Category: Travel Writing

“Beam Me Up, Scotty …..”

            Two days off work: school cancelled because of severely cold weather. I can’t help but think, “Make up time….. tomorrow will be hell.” A friend said he was coming to dinner tonight, cancelled at the last minute. Too cold to go for a walk: hyper dogs all day. House is destroyed.

            Am I feeling out of sorts? Just a bit. Cleaning up the mess. I opened a kitchen cupboard door to put some dishes away, and there on the shelf sat the AeroPress.  It was like a living, glowing thing, in its shiny, plastic glory. Then came the flood of memories; those kinds of memories that are transporting, and for a moment, I am neither here nor there, and I think, “Beam me up, Scotty.” He doesn’t, and I am swiftly settled back in my kitchen, but that rush of fond memories is still at the forefront, awakened.

            I bought the AeroPress to take with me on my travels. Coffee can be a very iffy thing in a new locale, particularly when one is addicted to drinking good coffee twice or thrice daily.  Depending on where I go, there may be a thoroughly delightful coffee shop or cafe, and then again there may not be. Plus, that first dram in the morning: sitting quietly in a new and different abode, looking out over red tile rooftops, or into a wild garden bordered by jungle – in other words, not at home – is a beautiful thing.

DSC_2972AeroPress, “for the world’s smoothest, richest brew”

            The ritual of this hand activated press is lovely in itself (in addition to the fact that I am big on ritual, so…..). You have to put a little effort into that first, grand cup of the day. Electricity may or may not be available: a hand turned bean grinder, along with the requisite beans, travel with me. Once the fresh beans are ground to a fine powder, the AeroPress is prepared. A dainty, rice paper thin, round paper filter is placed in the bottom holder, which is then screwed to the larger cylinder. This is balanced on a clean coffee cup, and four scoops of the coffee powder are spooned into the cylinder. This will make two shots of espresso. Once the water comes to a boil, six ounces are poured over the grounds, stirred for ten seconds, and then the smaller, plunger cylinder is placed inside the larger cylinder. Very, very slowly press, and, TA DAH! Espresso. Froth the heated milk with a hand pumped frother, also in the travel kit, and a double cappuccino is ready.

DSC_2047Balila B&B, Ubud, Bali Indonesia

            The ritual of making the coffee is fun, but the best is yet to come. Where will I be drinking that coffee? Last summer in Bali, I stepped out onto a porch surrounded by a garden with a pond, gorgeous birds of paradise, and a lovely, stone Ganesh at the top of the garden path. Chumpa, the Bali dog who adopted me while I was there, lay at my feet when I settled on the bench at the sturdy, wooden table. Sipping my elixir, I listened to unfamiliar birds chirping, motorbikes winding their way on the distant road, and bees buzzing about their daily work.

            Eventually, Made would thread her way down the path bearing the breakfast she had prepared once she espied me out of the kitchen window of my host’s home. Fresh papaya juice, home made bread with butter, softly scrambled eggs.

Balila B&B, Ubud, Bali Indonesia

            The last time I used the press, just a few weeks ago, was in the Republica Dominicana. After making my coffee there, I sat in front of an open window on a plastic chair, my elbows resting on a plastic table. On the table I had spread a map of the island as a tablecloth. Listening to the myriad of cocks crowing as the sun rose over the neighboring rooftops, I looked at all the intriguing, “must-visit” destinations on the map that I wouldn’t be able to make it to during this particular visit. Another time.

            With a sigh, I turn back to the sink of dishes, thinking I just might survive that dreaded day of work tomorrow, knowing the paycheck from it will be financing my next travel, Aeropress tucked in my suitcase.


The Holy Spirit Snatch

My friend Amanda has a favorite line she says often, and with gusto: “The universe conspires!” I do believe it does, if you look closely enough, you will see it. Don’t make any rash pronouncements about how and why things happen. If you are open-minded enough to let one step lead to the next: to simply let things and events and twisting turns in the path ‘happen’ as they will, you will notice the universe conspiring!

Something occurred last week that came as a total surprise to me. Was it my subconscious working behind the curtain, unbeknownst to me? Maybe. Or, quite possibly, it was what Anne Lamott calls “The Holy Spirit Snatch.” Lamott, one of my favorite writers, is a person I would probably label as “religious.” She refers not only to her spirituality on a regular basis, but also to events that occurred while teaching Sunday school, or something her minister said, or words pronounced by Jesus. I am in no way religious, but I would certainly call myself spiritual. So I know what she is talking about when she says an event occurred by way of the Holy Spirit Snatch: something grabs you and sends you hurtling down a new path that you didn’t even know existed a minute ago.

