90 Spontaneous Days Around The World : How to discover your passions in the face of catastrophe

“the truth I ‘d been running from was so strong,
it was as big as the promise of the coming day…”

bromo.smoke

My roommate Hannah and I sleepwalked into our clothes. Together with our traveling companions, we piled in five jeeps to take the dizzying, nighttime drive to summit Mt. Bromo. I sat in the far back seat of one of the jeeps. Every twist and turn sent mystery metal digging into my hip or thigh. My friends and I had braved many adventures on our tour together. This one was the earliest. After a short hike to the summit we waited, having no idea what beauty we’d witness. What wonders sat in the darkness below.

I saw The Southern Cross for the first time. My friends and I sung the Crosby, Stills and Nash song of the same name. As I sang, I understood why I came to Java— the truth I ‘d been running from was so strong, it was as big as the promise of the coming day.

March 4, 2014

“In the pink and purple smoke of many shrouded volcano peaks, at the summit of Mt. Bromo, the sun rose. Illuminating beauty out of the darkness. It was my sunrise. All mine. A new beginning. An invitation to do the very same thing within my own life. To illuminate the darkness. I am the sunrise. In that moment, I decided I’d always GO BIG. This big trip, this big sunrise called me to trust my big dreams. I’d no longer need to doubt or be frightened by them any longer. I’ll bravely keep on dreaming. Keep on living, to discover myself and my passions in the face of catastrophe.”

90 Spontaneous Days Around The World : It all started with a taxi ride…

On what would have been my twenty-eighth anniversary, February 14, 2014, Kelud erupted, a volcano 175 miles to the east of Yogyakarta. I learned of the deadly details of the eruption on my return to Jakarta, where I prayed for the victims and hoped for the best with my travels. Borobudur and Prambanan temples closed because of the disaster. I believe it was at this point in my journey that I composed my own traveler’s prayer––“Lord, please bestow good health, good weather and good connections.” I would pray this every day. The timing of the eruption spoke to me personally and to the power of my journey. Not only my world, but the world around me was erupting too, seemingly in my wake.

February 22, 2014

I had a steamy Sunday to myself to explore Jakarta. One of the sights I wanted to tour was Monas––the Indonesian national monument commemorating their independence built by President Sukarno. I had yet to try speaking Basha Indonesian on my own. Google Translate and I hit the streets of Jakarta.

“It all started with a taxi ride. I’d just arrived in Jakarta after a few days in Bandung with my friends. I was thrilled but terrified heading into the city without a native speaker with me. I wasn’t sure how I would see all I wanted to see. I took a picture of the map of the Kota out of my guidebook and figured I’d use my App to help me communicate where I needed to go and headed out into the world. But the second I stepped into the sunshine of the Jakarta Sunday morning I got this “I-want-to-curl-up-in-ball” feeling. I was about to leave the cozy confines of the Dreamtel Hotel for Read More

90 Spontaneous Days Around The World: Wordless Wednesday

Tangumen Prahue Volcano, Bandung, Indonesia

Tangumen Prahue Volcano, Bandung, Indonesia

Scene from my research mountain hike in the jungle  outside of Bandung, Indonesia

Scene from my research mountain hike in the jungle outside of Bandung, Indonesia

90 Spontaneous Days Around The World: #1 travel myth of a woman traveling alone

When I left her in Melbourne, Dee said that the world is my oyster. It was wonderful to hear, but I had yet to believe it. One world had ended and my new world had yet to begin. I was between worlds…

What? A real key? The charm of Rothwell Guest House made me feel at home, nearly half-way around the world.

What? A real key? The charm of Rothwell Guest House made me feel at home, nearly half-way around the world.

Feb. 19, 2014 – Arrive Sydney, Australia – Rothwell Guest House, Glebe

Glebe is a great part of Sydney. My room at the guest house was $80/night, unheard of affordability in Sydney, and just a short walk up Ferry Rd. to an amazing bakery and lots of restaurants. The bus stop to the harbor (the 431 & 433 bus lines) was right in front of the bakery. I purchased my $15, 10-ride bus ticket at the news store across from the Glebe library and hopped on the bus. The Writer’s Walk leads up to the Opera House. One of my favorite plaques on the walk reads:

“Australian history is almost always picturesque, indeed it is so curious and strange that it is itself the chiefest novelty the country has to offer. It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies. And all of a fresh sort, not moldy old stale ones. It’s full of surprises, and adventures and incongruities, and incredibilities, but they are all true, they all happened.” – Mark Twain

operahouse

While I saw a late-night show at the Opera House, The QE2 anchored in Sydney Harbor. Along with hundreds of people lining the harbor, I waved to those on board as they sailed out to sea. When the ship sounded it’s horn, we all hollered. In the midst of the spontaneous celebration with my new-found friends, I realized I’d just left my safe harbor and set sail in the world too.

QE2 sets sail

QE2 sets sail

Feb 20th, 2014 – Sydney

A comedy of errors leads me to missing my tour two times today. But without missing it so many times, I might not have met Gabriella and Vidal. They are each other’s Ex’s and found they can’t be married but love each other very Read More

90 Spontaneous Days Around The World – Week 1 : No limits

“You know, some are glass half-empty people, and some are glass half-full people. But some people aren’t limited by the glass.”

