Posted in #MyGlobalLife, Housekeeping, Quests, Travel

Putting It All Out There

I’m going to put it all out there. I just need to do it. Or else I won’t.

I want to do something more with this blog. My prior writings and musings have served their purpose for me (though I’ll keep them archived for you), but now new travel thoughts, ideas and struggles swirl around in my head and it’s time to let them out.

I want to start a travel business. I envision it catering to women who want to make that first trip – ever, since a divorce, since a major life change – and who don’t want to be herded around on a bus with a bunch of strangers, but don’t want to travel alone. I would be their guide and be fortunate enough to be there while they have these new experiences.

I want to write a children’s story for my niece. It would be a historical fiction piece about an imaginative young girl and a lost little boy in Trafalgar Square. I want my mother to illustrate it. And I have thought about making it a series with the lead character traveling across Europe with her family and new found friend.

I want to open a bricks and mortar travel shop. It would be a gathering space in the community for those with wanderlust. My stock would include, but is not limited to, my beloved postcards, posters, travel narratives, guidebooks and maps, travel art by local artists, specialty luggage and bags. I also want to offer workshops to travelers on topics pre-departure and post-return.

I want to really make progress on my personal quest to visit each of the state capital buildings. I have visited two since I last posted on this blog (stay tuned for their postings). I had not set this quest intention until after reading Chris Guillebeau’s book “The Happiness of Pursuit” and now I just want to go go go!

I want to live a more global-minded life. Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio, a resource I definitely needed, but didn’t have, when I returned from all my study abroad and travel adventures, has started the #GlobalYou365 Challenge and I’ve fallen way behind on answering the questions she poses for each day. I want to make this fun, nostalgic and mindful challenge a priority in order to help me figure out those ways that work best for me to keep feeling global even when I’m not traveling.

And finally, I’ve always had this crazy notion of selling pre-written postcards for “the traveler too busy traveling.”

There. It’s done. It’s all out there. The universe now knows and can help the muses help me. As for the first item on my list, having finally posted again after so long, the hardest part is now over. Look for changes here as I move forward with my goals and pursuits. Please share yours with me too as we all try to figure our traveling selves out.


Posted in Travel

From Madison to Москва́

I love maps. I love history. I love Europe. Sophomore year in college I found a class that combined all three. The class examined the geographical and historical rise (and sometimes fall) of Europe’s capital cities. It was no surprise that I loved this class, too.

(Author: Ssolbergj and Wadim)

When I signed up, I had no idea that each class would transport me back to being five years old and sitting in my living room watching the screen in awe as my parents showed their friends the slides of their recent trip to London or Germany or somewhere else in Europe. That’s right. A majority of the class was a slide show of Europe’s beautiful capital cities. I was in heaven. I didn’t understand how this was a legitimate course. Better yet, I wanted to have a job where I got to travel all over Europe “in the name of research” and then talk about the places I visited while showing slides to an audience.

As if things couldn’t get any better, the class had a Part II complementary course the following semester. I signed up ASAP. It was during this term that the class went behind the Iron Curtain and into Russia. The professor had gone to visit his son, who had been attending Moscow State University, and he was very eager to share the photos. My interest in Russia hadn’t been sparked yet so I retained little from that particular lecture.

My thoughts were more focused on how I was amazed that Moscow was a place his son wanted to study, I wondered about the difficulty of getting a visa to go there, and how he, my professor, had been able to enter the country as a non-student. I knew little about Russia, but with the wall having come down only eleven years prior, I figured the country wouldn’t be too thrilled with letting Americans in just yet. I really had no idea. Rocky IV was still my only connection to the country. Sadly, I wasn’t interested in finding out more.

Four years later, I was finally interested in finding out more about Russia, and I was in-country to do it. For instance, I didn’t know Moscow had hills. On my first day in town a tour took my group to the top of Sparrow Hills in the southwest part of the city where we could overlook the whole of Moscow. I was trying to find all seven “wedding cake” buildings scattered throughout the city. To my right was a the ski jump built in 1953. In front of me, across the river, was the Luzhniki Stadium, where the open and closing ceremonies to the 1980 summer Olympics were held. To my left were distant views of the Kremlin. Behind me was a building for Moscow State University. As I turned to look at it, I felt I had seen it before. But how? When? Where?

