Category Archives: Travel

Pompeii and Herculaneum: Two Beautiful Mummies

Andrew’s travel blog is one of my favorites. I wrote some time ago about my fascination with buried things. Andrew’s visit and photos of Pompeii and Herculaneum may just have dictated my next adventure. Enjoy!!

Victor Travel Blog

By Irina

Johann Goethe said about Herculaneum,
“Humanity survived many disasters, but no one of them brought so much pleasure to descendants.”

I walk along the street which has been uninhabited for two thousand years and enter the next house. Some frescos are preserved on the walls, and Doric columns stand in the patio. People used to bake bread in the kitchen and make love in the bedrooms on the second floor. We are in the abandoned city that was hidden from view for an unimaginable two thousand years?in Herculaneum, Italy.

The Augustus College or Collegio degli Augustali. Herculaneum, Italy. The Augustus College or Collegio degli Augustali

A thirty-meter thickness of mudflow (lava, dirt, and water), which covered the city after the Vesuvius eruption, killed much fewer people here than in neighboring Pompeii. Most of the citizens managed to escape, but their city was preserved for many long years. Today, the empty Herculaneum lies in a huge funnel very…

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It’s a Wrap…. Almost…

“If you want to make God laugh……tell him your plans.”    Woody Allen

courtesy of coolnwacky

So here I am – in the 12th month of my sabbatical year comparing the plan to the experience thus far and I’m certain God is laughing his or her ass off.  When I started this journey back in January I had lofty aspirations of all manner of things.  Like this photo of Everest shining in the distance – all was possible.   In review – relatively little followed the original objectives and goals.   What replaced it – in retrospect – is infinitely greater and more wonderful than I could have imagined.     One of the biggest shifts that occurred over the course of the year was moving away from an adopted linear, analytical, cause/effect thinking and re-embracing my original and inherent present moment, intuitive, open-to-the-possibilities mindfulness.  It seemed the more I was willing to let go of major risk analysis and the subsequent analysis paralysis and simply trust – the fabulous presented itself to me.  While not always “days of wine and roses” – I was privy to magic frequently.  Amazing what’s living in the peripheral when the blinders of intense goal focus are removed.   Or so I thought….

Corsica hoving into view

You see – the joke’s now on me.  Esconced at the command center at home – Seattle winter outside my window – grey sky – grey waters in my view  – this picture of the castle on Corsica hoving into that particular view seems an eternity ago and my certainty that all will line up like dominos is now a line of toppled tiles.  I feel the press of the old way of thinking – the committee in my head waking up and shouting – all at the same time… Isn’t that what I was moving away from in this year??

Here’s the joke.  Let me quote myself – the very first page of Lumen Hiatus:

During a visit to the Monte Verde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica I was first introduced to concept of Light Gaps. Essentially, when a large canopy tree falls, usually during a storm, it takes out a section of the forest canopy thereby creating a Light Gap that allows direct sunlight to reach the forest floor. Dormant seedlings suddenly have the opportunity to germinate and grow. This energy has a direct and immediate effect on its environs.

“Heliotropism” is the scientific name for this kind of solar-centric behavior, behavior that in some sense represents nothing more than brute reflex, evidence of a biological need so fundamental that its denial would mean the difference between life and death. Plants need light, so they move toward it. End of story.” by Arika Theule-VanDam http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=6515

I like what Arika implies here – that there is an urgency, an imperative that demands we give our ideas, dreams and aspirations a chance. We need light – our souls demand that we explore the possibilities of worlds outside the limited cage of our logical rational world. In the absence of that opportunity – illness, addictions, aberrant behavior like forest floor parasites, are given their opportunities to use and eventually kill their hosts – end of story. I also believe we all experience our own light gaps during the course of our lives. An illness, sudden death, loss of a job or a serious accident – any number of things act like that giant tree falling in the wind – ripping away our canopy of complacency and offers light to the emergent and urgent needs of the truest nature of ourselves. We have the choice of what to do with that opportunity. In our tender, dark and private forest floor moments, I believe we all yearn for a light gap of our own.