When I chose to take big leaps in my life, people all around me, well-meaning friends and family, even acquaintances all had advise and opinions about my plans. Supportive, to be sure. At the very least curious and at times afraid for me. Read More

5 must-haves for women world travelers (or the best $60 I ever spent)

A year ago I began what would turn out to be a 90-day spontaneous trip around the world. Spontaneous, you say? Uh-huh. In honor of the journey, I’m featuring posts about the trip over the next three months. Wanna join me?

I thought about giving you a preview of where we’re heading. But, heck, I had no idea so why don’t we find out together. All I knew at this point in the trip was that I’d spent nearly every dime on my life-long dream to travel to Australia and Indonesia for five weeks to do research for a screenplay I was writing at the time (and am currently editing). The trip took me to the island of Java where my dad grew up and would inform the setting of the screenplay, a true World War II story based on my dad’s experience as a Japanese prisoner.

Are you ready? We’re going to have to pack. Everyone advised me to travel light. Prior to this trip, I’d pack the kitchen sink to go anywhere. I felt like Lucille Ball when I packed (read: stuffed) my backpack for the trip. My youngest daughter called as zero hour approached, asking if all my provisions fit. I confessed I’d have to take two backpacks instead of the one I’d planned.

Laurabackpacks.kathmandu

I looked like a very pregnant adventurer, a small pack in front and a big pack on my back. What’s hilarious is I only have this one picture of me wearing them which was taken after an unexpected adventure. Had I known about these must-haves, my packs would have been much lighter and I would have saved priceless, precious travel time! Read More

Ultimate Dream Dinner — Phuket, Thailand

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“Dreams are the most important ingredients in my ultimate dining experience. So many are hatched and celebrated around the dinner table. Dreams and dining intertwine in my life.”

The kind people at smartling.com asked me, “if I could have or make dinner anywhere in the world, where would it be and what would I eat?”

My dream dinner abroad finds me cooking in an open-air kitchen on the shores of the Andaman Sea in Phuket, Thailand. On my 90-day, spontaneous trip around the world, Phuket was and still is my ultimate dream dining destination.

thai.cookingsea

For me, dreams and dinners-of-a-lifetime are made up of exotic surprises. It was a surprise to meet my younger daughter in Phuket. Since we only had a few days together, we met between Vietnam, where she’d traveled for work, and Nepal, where I’d volunteered for dental relief. An early Mother’s Day present, a day of cooking at The Phuket Thai Cookery School, started at the local market with our charming guide who showed us how they make the freshest coconut milk and how to pick ingredients for our dinner.

thai.cookingmarket

Back at the school, after a few demos by the charming staff, we were let loose in their open-air kitchens to recreate the traditional Thai recipes they’d demonstrated. Our cooking areas had a view of the sea with all of our ingredients measured out for us––a cook’s dream. The best cooking tip I received there has become a tradition in my own cooking ever since. When squeezing the juice out of a lime (or lemon) squeeze it around the blade of a knife and the juice flows down the blade, beautifully.

margauxandme

On the menu:

Tom Kha Kai (Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup)

Kaeng Kiew Wan Kai (Green Curry with Chicken)

Phad Thai (Thai Fried Noodles with Prawns)

Som Tam (Papaya Salad)

Khao Niew Mamuang (Mango with Sticky Rice)

The food seemed to flavor our passions. This dream dinner abroad had all the best ingredients: Thailand, a reunion with my daughter and the kind of exotic surprises that can only be found among kaffir limes, lemongrass, curries, the freshest of seafood, and grapefruit eggplants. Cooking and eating the five-course meal cast a spell over our food, conversations and most importantly, our spirits. Dreams are the most important ingredients in my ultimate dining experience. So many are hatched and celebrated around the dinner table. Dreams and dining intertwine in my life. My daughter and I set a few of our own dreams in motion while enjoying our meal. Tom Kha Kai was our favorite course. As I raised my last chopsticks full of Phad Thai and looked to the Andaman sea I gave thanks for this time together, a dream come true.

How to smile when you get a speeding ticket

While I was sitting in my seat, waiting for the CHP (California Highway Patrol) to give me my speeding ticket, I thought about this experiment I just read about the other day. I’m surprised it slipped by me as the story won the Pulitzer about seven years ago. Joshua Bell, one of the world’s premiere violinists plays a Stradivarius made in 1712, a three million dollar instrument, in the D.C. subway only  to have a few ladies stop and listen.

If you want to read more about Joshua’s Bell experiment click here and find out why he felt the need to repeat it last September.

Are you too busy to notice what’s around you? Do you rush? I do. Why? I just feel the need sometimes. I don’t even know I’m doing it until the universe slows me down. The other day when I got pulled over, I felt the sun warm on my back, gave the universe a big smile and said thank you.

Wordless Wednesday

Merapi Java, Indonesia

Merapi Java, Indonesia

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