Friday, August 11, 2017

And just like that, the Summer Sabbatical Ends

I can't believe how fast the summer has gone.  I have never given myself this kind of a break before.   Any worries I had about potentially getting bored with this much time off, were quickly gone.   I wish I could extend it until the end of the year. It would be wonderful to watch the season change and welcome the first snow of the year up here on the mountain.   But I guess that is not to be.  It's time to leave my little cocoon and go back to the real world, go back to work.

It has been a time of reflection and a great opportunity to recharge.   I just can't believe how fast the time flew.   I've only known a couple of people that work for companies that actually offer sabbaticals as part of their employee package.   It should be many more.  I realize there is a significant cost to companies to give an employee that much extended time off.  However, in the long run, I think the cost would pan out.  I believe it would increase retention rate and overall productivity.

It has been an amazing summer for me and something I hope to do again in the future!   Now I have to worry about how the dogs are going to adjust to my going back to work.  They've grown used to having me around all the time and I've enjoyed spending all day with them.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Walking A Mile in My Shoes

Weeks 2 and 3

Well it’s not quite a month into the summer sabbatical, but I’m finally feeling healthy.     It took me much longer to recover than I had expected.   But I’m finally getting in those morning hikes!   My sister came out to visit for a week and we walked/hiked every day.   I discovered a lot of new places and explored the area like I’ve never had time to before.    Who knew there was a beautiful lake, with a great hiking trail just 4 minutes from my house?    There are actually a couple of beautiful lakes with multiple hiking and biking trails within just a few miles of the house.   We spent almost every day exploring a new trail.   We got in over 90,000 steps and walked almost 40 miles in the days she was here, averaging over 15,000 steps a day.    I think we actually wore the dogs out!   They slept for 2 days straight after she left.

I continue to start the morning with a nice walk/hike but am not getting as much mileage in as before.   The sun is up here well before 6am, and it’s always so cool in the mornings.  It makes you want to jump right up and get out and enjoy the beautiful morning. 

I’m sitting on the deck, with my morning coffee as I write this, enjoying this beautiful view.  How can one not be inspired and at peace?


Summer Sabbatical - Week 1

I have worked non-stop pretty much since I was about 13 years old.   I worked full-time during college and have pretty much worked non-stop since then, with the exception of a week or two of vacation here or there.  For those of you that read the blog, you know I've had some AMAZING trips, so I'm not complaining.  I just thought it was time to give myself a break, reassess my goals, my dreams and determine, what's next.   So after much consideration, I decided to take the summer off.  

The plan was to head to the mountains of New Mexico.    New Mexico is one of my favorite places.   I dreamt of sitting on the deck, with a beautiful view overlooking the mountains and writing in my blog as I sipped my morning coffee.  I was ready for this slower pace and potentially life of leisure.

So what happens just two days after my last day at work?  I wake up really sick.   I wake up with chills, a fever and an incredibly sore throat.     It’s like the minute you allow yourself to slow down, it all catches up with you.  Like it’s just been waiting for you to stop so it can grab hold and settle in!

I had said, I wanted to take enough time off that I would be able to have days where I did absolutely nothing.   I wanted to be able to spend a whole day reading and not feel guilty.  I wanted to have days where I never even left the house.   Well I got my wish.   I got to spend the whole first week of my sabbatical pretty much doing nothing.  I was either laying on my couch or in my bed for days.   Luckily I had my faithful hounds to keep me company and a Netflix subscription to keep me occupied when I was actually awake.

Now that I’m finally on the path to recovery, I can’t wait to see how week two of my Sabbatical goes.  I’m hoping to get started on a new routine.   Starting my mornings with a nice hike with the hounds, followed up with some blog writing     I feel like I’ll need a few weeks just to adjust to a new slower pace.  Time to clear my head and make space for new thoughts, ideas to come in.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Charming Town of Sintra

A quaint little town worth the trip, Sintra

I was staying in the Sinatra mountains so a day trip to Sintra was just just 10 minutes away.  After doing my research on what to do in Lisbon, a day in Sintra as at the top of the list.   Given I was staying in the Sintra mountains, it was just 10 minutes away.  However, for those staying in Lisbon, I would still recommend this as a day trip.  It is such a quaint little town and has several attractions to see, the National Palace of Pena, Quinta da Regalia, The Moorish Castle and the National Palace of Sintra.  Unfortunately, we did not get to tour much beyond the National Palace of Pena because it was Christmas Eve and everything was closely early for the holiday.  I had heard from more than one person that the gardens at Quintal da Regalia were beautiful and to be missed, so I'm bummed we missed them!  However, we did get to see The Pena palace and it looks like a set from a Disney film.

We then had a late lunch at a little restaurant in the middle of the square right by the National Palace of Sinatra.  It seemed really touristy so we didn't expect much but it was one of the places actually open.  We were pleasantly surprised by how good the food was!  The Traveling Hillbilly recommends the vegetable soup.  It was more of a potato soup with vegetables, great comfort food on a cool day.

I hope you all get the chance to visit one day.


Pengiuns, Sharks, Eels and More!

