Audiobooks I’ve Loved Recently Part 1

Being read to is a really intimate thing: a human connection at a time when a lot of people are feeling isolated.

Duncan Honeyman

A good audiobook can instantly transport you inside of another world. I’ve hit the absolute jackpot lately with fantastic books and just as wonderful voice actors reading them. Believe me, the wrong actor and the book is painful to listen to or just falls flat. That’s not the case with the books below.

All of the books below span genres from non-fiction to young adult to psychological thriller. I’m a woman with varied tastes and never limit myself to one genre. What I am limited on lately is time. I downloaded the Libby app and linked my library card to it. Now I have access to all of the free audiobooks I could ever want and let me tell you, it’s glorious.

Below are some of my favorite audiobooks I’ve listened to in the past few months. I listen on 1.9x speed so I get through A LOT of reading this way. Don’t be intimidated. My only hope is that you find an awesome book to listen to!

Breathless by Amy McCulloch

Most books about climbing are typically about Everest. What drew me to this book was the fact that it was a fictional climbing story, told by a woman, about mountains other than the already-done-to-death Mt. Everest.

It gave me so much background into the sport without being boring. It was more like oh holy crap that sounds so hard mentally and physically, because it is. This book had the perfect amount of creep factor and suspense. I found myself walking so much faster when I was listening to this during my lunch break walks. Even though it was July when I listed to it and was sweating my face off, I got chills. Such a great read!

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

On the exact opposite of the spectrum in every way possible was this picture-perfect Italian dream of a book. If you aren’t familiar with the author, Serle is a MASTER at incorporating time travel into her books in surprising and insanely heartfelt ways. It’s not fantastical, but will have you wishing for a little time travel magic in your life.

When Katy’s mother dies, she ends up going on the trip to Positano they had planned on doing together. Despite a rough start (don’t worry, no spoilers) Katy starts to find herself again and learns how to work through grief and reinvent her life. Who helps her? Her mother. Over the course of a summer on the Amalfi coast Katy will never be the same.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Izumi has never really felt like she fit in as an American teenager. Then, she finds out she’s a Japanese princess. When she agree to spend time with her long-lost father in Japan she thinks she has finally found a place where she fits in. Needless to say, life is just as difficult, especially when royal duties, rivalries, and the press come into play.

I loved this story so much. It really did a fantastic job of navigating identity and what it truly means to fit in within society and culture. Izumi’s character wasn’t your typical teenager and I loved how she created her own boundaries and changed tradition to do what was right for her. It was also just a super cute story full of travel, love, and great characters.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Elizabeth Zott defies all odds, especially in the 1960s, by becoming an exceedingly talented chemist in a world and profession dominated by men. As a single mother, she needs to make ends meet. What does she do? She reluctantly takes the job as a cooking host on a new TV show which becomes a national hit. She makes it her own by using science to teach chemistry to the women watching the show and slowly but surely transforms an entire country of female viewers.

This book was observant, timely, hilarious, and honestly one of my favorite books I’ve read this year… or for several years. It took what could have been a typical story about a woman overcoming the odds into something much, much more meaningful and impactful. You could really tell the author loves the power of learning and how to make it fun while making a difference.

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

There’s something addicting about listening to true crime and cults. This book takes a different approach and takes a deep dive in the language cults use. You’d be surprised by the every-day way we talk about things using language that is cult-ish. From our addiction to group fitness classes like Peloton to social media influencers to actual cults, the author explores how language is such a powerful tool in luring people in and how it keeps them hooked.

I loved how this book didn’t just talk about your typical cult, but things we don’t even realize have become something like a cult. She even explores how even though the word cult has a negative connotation, that not everything cult-ish is bad. It’s all about the language.

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

Stanley Tucci is a national treasure. He has other books out, but my heart loves a good book about food written by one of my favorite actors. This was poignant, opinionated in the best way, thoughtful, and made me so hungry for Italian food that I still haven’t gotten over.

I loved hearing about his life experiences through the lens of food and how food impacted/changed his life. This book could’ve been a throwaway and just have been funny. It was much, much more than that. Break out a giant bowl of pasta and chow down while you dig in to this book. Yes, he narrates this with his made-for-audio voice. Give it a listen.

9 Creative Ways to Pass the Time in Airports

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.

Douglas Adams

Airports seem to have two default settings: soul-suckingly boring or OH MY GAWD I’M GOING TO MISS MY FLIGHT WE HAVE TO SPRINT LIKE WE’RE IN THE OLYMPICS. Neither are super appealing. Which leads me to my newest post. We could all use a few ways to pretend we don’t have to wait hours in a glass box to get on a metal tube for hours and leave said metal tube where we can finally enjoy our vacations.

Hopefully the options below help you pass the time. Some are obvious and others are a little different. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you have a great time!

Take a Walk

I know, I know. Not everyone likes being as active as me. Walking around airports to me helps pass the time and I love knowing that I was active before I’m about to sit for hours. I try to walk as many terminals as possible in the time that I have.

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat this is especially helpful since you can physically see what every place is offering and choose snacks/drinks/meals that you will genuinely enjoy versus the first place you came across. You can even make it competitive by challenging yourself to hit a certain number of steps or competing against a friend to get the most steps in before your flight.

