"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. "
-Albert Einstein

Friday, August 7, 2015

Politics and religion...two things that should NEVER be mixed.

The 2016 campaign season is upon us.  With the first GOP debate last night, the pundits are already clamoring about who stands for what and who is the front runner.  I didn't watch the debates last night but I have been reading all the articles discussing who had the best zingers, one liners and applause-getting statements.  In nearly every article I have read, it seems that most of the GOP contenders mentioned God or their faith at least once.  I also know that these candidates know their audience...conservative, predominantly white, middle class, Bible belt Christians.  With that being said, I am appalled at the ignorance of these people.  I say 'ignorance' not in a mean, spiteful way, but more as a lack of knowledge way.  The majority of Conservatives value and cherish their individual freedoms and liberty, so when I hear these 'freedom loving Conservatives' clamoring on about faith and god, it makes me shake my head and think...you don't understand true freedom.  These candidates want to 'lead according to what God directs'...but they are treading a dangerous road by even saying such a thing.

When our founding fathers came to draw up the papers of the Declaration of Independence, and eventual Constitution of this great nation, they were very specific about the 'freedom of religion'.  Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, "believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof', thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."  Jefferson and others knew that in their position of leading the country, they most definitely could NOT impose their PERSONAL beliefs regarding faith into decisions made for the entire country.  Behavior like this may seem harmless at the start, but before long we are living in a monotheist country.

Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense and Age of Reason, also a founding father, saw the dangers of imposing religion upon the citizens of this new Republic.  He is quoted as saying, "Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law."  He knew that any sort of religion mandated by the government or law would obviously be tyrannical.  "Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and re probated by every inhabitant of America."  He knew, even then that it is dangerous and ill advised to govern the country with any sort of religious leaning.  If we value our freedoms and liberty at all, we need to stand up against any potential leader who tries to govern from a faith based initiative.

Sam Harris, a well known neurosurgeon and avid Atheist, is quoted as saying, "we live in a country in which a person cannot get elected president if he/she openly doubts the existence of heaven and hell....in our next presidential election, an actor who reads his Bible would almost certainly defeat a rocket scientist who does not.  Could there be any clearer indication that we are allowing unreason and other-worldliness to govern our affairs?"  He hits the nail on the head.  We are all so ingrained with the notion that morals come from god or faith...and that if the leader of our country has faith or governs by the bible, this is a good thing.  If a potential president has his faith or beliefs, that is his/her prerogative, but it becomes all of our problem if he/she makes governing decisions based upon that said belief.  The faithful are quick to shout, "Freedom of religion!" but what about "Freedom FROM religion"??  I do believe our founding fathers had BOTH in mind when forging the guidelines for our Republic, but so many do not see it this way.  So many feel that in order to have a strong, free country, we must include a god or faith based doctrine.

We as voters, need to be educated on our freedoms and ever vigilant to protect them ALL, even if it means protecting freedoms of one who may believe differently than you.  And with that,  I will end with a quote by James Madison, in A Memorial and Remonstrance, "What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society?  In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been guardians of the liberties of the people.  Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries.  A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Golden Gate City

San Francisco, California!! Gold Rush!! 

I set out to plan an Anniversary trip for Andrew and I and I knew with it being July, I didn't want to go anywhere blisteringly hot.  I had narrowed my search down between Seattle and San Francisco...both great options, both places we had expressed a desire to visit.  So, the final decision came to $.  Which was the best value and I am happy to report that San Francisco was the better value by over $300 per person!!

I booked our trip through Expedia.com and I was able to book our flight and hotel together and by bundling them together I saved $200+ per person.  Expedia and other similar sites usually have great deals when bundling flight and hotel together.  Be sure to do your research though, I compared flights separately and rooms separately and the best value for this trip was to bundle.

Upon landing in San Francisco, our first reaction was...whew, it is chilly!!  The city sits on the bay and it gets the cooler air from the Pacific and it seems that the cool air settles in the bay.  To be honest, it felt amazing for July 4th weekend!!

We had an amazing hotel located right on the bay.  We were not far from the airport so we had a great view of the planes landing and taking off.  If it was warm enough, we had breakfast each morning out on the patio and enjoyed the lapping of the bay against the rocks and the view of the planes.  If it was early enough, we also had the pleasure of watching the fog roll over the hillside from the Pacific into the Bay, then by mid day the fog would all be gone.  Evening time rolls around, and the fog is back.  It created a surreal atmosphere, otherworldly almost.  I have to say, the weather was my tops in my book!

