I never thought I would be able to afford to go to Hawaii. However, with frequent flyer miles and friends that moved to the island, this was a chance of a lifetime. I paid to have a traditional Hawaiian greeting by being presented with a lei at the airport. I may never get back to Hawaii, so I wanted to start my vacation off this way. I paid 27.00 for a sign that held my name and a fresh flower lei. In addition, the flowers dried beautifully and I will keep them as a memento.

I went to Kauai. This island is rugged and perfect for adventure seekers and hikers. I went in November/December and it was muddy, rainy and a little cooler than state side people would think of Hawaii. I loved all of the must do hikes;the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the State Parks, the beaches, and the food.

Spam was delicious and fun. McDonald’s sells it in their big breakfast and I was surprised how great it was. I also loved the Kountry Kitchen in Kapaa. It was a traditional  breakfast and nothing fancy, but the bacon was outstanding. They also served avocado toast which I found delightful. Dukes restaurant had outstanding food, service and the location was fantastic.

During my stay, they started siren OLW_6149.JPGtesting for Nuclear Weapon attacks, the first Friday of the month at noon, so remember this if your near a horn and pack ear plugs it’s annoying. Also, please note this is the same sound as the Tsunami siren, so brush up on your weather and politics if you head that way.

Kauai is home to many movies, and for good reason, it’s rugged, jungle like and beautiful.




New Orleans


New Orleans, was  a town I thought about going to, but didn’t know if I would make it in my lifetime. I didn’t know anything about the culture or the history, and I never took the time to learn about the city and it’s past.

When I received an invitation to attend a Brazilian Jiujitsu seminar in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, I thought I would spend a few days in New Orleans. To cut down on cost I stayed in the Auberge NOLA hostel. Great decision. It was close to Amtrak, the bus station and St. Charles street. The cost was low and the atmosphere was warm and friendly. It was described to me, like staying at a friend’s place and that summons it up perfectly. I usually stay in hostels, even though I am a single woman in my 40’s because I meet so many awesome people who are usually traveling by themselves.

I scheduled free by foot tours for New Orleans. I took the Voodoo tour, the French Quarter tour, and the Garden tour. I really liked them all, but I learned the most from the Voodoo tour, it really helped educate me on reality versus what I have learned about voodoo from the movies. The tours need to be scheduled/reserved ahead of time, and are free, they just ask for a tip. They do ask that if you are unable to attend that you let them know, so they don’t wait around for you, when you are not coming. The site has the location and description and usually a picture of the location.The tour operators are usually extremely knowledgeable and are either professors or students. I really like this company and highly recommend them.

I took a night and went to Frenchmen street and took Uber. The ride each way was $8.00. I went to the spotted cat. There was no cover charge, they just ask for a donation to the band. Small venue, great atmosphere.

I took a garden plantation tour and I booked it through Viator. This is a website that often has hotel pick up, and when I am traveling by myself, this is usually a cost saving option for me. I booked the Oak Ally Plantation tour and Air boat ride. I loved it. For the Oak  Ally Plantation tour, I was not so excited to see the house and learn about the history as I was getting a shot from the upstairs of those 300 year old Virgina oak trees. As a photographer first, this was breath taking moment when they open the doors and you can see the tree line view. This tour gives you just the right amount of time for house tour and to see the grounds. I took the option to people watch and eat some southern friend chicken at the restaurant they had on site. You can also stay at the plantation in a bred and breakfast cottage. After the plantation tour, the bus took us directly to the air boat ride. I didn’t have the expectation of seeing alligators in December so I was not disappointed. Alligators hibernate in colder temps, but I did see lots of birds and just enjoyed going at high speed through the bayou.

I booked my flights and hotel through Travelocity and paid around 563.00 for the airfare and hostel stay. I gave $10.00 for each free by foot tour and my air boat/plantation tour cost 139.00.


Next stop Cozumel, Mexico.




