All Work and All Play

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks disappearing?–it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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It doesn’t rain that much, it’s just overcast. All the time. But it rains sometimes.

Now that I have answered all your questions: Ahem.

seattle2Seattle has been slowly materializing for me over the past year and a half. I had never been here (unless you count flying through the airport countless times–one of my favorite airports, I might add!) until November 4, when I packed up my truck with my living essentials and my Empress and headed west.

How can I speak of three months in one post? Maybe it is not possible. It is mostly work and sometimes not, and occasionally sleep, and 100% life.

It is connecting with friends-of-friends over coffee, smiling uncontrollably while running through the light rain with arms outstretched, packing and unpacking, almost missing the bus, daily sack lunch to save money, dance lessons, budgeting, sitting in a corner next to a cardboard box/desk for an hour trying to unwind after a 16-hour workday, almost missing the bus, morning yoga, packing, drinks at midnight and pancakes at 2 a.m., a new church every Sunday, payday excitement, unpacking and packing, a penguin sweater, pulling off my heels and chasing the bus, free furniture, signing leases and other commitments, going grey, trying to understand football, almost missing the bus, paying rent, unpacking, jumping around and singing at the top of my lungs from the host stand at Hard Rock Café.

seattle10I have had three zip codes in three months, I have worked 50-65 hours per week since my arrival (thank the Lord for getting two jobs so quickly, I had some financial catching up to do!), and I have explored this city much less than other cities because of it. Nonetheless, I have still been up to the Space Needle, had a drink at Starbucks (it actually took me a couple weeks, so it was a milestone), hit up a couple museums, and watched people throw fish at the Pike Place Market.

I love both jobs and am excited where they will lead in the next couple years. Journalism is still on my mind but if I have learned anything in my travels the past couple years, it is that if you set your mind to something, work hard, stay focused, etc. then it will unfold naturally.

seattle7Like Seattle did. One of the main reasons I am in Seattle is because of a conversation I had with a journalist while roadtripping through the South last May. When I had only lived in Seattle a few weeks, he looked me up and said he was coming to the city to cover the Seahawks game and asked if I was in town. It was a God-moment in May, and it was a God-moment in November as well; both times were confirmation that I was on the right path. The journalist had no idea that his words in Jackson MS had such an impact on my life, and having the ability to share that news with him was such a blessing. In addition my words to him in Jackson had also, unknowingly, convinced him to take up running, and now I am proud to say he is a positive, enthusiastic, healthy half-marathon addict.

We have more impact on people than we think. Even if you only meet once you change lives and your life is changed. I was thankful to have the opportunity to see one of those moments come full-circle; the majority of the time we do not have that opportunity, but it still happens.

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She punched me while we were trying to selfie.

After years of travelling off and on, I am taking a step back and keeping the same address for at least six months… which allows friends to track me down, unlike the previous year when ‘What state are you in now?’ was a common good-morning text from a number of people. Currently I have a roof and four walls, and starting tomorrow I will have a couch for visitors, which means–it’s your turn, folks! I have driven all over the country to see you all, so if your heart desires a visit to the pacific Northwest, hit me up for a good time (and free lodging).

 

As for myself, I have yet to visit Oregon or Canada, ever! So those are next on the bucket list.

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The Last Hurrah–Massachusetts, Manhattan, Milwaukee

Well, not my last hurrah, if I can help it. But the last for now.

Times Square

Times Square

Perhaps this was unwise, but I knew I would be pinching pennies toward the end of my time at home… so I planned ahead and bought these flights back in July to make sure I went on the trip.

Could I have used that money to think about putting in a deposit for an apartment in Seattle? Perhaps.

Would I have spent that money on something else between then and now? Most likely.

Besides, by ‘planning ahead’ I was able to get three one-way tickets for $400. I knew the flights would be the most expensive part of the trip, since I was staying with friends for two weeks, so I just tried to watch my costs for food and fun–and I was quite successful, I might add.

newsconsin7In Massachusetts my friend Randall lives just off Cape Cod in the small town of Wareham. His neighborhood was a couple blocks from a small rocky beach and backed up to a random forest, where pine trees grew thickly out of sandy hills. While Randall was at work I ran through the forest every morning and laid on the beach/waded in the water in the afternoons.

One evening we drove out to Plymouth, where Randall showed me around his childhood haunts as well as a few historical points of interest, old churches and courthouses, etc. There was the rock, of course, inscribed with ‘1620’ on the top. Mayflower II was docked nearby, a life-size replica of the original, although it was too late in the afternoon to go aboard.

newsconsin1We spent the weekend in the setting for books, the background for movies, the skyline burned in every mind: Manhattan. We splurged on a hotel just a few blocks away from Times Square, Pod 39. It had a on-the-move/thrifty-traveller/wired-millennial feel to it, somewhat like a hostel but still with private bedrooms and bathrooms. I loved it, and would definitely look into it again next time I’m in Manhattan.