"I travel because I would rather see something once than read about it a thousand times."
 -Steven Manson

On our actual anniversary, we booked a Twilight Tour of the City, which for us was great since we had no car.  We caught a bus at our hotel and from then relaxed and let someone else do the driving!  We were able to see all the major sites of San Francisco and not worry about traffic or parking or STRESS!  Normally I'm not a fan of structured tours, but this was a great way to see the high points and do it in a relatively stress free environment.  Our tour guide was amazing!  He was a 30+ year native so he had tons of great side stories to tell during the tour!

A tradition of ours when we do travel is we always enjoy visiting and watching a baseball game, if in season.  We were lucky as the Oakland Athletics were home during our visit!  We decided to walk a few blocks from our hotel, catch the BART, bart.gov ( San Francisco/Oakland area mass transit) and ride across the bay to Oakland.  Riding any sort of mass transit can be scary at first, but once you have ridden in a couple different cities, you come to realize that they are all very similar in layout and procedure.  We had a nice ride and it was kind of neat because our train traveled underneath the bay.  We had a great afternoon for our baseball game and Oakland won!!  Adding these sorts of adventures always make for a more memorable trip.  We can mark O Coliseum off our list of MLB parks we have visited! O.co

On our journey home we had some unexpected delays at the airport thereby causing us to miss our connection flight from Phoenix back to St. Louis.  When these unexpected things happen, its always best to just relax and know that its not worth getting all stressed out about.  We ended up getting booked on the 'red eye' flight out of Phoenix and as a happy bonus, the airline upgraded us to first class.  Neither one of us had ever flown first class so this was fun for us, even in the wee hours of the night!

Our adventure to San Francisco was a long weekend trip and it proved to us that we didn't need to spend an exorbitant amount of money or spend weeks away to have a memorable and enjoyable time! Always look for those shorter weekend getaways and take advantage of them.  Sometimes you just need a break and change of scenery, and weekend trip is perfect for that!

Keep exploring and traveling friends...and remember  "discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes."  -Marcel Proust

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Travel on a Shoestring Budget

There are great ways to see great sites without spending a fortune.  When I was planning my trip to London, I decided to make the journey approximately 7 weeks ahead.  I stumbled across the first tip by happy accident.  By booking your flight within the 6-8 week window, you can save hundreds off the ticket price.  I was able to save nearly $200 on my flight alone and at the time, I didn't even realize this trick!
When I booked my trip, I wanted it to be a birthday trip and my birthday is in November, so I wanted my trip then.  Again, I happened upon another travel tip by accident.  November-February is typically known as "off peak" travel season to Europe.  There are less travelers during this time and costs are lower for travel.  The weather can be tricky, so plan accordingly and watch the weather leading up to the travel dates.  All of these reasons can equal a great and inexpensive time to travel to Europe.  

In preparing for my trip, I knew I wanted to keep costs low so I was trying to figure out ways to see as much for as little as much.  I also knew I wanted to see how the English lived and I knew I might not get to see and experience that as well by staying in a hotel.  So, I did some extensive research into hostels and room lets...my research led me to airbnb.com.  With this site, a traveler can book just a room or the entire home/flat.  The site allows travelers to filter out by price, size, amount of travelers, travel dates, etc.  I was able to find a perfect attic room in a flat that was only a few blocks from an Underground station within the Greater London area. In my arrangement, I had full access to the kitchen, and bathroom.  I was given two keys and could come and go as if it were my own home.  The best part with this site is that it can be very inexpensive.  I was able to book my lodging for 6 days/ 5 nights for under $400 total.  This was a huge savings to my overall travel budget!  In future travels I will most definitely use this site. I had a great experience and would recommend all travelers on any kind of budget to check this site out before settling with a hotel.

In my trip, I planned on using public transportation so I knew I needed more information and best pricing options.  I wanted to travel throughout London via the Underground so I researched the best way to access the tube, pricing, etc. I found visitbritain.com and there I was able to purchase a prepaid Oyster card for visitors to access the Underground.  By purchasing a prepaid card, I saved money each time I swiped my card.  Instead of paying $8 per trip, I only paid $4.  The underground system in London is extensive and navigating it can seem intimidating, but like anything, after a few times riding, you get used to where to stand, sit, etc.  

