Saturday, December 15, 2012

C is for Challenge

When I moved to London in 2010 I spent an average of three to four hours a day learning the city by foot. After I had the main thoroughfares solidly mapped in my head, I decided I should get to know each neighbourhood as best I could. I made it a habit when out and about to always go down at least one road I had never been on before (a relic of my parents’ weekly desire to “find a new bit of road“). I can’t imagine a better way to get to know London than on foot. How else are you meant to linger outside people’s windows and see how they decorate their Christmas trees and set their tables?

I love love love maps and have a mild obsession with knowing where I am and how it links to where I’m going and coming from (no, that’s not a profound life philosophy, it’s just basic geography) and I am a very visual/interactive learner so mapping my outings became the best way for me to understand where I’d been. My bedroom is adorned with two maps of London: one of greater (Wembley, Richmond and Stratford being its limits) and a large-scale of central.

Every time I walk down a new road, I mark it on the map in whatever colour suits my fancy that day. For the first few months, my fingers were constantly stained with the byproducts of my nightly routine. Then I fell into the habits that daily routines bring and slowly found myself treading the same bits of ground more and more regularly. As a compulsive explorer, this just would not do!

So, in the lead-up to my 30th birthday (still a 20-something as of today!) I compiled a list of 30 things to do before the big 3-0. Not surprising to anyone who knows me, improving my knowledge of London and the UK in general features prominently in this list. One item in particular was designed help me get to know as many hidden corners as possible:


Ok, this requires some boundaries to be set. First of all, what IS central London??? We all have our own definitions which seem to range in size quite dramatically. To solve this riddle, I decided to go by what the local authorities define as the busiest parts of the city: the Congestion Zone…dun dun dun (technically they call it the “Congestion Charging Zone” but that is just a bit too much for me).

Yet having established this area, I STILL had to decide WHICH Congestion Zone. You see, right around the time I moved here, the boundaries were changed quite dramatically. Whereas the old CZ spread alllll the way along the river, up past Earl’s Court and into North Kensington, the new CZ ended really quite neatly at Park Lane. With just a little over a year to complete the challenge, time was certainly a factor. Right, that’s my reason and I’m sticking to it. Call it laziness, call it cowardice, call it what you will; I chose the new CZ as my barrier.


So now you know the story and you know the quest (but what is your favourite colour??!). What you don’t know is that I have failed already. Yep. That’s right. You just wasted all that time reading when you could have been doing your morning callisthenics. What a waste.

The fact is, my 30th birthday is just over two months away and while I’d LOVE to say I will spend the next ~60 days walking my little legs fit over London’s cobbled alleys, I will not. I’m working on something really pretty exciting and fun (if you stick with me you’ll probably hear about it pretty soon…you knew there’d be a hook!) but it has a tendency to take up really a rather large amount of my time. In short, I will not have the CZ badge on my sash by February 20th.

I have chosen, therefore, to lift my self-imposed deadline and continue on with my quest till death (or dry markers) force me to admit defeat. And for you, dear reader, I will document my wanders in as few words and as many photos as possible (I mean really! Why are you even still reading this tome?!).

Let’s get our walking on!!!

By way of separating my personal writing (or the little I have done lately, at least) from this project, I have created a website for it specifically.  Visit for updates! 

Maybe my next tattoo?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Get a Grasp on Life

This is EXACTLY my life at the moment.  Actually most of the time but particularly right now!  Thank you xkcd for, once again, knowing precisely what's up?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Photo Finish

As previously mentioned, on my travels I often had difficulties getting a connection reliable enough to load photos in blog posts.  Some of you (I won't say who, so as to maintain the size of your preferred internet footprint) are not on Facebook and have patiently waited to see pics on here.  Well wait no longer!  This weekend I have gone through a few past posts and added several thousand words in picture form.  And as a thank you for your patience, I will give you photos that facebookers have yet to see ;)

I will update the list below as I get to more posts.  Hope you enjoy!

Birthday Bliss

Taj Mahal!!



