Wednesday, August 31, 2011

YOSEMITE – The Sierras & John Muir

Everyone kept telling me Yosemite is great and I tried hard to keep my expectations low. The scenery is amazing and happy I visited. It’s a different landscape from the oh so many amazing national parks we have. This is National Park #16 on this trip and 26 total. There are 58 national parks in the US. 

Watching the national park series was such a great American history lesson. I recommend watching the first one at least. There are so many outstanding people and even politicians and rich folks that fought hard and long to preserve these parks for us to enjoy. One of the many reasons I am thankful for being here today. 

On a side note, I realized that Chris brings out my weirdness. I was goofy as a kid and feel comfortable being silly around him. He gets my jokes and we have fun going off weird side discussion tangents. We were high school friends back in NY, lost touch for 10 years and discovered via mutual friend and facebook that we live in PDX. Yup another crazy friendship connection story. 

One discussion example: Chris mentions he likes watching survival shows to know what to do and how to avoid death. But if you are always on the couch watching, you still can die I tell Chris. Glad I got to spend time in such a great park w/ one of my closest friends.  Click here for some awesome pix.

Sunny & Foggy Days in the Bay Area

After Redwoods, Chris drove 6 hours to Oakland. My cs friend Casey is hosting us for 2 nights. I hosted Casey in PDX last Sept while he visited for a tango event and I even gave tango a try. Went to Triple Rock Brewery in Berkley, walked the campus then headed to a German restaurant in Alameda for awesome pork chops. 
Next day, Casey drove us in the city while he did some work. Chris and I toured by the water, up to Cloit Tower, down to North Beach (little Italy), awesome Dim sum for lunch in China town. Chinatown in SF is one of the best in the states.
Casey took us to Haight St., Golden Gate Bridge Park, Sutro Baths, and a dive bar for Cajun chicken fingers. Chris was knackered. Casey was a fabulous guide. His roomie had a sweet pitbull that only eats raw food , including meat. This was our only non-camping break, we slept on the floor; 2 nights out of 14. Off the Yosemite NP we go!

This was 5th time here and though brief, it was great. This is Chris’s first time in Cali! Click here for pix.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oregon Coast & CA Redwoods Park

I took a full day to go though, resort my boxes and give more things away. Still hard to do when not knowing my next steps. But it is ok. It was like xmas seeing my old fun clothes and jewelery. Also fun to pack for my future "homes" in AK & HI.  Next day on Wed am, Chris and I headed south to begin our 2 week CA road trip.

Next two days got up before 7am to go to the next campsite since we did not have reservations. The Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park was full so we headed towards Gold Bluff Beach, with 2 spots left and one was in a nice isolated area.

One day we woke up naturally at 8am and stayed put 2 nights, which was nice but still nackered by the end of the day. Lots of great trees to explore. I have done this drive about 6 years ago from PDX to San Diego but in 6 days. I don't recall much of it and was not into digi film yet, so its been nice taking the time to enjoy this beautiful place. This is my 2nd National Park that I have revisited there's just too many!

Traveling w/ Chris has been fun talking about our old high school days in NY. Chris has never been in CA and does not travel a whole lot so he is learning as we go.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Seattle Part 2: Beer, Mt. Rainier finally & Brasil

I met up with Greg D. for a beer when he rolled into town. Yup, our paths keep crossing. What’s even crazier is in Dec Greg visited me in PDX then went to Vegas for a race. I met Kawika in HI just after he finished the same race. Just crazy how people end up in the same places at the same time and never meet.

I also learned that my brother arrived in Seattle the same night I did, but only stayed a night for work. If only he kept up with my schedule and facebook! Oh well.  

I visited the Redhook Ale Brewery tour w/ Greg & Sally.  Next day Kawika and I woke up at 6:30am to go to Mt. Rainier NP. Last day we check out Brasil Fest.

Next two days are not happy ones. I am going to PDX to take care of “business”; the dreaded boxes I stored w/ a friend who is leaving PDX. I am re-storing them and downsizing some more. Hard to do as I am still not sure what I am doing after my NYC Oct visit and if my AK/HI dream will come true.  On 8/17 Chris W. & I head down to CA for a 2 week camping road trip! Then back to PDX for 2 weeks! Click here for more pix.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Seattle Part 1 – Familiar Faces in a Familiar Place

I am staying now with Kawika, whom I met in Dec in a Hawaiian airport. He was also in Juneau briefly while I was there and we met for a drink. It’s been wicked cool getting to know him as we have tons in common. I also have a few acquaintances to meet up with while I'm here.

