2 Acres of Stuff...

The moment you land in El Paso, Texas, it's not hard to miss the cities biggest advertisement.  It screams from billboards, posters, magazine ads, and commercials, "2 acres of a wholesale showroom".  2 acres.  They say everything is bigger in Texas and the SaddleBlanket proved just that.

Jewelry, furniture, knick knacks of every kind, linens, clothing, decor, and well... before this list gets any longer, it's safe to say at the Saddleblanket you can buy pretty much anything you want.  Don't believe me?  Here are a list of some of the strangest items inside:
- A western style coffin.  Yes a coffin.  They come from a company called "The Last Rodeo", which is probably one of the best branding ideas since sliced bread. Fully lined in cowhide leather, beautifully handcrafted wood carvings of your ranch, horse, or maybe your favorite cowboy boots.  Of course these are all customizable, as is everything at the Saddleblanket.
- A two headed Taxidermy bull.  Yes you read that right.
- Stools that make whom ever dare sit look like an overweight stripper or a horses ass.
- You can actually buy a home.  Yes an entire house and of course that entire house will be "southwestern style".  The best part?  You get to choose all your furniture right then and there.

When you mention you might be heading to the Saddleblanket, the locals will roll their eyes.  "It's a place for tourists" they say, when in reality, the store is full of locals and tourists alike, all vying for that southwestern flair for their homes.  It truly is a "must stop" on anyones visit to El Paso.

During our visit, a good friend Rob Buscher stole the show and performed in a make-shift stage in the center of the store.  Bravah.


© The Traveling Barnacle

WanderLusting after San Elizario

One of the best afternoon excursions in El Paso, Texas is a trip south to San Elizario.  Lucky for this blogger, the small community was also the home of my hacienda for the weekend, offering a lovely get away from the hustle and bustle of the "big city".

The historical town offers visitors a self guided walking tour through it's center, after having been added to the National Register of Historical places in 1997.  It's beautiful church and cozy plaza have been the backdrop for a few films including the 1985 flick, Fandango, staring Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson.  And 1997's Lolita staring Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith.

Aside from it's modern draws, the town's history stems from what was once truly the "wild west".  Including the famous "Salt War" in the late 1870s.  Which, you guessed it, was a little argument over salt, and ultimately lead the seat of south western Texas to belong to El Paso and not San Elizario.

Much of the original town still remains.  And visitors are welcomed to meander through it's old stone buildings.  Most noted is it's county jail.  Story has it, this is the only jail Billy the Kid ever broke into, yes, broke into, to rescue friend and fellow bandit Melquiades Segura.  As the tale goes, Billy woke the Mexican guards at 3 a.m. telling them he had two American prisoners.  The guard opened the door to find good ole' Billy and his friendly 44 revolver staring him between the eyes.   The guard released Segura, but that wasn't enough for Billy.  He locked the guards in the cell and threw the keys into the Rio Grande.  Lucky for Billy, the Rio Grande also marks his entrance into Mexico. Ahh the sweet smell of Freedom and tacos.

Despite the numerous historical buildings, the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario seems to outshine them all.  Standing at the western corner of the plaza, it's white walls illuminate the community.  The current chapel was built in 1877, replacing an existing Mexican chapel built in 1789.  While it's interior isn't spectacular, it's the perfect example of late adobe architecture in Texas, complete with European influences.


© The Traveling Barnacle

Up Above El Paso... and Juarez... and New Mexico

Next on our whirlwind adventure in El Paso, Texas was the Wyler Aerial Tramway.  Like any good traveler, seeing a city isn't just about walking it's streets, eating it's food, experiencing it's culture.  It's about seeing the city from it's every perspective.  And for El Paso, that meant seeing it from 5,600 feet.

