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Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Cuba, Havana, Travel, Travel Wishlist

Feliz año nuevo desde Havana

We venture out the next morning and explore some of Vedado. Wayne has told us we must eat at Starbien, so we walk over to make a reservation, only to find out they’re closed until January 3rd.  Still, we get to see some side streets of the neighborhood we’re staying in, and then we jump in a cab and head back to explore more of Old Havana. 

We grab a coffee at Cafe Wanda before heading down Obispo. We duck into old bookshops, markets, giftshops and the occasional bar. Around 12:30, we stop at Lluvia d’Oro and watch as the old bartenders whip up mojitos.

We order a round of Bucaneros before heading on to Plaza Vieja, where we sit and watch the world go by. Tourists cross the square, local kids play a game of soccer and a stage is being set up for New Years celebrations.

We walk south down a side street to the waterfront and see cruise ships docked in the harbor. Then we loop back to the Malecon with El Morro on our right. At El Cabana, the live music lures us in, so we stop for a mojito and a snack. When the band goes on break, we head up towards Parque Central and watch as a black 50’s Chevy delivers whole cooked pigs to private homes. They’re even wearing little sombreros. I have a feeling I know what we will be eating New Year’s Day!


We head back to Vedado and get ready to go out for the evening. It’s New Year’s Eve, and we have no plans but aren’t concerned about having any trouble finding fun. We head back to Old Havana and decide to try El Floridita again. We weasel our way up to the bar and order daiquiris and see a statue of Hemingway in the corner, bellied up to the bar. We watch as tourists make their way to the corner for a photo opp.

From here, we head back to El Escabeche to see our friends from the previous night. David spots us and says he’ll take us to a private paladar for some food, but they are full, so we grab the last table at the restaurant connected to El Escabeche and sample the best roast chicken, rice and beans I’ve ever had. Midnight strikes as we’re finishing up our meal, and we all get up to head into the bar through a little door in the corner of the room. The kitchen staff files out of the kitchen and a short, plump Cuban woman grabs me and kisses me on the cheek, wishing me a Happy New Year.

We stay and drink and dance and watch from the door of bar as people run up and down the streets dodging the buckets of water that people are throwing from the balconies above. Later that night, we make our own escape and manage to make it to a cab without getting doused.


New Year’s Day is a slower start. We take a long walk along the Malecon to the Hotel Nacional, where we stop in to look around and have a cold beer in the courtyard. We then head back to Vedado for a late lunch at La Catedral, which is seething with locals…always a good sign in my book. 

We indulge in ropa vieja and a bottle of red wine. The meal is worth the wait and we top it off with cortados for afternoon stamina. We spend the late afternoon strolling the back streets of Vedado, which leads us to the waterfront where a small group of people fish as the sun sets.

We loop back to our apartment on 23rd & 12th, and I could easily call it a night, but it’s our last night with Sarah, so we hail a taxi back to Old Havana to a little street we walked by yesterday. It’s lined with a number of restaurants whose tables spill over onto a narrow cobblestone street. Here we find Cafe de los Artistas.

We settle into bar seats and make friends with Allain, the mixologist, who is creating cocktails that are so pretty I feel bad drinking them. Lestian, the manager, finds us a table outside and helps us order some tapas. He comes back and gifts us Romeo y Julieta cigarillos for us as a consolation for having to wait so long for a table.

After dinner, when the staff has wrapped up work for the evening, they sit and join us for a nightcap. We toast a Havana Club aged rum and light up our little cigars… to our last night as the three amigas!


Belize, Canada, Cuba, England, Japan, Portugal, Tasmania, Travel Wishlist

My 2014 Travel WishList

Ah, the joy of a New Year. Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote my 2013 Travel WishList and I would have never believed you if you’d told me I would walk across Northern Spain and sip wine in Slovenia. There are 350 days left this year… I’m excited to see where I end up and I’m embracing the unknown!

