I'm a 37-year old Seattle girl who was bitten by the travel bug on my first tour of Europe in 2004. This personal blog follows my attempts to visit as many countries as I can, as often as my budget will allow. Since starting this blog in 2007, I've also worked as a freelance copywriter for an online travel publication. This only served to add even more must-see locations to my already extended list.
Follow me as I try to balance "real life" with exploring the world, all while trying to conquer a wickedly ironic case of homesickness.



I have a new fascination, and I can't decide if it makes me want to laugh or just join in. It's called Flashmobbing, and it comes in two forms:

The first is Mobile Clubbing, a very simple concept that challenges the need of an actual club for dancing. Just bring your groove and your own mp3 player to the agreed upon place, icons such as the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral or the madness of Victoria Station (pictured above, 4000 strong!) and you've got yourself - that's right, you catch on fast - a mobile club. The initial mob gets the party started, but the number tends to grow as every Londoner has an iPod in their pocket and tends to jump in once they realize what's going on.

The second is the London Pillow Fight Club, which works quite the same way, bring your own pillow (Leadenhall Market pillow fight pictured above).

These concepts are beginning to branch out to other cities all over the world, and I think it's fabulous! It's about time we all had some fun! Click here for the official site.


Expatriat evolution?

Okay, this is kind of disjointed, but see if you can follow me to the end...

I used to pride myself on my ability to make the best of a budget situation. But when we booked our flight and accommodations for our trip in March, I suddenly got an immense distaste for yet another low-priced British hotel room. I've stayed in seven, count them SEVEN, this year. Needless to say, I'm quite burnt out by them. I didn't realize how much so until I returned to the UK in September to stay with a friend in her flat and found myself almost too delighted to have instant access to a computer, a clothes washer and a phone that didn't require dialing out first. Don't get me wrong: you wouldn't hear me complaining if I was toting the key to a suite at The Savoy. But until the USD/GBP exchange rate ceases to make me cry, I don't see that miracle happening.

So this time, with three ladies and the subsequent personality differences that come along with it, I made an executive decision. There will be no shoebox hotel room, no third foldaway bed, no dodgy television reception. Nope, we're springing for a proper flat. With the help of some accommodating English estate agents, I'm up to my nose in amenities like clothes dryers, central heating and lifts. But I'm finding that I'm having a very strange inner reaction to my quest.

Now here in Seattle, these "amenities" are practically expected. Central heating is simply an inalienable right, and a home with a washer and no dryer is simply confusing. But instead of most Americans who see these things as signs of inferiority, I'm finding myself yearning to be doing this for more than just a short-stay...and that kind of scares me.

My mother-in-law recently said to me, "I'm just so scared I'm going to lose my son and daughter-in-law to Great Britain." I had no answer. Several years ago, the thought of leaving the US was terrifying. But now, it's different. My husband and I have talked about eventual relocation. My family has even considered it. I read expat blogs complaining about the struggle to adjust and find myself wishing that was me. Logically, it seems so ungrateful to wish I was missing America, but I do.

What does it mean to wish you had to acquire your peanut butter and athletic socks through care packages from home? Is it a romantic notion, pure ignorance...or maybe a glimpse of what the future holds?


An expensive addiction

Ah, the sweet satisfaction of booking a return to London! I'm officially headed back in March. YAY! Even though the exchange rate is physically painful to think about. It'll be the first time I've visited the UK in the winter, and though I'm crossing my fingers for halfway decent weather, I'm grateful for the firsthand experience of a London March for my own travel-cation.

Once again, I'm "dragging" my little sis (and, oh my, is she putting up a wicked fight :-p). But this time, I'm also going with my girl Lindsey who has a phenomenal eye for photography. I'm SO thrilled to hire her for some personal shots in my favorite city, which really makes me wish Officer Husband could come, too. Oh well...

We've decided to forego a hotel deal, choosing instead to rent a flat through Holiday Rentals UK. Our choice in West Brompton/Fulham seems wonderful, giving all three of us lots of room to spread out and relax. Fingers crossed that the pictures online are true to form and the neighborhood is not unsavory!

Possible daytrips on the table include Hampton Court, Stourhead Gardens and Blenheim Palace. I've also revived the idea of hopping on the new faster Eurostar and checking out Brugges, Belgium while over there. Stay tuned...


Paris Je T'aime

"As if I had recalled something that I had never known, and for which I had been waiting."