Hovering in one of many Texas State parks, the tramway holds about 8 people, as it travels to Rangers Peak.  The four minute trip takes passengers between a canyon, exposing the beautiful desert life thriving in the heat.  Hawks, deer, snakes, rabbits, and although not visible, thousands of insects, spiders, scorpions dance underneath the rocks.

From Rangers Peak, one can look over Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico with ease.  The sprawl of the city lasts forever, the borders don't divide but merely add texture to the geography.  The clouds leave shadow patches across the sprawl, offering those lucky enough to be underneath a few moments shade from the intense 100 degree weather.

The peak also offers great hiking trails around the area.  If only we had time, one of the trails leads to the nearby crash site of B-36 Bomber in 1953.  The air force owned plane went down in the Franklin Mountains while trying to land at Biggs Air force base at Fort Bliss, during a snow storm.  Yes a snow storm.  (Thank you global warming.)  During the time of the crash it was the largest piston engine air craft in the world.  All 9 on board died in the crash.  The Park ranger explained because of it's location and the historical significance of the site, pieces of the wreckage are still there today for those who wish to make the 90 minute hike to remember the 9 veterans who were lost in the hills of El Paso.

© The Traveling Barnacle

Full of Brisket & Love

Visiting El Paso, Texas wasn't about traveling.  It wasn't about seeing a new city or venturing into one of the largest states of the union on an adventure.  It was all about love.  A wedding invitation had been sent just three months before, tickets were booked, and a dress bought.  Cowboy boots in hand, the trip was happening, not for the love of travel, but for the type of love that happens when
a man and a woman stand up in front of the people they love and say "I do".

There is something strange and exciting about watching someone you knew before they met their new wife, turn into a man by answering a simple sentence.  Will you? Do you? Forever?  A resounding yes fills the chapel and a sigh of relief, happiness and pride exhales from the crowd.  You can't help but think about the future, growing up, and commitment.  A quick hug to the bride and groom as you leave, is enough of an emotional dose to last the entire year.

But this is a Texas wedding, which somehow makes their love bigger.  Cowboy hats, boots, and bolo ties fill the dance floor with cheers and beers.  The Brisket flows freely and guests fill their bellies with the fatty meat and wash away their inhibitions with something frothy and cold.  The sun sets and the bride and groom bid their loved ones goodbye, taking into the night to start the rest of their lives, bigger than ever - Texas style.

© The Traveling Barnacle

Everything's bigger in TEXAS

There has been a lot said about one of the largest states of our union.  We're talkin' bout Texas y'all.  Where everything is bigger, the BBQ smoked just right, and cowboy hats are a staple.  After spending the weekend underneath it's sprawling skies, driving past Sonics, taco stands, and visiting its famous 2 acre Saddleblanket wholesale store, this blogger was sold.  Texas has something bigger than ever I've seen in the union; heart.

Ironically it was love that brought me to Texas, and love that I found in the southwest corner of El Paso. The border town where Mexico meets the wild west of Texas, whilst New Mexico nuzzles it's western edges, completing the south western Ménage à 3.

Stay tuned for this Barnacle's lovely adventures in El Paso..

© The Traveling Barnacle

The Restaurant

I used to frequent the restaurant whilst living in downtown San Diego somewhere between the safe and clean tourist destination of the Gaslamp and the hipster haven of East Village, full of ironic facial hair, suspenders, and left over crime that has yet to move out of the "up-and-coming" neighborhood.  The restaurant sits on the corner of Broadway and 12th, with a sign painted above the door that simply reads "Restaurant".  Easily missed as it blends into the surrounding urban landscape.  Established in 1957, when the current owner, Teresa was just the local teenage beauty queen, the recipes have the same authenticity now as I'm told they did then. Now in her late 80's, the woman simply known to locals as "Mama" still clears the dishes from tables, treating every customer like her own familia.

