Tag Archives | relationship

Why I Love a Traveling Girl

I recently stumbled across a blog post by a young man bemoaning dating a girl who loves travel.  The post outlined the aggravating draw backs of having her being gone “all the time,” and always thinking about the next place she was headed.  Once I got done yelling at my computer screen, I started to write this post in my head.  Here goes:

Love Traveling GirlOne of the greatest pieces of advice my beloved grandmother, (who loved to travel by the way), gave to me was to marry a girl that you can sit across the breakfast table with for the rest of your life.   Somehow I followed this wise advice and found just that person.  Travel definitely played a role in why I asked Luci to marry me.  Travel makes you smart, interesting and sexy!  So what makes a traveling girl so great?

Are you a traveling girl….or love one?  Give us a follow on Facebook.

Smart Women Travel

The most dynamic and interesting women I have met in my life have been travelers.  Call me crazy, but travel really makes people interesting.  One great example is the Evelyn Hannon, the Jouneywoman.  If you haven’t checked out her blog, you must.  She continues to criss-cross the globe in search of adventure and fulfillment.  I hope she doesn’t kill me for saying this,  while she is advancing in years, it hasn’t stopped her from her mission to explore and discover.  Now she supports and encourages other women to follow in her footsteps.  What a great example.

Smart women travel.  One attribute that comes shining through with traveling women is their ability to delay gratification.  They are willing to scrimp and save for 6 months to spend two weeks in the Tuscan country side.  Sacrifice is a critical life lesson for relationships.  It is a cold hard fact: the best things in life take time and effort.  As poor newlyweds putting ourselves through college, we had to be creative in our travel destinations.  We both did internships in areas that had interesting places to discover.  Every weekend we would map out where we wanted to explore next ….on one tank of gas.  Traveling women find a way to make it work because discovery is so important to them.

Peru woman travelTravelers tend to be readers.  Another appealing aspect of finding yourself a traveling girl is they tend to be well read.  As many of you loyal Fighting Couple readers know, we do extensive trip prep.  This involves reading about interesting angles of our trip.    Yes, my traveling girl reads Frommers and Rick Steves.  But she also read, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” before we visited Savannah, GA or “1453” about the fall of Constantinople before visiting Istanbul.  The potent combination of reading and exploring makes living exhilarating.

Traveling Girls are Dreamers and Doers

The travel industry has marketing the dream down pat.  You are bombarded by these high gloss destination magazines of white sandy beaches and cool breezes blowing the palm trees.  They offer the eyes of the beholder an escape and a dream.  The thing about traveling women is, they see these dreams…then they make them happen for themselves.   One of the quirky things about Luci is that she wants a destination to look just like the dream.  We have a good laugh occasionally when we both say…this doesn’t look like the brochure.  On the other hand, we have visited places that we will never blog about because they are just that pristine and amazing and we want them to stay that way.  Traveling women make their own dreams come true.  For those of us that are lucky enough to love these women, we are invited along for the ride.

woman travelTraveling Women are Selfish?

Traveling women are intriguing to me.  While family is undoubtedly important to these wander lusters, they elect to leave home and family behind occasionally to focus on their own self-improvement.  Many mistakenly view this as selfishness.  Dive a little deeper and you see a person investing in themselves to be a better mother, wife, sister or friend.    How is this selfish?  Reaching out, and understanding the world around you is the exact opposite of self-focus.  Taking the education that travel can dish out: appreciating beauty, understanding diversity, experiencing first hand real poverty, making friends, learning the difference between needs and wants are all lessons learned on the road.  In turn these lessons are taught to our children.  How much more powerful is a lesson on valuing diversity to a child coming from a person that has visited the Soweto or Auschwitz?  Likewise a lesson on poverty having slept in a grass hut in Swaziland?

Travel is Hard

Traveling women know how to do hard things.  I am not naive enough to believe that  intercontinental travel is for everyone.  It is certainly not.   It is exhausting, it can be expensive, and certainly takes a lot time.  Travel at times means learning a new language, culture and adjusting to unfamiliar cuisine.  It means dealing with ambiguous situations.  The dangers of travel are real and common.  One of the dividends of travel is that it makes you stronger and helps you to exercise common sense and problem solving. How are we going to find the right train to Fontainebleau or how am I going to find my wife I left at the Louvre because I was hungry?  As you face a challenge, meet it head on and achieve your intended goal, you become resilient.  Would we have been bitten by leaches staying home and working in our cubicle?  Not likely.  Travel can be fraught with disappointment and difficulty.  At the same time there is something reassuring about getting yourself lost and working your way out of the situation.

woman beach thailandWhere Do You Find Them?

The travel blogging world is dominated by women!   It really is.  Us guys are way too slow to value the education that can come from leaving the home port and discovering the globe.  Maybe we do travel but, we just don’t write about it.  Traveling women are easy to spot.  They are constantly posting pictures of food and interesting road signs on their social media sites.  Pinterest pages of “traveling girls” are cram packed with green Peruvian jungles, rolling Tuscan vineyards and Irish blessing memes.  Traveling girls have a twinkle in their eye when they talk about the next road trip they are planning.  Guys, go get them!

Candidly, finding a traveling girl has changed my life for the better.  Regardless if we are in remote Africa or climbing Machu Picchu as we explore together, I continue to be impressed with my bride’s passion for the new and unknown.  She chooses the path less traveled, and that has made all the difference for us.

Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof: the Intersection of Beauty and Remembrance

Finding a place that strikes you on two levels is rare, finding a place that appeals to the eye, soul and mind is exceptional.  The Vienna Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof), located just outside Vienna, Austria  is one of those special places.  Traveling as a couple, we enjoy visiting cemeteries.  We can see you shaking your head….I know, we are strange.   We enjoy celebrating those that have gone before us.  We love learning what contributions our ancestors made to mankind and paying tribute to their lives.  Most importantly, visiting sites like these gives us a chance for self-introspection.    We want to explore one of the most intriguing cemetery we have ever visited.

Lets begin our tour of the Zentralfriedhof!

