Settled in Seattle


Seattle, taken from the NG Sea Lion

Yes, it’s been awhile. I haven’t written on whereonearth in several months for several different reasons. The last time I posted a blog was way back in March when I was traveling around Ecuador!  One of the reasons I’ve been on hiatus is that I recently started school again, which means that my travels and adventures have virtually stopped (although I did have an awesome two week cross-country road trip and I plan on doing many, many mini vacations!). School also magically and dramatically cuts down on free time… Another reason is that I felt like I had to write a post everyday or at least five days a week. It was a lot of pressure on myself and even though I like to write, I didn’t necessarily want to write everyday. So this time around, it’s going to be a lot less stressful. I want to write posts that I don’t rush through and not just put them up because I feel like I have to put something up. I also want to work on my writing skills because I’m taking a writing course next quarter (writing about food and health to be exact), and I would like to – maybe, possibly – start writing for magazines and/or online blogs or publications. So we’ll see how it goes!

Now for an update on where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to for the past few months. I mentioned in this post that I’ve decided to go back to school. Well, I’ve officially been back in school for three months and I love it! Bastyr is a really great school and even though this quarter has been a quarter of sciences  because I’m in the post-bacc program, I love that I’m learning (academically) again. After a year of post-bacc classes, I’m hoping to start the Master’s in Nutrition and Clinical Health Psychology.

Along with going back to school, I’ve also been exploring my new city: Seattle. Being in a new city is not so revolutionary for me (check out this series of posts), but what is new to me is the fact that I’m staying in this city, for more that a few days or weeks, at least. I love discovering new places and getting lost amid the gridwork of city streets (as long as I have a map or GPS). Here are a few places that I’ve discovered and love about Seattle:

The Burke-Gilman trail – runs from Ballad to Kenmore and connects to a number of other paved bike trails/lanes. I can bike to Bastyr almost entirely on the trail!

Sutra Restaurant and Yoga Studio – an all-vegan, set-menu, local-food restaurant. What more could I ask for? Also attached to the restaurant is a yoga studio. I’ve been volunteering at the owners farm in Monroe for one day a month in exchange for free yoga. Perfect! Here’s a pic of a greenhouse that we helped build.

Chocolati in Wallingford – my go-to study spot. Amazing almond milk hot chocolate!

Value Village – not very classy, I know, but you can find some amazing discoveries there. Sometimes. A lot of the times it’s all junk, but I’ve gotten some pretty nice plant pots and kitchen stuff for cheap!

I’m still exploring and still discovering, so these are only a few of the places I’ve found. There’s lots of great restaurants and things to do and see in Seattle, so keep checking back! Now on to studying…

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New England Wrap Up


Despite a tight flight connection in Detroit, C and I made it to Vermont without a hitch. After we landed in Burlington, we picked up our rental car and headed out toward my parents house in Underhill, the day’s last sunlight illuminating the snow on Mt. Mansfield before us. We didn’t have much in the way of an agenda for the next 10 days, except for a trip up to Montreal and relaxing in front of the wood stove at home with Butters, my parents’ cat, to provide us with entertainment.

We lucked out with some nice (albeit chilly) weather, and C and I went for a few long walks in the snowy woods. I also showed him around Burlington, took him to Healthy Living and a cozy tea house on Church Street, and helped him buy sturdy hiking/work boots in Johnson. I had planned a two night stay for us in Montreal through Airbnb because C had never been to the French Canadian city, so we set off across the border in our rental Jeep. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and it was cold and rainy the first day we arrived. We also discovered that Cirque Du Soleil was opening their new show “Dralion” the day after we were supposed to leave. So, after a delicious Ethiopian dinner at Le Nil Bleu (if you have never tried Ethiopian, I highly recommend it), we decided that we would spend only one night in the city, return home to VT, and then cross the border again a day later to watch the acrobatic performance. It was a lot of driving, but highly worth it. Cirque De Soleil is amazing! The show opened with a woman performing one-handed handstands atop a 6 foot tall pole. From there, the show didn’t disappoint with acts ranging from trampoline gymnastics, trapeze artists, clowns, tumblers, and the most impressive jump-ropper’s I’ve ever seen. You can watch the preview for the show here. I’ll definitely be going to more Cirque du Soleil shows in the future. Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour anyone?

