Iceland Stole My Heart…

Iceland stole my heart like a thousand Arctic ponies galloping through lush fields, pollinating flowers under a midnight sun.
IMG_1141

Shifting into first, off the grid I went. Solo, without a map, GPS, or cell, to ensure I could survive without assistance. Heading north on Route 1, adrenaline delivered me to Akranes, IS, the northern most coordinate I have stood.

Pristine air kissed my skin through open windows, as ears absorbed intonation of the dialect via a local frequency. When sleepy I dove into the back seat, slithering under my 20 below bag, my 4 star wheel accommodation, mastering an L shaped slumber.
IMG_1199

Landscape unlike anything I have seen, water appeared in various elements; glaciers, clouds, waterfalls and boiling streams. Nothing was in English, translating best I could, I threw concern out with my banana peel. Restrooms were sparse.

Icelandic ponies stood in green pastures, hooves surrounded by yellow flowers, manes blew in the wind like a summer calendar. Dark jagged cliffs the background, opposite the blue Atlantic. Distracted by equine love, capturing them close on digital, a brown beauty clamped his teeth onto my ring finger. Inhaling nervously I looked at the damage, thankfully just a nibble.

A roadside map lacked a key, requiring Pictionary skills to decipher a tunnel, returning via an alternate route. I could have been sipping Brennivín in a hotel, but renting a car was absolutely priceless.

Signage advised not to harm vegetation, so I hiked a designated trail alongside locals as if in a Patagonia commercial. Soles caressed the soil as senses inhaled natures aroma. Heading uphill, my heart opened as birds sang and scenery motionless like National Geographic. White flowers matched snow capped peaks, making me miss skiing which stung like a bee.
IMG_1080
Heading toward Vik, more so than stunning surroundings, my awareness turned inwardly to how peaceful I felt. Perhaps a result of holiday exploration, but it felt incredible allowing my heart to lead a self guided tour.
IMG_1606

The only maps I used were ones roadside. My only challenge was keeping track of the days, as June nightfall did not darken as I am accustomed. Zeppelins’ “Immigrant Song” ran through my head as kilometers in the odometer climbed, exceeding 1200. Headlights unnecessary at midnight, allowing round the clock exploration. I ventured without rules, an alarm, or itinerary. You could drive nearly half a day before passing a store or gas station. Just myself, an open road, a journal, camera, and a roll of toilet paper.

The only glitch; Visa is NOT accepted everywhere. Most petrol stations only accepted cards with an associated pin, and N1 stations that sold prepaid cards were not always open.

Waterfalls fell soft as paint from ledges behind farmhouses. I washed my hair roadside in falling rainwater, and sat mindfully in a field near Lupine and lambs, taking it all in.
IMG_1491
IMG_1527My body relaxed in a blue, hot geothermal spa, with a natural silica mud mask, shower massage and swim up bar. I slept near the farm under the volcano Eyjafjallajökull that erupted in April 2010, in a rental without insurance.
IMG_1442

I adored the language and giggled at lengthy signage that used most the alphabet. I picked up a hitch hiker from Lithuania, placed my toes upon a black volcanic beach, touched handmade Icelandic wool sweaters, and saw the Strokkur Geyser erupt. I drank fresh glacial water and viewed Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajokull. I witnessed the sun set upon moon-like surfaces, and counted more sheep than peeps. I watched the worlds happiest free range animals in gorgeous farmland with rock formations and grassy rooftops. I felt safer there without a roof, than in my own country.

It’s rare to feel inconvenienced being human versus an animal, but it felt as refreshing as showering in cool natural rainfall.

Nature came first in Iceland.

IMG_1446

IMG_1552

IMG_1829
Most the inner island was prohibited to drive in a rental. Natural wonders did not charge entrance fees, nor sell plastic souvenirs. I waited for sheep to cross roads, not red lights. I could feel the energy of the animals frolicking. Fresh air equaled the taste of glacial water. I walked into the mist under Scogafoss, smiling wider than its girth, moisture rejuvenating my face, losing myself in the moment.

IMG_1456

Iceland blew me away by her beauty, diversity and vastness. I hope she will remain protected as when I visited, the sixth month of 2014. It was heartbreaking to see Vatnajokull with a brown gap between the white, as if flashing for awareness, like an avalanche beacon.

Such a wake up call.

IMG_1734

I perched upon a rock envisioning how it used to look. Never before have I felt such sadness for nature as I did sitting before that brown patch between Europe’s largest glacier, like a cut lacking a large enough band-aid. Seeing this with my own eyes awoke awareness of our human effect. What a personal memo to return home and try my best to help preserve our beautiful earth.

