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Katie Miranda: Changing the World Conversation, One Piece of Jewelry at a Time

Katie Miranda: Changing the World Conversation, One Piece of Jewelry at a Time | CosmosMariners.com

One of the things that I love most about traveling is how it forces me to stare stereotypes straight in the eye. It’s one thing to hear about a region, country, or culture on the news, and it’s something completely different to be on the ground in that location meeting the locals, eating the food, smelling the air. I cannot think of one trip that I’ve taken when I’ve not come away from it with a deeper, richer appreciation of the people and the culture that I had the opportunity to embrace.

Our 2017 Travel Wishlist

Our 2017 Travel Wishlist | CosmosMariners.com

As the new year looms, I've started doing one of my favorite things: picking out where we might go in the coming 12 months. 

Since we traveled far less in 2016 than we did in 2015 (due to my 2nd pregnancy), I'm excited to have so many possibilities open to us. No more worrying about the Zika virus! No more wondering how I could travel without panicking about being so far from my doctor! No more waddling and being tired!

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com

The Golden Gate Bridge, Hearst Castle, Yosemite: these iconic California locations are also reminders of major events in the state's history. For nearly 30 years after its construction, the Golden Gate Bridge was the world's longest suspension bridge, Hearst Castle was the home of newspaper magnet (and the man behind the yellow journalism of the Spanish-American War, William Randolph Hearst, and Yosemite was the first land put aside for public use (though it wasn't the first national park--Yellowstone holds that title).

Even if you've never set foot in California, you've heard of these three places, which speaks to just how important they are.

Oops!: 20 Crazy Travel Fails by Travel Bloggers

Oops!: 20 Crazy Travel Fails by Travel Bloggers | CosmosMariners.com

Travel: it's always interesting, even if it's not always perfect.

From missed flights to rental car issues to strange encounters with locals, there's always something that could go wrong while you're traveling. Whether that travel fail makes or breaks your trip is up to how to deal with it: some travel fails can turn into the best times.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery

 Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

I don't know when I first heard about my grandmother's brother.

I had to be very young because I remember always knowing that my great-uncle Ernest was killed in World War II. He'd been killed by friendly fire towards the end of the war, my grandmother had told me. On rare occasions, she'd take out his Purple Heart (which was normally kept in its box in the dining room sideboard) and let us see it.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com
My great-uncle Ernest (on the right) in the only picture that my grandmother has of him
Even decades later, it was obvious to me that Ernest's death had greatly affected my grandma. After he'd been killed, he'd been buried in Luxembourg. We weren't sure why my great-grandfather had chosen to leave his son's body there: it would've been free to have it shipped home.

At some point, the idea of going to the Luxembourg American Cemetery began to be bandied about between my grandmother, my grandfather, and my mom. My grandfather was actually very close to my great-uncle Ernest--it was because of their friendship that my grandparents actually met. I imagine that my grandfather, who was a World War II Pacific theatre veteran, would have liked visiting his old friend one last time.

My grandparents were going to Germany and Luxembourg to see the grave back in 2001--but, just days before they left, 9/11 happened. They got spooked, canceled the trip, and never planned another. My grandfather passed away in late 2013 without ever going on that journey.

About a year ago, my grandmother began talking about finally going to see Ernest's grave. She wanted us to come with her, and our preliminary plans began to take shape.

As we firmed up our itinerary, it became obvious that my grandmother wouldn't be able to keep up. She's still in great health, but she has trouble walking long distances. About 8 months ago, she decided that she wasn't going, but she wanted the rest of us to keep planning the trip in her absence.

A month ago, my mom, dad, sister, daughter, and I climbed aboard a plane to begin our journey towards finally seeing my great-uncle Ernest's final resting place. After 10 days of working our way across southern and western Germany, we arrived in Luxembourg, and, on a foggy fall morning, we entered the golden gates of the American Cemetery.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

The superintendent of the site greeted us and took us around the cemetery, sharing details about the construction of the cemetery, the fighting in and around Luxembourg, and current operations.

I'd done a little research before I'd left home and discovered that my great-uncle Ernest had been a member of the 166th Engineer Battalion. He'd enlisted in mid-1943, been a part of the Utah Beach invasion (one of five areas that were part of the D-Day offensive), and had helped construct bridges and roads with Patton's army between Normandy, France, and Luxembourg City.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com
Display at the cemetery showing the Battle of the Bulge
When he was killed in March 1945, he was only 2 months shy of surviving the war: V-E Day was May 8, 1945. Ernest survived the Battle of the Bulge, only to be killed when he stepped on one of our own land mines.

Learning these details about him made me feel as if I knew him a little bit. He died before my mom was born, so my only way to know him is through my grandmother's stories and what I can find through my research.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

As the superintendent led us towards Ernest's grave, I was sobered by the thousands of white headstones stretching out on the green grass. All of these men (and 1 woman) died thousands of miles from home away from the people they loved.

