Travel Quotes, Chapter 2

“No place is ever as bad as they tell you it’s going to be.”  -Chuck Thompson

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”  -Aldous Huxley

 

Have you ever noticed that the most negative and worrisome information tends to come from negative and worrisome individuals who tend to watch too much TV and don’t travel enough, or at all?

I believe human nature is mostly good at heart.  I believe that like attracts like, and I believe things happen for a reason.  I also believe that everyone should take responsibility for their actions, research an area before you travel and ultimately go where you feel you should go and spread your wonderful human nature as far as you can.  I guarantee you’ll be rewarded many, many more times that not…so don’t put too much energy in the naysayers.  Will your experience be perfect?  No…trips are usually perfectly imperfect.  But in the end, you’ll have a life-changing experience, and most likely prove a large number of people wrong, while everyone else is jealous of your courage and sense of adventure, while being upset at themselves for being overcome with fear and negativity.

Go into the unknown and show the unworldly people how amazing the world is!

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Travel Quotes, Chapter 1

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

-Lao-tzu

“Travel makes one modest.  You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

-Gustave Flaubert

 

Many people around the world, educated people full of knowledge and awareness, come to understand how small their own personal world is, once they take that step forward and experience a different place.  We are all guilty of keeping our minds and bodies in a comfortable box of sorts…which I believe is human nature.  But, taking one step into some place new will humble you to your core…or, at least it should.

After that…how your world will change. 🙂

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Being an Armchair Traveler….

It has been a full year since being back in the states.  Besides the usual occurrences of spending time with loved ones, looking for/securing a job and then finally earning some money, I’ve been pretty stationary.  But…I’m surprisingly ok with that…for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never be content staying in one place forever and ever, with no hope of traveling to different lands, foreign or domestic, ever again.  But, traveling can be hectic, time-consuming and even exhausting, even during the most positive, amazing travel experiences.  Therefore, some down time to rest and recover from my two years away has been much needed…as well as some time to rebuild my travel fund!

So even though I’ve been in this stationary period, I’ve gotten to talk travel in a surprising number of places.  Every job interview I’ve had since getting home (there have been many) has touched upon my work experience as an expat.  (Not many applicants have two out of three jobs on their resume being a position in a foreign country.)  Also, as my nieces learn about different countries in school, they know they have an Aunt who is willing and able to share personal accounts of time spent in said locations.  No doubt this will help with their classes, but I also hope it coaxes and nourishes a desire to physically explore their world one day.

Since Netflix is now part of my life once again (we’re reunited, and it feels so good!), I’ve also spent some time looking at documentaries and programs featuring remote areas of the world or unique locations.

I’ve also caught up on my favorite travel blogger’s posts, read some travel-related books and memoirs, and listened to some lectures discussing why we travel and how our personalities lead us to make the choices we do.  Interesting stuff!

Needless to say, I’ve had a great year of soaking up some travel-related activities and keeping in touch with my globe-trotting friends.  This year has also given me the chance to curl up with a delicious cup of tea on a cold night and dream of sweet tropical adventures yet to be savored.  Day by day, I can feel the strengthening of my travel funds and my batteries charging to full capacity.  This period of time has been fruitful and satisfying in its own way, and dare I say, much needed.  Sometimes a slow period is required in order to forget about travel frustrations, luggage weight restriction debacles, sheer exhaustion from traveling a full 24 hours to get home, working tirelessly to organize travel logistics, and challenging oneself with language barriers.  After the little pop-up stressors are gone, it’s easier to focus on the amazing experiences and memories that will be forever carried forward, which all help to propel you toward the next life challenge.

I can only wonder what these charged travel batteries will stir up as 2017 continues to unfold.

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Looking Back

It has been eight months since I left my expat existence.  It’s strange to be in flux again, (for a large chunk of time), starting over, but this time in my home country.  This adjustment is just as challenging as moving to a developing nation…minus the language barrier and traffic.

When someone asks me “How was it over there?” I never quite know what to say.  Too many thoughts and emotions jam together and I can’t seem to fully explain how it was…much like my dilemma with describing how it feels to be back home.

Saying my time abroad was “challenging” is a complete understatement.  A range of emotions gets conjured up as I think back to iconic moments and interesting lessons learned.

I remember walking out of the airport in Jakarta for the first time and being smacked in the face with thick humidity while about 50 taxi drivers berated me for business.  That set the tone for most of my experience.  It’s always hot and humid, and I was never left alone.

