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Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up | Vol. 2

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol 2. | CosmosMariners.com

We had a bit of a rough weekend around here. My toddler, Britton, has come down some some really awful virus, which meant that we spent most of the weekend at her pediatrics office and the children's hospital. She's doing much better today, and I expect that she'll be back to her usual spunky self in another few days.

I hope your weekend was better than mine! Here to kick off another week is a round-up of some of the fun, interesting, and exciting things that I ran across last week.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol 2. | CosmosMariners.com
{Photo via Flickr user Opticoverload}

Caves are pretty cool, but a glowing cave wins at life. According to Savored Journeys blog, Boating in Waitomo Glowworm Cave in New Zealand provides a surreal and gorgeous trip inside the earth. I will definitely be doing this whenever I make it to New Zealand.  Seeing this would be well worth me dealing with my claustrophobia!

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol 2. | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via DollyDowsie.com}

Ireland is high on the places that I'm hoping to visit in 2016. Thanks to this adorable post over at Dolly Dowsie, I need to add the colorful and picturesque town of Cobh to my itinerary. The brightly colored homes all over this town are a major draw for visitors, but there's also a historical tie to the Titanic, as this was the last stop for the ocean liner before its fateful trip across the Atlantic.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol 2. | CosmosMariners.com

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I can't resist any building that's old, crumbling, or derelict. When I came across this article on American Ghost Towns, I was transfixed. America might not have the centuries-old castles that Europe boasts, but it does have plenty of sort-of old buildings to explore. From the first permanent settlement in Alabama to a former mining town in the midst of an Alaskan national park, you're sure to find something awesome near you.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol 2. | CosmosMariners.com

This list of nerdy vacation spots had me at Platform 9 3/4. What can I say? I will love Harry Potter until the day I die. There are also destinations for fans of The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and Doctor Who. Don't forget your deerslayer hat when you go to 221B Baker Street! What movie set would you like to visit?

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol 2. | CosmosMariners.com

A few years ago, Landon and I took an overnight train from Edinburgh to London, and I fell in love with this mode of travel. This National Geographic article about train travel across U.S. has given me several more items to add to my travel bucket list. I'd love to take Britton on a few of these to see parts of the country when she's a little bit older. Where have you traveled via train?
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How was your weekend? Don't forget to submit your favorite travel articles for possible inclusion in future volumes!
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Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go

Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go | CosmosMariners.com

While Fall doesn't arrive in earnest here in the South until late October or early November (I've sweated in my Halloween costume on more than one occasion!), it's never too early to think about heading to the mountains. One of my favorite things to do in the cooler months is head to the adorable towns that dot the North Carolina mountains.

They're an hour and a half from Charlotte, and just under 4 hours from Raleigh. From Charleston, South Carolina, most of these are only about a 3 hour drive, all of which are completely doable for a weekend getaway.

I went to school at Clemson University, which is situated in the top corner of South Carolina, and perfectly located for quick Saturday trips to the NC mountains. I also lived just a few miles from the SC/NC border in that same corner for several years when I was in elementary school. Between my time living in those areas, and my desire to explore as much of the surrounding states as I can, I've had the chance to ramble many of the areas of the North Carolina mountains.

Check these out, and start planning your fall getaway immediately.

Landon and I had the pleasure of visiting tiny Balsam when we stayed at the Balsam Mountain Inn a few years back. The Inn is the only thing really in Balsam, but it's worth a side trip to see the completely restored 1908 inn and its 100 foot porches. We loved this place so much that we gave my parents a weekend away there for their anniversary this year!

Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go | CosmosMariners.com
The porches at the Balsam Mountain Inn
If you're in the mood for tubing (and you're willing to brave the chilly mountain water!), nearby Sylva offers tubes for rent along the Tuckasegee River.

About 15 minutes from Balsam is Waynesville, a small town with a walkable main street. On our most recent trip, we loved the coffee and sandwiches at the City Bakery at 18 North Main. Check the calendar before you go because Waynesville has many different festivals and street parties during the fall months.

Asheville has made a million must-see lists lately--and for good reason. Not only is it super quirky and artsy, the main street area is filled with craft breweries, small bakeries, and unique shops. Wandering downtown can easily last a day, so make sure to allot plenty of time to soak in the ambiance. Book lovers shouldn't miss a tour of Thomas Wolfe's house, where you can see just how much of his novel Look Homeward, Angel came from his real-life experiences.

