News for the New Year

Hello Everyone,

I realize that I have been hopelessly out of touch since the holidays and perhaps you have missed receiving news of new posts – at least I hope you’ve missed me! While I do have a couple of blog post ideas that I am kicking around right now, I have been distracted by a new project for the last couple of months. I’ve decided to write a book, something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I am putting together a collection of stories from my international travels; some are being adapted, edited, and embellished from blog posts you may have seen on here, and some are new. I have joined a group that helps would-be authors self-publish, and as part of the exercises and workshops for that, I was to write what they call “Book Bait” – a sort of long teaser about what the book will be about to gauge people’s reactions to the idea. Below you’ll find a draft of what I proposed; I have not yet come up with a book title, as I am sort of hoping it will write itself as the book comes together!


Raised by a single, working mom and growing up in a working-class city in New England, I could never have imagined the places my life would take me. I lost my mother to cancer when I was only sixteen years old, but in the short time we had together, she managed to instill in me a sense of courage, self-reliance, wonder, and a longing to travel and explore the world. Her early death taught me that tomorrow is never guaranteed, and that we have to live our life as fully as we can while we are able to. 

From that tumultuous start in life, I managed to put myself through college and graduate school and build a thirty-five -year long career as a psychology professor. During that time, I constantly searched for ways to balance my work life with my passion for travel. I was able to accomplish this by leading groups of students on study abroad trips, as well as conducting research and attending conferences in exciting international locations. In my free time and with every spare dollar I had, I embarked on countless road trips across the USA and to Alaska, spent significant amounts of my life in Hawaii and Italy, and have visited thirty-five different countries so far.

Whether it was the time I collided with a kangaroo in Australia, made a fool of myself in a Turkish bath or Hamam, tried not to choke to death on a popular Japanese confection, learned to navigate the strict dining customs of Italy or just happily bobbed like a cork in Israel’s Dead Sea, the experiences I’ve had while traveling internationally have run the gamut from hilarious to scary to thought-provoking.

Whether you’re an armchair traveler who prefers to travel vicariously, a person who’s been unable to travel the way you might like, someone contemplating traveling abroad for the first time, or a seasoned travel veteran, I hope you’ll find the tales in this collection of travel memoirs amusing, relatable and perhaps even inspirational. Join me for a series of adventures that will take us from the Pacific Rim to the Middle East and across Europe. The world is waiting! Let’s go!

So, what do you think? Would you join me on such an adventure for a couple hundred pages? I’d love to hear your thoughts or any questions you have. Wish me luck and I hope the new year is off to a good start for you all.

Matt,,, still at home in the world.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah to All!

I just wanted to take a quick moment to say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all my loyal readers and followers. I’ve been saying that I feel as if someone removed about 10 days of December from the calendar, as I blinked and here we are at the end of the month already. I felt like I barely had time to get into the spirit of the season, despite the fact that this has always been my favorite time of year.

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Farewell to Another Musical Legend: Christine McVie

Just a few months ago the world lost singer and actress Olivia Newton-John, and I took the loss very personally. Her music was an integral part of my teenage years and got me through some difficult times, and I was saddened by the fact that she had lost her decades-long battle with breast cancer. Her loss also made me more aware of my own mortality, since she was only 10 years older than me. Little did I know that I’d soon be saying farewell to another beloved entertainer whose music is so much a part of my identity that when news of her death made headlines this week, I received several messages from friends who were wondering how I was coping with the loss. Yes, this week we lost Christine McVie, keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter for Fleetwood Mac. She was 79 years old, and her death seemed to be sudden and unexpected, reports saying she had passed away after a brief illness.

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A Long-Awaited Return to Iceland

My first trip to Iceland was in June of 2008, and it was among my most favorite travel destinations. The scenery was other-worldly, the peace and quiet appealed to me, and the food, though expensive, was top-notch. Unfortunately, my travels over the years never seemed to bring me back to Iceland, but as I began to plan a European getaway for this fall, the new Icelandic airline called Play offered fares so low that it made my trip entire trip feasible. Since all of Play’s flights pass through Reykjavik, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to revisit Iceland for a few days after visiting Italy and London.

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Taking the Voyage with ABBA

I just returned from my first trip to Europe in several years. My primary destination was Italy, but given how easy it is to “hop” around Europe fairly cheaply once you’re across the Atlantic, I decided that while I was in “the neighborhood”, I simply had to go to London to see ABBA’s innovative concert/show/spectacle, and so I planned a two night stop-over in London for that purpose.

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A Beautiful Reunion with an Old Friend: Italy

Thanks to the gigantic monkey wrench that COVID threw into all of our lives, I haven’t traveled abroad since the summer of 2019. To some, this may not seem like such a big deal, but for me, who was once described by Diletta, my former Italian teacher, as someone who “goes to Europe the way some people go to the grocery store,” this hiatus from international travel was a huge change in my life. Ambiguous and ever-changing COVID restrictions that varied from country to country, uncertainty about the economy and my own finances, and the threat of a larger war developing in Europe all made me wonder whether I would ever get back to Europe, and especially to my beloved Italy again.

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Making All the Right Choices: Antica Trattoria al Sole, Italy

On my most recent trip to Italy I experienced a big disappointment when a friend of mine from Vicenza and I were supposed to get together and the plans fell through. Actually, it would have been a sad meeting because he owns a pizzeria and gelateria but is being forced to close his business for the foreseeable future due to skyrocketing energy costs. I’d been invited to come by for his final night in business and looked forward to seeing him again, as well as sampling his fine organic pizza and gelato one more time. But on the appointed night, I drove to his shop in Vicenza only to find it closed and dark. I sent a few text messages that went unanswered and was stymied by what might have happened. Confused and sad that I‘d apparently missed him, I then had to attend to the immediate situation: I was very hungry and it was after 8PM on a Sunday night, so I knew I might not have many options for dinner. Relying on good old Google, I searched, “best restaurants near Vicenza” and up came the name Antica Trattoria al Sole, which roughly translates into: Ancient or Old Restaurant in the Sun. It was located a few kilometers outside Vicenza in the small village of Castegnero, so off I went into the unknown.

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Climbing New Hampshire’s Middle Sugarloaf Peak

Autumn. It’s that time of year again when New England achieves its highest level of “New Englandness.” The days begin to shorten, the air has a slight, but noticeable chill in the early mornings, the leaves start turning to a palette of all of my favorite shades of red, orange and yellow, and the smell of cider donuts and “pumpkin spice everything” assails the nostrils. I’ve always loved fall, and in my humble, native New Englander opinion, there is no better place to be in late September and early October.

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The 10 Best Places for Pancakes in the USA: Updated Fall 2022

Pancakes. Hotcakes. Griddle Cakes. Flapjacks.

No matter what they’re called, they happen to be one of my favorite ways to start the morning, and when I travel around the country, I make it a point to seek out the very best local places to find these breakfast staples. I personally don’t like a lot of extra stuff on or in my pancakes:  whipped cream, chocolate chips, strawberry sauce, ice cream, hot fudge – in my opinion they are just ways to mask a boring pancake. A really top-notch pancake should be able to stand on its own, maybe with some simple blueberries in the batter, and always with a little help from butter and real maple syrup.

I am updating this post for the first time in two years. Things change: even the most fabulous restaurants may go out of business; some places that used to be good seem to fade in quality; and in my continued travels, I discover new places that I feel obligated to include in my list. So… here are my latest rankings as of October, 2022.

To find the best pancakes in the country, read on!