10 Things I Wished I Had Known About Traveling

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect” – Paul Theroux

A fellow RTW traveler I follow on Twitter retweeted (yes, I’m down with all the lingo) this article this morning.  And it couldn’t be more true.

10 Things You Wish You’d Known About Travel

I glad the author added #10 because in the end I would absolutely do it all over again.

Quick Trip East

Last week I went on a whirlwind trip that involved three states and one Canadian province in six days.  From gorgeous 70 degree weather to high winds and stinging rain, we experienced it all.

The purpose of the trip was to visit my new university and secure a place to live.  I invited my sister, Amy, since it was her Spring Break and when her fiance,Rich, wanted to go as well we added Buffalo to visit with his family.  We got cheap round-trip tickets from Seattle to Pittsburgh for $221.  (I guess no one wants to go to Pittsburgh for Spring Break!)  We arrived in Pittsburgh and drove the hour or so south to Morgantown, West Virginia – Home of the Mountaineers! 

The next day I found an incredible place to live.  After a couple u-turns and wrong turns trying to find some of the complexes on my short list, we went straight to the apartment complex that was at the top of my list.   I had every intention not to sign a lease at the first place I saw, but like Rich said, “You’d be a fool not to live here.”  From the full-sized gym with six basketball hoops to the cardio and aerobics room to the outdoor pool (to be completed this summer) to the free wireless internet and cable to the free private shuttle van to campus- I would be a fool not to live there!  The best part is that it’s furnished and the leases are individual- meaning I only have to worry about my room.  I don’t have to find roommates or worry if they’re going to pay rent or not.  To me, it’s like off-campus dorms.  I signed a lease for one bedroom in a three bedroom all-girls apartment.  I’ll have my own walk-in closet and bathroom.  Such a sweet setup!

In the afternoon, I met with a Math advisor and had a quick walk around the historic downtown campus- boring stuff to anyone but me.  That evening we met up with my Aunt and my two young cousins.  It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen my cousins last and it took awhile for them to warm up but once they did it was a non-stop laugh fest.  It was also the first time that all us cousins on the Voorhees side were all together.  I’ll get to see a lot of them when I move out there.

The next day we began our journey to Buffalo, New York.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad drive- about 5 hours from Morgantown.  That afternoon, Rich’s family took us to Niagara Falls, or the Falls if you want to sound like a local (Buffalonian?).  Hilarity ensued when we got to the Canadian border (we drove separate cars from Rich’s family) when Amy and Rich proceeded to confused the Canadian Border Agent.  I surprised they let us in at all.

Border Patrol Guy: ‘Where did you pick-up the rental car?’
Amy: ‘Philadephia.’
(Wrong it was Pittsburgh.)

Border Patrol Guy: ‘Are you staying overnight in Canada?’
Amy: ‘I don’t think so. I don’t know.’
(This is where I jump in and say no we are not staying in Canada overnight.)
Border Patrol Guy: ‘Where are you staying?’
Rich: ‘Ahh…. the Casino Niagara.’
Border Patrol Guy: ‘That’s in Canada.’
Amy and Rich: ‘Oh no, we’re not staying in Canada….hmmm….I don’t know we might me… we didn’t make the arrangements.  We’re with the car ahead of us.’
 Border Patrol Guy: ‘So, you don’t know where you’re staying?  Is it the Seneca Niagara?’
Rich: ‘Yes, that’s it…. I think that’s where we’re staying.’
Border Patrol Guy: ‘Uhhh hmmm.’

I still can’t believe they let us in.

The Falls were pretty cool… literally.  It was about 20 degrees F cooler standing next the Falls than when we got out of our car.  Amy loved the fact that I’ve been all over the world and that I haven’t been to Niagara Falls.  She got to show me something she’s already seen.  Here are the pictures I took: Niagara Falls and Clifton Hill.

Getting back into the States was just as difficult.  I think we’re the only country in the world that grills it’s own citizens when trying to get back into our country.  Amy paused and thought for a second when the American Border Agent asked us where we picked-up the car.  She giggled ever so slightly when we she correctly said ‘Pittsburgh’.  I’m sure that didn’t arouse suspicion.  He also carefully thumbed through my passport and had lots of questions about why I traveled to all the countries (‘because I love to travel’) and what I did for a living (‘I’m currently unemployed’).  When I got back from my round the world trip the only question I got was ‘Why did I go to Egypt?” as the immigration agent barely glanced through my passport.  Luckily, the border agent let us back into our country.

Note to self and others who go to Buffalo: Do not order Boneless Buffalo Wings if you’re out with a local.  After I told Rich’s Uncle Tony that I had order Boneless Buffalo Wings for the table he look at me like I was crazy and said, “What!?  How is that possible?  Boneless wings!?”  He, of course, used more colorful language.

