This year I was determined to travel more. I finally got over my travel anxiety and made it happen. Nike was right…sometimes you have to “just do it!” I am so glad that I not only booked the two trips that I took this year to New Mexico and Cuba, but that I followed through and actually went on the trips! Both experiences have been life affirming and the timing was perfect for the transitions that are happening in my life.
Next year will be a milestone birthday for me. I have been waiting for this birthday because I figured by the time I reached this point in my life I would have it all together. Well, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at us to keep us on our toes and I am ready for my new chapter. I pray that it involves as much travel as possible.
Upward and onward!
What are your travel goals for 2018? Share them in the comments section. Remember to like, share, and subscribe for more travel related content.
There is something about living in major cities that causes people to become harsh, detached, and abrupt toward one another. It is most noticeable when you visit places that operate at a slower pace. This was my experience when I traveled back to Washington, D.C. from Albuquerque, New Mexico. TSA is typically the worst part of traveling for me because I tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes. I eventually plan to purchase the TSA pre-check for future travels. I posted earlier about how on the way to New Mexico I was subjected to a body search – twice. Read about that experience here. While I know that Albuquerque isn’t as busy as the airports in D.C. I didn’t want to risk being held up at security yet again. So I woke up early to pack and drive back into Albuquerque.
Once everything was packed I headed into the lobby for my morning cup of coffee. It was quite early so there was only a group of four elderly guests lounging around, presumably for the restaurant to start serving breakfast. After getting my coffee, I headed outside to sit on the porch and sip my coffee.
The fire from the previous night was still burning and the intoxicating scent of piñon wood hung heavily in the air. I decided to get one last set of pictures of the property. While snapping my photos I heard a low meow. I thought I was hearing things because I hadn’t seen any animals around the property during my stay. Sure enough, an adorable cat managed to sidle up beside me, hopeful that I would have something for it to eat. I petted the cat then went back to taking pictures. The cat eventually lost interest and sauntered towards the parking lot.
The front desk didn’t open until 8:00 A.M. I was anxious to get on the road so a helpful staff member offered to see if they could check me out early. They were and I was on the road to Albuquerque by 8:00 A.M.
I arrived in Albuquerque about 2 hours later and pulled into the rental car drop off area. I was greeted by a friendly guy named Harold who informed me that the car would be checked in then he would drop me off at the airport. He caught me off guard since I was expecting to catch the shuttle back to the airport. During the short drive to the airport Harold informed me that he had moved to Albuquerque about 5 years earlier from Los Angeles after he got divorced. He said he enjoyed the change of pace in the New Mexico. He asked if I was considering moving to the area and I gave him a firm, no. We parted ways and I made my way into the airport terminal.
I ate a bland breakfast at the first restaurant that I saw before entering the security gate called Tia Juanitas. I can not recommend it. While it is pretty hard to mess up breakfast the food was basically just edible an overpriced at $15. I got the same breakfast at the resort the day before for a couple of bucks less. The server managed to upcharge me by asking if I wanted avocados. She never mentioned that it was an extra charge and I didn’t think ask if it would cost extra. Well it was an extra $1.50. I didn’t even eat them. The meal did the job though which was to keep my stomach from growling.
The Albuquerque airport is pretty small so there was no need to catch a shuttle and jog along a moving walkway to get from point A to point B. There was a sign at the security checkpoint that stated that no gate is more than 5 minutes away. I decided to dress in loose comfortable work out clothes and I was able to breeze through the body scanner this time. Unfortunately my carry-ons needed to be searched. Never mind the fact that my bags were packed exactly the same as they were on the way into New Mexico. I was glad that I had loads of extra time which kept me from stressing out about the hold up.
Since the charging port in the rental car didn’t work (read more about that here) I needed to find a place to charge my phone. I found a corner nook table with wall outlets behind it in the food court, plugged in, and began tapping out my blog series. If you haven’t yet read the previous two posts go here and here.
My flight to Denver from Albuquerque was bumpy but otherwise uneventful. However, upon arrival in Denver I learned that my flight into D.C. was delayed. I tried to talk the airline staff into getting me on a earlier flight that will land at National airport, to no avail. To top it off, all of the sit down restaurants in the concourse had lines. I wandered to the end of the C concourse and found a table at Vino Volo where a well deserved glass of wine was poured. I also had a delicious warm roasted chicken salad to accompany it.
My flight boarded a little early and we actually made it into D.C. on time. I had booked a Super Shuttlesince I was flying back into Dulles. Unfortunately there was a lot of confusion about which exit passengers were to meet at and we spent nearly an hour rounding up the other passengers – all women – all going to different parts of the city. Fortunately, I was the second passenger to be dropped off and I was able to make it home before 2:00 A.M. While it was nice to be home, I really enjoyed my stay in the Southwest and I look forward to going again soon. If you are looking for an amazing spa resort experience I highly recommend checking out Ojo Caliente as a perfect rustic desert retreat.
I woke up early Sunday morning feeling refreshed and excited. I decided to go for a short walk around the property to get my bearings and take photographs of the high desert landscape. Breakfast at Ojo Caliente isn’t served until 7:30 A.M., but my mind was on coffee first and foremost. I went out into the lobby area where a coffee station set up at the bar, but unfortunately there was only decaf available. The staff was in the process of brewing more regular Iconik Coffee. I patiently waited for the carafe of coffee to be brought out then eagerly filled my cup with the brown steaming liquid. The coffee was bold and strong, just the way I like it. With my cup in hand I headed up toward the Posi Trail where I enjoyed my coffee while taking photos of nature’s amazing art work. Around 8:00 A.M. I started to get hungry and headed back down the trail for breakfast.
After breakfast, I came out of the hotel and saw a man setting up a table along the main path. I went over and met Vincent, a Santo Domingo Pueblo who was there selling handmade jewelry. His pieces were absolutely beautiful! He even brought the stones and shells that the jewelry was made out of to show customers. He informed us that his signature for each piece is having a small piece of opal at the bottom of his jewelry. Most of his statement pieces were around $75 or $80 so I purchased two pairs of turquoise earrings from him since I had given myself a budget of $40.00 to spend on jewelry.
After purchasing my earrings I decided to head back to my room since the chilly morning air was starting to warm up. I wanted to enjoy the spa and all four of the mineral baths before it got too busy. Since it was a weekend, lots of day trippers visit the spa. Most of the pools were pretty full, but I managed to spend a little bit of time in the main pools.
As it got closer to noon, the crowds grew and I decided to reserve a private pool. I thought the private pools were only $12, but that was actually the cost for a private tub. The private pools are an additional $45 for around 50 minutes. It was worth the money to have the whole pool to myself. At night the staff will light the Kiva fireplace in your pool area for you upon request. When my time was up in the private pool, I decided to take a nap and unwind for the rest of the afternoon.
Around 5 or 6 PM I got up for dinner and enjoyed enchiladas made with blue corn tortillas, southwest chiles, and a side of fresh veggies and beans at the Artesian Restaurant. I also indulged in a prickly pear mimosa which was my first drink that weekend. While I waited for the food to be served, the waitress brought over a basket of warm mini blue corn muffins. They were delicious and sweet! After dinner, I headed back to my room where I confirmed my flight reservations for my return the next day and went back to sleep.
What do you do when you get a bonus 3 day weekend off of work? You book a trip of course! I had a couple of unused Luv vouchers from Southwest Airlines that were going to expire soon and I needed to get out of town to shake off the deep winter funk that I had fallen into. While scrolling through Facebook one night I saw pictures that a member of a Facebook travel group had posted and I instantly knew I had to go there. In all of my wildest dreams I would not have considered taking a vacation in New Mexico yet I was surprisingly drawn to the natural beauty of the rugged landscape and the tranquility of the natural mineral hot springs. I checked air fares and locked in a fare that was exactly the right price for the 2 Southwest Airline Luv vouchers that I had acquired. I then made a reservation for the hotel and resort and pretty much forgot about the trip until it was almost time to go. I told about 2 people at the most that I was going on this unusual adventure.
I normally get a bit jittery about travel (since the events of September 11) which I wrote about in another post, but I felt really good about this trip. No nerves, no jitters, just pure excitement about embarking on a new adventure. It had been about 4 years since I had been on a “real” vacation, so I was long overdue.
Saturday morning I woke up excited about my first trip to the Southwestern part of the United States. While I hadn’t fixated on it, I had been looking forward to getting out of town for weeks! I got up early, cleaned my apartment, then called an Uber to drive me to Dulles Airport. Well, like I said before it had been years since I last flew so I couldn’t remember which airport was the closest when I booked my ticket. I was a few minutes behind schedule but I was hopeful that it wouldn’t have a big impact on my quest to get out of town. Well it did make an impact but thank God I didn’t try to catch Metro because Metro does not go all the way out to Dulles so that was travel faux pas number 1 on this trip.
The Uber driver dropped me off in front of the airline and everything seemed to be going well until I got to the security line. It slowly snaked along and at least 5 wheelchairs jumped to the front of the sluggish line. Had I been able to go through the security line without a hitch maybe this post would have a different ending. Alas, it was not be be and as you have probably guessed by now I missed my flight due to security stopping me to give me a full pat down. As you can imagine I was not only annoyed but I felt quite violated.
I finally made it to my departing gate and it was empty. The plane was sitting on the tarmac, but the doors had been secured. I asked the lone gate agent what I could do and she was able to find another flight at the same price but leaving from DCA. I just had to make my way from Dulles to DCA in time. So, I had to catch a $5 shuttle to the Metro Silver line which would take me directly to DCA.
When I finally got to DCA I was really short on time and to add insult to injury I entered the wrong security area, walked all the way to the end of it hoping it would lead to the gate that I needed. It didn’t so I had to walk all the way back out of that security area, down a long corridor and enter security…again. If you are keeping count this was my 3rd security check of the day and I had been stopped at each one. After finally getting through this final security check I didn’t bother putting my shoes on and I half skated, half hobbled to the gate as they were announcing my name for the final boarding call. The gate agent checked me in while I attempting to catch my breath and put on my shoes.
The first leg of flight was pleasant. I had a short layover in Dallas where I ate a light dinner before boarding the second leg of my flight. The second leg from Dallas to ABQ was an hour and some change long but it was an absolute nightmare. Between my hostile seat mate and the turbulence I couldn’t wait to get off of the plane. I was going to share what happened in this post but I decided against it since I eventually reported it to the airline. After the airline investigated the situation they issued me a $150 Luv Voucher. You know what that means…another trip to plan!
Well, you would think that would be the end of my travel whoas, right? Wrong! I still had a 2 hour drive from ABQ to Santa Fe! I didn’t realize that the resort would be so far out. As I drove the sky became blanketed in darkness…on an unfamiliar road…in a state I had never visited before…by myself! I hoped that the car that rented from Dollar would have a GPS. It did not so I had to use Waze. I almost brought my car charger on the trip but then decided against it. I did have the USB cord, but for some reason the USB outlet in the rental would not charge the phone enough to keep Waze going. So I was out on a long, dark, lonely road with no GPS trying to figure out how to get to a resort that was tucked back into the hills of the New Mexico desert. Good times! I will say that I was mesmerized by the clear black sky that was filled with stars. I hadn’t seen such a clear sky in years. God’s artwork!
I finally pulled into the parking lot of Ojo Caliente at exactly 9:00 P.M. and checked into my room. Since there are no showers in the historic hotel, I took a shower in the shower room and I still had enough time before closing for a relaxing soak and steam in the bathhouse. I could feel the tension of the day’s travel snaffus melting away. I took another shower and knew that I would have an amazing night’s sleep.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
One of the best gifts that my now deceased mother gave me was the gift of travel. I was her road dawg on spontaneous drives to find the sun on foggy San Francisco days, and her trusty travel companion when we lived overseas. Those memories are treasured and preserved even though she is no longer with me.
Now that graduation season is here, one of the most memorable gifts that you can give an accomplished grad is the gift of travel. Here are a couple of amazing deals for a European holiday that will be easy on your budget and are geared specifically toward younger travelers.
Contiki is one of the oldest travel companies geared toward providing fun filled group travel experiences for 18-35 year olds. They offer 300 trips spanning 6 continents, 8 ways to travel, 5 ways to stay and various options. Right now you can save 20% on Trips & Fly to Europe starting at $549 with Contiki USA. The offer ends June 11, 2018.
If Contiki is not the right fit then take advantage of the Eurostar Youth Promotion with fares starting at $62 USD London to/from Paris/Lille/Calais/Brussels and from $49 USD London to/from Amsterdam/Rotterdam. Tickets are non-refundable, exchangeable for a fee.
May 2 – 31, 2018 (Euronet)
May 2 – 30, 2018 (Web)
Jun 4 – August 31, 2018.
Blackout dates: July 7, July 20-22, July 29, August 24-28