Below is my 2014 Travel Wishlist. Unless I win the next Mega Millions drawing, I probably won’t make it to all of these locales, but I will hit a few – that I’m sure of. And a few surprises will crop up too. Following my reasons for wanting to visit each country is a link to a selection of highlights from AFAR Travel Magazine’s online community… Follow the link to browse what fellow travelers consider to be the must-sees in each of these places:

Japan – I am so completely intrigued by Japan, and despite spending a lot of time in neighboring countries, I have yet to make it here. A few friends have traveled to Japan and told me of the peacefulness of this country… Ok, Tokyo might be a bit like sensory overload, but after a few days in the fish markets, karaoke halls and kimono shops, imagine strolling through the Bamboo Forest of Kyoto, then learning the rituals of a tea ceremony at the ancient chashitsu, or tea rooms, or testing your luck at spotting a real Geisha in Gion.

Tokyo’s Fish Market, Photo: Rod C

If you’re a nature enthusiast like me, you may consider a trek up Mount Fuji, so long as you’re legs aren’t still wobbling from the high speed train journey there. Or, if nature, with less of an adrenaline rush is more your speed, then the shrines and temples west of Tokyo make for a more peaceful day trip.

Mount Fuji, Photo:

It seems like I would need an endless number of days in Japan, as this itinerary only covers the central main island of Honshu. On the Southern most part of this island, you can visit the Hiroshima Peace Park before heading to the island of Kyushu, for hot springs and the history of Nagasaki. Or alternatively, head north to Hokkaido for National Parks and winter ski resorts. Japan has something to entice any type of traveler, and is number one on my 2014 travel wishlist.

My AFAR Wanderlist for Japan:

England/Great Britain – Born, and raised for the first five years of my life, in England, I can say I know the country quite well… parts of it that is. Hence the reason I want to spend some more time here. I feel the need to better acquaint myself with the place I hail from.

Abbey Road
Yorkshire, Photo: Andrew Montgomery

I’ve never been to Liverpool, and I want to walk across Abbey Road and tour The Beatles’ old haunts. I’d then take a train from Liverpool up to the Lake District and spend some time on the walking routes here, maybe even climbing a mountain or two. I’d like to see the Yorkshire Moors Emily Bronte told me about during my Senior English Class and sip tea in an old Victorian B&B .

Pembrokeshire, Photo: Spila Riccardo

I’d then head South to my favorite part of the country… the English Seaside. I’d stop in Devon and Cornwall, places I visited during my childhood Summers, and then head further south to Penzance before taking a boat ride 28 miles out to sea, arriving at the Scilly Isles – the Southernmost point of England. And for good measure, I’d head to Wales and walk the rugged Pembrokeshire coastline and Anglesey’s pebble beaches ending up in a local joint to savor fish and chips.

My AFAR Wanderlist for England/GB:

Lisbon, Photo: Lonely Planet

Portugal – Sample the day’s best catch in the ancient fishing village of Ericeira, sunbathe on a crescent beach surrounded by limestone cliffs in the Algarve, try to decipher between tawny and ruby at 16th-century port houses in Porto, and rumor has it, sample the best sangria in the world… Portugal has been creeping up on my list for the past couple of years, and when I learned there was a Camino that started in Lisbon and meandered north through the quaint villages of this country, it got a secure spot on this years list of places I want to go.

Algarve Photo:

Since Portugal’s entire Western and Southwestern borders meet the ocean, it seems like the perfect Summertime destination for the vitamin D junkie that I am. But if the promise of sand and sun doesn’t have you throwing your bikini in your backpack right away, fear not… Portugal has plenty to offer.

Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, seems to be packed full of restaurants, wine bars, cafes, museums and shops. A ride on the free tram, (#28) will get you acquainted with the layout of the city and save your legs from some steep climbs.

Tawny port, Photo: Jon Sullivan

North of Lisbon is Sintra, a city that will appeal to the history buff inside of you. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage sight in 1995, this place has Moorish castles and royal palaces to spend a couple days exploring.

And Porto, or Oporto, well, the name says it all…

My AFAR Wanderlist for Portugal:

Photo: Fodor’s

Cuba – Cuba seems like a little secret to me. Growing up in the US, I quickly learned that it’s a country many consider off limits, unless you make the extra effort to fly via Mexico or Canada. However, having a British passport makes me feel I shouldn’t waste any time getting here. When I think of Cuba, a few stereotypical things come to mind… Cuban cigars, Che Guevara, old cars, rice and beans, old men sitting outside an even older bar playing chess, rum, Fidel Castro, the Embargo. So why do I want to go here?

