China

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

I'm watching the Vancouver Marathon from my apartment window and giggling as seagulls drift by at eye-level. Canada represents my final destination of this academic year, and though it was an exciting year and an important one for my own growth, I am glad it's behind me.

Traveling with a math expert this year introduced me to the beauty of slow data. With every car ride or room change, she plugged miles traversed or beds switched into a spreadsheet. By the end of 220 days "on the road," she presented to us the impressive numbers of our #cdtravels:

  • 110,745 kilometers of transit = 2.76 times around the world
  • Total hours on planes, trains & automobiles (not layovers or wait time): 246 hours / 6 work weeks
  • 50 beds roughly, averaging 4.4 nights per bed

If you're wondering why I spent the last year making an epic carbon footprint (not proud of that), take a peek at the TGS Changemaker Program and read my post on this curriculum development mission. If you're not sure how I went from travel media to writing curriculum documents for a high school, I understand your confusion. It surprised me, too. Here's something on my evolution.

Last year at this time, I was living in Florence, Italy with THINK Global School, plugging away at graduate school and enjoying as stable a lifestyle as I've achieved in the last decade. Between then and now, I changed jobs, visited ten countries, and wrote two years of projects with three colleagues.

Here's what it was like...

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How an e-mail scored me another travel gig

How an e-mail scored me another travel gig

But for me, nothing proves more fruitful than re-engaging in this multi-faceted industry. I like travel, media, the digital realm, education, art, and a unique combination of all. While my involuntary immersion practices don't allow for fully connected 'field' time with my peers, it's in those months between travels that I reemerge a human with new ideas and the ability to answer e-mails. And on this particular instance, I truly realized how few degrees are in between me and something I would love - the same goes for you, too, I'm sure.

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Travel Pals, China, and the Quarterlife Crisis

Alexis

Alexis

A tsunami smacked me on the head last Tuesday, energy and activity in one exhausting wave, rendering me not quite unconscious but with twitching eyes and a crumbling mental capacity. And I don't mean that in a bad way.

Since the dawn of this website, I've known a radiant being of 6'1" stature and a high verbal capacity. Alexis Reller was my potluck, shipboard roommate on Semester at Sea and an instant friend, even though she found my ship ID photo pre-meeting downright worrisome. Alexis and I continued to galavant around the MV Explorer and the world's ports thinking, "Gosh, how lucky am I to have a partner like this broad," only to disembark post-trip and reunite regularly for the next three years with our friend Garrett Russell.

Since then, we've tackled fifteen European countries in thirty days (on a budget) and experienced ski and road trips alongside each other. She's my ultimate travel pal, one whose friendship is instantly renaissanced upon a simple "s'up" regardless of the time between interactions.

Alexis Tendering

Alexis Tendering

For the last year, she's been teaching English at a university in China. Emerging from the Mother Land in one piece, she carried with her musings on communism, the ample travel opportunities of the expansive land, and the power China can have on her expats. Her first night in Indianapolis, we discussed these - and many other - topics ad nauseam, letting conversations go conceptual at the drop of an adjective. I was thrilled to be back in contact with the person who helped me hone my appreciation for the world and its powers.

Late night chats welcoming later bedtimes and early morning rises squeezing in a sense of productivity; I wired myself with caffeine and racked my brain in the afternoons for food and entertainment ideas in the Indy area. It's rare I seize the day in my own city, and I usually save those occurrences for guests. We rode thirteen miles on bikes, hit up Michael Jackson (a tribute, of course) in concert, and grabbed a beer next to a handlebar mustache at the Rathskeller. And best of all, we coexisted in the same hemisphere - nay, the same room - for six days of social splendor.

Now you know why the website has been a little barren recently.

Opening our Conversation Up

With great friends come great conversations. Instead of using seemingly-unnecessary, elevated text to relay my fun week with a friend, I wanted to pose one of our musings for a more public debate. What's the point of having a blog versus a journal without calling for commentary?

