The Places We Should Not Go

Take a look at the State Department’s Information Sheets for each of the world’s countries, and you may want to never leave your home. Should you leave the friendly (?) confines of the United States, you will likely be robbed, raped, stabbed, shot, and then buried in an unmarked grave. You may also be the target of a terrorist event, particularly in Europe, where, I quote “open borders…allow the possibility for terrorist groups to enter/exit the country with anonymity.” Even in countries that seem relatively benign, the alarmist State Department can come up with something for you to worry about. For instance, did you know that when in Austria, you “should be particularly careful not to leave valuables at [your] table while serving [yourself] from the breakfast buffet”?

Sure, the State Department has a responsibility to alert U.S. citizens to the threats that may face when traveling, but shouldn’t the warnings come with a reality check? After all, the same exact things are just as likely (if not more likely) to happen to you while you’re in America. In case, you weren’t aware our crime rate is relatively high, particularly in our cities, and our rate of gun crime is, in fact, much higher than it is in many other countries. A few months ago, my friend Jessica met a British guy at a restaurant here in DC who was absolutely convinced he was going to be shot while here. I’ve lived here nearly four years now and never once thought that, nor really ever felt even remotely unsafe. But, hey, if you look at the DC murder numbers without any context, you might be fearful too. Too bad the State Department doesn’t do an information sheet for the U.S. That would certainly be interesting.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a laugh-in-the-face of danger kind of girl. I have no wild desire to go anywhere where my life would be in real danger. But as I plan this trip, I’ve been confronted with the consternation of figuring out what places are actually “dangerous.”

I, for one, will immediately put any location in the middle of a war in the category of dangerous. But what about countries that aren’t at war, per se, but are led by men (yes, always men) who are more than a little unstable. Iran, for instance, or North Korea. Would I really be in danger if I went to either of these? Perhaps, I honestly don’t know. (Don’t worry, Mom, I don’t plan on finding out.)

And how about Venezuela, Columbia, or Bolivia? Columbia, interestingly enough considering all the bad press it gets, has a pro-American government, and I’ve heard nothing but raves about it from other travelers. The kidnapping/rebel thing is a little unnerving admittedly, but what are the actual facts on that? Venezuela and Bolivia both have socialist governments that aren’t exactly fond of America, but what have they actually done to cause us to be fearful of them? And come on, let’s be honest, they aren’t the only countries down on America right now.

With the exception of the most committed world politics junkies, most of us have fairly spotty knowledge of what is happening around the globe. Keeping up with our own lives can be trouble enough sometimes. And in the end, we’re forced to rely on the information we have at hand…newspapers, television news reports, the State Department website. At best, these sources are incomplete. At worst, they’re biased. So what’s a traveler to do? Best I can figure, you follow the news (but rely on more than American sources for a well-rounded perspective), talk to other travelers who have recently been to the area you’re interested in, trust your instincts, be smart, and for Pete’s sake don’t leave your belongings unattended while you gorge at the breakfast buffet.

So go ahead and tell me what you think. Where won’t you travel because of safety concerns and/or what causes you to deem a place unsafe?

Planning the South America Leg

Yesterday, during our near-daily phone conversation, I mentioned to Jeff that once he gets home, I want to really dive into the planning and begin a full-fledged attack of the to-do list. Among the things I specified was forming an itinerary that is a little more toothy than our current itinerary, which isn’t much more than general time frames for entire continents. Though I don’t want to get obsessive and plan where we’ll be every day of every month, I do want something a little more concrete. We’ll need some specifics in order to book the framework flights we want to have in place before we depart, and I want to be sure that we don’t miss out on something we really want to do because we didn’t do any planning.

As I ranted about this, falling into one of my “oh my gosh we have to do this right now or everything is just going to fall to pieces” moments (don’t say I don’t know my own faults…), Jeff stepped in to remind me that while we’d at least laid out all the places we might possibly want to go in Asia and Africa, we hadn’t done the same for South America. I’m not exactly sure why it got neglected—maybe because our original plan had us stopping in South America last rather than first, maybe because it feels a bit more familiar than Africa or Asia—but it’s high time we rectified that. So here they are, the many places in South America that capture our imaginations and appeal to our sense of adventure.