Over the past 2 years, this small hole in the wall has become home.  After night shifts I slid into it's red booths, greeted by Teresa and an infinite cup of coffee.  Her breakfasts breathing life back into a tired soul.  Everything is perfect, served with love not convenience.   My plate arrives and my newspaper opens to the daily headlines.  Meanwhile the "U" shaped counter is full of locals, young and old, swapping stories about their neighborhood, about their Restaurant.  Every once and a while a 'newbie' will come in, hearing about her famous Nopales Scramble or enticed by the tiny price tags advertised in the windows out front.  We welcome them to our restaurant, seated and caffeinated, our family continues to grow underneath the large red letters that say everything and nothing at all: "Restaurant".

© The Traveling Barnacle

Your Dream Trip

What Kind Of Trip Do You Dream About?

Ten people can go on the same trip to the same place, and experience ten different versions of that city or country. It’s easy to let ourselves be caught up in travel brochure spiels and our own visions of a place, nurtured by movies, by the experiences people we know have had there, and all the other scraps which make up our vision of the world. Yet just like we know that our own city is full of countless stories and lives - the way we experience our home is far different than how a tourist will, or even someone who earns far less or far more than we do - every place we visit is the same. None of these versions of a place is inherently better or worse than the others, just different, though each comes with its own pitfalls and beauties. Young or old, single or married with children, we each seek out the trip which calls to something within us, and navigate our way through a foreign place with that ideal dream in mind. Here are just three of the popular ways to experience a new city or country.

Traveling Rough, Living Wild
For some people, their idea of a dream vacation is having as much of an “authentic” experience as possible. Backpacking, living in hostels deep in the urban center of a city, eating and sometimes working with locals, and avoiding everything that smells of the tourism industry; these are the features of this kind of trip, an ethos based around truly experiencing the heart of a foreign country. Of course, as more and more people seek this kind of experience, it can be difficult to separate what is “authentic” from the smaller backpacker tourism industry. Yet whether you’re on a short trip or are looking to travel the globe, there’s no question that this style of travel can be a fascinating adventure.

One note of caution, however. Due to this style of travel’s attractiveness to 20-somethings and counter-culture types, one of the common factors on these trips is drug and alcohol use and abuse. Depending on the country you’re in, authorities might not care that your travelling partners are carrying illicit substances and you’re not; you may also be implicated in any charges. Furthermore, bacchanals like Thailand’s famous Full Moon Party can be detrimental to the environment and the community, going against the ethics of many backpacking-style adventurers whether they’re aware of the issues or not. What you do on your trip is your own decision, but keep in mind that drugs and alcohol can be found quite easily on the backpacking routes. They’re easy to stay away from if you’re not interested, but keep an eye on your companions, and consider another method of travel if you’re sober for important reasons.

“Basic” Travel, With a Twist
The Eiffel Tower and fine dining in Paris, the changing of the guard and Tower Bridge in London, Disneyland and celebrity spotting in California; these are the “basic” trips, the ones which take in the most prestigious landmarks and popular activities, featuring postcard-perfect pictures and the occasional bout of eye rolling from seasoned travellers who want to strike their own trail. Yet what on earth is wrong with experiencing the things you’ve known a city for since you were young enough to first be learning about the world? There are tourist traps, of course, with plenty of over-hyped and overpriced spots, but on your first visit somewhere there’s nothing wrong with experiencing a Hawaii luau or Buckingham Palace. Millions may flock there, but you haven’t yet, and postcards will never substitute for a picture of your very own. Of course, these trips are best with a twist - do your research, and don’t stick entirely to script. The best Hawaii luaus aren’t held at hotels, after all, and while in NYC you might prefer an off-Broadway production instead of Les Miserables. Look for hidden gems, but don’t be ashamed to check out the crown jewels.