Alexis and Lindsay in Brazil

Alexis and Lindsay in Brazil

Question: Does the quarterlife period virtually guarantee a change in character, often catalyzed by extreme factors, such as living in China? Or is the quarterlife a time to expect your friend pool to thin out automatically, as we all branch and swerve different ways, ultimately becoming the persons we were meant to be all along or will be formed into?

Alexis felt the country of China does weird things to people, mainly to the expats she knew, but I also felt people go through distinct changes post-graduation from college or simply in this transition period to "job world." It couldn't be just China, based on my own exposure to crises stateside, but I can only imagine what a year in Mao Country can do to a person.

And on that note, I'm sure both Alexis and I have changed since our high school or college years. We could very well be among the population of vastly changed individuals, but for the sake of our conversations, we are never in the wrong. Never.

What's your take on the changes in the quarterlife? Comment below or contact me!

Consume & Update: The Go! Edition

I just felt like churning the butter for a couple awesome things this week.

Go, Remote Locations...and Disclaimers!

This article on the most extreme and isolated places to live in the world is mildly interesting, but what I found most humorous was the ending disclaimer. Gotta keep it PC!

Disclaimer: As a brand, Tripbase are accepting of all global cultures. This article is written from a Western perspective and is meant for humorous purposes only. No offense is intended.

Said about The Pitcairn Islands:

Notable also for the sexual assault trial of 2004, in which 7 men living on the island went on trial. With all but one of the defendants being found guilty of some charges, this incident had the unfortunate side effect of pretty much tying up most of the area's workforce (which consists of roughly 15 people in total). Seriously, sexual assault on an island that small? Not to mention the fact that most of them will be related...

Said about Tristan da Cunha:

Another interesting fact is that in the entire community there are only 8 surnames and 80 families, most likely leading to a horrific dating scene.

Said about Oymyakon, Siberia:

Other interesting facts include that it's so cold, that some birds can freeze solid mid-flight, plummeting to the ground like a rock. Spit will also freeze solid before it hits the ground at -50°C and a glass of water thrown into the air will freeze before it hits the ground.

Alright Undercover Reporting in North Korea! Go! Go! Go!

Even though this article was written in August of 2009, I still find it interesting. I'm enchanted by mysteries.

It took them two hours to inspect our luggage when the group entered the country and four hours to go through every picture on our cameras—and to delete the ones they deemed improper—when we left. They apparently didn't know that it is easy to switch out memory cards.

...On one occasion, I drew a banana on a piece of paper and showed it to a waitress; she had never seen one. She knew about apples, but she had never eaten one. I brought 150 Kit-Kat bars into the country, and I always took several out of my bag when I was alone with a North Korean. They would hesitate for a few seconds, look around to make sure that no one else was watching, and then stuff the Kit-Kats into their pockets.

Other Discoveries

Someone recently asked me if I saw Kevorkian's side, based on my newly appointed personal stance on pain and life. Interesting...

Can't post a Consume & Update without tips from Problogger: The Secret to Long-Term Blogging Success and Creating Facebook Landing Pages

Update on Nomadderwhere

Happy Independence Day, 'Mericans! I'm back to mental stability and a regular routine! Yesterday, I moved from my parent's home in Indianapolis to my hometown of Wabash. I'll be in a home sans TV, constant internet, and...well, furniture. It'll be Hermit-ville. It'll be lovely. Tomorrow's Video of the Week will fill in the blanks.

This week's thin herd of postings:

Things will be changing soon. The content tsunami cometh...

Journeys of a Lifetime in June

Welcome back to my new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Each month I pick a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).

Across Water

The St. Lawrence: If you have an interest in Canada's most historical city, a passion for seafaring, and a love of the slow travel movement, take this river route from Quebec to Montreal, which exhibits its fair share of beautiful nature. Glacier-carved paths have never been so cool.

