Monthly Archives: March 2015

Why Travel? Part Five

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Looking for inspiration travel? Need to convince your budget or your significant other that travel should be in your future? Below I captured some of my latest favorite quotes and images that demonstrate the value of travel throughout our lives:

Every day is a new adventure! Source: Travel Channel

Every day is a new adventure! Source: Travel Channel

“Set aside the person you’ve always been and commit yourself to living in the moment. See a place for what it is, not for what you need it to be. Don’t compare, don’t anticipate, don’t vacillate, don’t cogitate. Simply embrace the present possibility of having an enlightening experience that reveals something you didn’t know about the world—or about yourself.” -George W. Stone, Secrets of a Travel Writer

How can tourism help with conservation efforts? One conversation can lead to a massive change.” Travel spreads communication about important international issues. -Katie Knorovsky, Why Conservation Tourism Matters

“Create meaningful relationships – People you meet while on the road usually become some of the most valued ones in your address book, giving you points on the map to visit later on. These folks give you a glimpse outside your hometown circle of friends, forcing you into new and refreshing perspectives on things.” –AirTreks

Smooth your transitions. “If you happen to be between jobs, schools, kids, or relationships, around the world travel can be a perfect way to separate these life stages, give you insight into your next phase and provide closure on the last one. Plus there’ll be a nice time stamp on that moment in your life.” –AirTreks

Enjoy sunrises throughout the world! Source: USA Today Travel, Best Sunrises Around the USA

Pause and appreciate the natural beauty around you! Source: USA Today Travel, Best Sunrises Around the USA

As I said in my Why Travel?, Why Travel? Part Two, Why Travel? Part Three, and Why Travel? Part Four posts, each of these quotes makes the wanderlust in me grow stronger. Don’t hold back- go on another adventure and be inspirNational!

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If you like piña coladas…

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…and getting caught in the rain! With a little bit of cabin fever as the winter ends, we can at least sing beach songs and pretend that we are on a Caribbean island!

For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, we are in the heart of spring break season. Many of us are ready for a spring break vacation and beaches come to mind. Known for some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, below I am sharing five of my favorite places in the Caribbean:

Saint-Martin / Sint Maarten: On one island, imagine being able to see a French colony in the north (Saint-Martin) and a Dutch colony in the south (Sint Maarten). While there is no physical border between the colonies and goods/people can travel freely, the cultural influence between the two colonies is distinct. As the island of turquoise waters, you will find great opportunities to snorkel and participate in water sports. You will also find island paradise when shopping for luxury or fashion items duty-free!

Barbados: Famous for good swimming, and the birthplace of rum and Rihanna, I was amazed by the beautiful white sandy beaches in Barbados. With English, African, and West Indian Roots, Barbados has a distinct identity, interesting history, and rich cuisine. You can go on sightseeing tours to see the rum production process and Rihanna’s first home!

Puerto Rico: With a mix of Taíno, African, and Spanish influences, Puerto Rico provides rich cuisine, colorful arts and crafts, vibrant music, and traditional festivals as a United States territory. I attended my brother’s wedding in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and have to say that it is the ideal location for a beach wedding, with beautiful beaches, fun cultural activities for guests, and a safe atmosphere. I will never forget the unique sound of the coquí, the frog that is a national symbol in Puerto Rico.

Grand Cayman: Famous for Stingray City, Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman islands. You will have the thrilling experience of swimming with stingrays, if you are brave. Grand Cayman was my first time visiting a Caribbean island while growing up, and I will never forget how many (and how large) stringrays there were. Grand Cayman is also known for the relaxing spa services on the beaches.

St. Lucia: With miles of rainforests, natural waterfalls, beaches, and the Piton Mountains, you will find adventure, natural beauty, and relaxation bundled in one place. I had my first ziplining experience in St. Lucia and highly recommend it when you explore the rainforests!

While we are all dreaming  about our next beach vacation, I hope these insights inspire you to explore the Caribbean islands. It is common to see many of the Caribbean islands in one cruise, so if you would like to see more than one island, I suggest that you research cruise options. Feel free to reach out to me on my inspirNational Facebook page or on Twitter @brittanyvb with any questions.

