Friday, October 22, 2010

The list

Way back in July 2009, I posted some of the things I hoped to do or see over the course of my travels. It was a wish list of sorts, certainly not a score sheet (especially seeing as how I had mostly forgotten all about that list and what was on it until a few minutes ago). The only things I didn't do included seeing a football match at Camp Nou (too expensive) and practicing yoga in India (although I did in Thailand and a bunch of other places after my friend the yoga instructor wrote up a practice suited to me). As for everything else...check, check, and check with bonus points for doing things I wasn't sure I'd be able to do at all and for doing things earlier than I expected to!


So, by popular demand (oh, alright - two people asked to see it!), I'm posting the list I mentioned the other day. I'm just typing it up word for word, as I wrote it originally, and not adding anything that I happen to think of now. It's mostly chronological because as I started the list, I went back to the beginning of the trip and worked my way forward.


What I SAW:
* La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)
* ancient Roman ruins (Barcelona)
* gothic architecture (mainly Barcelona, but Prague too)
* Prague Castle
* Europe untouched by WWII (Prague)
* Acropolis (Athens)
* Hagia Sofia (Istanbul)
* Blue Mosque (Istanbul)
* Great Pyramids (Giza, Egypt)
* world's tallest building (Dubai)
* Taj Mahal (Agra, India)
* world's largest reclining Buddha (Bangkok, Thailand)
* Halong Bay (Vietnam)
* Hanoi Hilton
* Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
* Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
* orangutans in the wild (Sumatra, Indonesia)
* Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
* Sydney Opera House
* sea turtles and sharks (Australia and Indonesia)
* Southern Alps (south island, New Zealand)


What I DID:
* stayed in lots of strangers' homes
* made friends with those strangers and lots of others
* learned how to navigate
* got better at converting to/from metric system
* rode a camel
* pet tigers
* rode elephants
* took cooking classes in three countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia)
* volunteered at a school for orphans
* learned how to scuba dive
* pet a kangaroo
* had my first overnight plane, train, and bus trips
* tried lots of new foods
* bungee jumped
* experienced heaps of diverse cultures
* met people from 44 different countries
* hiked a glacier


What I THOUGHT or FELT:
* confusion as to what exactly I was doing as I flew into London and BCN (and a city or two after that)
* smallness at the pyramids
* life is a blink of an eye in Athens
* utter chaos upon arrival in Mumbai
* utter peace walking the grounds of the Taj at sunrise
* welcome relief for large cities in Bangkok and KL
* crushing homesickness
* appreciation for what I have
* surprise at my own accomplishments
* gratefulness for the kindness of strangers
* lost, scared, frustrated, angry, annoyance, shame
* happy, excited, thrilled, amazed, proud


That's a hell of a lot crammed into one year, wouldn't you say? I'm pretty sure there are things I've forgotten, too. Does anyone out there have anything to add to my list?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Home

So I'm enjoying being home, right? Of course I am and here's why.


I'm having lots of great conversations with my parents (and not all of them are around the kitchen island!). Dad's time tends to be in the morning before I head off to work (or while I drink my first cup(s) of coffee since I'm not currently working). Kathy's time tends to be in the evening since Dad goes to bed earlier. Some of the conversations are about heavy and/or weighty matters and some are more basic how's-it-going-how's-your-day stuff. All had been seriously missed and I'm thoroughly loving it.


Driving. I'm rediscovering my love of driving - even taking six hour weekend road trips (with more planned in the near future) - and it's great. I love my car and the freedom it allows me.


Cooking. The random instances of cooking in a communal kitchen at various hostels just wasn't cutting it. Besides, I get to try out some of those recipes I learned in cooking classes, too, and my friends and family have been willing guinea pigs.


As an addendum to that last one: texting my sister yummy looking pictures of the things I cook. What can I say? We're competitive like that and like trying to out-do one another! :-)


Being home means I'm available to help out when my sister or my friends need me to keep an eye on their kids for them. And it's nice being able to see my niece and nephews in person instead of just on Skype.


I'm calling people just because I can, because I don't need to schedule a time to do it (while keeping in mind, of course, that there's a nine hour time difference. Or, wait. Is it 12 hours? Wait. Where am I again?! Yes, scheduling those calls could get complicated!).


Yes, I've been busy catching up with everything I missed while I was away, but I've been trying to work in some down time, too. I'm enjoying sleeping in or spending the whole weekend in my pajamas just because I can. And it's nice to not feel guilty about not being out doing (or seeing) something.