I decided to create my own Light Gap this sabbatical year. To explore what Brezsny calls the alternate realities of the unconscious, the dreamtime, the spiritual sphere, the intelligence of nature and the realm of the ancestors. This site is a venue for just such exploration. And, to insist on a hard and fast direction or one concrete path at the start of this journey seems to me to negate the very notion of a light gap in its infancy. The forest floor – once availed of the light – produces all manner of plant species. It is only over time that those strong enough and meant to grow to full height and maturity will overtake the weaker, less relevant species and fully engage their environment. They will then contribute their unique attributes to the overall ecosystem. The outcome is a mystery – the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Here – now –  in December – in the twilight of my year – my oversized canopy tree called “My Ego” has indeed fallen.  I have effected my light gap and there is a whole lotta light shining on my forest floor but I hardly recognize the person who wrote those lofty words all those months ago.  I realize now that what crashed – in addition to my overblown ego – were many of the beliefs I identified myself with and that shaped direction thus far in my life.  I was able to articulate because of them and now – without them – I find myself tongue tied and barely able to string together a few cohesive sentences.  I used be a great debater and woe unto the poor sap who engaged me.  Woe unto me now.  Where I used to be certain about practically everything – I am certain of nothing except I have to

courtesy of Flickr

get up in the morning and continue to be present.  The old ways of thinking and being were my compass and without them now – I feel as rudderless as a wanderer  in the Sahara.  No one explained that there are certain risks you take when you abandon everything and seek a light gap.  While my forest floor is indeed covered with all manner of tiny new life – new ideas, new thoughts, new beliefs I’m trying on, new perspectives – surely a few will be strong enough to show themselves as most relevant to my current environment.  They will fight for light and nutrients and eventually crowd out the less relevant and a path and direction for those energies will soon follow and off I will go.  Right? 

Here’s the rub – and the cosmic joke.  It’s all bloody chaos right now – no order – absolute f-ing chaos.  Order and sense will all manifest in it’s own good time (we hope – we pray) and there is not a damn thing I can do to hurry the maturation process.  A farmer tugging at his seedlings to make them grow faster is the height of silliness, right??  but you see – that’s exactly what I am doing now – trying to force growth through the hothouse – hastily built – of my fears. Fears that my year is so soon up, resources were not planned for much beyond a year and rather than being coolly prepared with the certain knowledge of my relevant forest floor species and that attendant direction – I haven’t got a goddamn clue.  In fact – this is the most uncertain I’ve been in my entire life.  The height of silliness. So decidedly uncool.   So  – where’s my trust now?  I’m on my hands and knees looking….

Just a bunch of random thoughts desperately attempting to take root and parts seeking a sum – and – screw wholeness for the moment.  Outcome still a mystery.

Right now – today – God and Me are indeed laughing our asses off……

To be continued-

Giving Thanks in Georgia…

The morning after Thanksgiving and I still can hardly move. A small beached Orca… Will’s mom Sharon spent all day in the kitchen cooking up an AMAZING southern feast and what a feast it was! We’re all going to make sure she doesn’t lift a finger today – but – good luck with that. I believe seafood gumbo is on the menu today. I just want to pop her tiny little self in my carry on and take her home with me. Murray, Chuck and Sweet Pea might have something to say about that though. We’ll just have to bring them along in a checked bag…. LOL

This morning we were gifted with a partial solar eclipse as I found out from my lovely english friend Amy. All about ending one journey and starting another. Doors closing – doors opening. Hope, opportunity, potential, optimism…. Having spent the last four days in the company of some of the nicest, heart centered and real people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in quite some time – I am once again steeped in a huge teabag of gratitude. My faith in the basic goodness of human beings is restored. Will is one very lucky man to have such a wonderful and generous clan to call his own. We were sitting around a big bonfire last night and as I was watching the fire and listening to the conversations, the laughter and the stories I was feeling pretty lucky my own self.

Blessed Be indeed……

What a Way to Say “I’m happy to Help”…..

photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Will and I are taking off tomorrow AM for Georgia to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family.  Yesterday we realized we’d made no plans for transport to the airport.  Hmmmm….. who’s fault is that??  Anyway – ever the clever one – here is my brother Dan’s response to my plea for a ride: 

A Little bird

Did I heard

spread the word

that you need a ride

 I can be the one

To wake with the sun

That aids you on your way

To having some far off holiday fun

 You are

By far

Blessed to be

In the company of

The great and awesome me

 This for sure I knows

At 730 on the nose

To the port of air we goes!

 If you’re not ready then

You’ll miss your flight at 10

And I will leave your ass on the curb

Laying eggs and cursing like a hen

No…No…That would not be very Zen…

 Remember this

On the way to traveling bliss

The limo driver will not accept

Any fools hugs or kiss

Because his generosity is plenty

Please don’t ever forget

To tip your driver a twenty…

I’m still laughing out loud – really grateful and giving Thanks.    We’ll get him some smoked alligator….

“Did You Learn Anything?” continued…..