Source: viajesme.com

Source: viajesme.com


Check out my original post on One World 365! My writer profile shares all my posts over the past several months. Enjoy!

Favorite Ways to Spend Spring in Cleveland

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Source: Quotes Everyday

Source: Quotes Everyday

Finally, the ice is thawing, the birds are chirping, and the sun is shining in Cleveland. As Midwesterners know, the first weekend of spring is a sigh of relief. But, it doesn’t mean that winter is over. Fingers crossed that we only have one or two more snow storms before the beautiful spring and summer weather comes our way.

As we all start spring cleaning in Cleveland, I wanted to pass along ideas for us to have fun along the way. Also check out cleveland.com’s “365 things to do in Cleveland in 2015” for more spring inspiration!

  • Cleveland International Film Festival – now until the end of March – Travel the world from the movie theater at Tower City. I had the opportunity to attend All Stars and meet the director, cast and crew with my colleagues!
All Stars Director: Lance Kinsey, Cast: Fred Willard and Miriam Flynn, Director of the Cleveland International Film Fest

All Stars Director: Lance Kinsey, Cast: Fred Willard and Miriam Flynn, Director of the Cleveland International Film Fest

  • Ukrainian Museum-Archives Easter Bazaar – now until the end of March – Check out and shop for the famous Pysanky eggs! According to the museum website, “in the Ukrainian Easter tradition, it is customary to create beautiful art our of eggs – called Pysanky – that are known all over the world. You can buy these beautiful and delicate pieces of art as well as other Ukrainian artwork at our annual Easter bazaar.”
  • Big Spring at the Cleveland Botanical Garden – now until the end of April – Missing green and flowers and looking for a whimsical experience? Check out Cleveland’s supersized indoor and outdoor springtime celebration. This year’s display is inspired by Alice in Wonderland, featuring the Ladybug Labyrinth hedge maze, larger-than-life flowers, the Mad Hatter Tea Party and more. I enjoyed the botanical garden in the winter and look forward to exploring it this spring!
Source: Cleveland Botanical Garden

Source: Cleveland Botanical Garden

  • Indians Game – April through September – Clevelanders love their sports, and there is so much positive energy in the air during baseball season! This year’s home opener is against the Detroit Tigers on April 10. My heart strings will be pulled – my traditional favorite team against my new favorite team! Be sure to attend a game this season and explore all the exciting new developments in Downtown Cleveland.
  • Cinco de Mayo Cleveland at Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, Middleburg Heights – end of May – Celebrate Hispanic cultures at this festival, which highlights Cleveland’s connection to Latin American dances, arts, music and cuisine. There are live performances and a wrestling extravaganza.
  • Cleveland Plays Co-Ed Sports – year round – Missing gym class? I know that growing up, kickball was one of my favorite parts of gym class. I joined a kickball team at Cleveland Plays last spring and had so much fun meeting great people who are now my best friends in Cleveland! I plan to continue as a kickball star (or so I think I am 🙂 this spring.
  • Barbecue at the Cleveland Metroparks – year round, weather permitting – One of my favorite experiences last year was barbecuing at Edgewater Park. After a winter of indoor baking and cooking, there is nothing better than grilling hotdogs and hamburgers with sunset views of Lake Erie to celebrate spring and summer.
Barbecuing at Edgewater Park

Barbecuing at Edgewater Park

  • MIX at the Cleveland Museum of Art – year round – if you haven’t yet attended this event on the first Friday of every month, I highly recommend that you go! Every month you can explore the art museum, see the latest exhibits, watch live performances, and enjoy cocktails and food with friends and fellow Clevelanders.

I hope you all have a wonderful spring! Please let me know if you would like me to add any other fun spring activities in Cleveland.

Can You Travel to 25 Countries by Age 25?

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I am excited to share the inspiring story of my friend, Lisa McElhenny, who proves that you can travel to 25 countries by the age of 25! Lisa works as a fundraising consultant in Cleveland. I met her out-of-the-blue last year at a mutual friend’s house, and we were excited to find out that we were sorority sisters and both new to Cleveland. We instantly bonded, especially about our love for travel, and now Lisa has become one of my best friends. When not working or serving on our sorority alumnae executive board, we both love to see the world. One day I decided to ask her about her amazing travel ambitions. Check out her responses below!