Cuban Mojitos, Photo: JaketheSnake

I have a fascination with culture, specifically with rich cultures that have yet to be totally diffused or diluted by Western influence. Pair this with a rich, if tumultuous, history, and the intrigue is here. This place is practically in my backyard, and I can’t wait to explore the city of Havana, the beaches of the Southern coastline, and acquaint myself with the people of this island country.

My AFAR Wanderlist for Cuba:

Peggy’s Point, Nova Scotia

Canada – From what I have seen and researched, and from what my beloved Canadians who I have met on the road have told me, I have come to the conclusion that I will LOVE the coastlines of Canada. Every person I have ever met from British Columbia has basically convinced me to move there within minutes into a conversation. A mountainous coastline, world-class skiing, hiking, and yoga are all on offer here.

Then, I spend a few minutes researching the rugged coastline provinces of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and they tease me to head east first. This opposite coastline looks idyllic and seems to have a serene beauty about it. I would love to spend time exploring both seaboards but there’s a lot not to be missed in between as well.

Prince Edward Island, Photo:

The Rocky Mountaineer offers a 15-day coast to coast train ride that also allows you to explore Kamloops, the Canadian Rockies, Toronto and Montreal. Train travel stirs up a sense of nostalgia in me, and it would be a nice departure from my normal backpack and hostel routine. But the $5,000 price tag means I may be saving for a while before this dream is fulfilled.

My AFAR Wanderlist for Canada:

Glover’s Atoll, Photo:

Belize- A good friend recently graduated from PA School. She talked of doing a trip before making a commitment to a 9-5. We talked of locations and criteria: somewhere warm, somewhere we could get to quickly, easily and on the cheap, and somewhere that wouldn’t break the budget. She said Belize, and I began to do the research. I scoured AFAR’s highlights, was immediately sold on the locale, and began planning a week -long trip.


I’m not going to lie, it’s the middle of January, and despite being in Atlanta, the lows are dropping below 20. My bones are cold, I need some sunshine and Vitamin D. Belize won’t break the bank… I imagine it to be a good mix of fun and sun, with just enough culture to make it less hedonistic than perhaps it could be. It’s nice to know the ruins are there, but show me to the beach-side hammock and hand me a pina colada please…

My AFAR Wanderlist for Belize:

Wineglass Bay, Photo:

Tasmania – All it took were a few pictures on a friend’s Facebook page to seal the deal here. I want to go to Tasmania and I want to go NOW! This place looks other-worldly. Not only are you surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen (online), it seems like you can do it all here – hiking, fishing, kayaking, river cruising, biking, dining, wining, surfing…

Cradle Mountain Hike

This Australian island 11 hours from Melbourne packs it all in. You can even get a glimpse of the Tasmanian Devil (yes, it does exist) and a wallaby. You can cover the entire country by car in about two days, but with stops, 10 days seems to be a fair amount of time to really see Tassie. 

My AFAR Wanderlist for Tasmania:

All this talk of travel gives me itchy feet. I find myself between Kayak and Skyscanner, scoping out one-way tickets….Maybe I’ll kill two birds with one stone and just find a job overseas…Not a bad idea!

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bali, Beach, Bucket List, Indonesia, island life, long term travel, Southeast Asia, Travel, Travel Wishlist


Ahhh, Bali. I understand why people come here and never leave. Pair a BEAUTIFUL island with affordable food, activities and entertainment and chill laid back people, and you have Bali. Not to mention it’s also the most temperate place I’ve been so far. The sun is hot, but the humidity is low and dies down fully at night, so on the back of a scooter you can still feel a bit of a chill.

We arrive in Bali late, but have plans to meet up with friends for the evening to celebrate Amanda’s birthday. We are staying in a town called Legian at the Hotel Jayakarta (a bit of luxury before we begin the hostel circuit). Legian is your typical beach town, but just next door is the town of Kuta, which is a bit like Ibiza’s sister. It’s also the site of one of the bombings of 2004. As you enter the main strip, they have built a memorial to commemorate the people from all over the world who lost their lives. Despite the party atmosphere, I take a minute to reflect and pay respect.

