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I’ve Moved!!

August 7, 2010

My blog has moved to http://aliadventures.com

Please visit me there and don’t forget to subscribe!  Thanks!

What if Dorothy Had Stayed in Oz? – guest post

July 7, 2010

I recently wrote a guest blog post for yTravelblog Check it out here: What if Dorothy Had Stayed in Oz?

Also I just bought a domain and I’m in the process of getting it set up so my blog will be moving. Stay tuned!!

A Day in Dubrovnik – My Guest Post

June 11, 2010

I recently wrote a post as a guest blogger for the Brooklyn Nomad and it went up on his site today. Please check it out by clicking on the link below!

http://www.thebrooklynnomad.com/guest-nomad-a-day-in-dubrovnik/

North Carolina Wine Country

May 25, 2010

I occasionally need a short getaway to help get me through to the next big trip, so this past weekend I went to visit my friend Tim in Greensboro, NC.  After a quick stop at Replacements, Ltd to sell four bowls ($16 – woohoo!) that were taking up space in my closet, we picked up Tim’s friend Kyle and drove to Winston for their annual Salute! NC Wine Celebration.  For a $25 entry fee (I know, my china sale didn’t even cover the entry fee) we were given a wine glass and access to dozens of local wineries and probably hundreds of different wines.  I am a wine novice, so I just tried whatever Tim and Kyle tried, as well as quite a few sweet wines they passed on but insisted I would like.  They were usually right, although I did like quite a few of the drier wines as well. 

A wine tasting festival is a tricky thing.  We walked around trying a sip at a time of various wines, all the while thinking we were hardly drinking anything because we never had more than that one sip in our glasses.  And then it hit me – I’m quite buzzed.  Ok maybe a little drunk, but hey, we had been there for about three hours.  We decided to take a break and wandered into Skippy’s where I enjoyed my first Chicago-style hot dog.  It was delicious!  The onions, the peppers, the pickle…..yum!  I’ll be honest though, I HATE mustard, so I had them leave it off.  After our energizing meal, we went back outside to try a few more wines before calling it a day.  I even bought a bottle of wine, although I can’t remember what it’s called since Tim is mailing it to me.  I had much more fun than I imagined I could in Winston, NC.  Who knew NC had so many good wineries?  It was definitely the widest variety of wine I have ever tasted, but I’m still not any closer to knowing what my favorite types of wines are.  It’s all good, right?

Travel Plan for the Year

May 13, 2010

Just a quick one today.  I’ve booked the rest of my vacation days for the year, which is sort of a relief.  I’m visiting my friend Tim in North Carolina at the end of May for a weekend.  I’m going to the Florida keys in early July for my brother’s wedding, and I’m taking a 3 day weekend to San Francisco in late July with my friend Andrea.  I have the trip to Quito in September for a Spanish class.  And I booked my Thanksgiving trip to Prague with a stop in London first.  I still need to book the flight from London to Prague but I think I’ll wait until my credit card recovers. I know it seems a bit extreme, even for a planner like me, to book a trip more than 6 months ahead of time, but it was a good price and I didn’t want to take the chance of it going up.  Also, I’m currently in boring exciting Richmond, VA for work. It’s kind of nice to have the big picture decided, yet I still have enough details to plan out to keep me going while I’m in between trips.  I think I’m about to spend some time reading everyone else’s blogs for ideas for these trips!  I’m also spending two nights a week taking Spanish classes, and it’s really great to be diving back into something I’ve always loved but inexplicably abandoned.  I will keep you updated with more interesting posts about these upcoming trips and my ongoing exploration into the Spanish language.  Thanks for reading!

I Choose Ecuador

May 8, 2010

In my last post, I discussed several trips I was trying to plan.  I don’t have it all worked out yet, but I’m getting closer.  I decided I didn’t want to take the chance of getting altitude sickness in Peru, which would ruin my experience at Machu Picchu.  Plus there are several other places I’d like to go to in Peru that I wouldn’t have time for, so I have decided not to take the Spanish class in Peru.  I will just have to plan a Peru trip some other time.  With that decision made, I have signed up for a Spanish class at Academia Latinoamericana de Espanol in Quito, Ecuador for a week in September, and I’ve booked my flight.  I can’t wait!  I’m also taking Spanish classes at the Atlanta International Language Institute, so hopefully that will help me catch up to where I was when I minored in Spanish in college.  I’m also hoping it will help me feel more comfortable with living with a family in Ecuador since I’m sure they won’t know any English.

That leaves me with two vacation days.  I definitely want to go to Prague over Thanksgiving, so I will most likely use one of the days there.  I’m also thinking of flying into London and going to the British Museum before flying to Prague.  I wanted to go to Stonehenge, but I looked at the flight schedules and I can’t work it out with my time constraints. I know flying to London just to go to a museum sounds a little nutty, but it’s all about timing.  The flight to London-Gatwick lands at 7am, but if I were to fly to Prague, I wouldn’t get there until late in the afternoon, so it feels like a wasted day.  Instead I can go to London, where I’ve already been, and see the museum before taking an evening flight to Prague.  This will also cross off another item from the Hillman list I’ve mentioned before.  So why not spend the day crossing off the museum instead wasting those extra hours on a plane and in a random airport on a layover?

