Day 2: To the Capital

Our stay in Toronto was short, but a new city awaited us. We began our time in Ottawa at a spa getting a couples massage. At the time of making this reservation, I had no idea how hot it was going to be. I should have also reserved some pool time. 

Our masseuses led us to our cabin, and as the stress was pressed out, wind blew through with the smell of campfire, and the waterfall relaxed our ears. It was nice.

Feeling rejuvenated, we found our apartment in the city and headed towards Byward market. We found a Mexican restaurant with unbelievable Mexican corn and tasty tacos. After loosening up with a couple margaritas, we were feeling pretty good. Our waitress was very outgoing and she gave us some great recommendations for tomorrow.

Ready for another drink, we went to the oldest tavern and sat under the canopy while sprinkles cane down. The bartender was a nice guy with stories to share about Chicago.

We weren’t ready to call it quits yet, so we found a wine bar with jazz music underground. It was a nice way to end our evening in Ottawa.

Day 1: The Road to Toronto

After having an interesting night trying to save a stray dog, 6:00 am came, and we had a date with the road. We stopped to grab a coffee, visited Michael’s mom, and then we hit the road. 

We planned to stop in Detroit for a lunch break, since that was a good midpoint. Small Batch Brewing was our destination for a pint and some grub. Once done there, we hopped over the water, and boom, we were in Canada.

As we continued through Canada, the car seemed to be getting a bit toasty. It seems our air conditioning is not quite up to par. Let’s just say Michael was not lovin it. Fortunately, we opened our windows, and aired ourselves out. Hopefully this won’t be a problem all trip. But, that’s part of travel, too, right. I think sometimes we get this notion that travel is paradise and everything is going to be perfect. Life is not perfect, and there isn’t an exception for vacation time.
When we arrived to Toronto, traffic flooded the streets we needed to go down. You see, I picked this swanky condo in the hip Queen Street West neighborhood, which is also close to Rogers Centre, the home of the Blue Jays baseball team. Wouldn’t you know it, just as we were arriving a game got out, which means thousands of fans poured into the streets. This held us back a bit, but it all worked out.

At 9pm, we had a reservation to visit a Banksy art exhibit. It was a pop up exhibit in an old warehouse curated by a former friend of Banksy. We grabbed a drink, and then headed in for our timed entrance. The exhibit showcased his work through photographs, screen prints, and even some authentic work on a cut out shutter. 

I’m not sure Banksy would have approved of fans paying to see his art, but I did appreciate seeing a chronological sequence of his work and learning more about the street artist. A quote I really liked from the exhibit was: “The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.”

After walking out into the night, hunger hit us. We made our way to Korean Town to slurp up some ramen. It was soooooo good. I wish we had a ramen place at home. Feeling tired from the meal and day, we came back to the apartment for the night.

Something we’ve been seeing a lot of while driving, are country flags supporting soccer teams in the World Cup. I’m hoping we can pick a team to support, and get into the action at a bar while on the trip. Who should we root for?


Bergen, Norway was the perfect way to end our honeymoon.  It was different than any city we had visited, and we shared many memorable moments in the port city.  One of our favorite moments took place at a bar and cafe while trying to escape the rain.  We enjoyed beer, coffee, waffles, and awesome Norwegian music.

Another cool feature of Bergen is all of the street art.  We are huge fans of this art medium, and we enjoyed going on a scavenger hunt to find pieces all over the city.




The third destination on our honeymoon was Copenhagen.  This was the city I was probably most looking forward to visiting, and it did not disappoint.  We spent three nights, but a week would have been better.

Below are the pictures from my DSLR.  I took many more with my phone because this place is so photogenic.  This will give you a good taste of Copenhagen.  Stay tuned for a podcast to come out soon about this fun city.






The second destination on our honeymoon was Warsaw.  Warsaw and its people are very resilient.  It is a city that on the brink of prosperity, saw destruction that came by bomb in 1939.  Since then, it was a long, and not always successful fight whether you were a Jew forced into the ghetto, a member of the Home Army, or a resident of Warsaw dealing with the occupation.  We took in not only the beauty of the city, but also its history.