We spend the evening on a Kuta pub and club crawl, and consume numerous $2.00 Bin Tangs. But, we refuse to let a little hangover cut into our beach time the next day. We secure some spots on the beach and spend the day sunning, and sipping pina coladas to cure our ailments. Add to that some noodles and soup for $.50 from the local street vendor and we are feeling A-OK by happy hour.

The following day brings more of the same, although I had promised myself that I would attempt surfing while in Bali. A friend had told me this was a great place to learn because the waves aren’t too big. So I find Rudy, the beach-chair seller cum beer vendor cum surf teacher. I venture over to him and he yells, “Elena., what’s up?” I negotiate surf lessons and board rentals for me and my two friends.300,000 Rupiah for three boards and a two-hour surf lesson for all of us. That’s about $30 USD. Rudy gives us surf shorts and carries our boards down to the water’s edge. We’re all feeling a little anxious but excited. He gives us about a 2-minute demonstration on land of what we need to do. It basically goes like this. “Ok, so you get on board and you paddle, paddle, paddle, and then you catch wave, and ‘poof,’ you pop up.” So we all demonstrate back to him. He obviously has all the faith in the world in us (or doesn’t really care) because the next thing you know we’re all out in the water, boards in tow, bracing the waves coming towards us. Now, I’m pretty comfortable in the water, but sometimes the waves would catch the board and swoop it right away from me- good thing we have ankle straps!

After getting out far enough to catch some waves, Rudy helps me spin the board around get centered. As I lay flat on the board, I turn my head around to see the wave coming toward me, approaching faster and faster. Rudy yells to me, “Paddle hard Elena.” I paddle hard and go to pop up on the board, and just as quickly fall right back in, the wave crashing over me. Take two, same story. At this point in time, hair is plastered across my face and I’m thanking Rudy for supplying me with a surf shirt or else all of Legian beach would’ve have been getting a bit of a show.

I realize I’m doing something wrong, and I tell Rudy I need help knowing when to pop up. “Ok, Ok Elena. You paddle hard. When I yell “POP” you pop up.” This sounds like a good plan, so we get the board turned around, he slides me to the back and we watch as the wave approaches. I start paddling and just as I feel the force of the wave and a bit of a lift, I hear Rudy yell “POP!” I jump up and I’m riding my first wave. Ok- it’s brief, but I’m doing it! Throughout the next hour it is more of the same, but I catch about 4 good waves, and that is enough to make me happy…and sore. What a work out. It’s like doing sets of push-ups and crunches until your muscles start to shake. And we all know there’s only one cure for that… A one-hour full-body massage. So I find Wyen, a little lady who has been stalking us the all day, and I make myself comfortable on a beach chair. One hour and $10 later, I am in a happy place. I have just enough time to head over to Ku-De-Ta, a beach resort in Seminyak, to catch the sunset.

Here, we meet up with one of my old colleague’s friends, Eduardo. He takes us over to Jimbaran Bay to sample what they are best known for… their seafood. After selecting a 1kg fresh snapper, we head to the beach, kick off our flops and get comfortable at a table on the beach. We toast our Bin Tangs. Behind us waves crash on the beach and in front of us, authentic Balinese dancers put on a traditional performance.  The garlic and lemon-roasted snapper comes out from the kitchen, and Eduardo tells me I should eat like a local…with my hands. So we tuck in, and every bite is better than the one before.

From here, we are all in the mood to go out, so we venture out to listen to a Reggae bar. It is still early in the night, so things aren’t quite happening yet, but as it gets later, we find ourselves making our way back to Kuta…we have been sucked in.

I wake up feeling pretty rough, but I know this is no hangover. I have been suffering from pain in my sides over the past couple of days, but I thought little of it. Now, it has turned from a dull pain into a sharp pain that is hindering my movement. Is it the surfing? Too much time in the sun? Not enough water? Too much beer? The street food? Well, I can’t let it slow me down. We have a day trip planned to Ubud, a town that sits about 1 ½ hours north of Legian. Bill, our Balinese tour guide, picks us up at the hotel at 9am, and we begin the trek to Ubud, stopping along the way to look at batik stalls, silversmith shops and art galleries. We have lunch overlooking a rice paddy field and stop at a waterfall on the way home. On the way back to Legian, Bill is telling us all about the rest of the island: treks to volcanoes, tours to Lombok, diving in the Gilli Islands. I feel torn. We only have one night left in Bali, and I feel like I need to stay at least another two weeks to see the rest of the island. I assure myself I have the time to get back before the end of my trip, and I know I’ve said this before, but I WILL be coming back to Bali- on this trip, not the next one.

