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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Eating Local VS Eating Familiar

I want to talk about food. Specifically eating on vacation, because I honestly get excited over all the new restaurants and food to eat in new places. Apparently, this is rare. I don't want to eat at chains that I can eat at at home. I'm  not planning to eat at Pizza Hut or Burger King. I guess I'm in the minority of Americans, and I don't understand it at all.

To me, the best part of travel (besides seeing new places) is all the delicious, weird and wonderful foods I get to eat. I will plan full days around food and I'll ask for recommendations before I leave and when I arrive. I want to eat where the locals eat and I want to eat things I've never heard of, even if they sound gross. My one rule about food is this: I have to try something twice. It may have been ill-prepared the first time if I didn't like it. If I still don't like it after the second time, then I can claim that I actually don't like it. 

I read this article a few weeks ago, and the gist of it is that approximately 60% of Americans don't try the local food when they travel! In fact, they go out of their way to eat only at American restaurants and chains like McDonalds and KFC.  


So, I decided to do my own poll among people I know who travel and eat food and 95% of them felt the same as I did, but knew people who actively went out of their way to eat only familiar food. 

Why eat local? I asked and my friends delivered with these reasons they eat local when they travel:

This is sad. I'm the total opposite, but my partner and I are both culinary professionals, so we have a huge appreciation for food, especially regional. We will literally plan vacations around food.

One of the first things I do when travelling is find out where the locals dine, and try it out!

I’m pretty picky, but I love trying local food when I travel. Though my main interest is pastry and candy. And one of my favorite things is to go to local grocery stores. When I have visited my sister in the various places she has lived, we have made a point to go to all the different chains.

Oh, this is sad! Part of the joy of new places is trying new foods! I haven't loved everything (looking at you, fishballs in china town) but I dream of some of the delicious things I've eaten. Food is part of the heart of a place.

As long as I can communicate that I have a soy and almond allergy I will 100% try any local cuisine!

[F]ood is one of the first things that comes to mind and gets researched when travel planning starts! I hope this isn't really accurate!

My family literally plans vacations and trips around food. Even within the states, we prefer to eat at small local places rather than chains.We went on a trip to Spain...I asked the front desk person at our hotel where her favorite place to eat was, and we went there.

I've only traveled with tour groups, and they always had us eat local. But when I finally do get to plan my own trip, I'll still eat local. Not only are you experiencing something new, it's usually cheaper.

That's my favorite part of vacation. We went to a different part of our state and made sure to try new things even there!

That is WHY I travel! To eat the local food!

I have a very strong memory for food. Eating new and interesting foods is my way of getting to know (and then remembering) the places I've been.

I eat local when I can, and my husband is always great for asking "what's good in the area". I haven't traveled outside the US, though. However, I'm in love with the idea of traveling in parts of Asia just to try the different street foods.

My husband is a pilot and flies to the Caribbean a lot. He will always go out to the little hole in the walk restaurants in Jamaica, Aruba, etc, and get the local food.

When I went to Beijing, we were only there for 1 night. Our host (my friend's Mum) took us to Pizza Hut. It was incredibly sweet of her to try and accommodate what she thought we would want, but I was so sad that we didn't get to try the local food! Food is absolutely the best part of travel for me.

I went on a ski trip to Austria with some work friends once, and I thought I was in heaven trying all that food...

So, those are the good responses that make me feel like I'm not crazy and must be a big portion of the 40% of people that love to eat when they travel and love to try new things. Even the person who has food allergies is excited for new dishes. I had very few people respond who personally didn't enjoy eating local, but also some of these people had more to say about their family and friends:

Traveling with my kids is tricky. My youngest is very particular and has anxiety about ordering at restaurants he’s never been to. He even has anxiety at restaurants we go to regularly. We try to find local places that have food options he is comfortable with. My older 2 are more adventurous. We always try to stay somewhere with a kitchen because I love hitting up local markets. All of the kids love trying new snacks and candy. I figure if I let my youngest be adventurous on his own terms he will eventually work past some of his anxiety. Maybe. Hopefully.

For me, it really depends on who I am traveling with.[...] My boys are a very different story. Trying something new is like pulling teeth. When they are with me, the best I can usually do is making them eat at a restaurant that is not available in Montana. Then they usually eat a burger or chicken strips. At least I get to try something a little different. 