While you're there, don't forget to stop by America's largest private home, the Biltmore House. I've been several times, and I never fail to be amazed at the sheer size and opulence of the place. The Grove Park Inn is great for a dinner with a view of Asheville and the surrounding mountains. Don't forget to curl up by the 14-foot fireplaces in the lobby!

Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go | CosmosMariners.com
The view from the Grove Park Inn's back porch


With just over 1600 residents, Tryon is a classic North Carolina mountain town. Browse the gift shops, linger over your lunch at one of the main cafes, and then spend all afternoon browsing through the four seriously good bookstores. Landon and my parents had to pull me out of The Village Book Shoppe during our last visit.

In what has become a family tradition, we head to Saluda once each fall for the crisp air, gorgeous views, and a little bit of relaxation. Although I use the term "downtown" loosely to describe the main area of Saluda, the handful of shops and restaurants are precious. Antique lovers will love the handful of shops that are just begging to be explored. Stop by the Green River Barbeque for lunch, and then take your special someone for live music and creative dishes at the Purple Onion.

A visit to Flat Rock is a must-stop on any tour through the North Carolina mountains. The Flat Rock Playhouse consistently puts on productions that draw viewers from Asheville, Hendersonville, and the surrounding areas. Browse through the clothes and housewares at The Wrinkled Egg, then order some of the super thin crust pizza at the Flat Rock Village Bakery in the back.

Another fall favorite in the Flat Rock area is the Sky Top Orchard. Take a spin on the hayride, get an apple cider (frozen or hot), and select a few bags of fresh apples to take home (the Pink Lady variety is my favorite). Whatever you do, you must try the cinnamon apple cider doughnuts.

Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go | CosmosMariners.com

Fourteen miles out of Flat Rock is the Carl Sandburg House, another book lover's paradise. Check out his floor-to-ceiling bookcases, purchase some of his poetry collections in the gift shop, and say hello to the on-site goats. (Just be careful, as they will try to eat the books that you just bought. True story.)

Head over to Lake Lure for the Dirty Dancing Festival (usually held in mid- to late August) and gorgeous mountain views. There's plenty of hiking in the area, a zip line, and boating rentals. Just up the road is the not-to-be-missed Chimney Rock State Park and Chimney Rock Village.

Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go | CosmosMariners.com
Lake Lure from the top of Chimney Rock


Many Carolinians (both North and South) consider the start of Fall to be when Hendersonville hosts its annual North Carolina Apple Festival. You can load up on caramel apples, shop at the arts and crafts tents, and listen to local bands. If you can't make the festival, the town's charm is still evident every other day. There are lots of antique shops: make sure to explore all three floors of the Village Green Antique Mall--there are some incredible stained glass pieces and home decor fixtures (salvaged from local homes) in the basement. Stop for a snack at the McFarlan Bakery, whose expansive offerings will keep your sweet tooth happy.

Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go | CosmosMariners.com
Downtown Hendersonville
If you're looking for somewhere that combines a historic railroad, black diamond skiing, and stunning back road drives, Boone is your spot. I can remember visiting Grandfather Mountain as a very small child and loving it. There are also places to cut your own Christmas trees during the winter. Take in a football game at Appalachian State or go antiquing.

On one of my first ever school field trips, I went to Cherokee. I remember touring the Cherokee Museum and really loving all of the history. (I was totally that kid.) The Museum is still there, as is the Oconaluftee Indian Village for those who are interested in learning more about the Native Americans who call this gorgeous part of the world home. Take a picnic to Mingo Falls before hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Highlands was a favorite little getaway of mine and my sister's when we were at Clemson. Snack on some fudge from Kilwin's as you browse the gift and antique shops in downtown. You can find your own gems at the Jackson Hole Gem Mine, or see the mountains from a different perspective on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Nearby Cashiers is also worth a stop.

All of these locations are easily accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which cannot be missed on any trip to the North Carolina Mountains. Drive a short stretch, or organize your entire trip around the 469-mile route.

Visiting the North Carolina Mountains: Your Guide on What to See and Where to Go | CosmosMariners.com
The Blue Ridge Parkway near Balsam, North Carolina


It goes without saying that all of these places are gorgeous year-round, so if you can't make it during the autumn, keep a few on the calendar for next year's travels!