How did you decide to travel to 25 countries before you were 25?

When I was a kid visiting my grandparents in upstate New York, one of their friend’s mentioned that their grandson had just completed his goal of visiting 25 countries before turning 25. I might have been 8 or 9 at the time and it sounded like an incredible adventure. I thought, if this kid can do it, so could I! It was a pipe dream for a long time. In fact, it was not until I was in college that I really committed to the pursuit. When I studied abroad in France my junior year, I was able to visit six countries by bus, train, or cheap plane tickets. All of a sudden I realized I had visited more than 20 countries and this fantasy felt possible. I was so close to 25, I just had to do it!

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Where have you traveled and where do you plan to travel before you turn 25?

Most of my travels have been to Europe, North America, and the Caribbean. My family spent a couple of years living in Canada when I was a child. I also had the chance to visit several relatives with my grandparents in Sweden in 1998. From there the trips were over holidays with family. We went to Costa Rica, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Then when I was 17 I went to Nice, France for a semester-abroad program. While I was there I traveled to Monaco, the Vatican, and Italy. I think it was at that point when I started to count the number of countries I had visited. When I was 21, I was living in France and found a classmate who was as eager to explore Europe as I was. We took trips to Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, and Morocco. Most recently, I went to Iceland with that same friend.

My family and I in Rome

My family and I in Rome

On Friday, my family and I are heading to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands – that will be number 24. We will be flying into Quito and then taking a cruise through the islands. This is a lifelong dream for the four of us to see the islands and the unique wildlife, especially the sea turtles and blue-footed boobies.

Finally, my boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Prague in the Czech Republic in May. That will be the 25th country before I turn 25 in September. I am looking forward to learning about the history, exploring the small markets, and seeing the architecture.

What were your favorite places or memories while traveling?

I have countless memories of these trips that I will always treasure. Good and bad! With my family there are crazy boat stories where we thought we would never make it back to land in the Caribbean and I have some war stories of battling jellyfish in Costa Rica. With friends, I think back to live music and lots of dancing in Ireland and getting lost and accosted with marriage proposals in Morocco.

On my recent trip to Iceland, my friend Emma and I had an incredible time pairing outdoor adventures of hiking and glacier trekking with city explorations in Reykjavik. I have never seen anything like the landscapes of Iceland. Driving along the highway you will see steam oozing out of the earth. There are no forests and the way the grass grows makes it look like it is in constant motion melting down the volcanic hills. What made this trip even more special was seeing the Northern Lights. We were in awe of their beauty and true majesty. I will never forget how giddy we were watching the pale blue dance across the otherwise black sky. Iceland is definitely one of my favorite places I have visited.

Emma and I in Iceland

Emma and I in Iceland

What have you learned from traveling?

I am just a drop of water compared to the ocean. I mean that in the most positive way. We are all just a small part of this world and it is humbling to realize that again and again. We lead lives that are so self-centered. But when you travel, when you see the massiveness of the world, you realize that it is not about you at all.

Look at this map. With my 25 countries, I have barely made a dent! We live in a world that is so big, so diverse, and so inspiring. I am so grateful for the experiences I have had to explore different cultures and the opportunities that have led me to these countries. I am even more eager to see where the world leads me next!

lisa map

What advice do you have for aspiring travelers?

  • Stay in a hostel. Hostels are not only a great way to travel on a budget but also an opportunity to meet new people. Some of the best adventures my friends I had in Europe all started by meeting another young traveler in a hostel.
  • Don’t hesitate to find a park, or coffee shop, or bench to just sit and take it all in. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I am a big fan of planning activities. But, if you are willing to just sit, relax, and observe, you will be able to pick up on the nuances of a culture.
  • Go! Now!

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your inspiring story and insights on inspirNational!

New Eyes: Travel Changing Perspectives Through Yoga

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Check out my #NewEyesTravel feature on Melibee Global!

