Monthly Archives: November 2011

Fear #indie30

Another writing prompt from the BootsnAll 30 day indie project, this one, is fear.

I am all about adventure and trying new things. Even if the activity scares the crap out of me, at least after I do it the first time I can say I tried.

I have been able to tackle my adventurous side and my fears with ziplining and Tarzan swinging in Monteverde, Costa Rica; horseback riding in Patagonia, Argentina and nighttime kayaking in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Ziplining in Costa Rica

Sure ziplining sounds fun – but in the rain? The guides told us it would be extra fun because the rain makes you go faster. Really? The guides went through the coordination required, these prison looking suits we would need to wear to keep us dry and the caution that was needed because of the rain. And that, was what made me decide to be hooked to a guide for this adventure. My coordination isn’t the best and the waivers we had to sign didn’t make me feel all that comfortable with my coordination on wires over the trees, in the rain.

Yep, me and a 12 year old boy (because he wasn’t heavy enough) were the only people in a group of 20 or so, who went tandem with a guide – one because of weight limits and the other, me, by choice.

A guide had to go first and last to keep the flow of the group going. They wanted me or the 12-year-old boy to go with the first guide. The 12-year-old told me to go first and I tried to get him to go first but was not successful. I’ve got to say, it was good I went first because I don’t know that I would have gone if I saw someone else go first.

I don’t remember much about the first leg, but the boyfriend does. He said the group heard my screams even when they couldn’t see me anymore. He said they had quite a laugh but did not tell me about it until after the third leg. Once I agreed to continue after the third leg, I was in it until the end. You had to do at least three zips, because an easy out exit was after number three if you decided that you didn’t want to continue on the longest zip line experience in Costa Rica.

The guide, Eduardo, had a good sense of humor and didn’t seem to mind that a twenty-something girl was attached to him, and screaming, over the Costa Rican canopy.

2- The Tarzan swing was an option post-zip line before a hike through the rainforest. Nearly everyone in our group did it, and I decided I could suck it up for a few minutes. And that dear readers is definitely one thing I will never do again. Prior to my Tarzan adventure, the guides told us the chances were slim to see animals in their habitat in the rain. After my blood-curdling screams, we were assured that the chances were nil that we would see any animals.

3 – I crossed the equator and went to another continent to ride my first horse. When we arrived to the estancia (ranch) – the main gaucho (cowboy) asked how much riding experience everyone had. I was the only one who had never been on a horse. Of course I was. He assigned me the horse they give to children. The boyfriend got the ranch horse that they bring in for these tourist rides if they need an extra horse. We had to head uphill at several points, so one of the backup gauchos rode alongside me (I think it’s because the first time, I may have pulled on the reins too hard). Riding on this working farm with the Andes as our setting took my breath away, along with some of my nerves – and I’m certain that the Xanax I took before we arrived at the ranch helped too.

Found out after the ride, that riding in the States, one normally sits on a saddle. There were no saddles. Just a blanket. Each rider only had the reins to hold onto, not that horn on a saddle. Because I had the horse they give to kids, there was a rope attached to the blanket that I could hold on to if I needed backup, rather than holding the reins too hard and essentially choking my horse.

Have you seen a pattern? Not only do I have fears about some of these activities I partake in, but it’s always that much harder, with an unexpected twist. I can’t zipline on a sunny day, it has to be pouring rain. I travel to the other side of the Equator to finally get on a horse, and I hardly have anything to hold on to for my sanity.

4 – When the boyfriend and I started dating we went to Puerto Rico a few months later. We visited the island of Culebra. To get there you could take a 3 hour ferry, or a 20 minute flight. The plane was so small and the radar nil, we were able to videotape our plane ride. Also, I sat right behind the pilot in this eight seater. For all but the takeoff and landing all we saw below was water. This didn’t scare me at all.

What scared me was the nighttime kayaking and swim in the lagoon with bioluminescent creatures. Let me go back and say that I was the one who found this and booked it. This was something I wanted to do. Until I had to get into the kayak, in the dark. At the time, I had never even been in a kayak, in daytime, much less, in pitch black. After we got going, I was good. Did hear other people fall into the water because their kayaking skills were not up to par. Thankfully the boyfriend had kayaked before. He had told me to just lift my oars since I did not have much coordination and was probably slowing us down. Instead I used my oars to protect myself from the branches of the mangrove trees he kept driving us into (guess he wasn’t all that good). When I heard from other kayakers that there were bats overhead, my mind immediately sent me to the ER for emergency rabies shots.

