The irony of my lifestyle, part 5

The irony of my lifestyle, part 5

I am an investor in the ephemeral, that which could be gone tomorrow. This could be deemed true of everyone, but I feel arguably more conscious of the inevitable with the existence of my outbound flight. This ticket away from a nest makes me anxious, makes me analyze my underlying emotions, makes me draw connections to patterns, and makes me look at how those few constants affect me. The moon signifies change; it moves me away from an even keel of emotion and routine.

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An Island I Can Handle: Day 57

Windy Paros

Weee! A beach! A warm beach! Without jellyfish, sharks, or boiling outdoor temperatures! The Greek islands were calling me while I was still preparing for the trip in America. Every island the ferry passed was a tease until we finally slowed and reversed into the port for Paros. Oh, sweet breezes and salty air! We made it to our relaxation portion of this year's internship, a much needed moment for sun-worshipping and getting rid of my wicked farmer's tan. Paros marked the first destination on a tour of three islands in the Aegean Sea, and she met almost every expectation. White buildings with strong blue accents made up the entire landscape, and windmills stood poised over the harbor. Restaurants lined the boardwalk, and the wind made my hair dance into happy knots. Maybe the only thing that strayed from my pre-conceived images of the Greek islands were the appearance of the beaches, not sugar white but more in line with their volcanic births.

The tour itinerary was something along the lines of "choose one or more of the following: eat, walk, shop, rest, beach, pool, tan, read, rent scooters, drink, enjoy your beautiful surroundings" and so on. Well, okay. That sounds darn near perfect. And the next day, when it came to a full day of experiencing Paros, our tour guide had something in store if we had no inspiration on our own. I took part in the optional day tour and found myself wandering picturesque fishing towns, running across wave-breaking walls, and at a lovely beach playing newly invented ball games with new friends and a very hospitable sun.

Nightfall in Paros had me dancing on a table. How'd I get up there? Oh, I know. Two days of soul-pleasing leisure and a Red Bull. And it did not take any convincing to get the other tour participants up on the tables with me. Flashing lights pulsed and free group drinks flowed to make smiles spread across our newly tanned faces. This was only the beginning. We all had energy. And to be in Greece during the high season when ferries overflow and funnel in mass amounts of tourists, we were there hassle-free, our only responsibility being to enjoy new company and atmospheres.

Paros left a good taste in my mouth. Made me long for even sleepier islands and the breathtaking beauty of an uncommercial destination. Greece could be a painter's dream, soul-quenching...but our next stop being Mykonos, we were about to have our soul's disgorged via thumping music and innumerable cocktails. Which sounds better?

My Traveltude is Pickling: Day 34

There are very few places on this Earth more beautiful Croatia's islands, particularly that of Brac. Thanks to Stjepan's suggestions, we knew exactly how to maximize our time in this wonderland: with scooters! Driving along the coast, we felt waves of heat in the sun and refreshing cool under the trees. Bugs slapped our arms, helmets, chests, and faces with thuds probably audible meters away. We felt like singing along to the hum of the little motor, but the thought of a June bug explosion in the mouth stopped us from acting on those thoughts. None of the many white craggy beaches on our way seemed good enough for this island excursion, so we booked it across the island, 30km away to the city of Bol. The last 9km were magnificent; streets winding down the coast with steep, craggy hills off the road's shoulder. A wrong turn could have sent me on a fun, but fatal, fall to the sea. I loved it.

The beach in Bol had an ambiance worthy of bottling, and I felt I was finally detached from my familiar world. Alexis and I relaxed in peace on the smooth pebbled beach, swam in the crystal clear water, and sat with smiles feeling like we truly got somewhere we will forever remember. After that, the rest of the night was just a happy blur of beautiful scenery, ice cream and ferry beers, Cankles and Saddlebags, and a flavorful homemade stew in the garden. Stjepan, Mr. Lino, Brac, Split and Croatia treated us very well, to say the leastest.

Eleven hours in a train from Split to Budapest; we got serious cabin fever. We walked it out soon after the train pulled into the station when we made the thirty minute jaunt to a very hidden hostel. The street ambiance was a little worrisome, but all the women walking around at midnight displayed the safety of the city - either that or showed there was a nice 'after hours street walking' biz around these parts. Either way, I had a twelve kilo pack and a 7'13" companion for protection.

At this point, it seems like the time to reflect on our day in Budapest, starting from our reunion with Garrett, continuing with our handball games by the Danube, and concluding with a thermal bath scene; however, because I am so backlogged on all this writing, it is only the matters of the day that come to mind and not the mess of thoughts that pulse through my head with each giggle, step, and turn of the corner. I know I'm not completely amused with this sort of documentation and find the act of reading it more of a chore than a pleasure. So it may be now that I cut to my lasting impressions of Hungary.

A city is a city. There's so much to see that is uniquely local and telling of its residents, but when you hop from country to country in search of wide-ranging joys and unique memories, each place turns into the next location to take a shower, rest your legs, and find a way to do your laundry with a little sight-seeing on the side. All this jumping caught up with me.

I tried to order a pickle and received two chicken sandwiches instead. I tried purchasing a ticket for a cheap little train, but thanks to a woman in front of me in need of every train time table that week, I had to use a valuable day on my rail pass. Hungary got to me. And it wasn't for the mere fact that I was in this country - it was my 17th destination (at least) on the trip - in one month! It was another Malaysia; I couldn't quite appreciate it while there. My frazzled brain caused incidents only to be blamed by my ignorance. My legs hurt, my journal was blank, and I just left the mystical, therapeutic ocean. Good thing Eger was all about wine tasting. Eger was laying in a camper in the rain, tasting wine and the occasional thermal bath, but my gratitude to the country was missing. One of the greatest travel travesties...