Since we only had two days, we made the most of it, walking until we nearly had blisters on our feet each day, but seeing as much of the island as possible: the first day we headed south to climb the Empire State Building and take in the view of the city. I could see the Statue of Liberty from a distance, but tickets to go in sell out months in advance. Next time, Manhattan.

Ground Zero

Names engraved around fountains at Ground Zero

Further south was Ground Zero, a full hour-long walk from the ESB. The fountains in place of the foundations of the twin towers were beautifully designed, pulling the water away out of sight into the center of each memorial.

newsconsin5Sunday morning we strolled through Central Park. I was amazed at how deep into the park one must go in order to be free of the city sounds. It took even longer to be free of the crowds: the main roads going through the park were packed with runners and bicyclists, and some horse-drawn carriages. Nonetheless, I enjoyed exploring the smaller paths: I felt almost at home in the natural-growth landscapes. I was a little jealous of all the runners: next time I’ll stay long enough to go for a run.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was extraordinary. I appreciated the local New York modern and historical art as well as the ancient collections. One room was dedicated to the rebuilding of an Egyptian temple that was taken piece by piece from the Aswan valley. When the Egyptian government built the Aswan dam, the US government donated money to the project, and as a token of thanks they allowed us to choose which of five temples we wanted to take, since all five would be under water once the dam was built.

newsconsin6We spent a lot of time in the rooms and rooms of paintings, and almost missed some classics: only as we were searching for the exit did we come upon Monet, Picasso, Manet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh.

Of course we didn’t make it to everything in the Met, and we never set foot in the Museum of Modern Art, but…next time.

I’ve just decided there’s always a next time. I’ll always see someone again, I’ll always go somewhere again, I’ll always travel again. Telling myself this keeps me on my toes, but also keeps me from bemoaning anything I might have missed the first time around. Although I never experience everything I would like to, I saw some things I didn’t expect, like a street dance performance or a Hispanic parade of all Latin American countries dancing and singing down 5th Avenue.newsconsin9

newsconsin10The second week of the trip was spent in Wisconsin, mostly in Oshkosh and Milwaukee. However I did have the chance to explore some of the other cities and towns, because for me, this was the ‘next time’: I spent a day in Green Bay, and an afternoon in Port Washington, Grafton and Cedarburg with Jacqui, a Concordia friend.

Anthony at his internship at the radio station

Anthony at his internship at the radio station

After I attended a wedding with my ongoing travel buddy Anthony, we stayed at the Tundra Lodge in Green Bay. He had scored a deal in both the stay and tickets to the indoor waterpark, of which we definitely took advantage! The lodge sported woodsy décor and flair, with animal heads staring down from every wall, and the structure reflected a classic log-home style.

Although I spent a lot of time seeing friends on this trip, I had some enjoyable alone-time. I found the Sand Pond behind Randall’s house in Wareham during one of my morning runs. I got lost in the Downtown Bookstore in Milwaukee and walked out with four “unnecessary”/but-clearly-necessary purchases. I found Riverside Park about three miles north of the Milwaukee city center, and I explored the paths by the water.newsconsin13

newsconsin12Near the park was the Urban Ecology Center. I originally walked in because I wanted to climb their tower to see the Milwaukee skyline. I figured it was a government building of some type. What I found, however, was a community center focused on educating the public on ecological awareness: they hold classes in some of their rooms, they have free coffee and wifi for anyone who wants to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere (as I did), and they have information posted all over the building about how their toilets flush solely on rainwater and the furniture is all made from local wood. They also host a plethora of activities that encourage people to spend more time out-of-doors. The volunteers working that day were overly kind and gracious, and gave me a short history lesson on how and why the center began. It was one of those moments that renewed my hope in humanity.

Kevin and I had lunch one afternoon in Milwaukee at Uncanny Soup. Russian borscht soup was their special of the day–fantastic! It brought back memories of my Italian host dad Rosario spending all afternoon making it for us in Florence. I think Rosario did it better, but Uncanny Soup was a close runner-up!

newsconsin14On the final day of the trip I returned to Milwaukee’s now-somewhat-familiar Third Ward to kill a few hours before my flights, and I spent some time in the Public Market, which reminded me of Florence’s Mercato Centrale in shape and atmosphere (although the Italian one is far larger). I was not expecting Milwaukee to provide so many nostalgic Florentine experiences!

After New York I have only 10 states left of 50. And now I have been to Boston in the fall (for those of you who know the song..?).

Now, off to Seattle.