We only get one trip around this self guided tour, called life…

IMG_1759

Reflections By The Water

There is no tan cabana boy delivering me all inclusive drinks beneath a white linen canopy, nor a spa attendant giving a massage. This beach is no wider than an airbus wing which could deliver me to a white sandy beach seen on northern cubicle screen savers. I was drawn to my private beach, thus I call it. Usually I find myself alone here, an unfound local treasure.

Tiny waves splash about every second, clouds variable under a light blue haze. It is cool, yet warm, my favorite temp. A plane climbs in altitude, I hear a bike trek further into the distance. The mountains across this body of water are stunning, always. I never tire of this view. A mom and her son have joined me, and while immersed in the moment I had not realized the little boy was now naked. I am not a mom, how do you know the age this deems inappropriate, well in this society anyway? Besides winter months it would be so freeing and easier to be naked all the time, but perhaps my bitterness toward bras is a topic for another post.

I am eating a banana pondering its journey to reach my claws. One of my favorite foods these days, I savor every bite. Feeling run down on this day off, I went out for bananas and a Redbox and ended up here, completely relaxed, taking in nature. I find myself following my desires, my heart, the moments versus the “should do” list. It is so much more peaceful and brings alive life’s preciousness.

My toes caress the non beach sand aka: 90% dirt, as I inch off the tree stump I was perched, focusing my view at nearly water level, to sit in the sand. A tiny bug tickles my arm hair, I hear just one bird. Two elderly woman just arrived with matching haircuts of grey and what appears mojitos behind the plasticware in hand. One has 80’s style bright red sunglasses on. They are adorable. Three women on this beach from different eras of their lives taking in the beauty, water and sunshine. How special moments like this are squished between life’s to do lists and obligations. I do not need plans on a Friday night anymore to feel whole.

Moments like this fill my jar.

Perhaps find your refill tonight and share what it is…
image

Skydiving Separates An Eagle From A Chickadee

Flying femurs hoisted my cocky core into a prop plane the size of a mosquito. Propellers started spinning, echoing beats of my excited heart. Myself, a photographer, pilot and human tandem backpack boarded the can for a skydiving adventure. Legs extended excitedly on the floor anticipating an incredible mission, as the aircraft door shut, tightly.

There was no turning back…

Within moments, the nose gear lifted off our beautiful earth. Was this the last time I saw her in a cohesive piece? It was 2005, time to accept that potential concept as I was about to risk my life for an 8 minute adventure, above the state for lovers. The arm in my altimeter fashion accessory wrist watch climbed by the thousands. We peaked at 11. My human backpack clasped carabiners onto my cool uni, the door suddenly flew ajar. Shock hit my system like an adrenaline iv. All would be okay though, thanks to my cranium protector beanie cap. Right?! Confidence subsided, facial tones turned white as the clouds, like a chameleon matching her environment. The photographer plunged from the aircraft and hung, dangling by his phalanges off the strut. My tandem buddy crouched over peeking out, crumpling my uterus like a paper airplane. Over decibels of the engine, he yelled for me to shimmy to the edge of the open door.

What?!

This had all been fun and games until now. My friend; crazy kilt, had invited myself and his buddy to drive from Pennsylvania to Virginia to jump out of a plane. I didn’t hesitate, I was fearless. I was in college, hear me scream roar! I rode in the back of his convertible, wind whipped through my hair as I belted to my beloved Dave Matthews. Hours later we arrived in a rural field in Virginia, nothing for miles but a single hangar.

Men in tight suits folded colorful parachutes. We sat anticipatory flying bottoms on schoolhouse wooden chairs to take a course on this leap of faith. I was sparked. I signed the “dismemberment will most likely occur” paperwork and checked the box promising not to sue upon death. We waited for the sky to clear, hoping our momentous uncovered wagon road trip not in vain. In proper time like a light blue chute opening, the sky cleared, it was meant to be. I called my parents, and put on my game face. With confidence I slid into my uni and exited the hangar toward the riveted bird, tiny as a tomato. This was the photographers 1500th jump. I calculated my odds of risk, and waved to my friends through the porthole window. Her mini treads rolled toward the tarmac, then lifted light as a hummingbird, gaining vertical. The photographer interviewed me on video as we climbed. Myself, cocky as a clam out of water until…

The moment that separates an eagle from a chickadee…

My torso inched toward the edge of the world, no time for tea to rethink this decision. My hands grabbed the side of the plane, holding on with all my might. My legs dangled, I gasped for air, it was horrifying! I would have sat there, frozen all day, but my pack man pushed us out and away from any tangible footing of safety, sanity and comfort. My next moment of awareness, we were free falling at 110 MPH!! After catching my breath, it was a dream come true to soar like a bird. It was stunning. I laughed, I screamed, I swallowed puffy clouds. Facial muscles wrinkled in the wind. I was in heaven, figuratively and literally.