But the experience was amazing, especially when we got into the lagoon. The guide had us all get into a circular formation so he could tie up the kayaks so we could use it as a dock for when we jumped into the water. I freaked. Totally froze. The boyfriend went into the water and was telling me that I was the one who found this (true), I was the one who was totally excited for it (true) and I was the one who even bought an underwater camera to capture the bioluminescence (true). So I jumped in and after freaking out for a few seconds, calmed down and was totally able to enjoy the bioluminescent bay experience. (I can’t find any of our photos, so either we didn’t take any, or they didn’t come out).

For those readers of you who joined me on Spring Break in Cancun back in college, I had a similar reaction when we drove the jetskis out for a snorkeling trip and we had to jump in the water. The last jetski tied up had to be the first duo to jump in. Guess who was on that last jetski to be tied up…

As I attacked each of these fears, I realized I am afraid of getting hurt. I think signing waivers makes me nervous. But once I jump in, whether it’s off a cliff for a free fall or into a lagoon in the pitch black darkness, I attack those fears, one adventure at a time. If you miss out on experiences just because of fear, whatever the fear is (mine is getting hurt) how will you know you won’t just enjoy the experience if you don’t at least try?

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” – Mark Twain

Earth #indie30

BootsnAll’s writing prompt is about the earth!

I felt most in tune with the Earth while in Ushuaia, Argentina. It was so disconnected from the world, and it was so rough and raw and isolated.

There was so much history, about the Indians who settled there and the Yaghan who lived off the land, and made use of the areas we were hiking. We were exposed to the elements, even in the height of summer. We were, as they say, at the end of the world.

We left Ushuaia by boat and traveled around the Beagle Channel with nature at it’s wildest element surrounding us.

Wildlife was everywhere.

Every person we talked with had concern for the animals, and they would talk about global warming and the water temperatures and how the wildlife is suffering.

Before taking a small boat to get to Martillo Island to see the penguins (yes, penguins!), we were invited to take a guided tour of a a one-room museum and research area. There were displays of the bones of various whales, sharks, beavers and sea lions pieced back together in the museum.

I think what was most amazing that there were/are so many species in this area completely outnumbering humans. And those are just the bones they are able to salvage. Once you headed into the research area there were loads of bones waiting to be cleaned, sorted and labeled. We saw an entire whales skeletal system drying out on the grass behind the museum. The skeletal system was longer than the bus we had taken on the two plus hour drive from Ushuaia.

Embracing change #indie30

Here’s another prompt from BootsnAll 30 day indie travel project. This writing prompt is embracing change.

Sometimes you don’t want to. Sometimes you have no choice but to. I have written this quote before and I will write it again.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

Goals #indie30

Here’s my response to prompt one of BootsnAll 30 day indie travel project: goals.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get to another continent this past year. Well in February, I accomplished my first of several New Year’s resolutions. Yes, it’s November and I’m still working on a few other resolutions from January. But this post is about travel goals, and that, I have accomplished.

The boyfriend and I boarded a flight from JFK to Buenos Aires, marking for both of us, our first visit to South America and our first below the equator.

I had high expectations and really, really wanted to fall in love with Argentina, and boy oh boy did I! Even the boyfriend, the ever skeptical traveler, really enjoyed it.

The country, the culture, the cuisine and the cost! What was there not to love? I could go on…the people, the landscapes, the experience, the wine and the food…

My travel goals continue to see, explore and experience my way through the world around me, whether it’s exploring in and around NYC, which is where I am based, or if it’s traveling thousands of miles to explore elsewhere. There’s a lot of world to see, and this world is far too big not to make a dent in it!

Mistakes #indie30

And so I continue the BootsnAll 30 day writing challenge…prompt four, mistakes.

Arriving on the Croatian island of Hvar on an early morning catamaran from Korcula, our minds weren’t thinking straight. Nor did we realize what a small and friendly island we were on.

The boyfriend and I arrived on the island of Hvar early and tired and a bit discombobulated. We couldn’t locate the printout that had the name of the b&b and the owner’s name and phone number where we were scheduled to stay for two nights.

We knew it was just stored in an email and we stopped at an internet cafe but couldn’t log onto the particular email account where the info was stored. Every other website in the world seemed to work except the one we needed.

Thinking we could wait it out to see if we could get back online, we decided to get our bearings with breakfast at a small cafe on the waterfront. The fresh air and the views helped us forget our ‘problems.’

(Since we were too tired and just enjoyed the views from the cafe, this photo below was taken on an afternoon hike our second day on the island. that U shape as you look down below from the stone walls that surrounds the water is the main square of town with restaurants, bars and shops lining that U shape. The water taxis are lined on the left, the catamarans from the larger islands dropped us off at the end of the left, the sailboats on the right were mostly privately owned. And you can follow the path in either direction for a beautiful walk along the water.)

Filled with exhaustion, deliriousness, excitement and the urge to explore and not wanting to carry our bags around all day, we stopped into a hotel – which was so far out of our budget, we laughed. We then found another hotel that was more within our budget, and in the center of town.

