If you’ve read this, then you know how I feel about my momma. And if you read this or this, then you know how I feel about my cousins. So how flipping cool is it that they just flew across the Atlantic to do some Italy and Mediterranean adventuring with me?! I just had the sweetest two weeks with mamacita and my cousin, Morgan. And my sister. Oh, that sister of mine…
I don’t believe in perfect people or perfect places or perfect travels. But I do believe with every ounce of my heart that God gave me the.perfect.sister. Ten years my junior, we’re probably not destined to be in the same phase of life at the same time…not “supposed” to have a ton in common…Jordan’s in highschool. Still a babe. And I’m….not. But that girl is as much my soul sister as my biological one. And oh my gosh, did I need some sister time.
Two weeks with these three gals made my heart smile big…
We wined…We drank fresh table wine at small hole-in-the-wall Roman joints. We clinked bubbly [[or bubs, as we like to call it for short]] on the cruise ship, dressed to the nines, while a good ole Greek Isle view faded into the horizon. But my favorite wining was the proper wine tasting day…the most picturesque day spent in Tuscany filled up my soul. Our charming driver, Mauoro, shared his favorite three wineries with us. Wineries set amidst the olive trees with sweeping Tuscan vineyards that produce brilliant wines. But the best was no doubt, the last. Our host poured wine after wine after wine to test our pairing palates with the salad and cheese and minestrone and cured meats and aged balsamic and Grandma’s lasagna drizzled with truffle oil. It was a treat and a half; and a checked bucket list item for the books.
And dined…From Mom’s spaghetti scoglio, Morgan’s caprese salad, Jordan’s penne alla arrabbiata and ALL of our gelato, Italy is the home to ‘eat’ in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ for good reason. Don’t even get me started on cruise food. I’m still detoxing.
We walked…Mom and Morgan might disagree, but walking is just my favorite way to explore. You just follow your feet. Sometimes they find the Colosseum, sometimes they find the Bridge of Sighs and sometimes they find perfect Greek beach to cool off. I don’t know where we totaled in mileage, but I do know that walking time company with my girls was so appreciated.
And cruised…For as long as I can remember, Mom’s been telling my half Greek cousin Morgan that one day we’d go to Greece together. As moms do, she made good on her word, and Greece we did. In style. On the Splendour of the Seas. And as much as I’ve been on a completely different wavelength for the last 6 months of backpacking, I have to admit, easy, stylish travel felt really nice. It felt like a treat. It made me feel girly and clean. It was as it sounds…splendid.
We explored…Temmes are used to traveling. But not this way. Not my way. My new way, anyway. Exploring without agenda feels nice and natural. When you show up in Florence and have no idea what’s around the hotel and what’s best to do, you just go find the good. It’s that simple. I loved exploring little medieval Tuscan towns and winding Venice pathways and adoring the Roman doors and finding the perfect little Greek cafe with my ladies. May as well just call us all Dora from here on out.
And rested…The thing I’ve had to learn, to force myself to accept, is that rest.is.ok. Taking a nap is good for the body and soul. Sitting on a bench and people watching is often just as culturally enriching as racing around with a tour group in the Vatican to see the Sistine Chapel might be. We walked and explored. But we also rested. And it makes the exploration that much lighter and appreciated.
But best of all, we laughed…that sister of mine keeps me in stitches. She is as witty as they come. She does goofy accents with me and let’s me call her ‘the half to my bruise’ when we happen to wear black and blue dresses to dinner. She does puppet shows with the towel elephants and calls mom ‘Bert’ or ‘Marge’ or ‘hey lady’ [to which my mom always responds…?!]
And laughed…We laughed like only sisters can laugh. Real deep belly kind of laughs. We laughed for 14 days straight. The Italians and Greeks probably thought we were off our rockers. And that’s why I love me some sister time.
I can only pray that when we’re 90 and 80, we find some really sweet old rockers [[preferably in Tuscany, for old times sake]] and laugh ourselves out of those ones too.
“Drrreicccchhhh…you have to roll the ‘r’ in that throaty way… If you can learn to pronounce ‘dreich’ like a Scot, then you’ve really accomplished something here in Scotland,’ said Mairi.
I’m not sure I learned how to perfectly pronounce ‘dreich,’ but I do think I perfectly understand what it means…gloom, drizzly, grey, ‘blah’ Scottish days. Days that aren’t all that far off from a sluggish Seattle February day. I get that. I get that way deep.
Mairi also taught me that the way you spend your birthday sets the intention for how you’ll spend your year. And so she, along with her precious little blue-eyed blonde kiddos, made sure I did a lot of birthday smiling.
