Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Panic Attack Number 1

Greetings from California, stop number one on the long journey of Steve and Sarah (and in this case Sophie). We've spent a wonderful holiday period with the fam and friends, both in Concord and in Napa, enjoying big meals, some fantastic wine, and our first experience of living out of the suitcase. 

However, you might ask, Steve, if you are having such a wonderful time, why are you up writing a blog post at 3:45am? Oh, I will tell you - I had my first panicked travel dream. To put this dream in context, I first have to explain that most of the dreams I remember are pretty exciting - car chases, secret agents, that sort of thing. These are fun dreams, where I know things will work out and I'm just along for the ride. 

Then, there are the panic dreams, which oddly enough, are the most mundane dreams I have. For instance tonight, I dreamt that it was late on the night before we were leaving for Australia and a bunch of people were over at the house, including Brianna, a friend from high school and her boyfriend who was making soup for us for the journey. I was desperately trying to make sure my pack was ready and that I'd have room for a big container of soup of all things but all anyone could talk about was the fact that Brianna's boyfriend's soup needed more veggies. So sure enough, I ended up on the road in the middle of the night, hours before departure, seeking a grocery store that would have garlic, tomatoes and lentils at 1am. The items left undone on the todo list were running through my head, mixed up with the ingredient list for the soup, and as the rain crashed down on the windshield I craned my neck to see if some Safeway would appear. I woke up in a cold sweat. And now I'm writing about it in hopes that others have had similar experiences with travel and might find some humor in the whole thing.

I imagine stress dreams are part of most travelers' experiences at some point in time or another, and while I hope this is not a common occurrence, after the busyness of the holidays it's not so bad to sit, sipping apple cider in the silent house while everyone is sleeping around me. 

By the way, the picture at the top of the post is of a waterfall that is a short walk up the road from my dad's place in Napa. A beautiful little calm spot. Back to bed for me, hopefully to find secret agent dreams and no more soup disasters. Happy holidays everyone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One, Two, Three...JUMP!

We usually don't get to philosophical on this blog, but I hope on the eve of the journey you'll forgive a little verbal wandering. A screw up with the flights has Sarah departing with Zephyr in 7 hours (ug 6am flights) and me following a little while later with Flora. Crazy upheavel on the last night but I suppose that's how it goes. In the end the few hours till liftoff were chopped in half and now we're standing on the brink, which has me thinking of a few moments from the past.
I transferred to Wesleyan when I was a junior, and at age 20 made my way across the country in an old Volvo with two old friends to live on the East Coast for the first time. I expected to find red and gold trees, harbors, and ivy, and while I found the brick and the professors, I also found out the trees didn't turn colors till the fall and what you got instead at the end of the summer was hot, sticky humidity. The inside of my miniture brick-sided room heated up during the day to the point where I realizing sitting outside in the beating sun was cooler. But what you also have in New England is ponds. On the west coast, ponds are little mudholes that form in the hills when it rains and dry up soon after, but on the East Coast, they are entirely different creatures. They are small lakes, hidden in thick forests, bordered with beaten down granite cliffs. And they are also how college students coming back to campus escape the heat.
 I went to Miller's Pond for the first time in the middle of the night, when the heat had abated just enough for the breeze through the car window to be pleasent. We walked the half mile from the parking lot by the light of the moon through the trees and finally crept forward with our toes onto the edge of the cliff. It was impossible to see the water below us in the dark expanse, much less to know if the landing was clear to jump. I felt fear in my chest and thought about backing out, but the others around me (Pete H included) assured me it was alright, and in the end I leap out into the night. For an instant it felt like I wasn't falling at all, like there was nothing to hit, but then I splashed into the freezing water, heart pounding and cool for the first time in days.

It feels a ltitle like that now, standing on the edge of a journey where we have no idea what lies on the other side but knowing that if we take that leap we'll land somewhere amazing. It's frightening to be sure, but also envigorating. 