Scavenger Hunt

Whether you create one yourself with absolutely outrageous items to find or normal ones, go for it solo or with your fellow travelers, scavenger hunts can be a game changer. They keep you focused on exploring, keep your brain occupied, and can take you all over the airport. Best of all? They can kill so much time. Get as creative as you want with this and focus on enjoying yourself instead of the time.

Photography Challenge

Airport photography is not something that really wows people unless you’re in one of the rare airports that are truly spectacular and are trying to impress and push the boundaries. Find interesting angles for ordinary objects or areas. Photograph your scavenger hunt items in funny or creative ways. Take a selfie with all of the artwork you find. There are so many ways to approach this, but do it in a way that will be fun for you. Plus, you’ll get the additional bonus of brushing up your photo skills before your trip begins.

Read a Good Book

No one should be surprised I put this on the list. I can lose myself for hours in a book. Make it more of an event by finding the coziest or most scenic spot you can. Nothing beats a cozy spot with a good view for some reading.

The past few years airports have made a conscious effort to become more people-friendly. (What a novel idea!….so much sarcasm). I’ve seen improvements like rocking chairs near take off areas, book nooks with little free libraries, and comfy chairs for lounging dotted across various airports. Take advantage of these little but free perks to make your airport time even better.

Window Shop

Airports are expensive and I avoid buying things other than food like the plague whenever I find myself in one. However, I window shop like a boss. I browse all of the books and magazines to make lists of books I’d like to read and get from my local library. I find out where has the best snacks. Duty-free perfume samples? Don’t mind if I do. Yes, I will absolutely love to look through those expensive scarves. Oh look, postcards! Have I been to all of these places? No, thanks for the suggestions and things I can research while I wait.

Long story short, you do you. Be extra. Explore all of the things.

Brush Up on Languages

Even if you aren’t going anywhere that requires you to speak another language, it’s a fun way to pass the time. It might not make hours pass by, but it can give you a quick break from boredom and keep your brain sharp!

Binge Watch Your Favorite Shows

Beat the system by downloading a few shows and movies from your streaming service so you don’t have to use the airport’s expensive wifi. You know how at home you start watching something and BOOM it’s somehow 11pm? Think of how that could positively transform your time in the airport. Goodbye waiting in boredom. Hello favorite shows.

Play Games

Again, download games for playing offline. Better yet, go analog. Bring a deck of cards or mini versions of board games. If it will make you happy and pass the time, why not bring that game? It could also be a fun way to spend an evening at your destination with friends/family.

Tastes of the Airport Food Tour

I saved my favorite idea for last. While the airport food options are not always appetizing, there are tons of airports with so many delicious-looking options. When you next find yourself in one of those airports (please don’t torture yourself with sub-par food tours), try a food tour.

You could get a small dish at several places to sample as many restaurants as possible. This is especially great if there are tons of options and you space it out over a few hours to prevent getting too full.

Another way to approach this is the progressive meal. Get an appetizer at one place, a main course at another, dessert at yet another, and top it off with a coffee at a final restaurant/coffee shop!

Fun Staycation Ideas to Spice Up Your Summer

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way

Napoleon Hill

I feel like that quote is such a good way to approach a staycation. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time and funds to travel, especially to far-flung places around the world for weeks. A lot of travelers explore outside of their home so much that they’ve barely scratched the surface of possibilities of their own backyard or town.

Yeah, yeah. We’ve been stuck at home for so long. Why would we want a staycation? Well, not everyone can travel right now and there are so many amazing things to do, see, and experience in or around where you live. This post is all about helping you find fun ideas to get you out of the house (while on a budget) for a summer adventure of your choosing.

Do one or all of my suggestions! The possibilities are pretty much endless. To get the most out of your staycation, combine your favorites from the list below or choose several different activities to try over a few days!

Glamping or Camping in the Woods

Last Halloween we did a mini glamping vacation an hour from our house. It was SO much fun and a quick getaway in the woods. Whether you like roughing it or camping with more comfort in mind, this kind of getaway is so refreshing.

Pro Tip: Find a place with lots of hiking trails, water activities, or restaurants nearby so you can camp and adventure all in the same trip based on what you love to do.

Discover a Local Boutique Hotel or AirBnb

Sometimes just getting out of the house for the night is the perfect mini vacation. Search for small, local hotels near you that offer something unique and book a night there. In Lancaster, we have a super unique hotel called Lancaster Arts Hotel and it’s super small, but is decked out in different art styles and located near a few unique restaurants as well. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but find one that will give you a fun getaway experience for the night.

Drive to the Opposite Side of Town and Explore on Foot

After talking to quite a few friends about this, we all realized that we generally stick to one part of town we’ve explored to the point we could probably give a tour of it with our eyes closed. Spice things up a bit by walking/biking/driving to another part of town you don’t normally visit. Spend the day exploring all of the fun shops, restaurants, murals, etc that it has to offer!

Eat Every Meal of the Day at a New Restaurant You’ve Never Tried

Calling all of my fellow food lovers! This is one of my favorite staycation ideas I came up with for this. What better way to explore locally than to eat every meal at a new restaurant you’ve never dined at before? You just might discover a new favorite. Bonus points if you also discover a market and pick up some groceries or fresh veggies/fruit for making future meals with.