20140515-163627.jpg

My backpack buddy pulled the pretty important cord yanking my legs to my chin, folding me like a taco. It hurt, but the chute opened slowing our free fall. All became quiet, and peaceful. We could hold a conversation. My lifesaving pack man pointed into the horizon asking if I could see the Tower of London. For an instant he had me inquisitively peering, then belly laughing.

He braced the impact as we touched down upon familiar soil. I was in shock, astonished. I did a celebratory dance.

My Gram had the above collage pasted on her bedroom door for years. A woman who told me consistently to “take advantage of every opportunity.”

Friends, expand those wings and soar like an eagle, even if you have just 8 minutes left…

Stranded In Liberia On A Broken Bus, 8km From The Airport…

Initial seasonal exposure to sunshine and critters at the Tamarindo bus stop had me counting high as I could, in Spanish, grande bites on my pink legs. Locals gave varied schedules, so I sat for some time until a bus pulled alongside, with signage for Liberia. Inquiring if that encompassed an aeropuerto stop seemed a trick question for the attendant in the stairwell, with a change purse. He paused momentarily, then signaled for me to hop on board.

IMG_0964

I was the only tourist.

My pack plunked upon my lap as the wheels began to turn. The attendant searched for local standees along the route, shouting “Liberia” through the open door. Occasionally the bus stopped, as he hopped off to solicit for riders, via foot. It made me smile. Relaxed and personal, opposite of a Port Authority time-frame. Sun-kissed eyelids peered through the window across dry country scenery. Faces peeked from corners of tiny villages, watching us pass dusty porch rocking chairs. Locals interacted, sharing smiles without interrupting technology. Elders conversed, relaxing in cooler evening air, as children kicked soccer balls. Farmland and cattle passed my window pane, as the bus bounced along bumpy roads, until the sky went dark.

Abruptly and unannounced, we pulled into a gas station. The man in the stairwell exited, struck conversation with the fuel attendant, who reached in the trash for a container. After spraying something in it, they proceeded to the back of the bus, then announced something I could not decipher. Locals stood, were handed colones and exited rapidly, as if infested with scorpions. The driver also stepped off. The only thing I knew to do was document with survival selfies, and giggle in the dark Costa Rican bus, alone, unsure what was next.

IMG_0977

Soon the rig was back en-route, for all of cinco minutes. The last sign I had seen read; LIR 8km. Without warning, body language changed. Universally, red is not a good thing when lit upon a dash. More lights flashed upon that dashboard than an active runway, in a hub at night. The bus rolled to a stop. The driver motioned in pura vida fashion, versus flailing phalanges from a Manhattan cabbie. The attendant attempted pushing our ride off the road. The driver assisted, leaving me again, alone, in a dark public bus. One by one, locals appeared out of the woodwork to help. The terrain variable, the embankment gave way, jolting myself, my pack and the empty bus toward a rightward lean. Adrenaline hit my sandy veins, aware the rig could tip. Without words, the attendant extended his entire arm, and pointed his index finger straight ahead. That was my cue to exit my personal public ride.

Beyond exploration and adventure, I visited Costa Rica for two reasons; fresh fruit and relaxation. It was time I unpacked my survival beach hat…

My family thought I was in West Africa.

Silver linings are important.

I lost myself exploring, playing at the beach all day, thus had not eaten since morning. The bus died beside a small market, that was still open. Giddy, I scooped aqua, peanuts and bananas in arms, like a howler monkey prepping to feed an infant, and paid with my final local coins. The bus by this point was stuck upon a cement block. I discretely took a picture, then started walking. Briskly.

My traveling soles made way upon dusty terrain, under the dark Central American sky. There were no street lights and few lit places. Light from the stars and a pretty moon led my way. In time, I sensed I was heading in the right direction, as opportunities to rent cars emerged from a dark horizon. One read; “Hola! Rent A Car”. It was closed, I felt lost, unsure whether to laugh or cry. I walked alongside a wire fence for what felt like miles, feeling safer than previously on the dark road, vehicles approaching, honking and stopping. In hindsight, I wish I had accepted the offer presented by a policeman on his bike. A cool escort to the terminal could have been the bling to this blog, but I trudged onward, as sweat dripped profusely over my thin winter veins.

