New Year, New Travel: What Will 2016 Bring?

After returning from my first business trip of the year, I had some time to think about my trips in 2015. At the start, I made a promise to myself to make the most of every trip I took. It didn’t matter if it was business or personal, I was going to find the sense of adventure that travel embodies for me. Reflecting back, I am proud to say I made the most of (almost) every single trip and am really kind of amazed at what I was able to experience – all because I opened up my perspective on what travel could be.


Here are the top three things I learned in 2015:

  1. Friends: By far, the best thing I got out of my travels in 2015 was time with friends who I rarely see anymore. In DC, Boston, Seattle, Boise and the Bay Area I reconnected with friends, caught up on their lives and realized how lucky I am to have these people be a part of my journey. Conversations picked up where they left off 12 years ago, our kids hung out together and in the small space of an hour or two I was reminded why we were friends in the first place.
  2. Stay the Weekend: In the past, I’ve always hesitated to take an extra day or two and extend a business trip. Too much work in the office! Who is going to take the kids to their weekend activities? In other words, I came up with a lot of excuses. This year I had the chance to attend a conference in Monaco and decided I needed to stay to explore the country and visit an area I had never been to before. I learned so much about myself – sometimes its ok to wander with out a plan, eating at a great restaurant can be a wonderful experience even if you are by yourself, but most of all, I learned how important sharing a travel experience is for me. I would do it all over again next time a great opportunity presents itself, but I may just invite family or friends to join me.
  3. Find the “moment”: Regardless of where I was, there always seemed to be one moment that sent chills up my spine, took my breath away or made me want to jump around like a little kid. In Chattanooga, it was finding this cool breakfast place and deciding with my 13 year old we were going to seek out the best breakfast place in every city we traveled to for soccer. When I was in Monaco I was walking to dinner with my colleagues, we turned the corner to this breathtaking view and had an incredible dinner at this amazing little restaurant. Driving from SFO to Half Moon Bay, I took a trip down memory lane seeing the pumpkin patch I took my kids to as toddlers and the English pub randomly sitting off of Hwy 1 where we had 4th of July lunch one year. All of these moments gave me “that” feeling and I knew I needed to hold on to them. Those are the moments that make me feel alive.

So what will 2016 bring? As of today there are no big trips on the books, but I will admit I’m itching to plan my next adventure. There will be definitely be soccer travel and I can only imagine what 17 fourteen year old boys can get up to in Vegas. Hopefully they’ll remember they are there to play soccer!

The one thing I know for certain is I’m going to make the most of every day I can for traveling. Conde Nast Traveler had a great article in December about 8 New Year’s Travel Resolutions and the one that jumped out at me was “Make 2016 the year of no unclaimed vacation days”. Amen. I’m pretty sure that is a resolution I can handle.


Rise and Shine

Let me just say upfront – I am not a morning person. The solitude of a quiet house at midnight has always held more appeal than peaceful early morning hours. I can be quite productive late at night, which is in stark contrast to the fog that clouds my brain when I first wake up in the morning. Jet lag and business travel, however, have a funny way of forcing you out of your normal rhythms.

My travel last week brought me to Idaho for the first time. I’m always excited to cross another state off my list of places visited, so I was looking forward to the trip. The three day visit and two hour time difference really didn’t make adjusting to the time zone very efficient, so I pretty much stayed on East Coast time. This meant early morning wake up at about 5am and a quick discovery of the benefit in doing so.

As our meetings didn’t start until 9am, my colleagues and I were able to discover some fantastic breakfast venues. I don’t usually think of trying new restaurants for breakfast when I travel for work. I’ve had some amazing dinners in really cool places all around the world, but breakfast, if I’m honest, is whatever I can grab running out the door. This time I took full advantage of the jet lag and made the most of my early mornings.

First stop was Bacon. Yes, an entire restaurant based on bacon. My kids would have thought they’d died and gone to heaven. There were about a dozen different types of bacon and a wide variety of breakfast items on the menu. I got the Eggs & Berryhill Bacon which were heavenly. The eggs were steamed, cheesy and served with salsa fresca, Berryhill bacon, potatoes & toast with honey butter. The scrambled eggs were honestly the best I’ve ever eaten and the bacon was sweet, salty and spicy all in one bite. The coffee was fantastic too – you can’t beat a better breakfast combination. It was amazing what a great meal did to put me in the right frame of mind for the day of meetings ahead of me.

After talking with the locals about our first breakfast adventure, we were quickly given a couple of other places to try. With only one more morning in town, we decided on Goldy’s due to the rave reviews for their Eggs Benedict. I’ll just say they lived up to the hype. Their Hollandaise sauce is homemade and you can taste it. The Black Forest ham perfectly balanced out the creamy sauce. As delicious as the Eggs Benedict were, the best part was you could get a half order, which made for a perfect, slightly less guilty way to enjoy the yumminess. This was a very good thing because the potatoes were totally worth the extra calories – crispy and tender all at the same time.

