Especially Blurred Observations of Vanuatu

My last stop of a 5 day island hop was to the island nation of Vanuatu. All I knew of Vanuatu is what I had seen on an episode of An Idiot Abroad. In the episode, the titular “Idiot”, Karl Pilkington, finds himself doing a bucket list item of staying on a deserted island. Since I was on the main island it was not deserted at all. In fact it was busier than I suspected an island of that size could be.

There were several anxious drivers waiting for lost people like myself to take me wherever we were staying. Luckily for me, the money matters had been 100% sorted by now and my card worked fine at their ATM. The drivers here would only take the local currency and the exchange rate was something ridiculous like 1,000 VUV being worth around $8. My ride cost me 2,000 VUV which was a bargain to not have to think about the details.

Arriving at my AirBnB it occurred how early I was when I saw the sign on the front that effectively read “Open at noon” and it was about 10:15. The gate was open, however, and I went and sat near the beach and waited on the owner to show for the day. When I heard some activity near the main dining area/bar, I went and introduced myself and was greeted by a warm Australian man.

Turns out that Vanuatu was a off-season haven of sorts for lots of expat Australian and New Zealand people. What ensued was one of the most social evenings I experienced on this entire trip. Tonight was a big rugby match night for the expat crowd and I learned enough about the sport by the end of the night to finally be able to follow it. Prior to this I honestly just assumed it was a reason for guys to huddle up and beat the piss out of each other. That made it as valuable as any sport in my eyes, but it turns out to have more nuances that I was ever aware of. It was good to know that even on the other side of the world, people can get worked into a frenzy over their supported team. Our similarities really are numerous and entertaining.

By the end of the evening, or really, the start of the morning, the host and I were both well and truly drunk. Fortunately in the more sober hours of the night, I had asked for him to arrange a ride to the airport for me. Another early morning was fast approaching and despite the lack of hours I had to rest, I popped up the moment my alarm started to sound. Honestly I believe I might have still been a little drunk but someone else was driving so that’s what matters. Safety first kids.

This morning, the rain was just pissing down but it felt refreshing so I stood in it, looked up and smiled. By the time my ride arrived I was pretty well soaked but felt fine. After a quick ride I found myself standing in the queue for customs, which hadn’t even opened yet. Unlike most major airports in the States, this one had operating hours. Since there were only 3 or 4 flights the entire day, however, I was positive I would not miss this one.

After clearing customs I look over to see a convenience store of sorts and grab myself some caffeine and notice they also sell Tusker OP, the beer I had been drinking the night before. “Sure, what the hell…” I thought to myself and grabbed one. A little breakfast before the flight. Since that one went down without notice I found myself back at the counter and the woman just laughed and said “Thirsty?” to which I joined her in laughter and said “That’s why I’ll be getting two this time.”

The island itself and locals brought my mind back to Jamaica. And the language was a similar one as well. Sort of a language you could understand based solely on contextual clues and the proximity to words in English. Oh and island time is a real thing here. Not as real as it was in Tonga but it was definitely a similar “Fuck it, there’s time.” pace. That alone is worth the price of admission in the normal GO GO GO world.

If I have more time to spare for Vanuatu I will get lost a little more but this round was a placeholder. Sad if it was a one-off but life is too fleeting as is.

Back to Australia now for day of recovery before my flight(s) home.

This one was even a real plane!

Blurred Observations of Fiji

Fiji was the shortest of all my island hop stays, clocking in at 14 hours. This was a bonus of sorts because it was one of the principal airports in the area that can service a full sized aircraft. Whatever idea you have of scale and proportion gets blown out of the proverbial water when you are flying around the pacific. You’ll be in a plane for hours and not see a single sign of life. It is alarming but oddly peaceful.

In any matter, I arrived in the early evening and had to play the SIM card game again. By this time I had just decided to stick with the company Digicel that I had used while in Tonga. It worked fine, had a boat load more data than I would have the chance to use, and allowed me to let home know I was alive in some sense.

