Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I say, Jump In

When I tell people about my intention to travel alone the first question I almost always get asked is, "How can you do it?" Followed by a statement of, "I definitely couldn't go by myself".
My response is usually, "Well, I did invite people to join me...but no one seemed to be able to...so, it turned out that I would have to go solo."

I've had some people look at me as if I were insane, others with a small measure of admiration, while others with fear and concern. I guess having decided to go to Greece alone had been a bit strange as well as my decision to go on future trips - alone, once again. But I knew that it wasn't enough to stop me from going. A part of me wanted, needed to go and another part of me hoped that no one could join me and that I'd be forced to go through with the adventure alone. I did go (to Greece)...and from that experience, I walked away having learned so much about myself - including, learning to trust...me.

So now, I'm preparing to be hundreds of thousands of miles away again, for 30 nights...alone. No 5 star hotel, no agent having meticulously planned my itinerary, no waiting chauffeur at the airport/train/ferry...a whole nother level of self trust and self preparation will be required for me to pull this adventure off by myself - safely. This time I'll be staying in Hostels and cheap but well rated Hotels, scheduling the train and bus transportations, and overcoming my ineptitude at reading maps. I swear, I am the most navigationally challenged person in the world (shaking my head).

15 nights in Athens and Mykonos had been an amazing preparation for the upcoming journey. There were plenty of lessons learned. Here are the ones on the top of that list, where I really kicked myself for not having known sooner:
1. Get sturdy luggage (the wheels on mine had broken! and I was left dragging a 30 lbs bag around!)
2. If you think you might need it...don't hesitate to pack it!
3. Bringing extra's of things you REALLY need (like contacts!)
4. Make sure your cell phone will work
5. Buy a calling card - you're bound to get lonely, plus I need to call my Mom so she doesn't think I've been "Taken". Damn that movie!
6. Don't stay on an Island for 10 nights (ugh! it was horrible - there wasn't enough to do. It was entirely too quiet and apparently I hadn't dealt with my issues before I left for the trip, so the combination of boredom, silence, solitude, and monster issues = a near mental breakdown. But oddly enough, I felt quite whole after the ordeal)

and finally...
7. Dear God, don't leave home without Anti-acids - or the very least, sedatives (I was overcome with an anxiety attack on my flight home from JFK due to the unbearable pain of acid reflux - only to have the flight attendants and medic sedate me because I was starting to panic...wow, that was memorable). If travelling alone, pass on the sedatives unless you're comfortable with whom you're sitting next to - or give them to the poor mother who's infant child won't stop crying - cus' it's going to turn out to be a looooong flight.

Additional fruit for thought, when travelling alone; I've kept in mind the following:
Don't share taxi's with random people (watch"Taken"- you'll understand)
Oh! And don't accept "artifacts" from strangers (have you seen Bridget Jone's Diary?).
If your internal warning bells go off...listen and follow your gut instinct.

But all in all, everything ended up going pretty smoothly, although my heart wasn't left unscathed, I was as I had hoped and anticipated...more independent and proud of what I'd been able to achieve and grateful for all the things I'd experienced. If there's any wisdom I can pass along it's that you can't be afraid to take a blind leap of faith, even when other's wouldn't do it, there's no reason you couldn't succeed or shouldn't try it. These are the moments in your life that you will never forget. I didn't set out to do something amazing or to prove something but I ended up doing just that for myself, walking away with an even deeper hunger for more.

Sometimes overcoming a struggle in your life means putting yourself in another situation that's just as challenging. For me, it put me face to face with the issues that I hadn't realized that I'd been running from. It took me to be far from everything that I knew, from my family, from my friends to break through this revelation - to break, period. I went through some serious ups and downs and the journey to Greece was exactly what I needed, opening a multitude of windows, streaming in the light of possibilities for me to discover. There's so much to learn about ourselves, pushing past the barriers we've created or imagined having existed. We walk away from these experiences with fulfillment, adding another layer of strength to our wall of confidence. The once impossible idea now becomes a memorabelia in our bag of accomplishments.

Think of something you've always wanted to do but have hedged around jumping into headfirst due to "excuses". I say, jump in...It's ok if the water is cold at first, your body will adjust and if you don't know how to swim (don't panic!) trust that your inate survival instincts will keep you afloat. More importantly, trust that you're not really doing this alone. You're friends and family will be behind you in the event that you really need them to bail you out.