Cruises, All-Inclusive, And Sunbathing
Another very popular trip is almost entirely based around relaxing and feeling pampered. There’s sure to be excursions to everything from historical sites and ruins to shopping meccas, as well as plenty of sports, snorkeling, and more, but the basic premise is sun and surf, an abundance of good food and drink, and the chance to let go of your worries. Cruises are as popular as they are for a good reason, as are all-inclusive resorts, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking this kind of vacation if it’s what you want out of your trip. Don’t be afraid of trying different things, though, like spending part of your trip at an all-inclusive and part of it in the urban heart of an exciting new city. Also, be aware of your resort or cruise’s ethical and environmental policies; nothing spoils a holiday glow more than worrying about the damage you may inadvertently be doing.

Written by Susie King
Contributor Susie King worked in tourism for much of her twenties, but when her first child was born she switched to freelance writing.  Now she spends much of her time as a writer contributing to travel sites, blogs, and online publications.

© The Traveling Barnacle


World Cup Fever. It's on.  And apparently it's happening here in San Diego more than most other U.S. cities.  'America's finest city' is ranked 5th in the nation for overall viewership, behind Washington D.C., NYC, San Francisco and L.A.  Which as someone who resides in the sunny so-cal destination am finding hard to believe.  As I write this the final is well underway.  Germany has had the ball for most of the game so far and no one is complaining.  We're Germany supporters here in California.  Our make-shift red, yellow and black outfits were thrown together this morning, most likely after we 'googled' who was actually playing today.  But from the inside of a bar, it's not about Germany or Argentina, it's about having an excuse to be at a bar on a Sunday morning, to have a beer in your hand, surrounded by hundreds of others who believe it or not are chanting "U-S-A-U-S-A-U-S-A".

Who says America doesn't like Soccer?

The crowds watch the jumbo screen in North Park
Those of you who realize for us Americans the World Cup has never been about the actual game.  They say we're in a futbol frenzy, but perhaps it's just another excuse to get all dressed up, take a moment out of our overworked and underpaid lives and celebrate.  And whoever wins, we're make sure to chant "U-S-A-U-S-A" the entire time.

© The Traveling Barnacle

Do the Stingray Shuffle

"You have to do the stingray shuffle!" He said as we dipped our toes into the Pacific Ocean.  The what?

Stingrays made international headlines when 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin was fatally stabbed while filming near the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland, Australia in 2006.  His cameraman watched as the animal lover was stabbed "hundreds of times" by what he described as a "massive" stingray.  They were ironically filming a documentary called "Ocean's deadliest", when he got too close to the ray.  It's jagged barb when through Irwin's heart, while he was standing in waist high water, killing him in just moments.

Growing up in New England, stingrays were a complete mystery to me.  Sure we had great white sharks, jellyfish and the occasional eel, but stingrays were strange exotic wasps of warmer waters.  So when I moved to San Diego and was told they were here in the thousands, my first thought was of the late great Mr. Irwin.

Would I have the same fate?

Fortunately for both myself and water loving San Diegans, our stingrays are itty bitty compared to the waters of Australia.  And while they do sting, it's not going to kill you.  The rays hang out in shallow warm sandy waters.  When someone steps on them, that's when they strike.  But who can blame them?  If someone stepped on me while I was enjoying my hot summer day I'd strike them down with whatever power I could muster.  The rays have stingers on the tip of their tails, much like a bumble bee or wasp.  So in order to avoid their swift sting, beach goers simply shuffle their feet, kicking the sand around the rays to let them know they're heading their way.  Thus the stingray shuffle is born.

Meet my new friend: Ray
If you feel something squishy under your feet, move! If you are stung, the only true solution to ease the pain is hot water.  It's not necessarily the sting that hurts but the Nero-toxin poison that coats the tip of the barb.  First rule of thumb, don't panic.  Heavy breathing, running, panicking, it all ends up with a rise in blood pressure which you guessed it, circulates that poison into your blood stream that much faster.  And yes it hurts.  Seal Beach Lifeguard Jake Howard says he's treated a woman who compared the sting to child birth, watched a full grown tattooed burly men "cry like sissies", but he's also had little girls walk away without shedding a tear.  Either way, soak the wound in hot water as soon as possible, clean the wound and simply wait.  The pain will pass over time and so will the poison.

