10 Modes of Transportation I Took On My Trip Around The World

10 Modes of Transportation I Took On My Trip Around The World

#1 A Camel in India

While exploring the Rajasthan region of India, I was most excited when I found out I would be taking a camel ride through the desert. I have wanted to ride a camel in a foreign land my entire life. My camel, whom I named Hump Phrey did not disappoint. I sat on him while he was lying down, and when he stood up it was a terrifying ride to the top. Camels are a lot taller than I imagined while he was on the ground.We trekked through the desert as the sun was beginning to set and he was very interested in kissing the camel next to me.  Our journey ended on a hill where we watched the beautiful desert sunset and then Hump Phrey’s human family invited my group and I in for a delicious Indian dinner.

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Hump Phrey the Camel

#2 A Snowmobile Sled in Norway

In Norway, I had the opportunity to stay in the snow hotel and take a king crab fishing excursion. In order to get to the frozen fjord where the fishing would take place, the group and I suited up and boarded the snow mobile sled. It was a trailer with four bench seats that each sat four people. The snow mobile, with the help of the man driving it, pulled us out into the center of the fjord, and surprisingly it never occurred to me that if the ice were to get one tiny crack in it, we were all doomed. However I don’t think that in -40 degree weather,  in a land in which the sun had not actually risen in 14 days, we were in any danger of this happening.

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On the Frozen Fjord

#3 The Tuk Tuk in India

Every ride I took in Tuk Tuk was a different adventure. We had to stop for cows, though that was the only thing anyone stopped for. Once our Tuk Tuk got stuck stuck in a giant traffic jam in Udaipur. People on the streets, along with dogs and goats, were climbing over the Tuk Tuks just to get through. The Tuk Tuk in front of us had somehow locked up with the one next to it, coming in the opposite direction.The side pieces were connected and there was no good way to rectify the situation. The tiny, narrow, curvy streets only made things worse. I did notice, that no one seemed to get angry. People were laughing, and carrying on as if they had nowhere to be. If this were in New York, someone would have killed another person by the time the traffic was flowing again.

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Tuk Tuk Traffic Jam

#4 The Ten Person Snorkel Boat in Pape’tee, Tahiti

When I showed up for my afternoon snorkel excursion in Tahiti, I was a bit shocked at the, um, conditions of the boat. A tiny aluminum boat, with exactly enough room for ten plus snorkel gear was waiting for me. However, when on an adventure, one must go where the adventure leads. I hoped as I boarded this boat, this particular adventure would not lead to my death. Fortunately it did not. The ten of reached our destination, in some of the bluest water I had ever seen, and the snorkel was on. I saw lovely multi-colored fish and a beautiful coral garden. The boat did exactly what it was supposed to do. It did not sink and it got us safely from point A to point B, so I’d say this mode of transportation was also a success.

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The Dive/ Snorkel Boat

#5 The Cycle Rickshaw in India

If the Tuk Tuk was an adventure, the cycle rickshaw was a feat indeed. Each one seats two on a bench, and the more luxurious ones have a small bench with a “security bar” in the back, facing the oncoming traffic. I rode in cycle rickshaws facing both directions and I am not sure which one was more entertaining/ terrifying. One of the pros is that it is much easier to come to a screeching halt when a cow stops in the middle of the road. One of the cons is that everyone in traffic, including the cows, is moving at much faster pace than you, especially if you have squeezed four people into the ride. Poor rickshaw drivers. They work all the time and some of them even sleep in their tiny rickshaws so they never miss out on a money making opportunity.

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Cycle Rickshaws

#6 The Radiance of The Seas, Cruise Ship

I had never been on a cruise before. I had no idea what to expect, and I was not disappointed. I had never even been to a resort, so when people compared being on a cruise to being on a floating resort, I had no reference point. This ship had 13 decks, 10 restaurants/ eating areas, 8 bars, shopping for days, a spa, a salon, two pools, a rock climbing wall, a casino, and so many other nooks and crannies. I was overwhelmed at the places to go and the mile long activity list. However, between themed dance parties, bingo and basketball, I managed to make incredible friends. I also managed to make friends with one of the bartenders, which is always good advice, and eat some of the most delicious food. I’m not sure I can afford the Cruise lifestyle very often, but those 18 nights at sea from Sydney to Honolulu, stopping in New Zealand and French Polynesia were certainly incredible.

