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Travel Preparedness for International Trips

So, you’re going on an international vacation. You’ve figured out your budget and picked a place that should fall within said budget. Planned the itinerary and set a date. What else needs doing? What can you do beforehand to prepare?

My travel mantra: Prepare for the unexpected. But mitigate wherever possible.

Trips – by their very nature – do not always go as planned. Expect it because you can’t control other people, delays, weather, or cultural mentalities, to name a few. Set an expectation for the occasional bump-in-the-road, and tackle as much as you can before your trip, putting the odds in your favor for less of the ‘unexpected’. 

The groundwork for your trip is an investment towards the reward: hassle-free travel. 

Lao Tzu’s quote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I’d like to include “and preplanning”! 

Start with these to simplify. 

  • Download the app for your airline and the tour and rental companies if applicable. 
  • Add your phone number for text updates wherever possible for notifications like flight changes or cancellations.
  • Have you read current COVID rules for the airport, airline, and any country you’ll be entering? Both the countries you’ll be passing through and your destination? Also, the rules for countries may vary based on how you’re entering: land vs. air. Will you need to test for COVID? Bookmarking the websites will make this easier to check periodically.

Working with a travel checklist is ideal—Google “international travel checklist template” to download or make your own. If you’re making your own, save it (even if there are changes for future trips, you won’t have to start from scratch).

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! Ugh, the bane of my existence! They say there are two sure things in life – taxes and death. I would add “paperwork”! That said, let’s go over this necessary evil. 

Passports. Do you have one for each person traveling? Do you have a valid passport? Are you sure? Have you checked? Children’s passports last five years, and adults, ten. 

To renew a US passport: 

  • Please be aware that any expedited service will have additional charges.

If you are a permanent resident, you’ll want to ensure your green card is also not at risk of expiration (valid for ten years) and your passport. Equally important is to check on visa requirements, both for pass-through and destination policies.

Sometime towards the end of 2022, most of the EU will require an ETIAS Visa Waiver from all non-EU visitors, including US and Canadian citizens. ETIAS is a quick and straightforward application introduced by the EU to improve security in the Schengen Area. The waiver is designed for short-term stays of 90 days or less and will be valid for three years or when your passport expires (whichever occurs first). It will include a fee (to be determined), and the waiver will return via email. 

Additional paperwork to consider/research: 

  • Consent to travel with a minor: If you’re traveling with a minor without the other parent, you’ll need to check the destination’s requirements. However, it is often a written letter of the absent parent permitting the child to travel with the attending parent. The letter might need to state dates and destinations and be notarized.
  • IDP or International Driver’s Permit – is it required?
  • Health insurance – check if your insurance has international coverage. Consider purchasing supplemental insurance. 
  • Travel insurance/trip interruption insurance.

Other paperwork/resources that will make travel easier:

Global Entry (mainly national program with some international): https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry#.html 

TSA Pre-Check (mainly a national program): https://www.tsa.gov/precheck 

The CDC has a thorough and informative Traveler’s page. Sections of interest are, Pack Smart https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart and Traveler Advice https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/resources-for-travelers.

STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program enrolls your trip with the local US Embassy or Consulate, enabling safety notifications for the destination country. In addition, gives US Embassy a way to contact you and gives your family a way to contact you in case of emergency.

As you can see, travel is not without its complexities. The benefits outway the struggle of this groundwork by eliminating last-minute emergencies.

“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, start being excited of what could go right” Tony Robbins

Your trip will leave unforgettable memories that can change you forever. Leaving ‘local’ gives perspective and builds empathy and humility. It helps to clear the mental debris of stagnancy. Journeys can build new friendships, rekindle old ones, and strengthen bonds with those you love (often your travel companions). 

“Wherever you go becomes part of you somehow” Anita Desai

Travel is exciting; destinations are places waiting to be discovered or re-discovered! It is inspiration itself! Start that preplanning today!

“To travel is to live” Hans Christian Anderson

Post Pandemic Bucket Lists

With a seemingly diminishing Covid 19, Post-Pandemic seems to have arrived. Tourists have burst from their gates, heading to one of the many countries having swung their doors wide open in hopeful anticipation. 

From Spring Breakers to the resuming of nixed plans, the masses are heading out of their local domains: Often for the first time in two years. 

In these last two years, we’ve learned that every second counts. While most healthy adults recovered, some did not. Unsurprisingly, stress and depression have increased worldwide. And travel – for so many; is literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air – now more than ever.

And so, this first vacation takes on epic proportions of significance. An inflection point, signifying the start of change from the pandemic standards endured to something new and hopeful. 

With a new appreciation that life can change in a moment, bucket lists are being scrutinized. Possibly tossed and started anew, as past criteria are no longer valid. Yes, a Bucket List may be cliche; call it what you will – it’s the list of places you want to go and things you want to do before you can’t, in an absolute way. 