Have you visited the North Carolina mountains? What were your favorite spots?
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Calypso Cay Resort, Kissimmee, Florida

Calypso Cay Resort, Kissimmee, Florida: A Review | CosmosMariners.com

Before our Florida Superior Small Lodging road trip officially began at the beginning of the summer, Landon and I took an extra day off of work so that we could squeeze in a trip to one of the Disney water parks for our toddler.

Since it was such a short sidetrip, we decided not to stay on property (as we usually do) in favor of an inexpensive place that I'd found on Groupon: Calypso Cay Resort. The resort contains The Inn at Calpyso--a former Country Inn and Suites--as well as two large buildings of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom villas.

When we rolled up at 11 PM the night of our check-in, the lines for the front desk was three guests deep: not a welcome site when I was tired and ready to go to bed. In most places, the late evening hours are like a ghost town at the front desk, so I was worried that this mass grouping in the lobby was an indicator that the hotel was packed full of guests--which usually means lots of noise.

So, how did our stay turn out? Was our initial greeting a terrible sign of things to come?

Location
For an Orlando hotel, you can't beat where the Calypso Cay Resort is located. Only 3.9 miles from the Disney parks and 11 miles from Universal Studios, guests can quickly hop onto FL 535 or I-4 and make it to front gates in very little time.

There's also a gigantic Wal-mart just behind it that sold all sorts of Disney-themed stuff from ponchos to sweatshirts to photo books. For the cost conscious Disney visitor, a stop here for souvenirs is a good idea. Just down the road are several gas stations and plenty of quick service restaurants.

One thing that drove us crazy about the surrounding location was the fact that the Osceola Parkway runs right behind the resort. The Parkway is a toll road--but it's not well-marked at all. We got onto it once not realizing that 1) it was a toll road, and 2) the unmanned booth only took quarters (of which we had none). This ultimately led us to illegally backing down the shoulder of the toll entrance ramp so we could get back onto FL 535.

Room
We were placed in a one bedroom suites in the building that straddles the two pools (Building 5000). Building 5000 and 5002 contain the villa suites, while the traditional hotel rooms reside in the Inn at Calypso in front of the pools. The suites are all timeshares/ vacation rentals that are sublet by the Inn at Calypso management team; if you get one of these, they will vary a little in terms of decoration.

Calypso Cay Resort, Kissimmee, Florida: A Review | CosmosMariners.com

The kitchette was well equipped with glasses, plates, cups, and cleaning cloths. We liked having a full-sized refrigerator to put milk, soft drinks, and juice each morning.

Calypso Cay Resort, Kissimmee, Florida: A Review | CosmosMariners.com


The bathroom came with a jacuzzi bath/ shower combo. Britton loved the bubbles in the jacuzzi! While the bathroom was clean, the wallpaper was peeling off in several small spots, which gave it a bit of a shabby air.

The one bedroom had a queen sized bed: while it was roomy, it didn't house the most comfortable of mattresses, as one side sagged down. There was also a fold-out couch in the living room, but we didn't use it.

Calypso Cay Resort, Kissimmee, Florida: A Review | CosmosMariners.com
The huge screened in porch that was attached to our suite.
Service
We didn't have a lot of interaction with the staff since we had such a short stay, but the few times I did deal with the staff, they were organized, approachable, and friendly.

When we checked in to a full lobby, the desk clerks managed to move guests through quickly. They spoke both Spanish and English fluently which helped with the large number of guests from abroad who were also checking in at the same time as I was.

Amenities
Although the resort isn't the largest, there are several amenities that will appeal to families on a budget. Little kids will love the playground and on-site mini golf course, while older kids will enjoy the slides at the main pool.

Landon used the workout room on our second morning there and was pleased with the variety of equipment they had.

Our room came with a complimentary breakfast buffet both mornings we were there. While I always appreciate a free breakfast, this one left a lot to be desired: the eggs were straight out of a mix (yuck), the cereal selection consisted only of two options (Cheerios and something really sugary), and the breakfast potatoes were kind of cold both mornings. Usually, I can find something to eat since I'm not picky at all, but both mornings, I ended up eating a cold, tiny cinnamon roll that was straight out of a Little Debbie box. I've had far better complimentary breakfasts at places like Hampton Inn, so I know that it can be done.