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The Radiance of the Seas

#7 The Overnight First Class Sleeper Train from Jodhpur to Jaipur in India

If we were in first class, then I would be very interested to see what the lowest class car looked like on this train. That being said, I do love a good jaunt in an new vehicle. There were actually “beds” in the form of bunk beds, but each one had three numbers on it. If you didn’t have the foresight to purchase all three tickets, then you were likely to be cuddling with whomever also had a ticket for your bed. Our group had an entire cubby to ourselves, and two of them had the privilege of getting an entire bed to themselves. I was so amazed at the goings on of the trains in India. People would run across the tracks, climb on the train and board through an open window. People in the stations would stand near the train windows and sell you a variety of items while the train was in the station. Other people would get on with a cardboard box of various food and sell it while walking up and down the corridor of the train. The trains passed through remote villages and vibrant towns. They were over crowded. It is almost impossible to use the bathroom on a moving train while squating over a hole in the ground and looking at the tracks passing beneath you. However, without the details, adventures would be so boring.

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The Train Platform

#8 A Wooden Paddle Boat in Vietnam

I had always wanted to visit the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to ride in one of these hand-crafted wooded paddle boats. We floated peacefully down the tiny channel, our boat being controlled by a woman, in one of those iconic Vietnamese hats, rowing us down the river with her oars. I saw people leaving their housing structures, climb down bamboo poles and get into their own boats, heading to work or the market, or I can imagine, any number of places. What an interesting way of life it must be to go to the market every day in your paddle boat?

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Wooden Paddle Boat

 

#9 An Elephant in India

Another mode of transportation I was excited to cross off my bucket list was riding an Elephant. This is another animal I have always wanted to ride in a foreign county. However, I wanted to make sure, as with the camels, that I was riding an elephant who has a good life and is treated like a member of the family that owns it. My tour guide took me to a place that he assured me was humane and the elephants get treated very well. My tour mate and I sat on the elephant in a little cushioned basket. Ernie, the elephant, took us up the hill to the top of Agra Fort. The views were spectacular and the rhythm of the elephant was different from anything, even the camel.

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Riding Along

#10 The Evolution, Cairns’ Number 1 Dive Boat (Australia)

Down Under Cruise and Dive, in Cairns, Australia has one of the best dive boats on the water. I was so impressed with the crew and my initial baby dive, that I signed up to get my Open Water License while on board this amazing boat. It has three levels, bean bags for lounging, air conditioned rooms, a kitchen, underwater cameras you can rent for the day, and state of the art dive and snorkel equipment. I spent three full days on this boat and while actually being a non swimmer trying to get her dive license was extremely challenging, I enjoyed every second of this adventure.

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The Great Barrier Reef

 

 

 