That last vacation day will probably be used for a three-day weekend either to visit a friend in Seattle or to meet up with her for a trip to San Francisco.  We haven’t quite worked out those details yet.  In the meantime I will just watch my Skymiles accumulate and maybe start planning next year’s trips.  Oh, if only I had more vacation time…..

Trying to Solve the Travel Puzzle

May 2, 2010

Like most addictions, a travel addiction can be time-consuming.  Where should I go next?  What is the best plan of attack?  How many places can I squeeze in and still get to see and do everything I want?  How far will my money stretch?  I recently decided I want to take a Spanish class in another country and live with a family for a week.  A sort of mini study abroad.  I loved Spain, where I went for study abroad in college, but I want to explore a country I haven’t been to yet.  So I started looking into Ecuador and Peru.  They’re both known for having good language schools, they’re inexpensive, beautiful countries, and they both have lots to see and do.  I keep going back and forth on which is the better option for various reasons, but mostly based on whether I think I’ll have enough time to see Machu Picchu if I pick Peru.  On paper it looks like I have enough time, but I have to take into consideration the strong possibility of altitude sickness.  Since I will need to take things slowly to avoid or get over altitude sickness, I probably don’t have enough time to go to Machu Picchu before starting a class in Cusco, Peru.  So for today anyway, I’m leaning towards Quito, Ecuador.

While trying to make that decision, I’m also trying to strategically plan out my remaining vacation days.  I have 6 days to play with, so I’m planning on taking the Spanish class the week of Labor Day, that way I can save one vacation day.  But I also want to take a trip to Europe at Thanksgiving.  The long holiday weekend is just too tempting, it’s like free time, and it would be even better if I could tack on a vacation day or two.  My top choice for the Thanksgiving trip is Prague, and if I have time for another destination, that would be great, but I haven’t worked it all out yet.  I’m actually trying to plan this trip based on where I can get a direct flight since that means more time spent in Europe.  If I fly to Prague first, which is not a direct flight, I won’t get there until late in the afternoon.  If I fly to London first (to go to Stonehenge) I’ll get there first thing in the morning.  This also means more bouncing around during an already short trip.

I will admit, I’m a bit of a list-ticker, which is why I’m even considering doing Stonehenge and Prague in one trip over Thanksgiving break.  I love crossing off a new country, new city, new continent.  I even have a big map on my wall with hundreds of color-coded pins to show where I’ve been, where I want to go, trips that are already planned, etc.  My friend Amanda also introduced me to the Hillman Wonders of the World and we have sort of a competition going to cross off the gold medals, which are the places on his top 100 list.  So far I’ve been to 24, in case you’re curious.  While there are many places I want to go to that aren’t on the top 100, most of my travel planning does involve this list.  As a result, I am constantly trying to figure out the best way to plan a trip based on crossing off gold medals winners and getting to new countries while still making sure I’m going to places I truly care about seeing.  This is why trying to plan two trips with 6 vacation days and a few holidays can be even more frustrating, because I’m trying to maximize my time while still being able to enjoy my surroundings.  It really feels like trying to fit pieces of a puzzle together, except that there are multiple ways to solve this particular puzzle.  I just don’t know which way looks best yet, but maybe part of the fun for me is in the possibilities.

This is the map hanging on my wall, although you can't see the different colored pins too well.

Sydney

April 25, 2010

I know, I’ve been back for 3 weeks and I’m just now posting about the last few days of my trip. The physical and mental jetlag took a little longer to overcome than I thought it would. The mental jetlag might still be hanging around. Anyway, I checked into Funkhouse Backpackers in Sydney late in the afternoon. It was an interesting hostel, to say the least. Every inch of every hallway and door was painted in bright, fun colors, each door with a different icon on it. For example, the bathrooms on my floor had He-Man and She-Ra on them to indicate male and female. I was disappointed to find out that this hostel did not provide towels, not even for a fee. This meant for my final days of travel I had to go buy a towel, which clearly I would not be bringing home with me. There was also the added bonus of the new towel fuzzies since I couldn’t pre-wash it. But you just go with the flow when you’re on the road, it’s all part of the journey.

After purchasing the cheapest towel I could find, I walked through a neighborhood I could picture myself living in and eventually made my way to the recommended look-out spot to take pictures of the Opera House and Bridge.  I didn’t plan it, but I ended up getting there just in time for sunset and wound up with some great pictures (see previous post for one of them). I walked back to the hostel with bats flying overhead as my company. My first full day in Sydney I spent wandering around, soaking up as much of the city as I could. I walked a TON. I’m not sure how many miles I clocked, but I was on my feet walking at varying paces for about 7 hours that day. I did decide to take a break and ride a commuter ferry (the tourist ones were 3 or 4 times the price, but all I wanted was a boat ride) from the Circular Quay to Manly and back. It made for a relaxing end to the afternoon.

On my last day in Sydney before going home, I had signed up for a tour to the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours outside of the city. While the scenery was gorgeous, this tour was so lacking in comparison with the Uncle Brian’s rainforest tour I took in Cairns. The tour guide didn’t seem to care too much about being there and didn’t provide too much information. It felt more like having a driver instead of a guide. But at least I got some more good pictures.

That day thoughts of work and returning home also started creeping back into my mind, and it actually put me in a bad mood. I know most people would rather stay on vacation than go back to work, but it’s much deeper than that for me. Like traveling is just where I belong. It was more than not wanting to leave Australia (though I did love Australia), it was something I still can’t quite describe, this deep need I have to see the world, as much as possible, as often as possible. But responsibilities, my job, my mortgage and other bills called me back. I set two alarms for the next day because daylight savings time was ending that night, and I wasn’t sure if my phone was going to adjust itself or not. I still somehow managed to screw up the clock on my phone, in addition to my regular alarm clock not working, and I miraculously woke up 15 minutes before the shuttle was to arrive to take me to the airport. Subconscious mistake on my part? Who knows. I made it on the shuttle and to my flight with no more than a strange look from the ticketing agent who seemed to want to question me about the size and/or weight of my carry-on only backpack, but he was too slow.

So like I said, I’ve been home now for 3 weeks. I enjoy having my own bed and my own home comforts, I like not having to wear shower shoes and it’s great to have my hairdryer.  But in the grand scheme of things, I would gladly give all that up to hit the road again. I already have the next 3-4 trips loosely planned in my head. The thrill of the unknown, exploring new places, meeting new people, tasting new foods, the person I become when I travel, the confidence I gain with each new adventure… It’s a wonderful high, an addiction I have no intention of ever breaking free from.

Pictures

April 13, 2010

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Cairns

April 10, 2010

On Monday, March 29th, I was leaving Ayers Rock to go to Cairns.  The ticketing agent at the Ayers Rock airport made me weigh my backpack, and it turned out to be 12 kilos, 5 heavier than the allowable 7 kilos apparently.  I really don’t like to check luggage, not only because of the extra cost, but mostly because of the extra hassle.  So I rearranged and redistributed the contents of my backpack into my new knock-off Jimmy Choo purse to get the weight down to 7 kilos.  Success!  Once I got through security, I started putting everything I had taken out back into my backpack, because my purse with all its contents spilling out was not easy to manage.  While I was doing that, the ticketing agent came through security to hand me a tank top I had accidentally dropped.  She must have noticed what I was doing and told some other employees because when it was time to board, one of those agents stopped me to weigh my bag again.  Not satisfied with my reply that it had already been weighed, I had to rearrange again.  The excuses I was given were 1) from the ticketing agent – that my “heavy” bag could fall out of the overhead compartment and injure someone (I don’t think 5 kilos makes much difference in this scenario), and 2) from the boarding agent – that it was a weight and balance issue.  I had to bite my tongue to stop from telling her that I have taken ground school, and I know that 5 kilos in the overhead or 5 kilos on the floor makes no difference to the weight and balance of the plane. 

I finally arrived in Cairns a few hours later.  Castaway’s Backpackers, the hostel I stayed at, was a breath of fresh air, by far the best hostel of the entire trip.  The staff helped me choose Passions of Paradise to go snorkeling with the next day, which I was really excited about since my main reason for coming to Cairns was to see the Great Barrier Reef.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, I attempted scuba diving in February but was not successful due to sinus issues.  However, where they took us to snorkel was shallow enough to see the beautiful reef and a wide variety of fish, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out be not being able to dive.  I was shocked to find how quickly time flew by while I swam around looking at the underwater world. 

Great Barrier Reef, Hillman Wonder #13

I decided not to spend an additional AU$50 on an underwater camera, but above is the first place we snorkeled.  One of the boat’s crew members also fed some fish that were swimming next to the boat, and I just happened to have a front row seat.

Fish Feeding, Great Barrier Reef

I still had one day left in Cairns, so I decided to sign up for Uncle Brian’s rainforest tour.  A friend of mine from work took the tour when he was in Cairns a few years ago and loved it, and the staff at the hostel just raved about it.  Signing up was probably the best decision I made on my trip.  It was led by Cousin Brad (apparently all their guides go by “cousin”) and he kept us entertained non-stop aboard Gus the Wonder Bus.  We hiked through the rainforest, saw beautiful waterfalls, swam in an extinct volcano, got bruised and scraped up, ate great food, sang songs, and had an all-around wonderful, silly, fun day. 

Millaa Millaa Falls

While packing to leave Cairns, I took everything heavy and put it in my purse in preparation for any potential resistance when checking in at the airport.  I was asked again to weigh my bag, and found it was 11.5 kilos, but the limit this time was 10 kilos.  I pulled out a few things, got it down to 10.5 and was allowed on my way to board for Sydney.