Rockin & Rollin & Coastin

I think I laughed more in those days than in all my life before.   -C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

chicahio3People ask me how I travel so much, and honestly I don’t know: a couple months ago I was sitting in an ice cream shop in Nashville during a music festival (see previous post) and got a call from Elias asking if I wanted to go to Chicago after Haiti (see also) and visit my brother in Wisconsin and of course I couldn’t turn that down but didn’t know if I had the financial capabilities for such an adventure but then I discovered my parents were flying out to see my brother as well five days later so I just moved my flight upandflewfromOmahainsteadofMontana. (Now breathe.)

So that’s how I travel. (I still don’t know.)

Sometimes the pieces just fall into place.

One thing leading to another, networking, keeping in contact with friends, combining trips, living simply while on the road.

chicahio2Both halves of the trip encompassed museums, restaurants and general upper-Midwest-city exploration.

Chicago: Elias and I had three days to explore Chicago, and my brother Kevin and his girlfriend Megan joined us on the second and third days. The first night Elias and I stayed in the Wrigley Hostel, which I highly recommend: superb location near downtown, clean and spacious rooms, a plethora of bathrooms and reasonable prices. In the basement common area Elias and I made Dutch, Danish and Australian acquaintances over a pool table and a game of Jenga. The hostel was friendly, comfortable, and safe–I regret I only stayed one night!

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Sharks!

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Ugly-cute fish

Sites: We were hoping for the $8 entrance fee for the Shedd Aquarium which we saw online, but that only included the main floor. Granted, this area was expansive: exhibits showcased critters from all parts of the world. Those from the Amazon River were undoubtedly the ugliest (but, like, in a cute way. Mostly). However, the lower level housed whales, sharks, otters and a young dolphin. We also pet starfish and watched penguins play and swim. For a one-time event, the $35 ticket was worth it (student discounts were also offered).

We debated between the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but decided on the latter. The exhibits featured nine captivating videos by artist Keren Cytter which felt like rewatching old dreams; an interactive exhibit by Kris Martin in which we walked inside a tipped-over hot air balloon into another room; and my favorite, a handwritten lecture on music made almost entirely of questions, titled ‘Silence,’ and mounted on a wall page-by-page on yellow legal paper.

chicahio14Is it possible that I could go [on] monotonously asking questions forever? Would I have to know how many questions I was going to ask? Would I have to know how to count in order to ask questions? Do I have to know when to stop? Is this the one chance we have to be alive and ask a question? How long will we be able to be alive? Contemporary music is not the music of the future not the music of the past but simply music present with us: this moment, now. This now moment….That moment is always changing….We are thinking, I am talking and contemporary music is changing. Like life it changes. -Silence

chicahio9The four of us made our own art by capturing the moment ourselves, or sometimes capturing the moment of someone capturing the moment of someone capturing the moment of someone capturing the moment:

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Megan photographing the hot-air balloon; Kevin, her; Elias, Kevin’s ear; me, the whole hilarity.

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Back-of-the-head selfies are wildly popular right now. (We’re starting the trend.)

Of course we could not leave Chicago without spending some time on the lakefront with the Bean, which I recently learned is officially titled ‘Cloud Gate Sculpture.’ There was a symphony playing in Millennium Park, and a large crowd had gathered to listen, mostly lying on blankets on the lawn in front.

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Buckingham Fountain

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Cloud Gate at night

Friends: Anthony and his roadtripping buddies were passing through Chicago after a jaunt through Canada, and happened to be going to the Shedd Aquarium at the same time. My college roommate Hannah and her fiancé Joe were also passing through the city, so we chatted for a few minutes beneath the shadow of the Bean. The more I travel the more I cross paths with friends–and the more I realize this is probably setting the stage for more spontaneous encounters. (I travelled with both Anthony and Hannah when I went to Florida and Nashville in June.)

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Milwaukee City Hall

Milwaukee: Kevin lives north of Milwaukee, so Elias and I walked around downtown all day while he went to work. The Third Ward has plenty of coffee shops and boutiques to satisfy us college-students-ish. The paved lakefront sidewalk runs past the art museum and through a park with a statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Apparently he was a third-generation Milwaukean.

Sites: Mainly food, for us on this trip at least. The Milwaukee Waterfront Deli delivers sandwiches to the second floor with a tiny open elevator which was fun to watch. Also the deli has great sandwiches, but of course that takes second place to a dumbwaiter that goes around corners. This was my first visit to a classy Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, and it was well worth the visit.

chicahio17We also paid a visit to the British-style John Hawks Pub, but we opted to sit on the deck next to the river to enjoy the view instead of going inside. On our final night in Milwaukee, Kevin took us to Safe House, an espionage-themed restaurant that requires a ‘password’ to access through an alleyway door! It was originally the meeting location for the Milwaukee Press Club, so I enjoyed the journalism as well as the espionage décor.

