Dear Jet Lag,

I do not appreciate the constant fatigue at 3 in the afternoon. You interfere with my plans. I also do not appreciate you continuously waking me up during the night. (However I am surprisingly productive between the hours of 5 and 8 am.)

Please be gone by the end of the week. Thank you.

Sincerely,

The tired traveler

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International Waters

How do you go about packing for huge changes in your life? It all boils down to what is essential. This is when you find out what you really need to survive. It’s exhilarating. I’m tempted to throw out everything I didn’t pack (but its just a thought).

Waking up Wednesday morning, just like any other day I don’t want to get out of bed. I hang on to my last moments of sleep as I know I’m about to go without it for some time. Then I realize what today is and how many things I need to do. No big event in my life ever seems real till the day it happens. I don my comfy, all-black travel outfit and I am out the door.

After a hectic drive through Manhattan, we begin to approach JFK. That is when butterflies in my stomach suddenly appeared. The realization slowly creeps over me, I am leaving. Again. The little voice in the back of my mind reminds me, I’ve done this before, no big deal.

I drag my luggage through the airport, check in, and manage my way through security. I finally find my gate, where I sit down on an empty row of chairs. I give myself a moment to catch my breath before whipping out the cell phone to begin my goodbye calls. My stomach is growling. I’ve burned through my donut breakfast, which I scarfed down while driving.

Boarding proceeds and I find myself sitting on the plane. Time to turn it off. Time to turn off the phone which has previously spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, ready and waiting in my front left pocket. Now I have to turn it off, without knowing when I’ll be using it again. Time for take off. Just like every other flight. The familiar speech about finding the nearest exit, no smoking, and how to buckle a seatbelt makes me feel calm. And we are off!

I was starving in the airport but on the plane my appetite is gone. The butterflies in my stomach have returned. I have a free plate of food and I’m too excited to eat. They serve dinner and breakfast. I watch 2 movies, read my book, and nervously fidget, unable to sleep.

We land. I wander through the Parisian airport, following the crowd, like a herd of lost sheep. The customs agent stamps my passport. I love to hear that sound! I collect my bag and proceed to the train station. I follow my uncle’s instructions: buy a ticket, take the RER train into Paris. Every one around looks as lost as I do. Dragging my suitcase up and down escalators and the occasional staircase makes me sweat, or maybe it’s my nerves? Finally I manage a seat on the train.

Quickly the train changes from empty to packed. People are not happy to see a suitcase taking up valuable floor space but I am helplessly trapped in a thick crowd. Luckily I stay near the doorway to make my quick escape. In the city, I walk through the park to my uncle’s apartment.

I look so out of place wandering through nature, surrounded by runners. I lug my two suitcases behind me. While I might fall over a million times, trip every 5 feet, I laugh and look around. What does it matter? I’m in Paris!

I am greeted my uncle outside his apartment. “Oh you packed light?” HA! My aching body would beg to differ.

I shower. Glorious shower. Fresh and clean, I change into a pair of light blue jeans and wrinkled white shirt. Looking at myself in the mirror I see a much brighter image than my all black traveling outfit. It helps with the bags under my eyes. My hands are red and blistered from lugging around my beast of a suitcase.

I sip some tea before we set off on my introductory walk. I get some breakfast from the French bakery. I am in awe of the buildings and streets and everything around just oozing Parisian style. The city smells different, looks different, sounds different. Fresh bread wafts through the air. It really is all I expected and more. Walking back I am exhausted. I am sore all over. Now comes the realization I have been awake for over 24 hours.

Drifting to sleep, I day dream about the upcoming months. Starting a new life in a new country. Again. It could be wonderful or it could be terrifying. I have just jumped into unknown waters, but I’ve done this swim before.

LAKE HARMONY, PENNSYLVANIA (THE POCONOS)

If you are looking for a cheap vacation spot to share with a large group of friends, rent a lake house in the Poconos! The neighborhood surrounding Lake Harmony is full of huge lodge style houses which sleep anywhere from 10 to 20 people (depending on how close you are with your family). Some are pet friendly! Along with the house you get a lake pass for the small beach at the end of the road. 15 minute drive away from grocery store and Dunkin Donuts. Check out Vacation Rentals By Owner, a great website my family has used multiple times.

The wood cabin house was cozy and relaxing. A hot tub and pool table in the lower level, televisions with cable, a fire pit for roasting s’mores, and deer right in your backyard! The big dining room table is perfect for family dinners or spreading out to play some Jenga. At night, you can gaze up at the stars or take a walk down to the water for some midnight swimming.

Walking distance down the road is the Split Rock resort with indoor water park movie theater, mini golf and more! The attractions are open to the public for a $1 parking fee.

15 minutes away from multiple parks including Hickory Run State Park where you can find a larger beach and endless hiking trails.

Along the streets of Lake Harmony you can find Piggy’s Restaurant right next to Hog Heaven ice cream. Nick’s Lake House is always busy, as is Shenanigans later in the evening. Friday and Saturday they advertise karaoke.

Tuesday night special, enjoy a crab leg dinner at the Boulder View Tavern, just down the road.

If you feel like working for your dinner, you can hit the lake with your fishing pole! Bass and catfish are practically jumping onto the hooks, ready to be caught and fried.

Saturday morning relax with a walk around the enormous Blakeslee flea market. I bought a number of items including my new favorite purse! Or if you need some serious shopping, take a 30 minute drive to The Crossings outlet mall.

Take a drive 17 miles to historic Jim Thorpe. You will find a groovy town filled with used books stores, coffee shops, and tie dye clothing.

Doggy spotty: Helga! The friendly next door neighbor dog.

The vacation was fun for everyone. Our dogs came home exhausted! And even if it rains (like it did 75% of our trip) there are many great things to do with whole family.