Eastern Caribbean Cruise: It looks like there are some very appealing options for the Caribbean other than the all-inclusive resorts. Sailing from Antigua to Puerto Rico sounds like one of them! And if you're not obsessed with sun-worshipping, don't forget the intriguing cultures, inland adventures, and fantastic diving opportunities are paired with a Caribbean good time. Not a cruise-goer? I don't think you should expect the stigma.

By Road

Lake Michigan Shoreline: Traverse one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. Motor from white sand beaches to the dunes, big cities to the Cape Cods of the Midwest. Would make for a great summer road trip for anyone unfamiliar with the highlights of the region.

Crossing the Andes from Bolivia to Chile: June will be a cold month for South America, but that also means seeing very clear skies reflected in the beautiful salt plains. With a title like "The World's Highest Road Journey," you know it has to be a memorable trip. To the Andes, baby!

By Rail

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad: Sounds like the kind of trip a traveling family would enjoy taking: boarding an authentic steam train for a day though the Colorado Rockies. Of course, if you're a nature lover, it could also knock you down with its river/gorge/forest/mountain awesomeness.

The Qingzang Railway: I'm guessing you didn't think this is how you'd ever experience 15,000 feet. Linking western China to Tibet, this high-altitude train has oxygen supplies under every seat, in case you get a little woozy from watching a landscape of glaciers and Himalayan peaks. Note to the wise: you must prove your heart capable of making such a jaunt, preferably with legit paperwork.

On Foot

The Carpathian Mountains: Give yourself a week in Eastern Europe for some vampire hunting. Whether you believe in Romania's folk mythology or not, the day hikes through these mountains peppered with wildlife and culture-rich castles and related history. Let your imagination freak you out in Transylvania.

High Atlas Mountains: Pack mules lug your load while walking from village to village among the Moroccan mountain range. And if your particularly adventurous, climb North Africa's tallest peak at 13,670 feet. And, of course, there's no doubt this country harbors some pretty amazing cities with loads to unload in the form of exotic culture.

In Search of Culture

Athenian Ruins

Classical Greece: Imagine the birth of Western civilization in the actual places of its occurrence. And showing up in June could score you front row seats at a Greek play spoken in the original language, that is if you stop by Epidavros for the annual festival. And don't then call it quits after Athens; you've still gotta see Delphi, Mycenae, and Olympia.

Arnhem Land Cultural Safari: The oldest civilization on the planet have got themselves a nook all their own to cherish their history, culture, and way of life. To visit the Aborigines of Northern Australia requires registering and taking a guided, organized tour. And with that golden ticket comes a slew of coveted experiences from the Aborigines themselves.

In Gourmet Heaven

Trappist Monastery Beers: Investigate the subtle differences between every other [immaculately engineered] beer in the world and those with the Authentic Trappist Product label. Either you can rent a car and visit the monastery churches (not the breweries), or you can sit at a bar and try them all from the comforts of your stool. I guess one is more scenic.

From Pesto to Paella: Genoa to Valencia. It's very obvious the one bound for this gastro-adventure will come home 10 pounds happier. Order what's most fresh and special, the delicacy of the area, the meal everyone else is munching on. Rent a car and take your time. Savor those morsels!

Into the Action

Dutch Bulbfields: Cycling around Holland seems like an obligatory task when traveling there, but it's also said to be the optimal way to view the blooming extravaganza every spring, when tulips fill fields with brilliant colors. Stock up on your bulbs like you're heading to Costco.

Diving with Sharks: While some call it a truly crazy idea, I call it a darn good time. Jumping in a cage next to a boat surrounded by chummy water and fish the size of station wagons - what could be better for a thrill? Head down to Cape Town to see the scariest smiles in the world.

Up and Away

Floatplane to the Nahanni: Glide on into the first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the remote Northwestern Territories of Canada. Rock, rivers, wildlife, waterfalls - they all blend their extremes together to create an impressive backdrop for an adventure. Careful of the massive mammals that roam the lands.