Riding surreys and bikes

Riding surreys and bikes

Muskegon: The ferry across Lake Michigan saved several hours of driving around the south side of the lake. We took the earliest boat so we could have two days at our destination. We rented surreys (two-person side-by-side bicycle carts) from The Depot and rode six miles back to the lake at Pere Marquette beach. The path followed a main road, but we only had to cross traffic twice. The beach was lovely, far nicer than I expected. The gigantic waves apparently provide some of the best surfing opportunities in the country, as well as a prime location for sailing, kiteboarding and other watersports.

chicahio19Sites: Muskegon’s two World War II museums were different than most: one was located inside a landing craft used on D-Day at Omaha beach and also in Sicily, and the other was, in part, a tour through submarine USS Silversides! The former museum included memorabilia from all of WWII, and a vast amount from D-Day itself, while the latter museum focused mostly on the history and mechanics of submarine warfare.

Sandusky: Ohio held the crowning moment of the trip, the day for which Mom and I have waited…for five years…to conquer every roller coaster at Cedar Point, the ‘Roller Coaster Capital of the World’! After succumbing to wind last May, we were ready for action. We planned two days into our stay instead of one, which was a good idea since high winds which force the coasters to close are common on the narrow peninsula. We finally made it to Millennium Force, voted the world’s best roller coaster several years in a row. We also rode Top Thrill Dragster, one of two strata coasters in the world (height drop of more than 400 feet), which reaches 120mph in 3.8 seconds during ascent.chicahio26 chicahio27

Sites: Cedar Point itself was incredible. As a die-hard Disneyland family, we keep high standards: but Cedar Point met all those standards in hospitality (friendly, clean, safe) and fun (attention to detail, creativity, enough thrill rides of varying degrees to keep a family occupied for days).

Hotel Breakers on Cedar Point property provides simple, stress-free access to the park. Additionally, HB guests receive one-hour early entry to the rides and access to several restaurants and bars located inside the hotel, pools, kiddie pools, hot tubs, and a beautiful beach facing Lake Erie to the east. In the mornings we rode the coasters before the wind kicked up, and in the afternoons we spent time enjoying the other perks of HB. Some beach activities included jet skis and parasailing for extra cost: we took advantage of the latter.

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Beginning my 900-foot ascent

Cleveland: Our last stop. We were flying out the following morning, so we had an afternoon to visit the city.

Sites: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see. We spent five hours in the six-floor museum, watching scores of great videos of hundreds of musicians from the 1950s to the present. A musician or band must have recorded a song at least 25 years before consideration for the Hall of Fame. Five or six groups have been selected each year since the museum’s opening in 1986. Besides the videos, there is also an array of famous garments, guitars and handwritten lyrics. The travelling exhibit was dedicated to rock photographer Herb Ritts, who took many of the famous portraits of rock stars used for magazines, etc.

The Rock Hall is a well-organized museum if you proceed the correct way: but I admit that wasn’t easy. From the beginning when we couldn’t find the entrance to the parking garage from the street, to passing through the science museum to get to the Hall of Fame, to circling the lower level of the museum right to left (it was designed to be viewed left to right), the Hall could have spent a little more time on proper signage.chicahio22

Our final activity was a Cleveland Indians game that night. They were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, but I rooted for the Indians because…well, I admit, I’m worse than a fair-weather fan–with all the travelling I do I find it hard to choose allegiance to one team or another, so I just root for the home team, whoever that may be! Indians won, and we had a great time. PS – Barrio, across the street, has great late-night tacos (and tequila), if the stadium hot dogs leave something to be desired.

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Bird & butterfly sanctuary north of Chicago downtown

It’s not a true Jarvis vacation if every day isn’t jam-packed full of fun!

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Chicago

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The Compromise of 2015

‘I just won’t sleep,’ I decided. There were so many other interesting things to do.         -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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Sushi with the girls

‘Compromise’ carries a negative connotation, but it shouldn’t. Compromise is often thought of as losing something; as not winning the whole thing; as giving up a part of what you have or want.

But there is a beautiful side to compromise, too, which I recently spent two and a half weeks rediscovering.

flash2My last roadtrip was one of the pinnacles of independence so far in my life. It was not uncommon to receive texts or calls asking, ‘What state are you in?’ I ran my days by my own schedule, or no schedule, whichever I pleased. I drove when I wanted to drive, napped when I wanted to nap.

While there is nothing wrong with being on my own, we are created to be communal beings, and independence can go overboard. So I compromised the things to which I was accustomed in order to gain something I had not had before: companionship on the road.

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Egret…?

