A House of Her Own: Creating Your Own Writing Retreat

by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Any writer who has applied for a residency at a writer’s colony knows the process is expensive, time-consuming and competitive, not to mention fairly inflexible, schedully speaking.

So it might surprise some readers that I’ve had writing retreats in Mozambique, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Hanoi, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur and Ajijic, Mexico.

How? I housesit! In exchange for caring for vacationing homeowners’ pets and houses, I live expense-free in a locale free from my daily distractions.

This science-backed advice about how to get the most from your vacation includes widely reported strategies such as the importance of antici …… pation of future activities and savoring good times. It also includes something called the “Peak-End” Rule, which, believe it or not, comes from colonoscopy research.

All this expert advice comes from Eric at Barking up the Wrong Tree, a blog I’m becoming increasingly fond of, that “brings you science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life.”



Google Maps Tricks

January 18, 2017 | Comments Off on Google Maps Tricks

Dave Dean over at TooManyAdapters.com has “uncovered thirteen of the most useful Google Maps tricks and secrets for travelers. They’ll save you time, money and energy, help find places you didn’t even know existed, keep a journal of your entire trip, and a whole bunch more. Enjoy!”

Aaron Williamson Flickr Photo

Aaron Williamson Flickr Photo

A big Thank-You to Dick Jordan at Tales Told from the Road for his article about how to get landline messages on your smartphone.


CallerSmart logoCallersmart offers a directory of international country codes and ISO codes for calling and texting internationally. The company offers a reverse lookup phone book app. The website also provides phone scam alerts and videos of famous songs featuring phone numbers, including the 80s classic “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone, embedded here for your listening pleasure:

laptop woman

A Google Chrome extension called Language Immersion aims to replicate the experience of language immersion while you’re browsing the internet. tells Business Insider about the product:

Users select one of 64 languages supported by Google Translate that they’d like to learn, as well as the level of immersion they need, from “novice” to “fluent.”

The extension then translates random words on whatever you’re reading online into the foreign language. (You can click on the translated words to put them back into your native language.) If you roll over the translated words, you can hear them pronounced by a native speaker.

PhonePlanOh gosh; calling while traveling gets more complicated all the time. Here are a couple of places you can learn more:


CharbonneauChateauThinking of trading homes with someone in another country? It’s a good way to save money when you’re traveling, and Bradley Charbonneau over at Repossible.com has done it enough that he’s learned the ropes. The image used here is from Bradley’s post How We Stayed in an $8,400 Villa in the South of France for Free. Find that and more in his Home Exchange series.


Travel WardrobexxxHere’s a glimpse into one of my guilty obsessions: If only I had the perfect travel wardrobe (my thinking goes), trips would be more … well … actually, they’re already pretty terrific. Every time. Nevertheless, I am sure they would somehow be better if I had The Perfect Travel Wardrobe. Here Kimberly Genschmer Vital Brasil (yes, that’s one person, and she has a wonderful sense of style) has done all the requisite research, and provides travel wardrobe ideas for everything from Santa Cruz to a Mediterranean Cruise. Go ahead and click on through. How can you not want to know how to pack for Paris in the winter with just a carry-on?

CostcoxxxThis linked article on Moneyning explains that Best Western, Hyatt, Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise all offer discounts or perks for Costco members.


Helen Maguire, Dave Cooney, and Laurie McAndish King (RT) Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Helen Maguire, Dave Cooney, and Laurie McAndish King (RT) Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Find out why flying from San Francisco to Dublin, Ireland is easier than ever. I visit with Dave Cooney and Helen Maguire about Aer Lingus’ new daily nonstop service from SFO to DUB, comfy lie-flat seats in business class, vacation packages, and an expedited reentry arrangement with U.S. Customs.

While the daily nonstop service and lie-flat seats are impressive, I personally am not likely to take advantage of the added convenience they offer…

But I’m all over the expedited reentry,

Writing Travel

March 16, 2015 | Leave a Comment

LanoraMuellerWritingtravel.com is similar to Travel Writers News, with tips for travel writers plus some beautiful photos by Lanora Mueller.

RefreshHere’s CNN’s list of 9 apps every business traveler needs. It includes such entries as the handy Mynd Calendar, a free iPhone app that syncs with real-time traffic data to calculate drive times. Also on the list: the very scary Refresh, also free, which pulls info from various social media sites to provide tidbits about colleagues, such as whether they recently took a big trip or bought a new car.