Dr. Karl Lueger

The Dr. Karl Lueger Gedächtniskirche

The Eye

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.  Once you enter the main gate, what a beauty to behold!  The cemetery is in a park like setting with 2.5 square kms of manicured fields of grass, flowers and shrubbery.  To help you find your way around, the entire cemetery is divided up into sectors.  There are helpful free maps of the sectors at the main gate of entry.  Lanes, sections, and paths are marked clearly, so finding the headstone you are seeking is fairly simple.  Paved and gravel lined paths take you to different sectors within the cemetery.  Our visit was in early spring, walks were free of snow.

Our visit to the Zentralfriedhof held a surprising first for us.  At the heart of the cemetery is the Dr. Karl Lueger Church.   This wonderful shrine, built on the eve of WWI in 1910, is designed in the Art Deco style.  Trust us, we have been in a number of churches of all shapes and sizes, but this one is truly unique. We had never stepped foot into an art deco church or cathedral.  As you enter the nave your eyes are drawn up by the stately lines to the dramatic blue cupola.  The woodwork and glass inside the church is truly impressive.  The pews, alter and of course the glass are the result of master craftsmanship.

Dome of Vienna Central Cemetery church

The Dr. Karl Lueger-Gedächtniskirche Dome

Unique Tombstones

As you stroll through the endless tombstones, you take in the beauty and the art of the stone work.  Each stone is a work of art.  The Viennese take great pride in the construction and adornment of their burial sites.  Some of the elaborate tributes include chubby cherubs,  weeping nymphs, and marble and granite of every flavor.   Noteworthy physicists and chemists have their marquee chemical compound or formulas engraved on their stones!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Memorial

The Mind

While you are taking in the beauty of the Zentralfriedhof, hone in on some of the names chiseled into the stone.  At every turn in the cemetery, you come face to face with the names of artists, geniuses, villains, and poets.  Visiting the cemetery is a wonderful academic exercise!  At your feet lie some of the greatest minds in history.

Some of the notable permanent residents include:

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), composer

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), composer

Ludwig Boltzmann ( 1844-1906), Physicist. His famous equation on entropy is engraved on his memorial stone.

Richard Réti (1889–1929), chess grandmaster

Franz Schubert (1797–1828), composer

Johann Strauss (1825–1899), composer

Siegfried Marcus (1831–1898), invented the modern automobile

Kurt Waldheim (1918–2007), UN Secretary-General

Mercedes Jellinek (1889-1929), the inspiration for Mercedes Benz

Falco (1957–1998), rock singer

Mozart?-Nope.  There is a monument dedicated to him, but his grave is a bit of a mystery.

Did Mike really dance the Waltz on the ‘Waltz King’ Johann Strauss II’s grave?  YES!

Ludvig Von Beethoven

Ludvig Von Beethoven

The Soul

For the Fighting Couple, visiting this sacred spot is incredibly inspirational.  One cannot but question your own existence by visiting places like these.  You see the finite dates on the stones: born on such and such and Died on this date.  There is a finality about reading these stones.  Then you reflect on how much they accomplished during their sojourn on earth. It is so refreshing to connect the generations to see the impact one person had on humanity, both positive and negative.   A visit such as this makes you question your own mission, asking questions: “What have I accomplished?  Why am I here?” While these difficult questions are challenging to answer, the process is inspiring.  You walk out of the cemetery with a renewed sense of purpose and perspective (and a hunger for some Viennese  sachertorte.)

One of the most intriguing things about the layout of the cemetery is that it includes sections dedicated to different religious, political and social groups.  It is a melting pot of human history.  Sections include: Protestant, Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Bulgarian and Coptic), Catholic as well as two Jewish sections.   There is also a sizable Muslim section.  Zentralfriedhof is also home to the first Buddhist cemetery in all of Europe.  Most recently, a section was dedicated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons.  We were struck by inclusive nature of the cemetery.

How to get there:

With Vienna’s amazingly easy to use public transportation system, getting out to the cemetery is simple.  From the city center take the suburban railway (Vienna S-Bahn) to the Zentralfriedhof stop.  Just outside the main gates there are a number of flower vendors.

Vienna Cemetery directions

Click on map for larger view.


Gate 2 (Main entrance):  Simmeringer Hauptstraße 234 , 1110 Vienna

*You may drive into the cemetery with your car at a cost of EUR 2.20 (except on 1 November (All Saints Day) when no traffic is permitted).

The dedicated bus line for the cemetery (number 11) runs every half an hour from 9 am to 3:30 pm, and also at 4 pm and 4:30 pm on Saturdays.


Click Here


Entry to the cemetery is free, but you can rent an audio guide, by providing a valid photo ID and paying a rental fee of EUR 7.00 at the main gate.




We need to offer a hearty thanks to the Austrian Tourism Board for assisting with our visit.  Their help made the visit possible.  Danke!

7 Questions With the Cruising Couple

Every so often we highlight another traveling couple.  We pick their brain for travel ideas, challenges and their best fights!  We want to introduce you to our friends Dan and Casey of acruisingcouple.com.

First off, here is how to get on the “boat” to follow the Cruising Couple:

Blog:  ACruisingCouple.com

Facebook: CruisingCouple

twitter: Dan and Casey

Couple travel1) How many countries visited between the two of you?

We were both really lucky to have a lot of independent travel experiences before we tied the knot. I think the total count is somewhere around 22 countries on six continents (we’re still working on Antarctica) although we only visited about half of those together. We have a lot of travel plans lined up for the end of 2013 and beyond, so we’re excited to be adding to that tally soon! If you are following our blog, you’ll probably notice some dramatic changes in the fall!


2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?.)

He said: Dumbledore. I mean, do I even need to explain this one? He can teleport in flashes of fire, eliminating any need for public transport. He is an epic dueler, so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting mugged. He can create objects out of thin air, so no need to sleep on the floor in an airport. Plus, a man who represents love and tolerance would probably have some pretty good insights on world travel.

She said: Nellie Bly. Not only did she travel around the world faster than anyone else before, she did it all as a solo-female traveler. When everyone else was telling her she couldn’t do it, Nellie Bly wasted no time in showing them wrong, And then she wrote about it in Around the World in Seventy-Two Days. She’s an inspiration to women, to world travelers, to writers, to anyone going against the status quo.  I can only imagine she’d be a pretty badass travel companion.


Couple Scuba3)You guys lived for sometime in Taiwan.  What was the best and worst part of being expats?

