Well, it has been 14 months since I started on my Round-the-World journey. I hope you enjoyed some of the experiences I was so fortunate to share with you. I feel blessed and amazed when you tell me something that I wrote impacted you and that you care to read some of my stories and even make a small change to make the world a better place (see Pineapples post) And even though I did a lot of really cool stuff alone, by getting to tell and retell the stories, I am enjoying the experiences all over again. Thank you.
Walking down a dirt road on the outskirts of the capital city, Kathmandu, Nepal. I met these boys coming the opposite way. We spoke English for a few minutes and I answered their questions about “America”.
I must admit, one of the times I had the most laugh-out-loud fun, was in a sex-toy shop in Amsterdam. One of the positive aspects of traveling alone is that I did not have to worry about what other people thought. In my regular life, I would be too embarrassed to go into a sex shop. It was very liberating to be able to go somewhere so far outside my comfort zone. (I was raised in the midwest and people would say I am conservative when it comes to certain subjects). Ha!
I wasn’t sure exactly what they were selling, but shopping is shopping, right?
Funny Men’s Underwear
sex toy shop
The store manager opened some of the boxes and took out the *ahem, “anatomically correct models” so I could snap a photo to show everybody back home. You would not believe the products available for purchase!
This was quite an unusual (to me) machine.
I cannot imagine who would use some of these contraptions… wait a minute… now that I know what some of those things are, yes I can. Remember the saying “Ignorance is Bliss”? This is a good example.
Anyway, we opened the boxes, took out some (life-size and larger than life-sized)…replicas… and….were howling with laughter.
The other customers were smiling and laughing with us, they were enjoying how much fun we were having comparing the attributes of various “models” for comparison. Since you are reading this story, you must have a great imagination, so I will let you use it. Besides, your imagination is better than anything I write.
So, what is next for for me you ask?
Short term goals- get my stories and thoughts written on the blog, and keep working on the other creative projects, while deciding on next steps career-wise. Of course, my family comes first and I have been enjoying their companionship these last few weeks. I am very proud of both of my incredibly gifted daughters. They are each early in their careers, and have someone special in their lives. They don’t need me like they did when they were young children. Technology is amazing isn’t it? A person is only a phone call, a text, an e mail away, even though physically, they could be on the other side of the world. I saw each of my children more often while I was on the go, than I did when working and living in the USA.
Dream Goal – go on Ellen show, Oprah, and the talk show circuit. I would like to try being a guest host or being a field partner traveling abroad and interviewing interesting people and introducing them to the viewers.
Spinning wool, while sitting outside and not missing what happening. (Plus, there was no electricity) Nepal.
and writing and sharing their stories.
Admire helps cook a delicious breakfast in Zimbabwe.
This is part of creating the life I want to live. While traveling, I learned a whole lot of other rules to live by.
I found that people like a rickshaw driver in India lives in the moment. He worked so hard, pedaling a rickshaw with people in it, and received about 50 cents. With that money, he probably bought food to eat. Once he had energy again, he would find another customer and the continue the circle. This is a person who really lives in the moment. In the USA, many of us are living in the future. We think about how to save enough money for retirement, or college, or other large expenses. We worry about not having enough money for a rainy day. I have decided there must be a happy medium somewhere between living from meal to meal, to living 20 years in the future. I must admit though, that I am still defining what that means in my personal life.
At a temple in Thailand
The future of this blog: short term; my plan is to get the stories down, and to post more often.
Sometimes I will revisit a story and improve the writing- but you may not realize it. One of the things I am continuing to learn is blogging and improving my writing. So, if a story interests you and you want more details, just send me with a short note in the comments section (like Pam- tell me more about Zimbabwe and the family home you visited).
This kind Zimbabwe woman invited me to her home. I asked how she was able to tie the baby on her back, so she demonstrated. 11 people lived here.
Or about Rhinos…
The birds get a free ride while they eat the bugs and insects off the rhinos.
Long term, the stories in this blog will be part of a bigger series, part of a book and maybe, just maybe, part of a Hollywood Blockbuster movie.