Here’s a list of favorite travel resources from Michelle Peng at Educatorlabs, a group of volunteer web resource curators specializing in education.

US Customs & Border Patrol

Find a Doctor While Traveling in the U.S.

UN Women — dedicated to gender equality

The Medical Volunteer’s Guide to Overseas Travel

Air Travel Tips — from the U.S. DoT

Medicare for Travelers Outside the United States

Travel and Tourism Sites for U.S. States and Territories

National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Park Pass for Seniors

Find a Touring Broadway Show

TraveAppsThe International Travel Writers Alliance provides its August, 2014 list of more than 100 essential travel apps (PDF), which help users do everything from finding vegan restaurants to organizing contact information to detecting the UV rating of your current location and reminding you to reapply sunscreen.

What If … You Lose Your Car Keys, Passport, Wallet, or Phone While Traveling?

Keys in the toilet, one sign that you are having a bad day (Photo: Thinkstock)

After Yahoo Travel author Lisa McElroy accidentally flushed her keys down the toilet during a bathroom break on a cross-country trip, she asked two travel experts for their tips on “the best ways to cope should you ever lose your keys, your passport, your luggage, your wallet, your meds, or your phone.”  The article is here.

NarrativeTired of people hating you for your Google Glass? Here’s a solution: “Meet the Narrative, a tiny clip-on camera to document your every day life….

“You would love to remember every second of your spring picnics and friend filled adventures, but your old diary is full of unicorn stickers and your cursive handwriting has really gone downhill since 5th grade.

“The Narrative Clip camera is the photographic memory you’ve always wanted! It automatically snaps a pic every 30 seconds, then gathers them up so you can look back over the day’s adventures.

August 31, 2014

ExpeditionGrantedFrom National Geographic: “Have you ever wanted to explore uncharted territory, forge a new path, or show the world something completely original? This is your chance! We are excited to announce Expedition Granted, a nationwide competition to discover the next generation of explorers and award one person a $50,000 prize to fund the expedition of their dreams.

“Exploration isn’t just for mountain climbers and photographers. The explorers of the 21st century are musicians and makers, techies and tinkerers, the curious and the courageous—anyone with a big idea and the drive to make it a reality. And that means you. What will you explore?”

Whether they’re attempting to save energy or freeze you out, hotel room thermostats rarely achieve the ideal temperature. Here’s how to hack your way to comfort using the VIP or Bypass mode.


secure-computerHere’s Lifehacker’s most recent article about keeping your laptop (computer) safe while you’re traveling. It includes ideas for both physical and software security, and even has a surprisingly effective tip for using glittery nail polish, suggested by a pair of security researchers at the Chaos Communication Congress and based on a technique astronomers use called blink comparison.

And speaking of used suitcases, if you’re flying on a small airline (Vim Airlines? Malmo Aviation? Sata Air? Anyone?) and need to check on missing baggage, you’ll probably find the appropriate link on this Airline Baggage Links site from Travelport.

wineopenerEver find yourself traveling without a corkscrew (it’s happened to the best of us) and craving a gulp of the grape? Here’s an easy solution from Mirabeau wines.


December 19, 2013
12:00 am

Win a trip to Morocco: Enter now and “you can win a 5-Night Hotel Accommodation for Two at the La Mamounia Hotel, Royal Air Maroc Round-Trip Airfare for Two, a Private Tour led by Indagare, plus a $3,000 L-atitude.com Shopping Spree!”

Contest entry deadline is Thursday, December 19th. All they want is your email address.

Sweepstakes terms and conditions are here.


klingg“If you’ve ever been in the middle seat in an airplane, and nearly had your earbuds yanked out when your headphone cords get snagged by a neighbor, or if you just want to get control of those swinging wires while walking with bags in your hands, then the clever Klingg magnetic cord holder is a handy accessory….” Here’s the rest of Bill Fink’s review of the Klingg Earphone Magnet on SF Gate.

residencyAnother gift idea for the person who has everything: citizenship in another country: “Countries don’t like to trumpet it, but it’s often possible for wealthy people in need of strategic re-location from troubled countries, or just trying to lower their tax bill, to purchase residency or even citizenship by investing in the country.”

Here, from Tim Fernholz at Quartz, is a review of the best nations to buy your way into.

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