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Keeping in the Adventurous Spirit

November 29, 2012

Adventures are wonderful; however, they can also be rather expensive and time-consuming. As much as I would love to travel the world every month or sky diving on whim, these things cost money and require time off of work. Realistically, I cannot work in adventures every week.

My alternative: revel in the beauty of other adventurers.

If you’re a regular Facebook-er, I would highly recommend “liking” the Facebook page Amazing Things. About 15 times a day, this Facebook page posts pictures of beautiful things (or Amazing Things, obviously) from around the world. Absolutely gorgeous pictures. It adds a nice pick-me-up throughout the day. I’d highly recommend it.

Another perk: You can post your own pictures to this page as well, some of which are reposted for everyone to see on their wall. It’s a great way to get some of your photography out there and appreciated.


Check it, yo!

(Hmm…I’m not cool enough to pull off a “yo.”)


Adventures Past: Santorini, Greece

November 21, 2012

Five years ago, my husband and I were at the magical post-college, pre-career point in our lives. We had four weeks before our employment start date, so we decided to take one last hurrah, one last long vacation before the eternal grind of the working man sucked our lives away. After hopping from Ireland to Scotland to London, we took a plane to Santorini, where we could soak up a little sun before returning to the midwest.

Tips for Santorini:

1. Wear sunscreen. I had some brutal 2nd degree burns just from the sun. (I’m a red head, so I deserved it.) The Greeks laughed at me.
2. Rent a four-wheeler. Chances are your hotel isn’t on the beach. You’ll want a faster way than the bus to get there.
3. Bring shoes to the beach. Very rocky.
4. The scuba diving is only okay.
5. Eat as much food as you can! The restaurants were fantastic.
6. Relax and breathe. This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Enjoy the pictures:


Adventures Past: Lost in Salzburg

November 12, 2012

Getting lost sucks. Getting lost in a foreign country sucks worse. Getting lost in a foreign country in the bad part of town sucks the most. Thanks to an idiot big brother, I have experience in all three of these sucktastic adventures.



Location: Salzburg, Austria
Year: 2003
Age: 18
German Language Skills: Null
It took only five minutes for Salzburg to win my heart. Mozart’s birth city is one of the most beautiful I have ever scene. I was exposed to opera for the first time. I tasted wine for the first time. I feared for my life for the first time. These are all vital experiences in a young girl’s life.

I entered Salzburg still riding the emotional high of getting drunk for the first time ever at the Hoffbrau house in Munich (a magical place where beer comes in liters). I was feeling saucy. Independent. A woman of the world. Hear me roar. Et cetera. So when my older brother proposed that we go for a night time stroll around town, I was definitely up for it. I grabbed a jacket in case it should get a little chilly, but that was the extent of our forethought.

At this point, we had just rolled into town on a bus and were barely checked into whatever-hotel-it-was. This was supposed to be a great opportunity to stretch our legs and get a view of the city at night. It was approximately 8:45 P.M. when our boots hit the pavement, my brother and I. We’re jazzed. We’re new in town. We’re ready to go!

Of course, we weren’t total fools. We were not going to wander aimlessly through a foreign city. We decided instead to follow one road until it either forked or ended. So, at the first street name we found, we started walking. And we stuck to that street like glue.

The city was something out of a dream. The buildings were lit up like they each had their own golden sun inside. The combination of domes, steeples, and shingled roofs created an unforgettable and perfectly unique skyline. We passed gorgeous theaters that were older than our home country, alive with orchestral music and passionate operas. The smaller shops along the way had Mozart postcards and portraits for sale in the windows. Pubs of all types boasted original brews and menus we couldn’t read.

The road we had chosen wound in and out of the heart of the city, taking us through magnificent promenades one moment and less reputable alleys the next. We didn’t start to get nervous until we hit the third shady alley. How long had it been since the last Mozart souvenir shop? Quite a while. We exchanged anxious nods and turned back toward the hotel.

An hour later, we were completely and utterly lost in the bad part of town. It was nearing 11 P.M., and the only people we found on the street didn’t speak English. This was several years ago, mind you, so neither of us had cell phones, and even if we did, our parents would have destroyed us if they knew what we’d done.

