Brief Exchanges

This photo was taken on Marco Island, one of southern Florida’s most tropical destinations. I was walking along the beach, heading towards a remote part of the island when I came across this guy standing in the ocean with a bucket on his head, and I thought, why not?

The best part of travel, especially solo travel, is meeting a variety of interesting people. Somehow, I have always ended up crossing paths with others who are either exploring their own journeys or like me, love to travel to different parts of the world in hopes of having new adventures. Each location has its own energy, whether it’s in the mountains, desert, urban cities or beach side, and all of the people I have met have inspired me or taught me lessons in kindness, generosity, gratitude and self-exploration.

The interaction with the bucket-head guy, was a humorous brief exchange on my journey which started out as a serious contemplation of my own life as I walked along the beach. This amusing interaction made me think about my own bucket list, the places I want to travel to, the life experiences I want to have, and the things I want to accomplish in my short life on earth.

Life is simply a series of brief moments. Whether we travel in our own cities or communities or travel abroad, our connections with others are what make our lives meaningful, interesting and fun.

What’s on your bucket list?

 

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Desert Cities

On route to the White Mountains, I stopped off in Phoenix to do some exploration.  I knew flying in that temperatures were in excess of 110 degrees.  Being a lover of heat, I thought, no sweat, I can handle this.

I landed at the airport at 10:00pm at night.  Temperatures were still in their 90’s.  Although it was hot, it wasn’t stifling as I had just flown out of high humidity in the Midwest, so I welcomed the dry heat.

I spent the night in a Phoenix hotel and then headed back to the airport and took a flight to the White Mountains where I spent the next three days.  After completing my work assignment, I headed back to the valley where at 8:30am the temperatures were already in the 90’s.   Still wanting to explore Phoenix, and being a nature lover, I headed for the Desert Botanic Gardens.

I took Uber from the airport to the gardens and quickly purchased my ticket as there was no line or huge crowd to fight and began exploring the Sonoran desert.  I later realized that there was a reason why there were no people or crowds there, because the heat was too intense and only those brave or foolish enough would explore the desert in the full heat of summertime.

The gardens were beautiful as I walked the paths and trails to different parts of the park, checking out the variety of plants that grow in the hottest and driest parts of the world.  I saw blooming cactus and nesting Inca doves, and spent time reflecting in the Contemplation Garden.  After about 10 minutes into my journey, I felt the scorching heat radiating down on me.  Unlike the heaviness of the Midwest, the dry heat baked me like a giant furnace and I found myself continually searching for shade along the way.  Although beautiful, I gained a respect and understanding for the desert and life that lived there.  I had always loved the sun, but even in the morning, the Sonoran Desert was a rough reminder of how beautiful and dangerous the desert can be.

As I continued my hike around the garden, I found several drinking fountains and shaded areas along the way.  I stopped often to refill my water bottle.  Because of the heat, I did not explore all of the trails but headed back to the entrance.   Once back, I decided I wanted to get something to eat before I flew back home, but the only open cafe at the time was half way back into the garden and the heat was too intense so I decided not to trek back in.

If your thinking of visiting the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, I would highly recommend it, but unless your a camel and can take extreme heat, I would recommended going at 7:00am when they open or late at night.  It’s defiantly worth visiting as there is no place on earth like the Sonoran Desert.

 

 

Architecture Meets Nature

On a recent road trip to Spring Green, Wisconsin, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, I explored The House on the Rock, an amazing design created by Alex Jordan Jr.  According to history, Jordan shared his architectural vision with Wright who scoffed at him saying he wouldn’t trust him to build a “cheese crate or chicken coop,” which led Jordan to build the house on the rock out of anger.

Although the house now has numerous attractions and collections to investigate, I found the original Japanese style house built into the rocks mesmerizing.  Giant metal cooking pots hang in the rock enclosed kitchen and red velvet couches are nestled discretely within dark wooden libraries built into the sandstone rock, making it a haven for those seeking to combine architecture and nature in a way that inspires the mind and nurtures the heart.

One of my favorite places in the house is a walkway that becomes narrower and narrower and eventually comes to a dead end with a bridge to nowhere that leaves you suspended in midair.

With the exception of tourists, the House on the Rock feels magical and restorative and provides an interesting adventure into the world of architecture and nature.  The Japanese style water garden is tranquil and is both a starting point and ending point on the self guided tour.  Local history about Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating and provides a great day out for a mix of architectural history combined with nature elements.

https://www.thehouseontherock.com/

The Arizona Experience

I arrived in Phoenix at 10:00pm on August 4, 2019, the temperature was 94 degrees.  Luckily for me, I was flying up to the White Mountains the next morning where the temperatures were about 25 degrees cooler due to higher elevation.

Being back in a familiar place, I realized how much I had missed the mountains.  I loved the smell of ponderosa pine trees in the dry arid winds of Northeastern Arizona.  Back in the Midwest, summer was sweltering with high humidity.  The change in scenery was welcoming.  I often feel the need to leave home to find inspiration and to see the world with new eyes.  Although I had moved away from Arizona, I felt in a way that I had come home.

I had traveled back for a work assignment and decided to bring my new husband of one month and one week.  Together we explored familiar and unfamiliar trails, hiking rocky mountain paths around lakes and forests.  Our nights were spent at a local motel called Antler’s Inn where we played evening games of horseshoes and sat around a campfire watching the sunset into the mountain sky.

The trip provided a welcoming relief from everyday stressors.  I often encourage other people to travel and explore.  Life can easily become mundane and dull.  Although the White Mountains are not a new place or destination for me, they sparked and ignited my senses again through sights, sounds, and tastes.