By the way, who do you think should play me on the big screen?
For Non- Americans; that is slang to say “Which Hollywood Actress should play the part of Momstaxi / Pam?” I am thinking Annette Bening.
I have heard that Nepal is one of the top 5 places in the world to Paraglide. Each morning as I sat on the flat roof of my hotel eating breakfast, I saw up to 49 paragliders circling a nearby peak (about 3,000 ft. above sea level, and probably about 1 mile higher that I was sitting).
So, for about $85 for a 20-30 minute flight, or $115 for a 40-60 minute flight, + $20 for a video and photos, I signed up. In Nepal, piloting a paraglider is a good job. The pilots get to do what they love, and they make about $150 per week, $500-$600 per month. I requested the longer flight, and they asked me to pay at the end, because it depended on the weather as to how long the paragliding would last.
Paragliding depends on heat thermals. The sunshine heats up the air, hot air rises in columns, and the chute rises higher. It also glides down at 3 feet per second, so the goal is for the pilot to watch the gliding birds to find the thermals, and continue to go up, up, up. The pilot also has an instrument that beeps when it is in warmer air, the faster the beeps, the better the thermal. I could hear the beeping, but did not see the small instrument attached to the pilot.
Once I filled out the paperwork (next of kin information and weight – I was honest), about 12 passengers piled into a van with the pilots, and we drove up the mountain to the takeoff site.
I was assigned a senior Romanian pilot named Toni. In the winter he comes to Nepal to instruct paragliding and to take tourists on a tandem flights. In the summer, he has a paragliding business in Romania. Toni once flew across Romania from north to south and was airborne for 6 hours 45 minutes. Toni has been flying for 10 years, so I felt pretty comfortable flying with him.
Ok, let’s be real and I will rephrase that. I felt as comfortable as one could feel, knowing that I was going to run off a cliff with a stranger attached to my waist, and hope that a large piece of fabric was in good operating order.
The chute was interesting to see up close. At the top front, it actually has a sort of baffling for the air to pass through.
The harness wrapped around my waist and legs like the outline of a diaper made of heavy-duty straps, and something square bumped against my bum with each step as I walked across the grassy and rocky takeoff field. I wasn’t sure how this contraption would fit on my body once I was airborne, but figured it would all make sense soon.
While I was walking to the takeoff area, my arms carried and held the straps near my chest, because the harness dangled around my knees and it was difficult to walk with everything banging against me. I felt like a teenage boy with the baggy pants around his knees, holding his pants up so he could walk without tripping.
My heart beat faster as Toni clipped himself to me, and clipped the chute to us, and he told me that when he counted to 3 that I should start running. My intellect asked a bunch of questions. Since I was in front and was shorter than him so ran with smaller strides, would he step on me and we would both fall down? What if we ran out of field to run in and reached the cliff? What if I twisted my ankle on the rocky slope? How fast was he going to count? Was it going to be 1…2…3… then run, or 1,2,3 start running? So I replied “ok”. I figured that he had done this long enough that I should trust him. If I sprained an ankle, than that was a problem I would worry about when it was time to land.
Note: I am practicing living the in the moment. Most of the things we worry about don’t come to pass anyway, and this situation was no different.
Toni said we were going to wait for the wind. After 10 or 15 seconds I heard his a beeping from the wind measuring instrument, a felt a breeze coming from behind, and he said “get ready…1..2..3” .
I started running. At first we ran about 5 feet. That must have been when the chute lifted off the ground, just like when starting to fly a kite. The chute lifted and pulled me back into a stationary position, and Toni said keep running. My feet ran and ran, we pulled the chute with us and all of a sudden the chute lifted us both off the ground, and my feet kept cycling until we passed over the cliff and were soaring like a bird.
My heart was still beating fast, but not because I was afraid, as much as because it was so spectacular. The wind rushing by was noisy in my ears, like riding in a car with the windows down, and the view was like looking out of a low flying plane, except that we had nothing around us. We were just surrounded by the air, and the outdoors, and the whole world.
