Next year’s planning for May: Think ahead

May Day, May 1, Mother’s Day, the 2nd Sunday in May, and Memorial Day, the last Monday in May are the obvious “M” days for May celebrations. Then there’s Cinco de Mayo on May 5, a holiday I missed out on this year. I’ll buy a Dos Equis anyway. That’s not the only celebration opportunity that passed me by.

I have a calendar filled with hallmark days from around the world. Here are some of them that are significant in various parts of the world. It’s interesting to see which events or organizations have staked out a day as being special.

Don’t count on them being on the same date next year, however. Some are lunar which means, they move to match the moon’s cycle. Or some, like Memorial Day and Mother’s Day, are day specific.

  • May 2 and May 9–Both are Buddha related. May 2 was Buddha’s birthday. May 9, Vesak Day which was the biggie. It marks Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment. Next year, meditate or head to a Buddhist temple. When we lived in Singapore, Vesak Day was a vacation day. It’s celebrated in across Asia with each country having it’s own mark. The photo is from the Lotus Lantern Festival in South Korea.
  • May 2–International Astronomy Day. Next spring, remember to look up at the stars. Better yet, head to a planetarium. One of my favorites is the one at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
  • May 8World Red Cross Day– Next year, donate blood.
  • May 12International Nurse’s Day–Next year, give a nurse a hug and some flowers. They make hospital stays bearable. You can also visit the
  • May 13–Tulip Time-Holland. Buy tulips. Give them to a nurse if you forgot Nurse’s Day. Better late than never. Or if your mother is a nurse and you forgot Mother’s Day, here’s a double opportunity to make amends. Or, to keep it simple go to the Tulip Time Festival in Holland Michigan.
  • May 14–Jamestown Day–Visit the living history museum, the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. Or if you can’t visit, read a book about Jamestown.
  • May 17- Brown vs Board of Education–This isn’t exactly a holiday, but remember to be thankful that school segregation ended. Visit Topeka, Kansas, the centerpiece for this particular desegregation struggle.
  • May 29John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s Birthday-Visit Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, unless you did that on Memorial Day.

This year, on Mother’s Day I saw the Broadway national touring company’s production of The Color Purple with my daughter. On Memorial Day, my mom, son and I went to a the Selma Walker Memorial Powwow. Sometime this year, I will donate blood to make amends for missing out on Red Cross Day. I donated last year and found out what my travel history means when it comes to giving.

Take a romantic vacation–alone

If you don’t have a person to cuddle up to for Valentine’s Day–that sweet, special someone to whisper endearments in your ear–the type of person you wrote about in your middle school diary who you envisioned going with to a romantic destination once you grew old enough–to heck with it. Go alone.

I’m a firm believer that, although going somewhere with someone else can be superb–awfully romantic, one doesn’t need to wait for the right person to come along for the best time.

One Valentine’s weekend, I headed off to the Enchanted Forest in northern New Mexico for an overnight cross-country skiing vacation by myself. After a particularly difficult break-up with a boyfriend that had left me deflated, I thought the best thing for puffing wind back into my sails was a solo adventure. I picked Red River, New Mexico because of a few of points:

  • it didn’t take a lot of planning–being broken hearted, I didn’t have a lot of umph for complicated decisions.
  • It wasn’t that far from Albuquerque where I lived, so it felt adventurous enough, but close enough to return home if I couldn’t handle it.
  • I always wanted to go to the Enchanted Forest and figured that a cross-country ski area where others would be would be safe.

Here’s what I found out:

  • When going alone, it helps to know where you want to stop. When I swung into town, I didn’t know what hotel I should check into. I drove through town from end to end twice before I became so disgusted with my indecision, that I finally pulled into the parking lot of one of them.
  • After checking into a hotel room with two double beds, it does feel good to throw oneself down on each of them a few times while feeling sorry for oneself, but after wards, it’s much better to go out for dinner and get over oneself.
  • When going out for dinner, a writing pad and pen works wonders for keeping people at bay, particularly a guy named Randy who wants one to go two-stepping at a country-western bar until dawn.

Most importantly, cross-country skiing alone on trails called names like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee is cathartic, fun and a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend activity. I couldn’t have asked for better company.

The following year, I returned with a male friend, and the year after that, I returned with two women friends. Of the three visits to Red River, the one by myself resonates the most. The other two times, however were also superb in their own way.

If you are going to be on your own tomorrow, here are suggestions for enjoying your own company.

