28. Collect and record stories about my family from my grandparents
29. Break the habit of picking at the skin around my nails. Youch! It hurts!
30. Bungy jump from the world's tallest bungy jump from Bloukrans bridge in South Africa.
31. Have a “signature dish”—something that everyone will ask me to bring to a potluck. 32. Go ice fishing. 33. Get all of my amazing girlfriends across the nation together for an unforgettable weekend. 34. Spend a month in the woods with nothing but the pack on my back and whatever I can carry in it. 35. Use the phrase “the last time I was in Thailand” in a completely legitimate way. 36. Own my own company. 37. Learn how to clean and cook and entire fish. 38. Play with a baby elephant
41. Live in a foreigncountry 42. Play tennis at a 4.0 level (right now I'm a measly 2.75) 43. Learn the names of the constellations 44. Beat my Mom at Scrabble (never. going. to happen.) 45. Start a compost pile 46. Buy a gorgeous piece of stained glass 47. Learn how to be a good haggler 48. Wear a two-piece with ease again 49. Be an extra in a movie 50. Learn how to play chess
Because I'm trying to put a happy spin on bad things this week here are my silver linings from today's disappointments and frustratons:
The Bad: The awesome night time kayak time I had booked stood me up. The Good: That means I don't have to spend the $35 dollars I had planned for the excursion! The Very Good: That means I can go to the awesome Friday night SALAD bar. (whooooo salad! I'm so crazy! And wild!)
The Bad: I got a little lost today and ended up walking for almost 4 hours and covering almost 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) The Good: I got lots of exercise! The Very Good: I will sleep so heavily that I won't wake up again at 4am when the couple next door (who are almost 70) have sex! (or maybe this is a bad... but I'm trying to stay positive here!)
If you want to backpack the world and keep your backpack small and under 30 pounds there are several things you have to leave at home. For me, an easy choice was my beloved MacBook. While my laptop is fabulous, it's heavy, bulky, not exactly water proof, and I know I would be upset if it was stolen, lost, or broken.
Even though I don't have a laptop, I, of course, want to stay in touch with the Internet, send emails, keep up with the news, etc. But, I really don't want to do all of this while paying for an Internet cafe or using a computer in the lobby of a hotel.
Insert the iPod touch. My iPod is most definitely one of my favorite travel items and after doing some app adding I have definitely customized this sucker for travel.
With regular internet connection it's easy to stay in touch with what's happening in the world.
-New York Times (mostly free. There is a pay wall for any articles that are not top stories)
-The Economist (not free at all but subscribing to the online only version is relatively cheap)
I see that my news sources maybe are slanted in one specific political direction. But honestly, I just can't bring myself to even search for an app that's for a news source that aligns itself with Sarah Palin (**shudder**). But maybe I should add The Wall Street Journal to balance things out? Not to mention support my friend Mary who is a WSJ reporter in Berlin. (Check out her articles here!)
A book or two
Chris and I also use our iPods as digital libraries. We have copies of guidebooks, novels, and non-fiction always with us in our pockets. While I still have traded, borrowed, and bought books I love having the electronic guidebook with me. Nothing marks you as a vunerable tourist more than staring into a Lonely Planet on the side of the street.
The other stuff
- daily yoga app so I can get my stretch on (free. See the pattern now?)
- global convert-- this app is awesome. It not only can work between pounds to kilos (damn you metric system!), it converts currency and updates the exchange rate every time you connect to the Internet! (Fahhh-ree-heee)
- social media apps so I can keep a tab on my people and maybe do a little stalking of those Halloween costumes you'll all be sporting this weekend (ok, who's going to be the sexy cop this year?)
- free magazines like Elle and More (yes, I do realize that I'm not in their target "older woman" demographic but it was free, damnit!)
Anda suka belajar banyak bahasa? (translation from Indonesian: "do you like studying many languages?")
Whenever I arrive in a new country I like to come prepared with a few key phrases and a basic understanding of numbers. World Nomads, one of the world's largest travel insurance providers, has a series of apps for almost every major language from Arabic to Swahili to Vietnamese.
These FREE (whoop whoop!) apps provide basic translation of helpful sentences, numbers, and some even provide audio to help with pronunciation.
On the not so free side, one of the most helpful learning apps I've ever used is Anki. Anki is a online flash card program that already has thousands of card decks loaded. It's a free download for your computer but a hefty $25.00 app. While that's a huge amount of money the Anki app has help Chris and I more than any other language guide out there.
Chris has a fancy iPod that takes video and pictures. So we've been stock piling videos of everything from amazing scenery to a creepy spider eating a moth. FYI there are some boring scenic videos out there.
My grand addition to the YouTube collection is a video of a GOP nomination rap set to the tune of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air...