 It was weird at first to pay for most everything in cash – we just don’t carry much of it at home – if at all.  Just whip out that debit card – and don’t forget to write it down in the check register at some point. Getting 18 coins pound sterling in change for a 20GBP  note weighed heavy in my pocket.  After awhile I started thinking that it was pretty cool.  I could feel the weight of abundance right there in my wallet.  It felt more real than the plastic.  Back home now I get strange looks when I pay in cash.  Counting out $2.40 in quarters for a latte yesterday had the barrista thinking I was somehow on the dole or something with the look she gave me. It gave me an appreciation for the small things – like pennies – they count too….

In the US when you meet someone it seems the first question asked is “what do you do?”.  Frankly – in all of my travels I never got asked that question – and thank god.  What would I tell them?  Unemployed ’cause I decided to chunk it all as a PMP and take a year sabbatical???  What I found is that folks were more interested in who I was, what were my values (cleverly rooted for by baiting me with slamming comments on current America affairs or politics), what was my favorite music, place, color, food, etc…. In short – they were more interested in who I was rather than what I did.  I found that refreshing and am determined to practice that lesson here.  I never knew that slant of the perpective and what it offers in really learning about someone until I was away from it and just how ingrained my inculturation was that it never occurred to me prior.  I think it’s a much better way to engage with a new person. What we do for a living comes and goes – just look at me.  But who we are is rather constant over time. We hope…

I’ve never been a clothes horse but I always wanted to look my best and have the attendant plethora of hair and skin products crowding my bathroom as well as the “3 size” closet of clothes to prove it.  Oh, and let’s not forget at least 50 pairs of shoes – mostly black – mostly high heeled – lining the special shelf in my closet.  Nothing strips a woman down to knowing her essence faster than traveling for months on end with no blow dryer, 4 changes of clothes and one pair of shoes – flat soled at that. Hard to create an image to hide behind when your mascara drys up and you realize the only decent outfit you have is trashed and you have to show up to said function anyway.  I realized that the high heels, the makeup and the perfect hair were a veneer all carefully worn and applied to disguise my latent insecurities and admittedly – on occasion -self loathing.  Somehow I learned that if I just managed to look good no one would notice – including myself.  Well – that got unlearned in a hurry however uncomfortably.  To my surprise – people I met on my journey didn’t care one whit.  Who knew?  What a delight to be appreciated simply for who I was – bare faced, short and mouthy – with bad hair.  The bigger revelation was I got really comfortable with  ‘just Me’ in the process.  Not getting rid of my high heels though…

I’ve said this before in prior posts but truly – there are angels everywhere.  I can’t tell you how many people stepped in and saved me from myself.  Raised by circumstance and parenting to be an extremely independent person – it  was always pulling teeth to get me to ask for help.  Growing up I was always told to “figure it out” or “look it up” so I did – what choice did I have?  Subsequently I got really good at figuring out everything in my life for myself – or so I thought.  While I am not suggesting that a person shouldn’t strive to access their own resourcefulness whenever possible – I know how wonderful I feel when someone comes to me for a solution and I am able to provide one. By absolute neccessity I learned to let people do that for me and I only hope they got the same warm fuzzy feeling.  Maybe not all of them – but some.  The power of two is an amazing force…

Even at 5’3” I can make myself really big when threatened or I percieve I’m in a shaky situation. A confident posture and direct eye kept numerous situations from becoming ugly.  The pants hid the jello knees….

How much I don’t really need in this life.  Sure there are a lot of things I want but – need?  Sure I salivated over many things in my travels – but at the end of the day I reminded myself that I would have to carry that additional weight on my back in my carry on for the rest of the trip.  That made me become very choosy especially after I discovered how expensive shipping anything home would be.  Over time I likened it to personal baggage. How much was I willing to take on in my heart or head that I would end up having to pack around or drag behind me?  I think this was the seminal lesson learned.   I plan to expand on that at some point.

A sense of humor is absolutely critical as is not taking myself or my plans to seriously. 

In the movie “Out of Africa” – Karyn comments on the fact the earth is round so you don’t see to far down your path or horizon” (I’m paraphrasing)  Had I known what I was going to encounter on occasion I may not have gone.  At the same time – if I thought the experience could only afford me XY & Z and not kept an open mind, open eyes  – the innumerable magic moments would have passed me by completely.  I learned to lose the expectations and simply Be where I was at any given time.  And that made all the difference….

To be continued….

Travel Post-mortem…..”Did you learn anything?”…..

Henry Golden’s favorite question to any of his 7 children after we either accomplished something or fell flat on our faces was – “Did you learn anything?”  Needless to say I personally heard it a lot and more often than not – it was after doing something incredibly stupid rather than anything exceptionally brilliant.  I am hearing it daily in my head these days following my travels as I piece together the myriad of  experiences into some integrated whole and root out the take away, the lesson, the gift, the whole ‘what does this mean?’ – if anything….

