Five years later

five years laterMarch 7, 2010 I boarded a flight to London. It wasn’t a city I loved, but it was where I was going to start my career break. Five years later, it is the place I sit and write this post from. Trust me when I write this: A lot can change in five years.

In these past five years, I have seen more, experienced more, loved more, hurt more and lived more than I could have imagined possible.

Why did I take the leap?

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The Adventures of D — A Retrospect

Oh, my little blog. It’s been around since before I decided to take my career break and travel. It’s been around since I one sleepless October night in Atlanta when, around midnight, the words to the start of my story I wanted to share just popped into my head. Then, I was up. Out of bed. Laptop open. WordPress blog created.

And the rest is history.

Now, nearly two years later, I certainly have shared. At times, I’ve shared too much. At times, I haven’t shared enough.

Regardless, this ride has been the highlight of my life, taking me through moments, through happy, through sad, that have left me wanting more … and ready to start the next chapter in “The Adventures of D.”

So, when Jason from Jason’s Travels, asked if he could nominate me for this fun little project, My 7 Links, put on by Trip Base, of course I said “yes.” I mean … I get to relive some of my favorite posts!

Without further adieu, My 7 Links:

The Most Beautiful Post:

I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

It’s not a beautiful photo essay. But it is an example of the beauty and generosity that still exists in this world. It is also one of the many reasons I fell in love with Croatia.

The Most Popular Post:

How to barter like a pro

I spent a good amount of time in Turkey during my trip, where negotiating is a part of the package. It constantly awed me that people could go in to a restaurant and negotiate the cost of their meal. While that wasn’t for me so much, it was fun to go back and forth with the shopkeepers at the Grand Bazaar and elsewhere.

The Most Controversial Post:

My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

It wasn’t controversial in the sense it started a heated debate, but to my family and friends, this post was controversial because I was throwing away a comfortable life for the unknown. I was … LIVING instead of deciding to just go through the motions.

The Most Helpful Post:

Airport Sleeping 101

Oh, the beauty of backpacking and being on a budget. There were a few times when I had stop-overs that, while they were 12 or so hours, were overnight. Rather then haul my 40 kilo backpack and my tired self to a hostel in the city, I opted to just crash out on the floor … or a bench … in the airport. This post gives tips on how to make the best of airport sleeping.

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me:

Dude, don’t be a Hostel Dick

Yes, it’s meant to be funny. I just didn’t realize this post with these tips would be one of my most popular posts of all time. In all seriousness though, every backpacker who stays in hostels should read this.

The Post That Didn’t Get the Attention I Feel it Deserved:

The Best of … Madrid

It’s got some pretty good tips in the post and in the comments for anyone headed to Madrid.

The Post I Am Most Proud Of:

Love, Life and Loss … on the Road

By far, this was the hardest post I have ever written. It took every ounce of me to pull myself together to write this.

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And now comes the fun part. Here are the five bloggers I want to do this on their site, too. These folks are some of the best out there! Be sure to check their sites for the My 7 Links project soon!

Adam from The Travels of Adam

Anna from Frill Seeker Diary

Candice from Candice Does the World

Lindsay AKA Hogga from The Traveller

Margo from The Travel Belles

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Escape of the Week: Walls of Chauen

Perhaps one of the most stunningly colored cities I have ever visited, Chefchauen, Morocco, provided me with a photo opp around every winding road, narrow alley and blue-walled building.

The entire medina is a refreshing bright blue stacked with white half-way up nearly every building’s wall. And then there are gorgeous splatters of color — souks with bright magenta leather sandals, electric turquoise wallets; scarves lining the walls; rich table cloths draped under plates of deep green salads and pink watermelon.

The day I spent wandering this city was my first in Morocco. I arrived via ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco, hopped a cab to the bus station and then hopped a locals bus (think rickety tin box with windows I thought would pop out) to Chefchauen.

I had heard about the magic of this city. How it enchants. Mesmerizes. It did just that for me as well.

I love this photo because the sun beaming in is just so, making every color just pop.

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How to have a Travel Adventure without Adventure Travel

 

 

Adventure. It’s a pretty hefty word with a lot behind it.

To me, adventure is more than just jumping out of airplanes … more than climbing a mountain. I’m so not that girl. In my world adventure is about taking risks. Going off my beaten path to experience something new.

