I love to travel solo. By myself, no one else but me, (at least no one that I am connected to by work or family). This might sound awful to some, maybe I sound like an introvert, a loner that doesn’t really like people. That is the furthest from the truth. I love my friends and family. Truly enjoy being with people and for the most part, I am with people ALL THE TIME.
That is precisely why I like to sometimes travel alone. I NEED that alone time to be with my own thoughts. I CRAVE my space and the opportunity to enjoy my time on my time. I ESPECIALLY like how it makes me feel strong and empowered.
The reasons why people travel solo can vary as greatly as the places that they want to go.
Especially for women, it used to be “frowned” up to travel on their own, to dine in restaurants on their own, to enjoy the pleasure of far away locations without the accompaniment of…….someone. Thankfully, no more.
In most parts of the world it is safe to say that traveling solo, for a woman or a man is absolutely acceptable and embraced. With that being said, I would caution to check with local customs and laws to ensure safety and to keep within the traditions of the region.
Why travel solo?
I am the keeper of the day. When was the last time you got to do exactly what you wanted to do? You choose what time to get up, to go to sleep, is it a beach or mountain day, it is up to you. Race cars or Reiki, the sky’s the limit. Traveling alone can be like a great big playground, and no one is going to tell you when the fun is over.
I get to embrace my inner lion and become a braver person. When traveling alone you reach out to the locals more, wrap yourself in the culture of the community, in part to be curious and open, in part to become astutely aware of your surroundings which is so very important without the security blanket of a travel companion. The perfect example of this is when I travel to New York City. I have never felt scared or intimidated in the Big Apple. I used to live there, and the natural rhythm of the city always welcomes me back. When I am solo, it is a perfect choreograph of me and the masses. When I am with a travel companion, I can be overwhelmed with concern – worried if they are keeping up as we scurry down 3rd Avenue, looking for clues in their face to see if the sights and sound of the city that I love is too much for them. The city is the same, but the experiences might be totally different.
Food & all the glorious options. It always comes down to food for me! I really enjoy culinary exploration. Imagine a trip that you get to drive the “foodie bus”! You get to pick where or what to eat and how many ice cream sundaes you want to have. Do you want to try a local food truck that you have been reading about - go for it. How about fine dining at one of the most coveted French restaurants in town – table for one please. Not feeling like getting out of bed so quickly this morning – make it room service. You get the idea, what ever it is (or not) that you want to eat from a particular location – you are the master of this trip. Never feel “alone” in a restaurant – proudly ask for the table for one – and see if there is one by the window so that you can people watch. Feeling chatty, sit at the bar. That bartender can be a very nice dining companion with loads of local information.
This is really just scratching the surface of why I advocate for traveling solo. Why should someone not take that long-anticipated trip because they do not have a travel companion. For whatever the circumstance is to travel alone, I say absolutely go for it. It is exciting, empowering and it might just be the best time that you have ever had.
Just the sound of her engine stirs my soul. Distinctive & rhythmic - one of the best auditory experiences you will ever have is the approach of a train to it's station. Train travel reflects the flow of life, the changes of pace, the ups and downs. It gives us a glimpse of open fields, then plunges into a deep green forest of trees. Scenes of countryside that can only be enjoyed by the comfort of your seat. Truly an authentic & fulfilling way to see the world around us.
It was hard to write about train travel. That surprised me. Not because I did not have enough content or connection - it was just the opposite. There is so much emotion involved with travel by rail that is was hard to harness the words. Literally left me speechless. Where do I begin?
The Stations ~ Think of these magnificent buildings not as a jumping off point but as a prelude to an exceptional journey. Architectural masterpieces with storied history and artful expressions, train stations around the world are often overlooked for their significant contributions to a region's cultural past.
Some beautiful examples are:
The Experience ~ The spaciousness & ease of travel by rail is hard to deny. The seats are wider and are often more comfortable with plenty of leg room. Trains, by and large, are not very crowded, and while some don't even require you to make a reservation, I highly recommend that you do. Rail travel options are as vast as are the locations. Luxury rail experiences, regional journeys & culinary adventures. just to name a few. While you may have a hard time choosing which trip to go on, packing will not be something you will have to worry about. There are no limits on baggage weight and the standard amount of luggage is two large pieces per person. Additionally, there are no liquid restrictions and there is minimum "opportunity" for your luggage to be lost. From the time you arrive until the moment you are called "All Aboard" you will quickly realize that this is unlike any other form of travel.