Since seeing The Zookeeper’s Wife, we knew we wanted to visit the Warsaw Zoo.  We had  been intrigued by the World War II history, and we sought out sites to help us learn about the past.  While at the zoo we went on a detailed tour that walked us through the Zabinski home, and showed us how they helped save hundreds of Jews from the ghetto.

The movie also made us more aware of the Warsaw Uprising.  There are markers all over the city talking about how the 50,000 urban soldiers fought back against the Germans.  They took the city over after a few days, but German reinforcements destroyed the Home Army since very little aide was supplied by the allies.  There was a great museum that walked us through the timeline and showed how the people did not want to give up their city.

After the heart-breaking loss during the war, the terror continued with the days of communism.  We did not have enough time to delve into the effects of communism in Warsaw, but we could see how once again the people could not be free.

This city has been rebuilt after nearly 85% of the city center was destroyed in World War II; first from the bombing, then from the destruction caused by the Germans as revenge for the uprising.  They tried to rebuild it the way it was; even accounting for imperfections like leaning buildings.  Although this part of our trip was faced with some challenges, like the language barrier, the difficulties were far outweighed by our experience here.  The food, the history, and the atmosphere are all definitely worth another visit someday.



Yesterday you got a chance to see what Stockholm looks like.  Today I’m sharing a tradition in Sweden that I think we should adopt here.  It is called fika (fee-ka).  The basic idea of it is to have an afternoon coffee with a sweet treat, but it is more than that.  It is a break to be shared with people you care about.  A chance to step away from hectic life and remember what is important: loved ones, sweets, and good coffee.

The illustration you see is one that I created using Adobe Illustrator.  The dessert you see in the image looks like a cinnamon roll.  It is called kanelbulle.  Rather than being smothered with frosting, it has sugar pearls sprinkled on top.  The best ones have a flaky, buttery crust.  Interested in having your own fika?  It doesn’t take much.  Grab a friend, a cup of joe, and a little dessert.



The content you see here are photos of Stockholm taken with my Canon digital SLR.  I have other photos on my point and shoot to share, but that is another day.

Stockholm is both an old and new city.  Life seems so streamlined and simple, yet old town boasts colorful buildings from the past.  Since it was our first stop on our honeymoon, I feel like we know it least because we were still adjusting to the time change and the idea that we were on our honeymoon.  Nonetheless, we had an amazing time, and it is a city we would like to return to because even the small imprint it made is enough to leave us wanting more.

Podcast Episode #1: Liberating Experiences

Liberating Experiences

Welcome to Episode # 1 of the Liberated Traveler.  In this podcast we learn to escape by pursuing liberating experiences.  Thank you for joining!


Welcome to our first installment.  The purpose of today’s podcast is to introduce you to liberated travel.  We each have our own way of experiencing events in life. This type of travel is how I make the most of my time.  My goal is to share what I have learned along the way in hopes that you will define your own liberated travel as well as have an opportunity to take a little mental trip while listening.  I believe in budget travel, but within my own comforts. I didn’t sell my house to travel the world, or quit my job to become a vagabond. I’m a pretty normal person just trying to milk everything I can out of my travel experiences.

Travel time is crucial for our overall well-being.  I’m sure you’ve heard about how bad Americans are about taking time off.  Back in 2016, a study was released about our lack of vacation time. The study found that 55% of Americans did not use their vacation time resulting in 658 million vacation days being unused.  Imagine the kind of trip you could take with those kind of days. And the saddest part in all of this is that we don’t even get that many days compared to some other countries. This is why it is so important to make the most of the time we take, and hopefully encourage everyone to not let that time escape us.  Travel is good for our mental and physical health, and we could all use more of that.

So, who am I?  By day, I’m a 5th grade teacher in Illinois.  I come from a family of teachers who have taught me lessons beyond what any textbook can provide.  They have instilled values in me that encourage living life now, and staying open-minded. This is a message I constantly try to share with my students, and I hope you will be able to take away.  I’ve been dabbling in travel blogging for years, and now I’m seeking a new avenue to share my findings.

