The Joy of Making a Mess

The Joy of Making a Mess

A few months back, I asked you to “Watch this Space – Just Not Quite Yet.” I was getting ready to make some changes on the website and I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. It still isn’t. I know just enough about technology to be dangerous, and I made a bit of a mess of things. But I’m working on it. For now, I’m just relishing the joy of making a mess.

It’s good to make a mess sometimes.

In this case, it’s making me rethink everything about how I want the website to look, which is making me rethink everything about what I want the website, and my company, to be. A lot has changed since Vero and I first started writing this blog in 2010. For starters, Vero is no longer working with me, though we remain close friends. We both moved into travel planning together, and while I continue doing it here, she does it through Pax Travel Design.

For another thing, I’ve started a new tour company, Unquote Travel, with a couple of blogging friends, offering small group tours all over the world, from France to Mongolia, from Peru to Cuba, and soon from the North Pole to the South Pole (well, the Arctic and Antarctica, anyway).

And while we started as a family travel site, my kids are almost out of the nest, my clients are not always families, and Unquote’s tours are mostly targeted to millennials!

So maybe it’s not a family travel site anymore.

I think what I want to feature here are stories about great vacations. Stories like Kathy Callahan’s story about a family safari trip, or Karen Schwarz’s story about her family trip to Joshua Tree, or Vero’s story about a girlfriend getaway to Charlottesville. I’d love to hear from you if you want to tell your vacation story!

I also want to write more about food and travel gear and fashion and music and… oh right, this is why we called it All Over the Map. I just want to do everything!

In any case, the website is still kind of a mess, but I’m working on it.

Do me a favor, though, and if you see anything that looks funny, let me know.

Some ways to help Houston that you may not have thought of

Some ways to help Houston that you may not have thought of

We are all heartbroken for the folks in Houston who have lost their homes and so much more in the historic floods. So what can we do to help? I’ve compiled some ways to help Houston from people who live there. Send me more as you find them!

Hint: don't send clothes

Send money

Sending money is always the best idea, so that people on the ground can buy what is needed.

Some folks are down on The American Red Cross, but they are still one of the biggest and best prepared to swoop in after a natural disaster. If you want to do some background reading (which you should do prior to donating to any charity) check out some of these stories promoted by Pro Publica.

Anna Coffey Dragsbeek, CEO of The Women’s Home in Houston, recommends these local Houston charities as ethical, responsible stewards of relief money:

1. BakerRipley: This is one of the most effective organizations when it comes to community building and community development. And they also specialize in disaster relief. Right now they are managing a 10,000 bed shelter that they organized in 6 hours. Yes, you read that right, 6 hours.

2. The Women’s Home: This is the organization for which I am privileged to serve as CEO. We help homeless women and their families recover their lives. Our projects include a substance use treatment facility, 171 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless women and their families, and a community center to meet the behavioral heath and social support needs for a low income community in Houston. As you might imagine, this population is particularly vulnerable at this time. We humbly ask for your support so that we can serve all of the immense needs that our clients will encounter in the weeks and months ahead.

3. Vecino Health Centers: This is a low cost clinic that supplies Cadillac care to some of our city’s most needy. They will be a key partner in the coming months for keeping our community healthy.

4. The Council on Recovery: This is a wonderful charity that provides counseling services for those who have experienced substance use disorders. They offer almost all of their services on a sliding scale and have one of the most progressive and thoughtful approaches to supporting those who suffer from this debilitating disease. For that population, this storm has been particularly traumatic.

5. Citizens for Animal Protection: This is a wonderful no-kill animal shelter and does amazing work to connect animals to the humans they lost or to new forever homes. One of our dogs adopted us from there.

Don’t send used clothing

Yes, people will need clothing. But right now, no organization has the resources to sort through donations and distribute them. Don’t believe me? Watch this.

If you must send stuff, make sure it is the stuff that is needed and not something that is going to just cause more headaches for the recipients. This crowd-sourced list of charities in the Houston area, along with their current needs and phone numbers, should help you figure this out.

Do send new underwear

Dr. Brené Brown, noted author and expert on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, is based in Houston and has been sharing her stories on Facebook and Instagram. She posted the following:

Here are three ways to give NEW (still in package) underwear. Please keep in mind that we need a variety of sizes for men, women, boys, and girls, including XXL.