(Credit to film: "Paris Je T'aime"; short entitled "14th Arrondissement")



I ran across an article today on NYT's Travel page. It shed some light on a new type of travel package that, I must admit, fascinates me. They call it Set-Jetting, and its theme is entirely centered around films. Movie fans are buying the tickets and heading out to visit shooting locations and sets of their favorite films. This clever marketing theme is offered all over the world, but some countries have benefited more than others. The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy single-handedly revived New Zealand's tourism industry, and Britain is seeing people flock to learn more about "Elizabeth", "Pride and Prejudice", "Bridget Jones" and many more. Since the only thing I love more than traveling is movies, this seems ideal for me! Check out the current package details at Visit Britain.


The London Scene: Abbeys and Cathedrals

Three of my loves are London, stunning architecture and flavorful writing. And so it seems I have found a delicious blending of the three in Virginia Woolf's essays entitled, "The London Scene". For anyone that has experienced these London icons, her words return you immediately to the presence of these amazing structures like no one else I've ever read. My favorite bits are below.

Virginia Woolf on St. Paul's:
"We have no time, we were about to say, to think about life or death either, when suddenly we run against the enormous walls of St. Paul's. Here it is again, looming over us, mountainous, immense, greyer, colder, quieter than before. And directly we enter we undergo that pause and expansion and release from hurry and effort which it is in the power of St. Paul's, more than any other building, to bestow."

Virginia Woolf on Westminster Abbey:
"Even the stone of the old columns seems rubbed and chafed by the intensity of the life that has been fretting it all these centuries. Voice and organ vibrate wirily among the chasings and intricacies of the roof. The fine fans of stone that spread thenmselves to make a ceiling seem like bare boughs withered of all their leaves and about to toss in the wintry gale. But their austerity is beautifully softened. Light and shadows are changing and conflicting every moment. The grey stone, ancient as it is, changes like a live thing under the incessant ripple of changing light. Not an inch of it's walls but speaks and claims and illustrates. Kings and Queens, poets and statesmen still act their parts and are not suffered to turn quietly to dust. Still in animated debate they rise above the flood and waste of average human life, with their fists clenched and their lips parted, with an orb in one hand, a sceptre in another, as if we had forced them to rise on our behalf and testify that human nature can now and then exalt itself above the hum-drum democratic disorder of the hurrying street. Arrested, transfixed, there they stand suffering a splendid crucifixion."

Virginia Woolf on St. Clement Danes:
"London nevertheless is a city in the full tide and race of human life. Even St. Clement Danes - that venerable pile planted in the mid-stream of the Strand - has been docked of all those peaceful perquisites - the weeping trees, the waving grasses that the humblest village church enjoys by right. Omnibuses and vans have long since shorn it of these dues. It stands, like an island, with only the narrowest rim of pavement to separate it from the sea. As likely as not it is participating vociferously, stridently, with almost frantic joy, but hoarsely as if its tongue were rough with the rust of centuries, in the happiness...while outside the pigeons, alarmed, sweep in circles, and Gladstone's statue is crowded, like a rock with gulls, with nodding, waving and enthusiastic sightseers."


Take back your time, America

It's time we took a stand. Read more and sign the petition to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act at Take Back Your Time.


Nouveux piggy banks

All international travelers have the same problem.

The last minute realization that you forgot to buy a water bottle for the long plane ride home, only to discover its insane airport price to be more than the handful of local currency you still have left. Your only hope is to break that American $20 note folded in your coin purse.

Or the ever-so-responsible trip into a local bank or Thomas Cook to exchange your leftover local currency before departure, only to discover that it never changes evenly and always leaves you with a mysteriously large handful of coins you can't use once back on your home soil.

Or even the spare fiver you tucked into your pocket that you completely forgot about until the day after you arrive back home and sort through the mountains of laundry.

Every time I return home - no matter how hard I try to avoid it - I'm toting a lump of local currency, usually in coin. But these coins, as most travelers know, are of absolutely no interest to American exchange bureaus. You'd have better luck bringing in your Monopoly box. So, what do you do with a giant pile of foreign coins? Check 'em out:

In an effort to make piles of strange coins more of a positive thing than an annoyance, I created mini piggy banks and decided to use them as a conversation piece when they aren't being spent abroad. And I plan to add a jar for each country I return home from.


English as a second language...well, almost

In a Tokyo Hotel:
Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a
person to do such thing is please not to read notis.

In a Bucharest hotel lobby:
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we
regret that you will be unbearable.

In a Paris hotel elevator:
Please leave your values at the front desk.

In a hotel in Athens:
Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the
hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.

In a Yugoslavian hotel:
The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the

In a Japanese hotel:
You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:
You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and
Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:
Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

In a Bangkok dry cleaners:
Drop your trousers here for best results.

In a Zurich hotel:
Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the
opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby
be used for this purpose.

In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist:
Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

In a Rome laundry:
Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon
having a good time.