We get back to Legian just in time to pick up some Bin Tang and scope out a place on the beach to catch the sunset. Rudy is out here again, doing his thing, selling beers to the other tourists soaking in the last rays of the day. “Hey Elena,” he says to me. It makes me smile. It makes me forget about the pain in my side… We sit and watch the sun drop, and then watch as the sky goes from the blue of day to a brilliant display of pink, orange and yellow, and then dark. The end of another beautiful day in Bali.


Around the world travel, Backpacking, Ganges, India, long term travel, Travel, Travel Wishlist, Uncategorized, Varanasi



I make it safely to Varanasi, as do my bags, and I spot my name outside the terminal for my hotel pickup (which is always a good feeling). I share a bus to Alka hotel with a couple of other tourists. The airport is only 13km from the city center, but the journey takes about an hour, due to congestion and road conditions.I find myself sucking in when we’re about to clip a pedestrian or side-swipe another vehicle. For some reason, drivers don’t like to pick one lane, and prefer to drive in the middle of the road. It seems the rule is the bigger vehicle gets right of way, and mopeds just bob and weave in between.

As we get closer to what feels like the city center, I begin looking for the hotel. Well, I begin looking for something somewhat clean, or new, but who am I kidding- this is Varanasi, which Mark Twain describes as “older than history, older than tradition, older than even legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” I don’t think anyone can sum up this city better.

A few minutes later, our driver pulls over, and three men meet us to carry our bags. We are told to follow. We enter a narrow alleyway, pass some cows, goats, and dogs, go down some steps and around a corner and arrive at Alka. We are away from the blaring horns of the rickshaw and perched above the great River Ganges.

It is HOT! I am thankful for booking a room with AC even though it doesn’t appear to be working. A man, who introduces himself as “second in command” comes up to take a look at the wall unit. He explains that the one generator they have for the hotel is off right now, but he assures me it will be back on within an hour. I really want to believe him! He asks me my name on the way back downstairs to the lobby, and when I tell him, he seems surprised. He tells me we will  get along so well because our names are so similar. Well, he has my attention. “What Hindi name sounds like Eleanor?” I think to myself.  So I ask him his name and he replies, “Leslie.” I chuckle to myself. I like this man already.


The ghats of Varanasi, leading down to the Ganges.

A little history on Varanasi- It is one of the oldest cities in India, and the most spiritual. Considered to be the birthplace of Hinduism, this is where all Hindus hope to be when they die. Only then can they break the cycle of birth and re-birth, known as moksha. It’s also a place where many come to cremate the deceased. The cremations take place on the ghats, which are steps leading down to the river, and apparently, one family in Varanasi is in charge of all cremations.

The Ganges River, like most rivers in India, serves many purposes. It’s a place for prayer, bathing, laundry, yoga, cremating the dead, and fishing. It’s a mode of transportation, but also unfortunately, a main sewage system. According to Lonely Planet, water samples from the river contain over 5 million faecal coliform bacteria per 4 ounces. Safe bathing water should contain less than 500. That’s India for you. Surprisingly, the river doesn’t smell!

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Travel, Travel Wishlist, Uncategorized

Welcome to Delhi…Oh Sh*t

All smiles atop a moped in Delhi’s city center.

I arrive in Delhi at 5:30 a.m, and I make my way to baggage claim. I have everything crossed as I’m not entirely sure my bag is going to be here. It has been checked through all the way to Delhi from the UK, and probably spent most of yesterday floating around Moscow airport. Thankfully, it is here. I then find the closest bathroom and have my first experience using a non-western toilet. I see Asia is going to be great for strengthening my quad muscles.

During the drive from the airport to the hotel, I get a small glimpse of what India is like. It is early morning, and people are waking up from where they have slept the night before, be it the back of a rick-shaw, the top of a bus, or the side of the road. Some are cleaning their clothes on the side of the road, using the sewer lid as something hard to scrub on. Many people are just hanging out on the side of the street, some waiting for transportation, others just sitting, watching and waiting for nothing in particular. There is a massive amount of extreme poverty here, like I have never witnessed before.