He said: One of the best parts about living in Taiwan is that everything is easily accessible and convenient. It’s a country the size of our home state, North Carolina, which means going from one side of the island to the other can easily be done in a day. There’s also the High Speed Rail, which makes travel even faster. We love how every weekend we can get out, explore, and see something entirely new, while still making it to work Monday mornings. The hardest part about being an expat is the communication barrier. It can be quite frustrating when we can’t understand what’s going on or express ourselves the way we would like to. We manage, but after nearly two years of living here our Chinese should definitely be a lot better. Of course, I have only myself to blame, and Taiwanese are extremely accommodating when it comes to speaking English.

She said: They say it’s the people that make a place, and when it comes to Taiwan, I totally agree. Taiwanese are extremely hospitable, friendly, and generous. The locals really want you to feel comfortable in their home country, and will do whatever it takes to achieve that. For example, when you ask for directions, it’s not uncommon for strangers to hop on their scooters and drive you wherever you need to go. During a recent cycling trip, we popped a bike tire in the middle of nowhere. It took twenty people to help us get the predicament sorted out, but every Taiwanese person who saw us made it their personal mission to fix the situation. It really is amazing how genuinely generous people in Taiwan are.  Of course, not everything is a walk in the park. Taiwan isn’t really a country that specializes in cheese and wine, two of my favorite food groups. You can find them, but you’re going to have to pay a small fortune for the good stuff. I try to just tell myself it’s contributing to my diet plan…


couple picture4)  If you had to eat one last meal, what/ where would you eat?

He said: Maybe this is a cop out answer, but I’m going to say anything Casey made for dinner. She’s an amazing cook, even with our limited resources in Taiwan. As for where, anywhere with family and friends would be perfect.

 1000Fights: That is a cop out!  But we love it!

She said: Given my lamentations about the lack of cheese and wine in Taiwan, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. I would definitely want my last meal to be an Italian feast in Tuscany. Last time I was in Italy I literally gained twenty pounds. I just cannot control myself when it comes to pasta and wine and coffee and gelato and risotto. Gosh I think I’m starting to drool just thinking about it.


5) Holy cow! You guys had quite the honeymoon! Do tell!

Our honeymoon is where A Cruising Couple had its humble beginning. We knew we would be moving abroad right after we were married, so we didn’t really need all the traditional ‘stuff’ most newlyweds receive. We also didn’t want to just go to an exotic location for a couple days and that be the end of it.

Instead, we spent 8 weeks traveling across America in our Volvo station wagon, totaling around 9000 miles through 25 states. Our wedding registry included hotels, restaurants, gas cards, and ‘experiences’ to make our honeymoon possible. It was an incredible trip and start to our married life, as well as an amazing way to involve our family and friends in our cross-country adventure. We were fortunate enough to do things like hot air balloon riding in New Mexico, wine tasting in Napa Valley, and hiking in the Grand Canyon, just to name a few. Our honeymoon road trip was also the reason why we started A Cruising Couple, and realized people were actually interested in following along with our travel adventures. Two years later we’re still learning new things about travel blogging everyday, but loving it more and more!


traveling couple6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: Lack of Universal clean water is a drastically under reported issue. With human impacts becoming more and more detrimental to our environment, the hunt for clean drinking water will become increasingly difficult. Poor and rural areas are going to feel the greatest effects but there are already some nifty and optimistic sustainable solutions popping up at science fairs around the globe.

She said: Human trafficking. In light of celebrities taking a stance against trafficking as well as Hollywood productions bringing the issue to light, I think most people have much more awareness about the issue today. However, it still blows my mind that human trafficking is the third largest international organized crime; that people are bought and sold, held against their will, and forced to do unperceivable things everyday. Definitely a complex problem worth solving.


kissing couple7)You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

She said: When we first arrived in Taiwan, for some inconceivable reason, Dan thought it was okay to drink water from the sink. We were both pretty experienced world travelers at this point, so I’ll never understand why Dan thought it would be a good idea to drink tap water. We argued about it for a while, until I finally gave in to Dan’s argument. Well, August in Taiwan is ridiculously hot, which meant we were downing that water left and right. I think we probably went through a couple liters before we read somewhere that, of course, you can’t drink unfiltered tap water.  That led to a whole different argument about whether we were going to be spending the rest of the night over a toilet or not. In the end, we decided to just get some rest at our hotel. 16 hours later we woke up, perfectly fine, and a little bit less cranky.

He said: We’re pretty lucky that we get along so well, and most of the time we’re able to talk through disagreements without them leading to fights. Or I just give in to Casey so I don’t have to worry about it ;-p I do like to give Casey a hard time for that popped bicycle tire she mentioned earlier. We were riding along that day, and I specifically told Casey to look out for some broken glass on the road up ahead. She claims she avoided it, but I swear I looked back and saw her run right over it, only to have a popped tire later that day. We’ll probably contest that until the day we die.

1000Fights:  a huge thanks to Dan and Casey for their candor!  What a fun couple!

Rafting the Macocha Abyss

What do you get when you combine cave exploring and white water rafting?

Located in the rural countryside of the Czech Republic is the region called the Moravian Karst.   The word karst is Slavic for caves or holes.   Our destination was indeed a cave, but not just any cave.  We were seeking out an adventure at the Macocha Abyss.


The Fighting Couple is always on the lookout for those off the beaten path destinations that offer something truly unique.  Sometimes this takes us to a restaurant that is 600 years old, an ancient Roman library, or a back street bakery that makes the best eclairs    We aren’t what you might call adrenaline junkies, but when our research led us to our latest find, we knew we had to check it out.

The Macocha Abyss plunges 450 feet from the thick forest that surrounds it.  The Abyss lives up to its daunting name.  The view from the platform above down into this monster abyss is breathtaking.

Getting to the Macocha Abyss

Getting to the Abyss is half the fun.  Is is located in rural Czech Republic, an hour or so north east outside of Brno.  Just take route 373 north out of town and head toward the little town of Jedovnice.  Turn left once you get to Jedovnice and follow the signs up the hill.  The hike down the hill to the actual cave is part of the adventure!