My hosts for the evening were a lovely couple. He was a Cuban native who had moved to Fiji to work, and she was a Fijian native who had lived and worked their her whole life. They took time out of their evening to pick me up from the airport and deliver me to their home. What’s more, I was served dinner and shared drinks with them as we discussed Cuba at great length. Cuba is, of course, on my list of must see places, and it interested me a fair deal to learn all I could from my host.

It was an honor to hear someone so passionate about his homeland. To say that I would always feel welcome there and that the things that are shown by the media are not always what one might consider entirely true. The sad fact of the matter is, Cuba is a country that has suffered in poverty for years. And it pains me to know that my country had even the first thing to do with it, but we just did. All out of our usual playbook of being afraid and letting it guide our decision making. Now an island of perfectly wonderful people feel isolated from the rest of us and rightly so. I will go to Cuba, I will dance in the streets and meet the people. We must be the same in some ways, and our differences fascinate me.

My host showed me who Cuba is, and it’s the kind of person I want to revel with. We made plans to drink together in Havana and I sincerely hope that we can.

Before I knew it, the evening was up and I was off to sleep for a few hours. Vanuatu was on the itinerary tomorrow and it was an early flight. Luckily I was close to the airport and my hosts were taking me TO the airport as well. My good fortune seemed to have no bounds on these days, aside from the occasional money issue. (But who is anyone kidding… that isn’t an issue worth worrying about when you’re on a island that is a giant beach resort.)

Blurred Observations of Tonga

As the plane descended toward Tonga I had a gander out the window to see as many palm trees as I had ever seen in my life in one place. It honestly looked as though they had planted rows of them in an effort to remind people where they were in the world. I needed no reminder.

Before I had even boarded the plane, several natives to the island had asked “Is this your first time?” To which I could only respond candidly, of course it was. What followed was almost uniform in nature: It won’t be your last. I can say without a doubt they are correct. Tonga is many things, and to say I know them all is arrogant and absurd. But my observations were brief, so it should be expected.

But I will return to Tonga. This was a series of islands, and I only visited one of them. The people were warm and welcoming as was the island life. This was apparent early upon arrival.

My phone didn’t work (as I should have expected) and a friendly driver greeted me upon walking from the brief customs check. “Do you need a ride?” He asked without a hint of what I would call… pushiness. “Trying to figure out my phone, but maybe.” I was actively trying to get my phone to work. After about 5 minutes I punted and gave him a knowing nod. He laughed and affirmed what he already knew of his home: There is no phone service here… Unless you can get a SIM card. But this is where Tonga started to show me who they were. The first man I met was my driver and he brought me into his life.

A drive that would have been a 20 minute trek from the airport to my AirBnB turned into an hour. My driver stopped at a favored “convenience store” of his and even bought me a giant bottle of water and offered me some of his dessert cake that he picked up. I honestly assumed he would charge me for all of this at the end of the ride but I was thirsty so it was all good. After this brief stop he asked if it would be alright if he stopped by home and talked with his family to which I was amenable. It’s all good, just happy to be on a random island in the Pacific. We pull up to a home and he gets out and shows me his home and his dogs. One of his kids came out and waved and said hello. For real. It was a strange scene by any standards on my side of the world but I was honored.

Once I had been delivered to my AirBnB, my driver offered to pick me up the following day for my flight out to which I agreed. If some twist of fate ever shows him this then I’ll just apologize now. I couldn’t be on anyone else’s time on a day when a flight was leaving. I had already paid for the flight and the island had 3 flights a DAY. So it was nothing personal.

I walked through the yard gate of where I was staying and saw an old home in relative disrepair (normal for Tonga). Just behind it was a small (not quite tiny) home with a shed-style roof and full of windows to let all the brilliant sunlight in. A sliding glass door was the entire front of the home and there upon a couch sat my host for the day. I greeted my host with a handshake/hug combo, one of those “bring it in” kind of things and he asked how things were. I told him the truth: Things were blurry and my time in Tonga would be all to brief. He was a consummate professional as a host and invited me out with another one of the “tenants” for some drinks and food at his favorite spot. I could not turn down an invite. I was hungry, thirsty, and knew this was about all I could see this time around.