I remember my first Christmas out of the country.  It was the first time I wasn’t able to decorate or send out cards.  That is my favorite time of year, so it almost felt as if Christmas didn’t come, which was sad.

I remember my first VISA trip to Singapore and feeling so thankful that I was able to travel with a coworker.  After not really gathering my bearings in one country, I have to navigate another?? Having a travel buddy really helped to make sure we met our agent and got our documents processed in the ridiculously short window of time we were given.  Panic and stress are always terrible, but especially on an early morning international mission.

I remember being a little nervous on my first day of teaching.  After that, it was a breeze, but not knowing what to expect from each age group that first day was a little scary.

I remember when my shyest five-year-old student finally started speaking in English.  Elation, relief…a little of both is probably what I was feeling at that moment.  It was proof that my little guys were comfortable with me and that they really were absorbing the material.

I remember when the Indonesian government kept changing VISA requirements and out of 17 western teachers, I was only one of two that were legally allowed to work.  Lots of other teachers got a paid, extended vacation, but I still had a full schedule…that was frustrating.

I remember getting to travel around the country, and nearby countries, which was amazing.  Yes it was still hot and locals were WAY too excited by my light skin, hair and eyes, but I’ve gotten to see a bunch of awe-inspiring places.

I remember saying goodbye to my favorite class that first year.  It was so emotional.  I cried for most of the class period as the students showered me with cake and gifts.  I was incredibly sad, but also grateful and humbled at the same time.

I remember on numerous occasions being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour and only moving 20 feet.  That was aggravating, but it will teach you patience.

I remember getting marriage proposals and serenades from my high school boys.  I had a handful of hilarious guys who always made me laugh.

I remember having to communicate with the Super of my building mostly through sign language because he spoke no English, and I never knew the Indonesian words for the things I needed to tell him.  I will never forget how he mimed “explosion” when I asked him what happened to the internet after a big storm passed through. LOL

I remember people stealthily (not so stealthily) taking my photo when I was out at a mall or restaurant, as if I was a unicorn; a strange creature outside its natural habitat, and therefore proof of its existence needed to be captured! Sigh….

I remember my excitement and curiosity when getting to try all the new and interesting foods available.  I still miss the amazing fruit selection.

I remember having to constantly haggle, for everything, which was extremely tiring, when all you want is to pay a fair price and walk away.  I especially didn’t like paying a higher price at times, just because I was western.  But, I did get good at haggling and looking back, I recognize that a lesson in discrimination was very educational.

Basically, my emotions and my experiences ran the gamut…but I think that’s a good thing.  I wanted to be challenged and immersed, and these experiences delivered.

So what was it like over there?  It was…a very unique experience.  Let’s leave it at that 🙂

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Wood of the West…and some other stuff.

On my recent trip out to Utah and Arizona, I was ready to see lots of rocks in all the warm hues I could think of.  (I wasn’t disappointed either!)  What I didn’t plan on, was seeing so many dead trees.  Going through the parks, I heard a lot about the constant lightning storms that tend to hit, and then it all made sense.

But dead trees, no matter how beautiful they are, were only part of the beauty.  I happily ran into some desert flowers, critters and unique moments I wasn’t expecting.

I hope you enjoy these few gems.

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Red Rock Road Trip 2016!

Since returning to the states a few months ago, I’ve been very excited to start exploring my own country once again.  After almost three years of not seeing any new US areas, it was time to have an adventure.

I’ve wanted to explore the western states for quite a while now.  I’ve even had quasi-plans that were scrapped twice…much to my chagrin.  So in early June, I was finally off to Utah!

Day 1

The journey began in Salt Lake City.  Overlooking a hiccough or two with the rental car, the first stop turned out to be amazing.

The altitude change, combined with pretty high temperatures equaled slow and steady movements.  But hey, I was on a nice long vacation, so I was in no mindset to be rushed anyway.

The first order of business was to go visit the capital.  The visitor’s center and gift shop was just across the street from the capital building.  It provided a place to park as well as a great spot to capture a beautiful picture.

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The capital was really neat and there were many things to read which discussed the state history, its founders and cultural icons like the infamous beehives you tend to see everywhere.

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After lunch at the amazing French bistro “Gourmandise,” (which I highly recommend, if you are in the neighborhood!) it was time to leave the car at the hotel and set out walking.  There was talk of seeing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearse, so I couldn’t pass that up.  The world-famous choir group was about to go on tour and they just happened to rehearse on Thursdays.  I took that as a moment of serendipity and sought them out.  Naturally, they sounded amazing, especially with the accompaniment of the orchestra.