As you arrive in the parking lot of the caves, you have three options for getting down to the entry of the cave.  There is a aerial tram that can take you down the slope.  The tram only works in the high season during the summer.  The other option is a small train shuttle that runs year round.  The last and best option is to take the short hike down the slope.  There are steps and railing that makes the decent moderately easy.  Bring cash(Czech Crowns) because credit cards are not accepted at the cave ticket office at the bottom of the hill.  Take our word for it, it can be a hike back out to hit the ATM.

IMG_1765Enter the Darkness

Once you have your ticket, the tour of the caves is led by a guide speaking your chosen language.   You queue up behind a heavy green door.  The guide pulls it open and you enter single file into a cavernous tunnel carved into the stone.  It is difficult to describe just how dark the caves really are.  At one of the first stops, the guide cuts the lights and you are completely enveloped by darkness.  Fear not, they do turn them back on!  Besides this one stop, the rest of the tour is surprisingly well lit.

The path that you follow is single file and every 20 meters or so the guide stops and uses a torch to point out the different geologic highlights of the cave system.  On the tour you see stalactites, stalagmites, ponds, rivers and other limestone formations.  The guide also points out the significant explorations that have taken place in the caves during the past 125 years since the caves were first discovered.  One other interesting tidbit on the tour, they point out markers for the water level in the cave during years that the cave flooded.

exploring caveEach of the major formations in the cave have names attached including: angel hair, white roots, the kissing couple, elephant and many more.  There were a number of references to Czech history that we really didn’t get…but you get the picture.  Roughly half way through the walking tour, the cave comes to the Abyss section where you can look up and out of the cave.  A river runs into the cave at this point and makes for some amazing pictures.  A major challenge is taking good pictures of the caves.

Once we were roughly 75% through the adventure we came to the boats.  This was so cool!  It really made the tour for us.  The group was dived into two, each being assigned a boat with a master boat driver.  Gliding through the caves almost felt like a Disney ride!  Only this was for real.  Each turn in the cave brought a new view of a formation or water fall.  As we came around the last bend and saw daylight, we were a little disappointed as we wished it wouldn’t end!

rafting in caveWe must offer this word of warning.  Do mind your head during the boat ride section.  There are a number of low ceilings and passageways that are not very forgiving on your head.  Our guide didn’t ride in the boat with us, so I tend to think the boat driver didn’t speak English.  We would have expected the guide to warn us.  Anyway, we are warning you, mind you noggin!

Visiting the Abyss is a great year round adventure.  As the temperature is constant underground.  We happened to visit during a particularly cold spring, and we shed our coats a few steps into the caves.  It felt great.  During a hot summer, the cave overs a nice respite from the heat as well.

Definitely take in the Abyss the next time you pass through the Czech Republic.  It is truly a grand adventure.

We are giving away a lovingly handmade, leather bound, Italian paper Journal

That has to be the longest blog post title ever!  But we want to put it all out there and let everyone know just how amazing this giveaway really is!  For all of you traveling couples out there, this is a MUST have.

It is no secret that both Luci and I are journalists.  Not in the pencil behind the ear, newspaper sense, but in the personal “diary” sense of the word.  Both of us have kept journals for years.  This blog is kind of an outgrowth of our journals.  We have found it a great way to track the ups and downs of life and bring back great material to FIGHT with!

For all of you fighting couples out there, we have partnered with our fave journal crafter Jenni Bick to give away one of the most beautiful books you will ever own.  Up for grabs is your very own Santa Fe Leather Journal!

Leather Journal

Yours wont have Mike and Luci embossed on it….sorry.

Entering this giveaway is super simple.  Just three easy steps:

1) Give The Fighting Couple a like on Facebook (here) or on twitter (here)

2) Give Jenni Bick a Like on Facebook (here)

3) Leave us a comment in the comment section below and say:  Send me a Bick!

Easy huh?

So what’s the big deal with Jenni Bick?  Why do we use their journals?  Because they are beautiful and tough.  Kind of like us (hah!).  We had a chance to catch up with Sean from Jenni Bick and asked a few questions about journaling, life, and Jenni Bick.

So how did Jenni Bick get started?

Jenni and her husband Robby spent years working in various bookstores around the country, which gave them a fond appreciation not just of literature, but of glue-bound books composed of parchment and ink (which probably means a lot more in this digitized age of Nooks and Kindles). After they moved to Martha’s Vineyard, Jenni began to craft handmade books in her garage, showcasing them at the local artisan’s fair. The business grew along with the interest people had in her wares. Now, we not only sell Jenni’s handmade items, but a large collection of notebooks, journals, and photo albums from several different quality companies.

How long does it take to hand bind each journal/book?

It depends. It’s a very patient process. Some items require sewing, some items require glue. A set of Santa Fe journals, for instance, can take several hours. For most of the other one-of-a-kind items, it can take several hours just to make one alone.

We are seeing resurgence in journaling.  In this digital age, what value do you see in writing things down by hand?

SO MUCH VALUE! Sorry, but this has always been a pet issue of mine. First, there is strong and unwavering evidence that handwriting boosts brain power, learning function, and cognitive ability. I won’t get into the scientific details, but I will provide links [wink]:

Handwriting Trains the Brain

Research:  Handwriting spurs brain activity typing doesn’t

Why handwriting makes you smarter

More importantly, many writers (myself included) consider writing a form of meditation. Staring at a blank screen does not foster the same creative impulses as writing things down on paper. In the past, I have found that the best cure for writer’s block is to put pen to paper and to start writing. Stream-of-consciousness: It can be total gibberish, or just different words that have no seeming connection. Before you know it, as you’re writing, a thought will form and that thought will take on a life of its own. All of a sudden, you will have a few pages and several ideas that weren’t there before, and that, before you started writing, you were struggling to even find.

Man writing

Mike trying to capture in words the sights of Krakow

“The journal is completely handcrafted, with lovingly hand-torn papers in a coordinated array of artist papers. …hundreds of hand-torn pages of assorted artist papers and reclaimed offcuts. Sturdy stitching along the spine holds the papers in place. Papers include Nepalese lokta, Indian handmade, metallic papers, Italian Amalfi paper, thin tissues, heavy cardstock, watercolor paper, patterned and speckled papers, and more.”


Do you have any interesting stories of your clients using their journals/sketch books?

