Voyage to Nantucket: Whaling History, a Luxury Hotel & So Much More

Voyage to Nantucket: Whaling History, a Luxury Hotel & So Much More

“Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable.”

– Normal Rockwell

In 2015, my wife Corinne and I finally took a weekend trip to Nantucket Island, located off the South Coast of Massachusetts. There we celebrated our anniversary but did so in a distinctive style. Although the weekend followed no primary schedule, we took in the history, scenery, and beauty of this fantastic island. When we left, we were not surprised by how wonderful the trip was, but wondered why it took so long to visit in the first place. We knew we found a place where we would travel again. If for no other reason, to feel the majesty of the island environment and be taken aback by the splendor of the ocean water as it crashed onto our feet as we walked along the lovely beach.

I am a born and raised New Englander, one who grew up able to see the local harbor from the bedroom window. I do not feel calm or at peace if I am without access to an ocean. This need to live “oceanically” is one reason I found myself living in Hawaii by 2010. If I was going to work towards a Ph.D., I thought, why not study on a gorgeous tropical island surrounded by water. After my wife and I moved back, we found ourselves living in Salem and, once again, had a window with views of the ocean and a sense of peace. The ocean is essential to me, and being as close as possible to it, is vital to who I am as an individual. Nantucket is the perfect example of a location that can instantly recharge my core emotional battery in that way. Just by setting foot on the island, feeling the ocean breeze, and observing the ocean’s vastness from the roof of the Whaling Museum or coastal road, I appear centered.

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Adventures in Philadelphia: Breweries, Baseball & Badassery in the City of Brotherly Love

Adventures in Philadelphia: Breweries, Baseball & Badassery in the City of Brotherly Love

“I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by one. So there… there were two of us in the wolf pack… And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, “Wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack.”

– Zach Galifianakis (Alan) from The Hangover (2009)

In the long history of my life, which isn’t that long at all, I have never had a ton of friends. Sure, I have close friends from my past who I am still in contact with from time to time. I communicate with colleagues and classmates who I met along the way and positively impacted me. But friends I hang out with and talk to frequently are a much smaller group, at least in terms of number. Over the last decade, I built a small group who I consider great friends. So, it should be of no surprise that when returning from my month-long stay in Shanghai, China, in July of 2018, I was invited by a couple of those close friends for a weekend trip to Philadelphia; I responded yes. This group of friends goes on a trip once a year, usually to visit a Major League Baseball stadium, test out the local breweries, and eat fantastic food. I was thrilled to be invited. I had not been on one of their weekend excursions, but I enjoyed playing softball and exploring breweries with these four guys, so I was eager and excited to join them. Filled with history, a couple of breweries, and a visit to Citizens Bank Park, this trip became an unforgettable memory.

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Wandering through County Clare, Ireland

Wandering through County Clare, Ireland

“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

– Irish Saying ☘️

In August 2017, my wife and I traveled to County Clare, Ireland, with my mother, for an experience of a lifetime. My mother has become a seasoned professional at traveling throughout Ireland and invited us to stay with her at the cottage she rented for the summer. With my wife and I on summer break from teaching, it seemed the time was finally right to join my mother. This trip would be a perfect opportunity to see some of the places that have become special to her. Our trip constructed incredible memories that, as I have said often, are helping me get through this pandemic. Join me as I recollect about this fantastic journey along the Atlantic coastline of Ireland and those towns and historical sites we visited.

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Traveling from Antigua to Sibinal in Guatemala, or the Land of Eternal Spring

Traveling from Antigua to Sibinal in Guatemala, or the Land of Eternal Spring

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

– Maya Angelou

In the summer of 2010, my wife’s family, including me, traveled to Guatemala. We went to visit my wife’s brother Kyle. He was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sibinal, a municipality in the San Marcos department of Guatemala. It was an exciting opportunity, since none of us had been to Guatemala before, and it had been over a year since we saw Kyle. We relied on him to plan out our entire itinerary. He chose where we stayed, ate, and arranged fabulous visits with his host families, set up a couple of historical tours, and a trip to his work site in the village of Sibinal. What we didn’t expect would be the deluge of weather that greeted us along our journey from Antigua to Quetzaltenango, known locally as Xela (SHAY-la), Lake Atitlán, San Marcos, and finally Sibinal.

While the trip had rain, mudslides, a hurricane, and an earthquake, the memories we gained, stories constructed, and time spent together are seen today as genuinely incredible. I know of no other trip I have spoken about more, cared more deeply about, then that trip to Guatemala. Join me as I venture ten years to the past and reflect on this incredible journey, and marvel at the places I saw, people I met, food I ate, and the brutal weather that has since become family lore.

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My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

“Neal: What’s the flight situation? / Del: Simple. There’s no way on earth we’re going to get out of here tonight. We’d have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak. / Neal: I guess we’ll find out soon enough. / Del: Yeah, but by the time the airline cancels this flight, which they will sooner or later, you’d have more of a chance to find a three-legged ballerina than you would a hotel room. / Neal: Are you saying I could be stuck in Wichita? Del: I’m saying you are stuck in Wichita.”

– John Candy (Del) & Steve Martin (Neal) in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

In previous posts, I have discussed how my brother Jeff and I do a movie rewatch and chat each week. It started on ZOOM when things locked down at the start of the pandemic, and we have since continued doing it socially distanced in either his or my backyard. One week, what started as a discussion of our favorite John Hughes’ film, morphed into a conversation about bad travel experiences. As brothers do, we each told our own bad travel stories, competing to see who had the worst experience. In the end, we both agreed our worst travel experience was one we shared.