Then my brain caught up and reminded me that I was in the air, sitting on a cushion (ahhh, so that is what the thing was that kept bumping into my behind), and holding on to nothing but a couple of mesh straps. It felt like being on a swing, dangling from heaven.
The scenery was beautiful. I could see terraces of rice and fields built into the mountains, which I did not previously realize were there. As we sank lower, I could see the homes,yards, and even the clothes hanging to dry in the sun on clotheslines.
The trees got closer and closer to our bodies and as comfortable as they looked to land on, my brain reminded me of how hard the branches were and the scratchy twigs that would cause really bad damage to a human body that dared to get too close. Then we were going up, up, up again as Toni steered right and we circled, rising in the column of warm air. His meter beeped faster, and my legs felt warmer as we rose up in a thermal.
Being with so many other flyers, my biggest fear now was that we would crash into someone else. It seemed Toni’s concern as well, as he called out to a beginner who was lower than us to “look above, look above”.
We continued to rise very, very high. Up and Up we went, until we were higher than everyone else. Even the large birds, were lower than us. We were higher than anything I could see in the sky. We were specks in the sky. I couldn’t believe we were so high, and my heart beat faster again.
Funny how the body reacts. My brain knew it didn’t matter how high we were, if we fell, it would be certain death, but the higher above the mountain I got, the more tightly I held the straps.
Eventually, I was able to let go of the straps for a few seconds, but the sensation was like the nightmares I had as a child, riding an amusement ride where the door opened, and I plummeted through the air until I woke up with adrenaline rushing through my body. So, I continued to tightly hang on to the straps while enjoying the sensation of freedom. I felt comforted as we descended when I could feel the pilot’s leg muscles moving as he steered the chute to the right or left while catching another thermal and we rose higher and higher again.
Toni looked for the large birds who rarely flapped their wings and rode the thermals. The birds that flew right past us were Egyptian Vultures and had a wingspan of about as long as my arms. They are scavengers and cannot waste their energy flapping their wings, so they soar on thermals until they find something to eat. The vultures did not seem to mind all of us flying with them, and it was a thrill to see them fly toward us and pass us by, like we were just another colorful bird just soaring along with them.
Once my time was up, we headed toward the lakeside toward one of the landing areas. Toni had told the pick up van the location he planned to land, but commented that he hoped they were paying attention to his particular chute because we were going to the other, further away landing spot and he did not want us to have to take a cab back.
I could see the grassy area next to the lake where the paragliders landed, as well as some cows, water buffalo and horses grazing nearby. The ground where people landed was pretty flat and the grass was really short, so the animals were nearby, but out-of-the-way.
As we approached the landing site, Toni told me shake out my feet, shake my legs to get them ready for the landing, after all I had been just sitting for the last half hour, enjoying the scenery, and needed to prepare to stand up again. He told me bend my legs and keep my feet up, and to only put them down when he told me to.
He asked if I would like to do some acrobatics on the way down, so of course I said yes. When else would I ever have the chance again? He asked me to tell him if I started to not feel good, or dizzy to let him know right away. I promised I would not vomit on him.
He turned us faster and faster, first tilting to one side with our legs hanging out, then turning us the other way. I could feel the G-force on my stomach and the centrifugal forces spinning us. It was fun for a short time, and we descended quickly, much faster than the 3 feet per second while just gliding.
The ground approached – FAST, I pulled up my feet and again trusted (and hoped) that Toni knew what he was doing. He feet touched the ground, he told me to stand up, and we landed while running a few steps. He quickly unbuckled my straps, we moved to the side and he packed up the chute for the next passenger.
All in all, it was exhilarating, but not such an adrenaline rush as I expected. Surprisingly, my arms were stiff and tired more than anything else because they were hanging on so tight. I would definitely do it again and probably will at the next opportunity.
After spending several days in Singapore, I decided to take a quick trip to Bali. From Singapore there are a lot of cheap flights to many places, so, when I saw a round trip ticket to Bali for under $200, I booked it. All I knew about Bali was that people talk about the spectacular beaches, and everyone who has visited there talks about how great it is. Good enough for me.