I guess none of this sounds particularly exciting, but home has been good for the heart, ya know?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wrap up

Since I've been home from Scotland for almost three weeks now, I suppose it's about time to (finally) do a RTW trip wrap up.


It's hard to know where to begin, really, because I did, saw, and experienced SO much. I saw architecture as varied as ancient Roman ruins, La Sagrada Familia and the Blue Mosque, the Taj Mahal, and the Sydney Opera House (just a few of many, many examples). I saw the Great Barrier Reef, orangutans in the wild, Halong Bay, and more instances of Earth's natural beauty than seems possible. I met people from 44 different countries; took cooking classes in three different countries; volunteered at a school for orphans. I hiked a glacier, bungee jumped, and learned how to scuba dive. 
(One of the few places to find peace in India)

In Athens I realized that my life is a mere blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things and at the pyramids I felt that smallness again. I felt a welcome relief for large cities in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, but I felt a crushing homesickness in Vientiane and Melbourne.


I actually wrote out lists of all the things I saw, did, and felt over the course of my 44 weeks abroad. If anyone is interested, let me know and maybe I'll post the whole thing. 
(Diving the GBR)
What would a trip wrap up be without me sharing some of my favorite moments? Without further ado and in no particular order, here they are:
* walking the grounds of the Taj Mahal at sunrise and feeling utter peace and happiness
* whiling away the days in Muang Ngoi, Laos, doing nothing but reading in a hammock, chatting and drinking with locals, and having nightly bonfire sing-alongs on the beach
* seeing my first shark and sea turtle on dives in Indonesia and Australia, respectively
* learning that not only was I willing to try kokorec, but it's also one of my favorite things to eat
* seeing rainbows galore, literally dozens of rainbows throughout the world; you just never get tired of the surprise of seeing them :-)
* celebrating the Thai New Year in Railay
* truly getting to know local people in Cambodia, India, and Indonesia
(They're friendly in Cambodia!)
Sure, there were some moments when I was tired or annoyed or frustrated, but there were heaps of times that I will forever look back on with fondness and nostalgia and I wouldn't trade or change a single aspect of my trip. 


So what's next for me? It's to be determined, actually. Short term travel plans are as simple as a potential trip to Key West over New Year's. Long term travel plans. . .ah, my wish list of places to go grows by the week! I doubt that I'll take another trip as long as this one, but one which is one to three months in duration seems doable. I've heard really great things about Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and Ukraine, plus I'd like to spend more time in Turkey and the Czech Republic, so Eastern Europe is definitely up there. I'd also like to officially relearn Spanish, so South America is up there, too (especially since it's a continent I haven't been to yet!). For now, though, I'm really enjoying just being home.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Edinburgh the Second

I've been home for five days now and I still haven't even finished telling about our last few days in Scotland (but to be fair, the first two days back I didn't leave the house and didn't get dressed. What? I was tired!). Wow, so much to catch up on!

So, we had to be in Edinburgh by noon on 29 September (last Wednesday) in order to drop off the rental car which meant that we got a pretty early start leaving Perth (not a whole lot to say about Perth, btw; I don't think I even took a single picture there). It stormed hard the entire way to Edinburgh, but by the time we got there it had slowed down to just a drizzle. I thought it might be the perfect day for a pub crawl or maybe a visit to a museum, but DSH had other ideas. We ended up walking in the West End and Leith neighborhoods and by the time we ended up back in Old Town (where we stayed the first time around), we knew exactly where we were. By early evening, the sky was clearing up and our last full day in Scotland (uh, what we thought was going to be our last full day before all of the delays) was shaping up to be really pretty.

Thursday was an absolutely beautiful day. The day started crisp and cool, but the sun was shining brightly and the skies were blue as could be. Definitely not a day to be stuck inside pubs or museums. :-) I love the look of British pubs, though, so I took lots of pictures of them and did pop into one for a beer later in the day. So how was the day spent then? Well, souvenir shopping, of course! And by "of course" I mean that DSH did lots of shopping, I just helped, lol.

