I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
It has been said that “life begins when you step out of your comfort zone.” (American author Neale Donald Walsch). I have lately been thinking of this now that things have settled down from the pandemic and we move about within our lives again, getting back to work, shopping, eating out, walking the dog in a crowd, and repeating, etc.
I have been thinking for years about fire walking. From a science perspective, I know that one is unlikely to get burned, as the time of contact with the heat usually prevents this. In addition, embers are not good conductors of heat. With the right form, people survive this experience unburned, yet those who run through the embers change the position of their feet from a flat placed with a flat position and uniform surface area to a foot that is buried a little further in the embers and unevenly into the heat as a result. Sometime these people get burned. Running through the embers instead of walking slowly, taking one’s time, brings up all kinds of parallels to life and living for me as well. Most of the time the feel feel warm to the touch for a while, but do not burn. There is always a bucket of water nearby in case things go awry.
There is a certain sense of victory I imagine that one feels after walking through burning embers. However, I can only imagine that a sense of balance happens as well. How powerful the notion that another reason one doesn’t get burned from walking through hot embers is that when two bodies of different temperatures meet, the hotter body cools down, and the cooler body warms up.
I know that fire walking has been practiced for thousands of years as a spiritual ritual or is connected with some rite of healing, initiation, or faith practice in some cases. For me, the notion of fire walking means that I would step out of my comfort zone for a moment. I means that I would for a moment face the innate fear that we all have of sustaining a burn. We learn as children NOT to touch something hot or to avoid something that might hurt us. Well fire walking might not hurt us, but it instills fear on some basic primitive level somehow. I don’t need the ritual, healing, or initiation aspect of this activity, nor do I want it. I want only to shake it up by doing something out of my comfort zone.
I am toying with putting fire walking on my “bucket” list. It’s not about thrill seeking at all. Why not face my (universal) fear? Why not emerge with a greater perspective life? In my opinion, only something good can come out of it.
While I may not be able to walk on water (THAT is something ENTIRELY differentl), I CAN walk on fire. There is something about balancing the need to read quietly with a cup of herbal tea in a tiny cabin in the woods with a great view of nature that I have with pushing myself out of my comfort zone to walk on fire. Maybe it is about Yin and Yang, after all, and finding the balance within life.
“I could walk through fire, I could feel it burning And I could walk through fire, right back to you And as the flames get higher, you know I’ll get stronger Baby, I would walk through fire…”
– “Walk Through Fire” by Brian Howe/Terry Thomas sung by Bad Company
“…Filled with awesome expectation This girl’s a fascination And nothing in her way will keep her from her destination ‘Cause she’s fire walking, she’s fire walking…”
Those who know me know I often speak about having a dream, or “bucket” list items, to live fully and with intention. A hot air balloon ride, a swim with the dolphins, traveling to see tulips bloom in Holland in the spring, seeing the pyramids in Egypt, seeing the Aurora Borealis….the list is so long for many of us. But what if thinking of our “bucket list” isn’t quite the way to do it? What if there is another way to enjoy those breathtaking and precious moments our lives?
I am reading a book right now called “Driving Miss Norma” by Ramie Liddle and Tim Bauerschmidt. This book is about a 90 something year old woman finding out she has cancer after having just lost her husband. Instead of going through palliative treatments designed to extend her life just a little bit, she and her family decided to take an RV trip throughout the United States and to “live” while she was dying, creating memories of new experiences and moments of joy. I thought the book would be about fulfilling those life-long dreams, or “bucket list” items before “Miss Norma” passes away, but I was wrong. Totally and completely wrong.
The book passages say, “Norma could not find the words to create a bucket list, although at first that is what we were hoping for. If, for no other reason, it would have helped with planning. “Oh, I don’t know,” she would say over and over again, and it became clear very early in our preparations that we were not going to get a list out of her. Sometimes I felt frustrated that she would not participate much in the planning. Was it her age? I wondered. Was her brain unable to retrieve language easily? Was she simply not used to dreaming or being asked her opinion about things? But I soon grew to appreciate the opportunities her reticence to make a list gave us. With out one, we could really go with the flow. There was so much to see and do, and more than anything Norma just wanted to enjoy life. A bucket list would be much too limiting. This trip was not about checking off predetermined items. As we had quickly learned from those first delayed plans at the Mackinac Bridge and our experiences at roadside attractions, this trip was about living in the present moment, embracing whatever came our way. There would be no regrets and no need to race against time.”
