Travels and trends for a new year

Finding home near and afar during the past year, with an eye on what’s to come

When we rang in 2019 with Cathlin’s family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we never could have imagined what a year it would be. Not only did we appreciate being both in-one-place and on-the-go for extended periods again, but we also savored some memorable family moments, including the (very) recent arrival of our second daughter, Emaline. Having traded in the prospect of hitting the ski (or snowboard) slopes this winter, we’re managing mountains of diapers instead. As we look back and look ahead, we hope you likewise draw some inspiration for the new year.

A glimpse at our 2019:

After Michigan, we returned to New York City, our longtime home where we realized the best time of year for a visit might just be shortly after New Year’s Day. From New York, we jumped down to Florida while Sean went back and forth to California for work. After having spent our 2018 mostly overseas, we decided to stay in the U.S. for the first few months of 2019, including an extended exploration of Rhode Island in wintertime.

In late April, we returned to Ireland and recommenced some serious travels together (and apart). We met up with some of our closest friends in Edinburgh, deepened our appreciation for County Kerry (hello there, Ballybunion, Listowel, and Tralee!) celebrated Sean’s sister’s gorgeous wedding with family and friends as if we were in a fairytale at Dromoland Castle, and then spent several weeks traveling by bus, ferry, and train from Finland to Poland through the Baltic countries.

In the midst of our travels as a little family, Sean brought his dad to Armenia and then enjoyed a few days solo in Tbilisi, Georgia. This meant that Cathlin spent the majority of her first and second trimesters traveling, so she felt *slightly* relieved to slow down come summertime. Still, we managed to hop around between Chicago, Western Michigan, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Massachusetts before returning to Rhode Island and settling down in Providence for a while as we prepared for, and then entered, our second round of parenthood. Whew, what a year!

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Enjoying a snuggle in Helsinki, Finland

A few thoughts as we look ahead:

We have yet to make our plans for anything much beyond work and family time in 2020, and we’re already beginning to realize how our thinking and recommendations might need some updating once we head out on the road (or in the skies) with two little ones instead of one!

But we’ve been reading various end-of-year wrap-ups and thinking about our own, so what should we expect in the new year? And what were our most popular posts of 2019? Whether you’re reading in front of a fireplace in a winter wonderland like us or on the other side of the world managing the heat of summer, thank you for being our readers with wishes for the new year!

A few trends to keep in mind:

  • Sabbaticals used to be the domain of long-time professors exempt from their course-load for a semester, but the benefits of stepping away are certainly resonating more widely. Family sabbaticals are increasingly popular, whether as a digital detox, as a chance to work remotely, or as a traditional “gap year.”  We’re lucky ours was able to last from early 2018 into the second half of 2019, so maybe we’re ahead of this trend, but trend or no trend, if you can make the finances and experiences work, what an experience it’ll be.
  • If you ask us, trains have always been cool. During one of our first dates, we even daydreamed about taking Amtrak across the United States, though we haven’t gotten to do that just yet. And when friends took the Trans-Siberian of legend for their honeymoon, we couldn’t help but hope to do the same someday (second honeymoon, perhaps?). But with Amtrak noting record ridership, almost breaking even in 2019, and rightful demands for less environmentally harmful methods of travel, we suspect you’ll be hearing a good deal more about long-distance train journeys promising natural splendor, mindfulness, and family bonding. Sign us up!
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This kind of train might be the coolest of them all; Eliza and Sean enjoying the view of a children’s choo-choo in Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Mini-vacations seem to be increasing in popularity, especially amongst the younger travel set. Perhaps this is a result of aiming to keep costs down or to avoid burning through limited vacation time, but it shouldn’t be news that even a day away (whether near or far) can be invigorating or restorative. We recently wrote about the benefits of a quick escape—in our case, to celebrate a little babymoon. I would still argue in favor of a longer, fuller vacation if possible, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good: keep an eye out for a flight deal, an event, an exhibit, or even just ideal weather to squeeze in some serious mini-trips here, there, and everywhere.