As I described in my previous post, New Eyes: Travel Changing Perspectives in Seville, Spain,  Melibee Global launched a series that encourages us to share how travel has changed our perspectives. Given that the premise of inspirNational is the new mindset we develop from living like a traveler, I was excited to contribute. Every trip and every destination I have visited has contributed to how I view the world. Below is my story on Melibee Global about how yoga has changed my perspective.


While traveling, I have gained a #NewEyesTravel perspective through yoga. I have learned that no matter where we practice yoga in the world, we will experience similar (if not the same) yoga poses. I was comforted by this realization when I took a floating yoga class in Hawaii for the first time on a paddle board. I was also comforted while doing yoga on the rooftop of the Cariari Bed and Breakfast in Costa Rica, which was my first experience taking a yoga class in Spanish. While I was in a completely different country and communicating in my second language, the course provided the same physical and spiritual benefits. Yoga reminds us that we can all be united in spirituality.

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Interested in participating in the #NewEyesTravel conversation? As Melibee Global says, “simply share an image on social media and write a few words about how that image of your travels changed your perspective. Please use #NewEyesTravel so that we can find your incredible images and stories!”

Best Historic Homes to Visit in the United States

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Over the past few months, I have had the great opportunity to visit some of the most significant and beautiful historic homes in the United States. Why visit historic homes? You will be able to learn the history and charm of some of the most famous leaders in the United States, have a closer look at their personal lives, and get a taste of the first class lifestyle and elegance throughout history. Several sources highlight the best historic homes, such as Fodor’s Travel and Traditional Home. While I have not traveled to all of them, below I have described four of my favorite historic homes in the United States:

  1. Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina: America’s largest home, the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate was built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt. My first reaction upon arriving to estate was how fresh the air was. The estate resides in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with beautiful natural scenery and the cleanest air I have ever felt. It is self-sustaining, with a farm, winery, hotel and entertainment. George Vanderbilt lived there with his wife until 1914 when he passed away, and then his children resided in the home. The home is elegantly decorated with a French influence and has some of the largest and most majestic fireplaces I have ever seen. As a sustainability consultant, I was interested to learn that the estate was awarded in 2012 for environmental stewardship, including a new solar array and tree projection project.11018881_10153134709934524_821918120597568214_n
  2. Mount Vernon, Virginia: According to the interactive website, Mount Vernon “offers a glimpse into 18th-century plantation life through beautiful gardens and grounds, intriguing museum exhibits, and immersive programs honoring George Washington’s life and legacy.” I toured the home while attending a public policy business course in Washington D.C. I was impressed by the beautiful gardens and scenery surrounding George Washington’s home. I also appreciated the handouts of Martha Washington’s favorite recipes, some of which I brought home with me (that reminds me, I still need to cook them :))!535337_10150940593654524_1589505112_n
  3. Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio: As I described in my post, Favorite Ways to Spend Fall in Cleveland, the Stan Hywet Hall was the home of F.A. Sieberling, who created The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1898. The home was built between 1912-1915 and was one of the finest examples of the American Country Estate Movement. It includes five historic buildings and eight historic gardens on 70 acres. Learn more about the history of the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens here. I enjoyed the several gardens and yard games – it would have been a lot of fun to grow up with so many outdoor activities and free land to explore!10653848_10152756415664524_6848450162640339_n
  4. Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California: According to the website, William Randolph Hearst built the “estate on his ranchland overlooking the village of San Simeon in 1919. He called the estate “La Cuesta Encantada” – Spanish for The Enchanted Hill. By 1947, the hilltop complex included a twin-towered main building, three sumptuous guesthouses, and 127 acres of terraced gardens, fountains, and pools.” Given the significance of the Hearst family in journalism, I was interested to see the Gothic Study, where Hearst would preview newspapers every night before printing them the following morning. I also enjoyed the Spanish influence in the home decor given my Spanish language and culture studies.

    Source: hearstcastle.org

    Source: hearstcastle.org

Visiting these estates reminds me of how much more engaging and rewarding it is to learn history through site seeing rather than reading a school textbook. If I ever have the opportunity to teach, my goal will be to encourage hands-on learning, allowing students to actually visit the locations we discuss in class. I look forward to traveling to the remaining famous estates throughout the United States in my lifelong pursuit to learn about the world.