IMG_0997

In the mirage of the dark evening sky, a hotel sign appeared. I went in to inquire on availability, and sank into the comfy lobby chair. My body slowed with exhaustion. I wiped sweat from my nose, feeling relief in the cooler air. I had no time reference for how long I had been walking in the heat. I admired the artwork waiting for the front desk amigo, when I noticed four creepy lizards. Nature won. Numerous crawly animals spooked me this week. I was a sweaty, exhausted heap of tourist who had not shampooed in five days, attempting island dreads. I yearned for an animal free nap, thus continued onward.

I credit my second wind that night to the light aroma of local Don Pupo coffee beans, made by a single family, hand picked by the grandmother, I was carrying home for a friend, strapped to my pack. Inhaling beans, I heard a sweet sound, my saving grace, a prop plane overhead, nose gear facing the same direction as I. Runway lights became my destiny, comfort, a mirage for what felt a desert trek toward water. To stay safe and alert, I created a survival song and probably startled the guard in the station, near the runway fence. I was fairly loud, and equally surprised to find another human out there.

Hours after leaving the relaxed surfer town, I arrived at the Liberia International Airport. I sat in a hard chair outside the terminal to cool my body. Feeling safer, I was mindful of natures diverse songs, and beauty. I felt a little delirious, most likely dehydrated by the time I walked through the terminal doors. Unsure if loitering was allowed, I crept beside a traveler on an adjacent terminal chair, laid out shirts for padding, and pretended to sleep when the guards walked past. The next thing I knew, the ticket counter was opening for their morning departures. I had slept like a baby iguana. What an adventure! I wouldn’t change these experiences for the world…

Pura vida, amigos!

Dublin With My Wee Lil’ Nephew

20130428-230534.jpg

Visual senses trace intertwined white and red on a Sochi Coke, transporting my mind to an Irish adventure with my wee lil’ nephew. Twelve at the time, he and I scampered through Dublin, exploring like curious leprechauns.

River Liffey, Dublin
River Liffey, Dublin

It was his first European adventure, once pried from the terminal massage chair. I informed the wee lad in attempted Irish dialect, it was a no rules vacation. Flip side to this euro resulted in (unlimited) consumed cans of Coke.

IMG_7148

IMG_7206

Dublin, Ireland Dublin, Ireland

Often unplanned travel moments engaging strangers exceeding comfort zones, provide precious enrichment. A concept introduced to me by a dear friend inflight to Zurich to participate in the 2006 FISA World Rowing Tour. Thus, I did not fret like an acoustic in the corner, once denied standby seats from DUB International. Extending our adventure to five days, I assured my friend the next 24 hours would definitely trump desk time.

Returning to the hostel, we scored bunks and pranced with relief up a back stairwell to explore. We met a new friend in that painted staircase. Three of us became instantly engrossed with intriguing conversation, chatting for hours. Stories caused belly laughs to echo, like a step dancers rhythm up the windy corridor. At a late hour our new friend handed my nephew a book to keep.

The little guy held unique interest during a city tour until we failed equally to stifle giggles when the guide referenced “nineteen turdy-tree”

Hostel Tour

Peeking a peripheral through a glass encompassed Gravity Bar, we viewed Dublin above her rooftops, watched Tin Tin in a theater availing pint choices of Guinness or Ben and Jerry’s. We meandered streets, like plucked harp strings, until exploratory toes ached. Ear canals experienced local jigs, as tiny lads and lassies weaved throughout the crowd asking for change. We savored a warm pasta dinner in a restaurant along the River Liffey, and besides the little guy almost getting hit by a car racing up a sidewalk, and dodging thrown pelted objects from kids, I returned him home, unscathed. IMG_7294

I shared with him learned travel tips: pack a carry-on, local currency, respect for all, and stay open-minded to cultural differences. Research tipping etiquette, learn survival words in the local tongue, and explore off tourist paths, which often brings forth treasures.

What a special nephew, ski buddy and friend I have. We laugh, cry, dance, talk and explore. He climbed Tuckerman Ravine at age ten, and obtains a photographic musical memory. He can recite lyrics prior to repeat, and can clear a crowd on any dance floor. He presents a live weekly DJ gig on a local station. Following a bike accident and serious injury, he walked himself home, iPod queued to “Eye Of The Tiger.”

