Notes on a creative life (a.k.a. my return to academia)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

streetI quit my job today. After less than a year of employment.

Was it an awful place to work? Not really. Were my coworkers difficult to get along with? No, for the most part they are wonderful, kind, intelligent people. Were my job duties mind-numbing? Sometimes, but such is the reality of many office jobs, I think. Were the hours long and conditions demanding? Definitely not. In fact, I had a pretty sweet gig: part-time, good pay, telecommuting/flexible hours, and I could even bring my dog to the office.

Why, then, did I quit? Why would I give up on a job after such a brief term? Continue reading

Time machine: Northern Vietnam

Our path through the frontier.
The road through Ha Giang province.

There are few places in this world that still hold vestiges of the distant past, where you can imagine yourself transported, transmuted, transfigured by the landscape and people around you. The far northern region of Vietnam is one such place.

Ha Giang province borders China in the northernmost reaches of Vietnamese territory and is often referred to as “Vietnam’s final frontier” — rugged, remote, and scenic. This region is also home to the recently designated Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2010.

The landscape is surreal: towering karst formations create a labyrinth of near-vertical cliffs and ravines, gaping caverns, and a few very sinuous roads. The steep hillsides are cultivated by colorfully-clad hill tribes such as the Tay and the H’mong people. While you might occasionally see the indigenous folk riding a motorbike to the market or making a call on an old cellphone, you will see no farming machinery here; water buffalo still pull plows, and tribespeople still tend every plant by hand. Continue reading

The City of Gentle People: Dumaguete

image

“Why are you going to the Philippines?” A Canadian man inquires of us at a bar in the Tokyo airport. I don’t know what time it is. Five o’clock, perhaps, or maybe noon. Regardless, the traveler is slightly drunk, slurring his words, leaning in a little too close.

“Why not? Beach time, some scuba diving, jungle hiking… doesn’t sound so bad,” Ben replies.

The man snorts, takes a swig of beer. “I don’t know. I spent the entire time there shitfaced. I planned that trip for the wife. And man, the food there is terrible.”

Fortunately, experience and perception are relative. After a week in Dumaguete, we’re placing The Philippines squarely in the win column.
Continue reading

Oh, the tangled webs we weave

Only 11 days until we leave for Vietnam and the Philippines.

Philippine Visayas
Salagdoong beach” by Patrick120603 at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 

I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more preparation a trip like this requires. Ten years ago, when I left for South America on my first big solo trip abroad, there was little that needed attending to before I left. I simply saved up a thousand bucks, packed up my camera, and boarded the plane with a clear mind. But now…

Now there are dogs to recruit care for. There are bills to pay in advance. There are projects to wrap up at work. There is a yard to tidy before spring explodes in a forest of weeds while we’re away. There is insurance to verify, medications to refill, and gadgets to synchronize. Continue reading

Flashback image gallery: Peru, Bolivia, Chile

Bolivian Altiplano.
Bolivian Altiplano.

Winter is one of my favorite seasons in New Mexico. The days here are dry and mild, and the crisp desert air carries the scent of wood smoke and roasting pecans. A winter hush has fallen over the region, providing a brief respite from the sweltering heat, flash floods, ravaging winds, and abrasive dust which frequent the Chihuahua desert at other times of year. The calm, dry weather and mellow atmosphere allow us ample time for working on our RV, catching up on domestic duties, taking long hikes with the dogs, and enjoying quiet movie nights by the fire. Not so bad.

However, since this is primarily a travel blog, I feel obligated to fuel it with some travel-related content. Time to mine my photo library for another flashback gallery!

Many people ask us why we chose South America for our upcoming trip. It has been nearly ten years since Ben or I spent much time there, but we both have fond memories of our journeys. While every country has something different to offer, the continent as a whole shares a certain ethos: vibrant, tumultuous, wild, and scenic. Almost a decade later, our memories linger, beckoning for us to return. There is something intoxicating there (and no, not the coca). Continue reading

Flashback image gallery: Belize

Placencia.
Placencia, Belize

Ben is driving our 4×4 RV home from Oregon as I type, and I’m so excited to get it in the driveway and to start working on modifications for our PanAm trip!

But for now it’s Friday, which I am dubbing Flashback Friday. Really, this is just a catchy name for an excuse to post photos from previous travels. Eye candy until we hit the road again.

I won’t regale you with tales from that trip, as most of the details have faded into the sweet, hazy mélange of recollection. What I remember from those two weeks spent in Belize in 2009 is comprised of distinct scenes, not necessarily in chronological order. Smells, sounds, tastes and textures. Such is the nature of memory. Continue reading

Now is the time: overland plans for 2014

The monastery in Arequipa, Peru.
The monastery in Arequipa, Peru.

It’s amazing sometimes how quickly plans can change. A month ago I was planning to attend graduate school next fall after taking 7-8 months to drive around North America with our trailer. I was excited to graduate this December, and thankful to have a period of flexibility before starting my MFA program.

But, thanks to university bureaucracy, I found out recently that I will not be graduating in December, and will instead be tethered to New Mexico until May. Needless to say, this discovery was more than a little irritating. In fact, it gave rise to a full-blown Hate Train, which then gave rise again to The Conundrum (see previous post). This, in turn, inspired our new and more awesome plan.

And we couldn’t be more excited about this unexpected change.

Continue reading