The Trains ~ Trains are the most relaxing of any form of long-distance travel. Whether you are seeking spectacular scenery, luxurious carriages, heritage steam trains or epic long-distance journeys, perhaps aboard a sleeper, there is no better perspective on the world than from a railway carriage.
Some wonderful trains to consider:
Train Travel is a deeply personal experience. It is by far my favorite way to travel. It is soulful, tactile & immersive. It offers the option of choice. One can be lost in their own thoughts or fully engaged in social interaction. Your window seat is the portal to your imagination where dreams can soar along the rolling countryside. As essayist A.P. Herbert once said: "Slow travel by train is almost the only restful experience left to us".
Our world spins fast but the wheels of rail promise to slow it down, even if it is only for a moment.
March in New England can be as fickle as it comes. Bright blue skies and melting snow giving way to peeks of grass carefully nestled underneath one minute. Gale force winds with brutal cold, biting frozen rain and endless dark dreary days the next. What is the saying?
If you don’t like the weather in New England than just wait a minute.
March is also the time of year when the flower and garden circuit begins and shows spring up (get the pun!) everywhere. Just as we approach our breaking point of a long winter, enterprising garden saints gather in masse to provide just enough fragrant and colorful relief.
If you are a lover of all thing’s gardens. If you smile just at the sight of flowers, marvel in the multitude of ways you can blend color and form, but you have never been to a flower and garden show – well then you are truly missing out on some of the best indoor therapy that is around.
Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago are just some of the large ones that are simply spectacular. The Chicago one alone features 700 plant varieties and a host of activities like a “Potting Party” workshop, a Garden Gourmet Stage with culinary demonstrations from top area chefs, a kid’s activity garden with free hands on learning, a photography competition, a table scape exhibit and a shopper’s paradise with exhibitors from the green industry. If that was not enough there is even a VIP charity event prior to the show opening to the public.
This year’s Boston Flower and Garden Show, who’s show theme is “The Beauty of Balance” is dedicated to showcasing colorful life-sized gardens and vibrant floral designs incorporate the newest design elements, examples of the popular and healthy food gardening trend ideas for adopting sustainable gardening practices and air-cleansing indoor plants. Included will be small-space gardens, homesteading hobbies, edibles-as-ornamentals and family and pet-friendly spaces for outdoor relaxation and entertaining.
If you are really looking for an adventure then traveling to Europe for one of their many shows might be exactly the reason to take that next trip.
Keukenhof Gardens, near Amsterdam, Netherlands
Location: Lisse, near Amsterdam
Without a doubt the most beautiful gardens in the flower world, Keukenhof Gardens boasts 32 acres of colorful flowers arranged harmoniously, more than 30 flower shows, 100 works of art, and 7 themed gardens. It’s perfect for both young and old crowds.
Chelsea Flower Show, London, England
Location: Royal Hospital Chelsea, London
Considered one of the most beautiful garden festivals in Europe, the Chelsea Flower Show is full of magnificent works of arts and architecture made from all types of plants and flowers. This highly prestigious event will feature more than 35 themed gardens and more than 500 exhibitors.
Festa da Flor (Flower Festival), Madeira, Portugal
Location: Funchal city center
Much more than an exhibition, the Madeira Flower Festival is an ode to spring! Parades, music, activities, floral sculptures, acrobats, and food are just some of the ways the Festa da Flor is celebrated throughout the streets of Madeira’s largest city, Funchal. This festival is a great way to discover the Portuguese culture with all of your senses!
It is no secret that I travel for my senses and searching for beauty wherever I go is often the hallmark of my trips. Sometimes it is a curated, well planned visit to London for the spectacular Chelsea Flower show. More frequently it is my husband and I hopping into the Outback in search of something in our own back yard. It might just be the 69th Annual Rhode Island Home and Garden Show.
That sounds like just the right medicine to sooth my winter blues.
Mid-summer day. The sweet scent of cut grass surrounds me. It is warm, hot really and all I can think of is hopping on my bike and going down to the lake. Barefoot, bathing suit on, t-shirt and shorts, backpack with essentials, towel, suntan oil, some money for the ice cream stand for later on in the day. My bike is ready and waiting to take me to my daily respite. In my youth, the lake was my sanctuary. The lake was located in the center of my very small town and it was firmly in the center of my life. The lake offered cool relief from hot summer days. It also leveled the playing field with the rest of the kids in my town. At the lake we were equal. Social or economic class structures fell away at the lake. Nobody cared if you wore the best jeans or lived in a fancy house. At the lake it was all about fun, sun and swimming. We all found solace at the lake for different reasons. Swimming in that cool dark water of my youth was pure joy.