2. Collect new, packaged underwear and mail it to the address below. It’s our local Hillel and they are collecting for us. This is a really great neighborhood or school project. If you’re purchasing, we recommend Hanes or Fruit of the Loom. UFE doesn’t process or give out anything but underwear!
Undies for Everyone
1700 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77005

3. Give cash and Undies for Everyone will purchase wholesale:…/s/uFpr61ITEItxPeN4Lo9zpA

Donate Frequent Flyer Miles, or Get Miles for a Cash Donation

I don’t know about you, but I sign up for every frequent flyer program out there. As a result I have tiny  stores of miles with some pretty random airlines. I will probably never fly some of those airlines again, so I may as well donate my miles.

Southwest is an airline that I love and fly whenever I can, so I have a few miles with them. They have also made it very easy to donate miles to the rescue and cleanup efforts in Houston through donations of Rapid Rewards points to the American Red Cross. Keep in mind that donations of points are not tax deductible in the same way that cash is.

Other airlines, like American, United, and Delta, are offering bonus miles to people who donate to the Red Cross through their portals.

More ways to help Houston

Reach out to friends who live there and offer shelter, money, love – whatever they need. Ask them what they need. Listen to the answer.

If you have other charities to recommend, add them in comments or email me and I will add them as they come in.


Visit a Tall Ship in Alexandria Next Week

Visit a Tall Ship in Alexandria Next Week

From time to time, we get special visitors in my home town. Next week, we’ll have a visit from a tall ship in Alexandria, and this time we can go aboard for free!

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle will visit Alexandria September 4-8, as part of a tour of the East Coast. The ship will pass through the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on Monday, September 4, at around 8:30 a.m., and will dock at Robinson Landing (1 Duke St.) at approximately 9:30 a.m.

New Location

If you have seen the tall ships in Alexandria before, you probably saw them docked at Old Town Alexandria Harbor at the base of Cameron Street. This one, co-hosted by the City of Alexandria and EYA, will dock at a pier owned by EYA, whose Robinson Landing riverfront development will offer new residences, restaurants, retail, and a public waterfront promenade.

If you want to watch the arrival of the ship, Jones Point Park, Fords Landing City Park and Point Lumley Park in historic Old Town will offer clear views of the river.

The Coast Guard tall ship Eagle

The Coast Guard tall ship Eagle (Photo Credit: Visit Alexandria)

The Eagle is the largest tall ship flying the U.S. flag. It is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in American military service. The ship was built in Hamburg, Germany, in 1936. The U.S took the Eagle as a war reparation and re-commissioned it for the U.S. Coast Guard.  The ship then sailed to New London, Conn., its permanent home port ever since. Now the Eagle serves as a training vessel and goodwill ambassador.

Free Tours

The Eagle will host free tours on Monday, September 4, from 1 to 8 p.m., and Wednesday, September 6, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are not required. The ship is scheduled to depart Alexandria on Friday, September 8, at 4:15 a.m., passing through the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the way to Baltimore.

Don’t miss this chance to see a tall ship in Alexandria!

For up-to-date information about Eagle’s visit, go to

Spring Break Deals to Williamsburg and Busch Gardens

Spring Break Deals to Williamsburg and Busch Gardens

This Spring, get a great spring break deal for travel to Williamsburg and Busch Gardens for the family. Travel through time to the 18th-century city of Colonial Williamsburg, then “bounce” into modern thrills at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Spring Break Deals in Williamsburg

Offering savings of up to 10%, the Spring Break Getaway package includes three nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast and four Spring Bounce Tickets (two adult and two for children ages 6-12), which allows guests to “bounce” from century to century with unlimited admission to both Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Williamsburg (located within 5 miles of Colonial Williamsburg), plus parking for seven consecutive days between March 25 through May 14.

Spring Break deals WilliamsburgThe Spring Getaway package is good for stays at a Colonial Williamsburg hotel, including Colonial Houses, the Williamsburg Lodge, the Griffin Hotel, and the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites. The package also includes free breakfast daily with rates starting at $159/night. The Bounce Ticket is also available online for $99, $79 for youths ages 6-12.

New sites in the old town

This year Colonial Williamsburg unveils new programming at sites including the Geddy, Wythe and Randolph houses and Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury. Along with other shops and sites like the historic Raleigh Tavern, guests of all ages can meet the nation’s founders, enjoy period stories, music or military drill, and even try their hands at historic trades and games, with a focus on fun for young revolutionaries.