A Cafe Conversation

This afternoon, in a cafe in Delhi, I had the privilege of enjoying a wonderful conversation with a 62 year old Irish writer. He sat down at my table without any invitation, as if I had been waiting there for him to meet me. We began a conversation as if we had known one another for years; almost as if we were picking up where we had left off previously. As I sipped my coffee, we talked of our travels, of his writing, his homosexuality and the world’s view of such; Ireland and the amazing adventures the world has to offer. We spoke of Greenwich Village in its heyday, as if we had been there together. We mourned the loss of David Bowie and Alan Rickman and I told him of the celebrities I had served drinks to in NYC. Within less than an hour, he knew about the death of my parents, as well as their entire medical history. He knew of every place I had visited, not only on this adventure, but on all of them. As he told me of the many lovers he had taken around the world, his eyes lit up as his mind danced with their memories and his heart fluttered at the thought of each and every one. I have mentioned travel horcruxes before, and by the joy behind this Irish man’s eyes, he knows about them; all too well. However, after he spent a few moments lost in memory, he informed me that he could never fancy actually being in a monogamous relationship because he genuinely enjoys being alone. “We only get one life that we know of,” he said, “so we might as well enjoy it.” We discussed politics, religion, and science and all of the notions that modern society has forced us to shy away from in conversations; especially with strangers. Yet, he wasn’t really a stranger to me, at least that’s how it seemed. We discussed the Kardashians and how shameful it is when we are here in India, surrounded by so many hard working people who are living in complete poverty, just simply working themselves to the bone in order for survival of the most modest and humble form.
He was intrigued when I told him of the love my parents had for one another, saying that he couldn’t actually grasp loving one person so intently everyday; forever. I told him that he had clearly never met my parents.
Then we spoke of all the places and people and moments with which we had left a tiny sliver of our hearts. I told him that I call them horcruxes and he liked that very much. Between his many years of travel and many countries and my comparatively few, the two of us have many people, places and moments in time that are protecting tiny slivers of our hearts.
We spoke of how easy it once was to travel to so many beautiful places that are now so heavily restricted. He told me that if Bosnia wasn’t on my bucket list already, then it should be added immediately, as he considers it one of the most beautiful places he has seen. He asked me how many horcruxes I had created on this journey and to be honest, there were more than I had taken the time to tally up. In Norway, as I stood under the dancing spirits of the Northern Lights; in Sweden in an apartment in Linköping with two friends I barely knew until I got there and we became family; in Belgium as I was feeding goats, watching amazing sun sets and becoming sisters with a girl while we bonded over TV, cigarettes, and beer while discussing matters of the heart; and now in India. India, I told him, has been very special. I won’t leave just one sliver of my heart with my time in India. There are four wonderful people (now family) from Scotland and an amazing tour guide (also now family) from Mumbai who all are now each protecting a tiny sliver of my heart. Within moments, a piece of my heart just leapt to each of them without my consent, because those slivers knew they would be well taken care of. I have also left slivers on a camel ride through the desert, at a revolving restaurant 25 floors up in Delhi, in Dharavi, on a late night motor bike ride through Mumbai, while dancing at the wedding party of absolute strangers in Udaipur after accidentally stumbling upon their party and in a very tearful Moment at the Taj Mahal, which is the main reason I chose India. It was the only place out of the United States that my mom had wanted to see her entire life.
Eventually, as it came time for my new friend to bid me farewell, he finally told me his name; Charlie. Charlie, the Irish writer from Donegal who leads a very nomadic, adventurous life while writing most of his pieces in Gaelic. We didn’t names in order to have a most interesting conversation. We were friends the moment he picked my table to sit down at. Knowing one another’s names was simply a formality as we departed. We didn’t need the small talk of asking basic questions because we immediately delved into the heart of all matters. Life, death, love and adventure.

The compost pile

My time in Belgium will be over in less that 24 hours. It has been an amazing experience. From the second I arrived at the train station in Namur, I have been welcomed as a member of the family. I have fed goats and chickens. I helped build a rabbit house. I have shared family meals, attended Badminton practice and orchestra rehearsal. I have shared wine, beer, cheese and chocolate. A piece of me is very sad to be heading out of Belgium tomorrow, though I know the three weeks in India I have ahead of me will be a kind of incredible that I don’t have the words for yet.
As this leg of my journey comes to a close, I find myself reflecting. Reflecting on the places I’ve been, the year that will infamously be remembered, and who I am as a person. I’m wondering why certain people choose to heal their hearts in different ways. For me, the call to travel; to experience something new is the way I’ve always healed. The call of the unknown. The desperate need to be somewhere else. Just the sheer excitement of planning an adventure can lower my stress level immensely and also raise my heart rate from numb and almost no pulse to full on excitement and vibrance in a matter of seconds. So I’m curious as to why everyone doesn’t take to the sea when they are weary?
I also had one more task yesterday that I didn’t mention yet. Yesterday the weather was finally nice enough to go outside and actually get our hands dirty. Daniel, my host, and I went out into the garden and pruned away all of the dead bits of earth. We cut branches, stalks, leaves, and every piece of the garden that would become a hindrance to the growth of the new vegetables. We then took every bit of dead earth and dumped it into the compost pile. The magical thing about compost piles is this: a pile of rotting, decaying, discarded pieces of the earth. Orange peels, coffee grounds, onion peel, leaves, dirt, etc. The things in the compost pile rot for a year and then they get returned to the garden. This pile covers the vegetables and protects them and infused them with the nutrients that have been retained in the process. These nutrients allow the new vegetables to become larger, more delicious, and better all because of things that discarded and deemed unuseful. Perhaps it is a giant stretch of the imagination, but I feel that it is time for me to prune my branches. I need to take all of the things that hold me back and put them away. They need to rest in a small corner of my mind until I can take the lessons learned from them and become a better version of myself; more vibrant, more full of life, more determined to continue seeking happiness.

