The tears started before I even set foot on the bridge. It was 8 a.m. and our climb was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. I grazed through the gift shop and made back-to-back trips to the bathroom. I walked up one flight of stairs to the ‘holding area’, where I would await my tour guide and watch a quick movie on the climb. It was about 45 seconds into the movie I started to panic. The climbers were making their way up the curved steel structure double-time. Panic stricken, I looked around the room for my friend and when she caught my fear I simply said, “I can’t do this.”
The doors opened and we were ushered inside to another room where we were given breathalyzer tests and asked to sign the obligatory ‘if you die on this tour…’ form. We stood around in a circle and were handed our climbing jumpsuits – polyester slate-blue one-piece fashion disasters that somehow ensured I would be safe. We were asked to go around the circle and introduce ourselves. I learned the names of people from all over the world and when the circle stopped at me and all I could say was, “I’m Melanie, and I’m terrified.”
We harnessed up, lathered on some sunscreen (a sunburn was, quite frankly, the very least of my concerns), took a drink of water and walked into the room of no return. The door shut behind me and I realized there was no handle on the other side – there was no way to get back in. My heart raced, my breath shortened and my eyes closed. “It’s time to climb,” said Richard, our climb leader. “Mel, you go first.” The man was out of his mind, but I took the lead and stepped out onto the steel grate.
The vibrations from the cars speeding across the bridge shook the metal platform that separated me from the concrete ground below. Our harnesses shook as they slid across the one-inch thick cable that kept us attached to the nearly 3,800-foot bridge. We walked along the flat steel-grate surface, ducking under steel limbs and dodging odd-shaped angles that jutted out in our way. One step at a time. One level at a time. With each lift of my leg I was getting a little closer to the arch of the bridge and a little higher from the ground. With every step the city got a little smaller, my breath got a little heavier and my heart beat a little faster…Continue reading on Gadling.com.
Being paid to travel the world and write about it may sound like a dream job — and you’ve never heard me complain while I peck away on my computer from a cafe in Rome or an oceanfront hotel in Spain. But it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds. Travel writers encounter the same nuisances that every other traveler does — like language barriers, airline fees, lost passports and the eternal struggle to have the best possible trip at an affordable price.
My friends at Independent Traveler asked 35 writers and bloggers (including me!) to share their hard-earned travel wisdom from their lives on the road. Ranging from the practical to the profound, the travel secrets they reveal offer insights and ideas for every traveler. Read our top travel secrets, and share some of your own.
If you ask my Mom what one of her secrets to keeping sane was when she had two kids under the age of 6, she’ll tell you it was learning to fly. She didn’t fly herself, but she taught us not to be scared of flying. I was the kid with her nose pressed against the glass window at the gate watching the planes take off and land. I ran down the corridor and counted the rows to my seat, and insisted on the window seat so I could ‘ride on the clouds.’ It’s no wonder I became a travel writer.
I recently had the opportunity to go inside Virgin America’s Airbus 320 and explore the unknown first hand. I curled up in the engine, crawled in the cargo hold and sat in the cockpit, where I got first-hand information on all the gadgets and gizmos that make these steel wonders fly. While I’m not afraid to fly, checking out the cockpit and talking with the engineers actually made me feel more comfortable about being on a plane (and only intensified my desire to go to flight school).
But it also got me thinking: For those with the very-common fear of flying, understanding how a plane operates can help ease the anxiety during flights. Read my tips on overcoming your fear of flying on SingleMindedWomen.com.
In just a few weeks I’ll be sitting pretty in economy-class on 16-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, courtesy of VAustralia. When I purchased the ticket I told myself, “Economy class will be fine! You can walk around, watch some movies, maybe you’ll make a few new friends… you don’t need to spend the extra money to lie down in business class.” I’m starting to rethink this decision.
In an effort to create a more comfortable environment for my pending economy-class seat I bought myself some new Gap pjs, had my favorite pashmina dry-cleaned and dug out my aromatherapy slippers for the flight. I’m totally ready to go! Now, what to do when I get to Australia?
