Category Archives: Trip Planning

In Search of: Awesome Travels in 2012

The semester is over.  I’m on winter break at work.  I’ve got two weeks of downtime (well, after today, really just one — seeing as how a week has managed to slip right past me).  I am officially in my new apartment, and I sort of love it.  I say “sort of” because the process of decorating (and, more importantly, buying furniture) is both exciting and exhausting.  I’d really like it all to be done.  I feel a bit like I’m bleeding money.  And if you know me, you know I don’t particularly care for bleeding money.  I much prefer to hoard it.  Ah well, soon enough, it will all be taken care of.

In so many ways, life is moving along pretty damn perfectly.  I love my job, I have a beautiful apartment, and I’m planning some awesome trips in the new year.  Which, of course, means I’m sort of waiting for something to fall apart.  Things don’t generally go so well, not without a few hiccups.  I’m trying not to think about it, but it’s hard not to worry.  This is an unfortunate part of my genetic makeup.

Enough of that though, because I’m seriously excited about my travel plans for 2012.  The other day I was sharing these plans with a friend, and it dawned on me.  2012 is going to be one damn good year.  At the end of March I’m heading to Indianapolis, Indiana for the National Conference on Science Education.  Sure, Indianapolis isn’t the most exciting destination, but I hear the conference will be awesome.  Also, I’ve never been to Indiana, which means I’ll be one state closer to achieving bucket list item 40, visit every state in the U.S.  From Indiana, I fly home, and the next day I hop on another plane, destination Peru.  I can’t even begin to tell you how ecstatic I am about my Peru trip!  I’ll spend one week with my friend, Christy, exploring Cusco and Machu Picchu (where I’m seriously thinking of mountain biking to the ruins).  The second week, I’ll be on my own, exploring the Amazon rainforest.  It might just be the coolest thing ever in the history of ever.  I’ll be biking, kayaking, tree climbing, bird watching and just plain acting like a kid in a candy store.  It will be serious amounts of awesomesauce.  Seriously.

You might think my travel year is pretty much tops with the Peru trip, but there’s more.  My summer travel plans are starting to form.  First stop — Mazatlan, Mexico.  A few days lounging on the beach and hiking a local island or two should get me ready for my real summer adventures.  Although I don’t have all the details set, here’s what I’m thinking:  four weeks in Guatemala and one week in Honduras.  Gautemala = one week at a jungle lodge, complete with waterfall hikes, caves and hot springs; one week trekking to El Mirador, a spectacular Mayan city still buried deep in the jungle (plus, the obligatory stop at Tikal, the very well known and well touristed Mayan ruins); one week exploring the phenomenal natural wonders that are Semuc Champey and the Lanquin caves; and one week I’m not settled on yet.  Perhaps I’ll explore some more natural wonders — Guatemala seems full to the brim with those.  Or maybe I’ll check out one of the cities.  I’ve heard great things about Antigua.  We shall see.  No rush to figure that out.  But before I depart from Central America, there is one thing I know for sure — I’ll head to Roatan, Honduras for a week of beach, sand and diving!  Yes, I’m going to learn to scuba dive!

I sort of want to pinch myself.  Is all of this real?  Seriously.  Is it?  It’s pretty damn fantastic that I love my job and it allows me time to do the other things I love — like travel.  For reals, folks.  Sometimes, life rocks.

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Thailand Bound

Okay.  I’ve been wanting to share this for a while.  But I also wanted to be sure things were really happening before I let it out.  Here goes.  I have officially leaped! Long story short, I was offered a full-time teaching position with the school I work for.  I accepted.  Perhaps more import to this story is that a friend living in Thailand invited me to visit over the summer. And you’ll be proud.  It took me about half a second to think about it and answer with a resounding YES.

It sort of worked out perfectly that I accepted the teaching position just before I was offered a chance to do some serious summer traveling.  Having the teaching contract gave me the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t be jobless upon return.  And having someone awesome to help me figure out the trip gave me the confidence I needed to jump at the chance to travel.

So.  On Sunday, I booked a 50-day trip to Thailand. I leave on June 18.

