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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Category: Travel

Tips on Feeling Like a Human While Traveling, and That’s About It

There’s a lot to say lately. And way, way more to listen to.

And in the middle of all the listening and the saying and the thinking and the doing, other parts of life keep moving. Maybe one of your sisters has a baby and you spend at least 20 minutes every day scrolling through pictures of her because she is the cutest baby in the world. Undeniably. The strongest, too. And maybe your job feels extra important now, because it’s teaching you confidence and clarity every minute of every day – and these are things you’ll need if you want to fix problems and change worlds.

And maybe part of that job involves a heckuva lot of travel. And thus – this post. A list of tips and tricks for staying healthy and sane while traveling. Particularly on those one-to-three day adventures, when you never fully settle in. Because whether you’re poised for a holiday immersion or a few last-minute work trips before the year ends, it never hurts to feel more like yourself.



  1. Know your habits.

Sleeping poorly is common “on the road.” But it can be mitigated with a little attention-paying. So, before you go to bed (and – you know – before you’ve actually left home), notice how you wind down. Do you wear cozy socks? Do you floss? (Please say yes.) Do you turn on a fan or humidifier? Do you read a couple pages of a Mary Higgins Clark murder mystery? Do you talk “roses and thorns” with your spouse or kids?

Make an actual list of your routines, so you’re aware of what’s become second nature. And then:

  1. Pick a couple of key habits or rituals, and pack accordingly.

Every night after I brush my teeth, I put a dab of Vaseline on my lips. (Is that weird? I’m not up to speed on the benefits of petroleum jelly.) When traveling, I used to sub whatever lip balm or Chapstick I could dig out of my backpack, but it’s just not the same. So now I pack a teeny tiny travel-size Vaseline in with my toothbrush. It’s not much, but it makes a huge difference.

When I’m at home, I also sleep with a fan running on low every night. I live in the city, and it helps dull the chatter of the after-bar crowd and the early-morning dog walkers. Hotels (and other people’s houses) are filled with a strange lack of noise. So I downloaded a free app that consists of eight hours of nothing but fan. On the road, I click it on every night and sleep like a baby.

  1. Create a travel-only ritual.

Sometimes, stress-free traveling requires more than just pretending you’re at home.

What’s a realistic but luxurious self-care ritual you usually skip at home and could easily do on the road? Maybe it’s a foot massage with that eucalyptus lotion someone gave you for your birthday. Or it’s using the expensive lavender wrinkle cream you definitely don’t need, but have 15 samples of anyway.  Especially if it’s a sample size, extra lotions or essential oils are easy to travel with.

My personal travel ritual consists of dabbing a drop of pure peppermint oil in the center of my palms, rubbing my palms together, and then gently massaging the peppermint on the base of my neck and upper shoulders every morning. Before I rinse the oil off my palms, I also vigorously rub them together and take a nice, deep inhale of the peppermint aroma. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating, especially when my body clock thinks it’s 4:30am, regardless of the actual time zone.

  1. Lay off the booze and sugar. And while you’re at it, find the veggies.

I know! Blasphemy! I’m not saying you have to skip cocktails and dessert entirely. But if you get knocked off your game by a couple of plane rides, weird-smelling Ubers, and/or a hotel shower that just. won’t. drain., do yourself a favor and try not to tax your system even further.

And whether you’re in cheesy carb heaven via your hotel menu or your family’s holiday gathering, there are probably some yummy raw fruits and veggies hiding somewhere nearby. (Pro tip: If you suspect there won’t be any particularly healthy items on the holiday buffet table, offer to bring one. Everybody loves a roasted beet salad, amirte?)

  1. Get some exercise.

No travel tip blog is complete without this one. But if it’s an overwhelming thought, just start simple. A 15-minute walk around the block takes literally 15 minutes. And you’ll get some fresh air at the same time, so that’s a bonus.

For more ambitious exercising without over-packing, check to see if your hotel chain offers cheap rentals on workout gear. Westin, for example, has a gear partnership with New Balance. For $5, you can rent shoes and clothing for your workout – which means you can pack that extra eucalyptus lotion and skip the yoga pants and sneakers.

  1. Take a minute to yourself.

FOMO is a temptress. It can be hard to resist joining every after-meeting dinner with your coworkers or every game of Scrabble with your brothers. But sometimes the best thing you can do for other people is reconnect with yourself and come back fresh.

Excuse yourself for 10 minutes to take a solo trip down Instagram lane – or, better yet, do some deep breathing with an app like Headspace.

And if after all this you’re still wiped out at the end of a good trip, don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s no shame in going to bed at 8pm in your own timezone.