  • Pick a place you haven’t been before that’s close by and go there. While there, think about all the things you like about it and why it was such a grand decision to pick this place above all others. Take notes. Note-taking looks important. You can write about the experience later. If you don’t like to write, draw sketches.
  • When you go to this place, take your favorite snack. Eating your favorite snack creates a sense of celebration, particularly if you eat slowly.
  • While you’re traveling to this place, listen to your favorite music. That also adds to a sense of adventure and celebration.
  • Tell yourself what wonderful company you are.
  • Thank yourself afterwards for taking you somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

Gadling Take FIVE: Week of Dec. 16-Dec. 26

Minutes after I wrote last week’s Gadling Take FIVE, giving a plug to Gadling’s newest blogger, Tom Johansmeyer, Kraig joined our mix of people who are wild about travel. Kraig Becker has been getting his feet wet this past week and is now not the newest blogger on the Gadling block.

Alison Brick joins us today. For any of you wondering if family travel influences children to travel, it did Alison. She has memories of searching out AAA hotel vacancies with her folks. If that doesn’t scare a person off from hitting the open road, nothing will.

Here are posts that caught my attention. They range from the serious to the whimsical.

  • Scott posted on a new rule that requires permanent U.S. residents who are green card holders to get fingerprinted upon entering the U.S. through an immigration check-point brought up an interesting question. Why?
  • If you’re heading to New York City, be prepared to pay more for a subway ride. The fare may go up. Jeffrey’s post tells just how much.
  • Aaron, who sniffs out controversy, and he’s such a nice guy, wrote a post on Burger King’s new ad campaign which has been called by some to be culturally insensitive. I’m with Aaron on this one.
  • Jeremy gives a thumbs up to the 2008 edition of The Best American Travel Writing.
  • If you’ve ever wondered where fruitcake comes from, check out Brenda’s post. She knows the scoop. Personally, I like fruitcake–all kinds.

If you’re traveling and bored, here are 4 pen and pencil games you can play. I’ve played them all.

Fancy breakfast with the giraffes?

When I was 6 years old, I was taken to Longleat National Park in the UK, where our car got attacked by monkeys, chased by lions, and gazed at by giraffes. I recall desperately wanting to pat and feed the giraffes; those tall, magnificent, doe-eyed, beautiful monsters. I also remember feeling like a Lilliputian in front of them, but they are so adorable that their sheer largeness didn’t scare me. I was smaller than the leg of an adult giraffe, and fed them however I could, sitting on the shoulders of my uncle. Pretty awesome.

So when I read that you can go to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, where you might get woken up by a giraffe tongue in your ear, I was strangely excited about the concept.

Located in the Langata suburb, the Manor spans an area of 140 acres, and has 6 bedrooms for rent. The area is inundated with dozens of giraffes and the Manor’s windows are made so that the giraffe can let his neck in for breakfast. After the first jolt you’ll get facing a giraffe for breakfast, getting used to the idea will certainly make it the most pleasurable and unique part of the day. Giraffes are harmless herbivores, so you really have nothing to worry about.

The history of the place is interesting as the Manor used to be the house of people who spent a large part of their lives working for the cause of endangered wildlife in Africa. The family started the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife and the Giraffe Center, and now run the Giraffe Manor. Each room costs $275-360, but that includes all meals with wine, alcoholic beverages, a sight-seeing vehicle, entrance to the Giraffe Center, and taxes, so it’s not a bad deal for doing once. The Manor’s website has a cool picture gallery, check it out here.

Oh, and happy Boxing day!

Santa’s journey in real time

Since 1955 NORAD, the U.S.-Canadian organization responsible for aerospace and maritime defense of the U.S. and Canada, has been tracking Santa’s journey from his home on the North Pole around the world. It’s no joke. You can actually follow Santa and his nine reindeer in real time, beginning at 6 a.m. EST! For the first time in fifty years, though, NORAD has teamed up with Google (namely, the GoogleEarth program) to provide families with exclusive access to Santa’s whereabouts on this special day.

According to NORAD’s Santa Tracking site, Mr. Claus is detected by a combination of radar, satellite, Santa cameras, and fighter jets. Rudolph’s extra special infrared nose is particularly helpful as a sensor for the satellites, while the Santa cams actually capture real footage of Santa and his reindeer on their sometimes treacherous journey around the globe. The F-15 and F-16 jets provide necessary protection should Santa get in trouble in international airspace.
There are plenty of fun games and activities to play online on the Kids’ Countdown page. To track Santa’s skyfleet around the world in 3-D, you’ll need to download a special version of GoogleEarth here. Catch some exclusive video footage of Santa’s journey here. The video page is only available on Christmas Eve!