Just as my visit in Indiana flew by, so did C’s stay in Vermont. Wanting to be with his family for the holidays, he returned to Bloomington for a few days before heading down to Costa Rica and Panama for two months on the Sea Lion (with me). Which is where we are at the moment, stuck in Newark, New Jersey because a pilot called in sick and they can’t find a replacement. Yet. The officials keep saying that they’re working on the situation, but we haven’t heard any progress updates. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll be in San Jose at some point tonight. At least it’s not Detroit.

UPDATE

We’re in San Jose, at last. After spending six hours at gate 102 in Terminal C at the Newark airport, Continental finally found a crew to fly our plane to Costa Rica. I thought for sure that the flight was going to be cancelled and I was on the phone trying to figure out how we were going to get from New Jersey to Central America in time to meet the ship before it set sail toward Panama. Luckily I didn’t have to worry for long because they finally announced that they had cancelled another flight (going who knows where and stranding who knows how many other people) and brought that crew to our plane so we could get to Costa Rica. There were a lot of relieved vacationers and a lot of stressed out parents with impatient kids running in every direction.

Tomorrow we board an early shuttle that will take us to Herradura and the Sea Lion. Two months of sun, surf, and beach!

Back to the Boat and Back to Blogging


Ok, I know, it’s been awhile since I last posted a blog entry – about three months, actually – and I’m very sorry about that. In the meantime, though, I have been doing some traveling, but mostly enjoying being home in Vermont before my next big voyage. Which starts in approximately 8 hours. I’ll try to catch up on my whereabouts and achievements a bit, at least as much as I can remember!

After I returned from my 15 day Baltic Sea extravaganza way back in September, I flew straight to Indiana to visit my boyfriend, C, and his parents who live in Bloomington. As you know, I love exploring new places, and Indiana was new territory so I was very excited to see what it has to offer. We went to the annual Lotus Festival, a world music and arts celebration that draws artists from all over the world. We saw several great bands including gypsy singers from Dikanda, Nordic fiddle-driven performers from Frigg, the Chinese-inspired Orchid Ensemble, and my favorite, witty singer and songwriter Abigail Washburn. We also witnessed an ethereal performance by an Australian performing arts group aptly called Strange Fruit. Three women dressed in brassy Victorian dresses stood a top tall poles and “danced” together by using their weight to bend the poles back and forth in wide, sweeping arcs. While the poles were swaying, they would twist their bodies and spin in dizzying circles high above our heads. It was dark out and the women were illuminated by bright lights, making them look like they were suspended in the air. It was beautiful and rather eerie at the same time.

C and I also took an afternoon to go horseback riding at a nearby stable. We lucked out with a beautiful day and even though there were two other riders who weren’t as experienced (the poor girl started screaming when her horse broke into a trot), our guide let us canter on the flat straightaways. I miss having horses around, so it was great to get back on one again. The next day was beautiful as well, so C and I loaded up the canoe in the back of his dad’s truck and drove to a small lake (I’m forgetting the name) and paddled around for several hours. The wildlife didn’t compare to Alaska, but we did see some ducks and turtles sunbathing on fallen logs. My visit with C and his family seemed to fly by and before I knew it, it was time to get back on a plane (my 11th in the span of two months!). Indiana is a nice state, if somewhat flatter than Vermont, but I have to say the weather is more my style!

Back in VT, I had three months before I needed to be back on the boat in Costa Rica. I had previously worked at a amazing local health food store – Healthy Living – and they were kind enough to hire me for a short period of time (probably because that time incorporated Thanksgiving and Christmas, two of their busiest holidays). Anyway, I met some great people, ate some good food, and probably spent as much as I had earned. Part of that “pocket money” went to a short three-day trip to Florida to meet C and swim with some ugly-but-adorable manatees. When I was flying home from Indiana, I volunteered to get bumped in Detroit (aka the worst airport ever). As a reward, I got a $400 dollar flight voucher, which paid for my round-trip flight to Florida as well as C’s flight back to Vermont with me.