A notable and very famous Hollywood director who is a repeat customer of ours recently bought an item we sell called the Colossal Handmade Leather Journal (http://www.jennibick.com/colossal-journal.html). It’s handmade in Italy and we sell one once in a blue moon. In an email correspondence, he said that he plans to have his guests (particularly famous artists, celebrities, and musicians) write/draw various things — even giving lipstick prints — then sign and date them. He said that over time, he planned to have every page filled with something special — some lasting impression of all those celebrities collected in one tome. Pretty amazing.

leather diary

Mike capturing a few thoughts in Budapest

What advice could you offer to someone who has never journal-ed before?  What should I write about?

Write about everything. Keep a dream journal in the morning. It doesn’t even have to leave your bedside. When you travel, take a minute to record everything that each of your senses experience. If I’m in a foreign place, I try to write about what I’m hearing, what I’m smelling… Is the sand fine or coarse? What’s different about the sounds of where you are? Does the coffee taste especially weird? (see: Athens). Those are the things you can’t capture in a photograph.

In everyday life, though, keeping a journal is just the best way of learning about yourself. Keep a tiny notebook in your pocket. If a guy at work tells an especially funny joke, write it down. You’ll be glad you did later.

How do we care for our Jenni Bick Handmade Journal?  Heaven forbid…but what if we spill on the leather?

The best part of the journals is that they are durable. They are meant to go places, stretched a bit or crammed in a bag. There are worse things than spilling water on leather. We use several different kinds of leather, and most of them can withstand a certain amount of water. If you spill on it, just dry it out for a little while. It won’t necessarily look exactly the same, but at least it will have character.  It’s the paper — and more specifically — what is written on the paper that you should be worried about ruining.

The fine print (sorry, gotta do it):

1) To enter, you must be a resident of USA or Canada.  That’s the only places we really want to ship to.

2) Void where prohibited.  (that doesn’t sound like a very fun place to be….sorry.)

3)  Just so you know, Jenni Bick was kind enough to provide a journal for us to review, and one for us to give away to one of our fabulous readers.  Does this affect our love of our journal?  Nope.  Not one bit.

4) Contest rules are subject to change.  (They probably won’t.)

5)  Contest ends on April 30th, 2013 at midnight MST.  (All good things must come to an end.)

5.5)  18 years old and above only to win.  (This is the most fun adults get to have…no kids allowed.)

6)  We will then pick a winner via random.org.  (There are no rules against crossing your fingers.)


Six reasons to skip Santorini for Samos

Spend any time on Pinterest and you are likely to stumble across a pictures of the blue domes and white sandy beaches of Santorini, Greece.  Wow, you are thinking.  That is where I must go.   We know it sounds a little preciouses to favor one Greek Island over another, but hey, you may only get to Greece once in a lifetime.  We want you to pick the right place for your couple’s getaway.  We want to introduce you to a Greek paradise you likely have never heard of: Samos.

Greek Island1) Small Island Slow

We elected to arrive in Samos as one should, on the water.  Our ferry motored into the small protected port of Vathy.  From the second that we set foot on the island, we felt the pace of life slow.  Take it from two driven type A nuts, this place is laid back.  Truly, that is what makes the island special.  Forget staying in a hotel, stay in a villa !

2) Visiting the Island will make you smarter!

One of the little known facts about the island paradise of Samos, is that it is the home to some of the greatest thinkers in history!  The great math genius Pythagoras, called Samos home.  While sunning himself on one of the sandy beaches, Pythagoras developed the Pythagorean Theorem.  The Theorem is important in ways, we just can’t remember from grade school.  The isle was also home to Epicurus, the astronomer that came up with the idea that the earth should revolve around the sun, and it has done so since then.    Just like Luci, Samos just goes to prove that you can be both smart and beautiful.

3) Samos Side trips

If it were ever possible, once you explored every inch of Samos Island, the options for exploration further afield are plentiful.  Take a regular scheduled ferry west for an hour and you can explore ancient world of the Ottoman empire.  Today Turkey offers more Roman ruins than Italy!   There are a number of islands within a short distance of Samos include Rhodes and Lesbos.

Samos Greece4) The Food-

The Greeks do a lot of things well:  Olympics, togas, and transport strikes.  Perhaps the best product to come out of Greece is the food.  Samos offers the foodie a virtual plethora of yummy victuals!  Due to is location just off Asia Minor is takes the very best of Ottoman and traditional Mediterranean cuisine.  How could you visit Greece without taking in the amazing fish and olives.

5)The Sun!

If you are a sunshine seeker, look no further than Samos.  The sun shines in on Samos 76% of the year!  Bask in the warm rays on one of the Island’s white sand or pebble beaches.  The Mediterranean sun is special.  It wraps around you and takes you in.   Samos has over a dozen pristine beaches, some remote and secluded, others right in the center of all the action.

6)The Heart of Samos-The people

We saved the very best of the Island for last, the people.   The Greeks have a word: Xenia, roughly translated it encapsulates friendship, welcome, and hospitality all into one.  From the second that we set foot on Samos we felt welcome.  People stopped and helped when we were a little lost.  We arrived at an eatery earlier than the posted opening, the proprietor engaged us in conversation and ordered the cook into early service.  Samos is one of the friendliest places out travels have taken us to.

Have questions about Samos or Santorini?  You can “Ask us Anything“.

Why not make up your own mind.  Visit both!  Have you been to Samos or Santorini?  What is your take on the two?  We would love to hear your feedback.  Just leave us a comment below.  See you on Samos Island!

7 Questions with 20 Years Hence

In the Fighting Couple’s continued quest to bring the the back story of some of the best blogging couples out there, we want to introduce you to the traveling couple: Tony and Steph of 20 Years Hence:

Blog:  www.20yearshence.com

Twitter:  @20YH

Facebook: 20YearsHence

sail boatWhat made you strike out to explore the world together?  What has traveling meant to you as a couple?

We met and fell in love in Nashville, TN having found each other through Match.com (true story!). When we first met, Steph was a graduate student working towards her PhD in Psychology and the way academia operates is that you pretty much never stay at the school you earn your degree from. So even from the beginning, we felt that we were simply biding our time, waiting for the chance to move somewhere new.