He was such a joy to explore with, I was so proud of him and his bravery. He played video games against a German teen, washed his own dishes and conversed with the front desk.

This aunt and nephews shared International adventure was an Irish blessing, but most importantly, I am bloody blessed having him in my life…

Christmas Magic In Our Childhood Cabin

My Childhood Home
My Childhood Home

Dishes clanked beneath the quarter inch plywood under my pillow, as my Mom prepped for Christmas. Holiday dishes dosey-doed through sudsy water, below sleeping bag belly laughs. Wood stove heat rose through the grate, warming chilly Rudolph noses. Siblings and cousins of all shapes from different states, lay side by side beneath below zero bags. Flat as pancakes we laid until laughs created worm shape wonders, squirming off mattress pads. I may never recall what made us belly laugh so hard Christmas Eve, but there are few moments as precious as this memory stored in my temporal, under my Santa hat.

Blinking Christmas tree lights reflected off A-frame beams from the cathedral ceiling, a door down. Anticipatory faces exposed to the nights darkness, my body lay snug as a northern bug, in my childhood cabin attentive for sleigh bells.

We had a picture book fireplace, chimney, and snow covered roof, leaving no reason to believe in anything other than the white bearded man. The magic I felt in my soul on Christmas Eve as a small child has never been replicated. I could not wait to sprint downstairs Christmas morning, as if I could combust with sheer excitement.

We did not have numerous material gifts. Many of my toys would be hand me downs from older siblings, homemade from my Dads wood shop, or Moms wool creations, spun up from pet sheep. Excitement remained in my heart, oblivious to an excessive mall packaged Christmas.

Christmas In The Log Cabin
Christmas In Our Log Cabin

Wood had been delivered, split, stacked and thrown into the cellar. An open fireplace crackled in the living-room. This kindling warm moment of Lifetime television was not brought to you by Sears, nor was it a push button Duraflame fireplace to please flatlander photographs. This was the real deal, with cracked fingers and splinters to prove labor behind the warmth, initiated months prior. The second I forgot this comfortable process, perhaps taking it for granted, my Dad would “gently encourage” us to go outside, fetch a splintery stack of gnarly wood, fill a wheel barrel, and drag it through the snow toward the house.

Smile and repeat all winter long…

I believed in that jolly man in a sleigh. I fell for the entire story, dreaming of reindeer and sparkly cookies. Our stockings were hung by a real fireplace beneath the chimney with knitted care. Candy canes poked between large colorful knitted seams, an orange always filled the base.

I listened for hoof prints overhead, long after cousins snored and fires quelled. I felt in all of my being the childhood magic of such a wondrous tale…

Luggage Tags Are Not Life Saving Articles

As frequently as security announcements interrupt sine waves throughout terminals across the globe, passengers say; “My bag had a ribbon on it. Flying friends, let me tell you an industry tip that could save you time and energy. We all have baggage…
photo1 Some carry too much, placing zipper bursting emphasis upon external factors such as; color, brands, or flashy tags, with little regard to internal qualities. I’m not referencing pajama thread count, I’m talking individual personal fabric. Humans in transit get upset when articles “shift during flight” to an alternate baggage chute. Instead of unzipping over stuffed frustration upon airline personnel, perhaps take a look at your sun washed face in a travel caboodle mirror, and reflect outwardly the goodness from within your heart. There is little need to waste precious energy on misplaced material items. Look at recent devastation in the Philippines, I imagine emphasis is on loved ones, not possessions.

Have fun if you check a bag. Attach a GPS, watch where it ventures, calculate accrued mileage, embrace the intriguing transference between carriers and cities.

When your anxious red eyes circle the carousel, remember how far transport has evolved since cargo moved via wagon. If a carrier “delayed” my skis on a powder vacation, I could relate. However, when unloading frustration of “delayed” dirty island shorts, when it’s 7 degrees out, please buckle your anger with “the metal fitting,” and treat the agent behind the counter with some warm decency.

I have witnessed moments where pianissimo apologies cannot ease the pain. The neck of a viola was severed off en-route to an audition. A honeymoon bag full of broken glass lay dispersed between rum saturated wedding clothes. A broken electric wheelchair left a passenger immobile, along with missing dentures and important medication. These are huge inconveniences, but there is no material item worth enough anger to validate spitting in my coworkers eye, (true story) if your bag does not arrive.