“You will find only what you bring in.” – Yoda

You’ve only got one life – live it to the fullest. Be purposeful. Believe in yourself. You can do this!

Ways to add to your list:

-Feeling short on ideas and dreams yet known? Check the internet. Particularly Pinterest boards for Bucket Lists and Travel. 

-Brainstorming ideas off the top of your head. You might surprise yourself with a couple of ideas that stick the landing.

 -Go through old photos and videos. Are there stories by your grandparents that talk of faraway places that beacon to you? Or places you went to as a child that you want to go to as an adult?

– Are there any stories you’ve read or movies you’ve watched that have created a yearning to go to a significant location, experience a culture, or dive deep into a history of a place or people? You might peruse your library of books, Kindle, etc., to ignite forgotten desires that could be added to your list.

Once compiled, pull a handful that you can research. Try to find places in your one, five, and ten-year timelines that they might fit into. 

Sometimes priorities change, as can the Bucket List item itself. Reassess your list periodically. 

Research. Research. Research. The more you know about every bullet point on your list, the easier it’ll be to insert it into your future and ultimately do. Each item will become more tangible this way too. As you plan, you’ll begin to see yourself within these scenarios, adding incentive and hopefully the motivation to make it a reality.

Here is a limited list of some Bucket List items that I’ve seen on folks’ wish lists:

Straight up travel:

  • Experience the Northern lights in Norway, Sweden, Iceland, or The Yukon
  • Top National Parks – Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Arches, and Yosemite (to begin with) in an RV
  • Visit Great Wonders of the World – Colosseum, Petra, Machu Pichu, Taj Mahal, Chichen Itza, Great Wall of China, Christ the Redeemer, 
  • Visit Ancient Great Wonders of the World Great Pyramid of Giza, Lighthouse of Alexandria, Temple of Artemis, Colossus of Rhodes, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Statue of Zeus

Adventurous ideas to do while traveling can be done anywhere they’re available and generally safe. Remember that done in conjunction with your dream trip makes the activity distinctly meaningful:

  • Skydive 
  • Bungee jumps
  • Paragliding

Adventure ideas that require previous knowledge or training but can also be folded into a Bucket List destination:

  • Surfing (water and sand)
  • Scuba diving
  • Extreme hiking 
  • Flyboarding
  • Base jumping
  • Free climbing
  • Paragliding
  • Heli-skiing
  • Long-distance cycling 
  • Remote camping

Some adventure ideas are best done with a professional, or at the very least, having consulted with a professional.

  • Riding a bull in a rodeo
  • Riding a camel or elephant
  • Going on a safari
  • Snorkeling with whales, dolphins, turtles, or sharks
  • Seeing penguins, orangutans, and other wild animals in their own environments
  • Caving
  • Sailing
  • Dog sledding 
  • Storm chasing
  • Mountain climbing
  • Rappelling

There is no age limit on some of these activities, only your fitness level and want of doing. This is why taking the time to assess your list and note if any trips and activities are relevant to, for instance; your aging, thereby time-sensitive, or require training, which would be added to the time needed before the trip and activity itself. Planning helps bring out details that could hinder your plans if not considered early on. 

Lastly, consider a trip led by a tour company or tour guides for specific activities. DIY is fine. Particularly when the internet is prolific in information on even remote locations and activities. Social media is fast to jump on the new and exciting. However, subtleties are commonly lost between stringing together travel and activities that a tour guide would otherwise be able to cohesively blend. You’ll find that tours exist with specific objectives, activities, and age groups. They range from mainstream touristy to off-the-beaten-path to the esoteric. Find one that fits your goal and your travel style. 

Build that list, make plans, and execute as many as life allows! 

“The years go by. The time flies. Every single second is a moment in time that passes. And it seems like nothing – but when you’re looking back … well, it amounts to everything.”

– Ray Bradbury.

Where Does Passion for Something Begin?

The other day I was thinking about my passion for travel. Namely, I was trying to figure out when that started and how it became a passion. Where wanderlust began…

I was born in Chile, and when I was five, we immigrated to the Midwest. Unfortunately, my memories are few and limited to my parents’ stories and a handful of faded photos. In my old home, now my ex’s house is a cassette tape of a five-year-old talking to her dad in perfect Spanish the morning before departing that fateful day.

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I guess at the time, and for some time after, my only concept of travel was found in magazines and school books, with an occasional class video. They were almost always exotic locations, where the people or natives were typically dressed sparingly. For me, secluded in my little world, there was no pull in this exposure to the world beyond.

Even when I finally did travel outside the US, it didn’t leave me with a sense of awe. Instead, I laid a foundation that would eventually trickle to my consciousness with unexpected zeal.

