A girl juggling a job, a camera and an extreme case of wanderlust...

Travel junkie, ex-shippie, photog, reader, writer, video editor & yummy brownie baker. Workflow: Canon/Kindle/Mac/FCP/AE/PS/Bowl/Oven. Countries: 46 //LDS

More About

  • # Visited
    46 countries
  • Next Trip
    Virginia, Israel, then Moving to Rome
  • Dream Trip
    Living in Europe/Country hopping
  • Travel Quote
    "The cure for anything is saltwater - sweat, tears or the sea." - Isak Dinesen
  • Home Country
    United States

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No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a tour of Alcatraz. I highly recommend taking the night tour. Be sure to book your tickets in advance (online: as they sell out weeks in advance.

A Day in San Francisco:
3:30 PM - 9:00 PM
-Ferry to Azkaban, I mean Alcatraz. 
-Night Tour of "The Rock."
(The night tour of Alcatraz is AMAZING, PS.)
-Ferry back to the mainland
From the Ferry Ride:

@ Alcatraz. Photos of inmates.

Cool staircase, PS.

Each corridor and space had a nickname: Broadway, Times Square, etc.

The Gun Galley at the top (where the guards kept vigil, behind the metal bars) 
& the key system - when requested the key was sent down to the prison floor via the rope and hook.

Weathered door to the courtyard outside.
Photos of friend Jesika, who came to visit for the weekend and let me test out my new 50mm 1.4 lens on her:
How about THAT sunset:
 The reception desk to the prison.
 The Hospital wing of the prison.
One of the areas open for the night tour. Very, very cool.

 Sunset and the Golden Gate Bridge through the frosted glass blocks. Loving my new 50mm lens.
The Hydro "Therapy" chamber in the hospital wing... creepy!

Exam table

Can't you just picture inmates staring out at the world from these windows? Lonely desperation...

Hospital ward
This is my favorite shot from the day. Isn't it crazy creepy? Yah.
 There are all sorts of after hours lectures and extra features on the night tour. Very, very cool.

A Day in San Francisco...

Explored Pier 39.
Walked to Pier 45.
Found a WWII Submarine.
That's right. I said A WWII SUBMARINE.
The USS Pampanito
SO worth the $10 admission fee.

One laundry machine for 70+ men. 
How often do you really think they washed their clothes? 
(Also, only one shower too. Ditto for washing of bodies?)

This bunk is sandwiched between torpedoes. 
Better not toss and turn at night if you sleep there.

Torpedo tubes
A hatch. It's TEENY TINY. 
There are four or five of these to pass through when traversing the length of the sub. 
These divide the sub into watertight compartments.
RED ALERT! The lighting on "the bridge" is red.

How would you like to sleep in such tight quarters? 
(You can't really see them from this photo, but the bunks 
go five rows deep to the left. Imagine the smell! Or don't.)

PS - Apparently you can rent out the submarine for overnight stays! How cool is that?
A friend and I recently ventured into my local metropolitan center, aka San Francisco, and did some exploring.
The weekend is best summarized by said friend's phone call to her husband: "Hey babe, I just saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, toured a WWII Submarine and now I'm going to see Azkaban, I mean Alcatraz. (yah, Alcatraz may have been renamed Azkaban for my entertainment) Tomorrow I'm going to see a Tuscan Castle!"
Her husband's hilariously sarcastic response: "Great. Let me know when you fly a fighter jet!"
11:00am - 2:00pm
Crissy Field, Palace of Fine Arts, Hike up to the Coit tower.
  The Palace of Fine Arts
 Coit Tower
The REALLYCOOL Back path up/down to/from Coit Tower, which wanders by an amazing neighborhood and some very cool, unexpected gardens in the middle of the city. If you're lucky, you'll see the famous Parrots.