Having a red ribbon on your bag could have made it visible rounding the carousel. However, since your lovely (insert favorite carrier here) “delayed” your luggage, frankly it doesn’t matter if you had flares attached. This goes for Disney name tags, Cinderella, just married tags, photographs, duct tape, competing carrier tags, crew tags, or government we don’t care who you are tags.

This is my attempt to save you from purchasing environmentally unfriendly items, because they are not life saving articles, like some believe. What will you do with the seven seconds you saved identifying your bag ASAP on the carousel, anyway?! Will you save the world, the environment? Will you share kind words with traveling companions? I find it silly bag identifiers and ribbons get discussed more so than world hunger. Who cares if you have to wait for your bag to circle the belt? What if you stood next to that someone who changed your world?

80% of leisure passengers seem baffled their bag did not arrive connecting through four cities, and three carriers later, partly because their ticket was purchased on a third party site. When did we start assuming this process seamless? What in your daily life runs perfectly? If the grocery store is lacking Dole, do you go bananas?

Are you seriously still describing the details of your luggage tag? “I’m sorry, did you say the parakeet on the right side had blue eyes?” Please discuss with me something that matters in this lifetime.

Friends of the skies, keep flashy, stay kind and perhaps leave a little more “baggage” at home when traveling…

Left My Worries In The Wailing Wall…

Sanctity surrounding the Wailing Wall was severed by fluttering wings expanding and collapsing in the air, above torsos rocking in prayer. Feathered friends enjoying the air space danced between greenery, jutting from cracks in this massive wall. Their chipper tones echoed above the opposing solemn aura below. A divider sectioned men from the woman. Teardrops fell from young cheeks moved by faith, possibly grief. Prayers were lipped, reading scripts. Gently my gait slowed, feeling the power and captivating presence as I moved toward this ancient structure. White plastic chairs faced forward, sporadically dispersed in the crowd, balancing their four points upon stones. Plastic, completely opposite material to the ancient layers in the background. I squeezed politely down an aisle to inhabit an available seat. I closed my eyes and sat mindfully, transitioning focus internally. Fabric from lengthy skirts rustled like current seasonal leaves, as women swayed forward and back, timeless as a glockenspiel. Heels clicked, flats shuffled, tears fell, audibly aware I became, visual senses quelled. A warm breeze gently moved my hair, as sunshine warmed my shoulders. Which words from my heart would remain?

The Western Wall, Israel
The Western Wall, Israel
Here.

Important enough to leave in this spiritual space, joining millions of prayers. Opening my eyes woke an awareness of my surroundings. My pen kissed paper lines, letters formed words, released fluidly as a piccolo warms in an orchestra pit. Poetry. Intensity grew, meanings attached in perfect order, forming a heaviness upon a ripped sheet from my travel journal. I filled a note for a dear friend. Words spread across white paper, initially peaceful. I intended to abandon past worries and regret into the wall, joining healthy wishes for myself, people of this world, and our environment. My body clammed, I wasn’t mentally ready to put my past behind me, this abruptly. It has been my comforting blanket of emotional discomfort for numerous calendar pages. I needed additional time to work through it, accept, heal and move on. This idea surfaced sitting there mindfully, eyes closed in a white chair, in the Holy Land. Stalling to accept this concept, I studied the varied stone layers, differing in width and height. A darker discoloration appeared median head level, where millions have touched their fingertips. Various pieces of paper hung crumpled into crannies, some held on to by gum. A beautiful blue and white sky mixed above with a softness, a tenderness, as if created via watercolor bristles.

Completion of words, I stood and slalomed bodies toward the wall. Shoulder to shoulder with women from across the globe, to pray, release, or wave a surrender flag. I stretched my left hand straight out, between bobbing heads, pushing my palm flat against the wall. IMG_9462

I anticipated the presence of a spiritual force. Instead, with engaged focus I tucked my notes between cracks in the wall, studying the solid image of my hand flat against the stone. My notes did not stray with the passing of an upward breeze. I walked away, backwards. Leaving the space, I still wasn’t prepared for what this action symbolized. I thought it would take meditation, a therapist, time for acceptance, letting go and moving on.

Lying that evening under a Jerusalem starry sky, upon a mattress on a rooftop, I felt peace. If I truly released my past from holding me by her clutches, or haunting me a further millisecond into the future, I had a life altering day. I clasped my hands together saying a mindful prayer, before falling into deep slumber. This action felt foreign, it felt comforting. I envisioned my gram winking her soft eyes upon my heart, from above. It’s moments like this, when traveling touches your soul, that are worth everything it took to get there.