Yeah, I know. Suck it up. Look where you are. I needed a jolt. I had slowly fallen asleep. And a jolt we received a few borders away.

Can You Say Walrus? Day 45

Mauritius, Blue Bay, Snorkel, Alexis Reller

"The stretch between Mauritius and India will be our worst waters of all." We are cruising at a speed of 12 knots on an ocean reminiscent of cobalt blue Murano glass. Whoever scared me into thinking this would be a week spent taped to my mattress is getting their room teepeed. As Alexis and I sat watching last night's sunset off the Garden Lounge deck, our non-existent wake and the slow ripples from the bow barely distorted the brilliant palette of colors that painted the ocean. I mentioned to her that our vista reminded me of a computer desktop background, a sad comparison that told me I am sorely nature deprived. It was a glorious and tranquil moment in time quickly ruined by the evening announcements.

Every day, San Diego gets closer and the pain of separating from the MV Explorer, from daily brilliant sunsets, and from my closest globe-trotting comrades becomes a burning thought, especially when my experiences keep getting more interesting and memorable.

Mauritius came into view around lunch time last Thursday, later in the day than we expected thanks to some rocky, nauseating waters slowing us down. After a dramatic turn of events within our travel group, Alexis and I exited the gangway with backpacks bulging and the mottoes of "Carpe Diem" and "Let's leave every American in our dust."

We did just so as our taxi cap plummeted us into downtown Port Louis and plopped us on a street corner, a.k.a. the bus station. As he urgently pointed towards a bus that predated Rosa Parks, we realized we had no Mauritian Rupees to pay the fare; however, in a moment's time, the nearby electronic store (with a non-existent inventory) transformed into a friendly American Express office, changing six of our USD into Rs 200 and giving us the benefit of the conversion doubt. Luck be these ladies so far.

An hour and a half ride (that definitely wasn't an express route) left us on a street corner of Mahebourg, and juxtaposed to our gawking eyes and aimless walking, the surrounding stray dogs looked like they were running errands. Once again, the words "Blue Bay" and a finger point were all we needed to eventually find our way down the stretch of rentable bungalows.

It only took four price inquiries, multiple tours, and a mile of browsing to find the gorgeous "Chantemer" and her wonderfully psychotic landlady, Ms. Indra Tinkler. All we had was all we needed: a queen bed, a clean shower, and a door leading straight out to powder white sands and views of neon green mountains. It seemed all too easy to plan a snorkeling trip and rent bicycles around the peninsula, especially when travel guides like Patrick are willing to drive to the nearest ATM just for convenience's sake. Sugar cane fields and roads leading right into teal waters made our leisurely ride a dream, which we finished with a grocery raid and a beachfront picnic.

Our American girl charm attracted a nearby Englishman staying in our chateau, and we shared Mauritian sundowners, life goals, and humorous accents until the wash of a trillion stars covered our rainbow sky. As any female American college student knows, evenings out are most efficiently enjoyed if teamwork is the number one priority, and work together we did. Thanks to a rental car, a local child with a Mohawk, an odd deck of cards in conjunction with the new game of "Walrus," a thorough impression of the Incredible Hulk, and our sly skills of persuasion, we experienced an unforgettable night that left us richer and fulfilled, laughing under the stars.

A few hours later, the sun came out along with a few malarial mosquitoes, but nothing could break our gazes with the fluorescent clouds that dwarfed sunrise sailors. Our private beach was littered with neighbors raking their backyard beaches and walking their rascally dogs, one of which darted to us and set up camp in my lap until others arrived for a sniff. Alexis, being the native San Diegon that she is, spent hours in the tide pools, searching for stranded animals and throwing starfish at the ocean and myself. I was not amused and photographed from a distance.

The day had come for us to pack our bags and depart from this island of fantasy and merriment, and, with an entire free day upon us, the last thing we wanted to do was rush back to a shipload of sun-kissed boozers. Instead, we went sailing. Along with the Englishman and his father, a Korean couple, and two local sailors accurately described as "pirates", we boarded the Renaissance and headed out, albeit hesitantly, on our three hour tour. The irony of our miniature voyage magnified with the passing of a one hundred year old shipwreck and the skipper's decision to jump off for a swim out to sea.

We arrived back at the marine park, where our previous snorkel trip took place, but our personal pirate proved to be an invaluable resources as he swam alongside us, grabbing wildlife for better viewing. I understood how crazy he actually was when the removal of his snorkel preceded two minutes of hole gouging and the emergence of eight long tentacles. Ink sprayed continuously until he slapped the angry octopus on the stomach of my roommate and told her to swim back. I remained a good fifty yards from the gelatinous creature, but this didn't stop the pirate from thoroughly scaring me at a vulnerable moment while climbing into the boat…twice.

A stop at the most beautiful beach imaginable gave our tour a magical and humorous turn as the ocean's massive waves sent us spinning across a pure white plane. On our way back, the crew couldn't help but scare the Korean woman a few more times with mock disaster before coming to shore in front of the Chantemer.

Our new sense of satisfaction topped off an incredible entire journey, and it was time to cast away from our vacation destination. A penny-pinching dinner on board gave us some dollars to spend on an enjoyable St. Patrick's Day celebration, where we reflected each detail of our adventure over Blue Marlin beers and basked in the glory of each accomplishment. Once again, the world's inaccessible, unfriendly, foreign façade lifted to let these American girls through.