10-Year College Reunion

I had originally hoped, when composing a blog post about my 10-year college reunion, to be writing about how comforting it is to see those with whom I've shared a significant experiences (like college) and be reminded of how friendship can effortlessly pick right back up, to relive old stories and perhaps even create a few new ones. Unfortunately, however, I can't. Not because it was discomforting to see old friends or because my ideal of friendship was disproved but because all my friends chose to skip out due to complexities of life, travel, and memories. While a bit of a bummer to not get to catch up with folks who I seem to see less and less, it turned out to be a fun weekend nonetheless.

Maine is down right beautiful. Bates goes all out spiffing up the place and putting on a show for the attendees. And to frolic about a place I used to live after having been away for so long was a wonderful dose of nostalgia*. And while none of my '02 friends made the trek north, I ran into an old juggling buddy with whom I spent a fair number of pleasant practice hours*. So the weekend was not without the requisite "where are you what are you doing?" conversations.

We mostly spent the reunion simply just enjoying the place. We wandered around, Della being so kind to let me tell her stories. We took a few pictures, ate in the new dining hall*, and noticed changes around campus. I ate a lobster roll* and we toured a friend's brewery.

No, my 10-year college reunion wasn't I was hoping. I imagine my 20-year won't be either. But however it goes down, I'm sure it will be great, just like this one.
Wednesday June 13 2012File under: travel

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Swing Tour Oregon 2012


I now feel like I know what it would be like to be a traveling salesman. I just spent 2 days on the road from dawn til dusk, covering 900 miles and meeting with 10+ people in 5 town in Eastern Oregon in preparation for this year's Chautauqua tour. From navigating in new places to eating fast food on the go to living out of a rental car, I felt the experience was just a motel away from the epitome of traveling salesman*.

The upshots: seeing beautiful countryside*, meeting with our partners in great communities, getting back on the road*, and feeling more prepared for tour this year.

The downsides: go go and then go some more, way too much time in a car, not any time to keep up on normal life, and, well, the loneliness.

All in all, a great trip and super helpful to the cause. But next time, I'm taking someone with me and going about half as fast!
Wednesday June 6 2012File under: travel, USA

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Silliness in Vegas

Combine traveling with a super fun gal, needing to test out my new not-a-phone camera, and, well, Vegas, and some fun pictures come out of it all.


Wednesday November 23 2011File under: travel, Vegas

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On Being a VIP

I've been in Vegas now for 4 days and have seen 4 amazing shows. From medieval jousting to hypnotism, burlesque to magic. And as if that wasn't enough, we've gotten to go to all those shows as VIPs for free! What does being a VIP mean? Well, it means no waiting in line, great seats, free drinks, and pretty dang special treatment. It's really quite amazing.

But in addition to being amazing, it has been so interesting to see how this side of showbiz works. "Just ask for Zack" is all the direction we're given before heading off to the show. And sure enough, we prance* right up to the door, ask for Zack, and we're marched down to the front row. No fuss, no muss. All because we know a guy who knows a guy. And the guy we know knows lots, from the dirt about a performer's off-stage personality to the lowdown on the pyrotechnics because he built them.

In life, it is good to sometimes take a step back and realize when a situation is so spectacular, it probably won't happen again. This is one of those times. Lord knows I ain't no VIP on my own. So while it lasts, bring on the red carpet, drink tickets, and free shows! Thanks be to Vegas!
Saturday November 19 2011File under: travel, Vegas

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Punked in Vegas

Yippee! I find myself in Las Vegas and it's, as it always seems to be, awesome. Our host/client/friend down here is a well-connected fella (as well as generous to beat the band) and has lined up night after night of shows for us to see. Last night, it was Tournament of Kings at Excalibur*.

The show was pretty rad—eating food with your hands, horses and jousting, and lots of awesome pyrotechnics. The extra addition to the night, however, was the mighty prank he played on us.
  • He told Merlin, who was working the crowd before hand, lots about us who then played it all off as magic. Minor. Pretty amusing in fact.
  • We got called out as the "these guys aren't cheering properly so now they have to do the cheer in front of all 600 people alone". Embarassing*, but not really that bad.
  • Before the show, when the announcer is calling out all the birthdays, anniversaries, etc., a special congratulations to the newlyweds was included. For the rest of the evening, people were coming up to congratulate us.*. This got us good. Our faces were red but at that point, we just had to roll with it.
Yep, it was a great night. After the show, we strolled the Strip in the perfect weather and took it all in. I like Vegas and look forward to a fun rest of my visit!!
Thursday November 17 2011File under: travel, Vegas

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Sleeping Around 2010-2011

Overall Stats
Nights At Home78 (21%)
Nights Housesitting78 (21%)
Nights of Travel209 (57%)

Travel Breakdown
In-state45 (22%)
Domestic75 (36%)
International89 (42%)

Additional Stats
Nights in a Car*25
Nights in a Tent22
Nights in a Boat3
Nights in a Hotel58
# of States (other than WA)6
# of Countries (other than US)9
Longest stretch at home11
It's that time of year again, one of my most looked forward to blog posts of the whole year: my recap of the year of sleeping around! As I've explained and posted about before, I keep a calendar of where I lay my head every night of the year and categorize it in different ways. It is my way to see my year, where I've been and what I've been doing, in numbers. I find a ridiculous amount of interest in it and it helps me answer the question "where do you live?" much more easily.