I've posted a few shots of the very clean and empty house to ground us during our travels, to remind us of the home we've left and have to look forward to on our return in June. 

Good night everyone, the 3am alarm is rapidly approaching, as is a very big day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Malaria pills...check. Camera...check. Cat...cat?!?

A big welcome to those of you who are now receiving our updates via email and to all our patient readers who have been checking the blog on the web and waiting for us to stop talking about it and finally hit the road. The long wait is nearly over. After bittersweet goodbyes at our respective offices (Hey Arts Umbrella and BCCEWH folk!), Sarah and I have spent the weekend finalizing the lists, packing the house, and doing the first pack of the backpacks. And in less than four days, we'll be out of the house and living in our backpacks 'til June.

Here's a few shots of the fun mixed in with some thoughts about how we'll do the blog.
 Sarah, Zephyr, and the empty packs. They are so light all by themselves. Sigh.

There are lots of types of travel blogs. They run the gambit of styles, but tend to either be of the tedious-details ilk ("I just changed my socks!") or the infrequent but deeply reflective type ("I totally just reached a new plane of consciousness, man...."). We're going to try to shoot the gap between these two styles.
I won't bore you with the complete list of what goes into these bags, but here's a few highlights - malaria pills, universal adapter, sleeping bag liners (for those "budget" accommodations), and a sterilized needle pack. Zephyr is making a concerted bid to be included in the packing list.

So, by shooting the gap I mean we will do our best to not bore you with mundane details, but we'll also try to provide enough interesting details with enough frequency that you have somewhat of a feeling of climbing into our packs with Zephyr and coming along.
We'll see how far that yoga mat makes it...

The general idea is that every three days or so, we're going to pick the one event, experience, person, etc. that we found the most fascinating and we'll write a post about that. Pictures and potentially even videos will be included so you don't get dreadfully bored just listening to us jabber on.

The packs have been packed, and remarkably, are not back-breaking to wear. We'll see what happens after hiking a few miles though...

So that's the full scoop on the blog and our packing process. If we can't take you all along with us, we'll at least try to keep you in the loop.

Less than 4 days till liftoff!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

To Map or to .map?

Well, our to-do list is to-doing itself these days with many to-dos crossed off every to-day. From the pick up of hypodermic needles at travel clinics to looking like goofs in MEC as we handle each pair of socks to see which ones are the lightest, every day, we're getting closer and closer to take off. As of next Thursday (eek!) we'll be out of our house, so our to-do focus has shifted to packing up the abode in anticipation of hitting the road.

With that packing in mind, allow me a moment to tell a little anecdote. I'm an atlas kinda gal. Sure maps.google.com can show you what your house looks like in every season, but I've always been a fan of picking up the heaviest book on the shelf and browsing. I attempted to do this this morning since I had a conversation with a dental hygenist yesterday who stumped me with her home country's location, alas, our atlas has been packed! Gosh darn us who are so damn on top of packing up! Google maps solved my problem (Sri Lanka is off the southern tip of India, folks), but I sure do wish I had the strength and space to bring an actual atlas with me instead of those nifty PDFs we've downloaded onto our ubersmall laptop. Or maybe we could just pack up this little girl and tote her along with us...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A White Thanksgiving - And Musings on Trying Not to Freak Out

Late last night, I touched down in Vancouver after four days in chilly (and very gray) Toronto. Sadly, conferencing and work kept me too busy to explore beyond a two block radius, so no fun Toronto post this time, but this morning I woke up to three revelations I wanted to share. 1) It's Thanksgiving. (very anticlimatic in Canada as Canadian Thanksgiving happens in October). 2) There are another three inches of fresh beautiful snow covering the skylight over our bed. 3) We leave Vancouver in exactly 4 weeks. (cue minor heart palpitations).