Since this would be a minute I had time to sort out the SIM card logistics. A store was about 500 feet away that could sell me $5 worth of service which would suit me fine for the ~30 hours on the island. Upon inserting said SIM card, my phone screamed to life. All of the bullshit from the other side of the world started streaming in and I quickly dismissed most of it. To my great joy, however, my mother had contacted my local bank and got my debit card functional again. <3 you mom.

Once I had shaken some of the jet lag and mosquitoes off, my host stopped by my room and said they were about to head out. Wasn’t out to impress anybody with my appearance so I hopped up and headed out.

What followed was a brilliant evening with a couple of awesome guys. My host was originally a native of New Zealand and had become a professional level rugby player. He was only a few years younger than I am and had already retired from the sport and started an organization to teach young men to become professionals in rugby. It was obvious in the way he spoke that he was extremely passionate about what he had achieved and what he helps young men do. Very cool. He was about to become a father for the first time and was nervous and excited. As we were chatting through the evening some friends of his had children and he held an infant at one point and the child was simply enamored with him to which a couple of us said “Oh he’s ready…” almost simultaneously and had a fine laugh.

The other man with us was from London and was on Holiday/residency of sorts. He had traveled to Tonga to do a portion of his med school training and was also using it as a holiday. We discussed American politics as well as British politics because I was honestly curious. I was happy to share my view of things as they had been occurring and he was happy to share his. It was a great conversation and I hope I did well to represent us as more than the stereotypical “gun-toting-freedom-loving” douchebags we no doubt look like sometimes. I know you aren’t supposed to discuss religion or politics while drinking but we discussed both and got along fine. Maybe that old rule just needs some modification. Know your company and steer clear when it seems obvious that those conversations will end badly. I read the room and felt it would be fine and it was.

All in all, it was a great evening, and a primer at best to show me what Tonga was. I will go back in a heartbeat, given the opportunity.

Blurred Observations of New Zealand

As the first in my series of island hops, New Zealand did indeed look like some kind of fairy tale land. Upon arriving I was greeted by rolling hills flanked by beautiful seascapes and trees that seemed of an entirely different world. Rest assured it was just southern earth, not the Middle.

First thing’s first, walk off the plane and get a SIM card for whatever country you’re in. You can accomplish exactly fuck-all without one of those. Luckily within about 100 steps you are greeted by 5+ companies who want nothing more than to sell you one of these fine cards.

“How long will you be staying in New Zealand?” a friendly associate asks.
“One day.” I respond without blinking. “So the cheapest one.” I smile and she laughs. It really would just be the one day, so the $15-20 would be worth it for convenience’ sake.

… That is unless of course you are rolling with a debit card from your bank.

After sorting out the SIM card and responding to a few messages of playing “catch up” with the other side of the world, I stepped out into a cloud of mist which had enveloped Auckland. I closed my eyes and let it cover me for a minute before returning to the shelter of the canopy to try and sort a ride. This is where things began to get interesting… Because it wasn’t entirely clear who would be providing this ride. After a confusing few minutes talking with one driver I settled on what appeared to be a 3 wheel golf cart to get me the 3 miles from the airport to my AirBnB. Evening was on its way and I was hungry so I attempted to Uber my way to a nearby restaurant. The ride was denied. It would seem that things were not well on the other side of the world with regards to the aforementioned debit card. In the time since I had arrived, the ball had begun to roll that would crush me the next day. I switched apps to get a ride and found the app Zoomy which was a lifesaver for the evening. It is for New Zealand only but they saved me having to walk a few miles just to get a meal. Good looking out Zoomy.

By the morning I was ready to go see Auckland for the day. Thinking all would be fine, I hitched a ride once again with Zoomy. Straight down town and I was dropped off directly adjacent to the Sky Tower. Then I grab my phone to take a quick picture and see that my ride from Zoomy had been denied… Thankfully I had some currency in my pocket and got to the best view in Auckland:

Not bad as far as views are concerned… Sky Tower observation deck.

The scenery did well to help push doubt out of my mind for the entire time I was standing near the windows of the Sky Tower, seeing Auckland for the first time on a brilliant sunny day. Panoramic doesn’t seem to do the view justice but it’s the closest word.