In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency:
Take one of our horse-driven city tours - we guarantee no

In a Swiss mountain inn:
Special today -- no ice cream.

In a Bangkok temple:
It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed
as a man.

In a Tokyo bar:
Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.

In a Copenhagen airline ticket office:
We take your bags and send them in all directions.

On the door of a Moscow hotel room:
If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to

In a Norwegian cocktail lounge:
Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

In a Budapest zoo:
Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable
food, give it to the guard on duty.

From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner:
Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your
room, please control yourself.

From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:
When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn.
Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles
your passage then tootle him with vigor.

Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance:
- English well talking.
- Here speeching American.

(Entire text reposted unabashedly from www.danielsen.com)


Travel A.D.D.

When it comes to deciding on the next trip, I turn into the equivalent of a toddler in a toy store, completely resistant to the concept of choosing just one. I'm actually righteously indignant at the idea that I can't go everywhere. But I've managed to whittle the list down to the following:

I've been seriously vibing on Central Europe.

Then there's still NYC. I feel a calling to see it. Now. I can't seem to shut it up either. I think 2008 is my year for NYC. But that could change...

And Vegas. Ah, Vegas! It's been 5 years since I've been there, and with the rate of change that city sees, it's probably in a different state by now! I need me another hit of Vegas.

And I simply can't accept a year without a dip into London. That's just not right. My soul thrives off that city; I wonder if I could get a doctor to prescribe it?

And to top it all off, HOLY CRUISE VIRGIN, BATMAN! Yep, I'm looking at cruises. Mediterranean, to be exact. And even though it just seems so wrong to see such a modern contraption of luxury floating next to such elegantly decaying European cities, I just love the idea of your comfortable hotel room actually traveling with you. What a fabulously "Lisa" concept! Plus, I could add Spain, Monte Carlo, the French Riviera, Croatia or Slovenia to my list.

Could I make a reservation, for the love of God?!


First Day Syndrome

Ah, travel is a cruel mistress! The traveler’s initial required price of barebones vulnerability and a complete departure from one’s comfort zone would cause anyone to question whether or not traveling should still be considered a “fun” activity. And the most unapologetic travel challenge is what I like to call First Day Syndrome, something I am unfortunately becoming an old hand at.

On the first day of any trip, your main concerns involve trivially vital matters such as not forgetting your toothbrush, clearing TSA without a rectal exam, rushing around to wait in more lines than you conceive as humanly possible, using the claustrophobic bathroom on the plane before the seatbelt sign comes on and you end up with a bladder infection, a growing concern over the gentleman seated next to you that looks as if he's in the early stages of Ebola, finding your hotel transfer using only charades and a phrase book, heavy luggage with wheels that only work above a certain temperature on odd-numbered calendar days, a bewildering state of never-ending consciousness despite emotionally-draining jetlag, and last but not least, that cotton-feeling level of blood sugar that can only be obtained by consuming plane "food". And to make sure you really enjoy every last moment of Day One, the act of crossing time zones, enduring layovers or a simple inability to sleep on a plane can make Day One last a mind-boggling 36 hours or more.

By this point, you're wondering what on God's earth compelled you to leave your comfortable bed and fully stocked kitchen for what simply seems like a bad idea. Your state of exhaustion takes over your entire thought process, and your ability to cope with the littlest things becomes non-existent. You're sliding down Maslow's Hierarchy at breakneck speeds. In short, you're pissy. And hungry. And you really feel like crying for no apparent reason. It is at this point that you find yourself carrying on conversations not dissimilar to the following:

“I really miss my cat. I didn’t think I’d miss my cat this much. Did I remember to feed my cat? Do you think my cat is going to die?”

“We’ve only been gone 12 hours. And besides, you hired a house sitter. Your cat is fine.”

“No, really…my cat doesn’t like strangers. What if she hides for the entire trip and doesn’t eat and dies? I don’t want my cat to die!”

“You’re cat isn’t going to die. Chill out.”

“I never should have left! Now my cat is going to die while I’m stuck over here where they probably eat cats!! WHY DID I COME HERE?!”

“I’m not talking to you any more.”

Provided you survive until your new bedtime, you then find yourself staring down at something that almost resembles a bed while beginning the fine art of living out of a bag, considering yourself lucky if nothing has spilled or was confiscated by a paranoid security agent with a kleptomania problem. And that is only if your bag actually made it with your plane and isn’t lost in another airport on the other side of the world. You’re actually grateful it is sitting in front of you with a brand new permanent shoeprint on the front, everything inside smelling like petrol and wrinkled beyond hope, despite the $25 "No Wrinkles!" luggage add-on you bought specifically to address this problem. And to think you paid quite a lot for this lovely experience.

