Middle Of Nowhere

The captain just announced that we are halfway to Europe. At first pass, I applied that concept to this part of my vacation—I'm halfway through the all-you-can-eat buffets, free shows, and relaxing time by the pool. But when I really thought about it, it struck me in a different way, you might even say a more profound way. We are 1300 nautical miles from Puerto Rico with another 1300 to go to the Canary Islands. A brief glance at the various charts and maps around tells me that there's not much land out here. In fact, I think it's safe to say there is no land for 500 miles in any given direction. When you look at it that way, it's kind of errie.

It's not like the feeling of isolation is all that present, though. There are over 2000* people on board this massive ship, so finding peace and quiet, let alone isolation, is a challenge.

But from an esoteric stance, it's kind of neat. I remember a similar feeling when sailing to Tahiti, studying the GPS to find out where the nearest land was and realizing it was a long freaking way away. Both then and now, I realize we are father away from anything resembling civilization* than 99.9% of the worlds population. It really reminds me how small I am, how big the world is, and how great it is to get out here!

Someday I might find myself in an even more remote place, father from, say, an airport or grocery store, or whatever "civilization" means. Until then, I'm going to keep gazing out at the huge expansive ocean and marvel at it all.
Wednesday April 24 2013File under: travel, cruise

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Cruise First Impressions

In the three months since booking this cruise, my feelings towards it have ranged from intense excitement to cautious trepidation. The reasons for excitement were clear and what I touted when telling people about the trip: all-you-can-eat food, good shows, out of the way ports-of-call, etc. My trepidation, however was a little harder to explain. Basically I was concerned I just wasn't the cruise ship type. Dress up dinners, contrived scavenger hunts, lay by the pool, dissimilar demographics*. With both sides of the spectrum represented, I was curious to see how it all played out.

After less than 24 hours aboard Brilliance of the Seas, any thoughts about trepidations are long gone, replaced with excitement, curiosity, amazement, and down right giddiness. I was almost wishing I had one of those reality TV style camera crews following me for that first half hour as I explored with a ridiculous grin on my face. Everything is so nice, and not just in that way that cheap things try to look nice but aren't. It all feels so real deal.

And the food. So many all-you-can-eat places have food you stuff yourself with not because it looks amazing, but because you want to get your money's worth. The buffet here, not so much, and definitely not the table service meals. My pork chop was great!

Another thing I was concerned about was being nickle and dimed to death. I've been in situations where a cheap deal becomes much less so with all the fees*. While some of the services aboard do charge an add-on fee, it is always clearly advertised and on things that are totally non-essential. I foresee us easily making it 10 days without pulling out our wallets once.

Yep, it's safe to say I'm stoked (probably to an annoying degree to my dear Della). And with more of the ship to explore, tons of events planned daily, and 9 more days to enjoy it all, I'm thinking I will only get stokeder. Whatever the case, I'll keep you posted. Stay tuned.
Tuesday April 23 2013File under: travel, cruise

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San Juan Puerto Rico Instagrammed




Thursday April 11 2013File under: travel, puerto rico

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Road Face

One of the neat things about traveling is that in another place, you are anonymous. No one knows you and chances are you won't see many of these people again. That introduces a kind of simple freedom, to try out new things or to take a break from habits and expectations people have of you at home. I could wear long pants from the moment I leave the house to the moment I return and no one would say "Whoa, Wren is wearing pants!" Or get drunk every night. But I won't be doing either of these things.

I'm not saying that this lack of anonymity on the home front is a bad thing. I love it that people know me so well that many of my quirks can go unexplained. But it can also be nice to take a break.

Introduce a mustache. I've tried one out here at home once or twice, but never really owned it. Since I was due for a shave before I hit the road, I thought, why not give it a try? The worst that can happen is to have 6 weeks worth of photos with me looking funny. No biggie.

So that's the plan, to see what the world at large thinks of me with a mustache. I'll bring back a full report. In the meantime, I'll be posting from the road. Stay tuned (but try to keep the "crazy mustache" comments to yourself ;-) ).
Wednesday April 10 2013File under: beard, travel

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Appreciating Photographers - Maui Hat Draw Edition

Much of this blog is about chronicling events of my life, both to share with you, dear readers, and to have for myself when I am old and grey. And while it occasionally turns out okay to have a words only post, everyone knows that posts with pictures are way better. But if I'm busy doing, I don't have much time to take pictures of those doings. I do okay when I'm diligent about it, but it's fair to say that many posts lack in the photo department.

Enter other photographers, people who know what they are doing, have great equipment, like doing it, and do it prolifically. I'm so appreciative when someone like that is 1) around and 2) willing to share their photos with everyone. And it makes creating a decent blog post that much easier.

Case in point: Kurt at the Maui Hat Draw Frisbee Tournament. Without the awesome photos he took, I'd have 2 or 3 photos Della captured on my not-a-phone to share*. Instead, I've got a whole gallery to choose from to create a post that conveys the experience in a much more efficient way.

And since pictures say much more than words, here they are:
The Action:


The Off-Action Fun:

Big hanks to Kurt and all the other photographers out there that share their art!
Wednesday March 20 2013File under: travel, hawaii

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Hawaiian Vacation Overview

How do you summarize a trip where you didn't really do anything? I can't say "we went to a luau, surfed, and ate fresh coconut every day" because we didn't. But that doesn't mean we didn't have a great time, because we did. And I suppose it would be a bit of a stretch to say we did nothing. While most of our time was spent lounging at the campsite or meandering around Lahaina, we had a few noteworthy experiences.