I guess that about covers it, so let's get to the numbers:
* 664 miles driven on "the other side" of the road
* 8 distilleries visited on three islands (Islay, Skye, and the mainland)
* Stayed in 2 hostels, 4 bed and breakfasts, and 1 hotel
* 0 couchsurfing hosts or events, but we did meet a friend of a couchsurfing friend
* countless full Scottish breakfasts - I'm done with bacon and eggs for a while!
* 1.5 days of rain (3 half days over the course of two weeks)
* Only one picture of a statue with a cone on its head (the cone was missing by the time we were back in Edinburgh)
* Serenaded by bagpipers, oh, at least a dozen times
* Ate black pudding three times before it was forever ruined for me
* LOTS of castles and ancient ruins

All in all, a good trip. Also, not all of the Scotland pics have been uploaded to Flickr yet, so be sure to check in about a week, they should be up by then.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Full circle

One year ago today yesterday, some time between this and this, I left for my solo RTW trip. How ironic then that today is yesterday was supposed to be the day I return from my little jaunt across the sea to Scotland? One year to the day and I didn't even plan it that way! I don't have much else to say about it at the moment, especially since this was a scheduled post and I'm probably dragging my jetlagged self off the plane in the real time, but there will be more to come shortly. Trip wrap up on its way!

**Yup, for some reason this didn't post as it was supposed to, but ultimately it doesn't even matter because the flights were delayed anyway. We were going to end up missing our connecting flight in London and British Airways only has one flight a day from London to BWI. BA rescheduled our flights and put us in a hotel for the night. Our first flight of the day was at 9:10am which meant that we had to be at the airport by 8:10am. That meant that my alarm went off at 6:15am today. So after 10 hours of actual flight time, plus six hours of layover time, PLUS flight delays, we're finally home. It's now after midnight, but my body thinks it's about 5:30am. Right now, me=tired.

Trip wrap up still on its way!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Narrow

I mentioned that the trip from Islay to Skye was pretty harrowing, but you may be wondering what exactly I meant by that. Well, we narrowly avoided being killed with boredom as we waited for more than two hours for our ferry in Port Askaig. The ferry trip was mostly uneventful, although it was delayed in leaving, so we didn't get to the mainland until later than we expected. I thought our drive up the west coast to Skye would then take about 4-5 hours, depending on how many stops we made.

What I didn't know is that the A85 and the A87, two (supposedly) major roads in Scotland are n.a.r.r.o.w. Like, narrower than the word I just stretched out using periods. I'm talking country lane narrow. Add in the fact that they were also crazy curvy, ess curve after ess curve, pretty much non-stop. So top speed was, what? Maybe 40 mph? Then it started getting dark. Then random animals kept jumping out at us - a HUGE buck scared the living daylights out of me, but luckily stayed on the shoulder, and an owl or some other fairly large bird that actually flew into the car as we were driving. And I had decided to take a turn at the wheel, so I was the one driving (shhh. . .don't tell DSH, but I'm *much* better at it than him!). The driving portion of the trip ended up taking nearly seven hours (including our pit stop for dinner) and by the time we got to the b&b (at 1am, our poor, poor host!), my neck and shoulder muscles were in a gross, twisted bundle.


Skye was pretty and we had good weather again. Go check out the pictures for some amazing scenery (oh, and maybe another distillery shot or two, also).




For the two days between Skye and our return to Edinburgh, we didn't have an itinerary. We figured we'd kind of wing that part and see where it took us. Fortunately for us, we narrowly missed staying in Inverness (gateway to Loch Ness) which would have been a mistake. It's not a particularly good looking part of Scotland, or maybe we're just spoiled by the loveliness of Islay and Skye, and it didn't seem like there was a whole lot to do there. So we kept going until we got to Pitlochry. 


Pitlochry had more charm in half a block than Inverness had in its entirety. Plus, it had the added bonus of being less than three miles from the smallest distillery in Scotland, Edradour. :-) We checked in to a b&b - our biggest, nicest room yet - and then headed out for some walking, exploring, and the hunt for dinner.


Which (finally) brings us to today. We're in Perth until tomorrow when we head back to Edinburgh for the last days in Scotland.


* * * * *


Completely unrelated to anything, but funny enough (I thought) to warrant a mention: Breakfasts with DSH have been, let's say, interesting. The traditional Scottish breakfast consists of all or a combination of the following - a fried egg, black pudding (made from blood, oats, and seasonings, it actually tastes a lot better than it sounds), sausage and/or bacon (it's more like Canadian bacon), grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, and a potato scone. What makes it interesting is that DSH hates fried eggs and grilled tomatoes, but he always at least attempts to eat them because he doesn't want to be rude to the b&b host. This means that he fast chews his way through it and you can tell he's trying really hard not to taste anything. Because I wouldn't be me if I just let this go, I of course teased him about it. It was all well and good until he made a comment about the black pudding being like a scab. Ewwwwww. He got his revenge, but I really haven't been able to eat black pudding since then.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Whisky

The Isle of Islay was all about whisky. (And no, "whisky" isn't spelled incorrectly, even though Blogger is underlining it with a red line for me. Whisky is spelled without an 'e' when it comes from Scotland and with an 'e' when it comes from Ireland or the US.) It just so happens that Islay produces DSH's favorite kind of whisky and there are eight different distilleries on the island (an island, btw, so small that only about 3,500 people live there). Although I like whisky, Islay whiskies are too peaty and/or smoky and/or medicinal for me, so I was glad to play DD and just take pictures everywhere we went.