Thanks to the chaos that has been my life for the past few months, I haven’t had two seconds to plan this trip. I know where I’m staying, and I think I called ahead for a car service from the Sydney airport, but as far as trip planning and reservations – there are none. So, the countdown to Oz is on… and I have no idea what to do. Here’s what I know I want to see/do – if anyone has ideas on how to get this accomplished, please drop me a line:
1. Bridge Climb: Despite my fear of death, I’m committed to doing the Sydney Bridge Climb. I’ve decided it’s best to plan this for one of the last days I’m in Australia – that way if I die from fear on the bridge, at least I would have seen most of Sydney before I go.
2. Sydney Zoo: I’m not really a ‘zoo’ person – I’m afraid many animals are mistreated at zoos – but I’m told the Sydney Zoo is nothing like the zoos in America, and that the animals reside in their own habitats. I’m not sure how that’s possible, but I’m willing to give it a go.
3. Pet a kangaroo/koala bear: I can’t leave Oz without playing with a kangaroo or petting a koala!
4. Sydney Opera House: The Grand Dame of Sydney awaits! I want to play dress up and walk in the icon down-under.
5. Bondi Beach: I forget why I’m supposed to go to Bondi Beach, but it’s on my list so I’ll be going!
6. Chart the stars: The wanna-be astronaut in me is uber-excited about viewing the stars from the Southern Hemisphere. Good thing I’m staying at The Observatory Hotel in the Rocks, where I’m told there is a wonderful viewing room for star-gazing.
7. Shopping! I don’t know what I’ll buy, but you can bet I’ll come back with something fabulous from Sydney.
That’s my list as of today, but I know there’s so much more I’m missing. If you’ve been to Sydney, send along your recommendations so I can add them to the list!
I always wanted to learn to fly. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with aviation, flight, and space travel. My parents encouraged my fascination – they bought me books and model airplanes, sent me off to Space Camp and one year, they even did a surprise drive-by of Cape Canaveral on our way to Fort Lauderdale for the family vacation. They loved that I had a passion for something other than Guess jeans and AquaNet, and were happy to indulge a little girl in her dreams of flying a plane. Until one day when the little girl went to see the Air Force recruiter at her high school’s career day.
All bets were off when Mom got wind of my potential enrollment in the Armed Forces. Dad figured it’s a win-win — I get to learn to fly and the Air Force pays for my education. Mom sat watching images of bombs exploding in the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War and put her foot down. What none of us knew, however, is that this little girl wasn’t getting close to any plane. Seems at that time, girls with glasses couldn’t fly airplanes and as soon as the recruiter informed me of my fate behind a desk, maybe with a view of a F-16 in the background, I went back to filling out my college applications. Mom slept a little better that night, and Dad was back to the library looking up various grants and loans we could apply for to help pay for college. As for me, I knew one day I’d get the opportunity to fly a plane. That day still hasn’t happened but I came close… as close as one can get to the controls of a Cessna 402 without a pilot’s license.
A colleague recently asked me, “How do you keep it together with all this travel?” I laughed out loud and thought, “what in the world is ‘together’ and how do I get there?” The reality of the situation: if you don’t love to travel, you probably couldn’t handle this lifestyle. But, there is a little secret to ‘keeping it together’…
It’s no secret I love to travel, but when it comes time to actually putting the trip together there are few things I can’t live without. I love sampling the local food, shopping in the local markets and exploring hidden streets and hideaways that are often untouched by tourists. While my tastes in travel have changed over the years one thing has remained the same: my guilty pleasures. These five little things don’t cost that much, always enhance the trip, and they’re essential for “keeping it together” on the road or in the air:
1. A taste of home: There’s nothing like tasting your first sip of Barolo from atop the Spanish Steps in Rome, or biting into a fresh eclair from a hidden bakery in Paris. The local food and flavors of foreign cities are part of what keeps travel exciting, but there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a Starbuck’s grande half-caf, no-whip caramel macchiato when you’re between airports. There’s nothing wrong with ordering baked chicken and mashed potatoes from a bistro in Provence, or asking for U.S.-brewed beer in Belgium (caveat: you can only do that once, then I’d cut you off and insist you drink from the local tap). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting ice cream instead of gelato or cinnamon rolls instead of crumpets. The little tastes of home keep you centered and as long as you branch out for the majority of your trip, indulging in the savory bites that remind you of home won’t hurt your travel experience.