So now, there you lie on your adopted “bed” - wrinkled, clogged ears from the plane’s air pressure, enormous bags under your eyes, still a bit malnourished and smelling like stale coffee – wondering why you keep subjecting yourself to this torture. After hours of staring at a foreign ceiling and further contemplating the fate of your cat and the sorry state of the pillow under your head, your body slowly drains of the adrenaline that’s been keeping you moving for an inhumane number of hours and gives in to utter exhaustion.

Congratulations; you’ve passed the test. The Traveling Muses now render you worthy of having the curtain pulled away; your destination will now reveal herself to you in small tastes. And the love affair begins…

Fresh from some sleep, you start to find an odd appreciation for the strange foods and customs that confused you only hours earlier. This time, instead of gagging when someone hands you a plate of food floating in an unidentifiable liquid, you find yourself thinking, “I’ll just eat around it.” You get a bit excited to go out and try your hand at the uniqueness of this new place. Driving on the wrong side of the road and rough toilet paper are novelties. You don’t mind if something goes awry; it’s an opportunity to experiment and live a bit more like a local. You absorb as much of the culture as you can each day, realizing that perhaps the bed isn’t so bad, the wrinkles aren’t that big of a deal and you can even live with your suitcase’s new shoeprint.

As time goes on and your body clock realigns, you begin to develop a distinctive appreciation for your temporary reality. With each day, you discover something new and your eyes open a little bit more. You learn to keep up with locals and they show their appreciation by including you. You learn why this place is special and you develop your own comprehension of its people and customs. You find yourself actually understanding odd plumbing, strange foods, language barriers. You start thinking in their terms, almost finding your native rituals a bit foreign. You realize the ingredients of this place and that alone validates their worth.

And that’s when it happens: your moment, a supernatural clarity that can’t be put into words, a mental snapshot of pure perfection. Every wanderlust-bitten traveler has their own collection of these moments and holds each one near to who they are inside. It’s in this moment that you fall in love and the addiction enters your bloodstream. It’s as obsessive as a narcotic; you crave the natural high like a drug. This is why you came here and why you’ll come back. This is why you endure the frustrations like some sort of masochist.

This is why you travel.

(This blog was started in London at 3 in the morning, the end of one of my “first days”, in my 37th consecutive hour of consciousness, listening to my sister’s steady slumbering breathing and watching the purple glow of the London Eye out the window.)


London called, we answered!

In case you were wondering if it's worth flying 20 hours round trip to spend only 4 days on the other side of the world...it is. It is utterly and completely worth every minute of jet lag and every dollar spent. We had SO much fun, I'm still high off the wanderlust!


My unreality

In my tangible world, I sit at a desk of green Corian and type nonsense into a glaring screen, as if I truly care. I smile while I file, giving an Oscar-winning performance that I'm enjoying this stale coffee, this canned jazz music, this dull low back pain from an ergonomically questionable chair. This is my reality. If only they knew my secret. If only they realized the world I inhabit in my mind's eye....

My foot makes a clipping sound as it hits the grey stone on the stoop as I step out into the morning. The air is fresh and crisp, but surprisingly not cold. I look up; above the ornately decorated rooflines, the bright blue sky is freckled with wispy clouds moving swiftly in the steady sharp breeze. All around me, the sun is rising; the city is waking up.
My ears are filled with a symphony of sounds: glass jars filled with fresh milk clanking in their metal carts as milkmen scurry to leave them at every doorstep, the cranky diesel engines of the buses grinding into higher gears as drivers ease them around the street corner, the clip-clop of shoes hitting the cobblestone with every step sounds almost like rain on the sidewalk.
I ease into the flow of smartly dressed people carrying steaming cups and folded newspapers nestled warmly under their arms. We all seem to have the same destination, and I feel privileged to join this daily migration.
We turn at the street corner, carefully dodging the passing clusters of people headed in the opposite direction. There is an unspoken urgency in the air, so we step quickly on this bright morning. Our steps are careful, knowing the old age of this walkway is the reason it is uneven. No, don't repair it; don't fill it with concrete. There's a pride in the irreplaceable history crushed into the surface of these stones, the reasons for these potholes. The remarkable age of this place seasons the air like warm, inviting sunlight. Please, it seems to say, come immerse yourself in our story.
We turn another corner, lined with a formidable black iron railing. Emblems of lions sit pretentiously on the top of each post, reminding all who see that this was once the most powerful city in the world. The street is flanked by huge, aged, leafy trees covering the street like a tent. The breeze causes an unbroken song of rustling in the leaves. Up ahead, there's a break in the railing, set apart by a large black gate. This is my off-ramp. I carefully pull out of the river of people and step through the intimidating gate.