Monday, August 27, 2012

Context Clues

I am a big fan of collecting quotes of the day. I just love looking back on them and laughing until I snort/cry/drool all over again. Sometimes it takes me a minute to remember the context and it makes them even more bizarre and hilarious. I thought I would flick through my notebook and share a few with you. (You can highlight between the brackets below the quotes to get the context - I know I always read ahead when I'm curious so I'm hiding it for cheating readers like me). WARNING: it's heavy on Nepal my travel journals are the ones I currently have with me. One day I will stop talking about it. Not soon though. ;)

"It was painful, but it was surprisingly acceptable."
[Markus referring to having his foot run over by a car.]

"There is dog cheese?!"
[My niece misunderstanding something my brother said. Still not sure what he actually did say.]

"Why does it always hurt when I'm with you?"
[Me referring to Alex and the fact that I always get a sideache from laughing so damn hard with him. I have been mocked ever since lol]

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fun with Collages

On my trip I took a series of photo collages to put together at a future date.  With our internet being down the last few days, I have had some offline computer time to work on them.  Here are a few for your viewing pleasure. *they should open into a new window to let you look at the big versions up close*

River in Soppong
I will probably redo this collage a bit as it was my first attempt and I learned a lot from the following two.  I love the colors though!  Yafit and I played in this waterfall for quite a while our last day in Soppong.  It's got a natural, mini water slide at the bottom and a few bathing pools up top.  Pretty much perfect.

Rae of Light

After participating in two and a half months of what I can only describe as felony-grade nacho abuse, I have recently been immensely pleased to discover that I am, in fact, much more fit now than I was six months ago.  Apparently the progress made over three months of carrying a backpack, walking, hiking, climbing, swimming, playing, jumping, diving, cartwheeling and being indoors only while sleeping cannot be entirely undone by two months of binge eating, bonding with Morpheus*, binge drinking, road-tripping or the consumption of SIX seasons of How I Met Your Mother.

I fixed up Rae this weekend (changing a flat and giving her a much needed scrub down to remove the cobwebs, dirt and slugs that built up in my absence) and I have been amazed at how much easier riding is now compared to February.  When I arrived in Utah, freshly back from a month of all-day-every-day hiking, I noticed a significant difference in my fitness.  Suddenly I found myself on my bike at the tops of hills I never would have even thought about going up before.  And not only at the top of them but at the top of them without being out of breath or wanting to die.  In fact, I felt more energized and excited to keep going.

What I did not expect, however, was that after a not-so-brief stint of laziness and excess in the States I would find the same thing happening in London.  I am currently staying at the top of a big hill but it's been noticeably easier to get back here after a long night out than it ever was before.  For the last two years I have had several markers along Shoot Up Hill to see if my abilities were improving - willing myself to just get to the first tree, the bus stop, the street sign.  Now I get to the top without having to coach myself at all.  I'm riding faster and stronger than I ever did before, all as a result of no purposeful training whatsoever.  The only change in my life was going from a desk job and studying to walking around all day every day - often while carrying a backpack....or a pina colada.  I guess it just goes to show that being even a little more active every single day does really add up after all.

*for the uninitiated, Morpheus is the obscenely seductive sofa who lives at my parents' house.  He will suck you down the rabbit hole faster than you can say, "why oh why didn't I take the blue pill."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Computer Says "1877"

In the first installment of random image search based story-telling, I shall tell you about this photo:

This may not seem like a photo worth a lot of words but it certainly is!  A great start for our trip down memory lane.

Attached to this as-yet-unidentified grey blob of animal/vegetable/mineral is the key that unlocked the door to our room on nights 19 and 21 of the Annapurna trek (April 30 and May 2).  More specifically to Room 6 of the Namaste Bamboo Guest House and Restaurant in Bamboo.  We scored this quad-room at a bargain the first night after I used my feminine charms to barter with the hotel owner.  Okay okay, it was probably because she pitied my feeble negotiation attempts and more likely the result of her agreeing to my terms quickly so as to get me and my offensive hiking odor out of her kitchen as quickly as possible.  When we returned from Annapurna Base Camp two nights later she handed us the key as if we come every week.  She was a lovely lady indeed and we were all terrified of her.