After three days in Pierce NE for my roommate’s wedding, I drove to Seward and joined four other young ladies–Hannah, Erika, Kristin, and Ellie–for the 27.5-hour trek to Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Hannah’s grandparents gave us a week in their condo, a very kind gift. The drive down had a few hangups with varying routes on GPS’s, etc. We were driving through the night in two cars, trying to keep drivers awake, stopping more than usual and sometimes not in the best gas stations…

But as I said: if I have the privilege of driving through the night with friends, I have to learn to be patient with hour-long rest stops & refuelings.flash4

The condo made everything worth it. Five days on the beach, swimming multiple times each day and runs in the sand in the mornings. The condo itself was almost completely decorated in white, accentuating the feeling of renewal and cleanliness that matched my mental and emotional restoration taking place throughout the week. The spacious porch allowed us a delightful view of the sunset over the water (and sometimes dolphins jumping in the distance!) during supper. A few nights we grilled lobster and shrimp kabobs.

flash1Indian Rocks Beach, a quaint resort town, lies on a small island on the gulf side of the Tampa Bay peninsula. Sometimes in the afternoons we took walks to get ice cream or sushi. We also visited an outdoor mall to look around the tourist shops and participate in a ‘free’ wine tasting–but they convinced us to buy a few bottles, so was it really free… oh well.

The girls had to drive out Friday to make it back in time for work. My friend Anthony had flown in that morning. We stayed an extra day at the condo, and continued the trend of spending the majority of our time on the beach or in the ‘dolphy’ water (‘salty’ water just after a conversation about dolphins). I told Anthony he wouldn’t live that one down.

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One of my favorites of Dali’s works

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Lincoln/woman at a window, Dali

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Also a favorite, note the patterns & hidden faces, Dali

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Dali & da Vinci & me

Saturday began the three-day roadtrip to Nashville. In St. Petersburg on the peninsula, we visited the Salvador Dali museum. The only painting I knew of his was the ‘melting clocks’ piece, so I was astounded at the multiple floor-ceiling pieces containing hidden patterns and classical images and sculptures inside the paintings as a whole.

Dali’s mustache was a theme throughout the museum and the garden behind it, which contained a labyrinth.

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Bird with Dali stache

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Zoo Atlanta

In Atlanta and walked around downtown, paying a visit to World of Beer and people-watching while sitting at a table on the street outside. Father’s Day we walked around Zoo Atlanta through the scorching heat and oppressive humidity then went and saw ‘Love & Mercy’ at the movie theater to cool down. Just before sunset we took a ride on the SkyView Ferris wheel near Centennial Park, which is dedicated to the Olympics.

Don’t go to Birmingham on a Monday. Everything is closed.

Museums, theaters, hall of fame, even the churches. All closed on Mondays.

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Statue in Birmingham in Kelly Ingram Park

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16th Street Baptist Church, bombed in 1963, four girls killed

Also it was hot.

So we walked around the park and ate at Jim ‘n Nick’s. Definitely a thumbs up for that, at least.

Then seven days in Nashville TN. You might think of Nashville as a music city, and that aspect can’t be overstated. Everyone I met seemed to be in multiple bands, with past involvement in at least half a dozen others, and had the ability to play at least seven different instruments. At the same time. (Just kidding–but sometimes it felt that way!) Having so much talent condensed into such a small area was astonishing. The air radiated with a sheer love for making music.

Anthony and I were staying with his friends Dave and Jenny and their family, who were hosting the music festival. Dave’s daughter Charlotte passed away four years ago, and the family hosts ‘Charleyville’ each year to raise money for scholarships for music camps, free and reduced music lessons, and purchasing instruments for kids, as well as making a donation to the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, which Charlotte had been studying, learning to write lyrics. Every year Anthony and his friends from Oshkosh roadtrip down to Nashville to support Charleyville.

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Johnny Cash museum, Nashville TN

Charleyville lasted three nights, featuring 22 bands, a silent auction, a raffle, good food, and a lot a great people: the kind of great people with whom you want to stay up all night around a bonfire while they improvise on random instruments. I’m no musician but I lent my listening ears (those are needed too; at least I like to think so) and felt a part of the Nashville culture for a week, and it was beautiful.

During the day time before the music started, Anthony and I spent our time walking around the city as he showed me his favorite spots and we explored a few more. I hit up a few museums of course, including the TN State Museum across from the capitol building and the Johnny Cash museum which opened two years ago.

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…and the Nebraska jacket

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Modeling the Montana jacket….

We also met Manuel, a friend of Jenny’s, at his shop, where he designs and makes clothes for celebrities, including Elvis’ famous gold suit. Manuel let me try on some of his state jackets.

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Parthenon

Nashville has a to-scale Parthenon, left over from the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, complete with a statue of Athena inside which precisely follows the historical measurements of the statue which once stood in the original Parthenon in Athens.

Dave and Jenny lived about 15 minutes north of Nashville, which offered some great running territory in the mornings through forested lanes and around duck ponds and parks.

