Travel Lifestyle

100 Ways Travel Makes Me Thankful

It’s that time of year! I’m so excited! Travel is a powerful force in my life and sharing my love of it is a total passion project. So, this Thanksgiving, I say thank you. I have plenty to be thankful for like my family, my travel partner in crime, Yia Yia, and all of the moments that i share with others. Today however, I think I should say thank you to the very thing that we all share. I say thank you to travel.

Let’s celebrate by appreciating what travel gives us. Here are 100 things that travel has offered to me. They are in no particular order. So, peruse the list, and enjoy! I know how much travel has given to me. How about you?

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Photo by Kim Stiver on

The List!

A sense of belonging in more places than I expected. I love the connections I feel no matter where in the world I am.

An appreciation for art. I didn’t care much as a kid but now I know my Byzantine from my Vermeers and it makes me happy!

A goal to learn more language skills. I love picking up at least a few pleasantries wherever I go. (But Greek gets the best of me every time!)

A confidence that I am aware of others. I find myself appreciating other culture’s solutions to interesting problems.

A chance to walk in the footsteps of history. It makes me feel awestruck every time.

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Moments to know I can get anywhere on my own. My independence makes me a better human.

A taste for food I wouldn’t have normally tried. From kimchee to escargot, I’ll give it a try!

The power of wow. Victoria Falls, The Parthenon, Mt. Fuji, a kangaroo, an NYC pizzeria. They all make me say “wow”.

Map skills. I really can get just about anywhere in the world on my own and I know how to prepare and plan for that journey.

Opportunities to conquer new things. Tops of mountains, bottoms of gorges, new food, new rituals, a better understanding.

Literature connections. I find myself invested in kids books and literature for myself more and more.- as long as it allows me to travel!

A love for travel movies. I can’t get enough of them, even the cheesy Hallmark ones.

A minimalist spirit. With travel as an obsession, extraneous stuff loses priority and the things I do have better mean a lot.

Technology skills. Have iphone will travel.

A connection to my roots. I’m Polish, I’m Irish. I know it.

An improved imagination. I’ve become quite adept at imagining what could be and what must have been.

An appreciation for a well designed museum. I’ve always loved architecture and planning but I find the logic in a well laid out museum very intriguing.

The uncanny skill of avoiding a crowd but finding the party. Not too much, not too little.

A respect for water.

A better sense of environmental problems. Knowing and accepting the mistakes of humanity seems to be the biggest fight.

Gratefulness for the home I have. I love traveling but I appreciate my own bed too. I’m also very aware of how fortunate I am.

Friends. From every corner. My Christmas Card list makes me happy.

An appreciation for the absurd and surreal. Sometimes, you just need to laugh at the circumstances you find yourself in.

A love of globes. To me? They’re artwork!

A quest to fill in a map all on my own. I can name every country in the world on a blank map.

A need to share trivia. Did you know that there are 195 countries recognized by the U.S. government?

A better sense of humor. I have to say, I laugh at more these days with a broader perspective.

Better Listening Skills.

A better relationship with technology. I feel like I run my tech rather than the other way around.

A clearer sense of the little things. Flowers, laughter, a sunny day, an early morning walk.

An understanding of the difference between daily life and traveling life. Sometimes I am a temporary local and sometimes I am a tourist. I’m okay with both.

An opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. Whether, it’s language or weather or political climate, being uncomfortable helps me be a better learner.

The realization that not everybody travels the same way or with the same intent. There are backpackers, nomads, cruisers, tour takers and DIY travelers. Some are amazing, some are not.

A love of architecture. I can’t get enough of church spires, Roman arches, intricate carvings, and Greek Columns.

Time with the girls. I love getting away with my girls! Whether it’s my bestie, my daughter, or my mom, I always have a good time.

Dancing Feet. Cue the music!

Menu Language. I can order a rum and coke in any language.

A respect for war.

A better knowledge of what others think of my home country. I watch the news from other countries and it is very interesting!

Global perspective. Our way is not always the best way!

An awe for real craftsmanship. I find myself saying “and they did all of that without any power!”

My inner gypsy. I’m a wanderer and I love that!

Better reading habits. I read more and more these days and those books always take me somewhere.

A love of animals. I want to see elephants, sheep dogs, highland cows, and koi fish in the place that they belong.

Chopstick skills. Thank you Japan!

Wanderlust The second I get home from a trip, I’m ready to plan the next one!

A network of like minded people. My closest friends travel like I do or appreciate that I can’t wait to get on the road again.

