Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Good Reasons to Love Argosy Cruises

1. Gorgeous views of the Seattle waterfront

2. Way better than anticipated buffet dinner

3. Support for one of my favorite charities,
Camp Goodtimes

And if I can recommend the perfect party game for any occasion, reminiscent of the great Pee Wees’s Playhouse, you should always have a secret word. Ours is “ninja”. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Squeezing the Last Sunny Days Out of a Seattle Summer

I’m definitely not what you would call a morning person. I’m a firm believer that days should start once the hours enter double digits. Still, when the West Seattle Blog announced that Alki Kayak Tours slashed their $65 Alki Lighthouse run to $20, simply because they felt it would be a crime not to take advantage of 80+ degree weather in late September, they got me out of bed. Who can resist that kind of staff commitment to sharing an experience they clearly love?

So at 8:30am on a day when I was scheduled to work the closing bar shift, I found myself scarfing down a bagel & cream cheese and a boiled egg (fuel for this three-hour tour) and catching the free
Water Taxi shuttle to our launch site.

This last minute plea brought together seven strangers, picked to paddle the waterfront, and find out what happens when they stop enjoying the scenery and start getting…tired. Our group consisted of a cute young couple, two adult women who had never kayaked before, myself, with the limited experience of once on a lake this past summer, and an old pro called “North Dakota Dave (or was it Dan?)”. Our gregarious guide was named Greg, but went by “Kona” since half the staff also appeared to be named Greg.

The staff had every amenity imaginable on hand, from the essential life jackets and equipment to waterproof bags for cameras and loaner sunglasses. Kona led us through a brief tutorial of how not to end up upside down while entering and exiting the boat and emergency exit procedures should you find yourself flipped to face the fishies. Then it was all hands on deck to haul the boats to shore and start paddling.

Alki Beach provides one of the best possible views of the Seattle skyline, but being locals our eyes were peeled more for the possibility of a seal sighting, foreshadowed by the far off barking echoing over the water and granted about ten minutes in. The group kept an easy pace to the lighthouse and back, stopping sporadically to let lagging members catch up, snap photos or bask in the sunshine. By the time we were halfway back to our starting point my arms had definitely begun to ache, but I took very little advantage of the freedom of the out-of-sight back paddler to slack off every now and then… I swear!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Home is Where the Permanent Address Is

I can remember to exact moment that I decided to move to Manhattan. I was standing in the middle of Times Square, fresh from dinner on the town and tickets to RENT, my first Broadway show. My girl friend and I stepped into the middle of Times Square and instead of feeling overwhelmed I let out a sigh of belonging. “I love this city,” I said to my girl friend. When she responded, “Why don’t you move here?” I was left literally speechless, racking my brain for an answer.

I grew up very attached to my hometown of West Seattle. On every family vacation I was afraid that something important was going to happen at home and I would miss out on the moment of a lifetime. I applied to college based on in-state tuition and proximity to lifelong friends and imagined settling down and building a family in the same zip code as my parents.

This all changed in my senior year of college. I toyed with the idea of transferring to an out-of-state school amidst changing my mind and my major almost seven times (hello, undeclared!), but I never had the guts to follow through. It wasn’t until a friend passed through the study abroad office and discovered a pamphlet for a quarter in Greece (a place I had always dreamed of and talked about going) that something clicked.

Of course, I was terrified. I didn’t pack for my three-month trip until the night before my flight departed. The layover in New York City to visit a friend was meant to break up my flight and ease myself into the trip. I had left the country before, but I had never spent more than three weeks away from home. I had no idea that those three days would change my life.

I went back to my friend’s dorm room after that night in Times Square and emailed my parents, “I think I want to live here one day.” I was convinced that I had just been given the perfect trial period- if I spent the next three months studying abroad homesick and miserable than I wouldn’t move, but if I came home to the same friends, family and city that I knew and loved then I was free to go anywhere in the world. As you may have guessed, Greece was amazing and a crowd of friends met me at the airport upon my return with balloons and a “Welcome Home” banner strung above our freeway exit.

Travelers are often characterized as “brave”, which was a label I had a hard time getting used to. Sure, a new place can be intimidating and keeping up long-distance friendships can take work, but when the worst-case scenario is coming home to a place that you love, it makes taking that first trip a whole lot easier.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Forget Mega-Millions, I’ll Take Mileage!

The more I follow travel news the more I’m amazed by the too-good-to-be-true contests that abound in the industry lately. I don’t want to contradict the highly-respected opinion of my fellow travel blogger Camels & Chocolate (who gives a firsthand look at the actual WORK it takes to do this for a living) but there are some pretty serious chances at a travel enthusiast’s lottery out there. As they say, some lucky dog’s got to win it.

I was sucked into the dream of a $10,000 prize and travel writing trip to NYC that had me spamming friends and begging for votes to make the finals.  The idea of a quick route into something I desperately wanted to do seemed so simple, until I remembered that I hate mass self-promotion via social networking.  I was momentarily disappointed by falling ten spots short of the finals where I would actually be judged on the merit of my work, but quickly decided to refocus my attitude on the amazing support I got from friends, fellow bloggers and complete strangers. If nothing else this provided a networking opportunity and growing blogroll of travel writers I discovered in the process.

In the meantime, there are other possibilities to be rewarded with a destination, while at the very least enjoying the journey. Wanderlust and Lipstick is offering a 12-day Health and Harmony spa vacation in Vietnam for the best travel story submitted, judged by five travel journalists. There are also five runner-up prizes for best in various categories.

Details here:

The other best piece of advice I’ve received is to live an interesting life so that you have something to write about, so I’m preparing to skydive for my 30th birthday! Ridiculous photos, terrified faces, and video full of octave-breaking screams to come…

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Trazzler Travel Writing Contest

I've broken the top 20 of the 200+ semi-finalists in an online travel writing contest sponsored by and The top ten most voted trips go to the finals to be judged on the merit of their writing, so I need your help to get there! The theme of the contest was to find an "Oasis", a place that lets you escape from everyday life and describe it in roughly 150 words or less.

As an added incentive, if selected as a winner I plan to donate half of the $10,000 prize to the American Cancer Society's Camp Goodtimes, a much needed "oasis" for children battling cancer.

I chose the sunset on Alki Beach in West Seattle, a view that has kept me going through many busy nights working at the restaurant where this is my "corner office". I can practically predict my night based around what time the sun goes down and our staff makes it a point, no matter how hectically we may be running around, to stop and enjoy this sight every night for at least a minute.

You can read my entry "Searching for the Perfect Sunset on Alki Beach" here:

***Update- made it to the top 20 contestants, but didn't break into the top ten finalists. Thanks for the love from those who voted!