I’ve been to Seattle a hand full of times for work, but never got to explore it much. I am also using this time to catch up on “work” - blog, photos, laundry, research, life planning. Yeah, I have a lot of work ahead of me. I was hoping to cacth up on sleep, but Kawika operates on 4-5 hrs.
So far highlights of my time here: seeing familiar faces - a member from my old job in NYC, former colleauge at MN, newly homeless guy I met while picking up trash, troll under the bridge, running into a guy who rode my bus in PDX to/from work (yeah crazy run in). Going to the Ballard Locks.
 I am here for a few more days and will do a part 2 posting. Click here for more pix. 

Alternative Life Styles

It’s been such a wonderful experience meeting so many different people and learning how they live. Life does not have to be a 9-5 workday with weekends to do errands and have just a few hrs. for fun. There are many opportunities, you just need to GO out and explore them. Take a RISK; no one said life is easy and nothing is a guarantee. 
 Yes, some people are lucky to have great paying jobs; they can travel extensively, comfy and afford to have multiple houses, etc. But there are others who work hard and earn less, yet still enjoy their lives by making small sacrifices to “have it all”. You can be happy with less, just need to discover what makes you happy and do what it takes to get there. "The best things in life, are not things."

Living in AK or any remote place w/ extreme weather is not easy but people make it and they are happy. They want the outcome badly and will endure the process to get it. The good is really good and the bad is bad. I want the sustainable benefits and simple life, but it is not so simple to obtain. I can’t imagine doing hard labor every day. This is why most of us opt to pay others for such services (to do the dirty work) such as building a house, setting up plumbing and heat, growing veggies, raising animals, filleting the fish, etc.

I never thought I would be a non-city person. Gosh, I have changed so much as I was so into clothing and fashion in my teenage years. Maybe I over dosed on the city life :) Cities have lots of distractions. I find that having less distractions in a small town has given me more TIME. The time I was seeking to enjoy nature and this life we have on this planet.  Certainly, Alaska and this way of living is not for all. Once we are in a city and accustomed to that beat, we don’t give another lifestyle a second thought or even a first. But that's ok, gives us wild people more nature to enjoy :)

No photo album here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How can I do this Trip?

People ask me how I can afford to travel so extensively. There’s three major things at play here:
1. I saved and saved since I have been working at age 14. I remember my dad saying that my paycheck goes into the bank and cash from babysitting can be spent. I ran home almost everyday after HS to babysit from 3-8pm. I was like a part-time mom.  I also worked night shifts and weekends at a health club. I think the longest I did not work in my lifetime might have been two months. 
2. Don’t spend: I had a TV but no channels, I cooked at home almost always bringing leftovers to work, did not own grown up toys like a play station, etc, buy second hand or hand me downs, even stopped going out to bars, if I go out has to be happy hour, don’t get my nails done, don’t drink coffee, etc. I carried my own water and snacks all the time. It really adds up and I if I buy new gear it should be on sale/discount.  I don’t go to malls, I don’t shop for things I do not need. I never owned a home, I don't have kids. I don’t exchange xmas presents (the gift is chillin together). I feel that being “green” into the environment, you real do spend less.
People tell me they wish they had money to travel, but it really is priorities. If you have a job, you have money. How you CHOOSE to spend that money is up to YOU. Traveling was more important to me than having the sports channel available. It really is a state of mind. 

3. I not only lived cheaply when I had a job, but I travel real cheap always. The flights I take are not friendly hours. I do rideshares online with strangers. I balance food out w/ trying to be healthy and try to get only what I need (so no candy or treats). Good gear at a reasonable price is needed, but I have yet to pay for a place to stay on this trip (besides camp fees) thanks to friends, couch surfing, friends of friends and even strangers. I also did 9 weeks of wwoofing; they provide room and board in exchange for work, which helps. But all that said, u have to be ok w/ roughin it, not showering much, sleeping wherever, and carrying your bags. You have to be open, flexible, and adaptable. I love traveling this way as you really meet people. I don’t like hostels, which I use to travel vs hotels back in the day.