Better parenting skills

Patience. If you’re gonna travel, you’re gonna wait. The better you are at that the easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

A love of logistics. I find the apps, I find the deals, I connect the dots, then, I travel.

A respect of where food comes from. Knowing that the supermarket is not the beginning of the food story is important and more people need to know it.

An understanding of what GMO free means. Taste a tomato in Greece then eat one back in the States. You’ll see.

Appreciation for the ability to sit on a park bench. Part of travel is taking in the life in front of you. I am so happy that I can do just that.

A love of public spaces. All of them: centrums, museums, market squares, train stations, shopping streets, and more.

A new obsession with impressionism. I find the beauty in it and appreciate the father of the movement, Monet, so so much. Especially after I understood the role Asian art played in it.

A preference to experience things rather than just look from a difference. Don’t be a looker, be a doer.

A gratefulness for my two feet. they get me to the top on Mont Saint Michel and Mount Fuji and to the bottom of Victoria Falls and the tiny port in Santorini.

A respect for the religions of the world

A discovered talent to be a digital scrapbooker. Part of my trip planning process is including framing and organizing my memories.

An understanding of the importance of tea around the world. After water, tea is king. Knowing that you will encounter it and having the ability to know what to do when it does helps.

A loyalty to small business. Mom and pop shops of the world matter. They matter so, so much!

A preference for handicrafts. Handmade with love is my favorite product no matter where I am in the world.

An acceptance that I’m not a perfect traveler. I make mistakes. I try hard not to get stuck with the coulda shouldas. I just remember that I’ll choose the better town, museum, tour guide, etc. next time.

A pretty good eye for framable art. I am all about bringing back prints and local artists and framing them on my wall.

An adoration for storytelling. Tell me a story then I’ll share one with you! I’ve got plenty!

A guilty pleasure for travel Christmas ornaments. I deck my halls with trinkets from all over the world and it makes me happy.

A preference for solid bar shampoo and conditioner. I am a free of TSA approved liquids and I’m happy about it!

A better aversion to plastics

A tear and a smile when I see a poppy in Europe. I’m proud of the role our country played in the World Wars and I appreciate everyone’s sacrifice. A poppy reminds me how much they matter.

A desire to go on the Amazing Race, sort of. I’ll take the challenge sans the drama. I know. I’m not good TV.

Better teaching skills. Travel brings so much to my classroom and I always look forward to sharing the world with young learners.

A willingness to curate my possessions. I am very happy to get rid of what doesn’t matter. I find joy in surrounding myself with just what speaks to my memories.

A notoriety for speaking my mind from a global perspective. I have big mouth. I’m okay with that, I hope you are too.

The ability to leave the past in the past and appreciate people based on the present. I’ve learned that understanding history AND understanding the social development of society both matter.

Epic sunsets. Santorini, Namibia, Kyoto, and more. They never disappoint.

Knowing that I can like one area of the world more than others but I can appreciate every corner of the globe at the same time.

An odd love for symbology. Thanks Dan Brown. Now I see it everywhere.

More people to root for in the Olympics

A love for eating al fresco. I can park myself on a main square, a piazza, a pedestrian cobblestoned street. Hours and hours.

A seasonal love of FIFA finals. Every year, in late June, I choose a team and join in the fun of the finals wherever I am.

A chance to say “I’ve been there!” when I watch TV. When I flip to a travel show, I love walking down those streets and seeing those amazing sites virtually.

A love of cobblestoned pedestrian streets. There’s so much charm and energy on these amazing pedestrian zones.

A sincere respect for bees. Gosh! They do a lot for this world and they don’t get the credit they deserve!

No air conditioning. When was the last time you slept with the windows open? How about under a mosquito net? You should try!

Seeing art en setu. Marveling at the Sistine Chapel or Monet’s Waterlillies where the artist intended you to see them is an experience that raises your art awareness to a whole new level!

A pickiness for food that’s not prepared properly. I’m spoiled! I’ve eaten food, in season, all around the world. Belgian fries or McDonalds? There’s no competition!

An understanding that standing out isn’t always the best option. I’ve learned that finding common ground with others. It doesn’t hurt that it makes me less of a pick pocket target!

An enduring love of the therapeutic results of journaling.

French Rose. in the Summer, on a great piazza. Life is good.

The ability to pare down to the basics. As our old travel pal Rick Steves likes to say, “No one comes back from a trip and says that they wish they’d brought more!” (Although, Rick has no idea what it takes to pack for a woman who isn’t a backpacker!)

The acceptance that I usually overpack anyway. It’s gonna happen and I’m going to be okay with that. I’m plus sized and that’s a whole different world!