Now that this is my 3rd year of keeping stats, I have some interest data for comparison. For example, I realize that this past year, my housesitting numbers are lower than the last 2 years (by over a month(!)), but my international travel nights are almost triple last year.

I plan on (and am downright giddy about) keeping this borderline-OCD record keeping going for as long as the data stays interesting enough to warrant it. And I've already started looking forward to next August when I get to run the numbers again.
Wednesday August 24 2011File under: stats, travel

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Bumpy Road to Alasqua

The Al-Can highway has much myth and lore associated with it, at least in my mind, Being that far away from services with wilderness that close at hand could lead to all sorts of fiascos. For the 2011 Chautauqua tour, all of the fiascos occured before leaving the inhabited land near the border.

Fiasco #1: I've now run away with the circus 4 times. A solid 3 of those have come complete with bus fiascos*. The bus fiasco this time went like this: our bus was supposed to leave Eugene Oregon Thursday morning to meet many of us in Bellingham on Thursday evening. About 5 hours after they were supposed to leave, I got a call saying "once they install the driver's seat and find some side mirrors to install, they'll be on the road". This means the bus hasn't been actually driven in a while which can't be a good sign at all. It turns out it wasn't. On attempting to pull out of the garage, the brakes locked up and wouldn't let go. It took 2 days and lots of hand wringing before things were fixed and on the road north. So while the tour was only 24 hours behind schedule (before even starting), we also lost a valuable day of work on the bus (installing bunks, properly packing, etc.)

Fiasco #2: I cross in and out of Canada frequently enough to forget that it can be an issue for some people. In our case, the "some people" happened to be one of our drivers who had a minor infraction 30 years previous regarding an anti-war protest. In Canada, however, it wasn't so minor, I guess. So at 3 in the morning, we were told that while the bus, truck, and 38 of our 39 members could pass, one of the only totally integral people for the drive to Alasqua couldn't. A switch of border crossings and a little sweet talking later, we averted that potential deal breaker.

Fiasco #3:The majority of the Al-Can highway doesn't really have cellphone reception. That doesn't sound like a big thing but when it has becoming so completely ingrained in our culture's planning, it can be an issue. In this particular case, our caravan got slightly separated due to an unscheduled pee break. The drivers of the uHaul didn't know of the upcoming only turn of the whole trip, so they missed it. We were on the edge of cell phone range and thought that, if they didn't get the messages we left, while we might end up in Alaska, our stuff might end up in Quebec. Again, after much roadside conference, hand wringing, plan B-ing, and more, the issue was resolved when someone came running out of the bathroom (with pants still mostly down) announcing excitedly that contact had been made. Two hours later, the caravan was reunited and back on the road.

While perhaps "fiasco" is a strong word for these events, it sure felt pretty extreme, although it was probably compounded by the lack of sleep*. And, aside from a few close calls with hitting moose or bears in the road and almost running out of gas 14,239 miles from the nearest gas station, the rest of the trip was fiasco-free! With the trip behind us, now we have the rest of tour to look forward to! Stay tuned!
Wednesday July 27 2011File under: circus, travel

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Financial Breakdown of Turkey-Greece-ExYu-Paris Trip

If frank talk of money feels a bit taboo to you, you might want to skip this post. In it, I break down the costs of my most recent trip to Turkey, Greece, the Western Balkans, and Paris. The reasons for this are two-fold:
  • Using a similar format/criteria as my last financial breakdown post, I am able to quantitative compare travel costs
  • For perspective travelers to these areas, I thought it could be helpful to have some real-life numbers to help in your planning (keeping in mind that I'm a budget travel so your numbers might differ.)
Overall, I'm really pleased with the way the numbers turned out. I was shooting for $50/day not including plane tickets, and came out at $55/day with plane tickets. In fact, interesting to note, on a cost/day basis, a trip to the much more expensive Europe* was cheaper per day than my trip to Mexico/Belize/Guatemala last year. I attribute this to duration of stay, having a few friends to stay with along the way, and finding a food-and-lodging-included volunteer opportunity.

Like it or not, money is a big part of travel. And while I try not to think about it too much while on the road in order to not take myself away from being in the moment or enjoying once in a lifetime experiences, I think it is important to check in with the numbers. And with numbers like these that could conceivably be similar to what it costs to live here in the U.S., it is nice to know that at least financially, my next epic trip doesn't need to be that far away.