The shot the Professor and I both took.

Then it hit me – the historical geography class! The slide came to my mind. In the slide the professor is taking a picture of his son with this building behind him. I was standing in practically the same area as my professor when he took his picture. I had to snap the same shot, of course.

I hadn’t thought of that course in a really long time. I began to recall my thoughts about Russia I had that day in lecture. I had learned so much since then, having taken such an interest in the history and culture of the country. I had thought at the time that what the professor did in going to Moscow was so special, and there I was in Moscow doing something special, too. I had come a long way from that lecture hall in Madison.

Posted in Travel

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

Be them street signs, signs on a building, or informative markers, here are a few of the signs that played a role in my travels abroad.

Dublin, Ireland

(Photo: Benedicto16)

The above sign was the first I encountered in Ireland that, probably shockingly, threw me for a loop, but also helped formulate a bond. It was my first night in Dublin and a group of six or seven of us were in a pub just off Grafton Street. One girl, Lisa, and I were looking at the jukebox when another girl in our group came over to ask us if we knew where the bathrooms were. Neither of us had any idea but I remembered seeing a guy head through the door that had this sign above it and go up some steps. So I said to the girl, “I think that sign means the bathrooms are through that door and upstairs.” She hit me with a look that questioned my intelligence and sobriety and, before moving on, replied, “I think that means Exit.” My brief embarrassment quickly vanished as both Lisa and I fell into hysterics. She and I became fast friends after that.

Siena, Italy

The sign to the right is an unconventional, handmade one from Siena, Italy. I arrived the day after the Palio di Siena horse race. This day the winning contrada, or district, was celebrating its victory by parading through the streets waving flags of their contrada (Torre or Tower), beating drums, and blowing whistles. I encountered the large group when they made their way to the Piazza del Campo, the site of the race. This gentleman is being helpful to the tourists by wearing a sign indicating which way to the fountain and which way to the Duomo, two of the city’s main attractions. Either that or he was just tired of being asked for directions. I never quite figured out where he needed to be standing in the city for the arrows on the sign to be accurate.

Antwerp, Belgium

One sign that was no trouble to understand was this one below, which was on the side of a restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium. Alas, I did not go in to see if the proclamation was indeed true, though I had little doubt it was telling the truth.

Also in Antwerp was the sign for the hostel my friends and I stayed in. The sign was telling us more with its rust than we originally suspected.

Upon arrival we dropped off what we didn’t want to carry for the day. When we returned to our room later in the evening, we found much of the floor, bedding, and walls to be damp from the rain. We gals muddled through laying out wet clothes to dry for the next day and sleeping on top of our towels. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized the damp, rusty-signed hostel had given me a parting gift of scabies on my hand. Not surprisingly, I do not recommend this hostel, and, according to some of the reviews on-line, other people do not recommend it either.

Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

On our way to the Cliffs of Moher, my friends and I decided to take in the views along the ocean as we walked from Doolin to the main cliff-viewing area at O’Brien’s Tower. This was about three miles of gorgeous scenery. As the terrain rose we came across the sign below that we took as a simple warning as the path we were on was well worn. Walking between the property fence and the edge did produce some heart palpitations as the space was quite narrow making me think twice about disregarding the sign.

Here’s how high we were prior to reaching the ‘Extreme Danger’ sign.

Before we made it to O’Brien’s Tower to see the full view of the breathtaking cliffs, we had one more hurdle to climb – a gate with barbed wire – next to which was a sign telling us in three languages not to take the very path we had just taken. Oops.

Drumnadrochit, Scotland and Cornwall, England

Last, here are some of the street signs that caught my attention for their humorous specificity, imagery and drawn figures. The first was found in Drumnadrochit, Scotland and the latter two were found in Cornwall, England.