As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, winter is always a pretty rough road. Nothing cures my blues like a road trip to somewhere warm to visit with some of my best friends and soak up some sunshine. In January I drove the 17 hours to Gainesville, Florida solo and spent two weeks forgetting about winter. I stayed on a farm where some of my closest friends live and work. We packed up a week's worth of food and camping equipment for 7 people into three cars, loaded a canoe onto each car and drove to the Gulf. We canoed a few miles to an island that has been given the name "Treasure Island" by some friends and stayed there for 5 days. We fished, we cooked over a fire, we told stories, we laid on the beach, we lived each day side by side simply enjoying being alive. It was truly one of the best times of my life and saved me from sinking too deep into my lonely hibernation. It was hard to say goodbye, but I know I'll be back again soon enough. On my way home I broke up the long drive by visiting friends in the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia and drove up through the Great Smoky Mountains as well. January is not so bad after all.
Three days after returning to Kansas City from NYC and Maine I hit the road again with my partner for a two week trip up to Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The wild flowers of the Rocky Mountains are some of the most beautiful, I add to my collection every time I explore that region.
I have been slacking on my posting ever since my return from Europe, but not slacking on my traveling. A month after I got home I decided on a whim to buy a plane ticket back to NYC to see my friend Rebecca. I spent a week exploring the big apple on my own and we drove up state for a day to swim in a lake and hike. After NY we hit the road and headed up to Maine. We spent a few days in a primitive cabin in the woods on Deer Isle. With no electricity or water and no neighbors in sight, it was quite the adjustment from the week I had just spent in New York. The forest surrounding the cabin was full of wild raspberries, blueberries and a variety of mushrooms. We swam in several nearby lakes and spent a day canoeing in the ocean. After leaving Deer Isle we went to a folk show inside an old abandoned boxcar. We spent the rest of the week visiting a variety of friends of friends and enjoying the beautiful summer Maine weather.
After arriving in Paris my health very rapidly declined. I went from the sniffles to bronchitis fast and spent 6 days feeling miserable. However, I'm in Paris! So of course I fought my way through and tried to breath and saw what I could of this huge French city. Luckily I was staying with good old friends so I was able to rest some, spend time with people I love, and see some of my favorite bands too! One thing I love about Paris is the old subway advertisements that have been ripped down and overlapped and have become works of art on accident. I love the old architecture and the parks and the chocolate croissants. This city is so big you could ride the subway for hours and always end up in a new place. A week isn't enough, so I guess I'll just have to come back.
Berlin gives Athens a run for its money. So much art, so much history; Berlin steals my heart every time.
My first time visiting Prague was a great success. The city is stunning and there is so much life here. We made friends with the reception team at our hostel and also made several friends with other guests. This was the greatest hostel experience thus far. One of the employees just got done living in KC for two years and loves it there. Again, what a small world! We took an hour long train ride to Kutna Hora to visit the Sedlec Ossuary. This amazing church is completely decorated floor to ceiling with human bones; huge chandeliers, streamers made of skulls, and big piles of leg bones in every corner. A creepy incredible work of art worth the train ride. Our last night in town happened to be the annual St John's Festival. The whole city lined the river to watch a parade of hundreds of people in traditional Czech clothing waving Palm leaves and singing. The river was full of boats and gondolas, people were parachuting from airplanes, and the buildings were lit up with different colors. What a great way to end a weekend in Prague.
One of my favorite parts of traveling through Europe is riding on trains. Seeing so many parts of each country that you would never see otherwise, a long train ride is a great chance to sit back and think and watch the world zoom by.
Every single wall of every building in Athens is covered in graffiti. Here is a tiny portion of what I saw.
Regaining my independence and my confidence one day at a time.
Today made me feel like a fancy pants tourist and it was great! Took a 6 hour boat tour of Santorini and the little islands around it. Learned all about the volcano that created the islands and got to hike on it, jumped off the sailboat into the sea, swam in the hot springs next to the volcano, ate tons of Greek food, and watched the "famous" sunset from Oia. Sometimes it's ok to spend a little extra money to have an amazing experience you may never get the chance to have again.
Adventures > money.
Greece has been very high on my list of places I wanted to visit for a long time. And I finally made it! After a very early morning flight I nearly missed, and an incredibly crowded hour long bus ride, I arrived at my hostel in Athens. My body and brain are taking some time to adjust to the extreme temperature change, but I've spent the past two days "hiking" around the city. It's very powerful to be in the presence of such ancient historically significant places. This city is old and crowded and dirty and incredibly stimulating. The food is delicious, the architecture is beautiful, the landscape is vast, and the people are a plenty. Our hostel was really helpful, we made several new friends who we explored the city with, and the view from the rooftop was unreal. One night after it got dark we went with some people we met in our hostel to the top of a mountain to sit and look out over all of Athens. If there is a top of the world view in a city, I will find it. After a few days in Athens I hopped on the biggest boat I've ever seen and head out to Santorini. 8 hours on a boat is intense when you get motion sickness and haven't slept enough for days. Nevertheless, the sea is relaxing and humbling and thought provoking. Santorini is such a neat place. I felt like a tourist on the ferry and the bus and wandering through the shopping part of town, but as soon as we started "getting lost" I felt like a traveler again; going wherever my eyes and ears and feet decide to take me. A lot of this island looks rural and spread out on top of big cliffs. It sits on a volcano so the beaches are black and red and the sea is a wild mix of green and blue from the thermal activity below. Nearly every structure here is white and blue. It's a picturesque view in every direction.