I thought that the need for a breakfast attendant (who checked our names against the hotel roster) and food wristbands was redundant and clogged up the line. While I'm complaining about the breakfast, I might as well mention the fact that the breakfast room had extremely limited seating, which meant that people were always lingering around looking at us while we ate.

The resort has free parking for its guests, but (like the breakfast seating) it was limited near the building. If you arrived late, you had to park in the nearby Springhill Suites parking lot or the resort's front lot (both of which are quite a distance when you're hauling luggage).

Final Thoughts
While it was far from luxurious, the Calypso Cay Resort was clean and well-maintained. The resort is a fairly new one, as it seems it was just purchased from a large hotel chain and converted into its existing appearance, and it's trying to be a one-stop-shop for guests looking to relax away from the theme parks.

With a few changes (especially to the breakfast selection and routine), this inexpensive property has the potential to become a fun (and cheaper) option to some themed hotels like Disney's Art of Animation. Until those changes are enacted, the hotel provides the basics, but doesn't leave a lasting impression.

This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing a hotel room through these will help me add to my travel fund at no additional cost to you!
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Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up | Vol. 1

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round Up, Vol. 1 | CosmosMariners.com

After taking a much needed blogging break this summer, I'm back at it. As I get back into blogging, I've decided to launch a new series. Every Monday, I'll share a handful of links from my favorite travel sites so you read what's new, exciting, and interesting. There's just so much great travel content out there, and I'm hoping that you'll find a few new favorite bloggers along the way as well!

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round Up, Vol. 1 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via TravelVista.net}

As a diehard Anglophile, I love learning about the people, places, architecture, literature, and history that make up the UK. I came across this page on Thatched Houses in England and was fascinated to learn more about this iconic structure. It's interested to think that thatched roofs were once built out of necessity--the materials were easy to find and cheap--while now, building a house with thatch is actually more expensive than using modern materials!

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round Up, Vol. 1 | CosmosMariners.com
{Photo via PastPresentProject.com}
One of my travel bucket list items is going to a few of the places that my parents visited on their early '80s European trip. While I haven't gotten to do that yet, the author at Past Present Project, Christian Carollo has--and the results are so awesome. He takes his grandparents' old travel photographs, and then recreates them at the 21st century version of their sites. This site will make you want to start digging through your own family's snapshots.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round Up, Vol. 1 | CosmosMariners.com
{Photo via LocalAdventurer.com}

Although I don't get to go very often, I love scuba diving and snorkeling. One thing I dont' love about either of those is the fact that my underwater pictures always turn out looking awful. Amazing photographer and all-around-awesome travel blogger Esther of Local Adventurer has an easy-to-follow Underwater Photography Guide so that I might one day get a non-blurry picture of that gorgeous fish.
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What did you do this weekend? If you've read (or written!) something you'd like to see featured on a future Odds + (Week) Ends post, leave me a quick comment and link below. Anything travel related will be considered!
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Should You Stay On- or Off-Property at Walt Disney World?

Should You Stay On- or Off-Property at Walt Disney World? | CosmosMariners.com


So, you're thinking about going to Disney World! One of the biggest decisions that you'll have to make while planning your trip will be whether you'll stay on-property at one of the Disney-owned hotels or off-property at one of the many, many, many hotels elsewhere in the Orlando/ Lake Buena Vista area.

Which one is better? How do you know which is worth the money? As someone who's visited Walt Disney World more times than I can count--and someone who's stayed all over Orlando--I have a few tips to help you decide the best location to call home while you're staying in the most magical place on Earth!

On-Property
Pros


Disney hotels are extremely convenient to everything else on the Disney property. Topographically speaking, Walt Disney World isn't that big, so by staying on property, you're just a few minutes from all four parks, Downtown Disney, and the other Disney hotels. Because of their proximity to the fun stuff, you'll spend more time on vacation and less time stuck in traffic along I-4.

Transportation to and from the parks is free. I don't know about you, but when I'm at Disney World, I prefer to park my car and immerse myself in the magic. By staying on Disney property, you've got complimentary access to the fleet of Disney buses. The buses are timely and arrive every 20 minutes at each hotel. Through the bus system, you can make your way to the parks, the other hotels, the water parks, and Downtown Disney. 