Traveling with kids is hard. You sort of have to attempt to get them to try new things at home, so they're used to it when you travel, though some kids don't ever get excited for new food and others have other issues entirely. An idea that might make everyone happy is to rent a place with a kitchen and make something for those that refuse to eat something new and get takeaway for the rest of your party, then you can all eat together at "home".

I do try some local foods but I mostly stay to what I like or feel comfortable with. I already know pretty much what i like and don't like. And I mainly travel to see unique places than anything else. I'm not saying that I wont try anything but it's not my main focus.

I am not an adventurous eater. I eat beef, pork, potatoes, peanut butter, and sometimes rice. So if I were to travel outside the U. S. my suitcase would have 2 extra sets of clothes and the rest would be peanut butter so I didn’t starve to death. I don’t eat fruit of any kind I never have[...]

I have so many questions for this person. I know someone who basically only likes meat and potatoes and I have traveled with another person who doesn't really eat vegetables. I don't really understand at all, though, because I will try anything and I love fruits and veggies and learning about new ones and even new ways to prepare the ones I can get at home.

Before a recent vacation to Cozumel, my sister asked for restaurant suggestions in the area. One woman very excitedly said Jimmy Buffet’s was the best food she’d had on the island.

I've been to Cozumel. If she thinks that Jimmy Buffet's is the best food on the island, she may have had too many margaritas. LOL!

[...]we do accommodate the kids for at least one meal and go to Olive Garden. But I saw this a lot when I lived overseas with with military in Germany. We went on a trip to Spain, and most of our group was so excited there was a McDonald's.

There are, literally, McDonalds all over the world. While most get locally-sourced ingredients rather than mass produced stuff from a factory farm, and their food is fresher, it's still basically like eating at home.

I lived in Japan for a while and would love to take a family trip there, but I'm worried that all my husband and son would eat would be convenience store food and American chain restaurants! 

This is a case where I would definitely be eating meals on my own.

When I went to DC for a teacher union trip, the group I was with went to Applebee’s for the first night. Our hotel was just blocks from china town, and a Cuban restaurant, and tapas, and a pho place. And they went with Applebee’s.

I worked at a restaurant adjacent to a Copenhagen tourist attraction, and I can't tell you how many Americans just ordered the club sandwich. I was so sad for them. 

If I go to a place where there are a bunch of cool things on the menu that I have never eaten, I ask the wait staff for recommendations. Asking "what's your favorite thing to eat here?" has gotten me so many de-lic-ious meals on vacation.

I went on a ski trip to Austria with some work friends once[...]one of the couples actually took a day off in the middle so they could go into the nearest town for Burger King?!?

My hubby's family[...]insist on only eating at American chain restaurants....even in fabulous food destinations like Tuscany!

I don't have words for these people. If I'm traveling for a long time, I might seek out something that reminiscent of home, but not my whole trip. Hard Rock Cafe is a favorite, because they serve giant drinks with ice, which can be hard to find places, but they also have a small menu of local foods that you can only get at that HRC. Aside from a visit there, or ordering something "American" on a menu at a local place just to see how they interpret our food, I research where to eat before I travel. 

I will ask hotel staff and people on the street and Uber drivers what their favorites are. Walking is also a wonderful way to find hidden gems. Places with lines are almost always going to be a home run. I also look for tiny cafes with sandwich chalkboards out front, because you know their specials change with what's available for the season. 

As noted, eating local can save you money, too. Even nicer restaurants can be cheaper than American chain restaurants, because they don't have to ship the food in. It comes from farms much nearer to your destination, which means it's both economical and fresh. You're also helping the locals more by dining there, whether it's a nice sit-down place or a food truck. 

Tell me how you feel about your travel style when it comes to food. If you don't eat local foods, tell us why, because I really want to understand that point of view. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

What To Wear On the Plane

Flying can be a good experience or a terrible one. If you prepare well in advance and are comfortable, you might find that the plane isn't as bad as you expect, even on long flights. This month will see me on a 10-hour flight from Portland to London, and then a return flight a bit longer a few weeks later. It's not my first long-haul flight and won't be my last, so I make it the best I possibly can by first starting with my travel outfit.

I always want to be comfortable. That's my number one priority, but I also want to look decent. I'm sorry, but I shame people who wear pajamas or straight-up athleticwear on the plane. I live in Columbia Sportswear country here in the Pacific Northwest, and while a lot of their clothing looks like you're going out hiking in the woods, more and more of their clothes are versatile and give you the feel of outdoor clothing, with the look of normal casual pieces. 