We stopped back at the internet cafe just to see if we could pull up the email with the information, with no luck. We checked the review of the hotel on TripAdvisor and the reviews were ‘good enough.’ Oops.

We walked back to the hotel, made a reservation for one night, dropped our bags and were hopeful that would be able to log on and  get in touch with the b&b for night number two. As it was only now about 8am, I told you these catamarans left early!,we couldn’t get into our room until lunchtime.

To make the most of our morning, we walked around the harbor, walked through a park, swang on swings in a playground and ate an early lunch at the Hvar morning market (which we went back to on day 2 just for the cheese stall lady). We also made a reservation with a sailing trip for later in the day.

We checked in to the hotel, changed into bathing suits and headed out for the sailing tour, were told to wait on the pier in the wrong place, our mistake probably, but in any case we missed the sailing trip and got our money back. We then headed out to the water taxi line, and found out that the taxis could take you to even smaller islands for hiking, sunbathing and food and drink. We chose not to get off on the popular island that everyone else did, and headed to a smaller, and less touristed island that our captain told us was his personal favorite.

It was a rocky island with lots of opportunities to hike and relax. There was one outdoor restaurant on the island, and everyone seemed to know each other. Instead of lounge chairs, there were big sandbags thrown on the rocks that replaced lounge chairs. From personal experience, I can say they are so much more sleep friendly than your regular lounge chair.

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and we were picked up by b&b woman and her husband. Once there, I was sad to realize that we’d only have one night with this family. Not only were they lovely, our room and bathroom were immaculate with amazing views from above the island. Not so from the ‘hotel.’

On top of that, the wife told us we should have gone to the information center (which we did in order to get a map) and asked for her phone number (she worked there). Duh!

Smack self in head — small island, info center, locally owned b&b…<smack>.

While this wasn’t a horrible mistake, it was still a regret. When I do get back to the island of Hvar, I know where I will (and won’t) be staying.

Another ‘mistake’ where hindsight is 20/20. If you are choose to island hop throughout Croatia — travel from the north to the south, not reversed. And then double check those schedules to know what you’re signing up for! The catamarans heading north (which we were) depart once a day in the wee hours of the morning. If you travel north to south the catamarans leave late afternoon. Waking up early to catch the only boat of the day adds a fair amount of stress to vacationing! But in exchange for those early wake ups, seeing the sunrises from the Adriatic Sea during our three early morning rises were absolutely and utterly stunning.

Even though I saw these as ‘mistakes’ it’s really insignificant and important to put things in perspective. If we had checked in upon arrival, we may have not met the cheese lady. If we didn’t take the early morning catamarans, we wouldn’t have seen the sunrises. If we took the sailing tour, we wouldn’t have found the undiscovered island with the great lunch and the sandbag filled lounge chairs. And if we didn’t stay in the ‘hotel’ before the b&b, well, um, no, that was definitely a mistake!

Celebrate #indie30

Here’s prompt number seven for BootsnAll’s 30 days of Indie Travel Project — celebrate!

It was December 2006. The boyfriend and I had been in Italy for just a few days and we arrived in Florence in the morning on December 31. We had nothing planned. Just our accommodation — a room in a bed and breakfast that a former colleague had recommended which was half a block from the main square and the Duomo.

As we tried to figure out our New Year’s Eve plans with only a few hours to go, the owner of the B&B had told us there would be a large outdoor celebration with music and fireworks in the square at midnight. He had suggested we get to a nearby restaurant early, to try and get an impromptu table for the first seating and then head to the square for the party since everything else inside would have required advance reservations.

This outdoor party appealed to me 0%. While on a smaller scale, it seemed like it would be like New Years Eve in Times Square. Which is not something I ever want to partake in unless I am holding a glass of champagne looking down at the action on the crowded streets below from a heated high-rise building with access to toilets. Big public street parties with large crowds of people do not have any appeal to me at all. And to the boyfriend, even less.

We took the owner’s advice, we went to the restaurant early. We had a surprisingly short wait and were seated with another couple, both Italians. Just before we ordered, I had decided that we would slowly order appetizers, dinner and drinks, stretching our meal over several hours to get us to midnight to avoid the party in the square.

We were really taking our time and probably had just ordered our dinner when the couple seated with us had finished their meal, paid the bill and left. The owner came over to our table and I thought for sure we were going to be asked to hurry up and leave. Not so. Instead, he politely asked if we would mind if his nephew and his girlfriend could join us.

Um?! What? Of course! We’re taking over a table for four with no reservation, we are visiting your country and it’s a money making holiday for restaurants. The owner was delighted that we had agreed that hesent over a round of drinks for the table.