When traveling via trains in Europe and Great Britain, there are some times that tickets cost more than other times.  For example, peak time in London is from 7 am- 9 am and  4 pm- 7 pm Monday through Friday, therefore ticket prices are higher.  Great Britain has regional trains that have separate websites to purchase train tickets.  These sites are usually easy to navigate and purchasing tickets is simple.  The rest of greater Europe has rail passes available for 4 countries at a time, or a global pass.  There are some restrictions with these passes as well.  And in some cases, depending on the nature of your travel, you may want to purchase tickets at the stations.  By doing this, the traveling still has some spontaneity feel to it.  Be sure to check the prices of the rail pass versus pay as you go tickets in order to get the best price.  Raileurope.com is the place to price tickets and passes.  

I knew when traveling to Great Britain, I would need to exchange money so again, I researched the best options for this as well.  I discovered that exchanging my money here would save me in exchange rates and commission fees.  I live in a very small town, so I first called all the local banks and some do monetary exchanges and some don't, so be sure to do your research before assuming your bank does this.  Some banks only offer this service to those who are customers as well.  Travelex.com is who I went with to exchange my money.  I conducted the entire transaction online, with no transaction fees and was able to pick up my money at the airport as I was leaving the country.  This site can do transactions within 24 hours which is nice for those last minute trips or those oops moments when money exchange is forgotten!

I hope this entry has been informative and has given some tips and money saving ideas that will help you make travel more attainable and realistic.  In closing I must give one last great site that I visit daily is ricksteves.com.  He has travel shows and numerous travel tips for traveling Europe.  His site is very organized and easy to navigate and will give tips and pointers that most novice travelers are unaware of.  He is my inspiration for travel, blogging, and showing just how fulfilling travel can be!  

"Fill Your Life with Experiences, Not Things.  Have Stories to Tell, Not Stuff to Show."  

Friday, February 27, 2015

To Travel or Not to Travel....That is the Question

Travel.  To most of us this can mean very different things.  Travel for work, travel for pleasure, travel for family, or even travel for relocation.

Whatever it means to you, travel for me means a renewing in my soul....it means a refreshed outlook on the world...it means adventure.

"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer"  

It is almost cliche to say, 'I want to travel more'...what does that mean to you?  How do you plan on traveling more?  How far do you plan to travel?  These questions must be answered before embarking on any travel adventure.  My goal with this blog is to help you figure out that best ways to make travel a part of your life; big or small.

First things first.  How do you plan on traveling more?  Before you can answer this, you need to take a look at your own personal schedule, whether it be work or family life or both.  Do you work a Monday-Friday job with weekends off?  Do you work shift work?  Do you have designated time off for vacation?  Do you have small children that may or may not fit into your travel adventure?  Once you take a long hard look at your schedule with work and life, you can then determine how you can travel more.  You can find those extended weekends, or four day blocks that you can set aside time to take an adventure.

Okay, now you have taken a look at your schedule and decided when and how you can fit in more travel time.  It may be small at first, but that is alright, you must work within your given parameters and enjoy what you have. Once you make the conscious decision to make travel a part of your life, the time will begin to open up, you will reassign priorities and travel will become that large piece you desire.

Now that you have a block of time that you can designate for travel, how far do you plan to travel?  Where do you want to go??  This step can be the most fun and the most stressful at the same time.  If you are on a strict travel budget, the best idea is think small and go up from.  If you have never ventured outside the country, and want to go international, it is best to ease into it rather than go all out.  A trip to England is a far better choice for a first international trip than a trip to Istanbul.  The sites, sounds, language barrier could be too overwhelming for a novice international traveler...but a trip to England can be a great way to get accustom to international travel without seeming too much too soon.

In choosing where you want to go, think of things you are interested in seeing and doing.  Are you an outdoorsy type?  Are you a history buff?  Do you enjoy trying new, different foods? Are you traveling solo, with a partner or with a large group?  Do you want spontaneity in your travel or would you rather stick to an itinerary?  Once you have gone through these basic questions, you can then begin the in-depth research of your chosen location.

In my next blog, I will discuss budget.  I quickly touched on budget in the determination phase of adding travel, but the next entry will solely be on budget and how you can feasibly see the world on a shoestring budget.

Open your mind and explore the places you want to see and experience!  This life is all we have, make it a great one....see...do...explore!!  The world truly can be your oyster!