We sipped proper Scottish whiskey with proper Scots in a proper Scottish bar. We drove through those green, green highlands that Pinterest tells you, you must visit [an absolutely accurate Pinterest reco. Do the highlands. Find the cows. Drink the whiskey. Thank me later]. We pulled over for photos with waterfalls and to hike around old castle ruins.
And they gifted me with a grey and white brush-stroked canvas to remember that sweet place that set the intention for my year. At the end of a foreign fairy-tale birthday morning, I hugged my new friends with an overflowing heart and walked off to catch my train [a train that would wander through the most beautiful valleys ever…an opinion apparently shared with J.K. Rowling, as yes, it was indeed the setting for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express]. Three hours of gorgeous train ride later, the announcer with the Craig Ferguson accent invited me to ‘alight’ the train at my final stop back in Helensburgh, and it slapped me in the face….
I spent my birthday in the Scottish Highlands alighting the dreich. I left the gloom. I’m deboarding that dreich train, yall. Birthday intention set. Bring it on, 27.
It’s so blissfully quiet. Just the faint humming of the heater, the tap of my fingers touching the keyboard and birds chirping in the distance. I’m sitting cross-legged on an old comfy couch with a piping hot cup of vanilla chai. I’m surrounded by glass windows in every direction, leaving a sweeping view of a Scottish loch, the rolling Highland hills and the greenest lushest earth on the planet. Week one in Scotland is in the books and I’m now finding this blissfully quiet moment to reflect on yet another powerful period of self-growth, graciousness and the best that humanity has to offer.
I’ve found during my first week in Scotland, that the absolute, purest, best that humanity offers, comes in the form of a few characters I’ve met recently; each showing me a different lens to life and each showing me something new in myself. Heathfield [[the old, original name for the 1870s Scottish estate, turned yoga retreat central, that I currently call home]] is a special place. It’s old. Really old. And parts of it are fairly battered up [[for which I’m thankful, getting to live out my HGTV dreams, tearing down old atrocious wall paper and revealing the real bones, ready for some love and a fresh coat of paint]]. But atrocious wallpaper aside, this manor has real soul. And so it attracts soul, too…
Sonya. For an accent-obsessed gal like myself, I have no idea how Sonya’s French-ness evaded me for three days. Though horrible to admit, maybe, I usually find a French accent quite piercing. But Sonya’s voice…it’s the softest, calmest voice I’ve ever heard. A yoga teacher for a reason. She left me with a softened ear and Indian incense to practice my yoga with. Soothing beyond measure. All of it.
Paula. She brought me back to one of my happy places. People always ask me, “so, do you miss anything about ‘home?’ to which I always reply…my kitchen [[and the gym, but that’s another story]]. While I still miss my kitchen, Paula tucked me under her wing in the Heathfield kitchen last weekend and it brought me back to the rhythmic meditation of chopping veggies. Done with so much love and so much focus, it was exhausting. Like Thanksgiving on repeat for three days, as we cooked for the yoga retreat group, 15 strong. But oh, how fulfilling those sweet hours in the kitchen were. Community is built around the table. And an adoration for Paula is built behind the stove.
Angie. With bold black specs, fierce blonde hair and a firecracker of a personality, I was drawn to Angie like moth to a flame. A professional matchmaker for the millionaires, an elegant cook and an even more elegant wine-o, some of my fondest moments this week were spent listening to Angie’s stories about relationship and partnership and family. I don’t think her life is perfect, but I think her journey is. And that’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it?
Mairi. Mairi might be my Scottish kindred spirit. She gets me. I don’t know how or why someone should ‘get you’ after only a few hours of newfound friendship, but somehow she does. She gets my story. She gets my fears and hopes. Hell, she even brought me on her precious family vacation back to her hometown in the Highlands for a night. She showed me the Scotland I dreamed of experiencing. And so here I sit, in this blissful quiet moment of reflection, all because of her. She’s a picture of generosity and understanding. For that, I hope she feels my overflowing grateful heart.
Lawrence. The reason I’ve come to meet any of said souls. My host. My teacher. My yoga partner. My Ty Pennington. Sonya and Paula’s friend. Angie’s brother. Mairi’s partner. No label defines him, but all somehow coalesce into the important print he’s stamped on my life in the last week. About a year ago, Lawrence bought into a dream when he took on Heathfield. He’s poured out his soul into the place, ripping up old tile, sanding down the beautifully strong wooden floors, creating a yoga studio out of ram shackles. But I hope he knows that the soul he pours into it is doled back out tenfold for the blessed souls who step foot on that estate.