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The compost pile

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A WWOOFer in Belgium

A WWOOFer in Belgium

After I left Sweden, I flew to Brussels via a ten hour overnight layover in the Barcelona airport. Now I am in a little village outside of the city Namur. From the moment I arrived, my hosts have treated me like family. Daniel, the father, met me at the train station and brought me to the home he shares with his daughter, Lisa.
I was greeted with a welcome dinner with Daniel, Lisa and four of their friends. We had homemade quiche and shared wine and conversation. I went to sleep with a full stomach and a warm heart.
There are two goats here, chickens and a cat named Loki. There is a good sized vegetable garden and everyday there is work to be done.
I am learning how to feed the animals and there is an injured chicken we are trying to mend. I think she is getting better.
Daniel took me to an 17th century Abbey and to two very old castles; one with a moat. He showed me the spot where the previous king fell tragically to his death while rock climbing near the river.
We have shared so many wonderful meals in my week here. It is so wonderful to eat food that is so fresh and delicious. The potatoes, carrots, cabbages and other delicacies come straight out of the ground. I have to agree that these vegetables taste significantly better than any I’ve bought at Waldbaums or Kroger.
Yesterday we went to the Fresh Market and came home and feasted on three types of olives, peppers, sundried tomatoes, cheese and many delightful sausages. This was our appetizer before enjoying roasted chicken and mashed potatoes.
Then last night Daniel, Lisa and her boyfriend took me into town. We went to the top of the Citadelle de Namur where we enjoyed wonderful views of the city and rivers below. It is a fort with a castle inside and the views are spectacular. There is an amphitheatre and a large slope that the children were sledding on. We saw an amazing sunset and then headed down into town. They led me through the streets of Namur, through the “old city” and then we enjoyed a refreshing beer at La Havanna in an old square near a beautiful church.
I am their first WWOOFer and they are my first hosts. I have quite a few more days here, but I know this is an experience I will take with me forever. I have been welcomed, once again in this journey, as family. Lisa and I became fast friends and I know I’ll probably be friends with her for life. I will definitely WWOOF again. It is such a wonderful way to see and truly experience a place and to meet wonderful people.

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My week in Linköping, Sweden

My week in Sweden is quickly drawing to a close. When I planned to come to Sweden after Norway, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I asked two friends, whom to be honest I had only met twice, if I could stay with them and they said yes. Sweden has been a very different experience from Norway. It has not been better or worse, simply different. In Norway I was welcomed by nature and beauty. In Sweden I have been welcomed by family. From the second I arrived here, my friends have been nothing but the best hosts. We have bonded and talked, laughed, eaten, danced our faces off, laughed and eaten more. They have taken me to see castles, museums, the old city, the ABBA Museum in Stockholm, fed me and welcomed me into their home as if I already belonged there.
I have eaten some of the most delicious food, most of which was home cooked. We have had Swedish meatballs, something amazing that sounds like Peter pan, moose tips and moose stew, Raggmunk, tacos, pizza, porkchops, red beet salad and so many other wonderful things. I have been welcomed not only into their home, but also into three of their family and friends. We have had coffee while chatting and truly getting to know each other, forever sealing the bonds of friendship.
They have been my tour guides, my chefs, my shopping buddies and have granted me a much different Sweden than I could have experienced otherwise. In Norway, I found inspiration in my solitude. In Sweden I have found joy in my friendships and the welcoming nature of two people I barely knew and now I consider to be true friends.
Tomorrow I head to Belgium for yet another entirely different experience. I will be working on the farm of a family I have only met through email for two weeks. They will house and feed me in exchange for me working for the farm a few hours every day. Here’s to my Swedish friends, to tomorrow, and to many more new experiences.