The Burj Dubai: The world's fastest elevator, which happens to be a double decker, is fittingly situated in the massive column of the Burj Dubai, presently the world's tallest building. Observe the hazy, impressive city of Dubai from the 124th floor where you'll surely feel a bit of a sway to and fro.

In Their Footsteps

The Odyssey: Reading The Odyssey while buoying around the Aegean Sea may just inspire you with divine knowledge to know which real islands were the models for the fantastical ones from Homer's epic poem. Santorini? Crete? Give yourself three weeks to follow your own version of the journey.

James Joyce's Dublin: Joyce's book, Ulysses, is yet another reason why tourists love Dublin and its earthy goodness. June marks a great time to visit, as the Bloomsday Festival carries on with period costumes speckling the streets and activities based on the classic book attracting the true fans to the plate.

How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in July for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!

Where are you inspired to travel to next year? Leave a comment and be my new friend.

Consume & Update: Poetry, China and Band-aids

What a smorgasbord! There is great material across the travel community this week, and here are some of the highlights.

Poetry in Motion

This looks like a truly lovely opportunity:

Imagine being given one year to travel outside North America. That’s exactly the situation I’m now in after being chosen as the 2010 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholar.

The Amy Lowell Poetry Travel Scholarship is brand new to me and seems like the most incredible chance for those who breathe and move to the rhythm of their reflections. The application is due October 15th for those hoping to receive this honor and travel starting in the Fall of 2010. Where would you travel?

Happy 60th Birthday to One of the Oldest Civilizations on Earth!

Dan Chung creates a video for the Guardian, based in the UK, one which displays the beauty that comes from the interpretation and presentation of little moments in reality. This video displays the reasons why I became interested in photography. Of course, that's all on an unrelated note to the fact that this is about China's 60th birthday. Man, are there a lot of people in China...

Eye Candy

Shannon Stapleton's photograph of a surfer in New York makes me smell fresh air just looking at it.

Spreading the Love

Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding and feature writer of Ask Rolf on World Hum, answers the question: How can I convince my friends to travel overseas?

...the best way to win over travel skeptics is to humbly allow your overseas journeys to deepen your life. Over the course of many years, as you return from exotic places energized and inspired—with your body (and bank account) intact—your friends may start to take an interest. Once they start barraging you with questions of how and when and where (instead of just why), odds are they’re seriously starting to consider their own international trips...

...A good strategy at this point is to answer the “who” question for them—i.e. offer to have them meet up with you during one of your own journeys. Your companionship and confidence will help allay their fears on that initial overseas trip, and odds are they’ll catch the travel bug in the process...

Wisdom from the Pros

Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market take a moment to lay out seven habits of highly effective travelers for those of us ready to learn from two people with a lot of miles. And what are these magical tips?

1. Adapt Constantly

2. Make Plans A, B, C, D, E...always

3. Work a Way In. Leave a Way Out.

4. Negotiate and Compromise

5. Tune In. Filter Often.

6. Have Less. Do More.

7. Find a Common Language

Obviously these somewhat cryptic tips have descriptions to be found on the post as well as references to specific instances when Dan and Audrey implemented their tricks. You could be reading - and learning - for hours.

Other Greats this Week

Celebrating in Rio from Intelligent Travel

Hermail: a free e-mail based service that allows any woman anywhere in the world to connect at this site with other females who love to travel.

Vagabondish displays a beautiful photo of Popa Taungkalat Temple in Myanmar

Update on Nomadderwhere

I didn't think it would be possible, but only a couple months after the internship, I'm back on the road! Actually, I'm back on water. I am currently at sea off the west coast of Mexico with my parents and about 4,000 other 60-somethings playing shuffle board and shooting skeet off a Princess Cruise vessel. Stories and photographs will come in the next couple weeks, and if you have any questions about destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan or Cabo San Lucas (or questions about cruises or Mexico), comment below!