All in all, a jam-packed fun trip!

 

New Photos!

There once was this camera memory card that picked up a virus overseas and held a bunch of pictures hostage.  But, the virus was no match for Jay at Compumatter and now all the pretty pictures have spilled out for all to see.  Enjoy the new uploads!

Dubai

Singapore

Malaysia

More Vietnam

More Cambodia

Southern Thailand
(not much in here)

Turkey
(Istanbul and Selcuk)

Greece
(Athens and Santorini)

Rome

Morocco

 

Blogs I Read

I’m an avid blog reader.  I’ve been using Google Reader for a year or so and I love it.  For those who don’t know what a reader is– basically instead of checking say 10 websites to see if there are any new entries, I can log into one website (Google Reader) and it will check and let me know if there’s anything new.  It’s a real time saver!  My subscriptions have grown from 3 to 20!

There are several ways I find new blogs to add: by people leaving me comments on my blog; reading other people’s blogs; but most importantly reading the comments to the posts- the commenters almost always have their own website.

I would like to highlight some of the blogs I’m reading and enjoying right now:

Early Favorites (blogs I added way back when)
Elliott.org – I love this site.  It’s all about travel news and how to have a successful trip.  But, when things do go wrong he’s got loads of tips for that.  His blog is updated almost daily.
Reality Blurred–  The blog is all about reality TV.  This is how I know what’s going on on Survivor (or the many other reality shows) without ever having to watch.  I can now keep up with my friends or my reality show-addicted sister without spending hours in front of the TV watching them.  Updated almost daily.
Malena RTW – Malena started her round the world trip about a month before me and she’s still going strong.  The girl even applied for and got accepted to Harvard Law while on the road!  She’s currently navigating through SE Asia (a fave part of the world for me) and she’s real interested in the different kinds of candy produced around the world.  She updates a couple times a month.
Blog du Wren – Wren is a friend of a friend and keeps a fun website about what he’s doing in his life.  From the Friday Comics to making homemade goods to learning how to take the public bus to Seattle to hosting a “Local Foods” party, Wren posts are as broad as his interests and that keeps me entertained and coming back for more.

Travel Blogs (recent additions to my reader)
ClearlyEnlights Travel Blog – This traveler is in for the long haul and is older than the typical backpacker which just shows that you don’t have to be an early 20-something to pack up and travel around the world.  He’s spent the past year in 5 countries in the Middle East.  His posts are more commentary than strictly travel but interesting and insightful.  He updates almost daily.
GoBackpacking – Dave is the most recent addition to my reader and like me a slightly older traveler on the backpacker circuit.  He’s had great success using Couch Surfer and is currently traveling through a part of the world I haven’t been.  He updates regularly.
Ottsworld – Sherry embarked on a round the world trip a couple of years ago.  After that, she decided that the corporate life wasn’t for her and is now an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City.  I love her blog because she doesn’t glamorize travel and she’s openly wondering if she made the right decision to pack up and move to Vietnam.
Pathetic Pair –  Laura and Ryan’s website is new to my reader but not new to me.  I met Laura and Ryan on the ferry from Samos, Greece to Kusadasi, Turkey and we spent the next couple of days hanging out together in Selcuk.  They echoed a lot of my feelings of how tough long-term travel is.  They eventually took a break back to Canada but are now back on the road in SE Asia.  Their posts are quick and fun to read.  They usually have a post for every day but are most likely uploaded several at a time.

Other Notable Blogs (because this blogs don’t fit anywhere else)
Dolce Design Blog – Brittany is a super-talented former classmate of mine.  She’s found quite the niche in designing paper products for special events like Weddings.  Check out her design website at: www.dolcedesign.net.  She uses her blog to showcase some of her favorite things she finds both locally and nationally.  I particularly like the “iCovet” category.
The Real Tragedy in Death, Is a Life Not Lived – I found Rhona’s website diary because she left a comment on my website.  She’s a 30-something Canadian woman trying to balance being financially responsible, pursuing her dream to travel the world, and living her life to the fullest.  Some of her posts are exactly how I feel.  She’s getting ready to move and work in Germany for a bit.  I’ll be interested in reading how that goes.

So there you have it- the blogs that I most look forward to reading in the morning.  Does anyone out there have a favorite that I should be reading?

What’s Next?

2009.  The new year.  A time for new setting goals.  I hate setting goals because when they are not realized I automatically think failure.  I had planned to travel in 2008 from April to December.  But I didn’t.  I had planned to travel to many other countries and regions.  But I didn’t.  I can’t help but think I failed.