When we arrived at Ernest's headstone, I couldn't believe that we'd actually made it. I'd heard about this moment my entire life, and we were there, fulfilling a goal that my grandparents had wanted for decades.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

We paid our respects and stood quietly at his grave for several moments. I was moved to be there in this place with my great-uncle, a place that is so far from his hometown of Florence, South Carolina.

I have no idea what happens to us after we die, but I hope that, wherever he is, my uncle knows that his family still loves him. When we got back to Charleston and showed these pictures to my grandmother, she cried. She was so glad to hear that her brother had finally had some company.

We also took the time to look at the rest of the cemetery, which is immaculate. A team of soldiers comes to clean all 5,076 headstones each week. The grass is kept trimmed and free of weeds. It's wonderful to know that, if these people couldn't be buried in their hometowns, they're still taken care of--even 70 years after the war ended.

If you visit, take time to visit the memorial, which has a beautiful mosaic ceiling that took an Italian craftsman 18 months to construct.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

Ultimately, this is what travel is all about to me: finding those moments where emotion, personal interest, and history intersect. I feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to travel to Luxembourg and experience that moment with my family.

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A New Tradition: 8 Reasons to Take a Family Holiday Instead of Exchanging Gifts

About this time each year, I start thinking about what I'm going to give my family for Christmas. Lists are made, budgets are created, and I spend hours scouring the internet for gift ideas.

More often than not, I'm usually panicking come December 20th since I either can't come up with a decent present or I've remembered even more people who need gifts.  On more than one occasion, I've thought, "I wish we could just forget the gifts and spend more time together!"

Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland
Best 28th birthday present ever!
In fact, my husband and I have nearly done away with gifts all together for our anniversary and birthdays, as we both love to give new travel opportunities or experiences to one another. For my 28th birthday, we went to Scotland. For our fifth anniversary, we went on a Caribbean cruise. And, for my birthday this year, I got season tickets to the Dock Street Theatre here in Charleston.

We'll probably continue to do gifts for the next year or so for my daughter, but I would love to make a tradition of giving a family holiday to her once she's older. Here's why:

1) It's unexpected. 

Giving gifts during the holiday season is what you do. I'm all for contributing to the office gift exchange or continuing to do the present thing with grandparents and cousins. At least within your insular family, you can go countercultural and give experiences instead of more stuff.

2) Your kids will never forget it. 
Traveling with my parents and sister was (and still is!) one of my favorite parts of childhood. My sister and I still sit around the table at my parents' house and laugh about stuff we saw and did on some of those trips.

I'm a huge proponent of family travel, as it gives you a chance to bond and step out of the ordinary. Plus, imagine your kids' eyes when they come down on Christmas morning to see their bags packed and a big sign that says, "We're going to (insert destination of your choice)!" Even as an adult, I would flip out about that!

3) Your kids already have enough toys. 

Between friends, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, I promise that your child will not feel neglected if you substitute a family holiday for 20 boxes of the hottest new toys. Chances are, those toys will all be broken and/or stuffed under the bed by February 1st anyway.

4) It will give you more time together. 

If you ask most parents what they want, you're likely to hear "more time with my kids." You can't exactly wrap up more time in shiny ribbon, but you can budget for a vacation--and the end result is the same. Unwind, leave the phones and tablets at home, and experience what you love about your family for a few days. It will be much better than hearing your kids argue about which toys are theirs.

5) It could be less expensive than giving gifts (depending on where you go). 

A family holiday doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg--unless you want it to. There's something out there for every family's budget from all-inclusive family friendly resorts to cabins in a nearby state park.

If you're used to splashing out on extravagant electronics and toys, your Christmas budget could easily be exchanged for a few days elsewhere.

If you're more budget minded during the holidays, you could plan a staycation in a local hotel and finally go see a few of those sites you've been meaning to visit with your family.

6) You don't have to clean up all of that wrapping paper.

Unwrapping presents is fun. Cleaning up all of the tape, wrapping paper, and boxing isn't.

7) Traveling is an incredible educational experience. 

A family holiday isn't just about enjoying one another's company. It's also about discovering new things about each other and the places around you. Going on a trip together changes the dynamics of your family, so your kids can see their family group in a new light. They might learn that Dad can hula with the best of them or that Mom can't get enough of the hotel's water park!

If you choose to go somewhere with museums or a historical focus, your kids can learn so much. I remember going to Paris the semester after I'd studied the French Revolution--seeing the Conciergerie after hearing about the Reign of Terror made what I'd learned real. Learning isn't just for school, and it's always better in the company of the people you love.

8) It puts the focus of the holiday on people instead of things. 

Joy. Love. New beginnings.

