My US Travel Bucket List

My US Travel Bucket List

One of my goals is to visit all of the states in the United States at least once. In order for a visit to count, I must visit some place within the state boundaries other than the airport or train station. Pretty simple.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve made almost no progress on my travel goals in the past few years and it’s time to change that. My travel bucket list is admittedly huge, but it’s the journey that counts. So, I’ve decided just to focus on the U.S. list for the next year and cross some of these local places off the list.

To be honest, I’m far less excited about visiting any place in the United States. Europe is where it’s at for me right now. Plus, I admit, some U.S. states have actually managed to completely turn me off with their politics and/or culture. For example, some of the Southern states still run rich with racial tension. The air is thick with hate, and honestly, I don’t like being around it.

However, I do still have an overall goal of visiting all of the United States and have quite a few to go. So, why visit those places first and get them out of the way.

Here’s where I’m at…    I’ve visited 22 of 50 states so far and I’m hoping to hit Colorado next.

U.S. States I’ve Visited

Visited 22 out of 50

Visited States in Pink
States Not Visited in Green

 Alabama

 Alaska

  • Denali National Park
  • Gates of the Artctic
  • Glacier Bay National Park  (UNESCO)
  • Katmai National Park
  • Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Lake Clark National Park
  • Wrangell – St. Elias National Park (UNESCO)
  • Take an Alaskan cruise and see the glaciers

 Arizona

  • Grand Canyon National Park (UNESCO)
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Saguaro National Park

 Arkansas

  • Hot Springs National Park

 California

  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Pinnacles National Park
  • Redwood National Park (UNESCO)
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Yosemite National Park (UNESCO)

 Colorado

  • Explore the Denver Zoo
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park (UNESCO)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park

 Connecticut

 Delaware

 Florida

  • Biscayne National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Everglades National Park (UNESCO)
  • Kayak to Mound Key Archaeological State Park, a Native American-made shell island

 Georgia

 Hawaii

  • Haleakala National Park
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (UNESCO)

 Idaho

  • Yellowstone National Park (UNESCO)

 Illinois

  • Cahokia (UNESCO)

 Indiana

  • Ride the world’s largest water coaster at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana.

 Iowa

 Kansas

 Kentucky

  • Mammoth Cave National Park (UNESCO)

 Louisiana

  • Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point (UNESCO)

 Maine

  • Visit Acadia National Park

 Maryland

 Massachusetts

 Michigan

  • Isle Royale National Park

 Minnesota

  • Voyagers National Park

 Mississippi

 Missouri

  • Play at St. Louis’s whimsical City Museum
  • Dive in the Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri

 Montana

  • Glacier National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park (UNESCO)

 Nebraska

 Nevada

  • Death Valley National Park
  • Great Basin National Park
  • Participate in Burning Man

 New Hampshire

 New Jersey

 New Mexico

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park (UNESCO)
  • Taos Pueblo (UNESCO)
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park  (UNESCO)

 New York

  • Niagara Falls, New York
  • Statue of Libery in New York  (UNESCO)
  • Attend a broadway musical, Manhattan, New York, New York

 North Carolina

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (UNESCO)

 North Dakota

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park

 Ohio

  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park

 Oklahoma

 Oregon

  • Crater Lake National Park

 Pennsylvania

  • Visit Independence Hall in Pennsylvania where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776

 Rhode Island

 South Carolina

  • Conagree National Park

 South Dakota

  • Badlands National Park
  • Wind Cave National Park

 Tennessee

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (UNESCO) (also in Tennessee)

 Texas

  • Big Bend National Park
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • Visit the Missions of San Antonio, including the Alamo (UNESCO)

 Utah

  • Arches National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Capitol Reef
  • Zion National Park

 Vermont

 Virginia

  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Monticello and the University of Virginia  (UNESCO)
  • Visit Williamsburg, Virginia

 Washington

  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Olympic National Park (UNESCO)

 West Virginia

 Wisconsin

 Wyoming

  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park (UNESCO)

US National Parks Not Located in the 50 United States:

  • American Samoa, Virgin Island, Reef, Islands, Congaree, Lake, Valley, Isle Royale, Tree, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Kings Canyon, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, National Park of American Samoa, North Cascades, Redwood, Rocky Mountain, Saguaro, and the Virgin Islands

The Magic of the Trulli of Alberobello, Italy

The Magic of the Trulli of Alberobello, Italy

alberobello-stripOne of my favorite little hideaways in the world is one of Italy’s best kept secrets. Located not too far from the bustling Southern Italian city of Bari, the tiny historic town of Alberobello remains an historic wonder.