As a traveler, each day is an adventure. Whether it is getting off a bus before check-in time at a hostel and trying to find something to do, or kayaking in the Mediterranean.

I tried to be adventurous each day on my trip. And, unlike the time I fell off the cliff while embracing adventure/sports, I normally was met with pretty great results.

So, how can someone have an adventure without raising your pulse?

Well …

1. Don’t plan. Well, plan a little. But, don’t feel the need to always stick to the plan. There were plenty of times when I would wake up in the morning and decide I wanted a different view, so would ask around to other people in the hostel, find out where they were going/coming from, and then make a game-time decision as to where  I would go later that day. To ensure I wasn’t bed-less for the night, I would book a room, but that’s it.

Really, I’m a Planner

2. Book a hostel, not a hotel. Hostels are much more social than hotels. At hostels, you are much more likely to meet like-minded people who want to check out A, B or C. Some of my closest friends today have come from hostels. Just be sure you follow hostel protocol during your stay. Nothing sucks worse than being That Guy/Girl at a hostel.

Dude, don’t be a hostel dick

3. Try the local cuisine. I didn’t really venture anywhere with cuisine that was too out of my comfort zone, but I can assure you eating bugs AND snake are both on my list when I hit Asia this year.

Para morirse — food to die for in Valencia

4. Get lost. Within reason. Pop on some good music, grab the camera and wander. Take note — don’t be ignorant about wandering. Find out the safe places to go before you leave your room. Ladies, keep your purses under your arms. And don’t broadcast your riches.

Being Jewish in the Krakow Jewish District

5. Hit the local markets. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of fresh fruits, veggies, flowers and crafts. Super easy. And, most times you can actually purchase items at these markets without spending a lot of money.

6. Rent an apartment for a little. If you want to spend more than a night or two in a city, rent an apartment. All over the world, there are apartments to rent for a few nights to months or longer. When I traveled, I rented a gorgeous little place on the Adriatic for a few nights with some friends. It was amazing.

Living in Technicolor

7. Talk to the locals. Nothing can make an experience in a foreign place better than having a local’s insight. The more locals you meet, the more opportunities you have to really get the flavor of a place.

A week of Spanish

8. Volunteer. There are plenty of options for short-term volunteer work all over the world. Plus, volunteering opens you up to meet other travelers and locals. And, its totally good karma.

The only English-speaking town in Spain

9. Take a class. Learn how to make sushi or prepare Thai dishes. Or do a language exchange.

10. Rent a car. This may be a little bit risky, but it lets you travel places you might not normally see.

Steering wheel death grips and driving in Romania

11. Go camping. Get a cheap tent and fork out the few bucks to camp instead of stay at a hostel.

12. Use a squat toilet. Seriously. You haven’t lived until you use one.

13. Go to a nudie beach. Or a topless beach. If necessary, grab some tall boys before hitting the surf. Just make sure you do it. And use sunscreen to prevent burning of the bits.

To be or not to be … topless

14. Find a festival or event that sounds good and go. Like La Tomatina in Spain, or Exit Festival in Serbia. Or Fringe in Scotland. This would require a little planning, but still. Go.

15. Don’t book a return ticket. Until you have to.

What do you think makes for a travel adventure?

This post was sponsored by InsureandGo Travel Insurance.

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Escape of the Week: A Silverback in Rwanda

I remember this day like it was yesterday, although it was almost a year exactly since this photo was taken.

It was me, Anna, JD, Adam, Jason, and Mary, along with William, a representative from the Rwanda Development Board. We had been invited to visit Rwanda for a little more than five days to see the sites and (of course) write about our time there.

When I first saw the itinerary and the gorilla trek on there, my heart kinda stopped. Two thoughts ran through my mind: 1. Gorillas!! Bad ass. 2. I hope we don’t have to climb any mountains. See, if you know me, you know me and mountains aren’t great friends. I prefer flat hikes (if you can still call it a hike). Anyway, this trek was most definitely NOT flat. There were a lot of steep inclines, sliding down dirt slopes on our bums because walking down them would have resulted in a tumble down a vine-covered cliff into the pits of a volcanic jungle, and more.

