Hawaii

Journeys of a Lifetime in December

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

Airboat in the Everglades: Get deep into the mangrove forests of Florida's backcountry where alligators seemingly get bigger as you go deeper; you may even catch the rare Florida panther if there's a blue moon out.

Lake Nicaragua: A freshwater lake surrounded by lush forest and volcanoes? Crocodile-like reptiles submerged below the jungle canals? Swordfish sport fishing in a mystic lagoon? Am I dreaming?

By Road

The Grand Trunk Road: Peshawar to Kolkata: a road some call "the great river of life." It's a highway beaded with historical and memorable cities that combine to make an incredible, South Asian road trip.

The Pan American Highway: It's pavement that spans continents, but taking a ride in Tierra del Fuego and reach the end of the world: Ushuaia. You'll see grazing grasslands and ominous, omni-present mountains. Pretty great, huh?

By Rail

El Chepe: Ride the rails through an unspoiled landscape four times larger than the Grand Canyon. Indigenous Indians of central Mexico line the way, giving you access to a brilliant Latino culture.

The TranzAlpine: Cross Arthur's Pass and witness a blizzard outside your train window on this mountainous journey through the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Sounds like it gets wild.

On Foot

The Headhunters' Trail: Stay in a longhouse with Iban villages. Wade through the tea-colored waters while admiring the limestone spires. Hope you still have your head upon the trip's completion.

The Levadas of Madeira: The levadas of Portugal are a network of watercourses that hydrate the paradiasical sugarcane fields. Apparently, moseying along these canals is a camera-friendly activity.

In Search of Culture

Colonial Virginia: Even if reenactments and period acting isn't to your fancy, Christmas just may be, and Williamsburg does this holiday justice.

Ancient Egypt: Show up for the peak Nile cruising season and enjoy the history museums to make sure your time in this ancient landscape is epic.

In Gourmet Heaven

Blue Mountain Coffee: It's the best coffee in the world. It's the best time to visit Jamaica. Those are two good reasons.

Vietnamese Cuisine: Imagine a leaf of cilantro floating on a sea of seasoned broth, handmade noodles sitting below the surface like a hundred Loch Ness monsters. Are you hungry for some pho yet?

Into the Action

Surfing in Hawai'i: You're going to need a wetsuit in that chilly water, but you're also going to catch some towering waves at hot spots like Waimea beach or the Banzai pipeline on O'ahu island.

Friesland's Eleven Cities' Tour: 16,000 ice skaters jump at the proclamation of the Elfstedentocht race, which only happens on the rare occasion in Holland when the ice is 5.9 cm thick. Await the call of the race anxiously and follow the races route along the footpath beside the frozen river.

Up and Away

Skyriding over St. Lucia: This Caribbean island will make you see colors. Real colors. Absolutely vibrant hues popping through the tropical air. Zipline around the canopies of the forest, and then save some time for some fresh product at a cocoa estate.

Angkor by Helicopter: Seeing the world's largest religious monument in a way that few experience, an enlightened view from above. See what can be done with incredible planning, gray stone and a herd of trained elephants for heavy lifting.

In Their Footsteps

Hemingway in Cuba: The Malecon was Hemingway's first view of Havana after sailing from America. Go and be moved by the same places this famous writer and Nobel Laureate frequented during his time on this vivacious island.

Alex Haley's Roots: See what Alex Haley found when visiting Gambia, a main topic of his Pulitzer winning book Roots. It would involve a boat ride and a village chief...and surely an incredible cultural quest.

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 January 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.

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.

My Final Solo Hour: Day 203

Ready to finally rest

The following rant was produced during a final purging session in the Honolulu airport. These are quite raw thoughts from a mind coming down from a solo RTW at a very early and confused age... It's been far too easy to accept being around people I know, spending money that's not mine in amounts unjustified, sleeping on mattresses and wearing clean clothes, letting someone else fend for my safety and entertainment, letting myself forget about what I just did.  I was so anxious to get off the plane in Maui and see people who would release so many burdens for me and make me finally feel comfortable.  I received the treatment that comes with money at no cost to me.  And I had the luxury of ears that would listen to my stories, and my mouth wouldn't stop.  I wanted to pull out every shirt and bag of tea I bought to display, telling stories of their capture and the game I had to play to pay the right price.