By about the second hour of snow-drenched Nikes and steep climbs, I knew this was going to be a tough hike. It was really cold, yes, but if we kept moving, it was bearable. It was really long, yes, but if we focused on the beauty around us rather than the hours left, it was justified. It was really insane to hike Norway without proper boots, yes, but if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, maybe I could convince myself that I could keep up with the boys.
Trolltunga was indeed a troll and a half. A total beast. Not steeper than Mailbox, but long as hell, bitingly cold and a mental challenge. The end was the sweetest reward though. The end was insane…
22 kilometers. 10 hours. 4 bum knees. 4 American boys. 1 American girl. 1 Norwegian girl. 1 insane day for the memory books.
My cousins have always had such a sweet spot in my life and Kory is no exception. He’s fun as hell, generous to a near fault and hilarious as they come. And he made a heavy hike feel light and full [[equal parts him stealing my bag on the hills and cracking usual Kory jokes]]. He shared guy-time with me and he probably doesn’t even know how good it felt to be surrounded by some American boyish charm. I spent about a week with four American boys in Norway and OH did I learn about American boys in Norway… We hiked… We road-tripped… We danced… For a blip in Norway time, we just did life light on our feet, full of a thirst for adventure and a ‘dance until the sun comes up’ spirit. Literally. We danced until the sun came up [[sure, it goes down at 1am and comes up at 3am on a Norway summer night, but still!].
I learned that Kory’s the fearless one who picks up Norwegian gals on the side of the street. I learned that Alex is the one to trust behind the wheel and that gals of all nations recognize how gorgeous he is. I learned that Tyler can dance like nobody’s business and might rival me in his napping abilities. And I learned that Jared laughs at them all, now that he’s found himself a gem.
I learned a lot about these boys, whether they know it or not. And boy did it feel good to spend some time with some good ole boys.
How funny that I’ve been thinking this week ‘gosh; I’m 2 countries behind on blogging.’ Behind. Timelines. Pressure. For what?
And then, just as I’m sitting down to write, here comes Greece in the news. Timing is funny, huh? I bet Greece could use a little love today, and so against my initial concern with timeliness, timing is perfect.
I recently spent some time in Mykonos, Greece with an old friend. And oh, how precious that time was.
My Le and I ferried over to Mykonos from Athens and four hours on the loveliest of ferries flew by as we caught up on life…the new career moves, the heart growth, the travels and the postcard love.
We grabbed our little Smart Car [[aka golf cart, aka no car I will EVER own]], finagled our luggage in to the nonexistent trunk and clunked off to our Greek Villa.
We were met with a strange, albeit rather stereotypical vision of Greece. Fiery, booming, passionate words, lots of hand gestures and an accusatory exchange between our host, Sotiris, and a couple of patrons about a little mishap… It was big and loud and very well could have uprooted our entire plan, had we not fallen in love with the charming blue shutters, the stone masoned walls, the sweeping sea view and the never-ending salty breeze that made the flowers dance around our front patio.
And so we came to love Sotiris and the quiet little island of Mykonos just as such.
My Le and I slowed down in Mykonos. Something I’m proud of us former DC PR gals for knowing how to do. For a quick story within a story: once upon a time My Le was my boss. She, like our new Greek friend, is a fiery, passionate boss. No time for excuses or poor quality work is what makes her a rockstar professional. We’re the kind of Type-A’ers who need to schedule in ‘slow down time.’ It’s clearly something I’ve been studying up on for months, so was in awe of how easily My Le slid into island life right along with me.
We spent our days sleeping in; eating Greek yogurt and muesli in the soft morning glow on the porch; driving windows-down on the Smart Car through winding dirt road switch-backs; and tanning ourselves silly at our favorite little beach suite—Panormos.
And then there’s the food….ohhh, that Greek food. Tzatziki and gyros and salads and baklava and moussaka. I mean, it’s a garlic-lover’s dream.
And the shopping…yall know it’s not my love-language, but I did absolutely love wandering the windy blue and white streets admiring the precious local gems and people watching. And so we did it on repeat each evening before dinner.
My Le scored big time, with white flowy dresses and the softest silks. And I even treated myself to a rare souvenir….it’s something I’ve been wanting for months, since before I even left home…something small and delicate and beautiful. But I think the timing just hadn’t been right yet. I hadn’t found the right one and perhaps I wasn’t ready to slide anything back on to that bruised ring finger… But I found it in Mykonos. It’s something that will remind me of Greece every time I look down at my left hand. And something to remind me that while I don’t wear that one ring anymore, I have a new one that I love. It’s rose gold…and so maybe a light reminder that it’s ok to see the world first through a rose lens. It’s hopeful. I like hopeful.
