Navigating Your Travel Treasure Hunt

The very first stamp, on my very first passport, was earned in 1994 as I passed through Customs in London’s Heathrow Airport. I had ventured beyond the U.S. alone, on a three week long business trip and felt compelled to find a small, yet meaningful memento to take home. Although I do confess to owning a Milton Glaser I LOVE NY t-shirt, I prefer to find something more lasting. Today, regardless of their monetary value, my travel treasures are among my favorite things.  What do I look for? And where do I search for cool stuff?

International thrift stores contain unusual things. I discovered a fabulous vintage vase at a charity shop in England, wrapped it in layers of clothing, and prayed it would make the trip home. It did. But I learned a valuable lesson about my travel treasure-hunt habits. Today, bubble pack is on my Top Ten Must-Pack List.

Locally produced goods are among my favorite finds. I’ve picked up small blown glass items in factories in Bermuda and in Mexico. These objets d’art transport me to the place and time where glassblowers created their work as we watched on.

A trip to the grocery store is a must. From unusual flavors of Tang, to salsas, sauces, herbs and oils, take the opportunity to come home and allow your vacation to linger in your home until you’ve shared your treats with others. Among my

all-time favorites were several pounds of Costa Rican coffee, and the treasured bottle of Garzón Olive Oil reminiscent of my trip to the Garzón winery/orchard.






Local wines and spirits are yours to discover. The local Costa Ricans introduced Li and I  to Guaro. They laughed. We later learned why. Guaro is, in fact, GRAIN alcohol! For fun, I still brought home a couple of small bottles. The local Ron Barceló rum and Mamajuana I carried home from the Dominican Republic are still favorites for sipping my way into daydreams of coconut-filled wagons, a quiet beach, and the fresh whole fish we ate at sunset, toes embedded in the silky sand.

Never understimate the value of FREE.  Wine corks are integrated into my décor. The Bouza cork in my plant pot is from a memorable dinner with my extended Uruguayan family.

Shells, coral, and sea glass pieces washed ashore have found their way into a display cabinet. Each glass container, filled with shells, and labeled by location, generates lasting tranquility in my home. I can almost HEAR the crashing waves!

Individual Ziplock bags contain a menagerie of tickets, receipts, menus, business cards and phone numbers from each trip. As I blog, it’s easy to track down names and dates, and match photos to exact places and times. These invaluable “pinch me” keepsakes serve as reminders to be grateful for my amazing travel experiences.

Bring home art! I find interesting work in small, local galleries, or at street fairs. I take the time to meet the artist and share my appreciation for their work.  I selected Carol Joy Shannon’s hand-painted guitar during a visit to Myrtle Beach, SC.  The golden-haired child hanging next to it is a find from Key West, FL. And the ballerina was acquired from a  gallery in Costa Rica. While all are paintings, I’ve chosen work of other mediums, like the pastel nude, the encaustic wax bottles of colour, and the watercolor/pen and ink drawing of New York City.  I have a backlog of framing to do – to showcase artwork collected in Uruguay and Argentina. And, each piece carries meaning, a story, and a flood of memories.

Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Cooperstown, NY
Union Square, New York, NY


Ever dreamed you were standing on a sea-worthy sailing vessel, in the Atlantic Ocean, dressed as a pirate and yelling ARRRGGGHHH at the top of your lungs?  I’ll admit it; this particular scenario is beyond any creative action my brain cells could tap from my imagination while I sleep. I never even dreamed I’d have to opportunity to go sailboat camping for a weekend. So when the “pirate opportunity” crossed my radar, I did not hesitate to volunteer to sail from Little River, South Carolina to Southport, North Carolina to participate in the annual Halloween weekend Stede Bonnet Regatta.

Boat camping and not roughing it.

Over the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to go “day sailing” and sometimes spend the night on my good friend’s boat at the marina. The fore berth, the V-berth is a great little hideaway with a hatch delivering natural light. Even when day-sailing, I like to retreat briefly to my own little quarters. On one rough day, I learned that I am an equal opportunity barfer – I can stay aboard while hanging off either port and starboard side. I slept it off. Fortunately those stylish little behind-the-ear patches have successfully prevented an encore of that hilarious event. But that was day sailing and I was a complete and utter rookie.


This is different. This is a trip! This is a boat vacation; to celebrate Halloween as a bona-fide pirate chick!

Charley and his angels face the competitors.

In the two weeks leading up to the big event, I went on a mission to find props. I scored a sword, a couple of hooks, a couple of red bandanas, and a wig for the captain, completely underestimating the level of costuming planned by our competitors. Captain Charley has a great group of female friends and I am honored to be one of Charley’s sailing “angels.”



img_1647img_1648Funny story – At the 11th hour,  I decide to make pirate flags out of pillow cases. I rush to the store, rush home, get my gesso and paints ready, tear open the package, and find the white pillowcases say LUXE. Ugh. Lazy chick does not want to go back to the store. So she decides to turn the X into a skull and crossbones. We are LUXE pirates, darn it! A few dots of Sharpie to convert the X to bones, a couple of coats of gesso to map out a white skull, and ta-da….we  have a homely skull flag. View the end product in action in the video below.