You may be wondering what I mean by liberated travel.  Liberation is defined by freeing, releasing, and a form of rescue.  This is what liberated travel is all about. It involves paving the way for as many moments as possible that leave us feeling happier, wiser, and more connected to our world and the people in it.  I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I feel the sense of liberated travel when I find a cooking utensil I want from the store that Julia Child used to shop at. It may seem a little shallow to find happiness in a material item, but I do, and I think a lot of other people do too.  In contrast, I also find liberation in hearing the story of a young man growing up in Germany during World War II. As you listen to my podcast, think about what you enjoy most and try to apply what I share in a way that works for you.

We are about to get started, but there is one more thing I want to mention.  Hopefully, each week you will flood your ears with the sound of my voice. I find comfort in organization, so you will notice each podcast is layed out in a certain format.  I’ll begin with a short little intro, then I will share my list. I’m not going to say it is always going to be a top ten list, but it will be a top something list. It really depends on the topic, and I don’t want to be confined by the pretty number of ten.  The list will share the best opportunities to experience liberated travel. After this, I’ll do a quick little summary of sights to see, foods to eat, and experiences to have. Just as a reminder, I have not been everywhere in the world. I will possibly miss a great place to go, or restaurant to eat at.  I am just hoping to give you the keys to the car so you can map out a plan that works for you. That’s kind of cheesy, but I think you get the point.


1. Plan for a mixture of cIty and country.

  • The city can be an exhausting place, and she can break you down if you aren’t careful.  When making my itinerary, I always try to find a balance between metropolitan destinations and countryside excursions.  Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find an oasis in the city. You may just need to visit a park or garden. Other times, a day trip may be in order.  A few years ago, I stayed in Paris for a month. It is one of my favorite cities, but I found myself craving more than just Tuileries gardens or Park Monceau.  A visit to Giverny, where you can find Monet’s home and gardens, or Auvers sur Oise, the home and final resting place of Van Gogh, rejuvenated me as well as giving me a greater appreciation for the city once I returned.  How many times in life do we try to find balance to keep us well? This same concept applies to travel, too.

2. Stay in an apartment or Airbnb.

  • I’m not against hotels, but they offer a different experience than renting a home.  My aunts first taught me about the idea of renting an apartment back in 2009 when we stayed in one for a week in Venice, Italy.  During that time, it became our home. Another perk is that it can be more budget friendly. We have found that this is a more reasonable option for staying in the neighborhoods we want to be part of.  It can also help with food expenses if you are willing to do a little grocery shopping and give up eating every meal out. Now that Airbnb is so accessible, this is my major way of finding accomodations.  For our summer road trip through Canada and the Northeast, every accomodation was booked through Airbnb. I also consider bed and breakfasts a good option, but it would be difficult to pick a hotel over these places.  In the near future, I will have another podcast episode about finding apartments to stay in to make sure you have a safe and rewarding experience.

3. While staying in a place, try to make the place yours.

  • These may seem like minor details, but if you are fortunate enough to stay in an apartment/home, try to gain insight from the owners.  They may know about that perfect bar downstairs that has the best craft beer and pizza. Find a local grocer that has some basics you need.  Visit the same boulangerie each morning for your fresh baguette. Perhaps there is a restaurant on the block that has a rotating menu and it is so good, you find yourself going there more than once on your trip.  Finding your local “favorites” connects you to a place and opens up the opportunity to connect with the people running them. Perhaps if you go enough, they might even start to know you by name.

4. Try local foods and drinks.

  • Food.  Drinks.  This can be enough to make a trip for some people.  I’m one of those people. For this podcast, I would love to recommend every delicious restaurant I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, but the truth is I’d be missing so many.  Instead, I will focus on what types of foods and drinks you should seek. This summer, I’m going to Montreal. I will not leave until I have true poutine. While visiting the Finger Lakes region in New York, I will sample ample amounts of wine.  If you want the best, eat like a local and eat what is in season. I’m not saying you should only eat fish and chips in London. I’d actually recommend finding a restaurant with Indian cuisine. The goal is to try to recreate experiences of locals, and we all know that food and drinks are an experience.  