Such beautiful words. Such wisdom. After contemplating two opposite approaches to living fully (the “bucket list” vs. “going with the flow”), I have decided that either approach works, depending on our own individual personalities. Neither is wrong. Neither is right. I guess it all comes down to HOW one can live one’s life fully and how one can embrace whatever comes our way. For some it comes down to the bucket list, and for others it is living in the present moment, wherever the wind blows us with spontaneity.
Life is good; find a way to embrace whatever comes your way any way you can. No regrets. Carpe diem, friends…
Wanderlust during the pandemic? Are you compiling your travel bucket list during the travel restrictions? Starting January 26, 2021, all air passengers aged two and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test that’s no more than 72 hours old to enter the United States. Travel abroad is possible but needs forethought. I am looking forward to the day on the horizon when we are free to easily move about the world again soon. This makes international travel a little trickier, but we still can dream about where to go once things settle down a bit during the pandemic. But that means you have some time to consider some place magical, like the wonders of Waitomo in New Zealand.
Waitomo is a village in the north Island of New Zealand. It is here that a species of glowworms, Arachnocampa luminosa, lives within the complex cave system there. At Waitomo Glowworm Caves, you can walk through the caves to see the magical lights emitted by the glowworms, which appear almost as though they are from Neverland and are sprinkled with pixie dust everywhere. They also remind me of Christmas lights or constellations all about the cave. These caves are amazing and are breathtaking. Imagine walking through this place, or better yet, taking a boat ride through this enchanted cave. The boat tours here last about an hour, so remember to wear comfortable shoes and wear something warm, as the caves are about sixty degrees Fahrenheit year round. Prices for adults are about $40.00 USD for the weekend price, and about $18.00 USD for children. They also offer reduced weekday prices and family tickets, which are $74.00 USD for two adults and two children (ages 4-14). They charge about $11.00 for extra children, and children under 4 are free.
Taking a boat ride sounds great to me, but it is really the blackwater rafting that catches my eye. Blackwater rafting is like white water rafting but in the dark! Imagine floating around this cave on a tube with only the lights from the glowworms and your headlight leading your journey. Here you travel about 80 meters (262 feet) below ground, jump off a waterfall with a tube, and get started. Does this sound terrifying or exhilarating? Maybe both. Maybe that’s the point? What’s better than jumping off a waterfall and floating in the dark cave on a tube? A zip line, of course! One of these experiences also includes a zip line. The company offers several options for exploration, but the blackwater tours are either three hours or five hours long. What an incredible experience for a bucket list adventure. The website claims that both tours are appropriate for all levels of fitness; it seems that one only needs a certain lust for adventure.
The water temperature in the cave is around fifty degrees Fahrenheit, so the Waitomo Cave provides helmets with headlights, a thick wetsuit, and rubber boots with admission. The Black Labyrinth Tour adult prices are $109. USD and children’s (ages 12-15) prices are $93.00 USD. Week day admission prices are less. Showers are available after the trip, but bring your own shampoo, towel, and soap. Participants on this three hour tour must be at least 12 years old for this three hour tour.
The five hour Black Abyss Tour, which is more intense, requires participants to be at least 16 years old. This tour offers the zipline and costs $190 USD, although week day prices are also reduced.
Why not get out of your comfort zone to experience something really different soon? The website for the Waitomo is below for more information:
While driving through New Mexico a few years back, we just HAD to stop in Roswell, New Mexico for a laugh or two and certainly a few great photo ops. Roswell is the fifth largest city in New Mexico, and the city really got on the map in the 1940s when a military balloon crashed in a nearby area. Residents were convinced that this was a UFO, but the military maintained that it was a weather balloon. Conspiracy theories were created and gained interest, especially in the 1970s, when some conspiracy theorists suggested that an alien was onboard the alleged UFO.
I’m not sure of the validity of any of these claims, but it sure seemed like a fun place to visit. I would suggest only driving through the place, as the alien/UFO area is pretty seedy at the present time. However, many things on this stretch of road, route 285 or Main Street, leading through the city have alien-themed photo ops. Even the McDonalds is saucer-shaped.
Even the lamp posts on the streets had alien-themed lights. This is the ultimate kitschy place and a hoot to roll through.
One place that was an interesting, albeit short, stop was the International UFO Museum and Research Center, where there were many displays about the history of the alien hype.
By far my favorite place in Roswell is the Alien Zone shop, however. For just a few dollars, you can go into this seedy (and frankly dirty) little place where you can take funny pictures with “aliens.” This place is priceless in my opinion for kitschy photo ops. Granted I wanted to go back to the hotel to take a shower after posing with some of these old props that could have used a good cleaning, it was worth the laughter thereafter.