Highlights of our two nights here included cat showers, hot chocolate, and some serious bridge playing.  Let's take it one at a time:

Friday, August 17, 2012

An Experiment

In preparing to review my travels, I found myself organizing thousands of photos across four memory cards. That's a lot of pictures!! In what will seem a non-sequitor, I recently attended a ukulele flash mob at Trafalgar Square, followed by the weekly ukulele rock session at a nearby pub. The group of devoted players recently found a way (aided by my lovely friend Tanja) to shake up their routine and try some new songs: a random number generator. Instead of playing a fairly regular set list, they now challenge themselves to play whatever comes up next on the screen. I would like to do the same. From time to time I will use a generator to determine which photo I pull up and write a little about it. Let’s see where this takes us!

Six Months

Crazy as it may seem, today marks the six month anniversary of the beginning of my big adventure.
In that time I:

  • circumnavigated the globe
  • rode camels in India
  • explored canyons in Thailand 
  • crossed one of the highest passes in Nepal / the world
  • sent dozens of postcards around the world 
  • explored tent rocks in New Mexico
  • floated the Bitterroot in Montana
  • road tripped across Utah
  • hiked through ruins in Colorado 
  • saw everyone in my immediate family 
  • saw very nearly everyone in my extended family 
  • celebrated
    • two 1st birthdays
    • one 90th birthday
    • one 100 1/2 birthday
    • three graduations - representing four master's degrees
    • more July birthdays than I can count
  • ate disgusting amounts of curry, noodle soup, and nachos
  • learned all kinds of new card games - and a new favorite game night game (watch out, I have been known to break it out pretty regularly recently!)
  • cheered on teams USA and GB with equal gusto in rooms/parks full of screaming people 
  • and happily settled back into a life with a little more routine and down time - though we all know that can't last for long ;) 
It's been a pretty incredible ride.  It hasn't always been fun and it hasn't always been easy.  Some of the challenges I have faced in the last six months have been the hardest in my life.  Travel really is a crazy and unpredictable beast.  I can honestly say it pushed my physical, emotional, and mental boundaries in ways I never could have expected.  At times I hated it and wanted to go home.  At times I loved it and was overwhelmed with how incredibly blessed I am and how beautiful this world is.  It broke me down, it got me dirty, it scared me, it made me sick.  It strengthened my confidence, my resolve, and my understanding of the world.  It took me away from people and places I love.  It brought me new friends and opened room in my heart for wonderful new destinations.  

I've been lucky enough to share some of my experiences with many of you in person but there are still so many stories to tell.  My ability to post was severely limited by technology (particularly in Nepal - hard to do anything without power) and the fact that I was constantly on the go.  Looking back, I see that I did post more than I remember but not nearly as much as I wanted to.  In reading my posts I see hidden elements of other stories I didn't have time to share and allusions to post that never came.  So over the next few weeks I am going to fill in some of the gaps on some stories both small and large.  I look forward to reliving the memories with you :)    

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Santa Fe

I passed the past week with my siblings, niblings, parents, and pup-on-loan enjoying all the West has to offer: sweeping vistas, surprising geography, hiking, biking, climbing, and Mexican food. We played board games, card games, video games, and word games with equal gusto. We watched hilarious movies, played some sketchy ping pong, and ate excessive amounts of salsa, We experimented with glow in the dark bubbles, played a practical joke on the dog, and drank silly amounts of wine - all while only breaking one piece of art!We spent time catching up on all that life has brought to our lives these last couple of years: new homes, new loves, new hopes, and new happiness.

This morning we parted ways once again hoping to have another week like this next year. Who knows what news we might have to share with each other and what new silliness we will get up to when that time comes. On the road today, as we listened to Fiddler on the Roof, I was caught up with emotion during Sunrise Sunset and it's no wonder why. Seeing everyone's lives change so much with each passing month, season, and year makes everything seem so quick. There is nothing more effective than seeing your niblings all grown up and successful to make you feel like life is going just too damn fast, offering too little time to share the experience with everyone along the way.