All this has brought me to the point in my life that I never thought was possible to reach. I have developed and grown so much and the PEOPLE on this trip have made this all possible. If i did not travel this way I would not have met so many rad people. This time I have given myself TIME, I am connected to nature and see it in a new way; it's an extra sense. It's not just luck; it really is a state of mind. Be open and kind and you will attract those who are open and kind. Pretty simple to me :)

Back to the US & mainland-Agh – Olympic National Park-YAY

On my way to WA, US Border control asked me why I visited Canada. Me: Visiting friends.  Him: who are these friends? Me: hum one is a photographer, etc. Him: no, not what they do, who are they? Me: Hum, Lisa, Deniz, etc. Him: How did u met them? Me: Hum, you know how u just meet people and make friends, like that. Oh yeah one is a friend of a friend. Him: Ok...... I thought to myself, I better not mention couch surfing or I just met people on the wharf, etc….Man, such an odd exchange! But when u think about how we make friends, for the most part we were strangers at first and met randomly and then became friends.....
Speaking of friends, Pete, a friend I met years ago in PDX through mutual friends, came to Port Angels to get me and do a quick day trip. I thought man if Pete does not make it for some reason I would be stranded there.....Pete moved to seattle recently for work & we wanted to check out Olympic National Park. Yeah sadly, only a day & mine started at 5am, but it was gorgeous. so hard to capture the beauty, but i tried! 

I think this is the only NP I visited 2x. I was here 5 yrs ago when I first moved to PDX w/o a job, but had my 2 dogs w/ me so could not hike :( Click here for pix.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Warf Friends - luv yourself, luv your LIFE!! you will be surrounded & overwhelmed by LUV

The wharf and sea were calling me. I saw it from afar & felt I had to visit one dock in particular. A lady came out of one of the floating houses that I just took a photo of & started talking. It was 1pm & she had a few drinks, but she was harmless & so entertaining. After an hr, we went inside for a few drinks. 5 hrs later I had to meet up w/ Gerard for dinner. Again, nice not to have such a fix schedule :)

I befriended the two French-Canadians (J & P) who built & live on the houseboat. They have been working & living by the sea for 27 years. P. is considered the mayor of the 33 residents on the wharf.

I ended up not going to Orcas Island  (giving me an extra 3 days here), since I did not know anyone in Orcas, not many couchsurfers there, no car, & ferry gets you in at 11pm. I therefore couch surfed at the French Connection w/o using the cs website.

That is actually how P. ended up living here. He was just visiting, met some people, extended his stay & just stayed. J. took me for an awesome, long day starting at 6am, driving around the island, visiting friends, sites and a killer pricey steak w/ a view (even though it was lunch at 6pm). My luck just keeps on going, but it is not just luck.

Oh yeah almost forgot  J's van totally broke down in the middle of the highway, but we scooted to the right to get out of the way. A friend drove over w/ some water & oil. Though it was a bigger problem but  got us 20 mins down to his other friends house then got a lift back home.

It was truly like I was seeing a tv show, but it was real and happening to me. The best channel ever! P. said he would be happy to see me on the couch when he woke instead of J. taking me to catch the 610am ferry. It’s so nice to have people want u to stay longer and breaks my heart to have to leave each time. Click here for pix

British Island – Victoria, BC

I decided after much debate to visit touristy Victoria on Vancouver Island. I heard it is pretty but I worried it would be all show and not my cup of tea. It is known for its British influence and style, but not sure what the whole story is there.I also heard it is nice if u have a  car to check out more of the big island, which I did not rent.

A friend in Vancouver, Eugenia, whom I unfortunately I missed as she was out of town recommended I stay w/ her friend Gerard. I had no plans or expectations here, which I find is always best. 

He was super nice to pick me up at the ferry, gave me a quick tour of downtown via his motorbike and a great dinner. Seems like we were old friends. He also just got back from spending a few months in Europe. What a trooper to host and show me around!