When I travel – my intent is to be open and learn about the country and culture I’m experiencing.  A by product – whether bidden or not – is that I also tend to learn a lot about myself.  Like traveling a kind of interior landscape. Some of the discoveries are delightful, some are validations that I’ve progressed beyond some personal limitiation and many others are reminders that I have miles and miles to go before transcending some awkward piece of my personality or perspective.  The following are a few of the random thoughts that come to mind as I sort out the answer to Henry’s question.  I just wish it wasn’t also in His Voice – in my ears – in stereo…. 

I am good for about 5 hours on a train at any one stretch.  After that the restless leg syndrome as well as the ADD and bored 5 year old in me kicks in and we both start the “are we there yet” whining.  Most of the time – the adult in me manages to keep it to myself and suffer in silence.  After 11 and a half hours on the night train from San Sebastion to Lisbon Will was ready to move me body and bag to another car.  It’s a testament to his inordinate amount of patience that we survived that trip intact!

I have a cast iron stomach.  I can eat almost anything.  I may not try it a second time but that sense of gastronomic adventure came in handy when I wasn’t quite sure what was in front of me and the manners my Grandmother drilled into me didn’t allow me to say “no thanks” as a guest.

I have a keen internal clock.  I have no idea where I got it from but I always knew what time it was without benefit of a watch or phone.  I carried neither on this trip and never missed a bus, train, plane or anything else that required me to be some place at some specific time.  This may also have been due to the fact that I am pathologically punctual.  I have tried many times in the past to be fashionably late to some function in an effort to appear cool or something equally as ridiculous and just manage to be …. on time.

I can make myself pretty comfortable just about anywhere with very little.  While the princess in me enjoys luxurious surroundings, 4000 thread count sheets, prompt service and generally everything to go MY way – it’s not a requirement to be happy in the moment.  I wasn’t raised in the lap of luxury and the silver spoon bypassed our house growing up.  Subsequently I believe that – while me and all my siblings have an appreciation for the best – we have an uncanny ability to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.  This was probably the one trait that served me best.  Besides, there just isn’t that much enthusiasm or toloerance for pitching an American Princess fit abroad these days. 

To be continued……. 

As a friend used to say – ‘have all the fun you’re willing to have’

Namaste

Travel Gear Review…

I wanted to share a Gear Review for those who may be thinking of traveling long and light in the distant or not too distant future.  Just a note:  these are not paid or endorsed advertisements – just my personal experience and opinions.

I spent some months prior to the trip researching and trying out all manner of carry-on bags, shoulder bags, packing cubes, alternatives to minimize the liquids limit, shoes, outerwear, etc.  The shoes and shoulder bag search in particular was extensive but – overall – I am happy I spent as much time as I did finding the perfect solutions for my travel needs.  Know that I am a recovering Type A  Analyst Perfectionist so no stone was left unturned in this pursuit.  If you can use my reviews to assist and/or minimize your time spent in this endeavor – all the better! 

eBag’s Mother Lode TLS Convertible Carry-on –

eBag Mother Lode TLS new

eBag after 3 mos travel

I truly can’t say enough about this bag!  In the side by side comparison photos you see what it was like brand new and what it’s like today after being thrown in boat holds, trashed around buses, trains and stations, drug occasionally, rained on a lot, tossed in trunks of cars and generally treated like Cinderella way before Prince Charming showed up.  I could pack an amazing amount of stuff in it and the internal straps kept the load balanced rather than compressing to the bottom with gravity.  This helped immensely when I had to walk miles with about 25lbs on my back. I found it comfortable for extended periods and the shoulder straps distributed the weight evenly.  I did notice that my shoulders were sore if I had to carry all that weight for more than about 2 hours but I think I can attribute that to an aging kinda out of shape body. The chest strap helped as well.  The expandable zipout came in handy and – with the external compression straps – I could still reef it down tight enough to pass all the myriad airport’s carry-on dimension regs.  The design is top notch for organization and access.  I was in and out of many places and being able to pack this bag well (packing cubes employed) in about 10 minutes was a godsend.  The only wear I’ve noticed is a very tiny pull on the stitching of the left shoulder strap but not separating.  This I can probably attribute to slinging just one strap on my shoulder – again – fully loaded.  The three well placed external handles came in very handy for getting it easily in and out of overhead compartments, trunks, etc.  The rear compartment was handy for stuffing my empty shoulder bag in for those flights that allowed only one bag.  Will was so impressed – he bought one as well and is of the same opinion after his ‘sea trials’.  All this and – at $99 – the price was incredibly reasonable for the value.  In retrospect it allows me to feel better about the 13 euro/ea. French coffees in Paris… I doubt I will ever use my wheeled bag again.  http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/mother-lode-tls-weekender-convertible/143101?productid=1370034