Should You Stay On- or Off-Property at Walt Disney World? | CosmosMariners.com

Transportation to and from the Orlando (MCO) airport is free. If you're flying into Orlando for the sole reason of going to Disney World, there's no need to rent a car. Just hop on the Magical Express, and you'll be shuttled to your hotel's front door along with your luggage. 

Your hotel stay comes with free parking and no resort fee. I hate when hotels have added fees tacked onto the nightly cost. When you stay on property, Disney makes things easy: the price you see when you're browsing the site is the price you pay. 

Each hotel is sprinkled with the trademark Disney magic. Whether you're staying at the Victorian-themed Grand Floridian, the larger-than-life themed Pop Century, or the Louisiana-themed Port Orleans, you're sure to be happy with the fun, inventive decor. 

Should You Stay On- or Off-Property at Walt Disney World? | CosmosMariners.com
Mickey towels, characters on the bedding, and collages on the walls: Pop Century's fun rooms


All on-property guests get to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. Of all the benefits to staying on property, this is my favorite. Each day, one of the four parks offers additional time in the park to on-property guests only. That means that for a few hours in the morning or late evening, the crowds are greatly reduced, and on-property guests have the run of the place. In the past, I've been able to accomplish amazing things--like getting a jump start on the 4 Parks/1 Day Challenge--during Extra Magic Hours, which leaves the rest of the day free to meet characters, see the parades and shows, and have dining reservations. 

Cons

Disney hotels aren't always the most cost-effective options. Though there are multiple tiers of Disney hotels (Value, Moderate, and Deluxe), even the lowest tier can top $150 a night for a basic room with two double beds, a small bath, and mini-fridge. If you're just looking for a simple room without any Disney frills, you're better off looking elsewhere for a room.

Only a handful of the rooms offered include a kitchenette and suites. Yes, they do exist (in the new Art of Animation hotel, the Treehouse Villas, some of the Disney Vacation Club properties, and the new Polynesian villas, among others), but you can find much more affordable suite and apartment-style properties offsite. Especially if you're traveling with multiple families or friends, it's far more economical to rent one of the suites or vacation homes off-site.

Off-Property
Pros
You can find a much wider range of prices. If you watch Travelzoo and Groupon Getaways like a super nerd (ahem, like myself), you'll find that there are always great deals on hotels and resorts throughout the Orlando area. These deals pretty much always beat out the standard price on Disney hotels when you compare the amenities and room sizes.

There are more centrally located options if you're not just going to Disney World.  Not everyone goes to Orlando to just go to Disney World. Universal Studios and Sea World are just the beginning of what the Orlando area has: there are museums, historical attractions, the new Orlando Eye, and more. If you're planning to pack more into your central Florida vacation than just Disney, it might be a good idea to consider staying somewhere off-property.

Should You Stay On- or Off-Property at Walt Disney World? | CosmosMariners.com


There are some non-Disney hotels that are still super, super close to Disney World. If you're looking for a deal, but aren't sold on any of the Disney properties, there's a happy medium: the Downtown Disney area hotels. These are just a few minutes walk to the restaurants and shops of Downtown Disney, but usually offer great deals since they're not Disney owned. Some, like the Buena Vista Palace and the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, even have character breakfasts onsite. Just note that the buses that cater to these properties are very slow (and not always punctual), and the bus pick-up area has no shade (not great when you visit in the heat of the summer).

Should You Stay On- or Off-Property at Walt Disney World? | CosmosMariners.com
Lake Buena Vista hotel
Cons
Off-property guests have to pay for parking at the Disney parks. While paid parking isn't a huge expense, it can add up over the course of your vacation. Each day, you can expect to pay upwards of $15 per car to park. Add that to the daily parking fee at your hotel (which can easily top $20 in some places), and you're looking at $30+ in parking alone.

Staying off-property means you're at the mercy of the Orlando traffic. Sometimes it's okay, but most of the time, it's awful. The stretch of I-4 between International Boulevard and the Disney exits is home to a ton of restaurants and hotels, parks, a convention center, and apartment buildings. Traffic is guaranteed, and who wants to spend more time battling other park goers on the interstate?