With that, happy travels (and I don't mean physically). Life is one long journey, you'll enjoy it more if you cross the boundaries of your comfort zone from time to time. Be open to experiences, be wary of the potential consequences or bad scenarios but don't let them stop you from enjoying life as it was meant to be lived.

Happy reading and thank you for visiting! :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lathrop: “Once I Wanted to Feel the Greatest”


I found this amazing trail beside a river near my home. I can't tell you how excited I was to have discovered it. I've walked it everyday since I've been here and each time I've walked farther and farther until I've reached the railroad crossing over the river. I wanted country...well, I got country. At one point I remember squinting off into the distance as I recognized a large red structure.


I thought, “Is that a barn?” which led me to my next question, “Ooo, does that mean there are COWBOYS!?” My eyes began to scan the area in excitement.


Sadly, no cowboys but I enjoyed the view none-the-less.


It’s blissfully relaxing here; which is the reason for me having been somewhat disconnected and M.I.A. on Facebook, Blogging, and emails. I’m indulging in some long overdue adolescent fun with my family and friends; staying up late watching movie marathons, playing video games, reading up all hours of the night, forgetting or passing up any obligations and responsibilities until the next day, eating junk food, baking cakes, and vegetating on every comfortable surface succumbing to the occasional nap.


Naps! I haven’t taken frequent naps since…well…since I was pre-pubescent. Nothing seems quite as important as enjoying my day and it’s brought on a sense of peace that I haven’t felt since I was on that little island, Mykonos. Although, my weight seems to have increased in parallel to the amount of fun I’ve been having. I guess enjoying this kind of adolescent fun while no longer having the body of an adolescent isn’t without consequences. Walking apparently isn’t enough, so I’ve decided to start jogging…soon…like tomorrow…maybe…ugh. I HATE jogging – with a passion. But it’s important that I’m in good shape before I travel so let’s bring on the agony. I didn’t always hate it. In fact, I really enjoyed running, up until I got out of shape and it seemed like torture to my lungs and thighs - and i decided that I'd rather get hit by a bus than to do this for "fun" ever again. So I’ve avoided the painful activity successfully, up until now. If you’re asking, yes I was supposed to jog this morning (rolling my eyes)…but my blankets tied me down holding me captive to the bed and wouldn’t release me until 10:00 am soooo…by then it seemed stupid to run in the heat (stifling my cough).


I’ve been watching a variety of series, episode after episode on Hulu, enjoying not only the shows but the music. I’ve been collecting a playlist in preparation for the trip. Two songs that have reached out to me – which I’ve heard before, one by Cat Power, “The Greatest” and the other by Keane “Bad Dream.” I’ve added the links to Youtube if you’re interested in hearing them.


Cat Power - The Greatest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkInCsTNuKE

Keane - A Bad Dream: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Y8jz3OYfWk


The Greatest not only for the beauty of the compilation but for the words. "Once I wanted to feel the greatest". I can listen to it all day, over and over; the same with Bad Dream, especially the part "I wake up it's a bad dream - no one on my side - too tired to be fighting, guess I'm not the fighting kind". The music just seems to reach deeply, conveying my newfound self discovery but mainly they're just beautifully touching songs. Closing my eyes, I find myself swaying to the magic that is music. Sometimes the only thing that can make a moment more perfect is the addition of a well fitting song. So as I sit beyond the trail, near the riverbank watching the setting sun, I listen to these songs and the moment is perfection.


As for my writing, a few ideas have been jotted down. I'll be spending time this week on character sketches and structuring an outline for the first book. My cousin Cela has been an amazing sounding board. I won't forget our late night run to Starbucks, giggling absurdly to the point where I almost choked on my Skinny Vanilla Latte out my nose (sadly, I had to give up on the white chocolate mocha. See above for comments related to my expanding fun/weight) as we talked about the potential scenarios, encounters, the who, what, and where's. I promised to take it slow however, there will be no official writing until I've made a few decisions...stay tuned.


Til' next time, thank you for reading... =)


Here's a pic of me baking with my cousin Cela.