Finally, around 11:30, we found an English speaker. “Please, sir, could you tell us where the Marriott hotel is in Salzburg?” we asked in our most polite manner.

He gave us the stink eye and said, “There’s no Marriott in Salzburg.”

Oh. Dear. God. We had been traveling from city to city for the last week. Did we stay at the Marriott in Munich? If so, what’s the name of the hotel we’re staying in now?

Absolutely no idea.

There was only one option left: keep walking. How had we even gotten into this mess? We had stayed on the same street the entire way. We were so careful. It must  have split or forked or something, because nothing looked familiar.

Eventually, after more stumbling and blind fear, we found a landmark that my brother recognized. It was a court house. Two blocks further, there was a white-linen restaurant, and then a tourist attraction. Things were looking up. We were back to tourist-friendly civilization. It took another half hour or so before we finally stumbled upon our hotel.

When we got inside, my brother took the room key out of his pocket. Along with the cardboard rectangle, he also found a pamphlet stating the name of the hotel and sporting a nice little map on the back. I almost punched him in the face. Since he did, in a very roundabout fashion, get me back safe, I left him off the hook.

The next morning, we boarded a bus with a tour guide in front. Brad and I were ready to pass out. And why not? We’d already toured every damn inch of the city the night before. We leaned back in our seats and looked out the window, both of us glaring at the street sign that led us astray. I heard the tour guide come over the speaker and say, “You’ll notice the street sign outside of your hotel says Einbahnstraße. In German, this means one way street, and Salzburg has a lot of them…”

We didn’t hear a word the tour guide said for the rest of the trip.

We had walked every damn one-way street in town.

We were, without a doubt, the dumbest American idiots ever to have traveled to Salzburg.

Since that trip, I’ve taken lessons in both Spanish and French. Fool me once, shame on me, but fool me twice…

Take language lessons, people. It’s important.

It’s All Greek to Me – Online Language Lessons

October 30, 2012

Quite some time ago, I started a list of adventures (big and small) that I was hoping to experience and/or accomplish.  Two of the adventures listed involved learning new languages. If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know that my “Learn Spanish” goal resulted in an over-boiled bratwurst and melted carpet splotch. Needless to say, it’s still a work in progress.

Are you planning a vacation to a different country? There are a lot of great language resources available. Personally, I prefer the FREE ones!

My favorite so far has been .

This site includes beginner’s lessons for French, Spanish, Italian, German, Greek, Chinese, Portuguese, and 33 others. The lessons don’t take long, and you can move through them at your own pace. You certainly won’t be fluent at the end, but for the most part, you’ll be ready to order off a menu or ask for directions.

Check it out!

Poet and Adventurer

October 24, 2012

I read an article today called “Famous Last Words: 15 Authors’ Epitaphs”

 You can view it here on FlavorWire.

The first epitaph is from D.H. Lawrence: “Unconquered.”

What I like most is the mention of his square in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster. It reads:

“Homo sum! the adventurer”

Adventure 12: Adventure as Motive for Fitness

October 17, 2012

For some, the difference between 0.125 miles and 13.1 miles is 12.975 miles. For me, it’s 12.975 miles and four years of struggle.

In 2008, I went for my first official “run.” I made it to the end of the block, roughly 1/8th (0.125) of a mile. I probably should mention that, at the time, I weighed 236 lbs. That first official “run” was my last official run for about a year. Because I knew then that running was for crazies.

All this time, ever since that horrible jogging attempt, the same picture has been stuck on my refrigetor. Torn out of a magazine, the picture (and add for Glenfiddich whiskey) shows two hikers backpacking through the Scottish highlands. Across the top, in big white letters, it reads: “ONE DAY YOU WILL.”

I made my first trip to Scotland in 2008 and fell head-over-heels in love with Edinburgh. My husband promised that we’d be back one day. From then on, my reward for reaching my weight loss goal was a backpacking trip through the highlands.