Actually, my first shot of the day made me very happy. Why? Well, only because I got a picture of something I really, really wanted to get a picture of while in Scotland.


It's a Highland cow! And they're not at all like the shy sheep that run away from you. This guy and about five of his friends came right over to the fence we were standing at to say hi. I think they probably thought we had food for them (we didn't), but at least we got some pictures out of it.


So of those eight distilleries, we went to six of them over two days, some of them twice. They all have a very distinct look about them and it's one that I happen to find very photograph-able (uh, easy to photograph may be a better word choice? lol). The walls of the buildings are whitewashed and the distillery is always on water. We got a great weather day, too, so I ended up with lots of shots with bold color - whitewashed buildings, lush green grass, and crystal blue water. Here's just a taste of what I mean:




Being on Islay was fun, but we were really looking forward to seeing Skye - we'd heard it was one of the most beautiful places on the planet. If only we'd known how intense the trip would've been, we could have prepared a bit better...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pigeon legs and church bars

We hired a car, got outta Edinburgh, and headed to Stirling and Falkirk before ending up in Glasgow. In Stirling we had a very odd pub meal and took pictures of a cool old castle and cemetary. The destination in Falkirk was the Falkirk Wheel, something we'd both heard about years ago. I have to say, the wheel was interesting, but I'm glad we hadn't planned on staying in either Stirling or Falkirk overnight; there was just enough to see and do for a couple of hours and that's it.
(Me at the Falkirk Wheel)
When we finally arrived in Glasgow, it couldn't have happened a moment too soon - being in the car was turning out to be highly stressful. The car we hired was a manual and of course the driver sits on the right. Neither DSH nor I had ever driven on the other side of the road before, but we decided to give him the first go at it and I'd be the navigator. Navigating tends to be stressful for me on a regular day, but add in the fact that I kept having to tell DSH that he was WAY too close to the curb/line and, well, I couldn't wait to be out of the car.


Day one in Glasgow was spent wandering the city centre. We went in and out of shops and walked all over taking shots of cool old buildings. I can't tell if it's because of the economy or if it was the weather or what, but Glasgow seems pretty depressed. The buildings are solid and dark and drab. Edinburgh may have ranked as the more interesting of the two to look at, but so far neither one of them are on my top 10 cities list.
(Oran Mor)
All of the walking and perhaps a bit of lingering jet lag meant that we were ready for a rest by mid-afternoon. We headed back to the guest house, watched a movie, and took a nap. We woke up refreshed and ready to head back out to meet Marion, a friend of Toto's who he'd told me to reach out to when he found out I'd be in Scotland. Marion took us to a part of Glasgow called the West End that we hadn't explored yet. We had a drink first (I don't remember the name of the place) and then had dinner at the Ubiquitous Chip. Marion made all kinds of recommendations - we had venison haggis and pigeon legs, both very tasty - and introduced us to Irn Bru (pronounced "iron brew"), a Scottish soda brand that outsells Coca-Cola (it tastes a bit like bubble gum for some reason and really isn't my thing, but Scots love the stuff). Afterwards we went to Oran Mor, a church converted into a bar that had pages and pages and pages of whisky to choose from (DSH was a happy man!). We eventually said goodnight to Marion, but not before she told us to be sure to call her if we needed anything or if we wanted suggestions for what to do when we leave the Isle of Skye (I still haven't figured that bit out yet).


This is why couchsurfing is so cool and why I recommend it so highly. Marion isn't at all involved with CS, but Toto is and that's how we ended up meeting her. I wouldn't have had Scottish contacts if it wasn't for Toto and CS, and we never would have found those really cool spots if it hadn't been for a local. It's nice to get off the tourist track and find out what the locals are getting up to. My piece of advice? Even if you're not comfortable with the idea of couchsurfing, you should still make every effort you can to talk to other people and get to know the people who live in the area you're visiting. I can guarantee that it will only enhance your experience.