I was supposed to go to the Dominican Republic in April to begin dive master training. I received my certification as a rescue diver from this particular dive shop/instruction center in January. I had made arrangements to continue for a week in April and then again for four more weeks over the summe,r to achieve the next certification.  When I got there in January, I found I didn’t like the safety protocol of the program. I didn’t like the town where it was located. Republica Dominicana was beautiful, but I didn’t want to go back. It took me a few weeks to come to the decision, but one night I sat down and cancelled my flight, which had already been booked a few weeks earlier.

Then, I set it all aside. I would think about where to go on another day.

Over the next couple weeks, I sort of thought about it, in a very abstract way. I thought about diving in Mexico, but I had already made a plan to complete the dive master certification in July with a shop I was familiar with and respected there. I thought about all the beautiful places to dive that I hadn’t been to yet: Seychelles, Fuji, Australia…..

Then, along came the Holy Spirit Snatch. I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye, and looked that way quickly, but there was nothing there. When I turned back, I had clicked the button on the computer that read: “purchase” and I realized I had a plane ticket in April for Bali. I really don’t know how else to explain it.

And it felt right. It didn’t feel risky. It didn’t feel irresponsible. It didn’t feel ill considered. Even though you could say it was all of those things! Pondering risk at that moment, I reminded myself that taking a risk actually opens you up to a world of possibilities you have yet to consider. Something new.  Something fomenting. And, as Neil Gaiman says, “If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”

So off I go.


Hey, Sister, Soul Sisters!

If you read my previous post, you will know I met my doppleganger a few weeks ago. Angelika spent one night in Milwaukee, and it felt like we had known each other forever. Well now she has written, from across the great pond, her piece about the evening we enjoyed together in Milwaukee. If you speak German, you can read it here: Milwaukee: Als ich meine Soulsister Traf

And if you don’t speak German, I have provided a translation here, by Google Translate. The translations by GT are always rather humorous! Enjoy – and thanks Angelika (who is in Curacao now… a girl on the go!).

Written by Angelika Schwaff (Google Translate)

“The sun is almost down , and with it the last late summer heat , as I park my mobile home in Milwaukee . I still do not think I ‘ll meet like a true angel. Because that’s the best thing about traveling : when you have no great expectations – and then pleasantly surprised.

As the night should be quite short and the next day I had a seven hour drive ahead of me, I had just decided not to far out drive out of town ( the next best campsite would in fact either up north or 60 miles west of Milwaukee located ) but me on airbnb to book accommodation directly in the city for the night. The company had given two vouchers me before my trip – my first and I wanted to use here. I had noticed an ad that sounded promising. It was close to the freeway and yet in the center. And the profile of the landlord named Kerry sounded very nice.

Kerry comes out against me, even radiant. Her gaze falls on my boots and my view of her shoes. Our first laugh – we both wear green. Her home is beautifully decorated, many devotional objects from around the world and then there is an enticing scent of her kitchen. Kerry had asked me in the afternoon on the phone if I wanted to eat dinner together with her – and of course I wanted. When we start snipping and stirring to talk to and I know that Kerry also has her own travel blog. What a coincidence! Her last voyage had led her to Bali and from there she had also brought the recipe to cook for us tonight. I’m excited!

At dinner we talk about God and the world, about our travel experiences, about family, animals, books (we are both Sara Paretsky fans!). And the vexing issue number one men.

Very often it ‘s like this: in the first days I ‘m slightly confused. Either it’s the jet lag or the soul, which still is slacking and has not yet arrived with. Maybe you knows this one is not yet eingegroovt properly. And then the only remedies: meet people, not to crawl. At least for me it works all the time.

Throughout the evening, we are engrossed in conversation . Your dog she got from a shelter years ago, and first had a little afraid of me, her head is now next to us on the couch, on my lap. Kerry and I have the feeling we’ve known each other for ages. Before I go to bed I’ll have my business card so we can keep in touch – and as Kerry sees my card, she starts to laugh out loud: it has the same !