2. One hour off: It’s necessary – essential, even – to give yourself a break when traveling. Exhausting yourself by running to one tourist attraction after another won’t do you any good. The excitement is overwhelming, especially when you’re visiting a new place, and the chances of you remembering everything you saw are slim to none if you don’t take a moment to let it all sink in. I often have to cram three days worth of work into an overnight stay and an airplane ride, which makes the trips downright tiring. One of my favorite guilty pleasures: Devote one hour to doing nothing. You can fill the hour a million different ways – get a manicure in the airport before boarding my flight, catch the end of the big game in an airport bar, enjoy a cup of coffee and stroll through the city where you’re staying, book yourself a tour, sunbathe, nap, spa, whatever! Taking one hour out of your travel planning will result in a much more enjoyable and productive trip. (more…)
My favorite hours are the 48-hours between the last day of the year and the first day of the year. As one door closes, another options, and with that kick in the ass comes more possibilities in a new year. Each year I move forward with a little intimidation, but a lot of excitement. 2009 was a good year, but not without its faults, and so as I open the door to 2010 it’s time to make a new set of goals.
This year, I resolve to:
Spend more time with people in the various countries I visit. Whether through volunteer opportunities or just over quiet conversation, I believe the best stories are derived from conversation, and what’s better than learning from a local. First up: Australia.
Treat myself to one night in a luxury hotel with no obligations. No stories due, no tours to take, no reviews to consider. Just me, in my hotel room. Why is this a resolution? Because even a travel writer deserves a day off, and as those closest to me know – I rarely take a day off.
Make an effort to stay in a “green hotel” when I travel. As more hotels complete their LEED certification, the options for green hotels are more expansive, allowing travelers of all budgets the ability to help reduce their carbon footprint when traveling.
Explore my own backyard. Even after 13 years in Boston, there’s still a lot of territory I’ve yet to see. I’ll spend more time exploring the neighborhoods of Boston, and maybe make a greater effort to cross the Mass. Ave bridge into Cambridge once in a while.
Slooooooooow down. The drawback of being a travel writer (and I’ll admit, there aren’t many) is that sometimes, when the trips are packed and the stories are due, the world just passes you by. I vow to allow myself one day on each trip to just ‘be’ – take it all in, remember the space, and just simply slow down.
Happy New Year to you all! Looking forward to traveling with you in 2010.
It’s been an exciting year of travel! From vacations south of the border to trips across the pond, 2009 brought me closer to more destinations, more people and more life lessons. I learned that all whiskey is not created equal (especially in Ireland) and that camels really do exist… in Mexico. I tripped back to my 20s in Amsterdam and reunited with my first love in Paris. I reconnected with some of the most fantastic cities in the states and I had the time of my life on fantasy island. Most importantly, I shared these travels with you, and I learned a lot along the way. Here are a few of my favorite things from my 2009 travels:
Key West: There are few things as simplistic as a mojito on Hemingway’s island, but I’ll always remember Key West as the trip that introduced me to the Palm Reader. I’m not sure his predictions will come true, but he did inspire me to believe.
Amsterdam: Reconnecting with your youth is always a powerful experience, with or without space cakes (link courtesy of my fav travel friend).
Bruges: When I dream of white horses and dark castles I’m taken back to Bruges, where I was captivated by the magic, mystery and romance of this little city.
Paris: The City of Light was my first European love, and it still holds my heart. On my second trip to Paris, I rediscovered the tastes of warm baquettes and fresh cheese, the smell of eclairs and the deep colors of French red wine. (more…)
Melanie builds brands through strong media connections, effective use of nontraditional outlets, and thoughtful consultation on your unique story. She works with executive teams across traditional and new media to support that story. Contact Melanie to bring your brand into the spotlight.
Social Media Expertise
Effective social media campaigns start with a thorough understanding of social media’s possibilities. Let Melanie bring her experience with luxury hotels, spas, wineries, health care organizations, other businesses to work for you! Contact Melanie for help with your social media.
Conferences & Events
Melanie has presented at local and national conferences, offering insights into the current media landscape, consumer analysis and business trends. Contact Melanie to bring a compelling voice to your event – one that offers story-building advice for beginners and experts, and gives attendees concrete ways to build their own media presence.