Actually...she did the baking...I contributed with the chocolate icing deco (at least the portion that didn't get lost in my mouth) =/

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lathrop: Sweatin' in the Summer Heat

Fresh out of the shower and already I found myself wiping the beads of sweat that have formed on my brow. I shake my head at the insanity of the sweltering heat to which I thought I'd joyfully escaped from in the desert sauna of Las Vegas.
I feel the dampness returning on my neck even without the curtain of my hair that I'd already pulled up into a tight ponytail. The fan only blows warm air as I sit in the living room across from my two younger brothers and my Mom. They're busily doing their homework as my Mom enjoys a cup of yogurt. They talk about Christmas and about my Dad's big 5-0 birthday party in December and I think..."Ahh...December...what I would give for it to be here now."

I recall this morning when I awoke in agitation as I felt the discomfort of my soaked shirt, my legs tangled in the light blanket, and the heaviness of the heat enveloping me like a thick comforter I couldn't fight my way out of. It's the kind of heat that sucks the very energy from you. It makes you want to move as little as possible so that you don't generate even more body heat. It's the kind of heat that ice cream can do little to satiate the hunger to cool down, where maybe a swimming pool still isn't adequate, and where shoving yourself into a freezer seems completely rational if not absolutely appealing.

I couldn't find the motivation to unpack until 8 pm last night, after having enjoyed a quiet walk with my dog around this unfamiliar neighborhood. I was surprised to see that at 7:30 pm there were a handful of people who had the same idea, passing us along on the sidewalk. I couldn't believe I was in Lathrop. But the quiet, country atmosphere seemed to be something that my fast paced life needed - a break - my life needed a break. None-the-less with the impending trip, I grew nervous and yet excited with the thought that within a few weeks time I would be away again.

I spent a better part of today working on the preparations for the upcoming trip abroad; purchasing the EuroRail train reservations (which are separate from the Train Passes), reworked the itinerary as I realized that I was missing a place to stay for one of the nights (yikes! what a bummer that would've been, had I not caught it), and I finally purchased my ticket home from Valencia to SFO. I'm supposed to be spending at least 2 hours per day on Rosetta practicing my Spanish (a bit rusty - not to mention Espana's spanish is somewhat different from the Spanish I'd learned to use here). My favorite word is un poquito, which means little...it's my favorite word primarily because that's about how much spanish I know...very little...

My brain feels lethargic from the weight of this heat. It pulls at my consciousness as if testing my ability to resist it. I'm fighting hard against the desire to nap.
Damn...
I shrug.
Why fight it?
:)

I went to wash the dishes this morning and found this gigantic praying mantis on the screen above the sink. I thought, "I wouldn't creep any lower if I were you...my Pomeranian is the curious type and you're big enough to look like a chew toy."

Happy reading! :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Las Vegas: Never a dull moment in Vegas

I was at Starbucks the other day and the cashier says, "Hey Sweetie," he pauses as he looks me up from head to toe, "what can I get for you tonight?" I clear my throat and give him my order of nonfat, tall, white chocolate mocha (don't roll your eyes..I love that drink!). He asks if I want whip cream and I say no thanks.
He replies, "Only want whip cream on certain things huh?" He smiles wide and I snort a laugh. He asks more prying questions about me being there alone, why, etc staring hard into my eyes. I remember sighing as I wondered briefly if any cup of coffee was worth this...It took me only a second to decide that it was. Oh Caffeine, what a sad one sided romance you and I have...

The other day, I watched a group of beautiful, scantily clad women - glammed up to the T - surrounded by security as they walked past. Following closely behind was a man dressed in baggy jeans and a long red shirt with a mammoth gold chain decorating his neck, also being escorted by security.
I nod towards them and ask my Auntie, "Oooh, what's going on?"
She replies, "They're working."
"Oh, I wonder who's performing tonight," I add as I turn my gaze to follow them.
She lets out a surprised laugh, "No, they're working, as in soliciting. They're being escorted out of the casino."
My eyebrows shoot up and my mouth forms an "O" of understanding...
Boy, never a dull moment in Vegas.

Anyway, as you can see from my photo above, it is H-O-T! My skin is a dark shade of brown that I haven't seen since my days of high school tennis. At least the tan is even - more than I could ask for right? I've been giving into the temptation of Mandalay's swimming pools.