5. Respect the culture.

  • I’m not saying you should change who you are, but there are things you can do to gain approval of the locals.  I recommend before you go somewhere that you do your homework. Hmmm, maybe that is is just the teacher in me coming out.  But seriously, learn more about their customs and language. While traveling abroad, I know that I should say hello when I walk in a store.  I should not pick up everything and touch all the merchandise. When starting conversation, I should make an attempt to start in their language even if that is all I really know how to say.  I know that I should dress conservatively when going to churches. My shoulders should be covered and my knees not visible. You may be wondering how this provides a liberated experience. By showing respect to a culture, you are acknowledging their way of living and opening the door for better communication and a greater chance of having a positive experience.  

6. Find a good cafe and park yourself there.

  • Many times, the best travel is not about checking every single item off a list.  Sometimes, it is about slowing down and taking in a place and its people. I’m still very guilty of overplanning, but I know that visiting all the museums I want to see in two days is not going leave me feeling liberated.  Instead, I’m going to feel exhausted and blistered. Visiting the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay in the same day was a prime example of this. I’m trying to limit myself to one major museum a day. This is going to be tough because often I don’t have a lot of time in a place, and there is so much I want to see and do.  The truth is I will never get to see and do everything I want, so I need to prioritize and believe in the idea of returning if it is something I really want to do. So, sit down for a while. Grab a coffee or wine and take out a notebook. Sketch the scene in front of you or do some free writing. Even catching up on postcards can offer a reflective moment before you continue on your way.

7.See the city by foot (biking, walking, public transportation).

  • Getting around is part of the journey.  Depending on where I am going determines what transportation I prefer.  I always love walking because it allows you to slow down and see little details you may otherwise miss.  It is important to not exhaust all energy on walking though because you want to feel up to what you are going to see.  There are some cities made for biking, such as Copenhagen. This is quick, but also scenic. If these two options do not seem optimal, then I choose public transportation.  This may seem strange, but I actually enjoy taking the metro in Paris. There is a sense of achievement when I have successfully planned a route and arrived at my destination.  There is also something to enjoy in experiencing something the way the locals do.

8.Look for special events.

  • Whether you are traveling in the winter or summer, you are likely to stumble upon a festival or special exhibit.  One of my favorite days of the year is the summer solstice because in many great cities you will enjoy the festival of music.  During the longest day of the year, music can be found on street corners, churches, and other attractions. I also look for special art exhibits or food festivals.  Taking advantage of these opportunities often provides for a great memory.

9. Visit markets.

  • I love markets.  Flea markets, farmers markets, antique markets, you name it.  This may be a little more challenging to find in the winter, but if you have the chance, go to a market.  Find a memento to bring home. Grab some fresh peaches to suck on at the park. Create your makeshift picnic to enjoy by the canal.  You probably won’t regret taking some time to mingle through the stalls with locals. One of my favorite markets was in Arles, France.  It was a combination of food and other flea market finds and we ended up spending the whole day meandering around the ramparts.

10. Capture a place (photography, video, drawings, journal, etc.).

  • We all have our own way of seeing the world and finding a way to etch it in our memory.  My favorite method is through taking photographs. My granddad and dad have taught me to enjoy photography from a young age, and now I won’t leave home without a camera.  I think people sometimes miss the best part of photography which is going through your photos when you get back home, editing them, and putting together a narrative to piece them all together.  I’m also known to carry a journal just in case. I would love to keep a sketch journal, or watercolor journal, but my skills are definitely lacking. My aunt spent a morning at a cafe drawing what she saw in front of her, and that is how she captures a place.  Find your favorite method and spend time taking in the scenery.

11. Get out in the early morning or late evening.

  • Tourism is huge.  There are so many places now that have thousands of people hopping off a boat to invade a city for a few hours.  Feeling overcrowded can ruin your experience and leave you disappointed. Venice is my favorite city in the world that I have visited, but if you are in San Marco square at noon in the summer, you will see nothing but a sea of people.  My advice is, during the day, try to find the lesser known places to visit (maybe go to a less touristy part of town or visit a nearby island or town). Then spend your time at the hotspots in the early morning or late evening. By that point, many tourists are not out and about yet or they have packed up and moved on to the next destination.