So Greece, if you’re listening. Thank you for bringing me the gift of slowed down, quiet time with a friend. Thank you for bringing me the gift of rose-colored hope. Thank you for reminding me that while timing often feels cruel, we’re always, always, right where we’re supposed to be, when we’re supposed to be there, with the right gifts right at our finger tips. Here’s wishing the same for you, Greek friends.
More than the breathtaking views [[truly, I sometimes forget to breathe while gazing out at those snow-capped mountain peaks and lush valley fields]]; more than the viticulture lessons that I’m soaking up like a sponge; more than unabashed puppy kisses, rich Italian food, and the joy of watching the cherry tree ripen with each passing day, the last three weeks have given me the gift of solitude and connection.
Some might scoff at the idea of going on ‘vacation’ and purposefully plopping down on the middle of a mountain–no nightlife, no shops, no restaurants, no beach, no civilization, really. But for a country girl at heart–a heart who needs some work– these may have been some of the most abundant few weeks of my whole sabbatical. It’s given me what I craved while I was still at my buzzing office desk in the Seattle metropolis. It’s given me distance from the buzz, time to reflect, space to work on me and the reignited desire to reconnect my body, mind and spirit. Cheesy? Sure; I usually am. True? Yup. No. Doubt.
I’ve spent my days in a slow but unfixed routine…
I wake up to the sound of the birds, not honking cars…
I sip on coffee and savour breakfast while reading the Bible or catching up on EastLake, rather than scarfing down as much caffeine as possible while cursing the HOV lane traffic that shouldn’t be…
I practice yoga without any expectations or distractions or raced agenda. Slow flow. Slow breaths. Strong holds…
I wander out into the vines to work with my hands and nature, where my mind is free to go wherever it needs to go, without an over-saturated calendar of conference calls and decks…
It’s there that I think about God. I pray. A lot. More than I’ve ever prayed before. Maybe it’s that at halfway up the Alps I feel a little bit closer to His house? Maybe it’s the quiet that guides my heart there? Maybe it’s that I saw a snake a few weeks ago and that just screams ‘pray?’ Regardless, real, raw, prayers have been said on the side of this mountain…
It’s there that I think about boys. Boys and men. The difference between the two. The one who broke my heart. The ones who’ve filled my time. The one I think about now. The one I pray for…
It’s there that I think about my family and my friends who feel like family. I do miss them. Four months is a total blink of an eye. No time at all. But it’s enough time to miss Jessica’s graduation and Papa’s health scares and Val’s wedding planning and one girlfriend’s mama-hood announcement. It’s enough time to ‘miss’ in general. And that I do. So hard…
It’s there that I think about what’s next [[such a contradiction to my ‘be present’ prayer that I pray every day]]. Sure, Greece is next week. And then Norway. But what’s next, once I hit American soil? Where do I want to be? Why do I want to be there? How do I want to spend my time? Who should I surround myself with? So many questions. So many ideas. So few conclusions. And thus the prayer repeats…
Sometimes at the end of the day, those rains sweep in over the valley so quickly I can’t even make it back to the house before getting soaked to the bone. And so sometimes I just stay put and let the rain fall on my face.
And then when I’m too cold and wet to bear anymore, I head inside and make homemade cherry crumble.
This trip has been four months chock full of dreamy, surprising and delightful, but I may have found the trump card here in northern Italy.
There’s this travel secret called Help Exchange [[there are others too, WWOOF & Work Away included]]. Why it’s such a secret, I have no idea, cause it’d have been about the coolest way to spend a college summer or 4 that I could think of. [[Get ON it, Joey, Phillip, Jess & Catie!]]. Truly, it might be the greatest thing invented since wine.
In a nutshell, travelers can apply to go volunteer with hosts from around the world who need any range of help–from feeding baby goats on a farm in Australia to working on a yacht in the Med, to sous-cheffing it up at an organic cooking school in Turkey. In exchange, hosts offer a range of comforts, mostly including lodging and food. It’s pretty much a win-win, no matter how you slice it, though I suppose the richness of the experience largely depends on the host / help match.
But with a little bit of luck finally on my side, I hit the HelpX gold mine of all gold mines on my FIRST try.
Yall, I live on a vineyard. THIS vineyard:
For at least the next few weeks. I live and work and play and eat and drink on a vineyard with the loveliest Italian couple and their incredible amount of pups. Twenty years ago, Paolo and Marisa bought this little chunk of land nestled in the northern Italian Alps looking out over the Valtellina Wine Valley. They built a gorgeous home, expanded the vineyard and created a total haven up here in nature. A haven which they now graciously share with me.
From my new favorite coffee / wine perch, depending on the time of day, I have an unobstructed view of their sloping vineyard, the valley and river down below, the snow-capped peaks, almost Switzerland and absolutely heaven.