Go to a Local Event

One of my favorite things about where I live is going to tons of events. We have First Friday where shops stay open late and have snacks in stores. There’s music Friday where local artists set up across the city to play music. Then there are the bigger celebrations like Pride, Water Week, Restaurant Week, and even an Anime Festival. Regardless of where you live, there’s bound to be events, large and small, you can explore!

Plan an Adventure Day

High ropes courses, zip lines, scooters, bike tours, sip and bike trolleys, walking tours, river floats, backyard game day, scavenger hunts, or hiking. Think of any number of adventures near you and spend the day channeling your inner adventurer. There’s no reason you have to travel far and wide just to have an adventure. Make or discover one right in your town!

Have Your Partner/Friend Plan the Day for You

Get together with your partner or a close friend. Have them plan an entire day geared towards what you love. Then, return the favor and spend the next day doing the same thing. Not only do you get to plan something meaningful and fun for a friend and have them do the same for you, you can experience things that you might not normally do yourself.

Drive to a Nearby Town for a Mini Day Trip

You really don’t have to go far to have a day trip that feels like a mini vacation. Pick a town or even pick a direction and drive if you want a truly spontaneous day. Or spend a few days researching nearby towns to find one that suits you best then hit the road for an adventure.

Pamper Yourself with a Spa Day

Vacation from stress? Yes, please. If life is overwhelming at the moment choose a relaxing staycation option by getting pampered all day. Whether you treat yourself to a massage or a full day at the spa complete with a relaxing meal, you’ll have experienced something new while getting rid of the stresses of daily life.

Outdoor Dinner and a Movie

Your backyard absolutely counts as a staycation destination. Borrow or break out your projector or computer and put on your favorite movie or rent one you haven’t seen. Either way, make it special. Gather your favorite snacks, cook a meal, break out the cozy cushions and blankets, mix up drinks, etc. Wait until the sun sets and you’ve got the makings of a fantastic night in the backyard.

Take a Cooking Class or Host a Cooking Night

Not many things can bring people together and make you feel like you’re traveling quite like food can. Try taking a local cooking class with friends for the night to learn new techniques and dishes. Another option is hosting a cooking night. Have the basic ingredients for a fun meal and invite everyone to participate in cooking something together for a food night!

Go On a Picnic

Apparently I was hungry when I made this list. This is another good idea to pair with an adventure. I love the idea of packing up a picnic with meals and snacks, hiking to a super amazing overlook, and then chowing down before hiking back. You can always pack up a picnic to enjoy in the park, on the beach, or at your favorite spot in your town.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: A Photo Story

I want to explore the world properly, to be able to write about and take pictures of all kinds of different cultures. Just be an explorer or adventurer.

Cara Delevingne.

Me too, Cara. Me too. Albuquerque is one of those places we always are drawn back to, partially because we visit family but also because we just can’t get enough of it. grew up in Virginia and have lived in various states along the east coast. Going west for the first time was such an incredible experience that was so unique and different from what I grew up with that I immediately fell in love with it.

The massive landscapes, rugged but beautiful, always makes me feel small in the best way possible but also full of adventure and possibility. I’ve been to Albuquerque 4 times now and we’re going again in September. Here are just a few of my favorite pictures I’ve captured while exploring as much of Albuquerque as I can over the past few years.

Food & Brews

Marble Brewing is a staple of our trip every single time. We went on our first trip together and every time ever since. During our most recent trip in 2021 we visited their other location, so now we have two options every time we go.

Alicea’s New York Bagels and Subs is a new favorite that I can’t even wait to get again…several times. Breakfast or lunch, you can’t go wrong.

Hop’s and Tin Can Alley were new discoveries. Tin Can Alley was a huge standout for us since they had several restaurants inside to choose from. Hop’s had an amazing outdoor space that we loved hanging out in. The Local Brewhouse was definitely a fun place to grab a quick bite or drink.

Day Trips

So far, our only day trip was a quick one to Santa Fe and that did not disappoint. We went just to see the immersive art experience called Meow Wolf. That was one heck of a fun and wild half day that I highly recommend. We’re heading to Albuquerque again and this time we’re doing a road trip to (hopefully) Tent Rocks National Park, so keep an eye out for that in a few months!

Festivals

Funnily enough, we haven’t been to the festival that Albuquerque is known for: Balloon Fiesta. That will change one day. BUT we did happen to come to town during the Day of the Dead festival and had a ton of fun watching the parade and events.

Nature Snaps

Maybe it’s the bright colors on the otherwise brown landscape or just different color palettes than I’m used to, but I love taking nature pictures in New Mexico.

Favorite Landscapes: Mountains

You can’t go to Albuquerque and ignore the massive mountains. It would be a crime against nature. The Sandia Mountains are massive and they seem even bigger since the desert is the only thing surrounding them. I absolutely cannot get enough of those mountains.

Favorite Walking Paths

Every time we go to New Mexico we find a new walking or hiking path to explore. My favorites are the Petroglyph National Monument, Three Sisters (Volcanoes), and any path along the Rio Grande.

Before the 2021 trip, the Three Sisters was my favorite. I loved walking around volcanoes and getting a few hours of hiking in.

Any trail along the Rio Grande is always gorgeous, but especially amazing during the fall when everything turns a bright yellow.

My new favorite involves a tram ride up the Sandia Mountains. Walking along the top of the mountain and see Albuquerque from above was one of my favorite experiences yet.