I'll tackle these in reverse order - with the first being perhaps the most emphatic. Holy crap. We leave in four weeks. We've been planning and thinking about this trip for 5 years and in 28 days, we are going to put on our backpacks and hit the road. The jobs end, new people come live in our house, the cats get an extended vacation in California, we give a final squeeze to our friends' beautiful babies who will likely be walking and talking by the time we get home, and all combined this is the recipe for fairly serious bouts of panic. And ecstatic joy. There haven't been any Sarah spontaneous tears yet, but oh boy, you know they're coming.

And amidst all of our planning, packing, and applying for VISAs, its been snowing all week. Having grown up in California, the only time I saw snow was on vacation around Lake Tahoe, so for me, snow signals that feeling of take-a-deep-breath, spend-an-extra-fifteen-minutes-in-bed, put-on-snow-boots-to-tackle-three-inches-of-snow-cause-it's-awesome kinda relaxation. I wake up smiling every time it snows in Vancouver, I can't help it, it just makes me feel like I'm going to head outside, build a snow cave, pelt my brothers with snowballs, and sled down the hill, even when all I'm doing is heading to the office. Fortunately it doesn't snow enough in Vancouver for me to have to grow to resent the sidewalk scraping, slow commute, and general disarray of snowy weather. I hope this feeling never wears off.

Finally the third revelation. It's suddenly Thanksgiving. It came without any fanfare here in Canada as it usually does, located in the lull between Canadian Thanksgiving in October and Christmas break. I'm attending an awards presentation and Sarah's working, so as of this morning we had no plans at all.

I have those types of Thanksgiving traditions that go along with a family that went through divorce when we were kids - some vaguer memories of Thanksgivings at home as kids, playing in the leaves in the front of the house in Walnut Creek, or maybe in the stream in the back of the property if it was flowing full of rainwater, then more distinct memories of the range of different family traditions we tried on in the years afterward, with a varying constellations of family members, special dishes, and different cities. Always fun and full of family love, which was the constant to accompany the flux of change. And then leaving home, going to college and later to New York, meeting Sarah, and eventually developing a holiday trade-off where Thanksgiving is with her family here in Vancouver (being celebrated next weekend), and Christmas is with mine. It's been wonderful to be able to spend time with both families at the holidays and try out new traditions with each (tofurkey was definitely a one-year experiment only, but Sarah was so excited to see that she now had a stocking over the mantle at both of my parents' places).

The holidays are a time of traditions and family and I  look forward seeing my Vancouver family tonight, and to calling my California family later to say Happy Thanksgiving and hopping on the plane in four weeks to see them for Christmas. And to return to tonight - deciding we couldn't just do nothing on Thanksgiving, Sarah and I are meeting up for a late night dinner at our favorite English pub around the corner from the house (Three Lions). There might not be turkey, but it will be warm, snow will be falling outside of the big windows, and we'll be together. Hard to ask for more than that.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope you have a wonderful one filled with food, family and friends (both new and old), and maybe even a little snow as well.

28 days till takeoff.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A wicked delayed blahg about Cape Cahd

Gash dahn, I wish I could say I was in Cape Cahd right now, but nope, we've been blahgin' delinquents and have some catchin' up to do befo-wah our wicked big trip...

Pahdon my slippin' into genuine Masshole speak, but when flippin' through photos of the Cape, a place where I spent so many of my summahs as a kid, I can't help myself. Every time I take Steve they-yah, I sway-yah I walk away having left all of my "Rs" behind (summah, beachcombah, Vancouvah, etc...). It's such a joy to return to all the places one used to visit as a kid, and see that they are very much the same as when you left 'em. So, some Cape Cod highlights from August 2010. Cape Cahd...how do I love thee, let count the ways:

1.) The Bourne Bridge - I can't count the numbah of times I've physically relaxed upon seein' your awesome sign...
2.) Cape rotaries - you gahtta love 'em, cause if not, you'll get stuck in 'em:
3.) Baxtah's Boathouse + Sam Adams + steamah's = one wicked happy Steve-o (in photo #2, notice the delicate way in which Sarah's dippin' the steamahs in a whole lotta buttah):
4.) Token "wicked relaxed and on vacation in the mirrah" shot. Pahdon our mushiness.