Venezuela: Yes, yes, we know. Chavez is a loon, and he has a special distaste for America. It’s not the political conditions we’d pick if this were a choose-your-own-adventure, but damn if we can’t control everything. We don’t, however, consider the situation dangerous. Of course, things can turn on a dime, so we do have a bit of wait and see approach to whether Venezuela makes the final cut, but there are so amazing places there we’d love to see. Mount Roraima, otherwise known as the Lost World, tops our list. We both became obsessed with this wonderland of relatively untouched and unexplored nature thanks to a Discovery Channel production called “The Real Lost World.” (Watch it, and I promise that you’ll add Roraima to your must-see list too.) The only true way to explore it is on a challenging trek lasting a minimum of five days, which we really hope to do. Once in Venezuela, we’d have to hit Angel Falls, since it’s only the world’s highest waterfall, and both the Los Roques Archipelago and Parque Nacional Mochima look like good places to recover after a long, hard trek.

Brazil: Famed for its wild Carnival, tiny bikinis, beautiful beaches, Amazon river and rainforest, and, of course, the girl from Ipanema, Brazil is a country of extremes. Obviously, we have to spend a little bit of time at the beach, though which one is a good question. In the March 2008 issue of National Geographic Traveler, Stanley Stewart detailed his search for the perfect spot on what was deemed “the five thousand mile beach.” That’s a whole lot of sand! Fortunately, I deemed every spot he visited a good spot to unroll my beach towel, so I don’t think we can go too terribly wrong. Then, as I posted previously, Amazon and Brazil are synonymous in my mind, so I’m not sure we can leave without venturing into the jungle or down the river. Finally, we’d be remiss to ignore Rio de Janerio. (What’s that song about Rio? I always somehow manage to sing the ‘Rio de Janeiro’ part of it to the tune of ‘Meet the Flintstones.’ Odd, I know, but I can’t carry a tune to save my life.) The question with Rio is whether we try to arrange our schedule to be there for Carnival. Many claim it’s one of those things you just have to do if you have the opportunity, but I’ve often found those things to be the things I most want to avoid. What would you do?

Ecuador: Long before I knew about the Galapagos Islands, I knew about Ecuador, thanks to a priest we had for a brief period at my elementary school named Father Joe (last name unknown). He usually lived and worked in Ecuador, and because he was cool (and not old and dull like the other priests I knew), I decided Ecuador was cool. And I was right. You can’t argue that the Galapagos Islands are anything but awesome. Penguins, humongous tortoises, seals, all kinds of birds, and the world’s most famous boobies. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. Though dwarfed by the Galapagos, there are other cool things in Ecuador, including Quito and the supposedly awesome market in nearby Otavalo, and opportunities to explore the Amazon jungle.

Peru: One of the world’s most stunning architecture sites is located in Peru, and it was built thousands of years before the “starchitects” of today. (Thanks, Gregory, for that reference.) Machu Picchu sits atop our list for our time in Peru, and we definitely want to approach it by foot. Whether that is on the famous Inca Trail (which is now heavily regulated and must be reserved in advance) or on one of the alternate trails remains to be determined. Cuzco sounds like much more than just a jumping off point for this trip. That’s good news since we’ll probably need at least a few days there to acclimate to the altitude. After Machu Picchu, next on our list is every grade school student’s favorite lake—Lake Titicaca—where we’d like to visit its islands and perhaps do a homestay with a local family. Colca Canyon and the Amazon (again) round out the sites that have really stood out to us.

