching for over the past two years). So all in all, I ring in the New Year being in a much happier, more peaceful place than last year when I was in the midst of a mid life confusion trying to figure out what the heck was the next step in the journey. While I haven’t figured out the entire road, at least I took the first step and for that I am most grateful.

Torrey Pines San Diego California

My daughter at Torrey Pines who just turned 13 has taught me so much.

That said, here are some of the wonderful travel memories in 2019 that I am extremely grateful for.

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Focus on the Bay Area with Jane Lurie Photography

One of the best things about blogging is the people you met along the way. Over the years I’ve been really fortunate to have met a lot of wonderful people through my blog who have inspired me deeply and have helped me plan my own travels to new places. When we began planning our family trip out to Northern California I knew I’d have to reach out to one of my favorite photographers in the Bay Area, Jane Lurie, for some advice on where to go and what to see. I have been following Jane’s beautiful photography blog for years and I love her inspiring work. No one knows how to capture the Bay Area and Northern California better than Jane.

Jane gave me some ideas on where to go, and while we were in California I realized how difficult it truly is to capture such a stunning place on film. We were there in early August which is normally quite foggy in the along the northern coast. I have never shot in fog before so it was quite a challenge. A few of my photos came out alright (which I will show later in another post) however I realized what a true art it is work with varying light and fog.  I knew instantly that I’d have to contact Jane and find out how she does it so beautifully. I also wanted to learn more about the woman behind Jane’s Lens so I invited her to do an interview with me. Here is what she had to say.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area? Where are you originally from?

I’ve lived in San Francisco for five years and part-time for ten. I grew up in New Jersey and worked in the education field there throughout my career. Then, my husband Bob and I lived near Charleston, South Carolina on Kiawah Island for many years before moving to San Francisco.

“Day is Done”. Photo credit: Jane Lurie

When did you learn photography?

I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I proudly created photo albums with pictures from my little Kodak Instamatic and received my first “big” camera, a Minolta DSLR, in high school. I always had that camera with me taking photos of my friends and family. I studied photography and darkroom early on and continued when I switched to digital photography after my career in the education field ended.

I currently enjoy courses at SFAI (San Francisco Art Institute)— the photography department, by the way, was founded by Ansel Adams – a lifelong inspiration.

“Fog and Trees”. Photo credit: Jane Lurie

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Is Instagram Changing the Way We Travel and See the World?

We’ve all seen it. You arrive at the Taj Mahal or the Louvre, filled with pure anticipation to see a world-famous landmark for the first time. Yet when you finally reach the perfect spot for your long-awaited view you get hit in the head with a selfie stick. As you inch your way into the mass of fellow tourists, craning your neck to get a peek, you are rudely shoved aside by an Instagram wannabe star who elbows you in the ribs to get their winning shot. Disheartened, you step aside being engulfed in the swarm of people beside you.

Welcome to the distorted world of social media, a world filled with Instagram influencers who are literally falling to their death to get that perfect shot or buying their followers, comments and likes on some underground website to reach their dreams of becoming a wealthy, world-famous star.

Sound familiar?

Sadly it does. In a world where social media has the ability to make a nobody suddenly rich and famous or even a  7 year old child bringing in $22 million on YouTube reviewing toys, it seems like everyone wants a piece of the pie these days.

But the obsession with social media comes with a huge price. Not only to our sanity but to the way we view and see the world. Here are some of the problems we face and how we can survive online without jeopardizing our soul.

Contributing to Overtourism

One downfall of social media is its influence on overtourism in already popular, ecologically or culturally sensitive places around the world. Think about Iceland, Machu Pichu, Angkor Wat and beaches in Southeast Asia filled with trash and being trampled almost to death, and it is heartbreaking. Even once far-flung destinations such as Myanmar and Palawan in the Philippines have become Instagram sweethearts  with millions of pretty posts. The world is your oyster and up for grabs for anyone with a cellphone and a social media account. However, the surge in tourism for that instagram-worthy photo of that popular place does not come without a price.