The Departure Lounge: How to be a Guest
By Christy
The minute someone announces that they’ll be moving abroad or taking an extended trip, people who want to "visit you" appear out of the woodwork! Friends and family and even nearly-perfect strangers all want to share in the excitement, intrigue, romance of travel and exploration! I’ve heard cries of “I’m soooooooo coming!” from my sister, mother, countless friends and even my hair dresser!
Too funny!
While I’m excited to go and explore solo on my trip, I’m also excited to have visitors! I’ve hosted numerous people, at sea, on land, et cetera; I’ve had enough experience with playing the host to have formed solid, reasonable expectations for a guest. Here are my tips for being a guest:
Do your own research before you arrive. There is nothing more frustrating for a host than a guest who doesn’t know what they want to do, and sloughs off every expectation for “having a good time” on their host. Keep in mind: Your host lives in the place you’re visiting. He/She will know of some great things to do there, but he/she will not know what it is you are truly interested in. You may think that saying “I’ll do whatever” means you’re being flexible and trying to work with your hosts schedule, but it’s actually quite stressful for the host. Spend a few minutes on researching things to do in the place you’re visiting and let your host know ahead of time so the proper arrangements can be made.
Keep in mind that your host lives where you’re visiting: While you may be on vacation and are feeling care free and out for non-stop fun, your host is probably not on vacation (That’s why he/she is still at home), sure the host may be able to get a day or two off from work to tour you around the region, but at the end of that time the host will have to return to work – be respectful of your host’s time.
I once hosted a guyfriend’s girlfriend for the weekend. It.Was.Awful. I asked only that they text me to let me know when she would be dropped off each night, so I could let her into the house (I wasn’t comfortable giving her a key). They would text me at half ten pm and not show up for four more hours. Really, really frustrating.
I’m not going to be working while I’m in Rome, but I will have personal projects going on – reading, writing, learning the language, so don’t expect that I can or will want to devote every waking hour to doting on you. I’m not a babysitter. I like my independence. You should, too.
You may have just scored a free place to stay, but you’re not staying in a hotel and there is no maid!! Clean up after yourself. Make your bed. If you’re sleeping on a couch in a public room, fold up your blankets and sheets and pack away your suitcase during the day. You’re in someone else’s home.
Most hosts will provide breakfast for you, and sometimes feed you every single meal. (Personally, my lifestyle is not such that I can offer that to a guest.) If your host offers to feed you, please let him/her know, in advance, if you have any food allergies or special dietary needs.

A couple of friends came to stay in my house for a few nights – I asked if there were any allergies or preferences for food before they arrived, and the answer came back, ‘no’ – however, on arrival, (at 11:00 at night) I found out that one of the guests had a milk allergy and was just expecting a piece of toast in the morning. I don’t usually keep bread in my house and had nothing to feed her in the morning, despite my efforts.

I am not independently wealthy. Sure, I have a good job, but I live relatively modestly. Don’t expect me to spend my hard-earned resources on your vacation. Yes, I want to go and play with you and I can pay for my own tickets and meals, but I’m not going to pay for yours. This is especially true for the time I’ll be abroad. My resources will be limited. You’ll be expected to pay for your share of what you do.
Horror story:
I live in a duplex house and know the girls who live next door to me fairly well. They somehow ended up hosting a guest for several weeks. Every few days I’d hear horror stories about how awfully this guest was behaving. The guest, an RN (that’s a nurse, if you didn’t know) with a great job in the area, had her lease run out on her without the option to renew (the house was being sold). She knew it was happening but failed to actually go out and find a new place to live. Instead, she invited herself to stay with my neighbors because it was free. My poor, unsuspecting neighbors!! While the nurse was there, she also (without permission) ate their food. She ran up their utilities. She used their laundry soap. She used their shampoo and toiletries. She monopolized their living room, leaving her clothing and belongings strewn everywhere. She invited her boyfriend over to make out in the living room until the wee hours of the morning, and played movies very loudly. Then she took all the money she saved on rent, utilities, food and toiletries and went to Thailand for several months. To this day, she doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong.
I’m not sure why there is such a sense of entitlement among so many people these days, and so little willingness to work for what one does have. Mooches are not welcome.