We immediately went into recovery mode, sending me to the spa to cleanse my craggy face.  Laying in that perfect bed with someone treating my face to sublime perfection only had me adding the costs and realizing I was spending so many families' yearly incomes on something for myself…that I could do to myself.

I came to the realization that the world is not fair, and I was born in a prosperous and privileged society.  I cannot be mad at that.  I cannot be mad that people don't know what's out there when it's so hard to penetrate that bubble around America and find the truth of billions of lives.  The greenbacks have so little value here, though I was spending them with no problems in worlds that treasured their worth like golden tickets.

And I was once a spectacle with my white skin, my fine hair, a massive German-built backpack and real trekking shoes.  I had to hide the location where I stashed my $1 bills and never pulled out my phone unless I could hide it in a corner or feel the comfort of a two-star hotel.  I stare at the shoulder of the road, in awe of the space available, and wish there were snack, merchandise, and restaurant stands where I could spend my cents on a cultural gem.

I'm still among oceans and volcanoes, neon sunsets and an international crowd, so I imagine something profound will hit me when I return home to a bleak and misty hometown.  I'll be wearing scarves to shield low temperatures instead of covering my shoulders for temples or my hair in Muslim cultures.  A coat will be worn more often than a t-shirt, and I'll have a choice of clothing that will make the matter between my ears ache.  I'll be tempted by and probably often succumb to the vices of alcohol and club nights more than I will sleep on public transportation and pull out my camera.

I never have to change money.  I will have vast quantities of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, hot water, clean water, make-up, light, clean towels, towels with any nip at all, floor surfaces that don't stick or require flip-flops, clean sheets, mattresses with springs and without stains, AC blowing from all angles, air that doesn't have the hint of watered down urine, and I could go on.

There are postcards available through Dragoman Overland that showcase posed pictures of people making the rough transition back home from their overlanding experiences..men squatting in their manicured front lawns while reading the Times and using toilet paper that hovers from an isolated wire…or a person prepared with fork and knife looking at the live guinea pig in front of them, unsure of where to go from here.  I plan on being confused again for a long time, and hopefully this time around I will combine that feeling with a little more happiness.

I know that traveling is something that challenges me like a social, gastronomic, survival, monetary, cultural, geographic game of strategy, but I yearn for something other than what I can do for myself.  I have taken to heart the advice of a selected few I met on the trail, and whether they were reliable sources of wisdom, I believe there was a fated reason I heard those words trickle from their lips. From their knowledge, I have learned that I think too much, that my imagination has stood in the way of my realized life, and that maybe…I am not happy.

That last statement hurt me the most.

How is it possible to be successful at motivating others, pulsing life into parties, making others and yourself laugh, and listening to your inner most desires without honestly knowing whether happiness is something you truly possess.  I have family and some friends that complete my heart's need for company and love, and I have the ability to do things only a tiny fraction of the world's population can share with me.  How can I live with an Italian family, cost free, weekend at a Tuscan villa, drink top notch Limoncello, and slice through the world's best pizza without feeling the satisfaction the majority of the world would treasure?  I cried at their lunch table because they told me I was unhappy.  I started asking people I didn't know if they could sense my Happy Meter.

There could be some merit in the fact that I've done something so magnificent that, now, the thing I want to do the most is what is normally expected of me, at this age, in this culture, in this family, and in this millennium.

It is so important to me to stay in touch with the most primitive side of myself, peeing in the grass, drinking river water, grabbing soil and sleeping undisturbed with the crickets, but I have such a problem following suit in the effort to find the other half that humans have decided is necessary.  I've grown so much.  I know this has to be true.  I've learned recipes and have talked to people in historic societies.  I've had a distant perspective on a huge event in my own country and seen how the world reacts to our words.  I've been secluded from people who think like me and have found a hidden sense of nationalism that never existed in the consciousness before.  I've been without my crutches and my companions for so long that I've become a ready-to-punch, survival-minded Neanderthal that talks to itself for amusement.

This is my mind on overpriced beer, teetering on the edge of a big life landmark.  I just traveled around the world and am boarding my 22nd plane of the year. I've maxed out a persons allotted superlatives at the age of 23, and I could brag, I am compelled to unknowingly brag, but I don't want to. I want to seal my lips and hold those thoughts inside.  I want to write a novel of secrets and leave the publication the gift of surprise on those I know.  So the trip has come to a close.  I feel like the world around me should be fuzzy…give me another beer and I think that could happen.