It's times like these when I appreciate the connected world. With the eleven of us scattered across six cities spanning from coast to coast, even if I wanted to live in the US there is no where I could be that would allow me to see everyone as much as I want to. So for all its faults and foibles, I must thank facebook for allowing us to share the big and the small things when we can't be together for them. I feel lucky to be a part of a family so full of interesting, fun, witty, silly, crazy characters. Can't wait to see them all again soon!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Want to See the Fort!!

Jaisalmer Fort was a picturesque place indeed.  I walked around with a couple of fellow travelers in those really amazing pre-sunset moments and I couldn't believe how deep and rich the colors were.  Quite charming.

From: The rooftop of my guest house in Jaisalmer, India
To: Illinois, USA

Same Same, But Different

Some things have changed in Salt Lake City.  The downtown now boasts a large (and frankly overpriced) mall, a GIANT Harmon's and several new condo buildings.  9th and 9th now has a delicious gelato joint.  Olympus high school is expanding - big time.  The dumpy joint on 13th and 11th has been replaced with a gorgeous restaurant.  Smith's is new, sparkly and has a gas station.  Red Butte Garden has acquired a beautiful neighbor in the Natural History Museum (which I have yet to visit) and I am told it boasts one of the best views in the city.  The University Guest House has grown an entirely new wing.  Liberty Park staff is no longer in the process of squeegee-ing the oil off each individual duck.  Trax now has all kinds of new lines.  Millcreek Library is now a place I would gladly spend the day working (and plan to!).  

Friday, May 18, 2012

As I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Prayer flags really were everywhere!!

From: My room at the Traveler's Home Guest House in Kathmandu, Nepal
To: Utah, USA

Even Gods Need a Good Read

Another book store pic for one of the bigger readers in my life. I visited this shop many times during my time in Dharamsala.

From: The best book shop in McLeodganj, India
To: Utah, USA

The Chocolate Log

Really???  Would you eat at this place?

From: McLeodganj, India
To: England, UK

Ngadi Bazar

Our first day of trekking was pretty spectacularly beautiful.  The views only became better every day after.  This night it was pounding down rain and the river outside turned from teal to brown in about half an hour.  Due to the weather I couldn't take a picture outside so below is a better view taken the next morning...

From: The window of our guest house as the rain beat down on our first trek night in Ngadi, Nepal
To: Utah, USA

I Loved This Place!

I truly could not get enough of the Taj Mahal!!!

From: The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
To: Texas, USA

31 Shitheads on a Bridge

We played cards.  A lot.  This was the first night of the trek so we were just getting started and as we didn't know each other well we were quite civilized.  Things got pretty intense there by the end.

From: Our first night of card playing.  Appears to be Shithead we were going for here in Ngadi, Nepal
To: Washington DC, USA

Pi Day - Behind the Scenes

Pi Day was a productive one for me.  I flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to Delhi.  I also sorted out my finances, wrote a blog post, and sent a postcard to Al.  All before taking on what would be two of the craziest hours in all of my time in India.  A day to remember for sure!

From: A rickety table in the Bangkok Airport, Thailand
To: Utah, USA

Flower Signs

Some fun with perspective after everyone had been energized by coffee and butter-soaked breads.

From: The cafe with the best coffee on the trail (so I'm told) on the road from Marpha, Nepal
To: Utah, USA

Do You Have an Ace Bandage?

The design of my shoes combined with the stormy weather meant I needed some drastic measures for preventing blisters.  The measures actually caused some other blisters in the end.  Oh well.  It all worked out in the end.

From: My makeshift sports clinic at the guest house in Chame, Nepal
To: Utah, USA

Trains and Tea

My first Indian train experience!!  I was surprised actually at how clean and comfortable it was.  I had been told all kinds of horror stories.  Shortly after taking this we even had the chai guy come through with a delicious cuppa.  That's service! 