The dark moment teetering between night and dawn, I packed and hit the streets. Shortly, a beautiful sunrise rose dusting across brick buildings, like a feather in Old City, Jerusalem. I walked toward the central bus station, surrounded by a soft hue, guiding my soul toward a much warmer future…

I Slept Under The Stars, On A Jerusalem Rooftop, Next To A Man With A Dolphin Tattoo

Sip Kosher wine, submerse toes into a Dead Sea bath, while I transport your imagination, beneath your yarmulke, to Jerusalem, Israel…

The driver signaled my stop, with his pointer through the rear view. Door ajar, my traveling soles touched Israeli soil, for the first time. Hardly a recognizable bus stop, tires pulled away, leaving my pack and I between a highway, and dusty car lot. Traveling solo, my goal was to find my hostel before nightfall. My pomegranate seed size clue at the intersection, in the heat of the Middle East, was a sign pointing toward Jerusalem. Neither in Kansas, nor Epcot, locals eyed me despite wearing a shirt my sister brought from India, attempting to blend, like layers of Baklava. On the contrary, I flashed like a tourist, with a flare upon my back.

The second bus transported me to the Jerusalem station. Schedules posted in Hebrew, cultural misunderstandings hindered further assistance. With the afternoon sun setting, reality sunk in I would have to find my hostel, via foot. Survival skills alert, I circled the station for a map. No luck. I pride myself in solving puzzles, without asking for assistance when possible, nor assuming locals will, or should communicate in English. Uneasiness crept in, unsure which direction to go. I thought about my Gram, trusting her prayers would protect, and walked into the dark, exceeding my comfort zone.

After some time, unknowingly I had meandered off the tourist track, warmest passerby, a skinny black cat that spooked. Purchasing an apple and water softened anxiety until a familiar insignia, Crowne Plaza appeared on a hilltop. Entering with confidence, retinas scanned the space, spotting a map. Taking it, I walked out briskly, before the doorman had reason to confront me. Score!

A map was all I needed.

My body fading, until comfort eased into nerves surrounded by a crowd, moving toward The Jaffa Gate. Families dressed to the T strolled sidewalks, pushing wide strollers, as siblings carried youngsters. Refreshingly, chain restaurants or anything familiar was nowhere in sight. Entering the castle-like entrance, I exhaled with relief, absolutely stunned by my coordinates. I was close, barring one final obstacle…my street was barricaded by police, with guns…
Jerusalem Jerusalem

My calves ached from walking a labyrinth of corridors, as if climbing a stepper in a gym, watching The Travel Channel. Expelling top mental energy, my thoughts weren’t as sharp as hours previous. Smaller cross streets became challenging to locate, young boys informed I head in opposing directions. One held my handshake uncomfortably long, until apparent I give him shekels. 4 hours of walking Israeli streets, I found my hostel, rarely this appreciative for a roof overhead.

I fell in love with the 700 year old curved stone architecture. I climbed my final incline, to my rooftop accommodation, (46 ILS/night – on that day, converted roughly @ $16.00 USD/night) was led to an available mattress, and set my pack down. My mandible dropped below Dead Sea level, in complete awe of the view. A magical moment flooded me with the reality of being right there, in The Holy City. A live band echoed through the warm breeze, folks danced on an adjacent rooftop. Savoring the moment, I stayed awake for a long time, studying the brain shaped moon. Cotton candy clouds covered stars, reminiscent of sailing the BVI.

I woke to Islamic prayers, echoing across the land at 0500. Bellowing like a megaphone an older brother would startle you with, I giggled, wondering if I could request they wait until 0600. Israeli moments later, sun rays danced across rooftop packs, and resting bodies from numerous time zones.
Morning view from my mattress accommodation, on a rooftop in Jerusalem!
Venturing downstairs in the wee hours, I researched the Dead Sea, and city tours. Then cuddling into a perfect writers nook, upon a red cushion against a stone wall, inspired, I wrote.
Perfect Writing Nook

I showered, literally, with a toilet, beneath water that never turned warm. Set out to explore, I found a breakfast nook, owner read me menu options, listed in Hebrew. Pigeons, a couple, and myself, the only motion above sedentary stones. I was sold on the omelet, sharing a plate with hummus, red cabbage, pickles, and tomatoes. Accompanied by hydrating freshly squeezed lemonade, with floating mint leaves.
Israeli Breakfast

A city tour led us through the four quarters, learning Muslim history while viewing symbols of Mecca. We passed a personal courtyard in the Armenian section, stunning Wailing Wall, in the Jewish quarter, and crosses for sale in a Christian marketplace.