Not the only shadow that lingered over this day…

Upon returning to the ground, I made my way to an ATM to attempt to withdraw some local currency, but more as a test of my debit card. Turns out it was now temporarily closed due to the fact that there were charges on it across the planet. Now before the conclusions are drawn I should mention the caveat that not only did my bank unlock all of the countries I would visit, they did it for the entire two weeks. Turns out the automated “fraud prevention” system doesn’t have any fucks to give about the overrides that were put in place. In a word, I was screwed.

…But only temporarily.

I had a working phone, access to my computer at home, and a Western Union office one block from where I was standing. The solution was simple (and convoluted): Send myself money. So I message a friend, make the arrangements, and make my way to the Western Union office. It was Sunday so they closed within a couple hours. I had time, but not a lot. I walk in, explain the transaction to the woman at the counter, and then she asks to see my passport since I am a first time customer and not from the country. Naturally I didn’t have my passport, because, you know, I had already passed the port. Luckily my brother came up in the clutch and let me use his credit card to put on my Zoomy account. It paid off the earlier trip and let me get back to my AirBnB to get my passport. $50 worth of rides later, I had enough cash to eat and drink the night away.

Since I was in Auckland, steps from the sea, I wanted seafood. After a quick glance at TripAdvisor I found my way to the Depot for some oysters and a delicious pasta dish with clams. Having expressed the kind of day I’d been having to the bar tender, he bought me a beer. And then another. And then a free meal came from the kitchen that someone had sent back. And then a round of appetizers with the same story but this time with the addition of “He seems really chill, let him have these.” By the time the third meal arrived that I didn’t have to pay for, I was offering food to everyone sitting around me. Night had fallen and so had my sobriety. But it was a quick ride back and turning in for the night.

My time in New Zealand, however brief, taught me a few valuable lessons that I’ll share gladly:

1.) Debit cards are bullshit, don’t travel with them.
2.) When life hands you lemons, squeeze them on your 2nd free meal of the day.
3.) Flexibility when you travel is the most important trait you can possess. Roll with the punches and you get to see some amazing things.
4.) Gratitude and a sense of humor go a long way in this world. If you can make light of your shitty day, it will naturally get better.
5.) 8% beer shouldn’t taste that good.

You’d be a fool to pass.

In early February I received an email about a flight deal from Scott’s Cheap Flights. It was round trip to Sydney, Australia for essentially any amount of time for a few dollars under $500. This was one of those times where there was simply no need to think it through. I booked a flight with two total weeks of time on that side of that planet. This was not the only flight I would be taking but more on that soon enough…

Let this serve partially as a cautionary tale, though. Jet lag is all too real when you’re human. After the short hop from ORD>LAX came the longest flight I had ever taken by a long sight. The flight from LAX>SYD departed Saturday evening on the west coast and arrived at 7:00 Monday morning in Sydney. The total is just shy of 15 hours in the air, and I don’t really sleep on planes. When the plane landed, I crashed hard at my AirBnB. I woke up around 3:00 in the afternoon and took a look outside at my surroundings for the first lucid moment of the day.

This was one of the moments I had no choice but to pause and reflect on how grateful I am for the life I get to lead. It is humble, but in so many ways, it is truly awe-inspiring. Nothing lights me up quite like a new place to explore but the aforementioned jet lag would be a weighing force for at least the first couple days of my journey.

Monday consisted of my first ever visit to the Sydney Opera House and the beginning of my familiarization with the public transportation in Sydney which was all super simple due to the Opal program. A quick swipe with a contact-less style card and you were on your way. It was a breeze and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a cheap way to get around Sydney.

Obligatory drinking photo!

Sydney is a super modern, world class city. Everything you could possibly want or need is within walking distance and if you’re feeling lazy or have been walking for hours (which both happened to me) the Opal card gets you where you wanna go.

A view of Sydney from the steps of the world famous Sydney Opera House.

Two weeks on the opposite side of the planet meant that the opportunity for exploration was brief but necessary. See it would be simple enough to go and spend every single one of those days in Sydney and you wouldn’t possibly see everything there was to see.

