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Reflecting on 2017 … and a request for suggestions

It’s traditional each December for bloggers to look back on the year. In my case, reflecting on 2017 makes it clear that the intersection between family and travel have determined much of what I did outside my regular job. This year our younger child began university, making us official “empty nesters,” while our older “child” finished her Masters.

Being empty nesters took getting used to, but we like it, apart from generally missing our kids. There’s room in the fridge. The house stays cleaner. We have to take out the garbage less often. And we can travel the way we like to … but more on that later.

Scotland and my son

The Wallace memorial as seen from its base, complete with a statue of William Wallace.

The Wallace memorial as seen from its base, complete with a statue of William Wallace.

My first trip was in February to go “college-hunting” in Scotland with my son. It was my first time traveling alone with him (except a trip to Legoland in England when he was about 6), and at 19 he’s a distinct improvement on his teenage non-verbal self. We had conversations that involved full sentences, and the trip made it really clear what kind of university would work for him.

As a travel blogger, though, it was tremendously frustrating to pass all sorts of interesting places and not have the time to stop. Only one single post came out of that trip: The Wallace Memorial and a Travel Blogger’s Heart. Now that my son is studying there, I’m sure I’ll get to see more.

Prague

Also in February, I led a weekend workshop in Prague. These workshops (for teachers in the International Baccalaureate) are intensive and long and take a lot of energy. I always try to take at least one extra day for some relaxed tourism. This time I managed to see the Jewish quarter of the city: Six Synagogues in Prague (and one Cemetery).

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

Israel

A section of the border wall, with the Banksy Hotel just out of the frame on the left. Visiting Bethlehem.

A section of the border wall between Israel and the West Bank, with the Banksy Hotel just out of the frame on the left.

In March and April I took a longer trip: almost three weeks in Israel. My excuse was a TBEX conference (for travel bloggers), but I also visited my family there and did some touring around. I’ve been to Israel a number of times, so I’d already seen the major sites. This time I looked for some lesser-known destinations. Quite a few posts came out of that trip:

Dubai x2

Next up were two more workshops, both in Dubai: one in April and one in May. It’s a city that never ceases to fascinate just in terms of its sheer hubris. Since I’d been there twice before, I didn’t plan much extra time, but did manage to see a couple of sights:

Tourists on the 125th floor of Burj Khalifa

Tourists on the 125th floor of Burj Khalifa

At this point, posting to my blog slowed down because I started on a path of rebranding it. I switched domains, changed themes to make it look better, and generally tried to improve it. While the switch was happening, I didn’t write or publicize much because both the old and the new site looked embarrassingly bad.

Spain

In May I spent a week in Spain with a friend. For me this was a work trip: we’ve inherited a small house there which is for sale, and I needed to do some errands and chores. I didn’t post anything at all, but I did get to enjoy some amazing paella.

Empty Nester Road Trip to Romania

The best trip of the year for me, though, was in July to August, when my husband and I took a road trip to Romania. We spent three weeks, passing through Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, and checking out UNESCO sites as we went.

Viscri fortified church

Viscri fortified church

This was, we figured out, the first time in 27 years that we’d taken a proper trip together without kids.

Twenty-seven years! Since our kids came along – and we took in “extra children” here and there – we’ve occasionally been able to get away for as much as a week at a time, but that’s it: no carefree longer trips.

It was wonderful! Without kids, we didn’t have to decide a route or book ahead. Instead, we made it up as we went along, choosing a place to stop each afternoon, and then using Airbnb (If you use this link, you’ll get a discount and I’ll get a cut.) or booking.com to reserve a room for the same day. If something looked interesting, we stopped to see it. And we could tour as many historical landmarks, especially churches, as we wanted in any given day without any whining from kids. We loved it!

As you can imagine, a lot of posts came out of that trip:

spotted in Calnic village: Fortified churches of Transylvania, Romania

spotted in Calnic village

Scotland again

We dropped our son off in Scotland in September, but didn’t have the time to see anything. I am so going back in 2018!

Kuwait

In October, I did another workshop, this time in Kuwait City. While I didn’t get any extra days, I did manage to write one post about the two evenings I visited the city’s souk: Impressions of Kuwait City Souk.

A shop in the Kuwait City souk

A shop in the Kuwait City souk

Mumbai

November meant another workshop. This time I was excited to be sent out of my usual region (Africa, Europe, Middle East) to lead a workshop in Mumbai, India. While I couldn’t afford much extra time, I did plan in two free days that allowed me to get an overview of the city and see a UNESCO site:

Street scene in Mumbai, near Banganga Tank. Impressions from my first time in India.

Street scene in Mumbai, near Banganga Tank.

My sweetheart in San Francisco

Like the Scotland trips, my last trip of 2017 was more about family than tourism. Our daughter was working on her MFA in graphic design. I went to San Francisco, where she studied, to generally support her in the stressful last weeks of her degree.

San Francisco is one of my favorite places in the world, but I didn’t do very much sightseeing. Instead, I spent my time helping my daughter in whatever ways I could. It involved, sometimes, just sitting next to her in her favorite chai bar, keeping her company while she worked. A few times I cooked dinner for her and her roommates. Sometimes she didn’t need me, so I went for walks or did a bit of sightseeing.

The San Francisco skyline and the Bay Bridge as seen from the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond, California

The San Francisco skyline and the Bay Bridge as seen from the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond, California

I’m proud to say she passed her last two courses, including her thesis project, and I’m tremendously impressed by the high quality of what she produced, which you can admire here, on her portfolio website.

Once she was done, we took a few days in Las Vegas to enjoy some low-stress tourism. I haven’t posted anything from San Francisco or Las Vegas yet, but I certainly will.

So family and travel were the clear themes this year. In 2018, the only definite trip I’ve got planned is a workshop in Ankara, Turkey, but I’m sure there’ll be more.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish all my returning and new readers a happy and healthy 2018!

So here is my question to help us in our empty nester plans for 2018: where should my husband and I go for a three-week trip over the summer? It should be somewhere with lots of history and culture, not too expensive, and the weather should be pleasant in July and/or August. Please add your suggestions below in the comments.

And, as always, please keep reading and sharing my posts on whatever social media you use. I really appreciate it!

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