Top 5 Travel Tips from a Wayfaring Aficionado

My nephew, Riley, is getting ready to take his first international trip.  He is part of a team going to Rwanda to study biodiversity.  He’s a 20-year-old sophomore at Case Western University.  Yeah, he’s pretty smart.

As Riley prepares for his trip, I began thinking about some of the experiences I have had traveling over the last few years.  I wanted to tell him about some things I have learned on the road, but not in a way that seemed condescending because he can probably school me on most things.  And, I don’t want to make my trip his trip.  So, hey there Riley, this one is for you.  Have your own trip, but maybe read this first.

Top 5 Travel Tips from a Wayfaring Aficionado

1.  You never have to give your passport to anyone. Hoteliers will often tell you that they must hold your passport during your stay.  Um, no, they do not, and I strongly advise you not to give it to them.   They may give it to their uncle, who will take it to his house which is “many kilometers away”,to put in his “safe”, and then not be able to return it to you when you must leave because your train out of town departs in 30 minutes.  Obviously, I speak from experience (Goa, India).

The hotelier wants your passport in case you do not pay for your stay.  Offer your hotelier cash accompanied by a photocopy of your passport.  This course of action has worked for me every time.  It has not worked on the first offer, but in the end, I have a 100% success rate with this method.

Car and scooter rental shops also expect your passport as a rental deposit.  In Thailand, I watched a couple get charged three times the amount of their one-day scooter rental for “damages” to their vehicle that they adamantly claimed they did not create.  The next day, I watched a family of four go through the same scam.  Unfortunately, everyone gave the company their passport, and everyone had to pay to get them back.

Vehicle rental shops can be tough.  A photocopy of your passport accompanied by an expired credit card usually does the trick.  Pay cash for the rental.

International Driving Permits are great documents to secure before you go abroad.  If you do not feel comfortable using a photocopy of your passport, get this document.  Leave it behind if there is a dispute.  You can get one for $15 at AAA office nationwide.  You need two passport photos for each license.  You may want to get a few.

2.  Scan important documents into Google Docs.  Important documents include: a copy of your passport, immunization records and travel itinerary.   You may also want to upload a copy of your bank statement and credit card statement (with account numbers blacked out).  If there is any problem with your visa, you need to extend your visa, or you decide to visit another country that requires a visa, you may need to have financial statements that prove you have access to a set amount of money.

3.  If you get sick, try to be your own doctor.  The degree to which you must be your own doctor depends on where you are traveling.  If you have access to a hygienic clinic with medical supplies, kudos.  If not, you might find it easier to access Google.  When my boyfriend and I got horrendously sick while visiting a remote village in India, it seemed like a good idea to get online and try to figure out what was wrong with us ourselves.  In most countries, you can go to the pharmacy and get what you need without a prescription   Seriously, know thyself.  If you need medical attention, go for it.  Just be aware of the type of service you might receive.  Remember how you wanted to “have an adventure”?  Well, this is part of it.  Don’t lose your head.  Even if you feel like you are going to die, you are going to be fine.

If you have health insurance in the States, you may want to fill all those scripts your doctor will write you before you go.  If you do not, make a concise list of what you need, and purchase it at the pharmacy when you arrive.

4.  Watch out for the creeps.  I am woman.  I carry a vagina.  I might garner a little more attention than those who let it dangle.  I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I have been followed in Italy, Greece, India, Croatia, Slovenia, Argentina and various places in the United States.  I mostly suppose that people are just curious.  However, I also do not want to find out.

If you are in a city, glance into storefront windows, and look at your reflection to monitor the people behind you.  If you think you are being followed duck into a shop.

If everyone carries a machete where you are traveling, you may want one too.  It will make you feel better.

5.  If you get new gear for your trip, put all of it on and roll in the mud for a while.  Do not put a Canadian flag on your backpack.  Your fellow Americans do not need all of the cool American backpackers being taken for Canadians.  We need you to be one of us.

 

 

Devotion: Guest Blog Post for Hanuman Yoga & Music Festival 2013

hanuman logo 3

What are you devoted to?  Consciously or not, we all devote our precious time and energy to something.  You can view my guest post on this subject here:

The Essence of Devotion

Hanuman Yoga & Music Festival is held in lovely Boulder, CO. This year’s lineup includes some of my personal favs such as Richard Freeman, Tiffany Cruikshank and Kathryn Budig.  Early bird tickets are available until March 1st:

Hanuman Festival 2013

Join me in raising the vibration!!!