Bolivia: I once had a penpal in Bolivia. He wasn’t Bolivian, but was rather an American guy I played soccer with in the alternate years when his family wasn’t doing missionary work in this South American country. I don’t know if he ever told me all that much about the country itself, and the last time I saw him he was driving an ice cream truck. Good story, huh? Anyhow, if there’s one thing drawing me to Bolivia, it’s the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, a place where land and sky are often indistinguishable. It’s a crazy Salvador Dali landscape brought to life. If we’re feeling particularly ballsy, we may also want to try biking “the world’s most dangerous road,” although I have to say that goes against my very nature. And as with Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru, Bolivia offers opportunities to see the Amazon jungle, and as a bonus feature also visit the Pantanal. (If you never voted in our Amazon poll, you still can register your opinions about where and in what way we see this wonder.)

Chile: For being such a skinny country, Chile certainly has a lot to offer. Thanks to its stunning snow-capped peaks and glacier mountains, some compare Chile’s Lake District to Switzerland, and I have to say that I love Switzerland. With waterfalls, volcanoes, and hot springs to accompany the peaks and lakes, there’s really very little to complain about, especially if you throw in the highly-regarded wines and some fresh seafood. Chiloe Island offers some interesting kayaking opportunities, and though it’s highly unlikely we’d make it to Easter Island due to costs and time restraints, I can’t claim that I’m not fascinated. Finally, there’s Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego in Chile’s Patagonia, which just might be the area I’m most excited about. The beauty is phenomenal, the environment terribly fragile, and the opportunity for active pursuits abundant. Hiking either the circuit or the “w” route in Torres del Paine is sure to be a highlight. And I’d love to see all the wildlife I just watched in the National Geographic special “Eden at the End of the World.” Those elephant seals are crazy! And who doesn’t like penguins?

Argentina: I’m really not much of a city person, as witnessed by this list and our Africa and Asia lists, but I have to admit that I’m excited about visiting the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires. After a few months on the road, I think it will be an excellent spot for regrouping and recharging. I also plan to eat some serious steaks while I’m there. My mouth is watering thinking about it. On the way south from Buenos Aires, I’d like to visit the pampas, stay at an estancia, and meet a gaucho…maybe even ride a horse across the Argentinian plains, though I have no horseriding skills even having grown up in horse country. I think I have been on a horse once, and I certainly didn’t do any galloping. Rounding out the itinerary is, again, Patagonia, with Los Glaciares National Park the biggest attraction on the Argentinian side of the Andes.

So what do you think? I figure we have about 20 weeks in South America, which once upon a time seemed like a long time, but now seems like nothing. Given that, where would you go? And what sites would you move to the “maybe next time” list?

Vad handde i Lappland (Part 3)

Wednesday morning I took the bus back to Kiruna, checked back into my hospital, and hopped on a bus over to Jukkasjarvi, home to the famous Ice Hotel. The outside was less impressive than I would’ve thought. I guess I was expecting to see a gigantic ice city rising out of the river. Those were probably unrealistic expectations. Instead, it was a gigantic ice city with a regular set of support buildings completely surrounding it. Not as dramatic an appearance.


But the inside was far more impressive than I ever imagined. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.




The rooms were amazing (each of these photos, save the last one, is an art suite). The central hall in the last photo was an endless hallway of ice sculptures. The next highlight was the Absolut Icebar, also in the hotel. I had to check it out and have a drink. I can’t remember what they called my drink, but it was Absolut with Lingonberry Juice. Quite tasty, a delicious color, and drinking out of an ice glass makes all the difference.


And while it was all so cool, I couldn’t find any reason to actually stay here. I could just pay an entrance fee during the day and walk through the entire hotel, every room. Then I could go back and sleep in my warm, cozy room. Or I could pay a lot more, have to deal with other people walking through my room all day, and then freeze all night. It just doesn’t add up. But I’m glad enough people want to do it that they can building them, because it is truly a sight worth seeing.

Here’s where I maybe got a little crazy. I decided to walk to the airport the next morning, about 5 miles, for my flight leaving at 6:50 AM. Given the circumstances, it was a little nuts, but the reasons were two fold:

1) I still hadn’t seen any northern lights and this was my absolute last shot.

2) A 5 mile taxi ride would’ve cost me ~$60. I don’t know any where in the world that is that expensive. London maybe?

