Dear Travel Mates,
We’re back in Brooklyn! And that means two things.
- The Big Adventure is officially over.
- The next one is about to begin.
This last month has been a whirlwind of driving back, going to loads of doctors, doing endless errands, and preparing for what’s next.
But before we turn our heads toward our next horizon I wanted to honor this last year with a list of our Best Ofs from the trip. It’s not everything, but its a quick list of some highlights.
But first – an announcement:
The adventure continues. We’ll be spending next year in Israel!
It’s been on our wish-list for years. We’ve got parents on both sides living in Israel and we realized that life could easily continue without our kids ever living near their grandparents. They’re not getting any younger, and my kids are growing at light speed. Since my eldest will be entering 8th, this feels like a final window for this.
Once you do something that seemed farfetched, unachievable and risky, all the other crazy ideas suddenly seem possible too. We’ve spent a year roaming around the country with 3 kids during a pandemic. We can do this too. And if there was ever a time to do it it’s now. We’ve still got our bags slung over our shoulders.
Knocking things off the bucket list is liberating. Not just because you realize the things you wanted but feared can actually happen, but because they no longer hang over you like a street sign forever saying – ‘Wrong Way’.
How do the kids feel about all this? Well, that’s for a future post. For now I’ll say that if you ever want to uproot your kids to a new country with a different language, take them on a road trip a year before. At the moment the kids are just happy they’ll be in one place for a year.
So that’s the plan. The Big Adventure may be over, but the BIG ADVENTURE continues. And you can bet I’ll be filling you in on how it’s going.
Now let’s get to our Best Ofs list from the trip:
Local Juicery in Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona
At this point you’ve probably gathered that to me there are two purchasable items that are worthwhile – hats and smoothies. I am VERY picky about smoothies. They need to use fresh fruits and veggies, have creative ingredients, be well blended, extra healthy with greens and taste great.
We’ve learned that a good smoothie store says a lot about a place. There may be Jamba Juices scattered around the country, but a good green smoothie with cinnamon, hemp seeds and coconut water says ‘we care about health and we’re willing to pay for it’. And at the risk of reducing our country to black and white, finding a good smoothie place has come to mean that we are in a Blue Pocket.
BEST BASKETBALL COURT
Lava Hot Springs, idaho
Some experience new places through the food, we experienced through a a hoop. We’ve played on the beach in San Diego, in the city in Seattle, in a park in Colorado and in a hotel in Utah. My kids’ favorite court was the one that was two minutes from our rented house that they could walk to alone and was rarely occupied.. The moral for us here is that wherever we end up living will need to have a court within walking distance.
BEST HIKE FOR KIDS
My kids’ favorite types of hikes were those that didn’t have a clear path that needed to be followed, They preferred those with endless possibilities for wandering and climbing. This meant boulders to conquer, petrified sand dunes to scale and hoodoos to snake over and around. We did a bunch of these so it was tough to come up with our one favorite but here are a few:
Joshua tree, CA
Petrified sand dunes, Utah
Badlands, South Dakota
BEST CHAIN HOTEL
We’re biased on this one but we’ve done our research. My aunt works for the Marriott so we get a family discount. That said, we’ve been to lotd of other chain hotels this year too so I feel we have a decent point of comparison.
Without a doubt the Marriotts were best at handling COVID. They booked rooms with a 24 hour gap and were consistent with cleanliness and service. They were also very consistent with their design and room sizes so you always know exactly what you’re getting no matter where you are.
Abode in Nashville
This hotel feels like an apartment. It’s roomy, has a kitchen and big rooms, and is stylish, comfortable, and squeaky clean, and reasonably priced. If you are going through a place with one of these we highly recommend.
Utah is like a nature playground. It’s got a million national parks that people travel to from all over, but it also has hidden gems no one talks about. Our favorite places in Utah were off the beaten path. Sometimes we just stopped along the road on our drives and climbed up petrified sand dunes, or made a turn into one of most spectacular canyons we walked through.
