Full Circle…

Written by Carmen on February 14th, 2012

What began as a dream over many years, as an adventure of a lifetime over two years ago, to where I am today—I’ve come full circle. The view is equally wonderful, my belongings are around me once again…it’s definitely been a “soul’s journey”.

I am finally grounded once again.  It feels wonderful to have familiar surroundings, my own possessions, with familiar faces in my life.  I set out “seeking the sunny side of the road” not sure if I would return here to this island paradise I can call home.  Fortunately it still is my home.  Given the places I saw, the countries and cultures I experienced, along with the journey I encountered after returning back to the islands and on the road—I’ve found home once again.

Some people don’t comprehend the desire to seek out the unknown nor, giving up all that one had accumulated over time, but it was the letting go I needed to do so I could redefine my life.   I sit now in a sweet little apartment that overlooks the harbor of Honolulu with the Waianae Mountain range in the distance.  It’s a far cry from my beautiful home I had created on a hillside that had similar views but I am extremely happy with my new life.

I threw a little housewarming party on Friday night with an intimate gathering of friends that had been there for me during my year in “transition” after returning to Hawaii.  It was called a “Pre-Valentine’s Pupu Party” and it turned out just wonderful.  I am blessed with treasured friendships, a large ohana (family) that lives on island, and a new career path—that feels perfect at this point in my life.  Yes, I am blessed in many ways…

So aloha oe’ my friends near and far!  Come see me here sometime, since I’m not in a rush to pack a bag and fly anywhere, anytime soon…but this too shall pass.

A hui ho! =)


From Down Under to Up & Over the Top!!

Written by Carmen on November 1st, 2010

I write this from my hotel room in Sydney with my last 24 hours in the city before returning home to my family in Hawaii.  I just scheduled myself in for “The Bridge Climb” over Sydney Harbor this evening!  I hesitated about doing this last experience mainly due to the cost, but in the end I decided to go for it, since I know I’ll never regret this memory as the way I finished this year of adventure. 

I’ve also planned a really great surprise for my family since I was due back on Nov. 3rd but instead moved the date up to tomorrow evening arriving back in the islands on Oct. 30th.  Reasons for the change in plan were several, one was due to the fact money was running tight (Australia has become a very expensive destination due to their dollar’s strength & the US’s weakened one) but mainly I was just ready to get back to my family.  The surprise will be sprung on Halloween night when my sister in law’s sister, Marcie, throws her annual Halloween bash.  The family will all be together and I’m going to show up with my niece, Noelani, in costume of some sort as a “mystery guest”….should be a lot of fun.  =)

For now though I want to share of my latest experiences and some of my thoughts on what I’ve seen, as well as felt, in the past few weeks since I last wrote.

I arrived in Sydney, Australia on Oct. 11th after having spent three wonderful weeks in Bali, Indonesia.  My last post was very introspective of all the experiences, emotions, and thoughts of all that had transpired along the way, with a sense of wanderlust lingering still.  Bali was the perfect place to reflect on all the wonderful responses I received after that post.  It is a country filled with beauty on so many levels, scenic, cultural, and the individual people there too.   It was what I needed at just the right time.  Thank you each & every one of you that responded, it meant more than you will ever realize…

Ubud's Rice Terraces

Coincidentally my final days in Bali ended with “The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival”—wonderful serendipity!  I met some very interesting people during the festival, from actual authors, to publishers, to people like myself that lucked into having this event to enjoy while visiting Bali.  I made some new friendships and left with some inspiration as well.  


Australia was a wonderful welcome into westernized society for me.  I hit the water my first day in Sydney via the ferry that goes across Sydney Harbor to the town of Manly daily.  It’s also a great way to get an excellent harbor cruise for a fraction of what you would pay for a “harbor tour”. It was a beautiful afternoon with some local folks on the ferry offering me to join them for a mini tour of Manly Beach.  What a nice welcome!  The next few days I spent walking around the city, exploring all the great sights it has to offer, from The Rocks area (where the first settlers arrived) to the waterfront along Circular Quay to Bondi Beach.  I just love Sydney!

After a few days in this great city, I caught a train heading south to visit some friends, one in Goulburn the other in Melbourne, a brother & sister who I know from times back in Hawaii and their sister Debbie. So off I went on the Southern Cross train line to visit Andy & Nikki McCay.  I only spent the weekend with Andy & his family Carolyn & Harry but we had a really great visit.  It was surprising how easily we finished off several bottles of wine that first night, but the conversation flowed as easily as the wine did…  We talked about traveling experiences comparing notes.  I more of a flashpacker than a backpacker, at this point in my life but it’s all good, traveling for extended periods opens you to worlds only someone that has also traveled in length can relate to.  It was a great night. 

 We headed out the next day to Canberra, Australia’s capital city to see a few sights and the National Museum of Art.  The museum left me completely moved about what had happened in Australia that I was never aware of, The Stolen Generation.  It’s a sad reality in Australia’s history but so is slavery in many countries too.  The Stolen Generation was the actual removal of Aboriginal children from their families without parental consent.  This was official government policy from 1909 to 1969.  These children were placed in orphanages or institutions to be raised by others in hopes of eventually “breeding the black out of them”.  How awful.  It makes me wonder how that mentality can exist in human nature, but then again so did slavery in the United States for many generations.  The redeeming factor in this sad part of Australia’s history is that their prime minister not that long ago made a public apology to the Aboriginal people.  Proclaiming a “Sorry Day” but that alone cannot remove the deep scars remaining, only time and more change will heal what damage was done.  I again was amazed at what I learned in the span of a few hours in a museum.  I’m glad we made that trip up the road.  Thanks guys.

