Souvenir, French for memory. A recreated, remembered retrospective that relives only in your mind.

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Remember that time we went to New York City, just the four of us, the first time we’d been just us in so long, and remember how we saw old friends, and danced all night at that bar mitzvah, and saw Something Rotten twice, and walked the High Line park, and drank all that wine at the French wine bar, and Moothor hugged that actor at the other wine bar?

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A recent discussion on Facebook made me think about the souvenirs we buy during our trips, the trinkets from vacation, the gifts for other people. Why buy anything at all from these places? The cheap tourist stuff is probably made in China, and what good does a magnet from Puerto Rico do anyone? What’s the point of a souvenir? Continue reading

#TBT: The Time My Dad Tricked Me Into Eating Squid

I’ve always been a less-than-adventurous eater; I ate PB&J sandwiches or peanut butter & crackers every day for lunch from Kindergarten through 5th grade. (Not kidding. Not even a little bit.) As an adult, I’ve definitely expanded my food horizons — mahi mahi tacos! bahn mi sandwiches! grilled octopus! — though my dad would still describe me as non-adventurous and picky. I don’t eat red meat, I can’t handle the texture or temperature of raw fish, I’m lactose intolerant, and I will gag if I even have to look at pieces of tomato. I’ve come a long way, though, from where I was when he first took my family to Europe.

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Sleeping in Airports

My brother is in Ecuador right now, visiting a friend. Together, they are exploring the Galapagos Islands, making my dad and me supremely jealous — of what they’re getting to see, not how they got there.

Erich, my brother’s friend, is living in the mountains with a host family so in order to get down to the airport to meet my brother he had to take two buses and ride in the back of a milk truck for a couple hours. Not an ideal travel situation. And because my dad used points to book Adam’s travel, my brother had the not-so-fun experience of going north to get south and spending a night in an airport (which is not as uncommon as you may think).

When I heard this, I laughed… not because I thought it was funny but because I’ve been there and knew what he was in for.

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Amy Borris & The Perilous Solvers: The Book I Wrote in 4th Grade

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My dreams of being a published fiction author recently went through a reboot, allowing me to focus on non-fiction writing both for my job and in the form of this blog.

But fiction has always been my first love. Even as a 10 year old in Mrs. Greer’s 4th grade class, I wanted to write. At that age, my favorite books were the Boxcar Children and the abridged version of the Mysterious Island by Jules Verne; my favorite movies were Indiana Jones (and the Last Crusade, in particular), the Swiss Family Robinson and most Disney flicks; and my favorite show was Scooby Doo (just setting the scene here).

10-year-old Ashley craved Adventure (in the great wide somewhere….) I hadn’t yet been much of anywhere, save for the 12-hour roadtrips from 727 to 615 that we took a few times a year. I’d not yet been to Europe or the Caribbean. I didn’t remember being in Mexico. My only travel experiences were done through the pages of books, literary and much more affordable.

But 10-year-old Ashley was not satisfied to only READ these adventures. No. She wanted to WRITE these adventures. And so she set out to write a novel, at the wise and experienced age of 10 (or however old you are in the 4th grade).

That book was titled: Amy Borris and the Perilous Solvers. It told the story of a young Amy Borris, tomboy and entrepreneur (with, very auto-biographically, dirty blonde hair and two different colored eyes), and her adventurous group of friends who, like the Baby Sitter’s Club and Boxcar Kids before them, solved mysteries. Aside from the leader (Amy), there was the best friend (Samantha aka Sam); the prissy-pretty one (Missy), the smart, nerdy one (Whiz), the mystery-loving goofball (Sherlock), and the dog (Buster). They went on all sorts of mystery-solving adventures and this one, the one at the heart of my first-ever novel, was set in (of all places) AFRICA.

I never did finish this novel, though the climax is still fresh in my brain (and borrows liberally from The Last Crusade). I remember I had sequels planned. The Perilous Solvers were going to go to Europe and New York and Australia! But first they had to survive their perilous (and did I mention adventurous?) trip to Africa. As biased as I am, I think I understood structure pretty well at that age, and had a knack for cliffhangers; once the fire hits the village in part 8 the action is kind of non-stop.

What follows below is the UNEDITED beginning of this novel. 8800 words (quite a lot for a 10 year old!) and this was the early ’90s so the double space after a period was still in vogue. (Ug.)

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have in rediscovering it:)

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#BathroomsOfTheWorld: New Orleans

Our Love Affair with AirBNB

Love affairs can be intense.  They can be fulfilling (in more ways that one), heart-breaking, country-song-inspiring, appetite-suppressing, completely and totally engrossing. Love affairs can also be quiet, satisfying, romantic and provide much needed comfort and support.

When AirBNB first showed up on the scene, I was skeptical, not sure I was the right person for this kind of romance. But much like how Lyft and Uber seduced me, AirBNB has shown me and my family a whole new world, changing how we travel. I’ve fallen hard for the accommodation site, usually opting to rent an apartment over staying in a hotel. After staying in more than a dozen AirBNBs, I no longer think it’s just an infatuation. This love affair might be the real deal. Continue reading

Like a Local: The Luxury is in the Experience

While we were on our honeymoon, staying in the beautiful Kailua Kona on Hawaii, we avoided doing much typically touristy stuff. We decided against the helicopter tour and dolphin experience after reading so many mixed reviews, instead choosing to spend our money on food and drink. Less doing, more vacating. When we did do something touristy, such as drive down to the volcano, we tried to balance it by asking locals where they would go next. We try to live like locals whenever we visit a new place.

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