The market at Connaught Place, Delhi

There are also signs of growth. My driver tells me that Delhi is the host of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the next Cricket World Cup, so a new Metro system is being built. Construction seems to be going on everywhere, with signposts that read “For a Better Tomorrow.”

I arrive at the hotel, which is a little safe haven of luxury, away from the complete craziness of Delhi. First things first, I take a shower to get rid of the grime of two overnight flights and a day in Moscow, and now, it’s time for breakfast. I sample some Lassi, which I ask our waiter about. He informs me it is curdled milk and insists I try it. I don’t think twice, but my father looks at me like I have two heads. (Ten business trips to India and no visit to the Taj Mahal yet… we’re going to work on that.) Lassi, which tastes like a yogurt smoothie, instantly becomes my new breakfast drink. It’s sweet, sprinkled with pistachio nuts and jam packed with probiotics… in Delhi, it might be good to have a few extra of those on hand.

The scene of the crime.

We spend the afternoon at Connaught Place and the Red Fort. Connaught Place is considered to be the center of Delhi. Seven roads converge into a circular round-about, and other than that, there’s not much to see. The plan is to walk through the market and then take the metro to the Red Fort, but the market is just pure insanity. People flock to us selling everything from food to jeans, to bags, to watches. In an effort to escape the insanity, we walk along the outside of the market and find ourselves surrounded by a few men, all who are trying to point us in the “right” direction. Since we are both feeling a bit uncomfortable by this point, we decide to make a beeline for the metro. Before this can happen, though, there is some commotion and a man exclaims, “oh no sir, it looks like a bird has pooped on your shoe.” We look down to see a pile of fresh shit right atop my dad’s shoe. I quickly remember reading about this in my guide book. It’s a typical prank in India. Don’t ask me where they get the matter from, but it’s definitely no bird. It works like this: A scammer approaches you, flings a sizeable amount of crap on your shoe, and before you have time to do anything about it, he’s “helping” you to clean it off and then asking you for an obscene amount of money. I figure out what is going on, and ask the man to leave us alone.We are then left to clean up ourselves… good thing I came prepared with tissues and wet wipes. We brush it off and have a laugh, and spend the rest of the afternoon trying to determine what kind of birds they are breeding in India that take a crap that size.

From here, we find the metro and get the hell out of Connaught Place. We head to the Red Fort where during the five minute walk to the entrance, it feels like every scammer and beggar approaches us, well actually approaches my dad. They pretty much leave me alone, but for some reason, they love his moustache and everyone comments on it.

Delhi’s Red Fort

At the Red Fort, we are able to bypass the long wait because we’re foreigners. I’m astounded by the number of Indian tourists at the sights we are visiting. Very few American and European tourists seem to be traveling here. We spend the afternoon touring the fort, which was built by Shah Jahan, the same Emperor who had the Taj Mahal built. He ruled here during the Mughal Empire but was overthrown by his son, Aurangzeb, who was the last to rule from here. Today the fort is used as a place for the prime minister to give key speeches, especially on Independence Day.

The entrance to Delhi’s Red Fort.

From the Red Fort, we are back in the craziness of Delhi’s wide open roads and try to get the first taxi we can. This happens to be some sort of Land Rover, so we hop in the back for another driving adventure. Driving is a true free for all here. Lanes are non-existent. Traffic lights are sometimes obeyed, but not on Sundays when the city is not as busy. All types of transport go- truck, van, car, bus, rick-shaw, horse, or your own two feet, and that applies to any road- whether it’s a village road or a major highway. And they will squeeze in as many people as will fit. It’s not uncommon to see a family of three atop one moped.


Our choice of transport for the afternoon.

We make it back to the hotel (safely). It’s late afternoon and finally starting to cool off. The heat has been oppressive today. We get some bizarre looks as we climb out the back of a Land Rover at hotel reception. My dad gives me a look that says, “what have you got me into this time?” I’m kind of wondering the same thing myself…

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Layover, long term travel, Moscow, Russia, Travel, Travel Wishlist, Uncategorized

And I’m Off…

I left the states over a week ago, but I don’t feel like my journey has truly begun yet. So now, I am officially off. I’ve come to realize that I’m the type of person where things don’t really hit me until they are happening. And well, it’s happening! During my taxi ride to Heathrow airport tonight, I realized that I am going to step off the plane tomorrow morning in Moscow… this is very surreal.