But that was then.  On the dawn of a new year, on the verge of turning 30 (yikes!), I have come to realize that I am way too critical of myself.  I traveled around the world.  That’s amazing, right?  A couple of months ago I would have said, “yeah but there’s other people who have traveled farther and longer.”  Today, it is enough.  I traveled around the world and that’s amazing!

When I left last April, I had an inkling that when I returned I wanted to pursue teaching.  Today it is a reality.  Of all the subjects to teach, I chose Math.  Math is important- even for world travelers.  I can’t believe how much math I used abroad.  This week, I started a math class at my local community college.  It’s been over ten years since I’ve studied math but I’m confident in my abilities to pick it up quickly.  Math is something I’ve always excelled at.

This May, I will start pursuing a math degree at West Virginia University.  West Virginia!?  Well, I have a lot of family history in Morgantown, WV.  My mom was born and raised there and even attended WVU for a bit (tuition was $400 a semester then– somehow I don’t think it’s the same today).  My dad graduated high school there and Morgantown is where he met my mom.  Both my grandmas worked at some point for WVU.  And my great-grandfather is in their Sports Hall of Fame.  When looking for a university I wanted to experience something different than my previous college experience of a smaller school and quarterly schedules.  West Virginia fit that bill with its larger student population and semester schedules.  Another draw was that it’s Math Department is smaller than that other schools of similar size i.e. the University of Washington.

While completing the degree, I will be looking at options for the teaching certification part- definitely a Masters in Teaching, most likely back in Washington State but I want to keep my options open.  Seriously, who likes to plan their life so far in advance?!?

So, there you have it… what’s next for me.

For Caydence

On November 3rd my little sister, Amy, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Caydence Alexis.  When Caydence was born her heart wasn’t beating and wouldn’t until 25 minutes later.  She didn’t have oxygen for that same amount of time.  To make a long story short, Caydence died about 8 hours later.  This was completely unexpected because Amy did everything the doctor’s told her to do during pregnancy and Caydence was carried to full term.

I was given the honor of speaking at Caydence’s service and I wanted to share what I said.

I’m here to tell you about this extraordinary baby.  You see Caydence shouldn’t be remembered for one day — she’s so much more than that and here’s why:

  • Before anyone knew she existed, Caydence was helping her Mommy hit wiffle balls over the center-field wall at Safeco Field.
  • Caydence has always had athletic sensibilities.  Dr. Reiger called her a swimmer long before we saw her big flipper feet and her long crooked toes.
  • She even helped her Mommy with coaching.  And I know she is the reason for the volleyball team’s recent success.
  • Caydence is also a team player.  She teamed up with her Daddy to tease her Mommy about all the “insulation” that keeps her warm.
  • But Caydence didn’t mind all that “insulation” because along with it she made the perfect shelf for her Mommy’s cereal bowl, or dinner plate, or remote control.
  • Caydence is also a little mischievous.  She helped her Daddy get “the look” from Grandpa the first time he said “Hi, Grandpa.”  (And we all know what “the look” is.)
  • Caydence provided a distraction for Grandma when I was so far away.
  • In face, Caydence is quite the traveler like me- she took a ride in an airplane, a helicopter, and she was so excited about floating down the Nile that she kicked her Mom for the first time.

So you see, Caydence has always been there and will continue to have a ripple effect on our lives.

And I want Amy and Rich to know that she is not alone.  She’s got a grandma and lots of great-grandparents up there looking after her.

I love you both.

Photos!

I know everyone is anxiously awaiting the posting of my trip photos.  I’ve decided to switch to the easier to use and easier to upload application on Facebook.  You don’t have to be a Facebook member to view the photos.  I uploaded my favorites and it’s by no means all of them.  I’ve seemed to misplaced one of my camera disks at the moment (lost in my room which is not entirely surprising).  I switched between using two different cameras- a “point and shoot” and my digital SLR-  so going through the memory cards and sorting the photos took some time.  I added comments on very few (very few!).  But, if you have questions just ask.

Egypt
(a few more I found that I like)

Day Trips from Bangkok

Cambodia – Angkor Wat

Cambodia – Orphanage Day

Cambodia – Khmer Rouge
(Warning: Contains some graphic images)

Vietnam – South 

Vietnam – Central

Vietnam – North

Laos

Playing with Tigers (Thailand)

Bungy Jumping (Thailand)

When I find more I like I’ll upload them to a new album so my loyal readers don’t have to go searching for them.  I’ve also added the links to the “Photos” tab located above.  Enjoy!

 


Where’s Stacy?

Stacy is in West Virginia and totally amazed by the power of Math. (Nerd, I know!)

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