Want to help out Nakavika? Under the tab entitled "Behind it All" sits Nakavika village in Fiji, a community at the end of an undulating road through the Namosi highlands, surrounded by thick tropical jungles and topped with a transformative sun. Education is an emphasis for these residents, but health seems to be an afterthought. In the coming months, I hope to plan another trip to Nakavika, Fiji and figure out a sustainable means of providing first aid supplies. If you have any advice on books about first aid, setting up a system for restocking supplies, fundraising and collecting Band-aids and Neosporin, e-mail me at Lindsay at Nomadderwhere dot com. You are also most welcome to donate to this project by going to Nakavika Village and purchasing a box of Band-aids or a tube of antibiotic ointment.

Journeys of a Lifetime in October

journeys

I welcome you to a new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Every month I will pick out a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).

Across Water

Yangtze River Trip to the The Three Gorges: A trip in early fall through some incredible, mountanous landscapes could coincide with October 3rd and the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival.

The Mangoky River: Madagascar's baobabs and the "slowly-slowly" mentality of the land give me two reasons to desire floating in an inflatable raft across the tip of the big island. October is the last month of reasonable weather before the ghastly heat sets in.

By Road

The Fall in Vermont: Does my longing to going on a fall foliage drive make me an old lady? Either way, I don't care if it means I get to log miles around a beautiful chunk of America and potentially camp out in the cool nights between drives.

The Dolomites: Northeastern Italy gets great weather and less tourists than usual in October, which is perfect if one desires to see sky-splintering peaks, Alpine pastures, and still speak l'Italiano all the live-long day.

By Rail

The Reunification Express: After reading Catfish and Mandala, making the 1,000 mile jaunt across Vietnam seems like a trip worthy of filling numerous journals and marking off loads of "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences from the list. This train would make this trip possible, that is if you're not a crazy/cool cyclist relying on your two wheels.

Trans-Siberian Railroad: Fall colors, warm days, and cool nights - that's quite a list of benefits for traveling from Moscow to Beijing in October via a world famous train ride. The trip takes one week

On Foot

Greenwich Village: True, this area can be enjoyed any time of year, but the crispy atmosphere of fall makes pleasant a couple days of perusing galleries, visiting Edward Hopper's house, and eating at former speakeasies, like Chumley's. Maybe you'll get inspired to "keep moving" while taking in Figaro Cafe, a hang-out of the "beat generation".

The Inca Trail: Dry weather meets the hearty soul that wants to trek through the thin air of the Andes in October. Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and loads of misty sights are calling you...

In Search of Culture

Treasures of Jordan: October is just as great a time as any to hire a car in Amman and hit up some ancient relics of the past in the Middle East. Fancy yourself an Indiana Jones as you bound around the ruddy sandstone of the Treasury of Petra.

India's Golden Triangle: I can attest to the fact that going on this trip in the heat of summer is just plain mean to your boiling spirits, but alas, the relief that comes in October! Agra's Taj Mahal at sunrise, Jaipur's Amber Fort and Rajasthani culture, and Delhi's urban jungle are real experiences to be photographed, reflected upon, and absorbed into the mind forever. Read my blogs from the Golden Triangle here.

In Gourmet Heaven

Bourbon Trail: Another prime opportunity to see good fall color while sipping some classic American spirits. Even though we Hoosiers are supposed to make fun of Kentucky, I've always been a fan of the horse farms and Appalacian foothill country, and I'd imagine pumping some whiskey into the equation wouldn't hurt it!

Central Valley Wine: Go from fall to spring, harvest to planting season, with a trip to Chile for some grape guzzling. The Andes are supposedly visible from every vineyard in this region, which has a unique climate sure to cause some exciting fermentation to occur. Go skiing, walk along the beach, and then go find some good wine in the hills.