We hear those same themes over and over again throughout the holiday season. What better way to spend the holiday than focusing on the most important people in your life?

If foregoing presents completely seems a too extreme for you, commit to a family holiday, but also include a small gift component, too. You can put a very limited budget on the gifts (say, $5 for each person) or you can tell everyone to get creative and only give handmade gifts. You'll retain the fun factor of gift giving while retaining the majority of your budget for your family holiday.

You could also start by doing smaller trips for birthdays and other special times for your family before changing your Christmas traditions. It might make for an easier tradition for kids who aren't too sure about the idea.

What's your favorite part of the holiday season? Would you consider swapping out gifts for a family vacation?

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Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com

When we originally started to plan our trip to Germany and Luxembourg, taking my daughter wasn’t a part of the plan. We had some distinctly non-toddler activities planned, including a trip to the Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich, plus I was worried about how she’d deal with sightseeing and new places to sleep and irregular schedules. 

Then, a few things changed: we all decided we didn’t have time in our very packed schedule to go to the concentration camp, and Britton started talking about planes all of the time. One afternoon, I was talking with my mom and she asked (again) if Britton could go. 

Even though I’d been staunchly against her going up to this point, it was as if a lightbulb went off in my head at that moment. 

Why shouldn’t Britton go? What was the worst that could happen? 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Running around outside the Pilgrimage Church of Wies, Germany
In a flight of fancy, I applied for and got Britton’s first passport, we purchased her plane ticket, and ordered a car seat for our rental vehicle. She was going to Germany with us, a trip that would require her to fly on five different planes, deal with a six-hour time difference, and spend 11 days sightseeing in 6 areas of Germany and Luxembourg. 

I was nervous about taking her once everything was in place, but I was excited to share this time with her. 

So, how did she do? 

For the most part, she was a champion traveler! If you’re thinking about traveling long distance with your toddler or preschooler, here’s what you need to know. 

Lay a groundwork before you leave. 

Even if your child has traveled on a plane or overseas before, it’s always a good idea to prepare them for what they’re about to go through each time. This was Britton’s first plane experience and her first time abroad, so we talked a lot about what she’d see and do on the airplane before we even stepped foot in the airport. 

I also made sure to show her pictures of the castles, the Alps, and Munich before we left, so she’d have something tangible to focus on. 

Be prepared to work on the plane

And by “work,” I mean get yourself in a frenzy as you try to keep a toddler quiet-ish and still-ish for the duration of the flight. Of all of the components of toddler travel, I found the plane rides the most stressful. The space each passenger is given is tiny and not truly suited for someone who’s main goal in life is to move as much as possible as often as possible. 

We walked up and down the aisles as much as possible. When we were confined to our seats during turbulence, Britton was allowed to watch some of her favorite movies, including "Frozen" and "Paddington Bear" (both of which were in the Delta Sky Kids movie lineup). 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Britton in the Charleston airport testing out her new Frozen headphones
A few other tips for the plane:
  • Order the kid's meal before you board. My kid is pretty adventurous when it comes to eating, but she still loves the kid standards (apple slices, bananas, chicken fingers, PB&J, etc). The kid's meals that she got had fresh fruit, a biscuit, cheese, ravioli, juice, and chocolate pudding. 
  • Bring noise-reducing headphones. Britton loves messing with knobs and buttons, and I didn't want to run the risk of her turning up the movie audio too much. We bought a pair of kids' Frozen headphones and didn't have to worry about her harming her hearing while watching movies. 
  • Pack some cheap toys. If you get a handful of small toys at the Dollar Store, your child can play with them without worrying about losing them. If one does get left behind or broken, it's no big deal. 

Consider doing self-guided or privately guide tours

Those little legs and little attention spans aren’t often made for a traditional 2+ hour walking tour. We ended up doing some self-guided tours of Munich, Luxembourg City, and Trier, which was fantastic, since we could stop and start as necessary. 

If you’re not as cheap as we are, you could consider hiring a private guide who would be willing to go at a slower pace. Many cities also have shorter tours specifically for kids, so look into booking one of those when traveling with little ones. 

Leave free time in your schedule. 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com

At several points in our trip, we’d head back to the hotel in late afternoon to rest, take baths, watch a movie, or play. Having some extra time at the end of the day allowed Britton to wind down and get used to her new schedule. We even had a playground at our hotel in Trier (Berghotel Kockelsberg), which delighted Britton. 

Bring a toddler backpack. 

First off, I know these look ridiculous. You look as if you’re walking your kid on a leash! If you can get over the weird factor, this can be a lifesaver when you’re traveling with little kids. Carrying a 30 pound kid can quickly wear anyone out!

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
My dad and my daughter in the Residenz in Munich
We’d brought a stroller, but, after a while, Britton would get tired of sitting. We’d put on the backpack and leash (or “lush,” as Britton called it), and she’d get to stretch her legs. It was particularly great when we were in museums (so we could keep her from touching everything in sight) or in crowds. 