Happy Birthday to me! I am on a journey. The  next half of my life journey……see today I turn 40. It doesn’t feel like a big deal, but my whole life growing up I have been told “this is a big deal”. But really its not. I have learned over the past 40 years that the only one that cares about your birthday is you and your mother. Other than that, people come and people go, but it’s not as important to everyone else as it is to you. So, I leave now by train on my birthday as a reminder of why I live. To travel. For me living is experiencing new, making memories and going forward, even when your back totally hurts from carrying non- wheeled luggage across downtown Chicago to eat Polish sausage and perogies. I have stopped trying to understand why I was born and have learned to live and never pass up opportunities. To not eat, drink, or buy what T.V wants me to do, but to live my life the way I want to live. Sometimes…. that means boarding an Amtrak train and taking it to Portland, OR just to see that side of the United States. So….. that is what I am doing today on my birthday. I am in Chicago now as I write this waiting for the next train. Perhaps i will never take a train again anywhere, but until this moment I don’t know. I will be on a train for 2 days going out and three days coming back. Taking a train down from Portland, OR to Sacramento, CA then back to Chicago. I have always wanted to do this and well, why not.  I want to visit all 50 states before I die. I am often reminded of things I am doing now, Tom never got to do. I am reminded often that we are fragile and that the party can end at any time. I don’t fear it so much as feel sad and disappointment. Really life is fun. It is what you make it. I feel lucky that I have had 40 years of great fun and adventures, however, I have had to plan, book and go on trips to have these stories, nobody did it for me. I also find food, travel and adventure … fun.  Not everyone does. I respect that but I don’t understand that. I hope on this trip I get to meet really interesting people. I hope to eat really good food. I hope the next 40 years, I have good health and good food.

Random Acts of Kindness

I have always been a fan of random acts of kindness. I do it all year long. I have paid for people’s meal behind me in the drive through line at McDonald’s. I have given money at the counter when someone is short. This year for a funeral instead of buying flowers (because I knew the deceased hated flowers at a funeral) I donated the money to SPCA for a specific pet’s adoption fees. I did this because I thought how nice it would be to go into an adoption agency for an animal and have the pet fees waived and secondly I knew the person that was deceased would have liked that. Recently I had feedback that the dog was adopted out and the family asked to pay someone’s adoption fees. This produced the SPCA in my area to create a program called “the ticket”, where you can go in and purchase a ticket for someone’s adoption fees to be covered and then give it to them in a card. For instance if you know someone would like to adopt a dog but may not be ready or has not bonded with one yet, they can save their ticket which covers the fees until they are ready. It was nice to know that the family had lost their dog to illness and was ready for a new dog. The spirit of the deceased will always live with that family when they tell the story of when they went to pick out a dog and the fee was already paid for.

I read about a post of a woman going out to her truck and a note was attached to it saying “I saw that you needed tires. Go to this store and there will be 4 new tires paid and ready to mount, all you have to do is show up”. The letter went on to say “someone once helped me and I am now helping you, all that I ask is that someday you help someone who is in need”.

Wouldn’t it be rich to help individuals out. I did some research online and there really is no rich people just helping individuals. The money goes to non profits who help individuals, which I think is great, that is not the point of this post, however it would be great if throughout the year there was a random rich people who just helped people out. You never knew who they were and I think people would be more respectful of others, well because you never know. I would have it be a homeless man, a wife, a mother, etc, you get the point, anyone could be the next one to help you out.

This post is not about greed or asking for money, but more about if you are able to give a little, do it. It goes along way. It makes memories for people and I think most people then pass on the help. As an adult without children, I don’t often get to see the “Christmas spirit” or “look of surprise” on people or children. When you surprise someone with a random act of kindness, their face lights up and you can see Christmas spirit enter their soul.

Pledge to yourself no matter how big or small you will do one random act of kindness. It does not have to be this month or next month but when the time is right and the impact is big.