Puerto Vallerta, Mexico

My Best Vacation Ever in Beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I was reclining on a lounger in the sand, watching the waves roll in, drinking a Pina Colada, and trying on jewelry when it occurred to me. It was my best vacation ever! Where else can you drink, eat, and shop, while lying in the sun by the beach without even getting off your butt? This is just one of the many things I love about beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Here are some other things to see and do while you are there.

Shopping

I spent about $150 on a bunch of amazing silver jewelry that I didn’t need. I Bought an enormous opal ring for about $15 USD. I then proceeded to buy matching earrings, a toe ring and bracelet. It would have cost 5 times as much in the U.S.  Local vendors, selling everything from t-shirts to wood carving to jewelry, wander by all day long. But don’t worry, if you don’t want to buy anything they will leave you and your cocktail to relax in the sun.

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Sunrise

My Transition Home and Alarming New Observations About America

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been adjusting to life back in the USA for a while. Surprisingly, it has been every bit as difficult as my first few weeks in India. My time in India changed me, in every way possible. In fact, I’m writing a book about it. I’m not the same person that left here feeling anxious and lost a year and half ago.  I’ve grown tremendously, and as a result, I’m noticing things that I didn’t before. Here are some things that I’ve observed about Americans since I’ve gotten back, and they are some of the things that have made my transition feel a bit unsettling.

Americans are too damn busy

I came home with an extensive list of things to do because I had been gone for a long time. I had deferred maintenance stuff to take care of on my house. I had to file my taxes, get new eye glasses, go to the dentist, visit friends, etc.  But what has fascinated me most is that all my friends and family are even busier than I am. I’ve already been home almost a month, and there are many friends I still haven’t seen because they haven’t been able to squeeze me into their busy schedules. Americans are all on a hamster wheel, running around in circles checking things off their massive To-Do list. Rarely, do we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. In other cultures, people often start the day with tea or coffee and just visit with strangers.

We have become a bunch of human doings, not human beings.

In America, I don’t see many people just being in the moment, relaxed and enjoying the present. Instead, Americans are too busy thinking about what they need to do next. I find it alarming now. It causes stress and anxiety. It isolates us from one another. It’s the reason that I’ve decided to break the chains of corporate greed and work for myself again. It’s why I’ve decided to travel so much. When I travel, I feel like I am enjoying the present moment and engaging in this day, these people and this place. I’m not preoccupied with bills to pay and errands to run.

Killer Whale off San Juan Island

Beauty, Fun and Tranquility on San Juan Island

I’ve been visiting San Juan Island in Puget Sound for the last fifteen years, but every time I do I find something new to enjoy. There is a little something for everyone and I guarantee you, by the time you leave, you will never forget the beauty, fun and tranquility of San Juan Island.

The ferry ride

The journey begins on the ferry ride from Anacortes. You can now make reservations ahead of time, and I strongly recommend it. You can do it easily on line with just a few clicks. The ferry ride over is beautiful, so try to make it during daylight hours. If you get very lucky you might see some orcas.

Downtown Friday Harbor

There are many fun things to do in downtown Friday Harbor. Restaurants offer some of the best seafood in the Pacific Northwest. I especially like the clam chowder at Diggers and the delicious fish and chips at Cask and Schooner Pub across the street.

Signing the guest log

The Annoying Indian Phrase that Drove Me Crazy

Doing business in Indian takes some getting used to. Indians have their own style of customer service and it’s quite different from western standards. In America, most companies will do anything to keep their customers happy. They even pride themselves, and often share stories, of going to absolute extremes to win a customer for life. We believe in leaving them with a sense of “wow”. Indian workers take a much different approach. They left me with a sense of “wow” many times, but it was the wrong kind of “wow”, as in “wow” how do they stay in business?  Perhaps it’s because of their overpopulation, and that they try to provide jobs for everyone, that leads to their “it’s not my job” type of philosophy. For example, they have bathroom attendants and people whose only responsibility is to make coffee for the office. When I got my hair styled in a salon, one person held the hair dryer and another held the hair brush. So, quite often in India, if I asked someone to do something outside of their usual job duties, the response was generally the same. “Not possible”. The only exception I saw was at 5 star hotels and some other high-end resorts that catered to westerners.

Airport security guard staring at me

Safety Considerations for Female Solo Travel in Asia

He called out to me in the dark of night. “Madame come,” he said, from about 20 minutes away. There was no way in hell I was going over there. I didn’t know the guy. I couldn’t even make out his face in the darkness. I picked up my pace and headed in the opposite direction.

I’ve spent the last year and half traveling around Asia and living in India. I never had any real problems, but I was also acutely aware of my surroundings and very cautious. If you are a woman traveling around on your own in Asia, here are my recommendations for safety. Of course these precautions probably would apply to anywhere, but in a country where you might not understand the culture or speak the language, you must be extra careful.