I decided to spend my 3 days in Ubud, the cultural center of Bali and about 1.5 hours from the beach. The city is quite famous for artists, yoga, and mediation. It turns out that this is the place the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” came and that also means that tourism has skyrocketed and the infrastructure has not kept up- but that is a different story.
Artists from all over Indonesia bring their crafts to sell here so there are fantastic paintings, carvings in wood and stone, mosaics, silversmiths, jewelry etc.
While researching what I was going to do, I found a blog article that referred to a painting lesson. (http://www.thiswaytoparadise.com/learn-how-to-paint-in-bali ) Painting Lesson? Yay! I have started to paint in the last 1.5 years and would love to have a lesson. So, I got in touch with the artist and arranged to go to his studio for a lesson.
Lucky me- it turned out to be a private lesson, and I learned a new technique. His goal was for me to have fun painting and to learn something as well. Here are the results.
The Beginning of a Masterpiece
The completed Masterpiece
If you are ever in Bali and would like a lesson, his details are:
One of the experiences on my bucket List was to try a fish spa – you know, the one where you put your feet into a tank of water with live fish . The fish eat the calluses and dead skin. I got the opportunity to try this in Thailand while sharing the experience with my Aunt Peggy who joined me.
There are plenty of massage places and plenty of spas in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but not as many that have the fish spa. We walked past 7 or 8 massage places and several blocks before finding one that had fish. I have heard that the USA does not allow this kind of spa because of disease. I don’t know what kind of diseases, but my opinion is that many things are over regulated and this is probably worth the risk. I did not have any open wounds, grew up swimming in lakes and ponds, and the fish would come along and nibble a freckle, so how much different could this be? Of course, I reserve the right to change my opinion if I start growing scales and fins.
Once we found the fish spa, we took off our shoes before entering the small shop. Thailand is very clean indoors, and a person is expected to remove their shoes and leave at the entrance in many places, including hotels, temples, museums, spas and private homes. The massage lady proceeded to hose off our feet – probably to protect the fish from who knows what as well as to keep the tanks clean.
In this spa there were 2 large fish tanks. Each was a rectangular shape, about 6 feet long and 1.5 feet wide, and about 100 gallons .
The tanks were very clean; there was no algae anywhere to be seen in the tank, there was no fish poop or food laying at bottom of the tanks, and each tank had a bubbler / aerator, which was quite a soothing noise. It sounded like a waterfall. Along the length of the tank was a padded bench against the wall where we sat with our pants rolled up to our knees. It just looked like hundreds of fish in a tank.
We put our feet into the cold water. Dozens of minnow-sized fish swam right up to the buffet – our feet, ankles, and even legs! and attached themselves by their mouths. At first it was weird and I squealed. We could feel the fish touching everywhere that was under the water surface. Then we could feel them nibbling between our toes, and swimming between our toes, with both sides of their bodies sliding along each toe.
Peggy wouldn’t look at her own feet but was not bothered one bit by looking at mine which were covered in black fish. After getting used to the idea of dozens of black minnows that looked like leeches stuck to our feet it rather tickled as the fish hung on by their mouths while their bodies undulated.
The fish looked like they may have been bottom dweller types, the minnows that were not eating stuck to the sides of the tanks, like snails.
The feasting fish was a sensation unlike any I have had before. Looking through the tank from my vantage point above, it looked like what I imagined a bunch of leeches would look like, dozens hanging from their mouths, each minnow was about ½ inch long and felt like my feet were vibrating.
If I moved my feet the fish would swim away then come back for a second serving. We sat here for 30 minutes and when our time was up – the fish were still everywhere, our feet were really really soft. Peggy noticed a callus at the end of a toe was gone, but another was still there.The end result was my feet were incredibly soft all over and I would and probably will do it again.
This is part of my bucket list in no particular order. I expect to check off quite a few on the RTW trip. I love adding to the list so feel free to make suggestions, I may do it.