Our family eventually made a trip back to Santiago, Chile, when I was in fifth grade. What I remember from the trip was spending most of my time at my grandmother’s house. Though one memorable touristy experience was visiting San Cristobal near the downtown part of Santiago. Part of the fun was taking the funicular to the top. The top had a huge, easily seen statue of the Virgin Mary for miles. Which was cool. However, the panoramic view of the Andes and the city of Santiago held me spellbound for quite a while.

I only remember parts of the trip, but the emotions connected to those are pronounced and warms my heart. Like breakfast on the back-yard patio among the apricot and lemon trees while having Cafe con Leche (coffee with milk) and crusty bread and butter purchased hours after it came steaming from the ovens of a bakery that morning, right around the corner. There was also the time I helped in the kitchen, and I could feel the breeze coming through the windows with no glass, only decorative grills, cooling the room just enough to be comfortable. I watched the adults move around each other in what had become a tight space. Gracefully avoiding one another, as if in a choreographed dance. And then there was the night my grandma Emma hosted a large family meal. My Spanish was no longer perfect like the little girl who had immigrated to the US long ago but instead had a clear American accent. Or, as the locals said, I spoke like a ‘Gringa.’ Consequently, I, in a wallflower manner, enjoyed the fluid conversations and banter, shyly engaging when prompted. The highlight was watching my grandma, who would shed her standard serious disposition after a couple glasses of wine and become animated. This was particularly true when she played an enthusiastic number on the piano. She was a true patriarch, and in retrospect, my favorite memories are when she let loose a bit, letting her less composed self come out.

For many, even as a kid, when you do travel, you don’t get its specialness. I was one. Just as it was with hiking. Hiking, to me, was simply walking for a long time and dull. As an adult, I appreciate the beauty of nature around me and know myself well enough that the best hikes have to have a payoff, goal – rugged/challenging terrain, fantastic lookout, waterfalls, etc. I came back and immediately started school after that trip. Getting back into the schedule and rhythm just as quick. The trip fell to the far corners of my mind, shoved aside by the priorities of a tween. There was no travel fire lit. Not yet.

When I finished high school, I had almost half a year before heading to boot camp in the Marines. That gave me the chance to visit my father and sister in Cali, Columbia. At the time, she was in med school, and my father taught at the same university, Universidad del Valle. I even attended one of his classes. It was all about cocci (bacteria, apparently), I may have fallen asleep- lol! Shhh. My Columbian travel education started as soon as we left the airport. On the ride to my father’s house, I immediately began to see clear and distinct poverty street after street. My father pointed out some wealthy neighborhoods noting how almost all were gated. I don’t remember seeing any middle-class-type communities on that drive. I’m sure they were there, but I think I was in a bit of shock.

In eighth grade, I took a class trip to New Orleans on Amtrak with the school band I was in. The eight hundred and thirty-five miles (two-plus days) it took to travel from Chicago passed many small towns. We usually passed through centers or main areas but not always. A couple of them were legitimate shantytowns. I was shocked! I hadn’t even realized those still existed. My middle school brain had thought that that kind of poverty only existed in third-world countries.

The car ride from the Cali airport to my father’s home was the same scene of shanty homes I had seen on the Amtrak years before, but exponentially so. Santiago was my only reference for what a third-world country looked like, and this was nothing like Santiago. In talking to my father and sister, I understood that Columbia, like many third-world countries, has quite a small middle class. For most, you’re either wealthy or poor. Theirs, my father, sister, and my other grandma – abuelita Blanca, were part of that tiny middle class.

isiting the university campus and attending some classes with my sister was entertaining. It was exciting to meet her friends and hang out with her and them. The drinking age was lower, so clubs, bars, and enjoying the freedom of youth were at my fingertips. I soaked it all in. Over the two months, I was in Columbia, we visited other areas. My father took me on a long drive high into some mesmerizing mountains. The road at times felt like it barely clung to the steep hillside, and looking down was to feel your stomach lurch. I watched the vegetation change as we traveled higher in altitude, and we added to our layers of clothing. The little villages got smaller and appeared less often. We stopped at a plateau with a large lake on the way up. The sense of the place was surreal. Clouds hung low that much of it touched the ground. The vegetation had continued to shrink, looking like a miniature of their normal counterparts. Much of it glittered, dappled in ice crystals. It felt like I had walked into a mystical winter fairyland.

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On a much warmer trip, my sister and I went to one of the little islands off the coast of Columbia, considered the Caribbean. As expected, we found pristine beaches, clear blue waters, equally clear skies, and lots of young people. We parked ourselves on one of the beaches each day and enjoyed Latin dancing at the local clubs at night. It was a fun, decadent trip.