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After briefly seeing the choir, I was able to look around the amazing Temple Square.  It encompasses 35 acres, which contains beautiful buildings, museums and libraries, including the Family History Library, which houses the largest genealogical collection in the world.

Temple

Temple

Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall

Day 2

This was a big day for me.  Having only been to the rocky west for a very brief trip to the Grand Canyon years ago, I was itching to see some larger-than life rocky formations once again.

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The drive to Bryce Canyon National Park was really pretty.  It was cool to see the terrain start to change from the city to the outskirts to red rocks as I traveled south.  At one point the road takes you through an arch on your way to the park.

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Once inside, the trails are easily marked and many beautiful sights are just outside the parking areas and turnoffs.  After a few minutes of hiking, the amazing hoodoos emerge, leaving you breathless for a few minutes.

Hoodoo

Hoodoo

Many countries were represented, zillions of photos were being taken, but everyone seemed to briefly sand in awe before the cameras came out, because no matter how amazing technology becomes, it can never replace the sensation of standing before the majestic view in person.

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Day 3

Instead of taking the interstate east across Utah, toward Moab, scenic byway Rt. 12 was used instead…and that was an amazing choice.  Did it add a little time to the day’s journey?  Yes.  But did it offer breathtaking mountain views and multiple areas to pull off for photos?  Um…most definitely!

With the purpose of the day being the arrival in Moab, the scenic byway was the most beautiful way to get there.

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The unexpected enjoyment of seeing Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park was a wonderful addition to an already beautiful trip.

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After arriving in the town and setting up the campsite, it was time to explore on foot.  Moab feels like a beach town without the beach.  It’s super cute, walkable, with more than enough shops, restaurants and cafes of every kind, not to mention every kind of adventure activity available.  It was great to get some ideas for what to include for the following day.

Day 4

In the morning I went to the northern part of Canyonlands National Park.  Once again, it was easy to drive around the park and pull off to explore great vistas and trails.  Each sweeping view was better than the one before with pull-offs every few minutes.

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With much of Canyonlands being inaccessible by car, I was content with touring the northern part and then heading back to town for another adventure.

Raven’s Rim zip line adventure was next on the list for the afternoon.  I met up with a handful of other people scheduled for the same tour.  The guides took us on a 30-minute off-roading excursion to get to the first line.  (I think I screamed more during that part than during the zip lining part!  It was awesome!)

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Once at the top of the rocks, the lines extended out over huge cliffs and valleys.  Of the six lines, two of them ran for over a quarter-mile, and in the middle of the trek, we had to cross a very flexible swinging bridge.

It was a great day of scenic beauty and adrenaline.

Day 5

This was the day to see Arches National Park.  This park is very close to the town of Moab and easy to travel around.  There’s about 40 miles of scenic roadway that takes you through the park.  Many arches and beautiful formations can be seen well from the road or pull-off areas.  For the more adventurous, hiking trails can be used to get as close as possible to the structures, including some little ones that are hidden from the road.

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I was able to get some great shots, but a word of caution: the iconic “Delicate Arch” takes over 1.5 hours to hike to…each way.  Seeing it from far away was just fine, considering I was able to see so many other amazing arches close up, with only a minor hike instead.  With the altitude and very high temperatures, I had to make choices on how to exert my energy.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

Pine Tree Arch

Pine Tree Arch

On the way back to Moab, you’ll pass a road with sheer rock cliffs that many try rock climbing on.  Just past the rock climbers is a long section of rock with a bunch of petroglyphs.  It’s amazing to see the work of people about 10,000 years before our time, but the writing is faint and could be easily overlooked.

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Day 6

A big day of travel!

The goal was to leave Moab, Utah and arrive in Page, Arizona, with a stop in 4 Corners.

On the way out of town, there is a small detour you can take to Newspaper Rock.  It’s another petroglyph area.  These are a little easier to see, and you can get closer to the writing, making for some cool photos.  I’ll never get tired of looking at things that are frozen in time.

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About an hour south, near the town of Blanding, UT, I made a pit-stop at a really cool dinosaur museum.  I was a bit surprised to see this caliber of museum in such a sleepy town, but there were lots of displays, fossils, replicas and other cool things to see.