Fortunately the weekend was not all about the wind speed, because mother nature was far from generous in exhaling her breath into our sails. But we made it into our slip at Southport Marina with time to spare. Sailboats arrived, decked out in pirate flags and skeletons, with crew members testing their “arrggghhh” yells over happy hour libations.

img_4837adj-smNow, Stede Bonnet is the “gentleman pirate”  who was hanged in Charleston, SC in 1718, following a year of Atlantic Ocean piracy, in collaboration with Blackbeard and a host of other booty buddies. So for this race, captains and crews in the race must dress as pirates. Crowds gather in front of The Provision Company to view the spectacle from a great vantage point. This year 40 modern-day pirate captains and their crews dressed the part and engaged in the weekend’s race festivities. The day began with free Bloody Mary’s for the sailors and a few hours on the sea. In the evening, following a day in the seas, sailors and spectators gather for a fabulous costume party with visions of Pirates and Wenches I never thought possible. Free dinner, live music, and “booty” shaking were all found at The Provision Company, the host of the annual regatta.

New bucket list entry:   Pirate for a day. Check!

The day was party-riffic, but I occasionally come down with a case of  “people-overload.” The quiet days at sea ground me. With no other boat in sight and no other sound but waves crashing against the hull and gusts of wind filling the sail, I bask peacefully with the wind in my face. It’s an img_4905smopportunity to do nothing but clear my mind. My brain slows as I absorb the sights and sounds. An occasional butterfly finds us and lingers in the cockpit. Flocks of birds are finding their way further South for the winter season. Channel markers bob in the distance, guiding us safely through the Atlantic. I sweep salt from the side of the boat and marvel at the ability to harvest it from the sea.

Click below to join me at the Halloween 2016 pirate invasion of Southport, North Carolina…and just say arrrggghhh!





Holiday Season Opener

img_1522Food. Family. And festivities. While many of us recognize Thanksgiving as the start of the holiday season, families who celebrated Diá do los Muertos are ahead of the game. Unlike the ghosts, ghouls and shenanigans of Halloween, the Day of the Dead is a meaningful, cultural spiritual celebration. In Mexico and Latin America, it’s a time to pay homage to the souls of those lost; to eat Pan de Muerto, to make sugar skulls and to engage in a vivid celebration of vibrant lives.

This year, I took a road trip to visit Decatur, GA, where  Li and I bagged a loaf of  temptatious, glossy-egg-washed-crust Pan de Muerto. Decautur, a hip little town, is a unique place to visit, with obscure little finds like La Calavera Bakery. A single step through the front door takes you from Diá do los Muertos observer to participant. We lingered over coffee, simply absorbing the festive holiday vibe.


But what’s important to take from this — is that, right around the corner from all of us is a “travel” destination that provides cultural insight. As the holidays continue to present opportunities for new experiences, take a moment to notice how those in your local community celebrate. Say yes to invitations and embark on new adventures. Learn more about your friends’ family traditions. Many celebrations are based on our own cultural roots.

This season, give your family the gift of enrichment. Celebrate Hanukkah. Visit a church service different from your own. Together, serve a meal at a shelter. Expand your world view from your own back yard.

And, next year, consider joining us in starting early. Gather with friends and family to celebrate Diá do los Muertos. Follow these links to learn more about Day of the Dead traditions.

Make sugar skulls:

Bake Pan de Muerto:




Dia de Todos Almas en Costa Rica

Dia de Todos Almas, or All Souls Day, occurs every year on November 2.  Recognized in many countries throughout Latin America, it is also referred to as All Saints Day (Dia de Todos Santos, November 1) or Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). Each country has its own rituals and ways to mark the day’s passing, unique to the local culture.

CRasd2In 2014 Mum and I happened to be in Costa Rica on Dia de Todos Almas. There it’s a quiet, family holiday where people attend church services and leave flowers on the graves of their relatives.  We drove past a small local cemetery outside of Jaco and decided to stop.  The ground was wet from the morning rain and the skies grey and thick with clouds.  You could hear the wind rustle through the leaves, but otherwise it was silent.  We didn’t speak: it somehow felt as though we shouldn’t. Together we walked through the iron fence and slowly up the muddy hill.

CRasd1Most of the tombs were raised, some decorated with unique tiles and all marked  with a cross of either stone or metal.  It was early afternoon, and families must have been there earlier to mark the day. A number of the graves were decorated with brightly colored flowers of pink, red, orange, and yellow. They made a strong, beautiful contrast against the white stone and the dark sky.   We wandered around for a few more minutes, took some photographs, and then went back out the gate we came in.   It was only once we were in the car that we spoke again.