Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown

I remember the first time I encountered Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”. I was in 6th grade and Miss Clark had given us the poem to memorize. When I shared this news with my dad, he instantly perked up (let’s face it, elementary school homework doesn’t often elicit parental joy). But this time? Here was his favorite poem — something he could share with his daughter in the form of homework disguised as life lesson. He sat with me as I attempted to commit each line to memory, reciting the verses ad nauseam.

” I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

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What a Difference a Year Makes

A little over a year ago, an event occurred that changed my life. Or at least it changed my writing life.

The New York Times Travel Show, the veritable institution of journalism excellence brought together the best and the brightest from the travel industry to share with commoners (like myself) and members of the travel media (of which I aspire to belong). Sitting in the travel media sessions, learning about cultivating your persona (or brand) online, I realized that my first foray into blogging didn’t really seem to have a strong purpose and direction. Sure, it was fun to write stories about my life in NYC, but it was a bit insular and only of interest to its participants (but dang, it was funny).

Sitting in the basement of the Javits Center, listening to noted travel bloggers and writers talking about their websites and online “presence”, I was inspired to begin anew. This time, focusing on my love of travel and writing. It seemed easy enough. Thanks to WordPress and some creativity I had a place to begin. Or so I thought.

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At Home at the End of the World

How I love the perfect fall day.

Getting up early and feeling the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the slats of the blinds, the sound of fallen leaves crunching underneath my Converse. Add in a cuppa joe, The New York Times and I’m a happy camper. So here I sit, a pug sleeping soundly underfoot when it dawns on me I could take this quiet time and prioritize today’s blog’s post and dedicate this early time to writing.

How novel! And it only took me 26 days to figure it out.

Day 26: Photo

Post a photo of your favorite place and tell us what you love about it.

The Dana Point Headlands.

This to me, is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever encountered and the fact that it’s where I grew up makes it that much more special to me. I can remember field trips in elementary school exploring the tide pools and poking harmless sea anemones to get them to spit water at us; and later when I was older, reading Richard Henry Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast” where he and fellow sailors would slide pelts down the sides of the cliffs to reach The Pilgrim docked below.

It is also the place where I am most at peace. I can sit for hours gazing at the sea as it crashes along the jagged shoreline, the smell of the briny air boring its way deep into my lungs. Sitting at the western edge of the U.S. nothing on the horizon but endless blue, my mind is free to wander. I feel at once insignificant, but in awe of the world and my place in it. More importantly, it’s the place where I’ve sat with my dad and pondered the major “what ifs” of my future — college, backpacking through Europe, grad school, the giant leap of moving to New York.

This is the place that established the ocean as my first love of nature. And while I long to explore the beauty the rest of the natural world has to offer, I’ll always come home to the place where it all began.

One with Nature

Hubris is a very bad thing.

I confess when I opened today’s installment of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project email, a tiny wave of it washed over me. I struggled with last night’s prompt. Not that it was difficult to think of a moment, but it came down to time. A demanding work day left little of it. So I ended up with a quickly written post and felt that I had somehow let the Project and the blogosphere as a whole down. Then a funny thing happened…

I received a positive response, multiple positive responses in fact. That includes a shout out from BootsNAll on Twitter. I guess it goes to show you. When the chips are down, persistence does pay off.

And boy did it. Write about the environment and nature? Score one for me!

Day 10: Earth

At what point in your travels have you felt most in tune with the Earth? Share a story of how you interacted with the local environment or nature.

“You were my little coffee bean,” said my dad.

He is, of course, referring to my role as his “Surfer Girl” an homage to the Beach Boys (a family favorite). I was, after all, born and raised on the beaches in Orange County, California. Summer days were spent daily at the beach. Playing in the surf and catching sand crabs so I could create an ecosystem-in-a-bucket complete with saline and sand (alas, no one explained to me that sand crabs in a bucket in the hot sun would in effect kill my water babies).

This upbringing has given me an understated and profound love and respect of the ocean. Before you even set eyes on the Pacific, the briny air reaches you while the humidity that permeates to your skin, dampening your clothes. Then you see the undulating waves, cascading through the deep to the shore in rhythmic sets. It’s hypnotic in a way that makes you realize how powerful and dynamic the ocean can be.

So whenever I have an opportunity to travel to a beach/ocean community I’ll take it (budget permitting). Several years ago, my friend Mallika and I decided to embark on a surf trip to Tamarindo, Costa Rico and Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. Sure it had been at least 12 years since I had ridden a wave, but I was game. So off we went in search of la Pura Vida.

In Tamarindo, we settled into the daily routine of breakfast burritos and coffee, while waves crashed in the background. This was followed by a 2-hr surf session, then a siesta and perhaps another later afternoon session (should the tides cooperate).

One afternoon, while on a final surf trip to Avellanas (a different break outside of Tamarindo), our group hit the water. As we all positioned ourselves in the line-up, waiting for the set to roll in , we saw the smallish lump forming on the horizon. By the time the wave was upon us, the sets were much larger than our surf instructors envisioned. We all sat on our boards, eyes as wide as saucers. The second lump moved towards us and as I judged the distance and height, it dawned on me – we’re in the impact zone. The waves were going to start breaking directly where we were sitting. As I started paddling out, the wave continued to grow in height, I gave it everything I had and somehow managed to cross over the lip as the first snarl of foam made an appearance.