It’s perfect timing too, cause the last few weeks have been filled with an unquenchable need to be productive. I know, that sounds crazy… ‘just relax and enjoy the dream you’re living right now,’ they say. For the most part I have, don’t get me wrong. But after four months of relative ‘downtime,’ it was time to entertain my Type-A for a bit.
And here, I find my balance.
I unpacked my suitcase for the first time. I have a room and bathroom to myself, thanks to my generous host family. I get to put my hands to work while I let my mind wander. I have ELEVEN gigantic and gorgeous playmates [[oh, as if Paolo and Marissa aren’t busy enough tending to 4000 bottles of annual wine-worth-of-vineyard AND working full-time, they’re also European champion Bernese Mountain Dog breeders…real life?!]].
I get to be in a kitchen again [[oh, how travel makes me miss this novelty]]. But I don’t get [[nor want]] to be the boss chef, cause Paolo may as well have his own cooking show too. Then we sit together, with that heavenly view, a heaping plate of authentic local cuisine, a glass of red harvested from the grapes not 10 yards away from our table [[10 yards, but 4 years prior]], and they entertain my incessant questions about wine making.
Around the table, I’ve learned all about the year-round labor of love that producing my favorite good requires. And in June, it’s vine-perfecting-time here at the estate, so I spend my ‘help’ time surrounded by baby grapes, with Michael Buble blaring, the sun tingling my skin, all the while making the vines do what they’re supposed to do and scolding the unruly.
What a life metaphor, huh? Unruly as things feel at time, with a little focused TLC, all things grow straighter, stronger and more fruitful.
Raising my coffee cup / wine glass to THAT, from my vineyard home in Italia today, friends.
‘So, tell me about your day,’ suggested my lovely [[and holy gorgeous]] Aussie-living-in-the UK-host, Justin, after a busy day in London Town.
‘Well, we started with a private tour of London with Jerry in a ‘Temme Taxi;’ saw the changing of the guard; shopped Savile Row where we oogled over fine suits and finer men; had lunch at the Wolseley and capped off a lovely day with a glass of red and a puff of a Cuban at a sleek cigar lounge on top of the Mayfair.’
‘Umm….you’re not ‘backpacking’ this week are you?’
Fair point, well made, sir. Though backpack is always in tow, I retired my barefoot and sandy, for a plush English week with two of my very favorite people on the planet.
If there’s anything I love more than huge vacations with my people, it’d be the Kull Wedding, circa 2010.
So in true Anne fashion, I suggested we celebrate the 5 year anny BIG…like, dump your beautiful towhead boys off with Granny for the week, fly economy and let’s celebrate in England. And in true Kristen fashion, the sweet experience of it all trumped the investment. And in true Mark fashion, we did it bigger than Anne and Kristen would have ever dreamt up.
So when Justin asks me again, how we spent Sunday in London, it went something like this…
‘Well, today we shopped Oxford Street [[and by ‘shop’ I mean I played Kristen’s dressing room bitch—that was a first, hey Kristen?!]]; had High Tea at the Grovesnor House where we munched on perfect little sammies and sipped proper English Breakfast tea for as long as our hearts desired; we drooled over the biggest and baddest bourbon collection in all of the UK, at which we sipped the BEST Old Fashioneds ever [[outside of Mr. McCoy’s boat, of course]]. Then, with an Old Fashioned disguised in a coffee cup in tow [[cause why WOULDN’T you]], we goofed off in Hyde Park, before dinner reservations at Nobu [[arguably the best sushi joint in the world]].’
The rest of the week didn’t slow down either…not in pace or fancy or laughs or drinks…
We toured the Tower of London, during which Mark made jokes on jokes about his own crown jewels. #Basic. We ate way too many delicious meals—burgers and pizza and gin—cause in London, gin is sometimes a meal. We had a Big Ben photo shoot, obviously. We wandered Borough Markets. We even had a sleepover at The Soho [[If I track baby #3 back to this night, I swear I will celebrate all subsequent Kull anniversaries in exotic locations by myself…]].
And oh my gosh, we pub crawled…
But is ‘pub-crawl’ really even an appropriate term for such a history lesson? I mean we literally sipped beers in the same seats with the same views that Churchill and Orwell and countless others sipped… Really, we were just drinkin memories. Memories that I’ll sip on for as long as we teach Churchill in the history books.
That week in London, much like my week at Derby last year, brought generosity to life. These people are my sweetest people, chock full of my sweetest memories.
And tonight, as I’m scrolling through my camera roll of the Kull Anniversary in London, I’ll smile and raise a glass to lasting love, to my cousins that are first and foremost some of my best friends and to the countless memories we drank up across the pond.