The backpack also served another purpose: it carried a small case of wipes, a few pull-ups, and some snacks. I got to leave my heavy diaper bag back in Charleston, and Britton liked being in charge of her snack stash. 

(We had the Brica Safety Harness Backpack in green; it also comes in pink.)


Pack snacks. Lots of snacks.  

Even though you’ll get peanuts and pretzels and meals on the plane, your toddler will still want more. Having a box of cereal bars and some special treats saved me when my daughter started getting super grumpy on the plane. 

When we were on the road trip, those snacks (as well as the ones that we picked up at grocery stores along the way) were crucial to keeping Britton happy in between the stops. 

Know that that toddler jet lag is even worse than adult jet lag. 

When I get jet lag, I force myself to stay awake as long as possible in order to try and get into some sort of new routine. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, I force myself to lay there in bed and just relax. 

Toddlers have no concept of either of these coping mechanisms. When they’re tired, they want to sleep. When they’re ready to get up, they climb out of bed. 

Despite our best efforts to readjust Britton’s schedule, we still ended up having a very tired, very grumpy toddler on our hands the first day we were in Munich. The first three nights of our trip included a wonderful little break around 3 AM, where Britton decided that she needed a snack and playtime. Next to the plane rides, the readjustment period was the toughest part of traveling with a little one. 

Take a travel cot

When we were booking our rooms, we decided to get family rooms or apartments; these were cheaper, and I’d have more help watching Britton. However, even the family rooms only slept four adults, which meant we’d have to rent another room just for Britton. 

Since she’s so little and she can sleep just about anywhere, we decided to purchase a toddler travel cot (we used the Regalo My Cot Deluxe, which I can't say enough good things about). At only $27, this was an awesome investment, and she loved her special bed. Since it had such a small profile, we could put it next to my bed, so Britton felt safe and secure in an otherwise unfamiliar room.

I liked that it was soft and comfortable, it only weighed a few pounds, it collapsed easily, and it came with an attached pillow and sleeping bag. 

Work some teaching moments into your trip

At 2-4, your child isn’t going to remember everything about the trip—and that’s okay. This age is all about living in the moment and appreciating what’s directly in front of you.

However, this age group is amazing in that they are constantly soaking up what they’re seeing, hearing, and doing. Britton was in love with the castles that we visited, probably because they reminded her of Walt Disney World. Even after she realized that Mickey Mouse wasn’t popping out of the castle door, she still liked learning about King Ludwig (who lived at three of the castles we visited: Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Linderhof).

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Braving the rain and fog at Neuschwanstein Castle on one of Britton's favorite days of sightseeing
We found her a free pamphlet at Linderhof with his picture on it and told her a little bit about King Ludwig. By the time we’d visited all three places, she was able to tell us that King Ludwig lived in three castles. We heard, “I love King Ludwig!” more than once on the trip! 

She was also amazed at the Glockenspiel (which she still calls the “Clock-and-spell”), and tell us regularly that it goes “ding dong!” 

These types of experiences excited our toddler so much that, even three weeks after we’ve returned home, she asks to go back to Germany at least once a day!

Have you traveled with young kids before? What’s your best tip?


This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through one of the above links, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com

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15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado

15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado | CosmosMariners.com

Located near the Rocky Mountains, Denver, Colorado, is probably best known for its skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and mountain biking. While the gorgeous scenery is a major draw for visitors, the Mile High City also has some renowned museums and performing art centers that shouldn't be missed. 

While you're in Denver, make sure to plan some time away from the ski slopes and hiking trails, and expand your knowledge of Colorado arts and culture. 

15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via CherokeeRanch.org}
1. Cherokee Ranch and Castle
This protected wildlife sanctuary spans 3,400 acres and is established on two former homesteads. Stop by for a public tour on most Thursdays and Saturdays to explore Cherokee Castle and learn about how the foundation is protecting this incredible piece of land. 

2. Sie Film Center
Foreign and domestic, short films and full-length features: the Sie Film Center brings a little bit of everything to Denver. Showings are only $7 and there's free parking in the garage. Don't miss the center's film festival in November, where you can catch showings of over 250 films. 

3. Blake Street Vault
Now a restaurant and bar, the Blake Street Vault has an extensive history dating back to 1863: the property has served as a saloon, a liquor distribution center, cigar factory, machine shop, and a costume design shop. Take a private tour to see the secret basement vault and old tunnels, but beware: you might run into the resident ghost, Lydia!

15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Daniel Jeffries | creative commons}
4. American Museum of Western Art
See the West through the eyes of artists over the last two centuries at this museum. The Anschutz Collection is housed in the beautiful Navarre Building, which dates to 1880. The Artful Insights program helps visitors learn more about a particular artist or movement: participating is a great way to deepen your art history knowledge quickly.