"Why do you know so much about the stingray shuffle?" A friend recently asked while at the beach.  I explained my upbringing, how rays were never something I needed to worry about.  My fear of being stung had fuelled my research on how to be safe, and if I was stung what I needed to do to make sure I didn't end up like Irwin.

My first shuffle was sometime last year and since then, I've come to love these little bumble bees of the sea.  So naturally when the newsroom did a weekend morning segment on the buggers I was the first to stick my hand in the tub.

© The Traveling Barnacle

America's Finest Tourist

For travelers, being a 'tourist' is one of the worst things one can become.  They're travelers not tourists.  They experience, taste, feel, see, get involved, and take to the unknown by the seat of their pants.  Tourists tend to let themselves be guided by the latest edition of Lonely Planet, following those before them, taking advice from the "experts", from "travelers" who paved their incredibly well trodden path.

But there is something about being a tourist that can be fun.  Seeing the sights just because, following a Lonely Planet or the advice of every single travel blogger or Buzzfeeds top things to see list.  Personally I consider myself somewhere in between.  Traveling is a balance of taking the advice of those that have ventured before me, while paving my own path.  I may not always have a Lonely Planet in hand, but I have researched and created a list of my top things to see before heading to my destination.

I recently began a new job that puts me into tourist shoes each and every day.  I plan activities for foreign students studying English in San Diego, California. The zoo, the aquarium, the beach, numerous museums, neighborhoods, and day trips beyond 'America's Finest City'.  Many of these places I have not yet been as a tourist or a traveler.  So I explore them with an open mind; seeing them for the first time along side students who are not only experiencing San Diego for the first time, but American culture for the first time.  It brings back a renewed sense of Culture Shock as I began to dissect the city I call home.

The U.S.S. Midway Museum

The aircraft carrier now sits permanently docked in San Diego harbor, offering tourists, veterans, and locals a glimpse at not only San Diego's military history, but what life is like for those living aboard these massive ships at sea.  Meandering through the tight hallways in the bowls of the ship, the claustrophobia sets in as you see where brave men once slept, showered, ate, and prepared for battle.  The trail of artifacts finally leads you to the top deck, where you walk in between jet fighters, helicopters, just few among the two dozen aircraft parked in the sunshine.

Pros: The roof deck offers a view of the city from the water's surface.  And for Military enthusiasts the museum is informative and their collection of aircraft is pretty incredible.

Cons: Those who don't appreciate tight spaces, this isn't the museum for you.

Birch Aquarium

Coming from a city with an Aquarium that one can spend all day and still not see every tentacle, the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla can be more than disappointing.  But San Diego's only aquarium isn't intended for entertainment purposes but educational ones.  Owned and operated by UCSD Scripps Institute for Oceanography, the aquarium was created for research.  The Aquarium is divided into three small sections: The main exhibition which shows visitors what is in the local oceans, running from northern California all the way down Baja.  The second half has very little to see, but it's reading material could take a good hour if you were looking for information. And finally both sides of the facility pool out into a Tide Pool Exhibit, where visitors can touch starfish and sea cucumbers.

Pros: The view.  Ok so I'm obviously a sucker for a beautiful view but check it out! Also there is a giant octopus which I honestly could watch wriggle around all day long.

Cons: The Tide Pool exhibit is kind of lacking.  There are strict rules about actually picking up the starfish or sea cucumbers.  Unlike at SeaWorld where you can hold anything you'd like, including the Rays as long as you keep them under water.  And the biggest con?  It's obvious size, not only with the actual building but the largest underwater creature on site is a 3 foot leopard shark.