The cliché adage, ‘time flies when you’re havin fun’ has proven true here in the lush land of coconuts, pretty waters and crazy drivers. While two months is a blip in time, I feel like I saw a lot of you…I definitely LEARNED a lot from you…
You taught me to be patient. Communications barriers or city-wide electricity outages or a Tuk Tuk driver who takes the long route to the temples will in fact creep up in SE Asia and mess with any schedule we may have sketched up. But as I’ve said before, getting lost in time and space is part of the whole beautiful thing.
You taught me to pop a squat. I’ve never been good at the whole camping facilities thing, but I quickly learned that when I have to go bad enough, I will go anywhere. I mean, anywhere. I learned that toilet paper is precious [[even more so when you’re allowed to flush it down, instead of throwing it in the bin]], some people stand on toilets if they’re not used to the porcelain gods and felt humbled to realize that some people in the world have never even seen a western toilet. It’s a simple thing, but never will I ever take a proper, clean toilet for granted again.
You taught me to cut the hotel snob bit. Sure, I admit. I’d still rather stay in a nice place, but I learned that not only CAN I shack up with a bunch of fellow travelers, all in one sweaty room…but sometimes, it’s even more fun. After all, who would have laughed with me when our room flooded in Hoi An, had I not met my favorite roadie rando ever?! [[shout out, Kaleena Kaleidoscope—yall should read her blog too!]]
You taught me how to be vulnerable. Perhaps a traveler’s MOST vulnerable is without any means of communication or financial support. I’m not good at asking for help or depending on others, but when Cambo got my phone and debit card, I had no choice but to change Ben Trouble’s name to Sugar Daddy. Uncomfortable as it was to ask him to buy me a water or a postcard at every turn, I suppose it exercised my ‘can you help me?’ button that I’ve suppressed for 26 / 27 years [[got it from my momma]]. I guess it’s ok to need help sometimes…makes you even more thankful for those people that swoop in and save your ass. Thanks for the sugar loan, Ben. And thanks for the kick in the prideful-ass, Asia. Good stuff.
You taught me to be present. No, I’m definitely not perfect at it, prob never will be, but I felt it working here. To be on a private beach in the middle of the Andaman Sea, or on the back of an elephant, or floating through a river market on the Mekong Delta, or tearing through rice paddies on a motorbike, or admiring monks at Angkor Wat…just so many moments that made me feel so alive, so aware, so in awe of people and places.
A blip in time, a drop in the bucket…but a blip and a drop I will cherish for life.
I’ll be back, Asia Town…I don’t think you’re done teaching me yet.
Until then, cheers to Vietnamese coffee, panang curry and mango sticky rice.
Ben keeps yelling at me for not keepin a minute-by-minute recap of our travels. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to mean we haven’t done anything blog-worthy…In fact, quite the opposite. Sometimes, the travel smiles pile up so high I don’t even know where to start. But for the sake of appeasing the diva, here we go…A special guest edition of the top ten things about our last ten days in paradise—written by Anne, smartass inserts by Ben:
First off, I would like to say that I have not been yelling at Anne for the above mentioned paragraph. I was promised a guest blog and was never given the opportunity until now. That is all.
1. Monkey business: As mentioned in postcard love, we found this authentic Greek shack out on the beach on Koh Lanta one morning. I ate slowly, savoring each bite of my gyro and was not-so-secretly stoked to package up the leftovers I intentionally saved for our afternoon at the beach.
Is it just me or does Anne describe everything with so much detail that it doesn’t seem real? I have never described food and/or eating like that. Food is simply nutrition that my body needs; therefore I eat it as quickly as possible without ever tasting it.
We motorbiked to the southern tip of the island, leftovers in hand, climbed some rocky cliffs to snap some of the coolest pictures to date and wandered back down to the secluded strip of white powder to set up shop for the afternoon. We walked the beach, took a break to swing, floated in the gentle waves, soaked rays…
…all of the usual beach things until I thought ‘ok. It’s finally time. It’s been an appropriate distance since breakfast. I’m goin in for the gyro.’ Apparently this jerk of a monkey was in perfect concerto with me and beat me to the punches. Homeboy sat there with a gnarly cleft-lip-intensified-growl and chowed down on my precious leftovers. You know what, I can’t even write about this anymore…#TooSoon
I was dozing off and heard what could only be described as machine-gun thunder (the monkey rapidly swinging his arms at the plastic to-go bag as if he wasn’t smart enough to use his opposable thumb and simply untie the bow-knot that Anne tied. Shortly after the ‘Garth Brooks Thunder Rolling’ I heard what I swore was a 10-year old girl crying… Little did I know, it was coming from Anne as if a tear was literally about to roll down her cheek.