Despite the short night I sleep like a baby – and when I am sneaking down the stairs, Kerry is already there – with a coffee cup and a Tupperbox with the tasty leftovers from the day before. Everything for me – to take on my long journey. Our parting is difficult. But I have to go, so I am on time in Indiana. Kerry waves to me and my camper and I know that has always been like my instinct on the right track myself.

And I’m grateful for how challenging and rewarding ti is to zureisen alone – otherwise I would not have found my Soul Sister – here in the heartland of the USA.”

by Angelika Schwaff

How is that for a good story!!?


The Bali Sea


When leaving home for a distant place became less about brawn, women finally had the opportunity to venture out on their own. No longer were we stuck at home, waiting for our men to return and tell us stories about lands far away and people so different it was difficult to imagine what their lives were like.

Now, even a lone woman traveler is not unusual, though we still have certain limitations that men don’t have. Care does have to be taken with our personal, physical safety; certain places and situations avoided. But overall, thankfully, it is a big wide world open to us.

J. Kottler, in Travel That Can Change Your Life, stated: “… travel is an altered state of consciousness… transporting you not only to another place, but another dimension…”

A Short Visit in Los Angeles – A Reflection on Walking

As I walked up Beverly Boulevard this morning, I learned I was something of an oddity. Nobody walks in L.A. The shops and other places of business are one story, or rarely, two stories. Neighborhoods stretch out for miles and miles. The residents here drive wherever they have to go. Valet parking is available at restaurants and clubs, sometimes free and sometimes at great cost. Cars dive into open parking spots, as if they have found gold.

There are, however, the invisible walkers. Like ghost ships on a foggy night, the homeless shuffle the sidewalks, pushing their laden grocery carts in front of them. Each seem to be following their self specific round from one spot to the next, on auto pilot. The carts are mounded with home. Sheets of cardboard, ratty blankets rank and brown with dirt, bottles of water, overcoats over the top, tied down with belts or rope. A doorway, an open alley, a crawl space next to a garbage scow; all destinations. Only someone new to town, like me, seems to see them. They don’t make eye contact, they don’t ask for money. They sit, lay, or shuffle.

The drivers in cars see me, however. I am the lone person, apparently walking with purpose, along the sidewalk. Cars wait when I step into the crosswalk, to allow me to reach the far curb before they turn. So unused to people in a crosswalk, they don’t know how to judge the amount of time needed for me to cross. They could turn in front of me three times before I arrive at the point of walking in front of their car!

Now and then I did come across another soul, apparently walking with purpose, like  me. I learned, however, that some of these walkers were actually not like me, either.

A woman in a fashionable outfit, neat and clean, swinging her phone in one hand, walked twenty paces ahead of me mid morning. I noticed her only because we were both walking alone on the long stretch of sidewalk. Suddenly she stopped and spun, waiting for me to come abreast. I smiled, about to say good morning, when she pointed at me and began to chastise me, “…walking there…talk about me…. you have issues…” She then waved me past her. When I was two or three paces ahead, I heard the angry slap of her sandals on the pavement. She quickly overtook and subsequently passed me, shaking her head.

At the next crosswalk I waited through an extra light so she could move away well in front of me. I don’t know: maybe she didn’t want to share her sidewalk with me.

They Used To Be Called Pen Pals

Long ago and far away, when I was a young girl, I loved to write letters. This was a time when there were no computers, no cell phones, and… gasp… long distance telephone calls were very, very expensive. I wrote letters to friends in the city I had moved away from.  I wrote letters to my grandparents.  I wrote notes to classmates…. (antique style texting under the table) in class!  I also had three pen pals.

I don’t remember how I acquired these pen pals.  Debbi lived in Massachusetts and owned a horse.  I had a horse too, so we had lots to talk/write about.  We even exchanged black and white photos taken with our matching, Kodak Instamatic cameras.

I also had two pen pals who lived in Japan.  I think I may have made these two friends through Girl Scouts while earning one of the badges that got sewn on my sash.  Both of their names started with T, but I don’t remember anything else about them, or what we wrote about to each other.  All three of those relationships slowly fizzled out.  When I went away to college, I wrote to my parents, my friends, my grandparents.  Eventually long distance got cheaper and I did more calling than writing.

Then along came blogging.  Suddenly I found myself with all kinds of new, far away friends.  At first, I thought it was very strange to be writing back and forth with people all over the world whom I had never met.  Then I realized, it was just like having lots of pen pals!