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Shy’s Hill

I hiked Shy’s Hill, where the decisive Battle of Nashville took place during the Civil War–Dave happened to be a history buff as well and directed me to all the right places. The hike up the hill only took about 10 minutes but it was a steep drop on all sides. I cannot fathom how the Union army fought its way up and took the hill, all but wiping out the western Confederate forces.

While independence is a handy tool to have around, there are some things you can’t have without compromise. Like friends, for instance.flash18

Hawaii: Not-So-Typical Typical Spring Break

“Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free; man, I’m just livin’ my life, there’s nothing crazy ’bout me.” -Dizzee Rascal, Bonkers

hi15I feel like ‘that college student.’ But after spending the last three years’ spring breaks in Michigan, Idaho, and Wisconsin, I figured it was about time for me to go somewhere with less snow than Nebraska. None, in fact.

I spent Spring Break 2015 on Oahu, splitting my time between Kapolei, Honolulu, and the mountains and highways and restaurants. Empress, my roommate from Italy, gave me the grand tour of her homeland, which included everything from beaches and shrimp on North Shore to karaoke and bonfires with her friends.

hi6I’ve always found it interesting to see a person’s past life. A professor said recently, ‘When you shake hands with a person, you are meeting years and years of experiences and memories.’ Throughout the past four years I have done my best to visit many close friends’ hometowns with them to understand them on a deeper level. I am always amazed by the new side of them I see: how they act around their childhood friends and around their parents, where their high school hangouts were, how their landscape shaped their thoughts and activities.

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Erika and I at the USS Missouri

We spent a day at Pearl Harbor, my one request as a history major. I didn’t know much about Hawaii, so I said, ‘take me wherever, I’ll follow,’ but Pearl Harbor was the one must-see item on my list. We toured the USS Missouri and took a shuttle boat out to the memorial over the sunken USS Arizona.

hi10Over 30,000 men served on the USS Missouri throughout World War II; yet not one man was lost to combat in WWII, nor in Korea or Desert Storm, in which the ship was also used. Twenty-one ships sank in the first attack on Pearl Harbor, and 18 were put back into commission: the USS Arizona was one of the three that did not survive.

hi8 hi9There is something beautiful and free about the island and its residents. Recently I have made it a goal to relax in the little things: to walk slower, to look at the sky sometimes, to dance when I feel like it, to leave parts of my day open and just see what adventures fill those moments. Hawaii was this to an extreme. I slept in, awoke in Kapolei every morning to the sun on my face, and laid in the park to read textbooks or took leisurely long runs through neighborhoods whenever Empress had to work.

hi5One morning we awoke before dawn and hiked up to the old WWII pillboxes in Kailua to watch the sunrise. It was gorgeous, and we weren’t the only ones with this idea. It started to rain but it felt good and warm as we sat on the concrete roof of the graffiti-coated bunker. Later that day we drove around the entire island, stopping a few times to swim at a beach and to eat pineapple ice cream at the Dole Plantation. Somehow they knew I like the core because they stuck an entire pineapple core in my ice cream cone! I was ecstatic. Empress, Hector, and Erika just laughed.hi4

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Tidepools

In addition to pillboxes, Empress and I also hiked to the tidepools below Makapu’u, which she had never done before, so we explored together! We found two tidepools and swam in them both, watching the waves crash on the rocks near us in the growing storm. We also found a cave at the very end of the hike. It took almost four hours due to the jagged rocks and sea urchins.

hi13Empress met up with different friends every night as we tried every kind of restaurant the island has to offer, I think. We ate Korean BBQ where you cook the meat yourself on a grill built into the table; I ate a lot of things I didn’t recognize when Empress took me to sushi (even eel, I found out later!); I sampled the famous honey toast at Shokudo; I split an acai bowl with Empress during a trip to Ko Olina, where we waded in the lagoons. And the coconut. Can’t forget drinking out of a coconut at the swap meet.hi11

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Feeding the birds and koi at Byodo-in

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Byodo-in Temple

Sometimes I went to Empress’s work and bothered her while she was finishing up photo shoots of tourists in Waikiki or running festivals at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I ate Mediterranean food at the Jewish Film Festival and watched an Indian dance routine, a retelling of the story of Mehrunissa, an orphaned girl in 16th-century Mughal India who became the empress of India when she married Prince Khurrum.

The final day my Empress had to work all day so I took my homework to the beaches in Waikiki and allowed my tourist side to come out a little bit as I burned in the sun and talked to the random older couples relaxing in retirement on the beach.hi12

Cruisin’: Unlikely Travel Buddies

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends….Friendship must be about something….Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.” -C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

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Departure from Miami

Our second ‘date’ was 10 days long and we didn’t kill each other… so I guess we should get married, right?!