Purchasing a salad, I ate in a square, witnessing locals, homeless and musicians. The world, despite her differences from what I witness, operates within a similar beating heart.

Following exploring the Zion gate surroundings, and viewing King David’s tomb, I returned to my hostel to rest my legs. Joining a German, I watched Obama’s Live United Nations speech. It was humbling to witness history regarding the surrounding countries, curious if the Iranian president and Obama would shake.

Overhead, police helis circled, while explosives echoed in the distance. Definitely not Sukkot celebratory fireworks, I climbed to the rooftop with naive curiosity. An employee informed if in immediate danger, sirens would alarm. Too close for comfort, but my eyes needed to be opened to a lifestyle surrounded by a hot zone. Curious how that might impact ones life, ironically I returned home with nightmares about guns.

The second night on the roof, a man on a mattress next to me slept, displaying a dolphin tattoo across his neck and forehead. Intrigued, I thought about the variety of stories and backgrounds of the 17 other travelers, on this very rooftop, who perhaps at the time were counting Israeli goats. Speaking of local animals, I slept like a snuggly lamb from Bethlehem, thanks to my Burton sleeper hoodie! (Highly recommended for any non-rev employee, excellent for napping anywhere in the world, including rooftops, terminals and middle seats.)

Despite a stressful job working the front lines of an airline, I had the opportunity to fly roundtrip/standby for $41.57 USD. Cheaper than going out to all the movies I watched inflight.

It was a trip worth all potential dangers, trumping previous trepidation to explore Israel alone. Friends; stay safe, be open to differences, and be good to one another.

Shalom.

Tip Jars Stress Me Out

Tip jars stress me out. They wink at my wallet, from unusual crannies, not excluding public restrooms. I feel pressure, when peeing, whether I will tip the attendant, when she hands me a towel. Anxiety rises to the brim, when paying for coffee. Do I tip all my change, or stay true to my finances? photo

My jobs provide perks, over fluffy checks. I have a pennies worth desire to climb corporate ladders, of assumed financial stability. I have seen folk with Benjamin deficit, when the market tanks, and fold like a bill when selling homes, which were rarely a depreciating asset.

I prefer adventures.

24 hour European treks, priceless ski days, afternoon naps in dollar green grass, and flexible work schedules. I don’t save nickels for homes, or sparkly coins.

I travel.

Now.

In a frugal, airline employee style. If I waited until retirement, it’s possible my dimes may not fall in a row. Perhaps, it not a recommended financially intelligent way to live, only tooth fairies know how long our quarters will glisten.

I cannot ignore tip jars advertising for college. College shaped me. I wish everyone to experience such opportunity. I understand the flip side of this tricky nickel, remembering my path, distinctly teetering, like a spinning coin, over which avenue to choose. I had little desire to spend additional time, calculating at a desk, until I was crammed, like a sardine, in our green and wood paneled station wagon, listening to my brothers spark, returning on holiday. It sounded so cool. I could feel his energy. Sense his growth. I wanted that, before I could pinpoint what it was, on an intellectual level.

Exploring Alabama, meandering to a beach, (my 49th visited United State!) I slowed my wheels, to purchase sunscreen. A little boy was sitting in extreme heat, with a plastic Halloween bucket, asking for change. It broke my traveling heart, looking into the face of such a young boy, asking so politely, with southern manners, and drawl.

Homeless hold torn signage at intersections, making me feel awkward, like crying during a Lifetime movie. Charity tins, at drug stores, with childrens’ photographs, unzip my change purse. Local fire departments scoop change from my dash, into oversized plastic boots. Can you say no to cute firemen, with shiny engines?!

Knowing how tricky it is to support oneself, if I can’t tip generously, I envision the employee, hungry, hoisting a baby upon their bony hip. Moral dilemmas remain ajar, most everywhere I venture. I prefer European style. Pay what the bill says. Period. No pressure, no math, no qualifying work quality. Simply, no added stress, following an evening of local fare and laughter.

I am generous when it comes to dining tips, but when handed an empty, environmentally unkind plastic cup for coffee, do I owe you for your efforts of simply moving your arm?

Charity disbursement is confusing. I’m not sure who is legit, or whom I am truly helping. Tell me friends, what side of this coinage conundrum do you find yourselves? I get overwhelmed.

I want to help others along my journey, but I also wish to protect my personal long term investment, which is my heart, growth and adventures…

%d bloggers like this: