Category Archives: Azalea Travel

Disconnecting feels good.

Vacation seems to be no exception to the new rule that we are all accessible 24 hours per day. Communication seems to have taken over our lives. E-mail, texting, and social media are always in our back pockets (or purses). It’s no longer just a convenience.

Cruise lines, resorts, and phone companies have all gladly built systems to accommodate those workaholics, social mediaholics, and parents with separation anxiety trying to have a romantic getaway who just can’t seem to disconnect. One of the most common questions I get from cruise shoppers is how they can access WiFi on the ship. A few cruise lines will even include the WiFi for free. But what’s the real benefit? Hasn’t this stuff overrun our lives? What happened to the days of “Gone Fishin’?”

I submit that we should backtrack in time to the days before technology took over. When you board the cruise ship, put your phone in airplane mode and leave it there until you return home. There are only a small handful of things that truly need your attention when you’re on vacation. Your family and friends with whom you are traveling are at the top of that list. There are undoubtedly reasons why some folks want to maintain the ability to connect with home, but why not keep it to a minimum? Why not do what you went on vacation to do in the first place? Have a different experience, and get a change of scenery.

I was recently forced (by spotty WiFi) to put the phone down and be present in the moment. This is what I saw:

Oh, look! I’m out on the ocean.

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Oh, HEY, Cuba! (Look closely, and you can see it. But only if you’re paying attention and not looking at your phone.)

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Oooh, another ship.  I wish I had brought binoculars. Note to self for next cruise . . .

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Now Cuba is so close, I can almost touch it. (We were just sailing past it, though.)

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And this view was a great backdrop for my reflections on the way home:

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I spent considerable time on my balcony, just staring at the sea. I had to time to think, pray, and write in my journal. I did some yoga out there, drank some coffee, and contemplated life with the gentle splash from the bow as background music. When I left my stateroom, I ate some meals in peace, without scrolling through my newsfeed or reading Huffpost. Other meals were taken in the company of new friends, who I never would have met with my nose pointed at my phone or tablet. We all toted our phones around, but only to be used as cameras. By the end of the week, I felt reacquainted with myself. There was no noise in my head from the latest political articles on Facebook, because I hadn’t read them. And they didn’t matter to me.

When we returned to the dock in Miami, I hesitantly switched my phone out of airplane mode. When I did, the thing buzzed for a good 60 seconds with notifications, texts, etc. Stuff happened while I was gone, like getting summoned for jury duty, a friend announcing she was moving away, bills coming in, an emergency allergy shot for my son. But guess what? Everyone and everything was okay until I got home. The world did not fall apart because I went away for a week. After my electronics were back on, I found that I had learned not to reach for the blasted things every 10 seconds.

I came home refreshed, rested, and happy. And always ready to go back and do it again! Never again will I have to be forced to unplug. I can’t wait until the next time I get to do it.

So, take my advice, and totally unplug on your next trip.

Be present in the moment.

You won’t regret it.

Azalea Travel, Proud member of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents)

Christmas Quiz: How many days of vacation do you deserve?

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(A picture of my favorite ornament…I got it on a trip to The King & Prince Golf and Beach Resort)

A Christmas Quiz:  How many days of vacation do you deserve when this holiday is over?

Let’s face it, not everyone considers this the most wonderful time of year.  Yes, there’s a lot of wonder, excitement, and festive activity going on.  And we get to celebrate the birth of Christ, which is the best part of it.  The carols are great, the decorations are fun to see, but the season does create a very large holiday to-do list on top of your regular to-dos.  So I have created this quiz to help you determine how many days of vacation you deserve after this season is over.  Get out your pen and paper, and let’s begin! Choose one answer for each question, and give yourself the corresponding number of points.

  1. How’s your Christmas spirit right now?
    1. Santa, stop here! Cookies and milk are waiting! (Give yourself 1 point.)
    2. Just tying up some last minute details today and listening to Christmas carols on the radio, and then I will be ready for egg nog tonight. (Give yourself 2 points.)
    3. My Fala lala la is all Jingle Belled out. Can I take down the tree yet? (Give yourself 3 points.)
  2. How many days off do you have for Christmas?
    1. None, really. I’m working or on call for Christmas Day and/or Christmas Eve. (Give yourself 3 points.)
    2. I have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day completely off. (Give yourself 2 points).
    3. I have more than just these two days off – I am one of the fortunate ones! (Give yourself 1 point.)
  3. How many houseguests do you have?
    1. My family is local or we are seeing them another time. (Give yourself 1 point.)
    2. I have up to 2 guests, or am visiting at someone else’s house for a few days. (Give yourself 2 points.)
    3. I have 3 guests or more descending upon my home for an overnight stay. (Give yourself 3 points.)
  4. Are you baking or cooking for others?
    1. Nope! They can find their own goodies. (Give yourself 1 point for this.)
    2. My spouse or significant other did that. (Give yourself 2 points.)
    3. Whew. 8 batches of fudge and now working on tomorrow’s side dishes. (Give yourself 3 points.)
  5. Last question…How’s the outside of your house looking?
    1. Scrooge lives here. I put up a wreath or nothing at all. (Give yourself 1 point.)
    2. Buddy the Elf came by and put a tasteful sprinkling of Christmas cheer on my house. (Give yourself 2 points.)
    3. Clark Griswold would be proud. (Give yourself 3 points.)

Now, tally up your points and see how you score:

5-7 points = Even if you love this time of year and make the best of it with store-bought baked goods and an easy schedule, you still deserve to decompress a little after it’s all over.  Get 2016 off to a great start with a quick 3-5 night getaway!  Take a cruise, spend a long weekend in NYC, or catch a flight to Cancun.

8-11 points = Perhaps you’ve suffered some aggravation at the hands of family, inlaws, outlaws, or otherlaws. Or maybe you just went out of your way here and there to make it a special Christmas. Either way, wouldn’t it be nice to escape and unwind? Take about 7 nights to recreate yourself and do something that you’ve always wanted to do. Is it Hawaii?  Maybe it’s Cuba? You decide!

12-15 points = There’s no doubt about it.  You’ve really put yourself out for others this season.  You’ve had to endure a holiday that maybe you don’t even enjoy that much for one reason or another. Nobody is more entitled to a break from the daily grind than you are.  10-14 nights, or more, are what this doctor of travel prescribes for you to recharge your batteries. This is a great length of time to do that European tour or river cruise you’ve always dreamed of. This is definitely a good time to do something more exotic or distant, like China, Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, or Australia.

Whatever your score, I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Azalea Travel

Greenwood, South Carolina – Part 2

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The reason for my last trip to Greenwood was to celebrate the grand opening of the Carolina Executive Car at the Railroad Historical Center.

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This car was of particular interest to me, because it was the car my great-grandfather, Frank Harrison Cothran, used as his mobile office during the years that he was President of the Piedmont & Northern Railroad. My parents made the trip with me.

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That’s my father down the narrow hallway, right outside the bedroom that was his grandfather’s.

But even without the family connection, this train was well worth the trip to see inside. It makes for a fascinating trip back in time. The wood paneling, the service quarters, and kitchen all give rise to imagination to see the car in its heyday, when it was more than just a mode of transportation.

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You can almost feel the motion of the car sliding forward and see gentlemen in their suits sitting at the table in the conference room, mulling over contracts and making things happen with inkpens, handshakes, and friendly jokes.

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It is part of The Museum & Railroad Historical Center in Greenwood, which has two locations with two different functions. From April through October, the train cars are open Thursday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm. There are other cars being renovated, and a depot will be built, as well.

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In the meantime, the museum portion of The Museum and Railroad Historical Center, which is just down the road a few  blocks, is open year-round.  And it is a treat.

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It’s the best museum I have seen in a town of Greenwood’s size.  The only better ones I have seen are in larger cities. Their collection is quite impressive on the first floor.

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Upper floors reveal additional exciting historical items, plus educational exhibits for children of all ages.

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Are The Museum and Railroad Historical Center worth a trip to Greenwood?  If you have a train enthusiast big or small, then I say yes, without a doubt. Absolutely. Even if no one in your family is a train buff, it’s still interesting and is something folks of all ages will enjoy. Note: Those with mobility issues may not be able to board the train cars.

You can make it to Greenwood from Summerville in less than 3 hours. You could potentially make a day trip of it. If you want to be leisurely and enjoy other things Greenwood has to offer, like shopping and dining in its revitalized Uptown Greenwood area or a production at the theater next door, then Azalea Travel can book you a room at the Inn on the Square, which was the subject of my last post.  Make a night of it, and have a fun family getaway!

See Europe, Unpack Once.

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Looking for a discount on a fabulous European vacation? What if I told you that you could see multiple countries and unpack only once?  It’s true.

Avalon Waterways offers several itineraries that allow you to board their vessel, unpack in your suite, then sit back and relax as the the sights, sounds, and tastes of Europe come to you.

Their staterooms are totally different from those of any other river cruise line, and here’s why:

The average river cruise cabin gives you the equivalent of a sliding glass door overlooking the riverbanks and a narrow balcony that is big enough for two chairs to face forward. That doesn’t sound too bad when you’re enjoying the Danube, does it?

Well, Avalon Waterways reclaimed that tiny balcony space, and instead, they give you a larger stateroom with a bed facing the sliding door. Oh, and their sliding door just happens to be an entire wall of glass, floor to ceiling. Take a look:

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Avalon Waterways is currently offering savings of up to $3000 per couple on select European river cruises. Contact me at Azalea Travel for details!

 

Travel is Continuing Human Education

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I believe everyone should travel as much as possible. You see new things, meet new people, have new experiences, and gain a broader perspective. Find out just how beautiful this world is. See how small you are in it. Be inspired.

You don’t have to go to Nepal or climb a mountain, unless you want to. And it’s cool, if you do. I believe that education is all around us, including in amusement parks or in an old diner in a mountain town. There is always something to learn from the people and places around you.

This blog is an account of some of the places I’ve been (and some places I’d like to go), beginning with the southeastern United States, and moving beyond.

Travel and writing are two of my greatest passions. So here, I have the pleasure of joining them into one project. I’m the author of two books, A Quiet Cup of Tea and The Ballad of the Shirley T. I’m also the owner of Azalea Travel, where you can find your way to some of your favorite destinations.