I wanted to collect more flags… So I did.

During the second week, I visited New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu in the space of 5 days. I consider these exploratory flights, to see where I might want to return in the future. Truth be told, though, I’d return to every single one of them. The adventure itself was the goal this time around, and it was in full supply. As such, each of those beautiful island nations will be self-contained posts to do them what justice I possibly can.

Erstwhile in Sydney…

After coming to a basic understanding of how the city was laid out, I started to venture further out and around. This led me to take the Sydney Harbor Ferry several times, which was also part of the Opal program. This could get you out to some other beaches as well as the Sydney Zoo, which I can say from experience is one of the best I have ever visited.

…Sure I’m almost 40 and still love zoos, what of it? It’s the closest I wanted to get to the dozens of species of venomous things that live down under anyway.

Sydney from the Ferry. Froze my ass off for this one but it was worth it.

During one of my adventures outward I wound up on a several hour walk/hike through Lane Cove National Park. There was all sorts of non-venomous wildlife just out and about doing their thing. The birds in particular were spectacular and proud of their voices, which I was all too happy to listen to. It is rare to find peace but walking the shores of this park brought me as close as I can come to it. It was a disconnect from any world I knew, but it was tranquil, and that made the world inside me quiet down too.

Lane Cove National Park. A beautiful place essentially nestled directly into Sydney.

At the end of any day, this is what travel gives me: Peace. And a belief that the world is as beautiful a place as I imagine it is. So far, that has rang true in my humble opinion. But there is so much left to see… So I must forge ahead.

After my week of island hopping, I returned to Sydney for the long flight(s) home. I believe on this flight I dozed off a few times but in between bouts of insomnia I was fortunate to be sitting next to a great conversationalist who originally hailed from New Zealand. He regaled me with stories of his life as a private maritime captain and gave me travel goals to strive for.

Sydney scratched the itch but like any time I come home, the itch returns. And the mind wanders to the next adventure… Which was planned shortly after arriving home in early June.

What follows will be a series of stories about the island nations of New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu. Each will have their day in the sun, as they shared some of that equatorial goodness with me. The real highlight, as always though, was the people.

Off to SYD and the long flight back to LAX.

The desert in winter.

Travel adventures began in 2019 with a trip out to Death Valley at the end of February. An old (I’m being rude to both of us) friend from high school and I set out to escape the winter barrage as it was winding down. The plan was set earlier in the year and we flew out to Las Vegas since it was close and super cheap to fly into. ORD>LAS was the itinerary. A relatively quick flight and suddenly it was shorts and t-shirt weather again.

This definitely will not serve as an advertisement for Las Vegas because personally I just didn’t enjoy the town. The Strip was basically my version of a wide awake nightmare with the amount of commercialism just crammed down your throat. I understand the attempt to appeal to everyone all the time but it is nothing if not completely overwhelming. If you aren’t some form of inebriated I honestly think you are doing Vegas wrong. What it lacked in substance it did make up for in a fair deal of people watching when we made our way to Fremont, which, for my money, puts the Strip to shame. To each their own and I’ve met many who love the glitz and glamour of all the bright and shiny things. It was only a point of interest because it was one of the closest airports to Death Valley and certainly the cheapest place to land and rent a car. For me, that was enough. Starting on day 2 it was desert time…

Day 2 just happened to be a Tuesday, so by the time we got around and ran to a store to pick up some food/beverages for our desert adventures, Vegas had already calmed down and moved on for the day. Our exit was smooth and rapid, as I had not-so-secretly hoped it would be. On the way out of town we stopped by In-N-Out because I didn’t honestly know the next time I’d be near one and you can’t skip that unless you’re out of your damn mind.

What followed was a low-level flight to Beatty, Nevada which is about 15 minutes drive from the California border and thus the entrance to Death Valley. We got a great AirBnB rental and set up shop before packing the car with water and ingredients for sandwiches. We were doing this one right: Cheap.