Immediately, the world is different. The excitement has faded away to reveal a calm so overwhelming, I resist disturbing it. Carefully manicured pathways sneak discreetly around knolls of green grass. Huge oak trees enclose this place, protecting the tranquility. A blanket of mist hovers peacefully above the dewy ground on this brisk morning. Every step I take disturbs its sleep, as the fog swirls around me. The sound of lapping water draws my attention to a great pond. Ducks paddle carefully around a large stone fountain as tiny birds drink from the trickle of water bouncing down.
I'm not the only person here. A few of the sharply dressed locals have slipped through the gate, as well. Ornate benches provide resting places for their steaming cups of coffee and tea as they eagerly devour their newspapers until the gentle, unobtrusive chimes of Big Ben remind them that the day is waiting. This is their morning routine; this is their commute.

There's an ache in my heart when the grassy hills snap quickly back to my green Corian desk as my boss approaches with yet another list to be pounded into my computer. London is not my reality, but it is real. Until the next time I step out onto those stones, it will be my Unreality...and I will enjoy every minute of it.

I've gone to the other side

As a diehard pack-light, backpack, low maintenence traveler, I'm almost ashamed to admit the following: I want cute luggage.

I found myself green with envy on my last trip anchored to my 50 pound backpack of - and let's be honest - my own crap. I always run out of room for souvenirs, which inevitably contain some sort of flat thing that can't be bent or crushed. Or perhaps Carlotta, the Venetian mask that suffered damage from 15 hours with Delta Airlines. Or the fact that I simply accept my tourist existence as the most wrinkled person on the earth. And the digging for the one toiletry item that is always - and I mean ALWAYS - at the bottom of the bag...

I couldn't take it any more. Much to the chagrin of my practical sister, I'm a snobby city traveler that wants something pretty and wheeled, and I no longer care about the connotation that comes with it. So I set out to find something dependable, affordable, attractive.

Pictured above are the Nine West roller piece and leather carryon I found for less than $50 total. Now, to maneuver the dang thing down in the Tube...


Lindsey's lens

I met her professionally, but have come to love her personally. It's simply a perk that her work continues to impress me and will soon grace the walls of my home. If you like what you see below, do not pass go, do not collect $200, just go check out my girl at www.lindseyandersonphotography.com.


London Calling

We're going back! In 7 short weeks, I'm headed back to Londontown with my little sis for a long girl's weekend. With only 3 months between jaunts across the pond, this will be the shortest duration I've ever stayed Stateside. I'm rather excited!

Thank you to Sarah for coming with me. Thank you to Michael for being okay with me using part of our savings on one single weekend. And thank you to Christina and Richard, who's food we will be eating and on who's futon we will be snoring. :-)


How disappointing!

One of my favorite travel sites is Virtual Tourist, so I was rather excited to learn they have developed a feature to export your personal travel map. How incredibly disappointed I was clicking on my map only to see so much white! Too much world, far too little time...and money!

Oh well...my progress so far:

I have traveled to 48 Cities in 8 Countries
See all my travel pages


Not only is another world possible...

she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
-Arundhati Roy

(No photo copyright infringement intended)


Which Type are You?

Many people firmly believe the only way to test a true friendship is to travel with that person. And why is that? Our differences become entirely unavoidable once we’ve left the comfort and familiarity of home. What really makes you tick will be laid out on the table far before you get home and start making your holiday slideshow. So…which type are you?

The first category of traveler would be the Pigheaded Patriotic, many of which we unfortunately see coming from the undeniable direction of the USA. This person comes through customs wearing an Old Navy tee emblazoned with the stars and stripes and socks underneath his sandals. He’s very difficult to ignore, as he is usually loudly voicing his frustration at the signs being in the local language or his confusion as to why something isn’t set up “the way we do it back home.” He has a tendency to pack way too much, wear his money belt outside his clothes and only participate in activities that cater entirely to his comfort. Even weak air-conditioning in his hotel room has him hoofing immediately down to the front desk to demand, at the very least, a fan for his comfort.

The second category of traveler is the Ignorantly Blessed. These travelers have money and lots of it. They travel frequently and always in first class. You might call them discreet, except that they also frequently pack way too much, but it’s okay because it’s all resting quietly in a expensive, new matching luggage set. They stay always connected to home through their Blackberry and they never take public transportation; it’s a chauffeured town car or nothing. Meals are always taken at the best restaurants followed immediately by tickets to the best shows. They are a concierge’s dream, and they tip to impress. Their friends frequently comment on how lucky they are to experience so much of the world this way, but they don’t understand why. To them, every town is essentially the same…and it would be in such a posh bubble.