We both felt increasingly disenfranchised with the career paths we were each on. As Steph’s graduation day began to loom closer on the horizon, we began to bandy about the idea of taking a summer holiday—maybe six weeks to Europe—before resettling somewhere and getting new jobs with limited vacation. The list of places we wanted to go in Europe rapidly increased and we pushed the “holiday” idea to 3 months. When our good friend, Laura, took a sabbatical from her job to travel for 8 months, we had the epiphany that we could do the same!  We would get to have the adventure of a lifetime AND give ourselves the time to figure out what direction we wanted to take our lives. It took us about 3 years of planning, saving, and dreaming, but finally in August 2012, we said goodbye to our old life and flew to Japan on a one-way ticket!

1) How many countries visited between the two of you? 20

couple2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?.)

He Said: Even though it would be a huge hassle,  I would want to travel with our two dogs, Rory and Emmy. They are super awesome and I know travelling with them would be crazy fun.  If I had to choose an actual person though, I would say the guy I read about once who is a language savant. Apparently he had a serious head injury or something and now he can learn a language in two weeks. He speaks 15 or more languages, and that seems like it would be pretty handy.

She Said: One of the best things we have done on this trip has been to finally learn to SCUBA dive, so if I couldn’t travel with Tony, I would probably want to travel with the big kahuna of the underwater world, Jacques Cousteau. He pretty much pioneered recreational diving and dove and discovered most of the world’s best dive sites, so I figure you can’t get a better dive buddy than that! I just hope he is as good to spend time with above land as he would be underwater.


3) We understand that the two of you are avid readers (you have a book blog?).   We have noticed that many serious travelers are also hard core readers.  Why is that?

He said: I think people who love to travel are innately curious, and have a thirst for knowledge. Reading, for me, is a continuous journey of learning, even fiction. There is always something you can learn from a book, even if it is just a greater understanding of beauty or critical thought, and I feel like travel is approaching the world in a similar way. I’m always questing for insight and want to know more about everything.

She said: I think Tony is exactly right—travelers and readers alike tend to be intensely curious and thoughtful individuals, and both activities offer us the opportunity to better understand the world, as well as our place in it. When I read, I seek wisdom and enlightenment, truth and beauty, and I love that a great book can help me know the world in a way I never would have on my own. I think traveling can, and often does, serve the same purpose. I’m pretty sure that those who love to travel and those who love to read ultimately are individuals who are constantly looking for ways to celebrate the richness of life.

 Travel couple4)  A question for you Dr. Steph, How will your degree/training help you with your travels?  Relating with people of different cultures?

She said: I am always joking that for all the hard work I put into earning my degree, I’ve somehow managed to choose a path in which it doesn’t apply whatsoever! Of course that’s not true since all aspects of Psychology are concerned with trying to understand the principles underlying the human mind, and as it turns out, the world is full of people… I certainly have bits of trivia that I picked up over the 10+ years of studying Psychology—I can tell you all the theories on why we are more likely to claim that people from other races all look the same, or even the neurological reasons & psychological principles that explain why tonal languages are hard for non-tonal speakers to learn—but on a daily basis, I wouldn’t say that I am explicitly using my degree in our travels. I got into Psychology because I wanted to try to understand people, and so it’s probably no surprise that interacting with people and learning about their local customs and how they view the world has become the most rewarding part of our trip for me!

I will also say that many of the skills I developed during grad school and that helped me earn my doctorate have proved immensely helpful on this trip. I’m great with numbers and am very good at tracking our money, which keeps us from burning through our savings too quickly and proves extremely helpful when we write our country summary posts. I’m also good at researching destinations efficiently but extremely thoroughly, which helps with the day-to-day mechanics of getting from place-to-place and figuring our what we need to do. If you need someone to synthesize and summarize a chunk of information and come up with a plan of attack, I am your girl!

5) Tony,  you are quite the photographer!  Love your pics of Japan!  Give us novices a few hints into how you work your magic behind the viewfinder.

He said: Thanks! Wow, well, I’ve been shooting for well over a decade now, so a lot of what I do is just instinct now, but I’ll do my best to help!

First, always think about the story you’re trying to tell with your photographs. It can be a series of shots or just one, but always try to imagine what you want someone seeing the shot to think. It doesn’t have to be grand, just try to have something in mind.

Second, think about your composition! Find out what the rule of thirds is and use it when you frame your photos, you’ll notice immediate improvement in the general interest of your photos when you pay attention to your framing!

Finally, think about all the aspects of where you are and what you’re shooting. Capture details, small elements and unusual perspectives. Never be afraid to take a shot, if you think there is a chance it will turn out (and even if you don’t) take the shot! You might be surprised at what works. Shoot everything!

shopping6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: Prejudice. If we all approached life and each other with a more open mind it would be a lot easier for everyone to work together to solve the many problems that plague the world. Keeping someone else down because of your own misguided thoughts doesn’t make your own life any better, it just drags everyone down together.

She said: Wanton disregard and destruction of the environment. One of the things that has been the most disheartening to me as a traveler has been seeing the huge amounts of trash that wind up on beaches, in jungles, along the sides of roads and in the water. Or the number of endangered animals that wind up on menus or in zoos or are on the verge of extinction because of habitat destruction. So many dive sites we have visited have been potentially irreversibly damaged due to unsustainable fishing practices such as dynamite and cyanide fishing. Greed and the unceasing desire to turn a profit are putting the most beautiful parts of our planet at risk, and I really wish people were more invested in protecting our resources.

7) You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

He said: I guess it was more of a period than any one fight. We had a pretty hard time in Japan, not because of anything to do with the country, Japan was lovely, but because of us. The time leading up to our departure was pretty stressful and full of a lot of big life events for us (Steph defended her PhD, I quit my job, we left our beloved dogs behind, sold all our things, etc. etc.) and we had a hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle we’d chosen for ourselves. Not to mention our schedule in Japan was just way too demanding, so we were worn out a lot of the time. We just sniped at each other more than we deserved and didn’t have enough patience. I definitely didn’t deal with the stress well, and that caused some issues. We worked it out (obviously!) and are doing really well now, but the first month or so of our trip was pretty fraught.

She said: I wouldn’t say that Tony & I have a perfect relationship or that we’re one of those mythical couples who never fight, but honestly, prior to leaving on this trip, we hardly fought at all. But we’ve been fighting a lot more since we hit the road, which I think has been a surprise for both of us. In some ways, I think it’s only natural that we would get on each other’s nerves more as we are together 24/7 now, which is considerably less dreamy in practice than it sounded in theory!