What can I say? Sometimes Chris and I just have a little too much time on our hands (and maybe a little bit too much beer in our bellies). Don't worry, we're working on a new song set to "I Like Big Butts".
But! I'm back! With lots of posts, tons of pictures, and finally with a vlog to answer those questions you asked. You can expect:
- some YouTube linkage with some sahhhweet rapping by yours truly
- stories of failed hikes
- recaps of cooking lessons (with recipes!)
- pictures, pictures, pictures!
- travel sucesses and travel lessons
Okay? Forgive my terrible lack of recent posting? No... Oh.
But for the update about our curent location... Chris and I left Indonesia a month ago and have been traveling through Vietnam. We're now in the North of Vietnam in a gorgeous mountain town called Sapa where we have been enjoying some awesome hiking (another blog post for later that I've already written. Huzzah!). And later this week we're headed to the Phillipeans for some beach time and scuba diving!
(Mt. Fansipan-- Sapa-- North Vietnam)
So, to recap: I'm alive! I'm back with the blogging! Chris has made me listen to David Bowie's "Major Tom" approximately 121 times in the last few months! And I'm looking forward to blogging again!
Today's travel lesson: Don't be lazy... just write the damn blog posts!
When you are away from smart phones, regular internet access, and cell phone signal you start coming up with random things that you want to google. Because we always seem to forget when we get before a computer Chris and I have started a running list of "to google":
the mundane: -Malaria prevention research
A rather boring google about which medicine to buy to renew our stash of malaria meds.
- Hamsters and gerbils in the wild Chris and I have been debating for months if hamsters and gerbils exist in the wild. I said they do and I would like to see a pack of wild feral hamsters taking off down the street; Chris thinks they are some strange hybid of rat and something he failed to name.
Winner winner chicken dinner!
I'm right! Hamsters come from Syria while gerbils are from China and Turkmenistan and can grow up to 16 inches long.
Jesus making a cameo in Texas
Some random Indonesian chatting us up while we were waiting for a bus told us that he knew all about Texas because he once read an article about how the face of Jesus is visible in the Texas sky.
He was insistent that you could see Jesus's face in the sky and couldn't believe that we didn't know what he was talking about.
Granted, he did follow that by asking us if Texas was it's own country...
Out of curiosity, I did some googling and found out that there have been several UFO sitings, a plague of grasshoppers invading Texas in 2000, the largest cross in the western hemisphere with a reproduction of Jesus's tomb, and a lot of websites about the end of the world.
But sadly, no Jesus in the sky...
Hey, we've been together constantly for three months... there are only so many things to talk about before you starting discussing wild hamsters.
You've got have some.... And I might have answers.
What do you want to know about traveling the world?
Want to know What I really think of Chris after being alone with him for 2 months? How often I actually shower? Have I met any stinky hippies? Am I a stinking hippie? Is hippie\hippy spelled with an ie or a y? What do my parents think of us leaving?
Ground transportation in Indonesia can be really inexpensive. Large charter buses can take you for a 24 hour ride across the country for less than $15. However, while large buses are great for long distance trips, the cheap in-town options are much sweeter...
A Bemo is a small public bus that runs between cities. Usually a little bit bigger than a 15-seat van but smaller than a "short bus" a bemo is designed to seat 16 or so. However, it usually seats 24 or more. We once took a 2 hour bemo that sqeezed in almost 30 people and I had a 6 year old boy with his head in my arm pit for about 90 percent of the time. It was a very rewarding experience for both of us.
(The bemo also evidently makes Indonesians very sleepy)
Want to go old school? Hang like the Amish? Then the dokar is for you! Just an old fashioned wagon pulled by a horse. That's pretty much it, you can only say so much.
Hate horses? Like to make actual people work so that you can get from point A to B? Hire a becak (pronounciation: Bay-Chak) to pedal you from place to place. Ah, human labor, making transportation so much sweeter for so many centuries.
Do you ever feel like you're too fancy for the city bus? Is there too much room between you and the sweaty man carrying a bag full of raw fish? Move to Indonesia and jump right into an oplet! These privately run buses can take you, and 10 of your closest friends and 4 strangers, anywhere you need to go in the city for only 50 cents! However, be aware, in Padang, Sumatra, the oplets have somehow agreed to pimp their rides into techno oplets complete with blaring techno music, LED lights, and sweet exterior body work bringing them only inches from the ground.
Sepeda Take a ride, it's as easy as riding a bike. Because it is a bike. Just be careful, because sometimes the road turns into, well, no road. Oh, and a lot of times the "12 gear" bike is really a 1 gear, and that gear is slow y'all.