Anyway, after staying awake until midnight looking in vain out both sides of the building to the sky for any signs of green or red, I arose at 3:30 AM, donned four layers and my backpack, and headed out into the cold. While I was immediately hopeful about the faint light to the east, I quickly realized it was the earliest hints of the sun. I was already out of luck, no northern lights. The biggest goal of my trip was a bust. So sorry guys, no northern lights pictures out of me. But to quell the uprising, here’s some.

So there was nothing to do now but just keep walking, I was already up with time to get to the airport and I sure wasn’t paying the $60 for now a 4 mile ride. I guess I’m just stubborn like that. It actually wasn’t a bad walk at all, it wasn’t too cold (though I think my four layers of clothing had a lot to do with that) and I got to see a gorgeous sunrise. There were three things I found funny on my walk:

1) I actually passed a guy about halfway there in the middle of nowhere. And he just walked by, as if he saw crazy foreigners with backpacks walking out of town every day at 4 AM. My “hej” wasn’t even answered.

2) The last two kilometers were along the airport access road, that only went to the airport. Even so, no one stopped to offer a ride. I hadn’t expected anyone to, and at that point in my odyssey, I probably would’ve turned them down, but I did find the whole thing kind of funny.

3) This awesome sign at the airport. It tells you where to park your dogsleds.


So with that, my trip came to an end. To do a quick “Take Two” type recap:

Highlights: dogsledding, Ice Hotel

Lowlights: no northern lights

Lessons Learned: hospitals can be cheap and nice places to stay, trains can be simpler and cheaper than flights+taxis+hotels (it took me the same amount of time to get to Abisko in the end and it would’ve been cheaper on the train), and northern lights are hard to see

Vad handde i Lappland (Part 2)

The trip began with a short flight from Stockholm to Kiruna. We landed in what I consider heavy snow, which had me a bit concerned. I guess they thought nothing of it, because everything went off without a hitch. After the taxi ride into town, I arrived at the hospital … yes, the hospital. After much consternation about where to stay because the hostels were fully booked, I found out that the hospital has a “Lilla Hotelet,” which I’m pretty sure I don’t need to translate for you. Better yet, it was far cheaper, and I soon found out, far better equipped than a hostel. So I walked into the ER at midnight and said (in my best broken Swedish) I needed to pick up my key for my room. I got a room to myself, with a TV and own bathroom.

After a restful evening, I made my way down toward the train station through central Kiruna, walking beside 10 foot snow drifts and through the 8 inches that had fallen overnight. Here’s some context.


There was a whole park full of snow sculptures, most of them odder than this, and those kids are standing on top of a mountain of snow. It was definitely a different world. And it was still snowing.

After warming up at the train station, I was ready to head to Abisko Mountain Station, the self proclaimed best place in the world to see Aurora Borealis. This claim (I think) is made based on their geographical location in a rain shadow beneath a canyon. As such, they get more clear nights than nearly any other populized area in the Arctic Circle. At least this is what they tell me. I certainly wasn’t being convinced by the weather as I got there.


Yup, that’s the sun trying to poke through. And the snow was still coming. And even though it wasn’t looking too promising, I decided to chance it and buy a ticket up to the Abisko Sky Station that night, since it was the last night they were planning on opening. And in retrospect, I don’t know why they even opened it, because when I went up there in the evening here’s what I saw.


Yep, not much. The lights are where I was staying, but even they were a rare appearance from the sky station on this night. So needless to say, there was no chance of looking up and seeing anything. So I spent my time taking some pictures of the cafe/sky station. It’s not very big, but its quaint. Let me also say there is something very unnerving about a complete white out. Riding up on the chair, the clouds were so thick, I couldn’t even see the chair in front of me, and the ground below me was completely white. It was like a sensory deprivation tank, only not black. Very peculiar feeling.