As Tony said, the first month of traveling was rocky for us as we adjusted to our new lifestyle and tried to decompress from all the stress we had undergone leading up to leaving, but we worked through it and thought it was smooth sailing… and then we got to Melaka, Malaysia. We both really loved the city, but some things neither of us deals very well with is extreme heat or big crowds. Melaka has oodles of both, and we were both getting cranky. We had been dodging cars and wandering around in the scorching heat when we finally reached a museum: Tony asked if I wanted to go in, and I said that you weren’t allowed to take pictures in it and it was rather expensive compared to all the other attractions so I didn’t know if I did. Somehow things escalated from there and Tony said that I never have any fun, which caused me to screech in turn that he was the absolute worst before storming off. Ultimately, the fight wasn’t really about the museum but was really the result of us having let a bunch of little things build up rather than talking openly with each other as they arose; in a moment when everything was intensified, we let the simmering cauldron boil over. It was a bad fight, but we learned the importance of keeping our cool, both figuratively and literally!


1000Fights:  Thanks you two!  Happy travels!

How to Kiss Correctly

The Fighting Couple’s  instructions for perform the perfect kiss!

Now that we have your attention, we want to offer you a cultural primer to correct kissing.  Each county that we have traveled to has its own social kissing customs.  We hope that you have the whole romantic kissing down.  We want to offer some of the other social setting in which kissing is appropriate.

Kissing in parisFrench Kiss:

How could we not start with the French?  While they likely didn’t invent the kiss, they came up with an interesting version.  Parisian social kissing is reserved for family, friends and known acquaintances.  The double cheek kiss is very common in French culture.  Both persons lean slightly forward and lightly touch cheek to cheek or lip to cheek.  Male-female and female-female cheek kissing is very common.  Male to male is less common.  A failure to offer a kiss-kiss is often a sign that two people do not get along.   The kiss is initiated on the left, what else would we expect?  Public displays of affections are a national pastime.

German Kuss:

German’s are much more reserved in their expressions of affection.  The double kiss is common amongst family and the closest of friends.  A warm handshake is appropriate for friends and acquaintances.  Hugs or embraces are also frowned upon in a business social setting.

Italian Bacio:

The Italians follow the French model.  The double kiss-kiss is appropriate for friends and family.  Male-male kisses are also more common.  The Italians have turned the kiss-kiss into an art form.  Public displays of affection between couples is also very prevalent.

Aussies Smooch:

The Aussies are a melting pot of Europe with a heady dose of Limeyness.  The single cheek kiss male to female is fairly commonplace between close friends and family.  Before you book your flight down under, brush up on your kissing!

Spain/Portugal Beso:

Spaniards in particular actively practice the kiss-kiss approach with friends and family.  They do make one deviation from the two kissing countries identified above, they start on the right and move left.

Middle East Peck:

Cheek kissing in the Middle East is very commonplace.  It is typically reserved for expressions between friends and relatives. Cheek kissing male-male is very common. However, cheek kissing between a male and female is usually considered inappropriate, unless within the same family.  “Involved” public displays of affection are forbidden and in some locals illegal.

Girl blowing kissUK Snogging:

The Brits are firmly planted in the nod and shake camp.  A nod in the general direction of a friend or an associate indicates a kind acknowledgement.  A firm handshake and a back slap are also very typical.  For the females, a typical embrace is the elbow grab.  Both parties extend arms and place hands lightly on each other’s elbows.

USA: North

The US has a different set of rules depending on where you are.  For the north eastern part of the US, see UK above.

USA: South 

The refined south is likely the most liberal in allowed affection between friends and associates.  The kiss-kiss is still practiced in much of the south on a female-female and male-female basis.

USA: West

Westerners are a combination of north and south.  Much like the northerners, a handshake works fine in most settings.  Westerners do like to hug close friends and family, especially the male-female variety.   It is not uncommon for two close male friends to hug with a back slap.

Some Hints for Kissing:

Regardless of where you are off to, it is best to “follow the leader” in your selection of affection.  Watch your guide and or those around you for the level of affection required.  Don’t feel that you must kiss someone.  Just because you Italian taxi driver gets you to your destination in time, a kiss is certainly never expected (unless is he is extremely handsome!)  Lip to lip contact is reserved for husband or wife or couples in all the locations that we have traveled.

Now it is time to practice!  Gold luck!  Mwah!  Kiss, Kiss!

Spring Break Europe 2013

Spring Break Europe 2013: What is Hot right Now?

If you’re wondering what European destinations are still making the top slot when it comes to spring break, look no further.

We’ve enlisted our friends at beatthebrochure.com to help give us brief rundown of what’s hot in Europe for 2013:


It may not score highly for hot temperatures, but give Iceland a go for its stunning architecture and scenery of glaciers, ice fields and volcanoes.  It’s also a prime position to catch glimpses of the Aurora Borealis, that’s the Northern lights to you and me.  There’s fantastic terrain for hikers to conquer, The Winter Lights Festival in February to enjoy, volcanic thermal spas to luxuriate in and capital city, Reykjavik.  The best news is that holidaying in Iceland is still relatively affordable.

Holland Museum

Willet Museum Amsterdam. One of our faves!


We have long used Amsterdam as a stopover in route to destinations afield in Europe.  We always like to build in a day or two in the city.  There are so many things to do in Amsterdam!  Spring break is the perfect time to take in Holland’s famous tulips.  Yes, the city is noted for it’s dark and seedy underside.  But the Dutch capital has so much to offer for the arts, history and culture lover.  The city is home to an amazing Van Gough Museum.  2013 marks its 40th birthday and no doubt will be honoring the country’s most celebrated artist, Vincent van Gough on what would be his 160th birthday.  Take a morning and visit Anne Frank’s home.


Barcelona is still as popular as ever.  Could this be due to the fact that it is crowded with fantastic architecture, is the place to indulge in guilt-free café culture and has its very own beach?  Whatever the reason, Barcelona is a must-visit destination for spring breakers, if only to appreciate architect Antonio Gaudi’s own inimitable style of architecture throughout the city.  Check out our post about the 10 Best of Barcelona.  The mild temperature of the area makes this the perfect spring break location.  Better yet take in the Barcelona and Real Madrid match!