Anyway, for day two in Glasgow, we decided to go back to the West End. We popped in and out of vintage stores, grocery stores, cupcake stores, and the Botanic Gardens. We also took lots of pictures of the University of Glasgow buildings and grounds. In other words, we did heaps of walking and wandering. :-) In a bit, we'll go out for dinner - I have a hankering for Indian food - and then we'll probably call it an early night. Tomorrow we leave Glasgow for the Isle of Islay, but we'll make a pit stop at Loch Lomond on the way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Edinburgh the First

The flights to Edinburgh were good and uneventful - on time arrivals and not a single crying baby in sight! It was a little more "eventful" when it came to accommodations and I put that word in quotes because I mean it in a bad way. Without typing it out and having to relive the frustration of it all, I can sum it up by saying that the communication from the apartment owner was a bit lacking which meant that we lugged luggage around Edinburgh a lot longer than we should've had to, never very fun when you're short on sleep.


(A view of Edinburgh from the castle)
But we're here now and settling in nicely, I think. We'll be circling back to Edinburgh before we leave, so there was really no gameplan for the first full day here. Our agenda seemed to be "let's wander around and see what we see." We ended up seeing a lot - Edinburgh Castle, Salisbury's Crags, the Royal Mile, the National Museum of Scotland, street performers, Scott Monument, a couple parks, the University of Edinburgh, and heaps of cool shops and pubs - so I'd say the plan worked.
(Window of The Scotch Whisky Experience)
Plus! I've eaten haggis twice now. The first time I had it with neaps and tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes, the traditional accompaniments); the second time it was on the best pulled pork sandwich along with some chili jam (the combination sounds weird, I know, but it was SO yummy). 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vacation vs. RTW

In less than seven hours my flight leaves for Edinburgh. Wow, where did the time go? It seems like just last week I was in New Zealand.

I've been crazy busy these last couple of weeks with trip planning and it got me thinking how different the planning is for a vacation versus a round-the-world trip. For one thing, I know where I'm sleeping every night for the next 14 nights (well, mostly; there's a night or two that's still up in the air). Transportation has been secured - in the form of a car rental. Packing is almost finshed. Boarding passes have been printed. And the soon to be famous Shannon L. Kirkpatrick travel folder of awesomeness is compiled.

[Aside: What? You don't know about the soon to be famous Shannon L. Kirkpatrick travel folder of awesomeness? Well. . .When I start planning for a trip, all of my notes go into a folder. These are notes on potential itineraries, comparisons of car vs. train travel, reminders of who I inquired regarding room availability, must do's or must sees, etc, etc. Then, once I start getting confirmations I put those in the folder, too. Everything is highlighted and in the order that I'll need it for easy access (i.e. flight confirmation followed by car rental confirmation followed by directions to hotel followed by hotel confirmation). Makes sense, right? It helps keep me organized and sane. I don't save these folders generally, but an added bonus is that if I wanted to add ticket stubs or a few favorite pictures or whatever, it'd probably make a good keepsake of the trip.]

Anyway, there's been no mention here of a travel folder before because RTW travel is a whole 'nother animal. When I was traveling through India or Thailand or Indonesia, I rarely knew where I was sleeping in two night's time, let alone two weeks into the future. I reserved a spot on a bus or train only hours in advance, if that. Packing was pretty much always done (for those quick getaways!) and boarding passes were something I got right before I walked through security.

It's two completely different ways to travel. One is more structured and one is more by the seat of your pants. You might not think that the same person could travel in these two different ways, but I honestly enjoy both and think there are pros and cons to each. It really depends on your trip goals.

What kind of traveler are you? Do you plan out each and every detail, or do you go with the flow? Maybe you use a hybrid of the two?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Now with added detail!, Part 2


I'm calling this version the "photo quality isn't great, but the story behind it is" version. :-) For part one go here.
The above shot was taken in Prague. I'd met Danilo and Elin, two really cool couchsurfers, and we were all in great moods. If I remember correctly, it was a Friday night and we were ready for a night on the town. As we walked to the meeting place for the CS party that we were going to, I stopped in the middle of the street to take this picture. The light isn't great and the shot ends up looking a little fuzzy and out of focus. I like it, though, because with all the good mood vibes in the air and the excitement of a night out with cool people, I was feeling kind of warm, fuzzy, and out of focus myself.

See those colorful, swirly blobs? Yeah, those are koi fish and in case you didn't know, they are very hard to photograph. (Well, at least they're not running away from you like sheep do, but they're fast and taking pictures through water is hard to begin with.)

