April 4th, 2012 by ontheglobe No comments »

Not having left North America for over a year, my feet were getting terribly itchy. So I decided to get out to China for a few weeks. I’ve always wanted to climb in a beautiful place called Yangshuo. The plan is to fly in to  Hong Kong, then head to Guilin and Yangshuo for some climbing, and finally visit an old friend living in Shanghai. 

The morning of my flight out, as I cinched up my pack I realized that mice had been partying in it for the past few months. It stunk of pee, and I had no time to clean it up. Oh well! It’s just as if I’ve already been on the road for months. :) Might as well start the dirt-bagging now.

My fabulous house-mate, Sarah, gave me and my stinky pack a ride to the airport where I passed through security and boarded a flight to Hong Kong with a stopover in Seoul. What I didn’t realize, and nor did TSA, was the Swiss Army knife in my purse. Oops! Those body scanners aren’t making things any better if this could get by so easily. Of course, they did notice it in Korea during my stopover. Security in Seoul, and the staff of Korean Air, were incredibly accomodating (a welcome respite from American airports). They let me check in a key chain (knife included) as a bag. I didn’t even know that was possible!

Airplane in Seoul

Airplane in Seoul


On the plane, I had a solid 11.5 hours to ponder a very recent decision to buy a house. My head was spinning; everything had happened so fast. What would this do to my “drifter” vagabond roots? Am I getting sucked into a life that’s not really for me?  Luckily, I was able to work things out. :) I won’t be chained to this or let it put a stop to the adventuring - just as I haven’t let other things that are “supposed” to tie one down do so. I just have a home base, now. And I can finally buy art on the road! I’m happy to have a place that’s really my own, that I can always come back to… it ultimately means that I choose Seattle as my home (for now), and that’s fine by me because I do love the place. More importantly, I can rent the house out for those longer, living-abroad adventures.

If you want to travel and explore the world, you find a way to make it happen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you don’t need to be rich, or jobless, to be an adventurer. You make it work for whatever your situation in life… because life is meant to be lived.

Anyway, by the time I got to Hong Kong I was exhausted. Somewhere along the way I started a ritual of booking a nice hotel for the first night after a long flight, and thanked myself for this as I dumped my bags and crawled under a soft duvet. I slept solidly and woke slowly, relishing the peace and coziness. Then I stuffed myself with three courses of breakfast from the hotel buffet before setting out to explore Hong Kong. Here we go on the globe again, doing what I love most – finding new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. More to come. :)


A New Year

January 3rd, 2012 by ontheglobe No comments »

I can’t say I’m sorry to see 2011 go. It was a quiet one for the blog, as well, and I’m hoping to do better with it this year. However, even for a “bad” year, it was still pretty damn good! Here are some highlights.

Slideshow: Best of 2011

And now, bring on 2012! :)


Footie and Nationalism

June 26th, 2010 by ontheglobe 1 comment »

I love the World Cup. The earth’s energy goes up a notch. It’s so much fun to see people from all walks of life get so very excited – all over the world, over a (mostly) harmless game. It’s a time when citizens of different countries, each with their own internal problems, can bond as a nation. People like you and me can wave flags proudly without any political motive.

As an American, I’ve always envied others in this. I never felt comfortable decking myself out in the Stars & Stripes, because to be honest, most people don’t really like seeing Americans dressed that way, or chanting USA USA, etc. (By the way, we need to come up with some more creative chants). It hits a chord, brings a negative, “superiority” vibe… it’s like the school bully walked into the room. Let’s face it, when you’re on the road as an American, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to that fact. Take the humble road, or eat alone every night. I’m sure there are some who disagree, but this is the way I roll. Keep a low profile, make no big deal of your country, and spend more time learning about others.

Luckily for me and my relationship with soccer, one of my parents is from Argentina. Every World Cup, I snag the opportunity to cover myself in blue and white, talk some smack about other teams, and generally get more and more obnoxious (in Spanish, so it’s ok) the further along we get. For the last one, I was actually in Argentina for most of it. It made me so happy to see the entire country come to a full stop for each game, everyone waving flags and chanting, sooo proud to be Argentine, even though everyone constantly complains about the government. An Argentine waving the flag is not immediately associated with war, or a political party. It usually means futbol’s going on.