Yes, you read that right.  That’s next week! I’m sort of running around like a crazy person, making sure I have everything I need and attempting to do a small amount of trip planning before the plane takes off.

I have little idea what to expect.  I do know a few places I’d like to see.  But the rest, I’m leaving up to the moment.  Luckily, that friend staying in Thailand right now has been there before and happens to be somewhat of a professional traveler.  I have no doubt that even when I jaunt off on my own, he’ll be able to give me lots of direction.  It’s sort of the perfect first big trip for me.  I’m going solo, but I won’t be alone. I’ll be in great company.

After I pressed the submit button and purchased my plane tickets, I had a small moment of freak-out.  OMG.  This is actually happening. And, yes, I’m still a little nervous.  But mostly, I’m just seriously excited.  For so many reasons, this is absolutely the perfect thing for me right now. So much so, I’m having a hard time focusing on everything I need to get done before I go.  Like I have to grade final projects and final exams.  I have to do some prep for biology class next year.  And I still have another job that I’m committed to until the 17th (and I want to do a good job each of those days).

But at the same time, I sort of want to run down the street, with my hands in the air, screaming, “Woohoo!  I’m actually going!!”

While I’m gone, I hope to blog regularly and update you with pictures and stories.  I’ll tell you all about my adventures in Thailand (and Cambodia and, who knows, maybe Laos).  Seriously, peeps, I’m so excited.  So, so excited.

So send me good vibes.  Have I mentioned how terrified I am of flying?  No worries.  I’ve got my Xanax (my favorite flying partner).  This is all going to be such an awesome experience.  I just know.  I can feel it.

photo credit: 1, 2

Also posted in Southeast Asia, Thailand Tagged |

Review for Ladies: Silicone and Softcups

So I was talking with my sister-in-law tonight over a huge piece of chocolate cake — the Great Wall of Chocolate, to be exact.  (Seriously, if you’ve never had the Great Wall at PF Chang’s, you’re missing out.  Chocolate lover’s rejoice; the Great Wall will satisfy all you’re chocolatey-chocolate cravings.)  But I digress. I mention this because she asked me a question about a product I’ve wanted to review for a while.  And the question made me realize — I should really put this out there.

Before I get into details, fair warning to all you men.  You might want to move along. This post is going  to talk about girlie parts and periods and other stuff you may not want to hear.  Of course, if you’re not squeamish, read ahead.  You may just learn something that would interest your girlfriend or wife.

Anyhow, here’s the thing.  Several month’s ago I started using a product that I’ve totally fallen for.  It changed my period-life.  You see, I read about something called a DivaCup on one of my favorite traveler’s blogs.  She raved about a menstrual cup that’s used instead of tampons or pads.  Apparently, it works for twelve hours at a time, can be washed and reused, and never leaks.  Never.

I never heard of such a thing.  But I was seriously intrigued.

(Oh, and by the way – no, I’m not getting any money for talking about this.  I just happen to think these products rock, and I can’t believe how few women even know about them.)

So, back to the subject at hand. I was intrigued but not convinced.  Instead of buying one right away, I started researching menstrual cups.  Did other people use them?  Did they work? Everything I read said, yes, they absolutely did.  Women seemed to love them.  But still, I didn’t know how to find one at the store, and I never got around to ordering one.  Then I went to Walmart a few months back and ran across a box of something called Instead.  I’d actually seen Instead before.  A little different from the traditional menstrual cup, Instead is a disposable softcup.  It was around five bucks for the box, so I decided to give it a try.  Couldn’t hurt, right?

And let me tell you.  Never again will I ever go back to tampons or pads. Menstrual cups rock.  They really do.  Here’s why:

  • You can use it for TWELVE HOURS at a time. Seriously.  Insert it in the morning when you’re getting ready, then insert a new one when you go to bed.  It doesn’t leak, you can’t feel it, and you seriously forget your on you’re on your period. Heavy day, light day.  Whatever.  I have a history or ridiculously heavy periods, and I have had no problems with it.  It doesn’t leak.
  • You can wear it while you’re having sex. To be honest, I haven’t tried this yet.  But I would, and I wouldn’t be concerned about it.  I can definitely see how it would work.  Plus, I’ve heard from others that it works just fine during sex.  (Do note, you can’t do this with other menstrual cups.  Instead is the only cup that can be used while having sex because it’s a softcup.)

