Bait and Switch: Travel Style

Whimg_0608en I decided to escape from winter, I coordinated events quickly not certain if I wanted a sit-on-the-beach-sipping-fruity-drinks kind of experience, a cram-in-as-many-things-as-you-can experience, or perhaps somewhere in between. After a day or two of just relaxing in the sun, taking long walks on the beach, and playing in the surf, I decided it was time to stray from the tranquility of the resort.

I had heard great things about the Arenal volcano, so it seemed a reasonable place to start. Off to the tourist desk I went and signed up for a trip the following day to Arenal and Baldi hot springs. I paid little attention to the mention of hot springs. They seemed a side note to the majesty of the volcano. But I played along, wearing my swimming suit and packing a change of clothes and a towel.

The following morning I met Ronald, the driver and guide for the day, in the lobby and off we went with two other women. We turned our backs on the coastline and  headed northeast back toward San Jose and the interior of the country. The drive is 2.5-3 hours, depending on traffic, road conditions, weather. We made a single stop at some lovely gardens that naturally included a souvenir shop, bathrooms, and coffee samples – rather delicious, I must say.

As we headed further into the clouds, the once clear skies turned from fog and mist to an angry downpour. And that’s when it dawned on me why the hot springs are included in the trip…the chance of actually getting a glimpse of Arenal, much less a full, unencumbered view was relatively low. Somewhere between being hit by lightning and winning a Powerball.

The drive was great though. We went through a few small towns, so got to see homes, schools, bus stops, roadside stands, grocery stores – all the everyday sights that make traveling such a rich experience. Our drive was slow during some of the periods of heavy rain when navigating potholes ranked among the most steely-nerved of Olympic sports.

To their credit, the hot springs are lovely. There are 25 different pools, a few cool, but most warm. It was an excellent place to relax and imagine the skies lifting and Arenal making an appearance. During the few hours we were there, it looked like it could happen once or twice, but, alas, it was not to be.

It reminded me of my trip to Japan a few years ago when several of us piled into a bus to go to Mt. Fuji. About an hour into the trip, the guide mentioned that the mountain could only be seen once every three to four days. But then, we saw it. It was more amazing than I’d expected. At each level we stopped, we got a slightly different view. It was windy. It was cold. No one cared. Because on that day, our 25% chance had skyrocketed to 100% and it was like we’d been struck by lightning.

I should have known better than to think it might strike again at Arenal, but you don’t know if you don’t try, you always have the hot springs to distract you, and now there’s even more reason to return to Costa Rica!

 

Putting Down Roots: A Twenty Year Journey

Roots and Wings I achieved a milestone recently. It may not seem like much to many, but to me, living in the same town for twenty years is something I never really thought I would achieve, or perhaps wasn’t sure if I even wanted to. I grew up in a military family, which meant lots of beginnings, lots of tries at fitting in, making new friends, and finding the concept of home in people, rather than place. Overall, that type of childhood worked for me. I never knew any different, so I didn’t have much reason to question it until I got older, was out on my own, and knew I could (at least conceptually) pick anywhere on the map and make it mine, even if just for awhile.

I have to admit, my ‘plan’ to move to Park City was not wildly complex or thought out. I only knew a few things for certain – 1) I was ready to leave North Carolina; 2) I wanted to move west (which wasn’t hard since east of North Carolina lies miles of ocean); and 3) I already knew some people in Park City and it seemed prudent to start with at least a bit of a network. I told myself that my real objective was to get to San Francisco or Seattle, but Park City would be a good place for me to get my feet under me before continuing the rest of the journey to the coast. This is the kind of logic that makes absolute sense in your 20s. Suffice it to say, it made less sense to my supportive but cautiously suspect parents.

Before I moved, I’d only visited Park City two or three times during the summer. I’d never been during the winter. I only knew how to water ski not snow ski. And I moved without a job. I did have a place to live though, and a roommate who was a good friend who setup all our living arrangements before I had my last bag packed.

I loaded up my Chevy Cavalier with whatever wasn’t loaded on the moving van. I added one very confused cat, an equally confused mother, and we left North Carolina in early January. Because isn’t the middle of winter when everyone thinks it’s a great idea to drive a couple thousand miles to snow country? I don’t recall the exact date we left, but I do know that it coincided with the Blizzard of 1996, a storm so significant that it has an entry in Wikipedia.