The third category of traveler is simply called the High and Mighty. This is the traveler that sees themselves as the embodiment of Frommers themselves and loves to preach the travel gospel to anyone that won’t roll their eyes and run away. Their next trip is always far more exotic than the last, believing places like Venice and Paris are nothing more than tourist traps. They pride themselves on bonding with locals, especially when it involves eating something the western world would consider a pet. They despise chain establishments and tacky souvenirs, and they’re certain Starbucks is taking over the world. They firmly believe they are the only real travelers; everyone else is just pretending. And the extraordinarily pushy ones are usually offered their own show on the Travel Channel, as Anthony Bourdain loudly demonstrates.

The next category of traveler is the Laid Back Wanderer. Often the spouse or travel partner of the other travel types, nothing much bothers this traveler. Delayed flight? No problem. Lost reservation? Okay. No dinner? Whatever. They roll with the punches and often enjoy themselves entirely by accident. It isn’t unusual for this traveler to carry bags and operate cameras for others without any fuss; after all, isn’t a vacation about having fun?

The last and final category of traveler is where I seem to find myself. And it is from this place I found the name of this blog: Homesick Wanderlust. This traveler is fueled by dreams, hungry to see and despises a lack of appreciation and an excess of cynicism. Funds aren’t plentiful, so each and every trip is treasured. Armed with research and dog-eared journals, this traveler will do what it takes to have the best experience possible. With a slight naivety and craving to be knowledgeable, this traveler always absorbs every piece of advice they can get. But unlike the brash counsel that usually comes from the High and Mighty, this traveler gives themselves the permission to be balanced and vulnerable. They realize people are different and are going to experience places differently, and that’s okay. Even the nuances at the local McDonalds are a thrill to this traveler. But most importantly, this traveler lets their encounters deepen both their appreciation for this new culture and her own back home.


Discomfort Zone

Samantha Brown just said something with quiet profoundness: "When you travel, you really have to live in your discomfort zone."

Touché, Miss Brown, touché.

I think everyone with a pulse needs to get on a plane, train or automobile and go far. Don't stop until you cross a border into a place where you don't know the language, where the customs are completely foreign, where the world takes on an entirely new flavor.

There is an epiphany one has if, and only if, they've entirely removed themselves from their comfort zone. And with this revelation, you can start to see what a gloriously choreographed world we live in. That vulnerability will force you to look honestly at your true self as the mutually exclusive vastness and smallness of the world is revealed to you. The overwhelming rationale of our excessively detailed lives melts away when you see the world outside of your personal bubble.

I have never had such awe and respect for our Creator and His creation as I've had while abroad. Not only do you realize what an amazing planet we inhabit, but it's almost impossible to not feel a kinship with humanity and a longing for us to be unified the way were meant to be.

Some of my personal moments of perspective include * glimpsing out a tiny airplane window down 37,000 feet of atmosphere at ice sheets floating off Greenland * seeing the sunrise over London, knowing people at home are still enjoying yesterday * meekly testing my broken college French at a restaurant in Paris, while the waiter responded meekly and entirely in broken English * running for dear life across congested streets in Rome when all logic is screaming at you not to plow in front of moving vehicles * watching a 17-year old Australian discover snow and squirrels for the first time in his life * smiling as gondoliers stop singing operatic arias to answer their vibrating cell phones * touching the wall of a two-hundred year old chapel freckled with damage from German WWII bombs * standing on stones you know Julius Caesar has also stood on * grazing my fingers across seventeenth-century graffiti inside a Venetian prison * doing charades inside a Florentine pharmacy in order to acquire much needed tampons and cold medicine * watching the sweet sincerity of locals after sneaking quietly into an evening church service inside a warm, Swiss cathedral * Looking centuries into the past in a fog-covered Scotland valley where the Scots won their freedom *

How anyone can honestly believe our existence is a giant cosmic accident - unrelated and entirely random - is completely beyond me. My travels have only strengthened my faith and comfort that God is still in control.