There are several “scenes” where you can walk into and take pictures. Some of the scenes are better than others but definitely worth a few dollars (if you have some hand sanitizer).
Traveling through New Mexico, you just have to roll through Roswell for a few laughs if nothing else. It is out of this world.
Life is good; find somewhere kitschy to take photos and laugh thereafter, LONG after.
This month, in about five days from now, I would have boarded a plane to Cairo if it weren’t for the Covid pandemic. I had decided earlier in the year that this was the right time to cross off one of my bucket list items, for a variety of reasons. I had always wanted to go to Egypt, and I decided that there is no time like the present. I did a great deal of research but was conflicted about going on my trip this month. I also was unsure whether it was a good time for me to go or to wait until later in the year when the new Grand Egyptian Museum was slated to open near the pyramids. This new museum is going to be huge, as it is planned to house the full collection of Tutankhamen artifacts for the first time because of the greater space available. This museum will be located right near the pyramids, will showcase over fifty thousand artifacts, and will occupy one hundred and twenty acres of land with an anticipated five million visitors per year (as estimated prior to the pandemic). Construction started on the new museum in 2002 but was delayed for a variety of reasons.
I had planned on staying at the historic Marriott Mena House with a pyramid facing balcony room for a few nights. This historic hotel is only about a half a mile away from the pyramids and has a fascinating back story. Originally built in 1869 as a hunting lodge, it is the site of the first swimming pool in Egypt in 1890. While the original house is still on the premises and is currently being renovated, there is a newer more modern section of the hotel on the property as well. Prince Albert of England, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, and Agatha Christie are among the many esteemed guests who have stayed at this hotel in the past. From there, I could have walked to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, but for safety concerns, I was going to have a private tour arranged to take me there and into the Khan el-Khaliki bazaar, or souk, in Cairo, which dates back to the fourteenth century. I was thinking I might bring a lantern or two back from Egypt to hang in my tree near the pool at home. I decided I would also go to the current Cairo Museum of Antiquities as well, but really wanted to see the new Grand Egyptian Museum, had it been already opened, instead. Life is full of trade-offs.
I had also planned on going aboard a Nile River Cruise aboard the MS Esplanade, stopping in Luxor to see the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple (the largest religious building ever constructed). I chose the MS Esplanade, in part, because of the wonderful daybeds on the top sun deck that would allow me to relax and keep cool along the journey down the Nile. After Luxor, we would have sailed to Aswan to see the Temple of Horus at Edfu, a Nubian village, the Temple of Philae (dedicated to the worship of the Godess Isis), and the High Dam. A final stop on the itinerary included a visit to the Valley of Kings.
I remember seeing a fragment of the Karnak Temple as a young girl in the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, along with a sarcophagus and knew the moment I saw them I wanted to go to Egypt some day. It was so exciting to think I would actually walk in the Karnak Temple in May when I was researching my trip to Egypt earlier this year. Trip to Egypt. Goal Set. Trip to Egypt. Goal would have been met.
As part of my research, I learned that the only travel advisory in Egypt, prior to the Corona pandemic, was regarding the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert, two areas I had planned to avoid because of the greater possibility of terrorist activity. I knew I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings in Egypt otherwise, which is something I normally am during any trip. I also had planned to avoid any mosque, church, or temple to keep my trip a little safer.
I learned a few things in my research that surprised me. There are very few crocodiles (maybe not any at all) in the Egyptian Nile any longer, despite them being worshipped in Ancient Egypt. Evidently the construction of the High Dam pushed them closer to Lake Nassar instead. Also, I found it very interesting, albeit disappointing, that there are no hippopotamuses in this section of the Nile either, as they are extinct in this region even though they were present there in ancient times. Hippo hunting and drying of the region has led to their extinction here in more modern times.
I am very disappointed that my trip has been postponed because of the pandemic, but I try to look on the bright side, even for this trip. I was hard pressed to decide whether to go to Egypt in the spring or to wait until the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo later in the year. It seemed the best option at the time to go in the spring of this year, as the political climate was a bit more settled than it had been in recent years since the Arab Spring in 2011 and the ouster of President Mubarek in the aftermath. The economy in Egypt had improved a bit last year, yet the American dollar was still strong. Incidents of terrorism were reduced in and around Cairo and the Nile valley than they had been in years, too. Tourists were beginning to return to Egypt in greater numbers, and it was finally a good time to return to Egypt again before the pandemic. However, at this time, flights have been recently suspended into and out of Egypt for the time being, so I am grateful I was not stuck in Egypt had I traveled there. Being quarantined and having difficulty returning home to the States would have definitely been difficult.