Day 214: A San Diego Food Journey

This is a repost from a blog I posted yesterday for ShopPerk.

One of the best parts about moving from state to state is that with every new move, you (hopefully) gain some great new friends that you can go visit later. As a former San Diegan, I relish my trips back to break bread and burritos with my high school friends.

Last weekend, I visited a good friend who recently had twin babies (the cutest twin babies ever, in case you’re wondering). While they ate slightly more frequently than we did, we definitely got the better end of the food deal.

Here’s a breakdown of our weekend journey, including places you should be sure to check out when you’re in the San Diego area.


I got in around 8 p.m., and my hosts kicked off the weekend in the best way possible—by greeting me with a giant bowl of Velveeta Shells and Cheese.


Since I left my computer charger plugged in at work, my first order of business on Friday was to go buy a new one. I grabbed some granola at the house, went to a yoga class that very much kicked my butt and hit up the Fashion Valley mall.

California has a variety of excellent fast food places, including one of my all-time favorites: Rubio’s Baja Grill. They’re known for their fish tacos, but I’m always delighted with their super-simple bean and cheese burrito. One bite in to my coveted burrito, the bottom broke out and refried beans went slowly oozing into my lap, but I didn’t even care. It was a delicious lunch.


That’s the burrito. Right before it broke.

For dinner, my friend and I went to Sushi on the Rock in La Jolla. The Baby Conehead sushi rolls were light, crispy and perfectly bite-sized, as opposed to enormously awkward. It was a delightful dinner that was augmented by a gorgeous ocean view and a shared bottle of wine.


We hit up one of our favorite high school hangouts for breakfast—The Living Room. As far as I could tell, not much has changed there in the last decade (aside from their expansion into hookah). She got a giant blueberry muffin while I ate a breakfast sandwich that I’m excited about recreating at home—scrambled eggs, steamed spinach, goat cheese and tomato chutney on an toasted everything bagel.

In honor of living in the past, we went to another of our high school favorites for lunch—Board & Brew. In the old days, Board & Brew was our delicious mid-day beach break. Judging from the number of swimsuit-clad 15-year-olds in line, Torrey Pines High School is still funding the operation. And thank goodness, because it’s amazing. Board & Brew’s avocados taste better than any other avocados, anywhere.


Look at that sandwich.

Dinner was spent at a fun and funky Russian Georgian restaurant I’d never tried before, called Pomegranate. San Diego might be known for Mexican food, but I’d go back just for the Vareniki (potato-cheese dumplings) and garlic-infused salad sampler.


No vacation is complete without brunch, so we mimosa-d and polenta-d at The Cottage, a cute, delicious and extremely busy restaurant in La Jolla. After a pleasant 50-minute wait, a wildly cheerful waiter told us how much he loves Sundays (in fact, he loves ALL days), and how excited he was to provide us with our mid-morning provisions.


The Polenta was delicious, as was the pomegranate-tangerine mimosa.

Since brunch sustained us for most of the day, we waited until dinner to try anything else. Tired, happy and enjoying the warmth of sleepy babies in our arms, we opted for quick and easy Mexican food that we could eat while laughing through The Ricky Gervais Show.

By quick and easy, I don’t mean to imply that we made it. We ordered it from Palomino’s and asked her husband to go pick it up. My only complaint with Palomino’s is that they downright refused to put veggies on a quesadilla. Instead, they gave us veggie-filled burritos and “mild” salsa that was a surprising shock to my Midwestern taste buds. Minnesota mild salsa is a little, um, milder.


By Monday, I could barely move, so I got myself a soy chai and headed back to the land of hummus, beets and organic cereal. But after experiencing a taste of what San Diego has to offer, I’m feeling inspired to try more of the tasty food in my own city.

Day 164: Stuff and Things and Letting Go

Things strangely collect our emotions.

I posted a couple weeks ago about how giving away my loveseat on Craigslist was a tearful disaster (more because of the recipients than the item—but still). And today, my parents are moving. They packed up their Chicago house and are headed to the northwest.

We’ve never been a terribly nostalgic family when it comes to structures and stuff. Growing up, we moved more often than most of our friends, and settled ourselves in different parts of the country for the sake of adventure. We collected people and shed things every time we left a house, and always (almost) enjoyed the newness and excitement of reorganizing somewhere new.

But this move feels a little different. My parents are doing it without my sisters and me. We don’t have our own bedrooms in the new place (much to my mom’s chagrin), and there will be no school orientations, no track meets and no yearbook functions. It’s an adult move and they’re paring down.