If you're my guest*:
-Expect to pay for your own meals if we eat out.
-Expect that my apartment in Rome will be tiny and there may only be one bed. You may have to share, or sleep on a futon.
-Expect to pay for your own airplane, train, bus, subway and ferry tickets. Also, your own taxis or any other type of transfer from one place to another.
-Expect to pay for your own tickets to tourist attractions. (I’ve already been, if I go again, it’s to go with you, not because I want to pay to see the same place again).
-Unless I have access to internet and an unlimited international calling plan, expect to pay for your own internet and phone use.
-If we have to rent a car or a vehicle, expect to pay for half the rental and gas. 

If you can't afford any of the above, then you can't afford to travel.

Now that’s all out of the way, we’ll get along grandly, so let the good times roll!!
* Sorry, readers, this is not an invitation to perfect strangers or quasi-acquaintances to come and stay with me.


For more Departure Lounge articles about preparing to become an expatriot, visit



Place: Bedouin Camp
Time: After Dinner
Scene: A group of travelers sits around a campfire with their Bedouin host, Sheik Zahid.


Sheik Zahid to the group: "You know, I am looking for a wife. Who is free?"

Group: Uh... silence.

Pat (part of the group, one half of the "mature" couple on tour): These girls are! (Points to me, Freda and Bea)

Sheik: You know, I learn from you all (the travelers passing through his camp) over the years one thing. I say "OH-SUM!" He grinned a toothy grin and gave two-thumbs-up.

Somehow, I ended up being cornered as the Sheik's next wife.

Oh-sum! As a person who takes things very literally I was flabbergasted! Was this a joke? What should I do? I didn't want to be rude!

But then again, when push came to shove, there was NO WAY I was getting married.

Not that night. Not to the Sheik.

But, he did offer me a very handsome dowry:
"What do you want? I will give you three Jeeps, one racing Camel (which are super expensive, who would have guessed? ... as in about $100k!), horses, goats, sheep, a gray mule, chickens, a cook, a house in Wadi Rum, a house on the beach in Aquaba. Gold, silver... Oh and my parents and family would move out there and we would all become Muslims.


Decidedly, this was all fun and games. (But dagnab, why don't American men make offers of marriage like that???)

And then there was much laughter over sugar-coated roasting marshmallows. The Sheik complemented me on my roasting technique.

"This is a very good woman."

And when my fiance lit up a cigarette I firmly put my foot down: "No smoking!"

And he grinned and repeated "This is a very good woman. See how she cares about my health! Oh-Sum! (Two-thumbs-up)" And then he took a long drag on the cigarette.

And before we all turned in for the night I told him "Make sure you brush your teeth!"

And he said "Oh-Suum!"

There are a few ways to leave an island. Airplanes and ferries are the most readily available means of transportation. But, if you can swing it, I highly recommend leaving islands the way I left the Greek isle of Kos: By sailboat.

You can charter your own sailboat most anyplace in the Med and sail yourself around if you're an experienced sailor. If you aren't and still want to sail, you can either hire a boat with a skipper, or do what I did - join a G Adventures tour. (G Adventures in no way sponsored this post or this blog, wouldn't it be nice if they had?)

I have to say, sailing around the Greek Isles on a sailboat is THE way to see Greece. Think about it - Greece is a land of seafaring people, so what better way to see those ancient islands than from the sea?

G Adventures did NOT disappoint. I'm actually thinking of going on their sailing tours in the Maldives and in Indonesia... eventually, because seriously, this sailing tour was THE BEST thing I've ever done while traveling. EVER.

Before our tour left Kos, we spent one night in the harbor there. It gave everyone on the tour a chance to get acquainted, do a bit of grocery shopping and explore the main port area. That night, in stark contrast to the previous three nights I spent on Kos, I didn't sleep cooled by air conditioning in a lush bed in a room overlooking the sea. My last night on Kos, I slept in a teeny-tiny 2-person v-berth on a 50ft sailboat (I had it all to myself because my charter, meant for ten people, only ended up with four- including skipper). No air conditioning, (so it was BAKING hot) No screens on the hatches, (so the swarms of mozzies on the island of Kos all feasted on me all night long) No hot water in the standing head (bathroom/shower) because the engine hadn't been run that evening (cold shower, which really wasn't bad in the heat).