Into the Action

Polar Bears in Canada: October marks the start of a great bear-watching season annually, and Churchill is known for their outsized bears. Not as elusive as the tiger, but apparently just as easily camouflaged into their surroundings; a couple days looking for polar bears sound like thrilling days well spent.

Sea Kayaking off Baja: I know I'm going to be taking full advantage of being around Baja in October by partaking in a gorgeous and exciting activity: sea kayaking. Rocky cliffs edging an ample marine world in the blue Pacific waters; it's the stuff of dreams. Check back for upcoming blogs on this very activity.

Up and Away

Flying High in Paradise: Take a heli for a spin (don't worry, you're not driving) around the volcanic islands of Hawai'i, where you'll be dumbfounded by how green and undulating the converging ridges appear. Great weather and better prices will please you in October. I've experienced this flight and loved it.

Fly the Coral Route: Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa, Fiji, Auckland, Dreamland - it sounds like purging your wallet for an aerial island-hopping experience in the South Pacific couldn't disappoint if it tried. And with October providing some drier conditions, you'll be able to see the blue silk in 360 degrees around you.

In Their Footsteps

On The Road after Kerouac: Though my opinion on Kerouac's instant classic novel is still unformed, I can't deny the pulsing urge inside me to hop in a car and take I-80 as far as it will take me. Maybe that makes his work a success in that it instills the desire to move for the sake of moving. From New York to San Francisco, such a road trip would be quite a thrill to take while reading the novel and hitting up Denver and Chicago along the way, not to mention the great weather October would bring across the entire stretch.

The Silk Road: Avoid the extreme weather conditions by traveling in October through western China to Turkey and some of the world's oldest inhabited cities. The spanning cultures are sensory-linked with landscapes that could slap a yak with amazement.

How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in November for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!

As this is a new series, I'd love to hear your feedback on the effectiveness of this concept. Leave a comment and be my new friend.

Hey, It's Wednesday. Again: Day 75

Lijang, China

It may never again be the case that my weekly schedule includes two of the same day, a Groundhog Day-esque situation where déjà-vu is on the agenda. I can easily get lost in every activity and duty I have this week, but times like these need to be relished. We are crossing the International Date Line tomorrow night, and our previous time travel attempts will suddenly be trumped by massive proportions. We've started a trend of contemplating yesterday in order to make sense of today, and in the spirit of doing so, I need to take a minute and remember the massive country I visited just a few weeks ago.

The rain created an unpleasant ambiance outside but an "oh" so glorious one in the cabin as we pulled into Hong Kong. I snoozed until the large, loud buildings burst my dream bubble with their antennas, and I crawled up to breakfast for a priceless view of a very wet city. Unfortunately, this wonderful moment in time came with a bitter tragedy, as we congregated in the Union to learn about the Virginia Tech shootings. To be comforted by the Archbishop was a moving experience that sadly had to occur.

After a talk and a moment of silence, Hong Kong beckoned us to its more authentic locations where the Chinese influence resonates audibly. Garrett, Alexis, and I boarded the cleanest bus we had seen in months to explore the great Kowloon Walled City Park, set up the hill away from the city life. Garden pagodas littered the natural paradise, which provided an arena for many to practice Tai Chi. A leisurely walk down the road led us to a temple complex for Buddhists, Confucians, and Taoists worshippers, and the colors and sounds were invigorating to every sense.

After soaking in the exotic ambiance and hitting up the Ladies market, Alexis and I prepped our lovely selves for a night on the town of all towns. Two hip American ladies in colorful dresses strutted along the waterfront to view the city light up with flare, and then we hopped on a ferry, a bus, and a subway to the nightlife district.

The next morning started a non-stop travel fest where Alexis and I, equipped with massive backpacks, took every form of transportation imaginable, excluding horseback transport. When I awoke the next morning on a sleeper bus with the smell of feet and smoke engrained in my nose, I was in Lijang, China, a beautiful city adjacent to the most spectacular craggy, snow-covered mountain. After applying layers of clothing in the parking lot, we began to tackle a very sleepy city at 5 am.