From Large Cities to Small Towns: My Favorite Way to Travel

I’ve made many friends around the world, and the people you meet are always more memorable than checking things off a bucket list.

Unknown

I’ve had so many people ask me about this topic lately that I knew I wanted to take a deeper dive into it on here. One of the first questions people ask me when I’m planning a trip is where do I even start? Where should I visit first in *insert country here*. I could probably write a book on it, but instead I’ll stick to this fun post.

Long story, short? I always choose to visit the biggest cities on my list first whenever I visit a country. Why? Read on to learn about all of my reasoning behind it.

So Much to See, All the Energy to See It

The bigger the city, the more there is to do. Ask yourself if you want to do all of those things after days or weeks of vacation already under your belt or when you’ve got adrenaline pumping and you’re SO READY to see lots new sites the second you drop your stuff off in your hotel room. Most people spend the travel day to their location exploring close to their accommodations and then hit the ground RUNNING the next day.

You’re fresh. You’re ready. You’re operating on a high capacity and nothing in the world can get you down. Ask yourself if you usually feel like that at the end of a trip? Pack the more intense parts of your destinations early. That way you can park your butt somewhere relaxing at the end and go at a slower pace when you’ve worn yourself out in the bigger towns.

Smaller towns are more fun to explore slowly. You can get the touristy stuff out of the way when you have all of the energy. Then when you’re a little more tired and need a break you can casually explore and stop wherever and whenever you please without feeling like you’re going to miss something.

From the Hustle and Bustle to Slower-Paced Relaxation

Helloooooo destination! You have ARRIVED. So have the 1 million other tourists anxious and excited to see all of the top sites not to mention the hundreds of thousands of locals just trying to go about their day. Starting in a large city for the first part of your trip means you’ve got more patience since you haven’t been annoyed by everyone you’re traveling with, being squished into small spaces with tons of tourists, waited in line for hours, and just been around tons of busy and fast-paced action.

As you know from the section above, you’ve got more energy and big cities have a TON to see. Knock as much off your lists as possible while you’re still energized. A few days in a busy place can leave you feeling drained, so it’s best to get it out of the way at the beginning.

Take Italy for example. Starting in Rome is a fantastic idea. You get to see the big sites like the Colosseum and all of the museums. Then you realize wow I did a lot in a short period of time. Head to Florence where it’s a medium city with a more laid back vibe. Enjoy a few days there and unwind a little. Enjoy the shorter lines, more breathing room and a slower pace. Once you’ve explored to your heart’s content, head to the coast, like Positano, and spend a few days relaxing on a beach, going for a boat ride, and eating a ton of food while watching the world go by. It’s a fantastic way to recharge a little bit before heading back to your daily life and you experienced a little bit of everything.

Avoiding Overwhelming Feelings and Places

Some people love starting small and then gradually making their way into bigger and bolder situations. This can work and I’ve done it, but it always makes me feel a little more overwhelmed. Landing in the midst of a busy city is exhilarating and I always expend a lot of energy there. I purposefully plan to start big and gradually taper things down.

When I visited France for the first time I started in Paris and didn’t realize how tightly I was wound up (albeit in a good way) until I made my way to the south of France and spent days slowly exploring and taking smaller day trips. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by people going from a big city to a smaller one. When I visited the UK I did the opposite.

My first impression was of Scotland, way out in the middle of the country. It was peaceful and laid back. Then, we went to London. Oh man, was it wonderful but it was A LOT after spending several days with next to no people.

Give your brain a break from potentially feeling overwhelmed late in your trip. After all, you’re going to start to think about the logistics of traveling back home and navigating the airports and such, so end with a more relaxed place to better prepare for future stress.

Maximize Your Time

Vacation time is sacred. You finally got the time off from work, saved up, and deserve to see everything you’ve been looking forward to. That’s why I like starting with the rush. Starting in the bigger places that (usually) have more of the places and experiences I want to see makes me feel like I’m maximizing my time. I give myself a few days in one place to ensure there’s enough time to see everything without feeling like I’m cramming it in before I have to fly back.

Smaller towns I spend more time in and casually explore. They’re also great for using as spring boards to take day trips when you discover something nearby that you want to see. Once you’ve gotten the majority of the sites, experiences, museums, excursions, etc done and dusted you can spend more time soaking up the essence of a place like a local. That’s usually where vacations are remembered most. Not in the whirlwinds, but in the more relaxed moments where you can appreciate all that you’ve seen and look forward to just taking things as they come for the rest of the time.

What Do You Guys Think?

Do you like traveling this way too or is there a different way you like to experience the world? I’d love to hear! We all do traveling differently and I love that no one person travels in the exact same way. I totally get that some people find small towns boring and want the fast-paced feel of a city. Either way, I hope you got something out of this and maybe you will give this approach to traveling a shot!

Upcoming Travel Adventures I’m Super Excited About

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.

Jawaharlal Nehru

It’s finally happening. I’m traveling again! 2020 was supposed to be my year of travel and then the universe laughed at me. Two years later, I am ecstatic to report I have a TON of travel plans. In fact, I’m so excited about them that I wanted to write and entire post about it.

Some adventures are small, others are huge. Some are to places we’ve been and fallen in love with, and others will be entirely new experiences and countries to explore. Here’s to the next few months of traveling!