We diverted ourselves south through Chattanooga to try to avoid the ice and snow. About three days later, we rolled in to town and set about waiting for the moving van to arrive. My mother stayed for several days to help out, leaving on a day of another huge Utah snow storm. I don’t think she’s visited me in January since.

In some ways, I don’t know where twenty years went, but of course, if I stop and put some thought in to it, the details materialize. The job that started a career, the friends that became family, and the houses that became homes.

It’s all right here, in my little mountain town.

 

A Frenetic Case of Wanderlust

Important Things
My life of late has been a series of leavings. Partly by design, partly by desire, I find myself unpacking and repacking on a regular basis. I have the logistics of it down to a science – leave the house two hours before any flight, pack anything critical in carry on, set the thermostat to fifty-five, put the mail on hold, and so on.

But the emotions of it, I’m still working on. As much as I look forward to most trips, I also don’t want to leave home. I never feel like I have enough time at home – except when I’m there, of course.

This frenetic case of wanderlust has been with me for a lifetime. At this juncture, it wouldn’t seem that it’s some phase I’ll grow out of in due course, like when I thought I wanted to join the Peace Corps or be a long-haul truck driver (true story for another time!).

My father was a career Navy man working on diesel submarines. For the first several years of my life, we moved every couple of years, sometimes less. We exited the roller coaster the year I turned ten, which on paper sure doesn’t seem all that long, and yet, living that first decade of my life in such a nomadic style has shaped everything that came after.

When you’re born in to something, you can go a long time not realizing there’s another way. A whole lot of other ways, as it turns out. I remember during sixth or seventh grade when I realized that I had friends who had never been on a plane, had always lived in the same town, and even more strikingly, lived within reasonable driving distance from the bulk of their relatives. My relatives, on the other hand, lived on the opposite coast from me. We’d never shared a Thanksgiving or Christmas with any of them.

As children, you don’t spend a lot of time missing what you don’t have. Indeed, we had no need to. I have the great privilege of having incredible parents, and a sister who isn’t so bad either. (That’s a joke – she’s a gem, my mirror, my forever friend.) I never felt that we were missing out by spending each holiday just the four of us, or maybe with some family friends.

In any case, it was most assuredly those early years that fed my desire for exploration, independence. Perhaps it would have been there anyway, but I’m not so sure about that. Exposure to different geographies, people, and cultures only made me want more. I sought it out in my education. I sought it out in my leisure time. I sought it out in my professional life.

And so we’ve come full circle – back to the trip that I’m on right now. The trip that allows me to explore and experience while at the same time maintaining a home in a town that I love.

What was I complaining about again?   

Round about Town

By the end of this post, it will be abundantly clear timagehat you have not unwittingly landed on the next Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, or even <insert favorite Instagrammer here> . However, I do get a chance to see some cool things, so thought I would share. Plus, I’ve got some mad iPad skills.

This striking mural of a woman clutching a heart can be found in Via Morosini in Milan. It’s part of an urban regeneration project that’s goal is to take back an abandoned area of the neighborhood and establish it as a “cultural garden”. There’s certainly not much traditional gardening going on, but the space is clean, safe, and interesting.

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There are actually two murals spanning the entire side of adjacent apartment buildings. This picture gives you some perspective of how the murals really command the space. The area has quickly become a meeting place, as evidenced by the three men relaxing and chatting on the bench.

imageOn the day I visited, there was a lending library displayed on several benches and tables around the garden. The rules were quite simple – take a book, leave a book. There were even
some books in English, but since I came without anything to leave, I amused myself by browsing the collection. A few women sat at nearby tables visiting, but keeping an eye on the books the whole time, lest the threatening clouds open up and drench them – something that seems to happen often at this time of year.

After I left the cultural garden, I wound my way through the sleepy, Sunday streets back to my apartment in Porta Venezia and came upon this street art. I know, I know – back in your day, they would have called it graffiti. They did that in my day too, but times they are a changin’. I’m doing my best to change with them; but mostly I just want people to think I’m a cool hipster (that’s redundant, isn’t it?)

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Milan is filled with graffiti, both the kind that can easily be elevated to the category of street art as well as the kind that’s simple vandalism. I would argue that this picture qualifies as street art. There’s definite artistry at play, and I love the message – “The important things aren’t things.” It’s not every day that you get a life lesson from the side of a building.