You lose the Disney magic illusion. Personally, if I'm going on a Disney vacation, I want to stay in the magic for as long as I can. I've stayed elsewhere in Orlando for mixed park trips (Disney, Orlando, and Sea World), and I'm fine with an off-property hotel in those cases since I'm indulging in a mixture of park experiences. However, if I'm only going to Disney World on a trip, staying off property means there's a clear division between the magic and where I'm sleeping, which is a killjoy for a Disney nerd like me.

Which do you prefer: on- or off-property hotels? What's the most important thing that you look forward to in a hotel when booking?
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The Journey I Never Intended to Take



This post was supposed to be about my recent trip to Walt Disney World. I was going to share cute pictures of my daughter dressed as Princess Anna (who's practically another family member at this point), discuss my feelings on going to Magic Kingdom mid-August, and review the off-site hotel where we stayed.

I did go to Walt Disney World with my mom and my daughter. But the experience turned out to be devastating, and I'm just now figuring out how to process it all.

Walt Disney World wasn't the cause of the problem--it was just the setting. In what is supposed to be the most magical place on Earth, I had to experience the most difficult thing I've done thus far.

I lost the sweet baby I was carrying.

I was 17 weeks along and feeling great. The morning sickness had long passed, I had lots of energy, and I was just starting to pull out my maternity clothes.

For the first day we were in the Magic Kingdom (Thursday, August 20), I felt great. Britton, my mom, and I hopped from ride to ride, ate brunch with Pooh Bear, and watched a few of the shows. Even when we headed back to the hotel around 3 for Britton's nap, I was pain-free and in great spirits.

It was only after I woke up from my nap that I started to feel poorly. My stomach felt as if it was in a vice grip. The feeling was nothing like labor pains, but rather as if someone had put a vice grip on my abdomen and wouldn't release the pressure. I figured I had pulled a muscle or two from all of the walking--or perhaps I hadn't had enough water that day. Despite being in a tremendous amount of pain, I decided to head back to the park with my mom and Britton.

We ended up in the Contemporary resort after a horrible storm made us rethink walking around in the park: we had dinner there as we attempted to wait out the thunderstorm, but around 8 p.m., it was still pouring and we decided to head back to our hotel. I was still in a considerable amount of pain, so I wasn't too upset.

When I woke up on Friday, the abdominal pain wasn't as bad, but I discovered I had started bleeding. This scared me far more than the pulled-muscle feeling, so I called my obstetrician here in Charleston, and she recommended that I go to the ER to get checked out.

I was poked, prodded, examined, and sent for an ultrasound. And after several hours in the ER, the doctor came and told me those two horrible words: fetal demise. My heart fell into a million pieces at that moment, and I still haven't even tried to put it back together.

I was rushed up to the labor and delivery ward, which seemed so horrible. Women normally go there to have fat, healthy babies. People are happy there. Instead, I was devastated and in a great amount of pain. As soon as he heard, Landon rushed down from South Carolina to Orlando, and the nurses had agreed to wait to induce me until he arrived. My mom and Britton were there, but I knew that I didn't want Britton in the room when it was time.

In the end, my body had other plans, and I went into labor at 6:30 that Friday night. Landon was still an hour and a half out from the hospital, so the nurses helped me through the experience. I really didn't want to do it by myself, and the nurses were absolutely wonderful to me. I did get to see our baby--a little boy!--after I had delivered him, and those few moments are all that I have of his tiny life. He was so small, but absolutely perfect.

I ended up losing a significant amount of blood and had to be rushed into the OR immediately after delivery. Because of the blood loss, I had to stay in the hospital until late Saturday night to finish my blood transfusion and medication. We made the long, quiet, sad trip back to Charleston that Sunday.

Today marks two weeks since the miscarriage, and I'm no closer to understanding it than I was when I first found out. Landon and I were so excited about this upcoming baby, and, now that I'm not pregnant anymore, the world seems to have shifted in this strange and horrible way.

We named our son August Gibson--August for his birth month and for Landon's grandfather, who was named Augustus, and Gibson for my mom (it was her maiden name). He seems so tangible to me still, and the worst part of all of this the the sudden realization that comes just after the moments when I forget that I'm not carrying him anymore.

We're still taking things one hour at a time. Everyone tells me that the pain will eventually become more bearable, and I take comfort in that.

But I still miss him.

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.

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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!