I took this shot in Bangkok; it was a jam-packed day of activity and this was taken at the Jim Thompson house. I seem to remember being in a good mood on this day, too, and was so dead set on getting a picture of the koi that I literally spent 30-45 minutes taking shot after shot, going for the perfect one. I never did get it (you can see my other attempts here, here, and here), but I sure had fun trying and I had a big, goofy grin on my face the whole time.

Finally for today, we go back to Muang Ngoi in Laos. You may recall that me and Laos didn't exactly get off on the right foot and it was all downhill from there (I won't link to it because, well, the word 'explosive' should be the only reminder you need). Then I got to Muang Ngoi and all was right with the world again. People were friendly, the vibe was laid-back, and I started to feel like myself again at last.

This shot is terrible because I'm zoomed in super far which doesn't really work so well for a point and shoot camera. I was trying to get a good shot of the moon - if you squint and have a good imagination, you can kind of see it in the top of the shot, towards the left. The rest of the photo is a view of the restaurant that was directly across from my bungalow. I spent most of my afternoons and early evenings in Muang Ngoi laying in the hammock on my porch, watching the night get darker and darker, as I listened to the chatter coming from the restaurant. The peacefulness of it all makes me smile even now.

I suppose this edition of the story behind the photo should have been called the "good moods and happy times" edition. ;-)

* * * * *

In case you're wondering how my friends in Christchurch fared, everyone is fine. Sean tells me that the damage was mostly not as bad as the media portrayed, and most Kiwis just looked at it as preparation for "the big one." I thought 7.2 on the Richter scale was pretty big, but I guess in the en zed it's only big if it's an 8 or higher, lol.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thoughts

I just got around to finally mentioning the volcano eruption that happened awhile ago in Indonesia and now there's news of an earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale in Christchurch, New Zealand.


I've reached out to my friends there, but haven't heard back from them yet. I'm (mostly) sure they are fine, but keep them in your thoughts for me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bungees, volcanoes, and aerials

None of these items really warrant a post all on their own, so today you get a hodge-podge of a few things I’ve been meaning to write about recently.

I thought the bungee jump I did in Queenstown was from a pretty high height at 134 meters. That is, until I found out about the one in Macau that garners the title of world’s tallest bungee jump. It’s more than 300 feet taller than the jump I made! Obviously, it’s not a jump I took – I would’ve mentioned a trip to China. J I did take a MUCH bigger leap recently, but it was with a parachute attached to me rather than a bungee cord. I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them.

The islands of Indonesia lie on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” which essentially means that Indonesians experience heaps of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and events like tsunamis that are often a result of said earthquakes. In fact, there was an earthquake in North Sumatra when I was there back in May. Well, the ring of fire has struck again and you’ve probably heard or read by now that there was a volcano eruption a few days ago. The volcano hadn’t erupted in 400 years. Nearly 20,000 people were evacuated, but the good news is that only one person has died (the last time I heard, anyway). The other interesting thing to note is that the volcano is only 40 miles from Medan, the city that I flew into when I first arrived in Indonesia. I can't say I'm disappointed to have missed the eruption!

And finally, Laura sent me a link to one guy's aerial photos awhile back and it was really neat looking through all of them. The photographer is Yann Arthus-Bertrand and he spent five years taking those shots. Laura sent it to me because she thought she'd remembered that I'd been to some of the places featured. As I scrolled through, I thought she was crazy because I wasn't seeing any place that I'd been to, lol, but eventually there were a handful that were familar to me. These include Fraser Island, Australia, Bazaar of Istanbul, Turkey, Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, Varanasi, India, and Los Angeles (although I didn't see the particular shot that Yann had b/c I never left the airport). A couple of my favorite shots are below, all credit to Yann Arthus-Bertrand, of course.
Stockholm, Sweden

Machu Picchu, Peru

Walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia

What shots do you like? What places would you like to visit after seeing the aerial photos?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Postcards


I sent myself postcards while I was traveling. Did I ever mention that? (Oh, wait. I just checked and it turns out I did mention it!) I thought it would be fun to read them when I got home 1) for the memories and 2) to get a sense of how I was feeling at different times during the trip. I’ve officially been home for three weeks now and finally got around to reading my postcards over the weekend. Well, it’s not so much that I “got around” to it, so much as I was saving them. In the last three weeks, I’ve surprised all the people I needed to surprise, I interviewed for and started a new position, I’ve caught up with a bunch of friends and former colleagues, I’ve unpacked boxes of clothes that had been in storage, and I’ve done heaps of other small errands that have allowed me to settle down a bit and feel at home for the first time in nearly a year. And yes, Scotland is still coming up in less than a month, but for all intents and purposes, my RTW trip is over. Holding onto and saving the postcards was my way of stretching out my experience just a little longer.