Seaport Village

Seriously what is better than souvenir shops, over priced beach gear, kites, and even more expensive restaurants offering the best of "San Diegan" dining?  Well most things are better than that.  But Seaport Village has an allure of it's own.  The small cluster of shops, cafes, and restaurants, sit facing the Bay with an excellent view of Coronado and it's magnificent bridge.

Pros: Great place to walk around, grab a coffee, and sit in the sun.  Make sure you check out the massive kites flying high above the embarcadero park.  And give the man balancing rocks a penny, because well... have you ever tried balancing rocks?

Helpful Hint: There is a lousy pizzeria located on the water front.  Forget the pizza and opt for their $9 pitchers of beer.  Sit on their outside porch and people watch, order another pitcher, repeat.

Cons: There isn't actually anything useful to purchase.  The overpriced art galleries are fun to walk around but don't dare show any interest of actually spending thousands on a piece, or you'll have the over zealous sales rep making arrangements to steal your first born.

San Diego Zoo

Holy Moly.  A trip to San Diego wouldn't be complete without a trip to it's world famous zoo.  Not only do they have Giant Pandas, lions, tigers, and of course bears, but even Noah would be impressed.  It was founded over 100 years ago, which is pretty impressive for the West Coast.  And it's the largest zoological association in the world.  But it's not just a place with animals in cages, the zoo was founded as a research facility and continues to be as such.  It's home to over 3,700 rare and endangered animals.  And if the cute and furry aren't you're scene, then they've got a huge botanical collection as well, housing over 700,000 exotic plants.  Not impressed?  I don't believe you.

Pros: There is a great tram to see the entire park, which I'd highly recommend before venturing out on foot (or even venturing on foot at all).  Plus they've got a snake exhibit that would give that rotten Dursley boy a run for his money.  Did I mention the zoo is one of the largest conservation projects in the entire world?  That's right they're actually helping the animals rather than putting them in cages for your enjoyment.

Cons: The entire zoo is shaped like a taco shell, with good juicy meaty bits (the Pandas obviously) are located in the bottom center.  Meaning, once you've seen the Panda's it's all uphill from there, literally.

© The Traveling Barnacle

The FAIRest in all the County

It's that time of year again.  Summertime.  When everything becomes deep fried, to the food at the county fair to the tan lines left on your shoulders.  Hot summer days and warm summer nights come one right after the other, and you find the weeks blending into one another into that familiar seasonal haze.

A few weeks ago I was invited to a media preview of the San Diego County fair before it opened to the public.  Treated like the V.I.P. my job labels me as, sampling the fried delicacies, drinking a few thousand beer samples, and even watching an elephant paint his latest masterpiece.  It was the fair at it's finest, without the screaming children, long lines, or hefty price tags for bottled water.

Inevitably I ventured back once the doors opened to the public.  Back for more corn dogs, fried oreos, over priced beer, and southern California's largest horse.  This time I battled lines, listened to screaming children, and watched tired families fight over the summer haze.

So what is it that we Americans love about the summer fair?  It's not a new event, in fact there have been fairs very similar to what we have today dating back to the 15th century.  It was a place to display the best of the lands, from produce, animals, and the like.  All set up in an exhibition style.  Now a days you can see the "world's largest horse" next to the latest and greatest version of Jacuzzis, robotics and wine slushies.  One thing has remained the same over the centuries, the fair has always been first and foremost about entertainment.

But even before the 15th century, the Romans would host fairs.  These events were usually partnered with a holiday and festival, dedicated to a patron saint, or before Christianity a god or goddess.  Many of these gatherings were held in churchyards, a tradition that has translated into many small towns across the United States, where the local church is the first to host the summer fairs or festivals.

In San Diego, the county fair is at the famous Del Mar Fairgrounds.  The event began in 1880 as an agricultural fair, before settling into the fairgrounds as it's annual home in 1936. Today, it draws in over a million visitors each year, all in search of fried foods, rides, and of course the world's newest "largest" horse.  In the past decade the fair has adopted an annual theme.  This year in honor of the Beatles 50th anniversary since the British Invasion reached American shores, it's been named The FAB fair.  It features all things Brit, including the Queen's Guards and even a replica of Abbey road.

