About

Welcome to Maps & Merlot!

Hi, I’m Melissa, a wine-loving, Fitbit-addicted, whirlwind wanderer and also a full-time corporate risk analyst. Let me specify –no, I’m not the location independent, digital nomad type that taps away on a laptop from the beaches in Bali–I’m the kind that drives to the same office and sits in the same gray cube every day for a 9-5 job. But how can someone with such a basic life become a travel blogger? Let me tell you…

Vienna Polaroid Tour

Yes, I have a job, but having a job doesn’t signify an end of my love for adventure. With 15 vacation days, 9 holidays, and approximately 104 weekend days in a year, that gives me 128 days a year to tackle my ever-growing wanderlist (and yes, I did that math on an Excel spreadsheet because that’s who I am.)

What’s Different About This Blog?


I’ve read all of the travel blogs about people quitting their jobs, selling their possessions, and doing the “slow travel” thing for years at a time. But I’m not sure that’s me…I love the comforts of living near my family, having a career I enjoy (okay, the paycheck doesn’t hurt), and being able to go home after work to a nice pot of home cooked spaghetti (#teamgarlicbread for the win).

But still–I need travel in my life, and I need it in a major way. My life isn’t complete without embarking on new adventures, experiencing cultures different from my own, and taking in all of the crazy sights our world has to offer.  My question has always beenIs it possible to bring this vision alive while juggling a “normal life” and climbing the corporate ladder?  According to the other travel blogs out there–no. I would have to quit my job to play with elephants in Thailand, and in no way possible could I go traipsing through the Swiss Alps or climb the waterfalls in New Zealand unless I had weeks to dedicate to each adventure. I’m not the kind of person to take no for an answer, so I set out to develop a travel style that suits my life and lets me experience the best of both worlds.

I know there are other people out there in the same boat as me. I’m here to tell you that it is 100% possible to live your wildest travel dreams, but only if you make it your priority. Despite the most normal life in the world (but really–born into a loving two-parent family, went to a great college, got a steady job and lived happily ever after), I am determined to live a life of adventure and culture–whether that means hopping over to New Orleans for a long weekend of chowing down on gumbo, winding through the canals of Venice in a gondola, or soaking in the sunshine on my own city’s white sand beaches.

Venice canals gondola

What’s the Goal of Maps & Merlot?


So here it is: this blog is my attempt to balance normal life with the craziest travel dreams. My goal is that my adventures will inspire others to explore the world without feeling pressure to go the extreme “buy a one-way ticket and sell pineapples on the beach” route. I want this blog to serve as a practical resource you can actually use to make your travel dreams come true, even if you’re a Type-A workaholic with a whole bunch of boring real-world responsibilities like me.

New Orleans French QuarterHowever, I do want to warn you up front–this blog will not be for the faint of heart.  Growing up in what some relatives called “the lickety-split family,” I’ve always moved fast, and you can probably best describe my travel style as a whirlwind.  With limited vacation time, I’m going to take advantage of every minute, and that means moving quickly all day (and night too!)  As the saying goes, you can always sleep when you’re dead **or when you make it back to work, nap under your desk.**

If you haven’t been scared off after reading after all that–let’s go! Join in the adventure and wander this crazy world with me.

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