2. The beach: Yes, we’re in the midst of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s honestly a honeymooner’s dream. But we also saw THE beach….You know, Leo’s beach [[insert Dad-bod jokes here]]. We ‘balled out’ for an afternoon in Koh Phi Phi and hired a private long boat. First stop after a dreamy tear through that sparkly deep blue: Maya Beach. Yes. It is as beautiful as it looks on the big screen. No, we did not get shot at by doping farmers. No, we didn’t even want to pay the 200 Baht to touch shore on the Hollywood-famed sand. But we did find a perfect [[and free of charge]] side spot to adore it all from. Leo wasn’t there in all his cushy glory, but I’d say that glorious day was fit for any celeb.
I honestly don’t know where Anne gets these descriptions from?! All I know is we, like everyone else, got on a loud long-tail boat (not ballin) and rode to this gorgeous bay filled with speedboats and other long-tails. Sure, if there wasn’t a million other tourist in the water and on THE beach is would have been the closest thing to heaven. However, it was the opposite. Hundreds of people who couldn’t swim and had to wear lifejackets as well as trash on the beach (so much for that 200 baht each person pays to keep the beaches clean). I realized when we rode elephants that Anne is either captivated by the simplest things or I am a pessimist.
3. Sunsets: Before I got my phone stolen in Cambo, I’d estimate about 65% of my photo library were sunsets. I just love em. You know the best kind? The kind over water. Our favorite sunset-gawking-perch was from atop the Banana Bar in Koh Phi Phi. I mean can you really think of anything better than an unobstructed view straight up to heaven, with those pinks and oranges streaked across God’s canvas, all the while waves rolling in between the huge limestone book ends, Bob Marley crooning and a spiked watermelon juice in hand? Yeah. I think not. That’s about as good as it gets.
Yea, both the Banana Bar and sunsets were pretty amazing. Did Anne and I just agree on something?!
4. Cool dinners: Thanks to Lucia and Breezy, Thai food is my favorite. Thanks to me, Ben now thinks ‘it’s not bad’ [[omg, drop the cool-dude-exterior and rave about something, for once, dangit Ben! It’s awesome. Just admit it]]. So we’re in Thailand and that’s all I eat. Curry on curry on curry. But the places we pick to enjoy said dishes is one of my favorite bits about this trip. My absolute favorite? Time of Lime. A fixed six course menu is sometimes the way to go. Gets you outside your instinctual order. A cozy little lantern lit spot right on the beach. A view of the sunset that faded into the green glow of nighttime squid fishing boat lights. A cool glass of rose. A lemongrass margarita. Thai chicken soup. Cashew chicken. Massaman curry. Fish cakes. Barbequed prawns. Chocolate mousse. Yup. Pure decadence. And worth every single one of the $18-ish spent. The flavors, the view, the music, the light green glow…it was perhaps the definition of ‘cool.’
Don’t get me wrong, Thai food isn’t that bad! But I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy. And did I mention I eat my food so fast that I don’t even taste it? That’s right. Pad thai, Massaman curry, all of it just goes down the pipe into the belly to feed this machine we call our body. The green lights casted off of the squid fishing boats is captivating. But Anne’s obsession with going night squid fishing is borderline crazy. We drove around on a 100 degree day on a moped looking for boats at the pier to ask if they would take us… Anne was driving at the time too (insert female driving joke here)
5. R&R from R&R: I know. I know. R&R? On vacation? I see the irony. But sometimes, when your travel buddy turns 27 in Thailand, you have to trade in the $10 digs and just go all out and find the sweetest 4-star-resort you can afford and go there and be on the beach and get massages and shower outside on the private patio and just ya know, ‘treat yoself.’ A treat it was. Former hotel snob for the birthday win. At least I thought so. Ben’s still all: ‘it’s not bad.’
There is something that I would like to discuss on this point – Anne’s inability to surprise me. First, she told me about a nice hotel she booked for my birthday; she wouldn’t tell me the price. Therefore, Inspector Gadget (me) dug around. Hmm, what would Anne use to book the hotel? How about hotels.com… Simply searched the hotels name, found the total price, divided by two, and had what each of our shares was. Anne forgets that I’m basically James Bond (with the jaw line of Channing Tatum). I knew something was up one day when she took a plate full of bread from the buffet back to the room to “feed the ducks”.. Yea. Ok. I found a spot on the beach and Anne came out 20 minutes later with a mountain of PB&Js. While I probably didn’t act as enthusiastic as she wished, it was a nice gesture. She needs to realize I’m a guy. No emotions shown and don’t get giddy over small things. Maybe her BFFFL Kara would have jumped up and hugged her, but not me. I have a masculine reputation to uphold.