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Although my childhood trips had been limited to two very different countries on the same continent, already I could see common and uncommon threads among humanity. People in Santiago and Cali were very much alike as they were in the Midwest. The languages changed, yes, but the behavior, the family connections, the struggles, and joys were really no different from others. Not that I philosophized about these things then. Not at all, not then. Today though, it’s part of the fabric of memories that gives rise to my need to meet people, experience other cultures, and see history. To come face to face with people from far away, to soak in the traditions and, time after time, feel the awe of landscapes whose beauty continues to steal my breath.

I’ve always thought of passion as coming in strong and staying hot. I now know that passion can quietly take residence in your brain. It cleverly but unobtrusively takes a back seat to other interests while building over time. Occasionally peeking its head out to inspire a trip here, a break from everyday life there. Eventually, I had somehow adjusted life (on the regular) to include travel. It has become as necessary as breathing. A passionate love of and lust for putting one foot in front of the other and seeking out new and unknown places.

Fantasy is Pretty Cool

I was submitting a writing sample today and thought I’d put it up here. The example needed to be about a book that I would highly recommend. Although being a prolific fantasy reader and now writing a fantasy novel, I knew the genre I’d pick from would be fantasy – but I didn’t know exactly which book.

I found myself going to book series instead of individual books; “Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” etc. But I did eventually singled out one book, a classic: “The Hobbit,” by JRR Tolkien.

Here is the writing I submitted (note that I had to keep it within 150-200 words, which came in right at 200!):


Regardless of age and reading preference, there are some requisite fantasy authors whose stories, considered classics, are a must-read at any age. One among them is JRR Tolkien. His book, “The Hobbit,” is a great introduction not only into the mind of this fantastically creative author but into the genre of fantasy itself.


Fantasy is a genre that elicits imaginings of mystical creatures lurking in dark shadows, of sweeping landscapes of unknown origins, and of protagonists that will begin their journey not understanding to what depths their resolves, beliefs, and inner cores will be tested. Often the main character is thrown or stumbles into the unfolding quest.


In “The Hobbit,” JRR Tolkien takes a hobbit, Bilbo, who is living a quietly contented existence in his community, The Shire and throws him into a journey that he initially resists. But a wizard, Gandolf, has other ideas. Thus, begins a beautiful tale of hardship, friendship, and the ever-existing fight of good vs. evil.


What singles out JRR Tolkien’s books, including “The Hobbit,” is how the story unfolds lyrically. His writing is uniquely gifted with poetic and linguistic prowess. Yet even with its sophistication can be read by both young and not-so-young alike.

Cheers!

Reading Can Lead to Excellent Things!

If you’re an avid reader, how did you come to be one?

For me, it wasn’t until I read a Judy Blume book in third grade, that I began to understand the power of reading. While I don’t remember which one it was, I do remember the gripping and wonderfully immersive feeling I had. It blew my nine-year-old mind. I had read other books, almost certainly required reading, and nothing has resonated. But when I was reading this story of a girl who was around my age having similar issues that I had yet set in a distinctly different place and family environment, it was like I was there. It validated the struggles I had, while at the same time taking me to a different place – taking me out of myself. Living in someone else’s shoes was a unique experience, and I was hooked.

My appetite for books only increased, its focus changing as I got older. In my late teens and early twenties, I read Stephen King and Dean Koontz almost exclusively. Then when it seemed the selection was drying up, I abruptly changed genres picking up Chesapeake by James Michener. His writing style was so different from anything I had read. The long and detailed painting of a scene was utterly new and mesmerizing. I had, like all American kids, studied the history of slavery and the civil war. Chesapeake put it in story form, and I absolutely loved it. I went on to read Alaska, which was equally compelling. Now living in the northwest, I can appreciate the history I learned from it all the more.

Espionage/spy novels came soon after. As you can probably tell, binging on genres is my thing. The Bourne and Mortalis series in addition to countless single books were quickly polished off. Eventually, the spy genre began to look the same, and it was time to change. Enter fantasy and science fiction.

I’m not sure exactly which book was the first, but there are those that stick out. Although honestly, I could break this into sub-genres. Young adult, middle grade, high fantasy, dragons (ok, not an actual genre, but should be), steampunk, dark fantasy and so much more. Of course, along the way I’ve read other genres. My wishlist on Audible is long (currently my primary mode of reading). But ultimately, fantasy is home (with a side of sci-fi)!

Reading has led me to want to write. Somewhere in that timeline of reading, I began to think that I had at least one in myself to tell. Reading has certainly engaged my imagination, and it’s that imagination that makes for good storytelling and writing.  When I was in a tech start-up, I helped put a manual together. It was fun initially, as I hadn’t done that before. But eventually, it was merely uninteresting and mundane. Which isn’t to say, I didn’t do a good job. It just wasn’t the passion I feel in writing a story that emerges from my imagination.