The was a trip filled with unforeseen food adventures. Mornings are not my natural time of day to be looking for new things to discover nor am I usually in the frame of mind to fully take advantage of them. This trip gave me a totally new appreciation for taking a gift of time and making the most of it. I’m going to think long and hard the next time I’ve got jet lag working in my favor and make the most of this opportunity for unexpected travel.

Capturing The Travel Spirit at a Conference

My trip to Monaco was driven by a work conference. I have been to dozens of these over the years and they all look the same after a while. As a colleague and I joked, you can be in any conference center anywhere in the world and never really know the difference. The empty halls and 10×10 booths are all alike, and depending on the industry, you can also see the same people over and over again. Days are long, evenings stretch into the wee hours of the morning and very little sleep is had.

So what can you do to capture that travel spirit in this kind of less than adventurous environment? My favorite thing to do is have dinner at a local restaurant. Not a chain, not a place where all the tourists go and nothing within a mile radius of the convention hall. Going local gives you the opportunity to see the city you’re visiting as it really is. What can be better than that?

This week we were able to take in one of those experiences at an amazing little restaurant in the La Condamine neighborhood of Monaco. It had been a long day with press briefings, trade show booth duty and presentation preparation. Our whole team was back at the hotel with half the group scrambling to approve a German press release translation and the other half answering emails as the U.S. business day was still in full swing.

We asked the concierge for a dinner recommendation and it happened to coincide with one of the choices we selected from Trip Advisor. Both resources can be your best friend when traveling, so don’t hesitate to use them. The restaurant was called Constantine and was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel.

It was a lovely evening. The weather was perfect and the sun was still brightly lighting up the sky even though it was after 8:00pm. The walk turned into a bit of an adventure itself as the streets of Monaco wind and curve with lots of tunnels as the country is built into the mountainside. After a couple of small detours, we ended up on a pathway by the Mediterranean Sea with stunning views of the very blue and calm waters. We even saw the Monaco Heliport, because who needs an airport when you can have a heliport. 

We turned the last corner and all stopped to give a collective gasp. It was the most amazing cliff side view with a couple of little restaurants tucked away on the street by the water. Boats lined the docks and sports cars were parked on the road. 

 Constantine’s was the last restaurant and at first I thought it was a flower shop as it was so filled with greenery. It was tiny inside, maybe 10 tables at most. All of the decor was simple – natural linens, whitewashed wood, potted herbs as centerpieces and the menus were even presented on cardboard with clothes pins. The place just oozed charm and character. Add that to the stunning view outside and you had the makings of an incredible dinner ambiance. 

The meal did not disappoint either. The Italian chef has created a locally sourced menu, so everything is super fresh and only in season items are available. The food was outstanding. All four of us thoroughly enjoyed the meal from starters to main courses to dessert. The staff was excellent as they paid attention to all the right details, made great recommendations and offered just the right level of service. All in all it was a fantastic experience.

The thing I loved most about this evening was the excitement in discovering this wonderful restaurant. I was practically squealing in joy when we found this lovely little street with stunning views. The outstanding meal topped it all off and made this one of those moments that makes me love to travel. How lucky was I to have found this place to enjoy it with my business colleagues? It didn’t matter that we were at a conference or had a really long day. In the end, we all found this unexpected travel experience that made the conference a little better and the trip definitely more worthwhile.

A Week in Monaco

I just had the privilege of spending the week traveling for work. Yes, you read that right, I had the privilege of spending my week traveling for work. Don’t get me wrong—just because I enjoy traveling, those words do not always come out of my mouth when it comes to business trips. This week, however, was different. I got to go to Monaco. A-ha—the lightbulb goes off! 

I had never been to Monaco or anywhere along the Cotê d’Azur. Needless to say, I was very excited and did something that I have rarely done. I booked my return flight home for Sunday instead of Friday and gave myself two extra days to explore the area. It is something so simple, yet I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken advantage of opportunities like this before. 

Why? I could give you so many reasons. In the early days, the kids were little and I didn’t want to be away from home that long. Family obligations on the weekend were pulling us in all different directions. Too much going on back at the office to stay away for an extra day. “I’m already going to be there for three days for work. I’ll see everything I need to see then.” “I really should be doing (fill in the blank) instead.” How many of these sound familiar?

None of these are bad reasons. There are always going to be times when genuine obligations prevent you from extending a business trip by a day or two. However, when I look back at all the times I’ve used these excuses, I realize many of them were limitations I put on myself. That makes me a little sad. How many wonderful experiences were never able to happen just because I gave into that nagging inner voice saying “you really should go home.”

What this week in Monaco helped me realize is that the world will not stop just because I take some time to expand my horizons and go off on a little adventure. Dad and the kids managed just fine and most likely created a few adventures of their own. The office did not come to a screeching halt because I didn’t check in. The team probably benefitted from getting a bit more responsibility, as someone kindly pointed out to me.

In the end, I know that taking this time was good for my soul and isn’t that what really matters? When I do these things then everyone around me — my family, coworkers, clients and friends — all benefit from a stronger me. As the airline safety video reminds us, we need to take care of ourselves before assisting others. These past few days were a great reminder!