My second time visiting the small area of the Italian Riiera and it's still as magical as ever. Little colorful towns nestled in the cliff sides above the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by vineyards and lemon trees. Cinque Terre is a rich tourist haven yet a quiet beautiful hikers paradise as well. The food is delicious, the wine is abundant, and the people are friendly and beautiful.
Sometimes when you travel things can happen to cause some discomfort. Rain may put a damper on things but a little water never hurt anybody. Grab an umbrella or a rain coat and go explore!
In Marseille I realized how big the world was and how small it was all in the same week. Visiting the Notre Dame de Le Garde way up on a rock above the city and visiting les Calanques and its huge powerful white cliffs and bright blue water were both experiences of how vast and huge our beautiful planet is. The basilica in the Notre Dame was incredibly intricate and covered in gold. Little wooden boats hang from the ceiling and the walls are covered in paintings of ships. The Calanques were magical and peaceful yet powerful and demanding. One of the most amazing places I've seen in my life. Getting the chance to hike through the woods and the mountains in a totally new part of the world brought me so much joy.
In the same day I was able to see a friend from Rome who happened to be visiting my friends in Marseille AND I was able to go to a show my friends from Kansas City were playing too. The world is so big yet we find these pockets of humans to make "tribes" with and they can spread throughout multiple countries and cultures and generations. Friendships can be made within a matter of days and can last a lifetime.
Ever since the first time I saw a photo of Sagrada Familia I knew I needed to be in its presence. Seeing it in person blew my mind wide open. I could sit and stare at it for days and still find new and interesting details. Gaudi was greatly inspired by nature and all of its magic and it's clearly visible in all of his architecture and in the park he designed here in Barcelona. He also had a very dark creative mind which I deeply appreciate. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to visit such beautiful places and am inspired as an artist and as a human by everything I see.
Sometimes getting lost is a good thing. Wandering around a new place with no agenda, no expectations and no one else is a freeing experience. Today I woke up in Spain and even with my jet lagged brain and body I knew I needed to get out of bed and go explore my new surroundings. I wandered through a park full of Palm trees and wisteria, found a little cafe where I had a croissant sandwich and a coffee for only 2€, walked up several huge flights of stairs to a museum with a view of the whole city, and then spent 4 hours walking towards anything that appealed to my senses. I walked through parks and streets and alleyways and up through the hills above the city. I eventually made my way back to España Square near where I am staying and there sat my travel buddy Liz fresh off the airport bus! A great start to my stay here in Barcelona!
Today was my first true test of strength and independence. Flying internationally solo is intimidating. Throw on top of that a delayed flight, a missed flight, and getting lost in an airport I've never been too. Oh, and only getting about twenty minutes of sleep. It's easy to get overwhelmed and hard to keep calm. It all worked out in the end, I got a new flight and a voucher for a big delicious pizza to boot. Traveling isn't all magic and fun and relaxation. Sometimes it's uncomfortable and scary and overwhelming and all you can do is keep breathing and know that everything will be totally fine. Now if only I could take a hot shower and sleep for longer than twenty minutes I could really get this adventure rolling.
Take an hour long train ride and you're in a different world, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Sandy beaches, carnival rides and cotton candy are a few of the sights and smells of Coney Island; a little escape for the people of New York. I met a few men who were photographing the area with their beautiful film cameras, one with a Hassleblad, the other with an 8x10 camera. They saw my Yashica and insisted I geek out for a minute. It's so cool to feel like part of a community solely because of my love for film.
Today my partner in crime for the next 7 weeks arrived in New York as well. I can't wait to share this adventure with another human.
New York, New York; the city that never sleeps, the center of the universe. I feel overwhelmed and excited all at once. Every second of time spent in this city is stimulating to all the senses. Millions of people living their lives simultaneously and parallel to each other but keeping mostly to themselves. I can see why people say this is a lonely place. I am excited to be here and to have the opportunity to experience a place filled with so much life and culture and history. The whole world exists within New York.
As I look out at this wide open road ahead of me, I fear for the unknown. Two days from now I will set out on a 7 week journey to New York and onward to Europe. I embrace the challenges ahead and anticipate the incredible adventure that awaits me. Pushing ourselves through our fears is how we grow. Acknowledging the obstacles in front of us and overcoming them makes us stronger. I look forward to exploring further a part of the world that I love so much, seeing old friends and making new ones, expanding my mind with new cultures, and of course photographing everything I see. This is my summer of independence and freedom and I can't wait to live it.