June Plans

Yeah, yeah, yeah June is over. I’m still excited for the little things we got to do, so I’m including it. June was a month of festivals and exploring Lancaster. We took the dogs to Veg Fest and tried lots of vegetarian and vegan foods. Pride Fest was a short walk from our house where we got to show support for the local LGBTQ+ community. Celebrate Lancaster was my favorite. They shut down the streets and line them with vendors, local businesses stay open, and food trucks are everywhere.

This past Tuesday I ventured to Harrisburg for a book event! One of my favorite authors, Riley Sager, held an event for his new book which I knew I couldn’t miss. One of my favorite bookstores, Midtown Scholar, hosted it and I loved every second of it. I met lots of book people, heard the author talk about so many topics, and I even got to meet him and get my book signed. It was absolute highlight of my month.

July Plans

July is sort of a let’s play it by ear type of month. I’m back on bikini bodybuilding competition prep, so travel isn’t a priority this month since it’s almost go time. However, there are still travel-related things I’m looking forward to.

  • Hiking! Will doesn’t know this yet, but I really want to go back to Kelly’s Run for a fun adventure in nature with him and the dogs.
  • Will and I are going to see friends get married in western PA at the very end of the month. It’ll be a nice and quick trip to Weedville, a town we’d never heard of before.

August Plans

August really kicks off what I’m calling my Fall season of travel. There are two things I’m excited for that month and it definitely kicks off fall with a bang.

  • I will travel SO FAR. Just kidding. I will drive 5 minutes from my house to the Marriott where I will compete in my second bodybuilding competition. Then, I’ll get to show my trainers around the wonderful town I live in. I love traveling, but I also love showing visitors just how amazing Lancaster is. Plus it gives me a chance to explore again.
  • One week later, I will hop on a flight to Florida and board a cruise ship to Bimini, Bahamas. The excitement is real, friends. Not only do I get to go to a part of the Bahamas I’ve never experienced, but I’m going with one of my best friends.

September Plans

September will bring another trip with friends, but this time Will and the dogs are coming too. We always make sure to take a trip with the dogs too, especially when we leave for a vacation without them. After all, a family vacation isn’t quite complete without our boys with us.

  • Watkins Glen is our tried and true trip we’ve taken several times now. We fell in love with the place and always see something new each time. It’s one of those trips where we get to visit our favorites while also making it a point to discover something new. This time we get to bring some of our best friends which will make it even better.
  • We’ve been meaning to go to Hershey Park and Chocolate Town since we moved to Lancaster… in 2017. I’m determined to make it happen this year, specifically in September when it’s not frigid or melt-your-face-off hot.

October Plans

October is a little light on plans, but it’s going to be all about Philadelphia.

  • We’re taking a day trip to see The Book of Mormon! I love that we can see incredible musicals and theatre performances outside of NYC. Since it takes half the time to get to Philly that means we have more time to explore and we can try new restaurants instead of having to rush back.
  • Will also doesn’t know that I’m going to attempt to get him to go back to Philly closer to Halloween. The Eastern State Penitentiary, a must-see landmark in itself, does a Halloween special where you can explore the site regularly during the day and then it turns into a haunted house at night. I might skip the haunted house part because I’m a wimp, but the extra spooky vibes while visiting what’s said to be an extremely haunted place will make the experience extra special.

November Plans

I guess there has to be a month that doesn’t have travel plans? This is that month. Hopefully, we can find something close by to explore like one of the Christmas markets or a new market in general! I’m optimistic.

December Plans

Now for the pièce de resistance. For the first time in over 5 years Will and I are traveling internationally together. Where are we going? Drumroll please! ……. MEXICO! We booked our first all-inclusive trip and while it’s not the typical type of vacation I would book I am beyond pumped for this trip.

We’re heading to Tulum and plan on alternating between relaxing days and adventure days. So far we’re planning on visiting Chichen Itza, cenotes, as many local food places as humanly possible, and seeing what events the resort has to offer. We even get to scuba dive together for the first time despite us both being certified for years.

After two years of cancelling travel plans this year is full of small and large trips and it makes my heart so happy.

An Update On My ‘Book by an Author From Every Country’ Challenge

I read; I travel; I become.

Derek Walcott

Over a year ago I set myself a gigantic goal. I wanted to read a book by an author from every country in the world. My grand total from last year was 27 different countries. I’m excited to say that that total is now 35. Was that a drastic difference? No.

BUT I made a concerted effort to read multiple books from each new country that I added to my list. Reading and travel are so unique in that they open your eyes to different ways of life, opinions, values, and they both expand your horizons. In a world coming out of a pandemic and the political unrest in so many places, not to mention the recent Supreme Court rulings, it’s more important than ever to see things in a new light.

I’m going to keep slowly adding new countries/authors/books to my list and I’m loving this journey so far. I’m also finding that I devoured books by Swedish, Indonesian, and South Korean authors this past year more than anywhere else. I’m learning so much and having a massive amount of fun while doing it. Isn’t that just a huge win in itself?

Below is my newly updated map showing which countries I’ve read books from so far.

Have recommendations for me? I would LOVE to hear them. I want to read more from authors in Eastern Europe, Africa, and South American because that’s where I have the most glaring holes in my reading. So, that’s what I’m going to spend the next year doing!