5.) A maashy area outsiddah Chaddum (trans: a marshy area outside of Chatham):
6.) Dunes at the entrance to a beach on the Bay side. The sun peaked out just as we were drivin' along an area on Route 6A that went down to the beach (outsiddah Dennis), we caught it just in time...
7.) Some quiet readin' time on the beach...(sigh, I just love this shot):
8.) We were drivin' back along the scenic route through Dennis when we saw a summah evenin' concert at the local gazebo and had to stop and hang with the local yocals a bit...
9.) Backwahds dinnah:
10.) The walkway up to Coast Guahd Beach...many-a-summahs spent hikin' this path to head to the beach for the day with egg salad sandwiches roastin' in our packs and frisbees waitin' to be lost in the surf:
11.) When people think of the Cape, they think the ocean, but there are gorgeous lakes all ovah. This one was in Nickerson State Pahk (and a welcome break aftah Steve took me on a much longah bike ride than we'd been anticipatin'...them 3-speed bikes woudda been a bitch to ride up dose hills had we not found a sho-wat cut back to the rental place):
12.) Oneatha best ways to see the Cape is on the Cape Cahd Rail Trail which stretches from one end to the othah. We spent most of our bike time in the State Pahk, but I had to show Steve where many-a-skinned knees were acqui-yud when I was a kid:
13.) P-town to the locals, Provincetown to the hoards of tourists who make their way to the end of the peninsula all to be happily smacked in the face by the coluhs, the lights, the open air (both environmentally and politically), and just the general...FABULOUSNESS of the town. P-town will always remain one of my favorite places on this continent:
14.) An early anniversary dinnah (because a few weeks afteh returnin from our trip to the Cape, we would both be at different dear friends' weddins on our actual anniversary). Not a bad way to celebrate, huh? I could return he-yah every ye-uh. Whatdyou say, Steve-o?
To anyone evah wunderin' where to go in New England in the summah time, run to....and then lazily stroll around Cape Cahd for a week or two, you'll be wicked glad yuh did.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


It was the second time we had to pop into the Travel Clinic in Vancouver, where they happily take your money and stick you in the arm with a big ol' needle that leaves you feeling wonky for a day or two. No Hep A, B, Polio, Tetanis, Typhiod, or other crazy diseases for us though. Woo.

T-minus 48 days till liftoff.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Researching Thailand

Wow, we've been overwhelmed with all of the amazing advice we're received since posting about planning Bali. Thank you thank you thank you. If anyone is looking for a good story, ask my mom's dear friend Deb about flamethrowers at funerals or cat-munchin' pythons, you're in for a treat.

So! The next itinerary that needs planning is Thailand. As with Bali, it was cool to find out how many people have spent time in Thailand once we started asking around. From Derek, who was there for three weeks, to Amanda, who spend much of her childhood there, to Gloria, who had some unique experiences in Northern Thailand, there is a wealth of knowledge to tap.  Here's how the plan is shaping up so far.

 In general, Sarah and I are not huge beach vacationors. Nothing against white sand and mai-tais, but between Sarah's tan-resistant (and very subburnable) skin and my short attention span a day at the beach usually turns into Sarah repeatedly applying SPF 50 and my asking after two hours if it's time to go ride bikes.