From: The back of the seat of the guy in front of me on the train from Jaipur to Udaipur, India
To: England, UK

The S***

On my first day in Delhi, I met these two German lads who were just as lost as I was.  We trudged through together and had a grand old time for a few days in Delhi and Jaipur.

From: Our rooftop table at the hotel in Delhi, India
To: Utah, USA

As Easy as MBC

This is sort of a 360 view as the postcard shows the mountains directly behind me while I was taking the picture. The hike to Macchapaucchre Base Camp was pretty wet and a little bit miserable in parts.  The views were incredible though!  And the hike to Annapurna Base Camp for sunrise the following morning was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  Bonus picture below :)

From: Macchupachure Base Camp, Nepal
To: Texas, USA

I Like the Crow Landing in the Corner

This day nearly killed me.  We climbed stairs for six hours essentially non-stop.  I thought I would never make it but we finally got there!  The views from the top are pretty spectacular so I suppose it was worth the effort.

From: A town on the most stair-filled day of hiking in my life, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
To: Utah, USA

I'll Take Mine in a Bucket

Once back in civilization we hit the whiskey buckets pretty hard.  I have no regrets.

From: The Bamboo shack thingy on the lake in Pokhara, Nepal
To: England, UK


I don't know if I mentioned the Sheraton already but it was INCREDIBLE!!  I spent the day in various forms of hot water including: a long shower, a long bath, a sauna, a steam room, and this pool.  I also ate a lot of delicious food (some of it eaten in my room while wearing a robe)  Fantastico!

From: The Sheraton swimming pool, Delhi, India
To: Utah, USA

From: Sheraton lounge, Delhi, India
To: England, UK

From: The concierge lounge at the Sheraton, Delhi, India
To: Utah, USA

Plan B (or C, or D...)

Train planning in India can be quite a mess.  When you sit down with an agent you should have alternates prepared.  This postcard is accompanied by a sheet that fellow travelers had put together in the hopes of finding a solution.

From: The couch of the most wonderful travel agent in Udaipur, India
To: England, UK

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Little Israel in India

While this place was responsible for a horrible night of toilet love, my time here did wrap up a pretty wonderful day in Udaipur.  So not all was lost :)

From: The restaurant that made me ridiculously ill in Udaipur, India
To: England, UK

Green+Paddy Does Not Always = Ireland

I LOVED the color of the rice paddies! Such a perfect green.  All the colors on the trek were brilliant.  What a beautiful place!

From: Rice paddies along the trek, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
To: England, UK

Saves on Postage

This guy didn't speak any English at all.  Somehow we had a lovely conversation of hand gestures and nervous laughter and at the end I asked if he would pose with a postcard for me.  But apparently he thought it was a gift so right after this shot he put it in his pocket. Guess it was meant for him all along :)

From: The bus from Delhi to Jaipur, India
To: The bus from Delhi to Jaipur, India


The beginning of a seven hour journey to Dharamsala.  What a gorgeous (though sometimes terrifying) drive!

From: The bus from Amritsar to Dharamsala, India
To: Utah, USA

Happy Birthday Sisterino!

We made it over the pass!!!!

From: Thorong La Pass, Nepal
To: California, USA

Please Sir May I Have Another?

Two adorable fishies helping me enjoy the first two scoops of ice cream the day after the trek.  Don't look at me like that!  It wasn't FOR breakfast.  It was just dessert AFTER breakfast.

From: Pokhara, Nepal
To: Germany

A Happy Hour (or three) Indeed!!!

This place was a terrible/wonderful find!  Gorgeous gelato.  Beautiful bruschetta.  And a happy hour with perfect Prosecco!  What more could Black Piss ask for?? Only to have the band reunited again to celebrate the victory :)  

From: The delicious Italian restaurant in Pokhara, Nepal.  Again.
To: Colorado, USA

Scoop Me!