Lie

I hate having to suggest this. It goes against every principal of my being. Why should we have to lie for our own safety? The feminist in me hates it!  We shouldn’t have to lie, but in certain circumstances it’s justified. Let me give you an example. I was in a taxi in Thailand driving through a fairly remote area at night. My taxi driver asked me if I was traveling alone. “No,” I said, “my husband is waiting for me at the hotel. He has some work to do.”  About 15 minutes later the driver continued to ask me uncomfortable questions, like where did I live and how long were we there?  I realize it’s possible he was just being friendly, but my instincts told me to be very careful. I picked up my cell phone and acted like I was dialing and talking to my husband until we arrived at my destination.  Many times I have had strange men hurry up to catch up with me and then ask me if I have a boyfriend or husband. I learned the hard way to say yes. If you don’t they will continue to follow you and try to make conversation.

Sea Star Resort in Agonda Beach

Agonda Beach and Palolem: Paradise in Goa, India

My stay in Goa was entirely too short. It’s the type of place where you immediate relax and never want to leave. In fact, many people do just that. Agonda Beach and Palolem are two of the lesser known gems of the area. They are located only about 30 minutes apart from each other in the southern part of the Goa coast.

Agonda Beach

Agonda is tiny and very laid back. It consists of mainly one road that is lined with vendors from one end to the other. Everything you need is there, from colorful clothing, to a pharmacy, tourist booking offices, laundry, fruit stands and so on. In India, your entire day can easily be taken up by running a few simple errands. They don’t have giant one stop shopping centers like we do in the USA. Instead, you buy everything individually from small shop keepers. These people quickly because friendly faces that brighten day with their big smiles.

My Accommodations

I stayed in a small bungalow at a place called the Seat Star Resort. The cost was about $30 USD per night. It was about the size of a small hotel room. It consisted of a bed, a small wardrobe closet and a private washroom. It was simple but cute. The best thing about Sea Star is that it is situated on the beach. A short sandy path leads from the reception desk, down to the café and finally to the beach. The sand is brown and a little rougher than some, but still a lovely place to spend the day basking in the sun and watching all the beach activities. There are volleyball nets set up and ready for play, along with boat rides and kayaks available. The beach is lined with resorts and restaurants so anything you need is readily accessible.

Amber Fort in Jaipur, India

10 Things I will Never Take for Granted Again After Spending a Year in Indian

After almost a year and a half in India I’ve gotten to know the country quite well. There are so many things I love about India, like the beautiful Himalayan Mountains, delicious food and fascinating culture. However, there are a number of things that I have really missed from home. These 10 things I will never take for granted again.

Toilets

India has more cell phones than toilets. There are very few public toilets, which means that public urination (by men) is common. One day, out of pure curiosity, I decided to count the number of men I saw taking a pee on the way to work. In 8 kilometers I counted 14 guys relieving themselves on the side of the road. If you are lucky enough to find a public toilet it will probably be an Indian style squat toilet. Western style toilets are even harder to find.

Hand towels in wash room

If you are able to locate a public restroom be prepared for it to be dirty, even disgusting! They don’t have the same sanitary standards that the west does. I have only found one hand dryer or filled paper towel dispenser in a public bathroom my entire time in India, and that place was operated by foreigners.

Yoga Love

My Manifesto: India has Changed Me in the Most Wonderful Ways

I had no idea when I left America to manage a large software project in India that a year and half later I would be a different person. India changes people. Its effect on me has been profound in almost every way possible. If you are my friend or family member from back home, prepare yourself. When I return home in the next month or so you will see that I’m not even close to the same person I was, and I’m glad. They call it Incredible India for a reason and here are the many ways that its changed me.

Material Possessions

When I came to India it was because I was offered the highest paying job of my career. I was excited to finally achieve a long time goal of mine; to break the $100k a year salary mark. A year and half later the money is insignificant to me. When the price of your morning cappuccino is more than some people will make in a day, or even a week, it puts things into perspective. I’ve seen naked hungry children wandering the slums in India and its left a lasting impression on me. When I think about all the frivolous things I bought and the money I squandered, it sickens me. It’s all perishable. I can’t take any of it with me when I die. All I want to do now is eat, sleep, breath and be. That’s right….BE. Why are we as a society so obsessed with what others are doing, with deadlines, pressures and achievement? What is really important is THIS particular moment. This day could be your last. It might be the last time you see someone you love. Enjoy it. Count your blessings. Just BE.

Nick teaching us scuba diving

How My Scuba Instructor, Nick Parry, Inspired Me Way Beyond Diving

I tend to make a lot of new friends during my travels. The human connections are an important part of my journey. Some people leave a lasting impression on me, and my scuba instructor was a perfect example. Nick Parry surprised me with his intelligence. When I found out he speaks fluent Chinese and Thai, I knew there had to be much more to him than just a 27-year-old adrenalin junky teaching scuba at Kon-Tiki Lanta.

Where is he from?

I was surprised to find out that Nick is from my own neck of the woods. He grew up in McMinnville, Oregon, which is about an hour away from my home. McMinnville is a small rural town, probably not well known for turning out adventurous world traveler types. But Nick learned to scuba dive with his father when he was only 14 years old and went to work in China as an interpreter immediately after high school graduation.

What does he do for fun?

He went back to the USA to attend the University of Montana, where he earned a degree in Linguistics and English Literature. He also got certified as a snow board instructor and as a mountaineer. Nick says adrenaline sports are his thing. He has summited Mount Rainier 3 times and has also climbed the peak of the Three Sisters. His dream is to one day tackle the Himalayas.