This museum had 3 of the 6 known North American Permian logs, and the only ones on display! Not bad for something 275 million years old.

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Another hour down the road I was dipping into Colorado and then New Mexico to swing by 4 Corners.

The Monument really is in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a pretty cute tourist trap.  The line was very long and the day was very hot (about 100 F) but signs leading up to the seal requested that everyone limit themselves to three pictures to ensure that the line will keep moving.

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The center seal reads “Four states here meet in freedom under God.”  Radiating out from the center is each states seal, name, overlook ramp, info plaque and flag, as well as booths of Navajo folk art around the perimeter.

After getting my photos, customary travel art and a much-needed snow cone, it was time to keep going.  I had another three hours of driving before arriving in Page.

This was pretty much a straight shot to Page, with no additional turn offs.  But once in Page and checked into the hotel, I still had lots of time to do something else.  I had wanted to see Horseshoe Bend anyway, so when the hotel attendant said it was really close and easy to see, my mind was made up.

Ten minutes down the road was the sign and parking area.  From there was a few yards of an uphill hike, followed by a 10 minute walk to the cliff edge.  No safety features were in place, so caution was necessary, but the view was out of this world.

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The pictures are great, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the scale that the eye absorbs in person.

 

Day 7

Touring Antelope Canyon was a highlight of this journey.  This iconic canyon, just a few minutes drive away from downtown Page, has a few different parts, and stretches below the surface for quite a distance.

I went to the “Lower” part for my tour.  I paid extra for a photography tour, because we were allowed to bring nice photo equipment and tripods along.  We were also given lots of extra time to really set up our shots.  (The regular tour is great too, but they really move people through quickly.)

It was pretty tight getting down into the canyon, but once you squeeze your way through the opening, it opens up a bit so movement is a little easier.

Once at the bottom, we followed the path to some wider spots to set up our gear.  In about two hours we were able to take some great shots without the other tour groups in our way.

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It was an extremely hot day, but worth the hot sun and the sand blowing in our faces for this experience.

Day 8

This was my last full day of vacation.

Leaving Page, I headed south on my way to Phoenix.  After an hour or so, I pulled into the Cameron Trading Post.  This is an awesome gift shop if you want anything to do with the 4 Corners area, Navajo art, desert home decor, local jewelry, pottery, Kokopelli images, etc.  Some of the art was insanely beautiful and intricate.  I walked away with a beautiful set of metal etched earrings and some sand art.

Continuing on, I noticed the first signs of cacti began about 50 miles north of Phoenix.  The terrain changed and soon they were everywhere.

Getting into the city was a little crazy, as I didn’t understand how the city signs were labeled.  But, after stopping to ask a few questions, I was on my way to the State Capital in no time.

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The day was so hot…about 105 F to be exact.  So I was happy to take refuge inside the capital building for a nice long time.

The main building is a museum now, due to newer wings that were added for legislative purposes.  You guide yourself through the floors and take in all the unique things that Arizona has to offer about its history.

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After an extremely hot day, it was nice to head to the hotel and enjoy some much-needed AC.  I was hoping to go to a mall and hang out for a few hours, but I found out that Phoenix doesn’t have a mall!  I guess there is a shopping area, but it’s all outside, like a strip-mall.  So back to the hotel it was! I enjoyed pizza delivery in my cool room for the rest of the night 🙂

This trip only confirmed that the western states are so big, with so much to see, that I have no choice but to return one day and continue my exploration.

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The Blue and the Grey

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About 10 years ago I went to the National Civil War Museum.  Like any historical museum, it was filled with exhibits that made you think, made you sad and sometimes made you angry with regards to how people justified backward and unjust ways of living years ago.

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Today, the museum still offers all those necessary elements but the exhibits have been updated.  They do a great job conveying the power, fear and culture surrounding slavery, complete with weapons and devices of submission along with excerpts of slave owner’s worry over losing their way of life, depending on the war’s outcome.

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As expected, Abraham Lincoln was highly featured.  His elegant words still resonate today.

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Near the end of the museum’s self-guided tour, there was a wall which had a collection of plaques featuring a “War of Firsts.”

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This war was unique in so many ways.  Yes, in some ways each war seems to only create new ways of killing each other.  But this war had many things at stake.  It not only divided the country’s interests, but also families and the culture.  North and South, black and white, harvesters and manufacturers all were split and torn on many levels.  And from great turmoil comes great lessons…ones we should never forget, or need to learn again.

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