December 30, 2007

blogger ::hearts:: firefox

Apparently all of my earlier woes were not Mac related, but Safari related. I switched to Firefox, and all is forgiven.

Which is good, because Firefox is what I am bringing with me. So hopefully, I shouldn't run into lots o' formatting and publishing problems along the way.

Though, if I do have formatting problems, y'all can deal. It's third world Internet cafe publishing; we cannot have the stars, after all.

i love visitors

I am sorry I ever doubted. Though, in my defense, it is the VERY END of December now, I leave in about two weeks, and we are talking about extended international travel in about six weeks. So I'm sorry if I didn't have faith that planning that had not happened prior to this afternoon would actually take place.

But it did! And my sister has signed, sealed, and purchased plane fares to come meet me in New Zealand and do the south island together. We also booked some bus tickets, figured out an itinerary, and decided to rent a car in parts, as it would be much more economical. Possibly hysterical and certainly terrifying, yes, but also more economical. I picture particularly gruesome scenes from
The Amazing Race, only with more profanity. We are pulling for an automatic, though. Even though my sister and I both drive stick on a daily basis, I am deeply frightened at the prospect of attempting to shift with the wrong hand. And where is first? Is it on the left, like on my car? Or closest to me, like on my car? Worrisome...

But she is definitely coming, which helps assuage the fear o' loneliness some, and it also means I can leave a pile of things for her to bring me and collect things for her to bring back with her. Did I not mention my sister is 1/4 pack mule?

December 23, 2007

drive me crazy

This summer, a friend was having a bitch of a time getting her passport renewal sent back to her in time for her honeymoon, and the saga of it made me sort of irrationally paranoid about my own. I checked it just about daily – it doesn't need to be renewed does it? It doesn't say 2008, does it, because that's next year, you know. Every time I read about the visa requirement for one country or another requiring a passport valid for six months out - pretty standard in most countries - I would check it AGAIN. My passport has like 4 years on it; I think I'm good.

And yet, it wasn’t until I was filling out the paperwork for the new bank account I am getting for my trip (see how thorough I am? I've done my research) that I noticed my driver's license expires on my next birthday. In April. While I am in Greece. Awesome.

No, it’s not a big deal at all to take care of, but yeah, I kind of feel like an idiot.

December 17, 2007

reef sadness

I got depressed last night, and not over crappy America, but over Australia.

There is already so much I am not doing on this trip (Brazil, Vietnam, China, India, Russia, South Africa....I have to stop. It's getting more depressing). Mostly, I am ok with that. It's been tough to give things up, but I keep reminding myself that this is not a death trip, and that I have decades and decades to travel the world after this, so not going now is all right.

When I poured through New Zealand guidebooks, I ended up basically packing my time there with so much stuff, and I still already want to go back. With Australia, I have a pretty basic itinerary - one week Melbourne, one week Sydney plus a couple of days Blue Mountains, one week along the reef. It's not completely complete; even know I can feel my friend giving me the grumpy sad face that I am not going to the West Coast at all (I PROMISE I am going back someday, Wom!), and I am not going to the Outback, so clearly someday I need to go back to Australia. I am a city person, really, so that is a good place to start.

But I am getting really depressed trying to decide where to go. I want to go to everywhere in Queensland, it all looks so perfect. And while I know that by the time I reach Australia I will be far enough in that I will welcome the chance to find a great beach and just stay a week (plus, Australia is huge and expensive, so changing locations is no easy feat). But looking at the possibilities, it makes me sad that by choosing one good place, I am not going to any of the others.

Current top choices for my reef week are Whitsunday coast (where I can book a sailing trip, or ferry about the islands; pricey, but come on: FERRY ABOUT THE ISLANDS) or Great Keppel Island (which is a bit plane-bus-shuttle-ferry to get to, but looks like its quiet and beachy and snorkely and is supposed to be perfect). Technically, they are about 7-8 hours apart all told, so if I choose one and feel like traveling more, I can try the other, but I will have to choose one to fly into initially.

Aren't my dilemmas awesome? Oh, woe is me, I can't decide where to sun myself along the Great Barrier Reef. Trauma! But seriously, I take suggestions...

December 16, 2007

ready, set

Today, I am ready to go. It fluctuates wildly, and I am sure it will continue to do so, but today, I am ready to leave. It's a good thing, too, because exactly one month from today, I will arrive in Ushuaia. And so it will begin.

Last weekend, I went to LA to see friends. I still don't miss the city, pretty much at all (except you, House of Pies! I miss you most of all!), but it really hit me how much I miss the indepenence of having a life on my own. Don't get me wrong - I recognize how forutunate I am to have been able to move back home, and how even luckier I am that it has been such a great experience. For most people, living with the 'rents at age 28 isn't exactly ideal, but my parents are pretty awesome, and I seem to have some innate sense for when I am supposed to be home. Plus, looking at me a year ago and me today, it's pretty clear that it was what I needed. But I am still ready to once again be living on my own. It won't be the same when I am traveling, obviously, and as my tethers to my permanent mailing address, I am still going to be leaving on mom & dad pretty heavily, but I am once again eager for the sense of self-sufficiency.

I also watched Sicko this weekend. Naturally, I got re-depressed at the woeful state of American affairs and I thought a lot about heading out to the world. First, please, all illnesses and injuries, if you could hold off until I hit the Scandinavian countries, that would be AWESOME. Mmm, free health care...

But really, I keep coming back to the part where he is talking to a group of American expats living in Paris, and how the society is set up so that the government prioritizes quality of life above profit, and therefore, things like family, wellness, and happiness are of paramount importance (of course, most of this is because the French will riot and strike whenever they are unhappy, which is not good either, but still). I am not really planning to just stay somewhere I like, necessarily, but I like the reminder that there are places out there that are not America, and that is becoming more and more of a good thing.