5. Denver Art Museum
One of the largest art collections in the Midwest, the Denver Art Museum offers collections in photography, pre-Colombian art, American Indian art, and more. From Claude Monet's Waterlilies to Winslow Homer's Two Figures by the Sea to Jim Green's Singing Sinks, there's enough here to capture your imagination for hours.

15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Corey Thompson | creative commons}
6. Red Rocks Park and Ampitheatre
This open air venue has hosted performances for more than 100 years! Located 10 miles from Denver, Red Rocks is a beloved spot for musical performances, weddings, worship services, and races. Before visiting Denver, check the calendar to see what's on while you're visiting.

7. Black American West Museum
Learn how African Americans helped to define the West in the 1800s in this fascinating museum. It is housed in Dr. Justina Ford's home; Dr. Ford was Denver's only female doctor until the 1930s. Today, you can learn about her contributions, as well as those of the "Black Cowboys," teachers, miners, and soldiers. 

15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Kirk Stevens | creative commons}
8. Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Founded in 1996, this museum is the only one in Denver solely dedicated to showcasing contemporary artwork. Explore the 27,000 foot space and discover the artists who are revolutionizing the current art world. 

9. Aurora History Museum
Take a look into the history of Aurora (located about half an hour outside of Denver) and the state of Colorado in this ever-changing museum. See collections of housewares, clothing, photographic equipment, and more, most of which was donated by Aurora residents.

10. First Friday Art Walks
Start your weekend off with some culture! Explore each of Denver's seven art districts (Art District on Sante Fe, Golden Triangle Museum District, River North Art District, Tennyson Street Cultural District, Block 7 Arts, Navajo Street Arts District, and South Pearl Street) on a guided walk. You'll get to sample some great food and drinks, listen to live music, and meet the artists behind the works. 

15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Andy Smith | creative commons}
11. Colorado Railroad Museum
Step inside the replica 1880s railroad station to learn about the past. You'll be able to see photographs from Colorado's past, explore a reconstructed telegraph office, and see miniatures of the state's rail history. The onsite roundhouse shows off the museum's collection of locomotives and the working turntable.

12. Cussler Museum
Author Clive Cussler has assembled a collection of over 100 vintage cars in this museum. Marvel over a 1929 Duesenberg, a 1931 Chrysler Imperial Limousine, and more. 

13. Adams Mystery Playhouse
Whodunit? You'll have the chance to find out every Friday and Saturday night at this fun dinner show. Located in a former mortuary, the playhouse has special holiday shows, as well as family-friendly events.

14. Colorado Music Festival
Each summer, this festival brings the best of classical music to the Mile High City. You'll find performances of both traditional classical music and interpretations of world music. 

15 Places to Find Arts + Culture in Denver, Colorado | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Ryan Spickard | creative commons}
15. Colorado Shakespeare Festival
The third largest Shakespeare Festival in the U.S., this festival is presented by the drama department at Colorado University. Five plays are chosen for each season (which runs from June to August) and are performed in a beautiful outdoor setting. 

After experiencing all of these museums, sites, and performances, you'll need a comfortable, quiet place to rest. Check out the Hotel Teatro (my review here) or one of the many other incredible hotels in downtown Denver!

Have you visited Denver? What did you enjoy doing there?

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through one of the above links, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. 

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Wanderlust Wishlist: Shoes

Wanderlust Wishlist: Shoes | CosmosMariners.com

While I'm not exactly a shoe fiend, I do like having a variety of cute footwear from which to choose--you know, on those occasions when I'm not just schlepping around in my sweatpants all day.

Especially when I'm traveling, I try to pack as much cuteness and functionality in my shoe selections as I can. Usually, I only take a carry-on, so space is valuable, and my selected shoes really have to work overtime to be included in the final packing list.

These shoes are all ones that are practical enough to put up with the demands of traveling while still being fun enough that you'd want to actually wear them.


Wanderlust Wishlist: Shoes | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via alterre.com}
As someone who only owns two pairs of high heels, I can appreciate the versatility of this new brand. Why buy ten pairs of shoes when you can make your one pair do many different things? You purchase a base (there are two styles: the higher heel shown here or a sandal with a very short heel), then add different straps onto the shoe for new looks.

Wanderlust Wishlist: Shoes | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via tieks.com}

Everyone I know who has a pair of these ballet flats swears by them. I love that they're comfortable while still remaining pretty and stylish. Plus, the flats come in all different solid colors, patterns, and metallics. The shoes fold flat for storage--this makes them easy to toss in your purse for a party when you want to get out of your heels, and perfect for saving a little space in your suitcase when you're traveling.

