Friday, December 25, 2009

Everywhere but home

If I'm writing about everywhere but home, everywhere is anywhere at the moment.

What makes a place a home? Is it where you lay your head? Eat your meals? Feel safe?  Where you miss when you aren't there? Where people miss you? For many people all of those are different places. The more places you go, the more places, people and moments you have to fall in love with, and the more you have to miss. But what is longing? Is it merely a yearning for the past or hopefulness for the future?

And so I'm off on a new adventure, moving from the East to the West coast. Packing up and shipping off and seeing what's between here and eastern California.

Some people believe in soul mates, I believe in places you're meant for and places that are meant for you. There are people you meet who you feel like you've known your whole life. There are places you find that feel like you've returned after an odyssey. I'm still looking for mine. I've lived many places I've loved, but my perfect place feels just out of reach. Maybe I'll find it. Or maybe I've been moving and traveling and wandering long enough that the idea of my place is my home.  Maybe it's in my blood, and maybe that itch that I get after being in one place for a few months or years isn't going to go away. And rather than ignore it, the thing to do is scratch the itch and love the journey.

Merry Christmas and happy trails

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Archives: Alaska

Where to start with the archives? Why not from somewhere near the beginning of the adventures? I'm not sure where I contracted wanderlust, but it's quite possible it's genetic.

Before my sister and I were born my parents agreed that when we moved from 5th to 6th grade we would get to go on a trip to a place of our choosing with the parent of the same gender. The reasoning was that teenagers often have trouble getting along with their parent of the same gender, so the trip might help head off some of the problems. Unfortunately for my dad, they had two daughters.  My sister headed to Hawaii with my mum while my dad and I drove up to Montreal through Acadia on mini vacation of our own.

Then my turn arrived, first I considered Greece, but ended up settling on Alaska. We arrived in Whitehorse in the Yukon in the summer so the hours of darkness were few and far between.  After a quick stop at the Dairy Queen, a family tradition, and settled in for a night before taking off. The next morning we started off on a white water rafting trip down the Tatenshini River, from the Yukon into Alaska.

There were about 8 of us on the trip, along with two guides, one of whom was the second woman ever to scale Everest.  There were also two French Canadians working at an oil site in Alaska and a couple other people, but I was the only person under 30.  Although I was only 11, I was already tall and excited about getting to paddle through the rapids. Unfortunately they didn't expect me to be able to help, and only brought enough paddles for the adults. While this might sound like a godsend, where I could just sit on top of the luggage and take in the breathtaking cliffs and be in charge of spotting bears, as the rain began my mum and I realized it might be a problem. It started raining on our second day and never let up for an entire day until the end of the trip.  Sitting still in the rain, I began to shiver, and just got colder and colder as the days went by. The trip was exciting, the rapids were powerful and the scenery was incredible, but the longer I sat still the closer I got to hypothermia. Eventually I could barely get myself off the raft, and when the guides tried to get me to run up and down the beach to warm up I was just too tired.

One night we camped inside a dried up river bed after a full day of paddling and darkness slowly arriving. I was filled up with chocolate and tucked inside a sleeping bag in a tent while everyone else cooked dinner. I slowly began to warm up, but then I heard worried shouts. The rain was starting again and running down the river bed into our camp. It was too late to move so everyone started building walls out of rocks and sand to keep the water away. As I lay in my tent still cold but slowly recovering, listening to everyone hurriedly working together to save our campsite, I remember being glad I had come. Because although it wasn't quite what I'd signed up for, with the cold and the rain, the baby grizzlies and the cliffs and jumping into an Alaskan river to a very quick bath and hearing stories from all the interesting people I'd met was certainly above and beyond the average 5th or 6th grade experience.

I haven't been North of Vancouver since then, but am absolutely planning to go back. With a warmer coat and a paddle of course.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back in the East

So it's been a week and some days, my jet lag is finally gone, my report (or most of it at least) has been turned in.  Although I miss the warm days and bustling streets of Aceh, and the food and people for sure, it's always good to be back in the states. You can't go wrong with abundant skim milk and being able to open your mouth in the shower. Probably not something most people think about, but try taking a shower and never letting a single drop of water get in your mouth. Really hard when doing things like rinsing your face while breathing out of your nose...

Now I'm in the great state of Massachusetts for about a month until the next adventure begins. I'm working with members of the Indonesia research team to get our report, as well as the reports from India and Sri Lanka, ready for their first submission. Hopefully the back and forth process between us and the NGO that hired us won't be too long. Who would have thought that you could request changes in an independent evaluation you commissioned... apparently that's the case though. I'm determined to stick with what we've found and I think everyone else is too. Whether the study gets publicly published is a different question, depends what the all knowing board that's based in the US thinks I guess.

Now on to a bit of a new stage with the blog, I'm going to start a stage called "The Archives".  These will be stories from escapades in the past, for the sake of documentation and entertainment. And of course, on my life list is publishing a book of travel short stories, so I figure this is a lovely place to start. Suggestions from readers are more than welcome if you've got an adventure in mind. If anyone would like to be taken off the email list just let me know, you can always check out the blog at if you don't want to get an email each time I post. I'm aiming for once a week. That's all for now, happy travels.

Here's a rainstorm running into Pulau Weh Island (Sabang) off the north coast of Aceh.