“Colonial Williamsburg offers a setting like no other for families to immerse themselves in our shared history,” said Colonial Williamsburg Actor-interpreter Michelle Smith. “We admire, and even envy, the ease with which kids transport themselves into this 18th-century world we craft. To watch them play along as they learn never ceases to be rewarding, and we hope new and returning guests will join us this spring for new, fun experiences in the Revolutionary City.”

Busch Gardens Williamsburg opens March 25 and 26, March 31-April 23, then Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 21 before opening seven days a week May 26 through Labor Day. Colonial Williamsburg is open seven days a week.

Tickets, reservations and additional information are available at Colonial Williamsburg ticketing locations, and online at

This post includes affiliate links, which means if you book through those links, I will receive a small commission. So, if you book through these links, thank you!

Help Wanted: Northern Lights Spotter

Help Wanted: Northern Lights Spotter

A friend sent me this ad for a spotter of the Northern Lights job and I thought I’d pass it along.

Are you a night owl? Love the cold? Don’t mind spending the winter far from the city? Dying to see the Northern Lights, like, a lot?

Then this job may be for you:

Northern Lights Job want ad

Someone sent me this want ad and I thought I might know someone who would love this job.

I don’t have anything to do with it, and I’ve never been to this place, but for someone out there, this is going to be a perfect match.

This blog has been verified by Rise: R61506508ab56e1799c67c1d00a0f9d43
Thinking Bigger

Thinking Bigger

It has been a crazy career path I’ve taken. I know that. And I’m not even sure what I have now is actually a career. But it’s getting there. I do have a business that is growing every year, even though the plan is constantly changing. One of my main goals this year was to increase the amount of writing that I do for outlets other than my own blog. And I am going to brag a little big here: I’m doing it!

I have to admit I have been terrified to pitch stories. I know some people come off the starting blocks saying “I think I’ll be a travel writer! I’ll pitch a story about my great trip to National Geographic/New York Times/BBC Travel/Lonely Planet. Of course they’ll run it!” It never even occurred to me to pitch those places. I thought, “I’ll write some stuff on my blog and maybe some other blogs and then maybe I’ll see if someone might want to think about maybe publishing a tiny piece I’ll write about, like, ‘the best non-hideous hiking shoes for women,’ or ‘fanny packs are back – for real this time!’ – you know, the little blurbs at the front of magazines you flip through and forget about.

This year I decided to think bigger. That was my only New Year’s Resolution:

Think Bigger

So no, I’m not writing for National Geographic (yet). But I’ve got some other travel writing gigs to be proud of:

  • I’m been chosen (there was competition and everything!) to be a Travel Mamas at Home contributor for the lifestyle section of the Travel Mamas website. I had to choose a nickname, so I’m the Startup Travel Mama, since I’ve ‘started up’ a few businesses and nonprofits in my time. I’ll be writing about all sorts of issues, not just business and finance for mamas, but that’ll be my niche over there.
  • I published an article on craft beer in Costa Brava on a website called Two Backpacks One Adventure
  • I found a few sponsors for posts on my website. One was so thrilled with my contribution they included it in their B2B newsletter as an example of the great work they do.
  • I pitched a story about an arts project in DC to an international web magazine, and when they wrote back saying they liked my work but wanted researched pieces, not like personal pieces in my portfolio, I stood up for myself and said I could do that, and I delivered my first draft one day after it was assigned, two days ahead of schedule.

The travel planning part of my business is growing and evolving. I am planning some great trips for clients now to Ireland, Scotland, Italy and the Caribbean. And I love doing it!

Oh and my blog just hit number 37 of the top 1000 travel blogs, according to Rise/Global.

Business-wise, I’m thinking bigger, too. I’m not sure yet exactly the form that will take, but I applied for and got a business line of credit so I can grow this business.

I’m working with some other bloggers to start a company dedicated to providing immersive local tours around the world (announcement and details coming very soon).

Why I’m bragging

I’m bragging on myself a bit here because it has not been easy and it has taken a long time to reach this point, and I have put a lot of hours into making this happen. Yes, it also results in me traveling and doing fun things that I enjoy, which I couldn’t do without my family’s cooperation, which is not always easy. “Sure honey, I’ll get up at 4 am on a Saturday and take the kids to the regatta while you take a train trip to California!” “Yes, dear, I’ll be happy to come stay with your husband and shuttle the children to all their activities while you go to Spain and drink Cava every day!” Amazingly, I did hear these things come out of my loved ones’ mouths. So I know I’m lucky.

But my main goal is not to inspire envy, but to inspire people to travel, make connections across cultures, and create great memories. How about you? How are you thinking bigger?


Thinking Bigger