And it was no big deal.

All night long, between mosquito bites, I lay in my v-berth, happy as a clam, being rocked to sleep by the sea.

I'm a boat person. And always will be. And I felt as though, at long last, I'd come home.


Tour the boat with me, in pictures:


 One of the two bunk rooms...  (NOT where I slept... thankfully!)



 The parlor



 My own, private head. Yup. This little cupboard of convenience is both a toilet and shower... 



 My V-berth. Cozy!



 My fellow adventurers.



 Skipper Robin Kersten (Fantastic Skipper. He runs his own charter company out of the Azores called Similie Sailing. Look him up!)



Ekavi - my home away from home while sailing the Greek Isles. (She's a Bavaria 50.)

As I walked up to the entrance of Antimachia Castle, I heard a voice call out:

"Ya Svenge?"
"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"
"Australian, mate?"

The little man was a character straight from the pages of history. Part court jester, part musician, all personality. He was dressed in a native, medieval costume to match his surroundings, this guy was the official greeting party for the Fourteenth century Antimachia Castle.

"English? I speak all language! Tell me, where you are from?"

I laughed at his persistence as I walked up the stairs to enter the Castle.


"American! Ah, U-S-A. Not very many Am-reekans visit Kos. Welcome!" He extended one leg in front of him and bowed from the waist with a flourish of his outstretched hand, then up he went, spry as a mouse and did a little jig, picked up a weird little triangle-shaped guitar and strummed a little tune.

The man must have been pushing 65.

"Thank you." I smiled, snapped a photo of him and dropped a few Euro into the tip basket on the ground next to the main entrance of the Castle before continuing inside.


As far as medieval castles go, Antimachia was pretty darned cool. It was in fairly good shape, having been excavated and somewhat restored. The size of the castle is deceptive. It's huge, but it doesn't look quite so large from the outside:

I blame the optical illusion on the goats. You see, the only thing around the castle for miles and miles is goat pastureland. If there were something (another building) standing nearby, one might actually get a better idea at the scale of the place.

Inside of the castle you'll find quite a variety of things to see: a jailhouse, some very cool ruins, a chapel (that is actually still in use to this day!) And one of the most striking viewpoints of the entire island.

Footpath through what remains of the interior of the castle, looking out on the sea...


 The Chapel


 Even the jail has a great view.

Great castle. But all in all, it may have been the little man who was the highlight of my day.

-You'll need a vehicle to get to the Castle from anywhere on the island.
-Cost: Free (but feel free to tip the awesome old man)
-Take: Sunscreen. Water. A Hat. (Seriously. Brutal sun.)
-Don't: Hit the freerange goats in the road on the way to the Castle.

I've been known to do a compulsive thing here and there. Or rather, what most people view as compulsive.

What most people don't see about me is that I'm a studier. I'm careful. I grapple with issues and search them out, sometimes for years, until seemingly, all at once, I make my move. Until I'm ready to do something I usually don't talk about doing said thing. Maybe I'm slightly supersitious about that... I've heard that if you want to make God laugh, you tell Him your plans.

My faith is a huge part of my life. Travel is a very personal, spiritual and faith-building thing for me. I've witnessed miracles, large and small and innumerable Tender Mercies at many junctures during my wanderings.
And to a point, I've found that quote above to be true. But only to a point. I don't believe I should tell God anything, instead I ask. And He answers, in His own time and His own way. He wants us all to be happy.

Choosing where and when to travel has always been an interesting process for me. I often have grand schemes for major trips I'd like to take. More than one scheme, more than one place. It's ALWAYS intimidating to click that "buy ticket" button on a travel website. I've definitely had my share of times when I've tried to force my way on an itinerary, only to have it end up costing me quite a lot of money, time and resources. I hope that by now I've learned to listen to that little voice, call it your gut, or juju or spirituality, whatever you'd like... but when something is off, I feel unsettled. I can never tell exactly why. Sometimes I never find out why. Other times I do. I've felt it while trying to book my last TWO big trips.