So Long, and Thanks for all the Bananas: Recovering Yogi

Created by Vanessa Fiola.  Recovering Yogi
Created by Vanessa Fiola
Recovering Yogi

Well folks, I left the Vipassana meditation retreat early.  In the words of the great Kenny Rogers:

You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away…..

I wrote a post for Recovering Yogi about my experience.  Check it out:

http://recoveringyogi.com/so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-bananas/

Heading to Meditation Bootcamp: Vipassana Meditation Retreat; Pahoa, Hawaii

Unicorn with Calm Mind:  2 Fantastical Creatures

“But WHY are you doing this?” K asks. “I just don’t get it.”

“I’m doing it because when I wake up in the morning, there is a song playing in my head.  In addition to the song, I plan all of my meals right after I open my eyes.  Sometimes, I actually go through the motions of cooking those meals.  Then, I think about what physical activity I will do for the day.  Will I run?  If so, how far will I go?  Will I practice yoga?  If the answer is no, I silently berate myself.  Should I write?  What orders will be available for me to work on?  Will I have any revision requests?  The list goes on and on.  I want to be able to sit in bed and just wake up.  I simply want to hear the birds chirping and watch the sky go from purple to pink to blue.”

Like most people, I have a busy mind.  Like or unlike most, I am a planner.  I mentally masturbate on who, what, when, where and the never-ending WHY.  The word “should” comes up over and over again.  Should have, should do, the list goes on and on.

On Monday, I begin an intense training in Vipassana mediation.  The training will last 10 days.  I will meditate for 10 hours per day.  I am not permitted to read, write, run, practice yoga, drink caffeine, consume alcohol or possess snacks.

According to the Dharmma Foundation, this style of meditation was practiced by Indian sages and rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago.  Vipassana meditation is a silent meditation designed to help free one from the unbridled thoughts, desires and judgments of the mind.  In essence, the goal of this style of meditation, like most others, is to help a people bring awareness into the present moment.  It is an “art of living.”

Sounds like a perfect fit for me.

When I tell people I am participating in this retreat, most ask why.  Many of them ask with intonations of astonishment and a tiny hint of abhorrence in their voice.  Those that know me best say reassuring comments like, “I think this will be really good for you.”

The code of conduct at the retreat is strict.  For example:

  • No reading
  • No journals or writing instruments
  • No speaking
  • No outside contact
  • No physical exercise, including yoga
  • No eating after midday
  • No religious objects
  • No bodily decorations
  • No shorts, tight clothing or sleeveless shirts

The daily schedule is:

  • 4:30-6:30 a.m. Meditation
  • 6:30-8:00 a.m. Breakfast and Morning Break
  • 8:00-9:00 a.m. Group Meditation
  • 9:00-11:00 a.m.  Meditation
  • 11:00-Noon Lunch Break
  • Noon-1:00 p.m. Rest and Interview with Teacher
  • 1:00-5:00  p.m. Meditation
  • 5:00-6:00 p.m. Tea Break
  • 6:00-7:00 Meditation
  • 7:00-8:15 p.m. Lecture
  • 8:15-9:00 p.m. Meditation
  • 9:00-9:30 p.m. Quiet Time in Meditation Hall

Merely typing the schedule gives me dah chicken skin.  Yes, I am nervous.  Yes, being nervous about an event in the future is just the sort of mind chatter I hope to begin to tame by attending this retreat.  At my most optimistic moments, I refer to this retreat as “meditation bootcamp.”  In my fraidy cat moments, I call it “meditation jail.”

On Monday morning, I will meet with my rideshare on the Honokoa coast and head to Pahoa.  The retreat is held on a farm there.  I will camp in my own tent.  I will pack my own meditation cushions, eating utensils, dishes and ablution bag.  I will not speak for 10 days.