Fans at St Andrew's Pub in Seattle, 7am June 22 (Photo by C. Taylor)

This year is different. I’m finally able to do this with the US team, too. (Between the two, I’m exhausted!) ;) People back home in the states are going crazy. I’m seeing images of friends in packed bars at 7am, crowds going wild on wins, healthy banter on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. How fun is this?! Finally, we can wear a navy blue bandana with stars on it, with a red and white striped t-shirt. People can bond over a game. The best part is, we’re the underdogs. It’s not the bully on scene this time. We’re the nerd in the back… the one that’s been working out a bit. And lo and behold, some people are actually rooting for us. I never thought I’d see this day.

It’s not just a game. We’re finally joining, accepting, taking part in this world-wide club, blind to race and socio-economic background. It is a platform of surprises, harmless drama, and a time when you can look at your neighbor no matter who they voted for and say, yeah, go America. Go Slovakia. Go North Korea. Whatever you go for, you can go to a pub and yell to your heart’s content.

Don’t even try to compare this to the Olympics.


Video: Marathon de Paris

June 6th, 2010 by ontheglobe No comments »

My friend Beth and I decided to go on a “long-ish” run together in April. Our chosen weekend just happened to coincide with the Marathon de Paris! So we decided to go run alongside them for a while, to cheer the runners on. We started somewhere between kms 27-28, and just couldn’t stop. We ran right through to the end, whooping and hollering the entire way. Yes, we were posers, but it was darn good fun… and we’re both inspired now to run a whole one!


Video: Hitting L’Haute Savoie

June 6th, 2010 by ontheglobe No comments »

This leetle video is low in image quality but pretty much embodies what I love about life. I spent a weekend with friends in the Haute Savoie back in March, and had a fantastic time. Finally got the video up – here you go!


How to Lose a Wallet

May 30th, 2010 by ontheglobe No comments »

Any traveler of any kind, even one who just goes to a neighboring city, is at risk of being stranded by losing a single, small item. You guessed it (was it the title of the post that gave it away?) – the wallet. Too often we put all of our most important items in a single place, and then hold it loosely in a bag which can be left or yanked, or put in a pocket where it can either fall out or be picketed. I have done all of the above… I am really good at losing my wallet!

Getting credit cards and ID replaced away from home is a bitch. Banks are not that great at getting replacement cards out to you on the road, no matter what they say. (HSBC is not the “World’s local bank”!) So, let’s talk about how to make it less of a, sorry to say it again, bitch.

Now, the term “wallet” and “purse” can cause some international confusion, as the British and American definitions vary. In this post I am using the American definitions. A wallet is where you put your credit cards, ID, and cash etc. A purse is a bag of some kind where you put your wallet and a tube of lipstick, phone, used tissues, loose change, gum, and a chihuahua.

Here are some of the ways I’ve personally lost wallets.

  1. Had it in a purse hiding underneath my jacket. Got on a crowded bus, reached up to hang on to the bars, which lifted the jacket and exposed the purse. Someone opened the zipper and took the wallet without my even feeling it. (Argentina, 1990′s)
  2. Paid for an item, and absent-mindedly walked away. Yep, wallet still on the counter. (Paris, France 2003)
  3. Had someone run up to me on a busy sidewalk and yank at the purse on my neck, trying to break it off… unsuccessfully, but it kinda hurt. (Valparaiso, Chile 2006)
  4. Taken from my front pocket while walking with my hands full, didn’t feel a thing. (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania 2007)
  5. Fell OUT of my snug back pocket while riding a bicycle with friends. (Phoenix, Arizona 2008)*
  6. Got distracted while watching, horrified, a car slowly run over a pigeon eating food I’d just given it. At this point I either dropped the wallet or threw it into a bush, I have no idea… never saw it again. Karma? (Fontainebleu, France 2010)

So the first thing to accept is that someday, you will lose your wallet on the road. It’s going to suck no matter where or what, but the thing is to be prepared for it.

Some advice, if I may. Learn from my pain.


Enjoy the market! Keep a small wad of cash in a pouch, separate from your fancy leather wallet with shiny credit cards.

