Though my mind constantly bubbles with unwritten stories, and I spend significant portions of my days writing, reading and dreaming about the seductive spell of foreign places, I have been negligent with actually capturing my travel experiences on paper – or the Internet in this case. I have months – if not years – of travel experiences to write about, and I peck away at this seemingly endless task from time to time. Although my blog following isn’t very large, it entertains me to discover who actually reads my stories.
Just last week, the new owners of Queequeg III stumbled upon my blog and sent me a message. Queequeg III was the boat that my father and I sailed around Cape Horn in 2003. We sold the boat soon after we returned from our adventure, and she changed hands several times before landing with the current owners. They sent along some photos of their renovations along with a synopsis of their sailing endeavors. What a small world at times! It was good to hear that our maiden is in capable – and adventurous – hands.
So, now that I am fully moved in to my adorable apartment in the heart of Edgewater and am settled into a nine-to-five, I will begin updating a bit more frequently. I found a job that is right up my alley. I basically write about travel for a huge international travel company. My team is fantastic, fun and lovable. And I recently sold my first freelance writing project!
The focus for 2016 is to continue/finish writing my book, catch up on years of travel blogs, and do a bit more freelance work. I joined my cute neighborhood gym and I am a regular at yoga, kickboxing and boot camp. Whole Foods is a block away to the north, and Starbuck’s is a block to the south. The Red Line stop is two minutes away, my sister lives across the street, and Lake Michigan’s running/bicycling path is at my doorstep. So, yes, I am in an awesome location. If I was a selfie taker, I would post a picture right now.
I still have my ’06 China and ’12 India/Nepal trips to write about as well as my South Pacific and South America trips from ’08 to catch up on. However, I should probably begin with the freshest memories – those from my most recent trip to Eastern Europe and Italy/France. I absolutely fell in love with the Balkans: soul-stirring Sarajevo and Kosovo were among my favorites.
After several months in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, my mom met me in Italy, and we had an epic five weeks experiencing the best of Italy and France: museums that boasted somersaulting cherubs, butter-drenched pasta dishes accompanied with carafes of wine, and saffron-hued, vine-laden slopes bedazzled with sunsets.
Our journey took us through Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Florence, Venice, Amalfi, Pisa, Lucca, the Italian Lakes, Milan, Paris and the Loire Valley. We drank many bottles of wine, walked hundreds of kilometers, and gazed at dozens of Madonna with Child paintings. It was a fast-paced and overwhelming trip, but equally it was scintillating and unforgettable – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I also made a side trip to Munich to see my gorgeous friend, Ina. She was my roommate for several months in Australia during 2010, and we were both overjoyed for the opportunity to catch up again. Ina dressed me up in a dirndl, and we drank steins of beer and bicycled through Bavaria’s honeyed hay fields and strawberry-scented landscapes. It was a wonderful week of baking bread, sipping chilled wine, and catching up on five years of gossip.
I then made a hasty decision to fly across the globe to visit my best friends in Australia, their new babies and…an ex-boyfriend. It was a tumultuous reunion, but I finally realize that he just doesn’t deserve me.
I spent a wonderful month playing barbies with chatty toddlers, enjoying long coffee dates with my Ozzie sisters and running along my beloved Brisbane River. It was an emotional homecoming with my second family, city and those that I dearly love.
My Ozzie girlfriends are absolutely thriving, resplendent with growing careers and burgeoning families. I have known most of them for nearly ten years now, and I have watched them grow into career-focused wives and loving mothers. Cara, Kath, Ros, Marina and Chloe; it looks like I will have to plan another trip to Australia to meet your growing families and snuggle those babies!
Although I love my new Chicago residence and my writing career is progressing, I still feel somewhat “unsettled.” My craving for travel sneaks up at unexpected moments, gnawing like a belly-deep, insatiable hunger. A tune of Latin music or the lingering aroma of turmeric outside the local Indian cafe helps to keep the sorrow of unfulfilled dreams at bay. Sounds of other languages during my morning commute or from the ladies sorting through the apple bin make me wistful and elated at the same time. I am drawn to these people, eager to talk to them about their homelands, cultures and cuisine. Sometimes I start a conversation. Or I’ll just close my eyes and listen to them briefly while imagining I am back on a city bus in Saigon or wandering through a Bolivian market. I flip through travel magazines, wanting to absorb the inimitable splendor of the glossy destinations through my fingertips. At times, I don’t finish the article for the nostalgia it too strong, and the magazine goes back on the shelf next to my collection of Tibetan prayer beads and pulu.
I can’t say yet where or when my next trip will be. Maybe I’ll actually move overseas next time – six months in Florence or a year in El Salvador sounds great to me. For now, I’m enjoying my long walks along the lake with my mom and sister and my frequent jaunts past the local dog park. There is also a plethora of ethnic cuisines to explore. Chicago’s best Pho is just down the road, Lebanese is two blocks away and Yelp’s highly rated Ethiopian is within walking distance on a not-too-cold night.
The itch to write has returned, and hopefully my jumble of travel stories can make their way to my keyboard. As this year’s winter forecast seems to be foretelling, I will soon have plenty of snowy Saturdays to spend at my desk. A new beginning awaits!