Wanderlust Wishlist: Shoes | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Amazon.com}
I was blown away when I first saw these sandals: there are about a million ways you can tie them with the coordinating ribbons (see here for a few ideas). Instead of taking a gladiator sandal and a pair of thong sandals and a Teva-style sandal, you can do all of them with this one shoe.

In addition to having one of the coolest concepts for sandals ever, the Sseko brand is committed to the education and financial well-being of Ugandan women: the company started with the goal of providing women the opportunity to earn money for college. Based in Uganda, the company makes all of its products in its Ugandan workshop.

Wanderlust Wishlist: Shoes | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Mohops.com}
Following a similar loop and ribbon concept at Sseko, the Mohops brand offers style and convenience in a variety of sandals. I love that the Mohops brand has different sandal heights for those who want something other than a flat foot bed--the Moped Mid Walnut sandal (shown above) has a bit of height, but not so much that you wouldn't be able to walk in them.

If you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket, you can also spring for some of the company's bespoke sandals. Pretty, but pricey!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through any of the Amazon.com links, I'll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

What are your go to shoes when you're traveling? Which of these would you like to add to your wardrobe?

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What's Next?: Slowing Down A Little and Our Next Big Adventure

Things around here on Cosmos Mariners have been quiet lately.

And, believe it or not, it has been completely by choice.

I absolutely adore this website. In the five years that I've written about my life and my travels, I have learned incredible things about blogging, marketing, and writing, and I've met some wonderful, wonderful people.

I adore it, and I always will. I wouldn't change anything.

However, after many, many talks with my husband, I've decided to slow down on blogging. Why?

1) Time with family
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I have a very enthusiastic and adventurous toddler. When she was a baby--and stayed where I put her--updating the blog was fairly easy. She'd kick on her playmat while I wrote, and we were both happy.

However, she can now climb, open doors, throw things, and generally wreak havoc if I stop watching her for more than a second or two. Since she's so much more active now, the time that I had to work on the blog dwindled to her naptime and whatever time I had between her bedtime and mine.

Those few precious hours had to be divided between blogging, my husband (who most of the time got ignored while I worked), marketing the blog, finding new places to travel, and my freelance writing.

Since taking a break from the blog, I've had time to breathe, talk to my husband (oh, hey, there!), take my kid to the playground after dinner, and generally enjoy the summer. I can't say I hate the extra time.

2) My freelance writing
While blogging is my first writing love, freelance writing is what brings home the bacon for me. While I could absolutely make money off this blog (in amounts that exceeded my freelance writing), I just don't have the time or energy to devote to making that process happen right now (see reason #1). At least for now, I'm focusing my extra time on my freelance writing, and blogging will take a backseat.

3) Travel demands
Running a travel blog requires that you travel (duh). Preferably a lot. In the 18 months since I became a travel blogger, I have done an incredible amount of traveling, considering that I had an infant-to-toddler in tow, and I had to work around the schedules of my full-time-working family members. I'm not a full-time traveler: I can't be, and I honestly am not interested in that lifestyle. It definitely works for other people--and I LOVE reading about their adventures--but leaving my house and life here in Charleston wasn't ever in the plans.

I traveled when I had the time and the budget, and I'm quickly discovering that the budget for travel shrinks exponentially as your kid gets older. Which brings me to reason #4....

4) My daughter
Parenting news flash: if you feed your kid, she'll get bigger. I know--mind blown.

Now that Britton is moving and grooving (and telling us about it every minute of the way), she needs more stuff. She needs lots of shoes and clothes and all that, but there's more to it than that.

She's starting preschool this year (my baby! Cue Mom sobbing.), so my time with my favorite little travel buddy has just gotten much more restricted. She needs to be with other kids her age right now, and traveling solo with a toddler is far more difficult than it was when she was smaller.

Plus, there's the whole preschool tuition thing. The majority of our travel money is now going towards the Britton Education Fund.

5) My new baby (!!!!)
Ah, to save the best for last.

Yes, our family will welcome the newest little Cosmos Mariner in early 2016. I've been crazy exhausted and sick throughout my first trimester, and I've had no inclination to travel or write...or really do anything than take a nap. I've actually canceled two trips because of how I felt recently, something I had to do with a sad heart. But you've got to do what you've got to do.

We're incredibly excited to meet our new little one, but that addition means even less time for my blogging and traveling. I'm the kids' primary caregiver since my freelance writing is far more flexible than my husband's finance job, so what the two of them need supersedes what I want to do.

Traveling, marketing, maintaining a blog, and keeping up with my freelance writing career with one small kid is tough but doable. Doing all of the above with two under the age of three is going to be nearly impossible.

One thing that I did with Britton as an infant that really set me up for disappointment was my desire to do everything. I quickly realized that I couldn't--no one is Super Parent--and that was an incredibly hard time in my life.

