Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor

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The Not-So Amazing Race

Years ago, when I saw a casting call for the Amazing Race, I thought about it. Travel the world? Win expensive travel packages? Race around the world for one million dollars?

Then I did something I’ve never done before:

The Math.

After the tax man has cometh, one-million dollars turns into $500,000. That $500,000 has to be sliced evenly between you and your partner. Even if you carried your partner in your arms like a baby the whole time and still miraculously ended up in the winners’ circle; you’d have to split it. Otherwise, you’d be the jerk who said, “I should get 70% because I won 70% of the challenges.”

The most you can bring home is $250,000. IF you win. And then, you’d have save for your kids’ college, buy a house, retire mom, give to all the third world countries you traipsed through during your ’round the world jaunt.

That’s if you win.

Winning seems much less exciting to me. But there’s still the glorious-magnificent-earth-shattering travel right? Here’s the thing about that…

5 Reasons I’d never try out for the Amazing Race

1. I like to SEE things when I travel
I fully plan on seeing the world and writing as I go, but at my own pace. I get that the show is spliced and edited into episodes, but it moves so fast, there’s no seeing anything. If I go to Bali, I want to swim and surf without this nagging voice that says, oh yeah, it’s time to get out of this bath-like water now or I’LL BE ELIMINATED IN FRONT OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE.

2. I’m bad at sports

If the challenges involved eating 100-plus Cheetos in a sitting, or sniffing out the most infested food cart, it would be game on. But they don’t. No, the race comprises terrifying challenges only those who endorse sports drinks should do, like base jumping and freefalling.

This would happen to me. Twice.


3. I have no Interesting Backstory

Amazing Race teams fall into two categories:

Couples with gleaming teeth and tight calves or partners with an interesting backstory that can be broken down into a one-word nickname: Doctors. Pirates. Debutantes. Divorcees.

I don’t have much of a backstory. I transpose lettesr a lot but can’t say I’m dyslexic. I grew out of my scoliosis. I compulsively stockpile Cadbury mini-eggs, but that’s not a backstory. Continue reading

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The Art of Making Friends in New Places

For me, travel isn’t about running my hands over the walls of the Taj Mahal or zip lining through a canopy of trees in Costa Rica.

It’s the people I have met and yet to meet. It’s the friendships that have yet to unfurl.

Friends 4ever.

friends-friendships-quebec

While flying from Detroit to Quebec to work on a travel guidebook, I befriended a four-year-old. I know.  What could we possibly have in common?

Trick question. We both love pink and purple, paging through the SkyMall and making wide-eyed puppets out of paperbags. Continue reading


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Wild & Free: Adventures in Eagle-Watching

Wild and free is the way I want my life…nature’s way for me without pain and strife ~ Curtis Mayfield

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I am convinced all black specks are eagles. See it?

Like most sane people, I have complaints about winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. I want to do nothing, but consume morsels of dark chocolate and glasses of wine while in a nest of blankets.

But when the alarm rings at 5:50 am, I get ready to face the day. A decent jacket, good attitude, and eight cups of coffee help.

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So do moments like this.

My fondness for winter started in Quebec. I had to make the best of the worst weather. I danced under an ice palace at Winter Carnival, tumbled down small hills on cross-country skis, and rolled popsicle sticks in maple syrup taffy. I miss real winter, miss the rumblings of snow plows at night and the crunch of ice under my boots.

I didn’t think I would ever miss these things. Maybe what I really miss are mid-day field trips and singing French songs on a bus with the rest of the second-language students.

Nothing lasts forever, but I can’t help but to feel a touch of Cube Fever after being so wild and free.

Here’s how I am dealing with the first winter as a re-patriot:

Winter in Washington State

Washington travel images, fir trees, Seattle travel

I half expected this tree to touch my hair to compare notes.

After a Wii Mario jamboree that lasted until 1:00 in the morning, I woke up early to photograph eagles in Skagit, two hours north from my house in Seattle. I had errands to do that day – taxes and such, but The Sister convinced me it was a good idea. Continue reading


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15 Things I Am Not Thankful For

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I am thankful for nachos. And kids who think up characters like Nacho Hippy.

I am thankful for lots of things. Number one: all of my necessities have been met since I was born. I have always had food, water, shelter, and toothpaste. And not to brag, but I have always been pretty healthy, as in never hospitalized, never had to look past the first set of symptoms on Web MD.  I have been silently expressing my gratitude for these things for years.

I also would like to give thanks to Mick Jagger and the inventor of peppermint mocha creamer*. I have been enjoying cups of minty coffee and the Rolling Stones for years now. Sometimes even together. Time to give thanks.