A better eye at technology that works for me and not against me. I’ve learned to avoid the gossip and scandal and use technology as a tool rather than allowing technology to run my life! #putthephonedown

A sadness when we lose a treasure. Notre Dame, the aging pyramids, Damascus, and more…

A goal to take good architectural pictures. It one of my new favorite things to do. I find the shapes and craftsmanship amazing!

A preference for train travel. I love the ease and sensibility of the train. I try to fit some sort of train experience into my adventures each time I wander. Whether it’s rush hour in Japan or the great open skies in Canada, I love it!

Photo by veerasak Piyawatanakul on

Plenty of holiday traditions. German pickle ornaments, Japanese carp fish, Greek Easter eggs dyed red, potato latkes, high holy days that no one thinks of, I love them all.

Little moments. Morning walks in a city center when the fresh produce is being delivered for the day.

A thirst for more memories. I treasure each and every one of them and I can’t wait to make more!

Travel does such a wonderful job and helping us celebrate the best life has to offer. As a matter of fact, my fellow travel junkie Michelle Moyer of Moyer Memories has a ton of amazing suggestions to help your travel plans enhance your milestones. Check out her top picks for celebrating the big 5-0 by clicking here!

Add to the list! Comment below with one way travel makes you happy!!!

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Travel Lifestyle

The 2020 Gift Guide!

Oh 2020! You’ve been quite unkind to the travelers of the world! Cancelled plans and wanderlust are putting us all on edge as we put our travel insurance to the test. Hopefully, this holiday season will find us all celebrating with our loved ones. Whether in person or socially distanced, we hope that you get to enjoy the last of this life changing year. In the spirit of supporting everyone’s travel dreams, we are happy to share some of our fave holiday picks for the traveler on your shopping list! Enjoy!!

Click here to listen in to our gift guide on our podcast! Babcia and Yia Yia have tons a great picks and lots of fun chatting about all things travel!

For the eco-conscious traveler…

Ethique Beauty Bars Say goodbye to liquids in your luggage with these solid bars that take the place of your soap, shampoo, conditioner, and more. There’s a scent and formula for everyone’s needs and, I promise, you’ll never use the liquid (and the plastics they come in) again!

True Earth Laundry Tabs This eco friendly detergent comes in dry to the touch soap tabs that are lightweight and liquid free. Simply grab a few and pop them in your suitcase and you can hand wash or machine wash as you wish.

Re-useable shopping bags Our number one used travel accessory! We are true believers that a re-useable bag saves plenty of plastic bags and, with it’s small size, you’ll be using it traveling and out and about. There are plenty of options on Amazon and Etsy. So, browse to find that matches the person you are shopping for.

Mulberry Mongoose Jewelry If you have a jewelry addict on your list, take a moment and look into this incredible company that ticks all the boxes. By taking hardware from illegal poaching traps and making jewelry, Mulberry Mongoose is win, win, win, win.

For the traveler that needs to get packing…

Samantha Brown Luggage Travel sweetheart, Samantha Brown, launched her luggage line a few years ago and now that the line has had some experience, the investment pays off. Great bags with plenty of styles for everyone!

Himwari Anti Theft Backpack For the travel that’s not a fan of a backpack, this anti-theft version has a little style, a ton of room, and plenty of safety features to meet any traveler’s needs.

Delsey under the seat carry on bag Never lift a bag into the overhead compartment again. Do I need to say any more?! This bag fits my purse, a quick change of clothes, all my plane accessories and my electronics. You can’t go wrong!

Luggage Tags Get them monogrammed, themed, for a group, or for that solo traveler you on your list. You can source super cute tags from Etsy, Amazon and more. Browse around to match the tastes of any traveler!

RFID Passport Wallet Get it all into one safe place so that you can keep track of all of your important documents. RFID keeps those nasty hackers away from your personal information to make any traveler feel more comfortable while they are out and about.

Gonex Compression Cubes Solve the messy, overstuffed suitcase problem once and for all! Whether sharing a suitcase or trying to stay organized on your own, compression cubes are the modern must!

Shifu Globe A perfect gift for the budding travelers in your life, this globe is very interactive and works with a very cool app. Teacher approved!

For the traveler who likes to collect

Travel Ornaments So many travelers didn’t get to get out there this year so boost their spirits with a little ornament to inspire their future adventures. Look for ornaments on pretty much any site and match it to the interests (or destinations) that they love.

Polish Pottery Collectors the world over love this famous pottery and it could be the perfect gift for someone who “has everything”. The charming patterns are endless and come in everything you can imagine from ornaments and tea bag rests to bowls and platters. Browse, find, enjoy.