Just kidding.

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Carnival Glory

When Randall informed me just before Christmas he had two free cruise tickets from winning Employee of the Year at his work in Plymouth, Massachusetts, I jumped at his offer. I knew I would have to miss a week of my last semester of undergrad… but senioritis was kicking in, and besides, when else might I have a chance at a free Caribbean cruise?

cruise5Randall and I had met in Italy: I was in Rome for the weekend, he was there for a week or so on vacation. We sat next to one another in St. Peter’s Basilica for mass that Sunday morning. After exploring Trestavere all evening together, we discovered that we enjoyed travelling and adventuring together–but when we parted we doubted we would ever see one another again. Until now!

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Two Carnival ships

I think it’s rare that someone would go out on a limb like Randall did, and ask someone he had met only once to spend 10 days with him–and I think it is equally rare that someone would accept that invitation. But we are both at times in our lives where we are willing, and able, to try most anything for an adventure. I am thankful God placed us in one another’s lives so we could take this crazy exploration together.

We had the time of our lives. Thank you, Randall, for all your hard work, and thank you for asking me to join you in this incredible experience.

The Amber Palace

The Amber Palace, on board the Glory

10 days, Jan. 30-Feb. 8: two overnights in Boston due to early/late flights into/out of Fort Lauderdale, two days travelling and boarding/debarking, two days solely on the beautiful Carnival Glory, and four days in the middle of the trip during which we debarked in Caribbean locations for 8-9 hours during the day.

photobomb...

photobomb…

The ship was gigantic–it was a floating city. There were 12 decks, approx. 18 elevators, a giant casino, more than a half-dozen restaurants, a large theatre, a water slide, multiple bars and lounges, and constant live music and stand-up comedy in the evenings. Randall’s free tickets left nothing wanting–we ate every night in the Platinum Restaurant, a private balcony, and still left some ‘cruise cash’ left over for drinks during the week. We spent our two ship days lying in the sun on the deck, watching the Superbowl on a giant outdoor screen, soaking in live music and dance, and sitting in the hot tub and looking at the stars.

cruise9cruise10We spent a day on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, where we rented a moped and zipped the 43 miles around the island, stopping frequently to visit Mayan ruins and talk to the locals. We came upon a free tequila tasting–I’ve never been a fan of tequila before, but now that I’ve had the real Mexican stuff, there’s no going back.

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Giant lizard!

Cozumel

Cozumel

We stopped once to watch the water crashing on the rocks on the back side of the island. On the way back to the dock we stopped in the town for lunch and pina coladas…and literally got caught in the rain… /cue country song/

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Belize City

Belize City

In Belize City we wandered around the city, went to the Belizean History museum, walked up and down the river, and talked to the locals. Much of the city was dilapidated, but it made for some neat pictures of staircases and walls in the middle of overgrown lots.

Miss Jenny

Miss Jenny

I ate Belizean food for lunch from a woman named Miss Jenny who served up delicious meals outdoors under a tent. As all her friends gathered around the tent they spoke quickly in Creole and smiled at me sitting wide-eyed on a tiny plastic kids chair beneath Miss Jenny’s large pots of chicken, rices, collard greens, and plantains. We met Edward, who told us about Belizean government and festivals, and I had a beer with Alan, who used to be a diving fisherman. He knew everyone on the river.

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Fishing boats on the river in Belize City

Roatan

Roatan

In Honduras we stayed on the island of Roatan, and from there took a chairlift to a smaller island with a beautiful beach. We rented snorkel gear and explored the beautiful reefs just offshore. We saw an octopus and a few squid, in addition to a plethora of brightly-colored fishes and corals.

Chairlift over the jungle

Chairlift over the jungle in Roatan

Otherwise we just lay in the sun all day: I read a book, Randall napped. That hard worker deserved it.

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Grand Cayman Island

By the time we reached Grand Cayman Island we were exhausted from the previous days’ adventures, so we decided to go with a guided tour for the main part of the day. We took a bus through the island, mostly comprised of large stucco houses and American-looking neighborhoods of American stores (vastly different from anything we’d seen on land yet), and older women going for walks in white shorts and visors. We were driving on the left side of the road: I discovered later that the Cayman Islands are British territories.

A boat took us out to the middle of the large bay where an underwater ‘beach’ came to a plateau about waist-deep, and stingrays circled our feet. Following the lead of our tour guides, we kissed and hugged stingrays, then snorkeled around the reefs. Our tour guide was Tina, and she homeschooled her son CJ and took him on all her tours. He loved to participate in fishing competitions, and wanted to go to college in New England. Randall spent most of the time on the tour talking with them.