I walked around on my own for the first two days as Gerard had work and life to catch up on. It was nice to have some alone time again, be alone w/ my thoughts as I have so much to process.  I am very glad I came to visit here as you can't go by people's advice for anywhere. It's all opinionated and you really make your own trip! There's a part 2 to this story that I need to work on... Click here for pix.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

City & Beach Life- Vancouver

From Bellingham, WA I took the 2hr train ride to Vancouver, BC to visit some friends. I discovered not only was it pride weekend, but it was also a providence holiday. So lots more people than normal. Vancouver is a very touristy place, so many international visitors and international transients, more than NYC. It’s kinda cool in that regard but kinda odd as there’s no unity or community feeling. It was a huge shock coming from remote places and islands of AK. People are very pretty and fashionable here, kinda makes me ill how consumerism focus it is. But I faired well.

First, I stayed w/ Lisa, whom I met through Greg D. & wwoofed and traveled w/ in UT in April. It was great seeing her, especially since she is moving back to Aussie in 2 weeks. Then I stayed w/ a cs friend, Deniz, whom I met 3 years ago here.

It was nice to be w/ familiar faces. Though I am not alone much when traveling, the conversations tend to repeat & there’s never enough time to know each other. I am excited to visit more friends in Seattle & PDX. Even though friends will want to hear about my travels, I hope to have regular friendship talks like the old days.

I stayed a day longer than planned to enjoy the sunny days at the park and the largest, clothing optional Wreck beach. It was cool to see people so relaxed and not caring a world about how they looked. Very free indeed. Deniz & I rode bikes there; its been a yr since I rode and awesome to go down hills!

Click here for pix.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Alaska - Things I am told and Observed

AK has one of the highest suicide rates and domestic violence per capita, I am told while discussing the hardships they endure during the winter. Also don’t expect much kindness during the winter time here; people’s moods and attitudes are not the same as they are in the summer time.   

AK has the highest alcoholism per capita. Therefore, bars are not allowed to have any happy hours or “ladies night” type deals.
60% of the population changes every ten years. 

Hardly anything is made here, even their oil is sent to refineries in WA. Not sure why this is so!

If u live here full time, good idea to have your own float plan or at least a boat.

People here go to bars a lot to drink as a social function. They have been cooped up in their homes all winter long. Also most homes are small, making it hard to throw parties. In Spring, they are super stoked and love to talk to people.

Common question asked, what time is it. don’t wear a watch and it is so easy to loose sense of time with day light. Right after solstice, which was 6/21, they started saying summer is over and dreading the decrease in daylight.

Education in remote villages has always been important and still is for natives in AK. If you are a teacher looking for a job, come up. If you have a nonprofit background, come up. I hear they pay well. I guess people don’t think to move to AK for such work. It’s more than just timber, fishing, and oil. We also have a very distorted view of AK. It’s not all bears and snow.  
 The town of Chase is only accessible by train or a 15-mile hike. AK is the only state u can still flag down a train to stop.

Met some people from Anchorage who are in a kayaking club at Holgate Glacier. One guy told me he is going to Nome to scuba dive for 5 days and dive for gold. An ounce of gold is $1,500. I love all the little AK stories I am told. So many different activities and way of living up here.

AK is not only rich in oil, gold (past), beauty, mts, fish, bears and other wildlife and sea life, but also rich in spirit. There’s something in the air that is impossible to describe as one must feel it for themself.

Since the 70s, marijuana has been legal to home grow and have 3 oz; it was a Supreme Court ruling that it is our right to privacy. Can’t smoke on streets or sell in large quantities. Although laws are getting laxed for medical use in CA, OR and CO. I always thought it was odd that pot is illegal as I find cigarettes and alcohol more harmful medically, physically, and socially. 

Yurts are popular here: preschool, summer homes, and year round homes full time.  

I am excited to see where I will end up, been this way before my journey. Though I had a viable plan to relocate to HI, I joking told people “watch me end up in Alaska:. Never imagined that could happen as I have been wanting to move near a beach since I was 18! I really had no expectation of AK and did not know much besides the typical warnings of bears, cold, and huge mosquitoes.

  Just for Fun:
- When people visit friend’s places and they ask to use the restroom, they are asking to use the shower.
- A friend said to me " the women are the true gold around here". There's like a 4:1 ratio, so single ladies, come on up!
No photo album link with this post.