I have spent a lot of time flying this year. Nearly 64,000 miles jetting from here to there. I have had insightful conversations, learned from million milers and have had my fair share of the middle seat. Some may think I would get tired of flying but every time I break through the clouds and see the wonder and beauty of this incredible world, I am awestruck. #wheelsup
A few things to learn from our experience here: it needs to be the right place to be worth it. Don’t get me wrong, every place we stayed was nice but we felt most comfortable in locations that were clearly vacation properties or made to be guesthouses. While staying in Boston, we stayed in someone’s home that felt a little too much like we were staying in a stranger’s home. When I woke up in the morning and saw a picture of her family member on the nightstand, it just felt like I was trespassing, I struggled to feel comfortable in her home. She was very welcoming and hospitable, it was just a learning curve for us with AirBnB.
AirBNB Newbie Checklist:
1. Set up clear expectations on arrival times and how to access the property. (make a plan B for if you need a late or early arrival, especially if the host does not live near the property).
2. Provide a description of your party when booking (if you have a child, if they need childproofing, how many are traveling, etc). Make the post personable.
3. Ask some questions. (Do they live there? If you plan on preparing any meals, is the kitchen stocked with any basics?)
4. Learn about the local area. (Ask the host if there is public transportation near by. Ask for take-out or local restaurant suggestions. Ask about the exterior of the property if it is in a hard to find location).
5. Treat the property as if it were your own and remember the basics you learned in kindergarten: Be respectful, be kind and clean up after yourself.
Our Newbie Experiences: (we recommend every place we visited with 5 stars!)
Burlington, VT (our favorite of the bunch)
I think we had an outstanding first experience in Vermont at the Carriage House in Burlington. Mary Ann left a chilled bottle of wine on the table to welcome us. Provided access to the property through a keyless code entry (that she sent ahead of our arrival). She stocked the pantry with spices and some Vermont products (coffee, cream, jam, peanut butter, soaps) and made sure we had laundry detergent. She checked in on us, but it never felt overbearing. The suite was beautifully designed and was clearly a guest house (with no personal belongings). It felt like renting a furnished condo with a fantastic welcome.
Wells Beach, ME
Our second experience was a vacation rental property steps from the beach. It wasn’t fancy, but it was good for what we needed. The kitchen was furnished but they didn’t provide any welcoming basics like Mary Ann in Vermont. They had a lobster pot which was perfect, but we did learn that we need to ask before we go to see if we need to bring a condo kit (spices, cooking stuff, cleaners, etc). There wasn’t a view but we knew that going in to it.
Our third property of the trip was in Boston. When we drove into an industrial looking area I was a little nervous. Casey’s place was on the third level and I wish we would have talked a little more, there was a dangerous stair case and it stressed me out with Maggie, but Doug figured out a solution and we kept a close eye on her. Like I said earlier, it was a very cool space, but Casey clearly lived there and we couldn’t get over how it felt like we were living in a stranger’s house.
So our personal guidelines for AirBnB:
1. Vacation Rentals – Yes
2. Guesthouses – Yes
3. Personal homes – not for us.
So will we use AirBnB again? Absolutely. You can’t beat the unique vacation experiences. However, our suggestion is to overly communicate with the hosts to have clear expectations and enjoy to the fullest.
Every Christmas we visit my family, and that means a roadtrip down South. Either Mobile, Alabama or Tampa, Florida. This year we went through Kentucky and stopped at Mammoth Caves, one of my favorite national parks. We scheduled a tour and had about an hour to spare before it started so we took a family hike down to the river. It was a crisp day but we enjoyed every minute. Didn’t get too many great shots of the cave, but Maggie would say the highlight was the bus ride to the entrance. Gotta love a 3-year-old’s perspective on the world.
If you ever get a chance, don’t pass up one of God’s greatest wonders of the world.
We were looking forward to all things lobster on this trip and our many lobster rolls did not disappoint. However, my favorite #lobsterfest experience was our impromptu lobster broil on the beach. We were getting an epic lobster roll from the 5 Islands Lobster Company (found through this wsj review on the best lobster rolls in Maine). The location is probably a postcard somewhere. It was beautiful, hard to find and quintessentially Maine. The marina had a fry shack, creamery stand and a lobster shack at the end of the dock where you could buy the “bugs” fresh from the boat. Something new that we saw throughout Maine was the soft shell lobster (only available fresh because they can’t be shipped). The meat inside is sweeter and a bit smaller than the traditional hard shell and it surprised us how easy it was to just break open the shell when cooked.
Maggie and Doug picked out the lobsters in the back room. We found a fantastic recipe online as our foundation and added some of our favorite ingrediants, and picking up some fresh clams, sausage, corn, garlic, beer, potatoes and onions. And in about an hour, we had the makings of our feast.
We cooked the boil in our condo (because open fires weren’t allowed on the beach). We were only a few steps away from the beach so we packed up the finished product in a box with two wine glasses, some fantastic Vermont Cider and our beach bag.
Maggie had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and played in the sand while we had quite the feast while watching the sunset. It was a gorgeous night and the lobster was some of the best I have ever tasted. It was the perfect vacation moment. I felt loved, fulfilled and happy to be with those I love most in one of the most beautiful places in America.
Recipe: Beer Lobster Boil
2 Live Lobsters
1 Pound of Clams (Make sure to clean them properly)
3 Garlic Gloves, sliced
Medium Onion, diced
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Can (tall boy) of Pilsner Beer
2 Ears of Corn (Cut in halves)
1-2 Pounds of Small Redskin Potatoes
Half Pound of Andouille Sausage
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large boil pot, sautee onion and garlic in the butter until translucent. Add quartered sausage and sear for about 3-5 minutes. Add the beer and deglaze the pot. Add corn and potatoes to the pot. Layer the clams and Lobsters on top. Squeeze half a lemon’s juice into the pot. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Steam for about 15-20 minutes or until the lobsters are bright red (make sure they are fire-engine red in order to be done). The clams should also be open (if there are some that are not – be sure to discard). Remove the corn, potatoes, sausage, clams and lobster from the pot and reduce the liquid in the pot for about 3-5 minutes. Reserve a cup of liquid for dipping sauce. Assemble all the elements into a picnic basket with shellfish crackers/kitchen shears. Take a white wine or great craft beer and enjoy boil on the beach with a beautiful sunset view.
Standing on the beach tonight reminded me why I love to travel so much. While I agree that it offers an escape, it also helps me see the world as a much smaller place. When I travel from a mountain to the ocean in one day and enjoy the ride with those I love most, it helps me to put life into perspective and see that we all are sharing one connected community. Exploring, adventures and having conversations with strangers along the way is a gift. We met so many people this week while on our road trip through New England. Everyone had a story to share, like the New Yorkers spending their Labor day in Maine in the condo next to us. They helped us carry our cooler up the stairs and played with Maggie. Or the mother/son duo from New Hampshire that is doing a beer themed road trip together that we met waiting in line at Hill Farm Stead. Everyone has a story and often a great bit of advice, from the best beer taps in Maine to the perfect lobster role and even how to tame a wild two-year-old.
This week has been an adventure and one full of many stories. I vowed to myself that if the blog ever became a chore, I would take a break. And as a new job, getting our house ready for sale and life got in the way, this summer deserved a break. And now, I have been inspired once again to share my finds.