The elements of luck and surprise

One of our activities on the trip through Ontario was to attend a Shakespeare play at Stratford (and yes, the Avon River runs through the town, making it upon-Avon!). For that part of the trip, I didn’t spend any time reviewing and evaluating campgrounds. I simply picked the closest provincial (state) park I could find and selected the most isolated campsite available in the campground’s audio-free section.

Imagine my surprise when we discovered what a gem the campground and even our specific campsite was!

Rounding the corner onto the further road of the campsite, a view of Lake Huron greeted us.

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From our campsite, there was a steep trail that led to our own private beach on the lake! In fact, from our tent, we could hear the sound of the surf. I slept like a baby those two nights, lulled to sleep by the waves.

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This location had everything I love about the beach: clear blue water, the sound of the waves, sun, and lazy days, and nothing that I hate: too many people, salt/sand everywhere, and gaudy shops. From not even planning or caring about this particular location, we stumbled into the perfect “beach” location. We are already planning a more intentional vacation here in the future!

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A sky full of stars

Bruce Peninsula, where we stayed for several nights, is an intentional “Dark Sky” community. They regulate how much light can be generated within the community to assure the darkest sky possible for maximum night sky viewing.

On our first night on the Peninsula, we went to bed early, after a long travel day. About 1AM, Paul woke me up, and said to step outside with him. I gasped as I gazed up at a clear sky full of stars. From our Grantham home, light pollution keeps us from seeing all but the brightest stars and constellations. On the Peninsula, and to a slightly lesser extent at Point Farms, the sky is chock full of stars. The Milky Way hovered overhead as an ancient star river. I felt a sense of looking up at our “home” as we stared towards the center of our galaxy.

One night, the local astronomy club provided guided telescope viewings of the night sky. We attended and both exclaimed in amazement as we looked through the telescope and caught a glimpse of Saturn and her rings. Intellectually, I know what Saturn looks like and have seen countless pictures. But nothing can quite prepare you for seeing it in person through a telescope. It is beautiful.

I am now happily back at home, with its creature comforts. But I do long for that night sky, with stars greater than I could ever quantify, and a Milky Way pointing the Way back to our center. Until I return, I shall remember and keep looking up, even when the light prevents me from seeing all that I would wish.

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Picture credit: https://goodfreephotos.com. Used with permission.

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The local laundromat

When traveling, I’m a huge fan of getting out of the tourist bubble and into local establishments and activities. I’m fortunate that my husband feels the same. Rather than taking a guided tour (though that is helpful sometimes), we jump on the subway, eat at a small local cafe, or in the case of traveling through Canada with limited luggage, stop at the local laundromat. You get a great sense of the community through shared laundry facilities! Everyone needs clean clothes!

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Our first morning in Canada found us at the local laundromat, Superior Suds. We had just finished camping for a week in IL to visit family. Google Maps directed us from our hotel (no laundry facilities there!) to the closest laundromat. Turns out the laundromat had only been open about two months and featured an eager entrepreneurial owner who loved to chat. We made sure to recommend this place to our hotel.

Using a laundromat in another country requires one to use several skills: navigation to find it, language in some cases (although English was primary language here), managing currency, using washing and drying machines that may differ from those in the US, and observing customs such as whether to enter into conversation with a neighbor. A great way to immerse oneself in the very local culture.

And a great way to find out recommendations….. even recommendations for a restaurant in a city over 500 miles away that we planned to visit later in the trip! We made sure to go there and we had a great dinner!

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I spy

Even adults need a little distraction and fun on a long road trip. So as we traveled from PA to IL, MI, ON, and NY, we played the well-worn license plate game. In total, we drove 3,080 miles in two weeks.

We saw license plates from 27 states and 8 provinces on our travels.

US states: AZ, CA, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NE, OH, NY, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, and WI.

Canada provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.

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Heading North for summer travels

cropped-21462729_10100484126658644_2982338421508318549_nMy next travel out of the comforting climes of Grantham will be heading north with My Old Curmudgeon this summer.

In a few weeks we head to Fingerlakes for a few days of rest and rejuvenation.

I’ve been traveling to Fingerlakes with friends every year for about 18 years. Every year my heart jumps when we come over the top of the road and get our first glimpse of Seneca. We enjoy visiting wineries, hiking gorges and just driving around enjoying the beautiful scenery. I’m hoping for good weather so we can enjoy our campsite and sit outside in the evening with a fire and a glass of wine.

In July, we head out to IL to visit family and then head north from there to Ontario province in Canada. We will first spend several days in the middle of nowhere on Bruce Peninsula, camping and enjoying time away from digital distractions. We then have some fun planned as we will head to a Shakespeare Festival and finish our travels with a bicycle winery tour in Niagara on the Lake.

A great summer further north to rejuvenate the spirit, before the hectic pace of the academic year begins anew.

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New title, New focus

I am changing the title and focus of this blog. This blog started in 2013 when I was excitedly planning a personal trip to Korea and China. I expanded on it somewhat when I co-led a trip to China as part of a cross cultural course.

I want to expand and reflect on other travels that my husband and I go on outside of China. Hence the name change from Heading East to Heading Out.

I find that as I head out, ultimately it leads me back home.

Here’s to travel, reflection, learning, and growing through those travels, wherever they lead.

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Getting the Word Out

I had a wonderful opportunity to share about my experiences in China to local community members through an event at the Simpson Public Library of the Cumberland County Library System. I presented, “Armchair Travel: Heading East: A Traveler’s Perspective on China. During the presentation I shared a slideshow featuring photos from my 2014 and 2016 trip. I discussed time in Beijing and visiting the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace, and hutongs. I discussed time in Hangzhou and Shanghai, and I talked about the benefits of doing activities off the beaten track such as a visit to the National Library or the Symphony. I also discussed daily life including religion, food, travel, and safety. Several audience members had trips to China planned in the next several months and I think that they found the information useful. And it never hurts to advertise some of the great courses and study abroad options offered by Messiah College! I’m already looking forward to 2019!

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