If I were forced to choose a word to describe Death Valley I’d take the liberty of using two… Staggeringly beautiful. It isn’t just the stark contrast to where we call home in the Midwest. It is just everything you see. The scale is massive and the vistas appear upon first glance to be infinite. Once you have driven 50 miles and look back you realize you can also see exactly where you were 50 miles ago. It is that kind of scale. Wide open spaces have always given me an immense sense of wonder and Death Valley had those in spades. The temperatures were well into the 70s and in the depths of the valley into the 80s. We were spoiled for the week and were 100% aware of the fact.

Since we only had 5 or so days we both agreed from the beginning that we would be returning to Death Valley to see it again. Near the end of the week when we had seen much of the park and wanted to move on, we headed to Joshua Tree national park which is located in the aptly named Joshua Tree, California. This place already had a special place in my heart but my copilot for the journey had never seen it and as always was down.

See, I am fortunate to be surrounded by a few people who love adventure as much as I do, and the idea of a national park gets them all going. I am just honored to have shared the experience with another great friend. Also, as an added bonus, we had to pass through the Mojave on the way, which was much like Death Valley but just more… Scrubby looking. Same massive views, same roads that seemed endless, same highways with speed limits that might as well have read “Try to keep it on the ground”. The entire day was only to waste time because I didn’t want to spend any more time than we had to in Vegas and our flight out was at 1:00 the next morning. We ended up back in Fremont and proceeded to get vigorously drunk before waiting it off a few hours and heading to the airport. Turns out drinking in the streets is kind of just normal in Vegas… Meanwhile at home you’d go straight the hell to jail.

But I digress, as is my style…

We are indeed going to return to Death Valley, only this time there may be 4 or 5 of us, all class mates from high school. The last time we all got together the two among us who had already been said that it was high time we dragged the rest on the road with us. To my pleasant surprise, everyone was on board. Now the game of logistics must be played because not everyone is as lucky as I am and can just fuck off for a week and basically tell no one. But I honestly believe we are all in on this one. This will be another great adventure, and I’ll get to see another set of reactions to one of the most starkly martian landscapes I have ever seen. Slowly but surely my circle of travel partners expands! But one most choose wisely, and as previously mentioned, a balance must be struck. Sometimes solo is the way to go, and sometimes a copilot, and sometimes you just bring anyone who wants to go.

The desert calls, and adventure is assumed. Hopefully the bar in Beatty still has the Peanut Butter Stout by Belching Beaver… We got the entire bar drinking it during one night and hope it stuck, because it was like drinking Reese’s.

post

A year+ later.

This was not a space that I had forgotten but I needed to take 2019 to work out some things with my life. It was, and indeed still is, one of the most informative years I have ever experienced to date. As my 36th lap around the sun had completed, I found myself in the company of some new friends, and finally began to see the value of mixing socializing with solitude. Until this year I had been distancing myself from people in the earnest belief that it is what I needed to grow. In fact I have found that some of the opposite is also true.

That brings me to an important lesson that I am still in the process of making use of, and that is balance.

See it seems so simple upon the face… Spend some time alone, spend some time with friends, spend some time alone with friends (sounds like a contradiction I know…). But it is nothing of the sort. Because I was only viewing these relationships as how they would serve me and that was unhealthy. Once I started to turn it outward, and see how I could serve these relationships, things started to really blow up in a positive way. This was a reasonable shift in perspective but I am so accustomed to not doing it it felt like some sort of epiphany. The fact of the matter is that even outward giving must be balanced to be most effective. Once I realized I could do it I gave everyone around me my all, all the time.

… and then I was run ragged. My typical rituals returned, and I retreated to recoup my energy. Now I am beginning to recognize the need to do so and going out of my way to warn those closest to me that it is coming. For those outside the circle, it isn’t especially important to know, so they are essentially left out of the conversation. Odds are they will not recognize my absence regardless, and when I come back full of my normal (chaotic) energy, they will see me as the same.

2019 has been an indispensable shift in my perspectives on life, and it has set up 2020 to be a tremendous success. There are travel tales to follow but they are all soaked in the substance of this post. I will do my best to elucidate all the feelings I was experiencing but there are only so many words before a man must simply stand with his jaw open and cry at what he’s seeing. That happened to me so many times this year that each one deserves its own post. I’ll give it the old college dropout effort to do those times and those people involved justice but I’m not sure I can.