I am currently living in a van on the Big Island.  I have one pair of long pants, one long dress and a few shirts that have sleeves.  (It’s nice here, folks. I wear a bikini most of the time).  In an act of aloha, I recently gave away my good towel.  My meditation cushions consist of a yoga mat and sleeping pad.  My remaining towel has a colorful unicorn on it.  I am a little self-conscious of that unicorn, but not enough to drive 100 miles to buy another one.  Driving that far to buy a towel is an extravagance that is very un-Simple Life Good Life.

A unicorn is a fantastical creature.  At this point, a mind without endless chatter is the same.  Wish me luck (but only with full awareness and presence) .

Synchronicity with a Side of Alphabet Soup; Indian Creek; Utah

B Climbing B Climbing 2 B Saggy Tape Glove C climbing Iphone pics 11-26-12 218 C climbing

“Kaci , I’m headed to Indian Creek today.  Call me if you are close.” –Text from C

No way!  I am headed to Indian Creek today!  I haven’t spoken with C for a couple of months, yet here we are going to the same place on the same day.  I call C.  We briefly discuss logistics since there is no cell service in Indian Creek.

Indian Creek is a Mecca for crack climbers.  C & her partner, B, are avid rock climbers who love this area.  It is a lovely experience to watch either of them talk about Indian Creek.  Their stoke is wild, free and highly contagious.

After a short game of note passing on the message board at Bridger Jacks, the four of us connect.  E is with C & B.  I’ve never met E before.  She no longer lives in Estes Park, but her memory does.  I’ve heard several fondly told stories of her general coolness.  E does not disappoint.  After a few minutes, I easily fall into a quiet appreciation for her presence.   As we talk, E’s two dogs lean their warm bodies against my cold legs.

After we exchange hellos and hugs, we throw chairs, beers and a hatchet into the back of B’s truck.  We hop in and ride to their campsite a mile away.  When we arrive, C jumps out of the truck and wanders over to the fire pit.  She shreds dried juniper bark and starts the tiniest fire I have ever seen.  C patiently shreds bark and adds it to the fire.  Fifteen minutes later, we pile on logs and the fire roars to life.

Once coals have formed, E sports vice grips like Edward Scissorhands to make veggie stir-fry over the fire.  We have a homegrown happy hour and then J and I walk back to our camp.

In the morning, E heads to Estes Park and the rest of us go climbing.  B leads the way up a 5.11+.  He shrugs off the tape gloves most wear here and cruises up the route.  C helps me tape on J’s gloves and then zips up the route after B.  I’m next.  I’m not much of a climber.  I get 1/3 of the way up the route.  I come down panting and pumped.  J climbs up next, liebacking his way up the thinnest part of the crack.

We hang out at the crag for a few more hours.  At the end of the day, B and C have to head back to their newfound home in Durango.  We hug and wish each other well.

Grandpa’s Thoughts on the Great Depression

My sister, Denise, recently dusted off an old cassette tape which contains an interview with my grandpa regarding the Great Depression.  My Grandpa passed away in 1997 and my Grandma followed in 2008.  He was an intelligent, friendly man married to a glamorous, strong woman.  I love hearing his special laugh and unique perspective.  Here is the audio file:

Interview with Grandpa

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Edward Abbey said it best when he described Canyonlands National Park as, “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth.  Here are some photos of my visit to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park:

Syncline Loop Trail Syncline Loop Trail:  Descending Syncline Loop Trail:  Canyon ViewSyncline Loop Trail:  Antique RainSyncline Loop Trail:  Over and Through CanyonsSyncline Loop Trail:  Mushroom RockSyncline Loop Trail:  Climbing out of the CanyonSyncline Loop TrailSyncline Loop Trail:  Chasing the SunSyncline Loop Trail:  CairnSyncline Loop Trail:  Keep Your Eyes OpenSyncline Loop Trail:  Rough Trail Out of the CanyonSyncline Loop Trail:  View of the Way Out of the CanyonSyncline Loop Trail:  Climbing Over, Under and ThroughSyncline Loop Trail:  Northside Syncline Loop Trail:  BeautySyncline Loop Trail:  Fall Colors

Mesa Arch is gorgeous and accessible by walking a short trail.  Here is a pic of my eyes trying to drink it all in and photos of the arch as well as the mountains and canyons beyond:

Mesa Arch:  WOWMesa Arch CairnMesa Arch:  View BelowMesa Arch:  Red Rocks at SunsetMesa ArchMesa Arch:  View Beyond