Gadling’s 2011 New Year’s travel resolutions

New Year'sIt’s that time of year again. A time when we all make certain promises to ourselves, in an attempt to make our lives more organized, our bodies stronger or leaner. We vow to spend more time with loved ones, give back to others, or ditch that cubicle job. And some of us…well, we just want to keep on traveling, any way we can manage to finagle it.

In the spirit of New Year’s, I asked my fellow Gadling contributors about their travel resolutions for the coming year, and came up with some of my own. Our goals are all over the map (no pun intended), but a common theme emerged. Despite our love of exotic adventures, most of us want to spend more time exploring in our own backyard (that would be the United States). That, and invent musical underwear.

Leigh Caldwell

  • Go on my first cruise.
  • Spend a weekend somewhere without Internet access, and, if I survive that…
  • Celebrate the Fourth of July with my family in Banner Elk, North Carolina, home of the quintessential small-town Independence Day. There’s a three-legged race, a rubber ducky race down a mountain stream, and a parade filled with crepe paper, balloons, and every kid and dog in town.

McLean Robbins

  • Quit my “day job” so I can do this full-time.

[Photo credit: Flickr user nlmAdestiny]New Year'sLaurel Miller

  • Get back in shape after a two-year battle with Oroya Fever (contracted in Ecuador), and climb a volcano in Bolivia.
  • Finally start exploring my adopted state of Washington, especially the Olympic Peninsula.
  • Visit India for the first time; see if it’s possible to subsist on street food without getting dysentery.
  • Learn to wear DEET at all times when traveling in countries that harbor nearly-impossible-to-diagnose diseases like Oroya Fever.

Sean MacLachlan

  • Get back to Ethiopia.
  • Explore Green Spain (the north part of the country).
  • Show my son a non-Western culture.
  • Invent an underwear stereo that plays cheap jazz music when subjected to a TSA patdown.

New Year's
Mike Barish

  • Drive cross country.
  • See the Grand Canyon (finally).
  • Finally learn how not to overpack.
  • And, for the fifth year in a row, I resolve to learn how to play the keytar (2011 has got to be the year!).

Darren Murph

  • Bound and determined to visit my 50th state, Alaska.
  • Dead-set on relocating a childhood friend of mine back to North Carolina, and then taking him on a road trip of some sort.

Meg Nesterov

  • Visit more places where I know people.
  • Be in more travel pictures and get my husband out from behind the
  • camera occasionally.
  • Take at least one guidebook-free and paperless trip. Okay, maybe one map.
  • Take better notes. I might think I’ll always remember the name of that fun-looking restaurant or weird sign I want to translate, but it’s easy to forget when you’re taking in so many new things.
  • See more of Turkey while I still live here. I spend so much time traveling to nearby countries, I have to be sure to see the landscape of Cappadocia and eat the food in Gaziantep before I go back to the U.S..New Year's

Grant Martin, Editor-in-Chief

  • Travel a bit less and work a bit more [Sure, Grant!].

Annie Scott Riley

  • Travel less alone, and more with my husband.

Alex Robertson Textor

  • More open-jaw travel, flying into one destination and traveling by land to another before returning home. It’s my favorite way to see a new or familiar territory–gradually and without any backtracking. I need to do it more often.
  • More thematic consistency in my travels. Instead of scrambling to meet whatever assignment comes my way, I want my travels in the next year to be focused on a region or two, and on a number of overarching questions or issues. I’m still collecting ideas: Remote European mountain villages? Neglected second-tier cities? The Caucasus?
  • Northern Cyprus. Have been wanting to visit since I was a kid. 2011’s the year.

New Year'sDavid Farley

  • To take back the name “Globetrotters” from the Harlem basketball team.
  • To introduce eggnog and lutefisk to southeast Asia.
  • To eat fewer vegetables.

[Photo credits: volcano, Laurel Miller; Grand Canyon, Flickr user Joe Y Jiang; Cappadocia, Flickr user Curious Expeditions; lutefisk, Flickr user Divine Harvester]

Budget Summer Vacation from Little Rock, Arkansas: Conway, hometown of American Idol Kris Allen

When David Cook won American Idol last year, I was curious about what there was to do in his hometown, Blue Springs Missouri. David Archuleta’s hometown, Murray City, Utah also caught my interest. Both hometowns looked not much more than shopping malls and high school football fields when shown on TV. Kris Allen’s hometown, Conway, Arkansas, however, seems to be a perfect budget travel vacation destination–really. How could it not be? It’s in the foothills of the Ozarks.

A quick drive, just 32 miles from Little Rock, Conway holds its own as a worthy budget travel destination with plenty to see and do. Besides boasting two colleges and a university, the small city is in close proximity to many of Arkansa’s state parks and historic landmarks. At the edge of the city are several lakes fit for boating, fishing and swimming. The one in the photo is Beaver Lake. That’s just the beginning of Conway’s pleasures.

Woolly Hollow, the closest state park is 18 miles from Conway in the Ozark foothills, and boasts Lake Bennet a sizable body of water that offers fishing, boating, and swimming. There are also hiking trails and camp sites.

For those interested in history, check out Woolly Cabin where the first settlers who came here lived. On various weekends there are special events and programs. One to keep in mind is the Annual Fun Day on June 19. The price is yummy. It’s free.

For one museum with one of the cheapest admission prices I’ve ever seen, also not far from Conway, head to the Plantation Agriculture Museum. The whole family can get in for $10. Adult tickets are only $3 and kids are $2. Under 6 is free. The museum highlights the agricultural history of cotton in Arkansas through World War II.

In Conway itself:

  1. Although rides on the Toad Suck Towboat aren’t possible, one of these boats that once crossed people from one side of the Arkansas River to the other is on display at the ranger’s office at the Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam in Toad Suck Park. The park is now touted as a great place for a picnic and watching boats go by. Besides, what a name!
  2. Another place that looks intriguing is Finton Sculpture Garden and Studio. I’m fond of outdoor sculptures that have a creative edge. Arkansas native, Finton Shaw’s assembled outdoor sculptures that fit my criteria of art I like to see. Some pieces have themes borrowed from other cultures. There is one titled “Girl from Madagascar” and another titled ” Shiva,” for example.
  3. Pickles Gap Village, also a Conway establishment is exactly right for kids and people who like to shop. It’s not a village where people live, but a collection of quaint stores and Kiddie Land that has rides and farm animals. The name comes from when a German immigrant overturned his wagon load of pickles when he was making his way across the creek. That’s the legend.
  4. For more area history, head to the Faulker County Historical Society Museum. The museum is housed in the original county jail.
  5. For entertainment, check out the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. Throughout June, the festival has Taming of the Shrew, MacBeth, The Producers and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on the menu.

Where to eat: Try Gina’s Jewel Restaurant for homemade country style food. It’s been given high praises. The Chamber of Commerce says for every type of food you like, you’ll find it in Conway. Here’s a link to a dining guide with 137 entries.

Where to stay: There are plenty of slumber options ranging from Super 8 on the budget end to the Hampton Inn which isn’t that expensive either, includes a hot breakfast and within walking distance to the city’s center. For a one-of-a-kind option, check out The Ward Mansion Bed and Breakfast. This historic home turned tourist spot is steeped in elegance.

The attractions I’ve mentioned here are only part of what there is to do in Conway. Here’s a link to more links. When it comes to hometowns, Kris Allen’s wins the award as a unique getaway.

I wonder if someone will think to put his face in a corn maze, though? David Archuletta had that honor.

For map of Arkansas to see where Conway is located and what is nearby, click here.