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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Travel Light

What is your dream getaway? A secluded beach in the Caribbean? A hike through the Grand Canyon? Skiing in Colorodo? A European Cruise?

For me it's simply exploring a big city. I hate suntanning and I love urban environments, so I need nothing more than a city to trek through.

Over the 11 years Adam and I have been together, we haven't travelled much. Why? Because at least one of us has been a student without much income and/or we have had babies, which makes travelling (in my opinion) stressful.

But now that we have a 2 and 5 year old, it's time to get away. Tomorrow we leave for San Francisco to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary (we simply couldn't wait another year until our 10th!).

Not only can exploring cities be good for your wallet, if you are careful, they can also be good for your health.

In my opinion, the best way to get to know a city is on foot. This is also the cheapest way to go, of course. The first time I took Adam to New York, we walked 12 miles on our first day alone. Admittedly, we were so exhausted at the end of the day, we could barely climb up the three flights of stairs to our room at the top of a B&B in an old Upper East Side brownstone.

This trip, not only are we planning to do a lot of walking, but we are travelling very light in terms of luggage. After the fiasco when they sent my luggage to Montreal on the way back from Florida last Christmas, I have decided to avoid checking baggage whenever possible. So I am bringing little more than a few comfortable outfits, running shoes and toiletries for the 4 days we are away.

Instead of buying those rip-off travel sized toiletries, I went to the dollar store and got a bunch of bottles into which I will pour my sunscreen, shampoo, etc. Too many times now I have ended up having something forbidden I forgot about confiscated from me at airport security.

Because I am packing so light, I can only bring clothes appropriate for being on our feet all day (jeans, runners, etc.), so going to fancy restaurants is out. This is fine by us. We actually prefer finding little local hole-in-the walls selling unique, affordable food. These types of places also tend to be more likely to have vegetarian/healthy options.

Airports tend to sell mostly overpriced garbage food and drink, so I usually pack some protein bars, carrot sticks, and/or dried fruit (keep in mind whole fruit and veg will be confiscated if you are crossing borders!), as well as an empty stainless steel waterbottle I can fill up at water fountains.

Hotel restaurants are usually ridiculously expensive and not always that great, so Adam and I usually find a place near our hotel that sells healthy, affordable breakfasts. I try to keep my meals relatively healthy when I travel, and then save my larger indulgences for snacking in between while we are doing our sightseeing or activities. It's always fun to find a really amazing ice cream place, bakery or chocolate shop to sample some of the unique products you can find in the place you are visiting.

Walking a city also means you don't need a gym. I don't even bother checking if our hotels have gyms, as we have found little need when we are on our feet all day. This can also be a big time saver and money saver. One time in New York, Adam and I were stupid enough to pay $25 EACH for one gym visit! This was particularly pointless because we were so exhausted from all the walking that we could barely do anything while we were there. That was the last time we EVER set foot in a gym on one of our city walking holidays!

Your ability to find healthy food, of course, depends on where you are. In New York, finding brown rice, whole grains, vegetarian and low-fat options on menus is a cinch. In Chicago, where their idea of a salad is a few green leaves smoothered in a creamy dressing and piled high with bacon an cheese, this was definitely more difficult. We have found that ethnic restaurants (which I prefer anyways) generally have healthier options and are more affordable. I am hoping we get to try Burmese food in San Francisco - as there are supposed to be a few fantastic restos making it, but they don't take reservations so it can be difficult to get a table.

In any case, hopefully this trip won't break the bank and we will have a blast. Aside from just exploring on foot, we plan to check out the Maritime Museum, do the tour of Alcatraz, visit the Saturday farmers market, and see my cousin Arthur, who lives in Oakland.

In truth, however, just getting away with Adam, alone, for 4 days, is a huge treat and I could not be more excited!!

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