This is a piece I will read at a later date, edit and add to, and suck on like a sweet nostalgic candy.  This is a big moment in my life.  203 days of scouring the Earth for happiness and the meaning of life.  It was a noble quest that makes me pretend to believe I connect with the greats of history.  And now I wish to relate to the greats of my radio, my toted books, the personas on the screens, the withered wrinkles of a past generation I admire.  The only thing that matters at this point of time is the word behind the cursor.

I want to make money in some way.  I wish I could paint and write and sing dollars into my account while enlightening others to Van Gogh their lives instantly.  I'll set such goals lofty high in order to give my life meaning I can be proud of.  However, what is very likely is that I will get a job that sets me in a nice place and find myself a few years down the line reminiscing too much about a trip I took one year.

My hope and rock lies in the fact that I've had this thought before, and I squashed it by the conception of my Big Journey.  I became a nomad after dreaming about being one.  I had a highlight that depressed me, knowing it would soon be in my wake.  But a new highlight bubbled into my biography, and I made it happen with desire, dollars, and the knowledge that it was envied.  I used to have so much confidence in the person that was myself, that I had never let go of my values, even when they changed, and let the microphone of my consciousness' decisions always resonate the voice of my being…but now I think I am more complicated than I ever let myself acknowledge.  I want someone to probe me for information that uncovers layers I've never allowed the light of day.  Maybe that's the information that tingles when I have epiphanies, when the broom sweeps the matter I keep piling for comfort and leaves me to feel the rush of wind that combines with a peaceful moment.

I hope that even an ounce of this purge is true.  I cannot truly be confident in that fact anymore.  I'm just following the ranks of Mrs. Dalloway.   Today I wondered why the shuttle driver was so chatty.  You ask one question and they ramble like they're the prime time attraction on the latest late night show.  And then it came to me, from my father's knowing mouth…they want a tip.  Blasted!

America!  I forgot your sneaky ways!  Welcome home, me.  Enjoy your cat.  She probably hates you.  Begin your life as it was predicted to be.  But keep your new knowledge close by.  And go pee for Pete's sake! You've had a liter already!

And with this, my Big Journey comes to a close.

Back on Home Turf: Day 202

Maui Sunset on New Year's Eve

Maui Sunset on New Year's Eve

I left Tokyo in the evening of November 17th...and then I arrived on the morning of November 17th after flying halfway across the world's most expansive ocean. Time travel can really trip you out, if you allow those thoughts to infiltrate your over-stimulated senses. I landed and immediately started making phone calls, thanks to the ridiculous concept that Hawai'i is a part of America (a concept I'll happily accept since it's ballin'.) Oh, the joys of making domestic calls and not worry about accessing the value of your phone call since each minute steals from you $3.00. For the first time since I found out about her engagement in September, I talked to my best friend about her upcoming wedding. It was grand.

Something that developed from this solo trip abroad was an intense willingness to chit-chat with anyone I could come in contact with: customs officers, check-in personnel, and the guy who arranges the pylons in the parking lot...er'body. I find great joy in identifying these things that have changed in me from May to November, and talking to strangers as if we're chums is one of them.

I hung out in the Honolulu airport for a few hours, smiling from ear to ear every time I could speak to an airport employee or grace my optics on a gawdy, hilarious Hawaiian shirt. And I was anxiously anticipating the coming reunion, that with my parents after six months apart. Not that I'm a Mama's girl or anything, but that length of time can certainly make you miss your parentals. It was only a 15 minute flight, flying with the trade winds and grazing over blue waters and white feathered waves, but it was hard to appreciate the beauty of my last lone flight on this journey because of my knocking knees and chattering choppers.

Descending the escalator of the terminal to see Mom's dancing feet was a thrill. There were a few double pulsed hugs and the adornment of the obligatory lei. I willingly soaked up every moment when someone wanted to do something for me. Usually I demand to carry my own weight and open my own doors, but I let Dad be the white knight to his heart's content.

I rode in the seat of honor, up front in a blinding white convertible, regurgitating stories non-stop and watching the street shoulders, amazed there were no entrepreneurs out selling their food and wares. I played my CDs purchased from the streets of Bangkok and showed off what finger and toe nails I was able to salvage from my fungal issue (delicious, eh?).