A recent article in AFAR states:  Social media is increasingly taking its toll on some of the world’s most photogenic locations, with growing numbers of Instagram-inspired travelers causing concerns about site crowding and conservation. Recently, hugely popular destinations have implemented new rules aimed at combatting overtourism. Just this year, Machu Picchu introduced a stricter ticketing system and Venice announced a visitor tax. Now, an extremely recognizable natural landmark in the United States has joined the expanding list. For the first time ever, travelers must pay an entrance fee to visit Horseshoe Bend, a regularly photographed spot in Arizona’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where the Colorado River takes a dramatic U-shaped turn.

Esteemed travel bloggers such as The Expert Vagabond also question Instagram and Social Media’s role in hurting travel. In his thought-provoking piece, Matt states that “Instagram has become a publicly accessible bucket-list of places you NEED to visit, fueling a FOMO (fear of missing out) attitude. We’re trying too hard to impress everyone with our list”. I couldn’t agree more.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a view like this all to yourself? Photo credit: Pexels

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Dachstein Krippenstein, Austria

My Year in Review: The Highlights and Adventures of 2018

As always, I cannot believe that another year has simply flown by. I swear, time seems to go faster and faster each and every year. 2018 has been yet another whirlwind year awash with highs and lows. It hasn’t been the easiest year yet there have been plenty of wonderful adventures, special moments, time with family and those not so pleasant yet necessary life lessons.

For some reason, it always feels like a shock to jump into another new year and perhaps that is why I love to take a moment to reflect on the year that has passed and be filled with gratitude.

January

We welcomed in the New Year in San Diego after spending the holidays with my family in Tucson, Arizona. Over the years, San Diego has become a special place for our family and we enjoy spending time hiking, watching sunsets, building sand castles on the beach and taking in the perfect weather. Torrey Pines Reserve is always a must see as well. My favorite post of January: “Why I Will Always Love Torrey Pines” shares some of my favorite photos of this magical place.

We also drove to LA where we discovered another treasure, El Matador Beach in Malibu which is lovely especially if you arrive before the crowds.

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Seefeld in Tirol, Austria

My Ever-Changing Path of Life

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” . – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is a fascinating journey. It is always changing and leading us down many different paths, some of which are planned and others that are unexpected. Regardless of whether you like change or not, life is never meant to stay the same. It is impossible. However, how you react to the change is what truly matters.

Last weekend it was a beautiful fall day and I wanted to spend an afternoon with my thirteen year old son outside. We could have done the normal standby mother-son activities like go on a bike ride or walk the dog but this time I wanted to do something a little bit different. I had recently tried a trail running class and truly enjoyed the new challenge. Since my son Max had expressed an interest in running, I thought maybe we should try a mother-son trail run.

We chose Theodore Wirth Regional Park located on the edge of Minneapolis and Golden Valley, which has an extensive labyrinth of running, mountain biking and hiking trails. Max had been there this summer during a biking camp and loved doing a run along one of the challenging, hilly mountain bike trails within the park.  I had never run there before so thought it sounded fun. When we arrived at our destination, I felt pretty on top of the world. I love to run and have been a runner all of my adult life. Although I no longer run long distance, I still run year-round even in the cold and feel relatively fit and in shape. My son however is new to running and I was secretly curious to see how he’d do. Would he be able to keep up with me? Would I leave him behind in the dust?

We got out of the car, laced up our shoes and did a few quick stretches before heading off into the woods. The trail we were originally planning to take was closed due to the torrential rain we had over the past couple of days. We would have to take a different path. As we ran into the forest, I looked around me and in every direction there was a different trail. I had no idea where they went, how long they were or which path to take. My carefree teenage son looked at me with a smile and took off running down one of the trails. “Come on mom! he said. “Follow me“. And off he bolted into the woods.

I ran as fast as I could up the trail huffing and puffing thinking how wrong I had been about me being the one who was in shape. Before I knew it my long-legged 6’1” son Max was off like a lightening bolt and gone. I desperately tried to keep up, calling out his name but to no answer. I tend to be rather directionally challenged so my first fear was I’d get lost and my next fear was he would get lost. I yelled out his name in vain. I tried not to get frantic with worry. It was just me, all alone in the thickness of the woods, with paths leading in every direction. I had no idea which way to go.

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