Additionally, now that I’m writing, I’m so grateful for the travel I’ve done. Traveling, which is a subject I look forward to blogging about often, is another passion that vies for my time. It’s become vital to my writing. Specifically, to experience history, another culture, converse in another language (or attempt to) is to expand your mind. Which coincidentally add to your – yes- imagination! When you look at historical structures like the Collesium in Rome or the Pyramids of Giza you automatically think of the process it took to make, the people it involved, the strife or pomp involved, your mind imagines.

As I write my story, it is with specific recall that I use to describe a place or situation with geographical significance when I can. Although that isn’t always possible, and thankfully for google search, I can research places I haven’t been to; I feel my story is relatable by my personal experience in having been to these places – giving you details that being there can only bring. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods story, for instance, has locations that exist and some that don’t.

I don’t know if reading was the driving force in my love of travel. But I wouldn’t discount it. I’m grateful for this writing mindset. Because it makes me think about how humanity functions, how a world might grow if things were – say more violent or more peaceful, how people interact, and how cultures, politics, and religions function within cultures, clans, and countries. I say, “What if?” a lot. I guess it’s made me somewhat philosophical. I love how other authors reflect the real world that we live in or past histories within their fictional places. I just finished the third book in a series called, Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Wonderfully done science fiction. Absorbing and thoroughly thought-provoking. His story does an excellent job not just giving you the excitement of a futuristic world, it’s filled with the problems of humanity that are inescapable to the human experience, even in the most well-intentioned.

While I look forward to fashioning my book with excitement, twists you (hopefully) don’t see coming, and more, I hope to capture that human experience and that together we come out thinking about its ramifications or even possibly, be slightly better people for having read it.

Cheers!

WIP – The Path

Sooo, I’ve been thinking…

A couple of elements of great importance to the storyline of my book are ruminating in my head.

At the moment the MC is alone when she enters world B. The more I think of it, the more I think she needs a friend or acquaintance to go with her. The MC will make friends in this new world so it isn’t about needing sidekicks. But what I’m realizing is she needs someone to share the shock and ultimately, adjustment of the experience with. A touchstone from her old world with whom she can commiserate, and share the loss then resolve of going home.

As I read what I just wrote, I realize it’s already a done deal in my head. I just had to let it simmer in my head and reading it was the cementing point. Rewrite here I come!

Ok, that’s settled. Next, there’s the issue of the dragon.

I’m a huge dragon fan. Good dragons, bad dragons, shapeshifters, ones that if you touch their scales you die, you name it, I’ve read about them. So, of course, I had to put them in my first book. However, in working through the magic system, and even the culture, it’s almost like I’m forcing dragons in there. The dragon concept isn’t laying itself out as easy as I’d like. I will say, I’m not done trying and for now dragons stay. But the possibility of taking them out is now on the table.

Now that I’ve made a choice on partnering the MC, the current chapter that introduces her will be rewritten. So I thought I’d include an excerpt from it before it’s changed.

Hope you enjoy! Cheers!

—- From The Path

…Sweat dripping from her temple, Liv snapped out of her reverie. As expected, it was hot in Pula Croatia during August, exceedingly hot. The cool ocean water was maybe a hundred yards away; she was tempted to dip her feet.  But it was the opposite direction and her friends waited for her. The toilets had been far away from the stage and she’d been gone a while now. She began slipping through the crowds. Being petite made it hard for her to see above their heads, however, her lithe body slid between the sweaty groups almost undetected. The heavy bass beat coming from the main stage was easy to follow, even in her inebriated state. Half skipping, half shuffling to the music, protectively holding her lit cigarette, she worked her way in what Liv was sure was the right direction.

She was sure she knew where they had last been. Kiki and Lori had been wearing bright colors. They weren’t hard to miss. Jack had a bright red t-shirt with white block letters that read “Drinks well with others,” which was also easy to see in the crowd. Kiki and Lori were from Newcastle in the UK, and Jack with his impeccable English was a Bosnian from Sarajevo. Kiki had long straight strawberry hair with corresponding freckles that seemed compulsory on redheads. While Lori was a dirty blonde and liked to put her hair in braids. The braids, easy to burn complexion, along with a large toothy smile, made her look like a Swiss Miss cover girl. Liv snorted as she pictured Lori in lederhosen.

Having all become friends in an online game many months ago, yesterday had been the first time they had met in person. Liv had made other friends in the game, but this group had naturally gelled because of their passion for electronic music. Jack had suggested this festival and Kiki had known of it, as it was largely attended by Britains. Apparently, Croatia was inexpensive and easy to get to from western Europe. And ultimately, being on the pristinely beautiful Adriatic Sea – the same sea as Venice, was part of the attraction in attending the festival. Liv had wanted to travel to Europe, this had been the perfect opportunity. Last night’s initial meeting had gone quite well, like old friends reuniting after a long absence. The group had made their way to the opening concert where they had a good view of the main stage with just enough room to jump around and dance. Weed had been passed to them by other groups around them and someone was always running to get more Red Bull and vodka, thanks to the bar which was strategically nearby. When it ended, many moved to the beach and the partying continued into the morning where many had simply laid on the sand and fallen asleep. Liv had eventually made it to her tent around mid-morning and managed to get a few hours of undisturbed sleep before their group began a similar day again. Find stage (there were multiple venues), get drinks, find a good viewing spot, dance. They socialized with concert-goers around them and often drugs of different shapes and colors were offered. She guessed most were variations of Mollies. But having only experimented with ecstasy once, Liv had kept to the liquor and weed.