The event closes the hatch on this year's yellow submarine today (the 6th of July), but you can bet it'll be back next year for more deep fried entertainment and an even bigger horse.

© The Traveling Barnacle


The fourth of July has always been a strange one for me.  Raised by a first generation mother, and a true cockney bloke of a father, the holiday was never about how many stars and stripes one could drape over themselves, going to the beach, eating colorful jello, and barbeque's galore. It was simply another day in July.

After living abroad for most of my adult life, the fourth of July continued to simply be another day in July.  Sure some co-workers would offer up their happy independence day wishes and maybe throw a red white and blue quip into the normal conversation but the day never became more than simply that, another day.

Now that I'm living in southern California, land of beers, beaches and bikinis, the fourth of July is an entirely different animal.  Red, white and blue is a requirement and the barbeque's never end.  Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, white wine spritzers with berries (strawberries for red, blueberries for blue).  They all seem to follow the theme.  The more ridiculous you look the more American you feel.  If you're not at the beach, you're most likely the only one.   The flag is the ultimate in dress code, even when wearing an itty bitty thong bikini.  The more skin the better, where else are you going to stick that American eagle tattoo?  It looks best on your rear anyways. As I shouted my dutiful "All hail Amurikah", I began to understand the holiday.  It has nothing to do with our independence, nothing to do with our history, but everything to do with what our country has come to represent.  Beer, bitches, bikinis, and if you can somehow make all three of those things emulate the flag, you're winning.

So on this holiday weekend I wear my red, white and blue, and raise a glass to every American stereotype I can muster. #winning.

© The Traveling Barnacle

You Sound like You're from LONDON!

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With or without an accent, when I say "Pardon me, where is your rubbish bin?" I get the same response.  So in honor of the 4th of July, America's freedom from it's motherland, here is a helpful chart to show you just what I mean when I ask for a biscuit, or that I'm on my way to the chemist to buy a box of plasters.

© The Traveling Barnacle

Which way is home?

"Take the highway East" it read.  It made no sense to me.  I was trying to go away from the ocean not towards it!  Then it hit me.  I'm not on the East Coast anymore.

Actually I haven't been on the East Coast since 2006, when I moved to London.  And for nearly the last two years I've been living in California and still (just like my right and left) the concept of East and West baffles me.  East was always the direction of the water in Boston.  The further west you went, the more red neck hick you seemed to get.  Here it's simply the opposite.  East County jokes are a dime a dozen, it's the California version of red neck, although I'll be the first to admit, both breeds have more furniture on their lawns than in their actual house.

But I digress.  As I drove East towards Ikea, the shopping malls and ultimately towards the rest of the United States of America, I glanced in my rear view mirror with the westward ocean to my back and began to think of "home".   We're told home is where your heart is.  It's where you make it.  Whether you need certain things to feel at home is an entirely different matter.  Personally home has never been a place but rather a state of mind, one where the ocean is to the East and the red necks to the West.  Home is an amalgamation of everything I have been, everywhere I am going, and everything I have yet to become.  My idea of "home" is a sense of self rather than an actual place or feeling.  It's an ever changing essence of character, thought, and maybe throw in a pair of slippers for comfort and I could be home anywhere.  Give me a few more years and my home will have transformed into a place where the ocean is always to the West.

Maybe not.

When I order ice cream, the sprinkles will always be called 'jimmies', the D.M.V.? don't you mean the R.M.V.? And your water fountain is my water bubbler.  I come from a land where the lobster is always buttered (even as McDonalds) and ice cream is a staple year round, the best flavors come out around Christmas in below 10 degrees Fahrenheit anyways.  My "home" will never be yours, whether we grew up in the same place, neighborhood, state, country, or generation.