Sepeda Motor Allllllll right. Scoot scoot scoot. What makes you look tougher than riding a scooter? NOTHING! Motorcyles are for wusses... wusses with leather jackets. Scooters are for the truly bad ass.
Jalan Kaki Indonesian for going by foot. That's right. The cheapest transport in town. Legs. In fact, I have two. Holla. They might be slow and don't look as good as I want in a swimsuit. But they are always there. Gotta love those guys!
You all know the story.... A turtle and a hare race... the hare is fast but cocky... the turtle is slow and steady and wins the race.
I don't think the same can be said for slow but steady internet. No matter what it's still slow. I'm trying to upload posts and pictures for you all but it's taking forever! They'll get there eventually!
Chris and I are on the Indonesian island of Sumatra where almost 90 percent of people are Muslim. The Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, began on August 1st. While Chris and I are not Muslim, our backpacking lives have been changed by Ramadan.
During Ramadan Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown refraining from all food, beverages, and smoking. Muslims consider the fasting period to be a time for self reflection, centering oneself on faith, and a time to purify your body and thoughts.
Many parts of Sumatra are under sharia law which governs based on Muslim principles. This means that if a restaurant is open during daylight during Ramadan the police have the right to come into the restaurant, confiscate the food, and shut down the restaurant. The exception to this rule is "Tourist Only" restaurants that serve only to forgeiners. Finding these "Toursist Only" restaurants can be a pain, but I would much rather eat lunch than fast all day. At times Chris and I have resorted to buying food a the grocery store and eating in our room.
While in no way is it illegal for us to eat during the day it is considered disrepectful to publicly eat or drink during fasting times.
Even though no one is eating during the day during Ramadan there is definitely thoughts of food. In the afternoons amazing markets filled with prepared foods open for Muslims who take food to go and wait until the sun is down.
These markets are packed with local people buying food of every kind. (Please excuse the picture quality, something happened during the very long uploading)
Notice that almost all of the women are in head scarves, long pants or skirts, and heavy shirts despite the 80 degree weather.
These containers hold all different, and usually unidentifably (at least to us), foods. The woman is scooping an egg filled sausage into the bag to which she added spicy vegetables and sauce.
This fried food stand had delicious freshly fried corn fritters. They were like hush puppies on crack.
Let's be honest, none of this would ever hold up to American food safety standards, but I think that's probably a longer discussion for another time.
Chips! Chips! Chips! These chips are made from tapioka roots, not potatoes. However, they taste almost exactly like potato chips.
I do have to confess that our eyes were a little bit bigger than our stomachs and we took home a feast of delicious food.
These corn fritters where by far our favorite and I will definitely try to make them on my own. Now that I know these exist I don't want to ever live without them again.
And of course we had dessert! There are coconut rice cakes with banana, chocolate, and banana and chocolate. Hey, I told you we over bought!
Mt. Bromo is an active volcano on the eastern end of the Indonesian island of Java (where Jakarta and Jogyakarta are located). Chris and I organized a night time bus ride to the base of the mountain and then a jeep ride to the trail head where we headed up the Gunung Penanjakan mountain to watch the sunrise over the mountains.
We wern't the only one who had this idea... there were almost 300 other people there. Which, to be honest, was a little bit of a mood killer.
That's a framer...
I took about 23455645645 pictures or so. They can go with my large and useless collection of pictures of monkeys from Ubud.
After watching the sunrise we headed down to our jeep and our guide, Sayno. We headed through a giant dust cloud to the base of Mt. Bromo. We took a 45 minute hike through volcanic ash to look down into the mouth of the volcano. Chris enjoyed being a jerk and making me worry that he was going to fall in. I enjoyed holding on to the back belt loop on his pants and inching him away from the edge. Ahhh, love, so sweet.
Instead of a Jeep/land cruiser these people chose to ride horses to the base of Mt. Bromo. I liked to think of them as bandits coming to raid our wagon.
I really enjoyed the entire morning at Mt. Bromo. However, we did get ripped off a little. We paid double what we should have paid. We got into town incredibly late, 3 am, after a long bus ride and in order to catch the sunrise that morning we had to immediately take a "tour package" up to the top. If we had to do it over again, we would have arranged to take the local bus, spent the night at the tiny town of Cemoro Lawang and found our own person to take us across that dust field. In all, we probably spent $20 too much.... but when your room only costs $8 a night that's a big difference.
Travel Lesson of the day: You always have extra time. But you're not always going to have extra money. Don't rush yourself into making a financial decision that goes your instinct.
After spending my college years and first years of being an adult (ack!) in Dallas I packed my things and backpacked through Europe alone for 3 months. I then headed to culinary school at Johnson & Wales. Finally before tackling a career and a morgage I'm seeing the world! Want to know more? Read away! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org !