The first such experience: I was planning my trip to Egypt/Jordan/Malta/Italy. I'd determined to go on a certain date in the spring of 2010. The date worked really nicely with my work schedule and the tour I wanted to take in Egypt/Jordan. The thing is, when push came to shove, I couldn't pull the trigger and book anything. I had what people of my faith sometimes call a "stupor of thought." So I went back and worked the calendar again and came up with a plan to leave one week later. This time, everything clicked. I booked my tour, flights, insurance, hotels, etc for a very complex and rigorous travel schedule all over two-day period. (Obviously I'd been searching out routes, etc. for months beforehand). It just worked. When my travel dates drew near, a crazy thing happened: A certain unpronounceably-named volcano Iceland began to erupt, disrupting flights, trains and travel all over Europe. The flight I had originally wanted to take, SFO >LHR had been canceled, as had most and then ALL travel in/out of London. People were stuck for weeks. I nervously watched the news and travel schedules as the volcano continued to erupt for days and days. But I also felt, very matter of-factly, that I'd be going on my trip. The day of my flight to London, I showed up at the airport. The volcano had stopped erupting the night before and the skies had cleared. My flight was among the first to actually fly after the eruption and my entire trip went off without a hitch.

The Second: In 2011, while planning my escapade across Turkey and Greece, I had a similar experience. I went a week later than I'd originally intended. And it made all the difference. I won't go into specifics on this one, because they're very personal, but my experience would have been completely different the week prior.

What does any of that have to do with the here and now and being compulsive?

Since 2009 I've had a wild hair that's stuck in my brain: I want to go to Israel in 2012. You know, end of the Mayan calendar and all. Just for fun. But as the year has progressed, I just didn't see how I could make it work. I'm saving for my big 6-month sabbatical in Europe (next year) and already had made plans for a couple inexpensive, low-key trips to keep me on track with my savings plan. I'll be heading to Virginia in a couple of weeks to spend time on the family farm. In late August/Early September, my sister is going to be having twins and I'll take a week-ish off to help her out, and I was planning to go and visit a friend in Bonaire over the Thanksgiving break.

I just didn't see how I could make Israel work too, timing-wise or budget-wise. Last year I priced out a trip to Israel and it would have cost nearly $4k!

So yesterday I saw a tweet from a fellow traveler about how fares to Israel are really low right now. I checked it out, and low and behold: the dates I could go in November were actually CHEAPER than flying to Bonaire.

What do you think I did? Within four hours I had found a friend to split the cost of accomodations with me and booked that flight. We found her a flight from DC for $711 that arrives an hour after mine at TLV.

This all happened yesterday. Less than four hours from idea to execution. But more than three years from inception to execution. Timing is really everything.

I'm thrilled with this. Truthfully, I can't believe it really happened. The trip is booked. And in fact, what I'll pay for my flight + accomodations (thanks to airbnb) is still nearly $300 less than my flight would have been to Bonaire.

All in all, minus food and any tours, I'm only spending around $980 for my flight and two weeks' accommodations in the heart of Jerusalem.


Good juju.

Now we'll see what happens in the next few months. Syria is volatile right now. As is Egypt. Israel has always been. If all goes well, I'll be exploring the holy land in November.

Have you ever experienced something similar in your travels/life?

 photo from

There is so very much to do in California's Wine Country! And surprisingly, not all of it revolves around wine. Head to charming downtown Sonoma, California. Just next door to the old Armory, which is part of the San Francisco Sonoma MissionThe Toscana Hotel is a fascinating little step back into the "old west."

Historic blurb:

On the north side of the Plaza, next to the Sonoma Barracks, is the Toscano Hotel. Built in the 1850s it was first home to a retail store and rental library. Later the building was used as an inexpensive hotel, dubbed the "Eureka Hotel". Around 1890, many patrons were Italian immigrants, and the name of the hotel changed from "Eureka" to "Toscano." Today, the Toscano is furnished with period furniture and looks much the way it did around the turn of the century. The kitchen and dining room are located in a separate building behind the main hotel.( In the picture above it is the yellow building in the background.) Both are open to the public Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 1pm to 4pm and guided tours are hosted by docents in period costume.