The aquarium in Lisbon is supposed to be one of the best in the world, so we had to go there.   Plus it was Christmas Day and one of the few things that was open.  Turns out that Christmas day is their busiest day of the year.  Despite the crowds, we really enjoyed it.  The place is huge, so it didn't
actually feel too crazy.  They have animals from all regions/oceans, the Atlantic, the Pacific, Indian and so on.  We saw penguins, sea otters, sharks, starfish, eels, sea dragons and all kinds of cool things from the sea.  It is a clear and easy to follow path.  You start at the top and then get a chance to go "below the surface" of the sea at on the lower level.   It was a great way to spend Christmas afternoon.

The Traveling Hillbilly would recommend it for all ages!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Day 1 in Lisbon

Started the day off with a stroll around the beautiful grounds of the hotel.   There's just something about an early morning walk before everyone else is out and about that brings peace to your soul.  No big wildlife sightings, beyond the ducks in the lagoon, but still an enjoyable stroll.   So glad I decided to stay up in the Sintra mountains.  It's a bit of a drive from Lisbon, but worth the drive.

After my morning stroll, it was time to head to Lisbon to meet friends for lunch at Belcanto, the first restaurant in Lisbon to get 2 Michelin Stars.  Beclanto is one of the several restaurants chef José Avillez owns in Lisbon.  It did not disappoint.  We decided on the chef's tasting menu with wine pairings.  Now it was not a cheap selection, but it as a wonderful way to spend the first afternoon.  The food was great and the presentation incredible.  The whole experience was a journey and one I think we'd all go on again.  My personal favorite dish, was the truffle porridge.  Yummy!!!   

We left the restaurant completely stuffed, but happy.  We walked for a bit before heading to the rooftop bar at the Barrio Alto Hotel.  We had been told it had one of the best views in the city and was the place to go see the sunset.   Given our long and leisurely lunch, it was actually already dark by the time we got to the hotel!  But the view of the city at night was still stunning.   However, we later stopped at Silk to have a nightcap and I have to say the view from there was stunning as well.   During my research, I found a lot of information about the amazing views in Lisbon.  After the two we experienced today, I'm looking forward to more. 

All in all a truly great way for the Traveling Hillbilly to start off the 2016 holiday adventure!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Final Thoughts on Iceland

What a truly beautiful country, both the scenery and the people.   Everyone I came across was more than welcoming.  You can tell they are proud of their country and want to show it off.   I felt completely safe.   Never did I feel like I had to watch my back, watch my bag or anything.  The country is just so warm and inviting.

I  heard the rise in interest in visiting Iceland was due to Game of  Thrones.   I don't watch the show, but it is filmed here.  However, they also had a big surge in tourism after the volcano erupted in 2010 and shut down European flights for a several days.   I guess all that news coverage got people thinking about and interested in learning more about Iceland, which brings me to the scenery!

For the most part they seem genuinely pleased by the growth in tourism.  They have been converting a lot of the apartments into hotels and there are a lot of people offering up guest rooms.    I wonder though, how a country with just over 300,000 people, more than half of which live in/near Reykjavik, will be able to sustain millions of visitors.  I read somewhere they are expected to have over 1.75MM visitors this year/next year, not sure how accurate that estimate is, but the growth in tourism is significant in recent years. I'm not sure they have the infrastructure to handle it all.   I can't imagine it won't be a drain on all their natural resources. 

The Scenery
It is a country worth seeing!   It truly is magical and a country of such diverse landscapes; lava fields, volcanoes, glaciers, rivers and streams.  Despite the rise in tourism and all that comes with it, it still seems undisturbed.  There were often times where I thought it looked like Hawaii, if Hawaii didn't have a ton of resorts built up.  With all the rivers and streams, at times it looked like Montana.   It was actually nice to be in a place that hasn't yet been overbuilt or doesn't have long lines for everything you want to see.   That may be changing though with the growth in tourism. 

The People
I've traveled a lot and you have different experiences, different impressions of each country or even city within a country. After coming back from Budapest several years ago, I told people it was liking going to grandma's house for dinner.   Everywhere you went, people wanted to feed you and the food was always warm, good comfort food.   Iceland is similar, but given the average age of its residents is only 37, I can't quite say it's like going to grandma's house.   But it is just as warm and inviting.   The people are incredibly friendly and inviting.   Always ready to listen and help out, always ready to tell a great story about their country.  

While it is fairly cheap to fly to Iceland, these days you can get flights for a few hundred bucks from NY and LA (book early though to get those kind of rates) once you arrive, everything is very expensive.   I don't think I had meal that was less than $20 US dollars, and that was for a sandwich and chips bought at a market, similar to Duane Read for you New Yorkers.   There are several larger hotels, like the Hilton Nordica and  the Foss Hotel Reykjavik, but none are truly luxury hotels, despite the luxury prices.   

It may not be for everyone, especially if you're a Four Seasons/Ritz Carlton kind of traveler, but for the adventure traveler or nature lover, The Traveling Hillbilly highly recommends a visit to this magical country and maybe sooner rather than later before it changes too much.