  • Keep things separate! Multiple locations. Have backup debit and credit cards which stay in your room, or in your big luggage when you’re on the move.
  • NEVER keep your passport with your wallet.
  • Stuff cash in a separate pocket, bra, shoe, whatever. Enough to get to your hotel or home…  somewhere safe.
  • Know your bank details. For Americans, this means know your bank’s routing number. We never really use it at home, but you need it in order to wire yourself money. In a pinch you can call your bank and get it, but it’s easier if you already have it written down somewhere (not in your wallet). It’s also located on your checks, but who uses those anymore? You probably won’t have your checkbook with you in Cambodia. If you do, you’re not traveling light enough. ;)
  • Keep two wallets on you when walking around as a tourist. Nothing like pulling out a large, fancy leather wallet full of shiny credit cards and loads of cash sticking out while you’re trying to barter for a stick of incense. I usually get a cheap little zip pouch, put about $20 of local currency in there and maybe one credit card, and that’s it. My ID, debit card, more cash etc is tucked away in a deeper pocket of my daypack or purse. Remember, this doesn’t include the backup cards which are in the room or big bag. The wallet I had pick pocketed in Dar Es Salaam? It was this pouch, without even a credit card. I had been in a crowded local market and was pulling it out to buy spices and trinkets. The thief saw where I put it and got me… but I still had all my important stuff and was down only about 20 bucks.
  • Use a money belt when you’re moving around with your big luggage. Yeah, you feel like a dweeb, but at least it adds one more place where you can divide up your stuff, and your passport is always safely against your skin while your hands are full.
  • Write down the phone numbers from the backs of your cards so you know who to call immediately, without having to do detective work to figure it all out.

Additionally (not necessarily related to wallets, but while I’m at it)…

  • Keep a scanned copy of your passport somewhere, like a secure folder online or with a friend who can email it to you in a pinch. (Best not to leave it in email itself for long, as we all know how secure that can be). There are a lot of companies offering secure online storage nowadays. Search on it and pick whichever suits you best.
  • Make sure you have important phone numbers written down somewhere, in case you lose your phone.
  • Scan your health insurance cards, keep them online, make sure your emergency contact has a copy.
  • Don’t even bother with Traveler’s checks. No one seems to take them anymore and are more of a hassle than they’re worth.

For another example of how these tips can help, let’s look at scenario 6. I was walking along a crowded street, at night, with my big backpack on my back, my smaller backpack on my front (as many backpackers do) and a purse slung across/over my shoulder. The thief ran up to me and yanked it, hard. I couldn’t do much other than yell and waddle as I attempted to kick him.

Little did he know, there was nothing of value in the purse. It was my bus-ride play-time bag, with a chessboard, book, sudoku, and a deck of cards. My wallet was in the backpack on my front, backup cash and credit card were in the rucksack on my back, and my passport and backup debit card were snugly hiding on the small of my back in a money belt. They would have had to have stolen me to get everything… and in that case I would have had much bigger problems to worry about than a wallet!

I don’t want to make everyone reading this suddenly turn into a paranoid freak while walking around. These are all very easy, simple measures and you don’t have to look at everyone as though they are a potential pickpocket, practicing your kung-fu moves for when someone brushes up too closely against you on a bus. What it does is actually allow you to relax. You can enjoy what you are experiencing, knowing that if someone does take advantage of you, it’s lame but not the end of the world.

*A testament to human goodness, in scenario 5 I luckily had my email noted in the wallet, and the guy who found it actually mailed it back to me, cash and all. :)


Update on Stef & Eamonn’s Wedding

May 30th, 2010 by ontheglobe No comments »

For those of you who are just dying to know how my friends fared after the Eyjafjallajökull fiasco, they did indeed make it to their lovely wedding in Ireland (via boat and trains from London), as did most guests. There were unfortunately some loved ones missing from the states, including the bride’s brother, sister-in-law, and niece. Here is a testament to technology, as they were able to Skype from the reception. (Photo stolen from the bride’s brother) ;)

Stef and Eamonn

Skyping at their wedding


Everything has been Eyjafjallajokulled

April 20th, 2010 by ontheglobe No comments »

Eamonn and Stef might miss their own wedding


Every day I am hearing more and more stories about people close to me affected by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. I have friends stuck in Jordan, Sydney, Seattle, Singapore, and the UK.

Some are happy – extended holidays! Hooray! But the glum, I feel for the glum. One friend might lose his job. Two friends are getting married in Ireland this weekend, and the bride’s mother might not be able to make it to her daughter’s wedding. A relative of a friend of mine was passing away, and no one was able to make it to his bedside to say good-bye.

How many people are scheduled for surgery and waiting for organs? Or are unable to get their prescriptions? Or new mothers stranded on their first business trip back at work? People outstaying their visas? The list goes on. My own story pales in comparison… but is still monumentally frustrating. I can only imagine what it must be like for others, and my heart goes out to all of you.

Who would have thought a “random” volcano could affect so much? Farmers in Kenya are being laid off due to a volcano in Iceland. That’s just amazing. It just goes to show how fragile we really are in this globally interconnected world.