My Current List of Countries I’ve Read Books From

  • Algeria
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Ghana
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Ukraine
  • USA
  • UK
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe

What Reading/Travel Goals Do You Have This Year?

Tell me all about them! I love hearing about what everyone is doing. This is such a great community and I’m lucky to be a part of it! As you can see any progress towards your goals is great. I love seeing the difference between where I was last year and where I am now.

No Ordinary Buns Here: Ultimate Destinations For Burger Lovers

Life is like a burger, the more ingredients you add to it the tastier it becomes

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It’s summer time and that means grilling season is upon us. If you’re not a grill master that means you’re probably in search of the perfect burger. Not just an average burger, but the juicy, melt in your mouth, topped with everything under the sun, all-around above-average burger.

These burgers all have buns that aren’t your typical bread. You will need to worry about your blood pressure and heart health after eating these, but OH MY GOODNESS these burgers might be worth it.

Traveling for the new food experiences is my love language, so I wanted to create a fun summer post with a twist. Loosen your belts and put on your stretchy pants and prepare to chow down on a feast for your eyes. Then, plan a trip to eat one of the monstrosities… I mean… delicious additions to the burger world in person!

Mac N’ Stack Burger

Location: Portland, ME

Take Me to Your Burger: Nosh Kitchen Bar

Delicious Details: Mac n’ cheese lovers this one is for you. Forget buns, this monster of a burger has fried Mac n’ cheese patties instead. After all, it’s called a cheeseburger so the creators promoted this side dish to the starring roll of burger bun. Nosh also has a few other non-traditional bun burgers like the pizza burger, so go when you’re feeling super hungry because they all look amazing.

Luckily Maine has tons of gorgeous places to hike. Fuel up with this burger and walk it off by exploring the town and trails nearby.

Spaghetti Burger

Location: Orlando, FL

Take Me to Your Burger: The Sand Bar

Delicious Details: This burger joint is part of the Walt Disney World restaurant family, so you know there’s a lot of creativity happening here. I’m not sure fried spaghetti buns is something that should exist, but I love seeing the pictures and it’s definitely a unique burger to try!

Dirty Harry Donut Burger

Location: Steamboat Springs, CO

Take Me to Your Burger: Back Door Grill

Delicious Details: Can’t choose between eating your sweet or savory first? What about eating both at the same time? Now, you can. Meet the Dirty Harry Donut Burger where the buns are powdered and glazed donuts, the burger is massive, and the toppings aren’t what you’d expect. This infamous burger is topped with peanut butter, hash browns, fried eggs, and bacon. Veggies are afraid of this burger. Your arteries are too, but I’m not going to lie, this looks incredible.

If you’re in Colorado on an adventure, chances are you’ll burn off this burger in no time. Between the skiing and hiking alone you’re going to need it to fuel you. It’s all about balance, right?

Triple Coronary Bypass Burger (No I’m not kidding with this name)

Location: Atlanta, GA

Take Me to Your Burger: The Vortex

Delicious Details: This restaurant has not one, but 4 different coronary bypass burgers ranging in height from a single to a quadruple. This sandwich of epic proportions has grilled cheese sandwiches FOR BUNS. The double, tripe, and quadruple layer more grilled cheeses in between burger patties. This, my friends, is the ultimate of ultimate sandwiches.

Atlanta is a town known for its food, so to stand out you know you have to do something special. This absolutely takes the cake. Don’t miss out on the amazing cultural and historical things to do there because of a food coma, but don’t miss that sandwich either.

Pineapple Bun Burger

Location: Mostly in your kitchen

Take Me to Your Burger: These burgers are very hard to find in the wild.

Delicious Details: I’m upset to learn that McDonalds was where the pineapple bun burger made its debut after its creator Ray Kroc made a deal with the company. However, they haven’t taken the burger world by storm. It’s relatively difficult to find a restaurant that features these sweet and savory burgers, but there’s good news. They are fantastically easy to make at home.

Maybe you want to offer something unique at your next bbq or you just want to eat an incredible number of burgers with half the guilt. Pineapple bun burgers are the only one on this list that might actually help your health. Plus they look delicious and thirst-quenching at the same time.

Honorable Mentions No Longer In Business:

Pizza Bun Burger

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Take Me to Your Burger: Meatzilla

Delicious Details: Hear me out. Turn a regular burger bun into a pizza with cheese and pepperoni. Then, add a burger and toppings. It might seem like these two classic favorites don’t go well together, but we’re living in an age of food glory where anything is possible. Even pizza buns. You know meat, cheese, and bread are crucial ingredients of both pizza and burgers, so it’s only natural to try this innovative burger. Right!?

Unfortunately, due to covid-19 the restaurant decided to close their doors on their original restaurant. They’re currently regrouping to see what their next move is. Fingers crossed they make it back to business so you can try the original pizza burger. For now, why not make your own!?

Ramen Burger

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Take Me to Your Burger: Former restaurant Tatsu Ramen.

Delicious Details: The original ramen burger was created by Keizo Shimamoto and was a special feature on the menu at Taste Ramen. Due to the pandemic, the restaurant no longer exists, but the founder may still make a culinary comeback. Ramen burger buns may still be in your future!