But, the moment we saw those gorillas … man, it was worth every ounce of sweat, every second of being out of breath, every little pain twitching through my body. Because, damn, those gorillas are just some of the most spectacular creatures I have ever had the great honor to stand near.

This photo was taken of the silverback in the group we trekked. The silverback is the head honcho of the group, as you can tell from this picture. We were standing a little more than 8 feet away when I took this, but he was watching us closely the entire time. And, when he decided to get up and get a closer look at the humans stalking him, well, we all had to retreat a little bit. No one wants an angry silverback in their faces.

For more about my time trekking for gorillas, click here.

 

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Interview: Adrenaline Living

I had the pleasure today of being interviewed by Angelia Miller on her Adrenaline Living Talk Show. It’s my first interview, and quite a change from being the person pitching to the person being interviewed. If you have the time, give it a listen. It’s insight into quitting your job, traveling and my experiences traveling long-term, along with the hardships of returning to America. Check the interview out here: Adrenaline Living with DTravelsRound

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‘Round the World Music (The List)

Once traveling has been completed, there are few things more precious than the memories of the experience. I am always giddy when something unexpected triggers a magical moment of Delicious Travel Recall. It can be something as little as sitting outside on a breezy warm night grasping a cup of hot beverage that takes me back to Jose’s front porch in Merida; or the smell of a hookah wafting in the night air that takes me back to Granada; or the meowing of street cats outside my window that takes me back Turkey; or catching a futbol game on television that takes me back to Morocco …

But, more consistently, it is the music.

Within the first few bars, I am whisked away to the moment in time I heard the song … wistfully taken back to the thoughts, the feelings, the warm in the pit of my stomach that quickly takes over my entire body in this brief and amazing bliss.

Now, whenever a song comes on that triggers these fantastical moments of travel joy, I tell my little memory to whomever is in within yelling-at-the-top-of-my-lungs distance.

And, now … a sampling of my RTW soundtrack and little stories to illustrate why each song “rocks” in it’s own little way.  I’ve included links so you can check out the tunes. Enjoy!

1. O.A.R.

This band has longevity with me. It came with me on my first backpacking adventure to Europe in 2002; it returned when I was in Croatia for my 30th; and (so as not to break tradition), they were also loaded onto my iPod for this past Adventure. The band got plenty of play time when I walked about in London.

2. Dropkick Murphys – “I’m Shipping Up to Boston

This is my Ireland Experience in a song. It takes me back to being driven by Abbey through Ireland’s stunning countryside, dotted with old stone castles and vast expanses of farmland, B-Lee, Emily and I intow, headed to Galway to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

3. Milow – “Ayo Technology

The first time I heard this song was the morning after I fell in love with Madrid. Standing in a little store on the outskirts of Plaza de Mayor. This tune came on and I fell in love with it. After a week in Spain, I downloaded the song and, the version I had clocking in at 8 minutes, was the perfect metro song. I would listen to it on repeat as I walked from Anthony’s to the train, on the train, and then walking to my next destination.

4. Rocky Horror – Time Warp

Madrid. With Anthony and Emma. Sitting in her living room and finding videoes on You Tube that took us to other moments in time. We found this, and damnit, we did the Time Warp.

5. Lil Wayne – “Knockout” 

Before I left on my trip, a friend in Atlanta made me a mix for my Walk Abouts. When I took my little walking tour of Berlin (taking the subway to a stop outside the main part of the city and walking back to my hostel in the city), this little ditty came up. I imagine walking down a little side street speckled with naked, spiny-branched trees, and marveling at the Communist-era buildings mixed in with very geometric and artistic, more modern architecture. And eating a pretzel. I was in Germany.

6. Rihanna – “Rude Boy

I don’t know how Bryan, Nicole and I got on the topic of popular music in the US while in Amsterdam [insert comment here], but somehow this song came up. I had never heard of it so Nicole sang it to me. Later, we heard it while sipping hot chocolate in a coffee shop.

7. Shakira – “Waka Waka

While attending World Environment Day and gorilla naming ceremony, one of the babies was bestowed with the name “Waka Waka.” I hear this song and close my eyes to remember driving down bumpy, barely paved roads,  Anna at my side, staring out at the huts and shards of glass lining fence walls.