Even our old art projects, skating ribbons and American Girl dolls aren’t going along for the ride. The remaining evidence of my sisters’ and my youth is heading into a storage unit outside of Chicago, where we can come and pilfer as we have time and space.

So for the last couple of months, my parents have been selling, donating and free-Craigslisting (sans tears) many of their belongings. I’ve seen the “come and get it” Facebook posts and waited on the phone as a 9-1-1 fallback while strangers picked up their couches and end tables. I was well aware that their things were going to new homes.

And I was fine with it until my mom posted a picture of my dad’s charcoal Weber grill (the one he received for college graduation and has been using ever since), and called it up for grabs.

Instinctually, I grabbed. Out of sheer terror. I mean, what would my parents be without the Weber? I grew up understanding its timelessness, its durability and its knack for producing the perfect, patiently grilled steak. I knew I had to hang on to it for them, lest their personalities disappear completely with this move.

The Weber

There she is.

Two text messages with my mom proved logically otherwise. They don’t need it anymore. And I’m a vegetarian living in a one-bedroom apartment with no outdoor space. Though I remember the grill being a fine roommate when it had a deck to itself, in my current arrangement it would coat my wispy curtains with soot and be the centerpiece of my living room. And it doesn’t do so well with veggies. She gave it to a grateful neighbor instead.

The bottom line is that stuff gets you sometimes. And then you have to let it go.

Because really, stuff is nothing without people.

Day 109: Day at the Mall

Erin, my best friend from graduate school, is in town from New York, so I took the day off of work and showed her around the mall. Yes, the mall.

My beautiful city is not lacking for lovely museums, music, hipster bars or awesome indie-local flavor. But Erin and I figured that we spend enough time in the artsy world, so today would be a good day for a trip to the biggest mall in America.

We had an awesome time. Here’s what we did:

1. Got our ears pierced for the third and eighth times, respectively. After walking past at least three Claire’s, we couldn’t resist the sleek (and sterile) purple signage. As we giggled and nervously chugged our Starbucks drinks, all four 12-year-old store patrons watched us with what appeared to be a mixture of confusion and admiration. (Neither of us cried.)

Erin ears pierced

Erin getting her ears pierced, all zen-like.

2. Found a restaurant overlooking the full-blown indoor amusement park (yes, this mall has its own amusement park) and drank sangria.

Nickelodeon Universe

Erin having a bonding moment with the ferris wheel.

3. Seriously contemplated making a bunch of super-cute Build-a-Bears and shipping them to New York. We managed to pass Build-a-Bear Workshop six or seven times, so it was really hard to resist, especially post-sangria.

5. Bought some pants. She got a necessary pair of hot pink jeggings and I grabbed some super useful skinny jeans in pink snakeskin (don’t ask me about the difference between jeggings and skinny jeans; I still don’t get it).

6. Declined multiple offers for store credit cards. Check that; Erin declined. As a true representative of the Midwest, I tried to say no passively and came home with a bag full of sign up forms.

Now we’re back in my apartment, drinking tea and plotting an evening of dive bar bowling in our fancy new pants.

Day 107: What to Pack

My best friend from graduate school is coming to visit me from New York tomorrow and she asked me what to pack. Rather than send her a list broken up between eight separate text messages (with some “xoxoxo’s” peppered in for good measure), I’m sending it to her blog-style.

Stuff to Pack*

1. Your warmest coat. Unlike everywhere else in the country, it’s the middle of winter where I live. In fact, it’s been winter the entire time I’ve had this blog. The. Entire. Time. I’m both giggling and crying as I write this.

2. Wine. I tried to get some in preparation for your arrival, but I left my ID in my other coat and the guy at Kowalski’s wouldn’t sell me any without it. My incredulous and wide-eyed, “But I’m thirty!” didn’t phase him one bit.

3. Yoga pants. Obviously we’re going to dress up like we’re going to yoga, whether or not we actually go. We can drink the wine you’re bringing instead.

4. Dancing shoes (sneakers). I’ve compiled a long list of all the dance nights happening around town throughout the week. If we plan on going to all of them, we’ll make it to at least one. I’m itching to do the Roger Rabbit on a Wednesday.

5. Skim milk. This is a soy milk household. (Just kidding; I already picked up some skim. But I do think it’s gross, so you’re going to have to drink the entire carton by yourself.)

6. Those magical heat-emitting hand-warmer thingies you can put in your pockets. See number 1.

That’s pretty much it. I have towels and Girl Scout cookies for you.

See you at the airport!

*This list can be adapted for anyone visiting the Midwest in March.


That’s the two of us, running. Photo by the very talented Andrew Ippolito.