Istanbul Carpet

One of our treasures being wrapped up at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul


The next pick is a Fighting Couple favorite  Istanbul.  This welcoming city is an interesting blend of old and new.  A contemporary art scene, boutique hotels and plenty of retail therapy opportunities rub shoulders with historical places of interest.  Enjoy the best of both worlds, but be sure to check out Turkey’s latest discovery, the ruins of Göbekli Tepe.  As well as Istanbul’s Old Town, Midyat and Mardin are also worth exploring.  Don’t forget to get an unforgettable Turkish bath!


The once imposing Berlin Wall, now reduced to remnants and the city’s chequered past, are of course huge pulls for visitors.  After all who isn’t fascinated by Berlin’s history and this now physically undivided city?  You’ll also find the Reichstag and great art galleries and museums to explore here.  Berlin is no longer dark and cementy? (Is that even a word?)  It is now a vibrant metropolis offering couples romantic parks, and tasty eateries.

You cannot go wrong choosing any one of these lovely locations.  Get out and enjoy spring!  So do you have a fave European city to welcome in spring?

Drop us a line below in the comments section if you have been to Iceland, Berlin, Amersterdam or Barcelona!

The Fighting Couple’s 10 Best in Barcelona

If you spend much time on our blog you know we write a ton about Barcelona, Spain. Why? There are so many layers to Barcelona. The wonderful city has so much it wants to tell you.  For us, it is one of those places that around every corner is something new.  As we walked down the Las Ramblas, retracing the steps of Orwell and Hemingway you can’t help be feel a connection to the history of this place.  As you stare in wonder at one of Gaudi’s playful architectural creations you begin to understand the city and it becomes a part of you.

Those of you that have yet to visit this incredible city, here are our top picks:

Camp Nou

For you football fans Camp Nou is one of the world’s great cathedral’s of sport.  It is the home of the mighty FC Barcelona.  The sheer size of the venue is what is so unbelievable   Even if you are not super interested in athletics, you must tip your hat at the impressive expanse of facility.  Take a tour of the storied FC Barcelona museum.  It is a bit over priced, but for the exuberant fan, it is a must.

Yellow Tram

Tram to the top


Our next recommendation is not in even in Barcelona…It is the must see day trip outside of the city:  The monastery at Montserrat.   Pack a lunch for you and your loved one and board the train for the hour long trip north of the city.  We did a post recently about visiting the benedictine monastery check it out here.  Go for the views and the tram ride up and down the mountain.

The Opera House

We have a tiny confession   We have never been into the opera house.  We have stood in line for tickets twice, took pictures from the lobby, and dreamed about what it looks like on the inside.  But due to circumstance beyond our control we have never made it in.  That is why it is on this list.  We want to see it too!  If you do go, please let us know what you think.  Should we keep it on the list of must sees in Barcelona?

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Exterior

Sagrada Familia

We exited the underground right in front of the grand cathedral, walked out into the sunshine and there towering over me was one of the most interesting structures I have ever seen.  I stood looking at the exterior for nearly 30 mins!  It is a collage of biblical proportions in more ways than one!  The detail, the stories, the cast of characters just on the exterior of the church is impressive.   Then we walked inside!  I couldn’t help but feel dwarfed by the soaring ceilings inside.  This is one of those places that the pictures simply does not do it justice.  It is a must see on any visit to Barcelona.

Park Guell


Park Guell Barcelona

We have done a couple of posts on this famous park.  It is a bit of a hike to get to the park but it is so worth it.  The views from the plaza of all of Barcelona is breathtaking.  The park is another creation from the mind of Gaudi.  It is one of those iconic places that is on every tourist map for the city.  But  there is so much more than meets the eye.  Gaudi outdid himself on the design and function of the park.  The serpentine benches that line the upper plaza are a work of art.  The lower plaza has unique little design details that make it fun.  The columns that support the upper plaza are actually hollow and are used to collect rainwater from above!  The beauty of the park is that a visit any time of day delivers a great experience.

water feature

Magic Fountain Barcelona



We are lumping a bunch of different sites under this one heading.  There is a good reason for this.  We want to you see it all!  A great primer for seeing the mountain is to start at the Olympic museum atop the hill.  Wander around the many displays.  Get your bearings on where and what events were held.  Your next stop is of course the Olympic stadium.  Take you pictures and move on not much to see there.  Take in the views of the swimming and diving centers.  Walk through the parks and gardens.

The Magic Fountain

A great evening attraction is the magic fountain of Barcelona.  The mix of water, lights and if you time your visit right… music is highly entertaining.   On most evenings you can watch as water is launched into the air in a choreographed display that is memorizing   A word of caution, watch you belongings.  This is a favorite spot for the el pickpocket-itos.

La Padrara

We could of filled this list with just Gaudi related locations.   He is that good.  And there are enough Gaudi locations to fill many a list.  We are offering our recommendations for the best.  La Padrara is a wonderland.  There really is no other word to describe the feeling of wandering the bends and bumps within the apartment complex.  Being there reminds us the power of the mind to create beauty.  At every turn during your tour you are going to smile and be amazed at the level of creativity that Gaudi possessed.  Our hint, look for the details, they will amaze you.

People watching in an anarchist bookstore

If you know us well, you know we love to people watch.  There is no place better in Barcelona than in one of the many revolutionary bookstores.  This is where the red-blooded revolutionaries come to get more….. revolutionary.  Sip your beverage, read some Hemingway.  Take it all in at your own pace.

Barceloneta Restaurant

Calle L’Escar, 22, 08039 Barcelona, Spain (La Barceloneta)

Our last recommendation involves food.  The perfect ending to any visit to the inviting city of Barcelona is a dinner at the Barceloneta.  You are going to have to save up your Euros to splurge on this one but the return on the investment is huge.  Located on the city’s harbor, this seafood out of this world.

That is it.  Our quick recommendations for Barcelona.  Getting to Spain is easy.  There are direct Barcelona flights from all of the major hubs in the states and Europe.  Barcelona also has one of the most user-friendly airports.  Enjoy your stay in Barcelona! Send us pictures!