My postcards came from Barcelona, Turkey, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, and New Zealand. Pretty dead on for beginning, middle, and end of trip thoughts, although I hadn't planned it that way. There were some common themes as well, but I hadn't planned those either. Early on I talked a lot about getting out of my comfort zone; I'm pretty sure I did that in a big, big way! See: drinking tap water in India, getting over my fear of deep and/or dark water, eating intestines, hedgehogs, and other random things, and getting over my fear of heights for just a few examples.
The other major theme essentially related to me wanting to remind myself that what I experienced on the road doesn't have to end once the trip ends. I could (and probably will) write a whole post about this, but what it boils down to is that there is still a whole lot of world to see and a whole lot out there to do. I wanted to remind myself that this didn't have to be a once in a lifetime opportunity if I didn't want it to be.


The postcards did exactly what I wanted them to do. They took me right back to where I was when I wrote them and they made me see how far I've come - not from a physical perspective, but rather from a personal one.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Now with added detail!

I took a LOT of pictures while I was traveling, probably about 5,000 or so, but not all of those made it on to Flickr (I deleted about a thousand of them that didn't turn out or that I just didn't like) and only a tiny portion of them made it on to the blog (the incredibly slow internet speed in some places would've made it impossible). The other night I was looking through some of the pictures with a friend who didn't read my blog or look at my Flickr page while I was away. How do you share nearly 4,000 pictures with a person without making them comatose with boredom? Well, if you're me, you go straight to the Personal Faves set. It only has 92 pictures in it. :-)


What I realized looking through this set, besides the fact that there are SO many good memories just in that album alone, is that a lot of those pictures were posted without a whole lot of additional information. A shot might be labeled "Fraser Island" and appear in the Australia set as well, but that's it. So I thought I'd share some of the background info on some of my favorite pictures, just to add a little something to the picture.
The picture above was taken three days into the beginning of my trip and was the first shot I took of myself (included in this blog post originally). Oh, okay, there may have been one that someone else took and one other that I took, but this was the only good one. I'd been wandering around this park in Barcelona, saw this cool tree, and decided that I wanted to take a picture with it. What I love about this picture is that I look so damn happy (and look at how short my hair was back then!). Everything was still pretty surreal then and I had to pinch myself to be sure that I wasn't dreaming. It was around the time of this picture that I really started to enjoy myself.


This next picture was taken while I was lost. I know, surprise surprise, right? I'd gotten turned around in Athens on my way to the Acropolis. There was a big main road leading to the Acropolis that I'd seen from a distance, but I had trouble finding it and instead found myself in this little village. The houses and narrow, winding paths themselves were very cool, but thinking about how people had lived in those very houses for thousands of years kind of took my breath away a little. The houses were whitewashed with brightly painted doors and gardens were growing out of every nook and cranny. I was enjoying being lost on this particular day, but what sealed it and made it a personal-fave- worthy photo opportunity was the handwritten sign giving directions to the Acropolis:
One more for today and since I started with surrealism, I'll end with surrealism, too. The day that I left Queenstown, New Zealand for Franz Josef Glacier was an early, foggy start. After about an hour, maybe less, we made our first "comfort stop." I was kind of grumbling to myself about how if we kept making stops like this, it was going to take us forever to get there and jeez, why couldn't we just get a move on? But then I looked up and saw this outside the bus window: 

It was so pretty and ethereal looking that I couldn't help but not be mad. It made me remember that the journey is part of the trip, if that makes any sense at all. It also reminded me that attitude is a choice. I could choose to be annoyed at the number of stops we were making, or I could choose to sit back and enjoy the ride. My choice this day was the latter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Now what?

Way back when (and why does it feel like it's been ages ago instead of just a couple of weeks?), when I was wandering the streets of San Francisco by myself as I waited for Will to get home from work, I came across this street sign that had me LOLing right there in the middle of the city.  


There I was, last day in SF, last day of RTW travel, heading home the very next day, and I saw this sign as kind of a personal sign from the universe to me: End Shannon. Like, you've been on the road for a long time and now it's time to call it quits and go home. Just End Shannon. I was amused by it, but you know what? It's not really the end. 