A few bits and pieces we’re reading:

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Baby vs. Beach in Pärnu, Estonia
  • There are rumblings of trains (and sailboats?) beginning to pull travelers away from planes and automobiles. While it certainly remains to be seen whether an influx in more environmentally friendly modes of transit will mean fewer travelers stuck with airport delays or traffic jams, what has been dubbed the “Greta Thunberg effect” has taken hold, inspiring some travelers to think critically about, or even to rethink, their plans. Recent research from Booking.com suggests nearly half of respondents plan to reduce their environmental impact, with a majority 61% of travelers preferring slower trips to experience the journey and not only the destination. Now, if only the airlines, rental car companies, hotels, and others in the travel industry were to make even greater strides to up their standards too.
  • And while travel advertising and marketing campaigns feel like they skew heavily toward reaching millennials and/or business travelers, please let’s not overlook the excitement and curiosity so many grandparents and/or retirees have for exploring the world around them. That same Booking.com research suggests many grandparents aren’t only jazzed about traveling on their own, but also that they’re bringing their grandchildren along and leaving their own kids (i.e., their grandchildren’s parents) behind! We’ve considered ourselves lucky to have our parents meet us or join us on various adventures, so none of this feels especially new. But rather than framing grandparent and/or retiree travel as only package tours, hopefully travel brands can better respect the vitality that often accompanies age.
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Daaaaad, so embarrassing! Taking local transit in Providence.

A few highlights from Bond & Thomas (i.e., our 10 most popular posts):

  1. When your belongings get lost in translation

Sean mourns the loss of our trusty travel stroller and offers tips on how not to lose important things in the first place (and tactics for jumping into action if you do).

  1. Eleven food rules when traveling

Cathlin lays out a framework for making the most of your journeys with food. Croissants, hot sauce, and food halls all make an appearance. Get hungry!

  1. Beach travels during a New England winter

If you’re hoping to escape New England (or the greater Northeast) during its bitter chill, look no further than Sean’s guide to beating the winter blues for even a few days. No matter the kind of beach you have in mind, it’s probably in here.

  1. Two Anthony Bourdain quotations to guide your 2019 travels

Our first post of 2019 really resonated. There’s no doubt that Bourdain has inspired countless travelers over the course of his life: “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks—on your body or on your heart—are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

  1. A gift guide for the travel lovers in your life

From pajamas to games to bilingual cards, Cathlin offers up a holiday gift guide (that’s good all year) with 20 ways to bring cheer to the travel lovers in your life.

  1. Bedtime for traveling babies

Sometimes we need to check our own posts for a dose of advice, and this one is no exception. Sean shares tips and a trusty timetable to help plan adjustments to sleep schedules for children (really, for weary parents) while traveling across time zones.

  1. Can restaurants leave prices off the menu?

Unfortunately, there are quite a few creative ways for restaurants to leave customers in the dark when it comes to pricing, no matter where you are. For us, a Boston cafe that disclosed prices only after ringing in our order caused Sean to note how to avoid being taken advantage of while traveling—or close to home.

  1. Where to go for coffee in Tbilisi

If the capital of Georgia is on your radar for a visit in 2020, you won’t be at a loss for good coffee. Read about five tasty spots written by our resident java expert, Sean.

  1. The magic of marzipan in Tallinn

What a sweet, sweet visit we had to Estonia earlier this year. The taste of marzipan matched the enchantment we felt wandering the cobblestone streets of old Tallinn. Cathlin explains what she learned about the magical treat and where to find it.

  1. The house of a thousand shells

After discovering a one-time nondescript home that came to gleam with a thousand Pāua shells (now installed at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand), Cathlin makes a case for seeking out the strange and unexpected around us, wherever we are. 

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Architecture pondering in Riga, Latvia

And what to expect from Bond & Thomas in 2020:

We’re cozy here in Providence at the moment snuggling up with our few-week-old addition and making frequent visits with Eliza to the Children’s Museum. Sean has been writing on music and arts for Motif Magazine, a local alternative monthly, and we both have other projects up our sleeves. In the near term, we’re eyeing some domestic travels, with a few international ones not too far out on the horizon—once we get our sea-legs (or sky-legs) back and embrace what it means to adventure, only this time as a family of four.

Keep checking back for reflections and recommendations intended to make your travels easier, wherever you may be or wherever you’re hoping to go. And please drop us a line at any time to let us know what else you’d like to see us write about. We really do appreciate your readership and support. Whether you’re already on the go or staying close to home, may you have a happy, healthy, and adventurous new year all the same!

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Bringing a little piece of home with us on our travels

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