Memorial Day Weekend Edition
I hope you are all going to have an enjoyable weekend ahead of you. Hopefully a looong weekend. Normally at this point in the year, most of us would be off to enjoy the weekend camping, or at the 500 in the Snake Pit. Unfortunately, due to what we can only assume to be a dyslexic Mayan who incorrectly wrote down the end date of the world as 2012 instead of 2021, we are living in some sort of weird preamble to the end of the world. So many people, this year, have put off their beginning of summer plans or that trip to the Speedway. And while it is what we should be doing to keep the plague from spreading. I thought it might be fun to look at some virtual vacations you could take this weekend as well as look at how to plan your epic next vacation to somewhere new.
The Virtual World
Not surprisingly, I am not the first person to dig into this. Forbes actually did a really cool “free virtual tours you can take” back when we all started being locked in our homes with the small wild animals we call children. In fact many writers have dedicated endless time to everything from Zoo’s to Museums. My personal favorites at the moment happen to be the one for the Louvre, and the one posted by Warwick Castle in Warwickshire, UK. Both are simply beautiful. So I am not going to dedicate huge amounts of virtual ink to the idea of interactive virtual tours. If there is a place you want to go, or you just want to see what is out there, it is no more than a Google search away. What I do want to talk about a little of is things that will prime you for part 2 of this post. Series that take you on tours of other places. The first one I want to share with you, to get you a little stir crazy, is called “Moving Art”. “Moving Art” is the kind of Netflix series that keeps popping up on your feed like Netflix is trying to shove it down your throat because it is some class B series they didn’t have to pay for it and want you to watch to maximize their profits. But trust me, it is actually worth a watch, especially if you are a fan of nature. The show starts in season 1 with looking at forests and waterfalls, before going to places like Iceland, Machu Picchu, Ankor Wat, and the Galapagos Islands. There is no annoying voice over person to ruin the views or make annoying commentary about what you are seeing. The show is exactly what it says it is the world, as art, in motion, with some beautiful music in the background. So if you are a nature and scenery person, like I am, this will give you a great tour and ideas for the type of places you might want to visit.
The second one that I want to turn you onto, is for you foodies out there. I love me some good food. When I go somewhere the first thing I want to do is try new foods out that are native to the culture. I can verify blood sausage from Ireland is awesome by the way. If you find yourself enjoying the finer things in life, and don’t want to travel to another country just to eat McDonald’s, then National Geographic’s Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted is where you need to start. If your first reaction to Gordon Ramsay anything was, “I don’t need that sort of negativity in my life,” that is fair. But let me let you in on a secret. Ramsay is only a total jerk and yells at everyone on American television. Yep, because Americans like that kind of thing, he yells and pounds, and swears at others because that is just good American tv. If you actually sit down to watch this show on Disney+, you will see that Ramsey has a deep respect for every new culture he immerses himself in, is a huge people-pleaser, and is extremely humble and kind when it comes to every person he meets. The premise of the show is that Ramsey travels around the world to discover new tastes. The show focuses on traditional and indigenous cuisine. Each episode looks at traditional cooking methods, herbs and spices, and main food ingredients. If you are someone who picks out where they travel based on the food they can try while there. This show is definitely for you.
Planning Your Trip
First thing you want to do with planning any trip is to outline your parameters. First thing is time. If you have two days for your trip, and yes you can do an amazing trip in two day, you probably aren’t going to be traveling super far. While excursions to Europe are amazing and possibly life changing, you would be surprised at some of the local trips you can take with less than two hours travel. So now that you have your time frame in mind. You need to start thinking about your budget. Do you have $5000 to spend, or $5. Obviously the latter is going to limit your fun money, but it doesn’t have to ruin your vacay. The last thing before you start the true planning phase is to determine your goal. What is this trip for? Are you wanting to go nature exploring, museum hopping, shop-til-you-drop, or a buffet of the most savory foods you can get your hands on. Now that you have an idea in your head, you can begin the planning process.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Okay, got your outline? Let’s do this. Just for the fun of it, I am going to present a possible trip that you can do, that I have actually done. So I have a long weekend and about $400 saved up in the bank. What can I do with it? Well my goal is a refreshing weekend away with the wife. Nothing fancy, we just want some thrills, and time away from Indy. We would also like some local/farm raised food. Since we only have the weekend. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend it all driving, just to get there, and have to turn around and drive back. So anything over 8 hours is out of the question. Ideally staying within 3-4 would be best, but if the place is really worth it, 4-5 hours is doable in a long weekend. So a quick google search of area attractions within that distance of me, yes this is the midwest, hours is a distance, brings up a lot of cool stuff. If you are in the high summer, a trip to Splashin’ Safari at Holiday World would be good for excitement, but maybe not for relaxing. What you will find a lot of is camping areas. So grouping these, I ended up with a place called Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan. Why here? Because it meets my needs. Under normal conditions in the fall, a weekend there will run me about $200-250 in housing for the weekend at an Airbnb. This gives us the privacy we want with a great view of the sun setting on both Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. Travel wise it is about 5 hours one way. So it is a bit of a treck, but that extra money we saved on not getting an expensive hotel in Chicago can go to pay for other enjoyments. Like wine.