That said though, I hear the saying for Thailand is - when in Thailand, do as Leo DiCaprio does. Which is go to Ko Phi Phi because you will never see a more beautiful beach. And we figure on a five month trip, one leg that is mainly beachy will be fun. Ko Phi Phi here we come.
Before we get to that tiny island oasis though, we'll spend a few days in Bangkok. We're staying close to the Old City, where Rattanakosin's temples, palaces and pavilions will be a definite stop off. We've also hear of an enormous market that happens on the northern outskirts of town. On one of those days we'll head up the river to Kanchanaburi, where we've heard you can do some touristy but unmissable things like ride elephants, check out a provincial marketplace on the water, visit some historical shrines, etc.

Then, it's time to hop a flight to Krabi (RT 100 per person), then a quick longboat out to Railay, which is a town with no roads that is only accessible by boat. Cool. Thanks for the recommendation Derek. Lots of walking in this area, checking out the Princess Shrine and Cave, hiking out to beautiful beaches, and hopefully renting some kayaks to explore the caves in the limestone karsts. Excellent.

Finally, another somewhat longer longboat ride out to Ko Phi Phi, the proclaimed gem of the Andaman Coast islands. It's hardly an undiscovered place, and apparently has quite the party scene, which we aren't particularly interested in, however there are lots of ways to get away from the party circuit and just enjoy the naturally stunning beauty of this little island. Snorkeling, hiking, and yes, beaching it will be the main items on the agenda for the days we end up exploring Ko Phi Phi.

So that's what we've got! Please let us know if you have favs in any of these places that we should check out - restaurants, beaches, shrines, cultural activities, whatever. We've loved hearing everyone's stories, so let's keep it going.

Next on the planning agenda - India. We've identified Southern India as the general destination, but other than that, there's some thinking, reading, listening to stories to do.

55 days til takeoff.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Belated blog about the land of boiled peanuts

I have no excuses for waiting so long to write this blog post...well, not true, I could come up with many, but for the sake of catching up on some belated blogging, I'll spare our readers the list and reflect on a sunny week that Steve and I embarked on in May 2010. The mission was one beach side wedding in Florida (yay Caryn and Logan!), the adventure ended up including some serious Spanish moss action, 3 days under a tin roof with dear friends (yay Ariel and Erin!), and the sun that we are (yet again) craving in yonder rainy BC.

Phase 1 - Take a red eye to southern Florida (see stripping off of sweater image above in the FL heat), rent a car and drive to Sarasota (home of Mr. John Ringling of the famous family and a whole gamut of retirees), conquer beach, park, and fruity sunset drinks, and stay at great Airbnb.com find.

Phase 2 - Drive a couple hundred miles north to Tallahassee (in "the deep south") lose count of the Confederate flags seen, but collect photo montage from the passenger seat of some purely southern gems.

Phase 3 - Get to know Tallahassee and surrounding area a bit by spending time with dear friends, visit family farm, eat biscuits, gravy, and grits, and promise to come back soon.

Phase 4 - Leave dear friends after 3 wonderful days and nights, drive back down south in one day, meet up with more great friends for wedding fun, and work, daily, on acquiring enough freckles to make the Vancouverites envious. :)

It is a week of sun, dear friends, and fun times that we still think of fondly, and probably will even moreso now that the weather is changing. Only now, we'll start dreaming of beaches in Thailand. That said, we were advised upon moving to Vancouver that in order to make it through the winters, you have to go somewhere hot. We've got this coming year covered, but thoughts of returning to the south for a Talla"classy" visit have crossed our minds more than once. Never did get to try any of those roadside boiled peanuts...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travels in Our Own Backyard

Fall weather makes both Sarah and I nostalgic for the vibrant colors and feel of New England, whether it be Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, or the one and only Massachusetts. In recent years though, we've come to deeply appreciate the fall in Vancouver, which on certain years shows that it can go toe to toe with those east coast forests. I walk about 30 minutes to and from work most days and these leaves have kept me entertained for weeks, dreaming of far off places, watching the soccer games in the fields, and even getting inspired to start a new novel. Here is a little homage to fall in Vancouver and to remembering that the joys of slow travel don't necessarily have to take you far from home.

(56 days till liftoff!)