Many years ago, 16-years to be exact, my brother Jeff and I lived our version of the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I remember it being terrible. In our attempt to go to Florida to celebrate Christmas and the dawning of a New Year at Walt Disney World with my sister Becky and mother, we experienced what can only be described as an awful travel adventure. To circumvent lousy weather, limited plane space, and a semi-strike by our airline, we did whatever we could to make it Florida, from Providence, RI. We went through insanity, yet it is one of the funniest stories to tell because, well, sometimes bad experiences make for great stories.

The end of the story will be as strange as the beginning. But, to better understand it, I want to add in a comparison take on John Candy and Steve Martin’s incredible buddy-comedy adventure, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A film with sharp comedic timing, uncomfortable travel commentary, and touching dramatic elements, the movie always makes me think of what my brother Jeff and I went through and the paths we took to get to Florida that Christmas in 2004. Join me as I explore that travel adventure, study an incredibly nostalgic film, and partially spoil the story’s ending. It ends pretty well.

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My Journey to Beijing & the Great Wall of China

My Journey to Beijing & the Great Wall of China

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

– Anthony Bourdain

I first started this blog in July of this year, so not long ago. It began out of my most profound hope to scratch a creative itch and share stories with those who want to read them. My second blog post, Exploring Shanghai, dealt with my trip to Shanghai, China, in June/July of 2018. I will not repeat too much for those who read it, and for those who haven’t, please do. It has some great reflections and stories of the month I spent in Shanghai, China, teaching, traveling, eating, and drinking. The one part of my trip to China I did not detail, and wish to do so now, was my weekend journey from Shanghai to Beijing on June 23 & 24 of 2018 and my eventual and emotional walk along the Great Wall of China. So back to China we go, but this time we jump on a bullet train to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

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The Travels & Adventures of Mr. Tuttles

The Travels & Adventures of Mr. Tuttles

“A book about me? [gasps] I’m gonna be a star! Steve, you’re the best! Oh, my God, Stan, how upset are you? Seriously, on a scale from one to pissed. Oh, who gives a flying fig? I’m a star!”

– Episode “Star Trek” from American Dad

Mr. Tuttles is a 13-year-old Shih Tzu mix my wife and I adopted from the Boston Animal Rescue League in 2008. We are nearing the anniversary of his adoption day! He has led an incredible life. He has gone everywhere with us. Whether we lived in Boston, Honolulu, city, or suburb, near and far, he has always been with us. He has bad ears and heart, but he is the happiest and most snuggly dog. He loves to eat, be picked up and held, snuggles on the couch both outside and in, and enjoys a good nap, while eagerly awaiting a new adventure. We are lucky to have adopted him so many years ago. Honestly, he is as wicked traveled as me! He has flown more miles than many humans, that’s not too bad.

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Traveling for Wicked Awesome Coffee

Traveling for Wicked Awesome Coffee

“We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks, but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other.”

– Parker Posey in Best in Show

I am a latecomer to the coffee world. Never really drank it until I started dating my wife, back in the early 2000s. She is from NY, so coffee was pretty much injected into her veins at an early age. While I may have been late to the java party, I have more than made up for it over the last two decades. Now, I can’t start the day without a nice cup of Café Bustelo. When my wife and I travel, we love to find unique and fun places to get a cup of coffee. In this blog post, let’s explore some of the coffee shops we have visited in our recent travels.

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Traveling to Familiar Surroundings

Traveling to Familiar Surroundings

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

– Robert Frost

It was over a year ago that my wife and I sold our home. I am sure anyone can tell you, selling a home is stressful, annoying, and probably the worst thing in the world. Ok, that might be overdoing it, but it sucks! While our realtor organized an Open House for one weekend in late June last year, my wife and I needed to escape the process and reboot. As the weekend drew near, the thought of getting away seemed more and more necessary. As I am from Massachusetts and my wife is not, she asked where I would like to go. I answered…home.

I had not been back to the town I grew up in for several years. The closest I had come to going back was when I visited my aunt and uncle when I got married in 2011 and ran the New Bedford Half Marathon in 2015. Now was June of 2019. So…it…had…been…awhile. But this seemed the perfect time to go back and reset after a terrible home selling experience. So, with the dog staying with family, my wife and I set out for the South Coast of Massachusetts. We were heading to New Bedford!

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Exploring Shanghai: One Brewery at a Time

Exploring Shanghai: One Brewery at a Time

“Time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived.”

– Captain Juan-Luc Picard, Star Trek: Generations

During the summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Shanghai, China teaching US History for the Massachusetts Educational Institute. I immediately considered this a once in a lifetime experience and eagerly accepted. As someone who had never been to that part of the world or even considered the possibility of ever setting foot in Asia, this seemed a daunting journey. My anxiety grew higher because I would be traveling without my wife, who was still working in Boston and did not know anyone else who had signed up to teach.

Travel is fantastic, but being with someone makes it stand out, at least for me. Now I am not criticizing those that travel alone, actually the opposite. I am envious of the lone traveler. Their spirit, confidence, and resolve must be admired and applauded. But I had never traveled by myself like this, and the length of my stay in China would be 38 days. That’s a long time to be away from my wife, our dog Mr. Tuttles, and journeying to a place whose language I do not speak and whose culture I did not want to offend.

Even so, the excitement of this type of travel was enough for me to leap. In the months before my departure, I prepared, planned out excursions, researched places to eat, sites to see, and how to get around the city of Shanghai. I am not the first person to do this, so it was not hard to get information, but that did not remove my anxiety about leaving home for a month and doing all this alone. Luckily, when the time came to go, I boarded my flight in Boston. After an emotional goodbye with my wife, the excitement of what was to come took over. I was on my way to China.

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