When I will head to Egypt is still up in the air, but one thing is certain. That is, I will get there, and it is only a matter of time. I have my heart set on riding a camel there, too. It’s all about the photo op, right? Maybe I might add in a layover somewhere special along the way, too. Swimming in the Dead Sea might be fun in Hurghada, which isn’t part of the Sinai Peninsula. Guess that’s the upside as well.
Life is good. Look forward to something you were planning before the Covid pandemic hit and start planning it all over again for sometime in the near future. Make it happen. Goal set; goal met soon.
There is always tomorrow to look forward to; carpe diem, friends………….
(I was going to book my trip through Memphis Tours, as they have been in operation for a very long time in Egypt and have great reviews. Another company, Liberty Travel Egypt is worth taking a look at as well. )
Wanderlust? Stuck inside? Same here. I turn to memories of travels in times past to keep myself sane.
While visiting French Polynesia, I flew to Tahiti for a day, longing to find a beach with black sand. I flew into Fa’a’ā International Airport in Tahiti, armed with a little bit of the French language under my belt and a lot of adventure in my soul.
As soon as I got off the plane, I knew I needed to rent a car to go on my scavenger hunt (if only in my mind) to find a black sand beach. I stopped at one car company and was aghast at the rate they would charge me for less than a full day rental. The attendant was surprised that I could speak French, as I am sure he wanted to take advantage of this five foot American woman traveling alone, so I said thanks and moved on to the next car rental agency. At the next car rental agency, it was the same story with a slightly better rate, so again I moved on. They say “three is a charm” so I settled on a car rental from the third agency, whose rate was still high but a bit more realistic. The rate for less than twenty-four hours was equivalent to what we might pay for a three day rate here in the States.
With a rudimentary map I picked up at a tourist kiosk at the airport, which listed only the highlights of the island, I set off for my adventure. I decided to pull over at a local business (Intersport) to seek clarification of the map. I walked into the shop and was greeted with a smile by a kind man. In French, I told him I was looking to find a beach with black sand, as I wanted to take some home to my daughter, and showed him my crude map of the island. Again, he laughed and gave me instructions (in French) to the black sand beach. As best as I remember, his instructions were something like go to the third red light, take a left, then take a right, etc….I thanked him and then set off on my adventure. I was delighted that one can travel half way around the world to still find a kindred spirit and kindness. The man laughed with me, not at me, and called me a “Cowboy”. Evidently he understood the wanderlust deep in this American soul. The language may be different than that which we are accustomed, but there is so much similarity between people from all parts of the world. Kindness, humor, gratitude, confusion, amusement, and respect are all part of the universal language we share with people all over the world.
It had been a while, several decades maybe, since I drove a “stick shift”, or car with a manual transmission. The road was very steep in some parts, but I was committed to finding that black sand. I was also VERY committed to finding an adventure.
I had been to a black sand beach in Hawaii before, but it had been many years. There is something other-wordly about seeing black sand radiating beneath my feet. I knew from my college days of Geology 101 that Tahiti was formed by two volcanoes, so the black sand is actually pieces volcanic rock. Continuous weathering of the rock replenishes the sand through the years as well.
After getting my sand in my little bottle I purchased at some little gift shop along the way, there was a smile in my soul when I finished my scavenger hunt and was ready to enjoy all else the island offered.
I stopped in the Marché de Pape’ete (Pape’ete Market) which is famous for its sights, sounds, and smells of authentic Polynesian life.
I encountered a blackboard at the market with a sort of “bucket list” written by visitors, which made my heart smile. Others everywhere had “bucket lists” and were checking off items one by one I’m sure.
One visitor wanted to travel the world. Another wanted to live in Tahiti with a spouse. Another wanted to find his love. Another wanted to return to Polynesia. Yet another wanted to build a big house for her children. I didn’t write on the board; I kept my “bucket list” in my soul.
After my journey, I was able to get back to the resort to relax a bit to sit in a comfortable egg chair with a good book in my hand and the scent of frangipani wafting through the air.
Life is good. See the sights. Smell the scents. Taste the flavors. Carpe diem friends………….
“I’ve seen a black sand beach stranger than any foreign world where King Poseidon draped in seaweed once walked upon the Earth–”
Today, I’m thinking of all the places I would love to travel to in my lifetime…..Egypt, China (The Great Wall for certain), The Ice Hotel in Quebec, Antarctia, Venice (AGAIN!)………the list goes on and on in my mind while I accomplish the mundane tasks of cooking and freezing food in case we have a “shelter in place” in the near future here in Florida. The art of the armchair travel keeps me sane while the travel restrictions are in place for the time being.