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Let’s discuss the food for a moment

I love food, though I would not consider myself a “foodie.” I love to eat and try new things and I truly believe that if you are going to experience a new place, then you cannot truly do so until you engage with the locals and experience the local cuisine.  After almost a full week in Norway, I have eaten some of the most delicious food. The hotel breakfast buffets, as well as the one on the cruise have been spectacular. Every morning there has been a beautiful spread of smoked salmon, eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, vegetables, cold cuts and cheese, rolls, yogurt, oatmeal and fruit. I have stood and looked and thought that I should probably not try everything, but then I realize that breakfast in Norway has been one of my two included meals, so I pushed that negativity out of my life and every morning I have tried everything. I’m definitely partial to the fresh smoked salmon, but the salami and cheese on a roll is also great to pack up a couple and save for a snack later.

In Tromso, I ate at Emma’s Dream Kitchen on New Year’s Eve. We began our meal with smoked salmon which was followed by creamed fish soup, fried Christmas Cod with potato puree and a pork spare rib. We then cleansed our pallets with champagne sorbet, before being delivered the breast of Wild Grouse. The presentation of the Grouse was spectacular, if you are prepared for the breast of a bird to look like prime rib. I tried it with a smile on my face, because that’s what you have to, but I was not a fan. So of course I simply set my fork aside and waited on my dessert.

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Wild Grouse at Emma’s Dream Kitchen

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Arctic Char, Emma’s Dream Kitchen

Complaining about the food in another country is an issue I am quite passionate about after having served food to tourists for many years in Times Square. There is a difference between not enjoying something, but trying it with an open mind and accepting the consequences, and complaining about something because it is not what you are used to. I certainly don’t expect to like every piece of food I am going to try in the next few months, but I am certain that I will never ask for my money back or complain because it is different. Now, if there is in fact something wrong with it, or a giant bug in it, I might complain, but generally I can think of many reasons not to.

But, I digress. My dessert at Emma’s Dream Kitchen was a chocolate bomb, which was similar to a molten chocolate cake, but with more of an outer shell similar to that amazing hardening stuff they use at Dairy Queen.

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Chocolate Bomb at Emma’s Dream Kitchen

Then for my first dinner on the cruise, we had a creamed carrot soup as an appetizer, which was followed by a thick and delicious fillet of Arctic Char over potatoes and grilled squash. For dessert that night we had cloudberry (which is a native Norwegian berry that grows in very high altitudes) parfaits and tiny pieces of chocolate torte. Every bite was amazing.

For my second dinner on the cruise, we were given a shellfish buffet. MMMMM! There were prawns, saltwater crawfish, three different types of crab, tiny lobsters, oysters, clams, and mussels. The two ladies at my tables and I went back to the line at least three times, and every trip was a new adventure. For dessert we had chocolate torte, with blueberry sorbet and a cheese plate that was absolutely divine.

Upon leaving the cruise, I went on a king crab excursion. After watching how they are caught and killed, our group was driven by snow mobile sled to this cabin in the middle of nowhere. We were given tea and coffee while they cooked the crabs and then they brought them in on giant platters. I am pretty sure I ate 7, but we are going to stick with 6 just for the sake of not sounding like a huge glutton.

Then I enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Snow Hotel. Our appetizer was heart of wild sheep with a small cheese spread to go with it. It was so delicious. The couple next to me snarled the second they heard what it was and suddenly had so many allergies that they had forgotten to mention when they made their reservations. Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant will definitely understand my sentiments here. They were begrudgingly given salads and didn’t notice the looks they received from the staff. After heart of wild sheep, I enjoyed a delicious fillet of grilled halibut with grilled vegetables, polenta, and a tomato relish. I was still kind of full from my king crabs, but you better believe I had room for dessert when it arrived. A block of creamy chocolate goodness, ice cream and something that resembled hot applesauce. It wasn’t apple, but do to new information overload, I can’t remember which fruit it was.

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The heart of wild sheep, Kirkenes

Overall, I must say that Norway has fed me well. I have not been disappointed, my belly has been full for almost the entire time I have been here and for dinner tonight I spent my last cash NKR on a slice of 7-11 pizza and some Pringles at the airport. That’s right folks, it was filling and just in time, because I head to Sweden in the morning.