The old town was at the least picturesque, with long stony streets lined with antique architecture and winding rivers reminiscent of old European cities. It might have been my imagination, but every little stray dog that scurried by looked oddly like a dragon. Taking a moment to enjoy the morning traffic, we stopped at a nearby Tibetan restaurant and ate a breakfast I continue to fantasize about. Vegetarian dumplings and steamed rice…as Dad would have described it as a culinary extravaganza.

China

The Black Dragon Pool park, on the outskirts of the town, showed us once again that nature reigns supreme over all, with calm ponds that reflected the omnipresent mountains in the distance. I bought an ink painting near the entrance by an artist who paints with his palms and is known throughout Asia for his skill. The depth and mood of the work that I picked was dreary and mysterious, completely opposite of the physical space I was viewing. Monkeys and peacocks ran amuck to thrill the tourists, but my favorite moments did not include the "wildlife" but the cool stones in the shade where I laid back for a nap.

The students painting the surrounding landscapes made me feel I was in the presence of true inspiration Another tasty Tibetan meal later, we were on a five hour bus ride towards the borders of Myanmar, Tibet, and mainland China. The streets of Dali at night were an incredible sight to behold: rooftops lined with Christmas lights, women dressed in mountain Sherpa cultural apparel, and brilliant pagodas lit from beneath. Our window shopping flew to a halt when a sudden rainstorm blew into town for sixty seconds and receded back into the mountains as fast as it had come.

We welcomed the night, anticipating the most pleasant sleep in days, which unfortunately only lasted about five hours because the mountains called our names in the early morning. We took an incredibly bumpy rickshaw ride to the cable cars that scaled up the steep and leafy mountain side, and once we reached the top, market vendors, restaurateurs, and policemen were waiting for us. The views from the mountain were hazy and grand, especially from where we scaled the ancient cliff side dwelling near the summit. The altitude made this five minute hike the most draining length to date, but the destination made all the wheezing worthwhile.

Luck missed us on our descent when they decided to oil the cable lines and cause us to miss our check out time at the hostel. Then came Beijing...

Day 76 and I'm Moved Yet Again

Yunnan 188
Alexis Reller on Great Wall of China during Semester at Sea, thinking

I am sitting on a ribbon that tops the craggy mountaintops of North China, the distant laughter of tourists are drowned out by the rustling dry leaves around me and even though I am breaking a serious law in a Communist country. My means are justified by an ending sense of satisfaction from one of the most visited sites in the world. My left leg dangles over a drop that would surely cement a lasting impression of the Wall's stature, and my neck seeks shelter in the shell of my coat. The zigzagging mountains ahead look nearly impossible to climb, but somehow thousands of years ago, a man thought it wise to add twenty more feet of troubles for intruders. It is snowing upwards with white bud tree petals, and I can gather the faintest scent of their aroma.

As if we don't time travel enough on this globe-trotting adventure, I jump yet again (backwards this time) to moments near Charley Creek when the air was changing and the bare trees led my imagination to reveal its potential. The true magic of the Great Wall is not in its breadth and magnitude, but it is in the crumbles, where these once natural materials attempt to return to Earth and give in to the wind.

I, in my man-made coat, sit sheltered and sniffling from the weather that chills and astounds me. I, too, will one day crumble, hopefully after being something grand, and return my natural essence to the world that provided me the chance. I am one of few who can sit where I am, but this sensation can be acquired within a foot's step from a front door or a sidewalk. This nature is the same everywhere, but it is the man that transforms the land that looks on.

Just as the gutters jut out from the vertical surface, so does my left foot, now asleep from neglect. The mountains echo back every noise from the city below, as if to say "that car horn was annoying…here, you listen and tell me it's not." How long would it take to sit here and feel uninspired, to do something great, to live outdoors, to sense the world, to feel like a part of the human race. I guess that would be until the next tourist walks by and ruins your moment in history.