We saw many breaches of the humpback whales (often right from the beach at our campsite), ate some of the local cuisine, hitchhiked*, hiked to get a geocache, saw the largest banyan tree in the U.S., were warm, reveled in fun yet insignificant discoveries, and just enjoyed hanging out together.

And in terms of bang for our buck, I think we did pretty dang well. The whole concept behind the trip was let's go hang out somewhere warm and not spend oodles of money (hence the camping, hitching, spam, etc.) And while the final receipts haven't come in yet, I know we did amazingly well.

Yep, Hawaii ain't such a bad place to hang out for a week. In fact, I might just have to do it again next year.
Saturday March 2 2013File under: travel, hawaii

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Hawaii Mini-Post

It turns out that 1) Hawaii is pretty dang neat 2) keeping current with blog posts is hard when you are camping and 3) sno-cones are delicious. I'll get some better posts up soon.
Wednesday February 27 2013File under: travel, Hawaii

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Upcoming Travel

The last year and a half have been the least travelly of my adult life. Besides a few short domestic trips (Maine, Las Vegas), two stints with the circus (Alasqua, Oregon), and a handful of trips to Portland, I've mostly been hanging out in good old Northwest Washington. While it's been nice to see what the sedentary life is all about*, the travel urge has been growing. I happy to announce that plans are in the works!

Firstly, Della and I are headed to Hawaii at the end of February, with the current plan being Maui for 5ish days and Oahu for 4ish days. Besides a frisbee tournament on Maui and visiting some friends on Oahu, we don't have any huge agenda. Also, that means we are open to suggestion (including, but not limited to, friend-of-a-friend hookups! Otherwise the plan is to camp on the beach eat sand flies.)

Secondly, and [I can't help but saying] way more excitingly, is that we are going on a cruise!!!(!!!) Of all the ways I picture myself travelling, a cruise is probably towards the bottom of the list*. But an opportunistic traveller takes what he can get. It turns out that if you keep your eyes open, you can get ridiculously good cruise deals.

Our cruise goes from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Lisbon, Portugal, with stops on St. Thomas and Sint Maartin. It's 10 days with [all-you-can-eat] food and room included*. And what was the price? $299pp! Of course with taxes and mandatory gratuity, that price jumps to more like $470pp and you have to get yourself to Puerto Rico and back from Portugal, but still! I'm stoked.

It's my hope, that since I'm already in Europe, I will putz around there a bit afterwards, but that's all yet to be decided. April/May of 2013 is going to be a heck of a ride!

Just the thought of getting back on the road has me more excited than I can convey. Hopefully, besides a healthy tan, some awesome new experiences, and a few more places to add to my "been there" list, I'll also get a few fun blog posts out of it. So stay tuned!
Thursday January 31 2013File under: travel

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Sleeping Around 2011-2012

Overall Stats
Nights At Home101 (27.5%)
Nights Housesitting112 (31%)
Nights of Travel153 (42%)
One of the things I most look forward to on this blog is the collating of my year of sleeping around. It, better than possibly anything else, encapsulates what my year was like. And, since it is so nice and quantifiable, it serves as a great comparison to previous years. Did my housesitting business go up or down?* Did I travel more or less than last year?* The fun I have with looking through these numbers is really quite ridiculous.

Today represents the end of the fourth year of data, 1461 days of logging where I slept. I've presented this year's data in various ways here, some specifically for consistency with previous years for comparison. To see a breakdown, check out the calendar

What, in my eyes, is notable? Travel is WAY down, esp. international travel which is down from an average of 65 nights to just 4. Nights at home is higher than normal, partly due to [happily] playing live-in nurse for Ma when she got a new hip. Nights in a car is up, which is what happens when one's girlfriend lives* [by choice] in a car.

I very much like the transient nature of my life, at least for the time being. And I like numbers and data. So I trust this über-nerdy habit of tracking and analyzing will go continue for years to come, possibly to the point of it being the only post per year on the ever waning* Blog du Wren.

Previous years' posts can be found here: 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011.

Travel Breakdown
In-state91 (59%)
Domestic58 (38%)
    # of states (other than WA)    5
International4 (2.6%)
    # of countries (other than US)    1
Additional Stats
Nights in a Car37
Nights in a Tent39
Nights in a Boat0
Nights in a Hotel9
Longest stretch at home7

Wednesday August 1 2012File under: stats, travel

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Chautauqua Goes to Jail

It's not often that I get to go to jail*. Well, chalk up another life experience to running away with the circus!

On Chautauqua tour, we do a combination of big shows in local theaters and smaller shows in community spaces (assisted living facilities, children's groups, and jails). My first three tours, we never made it to a jail show, for whatever reason. This year, however, we have 2! Let me tell you, they are awesome!

At the first [minimum security] facility, we had no stage, no lights, and no microphones. The audience sat in the grass or stood. Backstage was behind a tree. But despite all that, it was easily the best show I've been involved in. The inmates really really appreciated it. They clapped, hooted, and laughed when appropriate and were nothing but the best audience one could hope for. The audience participation bits were even more hilarious than usual because everyone knew everyone else. So much of a show is in the enthusiasm of the audience. This enthusiasm was off the charts.

While the scene and stage was very different at the second [medium/maximum] facility (we performed indoor in the chapel with the audience neatly seated in chairs], the enthusiasm, behavior, and appreciation of the audience was just the same. There was a lot of laughing, smiling, and cheering going on. Afterwards, we all formed a line to accept their hearty handshakes, joke about the show, and mingle. It was great.

Yeah, going to jail is pretty awesome. Here's hoping it becomes a part of every Chautauqua tour!

(To read more about this year's Chautauqua's tour, check out our official blog here)
Monday July 2 2012File under: circus, travel

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