(Blurb and exterior photo from:

When I stumbled across this charming historic site, I had no clue it existed. It was completely empty except for two adorable volunteer docents, who were all too happy to give me not only my own, personal guided tour of the entire hotel, including the roped-off areas, but they also provided me with all of the great historical tidbits that I could ingest! Don't miss visiting the Toscano when you're in downtown Sonoma.

My photos:

 A great collection of period antiques to show life in the 1850's.


 Doesn't the lobby area look like the set from an old western?


 One of the upstairs bedrooms.
 See that little metal thinger in the corner? Yah, that's a bathtub.

Everyone has their own system of decision making. Mine is obtusely complex and divinely simple all at once. Some decisions are tiny and seemingly unimportant, some take a few moments to sort out priorities and then continue with, and yet others are staggeringly huge, requiring research and advice.

In case of large, weighty decisions I like to mull over my options and methodically make the best decision. The process usually involves much internet surfing (if applicable), soul searching and sound-boarding. These so-called sound-boards are human beings, each having their own specialties and unique perspectives and I pick the one or two or seven who I know will have some kind of wise counsel or personal experience with similar situations.

As a child I came to understand early on that in pursuing my dreams my Mother's advice would always be super-cautious (and possibly to the restraining side of encouragement) and my Father's advice would always be go-get-'em, guns blazing enthusiasm. When I hit my teens, Mom grew yet more cautious and Dad's enthusiasm waned a bit, but he was still uber-supportive. And when I decided to start traveling I hit a complete and utter role reversal. When I told the parental units about my desire to go to Europe with a Youth Ensemble choir at the age of (barely) 18, my Mom was ALL for it. And to my surprise, my Dad was... not quite.

Two + years later, when I made the decision to work on Cruise ships during the summers between college semesters I encountered the same surprising thing from my parents: Mom was gung-ho. But Dad was nearly downright negative. And he wasn't the only one. "You're going to do WHAT?" I would hear when I'd announce my plans for summer occupation. Some people were really excited for me. Some were downright hostile. To them I'd reply: "Why not? I'm young, I'm single and I want to see the world. I can't think of a better way to do that and save for college at the same time."

One of my best friends is an American living in Scotland. I met her the first summer I worked on ships. She's from a small town in West Virginia. The summer we worked together at sea was the first time she'd ever left the country. In fact, her flight to Florida was her very first flight, ever. Her world changed forever when she made the single bravest decision of her life to date: to take the job and explore the unknown. She recently told me about an experience she'd had in Scotland while chatting with friends. Two of them, married to each other expressed that they were currently in process of trying to move overseas and travel with their small children. My American friend was ecstatic for them. But she was horrified when the couple were immediately attacked by their parents (also present) and accused of being selfish and awful people, trying to break up "the family" and take the grand kids too far away!


More recently I've had several phone conversations with my Father, mentioning my plans to move to Rome. The first time I mentioned it to him, his response was very reserved. When I brought it up again in our last conversation, his response was very nearly disdainful.

"You're still thinking about doing that?" He asked, voice full of incredulity.

I'm not sure what it is about travel that brings out such strong responses from the people around us. Perhaps it's the knowledge that the person who will be traveling is putting themselves at risk of accident or injury out there in the great unknown. Perhaps it's a fear of change; travel changes people in fundamental, nearly indescribable ways. For better or worse, travel has changed my life in ways that I can't begin to explain. But I'm different. And I'm supposed to be.

So here's the wisdom I've garnered from these experiences: Learn who your sounding boards are, and what to expect from them. Sure, sometimes they'll surprise you (like the first role-reversal from my parents). Sometimes they won't. Listen and gather the advice you need. And then follow your gut and chase your dreams. Because what everyone else thinks is ultimately of little consequence. Your life is not theirs to live. And life is simply too short to do anything else but truly live.

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