Well, it’s four years later, and I’m sixty pounds less than what I was — a mere thirteen pounds away from my goal weight. The tickets are purchased, the trip planned: we will be walking the 95 mile West Highland Way in May 2013 with nothing but what fits in our backpacks and a tent. This means I have seven months to lose fifteen pounds.

It doesn’t sound like much — 13 pounds — but for the last year I’ve hit the dreaded weight loss plateau. The scale has not budged an inch in either direction. The bastard. I needed something different, something new… I turned to my bitchin’ stepdad for inspiration. The guy is 50 years old, about 210 pounds, and a running addict. If he could run marathons, surely I could run a half. So I signed up for the Illinois Half Marathon in Champaign-Urbana. The finish line is the 50-yard line of the Illini football stadium. Awesome!

So eight weeks ago, I took another stab at going for a run. Thankfully, shedding sixty pounds helped me pass that 0.125 mile in no time. My first day out, I ran two miles. Last Saturday, I ran seven. The half marathon is still months away, but I know I’ll have plenty of time to prepare. I just hope it’s enough to help me reach that final goal. Enough to take me to Scotland on the adventure of my dreams. I have a deerstalker hat ready to go.

What adventures keep you fit?

Adventure 11 : Amongst the Yoopers

October 8, 2012

Last Friday night,  my husband and I had dinner and went to a movie — the usual routine. We watched Taken 2, a film set in the lovely city of Istanbul, a lovely city I have never visited. It a was a good movie, but I left feeling a little bummed. It had been months since our last travel adventure, and our trip to Scotland isn’t until next summer. There’s always the trip home for the holidays, but let me tell ya, central Illinois isn’t the adventure it’s cracked up to be.

We drove home from the movie and pulled into a parking space outside our apartment. Before going inside, my husband took out his watch, set the timer for five minutes and said: “You have five minutes to pack for a trip. Go!”
[insert immediate  chaos] I have to go to the bathroom! Grab the camera! Clothes! Jogging shoes! Tent! Food! Run! Five minutes later, we were driving north, as far north as it gets in Michigan — the UP (for non-Michiganders, that’s the Upper Peninsula).

Fast forward six hours and it’s 3:00 A.M.. We just crossed the Mackinac Bridge and pulled into a rest stop on the other side. We were a tad tired to hunt down a campground, so we put the seats down in the ol’ Prius (named Dr. John H. Watson, M.D.) and camped out for the night. Thankfully, we fogged up the windows over night, so anyone creeping around the vehicle wouldn’t sneak a peek of my butt after the sleeping bag fell open.

The town we were in, we discovered the next morning, was St. Ignace, MI (or “sahn-IG-nuss” as our waitress explained). It was a beautiful, quaint little town, where a dime buys 48 minutes at the parking meter and everyone was gearing up for the Pumpkin Rolling scheduled for the afternoon. Apparently, pasties are the thing to eat in the UP, so we sat the counter of a small cafe and split one. Very tasty. Of course, anything with that much gravy is tasty. But time was of the essence. One day was all we had for this adventure (curse work and it’s interference with everything fun). We drove another hour north to the Tahquamenon Falls for some site seeing and hiking.

Growing up in central Illinois, the colors of the leaves in fall aren’t anything new. We had gorgeous oranges, yellows, and reds every autumn, but there is something about northern Michigan (upstate New York as well, I’ve heard) that makes the leaves deeper, richer colors. The drive alone was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I had Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” stuck in my the whole time. It really was like driving through a tunnel of flame. Gorgeous.

The Tahquamenon Falls are lovely. John rowed us across a small like to hike around the Lower Falls. If only I’d brought my parasol…oh, well…being a lady was never my forte. We hike and took pictures around the Lower and Upper Falls for most of the day. By the time we saw it all, there was only time for a quick drive up to Whitefish Point, a sack of salt water taffy, and a piece of fudge. On our way home, we stopped to dip our fingers in Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan.

It wasn’t life threatening, or dangerous, or mysterious, or even particularly distant. But sometimes, the simple act of being spontaneous feels like an adventure. Life for us average folks can be very routine. You have to take advantage of the little things, the quick get-aways, the things that make life interesting. Take a spontaneous trip. Enjoy the majesty of autumn before it fades away!