Falling over the backside of the wave, my heart was beating in my ears. As I looked around me, I realized that not only was I the only girl, I was the only surf camper. The wave became one gigantic white-wash broom, sweeping everyone into the beach. So there I sat, me and my instructors from the week.

I’ll admit, it was slightly unnerving to be out there with these expert surfers, but at no point did I feel unsafe or afraid of what the ocean may kick up. Bobbing in the water, staring back at the beach and the jungle spreading out behind it, I felt I was a part of something dynamic, something bigger than myself.

I had found my Pura Vida moment.

My Favorite Mistake

Day 4 and already the cracks are starting to show. A long day at work and the last thing I want to do is write. Yet, I know that once I get going and see the finished post at the end of it, a sense of accomplishment will wash over me. So, owing to the commitment I made to myself, I will soldier on and get down to it. After all, a challenge is a challenge.

Day 4: Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. We forget to ask for Coke without ice in Mexico and spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom. Or we arrive at the airport for a 7pm flight only to realize the flight left at 7am. Tell us the story of your worst travel mistake.

Thinking back on my travels, I don’t recall mistakes per se. Sure things didn’t go as planned or I exhibited some less than stellar judgement, but in all honesty that’s what travel is all about. It’s getting outside of your comfort zone, experiencing something new and finding out about yourself in the process. So when I think back to my illustrious travel career a couple of doozies spring to mind.

1) Mistakes in Transit: nothing is worse than showing up at the airport and realizing you: a) got the flight time wrong b) are at the wrong terminal/airline or c) my personal fave…at the WRONG airport. Yup. You read that right. Wrong airport. I was 16, a junior in high school and my dad was taking me to Colorado to check out colleges. I would like to state, for the record, that my dad is the quintessential traveler. A man who made his living in sales and marketing, he traversed the globe racking up more frequent flier miles than he could ever redeem (he’s still trying to this day). He booked our tickets through his trusty travel agent, Ruth, and the trip began like any other. My dad packed up the Grand Marquis and off we went to John Wayne airport. Drop off the car, head to the terminal where the booking agent explains to us gently that we’re in the wrong place. I’ve never seen my dad look so flabbergasted in all my life, he actually sputtered, “No, no. It couldn’t. It couldn’t be. Ruth. Ruth. She knows never to book me out of LAX.” With a quick turn on his heel, we grabbed our bags, ran to the car and hit the 405. While we missed our first flight, we thankfully caught the next. And to this very day, I always triple check my departure airport (especially handy in NJ where there are three major airports in the vicinity).

2) Mistakes of Epic Libation: I know, I know. You’re shocked that alcohol could be a factor in travel mistakes. Wish I could say I was free from this error in judgement. But you’re out, you’re having fun, your friend shouts out, “One more round!” And you think, why not? What’s the worst that could happen? Besides, I’ve always been the girl who will stay to the bitter end for fearing of missing a funny moment that would turn into an even funnier story. As a result, I’ve been known to consume one too many for fear of missing out (the FOMs as my friend Deneen calls it). And since I’m all about the story, it would be a travesty to leave. Case in point? Heading out to a Thanksgiving party instead of packing for my trip home when I was in grad school. Stayed out too late, had a cocktail or two, but didn’t miss out. Instead, I had a brilliantly fun and zany night out with my friend Neda that involved a heated debate over Weezer’s blue album. Needless to say, I woke up late, haphazardly packed and nearly missed my flight home since I fell asleep at the gate at Boston Logan. Did I mention I forgot to call my parents and let them know when I was arriving? Thank goodness for layovers, where I was able to call my dad and let him know my arrival time. Not my finest moment – and now preserved on my blog.

3) Mistakes of Forgetfulness & Theft: Picture me: an 18 year-old girl living in London for the summer. It’s 1994, ATMs weren’t the preferred method to procure cash, so Amex traveler’s checks were the way to go. After a week of living in the hostel, it was time to strike out on my own and get a sublet. I head to the local bureau de change and flush with GBPs, I settle into the cubby area at the hostel to call the 5+ flats on my list. Not having much luck, I settle back in the common area and peruse the daily paper for additional housing gems. About 5 minutes into my search, I jump up with a start. My wallet! On top of the phone! I race down the hall and see it perched on top of the phone. Just where I left it. Heaving a sigh of relief I walked back to the couch and flipped open my wallet to find it…empty. All my freshly exchanged pound notes. Gone. A frantic call back to my parents (middle of the night for them…natch) and they thankfully helped me get back on my feet. But lesson learned: I’ve never set my wallet down anywhere since — grab what you need and put it away. Perhaps I’m a little obsessive, but you lose your hard-earned cash at 18, you learn quickly.

And so, there you have it. My trifecta of mistakes or as I prefer to look at, opportunities to learn a bit more about myself. And besides, they make for good stories. So I’ve got that going for me.