Travel Theme: Light

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Let there be light. Especially if it’s beautiful sunshine hitting the snow on a day off of work.  This picture is taken during a snowshoe trip on Cypress Mountain in British Columbia.

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The sun shines bright on the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy.  Sometimes I like to stare right at the sun on days like these – the glare is so strong that you have to close your eyes.. I like to think that I can feel the energy building inside me, especially during those endless rainy days in Vancouver.

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When I think of light, it’s often of twilight, my most favourite time of day.  It’s the fading light that gets me, every time.  In this picture above, the sun sets over the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  No filter, just beautiful purple and pink skies.

IMG_3402And the light fades even more in this shot — it’s almost dark in Nadi, Fiji.  Looking at these pictures makes me think that summer couldn’t come soon enough for me.

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Join the fun with Aisla’s Travel Theme Challenge at Where’s My Backpack.

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Light
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
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Travel Theme: Contrast

(aka – Forest meets Phone Booth)

Well, I’m not going to admit that Daryl and I started running out of ideas for posts….but we did discover that creating a blog comes with an immense amount of pressure to write the perfect post.

So that led to us not posting anything for 10 days.  We bantered back and forth about different things we could write about it, but that conversation would eventually become sidetracked by an episode of the Voice (Daryl has a giant crush on Shakira, and strangely obviously, so do I), or some crime show with Ice-T.

And then we discovered the joy of writing prompts.  Or, rather prompts from other blogs on the internets that kindly suggest what you should write about.   Yes, please.  Our last post was part of the Word a Week challenge focusing on the word ‘Worker’, and today we would like to join in the fun at Where’s My Backpack, as part of the Travel Theme: Contrast.

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This picture is taken at East Point, on Saturna Island — one of the Gulf Islands in the Pacific Northwest.  We were about to go hiking, and then stumbled upon this gem.  I think it’s so kind that someone would think to have a comfortable chair for those about to make an emergency phone call.  I would love to say that the phone is still in service… but this could definitely be an installation art piece in a contemporary art gallery, non?

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If you would like to join in the fun at Where’s My Backpack, here’s what to do:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Contrast
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.

How I Went To the Spa and Ended Up At the Grand Canyon

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There’s a lot of debate over Solo Travel – especially amongst women.  Is it dangerous? Is it lonely?  Does it mean that I’m pathetic because I can’t find anyone to go with me?

Not that I’m immune from these thoughts, but I am one of those people that does enjoy traveling alone.  In the past, I have traveled on my own for months at a time, and while it is lonely at times, it’s something that I enjoy forcing myself to do on a regular basis because…well,  it’s uncomfortable.  It takes me a couple days to get into the rhythm, but I’m quickly reminded that there are immense benefits.  I can allow myself to be indulgent – eat candy, stay inside, and sleep all day long with zero guilt.  I can choose my own itinerary.  I can sit in a cafe and read for 5 hours.  But the most important thing though, is gettting a rest from having to compromise in all your decisions.  So refreshing.

And so that’s how I ended up in Scottsdale, Arizona, in a room with 2 giant Queen beds, completely on my own. I’m sure some of you are saying “Alana, that’s not really a solo adventure.. I’ve traveled through the Sahara Desert on a camel for 6 months living with the locals.”  And I would say you’re right.  But I would also say that visiting a Republican state that loves guns, anti-immigration laws, Fox News and Nancy Grace is also an adventure for a girl from Vancouver, Canada.  Just a different kind.

So why Arizona you ask?  Expedia told me it was cheap, and the Westin was having a sell-out on their hotel rooms.  Need I say more?   The Westin, if you don’t know, has this Heavenly Bed upgrade which is exactly as advertised.  I was first introduced to it at a conference several years ago…. the bed at the hotel was so comfortable that I chose to play hooky and relax amongst the 8 pillows and extravagant white linens while watching crappy day-time television.  It was pure bliss.  So… obviously Arizona seemed like the place to go.  After all, how hot could it get in the beginning of July?

I arrived at the hotel and promptly took myself out for a fancy dinner at a Cuban restaurant.  I sat at the bar, ordered delicious cocktails and flirted with my server Jose, because after all, isn’t that the fun of traveling alone?  I went to bed early because each drink cost 12 dollars and I’m a bit cheap, and then woke up in the morning to beautiful sunshine.

I headed out to the pool, and started my first Solo Independent morning.  I’m not used to 39 degrees (103 Farenheit for you Americans), and so this was a bit uncomfortable.  That might have been mostly because I could only lie on the recliner on my back, since solo-sunscreen application proved to be a bit difficult.

By 1 pm it was a bit much, so I decided to go to the ice cream bar.  Guilt free.  I contemplated buying an extra one for my pretend vacation partner.  Not realizing that the effects of sunstroke were about to smack me in the face, I was a bit embarrassed when I got super nauseous and had to sit down collapse against the cold metal of the ice cream bar to rest.  Luckily the place was pretty empty and the 19 year old kid working there was very busy on his Facebook, so it wasn’t really that awkward.  I managed to push through (since I”m an independent solo woman), and passed out on the Heavenly bed to rest.