Travel scratch off artwork Perfect for the wandering nomad in your life who is in the midst of discovering this great bog world. The more you travel the more your artwork changes. There’s a style for everyone so look around to find the perfect fit!

For The Comfort Loving Traveler…

Bombas We love these socks that give back!

Rothys We love these shoes that help to save our waters!

More Of Me To Love bra liners Listen, when you know, you know. Put them in your own stocking as a gift for yourself!!!

For the traveling bookworm…

For The love of Europe Rick Steves is back and reading to share the stories that got him addicted to travel in the first place. This book is a great way to pass the time until your passport works again!

Blue Mind Discover the power of water and how it fits into your travel world. An amazing way to look at this vital resource and what it does for absolutely everything!

Travel Listography Reminisce, dream, repeat. This no pressure journal organizes your memories without asking for too much in return.

Maps: The Travel Book by Lonely Planet. Perfect for pre school and elementary aged kids this look and explore book opens up the world to young learners.

Percy Jackson Going to Greece? Get a handle on the world’s first soap opera: Mythology. Help kids get a handle on who is who and who doesn’t like who in this innovative modern classic that is perfect for elementary and middle schoolers.

The Book Thief Dive into the middle of WWII and learn how the war affected society’s most impressionable residents: kids. A perfect middle school read. 

The Zookeeper’s Wife Life in Warsaw during the war was incredibly difficult no matter who you were. Dive in to this real life story to better understand how the tragic events of the war impacted everyone including the residents of the zoo. A perfect read for mature high schoolers and adults alike.

Rich People Problems Kevin Kwan, who brought us Crazy Rich Asians, makes sure you know the human side of life affects everyone including the super rich Youngs of Singapore.

Angels and Demons Dan Brown first introduces us to his symbologist hero in this precursor to the DaVinci Code. The setting is Rome and there is trouble at the Vatican. Settle in for a thougthful adventure that keeps you guessing right until the end!

Journals Organized writing frames for kids can be just the boost any reluctant writer may need to fall in love with journaling. Why not start them off with their own adventures?

For more great book picks for kids, check out our 10 books in 10 Minutes series.

Travelers who love subscriptions and gift cards…

Little Passports Allow kids the chance to explore month after month with this innovative, and teacher approved, subscription box.

Universal Yums Perfect for older kids and young adults alike, enjoy the sweet and savory treats from a new destination each month.

Wanderful For the traveling woman in your life. This superb membership connects women from all over the world with diverse, noteworthy, and current travel trends.

Shutterfly After any experience, the photo albums on Shutterfly are a great place to store all those adventure memories.

Oil Changes Know a roadtripper? Give them a boost with an oil change or a gas card so that they can take care of their wheels along the way!

happy friends on camper van roof

For travelers who like to indulge…

Leonidas Chocolates from Belgium

For the traveller who will stay at home a t little longer…

Travel Lifestyle

The Tale Of Two Waterfalls: Victoria and Niagara

I was talking with my very best friend the other day and we were reminiscing about a very particular day from a few summers ago. Let me set the scene. My bestie was enjoying a little down time between Summer commitments and decided to take advantage of being close to the great Niagara Falls. She and her husband were hiking on the walkway when her phone rang.

Be sure to join us for the conversation! We are talking about this very topic on our podcast, Babcia and Yia Yia Travel The World. Click here to join in the fun!

Half a world away, I expected her to pick up from home. I had no idea that she was at the Falls as I called her from Zambia. My view? The Great Victoria Falls. I was standing just to the side of Knife Point Bridge watching the Zambezi water spill over the top. Who would have ever thought that the two of us would be standing in front of the power of two of the most famous falls in the world!

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Photo by Anthony Rodriguez on
Victoria and Niagara Falls

Niagara and Victoria

Victoria and Niagara have a lot in common. They both provide a natural boarder between two countries. Both provide immense tourism for their local areas and both leave no doubt that the power of water is an awesome natural wonder on our planet. Moreover, both create moments of inspiration for every traveler that commits to experiencing them. However, it’s here that their two paths diverge.

Way over in Livingstone….

Way back in 1855, one of the most famous first tourists happened upon a place that locals called Mosi-oa-Tunya or the smoke that thunders. He promptly renamed the massive column of water Victoria Falls after his queen. (Ahhh… colonization.) These days, The Falls continue to thunder as they stretch just over a mile across and drop about a football field. They serve as the international border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and Zambia was exactly where I found myself the day of our phone call.