December 11, 2007

big day

I quit my job today.

It was sort of impulsive - I had intended to wait until I saw my boss in person on Thursday, but I decided to just do it, and now it's done. Yay! Everyone knows I am leaving in less than a month.

I also started to make reservations - I have a place to lay my head the first two nights in Ushuaia, and I have one bus ticket in New Zealand. I am going to make more soon.

Combine all that with finishing my apps, and today was quite momentous. Plus, we are putting up the Christmas tree. Big day!

Caught between two forums

Since this is primarily my travel blog, I don't talk about much else going on in my life unless it somehow directly relates to my trip. To be fair, I don't have a whole lot going on that doesn't somehow relate - when one is leaving in just over a month for a RTW adventure, apparently it gets pretty consuming. Who knew? - but I do do things in life beyond making to do lists and shop for hostels in Cambodia. I just don't really talk about them.

Clearly the sampling is a bit skewed, but the concept of having other things, things that may be important and consuming and interesting that are not travel related, is a fairly foreign one on most hard-core travel forums. Now, of course most of these people are like me and this blog - they have families, jobs, hobbies, lives that keep them busy outside of their posting, but those things are not really relevant to the forum, so they don't get talked about. The result, though, is an environment that almost...frowns upon the idea that there could be anything else important that could be a priority over your travel. If you are only casually interested in a trip, might as well take off for a Sandals Jamaica and not bother any genuine vagabonders.

Not only that, but there is a fairly narrow definition of acceptable travel. If you have a car that you want to own when you come back, a job that you are reluctant to leave, or a set itinerary that you want to follow, then it's somehow not a real RTW. And god forbid you decide to do a package tour - the horror! I don't mean it to sound bad, but there is a rather "Are you now or have you ever been considering a stay at a resort hotel?" judgemental vibe to the whole thing. A trip that is short, planned and NOT the culmination of prolonged planning and sacrifice is often - by word or by attitude - deemed lesser. Don't ask me why.

It's one of the reasons I mostly read, and rarely speak up. I am going for only 7 months; during that time, I am planning to visit 6 continents, and often just a country or two in each (the conventional wisdom in most places would be to spend 6 months in Asia or South America and really travel extensively, rather than hopping from place to place); and I am also bringing jeans with me, fie on their heaviness and their long drying time. I don't fit in, quite, and I know I would get heckled for doing thigs "wrong," so I take the good advice and leave the rest.

And it's too bad that there is such a closed-off attitude to people doing other things; if there weren't, these people could potentially be BFF with the folks on the other forums I frequent. See, before I go, in the midst of planning, I am also applying to graduate school - PhD programs, to be exact. So I idly peruse a couple of communities for wannabe grad schoolers, mostly out of boredom and vague interest (it's not quite as much fun - I've applied and been to grad school before, so it does not hold the same wonder).

Again, a lot of it is a function of the focus of the community - and the rampant stress present - but most have an attitude that if you want to do ANYthing else EVER in LIFE besides grad school, you may as well be in the business of eating babies. If you have not been cooing dissertation proposals from the womb, then this is the wrong place for you, go away, don't waste our time. I don't fit there either - not just for having another interests, but because a PhD was not always my number one choice, I did not study for 8 months for the GRE, and writing a statement of purpose does not send me into apoplectic fits of fear.

I may not belong, precisely, but I personally enjoy the fact that I will not ever prioritize one over the other. If I successfully manage this, heading around the world and coming back just in time to start a program, then I think that it will be better off for it. Despite daring to have something to come back to by a set date, and despite having something else that I want just as badly as a doctorate. I dare so much!

All of this is to say that I dropped my very last applications in the mail today, so I am officially done applying. As glad as I am that I can now, finally, concentrate full time on my planning, I am even more thankful that my stressful time of waiting to hear and handling rejection will be spent in various parts of South America and Oceana. Talk about having something else to concentrate on...

December 06, 2007


Sometimes, in the midst of all of the places I am so excited to get to, I have to remind myself that where I am leaving can be pretty awesome.

I am a born-and-raised Californian, and here in the Bay Area, we don't do inclimate weather. It's not nearly as bad as LA, with its creepy Stepford weather and its never-ceasing early summer; we do have our warm bits and our cold bits, but it's all relative. And only now, in early December, are we getting the good stuff: overcast, drizzly, misty days and pretty orangey trees. It is still missing the crispness that would make it autumn in the rest of the 
country, but this is winter of my childhood. It is also the only winter I will have this year. And it reminds me that home can be a lovely place to be sometimes.

December 03, 2007

blogger woes

I don't know what kind of a case of the Mondays is rocking blogger, but it's annoying as all get out. My previous two posts (which, now that I think of it, were posted from home and my Mac, so that may be connected) managed to enjoy some massively entertaining formatting woes. The text was the wrong size, the leading changed from the first paragraph to the rest, as did the line spacing. I am clueless when it comes to this, so I didn't eve know we COULD change the leading and line spacing. And it also randomly changed font size in the first paragraph.

I formatted and reformatted, all to no avail; those posts would not be made uniform! So ultimately, I retyped the first paragraph, and that cleared up the sizing issues. It also randomly gave it an extra line between each paragraph (...?), but one more edit cleared those up.

So, as I said: NO idea why blogger was doing this to me. But all of this is to say that I am currently at work, during what appears to be a monumentally slow quarter. I have time and nothing better to fill it, so I will play format detective and make it all right. But don't get too cozy - I feel like when I start posting from random countries and random internet cafes, all caring for format goes right out the window.

PS, this whole entry formatted just fine....