I love this place because it feels like I’m in an alternate universe.

The houses seem to be from some long lost alien planet. I also love that it represents a group of people who thought outside the box to make the best of their situation, people who weren’t afraid to challenge the expected.

Home to less than 11,000 people, the little town is famous for their cluster of trulli, a particular type of small structure. And wow, aren’t they are adorable!

This little village does not disappoint!alberobello-map

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996, the Trulli of Alberobello are indeed, truly unique. At the time they were constructed, trulli were typically used as temporary field shelters or storehouses. However, in Alberobello the trulli a tax was placed on homes and by not having a permanent roof, one could avoid their home or business being taxed as permanent property. So cool! Built of stacked rocks with no mortar, the roofs could be easily knocked over in the case that the authorities show up.

While the town was founded as early as 1000 AD, the trulli date back as far back as the 1400s. They were all built on land that was granted to a feudal lord, who ordered the people to build temporary structures instead of permanent ones to avoid having to pay taxes as city. Alberobello was not officially recognized as a permanent town until 1797.

There’s not a whole lot to do here, but there is enough to fill at least a long afternoon. The town museum here is definitely worth a visit.

Plus, you could spend the afternoon just walking the winding streets and pathways throughout this maze-like, little village.

There are also plenty of shops with a wide variety of souvenirs, if you’re into that sort of thing. Choose to support a local business selling things made locally and your money will go the further towards helping this place survive. This community thrives on tourism.\

If you get a chance to make it to Southern Italy, be sure to stop in and visit this little town. It’s one of the most unique places you’ll ever visit.

Have you been to Alberobello? Did you like it? I’d love to hear about your experience. Please post it in the comment section below.

alberobello-02

 

8 Ways to Cruise Greener

8 Ways to Cruise Greener

Let’s face it. Cruising the high seas is by no means a green or eco-friendly method of transportation. Cruise ships waste more and pollute more than most all other forms of travel. But if you find yourself taking a cruise, there are a few ways that you make your trip a little more eco-friendly than it might have been.

1 – Carry a reusable water bottle.

Never buy water sold in disposable water bottles. Also, you can take these reusable containers to the restaurants on the boat with you. And of course, you will also want to carry them when you go into port. As an added benefit, carrying a reusable water bottle can also help you stay consistently hydrated while traveling, which can be difficult and often gets overlooked in all the fun.

2 – Reuse your towel.

If you can use it several times before tossing it to the dirty laundry, that would be best. I tend to use my towels for at least a few washes before discarding them. One thing that helps is that I am careful to hang them up properly to allow them to air out properly. This prevents mildew and bacteria from growing, allowing for more uses.

3 – Don’t flush the loo unless you go number two.

Yep! There I said it. A little pee never hurt anyone, but the excessive flushing of toilets is wasting an unbelievable amount of precious water resources. So, unless you go two, don’t flush the loo.

4 – Take as few showers as possible.

Speaking of wasting water resources, it’s best if you can reduce the amount of waste water you produce on the ship, you can reduce the amount of pollution going into the ocean.

5 – Turn your powered items off when you leave the room.

Don’t leave your power appliance plugged in, as many of them still use a little bit of energy. This is good habit to practice everywhere you go and at home, too.

6 – Skip the souvenirs.

Especially the cheap, plastic souvenirs both on the ship and in port, too. Instead, take lots of photos and make videos. These photos and videos will work better as souvenir replacements if you put yourself and your travel mates in them. Don’t try to take a great landscape for your desktop background. You can get those photos all over the internet. Don’t waste the opportunity. Put people in the pictures. These are the photos you can never replace and can never take again.

7 – Take mass transit in port.

When you go to port, walk if you can. If you can’t walk or bicycle, opt for mass transit travel options as much as possible. This is an obviously greener option.

8 – Bring reusable bags.

If you are going to shop when you travel, be sure to throw a few reusable shopping bags in your backpack or travel pack, so you can avoid collecting new ones.

9 – Choose one of the “greener” cruise lines.