…Aaaaaaaaand trip planned.

Today I made the decision that I’ll be going to see one of my favorite bands of all time the first week of November.  The show is the inaugural instance of what has been dubbed Dia de los Deftones.  I have listened to the Deftones since 1997 and somehow over the past 21 years, I haven’t managed to see them in concert.  So I combined two of my favorite things, traveling and concerts into one long weekend.

The show will be taking place at Petco Park in San Diego (which happens to be one of my favorite places in the entire States), and will feature several acts that will help me broaden my horizons a little, and the Deftones, which will fulfill a 20+ year drought.

Plane tickets are purchased (and I will fly out of IND this time, yes!), and the ticket to the show.  Next week I’ll pick up an AirBnB and a rental car.  The airline is the no frills carrier Frontier who I have never flown with.  The checkout process bordered on annoying because they really barrage you with all the things you can add to your flight.  Since they are the “bear fare” carrier,  everything that isn’t a place to put your ass and a personal item sized (14″x18″x8″) bag is an upgrade.  I’ve flown Spirit, this isn’t my first rodeo.  The entire round trip from an airport that isn’t an absolute nightmare (Sorry O’hare…) was $147.40.  Yeah.  I’ll deal with having no idea what seat I get for that.

Now I’ll just grab myself a little efficiency room, a car with some pickup, and a few days of west coast Vitamin D.

Life is good and I am immensely grateful.

 

Didn’t take long.

I’ve been home for a total of 3 days and I am ready to get out there again.  This has become a problematic trend.

Go out, see something staggering, return home, be underwhelmed, begin plans for the next staggering thing.  I am not saying this will be something incredible in the next few days, but it does have me eyeing 2019 pretty hard as a banner year for international travel.  It is time to collect more flags…

Between now and then, though, I plan to hit the left coast again.  Perhaps within a month on a weekend bender.

Time will soon tell, but this particular bite from the travel bug sunk deep.

The Pacific & Portland.

The week has almost come to a close and I finally feel like I am 100% out of steam.  Yesterday I dropped my buddy off at the rental car place so he could go visit his family in southern-ish Washington and I headed south and west out the coast.  It was around a 3 hour drive to get from our BnB to the beach but it was worth every minute of driving.

I got to the beach around an hour before dusk and walked about a half mile from where I parked and set up to witness the glory that is yet another west coast sunset.  It was an absolutely perfect evening, with a breeze and the temperature steady in the 60s.  Since I had brought my light jacket I was all set.  The surroundings were something out of a book.  Miles of off-white sand beaches flanked by hundreds of yards of shore grasses before the homes of those fortunate enough to live near by.  The town was called Ocean Shores and it was charming though relatively small.  As the sun began it’s descent I felt the way I always do when I am so lucky to witness it:  completely at peace.  I take these opportunities to remember how truly fortunate I am to be able to live the life that I do.  Gratitude doesn’t even begin to describe it!

After the sun dipped in the water the temperature dropped off quickly so I hopped back in the car and headed back toward “home” for the evening.  As I rounded Olympia to head north toward Seattle, the 95% full moon began to rise over the mountains to the north and east.  Add that to another essentially perfect day.  Life is good.

Today I woke up and headed to Portland with absolutely zero plans other than to see St. John’s bridge and visit Voodoo Doughnuts.  Since I accomplished both of those things and checked a state off the list I will put it in the win category, but I do feel as though I need to see more of Portland before I make a decision how I feel about it.  If it were based solely on today I’d probably say I do not care for it but I didn’t see much except a heap of construction downtown and nightmarish traffic congestion.

Now I am back in our home away from home, planning to begin packing for the flight tomorrow so I have it out of the way.  We don’t have much on the agenda for tomorrow and will need to check out by 11:00 AM so I am not 100% sure what we will get up to until our flight in the afternoon but I do plan to pick us up a couple day passes to the Alaska Airlines lounge so we can chill for a couple hours prior to the flight.

It has been a great week and my feet hurt as much as they ever have but I have added so much experience to my memory that I will gladly endure the healing.