8. Ani DiFranco – “Every State Line

I had just left Peter in Granada and was on a bus to Tarifa. I was feeling so lonely, so anxious about departing for Morocco in two days time … I leaned my head against the window of the bus with my eyes fixed to the gorgeous green hills and let myself soak into Ani’s lyrics.

9. David Berkley – “Hurricane

I was really nervous the night before I was taking the ferry over to Tangier. I needed to get some sleep and wanted to listen to something to lull me into dreams. This song was the first one that came to mind. I hear this and I remember being on the bottom bunk, head nestled into my pillow, trying to fall asleep while knowing the other roommates had been downing shots of tequila and were sure to wake me … soon.

10. Cee Lo Green – “What Part of Forever

When I was “working” at the hostel in Kusadasi, Turkey, I downloaded the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” soundtrack. This song’s upbeat (and uplifting) everything took me out of the fear I was feeling … and later stood for the relief that encompassed my body when I boarded the Fez Bus and got the hell out of town.

11. Yolanda Be Cool and D-Cup – “We No Speak Americano

I heard it for the first time while dancing around a fire pit, flips flung into a pile at the outdoor nightclub in Olympos. Then, again it popped up while standing outside another “nightclub” in Goreme. And, again in Bulgaria. And more, and more, and more. I became obsessed and started to crave its infectious little beat.

12. Stromae –  “Alors on Dance” 

This debuted the same time in Turkey, but it wasn’t until hanging with a bunch of backpackers in Budva, Montenegro that this song took over. We sang it on the bus. We listened to it at the hostel. We talked about it always being in our heads.

13. Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With a Fist

Post-iPod, I had to download new music. I downloaded this and the first time I heard it, I was sitting on a bus, deep in the mountains of  Serbia, en route to Sarajevo. It instantly took my attention while immigration examined my passport.

14. Glee Cast – “Defying Gravity

This song is beautiful and bittersweet. When I first really began to accept my grandma was dying, I sat on the decaying Olympic stairs outside Hostel SA in Sarajevo, put in my headphones (thankful for my new iTouch), turned on this song, buried my head in my legs, and cried buckets of tears.

15. Jon Lejoie – “Show Me Your Genitals

I was lucky to have a travel friend like Katie. She knew I was sad after we left Mostar. While we were on the bus, driving through the Bosnian mountains on the way to Brela, Croatia, she played me this song to cheer me up. It produced the best laugh I had in a while. Note: These lyrics are NSFW or for anyone who is easily offended.

16. MGMT – “Kids

I’m sitting in Fiesta Siesta’s cavernous stone bar, talking with Simon. This song comes on. I always feel so uplifted and happy when I hear this now.

17. Jonell Mosser – “Stop in the Name of Love

Towards the end of my trip, Katie, David and I headed to Solta. The first night there, Katie gifted me with some of her music library. For hours, she and I sat outside, drinking red wine and taking in the Adriatic’s light wind, and listened to some of her favorite music, one ear bud each. This was one of the songs she played — a truly beautiful take on the classic.

18. Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man

Zadar was one of my last stops on my trip. I met up with Katie in Trogir and together we traveled up to Zadar. The first night in our dorm, I was laying in bed trying to sleep and this jam perked up my ears. Immediately, I fell in love with the band. Now, any song by them makes me think of Croatia. And summer. And hope.

19. Eminem and Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie

After Katie and I parted, I had a few more days until my flight home. I didn’t want to stay in Zadar, so I took the bus back to Trogir to go and explore. On the way, our bus broke down. For an hour, I sat on a hot bench at a bus stop while we waited for a new bus to pick us up. A French girl, with headphones on, sang this. To this day, I remember feeling so gross, dripping sweat, and looking over in disbelief at the girl, bopping around on the side of the road, caught up in the music.

20. Citizen Cope – “Sideways

I had never heard this song in my life, but Katie had put it on my iTouch. When I found out my grandma was doing worse, I struggled to find a song to allow me to go numb and cathartic. Each song that came on, I quickly skipped. And, then this song came on. And the guitar, the voice, all of it, instantly spoke to me. When Grandma passed away, it became the only song on my playlist. Until I arrived back in America, it was the only song I would listen to.

What about you? What songs take you back to memories … and what are those memories?

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