While all cruise ships are big polluters, some companies are attempting to take a more responsible approach and are taking small steps to make their ships more eco-friendly.

In 2012, a Neilsen survey on global corporate responsibility found 46% of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that show a commitment to social responsibility. 66% ranked environmental sustainability as more important than any other cause listed.

My Travel Bucket List

My Travel Bucket List

Ask anyone who’s ever really known me and they’ll tell you I’m ambitious, to say the least. That’s what life is for, right?! So, after much thought, I have decided to share my travel bucket list with you. I hope you’ll follow along with me on my adventures across the globe.

 Visit all of the 50 United States

I’ve visited 22 of 50 states so far and am hoping to hit Colorado next. See my whole list of US Travel Goals.

 Visit all of the European Countries

Visited:  Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy
Still Need to Visit:  Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of), Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Ukraine, Vatican City

 Visit all of the Continents

Visited:  North America, Europe
Want to Visit:  Asia, South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia

 All the US National Parks:

Visited:  Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, Mammoth Cave
Want to Visit:  Acadia, American Samoa, Arches, Badlands, Big Bend, Biscayne, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Reef, Carlsbad Caverns, Islands, Congaree, Lake, Valley, Death Valley, Denali National Park & Preserve, Dry Tortugas, Everglades, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Basin, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Great Smoky Mountains, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes, Isle Royale, Tree, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Kenai Fjords, Kings Canyon, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, Lassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, National Park of American Samoa, North Cascades, Olympic, Petrified Forest, Redwood, Rocky Mountain, Saguaro, Sequoia, Shenandoah, Theodore Roosevelt, Virgin Islands, Voyageurs, Wind Cave, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion

 Random Travel Goals

  • Take an Alaskan cruise and see the glacier
  • Cruise the Greek islands
  • Make a film in Paris, France
  • Kiss someone at the top of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, France
  • Attend the opera in Paris, France
  • Have a warm drink in ice hotel
  • Eat at an underwater restaurant
  • Stay in an over-water bungalow
  • Climb Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Dress for Carnival in Venice
  • Attend a broadway musical, Manhattan, New York, New York
  • Niagara Falls, New York
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Swim with manatees
  • Try peode in the desert
  • Visit space
  • Mash grapes with my feet in a vineyard
  • Scuba dive the Blue Hole in Belize
  • Backpack the rainforest
  • Ride the Chunnel train
  • Soak in Grutas Tolantongo, Metzquital Valley, Hidalgo, Mexico
  • Edward James’ Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico
  • Xcaret Park, Riviera Maya, Mexico
  • Play in the jungles of Tamasopo, Mexico
  • Swim between continental plates in Iceland’s Thingvellir Lake
  • Participate in Burning Man
  • Tour Lava Beds National Monument
  • Visit Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Visit Edith Macefield’s house in Ballad, Seattle, possibly the inspiration for the movie Up
  • Dive in the Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri
  • Have a Drink at the Tonga Lounge in San Francisco
  • Take a boat ride on Kaindy Lake in Kazakhstan
  • Fly away at Coupe Icare where flying and art come together
  • Play at St. Louis’s whimsical City Museum
  • Cross Le Passage de Goi ou Goa
  • Pedal myself to bliss at Ai Pioppi in Italy
  • Hike the spine of Angles Landing Trail at Zion National Park
  • Celebrate Festa alla Zucca in Italy in October (festival of pumpkins)
  • Swim in the tradition of the Antique Pool in Hierapoiis
  • Scale the Travertine Terraces of Pamukkale, Turkey
  • Walk between the continental plates in Iceland
  • Kayak to Mound Key Archaeological State Park, a Native American-made shell island.
  • Ride the world’s largest water coaster at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana.
  • Canoe the Gorges du Verdon in South France.
  • Cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Firenze, Italy.
  • Creep around Bodie California State Historic Park where ghosts of the 1800’s lurk.
  • Explore Coronado, California’s sunken ship, SS Monte Carlo.
  • Stand 282 feet below sea level in Lake Badwater in California’s Death Valley.
  • Stomp the grounds of Caesarea Maritima in Israel.
  • Attend the Battle of the Oranges in Northern Italy’s Ivrea, the largest food fight in Italy
  • Walk the paths of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia
  • Hear the Sea Organ on the shores of Zadar, Croatia
  • Walk the potentially deadly, historic Boomway in Britain
  • Stay in Aydinli Cave Hotel located in Cappadocia
  • Stay in Castello di Galeazza in Italy
  • Climb the Chocolate Hills in the province of Bohol in central Philippines
  • Walk on Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
  • Visit Deadvlei in the Namib Desert in Africa
  • Play at Salina Turda in Romania