 

Tonight I created a horcrux in the Arctic Circle

I knew it would happen a few times on this journey, I just wasn’t prepared for how it would feel this time. I know that If you know what a horcrux is then you probably associate it with all things negative. When I read the word “horcrux” in those books that have forever left their mark in literature, I thought it was a beautiful power that had simply landed in the wrong hands. The idea of splitting off a fragment of your soul and tucking it away in time and space, a moment or even a person, so that that tiny fragment might live forever is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read and one of the most beautiful thoughts I have ever encountered.  I have the spirit of a traveler and the heart of a hopeless romantic, so I have actually been creating horcruxes since before I knew there was a word for them. Mine have generally been created in places or moments, but there are also a very few people that I have left a piece of my soul with; none of whom I have ever actually dated.
I met a woman in Prague who told me that she had left her heart at the gate to the Fjords of Norway and she had been trying to get back ever since, not to reclaim her heart, but to simply be reconnected with it for a bit. This is how I feel every time I leave a piece of my soul within a moment or a place or a beating heart. I know these moments in time and these corners of the earth and the few beating hearts I have entrusted with this honor will forever hold their sliver safe and protected.
The first horcrux I remember creating was in Dundee, Scotland. Actually I created two there; one inside a place that my moment in time will live forever in and the other in a beating heart who I can only hope thinks of me fondly as often as I do him. My horcrux list has grown significantly over the years. There are three men who will forever protect a miniscule, but not unimportant piece of my soul. One of them might read this and should he, he will know that I am absolutely talking about him. That horcrux was written in the stars. One of them will most definitely read this and believe instantly that I am talking about him, though he’ll never know for certain; but oh he’ll believe it. The third one will most likely read this and will have absolutely no idea that he is currently in possession of a tiny sliver of me. He might think for the tiniest of seconds, “Is she… Could she be talking about me?” but then he will brush it off and wonder why I’ve never mentioned my horcruxes to him before. I also have a friend unlike any other who will also forever protect a tiny sliver of me.
The list of places and moments is actually quite longer than the other because moments in time aren’t aware that they can refuse your affections. They just are and allow you to just be. Tonight I will add The Arctic Circle to a list that includes Scotland; Prague; Sedona, Arizona; New York City; Memphis,TN; The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, Long Beach Island, NJ, Stonehenge, The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and the Grand Canyon.
I have been sad for the better part of a year and tonight my heart is filled to the brim with joy, prospect, warmth, excitement and positivity. Tonight I stood on Deck 5 of the Hurtigurten Ship under a sky that was filled with the Northern Lights for almost three hours. I took pictures until I thought my ungloved hand might break off and then I just stood there and watched because I know that the pictures will never be as great as it was to be there underneath them. Both of my parents wanted to see the Northern Lights and now I truly believe they have. I stood with two German Women who’s names I never learned and we watched in amazement as we became part of a fortunate group of charmed individuals who have now seen the Northern Lights.
As they got brighter and stronger and actually began to dance, I felt as if the earth were filling me with every single ounce of its positive energy. I felt like I was receiving a gift that so few people receive or realize they are being granted.
While they continued, one of the women managed to ask me why the Northern Lights? Why was I desperate to experience them? To be honest, besides the fact that both of my parents wanted to see them (which I explained to her) and it seemed like the right thing to do; I truly had no idea until I experienced them. In that moment in time I realized that my desperate need to see them, and the reason I planned my the first leg off my Journey in such unadulterated haste, was actually a calling. I was being called here through tiny sounds in the wind and ripples in the seas and whistling in the grass so that I could come and have my cup refilled. In the last four hours, I have not been sad. I have been absorbing the earth’s energy and I only walked away from the majesty of the lights when my cup began to run over. It would not be fair after all, for me to absorb all that the spirit of the lights has to offer.
I am not saying at all that I am healed. I’m not certain that I can ever truly heal, only evolve, but for the first time in a long time, I have been recharged. I’m certain that I will need to be recharged again and again both on this adventure I am currently undertaking and also in everyday life for as long as I shall live it, but right here and now I am full of hope and joy and endless possibility and that is why I will say to everyone: if you get a chance to Chase the Northern Lights, do it. If you are standing underneath them and you can’t get your camera settings right, or someone is texting you, just stop. Look. Experience. Feel. Just be there in The moment.  The post card you buy will inevitably be far better than your picture anyway. Feel the spirits of the earth as the lights fill the sky with their dances.

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