I looked around to observe the entire island of Maui. We weren't driving on a skyway or even at a high elevation, but as we looped around towards Maui's northwest coast, I could see the looming volcano and wrapping beaches for miles. Each time we drove throw a cut, fences and nets held back the settling crumbles of volcanic rock wanting to go with gravity. The drive reminded me of my bucket list plans to live on a beach for a year and solidified the idea that Hawai'i might have to be the place for such a beach-front lifestyle.

We had a time share condo in a building by the Kanapali beach where I took great pleasure in seeing the Clark household staples food groups: red wine, skim milk, chocolate, pretzels/nuts, and whole wheat bread. My mom didn't waste a second in making me a welcome back Bloody Mary, not that I enjoy this drink especially but because she was proud of her ever-so delicious Zing-Zang mix. After setting up my office on the patio with my computer my parents brought from home, I began showing photos from the most recent experiences. I could not organize my thoughts into digestible stories nor could I even stay with one photo album but jumped from safari shots in Africa to people poses in India. How does one start retelling a tale of epic proportions?

I kid you not, and I apologize for being graphic, but I had a beard of acne upon getting back to American soil. I was disgusted with myself, and Mom was more than willing to help me out with this issue by sending me on my way to the in-house spa. After briefly discussing my trip and recent trans-Pacific flight with the woman performing my intense facial, I completely passed out, unfortunately not feeling the soothing effects of the work but definitely benefiting from the extraction of African dust and sweat from Asia. It was a job that desperately needed to be done. Ick.

I lounged by the pool, read issues of my high school magazine, and called every friend I missed hearing. I adorned new clothing for the first time since...who knows when. And we hit up every type of food I had missed while out and about. Mexican was a speedy first stop, although, being out of the habit of carrying around my ID, I lacked adequate proof I was of age to imbibe any cold ones from Mexico. This happened not just once but just about every time we went out. Fortunately we stopped getting so adventurous and just started eating at the hotel, within running distance from the ID in our room.

Now, the Clark family isn't the most adventurous or active family. We have trouble doing anything that doesn't involve a tennis racquet, walking shoes, or a beach chair while on vacation. But one thing Mom organized for us to do, initiated by her own desire, was ziplining across the valleys of the volcano. And let me tell you, watching those two fling themselves around from ledge to ledge was entertaining to the point of stomach cramps. Each time one of them landed at the end point of one zipline, their feet would struggle to grab the landing, often resulting in a butt slide or Fred Flintstone twinkle toe moment. I video taped everything to laugh at time and time again. Our group loved the hilarity and couldn't believe this was all Mom's idea to fly around a volcano on wires.

The drive to and from the ziplines was reminiscent of the drive to the Serengeti in Tanzania, corrugated and highly pocked, which made the middle-agers wince and make one-liner jokes to their adventure companions. I love how people bond on these afternoon excursions; everyone wanting to prove they aren't the group party-pooper or dry spirit. It's hilarious. I volunteered to sit in the back, knowing from experience I don't normally spew when deprived of good air and sent airborne in the back of a motor vehicle.

The consensus of this Hawaiian experience in my mind was that it was surprisingly NOT hard to get back to the luxurious side of life. True, this fact shocked and actually scared me, that I had not be completely slanted towards the simple ways after four months of hard living (in Africa and Asia). However, I think this time coming home, I understood all too well that the world really is unfair, and that I've lived like this lushly since birth. Not that we lose Benjamins in the couch cushions and buy caviar for our Ritz crackers or anything, but we are comfortable in the American eye. I guess I looked at this change in lifestyle as a cultural experience. Just one more stop on the itinerary, and I looked at our family traditions with a fresh glance.

I awoke very late in the mornings due to jetlag, and I often felt uneasy as I opened my eyelids. Many times in Maui, I had the unsettling dream that I, along with my family and all who knew me, forgot what I had just accomplished: seven months of solo RTW travel. In these nightmares, I would have brief recollections of my experiences but would soon lose lucidity and go on living like I used to. I think I felt this because we stopped talking in such detail and with interest about my trip, but I battled those nightmares off by pulling out my computer yet again to reconnect with the images of my traveling past. Apparently, my subconscious never wants to forget my 2008 voyage. I don't blame it.