“What a day for a daydream What a day for a daydreamin’ boy……..
And even if time ain’t really on my side It’s one of those days for taking a walk outside I’m blowing the day to take a walk in the sun And fall on my face in somebody’s new mowed lawn
I’ve been havin’ a sweet dream I’ve been dreamin’ since I woke up today It’s starring me in my sweet dream….”
-“Daydream” by Lovin’ Spoonfuls
Life Is Good. Live while you are living. Go outside; get some fresh air…..OR…. maybe it’s time for a daydream today instead. Time to think about all the wonderful things you want to do when the virus clears the air. Keep dreaming. Keep sane.
As I transition from “social distancing” to self-isolation in our home, I am reminded of an old song that says, “For every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” I am reminded of all the good things that are happening in the world right now, despite our current precarious world situation, that are still positive.
The smile of a stranger at the market from an appropriate social distance combined with eyes that meet and show a shared understanding (before I self-isolated), the sense of community in my neighborhood where people are looking out for each other and some folks have offered to get groceries and supplies for the elderly or at-risk neighbors, the gift of extra time together with my family, sharing a laugh as we remember to have fun while we prepare for this coronavirus to come knocking at our door. Having the luxury of extra time with board games while “Teen Traveler” is home from school and watching any pandemic movie we can will be fun memories to reflect upon years from now. Today we will find a remote stretch of beach where there are no visitors so we can feel the sand between our toes and the wind in our hair. This situation is serious, but we still can live while we are living with the situation.
There are many other other things that are that that “flower growing” despite the “rain” in this health crisis. Dolphins have returned to the canals in Venice because the water is cleaner and clearer right now with less traffic. The air is cleaner as emissions have fallen as China’s coal use drops. Many companies are changing policies and procedures to make working from home a possibility, which can help families who are normally juggling the needs of their children while needing to work. Supply chains are working overtime to help meet the needs of the country. We have begun to investigate what self-reliance means personally and as a country, giving some thought to how we can manage on many levels when things go awry. We all have developed an “attitude of gratitude” when we find a supply of toilet paper, any toilet paper, any brand, in the market.
I am reminded of the beauty of Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands while I think “for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” The garden will not open tomorrow as planned, yet I can’t help think of all the beautiful flowers that continue to grow, despite our global turmoil. I had always wanted to see the tulips growing in fields as a bucket list item, so last year we traveled there. Another bucket list item crossed off my list.
Keukenhof Gardens normally is open in the spring for the about eight weeks from mid-March to mid-May. Originally the gardens were part of Countess Jacoba van Beieren’ s (Jacqueline of Bavaria, 1401-1436) kitchen gardens at Teylingen Castle. In 1949, plans were made by some prominent bulb growers to use that space to grow bulbs, and in 1950 the gardens were opened to the public.
At Keukenhoff, one can take a forty-five minute quiet electric boat ride through the region where you can learn a little bit more of the area. Unfortunately this boat is NOT wheel-chair accessible. Fees range from 4.50- 9. Euros (about $4.82 USD for children -$9.63 USD for adults) at the time of this writing. Children under three are free of charge. The park does, however, offer complimentary electric wheelchairs to guest to enjoy the gardens, though.
Keukenhoff is NORMALLY open from 8:00 AM to 7:30 PM but is temporarily closed now because of Covid-19. There are multiple places to eat within the park, and the park allows dogs on leashes.
Coping with the Corona situation is difficult for everyone, but taking a moment in your heart and mind to visit other places where beauty endures and life goes on might be just what you need. Armchair travel is always good for the soul, as it gives us something for which to look forward some day. The flower bulbs remind us that life goes on, year after year, even after a period in which everything appears to have stopped and is dormant.
“I believe for every drop of rain that falls A flower grows I believe that somewhere in the darkest night A candle glows I believe for everyone who goes astray someone will come To show the way I believe, I believeI believe above a storm the smallest prayer Can still be heard I believe that someone in the great somewhere Hears every wordEvery time I hear a new born baby cry Or touch a leaf or see the sky Then I know why I believeEvery time I hear a new born baby cry Or touch a leaf or see the sky Then I know why I believe”
-Written by Roger Whittaker and sung by Mahalia Jackson
TODAY is a good day to have a good day. Spring has sprung. Go out and live; carpe diem, friends…………..