Red Lights in Amsterdam

Netherlands 1 Comment »

After finding a sweet deal due to off season prices, we checked into a hotel in the center of Amsterdam. We ate stir fry and then popped in and out of “coffee shops” (marijuana bars) and “café’s” (pubs). The smell of weed hangs pours from “coffee shops”. The clang of glasses filled with dark Dutch and German beer sounds from the doors of “café’s”. Even in the frigid winter air, there is a steady stream of locals on bicycles.

I walked into a couple of tourist shops selling neck ties and wooden clogs, hoping to find some last minute Christmas gifts, but was quickly bewildered by the monotony of junk and gave up. Then for the first time, I ventured into the red light district.

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Almost the Last Leg

Germany 1 Comment »

From Switzerland, we drove through Germany, making a stop in Munich to walk the silent grounds of Dachau. After the Killing Fields in Cambodia, I had little interest in visiting a concentration camp, but Mike was anxious to see some WWII history. Although emotionally strained and left disillusioned with my existence, I am glad to have gone.

There’s not much to say about the Holocaust that hasn’t been said already and honestly, I don’t have much to say about it. Thinking about genocide leaves me feeling lost. All I manage to do is let the idea sit helplessly inside of me.

From Munich, we drove to Bochum before our departure in Amsterdam. It was a long drive. The stick seemed to be getting harder to shift and suddenly the overheat warning light came on. Putting the van in neutral and coasting through the cold air got it to turn off. I played that game with the light for an hour of so and then at a gas station, I poured half a bottle of coolant into the radiator. It didn’t help, but we made it to Bochum without any smoke.

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High in Switzerland

Switzerland 2 Comments »

Michel, Myriam and their roommate Julian offered up their hospitality once again, feeding Mike and I amazing food and giving us separate beds, fresh towels and our own key. They worked late while Mike and I explored Zurich and did some Christmas shopping. In the evenings we cooked and ate great foods, including nearly two gallons of Swiss cheese Fondue.

When I saw the Alps for the second time, I knew I wasn’t going to make it through Switzerland without paragliding again. I was disappointed at first when Michel told me the school was closed for December, but I sent the instructor an email anyway. Thomas replied promptly informing me that yes, they were indeed closed, but offered to take Mike and me flying anyway; and at a reduced price.

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Shop as Usual | Change the World

Thoughts & Reflections No Comments »

I came up with an idea of a way to give back to the world after my travels this year, but after I built the website I thought it might have been too late in the season to get the word out.

Then all of a sudden it started to work. Over $300 in purchases have already been made through my new website SHOPandCHANGE.org.

If you could be so kind as to do your Amazon.com holiday shopping through SHOPandCHANGE.org and send a quick email to some people who trust you telling them to do the same, there might still be time to raise a bunch of money for charity.

Remember to include a link to http://shopandchange.org and tell them they can donate without without having to spend anything extra!

Thank you so much and enjoy the holidays!

Moving Fast

Italy, Switzerland, Thoughts & Reflections 1 Comment »

Moving fast has its long list of drawbacks. I always enjoy a place most when I can slow to the pace of life there, meet locals and get a feel for the culture. However, I am finding it can also be exhilarating to move quickly.

On Sunday morning, I woke up in Venice and ate breakfast sitting on the stone walkway along the Grand Canal. Then Mike and drove Northwest. The sky was blue and made for a clear cut, jagged horizon at the peaks of snow covered Alps. By afternoon, we were crossing the Italian Alps, watching the snow get closer and by sundown, crossing into Switzerland, the weather had gone from mild in Venice, to the dead of winter. The road was covered in patches snow and mountains we rode through already preparing for avalanches. I’d never seen so much snow in my life. Entire mountains, over 10,000 feet high, were completely blanketed so that not a single rock or tree was visible. All the white made size and distance difficult to estimate.

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Back in Venice

Italy, Thoughts & Reflections 1 Comment »

Walking in Venice brought back memories I’d almost forgotten. Standing in places so far from home where I had stood five years ago, often froze me in thought of passing time. On a bridge over the Grand Canal, I gazed at the empty façade of a hotel, where once before I had watched red, white and green flags wave, lost in daydreams of Italian history. Approaching a café I had flashbacks of sitting at an outdoor table, discussing plans of travel with a hostel friend. Coming down a set of stairs, I found myself in a spot where I had once sat up all night with an older Russian girl who was drunk on wine, listening to her tell endless tales of home. In these moments of reminisce, I found it shuttering that Venice had been here so long before me, welcomed me once, awaited my return and will be here still, long after I’m gone.

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Athena to Venezia

Greece 1 Comment »

After two days in Athens getting settled back into the van and touring the Acropolis again, Mike and I began our road trip to Amsterdam. From there we will fly home in time for the holidays; Christmas, New Years and my 28th birthday! :-O

We’re only half way as of now. It has been a fast paced tour. In five days we drove from Athens to Venice, with stops in Albania, Serbia & Montenegro and Croatia.

Albania is a poor country, but one that looks to be making fast progress. Driving through the countryside we spotted only a handful of females. Islamic conservatism is supposedly on the rise there, so we figured all the ladies were probably hiding indoors. Then we came to the capital city of Tirana and found that’s where they all were. We spent two days gazing at the fashionable girls with platinum black hair and don’t-you-dare-ask-me-for-directions LA attitude.

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Pyramids of Giza

Egypt 4 Comments »

I’d asked around.

“Are the pyramids as amazing as they seem in pictures?”

I was told I wouldn’t be disappointed and I wasn’t. Not even close.

Desiree, Mike and I spent an entire day wandering around the Pyramids of Giza, taking in their massiveness and wonder. We crawled on hands and feet inside the steep, Indiana Jones’ style tunnel into the tomb of the largest pyramid. Having run ahead, winded, I came alone into a small dark room.

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Sound of Islam

Egypt 2 Comments »

Two weeks in Egypt passed in a heartbeat. My friend Mike had joined me partway through. We stayed with Desiree and her American friend Sara at their new apartment on the cusp of downtown Cairo. It was an old, dusty place, with oversized rooms that came halfway to life after much sweeping and scrubbing. We woke early to sounds of car horns and street peddlers climbing through our grand, but thin 4th floor windows. We cooked big feasts for ourselves and for local Egyptian friends of Sara. The shower head was fat and hung straight over a ceramic bath tub. The water fluctuated between scolding, frigid and at times turned from a plentiful flow to popping gasps of air and a drip.

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