Victoria and Niagara Falls
The smoke that thunders from the upper falls

I was lucky enough to stay at Avani, a lovely hotel resort with free roaming animals and amazing Moroccan architecture. But, the true draw of this particular location is just steps from the entrance to the Falls. The Zambian side of the falls were easily accessible to anyone though the National Park Gate but Avani literally had a back gate entrance set up for its guests making it as convenient as possible. And P.S., it was not the most expensive hotel in the area!

Victoria and Niagara Falls

The Upper and Lower Falls

Without any other exploration except the ride from the airport (I’ll leave that amazing video below), I headed out that back gate and went right to the National Park. As soon as I was through the gate, a wonderful college intern offered to take me through the pathways and tell me the story of this wonder of the world. I live for people like this. People who have no other agenda other than to impart their knowledge to you and make your experience better.

My walk began at the upper falls. My guide, Isaac, led me down pathways and explained the scientific side of things as well as previewing the power yet to come. He reminded me that at night, there are hippos that love this particular spot and one must be careful! I will. I promise. As Isaac continued to lead the way past bubbling water that stretched as far as the eye could see, he pointed out the famous Devil’s Pool. Used by daredevils to get as close to the drop as possible. I had already made up my mind not to take that dip because of the aforementioned hippos and the fact that I can not do a back flip into water.

Victoria and Niagara Falls

Sam pointed out the visitors that were on the Zambia side had a bit more protection than the ones on the Zimbabwean side who had no safety rails or clear pathways between them and the 354 foot drop. No thank you! 

Victoria and Niagara Falls

While you could already feel the magic of the water in the air, it wasn’t until Isaac showed me the lookout over Rainbow Falls that I got my first glimpse of this massive force of energy. We continued walking around the gorge and into the pathways that become part of the micro rainforest. toward Jack Knife Bridge. This short span gives you one of the best views and ensures you feel your share of the water! It was in this very spot that I called my bestie…

Victoria and Niagara Falls

Meanwhile, in upstate New York…

If Victoria Falls had a little sister, it would be Niagara. Standing 187 feet tall and about half a mile across, Niagara Falls comes in at about half the size of its African big sister. However, don’t be mistaken, this largest drop in North America receives far more visitors. While the days of honeymooning in Niagara Falls are over, lots of fun is still waiting for every kind of traveler out there.

Just like in Africa, Niagara serves as a famous border and has very distinct sides. The Canada side tends to be a better experience while others say that the magic of Niagara lies in its old school American Falls roots. Either way, there are plenty of amazing treasures to experience while you visit. And that’s exactly where Terri was when her phone rang…

Get Ready, Get Set

Terri drove in to Niagara Falls and made a beeline for the State Park. While the surrounding town is not much to look at, Terri says that once you park and get into the actual park, things are well worth your time. With plenty of pleasant and calm walkways, the state park gives you every opportunity to enjoy the falls from pretty much every possible angle. And it’s these walkways that tend to be overlooked the most.

Victoria and niagara
The Maiden of The Mist

Armed with a waterproof bag and a poncho to head for the marquee event, The Maiden of The Mist. Unlike many other waterfalls, Niagara allows its visitors to get behind the falls and see them from quite a different perspective. In turn, making it quite the draw. But, wait! Terri told me that you don’t want to miss out on the Cave of The Winds which, again gets you up close and personal to the water.

Victoria and niagara
On the way to the Cave of the Winds

Terri and I had our laugh and spoke about what we were seeing in that exact moment. Then she continued on her way to The Cave of The Winds with a great documentary and tons of information about what makes these falls so special.

Victoria and niagara
Terri taking my phone call with complimentary waterproof gear. Spoiler alert! It doesn’t work!

Top Of The Falls…

While Niagara Falls is not a foodie mecca, but the Top of The Falls may be a great choice if for nothing but the view. Otherwise, foodies will find better choices like great polish food. Or the famous Duff’s Wings not too far away in Buffalo. And PS- Buffalo has a lot to offer! Another great area is Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown.

Victoria and niagara
The bridge which serves as the customs checkpoint to Canada

From anywhere on the American side, the Canadian side certainly beckons. And Terri agrees! Her advice is to sincerely explore both sides of the falls. Don’t miss out on the different views and experiences that each have to offer. Just remember, you need your passport!!!!

Victoria and niagara
The Fallsview area on the American Side.

Moments when you feel the magic around you and you feel connected to someone who gets it like you do are rare. Terri and I were over the moon to have a chance to connect from half a world away at two of mother nature’s masterpieces.