 

8 Easy Tips to Improve Your Blog Article Writing

8 Easy Tips to Improve Your Blog Article Writing

Beginning bloggers make lots of mistakes, but here are a few of the easy-to-fix errors that repeatedly make your noob status stand out. Adopt these simple principals and strengthen your writing by leaps and bounds.

    1. Never start more than one sentence in a paragraph with the same word. Your work will become redundant and rhythmic. Not a good thing. Vary your sentences and you will hang onto more readers.
    2. Avoid using the word “very”. Very might the most over-used American adjective. The world has used up this word and its time to be retired. however, if you’re the stubborn type, and you insist, you are only allowed to use this word once per every 800 words.
    3. Avoid the I’s. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, except when you’re writing a your next blog post. In this case, losing an “I” is a good thing. Using “I” as the subject of your sentence too much can make you sound self-absorbed and completely irrelevant to the reader. Avoid using I as much as possible. I have yet to encounter a sentence that isn’t better without its I.
    4. Get to the point already. Make your sentences as short as possible, without changing the meaning of what you’re trying to say. These days people just don’t read anymore. The shorter your text is, the more likely it is to be read by your visitors. So, edit your sentences, one by one, finding he most concise way to get your point across.
    5. Use statistics to support your points. Although the Internet provides an easy way to research whatever you’d like, providing some factual information that proves the point you are making will impress your readers far more than someone who seems to just says whatever they think. People will question you less, as you will essentially be offering up the proof before they can argue.
    6. Use a bulleted or numbered list. Not only is this good for your search engine optimization (SEO), but this also helps your readers break down content more easily. Recent studies have indicated articles with lists to be more popular among Internet readers.
    7. Use active verbs. Nothing bores people more than inactive verbs. For example, I could have written “nothing is more boring than…” but instead, I opted for an active verb which helps paint the picture for you, my reader. Try it yourself. Start swapping out your to-be verbs (is, am, are, was, were) for active verbs and you’re writing better already.
    8. Consider the value of your post from the reader’s perspective. People spend less and less time in the lives on the details. Mostly, people are ultimately interested in how you can help them. I’m not saying people are monsters, just that ultimately, people are busy, and if your post doesn’t add value to the user’s life, they probably won’t keep reading what you write. Hint: There’s always a way to word what you want to say in such a way that it appeals to readers interests. Just ask yourself, why is this information useful to my reader. Then offer your story to them as a solution.

 

There you have it. Eight easy steps to immediately improve your writing skills and help you make better blog posts. Got your own tips? Please, post them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear what works for your writing.

Chercasso: Illustration Inspired by Picasso’s Black & White Period

Chercasso: Illustration Inspired by Picasso’s Black & White Period

Most people are familiar with Pablo Picasso‘s Blue Period, but have you heard of Picasso’s Black and White Period?

A few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist a visit to the Houston Museum of fine Arts to see the Picasso Black and White exhibit. If you haven’t been to this museum, you would be stunned at the size of this place. They truly have some nice collections. Who knew such a treasure like this was hiding in Houston, Texas, of all places?

Unfortunately, the Picasso exhibit was temporary, so you can’t see it now. However, it was amazing!

Some of my favorite pieces included The Head of a Horse, a piece Picasso made in preparation for Guernica, a giant wall-sized mural representing devastion. I loved Guernica. What a masterpiece!

When German and Italians bombed a small northern village in Spain called Guernica, the Spanish government commissioned Picasso to create a large mural to be displayed at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

Picasso’s heart was so impacted by the tragic events that had occurred in the town of Guernica that he chose to show the world.

In the audio tour, one of Picasso’s children said that no matter how abstract the subject’s of Picasso’s paintings were always quite obvious to those that knew the person. This was Picasso’s invitation for me to choose my own subject and make an abstract but recognizable portrait.

So here is it: Chercasso, (as my mother called it) in honor of Picasso’s Black and White Period. What do you think did I succeed? Can you identify the subject?