Favorite Travel Quotes

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"There are two ways of getting home, and one of them is to stay there." -G.K. Chesterton

”Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” -Henry Emerson Fosdick

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” -Marcus Aurelius

“Life is a promise; fulfill it.” -Mother Theresa

“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The beckoning counts, and not the clicking of the latch behind you.” -Freya Stark

Beyond the East, the sunrise,
Beyond the West, the sea,
And East and West the wanderthirst
Will not let me be.
-Gerald Gould

“I resolved to abandon trade and to fix my aim on something more praiseworthy and stable; whence it was that I made preparation for going to see part of the world and its wonders.” -Amerigo Vespucci

“A place has almost a shyness of a person with strangers; its secret is not to be surprised by too direct interrogation.” -Arthur Symons

“Travelers always buy experience which no books can give.” -Anonymous

“When a traveler returneth home, let him not leave the countries where he hath traveled altogether behind him.” -Francis Bacon

“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left” -Chinese proverb

“The real voyage of discovery is not in discovering new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

“Since life is short and the world is wide, the sooner you start exploring it, the better.” –Simon Raven

“I was not born for one corner; the whole world is my native land.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“When you leave a country, you leave behind something of your heart.” -Belgian Proverb

“Life is not about the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.” -Unknown

“The happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it.” –Samuel Johnson

“…When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…” -Samuel Johnson


Journal Entry: Scotland 06

As you drive north through England, the hills roll higher and more dramatically, as if they're showing off. High on the novelty of achieving my childhood dream of seeing Sherwood Forest, I was struck with the beauty of Yorkshire as we put more of England under our "tyres". On the left, the hedge rows framed fields of cheerfully yellow rapeseed climbing higher and higher, balanced gently by the vast blue of the North Sea on the right.

Almost immediately after we crossed the border into Scotland, it was as if the land knew it was Scottish and was eager to flaunt the fact. The heather and craggy terrain made an immediate appearance. The hills grew immensely and the greens became inexpressably vibrant.

Your approach to the capital city of Edinburgh is like a movie preview; the small tastes whet your appetite for more, and the city center doesn't disappoint. The crags and cliffs steal your attention first. You find yourself craving a closer look just to determine how these buildings continue to cling to their resting spots and don't come sliding right down the side. Upon this closer look, you realize just how steep these hills are and just how clever the engineers that built this city must have been. The heights of Edinburgh Castle overlooking the depths of Princes Garden, all the way past New Town to the North Sea in the distance...this is one of the most unique cities I've ever visited. I don't think there is a single bad view in the entire place. Due to the coal mining, many parts of the city are still crazy dirty, but it works. Somehow the eerily gothic Scott Monument just wouldn't be the same without the years of grime embedded in it's surfaces. I could have spent many more days here; it was hard to leave.

The morning of our venture further into Scotland was graced with a heavy fog, setting the stage for the Scot's proud stories of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and the Battle of Bannockburn. As we got closer to Stirling, you could hear the honor in our guide's thick Scottish accent: this was his country, his culture, and he wanted us to understand what these men died for. Standing on a hill next to Stirling Castle overlooking the valley shadowed by the massive William Wallace Monument, you feel an energy of Scottish pride in the air. This beautiful place meant something to these people. I didn't want to move from that spot; I could have stayed there for hours.

The Highlands are also unlike anything else I've seen. Lochs of all sizes surprise you around almost every corner. The heather grows everywhere; during blooming season, the blanket of purple must be spectacular. Creeks follow the single lane road that winds its way up one hill and down another. The number of sheep that call this land home must be in the hundreds of thousands. A stop in Aberfoyle gave us the opportunity to meet some true Highlanders and experience how they live.

Our final stop was a cruise on Loch Lomond, with rays of sun poking through the clouds to create patterns on the deceptively large canvas of rolling hills. Castles were buried in valleys, standing proudly on clifftops and falling in ruin where they had met their demise so long ago. And if you close your eyes, you can actually hear the bagpipes.

As we drove south through Glasgow on our way back to England, I was struck with the distinctive beauty of this country and the kindness of its people. You've made an idelible mark on me, Scotland, and I thank you.

Canada, eh?

By the time my 27th birthday rolled around in November of 2006, I was absolutely foaming at the mouth to get out of town! But we were wedged between the financial depletion of a wedding and saving like mad for our upcoming jaunt to the UK in the spring. So we decided to take advantage of our local resources and hop on the Victoria Clipper for a mini international weekend holiday up to Canada.

As luck would have it, one of the worst storms of the season rolled in right behind our departure from the Seattle docks. While our friends and family were sloshing through the worst of the flooding back home, our experience with Victoria was still very wet. Very, very wet!

We'd chosen to stay at the number two hotel in the harbor, the Hotel Grand Pacific. It wasn't as pricey as the Empress, but their Romance Package was very reasonably priced. And we weren't disappointed by the hotel, either! It was a bit of affordable elegance, and the harborside location next to the beautiful Government building was fabulous, as well. Even the horse-drawn carriages were close by!

Michael and I got the chance to wander through town a bit before the deluge hit us. We found the bookstore...of course! I squealed and played in the year-round Christmas store, dug through bins of sweaters in the Irish wool store, ate too much candy in the chocolate stores...you get the idea! We watched the boats in the harbor and visited the museum where we scratched our heads at the Mating Animal exhibit.

