2009 in Review: There and Back, Part One

It’s the end of the year and like many, I’m waxing nostalgic about the year past. With the advent of social networking, digital cameras galore, and email, it’s a lot easier to be reflective of where we’ve gone and what we’ve experienced. So with that, I struggled to encapsulate my 2009. And baby, What a Year! It’s been so big, it won’t fit in one post so Part One, where we started and the trips!

Winter Doldrums

Yes, technically it was December of 2008 that trapped me for weeks in Duvall under piles and piles of snow. Unable to see family or friends for the holidays, it was, quite frankly, the worst Xmas ever. Even the dogs, who usually love snow, were sick of it after a few days. I distinctly remember sitting in my den because the power was out and that was the best source of light from the window and heat from my gas fireplace. It was no consolation that so many others in the Pac NW were stranded too. I took a lesson from that time and carry it with me always; embrace your friends and family often. You never know when you’re going to be all alone, needing those thoughts to get you through.

After the Flood: New Years – Starting it Out Right

After things had thawed (and I outfitted my Element to be amphibious), I was able to escape my boonie-ville home and usher 2008 out properly, asking it not to hit itself on the way out. Party partner Ms. Alice and I hit up early night cocktails with friends, then enjoyed two more grand New Year’s Eve celebrations, one four course large meal with an insane wait for a proper cuppa joe and the bash at the Bell Harbor Convention Center with the well garbed masses. And I do mean masses. Four plus dance rooms, live bands including a personal fave The Retros, and thousands of people EVERYWHERE, it was my first big exposure to NYE out. And boy, it was a blast! It was just the beginning as parties go but it was a great set up for the good things to come, near and far.

Travel Bug – My Year in Space Bags

All my friends know my sales pitch for Space Bags and I truly put my packing chops to the test as 2009 marked a big return to traveling. Great friends scattered around the globe, and wonderful support system at home, gave me a great excuse to conquer being an international newbie and show off the world in all its varied splendors. New friends were made, new cultures experienced, and through it all, great friends became my doorway to see it all. Thanks so much to everyone that helped along the way and looking forward to much much more in 2010!

February in Indonesia – Not So Far From Us

Why Indonesia? Well, when a good friend working abroad says, hey come on over, sometimes you just gotta do it. Granted, the ride was a little bumpy to start due to my inexperience with international jet lag. Wow! But lessons were quickly learned, help generously taken, and the amazing country that boasts the 4th largest population and many more islands than one can count opened its collective arms to me. The people were amazing and gracious and proud of all they had accomplished over all they had been through. This was the land that terrorists, tsunamis, and earthquakes could not diminish, flourishing in its religious differences and commitment to democracy. And it sounds so trite to say it but you realize when you travel that people are people, wherever they are from, and we have more similarities than differences. Having said that, I found plenty to admire, fascinate, and amaze that is unique to this lovely land! Enjoy!

May In Namibia – I am Coming Now Now

Why Namibia? Well, building on the theme of friends working abroad, I had another unique offer from a friend working for the Peace Corps in Namibia, Africa. A much longer trek due to layovers, I took what I learned from Indonesia and applied it, to great effect. My first rule of travel: find a way to sleep on the plane. For me, it was Melatonin. Then I was able to adjust my sleep cycle quickly to my destination and after a good night’s rest at my destination, rise the next morning to take on a new land. Rule #2: eat well. Nothing can put a damper on travel than a nervous tummy from poorly fashioned meals and lack of sleep. For those of us not blessed with super traveling genes, these two rules are a must. And I’m here to say if you can tackle the knack for these, beautiful places far away are always accessible.

Namibia is a land of great beauty, too much to capture in a short trip, so we focused on our self safari, getting a break from the Peace Corps way and staying in cozy bungalows and dining on top notch cuisine. With a lovely bottle of Pinotage and some chocolate bars, evenings were enjoyed near the camp fire and candle light. Days were spent on the dusty road, tracking down leopards, and taking in the local villages. Along the way, we played ambulance to a young burn victim and his family, avoided stampede by giraffes, commandeered a taxi at dusk to avoid sketchy circumstances, and avoided being featured on “Locked Up Abroad” by engaging in the age old art of the traveler, the “traffic fine,” otherwise known as a bribe. It was the people who made much of the travelling special with the understanding that they lived for months away from their families and children in order to make the money tending to the tourist whims. We appreciated every one of them, thanked them by name, and came away understanding how hard it is to build an economy bit by bit.

For me, the penultimate of this journey, aside from the quality time with a good friend, was the realization of a lifelong love of all animals of Africa, especially the leopard. We were told they are hard to track and yet, I saw three in my short time there. One even stalked our truck during our night tour. Strange how modern conveniences like pavement come to serve old survival needs like warmth. It goes to show that nature will overcome and adapt, sometimes faster than mankind is ready to handle. Thank goodness for the conservation works of so many within Namibia, trying to mete out a place for the big cats under the growing expansion of human need. If we could learn to live with our neighbor and not at the cost of these amazing creatures, our lives would truly by amazing. Also true of our human neighbors should we forget.

November in NYC & Cancun – Quickies

After an unplanned doggie surgery that went amazingly well, one of my new traveling friends hollered and I was able to say, See Ya There! A long fall weekend in New York City and another in Cancun brought some amazing sights, fun times, and an opportunities to get away from it all in two completely different ways. Both destinations get the nod for “Come Back Soon!” awards with plenty to do and see, each in their own way. The Big Apple? Needs no explaining. As I told my friend, the only thing you cannot find there is peace and quiet…and even so, there’s a place in Central Park called Sheep’s Meadow which can serve that purpose for short term sojourns. Museums, restaurants, clubs, architecture, and people people people…it’s all there in a hundred different languages. A truly melting pot, it’s amazingly invigorating to hear and see so many different cultures living together but still intact.

As for Cancun, the party catamarran is docked and ready for you to enjoy Rum Punch, snorkeling, a lovely buffet on the beach, and, if the wind is right, a sail ride into the sunset. The Mayans and Tolteks called the Yucatan their home and you can stop in to see how brilliant the ancient world was. Temples a plenty and, much like Indonesia, carefully tended and proudly shared by the locals. Take a moment to enjoy the grandeur of man’s aspirations to the heavens amd beauty of the Yucatan.

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