When I landed at the Fort Meyer’s airport, C was there with a rental car and we sped north toward Crystal River, home of several hundred manatees. Manatees are endangered species and there are only 3,000 4,000 left in the United States, almost all of them in Florida.  We rented a Jon boat, wetsuits, and snorkeling gear from a local tour operator and slowly motored out in search of the slow-moving water mammals. The whole manatee protective area in Crystal River is rather strange because there are houses lining the shore and private boats clogging the narrow waterways. If we want to save the manatees I think we can afford to offer them a bit more in terms of protection. In any case, C and I dropped the anchor at the entrance of a protected spring and jumped in the chilly water in search of some manatees. Underwater, the small lagoon was beautiful. The underground spring, full of minerals, made the water turquoise blue and the sun’s rays penetrated the surface, making the water sparkle. In the middle of the lagoon was a baby manatee, suspended in the water as he dozed. After spending some time watching him float to the surface for a breath and then sink back down to the sandy floor, we swam back out to our small boat and went in search of more animals. There were so many concentrated in such a small area that we could see them swim past as we motored by. We found a few more spots to swim with the manatees before I got too cold to jump in anymore. We returned the boat, loaded up the car and continued north to Juniper Springs.

(Sorry for the lack of manatee pictures. I have yet to get them from C, but I’ll post them as soon as I do!)

Juniper Springs is another beautiful natural spring, protected in Florida’s Ocala National Forest. We found a place to stay (in The Village, no less, an enormous retirement home community where there are doctor’s offices on every block) and the next day we set out to explore the Ocala National Forest. C had researched out a 4-hour canoe paddle at Juniper Springs, so we parked the car and rented a canoe from a very sweet German park ranger. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was surprised at how narrow and shallow the canoe trail was. It was beautiful: clear water, low hanging vines, dense forest. A perfect place for alligators. Not far in, we saw some baby racoons and their mother and then we heard a huge crashing straight ahead. We both caught a fleeting glimpse of a black bear madly scrambling down a tree and then disappearing into the underbrush. It may not be Alaska, but there are still black bears! We also saw two alligators basking in the sun and a ton of turtles soaking up the warmth. A small green tree frog also caught a ride with us for a few hundred feet. He jumped onto the side of our canoe and stayed there, stuck, until it was his stop.

The Juniper Springs run is 7-miles in length, and typically takes between 4 and 6 hours to finish. We took our time paddling around fallen trees, under low branches, and poking into nooks and crannies. There are no signs, but it’s pretty hard to get lost. At the end we were met by another park ranger who drove us back to the Juniper Springs visitor center. We walked around the campground a bit, C went swimming in the fresh water spring, and then it started to rain, so we returned to our car and headed back to The Village.

For our final full day in Florida, we went for a nice hike (Florida hikes don’t involve much elevation gain) in Colt Creek State Park. To get there we drove our little black shiny Jetta through some pretty rough terrain. We also passed far too many hunting camps than I would have liked to see. I wouldn’t say that we were lost (thanks to my handy iPhone), but we definitely took some back roads. Colt Creek is a nice park with walking trails and a small lake. We also found out that it’s home to wild boars. At least that’s what we think they were. We heard loud snorting and stamping off to the side of the trail in some thick underbrush and we didn’t stop to check it out. I’ve heard that wild boars can be pretty nasty and I didn’t want to stop see if that’s true.

So that was our Florida trip and then we boarded a plane bound for Vermont. C had never been to New England, so I was excited to show him around! I’ll continue my catch up in another post tomorrow. Merry x-mas everyone!

The Longest Day Ever, and then some


As an experienced traveler, I have come to expect long travel days, mindless hours spent in airports, and unavoidable delays. But trying to get back home to Burlington, Vermont from Jackson Hole was one long misadventure. Here is what I experienced:

Saturday, August 27 

4:30 am Woke up to bring my brother to the Jackson Hole airport so he could fly to San Francisco for his next medical rotation

5:45 am Dropped the car off at my brother’s friend’s house and walked 15 minutes, with my luggage, to a gas station to meet the shuttle that would transfer me down to Salt Lake City, Utah for my flight. Due to Hurricane Irene, my original flight that stopped in JFK got cancelled, so now I would be flying out of SLC at 1:00 am. The next morning.

6:30 am We began our 5 hour drive down to Salt Lake City. I tried to stay away and watch the landscape as it passed by, but my eyes just wanted to stay closed so I gave up and listened to Adele with my head cushioned against the side window.

11:30 am We arrived at the Salt Lake City airport where I checked my bag and prepared myself for a 13 hour wait. I ended up catching a bus into the city where I found an outdoor mall (see last post) with Barnes and Noble and a Starbucks. I treated myself to a nice dinner at a sushi bar called the Happy Sumo. I had the vegetarian combo and some steamed vegetables. For those of you who don’t know me, I could eat (veggie) sushi every day and never get sick of it!