This time around, I'm streamlining my life, and I'm getting help. Unfortunately, "streamlining" in this case means taking the focus away from my blog and putting it elsewhere, but my family is worth a little bit of short term sacrifice.


So, what does this mean for the blog?

I'm not totally sure yet. It's not going away--you'll have to pry the computer out of my cold, dead hands to get me to give it up completely--but it will be slowing down. 

I do have a few bigger trips coming up later this fall now that I feel a bit better, and I'm looking forward to those. I'll definitely be sharing those on the blog and my social media, as well as any smaller or day trips that we take before the little one comes next year. 

I won't be posting three times a week anymore as I have done in the past. It's just too much on me right now. 

As my family and life evolve, so too will the blog. I thank each and every one of my readers for accompanying me on this journey, and I hope that you'll stick with me as I traverse this new and uncharted territory!

Cruising into Our Fifth Wedding Anniversary

I first met my husband Landon in August 2003. We were freshmen, and he was helping my roommate move into our room.
Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
November 2003, just a few months after we started dating (the first time)

I didn't know it then, but seven years, many breakups (one that lasted over two years), and an engagement (to another person) later, Landon and I would get engaged. 

And unlike my first engagement, this one would actually stick. I'd still be petrified at the thought of getting married, and I'd seriously consider my dad's offer to go get ice cream rather than walk down the aisle, but I'd go through with it. And be so, so happy I did. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Getting hitched, May 2010

I've now known Landon almost half of my lifetime. We've watched one another grow from headstrong, stubborn teenagers into well-rounded, responsible adults (who are both still pretty headstrong--and stubborn). We've bought two houses together and supported one another as we began parenthood. 

We've traveled as much as our jobs, student loans, and budgets would allow since we've been married. We've ziplined in St. Maarten, explored Scotland, snorkeled in the Bahamas, watched plays on London's West End, and traveled all over the Southeast

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Edinburgh Castle, 2011

For our honeymoon, we decided to go on a cruise through the eastern Caribbean: I'd just finished my graduate program, and I wanted nothing more than to relax for a few days. That week-long trip allowed us to learn about one another's travel habits (good and bad!) since we hadn't done much traveling with one another while we'd dated.  

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Honeymoon cruise, 2010

We enjoyed ourselves so much on that trip that we've made the anniversary trip an annual tradition. We went to Jekyll Island, Georgia, Balsam, North Carolina, and St. Petersburg, Florida, for our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th anniversaries, respectively--they were smaller trips, but just as much fun. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Jekyll Island, Georgia, 2011

Now, five years into this marriage gig, we're headed back out on another cruise--but this time, we're going to the western Caribbean. Even though the locations are different, I hope we manage as much relaxation and fun as we did on our honeymoon cruise. 

Since I'm going all out on this trip and making it a real vacation, I won't be working next week. (Plus, have you seen how much wifi is on a cruise ship!?!) 

However, I am leaving the blog in the hands of some very competent guest bloggers while I'm lazing by the pool and soaking up some sun, so show them some love next week. I'll be back to life as usual on Monday, June 1 with lots of pictures, stories, and adventures from our Caribbean cruising. 

Happy 5th anniversary to us! 

How do you celebrate your anniversary? Have you taken a cruise? How did you like it?

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5 Must See Literary Sites from Around the World

5 Must See Literary Sites from Around the World | CosmosMariners.com

Books and travel. 

For this literature-loving traveler, the sweet spot is finding where those two things intersect. 

I asked some travel blogger friends to weigh in on their favorite travel destinations that had a literary component, and I got responses that spanned the globe. Check out these amazing sites that will inspire and teach you!

5 Must See Literary Sites from Around the World | CosmosMariners.com
Photo credit: Anekdotique.com

Location: Tomb of Hafez, Musalla Gardens, Iran
Literature Tie-in: Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī, Iranian poet
Ever heard of Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī? You should! Because Hafez is one the finest lyric poets of Persia and one of the most romantic poets of all time. The writer himself hardly ever travelled outside Shiraz, the city of poets and gardens. That is why most of his poems and love stories are set in the capital of Fars Province in the southwest of Iran and in its surroundings. And that is probably also the reason why you might have the feeling that his words of love come to life when walking though the picturesque city, that is full of ancient citadels, oldest mosques and gorgeous gardens. 

