I had the pleasure of spending Halloween night celebrating in style with the beautiful children of Ramana’s Children’s Home. As we danced to blaring Hindi hip hop under the vivid flashing lights, I felt someone tenderly tap my leg. I looked down to see the cutest little girl reach up to me. She wanted to…
I couldn’t understand a word my coworker was saying. She spoke Italian, and I speak English. Grazie and ciao was the full extent of my knowledge of the Italian language, but I gathered from her motions that I was supposed to follow her. I followed Katarina down the stairs into the basement. Workers were everywhere. People from the kitchen (she calls it the “chicken”) were carrying supplies up and down the stairs, and a couple of other women were folding towels on a table on the far side, jabbering away in another language I couldn’t understand. Katarina opened the door to a storage room, filled with folded and stacked towels and sheets. In the center was a huge pile of wrinkled sheets and pillow cases. She picked up the iron and pointed at the large stack. Then she pointed at me!
I was enjoying some Swiss cheese fondue and a glass of wine in Zermatt when I saw them walk by. They didn’t look like the other tourists. They carried helmets on their packs and walked with a certain resolve that immediately caught my attention. These guys are on a mission, I thought to myself. Imagine my surprise when I returned back to my hostile and found them lounging in my door room. I introduced myself and asked about their gear. Christoph and Herbert Maile couldn’t contain their excitement. They were about to fulfill their 16-year dream to climb the Matterhorn, and sometime later that evening they agreed to give me the honor to tell their story.
I did my pre-climb interview the next morning with Chris, who speaks fluent English. He was 24 years old and full of energy. As we sipped our cappuccinos and ate our breakfast, I pestered him with a bunch of questions. His enthusiasm was contagious and I hoped to god they would make the summit.
Me: How many people are in your climb group?
Chris: Me, Dad (who is 56) and two guides. One is assigned to helping my father and one is assigned to helping me.
Me: Do you mind if I ask how much the guides cost?
Chris: No, that’s fine. They cost 1,000 euros each (about 1,180 USD).
Me: What does your mom think of this?
Chris: She knows she can’t stop us, so she just accepts it.
Me: How long do you anticipate it will take you?
Chris: A few hours the first day to reach the Carell hut where we spend the night. Then we will leave at dawn or whenever the weather is right for the summit. That should take another 4 to 5 hours, even though it is only 700 meters. It will take an additional 3 to 4 hours to climb down to the Carell hut and then we have to leave that night so we are hiking all the way back down to the bottom which will be another 4 hours.
Me: So, you could be climbing for 12 to 13 hours that day?
Chris: Yah, (he says, with a shrug of his shoulders, like it’s no big deal).
I only spent two days in Munich, but it left a lasting impression on me. The grander of the Alps, the many shades of green, the opulent castles, the delicious food, and helpful people, all left me wishing I could stay longer. It may have only been a stop-over on my way to Austria, but the bier, brats and beauty of Munich Germany will bring me back.
It took us about an hour until we were outside of the city and passing beautiful green farm fields, giant windmills and starting to see glimpses of spectacular mountains poking through the mist in the distance. The closer we got to the mountains, the more excited I got. My heart was racing as I took picture after picture of the grand mountain peaks towering above charming Bavarian villages.
I signed up for a day tour to visit two fairy-tale looking castles. The first stop was Linderhof, the smallest of the three royal castles built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II, who was known for being quite eccentric. He was never married and died a suspicious death at the age of 41. The palace was built in the French Rococo style and is surrounded by perfectly groomed gardens and picturesque landscaping. A large white swan swam elegantly around the glassy pond and colorful flowers lined the shore. Outside the palace was a gorgeous fountain that shot high into the air every half hour. The inside of the castle was even more impressive. Every nook and cranny was gleaming with gold plate atop extraordinary designs. The walls and ceilings were covered in murals honoring various legends or religious figures. The color and detail was incredible! The king’s bed was especially lavish, covered in blue velvet and silk with real gold embroidery and accessories. I stared in awe and couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like to live as royalty in such a beautiful palace.