I have always been drawn to water. Lakes, rivers and streams from the first memories of my youth. Plentiful in upstate New York. As I got older, my need for water intensified and shifted to the ebb and flow of the ocean. The powerful roar stirred my soul and calmed my mind. The more frantic my life became, with ever increasing responsibility, kids, work, life…the more intense the pull towards the calm of water. Big water – ocean waves with mesmerizing shades of blue, turquoise and emerald. Warm and welcoming in the Caribbean, bold and magnificent in New England – each beckoned me closer to its edge or wrapped me in the velvet comfort of restoration, never failing to deliver.
Water as it turns out is a healing tonic for most people as written by Wallace J. Nichols in the bestselling book, Blue Mind. The immeasurable sense of peace that we feel around water is what Nichols calls our “blue mind” which is our chance to escape the hyper-connected, over-stimulated lives we lead. We are drawn to the water at the deepest levels of our subconscious in search of precious solitude. We gravitate to blues and aqua as symbols of calm and wellbeing.
It is no wonder that in the midst of a long cold winter we plan our escape to warmer weather. We seek respite from the psychological and physical effects of shorter days, less sun and freezing temperatures.
Understanding our connection to water, I imagine that what is also tugging at our hearts is the need for solitude, rejuvenation and peace that in its unique way, only water can provide.
Take me to the water please, I am ready to go!
The Catskill Mountains in its heyday was the mecca of activity for tired travelers to escape for fun, frolic, food and for some, a little bit of found freedom. I was a local kid who grew up in one of the larger resort hotels. My mother was the Maître D’ of the 300-seat dining room and for me it was breathtaking to see how she made each guest feel as if they were the only one. I learned early on how important it was for the guests of the hotel to be happy. I would charm them with my impish smile when I was little and when I was able to work in the hotel, I impressed them with highest level of customer service that my teenage brain could figure out. I had to. Not only was my own work performance on the line but so was my mom’s reputation. This was not like other jobs that kids my age had where they could just show up, not really care and get away with it. I had to do my best work, each time, all the time.
The amount of activities that the hotel offered was staggering. Activities that would entertain guests from early morning to late, late at night. For some it was easy to get caught up in the frenzy of trying to do everything all at once. The guests would scurry around trying to enjoy as much food, pool time, bingo and late-night shows that their bodies could handle. No wonder after a couple of days of keeping up with the Jones’s some guests looked like they had just run a marathon. Then there were a rare few guests that seemed to figure it out. They walked slower, held hands when they could. They took long strolls through the gardens, enjoyed tea on the front porch, chatted freely with other guests. They shared stories that told tales of storied lives. They carefully choose their activities so that they gave themselves the time to also focus on their well-being. I loved being in their company. They were calm and joyful. They came back year after year with tales of adventures from all over the world that seemed both intoxicating and completely authentic. They understood what it meant to travel well.
Scarcity plays a huge role on how we perceive travel experiences. I remember back then; most guests were the first generation of their families to experience vacations. Most of the guests came from a culture of scarcity and frugality. I would imagine that as they entered the fantasy land of a Catskill Mountain resort, with so much to offer, it was hard not to get overwhelmed and overrun.
If you fast forward to today, imagine your last travel experience. Did you come home refreshed, invigorated and full of amazing memories? Did you stroll, sip tea, chat freely with other travelers and experience an authentic travel experience that not only nourished your mind but your body and soul as well?
If your answer is no, you are not alone.
Up until a few years ago I was in that same boat. Time off was scarce, money was tight, and my love of travel started to resemble being catapulted out of a rocket versus floating down a lazy river. I longed for another way. Then I remembered those guests from long ago. Smiling, laughing, enjoying the journey as well as the destination. Little did I know then that they would be the inspiration, they would create the road map, the driving force for changing the way that I traveled and for the inspiration behind Red Dog Travel.
Red Dog Travel is a fulfillment to a destiny that was forged ages ago.
The art of slow travel was clearly defined for me in those moments of my youth. I hope that in this inaugural issue of my newsletter you have enjoyed a chance to peek behind the curtains of Red Dog Travel and together we can discover the true joys of travel.
As we ring in the new year, I wish you peace and prosperity.
Cheers to the art of slow travel!