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Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

I had a night in Boston before I had to leave the following morning, so Randall took me downtown to Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, and Old North church. It was cold, and we were both missing the sun, but we had a great time seeing a bit of the old city and drinking Sam Adams in the Black Rose Tavern. It was a bit strange to be blistered all over with sunburns but also be chilled to the bone because I did not have sufficient jacket or shoes.

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Nailed it.

Midwest from above

Midwest from above

But it was worth it.

On Motion: January Roadtrips

“To me–a blank fortune is…an open sky on the horizon. Fill in the blank. A fortune no one’s ever written up ahead of time, because no one could imagine a life as strange and as beautiful as the horse you’re about to jump on.”  -Sarah Ruhl, Late: A Cowboy Song

There is something beautiful and exhilarating about constant motion, something powerful. Motion accomplishes something that stillness cannot. Perspective changes: physically, and then psychologically.wisco1

Such were my thoughts as I pushed through the West, then the Midwest, changing landscapes falling behind me and looming before me, one after one after one, the blue hood of my Dodge pickup pressing on in front of me like the prow of a ship.

January was full of time in the car, most of it alone. I didn’t mind: in fact, I had been looking forward to the trip for weeks.

I get excited when I drive. Sometimes a good song comes on the radio, or a prayer rises in my heart, and I laugh. It bubbles up, and I roll down my window and lean out up to my waist, feeling the wind and the tears running out of the sides of my eyes, and I yell at the world in happiness.

This was my first drive from my home in Western Montana to Nebraska in the winter or alone. I have made this same trip eight times before, but always with someone else, and always sometime between April and August (although we still hit white-out blizzards even in that time frame). I needed to get my truck and my college belongings back to Nebraska for the upcoming semester.

I looked around for a driving buddy for a while but I wasn’t too disheartened when none surfaced. Every brain needs a rest from constant interaction.

I began my journey January 2, and that first day on the road was glorious. I missed being behind the wheel while I was in Italy. I spent 14 hours flying across beautiful Montana and south through Wyoming, leaving my beloved mountains in my rearview mirror for seven months. I had heard there was a storm on my tail, but I had a good chance of outrunning it for the first day.

I always make a few calls while I drive, catching up with old friends. Some people tell me it’s dangerous, but if you have ever driven alone across eastern Montana and all of Wyoming in one day, you know it’s much safer to be on the phone: otherwise you risk falling asleep out of sheer boredom (although as long as you keep the steering wheel straight you may still stay on the road at least until you run out of gas, probably 30 miles from the nearest gas station).

wisco2I found a tiny motel in Cheyenne for only $55. I could hear the man snoring next door, and there was a wind (not draft) coming in through both the rotting wood around the window in the bathroom and the 3/4-inch gap around the front door; but all I really needed was sleep, and I can sleep through anything. I just used an extra blanket or three.

The second day was a white-out blizzard. I spent six hours gripping the wheel as the wind whipped white sheets across the road, erasing any remains of asphalt to my view. I arrived at my apartment in Nebraska exhausted.

But the next morning, I was up early and out on the road for another 10-hour adventure: I wanted to visit a friend from Italy before the semester got started.

I spent four delightful days roaming around Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was in the single digits all week, and the wind chill put us deep in the negs. However my friend Anthony, who had also studied in Florence last semester, still managed to give me a grand tour of downtown Oshkosh during my stay.

wisco3We hit up Peabody’s where they offer live jazz every Sunday night, and we attended The Traveling Suitcase’s debut concert for their new album. Anthony knew the lead singer/drummer Nicole Rae (he knows everyone in that city).

I also stopped for a night to see my brother Kevin at his school in Mequon, and he treated us to Panera. We don’t have those in the West. I also hung out with his college buddies, some of whom I remembered from my visit last March.

Over the week, as I socialized with Wisconsinites, one thought pervaded my mind:

Wisconsin is the South of the North.

I am always struck by Wisconsinites’ superb hospitality. I know the Midwest is known for this trait in general, but Wisconsinites’ love for their Home and their Guests is a thing to behold.

The drive to Nebraska was blessed by good weather, although I counted over three dozen cars and six semi trucks off the road in mangled fashions, a result of the storm the previous day. I heard about a 190-car pile-up in Illinois just east of where I passed through.

I was home for only one weekend before I piled into a car with six other people and drove through the night to Louisville, Kentucky, for a travel conference (ironic, I know).

wisco4There is not much to say about this weekend except that I experienced my first two all-night drives, and that I got to spend a Saturday evening in downtown Louisville. We all grabbed a few drinks at Sully’s downtown. There were so many lights in the walking district that it reminded me of what I imagine New York City to look like (a future bucket list location).

In true college-student fashion, we managed to fit 14 people into two hotel rooms, 10 in one and four in the other. Thankfully I had a sleeping bag with me: the gypsy life, my friends, and the beauty of constant motion.