The next morning, fully recovered and pretty sure that my sun burn was just temporary, I had another great day at the pool. I bought a super ugly giant sun hat and rocked it because I remembered that no one knew me or cared what I looked like.  Solo travel was looking up again.

After 4 days of swimming in the pool and pretending to work out in the Spa (the TVs attached to the machines were really difficult to watch if you moved quickly), I had fully embraced my vacation.  I didn’t have to ask anyone what they wanted to eat, I stopped shaving my legs and washing my hair since there was no one to impress (except Jose), and I was having as many naps as I wanted without feeling lazy or ashamed.  I was a bit bored though, so decided to rent a car and go on a road trip.

I took off in a giant Buick rental car with room for 4 sets of golf clubs early the next morning, and headed north to Sedona.   Who knew that Arizona held some of the most beautiful scenery in the world?  My mind was blown.  Driving into Sedona and seeing the incredible Red Rocks was breath-taking.

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After taking about 80 images of rock formations for my geography students, I saw a sign for Helicopter Tours.  Of course!  This was easily justified because of the fact that I was being a virtuous and independent woman, and I subsequently booked myself into a 20 minute helicopter ride for an enormous amount of money.

The helicopter had no doors, and so you could lean right out to take pictures, and it was simply the seat belt that held you in.  I was in Rock Heaven (which does exist for you skeptics).  Here are some of the beautiful mesas and buttes that I saw.

When we landed it was only about noon and so I decided to just keep going… the Grand Canyon looked close on the map, and so I figured – why not?  I  headed off, and as the elevation changed, so did the weather.  Dark storms clouds emerged from nowhere, and the fields became dramatic.  I took some artsy photos out the window as I was driving.

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By mid-afternoon I arrived at the Grand Canyon, one of the places I’ve most wanted to see, and it fulfilled its namesake in all its entirety.  I wandered around, called my father on my cell – the only other person I know that loves rocks as much as me – and then simply turned back.

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Being alone, I had to take a self-portrait to prove that I was actually there, as it felt important to have at least one photograph with a person in it.

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It kind of looks like one of those silly and vain profile pictures that people take of themselves, but that was just because I was having trouble getting my whole face into the frame with the glare of the sun.

Traveling out the east exit of the Grand Canyon took me on a road that was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.  Once you leave the park, the canyon continues for miles, winding its way through the earth like a giant gash inflicted by a giant sword.  There are homes on the edge of the canyon, some without even electricity, completely isolated.   The wind picked up, and I contemplated what it must be like to live on the edge of such a dramatic and extreme landscape.

I made it back to the hotel after 12 hours of driving – one of the best random road trips of my life.  While it seemed ridiculous to have spent such a short time in two spectacular places, it was also just one of those things that happened…

I got into my giant spa tub, relaxed, and then called Daryl and got mad at him for not having called me while I was on my Solo Adventure Trip.  He replied “I thought you said to not call you because you were being independent?” and I stated “I know that’s what I said, but you were supposed to know I didn’t actually mean that.”   After I cleared up that confusion, the loneliness passed, and I reminded myself of the good things about the past week.  That actually, I was very very happy, and while I missed my family, I did adore traveling alone because it makes me feel brave…even if it’s just in the smallest way.

Do I wish that I could have shared the Grand Canyon with Daryl, or someone else that I loved?  Of course. But, when you are alone, you become more in tune with your emotions and your thoughts.  This focus leads to an intensity of emotions that isn’t always felt when traveling with others.  When you play the role of a stranger, alone in a foreign land, your sense of what it means to be alive, is simply very different.

And you also don’t have to share the wonderful free toiletries that they leave in the hotel room.

And the Journey Begins!

First post.  This is a bit nerve-wracking.

Where to begin…well, the idea for this blog came to us on a beach in Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  How original right?  Two thirty-somethings writing gratuitous posts about how they galavant around the world while other people are stuck at work.  While it may seem at times that we work in order to travel, we are here to prove that your dreams of adventure don’t have to die with a 9 to 5 job. 

This blog is designed to remind us that our careers and travel can co-exist — that backpacking isn’t just for gap year students.. for young people.. or for hippies.  Times have changed a bit for both of us.  Daryl now showers on a regular basis on his trips, and I am have been known to stuff more than one pair of high heels in my pack…. A 16-person dorm room now sounds like a terrible kind of hell to both us, and we will splurge on a taxi to get us to the train station rather than walk 3 miles in the blazing sun to save 10 dollars.  However, we are proof that your vacations can be filled with adventure, surprises, and wide-open itineraries at any age, and time of your life.

We know that there are thousands of travel blogs out there in the world wide webs, and many that are much wittier and more articulate than ours.   But… we have amassed some pretty amazing stories over the years, and this is a chance for us to write about some of the funny, frustrating, mind-blowing and meaningful moments we’ve experienced.  It’s also a chance for us to share some travel tips for those that might be embarking on their own adventures.  

We are super excited to post stories from trips in the future, and those from the past.  We live in the Pacific Northwest… so we will be writing about some of the things to do around Vancouver as well.  Feel free to comment and share your own stories.. we’re always looking for travel tips from others, or updated news and events from some of the places that we visited long ago.