Transportation has changed the way we (animals) have organized ourselves. Take out one mechanically introduced, unnatural part of that and chaos ensues. I am a huge fan of travel (obviously) but this does make for some interesting introspection. If it weren’t so easy to go home, would I have left? I am always comforted to know that my family is only a 10 hour flight away…

Now for the first time we are starting to ask the question – what would the world be like if people were grounded for months? Nature has spoken, indeed.


Fire in Paris

March 18th, 2010 by ontheglobe No comments »

Just a few weeks ago, I posted a blurb about missing a great shot of firefighters. I didn’t think I’d get a chance to see them up close again. Well, last night I got real close.

I left work and began walking toward the climbing gym for a standard, non-St-Paddy’s evening, when I noticed a huge inky cloud in the sky. I continued walking along thinking nothing of it, as Parisians do (ignore, ignore). A bit later, I glanced up again and this time, stopped cold. This was no ordinary black inky cloud. This was clearly coming from a fire. A big, big fire. And it was close by.

I reached for my camera and nearly kicked myself in the shins when I realized I didn’t have it. Not again! Didn’t I say I would never leave home without a camera? Will I ever learn? Ugh! <kick> <kick!!> <ow>

But wait! My trusty iPod has a video camera on it. If I couldn’t take a still, maybe I could take a short video clip of the cloud hovering over “La Banque Postale,” an ominous image. And thus began an epic evening, as I continued to take clips all along the walk and realized the fire was actually right next to where I was going. Obviously, I got a bit sidetracked from the gym, and joined the crowd of curious onlookers. You’ll notice in the video that I actually walk right past a couple of news stations, who were probably scrambling to get the story of their own neighborhood.

The victim was a huge, empty, factory that was being demolished to make room for a new development. (Uh, I think this might have helped it along, a bit). I’ve never seen something this big – you could see the fire inside, with magnificent flames leaping out of the top openings in the building. And smoke, lots of foul smoke. (Another article here)

I hung out for a while, watching and studying the way everything was organized. Unfortunately, the iPod video doesn’t do so well in the dark, and you can’t make out the flames themselves. Therefore, I began to focus more on what was around - the crowd (see if you can spot the two cigarrettes in the video), the firemen (check out the shiny helmets, I wasn’t kidding!), firetrucks, hoses, people chatting on their mobiles, and passersby on bicycles casually getting in the way of firemen. Finally, at the end, a big set of flood-lights is lifted to help the firemen see – and this illuminates the building pretty well. Unfortunately, you can’t see the actual firemen up on their lofty ladders or the immense spouts of water coming from their hoses. I was really missing my telephoto lens.

Needless to say, I did not ask any firemen if they would take a picture with me…


Verona, Italy

March 10th, 2010 by ontheglobe No comments »

I did a quick weekend trip over to Verona, Italy, where my parents are staying for a few months. This travel thing kinda runs in the family. ;) Full slideshow here.

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy


Verona is a cute town, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, nestled in the sharp bend of the Adige river. It is most famous for being home to both Dante and the rivaling Montecchi and Capuleti families in the 1300s. The former mentions the latter in one of his Comedies, a few other authors got in and told the tale here and there, until finally some guy named Shakespeare picked it up.

The Capuleti house still stands, and Juliet’s balcony (I guess it must have been it – there was just the one) is a popular tourist attraction. The town is crazy for Juliet! They have erected a statue, and apparently it brings good fortune to touch Juliet’s right breast. The boob shines brilliantly compared to the rest of her. I, of course, obliged and got the classic Verona tourist shot.

Juliet's Balcony

Juliet's Balcony

Juliet's right boob

Me and, err, Juliet's right boob

Getting to Verona was an adventure in itself. I took Ryanair which leaves from Beauvais airport in “Paris” (uh, not Paris, it’s quite a ways out). There is a shuttle that takes you from the west side of Paris (Porte Maillot) to the airport. It takes about an hour and costs €14 each way. Keep this in mind when you buy your cheap Ryanair flights… There is usually some kind of shuttle involved, no matter which city you are in.

The other potential added cost is your baggage. Ryanair is extremely strict about carry-on bag size. Their requirements are smaller than the average airline, and they force each and every passenger to put their bag in the box at security. Beware, I saw more than one passenger who hadn’t read the fine print get stung with a  €35 baggage fee. Luckily, I packed really light. :)

That combined with €28 round-trip shuttle fees on one side, and then shuttle fees on the other side, can easily start to add up to the prices you saw on the other airlines when you were booking your flight. If you play by the rules and have plenty of travel-time, though, it can be a great way to go.

All in all, it was lovely to spend a weekend with my parents and see their eyes all aglow from their experience living there.