The next morning I hopped on the train to Björkliden, a ski area 5 miles away. I had thought about trying telemark skiing or alpine touring, but in the end couldn’t resist good ole downhill. Like a typical spoiled American skier, I was annoyed at the T-bar pulling lifts (seriously, up here Gondola’s should be a must!), and no goggles + light snow = difficulty seeing, but other than that the skiing was great. I quickly found my favorite runs and spent all day on them (with copious stops into the Snöbar for hot chocolate and to warm up). On one such stop, I noticed a sign for trying a dogsled. How could I resist! I signed up and walked over and met Andreas and his many dogs. He quickly showed me how to hit the brakes, and then he got to harnessing Björk, Lare, Wilmer and Kim. They are sweet looking dogs, mainly Alaskan husky (to handle the cold) and pointer (to run forever) mixes for those of you who know your dog breeds. For sledding dogs, they had a really hard time grasping the concept at first. But in no time I looked like a pro.


Now, looking like a pro doesn’t mean I drove like a pro, I did skid out and tip over on one turn. Driving those things is not as easy as it seems. And I don’t know what Survivorman was talking about on his show where he was in the Arctic dogsledding, as soon as I was off the sled the dogs stopped. I got back on and all was well (the whole time Andreas was ahead of us in his snowmobile, so it’s not as if I was going to get lost or anything). It was great fun though, I think I may try to run the Iditarod one of these days =).

That evening, my last at Abisko, I headed out with my camera after dark determined to see some northern lights. At least this night was somewhat clear, though clouds and occasional snow still passed through. I strained my eyes looking in all directions, lasting about two hours outside in the cold, through the peak auroral zone time of 10:30 I had heard about the night before. I even arose and headed back out when I saw it was clear at 1:30 AM. Never did I see anything, which was highly disappointing. It would all come down to the last night back in Kiruna. In all my time spent looking though, I did manage some pretty neat pictures of the night sky.


Here’s some more pictures from Abisko that don’t fit into the narrative for you to enjoy.



Part 3 comes tomorrow, the dramatic conclusion to my trip. I visit the Ice Hotel, and get a little crazy in my quest to see the northern lights. Stay tuned!

Vad handde i Lappland (Part 1)

You may have noticed Theresa has been keeping the blog alive for the past week or so. And if you haven’t gotten around to commenting about where you want to go most because you’ve been thinking long and hard about it, head down below this and inspire us. While you may attribute my absence to general laziness, you would in fact be wrong. In fact, it was the exact opposite, as I was braving arctic blasts and gigantic snow drifts to venture into the far north, to Swedish Lappland. I spent three days and four nights over 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle, almost farther north than the entire state of Alaska. I visited Kiruna, Jukkasjarvi, and Abisko to try to accomplish four things:

1) Witness the Northern Lights

2) Venture inside the world famous Ice Hotel

3) Drive a dogsled

4) See a moose (and reindeer)

I’ll go ahead and spoil the last one right now, I did not see a moose, nor reindeer, though I can’t say I went out of my way to try. I did run across some tracks that I thought might come from a moose, though.


Anyone knows if those are moose tracks or something else? Chime in with your idle speculation and wild guesses. I really have no idea. But the picture also gives you an idea of the raw beauty that was everywhere.

But to find out if I was successful in accomplishing my other goals, you’ll have to stay tuned to Lives of Wander. This is the first of a three part series. I’m just too exhausted tonight to write more, and when you get to part three, you’ll understand why.

Your Turn. Where Do You Want to Travel?

For the past few months, Jeff and I have been sharing with you our thoughts about our upcoming trip, frequently focusing on all the places we want to go and the sites we want to see. Now it’s your turn. If you’re reading this, please leave a comment listing the top three places you would like to travel in your lifetime. It can be a faraway exotic land difficult to reach. It can be an awesome national park not far from your home. It doesn’t matter to us, so long as it’s where you’d like to go. You can supply reasons if you like, but feel free to just list them if you’d prefer. Maybe you’ll inspire us or a fellow reader. It is a big world out there after all.

Then after you post your three places, take a minute to consider why you’re not making plans to take one of these trips (unless, of course, you already are). As far as I’m aware, this is the only life we get and there are no guarantees. Carpe Diem!