Each bun features a shaped, fried ramen bun with a variety of toppings. I can only imagine how delicious freshly made ramen which is then fried and placed on something as delicious as a burger (in this case a wagyu burger) would taste. The chef created a website called Go Ramen and it seems like he has a new restaurant in California. The menu doesn’t feature the burger, but hopefully it will make a comeback soon so the world can once again taste the original.

Which Burger Would You Try and Is There One You Wouldn’t?

Honestly, I’d give all of these a shot. I wouldn’t eat an entire burger because, you know, health, but I’d absolutely split each one of these with a few friends so we could taste the glorious uniqueness of them. I have to admit that I am one of the few humans on earth who really doesn’t like pineapple, but I’m willing to try even that burger!

Let me know which burgers you’d love to try or would avoid in the comments below!

5 More Underrated Archaeological Sites

Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.

Louis D. Brandeis

Archaeology might have been my previous career, but I will always love visiting archaeological sites. Whether you’ve only heard of the super famous sites like Pompeii or also love seeking out the lesser-known sites like Tipon, if you love history, you’ve got to visit as many archaeological sites as possible.

It’s so cool to be able to venture to spaces preserved in time or that transport you back to places and eras that are so different from your own. The sites below you may not have heard of, but they absolutely deserve to be a household name and major tourist attraction. Luckily for us, they are not crowded no matter when you visit. However, they do still need funding for upkeep to keep their amazing history alive, so I wanted to put them on your radar!

Copán, Honduras

Copán is an ancient Mayan city sitting near the border with Guatemala. The site dates back to 1,000 BCE where it began as a small agricultural settlement and grew to an important city in 250CE. In its heyday, it was home to approximately 20,000 people and didn’t begin to decline until ~822CE and was completely abandoned by 1200CE.

The site itself is massive at a whopping 250 acres. There are stone temples, two pyramids, stairways, plazas, a tlachtli court, and residential areas. You can walk all around the town and explore so much. The site is famous for its hieroglyphic stairway which features 1,260 extremely well-preserved symbols. There are also friezes, monuments, and statues/carvings to see throughout the site.

Lalibela’s Rock-Hewn churches, Amhara, Ethiopia

These are not your average churches. Unless your average church is one that is also carved out of the volcanic rock during the Middle Ages and extend several stories into the ground. The 11 rock-hewn churches I’m talking about are in northern Ethiopia and are still important pilgrimage sites centuries later. King Lalibela commissioned the churches’ construction in the 12th and 13th centuries as an attempt to evoke a new Jerusalem in his country.

The churches are unique in that they are more sculpture-like than building. They were constructed from the top down and carved right into the existing rock like giant, functional statues. There are no seams, mortars, or separate pieces. The entire structure is one piece of rock. How cool is that!? The outside of the structure remains simple, but once you step inside there is adornment all over.

Göbekli Tepe, Şanlıurfa, Turkey

Want to visit what may be the world’s oldest place of worship? Göbekli Tepe dates back to 11,500 years ago and turned the religion followed agriculture theory on its head. People during this time period were still hunter gatherers, so it was a discovery that rocked the archaeological world and shed light on a piece of the past that doesn’t usually provide a ton of information for us to examine.

The site has round/oval megalithic (think Stonehenge) structures as well as T-shaped pillars carved with depictions of wild animals. The carvings helped give a glimpse of what daily life and beliefs entailed which is rare in the archaeological record. When you visit the site you can explore the site via walkways and even see the pillars from above for a closeup look at the carvings. What’s even cooler is what isn’t uncovered yet. Surveys done of the ground beneath show 16 more megalithic rings nearby. The acres of the site uncovered only shows 5% of what remains to be found.

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily

You don’t have to go to Greece to find an entire valley full of ancient temples. Pop over to Sicily instead for a much less crowded experience. There are temples to gods and goddesses, a necropolis, and sanctuaries dotting the landscape. This isn’t your typical tour of temples though. The temples are in various states of ruin, but it just adds a layer of adventure to the trip. Many structures are still standing and you’ll have to pick your away around fallen statues that used to stand as pillars.

Buildings dating back to before the 5th century are still standing and some are even adorned with modern sculptures depicting famous Greek myths. You can see evidence of a fire from centuries before, grooves cut into streets by carts, and even a sacrificial altar. Ince

Uxmal Pyramid, Yucatán, Mexico

Considered one of the most important and representative cities of Mayan culture and architecture you’d think more people would have heard of Uxmal. However, this site gets significantly less visitors than its more crowded ruins like Chichen Itza. The site is unique in that it relied solely on rainwater instead of cenotes for water. Uxmal eventually became the capital of the area. Between Uxmal and Chichen Itza, they were the only two cities in the area that survived after the 10th century.

Unlike many archaeological sites, you can actually touch a lot of the site. Most of the structures are free to explore, but you can’t climb the Adivino (aka Magician’s Pyramid) Pyramid. The site also has a ball court, training grounds, a palace, temples, shrines, and so much more.


8 Literary Walking Tours to Take to Walk in the Footsteps of Your Favorite Characters and Authors

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’m the type of person who says “yeah, let’s walk there!” even if it’s miles away. I love exploring places by foot and one of my favorite things to do in a new place is take walking/biking tours. It’s a great introduction to a place and you get to see so much.