Ride a camel though a desert
Visit an Oasis
Walk on a Glacier – done March 2014 in Iceland
See how Artisan Cheese is made
Swing on trapeze by my knees
Ride a dogsled
See a Viking Ship
Visit a Feeding Station
Visit a displaced persons camp
Understand some of the effects of Chernobyl – on hold this trip because of conflict in the Ukraine
Build a terrarium
Write a book – in process
Write a blog – in process
Learn another language
Learn flamenco dance
Tango in Argentina
Go Whale watching
Meet an elephant – done Africa 2014, Asia 2015
Wrestle an Alligator (small enough that I can win)
Volunteer at an orphanage
Fly on a trapeze
Learn to juggle
Learn to Tap dance – In process 2015
Touch a penguin
Catch an armadillo
Try a pedicure where the fish nibble your feet – done Thailand 2015
Surf done Australia 2015
See the Northern Lights – attempted 2x March 2014, but not successful yet
Smoke weed at a coffee shop in Amsterdam – done April 2014 (and it was really fun)
Explore the red light district in Amsterdam – done April 2014
Ride an Icelandic horse and try the gait “tolt” – done March 2014
Visit the “Wilds of Scotland” – done April 2014. If a person enjoys hiking, I highly recommend it- but bring a warm coat, gloves and rain gear.
Get to meet a Scottish person – done April 2014, rode in a car for 7 hours from the North of Scotland to Edinburgh. Lucky for me, she worked in the environmental field and could answer all my questions about the landscape, the animals (saw sheep, goats crossing the road so we had to stop, some castles that were in ruins), and the attitudes of work life balance. It was fun to see the look of amazement, the exclamations of shock and disbelief when she learned that we Americans only get 2 weeks of vacation per year. Europeans start with 5 weeks, sometimes 6. She (and others I have mentioned this too) can not understand how we have time to relax and enjoy life. Neither can I.
Climb to the top of Arthur’s See (one of the mountains of Great Britain)- done March 2014
See how royalty lives – done March 2014 (explored the Royal Britannia, the former yacht that the British Royal family sailed).
Meet a Pygmy
try Hot Yoga
Go on African Safari done Zimbabwe, Botswana 2014
Visit Hong Kong
Walk on the Great Wall of China
Visit Israel – done April 2014
Ride a bike on the Road of Death in Bolivia
Swim in the Dead Sea – done April 2014
Visit a former Concentration Camp – done June 2014
Visit every continent
Go to 100 different countries
Ride in a helicopter – done Zimbabwe July 2014
Spend the night on a private yacht
Snorkel The Great Barrier Reef done 2015- It was like swimming in an aquarium
Explore Pompeii – done Nov. 2014
Climb an Active Volcano – done Nov. 2014
Paint a Large Canvas
Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square, NYC
Get photo taken with Snoop Dogg
Meet a sitting U.S. President
Visit Churchill Manitoba (Canada) to see the polar bears
Create a monster from paper mache
Host a fancy formal dinner party (with decorations, fancy napkins etc) Done 2014
Fly on a private jet
Throw a pot while using a pottery wheel
Try glass blowing
Build a brand
Ride horses on a working ranch
Learn spreadsheet computer program
Make a movie
Write a comedy sketch
Write and perform a Stand Up Comedy Act – Done Sept. 2015
Write a non fiction book – in process
Write a novel – in process
Learn to cook better – in process
Ski the Alps
Ride with Gouchos in Argentina
Visit the Atacama Desert
See the Tulips in Holland done 2014
Ride a camel in a desert
learn to whistle
learn how to play bridge (card game)
learn how to play mahjong
own/ wear a pair of custom made shoes
own/ wear pair of cowboy boots
try fly fishing
try herding cattle on a real ranch
visit Grand Canyon
Visit Bryce Canyon,
Visit Yosemite National Park
Visit Glacier National Park – before it melts!
vacation on a houseboat
wear a bikini and feel confident
watch sea turtles nest
watch baby sea turtles hatch and go to the water
attend costume party – Done Halloween 2015 and won 2nd place for favorite costume
Go on Round the World trip – Done 2014-2015
Raft and camp through the Grand Canyon
Explore the Amazone
Explore Galapogos Islands
Learn a dance
Stay overnight in cottages overlooking water in Bora Bora