I packed up the car and began driving West, home towards the sea.

© The Traveling Barnacle

Close Encounters of the St. Maarten Kind

My obsession with black and white photography paired with travel has literally taken flight in a new book created by photographers, Josef and Jakob Hoflehner.  The Princess Juliana International airport is the culprit behind these incredible shots.  Because the tarmac is so short, planes must get as low to the ground as possible before that epic wheel touch.  Even their website celebrates "70 years of Spectacular landings", the airport itself is a huge draw for tourists visiting the island of St. Maarten.  

All photographs courtesy of Josef and Jakob Hoflehner
Of course signs warn of the danger, the fact the plane is nearly landing on the beach, the blast you could face with a plane literally landing on top of you.  And that's not even getting into take-off....
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Summer Travel Inspiration

The kicker is once you've been bitten you're going to be itching for as long as you live.  
The travel bug has no mercy.

Always remember adventure awaits
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You are not my Father. You are not my Mother.

You were never my father or my mother in a traditional sense.  You didn't take me for ice cream, kiss my "boo boos" or teach me lessons about what is right and what is wrong.  The lesson you taught me is one I'm continuing to learn, a lesson not about myself but about my mother and about my father.  About who they are as not only my 'parents' but as people.

You are my step parent.  You came into the picture way after my diapers needed changing and the endless amount of after school snacks needed constant refilling.  You met me on my way to becoming an adult.  I didn't need your guidance, I didn't need you to buy me an ice cream if I was having a bad day.

You happened after the storm.

Whether it's a separation, divorce, or a death, loosing a parent isn't easy.  Of course most children of divorce don't physically 'loose' a parent, but one parent suddenly becomes a transient.  Someone you as a child saw as so stable, moves out on their own, perhaps to a small apartment while they pick the pieces of their relationship off the floor and onto a shelf you as a child cannot yet reach.

You watch as both parents go through the storm in different ways.  Happiness, freedom, sadness, depression, anger, relief.  You watch the various stages of the people who raised you.  You watch as they transform into human beings, vulnerable, weak, strong, capable, and brilliant.

That's when they found you.

You brought them back to life.  You were their aid in the aftermath.  To children, to us
you are the enemy.  The replacement.  You are the change that creates something in their parents familiar eyes that suddenly makes them a stranger.  But what we step-children soon discover perhaps our first impression of your invasion, is the same thing that makes us love you in return. You are not a replacement, but you replace that twinkle in their eyes that perhaps maybe was never there to begin with.  You make us as children see what our parents transform into when someone loves them, when someone supports them.

You're not my mother or my father.  Holidays for these titles come and go and I'm not sure what to say.  Do I send a card?  Do I call?  You are not my father, you are not my mother.  You never were and you never will be.  But you are magnificent.  Not for your role in my life, but for your role in theirs.

© The Traveling Barnacle

One Year Old

It was a year ago.  You came into this world.  I remember getting a text late at night saying you were healthy, had 10 fingers and 10 toes.  I wished for a moment I could be there to hold you, to look at your incredibly strong young mother, to tell her she was doing something I wasn't strong enough to do at her age.  Before you took your first breath, kicking and screaming in that hospital room, your mother was merely a child herself.  But after that first inhale, she transformed, her cocoon of 9 months falling gently to the side, as you fell into her wings - safe and sound.

I remember the song on the radio that week, the nasal voice of Adam Levine on repeat:

But if I fall for you, I'll never recover
If I fall for you, I'll never be the same...

I think about you every single day
I know we're only half way there
But you can take me all the way, you can take me all the way

Who knew a song originally intended for a one-night stand would always bring me back to you.  But it doesn't matter, it won't ever matter.  Even a year later, when I hear those words, I think about your little smile, your blue eyes, the small curls in your hair and I know I'll never be the same.

So instead of Adam Levine, I celebrate with one of my favorites; Ingrid Michaelson

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