Sunday, August 28

12:55 am I headed back to the airport around 8 pm and spent the next few hours lying on the floor of the terminal with a coat sleeve over my eyes. At last it was time to board the plane to Atlanta and as soon as the plane took off, I took my contacts out, closed my eyes, and fell asleep

6:30 am I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. I only had an hour layover, so I hurried to my next gate

7:25 am My plane departed Atlanta for Detroit

9:20 am I arrived in Detroit, Michigan. This is where it gets good. I get off the plane and look at the monitors to see what gate my flight to Burlington, Vermont will be. Instead of a gate number, it says cancelled. Great, I thought. So I went and stood in line with a number of other people trying to get places that Hurricane Irene ungraciously grazed. After 45 minutes of standing in line, the counter attendant informed me that the next flight available out of Detroit to Burlington would be Wednesday! No way, I thought, but what other options did I have? The woman in front of me mentioned that people were renting cars and driving to wherever they needed to go. A quick Google maps search told me that from Detroit to Burlington would be 13 hours driving time.

11:00ish am I made some phone calls to the car rental agencies and took the free shuttle to the Avis lot. I was prepared to jump in the car and drive the 600+ miles. I called my folks, though, and my dad convinced me to get a hotel for the night and see if I could stand by for a flight to Burlington the next morning. I gave in to reason and returned to the airport.

12:30 pm There was another flight to Burlington at 2:45, so I hung around to see if that one a) was actually going to happen and b) I could get a seat on it. An hour before it was scheduled to take off, just when I thought it might actually happen, they cancelled it. We were all directed, once again, to the customer service desk, where, once again, they informed us that we wouldn’t be able to get a flight to Burlington until Wednesday!


1:30 pm – 4:00 pm 
Not wanting to wait in Detroit for three days, I started asking around to see if anyone wanted to drive with me to Burlington. I recruited three other people. One was a woman (Charlene) who needed to be in Littleton, New Hampshire for a business meeting. Another was a woman (Natalie) from Montreal trying to get back east after a Usana conference in Salt Lake City. And the third was a soldier (James) trying to get back to school in Northfield, Vermont. All seemed like nice and reliable characters who just wanted to get to where they were going. We shook hands, stated our names, and exited the airport (after waiting almost 2 hours to receive our bags – mine never came). We also picked up a fifth person (Stephanie) who was stranded at the baggage claim and had no way to get home. While the other waited for their bags, Charlene and I went to the Avis car rental lot and picked up a shiny new Dodge Ram SUV. Charlene had her boss rent the car on her company’s account and paid for gas on the company’s card, so all we had to was chip in for insurance! It took an additional 45 minutes to fill out the paperwork and then when we were ready to leave, the car battery was dead. Another few minutes of scrambling and were fitted with a new car and on our way

4:30 pm A wrong turn sent us traveling north, but we quickly found our way again with Charlene’s Garmin GPS (supplemented with my iPhone). Since only Charlene and I could drive (only we had the insurance), I got to sit up front the whole way. We passed through Michigan and into Ohio. Then it was Pennsylvania and eventually New York. We stopped for food and gas several times, but pretty much we just kept trucking east.

8:30 pm & on Charlene and I took turns behind the wheel while the other tried to find updates on the storm and flooding conditions in Vermont. Everything that we found online and heard over the news told us it was bad. Really bad. Southern Vermont was getting evacuated and roads were closing left and right. Not what I want to hear after traveling since 4:30 the previous morning. We decided, though, that we would continue on as far as we could get and if we had to stop and get a hotel, we would. But not until we had to. I wanted to get home!

I think we were lucky. The only trouble we came across was somewhere near Albany, New York where we had to take a detour (thank God for the GPS!) and then on Route 22A in Vermont where we had to drive through a giant puddle. That was it. I think we skirted north and west enough to avoid any of the real flooding damage.

Monday, August 29

5:45 am We rolled into the Burlington airport, where we all agreed we would disband. I called my dad to come pick me up, Stephanie called her mom. Natalie waited at the airport for her brother to come in on his plane from Detroit (we were all slightly bitter towards him) and Charlene and James continued on for another 2 hours or so towards Montpelier and Littleton, New Hampshire.

All in all it was a good road trip. I met some interesting and very nice people and I got to see a part of the country that I’d never traveled through before. Would I do it again? Definitely not (unless I had to), but it wasn’t a horrible experience either. When I have long layovers or my travel plans become disrupted, I kind of get into this zone where time doesn’t matter anymore. Whatever happens will happen, and eventually, at some point, it will end and the next adventure will begin.