Sometimes going away from home makes us homesick, and sometimes going away, brings us back.

 

 

 

 

Costa Rican Raw

Cocoa has commonly been known as the “Drink of the Gods”, and has been around for more than one thousand years.  Most people have a passion for chocolate or cocoa but have not had the experience of seeing this exotic bean in its raw and natural form.

On a previous trip to a Costa Rican Organic Echo Farm, I had the opportunity to walk the grounds of the plantation, which consisted of over 300 trees that were over 30 years old.

The process begins with roasting and grinding the fermented cocoa beans.  The grinding process uses an ancient stone, “metate” which has been carved by indigenous people out of volcanic rock from a nearby volcano.  Once grinding is completed, a variety of New World ingredients such as Vanilla, Jamaica or Allspice, Spicy Chile, and Achiote or Annatto are selected or you can stick to your more basic European milk and sugar drink or chocolate bar.

Finca Luna Nueva offers a variety of organic and experiential experiences for those who are seeking a raw and natural experience.

For more information:

http://fincalunanuevalodge.com

Super 8 Hotels, Chinese Food and Cat Smuggling

There are adventures and then there are adventures…

I recently took a long road trip across the southwest with a good friend of mine.  The trip was not planned out, but more of a quick spontaneous trip that allowed us the freedom to stop anywhere we wanted along the way, which included dive hotels, the world of junk food and other unexpected finds along the way, including Pie Town, New Mexico.

With no itinerary, we drove as far as we could each day, traveling approximately 10 hours or more until we were too tired to continue, stopping at Super 8 Hotels and eating Chinese food along the way. The first night in Texas was fine, the hotel was good, the Chinese food mediocre.  The second night in Kansas the hotel was filthy, and the Chinese food was superb. The 3rd night was uneventful and unmarkable.

We were hoping to reach our destination of 1700 miles on the third day, but due to a snowstorm, we were forced to stay in a hotel another night.  This time, we just pulled off the freeway and found a relatively new hotel to stay in.

I had driven almost 13 hours that day and there were no other hotels nearby so I made the decision to sneak my cat into the hotel, thinking that if they did not accept pets that we would have to drive on ice covered roads in search of another hotel.  Normally I would never do this, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted so I put my cat into his carrier and quietly snuck him into my hotel room.

An hour later, I decided to order Chinese food and hungrily waited for the delivery person to arrive.  After about 30 minutes, I heard a knock on my door.  I quickly put my cat into the bathroom and shut the door.  I paid for my food, set my dinner down and tried to open the door to let my cat out, but the door wouldn’t open.  I realized it was locked!  I started to freak out. I continued to try to work on the lock but nothing worked.  I started to panic as I knew I had to call the woman at the front desk to open the door and she would know that I had snuck my cat into the hotel.

I dreaded making the call but told the woman that my bathroom door was locked.  She thought that was odd.  I thought what kind of crazy hotel would put a lock on the outside of a bathroom door!  The woman came to my room with a large keyring full of keys.  I knew I had to tell her before my cat came out of the bathroom that he was in there.  She tried six or seven different keys, none of them worked. I started panicking.  I eventually said, “My cat’s in there.”  I thought she heard me but she didn’t respond other than to say that none of the keys were working.

Eventually, the last key turned the lock and Lucky, my cat strolled out.  She looked down and said, “Oh, you have a cat.”  I said yes, this chain is pet-friendly right?  She said, “No, no it isn’t.” I swallowed deeply and was thinking about what to do or say, when she said, “It’s ok.  I only make $11.00 an hour.  You can keep your cat, but you will have to sneak him out in the morning because the manager will be here.”

Relieved, I calmed down, ate my Chinese food and fell asleep.  The next morning my friend called me to ask me if the manager had knocked on my door.  I said, “No why?” He said that the manager had just knocked on his door.  I panicked and hung up on my friend and put my cat into his carrier and got him out of the hotel as fast as I could.  My friend later told me that he had left his door open and the manager was only inquiring if he had checked out.  I laughed and wanted to strangle him at the same time.

After a trip of 1700 miles, 4 days of hotels and Chinese food and cat smuggling. I made the decision to never try to smuggle my cat again into a hotel again. I also developed a strong addiction to dive hotels and Chinese food.

Life in Transition

What do you do when life challenges you in unexpected ways?  You drive a U-haul across the country, leaving behind life as you know it.

Unexpectedly I found my life shift and change, forcing me to make decisions that I did not want to make.  I realized that life is unpredictable.

Driving a 20-foot U-haul and towing my car behind was completely out of my comfort zone. My friend and travel companion reminded me to breathe as I began the journey driving the wrong way into rural mountains with no place to turn around.  I white-knuckled the steering wheel as I drove further into the unfamiliar mountain range.

For four days, we were enchanted by the beauty of New Mexico, laughed across the state of Texas and wanted to kill each other in the cattle fields of Kansas, but we survived the journey recognizing that our adventure together was a test of strength, endurance, and patience.  We ate Chinese food every night in Super 8 Hotels along the way and saw Dorthy’s house from the Wizard of Oz.

We survived the journey together and I have surrendered to the fact that I will probably make more unexpected journeys in my lifetime, and that’s ok.  I no longer hold onto a false sense of security as life is truly an illusion.  What feels safe, isn’t, and what feels fearful is safe. Life is a paradox.

I could have stayed in one place my entire life, but then I think about all the people I would not have met and all the experiences I would not have had, both good and bad.  Not that I have chosen all of my life changes, on the contrary, most of them were forced upon me, but I no longer fight them, but accept that I am being guided to a new place, a new experience or back to a familiar place where I am to resolve the past.  Wherever life takes me, it will be a journey…