Last month was a very good month for the List. Two of the items were seeing the Harbor Lights show in Hong Kong and flying on Singapore Airlines. I flew on Singapore Airlines to Hong Kong and Singapore for vacation.

I put the light show on the list because I once read a blog post about it and loved the pictures posted of all the buildings lit up so beautifully. Seeing the show would also be a good reason to go visit the city in general. I like big cities (and I cannot lie…) and Hong Kong is one of the biggest of all.

Singapore Airlines made the list because I read a lot of frequent flyer blogs and forums and several of them mentioned how fantastic the Singapore service is and how they usually rank among the best airlines in the world. At the time that I wrote the list, I had never flown on any non-North American-based airline, so I was really curious what airlines in other countries were like. It turns out that Singapore really is as nice as the other bloggers say, especially in first class.

Since I like to be a tease, I’ll write more about both experiences next week. But I’ll say this much- if it wasn’t for the list, I would have missed out on the opportunity to do this trip because I wouldn’t have been looking out for it.

Happy adventuring!

My grandfather and I.

During my trip to London and France backĀ  in March, I had to deal with something no traveller ever wants to deal with.

The death of a loved one.

My grandfather’s passing was not a surprise. He had suffered a fall earlier this year and had not been doing well since then. I did see him the weekend before I left and got to tell him one last time that I loved him.

At one point I wondered if I should cancel the trip or make changes. But both my mother and my grandmother wanted me to go. And so I went. Since my family didn’t want me to change my travel plans, I didn’t want to be notified of my grandfather’s death if it occurred. It’s not because I didn’t care- far from it. But I wasn’t going to be in a time or place where I could really go through the grieving process.

My grandfather died a day after I left. Since the trip lasted about a week, my family wanted to let me know that he had passed before I found out about it on Facebook. So they waited a couple of days while I took my flight across the English Channel and enjoyed all the other activities associated with that event.

After the event, I went back to London to spend a few days exploring the city. As I walked to Buckingham Palace, I spotted a Starbucks. Some people see their logo as the international sign for a coffee fix. I see it as the place to get my wifi fix. So I stopped and hopped online. I try not to spend too much time online while travelling, but I was coordinating with some online folks that I would soon get to know offline the next day. That’s when I got the e-mail from my dad letting me know that my grandfather had passed away.

I didn’t break down and cry. I didn’t sob. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t feel anything. Psychologists say that the first stage of grieving is shock. Thank goodness for that. I needed to stay in that moment. To put my feelings aside for a while. So I packed all my grief into a bag to unpack when I got home.

The e-mail also let me know that his funeral was going to be the next day. I was going to miss it. My family wanted to postpone it until I got back, but other circumstances prevented that.

The British have a saying: “Keep Calm and Carry On”. So that is what I did. That was all I could do. I did all the touristy things I had planned from wandering the Tower of London to posing with the red phonebooth to meeting up with friends at an English pub.

I kept calm and carried on through the airport and on the flight. I kept calm and carried on through the next day when I visited my grandmother.

And then I went to my grandfather’s grave. I couldn’t keep calm and carry on anymore. But I didn’t need to. I could finally unpack all the emotional baggage I had been carrying.

Six month later, I don’t regret one moment of my trip. I knew it was something my mom and grandmother wanted me to do, and I’m sure my grandfather would have wanted the same. I do wish I could have been there for his funeral, but it wasn’t to be.

I miss my grandfather very much, and I do expect to see him again someday. But in the meantime, I think he would be happy knowing that I’m out seeing the world. He did the same thing himself when he was younger and in the navy. It is important to grieve, but also important to live.

 

During my travels I’ve had a couple of unexpected brushes with famous people. They were never planned, but they were always fun.

My first brush with fame came in 2008 when the presidential election process was in full swing. I decided to take a few days off and go explore Philadelphia for the first time. I was walking by Independence Hall one evening when I noticed that a crowd was gathering and that part of the street was blocked off. I asked a bystander what was going on and they told me that John McCain, the Republican candidate for president, was inside the building doing a speech. The crowd was hoping he would come out and shake hands afterwards. I didn’t need to be anywhere soon, so I joined in with the crowd and waited. The Secret Service soon came out and moved everyone to the sidewalk. They confirmed that McCain was there and would take a moment to greet the crowd before leaving. The Secret Service also told the crowd to keep their hands empty when reaching for McCain’s hand for a handshake.