12. Go shopping for unique items.

  • I know life is not about “things.”  I understand that I should hold on to memories and not stuff.  But, what if an item is tied to a memory? In my kitchen I have a pottery butter dish from Gordes, France that reminds me of that hilltop town every time I look at it.  On my wall, I have a poster of a Severini art print from Venice, Italy. In my bathroom, I have a bidet I brought back from France. Just kidding. I wish. But, I do have a little porcelain bathtub from Provence that holds my soaps.  My house is filled with items from my travels that are symbols for where I have been in life. I don’t go to the foreign mall and buy something at H & M. That is okay if you want to, but that is not the kind of shopping I’m talking about here.  Find boutiques, markets, street vendors, or whatever items you like to buy, and enjoy the buying experience. Later, you’ll enjoy the memory.

13. Check out the art scene.

  • I think everyone appreciates art in some form or another.  Whether you like the classics, sculpture, street art, pottery, garden art, or any other type of art under the sun, try to take in some.  If you don’t like art, maybe you should give it a try. Art is part of the humanities and within it we find history, religion, philosophy, and messages that hit on the human experience.  If you have a favorite artist and you have the fortunate opportunity to take a tour featuring that artist, go for it. I have always been a fan of Van Gogh’s work, but it was not till I got to know him in Provence, saw him in the Netherlands, or walked through the fields where he tried to take his life outside of Paris, did I truly start to understand the tragedy in his life.  Getting the backstory on our favorite artists brings more meaning to their work. My advice is to see art and try to understand it. That sounds simple, right?

14. Listen to music.

  • This is kind of a similar concept to the art scene.  How many times in life have you heard a song and it instantly takes you back to a memory?  Wouldn’t you love to constantly go back to your memories of travel? How I try to achieve this is by picking up at least one CD while on a trip or identifying a song I hear while out.  For example, when I was in Spain, I went to a Spanish guitar concert. You can bet I bought the CD afterwards. When my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Scandinavia, we took refuge in a coffee bar in Bergen, Norway to escape the rain.  While sipping on the best coffee I’ve ever had and devouring a waffle, a song came on that I instantly loved. I took out my phone, found my Soundhound app and identified the song playing. This is now one of our favorite songs that we listen to on repeat, and when we hear it, we are back in that coffee shop while the rain pours outside.

And that is the list.  Now, for some final thoughts.

Sometimes I wish I could buy my own town and combine all of the elements I’ve enjoyed from travel.  There would be a little shop for bread, one for meat, one for wine, one for beer, etc. There would be a fresh market open everyday.  You’d have to take a vaporetto (boat) or walk to get around. There would be a local Irish bar that everyone goes to, and it has live music every night.  Just outside the town you will find the alps. The other direction you will find the Mediterranean Sea. Doesn’t this place sound great?

Unfortunately, I don’t think this dream town will ever happen.  So, instead I must find my own ways to incorporate my favorite liberated travel moments into my everyday life.  Perhaps an afternoon fika will help me get through the day. When the winter comes, hygge will keep the blues away.  And, when all else fails, I can walk through my garden and sip on a super tuscan wine to reminisce about the good days.  

I’d love to hear about your liberated travel moments.  Please visit my website to leave a comment.  I hope you join me next week. Thank you for listening.

Check Me Out on Etsy

It is so exciting to see my business come together.  My business name is currently being published in the newspaper to become official.  My amazing fiancé made a logo for me that I feel truly captures who I am.  Next up, we have Etsy!  I’ve had a shop on Etsy for a while now that featured my graphic design work, but now I have a shop specifically for my travel photography business.  Take a moment to check it out and let me know if you’d be interested in me working with your photos.

Liberated Traveler Etsy Shop

M Light Design Etsy Shop

I recently made a Venice print for myself.  Below are the images I used and the final product.  I think this is a great way to capture the essence of a place and its memories in one image.  Perhaps you need one in your home!