Runner up – St George, Utah
We went to many great ones. We also spent some weeks in duds. My favorite was the house on Sacheen Lake. We were right over a beautiful lake, had a hot tub, and plenty of rooms to spread out in.
The runner up was in St. George. If you are heading to this area I highly recommend this condo complex. The unit we stayed in had a view to the mountains and plenty of rooms and space. The complex also had a pool, jacuzzi and playroom.
BEST QUALITY FOR THE MONEY AIRBNB
This is a vacation town in Oregon near Bend. The houses are very fairly priced and each feels private with a patch of forest. The village sits near a river where people kayak and there is a great bike path that we enjoyed. If it weren’t for the woodpecker knocking incessantly this place might have made it to a best of Airbnb rental.
BEST AIRBNB FEATURE
Three places had this and they all elevated my experience from good to fantastic. I loved biking in Mission Bay San Diego between the ocean and the bay, biking in Ramona through the hills and farms, and in Sun River by the river.
BEST NATIONAL PARK
Glacier National Park
Runner up: Grand Teton
They were all amazing in different ways. We love Yellowstone for its ecology and colorful hot springs and geysers. We love the parks in Utah for their varied desert formations, we love the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake for the deep and vast views. But Glacier National Park took the cake. It’s got it all – mountains, ice caps, lakes, forest, easy trails, and hard trails.
The runner up for us was Teton. Imagine many lakes set next to mountains. Its easy to find a secluded spot to sit or a trail that isn’t packed with other travelers.
BEST TIME SHARE HOTEL
Scottsdale Camel Back Resort, Arizona
Our kids’ favorite places had nothing to do with the waterfalls or canyons. They remember which places had the best pool, a mini golf area, and foosball. And this time share was comfortable, had great rooms with high ceilings, a large jacuzzi and lots of games.
MOST COVID COMPLIANT
After a year of traveling around a country in which huge swaths pretended there was no pandemic happening at all, it was almost shocking to arrive to San Francisco. When we were there, everyone was wearing a mask, even outside.
(Least COVID compliant: South Dakota. But we still love that place.)
Big Sur, CA
Big Sur was everything its promised to be. The beach was gorgeous with turquoise water, boulders shooting out from the surf, and colorful flowers growing out of the dunes. When we were there it was too cold to go in so we didn’t experience that pat of the magic.
BEST BEACH TOWN
We fell in love with this little town the minute we drove into it. It had a laid back bohemian feel with colorful houses and, you know it, a good smoothie place. The deal was sealed when we wandered onto the beach. It was vast and the houses were perched over dunes packed with flowers.
MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEW
Crater lake, Oregon
My husband fell in love with this view and for good reason. The lake is a saturated royal blue and snow peaked mountains around it make for a stunning contrast. Also, the vantage point is from above and that makes it unique and breathtaking.
MOST BEAUTIFUL ROAD
Our guage for most beautiful road was the one that made us want to stop every few miles and admire the view or wander through the landscape on the side of the road.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD WE’D LIVE IN
Aurgora Hills or Santa Barbara, CA
You all know that one of our missions on this trip was to explore a possible next home for us. We imagined ourselves living in each town – taking the kids to school, eating at the local restaurant, hiking during the weekend, and doing a Halloween celebration with the neighbors.
We were partial to Augora Hills because we have family there who showed us how life there would look and they happen to have a great house.
And just to keep dreaming for a minute, it would be nice to have a weekend home in Monterey.
So there you have it. Our last year wrapped up with nice bow. Now we can turn our heads to the year to come.
More adventure awaits. You can bet I’ll keep you posted here.
Thank you for the update. I have been thinking of you and wondering whether or not you made it back to NYC. Happy to read about your best of the best. Beautiful places, wonderful adventures. I wish you and your loving family much health and happiness in your next adventure. Stay in touch. – Maria Helena