The view of Independence Hall was obscured by security cars and news trucks, so it was hard to see what was going on. People in the crowd were getting restless. But finally people came out of the building. First out was Meredith Viera, the co-anchor of the Today Show at the time. Then the crowd went wild as McCain came out and waved. He didn’t try making a speech- even if he did, it would have been impossible to hear him over the crowd. He went down the line and did the handshake bit. Despite my 5′ 2″ frame I somehow managed to reach over the crowd and shake his hand for barely a second, and he then moved on. At the end he gave one last wave before being escorted to his car.

McCain lost the election two months later. But the experience of meeting such a prominent politician in a city known for its political history became the highlight of my Philly trip.

My second brush with fame came earlier this year in the UK. I went to a Women of Aviation event that celebrated the first time a woman flew over the English Channel. Pilots from around the world came out to the event, which involved flying over the Channel to the French side. Two of those pilots was the drummer of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason, and his wife Annette. They flew in their own beautifully-painted helicopter. Nick couldn’t stay long, but he did talk about how he became a pilot. Annette stayed as she was going to join the aerial convoy in the helicopter.

I was going to be flying in a different plane across the Channel. But plans changed and passengers were getting shuffled around. Shortly before the first plane took off, another girl asked if I wanted to fly in the helicopter with her. Fly in the

Annette Mason working the helicopter across the English Channel.

Pink Floyd helicopter? With the wife of one of the band members? Oh heck yes! Annette was every bit the rock star as she posed for the cameras with the helicopter before we loaded up.

The flight was spectacular and talking with Annette and the others in the helicopter made for good conversation. The flight lasted nearly45 minutes and went by the Cliffs of Dover, over the water and along the French countryside. At the airport, we were all treated like rock stars with media taking pictures and a large crowd welcoming us.

For one moment, I got to pretend to be a famous person too. Annette eventually had to fly back, but not before participating in some presentations and posing for many pictures.

I don’t know when I’ll run into a famous person next, but when I do, I hope it’s another memorable travel experience.

I did an interview about travel and what inspired me to start this blog with Daraius of Million Mile Secrets. If you want to find out what goal I’m working on next, go visit Million Mile Secrets.

 

I’m a finalist in a contest to win a free trip to Europe, but I need your vote to win. Head on over to the Women of Aviation site and vote for Elizabeth. Thank you so much!

I’m a finalist in a contest to win a free trip to Europe, but I need your vote to win. Head on over to the Women of Aviation site and vote for Elizabeth. Thank you so much!

Every year I like to post the numbers of how far I travelled and where I went along with some other fun and random stat (here’s 2008, 2009 and 2010).

Moai on Easter Island.

Moai on Easter Island.

This year, I visited 4 new countries (the most I’ve visited in one calendar year) along with a new continent (South America). My South America trip included a trip out to Easter Island, which was one of my goals on my bucket list. I also got to walk the halls of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires and eat cerviche in Lima. And I kept up my habit of running off to distant countries for the weekend by getting in a quick two-day trip to Germany at the end of the year.

Domestically, I made my first trip to wine country with a visit to Napa Valley (and mark off another item on my list- a visit to In-and-Out). A lot of my cousins got married this year, so I made several road trips to Georgia. I also took my first cross-country drive across the USA. All in all, it’s been a fun travel year.

It’s also been a very good year in terms of earning miles. I’ve picked up more then 300,000 miles/points in various programs mostly due to large credit card sign-up bonuses (and without incurring any debt). I used some of those points to get myself and a friend down to South America and the rest I will probably use in the next couple of years.

So, here are the stats from the year:

Miles flown: 30,330

Miles driven: 5,728

Countries visited: Argentina, Chile, Germany, Peru

Airports visited: 12

Airline amenity kits collected: 8

Number of pretzels eaten in Germany: 6

Number of Pisco Sours drunk: 5

A map of my 2011 travels.

A map of my 2011 travels (via the Great Circle Mapper).

As for 2012, I’m starting the year off much like I did in 2011 with no major travel plans booked yet. I will be going up to New York state to see my first hockey game and spend time with friends. Beyond that, I’m thinking of booking a return trip to Asia- possibly to China or Hong Kong. I can’t wait to see what the new year brings!

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