The sun bore down on her head and exposed shoulders as Liv made her way to her friends. The smell of body sweat and weed permeated the air. She realized she was slick with her own sweat, but most of it from others as she had no choice but to make contact as she passed through the mass of humanity. She desperately wished she had taken the extra minute to put her hair up earlier, as deep brown tendrils clung to skin wherever there was contact. Liv flashed a grin thinking that she should have stuck to tequila because the salty sweat making it past her lips was clashing with the slight sweetness of the Red Bull and vodka. Her grin quickly turned to a grimace as Liv realized that the drink and its quickly disappearing ice weren’t helping her thirst and increasingly dry throat at all.

Amidst a thirst that was beginning to make her head throb, Liv made haste of her search and decided that her friends had gone to another stage. Thinking that they might have also wanted to escape the heat, she headed to the dungeon.  The dungeon was another venue that lay in the depths of the stone within the ancient coliseum. The lush overgrowth and tall walls of stone and marble displaying fading roman patterns teased her with a promise of shade and chill air. In her fuzzy, vodka-soaked, overheated mind, she was suddenly absolutely sure her friends were there and she would find them.

As she made her way, Liv looked around for water and didn’t like her prospects. The line at the bar was long, and the volunteers that had seemed to be everywhere earlier handing out bottled water were conspicuously missing. She didn’t dare touch the bathroom water, even so, the lines were long there too. Turning in frustration, she considered and rejected looking for another bar or volunteer at the risk of being deterred from getting to her group. Brightening, she spotted a nearby pop-up table that looked to be laid out with bottled water. Liv ran over and sighed with relief – clear glorious bottled water! The crowd had seemed to notice the water at the same time and had descended like vultures, she was already being pushed away from the end of the table. Grabbing the nearest bottle, she picked one without noticing that it had been by itself at the very edge of the table. Liv also didn’t notice that it wasn’t quite full and that the cap didn’t look fully closed. Face pressed against the thin plastic, the coolness of the liquid and the anticipation of getting back to her task had her full attention. She pushed her way back to the main walkway leading to the dungeon.

Liv could feel the chill of the water as it worked its way down her parched throat, and into her stomach, dousing the heat raging within. The bottle was almost empty when she pulled it away from her lips. Chilled subterranean breezes began teasing the little hairs on her arms as Liv entered the shade of the grand structure. Like warm and cold currents of the ocean converging, the cold air spiked through the remorselessly heated air as she walked down the cracked and ancient stone steps of the Coliseum. Catching the trail of a chilled current, Liv began concentrating on staying within its stream as she worked her way down, stubbornly pushing past other festival attendees. It became hypnotic, reminding her of an old silly game she called the don’t-step-on-the-crack game when walking down a sidewalk. The lull of the steady stepping, and the concentration of stepping on a solid stone while avoiding any cracks soon became hypnotic. All became pinpoint, the rest blurring away to the edges where her vision darkened into a vignette.

Liv didn’t notice when the path became unkempt.

Liv didn’t notice when the lighting ended, leaving only filtered light to show her way.

Liv didn’t notice when a wispy fog had sprung up around her, tendrils thick and opaque.

Olivia finally noticed when a great stone wall barred her way.

Technology

My day starts with coffee or tea, a slice of toast with jam, and fruit while catching up with the world via social media. My gotos? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and occasionally Redditt. This tends to catch it all for me. Who needs tv anymore for information or even a newspaper? Times have changed so much in this way. I’m not complaining at all. In fact, my life would have looked entirely different if not for technology.

I started out in computers in the military long ago. I had decided to join because I wanted to learn a trade and university was too expensive. So I went into the Marine Corp for computers. I still managed to become a sharpshooter while there, even placed in the top 20% in a shooting competition while I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After returning to civilian status, I began working in Chicago on IBM Mainframes and AS400s.

After more years, newly married me moved to the Seattle area. The home of Microsoft. I made acquaintances who had retired in their mid-thirties millionaires from there. This was a good place to be, I thought. But for me, from Chicago, which was Big Blue (an IBM hub) where most pcs were really just dummy terminals connected to and getting all their data from a Mainframe somewhere else. Whereas a real pc has locally installed software that at least gives you a user-friendly interface.

