Hello, and welcome to “From the PNW to the world,” where I hope to share practical information, stories of adventure and misadventure, cultural insight, and photographic inspiration to stimulate your own travels or simply pique your interest from home.
As a native of the Pacific Northwest who spent a LONG 18 years away from the region (in Arizona, Mississippi, Utah, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin) in pursuit of various educational and professional goals, I am thrilled to be back and am ready to explore the bounty of this area with you. Climbing, hiking, camping, and skiing in jagged mountain peaks, diving in the icy waters of the Puget sound, wandering in the abundant gardens and parks of the cities, and sampling local delicacies are all to come. Because I live here, and because one could spend a lifetime exploring the PNW without doing the same thing twice, there will no doubt be a preponderance of posts about this area. But never fear, lovers of the rest of the world. Clean mountain air, absence of an ever-present sweaty money belt cinched around my waist, ready access to wifi, a dearth of paying bribes to random people and functioning plumbing do get old. The world and all of its eccentricities, wonders, and challenges beckons and I have dedicated as much of my life as possible to experiencing it in all of its varied moods.
Because traveling beyond one’s comfort zone is, by nature, unpredictable, this blog won’t be all beautiful images and tales of success. The misadventures along the way – from sweltering hot, never-ending bus rides to arguments with predatory cab drivers to linguistic faux pas – will also be shared. Learning to adapt to circumstances beyond our control, developing mental fortitude and cultivating an appreciation for even the most difficult aspects of travel is the ultimate goal, and one I continue to work toward.
In my late teen to mid-20’s years, I travelled extensively and very cheaply, sleeping in (to name a select few) a straw-filled barn in Switzerland, a circus tent in a park in Munich, a mosquito-netted jungle platform in Borneo, and a cement roadside “rest” area with no toilet in Benin. I took the least expensive transit mode possible, always. This meant many a sleepless night on an overnight bus, including one horrifyingly hot 30 hour bus ride from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to Kumasi, Ghana during which I fell asleep physically adhered by sticky sweat to a bare-armed monk in the seat next to me. For the past 10 years, however, extensive traveling has been curtailed by my professional training – veterinary school, internship, and residency – though I did manage to sneak in quite a few brief sojourns to Central America. Thankfully, this is over. I am now a full-fledged adult. A professional. With a real job. Though I will still cope with whatever transit-related miseries are required to see the world, I no longer need to do it on the absolute thinnest shoestring of a budget. My hope is that this means I can share a wider variety of experiences and stories and not be forced to turn down excursions and events due to cost alone. I also anticipate sleeping considerably better!
Before I start my new job, I’ve elected to start this project off in the way I know best – with a trip to a region I’ve never visited before that is populated by people whose language I do not speak. This weekend, I will be leaving on a two-month trip to Central Asia. Beginning in Almaty, Kazakhstan, I plan to explore the futuristic cities, endless steppe, and soviet history of this behemoth Central Asian nation. Next, I will head to Uzbekistan to traverse the ancient cities of the great silk road while hopefully not disintegrating in the sweltering desert heat. For a bit of relief from the scorching sun, I will head next to Kyrgyzstan to explore the verdant mountain valleys and robust nomadic culture of this small mountain country. Finally, I will fly to Mongolia where, after my husband joins, we will spend three weeks in its mountains, forests, and grasslands, visiting the Tsaatan reindeer herders and the Kazakh eagle hunters and hopefully avoiding drinking too much fermented mare’s milk.
Why Central Asia? To answer that question, you’ll have to wait for the next post!