Bagallini Big Sydney Shoulder Bag –

Big Sydney after 3 mos travel

The search for the perfect shoulder bag took me everywhere on the web and all over Seattle and Portland.   I had so many very sepecific  requirements.  Not the least of which was I did NOT want a daypack that screamed ‘tourist’ – a bit for safety and mostly about vanity.  My iPad2 had to fit easily into some accessible pocket as well as convenient places for other travel paraphernalia.  It had to lend itself to easy organization, have only one shoulder strap that could be lengthened to allow carrying cross-body, the design had to make pickpocketing near impossible, the zips and pulls had to be heavy duty, it had to be big enough to carry a sweater, scarf, water bottle and other incidentals for a day of meandering (but it had to be small enough not to feel like I was carrying a suitcase).  It had to be light but of durable fabric and be able to flatten to fit into my carry-on for flights that allowed only one bag.  Oh, and it absolutely had to be stylish – very important.  The Bagallini Big Sydney was perfect – no complaints and no drawbacks for me.  It held up well even after being stuffed in the rear compartment of the carry-on for extended periods.  http://www.baggallini.com/product1.asp?collection=’intl’&product=’BSYS498′

 
Exofficio Urban Travel Jacket-
 

Exoffcio urban travel jacket

Very lightweight, stylish and pockets everywhere!  The deep inner ones were perfect for stuffing most of the contents of the shoulderbag when it I couldn’t carry it on a flight.  I liked that it came down mid thigh for warmth.  Virtually wrinkle free even after being packed tightly for long periods of time. Dust and dirt cleaned up easily by just wiping the area.  My only complaint is that it is not wind resistant at all.  It’s not water resistant either but unless I was in a complete downpour – it was sufficient.  Will bought their travel slacks and was impressed.  http://www.exofficio.com/

 
Naots Footwear – the Believe Sandal –
 

Naots Believe after 3 mos travel

Because I was committed to one carry-on bag

Naots Believe new

– I had to have one pair of shoes that could to it all.  They had to be comfortable walking all day on varied surfaces, work in different climate zones  and be sturdy enough to take a beating and last the entire 3 months and beyond.  Oh, and dress up and dress down as situations dictated.  The Naots Believe sandal was selected because it has ample toe room and could double as shoes or sandals depending on where I found myself.  The cork footbed molded to my foot well.  They got thoroughly soaked on numerous occasions and never swelled – even when I removed them to dry out.  I walked 6 to 8 hours for days on end and my only complaint was – due to my long stride and heavy heel strike – I had sore heels.  The elastic on the heel strap got a bit stretched over time and the leather stretched due to my feet swelling in the hotter climates.  I would not recommend these shoes for women with narrow feet or a high arch.  I have neither so they were perfect.  Overall – other than a bit of color fade – they held up really well considering all I put them through.  In my opinion they were worth the considerable expense.

 
eBag Packing Cubes –

Rick Steves and eBag Packing Cube comparison

In all my previous traveling I never used packing cubes.  I will always use them now.  They were so handy for organization and very quick unpacking and re-packing.  If customs had to see something – I didn’t have to unload everything in the bag to satisfy their curiosity.  I bought both Rick Steves and eBag cubes.  Having used both  – I prefer the eBag model.  They have handles which I found convenient if I wanted to use the cube for toting stuff to a shower or laundry.  They are of sturdier mesh and material and the zipper and pulls were of better quality. The medium sized cube’s capacity was on par with the Rick Steves model.  They are similarly prices so I feel the eBag packing cubes are a better value.   www.ebags.com

 
Misc. Gear –
 
Solid Shampoo and Conditioner – Nice idea in theory to cut down on the population in the liquids bag.  In practice they basically dissolved after only two uses even though their containers had drainage. 
 
Collapsible Water Bottle – It worked, weighed nothing and – when empty – took up very little space.  I probably wouldn’t buy another one simply because it was way too hard to clean and sanitize.
 
3 oz. Liquids Containers –  Tried the Go Toobs and was very disappointed.  The lids popped off and they leaked.  The plastic seemed to be porous depending on the liquid/gel inside so I found they also ‘bled’ contents occasionally.  The best containers  I found were old sample size hotel containers with screw down lids.