They had nicknames like Fritzie, Lefty & Cookie which was my mom’s nickname. (full disclosure, my dad was Lefty!) I often wonder what it must have been like growing up in the 1940’s & 50’s, essentially walking in her shoes. My mom came from a poor immigrant family. I don’t mean poor like they were inconvenienced at times with lacking the finer things, I mean so poor that this family of six, my grandparents, my mother, her sister and two brothers, lived half the year as caretakers of a Catskill Mountain hotel and the other half of the year (winter) on the top floor of a barn structure with no plumbing and a woodstove for heat. My grandparents were tough, they were survivalist and worked so hard to make it here in the United States. My grandfather was able to read and write English. Not exactly sure how he learned but it seemed to serve the family well. He was the bread winner, the negotiator, the communicator, so that his family could survive . My grandmother could neither read nor write English or for that matter, her native language. She spoke with a very heavy accent and kept alive the traditions of her heritage while learning how to embrace a new culture. She was one heck of gardener, seamstress and most memorably, a terrific cook.
I am not sure of the date when my grandfather, along with his two sons built their home. From all accounts, he saved and saved every penny he earned for this one goal in his life. The American dream ~ to have his own home. They built it entirely on their own and never had a mortgage. It would have to have been sometime in the early 1950’s. I am certain of that fact as tragedy struck twice in that determined family as both my uncles where tragically killed, one year apart late in the 50's.
When I look at my mom as a child, especially in this picture, I see an impish young girl, so full of hopes and dreams, so ready to take on the world and give it a what for! My mom did not look forlorn about her poverty, nor did she wear it on her sleeve. She looks happy, confident and might I say a little sassy for a young teen.
My mom loved adventure. I remember growing up as a child taking road trips everywhere throughout New England because my mom loved to see and experience life. She relished the moments when she was not working to pack me up in the car and go driving. We would venture to every garden, historic house, small town, old cemetery and back road she could find - resolute to make the most out of the little free time she had. My mom too worked tirelessly to survive. We also were profoundly poor. And yes, like my grandparents, so poor that we had no food at times, begged the oil company to extend us credit for our tank so that we would not freeze. It is hard to break some family traditions.
I imagine that sometime in the 1950’s my mom was given the nickname of Cookie. Her birth name was Natalie, but everyone knew her as Cookie. I am certain it had something to do with her sass, love of a good adventure and a little bit of a wild streak. No solid proof on how she got that nickname but it stuck with her forever. As did her love of seeing new things through travel.
A few years after she passed away I started working in a law firm in my hometown as a clerk and the eldest attorney (he was probably in his late 70’s at that time) had not met me yet. When he came into the office, he stared straight at me and with almost a gasp and a hint of glee said out loud – Cookie! I had never realized how much I had looked like my mom. My mom never met a stranger, made you feel like you were the only one in the room and was always up for an adventure. I never did find out how she knew that attorney, but I am positive it must be a good story.
Today would have been my mom’s 86th birthday.
Cheers to adventurers around the world celebrating her life by living theirs to the fullest.
I could leave that word just by itself and it will paint a different picture for everyone who sees it. It is a primal word. Just hearing it digs deeply into our soul. Our sense of place, personal identity and our relationship to this world is wrapped up in authenticity. We all strive for it from our choice in fashion, hairstyle, car we drive, places we visit or not.
Even those who we associate with is subconsciously driven by our own desire to create authenticity. I can’t quite put a finger on when the exact moment was when I had the realization of my own authenticity. For as long as I could remember, I would allow my environment to shape the person who I was. I fit into a mold of expectation and stayed firmly planted in it, even if it squeezed the air out of my very being.
I was a very good chameleon. But I was a fraud to myself. Something needed to give or my true being was going to be lost forever due to the sands of time. It could have come with age or circumstance, but I have to say, the clearest moment I can recall that I introduced myself to myself came when I moved to a location that felt as authentic as I had only dreamed that I could be.
I had seen a quote in the New York Times that sums it up…. “In Vermont authenticity is all, they do not try to keep it real, they are real”.
Now I know that this could sound really hokey pokey hippie dippy to some and by no means is this to say everyone should move to Vermont to get real! It is beautiful here, we would love you, but that is not what this is about. I share this with you all as only a point of reflection. As perhaps an opportunity for conversation as we move into that time of year when we might gather with friends and family. We will have the gift of being around people who might be on a different path than our own. Respecting each other’s journey towards authenticity could be the key to opening up the door of understanding.
So, as we travel across the river and through the woods to come together on this Thanksgiving week, I wish you all peace, love and joy on your Journey.
Embrace your beautiful authenticity and let it shine for all the world to see.