By now, you’ll know I love books so, naturally, I wanted to share some literary walking tours I’ve stumbled across lately. Let me know which ones you’d love to go on or if you’ve heard of others! Until you can get to these destinations, take a virtual walk (and read the books that inspired them) by reading about these literary walking tours below!

Stockholm’s Millennium Tour for Fans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Series

Stieg Larson’s trilogy had a hard time getting published, but once they got in the hands of readers their fame skyrocketed. After the movie adaptations, it’s safe to say these books are internationally popular and Stockholm frequently draws tourists who want to visit sites from the books.

This two-hour walking tour takes you in the footsteps of the main character at many of the key locations in the books. You’ll traipse through the suburbs where Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander lived, visit their local cafe, Salander’s favorite tattoo shop, her luxury apartment, and so much more. You’ll end the tour at the Stockholm City Museum where you can experience even more of the books in the Millennium exhibition.

Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawl for Fans of Famous Authors

Dublin is a fantastic place for anyone who loves to read. This tour began operating in 1988 and is still popular 3 decades later. Ranked as one of the top walking tours in the world, this isn’t your average tour at all. Think of it as a full immersion into all things literature with a splash of spirits to kickstart your imagination.

A pub crawl hosted by actors playing famous authors!? You’ll jaunt around Dublin to four pubs, get a private visit to Trinity College, and learn all about the pub/poets/authors/pints from the actors along the way. It’ll be like you’re drinking with some of the greatest literary minds of history. You’ll also learn about how the writing culture got its start and how much of an impact writing had on the area.

Boston by Foot Tour for Fans of Some of America’s Great Authors

Boston has a walking tour for almost anything that could possibly bring you to the city. It’s more well-known for its historical connections, but many of the literary greats made huge impressions in Boston. Why not explore famous and lesser-known landmarks on a pleasant walk?

This tour visits places where writers such as Alcott, Emerson, and Thoreau gathered, discusses how famous authors like Dickens were lured to the city, and even dives into why Poe rejected Boston as his home. You’ll visit a variety of landmarks including the Old Corner Bookstore, Alcott’s home, and the Athenaeum private library.

London’s Spies of Mayfair Walking Tour for Fans of James Bond

Bond, James Bond. The books, not the movies. Yes, there are plenty of James Bond tours you can take for fans of the movie (I love them too), but this for the overlooked books that inspired the movies! The Spies of Mayfair is the only tour I could find that specifically caters to the books instead of the movies, so it’s absolutely a unique option for your next trip to London.

You explore where Ian Fleming lived, gambled, drank, and discovered the inspiration for the Bond series. You’ll even learn about a real-life Russian spy found murdered in the area and spy craft in general. Plus, it’s always a great experience to explore London on foot, so why not do so with a tour that’s not like the others.

Paris’s Literary Tour for Fans of French and Famous Visiting Authors

Paris is considered a cultural capital of the world, especially where literary greats are concerned. Walking around Paris is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to the vast artistic history of the city as almost every place you look has a connection to literature, art, history, and more.

The Paris Literature Walking Tour takes visitors on an adventure in the footsteps of Hemingway who loved to walk around the city. Along the way you’ll learn about famous artists, including Picasso and Matisse, visiting and resident authors, and even visit some famous bookstores. The tour lasts about 3 hours and you’ll cover so much of Paris in that time you won’t believe it.

Literary Shanghai Walking Tour for Fans of Chinese and Visiting Authors

Whenever literary walking tours are brought up, most people think of Western authors, but we can’t overlook authors from other regions who are just as talented. Shanghai underwent its literary heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries and produced a massive amount of impressive literature.

This guided tour begins at a local teahouse in the north end of the city associated with famous authors including Lu Xun. You will also visit the neighborhood where poet Xu Zhimo lived and hosted authors from other countries. Even if you haven’t read anything by these authors, it’s absolutely worth a trip since you’ll get exposure to new books/authors you should add to your shelves.

Bath’s Jane Austen Walking Tour for Fans of All Things Jane Austen

Bath is a gorgeous town to visit, especially for lovers of Jane Austen as it was used as the setting in several of her novels. The architecture alone takes you back in time so it feels more like a literary adventure instead of a stuffy tour. The tour is even led by the Jane Austen Centre, so you know you’re getting an expert on all things Austen not just the books.

Your tour guides will be dressed in period clothing, are experts in their field, and you’ll get to explore so much of Bath along the way. This tour is also really interactive. You can try on clothes from the period, write with a quill pen, and even taste food from the period.

New Zealand’s Multi-Day Hiking Tour for Fans of Lord of the Rings

Visiting all of the Lord of the Rings filming locations and locations from the books just isn’t possible on foot unless you have a year to spare. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a hybrid DIY tour where you drive to the location and take a hike near it. After all, New Zealand has epic views to go with the epic literature/movies set there. Why not do both?

The following are trails you can hike to see sites from the film and get an incredible walking experience along the way as well.

  • Mordor/Mt. Doom — Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Paths of the Dead — Hike the Putangirua Pinnacles
  • Dwarves in Barrels — Hike the Pelorus River
  • Chetwood Forest — Hike Takaka Hill
  • Edoras — Hike Hakatere Potts Road
  • The Two Towers — Hike Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park
  • Fangorn Forest — Hike Milford Track
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