Here's the view from my hotel room. Tell me that wouldn't tempt you? Except perhaps the knowledge that it's a biting 100+ degrees outside!















Skin...There's so much skin exposed you're bound to see tattoos of all types and in every location imaginable. I saw the words, "No Regrets" boldly displayed on a gentleman's back and I thought, "Gee, I sure hope not..." I wondered what he thought of when he decided to get that particular phrase, if there was a specific action/event to which led him to adamantly state that he had 'no regrets' or was it truly a motto he practiced in life?
I was shocked to see an actual butterfly on a woman's cheek! Half covered by her bikini bottom but distractingly obvious none-the-less. This was the tattoo that got me curious and so I began to take closer note of the various tattoos that others were displaying. I saw a graffiti styled, red tattoo that said "CAKE" on a tall, lanky built, balding man's stomach. The words "Peanut's Lady" across a woman's lower back, small black stars decorating the side of a woman's face, tribal tattoos, Celtic designs, Chinese characters, names, angel wings, some with entire parts of their bodies covered. Many were a beautiful display of artistic expression while others made you grimace and suck in air as you thought, "Wow, were you drunk the night you decided to get that?" or "Holy...what were you thinking?"

Truly, never a dull moment in Vegas.

Tomorrow, I'm homeward bound. Momma, I'm comin' home! Papa, please don't forget to pick me up :)

Thank you to my Auntie Emma for a wonderful Vegas vacation. Chanelle and Chris, it was great to see you two! I love you so much. Give kisses and hugs to my two nieces! I'll be back soon...

Pics from Vegas with the family:

I'm a very proud Aunt!

My favorite quote of the night. Chanelle: "We totally look like a gay couple right now."

"Auntie we're VIP tonight?!"

My super awesome Auntie Emma

Just like old times. Me, Chris and Chanelle

Poolside at Red Rock


Oh Red Rock...you've spoiled me with your Spa...

I was swirling my fingers in this very pretty decoration. Only to have Chris ask, "Um...you know what that is don't you?"
I jerk my hand away and grudgingly say, "Crap...it's an ash tray isn't it?"
He laughs and I resist the urge to grab a handful of the pretty "ash" rocks and throw it in his face.

My beautiful niece Onessa.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Las Vegas: Recuperating



At 9:30am I found myself poolside after having learned a valuable lesson yesterday.
1. If you want a seat, come early
2. If you want shade, come at dawn
3. If you could not fulfill any of the above - DO NOT fall asleep
I am sporting a healthy burn on my shoulders, the aftermath of discovering these valuable lessons.