Sports bra
I'm one of those people who never leave without a bra on. I also wear lightweight, and often, then shirts when I travel, so I don't want to risk people seeing things I don't want them to see. Usually, I wear a regular bra when I travel, but they can be super restrictive, especially when you're trying to get some sleep in a confining space. A sports bra gives me support, coverage, and I don't feel like I'm being strangled. I know a lot of ladies have already figured out this method of comfy travel and I'm jumping on board. There are a million different ones out there, plus they can do double duty if you're one of those people who enjoy an exercise routine when you travel.

Short sleeve shirt
I pick a breathable fabric for a shirt on a long flight. You don't want to find that the shirt you're wearing is making you sweat and also holding odors. I usually choose a lightweight, loose, moisture-wicking shirt, like this one from Columbia. It gives me good coverage and is long enough to not ride up, plus it doesn't wrinkle, so I'll be looking put together when I arrive in London, and then Edinburgh.

The first rule of travel is being comfortable. The second rule of travel is to layer. You want to be comfortable whether it's hot, cold, or somewhere in between. I like to be able to take something off if I'm too warm, or put something on if I need to keep the chill out. A good cardigan, that goes with all your clothes, is a must. It's a nice addition to your airplane outfit and it's great to have at your destination, whether you want to bum around your room, or you need that extra layer while you're out.

Loose pants or pants with stretch
I don't travel with yoga pants or leggings. I don't like the look of them and I don't feel like drew take you seriously if you're looking for an upgrade. I often travel in stretchy jeans or jeggings, which are very comfortable and don't cut off my circulation, but I have since found a great pair of Columbia pants that are a hybrid of travel pants and leggings. They are stretchy, comfortable, can be worn in a business setting or a nice dinner if needed. They're moisture-wicking and also have pockets. 

They are similar to the ones above, but I purchased them in black, so they're more versatile than pants in colors, and look professional when they need to, but they also don't show dirt or stains if I drop food in my lap. They're perfect for the plane, and then can be rotated into my travel wardrobe when I get to my destination.

Your heaviest shoes
When you're trying to pack light, I always suggest wearing your bulkiest shoes on the plane. Not only does it save space in your carry-on, but if they plane is cold, they will also keep your feet warm. If they are too bulk, though, I am a fan of taking off your shoes for a flight (but don't just rock out with bare feet, because that's gross!). You don't want your tight shoes creating problems for you, like making your feet and ankles swell, especially if you're short like I am and your feet don't really touch the floor.

Slippers or slipper socks
As someone who likes to get comfy on a flight, I like to take off my shoes and settle in. As a person who also has bad circulation in my hands and feet, my feet get cold very easily. I have some great short slippers that can give me freedom and also keep my feet warm, plus I won't be squicked out if I put my feet on the dirty plane carpet. 

Compression socks/sleeves
I once went on a long flight and wore boots, thinking they were lightweight and would be fine, but my lower legs swelled and I was never able to get them back on my entire trip, so I'm glad I had other shoes. If I had been wearing compression socks, I wouldn't have had that problem. Sometimes the plane is hot, sometimes the plane is cold, so I don't want to have to wear too many layers that can't be removed. I often pack compression socks and wear compression sleeves on the plane. It helps the blood flow in your legs and keeps your lower legs happy. 

You never know when you'll need that extra layer of warmth and you don't want to pull out your big coat. I have this great Happyluxe wrap that I always travel with. It can be worn as a scarf, unfolded into a blanket (I often use it as a lap blanket in my room), or a wrap. It's one of my favorite things to have in my carry-on. You can even throw it over your head if your seatmate has their fan on full blast and you don't want it blowing directly into your eye for 10 hours. I love it, and many times will wrap it around my purse strap and take it with me on days out.

So, now you know exactly what you'll be seeing me wear in travel pictures on my airplane days. What do you like to wear on the plane to be comfortable?

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links that may result in monetary compensation for me if you make a purchase through them. This helps me keep this blog running, so I thank you in advance.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Favorite Free Las Vegas Attractions part 2

In my last post, I started telling you about my favorite things to do in Vegas if you don't want to spend any money. Believe it or not, there are quite a few things that are absolutely free to do. If you don't want to spend your entire trip on The Strip and you're willing to rent a car or Uber somewhere else, then that opens up a whole new world of Las Vegas for you.

Every year I try to find more new things to check out, so I can bring you some of the best. A few of these are old favorites and some of them are new, but you're going to want to check out some of them.

