Her Packing List’s review of the Aeronaut

Have I mentioned that I’m currently obsessed with the Tom Bihn Aeronaut carryon/duffel/backpack?

A travel site for backpackers, Her Packing List, has recently posted a user review of the Aeronaut by Kit Whelan of Seek New Travel. Kit has used her Aeronaut bag heavily since 2009 and says it still looks almost-new. She calls it the Goldilocks bag, but warns that it’s not designed for carrying heavy loads for long periods of time.

Kit’s review makes me even more excited about the Aeronaut! Check out the full review for more details on how she’s used it and what her favorite features are. While you’re at it, check out Kit’s blog — she’s definitely getting added to my daily travel feed!

Summer vacations and relationship health

I’ll admit it: One reason that Hubs and I like weekend trips is that…well…we tend to squabble when we’re gone too long. 

We’re grad students. For us, that means our time together is feast or famine. We may spend nearly every hour together for a few weeks, then only see each for an hour or two per day the next week. We drive almost everywhere we go, even the 13 hour drive to New Jersey, so we bookend our trips with lot of time together in a cramped Honda Fit. So far, “quality time together” haven’t been a big priority on vacations.

But I know that will change soon. Very soon. Hubs and I will live apart for a year, and then we’ll both have “real jobs.” Reconnecting will become a more important goal during out shakeups and other vacations. The Gottman Institute, a leading research and intervention facility dedicated to strengthening romantic relationships, recently posted on their relationship blog about how to use summer vacations to make your partner a priority and increase intimacy in your relationship. Check it out!

Impatient

We still don’t have solid plans for our roadtrip, which will hopefully include one night at the Indiana Dunes and another in downtown Pittsburgh. Hubs just got an opportunity for a consulting gig, which will require travel to Panama sometime in the next month. We don’t have hotels booked, so we can be flexible…but I want to know so I can plan!

And neither of my guide books have come in yet. I should not complain, given that they’re both being shipped for free (and Pittsburgh warned me it would take 3-6 weeks), but Amazon has forever changed my expectations for shipping and handling delays.

In the meantime, what am I supposed to do? Focus on things like packing and finishing my dissertation? Talk about your major buzzkill!

To thine own heart be true — no matter what the guide books say

When I started thinking about doing this blog, I wanted to find what resources were out there. I didn’t find much, but one thing I found was this Forbes article about the 10 best cities for weekend visits. I was kind of impressed that #1 was Indianapolis, a city we’ve visited numerous times in the 6 years we’ve lived in Indiana.

We’ve had some great experiences in Indy. Some of our great early dates were along the Indy canal and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. We got married in a local courthouse a few weeks before our big family wedding, and we spent a long weekend at the historic Canterbury Hotel in May 2013 before our longer San Diego honeymoon in August 2013. We’ve enjoyed the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the Indiana State Museum. Hubs even took me to an Indianapolis Indians game the night we got married (they were playing the Scranton Yankees — quite amusing given that our allegiances are to the Cleveland Indians [the White girl] and the New York Yankees [the Brown guy]). We also love the malls around Indy, including Circle Center (inside beautifully preserved facades) and Keystone Mall. I love walking downtown and driving north on Meridian Street through historic neighborhoods. I’ve even been inside the beautiful Indiana Statehouse and always meant to take Hubs.

But I was a little embarrassed when I read the Forbes article. You see, with the exception of the Eiteljorg Museum, I’ve never done the things Indianapolis is known for, according to Forbes’ Larry Olmsted. We always said we’d do the Indy 500 while we’re here, but it’s always been too hot or too busy. I was only vaguely aware that Indianapolis had a zoo, much less that it was considered one of the top ten in the country. And while we’ve heard great things about the Children’s Museum, which is supposedly the largest in the world, we’ve never gone.

I decided that I couldn’t leave Indiana without having seen the Children’s Musuem. I mean, it’s just embarrassing to live so close to a place that others travel to, without seeing one of the big draws, right? Even if we don’t have kids with us, right? And costs almost $40 for the two of us? Right?

Hubs gets a total I-told-you-so on this one. Hopefully, I married a man who is too much of a gentleman to say it.

This isn’t to say the museum was bad or we didn’t have a good time. Hubs sucked it up like a champ, the crowds weren’t too bad, and we had fun together. The museum is really high quality throughout, and our favorite exhibits were Take Me There: Egypt and The Power of Children. We were both interested to learn how the museum teaches about life in other cultures and about dark moments in modern history.

In Take Me There: Egypt, exhibits nicely balanced showing differences without overly exoticizing. One hands-on part encouraged children to look through typical Egyptian children’s backpacks and think about what was similar and different from their own backpacks. It was interesting for me to see how Egypt, as depicted in the exhibit, was similar to my snapshot experiences of India. They even had a rickshaw, but it was still all black (India’s are going yellow/green as they convert to more environmentally friendly energy sources) and had much more legroom — no extra hip room, though!

The Power of Children described difficult events of the 20th century in clear, concrete ways and did not gloss over ways in which U.S. society and government contributed to problems. The exhibit highlighted issues of racial cleansing (Anne Frank), segregation and civil rights in the U.S. (Ruby Bridges), and the AIDS epidemic (Ryan White). We found the exhibit to be informative and interesting, though Hubs was happy to have Wikipedia at his fingertips each time we wanted more detail. The horror of the U.S. civil rights movement was made real yet again for me. When I’m exposed to that era of our national history, I become acutely aware that, for all the intersections of cultures, faiths, and backgrounds Hubs and I represent, we are seen first and foremost as an interracial couple. The U.S. civil rights movement is not “a Black thing” or “a minority thing,” but the flavor has changed for me as I realize that my marriage would not be possible without civil rights. My chosen soulmate, husband of my heart, rock, warrior, and helpmeet, is directly affected by the civil rights movement. And he’s considered a “model” or “privileged” minority. Today, the Children’s Museum helped me realize that these terrible events took place within our parents’ lifetimes. Ruby is just younger than our dads and just older than our moms. We started doing the math and realized that Hubs’s birth is closer to 1960 than it is to 2013, and my birth is smack-dab in the middle. That sense that these eras were so close to me, in the grand timeline of the universe, that I could almost reach out and touch them…that mistrust that we are as distant from these eras as we like to think we are…those will stay with me long after today. Although I do think that this exhibit appropriately “doses” the violence and pain of these events (with parent or class supervision), it is still powerful enough to move adults.

So we really did have a good time at the Children’s Museum, and I highly recommend it for families with children. But if I had it to do over again, I would go with my gut. Sometimes, you’ve lived somewhere for years and never done something because it’s not really your thing. We’re not Indy 500 people, and it’s too loud and crowded for us. That’s ok. I’m sure it’s a cool experience, but I highly doubt we’ll regret not going while we were here. But to say we went to a baseball game on our wedding night? And to know first-hand how community-friendly the Triple-A team’s Victory Field is? For us, that’s priceless.

I’m sure I’ll still do some things just because they’re famous. But part of developing expertise at the weekend shake-up is learning to be ok with our special flavor of travel. Our time would have been better spent visiting the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, or even just walking from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, through the Glick Peace Walk, to the canal once more. Maybe I’ll convince Hubs to give me one more chance at a last hurrah in Indianapolis. That might cost me an I-told-you-so.