Meet Fox Barn Winery and Market. At first glance on your way into Mears, where Silver Lake resides, you might mistake this place for just another barn. Do not make that mistake. We actually stumbled into this place by accident, no I wasn’t drunk, it was a metaphor. The cute quaint little market features locally grown fruit wines and market products. The staff is great. In the fall the doors are open, so long as it is nice out. And the wine is divine. So grab a bottle or two for the weekend, our favorite was the strawberry, as you head into town for the weekend. As I said before, saving money on housing when you can saves money for other things, but don’t stay in anywhere where you aren’t going to feel safe, or clean, just to save spending money. But since we are saving money, that leaves room for DUNE RIDES!!!!!
Mac Woods Dune Rides, located in Mears, MI, provides tours of roughly 1/3rd of the dunes around Silver Lake. It is a great way to start the morning before going and walking in another section of the dunes later in the day. Being on the dunes in the middle of a Saturday gives you a unique backdrop in which to have your picnic. The walking area is situated in between the Mac Woods area and the OVR area. So if you throw down your blanket in the right spot, you can watch all the lunatics having a go at riding their Jeep, dirt bike, dune buggy, or, and I’m not joking here, WWII deuce and a half, military transport vehicle through the dunes. Sometimes people will even offer to take you with if you don’t have your own OVR license or certified vehicle. Sitting atop the dunes you can enjoy spectacularly calming views of nature all around you while you eat your home packed picnic and sip some of that wine you bought earlier. Then just do what you came out here to do, relax. Walk, watch movies in bed, sleep in, stay up late, build forts in the Airbnb. The world is your oyster. Speaking of which, you are near water. Make the most of it by eating out at a local restaurant or do something fancy in the kitchen. The last time we went, I did a seafood boil or steaks, can’t remember. The last day we are there, we always head over to New Era before going home. New Era is home to Country Dairy Farm Store.
Country Dairy has some of the best Chocolate Milk I have ever tasted. Their farm store has amazing ice cream, farm made cheese and sausage, and beef jerky. It is all GMO free, if you care about that type of thing. The place even has a learning center for kids to learn about dairy farms and a children’s playground. So all around the trip was relatively cheep, we had a great time, and had great food while relaxing and breathing in some nature. The trip hits every goal I had for it. Now it is your turn to plan.
If you are planning a trip there are a lot of tools you can use to help you out. If you are flying, Kayak.com is a great website for going, not sure how far I can go but here is my airline ticket budget. Show me destinations. This is how my wife and I got $400 round trip tickets to Dublin. If you are going to fly, consider flying out of a bigger city, especially when going international, it can save you a lot. Airbnb can be used to find you some great steals if you are willing to put up with the fact that it is an Airbnb. Some people love their hotels but often you can get a really good house or room of the same quality for a lower cost. I just caution you to read the reviews. Make sure you know what you are getting. We had a phenomenal one called Slieve League House B&B when we went to Ireland. Kenneth, our host, got up early to cook us a full Irish breakfast before we went hiking that day, and I have done everything I can to fulfill my promise of singing his praises ever since. On the flip side, we have also stayed in some that were iffy. Just make sure you do your research and try to stick to the super hosts. For anywhere you go, hit up the local tourism site. It will give you the best ideas of what is around. Food is your thing, they can point you at the best the chamber of commerce has to offer. Like museums, here is the listing for the field museum, art museum, and antique yarn spinning museum. And finally the last thing. Know what you are getting yourself into. If you are going abroad, use the state department’s website to see if the country you are traveling to is safe, or you know having an Covid outbreak. Find out the language or type of people you are going to be interacting with and any customs you need to be made aware of. For example, going into Alabama with your pride shirt on is probably not advisable, see Top Gear episode. Likewise, traveling to see the Dome of the Rock, make sure you have a head covering with you. Youtube is chocked full of travel programs to help you for anywhere you want to go. But I am going to suggest one in particular that I find to be really high quality. Vagabrothers. These two are professional travelers and they specialize in getting you out to see the world as well. Check out their channel below. They have gone a lot of cool places and have a lot of good insights.
The one I linked is the cheapest places to travel in the world because, let’s face it, most of us are going to be broke for a while after the Rona is done with us. If you have more helpful tips or have a favorite vacation site, drop it in the comments below. I might want to go too.