I don't want to admit to how many scoops of ice cream I ate the day after we ended the trek.  I will say that it was fewer than the number of shakes I had my first day back in Bangkok the week later at least!

From: The delicious Italian restaurant in Pokhara, Nepal
To: Washington, DC, USA

Peace Cafe

After the first meal at the Peace Cafe, we ended up there at least once a day for the rest of the week.  DEEEEELICIOUS! I recommend the porridge with banana and honey as well as the veg thenthuk.

From: Peace Cafe, McLeodganj, India
To: England, UK

Chillin Out

After the pass, we landed at the Hotel Bob Marley.  I didn't leave it for the next 36 hours.  Just sat around eating apple pie and bemoaning my sore calves.

From: Hotel Bob Marley, Muktinath, Nepal
To: England, UK


A view from the wonderful Kunga Guest House in McLeod. A perfect home for my last week in India!

From: McLeodganj, Nepal
To: England, UK

Home Cookin

I loved going into the kitchens in Nepal.  Those are my boiled eggs cooking over on the left.  I ate a ridiculous number of them while trekking.   

From: Manang, Nepal
To: Texas, USA

Yak Cheese

We'll take 400g please!! 

From: Manang, Nepal
To: Utah, USA

As Nepalese as Apple Pie

A Germany bakery in Manang.  This town was full of home comforts!

From: Manang, Nepal
To: California, USA

Mapping Out the Trek

My giant Annapurna Circuit map.  It came with us everywhere and saw some hard times.  It has a lot more character now!

From: Kathmandu, Nepal
To: England, UK

Mandatory Chocolate

Trying to decide the perfect chocolate bar to spend my last rupees on.

From: Kathmandu Airport, Nepal
To: England, UK

Post Puppy


From: Traveller's Home Guest House, Kathmandu, Nepal
To: California, USA

Tough Chicks

The waiting room at Kathmandu Airport.  The flight was delayed an hour and a half which made for an interesting connection in Delhi.  Made it to Bangkok though! 

From: Kathmandu Airport, Nepal
To: England, UK

The Ubiquitous Lama Bag

The last postcard from Nepal. 

From: Kathmandu Airport, Nepal
To: Utah, USA

Jantar Mantar

The coolest thing in Jaipur - a GIANT sundial

From: Jaipur, India
To: England, UK

Keep on Truckin' Cafe

One of the many trucks on the road to Pokhara.  I loved how they decorated them so colorfully. 

From: Lunch break stop/bean market on the road from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Nepal
To: Texas, USA

Me and My Monkey

A dude just chilling with his monkey on the drive to Pokhara. 

From: The road from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Nepal
To: Missouri, USA

Long, Steep, Stone, Staircase

On one of the many many many long staircases we climbed in and out on the Annapurna Base Came trek.  

From: Bamboo, Annapurna Sanctuary, Nepal
To: Georgia, USA

Monday, May 14, 2012

Aaaaand we're back!

In my first 24 hours back in SLC, I:
  • ate a homemade meal 
  • got a little bit tipsy with my dad on Yellowtail Shiraz
  • was greeted with both the largest marshmallows I have seen in my life as well as the biggest pile of Peeps I have seen outside a grocery store display - all completely crunchy and delicious!
  • struggled to make the decision between French Toast Foolishness and Huevos Mexicanos at Park Cafe
  • confirmed that Liberty Park still exists but walked the perimeter just to verify 
  • strolled through the biggest Harmon's ever to exist
  • laughed with my favorite of Alexes
  • drank tap water! And, even better, used the crushed ice machine in the new fridge!
  • took a long, hot shower
  • drove - and was completely freaked out every time I turned left across traffic
  • motorboated a pile of fresh laundry
Not too shabby for a first day back, eh!?

As I type, I am downloading my photos to be sorted, rated, and edited.  Hopefully that means they will be posted soon as well.  I know, I know.  I keep saying this.  But NOW I don't have to worry about the cost of internet cafes OR the likelihood that the power will go out at the worst possible moment.  So hopefully this time things will work out and you can FINALLY see some travel pics!!!