If you’re curious at the difference:

Mainframe input screens

vs software on personal computers

Anyways, my point is that it took a while to find a job because everyone was looking for personal computer experience. But at this new job, in a start-up company that only had around 200 employees, it turned out to be the best job for my assimilation into full-on nerdiness! I was there for four years. Let me tell you, start-up companies have this one big advantage; as they grow opportunities are everywhere. In that time, I was able to be in technical support, helped write the user manual, and eventually traveled to train companies on how to use the products among other miscellaneous jobs like translating English only help documents into Spanish.

I’ve always been a gadget person, which is along the same nerd lines, don’t you think? Kitchen? Yep, has all the gadgets it can possibly fit. Garage, check. Crafting stuff, well – ok here this is no longer true. But that’s only because my kids are out of the ‘crafting’ stage and I’m out of the ‘scrapbooking’ stage. However go back in time, when we were in those stages, and you’ll see that that room was like a small Micheal’s! All worthwhile gadgets accounted for.

Even when cell phones first came out, I was on it. I would get the one I could do the most with. I even jailbreak’ed a couple phones to get access and apps I wanted. Now most phones are pretty much the same, at least in terms of the things you can do on them. It’s a matter of personalizing it to your tastes. For me, apps that give me access and the ability to give feedback, to friends and family along with current news and things that make me smile (yes this includes cat and dog images/videos. lol) are the main reason I use and love social media.

But that’s not even the end of it. We have a really cool car. Its tech is off-the-chains! When we were looking at new cars, SUVs specifically, we saw a variety of tech used that gave us another incentive to buy new. My favorite is the from-above camera. Which displays alongside the front camera. It shows a video-like view of the car from above so that you see the auto’s placement. Makes crappy parking jobs a thing of the past! Our car includes the haptic driving sensors that are becoming more and more common on new vehicles. There’s definitely room for improvement. Navigation systems, for instance, need to be more intuitive. Would be ideal if they tracked your routes and determined some things ahead of time. These are algorithms that I see Google Maps using and it’s to the point that we use Google Maps more often than the auto’s nav system.

Technology is part of our lives for good and bad. We could talks for days on its merits and its destructiveness. But for nerdy me, for fantasy and sci-fi loving me? I’m just grateful to live in this time to see it all and maybe even be a part of it. It speaks to the inner me.

Oh yeah, and did I mention I met my husband online too? Not on a dating app, but gaming. However, that’s a story for another day.

Cheers!

 

 

The Beat Goes On

I’ve been around a long time (age not forthcoming for vanity reasons) but aside from life experience changing me, I don’t feel mentally older than I was in my twenties. For instance, I had many years ago enjoyed underground UK house and techno. But it wasn’t as accessible like today’s music is and was rarely played on the radio. Then kids came along and it was left behind for children’s and mainstream music. Fast forward to the last few years. While my music taste is wide, my love for electronic music is stronger than ever. And I will specify for the purists; I enjoy both underground and EDM, particularly enjoying artists that run that bridge, pulling from both. I think the reason electronic “speaks to me” is my love of dancing and my general inability to stand still. Dancing in the kitchen to Boris Brejcha, Deadmau5 or anything with a good beat is not uncommon for me. But the highlight is always the fun of attending electronic music festivals. Essentially, your feet are only still when you’re sleeping. My type of place!

A couple of summers ago boyfriend then, husband now and I went on a long mostly Eastern European trip. It culminated with a festival called Dimensions near Pula, Croatia. The whole trip had been extremely hot, Vienna being almost 100 degrees every day. But Dimensions was the first full week of September and it seemed like summer had abruptly spent itself, allowing fall to sneak in. Yet despite the weather, it was amazing.

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Mud is your friend 😛

Our tiny little hut/cabin was not heated and any clothing worn that week was dutifully mud strewn. We were one with the mud! Thankfully the showers had heat, which wasn’t available to all, like the tent area folks. When I had booked the cabin I had only thought about sleeping on a cot instead of in a sleeping bag on the ground. I hadn’t realized how grateful I’d be for the heated showers!

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Staying dry was challenging but worthwhile!

Rain or shine, music is transformative and spirit lifting. Particularly when you feel the beat in your bones and the crowd around you is electrified. It’s instantly contagious.

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One of the few sunny days, boat party!!!

We got lucky that the boat party we had booked was on a sunny day. It was exactly what you’d think. Lots of alcohol, lots of dancing and many smiles! I saw a couple shoes accidentally make it into the water, but aside from that – all folks managed to stay on the boat as requested by the event coordinators.

Performances by Grace Jones (who I’m not really a fan of but her live set was thoroughly entertaining) and Moderat kicked off the opening ceremony in Pula’s amphitheatre, the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have all four sides.