We ate and drank and talked to our table mates. The guy spoke some English, his girlfriend only Italian. With my Spanish and better language skills as a result of the alcohol the boyfriend and I were able to hold a conversation with the guy as he translated for his girlfriend.

The boyfriend ordered a bottle of champagne for the table and to share with the very generous owner.

After the clock struck midnight, we made it onto the streets. At this point we should have probably gone back to the B&B and to bed.

This was nearly five years ago and we have still only been able to piece together our evening with a lot of holes that will probably never be filled. To start, the next day we found wrappers from Italian chocolates in our pockets. Neither of us recall eating them.

We had a few unplanned days later in our trip and we both vaguely remember chatting with some people on the streets trying to figure out where to spend those extra days as we made our way back to Milan. Neither of us are sure how we met these people, or how we started talking or what else we talked about.

As a result of (over) celebrating, we spent the better part of New Years Day, oh, who am I kidding, we spent all day in bed. We left around dinnertime to get some dinner. If I recall, it was ginger ale and rolls.

Once we got home we developed our photos eager to see what we may have missed. We had not yet gone digital so we didn’t know until another week or so what had transpired. The photos helped piece together some of the evening … red wine stained teeth, photos with our table mates, the owners, the waiter – as if we had known them forever and then photos with random people on the street.

So even though we can’t remember all of it, it still made for a very memorable New Years Eve celebration!

* Public safety note: We were young and dumb. We’re also very thankful we were not arrested, injured or robbed while we were less inhibited.

Review of the Concert

Not only was it awesome – but Tim McGraw opened with my favorite song and ended with one of my other favorite songs.

It was very cool to be at an outdoor amphitheatre in November – though the temperature did drop a bit and there was a little bit of a chill in the air. But all the singing and dancing warmed me right up. And the beer, that probably helped.

The biggest observation I had with the concert was that NO ONE WAS SINGING.

I felt like my sister and I were the only ones. I shushed her a few times since NO ONE WAS SINGING.

It was nuts. On one trip to the bathroom (ideally timed since it was a song I didn’t love) I heard a few girls saying they got asked to stop singing by someone else. Thankfully that didn’t happen to us, but at least there were other people singing.

For lawn seats, it was the quietest concert I have ever attended!

The Cowboy in Me

After shocking the crap out of my sister on Friday night, I held in her next surprise until Saturday morning.

I handed her another birthday card that held four tickets to see Tim McGraw! He just happens to be playing at a casino opening in Tucson, Arizona this particular birthday weekend (great planning on my part) and J and I are both huge Tim fans.

The cowboy boots made the trip with us and will be worn to the concert tonight. It’s Tim’s first time ever playing in Tucson, which is kind of shocking since it’s cowboy country. And it will be the boyfriend AND the brother-in-law’s first Tim concert. I know they are so excited too (note sarcasm).

If you are wondering, the subject of this post is the title of a Tim song. I may be a city gal, but I’m truly a country gal at heart.

I love a good surprise!

HA! Have I mentioned that I love surprises

I was thinking that my sister might be reading the blog so I figured yesterday’s post would be a great way to totally throw her off. You see, I have been known to pull off some fantastic surprises!

Yep, that’s right, the boyfriend and I flew across the country and showed up at her house on Friday night to pull off a super surprise! 

Some quotes from J over the past few months as she was disappointed that I wouldn’t be coming out (or so she thought!). I heard:

  • ‘You love to travel, why wouldn’t you just come out for my birthday?’
  • ‘It’s not like my 30th birthday just snuck up on you – you’ve known for thirty years’
  • ‘I really wish you would come out and celebrate with me’
  • ‘When am i going to see you next? It’s been almost six months’
  • ‘I miss you.’

Here’s a recent text exchange:

Lil sis (her): I’m going to be 30 in 9 days =-0

Awesome big sis (me): I know but I’m beyond upset that airfare is so ridiculously overpriced that I’m going to miss your entire bday month. Still hoping and looking. I will keep you posted. xo

Lil sis: Yup

Big sis: If I can’t find a flight tomorrow for this weekend or next I’m going to book for December. Let me know what Dec weekends are best.

Lil sis: For someone so on top of her traveling I’m quite surprised this wasn’t already done

Big sis: Can you take any Fri or Mondays off?

Lil sis: No more time left

How bummed was she?! Or so she thought!

J – I wouldn’t have missed your birthday weekend for the world – and coming from me, that’s really saying a lot.

Editors note: If you are following along in real-time, you will notice that blog posts for 11/11 and 11/12 did not post in real-time due to the major surprise element. This also is assuming that J reads my blog every day. There were no surprises harmed in the scheduling of these two posts.

Veterans Day

Take a moment to thank a veteran today. It’s just that simple.