Let’s get to the things I AM NOT thankful for. I decided since it’s Black Friday and not Thanksgiving, it’s totally appropriate.

15 Things I am not thankful for

  1. TSA body scanners. I now have to take that shot when someone asks if a naked picture of me exists somewhere. Because I am pretty sure it does.
  2. People at the airport who scream “this is fascism” when asked to take off their belt. Sure it sucks, but please don’t hold up the line.
  3. Instagram. Stop it! I can’t tell what a normal picture looks like anymore. Fading your photo of your curtains doesn’t make it artsy. Also, I can’t take a photo with an actual glass filter without someone assuming it’s Instagram.
  4. Pencils that look suspiciously like pens.
  5. Olives. Thanks for ruining that lemon-chicken-orzo salad for me, you bitter son-of-bitch.
  6. Hipsters. 
  7. Hipsters eating olives. 
  8. Hipsters eating olives and then complaining that they’re not local.
  9. Cellulite. Thanks for preventing me from ever wearing a bathing suit in public.
  10. The illogical French numbering system. Seventy-five is like sixty-five, except instead of soixante-cinq (65), it would be soixante-quinze (75). What a backwards way to do things. Don’t get me started on 99, quatre-vingt-dix-neuf. I can never hear the “dix.”
  11. Seattle’s public transportation. Or lack thereof. I have to cross two bodies of water to get to work, three if you count the curbside stream that occurs after a big storm. There are two trains – one only goes North-South and the other is a tourist trap. I hate to complain, but I have an hour commute to a place 20-minutes away.
  12. Pretentious noise pollution. That pretentious guy at the zoo or the art museum or the aquarium. He knows you’re listening as he goes on and on about baboon mating rituals or what Monet really meant when he painted the water lilies. They need to have special opening hours for these jerk faces. Move along please.
  13. Information overload. I enjoy technology. Lightbulbs, air-conditioning, Snuggies. But the Information Age has its drawbacks. I can’t have a conversation with someone without it being interrupted by a “like” or a “tweet.” I actually exchanged my cellphone for an emergency burner & landline. I thought it would suck, but my mind feels focused and energized. As far as books, I prefer print. Print wastes paper, but consider the effect of dumping millions of electronic devices into the earth.
  14. Black Friday.  It’s a great people-watching opportunity and I used to go out every year only to enjoy an Orange Julius while watching rabid consumers scramble for the latest toy. But now it makes me sad. We’re told to be thankful one day and the next day, deals are shoved into our faces. Fun fact: I got married on Black Friday. I was a Black Friday bride!
  15. Raisins that look suspiciously like chocolate chips

* To my family, friends, husband, dog, the thirty or so people who read this, and everyone else in my life: THANK You. My life is glorious and I relish every single second spent with you.


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Humorous Pot Legalization Predictions

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Are we the Amsterdam of America? We do have the tulips.

My current home state, the Evergreen State just became the EverGREEN state with the passing of the legalization of marijuana, coming December 6.

Don’t book your flight just yet. Although the pot fog wafting into my window has thickened, there’s nowhere legal to buy the stuff. And there’s a big parler coming up with the Feds on how this will all work.

As a travel writer, I find this most interesting in terms of tourism. Rick Steves, that khaki-clad, accountant-like celebrity traveler, is a huge marijuana supporter. This surprised me. I had him pegged as the kind of guy for whom a glass of white wine is a wild night. Then again, I am one to talk.

I’ll leave my own political affiliations out of this because I am suffering from political fatigue. Here are some just-for-fun predictions.

Pot legalization predictions:

Please read the following in your best Year 2000 voice. If you don’t know that reference, you really need to catch up on your Conan O’Brien.

  1. Capitol Hill, our trendiest, (i.e. most obnoxious) neighborhood will fill to capacity with potheads and slackers and people who wear vanity monocles and play polo on bicycles. Oh wait – it already is. Next.
  2. Coffee shops will be replaced with “coffee shops.”
  3. Washington State residents will be visited by their long-lost slacker friend, the guy who nicknamed himself The Guy on the Couch, who hasn’t called you in years, who now wants to sleep on your couch. Forever.
  4. People will refer to Seattle as mini-Amsterdam and tourism from here to the legal weed-topia across the pond plummet. Why bother going there? We have tulips and legal Mary Jane. Ok, so we don’t have many windmills or canals or really old buildings or legal prostitutes.
  5. Cheech replaces George Washington on our state flag.
  6. The show Portlandia becomes obsolete as hordes of hipsters migrate back to Seattle to work on their distopic vampire novels and post-post-post modern paintings of clowns. Oh brother.