So, essentially, what I’m trying to tell you is this is an awesome product.

Thus far, I’ve only tried the Instead brand.  But I’d really like to try one of the other menstrual cups.  Instead is meant to be disposed of, and the other cups are designed to be reused over and over.  In particular, I think I’ll try one called Lunette.  Everyone I’ve talked with has loved this particular brand (because of its comfort and ease of cleaning).

Now, before I let you go, I have a few tips:

  • There is a learning curve. It’ll take you a few tries before you really get it.  Be prepared to make a mess and get seriously frustrated the first couple of times you use it.  You may want to give up and throw it away.  But don’t.  Seriously.  Because once you get it, it’s awesome.  You won’t regret it.  I swear.
  • Try it on a light day.  You’ll feel more comfortable, especially if you’ve never used one before.
  • Don’t worry, it can’t get lost up in there. Seriously.  There’s nowhere for it to go.  So if you’re worried you’ll put it in wrong and you won’t be able to fish it back out — don’t.  Take a breath.  It might seem funky at first, but truly, it’ll be just fine.

And there you are.  My favorite new product. Yes, it’s something small and seemingly insignificant.  But I think lots of women don’t know about it.  Which is too bad, because for those of us who prefer not to worry about our periods, this makes a huge difference.

If you have questions I haven’t answered, leave a comment or send me an email.  I’m happy to answer them.  What about you?  Have you heard of menstrual cups?  Have you tried any?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also posted in Ramblings and Rants Tagged |

Destination: Peru

Since watching the movie Medicine Man in the eighth grade, I’ve wanted to see the Amazon Rainforest. Something about this destination – rich with biodiversity, much of it untouched by man, humidity, rain, all of it – draws me in. So I’ve finally decided to make the trip.

Part of me is afraid that if I don’t go soon, we will have destroyed it (we being people: ranchers, loggers and the like). I hope that doesn’t end up being the case. Perhaps with carefully planned, sustainable ecotourism, business people in that part of the world will come to see the value of preserving the rainforest and sharing it with generations to come. But rather than delve into the political and economic implications of preserving or not preserving the land, let me tell you about my trip.

I plan to go next July. I thought about going sooner, but factoring in my schedule and the weather over there – July is the best match. I did a lot of research on the various countries which the rainforest encompasses and decided on Peru.

In my information gathering I found another amazing landmark in Peru that I absolutely can’t miss in this lifetime – Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is The Lost City of the Incas. The Incas started building the city on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley around 1430 AD. Less than a hundred years later, during the time of the Spanish conquest, most of the inhabitants were wiped out by what is now thought to have been small pox. The city was lost to the outside world. In 1911, an American historian stumbled upon this miraculous city, led by a native Quechua boy. The site was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. The first four days of my trip will be spent in and around Machu Picchu.

Then, I’ll be off to the Amazon Rainforest!  I plan to go with a company called Rainforest Expeditions. They run three Amazon lodges near Puerto Maldonado, Peru. The company runs environmentally conscious, sustainable ecotourism with local guides. The lodges originally started with a research project to protect the local macaw parrots. The research continues to this day.

I’ll spend the first few days at the Refugio Amazonas lodge, a few hours boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. Once there, I’ll spend time searching for camen, hiking the Brazil nut trail, taking in the view from the canopy tower and visiting Oxbow lake.

Next, it’s off to the Tambopata Research Center (TRC), 4.5 hours downriver. TRC is in the heart of the rainforest, more than seven hours by boat from the nearest town. It is rife with flora and fauna and is near the largest macaw clay lick in the world. I’ll spend my days hiking, checking out the palm swamp, the floodplains, bird watching and looking out for the local animals (monkeys, camen and the like).

The trip is going to be fabulous, and I absolutely can’t wait! I’m planning on taking this one solo, but if anyone is interested in tagging along, I’m always up for a good travel partner! Drop me a line.

photo credit: magnusvk

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