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Since then we’ve stayed in the US for a couple festivals and many solo performances. One is on the horizon in San Diego. A friend who is moving up in the Underground House ranks is DJing there. Too, looking forward to seeing Purple Disco Machine, one of the headliners.

I think of these events, large and small, as interactive concerts. Which makes it kinesthetic and truly memorable.

This last summer we went to see concerts by Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters. Classic music performed by legendary musicians. They were both epic! However, the Foo Fighter’s concert was better, not because the songs themselves were better but because the floor tickets we had gave us room to dance. For the Pearl Jam concert, we had reserved seats along the side. Good views in both cases. But floor tickets, similar to electronic music concerts, allowed us to find space to groove, shuffle, and shake! Foo Fighters, for that reason, was one of my favorites of the summer.

Music is certainly ageless. But so is my inability to stand still!  My groove goes on…

 

 

Back for good…

I think I’m a moody artist. It runs in the family. There are some seriously talented people in that group. For instance, my mom who could rival the Greats in her oil landscapes has only a few commissioned pieces to her name. Why? Painting is her passion and as with any passion, it has to be marshaled, inspired, and coalesce into intent and production. Having deadlines and requirements isn’t necessarily her thing. Yet ask me how many pet portraits, murals, and paintings she’s done? I would say countless. Because she was in the ‘mood’ to do them, hence my definition of a moody artist. Its nature has to compel you; moods and thoughts lining up like stars which gives rise to the motivation and want of putting pen or brush to paper and canvas.

I sit in front of this screen not knowing exactly what to write, what to tell you about or what font of information to lay at your feet. And so I decided to simply begin writing what was in my head. Hoping that from that, out would come some semblance of interesting and witty stories and texts.  But! I’ve made this commitment, to blog every day. Eventually, like the passion that inspires my mom, might just coalesce into compelling writing that inspires, entertains, and maybe even befriends us.

. . .

 

 

Where did it go?

Yesterday I looked for and expected to find, the chapters I’d written thus far of my book along with some short stories I had started. Then panicked a bit when they weren’t on the cloud I had backed them up in. I’m sure it was my fault, somehow in organizing the data I must have accidentally deleted the whole documents folder where they had been, which now was devoid of anything but empty space. I looked in a couple other places they might have been. Nothing at all. Crickets (digitally speaking).

Undaunted, I then spent a couple hours organizing papers that had accumulated over time and luckily found a full set of the last draft of the chapters. Other than the time it would take to re-type it all back in, which at this point was not a big deal considering what could have been, all was well with the world and ready for me to start back into the book and other writings yet to be determined.

When I finished the Prologue sometime later, I found the re-type thoroughly enjoyable. It was a good way to get back into the story, and re-write as needed. There were definitely a couple of paragraphs that needed change, and consequently got slashed and re-written. For the most part it was mostly little things were changed; a sentence re-written, focus on a thought changed, a memory brought in to add to the scene, etc. Hopefully all for the better (I say as I chuckle nervously). Additionally I made sure it was backed up in more than one place. I have learned my lesson!!

After finishing, I went to bed thinking I’d be up at a reasonable time. Hah! Fooled me! Husband is addicted to Brooklyn 99 (ok, I like it a lot too), of which we’re still on the first season. After watching one, as was the plan, we decided to watch two more. Anyways, I woke up later than intended. Cappuccino, second cappuccino and half a bagel, made phone calls for appointments later this week, then it was time to make our court time for racquetball. Got home from a very competitive set of games with husband, made dinner, ate dinner, ran (a bit late – might have been the white wine I was thoroughly enjoying) to my nail appointment, got home and had to work on travel plans for the holidays; and put up the Christmas tree without decorating – that’s for tomorrow. For now we’re waiting to see how the cats handle it.

Crazy thing about our tree. It’s fake, but it’s a good one. Very well made, sturdy, and nicely shaped, lighted and meant to last years. Oh, did I mention it’s flocked? That’s white stuff they spray on the branches to make it look snowed upon. At the time – a few years ago, the only furball I had was an old scaredy cat. Wasn’t worried about him too much, the closest he would get is to sleep on the skirt because it was fuzzy and warm. Since then he’s passed and now there are two just-over-a-year-old cats and a very energetic mini labradoodle in the house. Do you see where I’m going here? Flocking and curiosity don’t mix. At the very least, curiosity is messy requiring daily vacuuming and at the most, the tree is parallel to the ground with even more white fluff to clean up than usual. I’m tempted to get rid of it and change it to a standard evergreen type tree. But-it’s-so-pretty! I know, I’m smh at myself too.

So that brings me to now. This, or the start of today’s blog, was the first writing I’d done all day. It’s now 11:41 pm. I guess that’s just how it needs to be some days. No guilt. Just move forward. I will try to tackle another chapter before bed. Or I might not. It’s garbage night and that needs doing… guess I’ll let you know on the next entry.

Cheers!