6. Parrot fish: Mom made me stow a receipt in my wallet about 5 years ago with a rundown on my medical history. It’s still there—“Do not scuba dive. Your lung capacity sucks, thanks to 6 months of poison” or something to that effect… But Ben put his PADI cert to use to do some pretty sweet underwater exploring. From the surface and a snorkel mask, I did get to soak up some of my fave parrot fish, though. There! Take that, chemotherapy.
Diving in Thailand is way better than the only other place I’ve gone – Beaver Lake, Arkansas. I have done 8 dives, 1 of which is a night dive! My favorite dive was a ship on the sea floor about 25 meters down. This ship had a lot of history, but was purposely put in the ocean to serve as an artificial reef for divers and researchers. It’s hard to explain the rush in skydiving and the serenity in scubadiving. Water covers more of our Earth than land. It’s an amazing experience to witness a whole nother society free of vehicles, cell phones, and over-paid athletes/celebrities. The simplicity of marine life and Thai life go hand-in-hand. It’s about food and shelter. Your life gets put into perspective when the guy you’re renting a moped from sleeps behind his store on a wooden platform with a blanket covering him and piece of wood to protect him from the rain. No A/C. No kitchen. No bathroom. Just a piece of damn wood… That just got deep.
7. Fisherman pants: While shopping is neither of our favorite pastimes, we have folded on a few occasions for local gems and / or local knock-offs. We’re now the proud owners of cheap iphone accessories, matching ‘Same same, but different’ tanks and the infamous fisherman pants. Ben bought said pants for a yoga sesh that didn’t happen, but they’ve been a source of much entertainment…from the YouTube videos that taught him to properly tie the 5 foot circumference waist band to the time they dyed all of his white shirts pink in the wash…I hope he struts those pants at home and laughs all over again.
Best. Purchase. Ever. These things weren’t the easiest to tie at first, but they’ve become one of the most comfortable things I’ve worn this entire trip. Anne wanted some after wearing them on the elephant. She’s actually jealous that she doesn’t have a pair!
8. Google it: Did Nepal’s earthquakes send aftershocks that shook Phi Phi with a quake and tidal wave warning just days before we arrived? Is the ‘kup’ or ‘kah’ [[aka masculine or feminine]] pronoun clasped to the end of a word based on the speaker or recipient? Do we need a visa for Malaysia? How many islands ARE there off the coast of Thailand? Oh my gosh, we ask so many questions every day but the answer is always the same ‘it’s worth a Google.’ The problem is, half the time we don’t have internet, so our Google backlog is significant at present. We should really start writing down our q’s, Ben. Side note: please answer in the comments below if you have intel on any of the above.
The only answer I have for the above is that you do not need a visa for Malaysia, they pretty much give you 90 days upon arrival. Other than that, I think you shorted us. I have roughly 10 more questions that we never Googled. I love learning new things every day, but this trip I’ve been drinking from a fire hose. Too much information, too little a time.
9. Princess massages: Ben slips and calls me a ‘princess’ sometimes [[not in a nice way, either]] and it pisses me off. I’m a lot of things, but ‘princess’ I am not. Howeeevvverrrrr, I do love me a massage once in a while. Thai massage? Even better. It’s basically half massage, half someone conducting yoga with your body without you having to try. I love it. Ben’s a little baby trapped in a rigid man’s body and cannot deal. He still goes with me though and opts for the much more ‘princess’ a la carte.
A) Princess is an understatement when it comes to adjectives for Anne. She is a typical American girl. Hairdryer, hand sanitizer, and hates bugs. Plus, she’s almost too nice! When girls use the words ‘doll’ or ‘love’ after every sentence when talking to another female traveler, I don’t know if its fake or a secret code girls use. I cant stand being called a doll or love, but maybe girls take it differently? And FYI – Thai massages are like paying for a 60-minute torture session. I had a 90 pound Thai woman beat me up and I paid her for it! No thanks!
The fire show was awesome the first time we saw it. I could see Anne’s eyes glazed over and I don’t think I saw her blink once. But once was cool enough for me. The second time we stumbled upon a fire show it was around several dozen inebriated college-aged kids. I hadn’t been drinking (we all know the sober guy feeling = the worst) so I was ready to bounce after 2 minutes. Anne, however, could have stayed all night watching kerosene lit objects twirl in the air. No one likes a Debby downer, but I am used to the single life where I do what I want and don’t worry about affecting anyone else. Signs that a serious relationship is definitely not in my near future!
So yes, we’ve been busy stackin up travel smiles off the west coast of Thailand. Happy, Ben?!