I was lucky enough to find shade today woohoo! Sweet, slow music is drifting through the warm air, not a wisp of a cloud in sight. Beyond my pool, you can hear the crashing waves of Mandalay's wave pool complete with sand and model physique lifeguards. Soon I will be forced to wear my sunglasses - it's amazing how incredibly bright it gets here.
This morning I am unbelievably exhausted!
I decided last night that I would not succumb to my usual desire to sleep early and vegetate on the gloriously comfy hotel mattress and watch TV. I thought about trying my luck and hitting the casino floor again as I had the previous night with my Aunt. She and I had hit a bout of luck as we played roulette, betting hundred dollar chips on colors. To our giddy amazement, we walked away with $800!! To which I pleaded my Aunt to "Please, please let's cash out now!" We split the winnings grabbed some drinks and separated. She headed for the slots and I sneaked away to watch the tables once more before yawning 5 times in a row, finally conceding to sleep and trudging back to the hotel in the early hour of 12:00am.So last night, I got all dolled up; wearing a slinky purple dress that my cousin gave to me. I thought, "Tonight's gonna be a good night! A damn lucky night." I imagined the confidence raditing within me to translate into good-luck energy as I headed back to the tables. I spent maybe a total of ten minutes on the casino floor when I was hounded by cat calls and some seriously brave compliments. I realized as I looked down at my clothes with it's short skin tight length and deep v-neck, "Holy crap, I look like I could be soliciting!" I promptly ran to the elevators and into my room, and changed into a T-Shirt and gym shorts...ahhh...much better!
But I no longer felt like gambling. I thought I'd taken enough risk with the dress (complete fail) and so I decided to go for a walk...
Taking the tram to Excalibur, I made my way down Las Vegas Blvd in 80+ degree heat (there's no reprieve from the desert heat). My "stroll" turned out to be a 2 hour long trek! I had meant to turn around halfway through, knowing very well that I wouldn't be able to walk the entire length of the strip; I had the plan firmly in my head when my eye recognized the familiar golden arches.
"Oooh! McDonald's!" shouted my mind, or maybe it was my stomach...
I ended up passing on MickyD's as the place looked shady and I didn't feel comfortable with all the people bustling about. It was almost midnight and the streets were still crammed, with drunks, tourists, locals, and some suspicious looking solicitors. I enjoyed the walk however, laughing at the karaoke-ers, naughty college boys shoving beer bottles up P.F. Chang's horse statue, locals trying to shake your hand - screaming "You're so F*ing nice!" when you decide to play along, watching perfectly abled people racing elderly scooters along the sidewalk, seeing drunk girls teeter on their 7 inch heels giving up on their continuously riding skirts. It was a fun night...up until I hauled my exhausted self to the tram station gaping unbelievably at the sign that said, "Tram currently unavailable due to maintenance."
I leaned to the side to look into the distance from the tram to Mandalay Bay, my mouth forming the words, 'Son of a ..." My feet were sore, I was sweating, feeling starved, and tired. I could only sigh wearily (sobbing just a little bit) as I walked past the tram and back to the hotel. I remember thinking, "Stupid tram..." right before I looked up and brightened, saying, "Ooooh! McDonald's!"
:)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Las Vegas: Hello from Las Vegas!


First and foremost, THANK YOU for checking out my blog! With less than a month away before my flight to London (my first stop in a month long adventure) I wanted to reach out to you so that I can bring you along! Virtually of course ;) but in the event you may be in any of the locations I will be visiting, please let me know :)

For those who know me, I love writing and sharing stories and the opportunity to do so through this nifty tool was too good to pass up.

I’m currently in Las Vegas, finally recuperating from a Girls Night Out (that lasted an entire weekend) as we celebrated my good friend Vi’s birthday. A weekend I won’t soon forget, having had a blast (and finding only a little bit of trouble) with the girls, meeting some amazing folks, learning, listening, and collecting stories. While I waved goodbye to my best buds, I eagerly awaited reconnecting with my extended family that lived in Vegas for the better part of my life.

Little did I know that I’d spend the next week hotel hopping; from Treasure Island to my cousin’s house (not a hotel..but kinda), Palm’s, Red Rock, to the gorgeous Mandalay Bay! It’s safe to say that it feels as if I’ve been living out of a luggage for the past 6 months. What with moving out from home to Sunnyvale in March, going to Greece in May, spending every other weekend on someone’s couch, bed, floor, airbed (you name it and I’ve probably slept on it – one can’t be picky you know?), to moving back home in country paced, Lathrop, CA, only to unpack and then repack for Vegas the following day...you get the point :)

Before I get carried away telling you the funny stories (because I only really enjoy telling funny stories) of the past week, I wanted to show you around my blog. Much of it is still in the works but I hope to include as much content as I can for your reading and viewing pleasure. You will find a link to view my detailed profile, links to subscribe and become a member to my blog (PLEASE do!), photos and videos (likely to be embedded within the blogs themselves), and a link to provide a donation (as I will be travelling alone, your donations will help me to make this trip memorable yet SAFE!).

So with that, I’ll be writing again soon. Thank you again for taking the time and visiting my site!

Much Love!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Content to Come!

I'm currently working on the Itinerary for London and Spain (it feels like an adventure all on it's own)!

The following cities are planned for 30 nights:
1. SFO to Heathrow, London
2. London to Barcelona, Spain
3. Barcelona to San Sebastian, Spain
4. San Sebastian to Madrid, Spain
5. Madrid to Seville, Spain
6. Seville to Tarifa, Spain - Includes an incursion to Morrocco
7. Tarifa to Granada, Spain
8. Granada to Valencia, Spain

Then it's 7 - 10 Nights in Cairo, Egypt! Itinerary in the works...

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