Pinball Hall of Fame

This will soon be moved to The Strip, but right now it's a mile or so away on Tropicana in a very non-descript warehouse with no windows. Inside you'll find hundreds of vintage pinball and arcade games. Each game has a card on it with info on the game and manufacturer. You can even play these games, though you will have to shell out money for that, but most play on just one quarter, so you can get a good chunk of entertainment out of just $5.

Ethel M's Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden

This is another destination we hit up nearly every time we're in town. You can watch the process of chocolate-making in their working factory for free, get samples, and browse all the different kinds of chocolates they make or pick up a non-edible souvenir, like a magnet or souvenir. Outside is an extensive cactus garden, which you may have seen on my Instagram stories. There are even ones that I haven't seen, coming from Arizona. It's really tranquil, even when it's 115 degrees outside. 

Downtown Arts District

Downtown Las Vegas has so much more than it used to. In fact, it's no longer the dirty, sketch place it was, and now has a revamped look with the city working with local artists for murals and sculptures and other types of art. One of my favorites this year was the bright pink The Empty Club by artist Andre Saraiva, who specializes in French aesthetic. Eric enjoyed the giant fallen robot right next to it. 

Container Park

If you've not been to the Container Park yet, you need to go! I always suggest going at night, but you really should do it during the day and then return after dark to get the full genius of it. The Container park is a collection of shops and eateries made of shipping containers. Inside you'll find a huge playground for kids and a fake grassy area. After 9pm, the park is only open to 21+ and they host activities such as movies on the lawn, wine tasting and live entertainment. 

Out front is a giant metal praying mantis that was part of Burning Man. After dark, it shoots fire to music. You'll also find The Dome, a dome that houses music shows like the planetarium. I wrote about it here. You can also see a video of the praying mantis at work.

Fremont Street Experience

Maybe you've been afraid to go downtown at night time, but know that you will find the area patrolled heavily by police, so you really shouldn't worry too much about your safety. I enjoy visiting Fremont during the day as well, but you'll find a whole different vibe when the sun's still up. Depending on when you visit, daytime Fremont is pretty chill, though you'll find the same "showgirl" and "celebrity" photo ops anytime, you may also see some interesting street shows. On our last visit, we stopped to watch a saxophonist do a set. You can also get your palm read, buy souvenirs and people watch. 

When night falls, you will find tons of free music (there are three stages that run all at once), and each hour they turn the lights down for you to turn your eyes upwards to watch the Fremont Street Experience. There is a light canopy that runs two blocks. Music plays and the lights create patterns, show videos, and chase each other throughout the show, which can last 3-5 minutes. Tourists flood the street at night, so if you're not a fan of crowds, this might not be for you. 

This last visit, I had a tip from a fellow blogger about a vintage toy store on Fremont Street, so we went in search of it. It's called Toy Shack and it is packed floor to ceiling with amazing vintage toys from all decades, as well as some new stuff. Many of the things inside I've never seen before. They don't mind if you take pics and video and are happy to haggle with you if you're reasonable. It's definitely worth a look inside, plus it's air conditioned, so it's a nice break from the heat outside.

You can visit Fremont Street, the Container Park and see a ton of street art all within a few blocks of each other, so if you're looking for the biggest bang for your drive/ride, this is it.

Lyft Art Park

Right across the street from Fremont Street Experience is a funky little art park sponsored by Lyft. It's not large, but everything is from local artists, it's free, and you can even sit and rest inside or play giant cornhole. I loved it! Each time we visit, it seems Lyft is sponsoring a different cool art project. Just keep your eyes peeled while you're walking around. You'll also see revamped, retired neon hotel signs up and down the street.

Seven Magic Mountains

If you haven't seen the colorful photos of people visiting this art project in the desert, you might be living under a (normal, non-painted) rock. It's a bit of a drive out of the city, but I thought I was going to miss its run when I didn't visit last July. I was really excited to find they had extended the project for a further 2 years (and wonder if they won't just leave it indefinitely). The Seven Magic Mountains are seven stacks of painted rocks that contrast sharply with the surrounding brown and muted green desert landscape. It's quite surreal and the stacked boulders are pretty amazing. 

We did a lot of sightseeing this trip, spending most of our money on food and basketball tickets. I'll be talking about coffee shops and other foods in Sin City in another post, so stay tuned for that. 

What are your favorite free activities in Las Vegas, or what are you hoping to do on your next trip?
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