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Bad Travel Writer! Stop That

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It was cold. Inside the ice hotel. Like, really cold.

Good travel writers must push through their vague, cliché, and even racist presuppositions about a foreign place. ~Arron Hamburger,  The Matador Network

I found a French book club here in Seattle. I know, I can’t get much more pretentious, could I?

It would be easy to give up French, to let it slip from my memory here in Seattle and forget that I still can’t tell the difference in sound between an accent agiu or an accent grave or that yesterday, I said, “page soixante-dice-sept.” Embarrassing.

Now that I can make a decent sentence, I refuse to put French into storage with a pile of things I used to do: Breed swordtails. Play the flute. Drink vodka straight.

Anyway, we’re reading L’engime du Retour by Dany Laferrière. Even though I only understand about 70-80% of it sans dictionaire, I can tell the writing is beautiful.

He captures the perpetual snow of Montreal and contrasts it with the vibrant tropics of Haiti, his home country. Even thought the words aren’t in my native tongue, I am right there with the author, watching the snow collect on windowsills in Montreal or birds fly overhead in Haiti.

I may never be able to capture a place the way he does, but  I have learned through trial and error (mostly error) what not to do when it comes to travel writing. I put together a list to help some of you break into this glamourous world of small paychecks and (sometimes) free hotel rooms. Continue reading


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The Future of Travel Writing

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Small bites for small travel writers

I am teaching a travel writing workshop to kids.

About three minutes in, I discovered I am woefully out-of-touch with young travellers.

I started the workshop with things to look for in a restaurant. Maybe it’s a Seattle thing, but these junior foodies were super smart, super opinionated, and super aware of allergies. I was underprepared for Seattle kids and thought they would be younger versions of me, pint-sized pizza enthusiasts who could easily digest cheese and bread.

They’re awesome, that’s for sure. Respectful, fun, and hilarious. But way different than me.

When I was a kid, when we ate out it was at McDonald’s or Beggar’s Pizza, a pizzeria in my old neighborhood. Sometimes my dad would bring me to real Mexican restaurants. By real I mean, the menu included brains and tongue. Not in the same taco because then one might as well just put a cow’s head into a tortilla and call it a day.

I wasn’t really concerned with authenticity or local food or even bad service. Just as long as I didn’t have to eat brains. Continue reading


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Crazy for the Maine Coast

I have traveled to (or through) 35 states. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that Maine and South Dakota are the most underrated. Everyone should apologize to the residents of those states, who probably constantly get asked: “Why, besides lobster, would you live in Maine?” Or “What’s in South Dakota?”

I knew Maine would be pretty, but I had no idea how pretty. It’s not pretty in the same cheerleader way that California is pretty; it’s pretty in a dark, mystifying, eerie way. It’s the kind of place you should run to if you ever become a fugitive. Lots of woods. Close to Canada. Easy access to water.

Maine beaches in fall

Maine photography, old orchard beach

The Husband gets half credit for pointing this out.

I know, I know. You’re supposed to be burying yourself in a pile of leaves, not sand.

I am not a fair-weather fan of the beach. I like to feel the spray of salt-water on my face, like to stand there and scream “Bring it” to the abyss when (hopefully) no one is around.

I like to watch the clouds cluster and their bellies swell and darken with rain. I like walking underneath abandoned boardwalks, I like the silent remains of carnivals, like to watch everyone buzzing around, cleaning up and preparing for winter.

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Sunglasses work better than insta-gram.

Fall brings locals to the beach, so if you’re a tourist who doesn’t like other tourists (me), visit the Maine coast in fall. Continue reading


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Landmarks: Not Just for Tourists

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Part of me will always belong to my first love — Chicago. It’s why I am a Bears, Bulls, and White Sox fan, why I say things like gym shoes, bed clothes, and food shopping. It’s why I feel most comfortable in big, metropolitan areas, why I go crazy on St. Patrick’s Day, why I never order hot dogs with ketchup, why I hate soccer.

Continue reading


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Street Cred – Seattle’s Car Art

When these whimsical vehicles parked in my Seattle neighborhood, I had to snap about a million pictures. I wondered why my Honda CRV has to be so boring, so uninspired. Do I want people beeping at me everywhere? Probably not.

Click on the photos below to see a larger image.

And comment with the one you like best!

Car Art or Art Cars?

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All cars part of Seattle’s annual Freemont Festival. All photos copyrighted by Amanda Halm.