I’ve had a lot of weird experiences on this cross-county motorcycle trip, but my wild night in Badgerville, Wisconsin might top them all. I spent the night in Badgerville RV Park, just off the freeway, and next to Kegonsa State Park. I was assigned a cute little spot next to the fish pond.
As I was setting up I met the neighbors, Dave and Tami. I couldn’t help but notice that they, and most of the RVs in the park, had decks and sheds. Turns out that instead of buying a weekend cabin like many of us do in the northwest, people in that part of Wisconsin buy a year around spot to park their RVs, and then they proceed to customize it with decks, fences, sheds, and so on. As a result, most of the weekend residents know each other. They also have their own golf carts just for driving around the RV park.
Next to the office was a cute little bar, and I had some computer work to do that required WIFI, so I figured that was as good of a spot as any to get my work done. I sat there working for about 2 hours and it was nonstop entertainment. I met Jan, who had lived in the park for 15 years! She was the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. I also met Big Joe, a large guy with a fun sense of humor. who insisted on buying me a drink, and another drink, and another….
It was a potentially life-threatening moment. I was 3,000 miles away from home with no money or ID. The temperature was about 90 degrees and I had been riding my motorcycle for hours. Exhausted, I pulled into a gas station to fill my tank. I looked down at where I keep my handbag and my heartbeat started racing. It was gone!!
About 100 miles back, near the Kentucky border, it had started raining hard. I pulled over underneath an overpass to put on the rain gear that my friend had let me borrow from her just for the trip. I ride with my bag slung over me, so I won’t lose it. I had to take it off and set it down to put on the rain gear. You can guess what happened next. A momentary distraction cost me dearly. I rode away and left it there under the overpass!
So, there I was at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, with no money to fill my tank, no ID, and no credit cards. I felt weak. I was sweating profusely and trembling. I sat down and tears filled my eyes. What was I going to do? I pulled out my cell phone. I could barely see the screen without my glasses and they were in my purse! The battery was down to 20% and my charger was also in my handbag! I was disgusted at myself for making such a stupid mistake!
I’m on a 6,000-mile solo motorcycle trip across the USA. Most of the time, I find that I’m dirty, tired and dodging extreme weather. People often ask me why I’m doing it. There are many reasons, such as to experience our beautiful country and to visit friends and family. But my greatest joy so far has simply been the way I feel so very present while I’m on this ride.
Many Americans spend so much of their day dwelling on the past, day dreaming about the future, or despising their present situation, that they often forget that the present is a gift to be treasured. Sometimes it’s not easy for us to quiet our mind and really consciously enjoy the present moment. It can take practice.
The easiest way to focus on the present is to engage your senses and quiet the mind. Many people do this during meditation, but I’ve learned that you can do it anywhere. Just stop your mind from drifting and focus on your five senses. What do you see, smell, hear, taste and feel? Riding through the beautiful state of Tennessee yesterday I really took it all in, and this is how I engaged my five senses.
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.
India changes people. If you don’t believe me, just ask Deb Jarrett. She was an American, turning 40 and needing a change her life. She loved to travel, so she volunteered with a charitable organization called Cross Cultural Solutions and signed up for a few weeks in India. Fast forward nearly a decade later and she is running her own nonprofit, rescuing animals from the harsh streets of India and an important part of the Dharamsala community. Dharamsala is probably best known for being the town of residence of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
I met Deb while on a trek in the Himalaya Mountains on our way up to Triund. It was hard to miss her big radiant smile and 3-legged dog named Jack. After only a 5-minute conversation we became friends. Her commitment and passion for helping others, whether they be 2-legged or 4-legged beings, inspires me to be a better person.
The beginning of Dharamsala Animal rescue
When she first came to India for a few weeks as a volunteer working with women and children, she was astonished at the mistreatment of animals, in particular, dogs. There was a poor little sickly one in the corner of the temple where she was working and no one seemed to care about it. Deb, being a woman of action, contacted a vet for assistance, and well the rest is history.