And of course, we had afternoon tea at the Empress. The drawing room is beautiful, the ambiance can't be beat. We ate (almost) everything on the three-tiered platter and drank our fill of their scrumptous tea. We wandered around the hotel and it's perfect grounds a bit before returning to our hotel, where we spent the rest of the weekend hiding from the weather. Have I ever mentioned how much I love room service?

Caliente Mexico!

After the sheer madness of a wedding, this bride needed a haven where she didn't have to make a single decision for the entire duration of her stay. Oh...and it had to be affordable! So, I called my fabulous TA, and off we went to The Vallarta Palace in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.

Not many people know where Nuevo Vallarta is. The town of Puerto Vallarta sits on the coast of the Mexican state of Jalisco. But they're developing an area of coast just 20 minutes north in the state of Nayarit into quite the posh tourist mecca, appropriately called Nuevo Vallarta.

(Okay, perhaps I should preface...I'm a city girl. A slightly spoiled one. I'm not big on outdoors and the like, especially the "wee little beasties", as the Scots like to call them. So a beach vacation was a major change for me. Heck, "relaxing" is a major change for me! And a Mexican beach vacation was almost more than I was prepared for. My personal favorite guide warning went something like this: "The golf here is wonderful...except the crocodile. But don't worry! He runs 30 miles an hour, and our golf carts can go 35.")

Standing at the customs baggage terminal, I was surrounded by lots of already-drunk college kids wearing Corona shirts and bikini tops. A bad sign for a quiet girl that doesn't drink. Climbing the stairs to the exit, the bold frankness of the Mexican taxi peddlers and the sweltering jungle heat made me a bit edgy. I think I actually embedded some fingernails into my husband's hand during the seatbeltless cab ride, otherwise known as "dodge everything in a Chevy Nova". The only thing that distracted me from my imminent death was the lack of life in the surrounding countryside: scattered chicken carcasses, rotten trees, homes with no floors or windows. It was as if someone turned on a filter in my vision; everything was literally brown, a major contrast to my green Seattle home.

I've never felt more American than I did pulling past the security gate to the Nuevo Vallarta complex. I wondered how the security guard kept from passing out in this heat as he waved us through a very large stone gate allowing access to a huge walled community. Immediately, the grounds were impeccably lush. Everything was new, even the stripes on the roads. I didn't know whether to be embarrassed by the blatent contrasting oppulence...or downright relieved!

We stayed up in Nuevo Vallarta for most of our honeymoon, not for snobby reasons (though the idea of what I'd seen earlier was intimidating). But we were terribly broke newlyweds 20 minutes out of town, and our pasty Seattle skin could only handle so much of this proximity to the equator. Fortunately, we greatly enjoyed our resort...especially the food! I ate so much grilled steak, taquitos and fresh guacamole that week, I should have turned green. And the staff was superb; I've never met such a kind group of people. One in particular was the woman that turned down our bed every night. She didn't speak any English, and my rusty Spanish wasn't getting me very far. We kept trying charades to understand why this woman continued to request entry to our room every night. With the sweetest smile on her face, she finally brought chocolates, the international symbol for "I turn down the bed".

I was fascinated watching these people keep our hotel looking so perfect; absolutely nothing was ever out of place. I was challenged at how fulfilled they seemed with their work. I wondered where they lived, if their homes had real floors, while they came here in the 410% humidity to make sure my drink hadn't melted and my towels were folded like a swan. I was grateful for what I had back home and made a note to tip big.

You want to know what REALLY happens on a honeymoon? Yes, there are moments that, frankly, are none of your business. :-) But in truth - we slept most of the week, no joke. We were so exhausted from the wedding and the planning and the showers and the parties and the moving and the painting... One of our favorite activities quickly became simply curling up together and taking a nap. (We don't drink, remember?) Otherwise, Michael fell in love with boogie-boarding in the ocean. I discovered I love to read on the beach. And many, many episodes of Smallville in Spanish. And ironically, "Spanglish" isn't any different when you watch it in Mexico.

You'd be proud to know we did eventually venture into town. The history and architecture was just too much to pass up. It was late morning and a bit overcast by the time we hit Puerto Vallarta's beach front, so I think we completely missed the key element. But the friendly mariachi band made the heat almost bearable! We also wandered down to Mismaloya and got to see a bit of the jungle and coastline, too. By the time we were driving back north, I was glad when this area's strange beauty started to reveal herself to me.

Overall, it was different for me. I honestly didn't fall in love with Mexico, but I did enjoy myself. And occasionally I find myself wishing I was sitting on that beach with that slushy, sweet drink and the gentle roll of the waves. Oh, and the sunsets...
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