All costs excluding international travel
Place# of daysMoney spentCost/dayNotes
Turkey24$840$35Just right! Cost per day helped by staying with a friend in Istanbul for 4 days.
Greece12$650$55Cost per day somewhat elevated due to costly ferry trips. If # of days per island was increased, overall cost per day would go down.
Albania2$110$55Prime example of short stay in a country leading to really high cost per day. Albania is actually really cheap and had I could have probably stayed double the time for only another $20 or so.
Montenegro3$150$50Actually slightly more costly than Albania generally.
Bosnia16$300$19These costs aren't representative of regular budget travel in Bosnia. I spent no money* for 8 days while volunteering at Most Mira Festival. Then for a few days before and after, I stayed with a buddy in Banja Luka who was an excellent host. Cost of regular budget travel in Bosnia would be similar to other ex-Yu countries, maybe $40-$50 a day
Croatia7$406$58Perhaps the most expensive of the ex-yu countries I visited, but not by much. Costs were also upped a little due to not traveling solo (therefore not eating PB&J 3 times a day.) But traveling non-solo is worth the slight up-bump in cost.
Paris6$545$90I'm pretty proud of these figures for my time in Paris. Having been warned it is crazy expensive, I was able to have an amazing time and still keep costs under double my daily average. Lodging accounted for half of per day cost.
London2$105$52London is a truly expensive city. I got away so cheaply because I was so generously offered a place to crash at a friend's house. Most of the budget went to either the tube or food. (I skipped all attractions that cost (Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, etc.)
New York City6$200$33Due to having a wealth of awesome friends there, my time in NYC is always not only wonderful but also relatively cheap, having to pay for only food and the subway, more or less.

International travel
LeavingArrivingCostNotes
Seattle, USIstanbul, Turkey$485Includes a 2 day layover in NYC which not only saved cost but allowed me to visit friends there(!)
Marmaris, TurkeyRhodes, Greece$66Inordinately expensive ferry trip. Less than 2 hours compared to 12 hour ride for half that on Rhodes to Crete.
Athens, GreeceTirana, Albania$36Not the most direct bus, but the cheapest I found
Banja Luka, BosniaParis, France$100Train to Zagreb, EasyJet to Paris
Paris, FranceLondon, England$578 hour bus/ferry ride. Other option was $125 2 hour train ride via the chunnel.
London, EnglandSeattle, US$531Again a layover in NYC (via Boston to NYC by Chinatown bus)

Overall
Total cost# of daysTotal cost/day
$458183$55


Wednesday June 15 2011File under: travel

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Passport Laundering

Here's a hint for anyone looking to travel internationally: don't put your passport through the washing machine the day before you plan on crossing 2 international borders. I know what you're thinking. "Any idiot knows that." Well, not this idiot so it would seem.

For a budget traveler like myself, having free reign on a washing machine while on the road ranks up there with getting a dorm room at a hostel all to yourself or a currency's exchange rate going in your favor the day before you change lots of money. In other words, it is an exciting event. So it can kind of be understood how checking one's pockets could be overlooked. Nevertheless, it is not something I intend to do again.

Luckily, passports are pretty hardy little documents. With the exception of a significantly curled and frayed cover and a washed out stamp or two, everything seemed in pretty good working order. I put a few soup cans on top to flatten it out while it dried, and it turned out looking almost passable. The RFID chip* was probably toast, but I counted that as a fringe benefit.

All my worries regarding crossing borders with a laundered passport proved to be unfounded. While I got a few strange looks (esp. from the U.S. officials), the majority of people couldn't have cared less. One guard even make some joke to the effect of "forgot it in your pants pocket on laundry day, eh?"*.

The worn and torn look actually lends a little exotic traveler credibility. So while still not advisable, it is nice to know that passports don't need to be perfect to be functional.
Sunday June 12 2011File under: travel

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Out of Steam in London

London is a great city, I'm sure. It can't have been such a business, cultural, and historical center for all these years without having its charms. But for me, I just wasn't feeling it. After being on the road for over 2 and a half months, my travel tanks were running low on the fuel needed to get out and "do" a city, so I just couldn't give it the fair chance it needs.

I did a very brief taste of most of the required sights and enjoyed them. I loved that the museums (Tate Modern and National Gallery) were free without long lines, metal detectors, etc. And all the buildings (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Parliament) were spectacular*. I rode a double decker bus and took the tube*. But my heart wasn't in it. I did, however, have a great time seeing some old (and new) chums who were kind enough to put me up, talk circus, and send me away with a wonderful new bananagram-esque word game.

This abbreviated visit to London, however, was planned this way. I fully intend on doing the city up properly someday, when I have the time and focus required, and I didn't want to lessen my motivation by seeing too much. Just a taste to get me excited to come back. And it did just that. See you later, Britain Greater.
Sunday June 5 2011File under: travel

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