It has been raining buckets here in Southern Vermont!
So many days of inside the house and like you, my mind starts to wander off to someplace warm and inviting. Every time I open my social media pages there is someone who is going to an exotic location like the Azores, Dominican Republic or New Zealand, for gosh sakes! and as I look out my rainy window it sure does seem tempting. At my fingertips, right there on the “world wide web” so many possibilities. Where do I start? Take a plane from Boston to Detroit, transfer and then take another plane to the Dominican Republic, find a cab, not really sure about where my hotel is…..get to my hotel, wait, wait, wait to check in, boy it's hot! Can’t wait to get to my room and change to go to the beach. My room is ok….not exactly what I had envisioned when I booked it online, it looks a little different than the pictures. Not even sure where to begin to slow down and enjoy my time!
Does this sound familiar? Yes, you can absolutely, positively book your own travel. I am completely confident that you will get to your destination and most likely for a great price. But what about all the rest? Once you are there, do you know for sure that your room is exactly what you are looking for? Is there an amenity waiting in your room of fresh fruit and sparkling water, no charge, compliments of the resort? Is your dinner reservation already completed before you arrive, and your car service already preplanned so all you have to do is walk outside?
I get asked all the time, why on earth would I ever use a travel agent?
That is a truly valid question. Why you use a travel agent is so much more different than in times past. Way back in the day it was really the only way to get your airline tickets. Now with all the travel deals coming pouring into your social media feeds, how do you know what is true, what is fluff and what will really not be a great experience.
I read somewhere that we as a society are not using all of our allotted vacation time and when we are it is precious. Conversely, if you are retired, time may not be so much as a factor, but value absolutely is.
Good, professional, honest information about destinations, travel experience, pricing and location expectations are the must-have for your journey to be exceptional and time well spent. A trusted ally who will advocate fiercely on your behalf and stand by you when the unexpected occurs.
Once again, I am not saying that you could not find online exactly what you need to travel to a location, find your choice of accommodations, attractions and be happy with the price.
What I am inviting you to explore the next time you travel is to consider using a travel professional. A trusted ally who will advocate fiercely on your behalf and stand by you when the unexpected occurs. A professional whose sole mission is to elevate your overall experience, reduce the stress of the millions of finite details and allow you to enjoy the possibilities of a truly curated journey.
You might be pleasantly surprised!
Welcome ~ I do hope you will walk with me for a while and allow the indulgence of a small moment of your time while I share some thoughts, quips, insights and conversations. Hopefully a chance to get to know me a little better and hence, get to know Red Dog Travel. I will talk more at another time why I named my agency Red Dog Travel, but I wanted to start with the concept of slow travel. You will see this sprinkled throughout my site. What on earth is the art of slow travel and why would anyone want to travel slow? Quick, instant, right now – that is the world we live in. If it didn’t happen yesterday, gave us instant gratification and provided the answer the moment we thought of it, well than it is too slow!
Think of slow travel as the polar opposite of all of that. Think of it as being thoughtful, soulful, regional ~~ everything that is the opposite of most travel experiences. If you are hurried, rushed, stressful, constantly moving and exhausted when you come home from your time away, that is not slow travel. I for one really like slow travel. There is enough in this world that makes me exhausted. I don’t want to waste my precious vacation time on something less than restful, rewarding and spectacular.
Slow travel is mindset not a consequence. Slow travel intentionally slows down the momentum of the experiences you have on your journey. Stroll through the city instead of calling an Uber. Drive to your destinations instead of flying to see the really cool sights that can only be had from the ground. When visiting new destinations, live like a local. Choose the really good local diner instead of the 4-star restaurant. It might just be some of the best “cuisine” you have ever had.
Some of the best ways to indulge the art of slow travel without losing an ounce of creature comforts is on a luxury Canadian rail or an Alaskan Cruise. Whether on a ship or a train you will be surrounded, immersed with the local cultures and regional cuisines of the journey.
I am going to imagine that each one of you is looking for a moment in time when you can truly feel connected to your surroundings without the rest of the world tugging at you. Locations like the awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies and the incredibly beautiful inside passage of Alaska. Locations that will allow you to form stronger connections to your surroundings, experience the sights and sounds more deeply and take away lasting meaningful memories.
Thank you for walking with me for a while….
Welcome ~ My name is Cindy, founder of Red Dog Travel & I am so happy you stopped by. On this journey you might learn a little about me, slow travel, my red dog Bella and a whole bunch more! Thank you for stopping by!