I've officially been back in the States for two weeks now and home for just over one week. So what's next on my agenda, you ask? First up is a shorty-short recruiting contract that I trained for on Wednesday and officially start on Monday. An added bonus of being a recruiter is being able to schedule, interview for, train, and start a new position all in less than two weeks after returning from a country on the other side of the world. :-) The contract will last for just over a month and then I'll take a two week vacation. What? I'll need a break after all that work! Gotta ease into it after not working for so long, lol. Nah, in reality, a friend asked me if I wanted to come with on a trip to Scotland. I'll also have a chance to see Marina and Rhian in our sixth country, so I figured why not. You only live once, right?

The plan after that is a bit more up in the air. I'll try to get a longer term contract beginning around Oct 4 after I've returned from Scotland. And I'll stay with my parents for awhile so I can save up some money for an apartment. But this is most definitely not the End Shannon as far as traveling goes. More of a pause, really. There's a whole lot of world to see out there! I don't think I'll travel again for the same length of time as this trip, it's just really tiring after awhile. One to three months is probably more ideal. Not that I'm already planning my next trip or anything, but I think for my next one I'd like to go to Eastern Europe or South America.

As for the blog, things may be quiet around here for the next month or so. You may see some stories or other random items that might be of interest (photos, Scotland ideas, etc). I'll save the RTW trip wrap-up and highlights til I'm back from Scotland. In the meantime, if there are questions you have for me or aspects of my trip that you'd like to hear more about - speak up and tell me all about it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

American As, Part Two

I already talked about my time in California, but should I back up a bit and explain how I got to SF to begin with? Yes, I suppose I should. 


I actually decided towards the end of June that I'd come home early. The idea was born with the homesickness that sank in deep after Will left Sydney. I'd been road weary for awhile before then, but with homesickness and seriously dwindled funds added in to the equation, coming home early really wasn't a hard decision to make. ToadMama asked me once when I'd know it was time to come home. I told her that I wasn't sure because I hadn't felt that way yet. But by the end of June, it definitely felt like it was time.


Researching flights is always a good first step to getting home, so I started doing that right away. And remember when I accidentally bought two tickets for the exact same flight, same day and everything? That actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Originally I thought I'd fly back to the US from Auckland, but in a conversation with the Melbourne hostel owner about the ticket snafu, he mentioned that flights to the US were usually cheaper out of Sydney so maybe I could use the Jetstar credit for a flight back to Sydney. I ended up getting a refund and didn't need to do that, but the flight really was cheaper out of Sydney (by about $600), so I decided to go that route anyway.


So, on 29 July I boarded a flight from Auckland to Sydney (leg #1). I left Auckland at 3:30pm and, after a four hour flight, I arrived in Sydney at 5pm where I had a three hour layover. The next flight (leg #2) was 14 hours long and left at 8:30pm meaning I arrived in LA at. . .5:10pm? Yup, 5:10pm and it's still the same day. Another two hour layover (plus a little bit of a delay) and an hour and a half long flight, and I was in San Francisco (leg #3). If you're keeping track, I got to SF less than six hours after I left NZ, but it actually amounted to 24 1/2 hours of travel time. It's good that I'd planned to be in California for a few days because when it came time for my fourth and final leg from SF to BWI, I don't think I could've handled another nine hours of travel time (two hour flight to Phoenix, layover, nearly five hour flight).


Will told me it took about a week for his sleep schedule to be back to normal when he flew back from Sydney, but I must be much more awesome than him because surprisingly enough, I haven't really been experiencing any sort of jet lag. I didn't sleep at all on the first leg and decided to delay sleep as long as possible on the second leg, so I watched two movies and about five episodes of Glee. (Btw, if you have to do a long haul flight and have the chance to fly V Australia, a subsidiary of Virgin, I highly recommend it. The in-flight entertainment is great, the staff were awesome, and the food and snacks were good and plentiful.) I slept for about six hours, but it felt like much less because of the three rows of children sitting opposite me who somehow felt it necessary to be awake and yelling at each other in the middle of the night. Then I woke up, watched five more episodes of Glee, and had breakfast before it was finally time to land in LA. No sleeping on the third leg and I was up for about four hours before going to bed in San Francisco. Do you have any idea how surreal it is to essentially gain an extra day? Sooo surreal.


Anyway, now that I'm back on the east coast, I think jet lag has been a little worse flying from CA to MD than it was NZ to CA. I'm not sleeping at super odd times or anything, but I am going to bed later than I probably should and am feeling sluggish mid-afternoon, early evening. Ah, but that could have more to do with all of the excitement of surprising my friends and family with the news of my early return.