(Seriously, post your three places. Don’t just read and move on to another site. Read, click the comment button, and share your list. We want to know where you, our readers, dream of going. Please? And thank you.)

Markets: The Soul of a Place

Yesterday, on the final full day of my brother Matthew’s visit, I took him to one of my favorite DC spots—Eastern Market. Though a fire destroyed the historic hall that housed the heart of the market about a year ago, the market is still going strong. Every day of the week, you’ll find in the inside section (now housed in a temporary building), butchers, fishmongers, pasta makers, and bakers, serving up incredibly fresh products. It’s a treat just to walk through and see food without all the plastic wrap and labeling introduced by the grocery stores. On weekends, in the outdoor sections, you’ll find farm stands, artisans, and flea market booths. I love to meander through, sampling the produce, marveling at some of the flea market oddities, and wishing I had more money than I do so I could buy the jewelry, photographs, and other artworks on sale. In honor of my birthday, I went ahead and splurged yesterday and bought a necklace from one of my favorite vendors, Andrea Haffner. She casts dried flowers in resin to create gorgeous pendants. I’d bought them as gifts before, but never one for myself, and this time I just couldn’t resist.

The reasons I love Eastern Market are myriad, but what it really boils down to is its authenticity. It’s not packaged or produced, not really all that predictable. There’s never a guarantee that a certain vendor will be there, but there’s always a guarantee that I’ll find something interesting. In the permanent hall, the vendors are third and fourth generation. The people selling you slabs of beef, your Thanksgiving turkey, or a slice of cake know the history of this city and this market better than anyone. There are stories here. And though the stories at Eastern Market are the stories of DC, there are thousands of markets around the world with millions of stories to be told.

Just tonight, I put on an old episode of No Reservations. By random chance, I chose the Jamaica episode, and though I faded in and out of paying attention to the show, I was listening when Bourdain visited a market and noted that he thinks it is one of the first things you should do when you visit a city to really get a feel for the place. I wholeheartedly agree. In my travels, I love to seek out markets.

In Freiburg, Germany, a daily market took place right outside the cathedral. It was there that I first encountered white spargel, and I made many a lunch out of the wursts being cooked up on the spot. The aroma was impossible to resist. At Barcelona’s Mercat de la Boqueria, I had my first blood orange, beginning an addiction that I just can’t kick. And every Friday in Athens, I made my way to my neighborhood laiki (farmer’s market), a street full of tents where I bought the spinach I would use to make my first spanakopita and where my “tomato man” (see second picture below) helped me pick out the perfect cucumbers for tzatziki. I never felt more integrated into Greek society than when I was at the laiki. After just a few weeks, the vendors would recognize me, welcome me, and always, always, always sneak a little extra something into my bag after I’d already picked out and paid for what I wanted. It’s too bad my grocery store here doesn’t do that.

But it’s not only when I’m abroad that I seek out markets. In Philadelphia, we spent way more time than we had planned wandering around the Reading Terminal Market, and I always try to make it to the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market when we visit Jeff’s parents. If we have time, we also take a trip to Pike’s Place Market and maybe even the Ballard and Fremont neighborhood markets. Really, I never get tired of them.

And though I must admit that food markets are my favorite, I’m a sucker for any type of market. In Cairo, I loved getting lost in the alleys of Khan el-Khalili, bargaining for mother-of-pearl chess sets and inlaid plates. And I don’t think I ever went downtown in Athens, without visiting Monastiraki, where you never knew what you might find. Once, spread out on a blanket with dishes and toys was a dildo. Odd indeed. Another time, in a bowl of old coins was a brand new American quarter. Out of curiosity we asked the seller how much he wanted for it, and after studying it for a moment (obviously having no idea what it was), he asked us for 2 euro. We passed. Even in the days of decent exchange rates, an American quarter wasn’t worth that.