Furthermore, one of the towns most important sights is the Tomb of Hafez, a memorial hall situated in the beautiful Musalla Gardens. In can absolutely recommend taking a stroll in these beautiful green area. Why not even take one of Hafez’ books with you, sit down at a bench and enjoy some of his poetry. I guess this is exactly what the author wanted his readers to do: find love in his words and then live it inside the most beautiful nature. It is just a perfect fit. No wonder that his works can be found in the homes of most Iranian people.  
Clemens, Anekdotique.com
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5 Must See Literary Sites from Around the World | CosmosMariners.com
Photo Credit: SantaFeTravelers.com

Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Literature Tie-in: Willa Cather's Death Comes to the Archbishop

In 1925, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather came to New Mexico to visit with socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan (renowned for hosting a who’s who of artistic, literary and intellectual names of that time) and D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda who were living on a ranch outside Taos Luhan that once belonged to Luhan. When Cather left Taos, she checked into La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. While there she discovered the legendary Jean-Baptiste Lamy, Santa Fe’s first bishop and later archbishop in the mid-19th century. Intrigued by the life of this humble man, she was inspired to fictionalize it. 
Death Comes to the Archbishop, published in 1927, is still an American classic. The fictional Archbishop Father Jean Marie Latour’s life closely parallels that of the real-life clergyman. It also vividly conveys the history and culture of the New Mexico Territory including pueblo life. Many of these places that Cather takes her readers to remain and visitors to The City Different can take a literary tour based on the book. Start in Santa Fe at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi which Bishop Lamy had built; visit his country estate which is now Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa (his original chapel is open to visitors) and even go further afield to some of the pueblos he visited included Acoma, Laguna and Pecos. Coming to Santa Fe? Read Death Comes for the Archbishop before you leave home. You’ll get a great perspective about life in New Mexico during the Territorial Period before it became the 47th state.
Billie, Santa Fe Travelers
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5 Must See Literary Sites from Around the World | CosmosMariners.com
Photo credit: Adventures of a Carry-on

Location: Tarrytown, New York
Literature Tie-in: Washington Irving
Literature fans in America will want to make the pilgrimage to Sunnyside, in Tarrytown, New York. Sunnyside was the home of America's first internationally acclaimed author, Washington Irving. Irving is best know for his short stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleep Hollow, though he wrote many other noted books.  Both of these stories were inspired by Irving's travels in the Hudson River Valley. Sleepy Hollow, a hamlet just ten minutes from Tarrytown is the setting for the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and home of his creepy character, The Headless Horseman. 
Irving was a well - traveled man and didn't purchase his own home until he was close to fifty years old. He purchased Sunnyside with the intention of staying there. The original house was extensively remodeled in the Mediterranean Romantic style. Located on the Hudson River the location is very romantic indeed with beautiful gardens and small waterfall that feeds into a stream on the property. Sunnyside hosted many important writers and politicians during Irving's time there. There are an amazing number of the original furnishings and artworks in the house and it is one of best surviving examples of life in the 19th century.    
Pilgrims will want to make the trek to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to pay their respects at Irving's graveside. Be aware that the cemetery is huge. Get your map first and be sure to allow time if you arrive close to sunset. The cemetery closes at 4:30 except during the summertime.
Penny, Adventures of a Carry-on
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5 Must See Literary Sites from Around the World | CosmosMariners.com
Photo credit: The Tourist of Life
Location: Dublin
Literature Tie-in: The Book of Kells, James Joyce
A lot of famous writers are originally from Dublin, wrote and published their first books or screenplays in Dublin and went to the famous Trinity College, which some say is the Harvard of Europe. For those who like literature, Dublin is the place to be. For example you could start your visit in Dublin at the Dublin Writer’s Museum, or you could visit one of the most famous libraries of Dublin: the Trinity College Library. 
Now, I guarantee you that visiting Trinity College Library won’t be a disappointment, as it is the biggest library of Ireland and home to the Book of Kells!  You can visit the Trinity College Library by simply paying the entrance fee of €10,00 or you can get the entrance ticket for free after following the Trinity College tour, given by students, who will also show you the buildings of Trinity College and the spots where famous writers wrote their masterworks. 
Another tour you could take in Dublin is the Dublin Literary Walking Tour, which will take you to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, the James Joyce Cultural Centre, the Abbey Theatre, the General Post Office and of course: Trinity College.
Yvonne, The Tourist of Life
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5 Must See Literary Sites from Around the World | CosmosMariners.com
Photo credit: CosmosMariners.com

Location: Stratford-upon-Avon
Literature Tie-in: Shakespeare's hometown
If you run under the assumption that the playwright William Shakespeare was just one person and was the same guy who was born and died in this English town, then Stratford-upon-Avon is a dream for the Bard's followers. (For the uninitiated, there are dozens of theories surrounding Shakespeare's identity with Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere coming out as the front runners.) You can start your day by visiting his birthplace, a rambling, drafty place where actors will showcase different elements of life from the late 1500s. 
Next, head over to the New Place and Nash's House, which shows just how far good ol' Willie Shakes came during the course of his career--just down the road is the Church of the Holy Trinity, where Shakespeare was baptized and later buried. End the day with a show performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the local theatre or with a visit to the house where Anne Hathaway (William's wife, not the actress) was raised.
Natalie (aka yours truly), Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown
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What literary sites have you visited?