12 hours in Salt Lake City


Honestly, I can’t say that I’m very impressed. Maybe it’s because I’m exhausted (after waking up at 4:30 this morning and taking a five hour bus ride from Jackson Hole down to Salt Lake City) or maybe because it’s freaking hot here and I’m in jeans and sneakers and have a heavy pack on my shoulders. The first place I found after dropping my bag off at the airport and taking a bus into the city was a sprawling outdoor mall with every retail shop you can imagine and kids playing in a jumping water fountain. Not a good introduction to the city. I found a Starbucks, though, and sipped away my headache with a soy latte. I also did a little research on things to do in Salt Lake City and the #1 attraction, according to Trip Adviser, is the library. I had plenty of time – 12 hours to be exact – before my plane departed at 1:00 am, so I thought I might as well try to find it. I hopped on the Trax, an above-ground train, and went several blocks to where I thought the library was located. After walking a few hundred yards away from the station though, I felt the sweat start to drip down my back and thoughts of the air-conditioned Barnes and Noble back at the mall sounded pretty good. I retraced my steps without finding the library and spent the remainder of my waiting game browsing the shelves.

Once again I have been very bad about updating my adventures and whereabouts. My three week contract in Alaska ended with lots of rain, a massive calving in Tracy Arm, bubble net-feeding humbacks, breaching whales, and a salmon fishing bear who wasn’t very good at fishing. The calving was actually a little frightening. I was out in one of the Zodiacs with a few of the guests and we were viewing the glacier from a safe distance amid floating pieces of ice and harbor seals. But even though we were at a quarter of a mile away, we weren’t prepared for the whole face to come sliding off! I didn’t have my camera out to catch it, but it wouldn’t have done the phenomena justice anyway. After the ice broke off we were faced with a ten foot wave slowly rolling its way towards us. Thank g*d it didn’t break, because then we really would have been in trouble. The only thing we had to worry about was the floating bits and pieces of ice surrounding our Zodiac. Several were quite large and it would not have been good if they rolled over beneath us. We made our retreat from the active glacier swiftly and stealthily, riding out the waves and dodging the ice. I’ll admit that my heart was pumping a little faster than usual. I thought it ironic too, that just a few days earlier the Captain Cook experienced a similar calving and a passenger unfortunately fell and broke her leg. Even though I didn’t get any shots of the calving, our Video Chronicler was out in a Zodiac as well, so he caught the whole even on film and I managed to get a copy of the DVD. It’s just as good on video!

After saying goodbye to the Bird in Sitka, I flew down to Jackson Hole to visit my brother for a week. I’d never been to Wyoming, so I was excited to explore a new place! Jackson is a cool town, a little touristy for me, but lots going on and some great outdoor activities. Will took me up to Amphitheater Lake, a ten mile hike in Grand Teton National Park, the first day I arrived. It was beautiful and the lakes at the top were spectacular, but I found it a little difficult to breath. 9,700 feet was a little high after just being at sea level for a month! I also went white water rafting on the Snake River, mountain biking down the steep and winding Blacks trail (which resulted in two bloody knees and a major cramp in my side), and a 7 mile hike around Jenny Lake, also in the Grand Teton National Park. I set out on the last hike by myself, but met another couple somewhere along the trail and we formed a group of three. The trail was mainly flat except for a steep climb up to Inspiration Point that looked out over the lake. At the top I wondered what inspiration the view sparked and for whom…

Will had to work at the hospital during the day, but I managed to fill in the hours with yoga classes at Inversion and delicious smoothies at Lotus Cafe, my new favorite restaurant. Lots of vegan options and mostly organic! I also spent quite a bit of time making calls on my phone and writing e-mails back and forth to the patient and ever-so-helpful office staff at Lindblad. My first day in Jackson I received an email saying that there was an opening for the Baltic trip on the National Geographic Explorer! Of course I jumped on it (check out the itinerary!), but the problem was getting a Russian visa and flights in two weeks. I got it (mostly) sorted out though, and all I’m waiting for is my passport to arrive in the mailbox! Then I’ll be off to St. Petersburg Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, Poland, Germany, and Denmark on a 15 day cruise! I can’t wait! And I’ll try my best to keep everyone updated on the things I see and the adventures I come across. Not sure what kind of internet service I’ll have though…

Just curious, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?