My time in England was spent catching up with family, indulging in pub lunches, seeing old friends, and galavanting around London.  And I spent the last 2 days sorting my Russian visa, so that I can leave the airport during my 17 hour layover tomorrow. A $200 rush visa (transit visa at that) is worth it to me, but hurts a little bit!

When I started planning this trip, I began thinking about the places I have traveled, will travel, want to travel, and then thought about the places I might never make it. Russia is a place that interests me, but it’s not #1 on my list of places to go, so I never really knew when I’d make it. But since I booked the flight on miles, I let Delta plan the route and, subsequently, have a day in Moscow tomorrow. We arrive at 5:20 am which is 2:20 am to my body, so I will need some strong coffee before sorting out a day tour.

Ok- so now I’ll admit, I’m a bit nervous about Russia. The only word I know how to say is “No.” and isn’t the country full of corruption? What if I get in a taxi and don’t get out?? Do they accept Euro? I don’t know what to expect other than the standard sterotypes: they drink a lot of vodka, and the women are all beautiful blondes out of fashion magazines. Needless to say, the day will be interesting. That’s if the flight leaves. Better go check.

Around the world travel, Backpacking, long term travel, Travel, Travel Wishlist, Uncategorized

Some Background…

On Wednesday night, I spent my evening driving our creative team home from a client meeting in Pennsylvania. During the journey, the art director proceeded to tell me how he had missed his daughter’s birthday. I couldn’t help but think that there was something so fundamentally wrong with this. A similar thing happened two weeks ago. I was pulling an all-nighter at the office to prepare for a creative presentation the following day, and the studio director proceeded to tell me about his failed first marriage, which he blamed on the number of hours he was working at the time. Well, I say life is too short! Don’t get me wrong, I work hard, but there comes a time when you have to say are you living to work? Or working to live?

I wouldn’t be able to work the way I am right now if I didn’t have a light at the end of the tunnel, which is my travels. So Thursday morning, after my long drive from PA to NYC, I confirmed my around-the-world ticket with Delta. Now, any amount of time I spend on preparing, researching, or booking this trip assures me that my current situation is only temporary. It makes the present a little more bearable.

This trip has been something I’ve been tentatively planning since my senior year of college. I remember working in the International Studies office during the summer between junior and senior year, sitting on costing out a number of different itineraries. Fortunately, since then, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and meet some incredible people, but for some reason, the around-the-world trip has been put off again and again for a number of reasons. Money (or lack of), time, school, work, leases, reltaionships, etc. The list goes on and on, but there came a time when I realized if I didn’t make it happen, it was simply going to be a dream growing dust on a shelf. With my lease up at the end of July, three torturous years of grad school behind me, a career path that has me less than excited, and the itch to travel like never before, now is the time.

Some may say it’s a little unrealistic and impractical to quit my job during an economic slump, to give up the steady paycheck, benefits, and insurance. Some people ask me if I can afford to do this, and my response to them is, “Can I afford not to?” Most people are thrilled for me and want to hear every little detail. But there are the skeptics too, the ones who give you a funny look and say, “You’re doing what??” Fortunately the people who know me best find this far from surprising.

Unfortunately I was bitten with the travel bug at a very young age, and well, there’s only one cure. So on July 21st, I will begin my around-the-world journey, which as of now will last until December 2nd. Planned stops along the way include England, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Australia and New Zealand. Oh, and if you count a very, very long layover in Moscow, add Russia to that list.

The only similar experience I’ve had is a backpacking trip I took after high school. At the age of 17, my best friend and I spent six weeks traveling Europe by train. I have traveled quite a lot since then, but not for such an extended period of time, nor to the types of culturally diverse places I will be going.

Some of you who are following me on my travels hope to one day take an around-the-world trip and others are quite content to just read about it. I hope for the former this can be the encouragement you need, and for the latter, you can live vicariously through me. Either way, I hope to relay the highs and lows, and bring you on what I anticipate to be a life-changing journey.