Once we set out on our big adventure, I’ll be on the lookout for great markets, and you can count on me narrating many a visit along with my first tastes of new fruits and vegetables or my super bargain purchases. So that I don’t miss any must-see markets, I’ve been doing a little research, and I came across this list from Food & Wine magazine, detailing 25 top food markets, including five that we may make it to: Singapore’s Kreta Ayer Wet Market; Old Delhi, India’s Chandni Chowk; Picsac, Peru’s Sunday Market; Santiago, Chile’s Mercado Central; and Manaus, Brazil’s Mercado Municipal. But I know there are more great markets out there.

So tell me, what’s your favorite market? Even if it’s not in a location we plan to visit on this trip, go ahead and let me know about it. I’ll start taking notes for our next go-round.

Things I Miss About Home

I wrote earlier about the tug of war between the comforts of home and the adventure of travel. Well, here are some of things I’ve been missing about the comforts of our home since I’ve been over here. And, really, this is a pretty simple list, as I don’t have many language problems and the culture is pretty similar. Just some minor quirks and things I think we do better back home. I’m sure we’ll revisit this list while we on our big journey and surely have many more things to add. But without further ado:

– a comfortable couch

– spicy food (when claim it is its only worse)

– “home cooking”, I know I was pleased with myself but its still not the same

– beers that don’t cost $10

– indoor temperatures above 65 (I don’t know this for a fact but it sure always feels cold … besides, they use these C things that I can’t translate =) )

– TVs with more than four channels (and that are always in English)

– a quilt and sheets

– March Madness and spring training

– non-rainy/snowy days (with the exception of last Saturday)

– non-motion sensing lights in my bathroom (you might think this is clever, until you have it go off every three minutes while hidden behind the shower curtain)

– Coke being the same price as Pepsi, and thus making my decision easy

– doors that open without pushing a button on the wall

– my nightly routine of the Daily Show and Colbert Report

my better half

That’s my list so far. For those who haven’t traveled, what do you all think you would be the hardest thing to give up? For those of you who have traveled, what was the thing you missed most?

Packing 101

Since our trial run with our bags, we’ve been asked a number of times, exactly what we are planning to put in said bags. Packing for a year is certainly a daunting task, especially when you need to carry everything that you need on your back. We’ve made a conscious decision to try to “follow the sun,” or travel in a direction in which we maximize good weather. Yet without ever venturing into winter, we’ll stay face a wide range of weather. Summer in Patagonia isn’t exactly warm, and it’s always cool at high elevations. The jungle, however, is going to be plenty warm, even if we were to be there in winter. We’ll also be doing an array of activities, from adventure trekking to museum and church visiting. Did I mention that packing isn’t easy? But we think we’ve come up with a pretty good packing list, and thus we’ve decided to share it here on our site. If you look at the menu bar at the top of the page, you’ll see a new addition called “Details”. Click on it and you’ll find a link to our packing list. (Although at this point it’s missing Jeff’s clothing list. He’ll be adding that himself soon. I have to at least pretend that he gets to decide what he’s taking 🙂 ) As our planning progresses, we’ll be adding more information to this page, so check back regularly.

Now go ahead and critique our list. Leave a comment telling me what I forgot to include or what I ought to leave behind.

Stockholm Through a Lens

Before you get into this eye candy, if you haven’t voted on how we should see the Amazon, head to Theresa’s post just below this and give us your thoughts.

Since I don’t have my own separate blog, and since this is vaguely travel related, I thought I would share it here. This weekend we had a rare nice day in Stockholm, and so I took the opportunity to wander about the city with a camera. Here are some of the images I was happy with.


There’s plenty of color splashed onto apartment buildings.


It’s coming up on Easter, which in Sweden means you tie feathers to bare tree branches. Mom, you want to explain that one? It does look nice in big bunches though.


A row of Swedish fruit drinks outside a store. I like that you can see the buildings across the street.


An empty pier. It is winter after all.


An interesting building with Stadshuset (City Hall) and it’s Tre Kronor (three crowns, the national symbol) in the background. Here’s another of one corner of Stadshuset. It kinda looks like it needs to be in a Cingular commercial.


And I just thought these last two looked kinda cool. Feel free to disagree.