 The next day instead of boarding a train, I headed out on a bus unfortunately for Melbourne, due to the fact the night before we had heavy rains which left the railway flooded out in areas.  So off I went further down under to visit Nikki in Melbourne.  The scenery along the way was beautiful, reminding me very much of what you might see in Montana’s “Big Sky” country.  Just rolling hillsides with pastures, dotted with cattle, sheep or grain growing otherwise.  Australia makes me think of the “new west” not the “old west” in many ways. 

When I arrived later in the evening, Nikki swept me off to a friend’s home for a wonderful home cooked meal of lamb roast, roasted veggies, all smothered in gravy.  What a warm welcome!  Nikki was so gracious in letting me stay at her place for nearly a week while I explored Melbourne.  She was busy at work and at night school most evenings.  She is an aspiring writer & actor that will make her mark in the world one day for certain.  We had a couple of fun nights out together, again drinking this wonderful Australian wine way too easily, finishing off my last night with her in Yarraville, where I finally got a chance to experience real “Aussie” culture.  It was a really great final night.  Thank you too, Nikki!

 The next day I hit the highways in a rented car for the Great Ocean Road, which is Australia’s version of Big Sur in some ways.  It’s a beautiful coastal drive along the Southern Ocean with highlights such as Bell’s Beach, that is world famous in the surfing world, the Ottoway Lighthouse which was Australia’s oldest lighthouse constructed around 1848 if memory serves me right, finishing up at the 12 Apostles, which are haystack rock formations out in the ocean.  I also saw koala bears in the wild, which were awake!  =)  These creatures sleep as much as sloths do I think, that along with the cold weather they are exposed to most of the year, it’s no wonder. I saw some each day. I forgot to mention I also saw some kangaroos while at Andy’s place.  He took me by a cemetery spot he knew and sure enough we saw maybe a dozen of them around twilight. I think I’ve experienced some things in my short few weeks in Australia, some people that have lived here for years never see.  I took a few days to drive the Ocean Road which most tours do in a day, I’m glad I went the route that I did.  It was a great road trip.  

The Twelve Apostoles on Great Ocean Road

My final night out was a “blue moon” which is when there is a full moon twice in one month.  It was really special, since I knew my niece Noelani and her brothers were camped out that night too, looking at it with me across the miles—we were sending our love to one another & their dear mother, Vicki, who had passed away tragically two years ago to the date.  That act of sharing the moon with them and the next day waking up to an email of the newest family member, Reagan Morton, joining our ohana (family), left me ready to go back home sooner than later.

When I returned to Sydney the next day, finding I couldn’t get a room reserved anywhere on Saturday night for a reasonable rate, that is when I told myself, “it’s time to head on home…”  So after calling to check on flight change costs versus staying for a few more days it all made sense, that and the realization of how much I wanted to be back to my family—it was an easy decision. 

So I’ll be boarding my flight a few hours from now, going home to the islands, to be surrounded with people I know and love very much.  I’ve said this often while traveling, “I am so blessed to be doing this journey at this point in my life”.  Well I am.  I am equally blessed to have what I do, to return to….

Aloha oe’ and a hui ho!


Soul Journey

Written by Carmen on September 26th, 2010

Where to begin?

Perhaps not so much from where I last left off but more about where I am now.  Not in the physical sense but perhaps the emotional one….

It’s been about a month since I last wrote of my time in India.  Since then, I’ve been to Nepal for a week, two weeks in Thailand as a beach bum basically, and now in Bali, Indonesia.  Yet I write of the physical state and not the emotional one…

It’s a bit difficult.  To state the obvious—I am not ready for this journey to end in many ways, but in other ways I must for awhile at least.  My body is physically exhausted, so much so that a few nights ago I had to call a doctor.  Everything was fine afterwards, but it scared me quite a bit.  I awoke in the middle of the night with stomach spasms so severe I wasn’t able to stand up, much less get out of bed.  So now I find myself just kind of “hanging out” more than going, doing, and exploring like I was.  Yet again, I am not ready to call this journey over with either.  And it isn’t at this point.  I’m in the beautiful country of Bali with local people that are just so kind, sweet to talk to, and again so connected by their spirituality that gives them this essence you don’t find readily in daily life in the states.  Not really.  I don’t know what it is I am trying to say.  Perhaps this t-shirt I saw today says it best.  It had symbols on it for all the major world religions, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and it said, “God is so big he can’t wear just one label”….

How true is that?

As I look back on the countries I’ve been in and the kindness of people in spite of their social/economic situation—what sustains them is their faith.  Their beliefs.  Their thoughts.  That is where their happiness lies.  What brings them through realities we cannot imagine in our daily existence…is just that.  It is something I constantly struggle with within myself.  That believing all things are possible with faith, determination, and a dream. 

I have been so truly blessed in this lifetime in so many ways.  To have been able to live this past year doing what I have.  Seeing what I have.  Meeting some of the wonderful people I have.

So do you understand why I don’t want this journey to end yet?  I feel as if the best part has just begun.  I’ve just learned so much but have so much more to learn still…

So let me see what the road ahead still has in store.  I still have another week left in Bali then a few weeks in Australia before returning home to the islands.  It will be wonderful to see my family again.  I’ve missed them immensely, I realize this especially in my travels when I see little ones. 

But this soul still has much to learn on this journey of life and the road seems to be my best teacher of all thus far….

Let’s see where that road leads from here.

At the Water Temple


India on my mind….

Written by Carmen on September 4th, 2010

Once again, I am writing of a country, in a different country, but India still lingers…

Perhaps it is due to the fact I am currently in Nepal, where I find many people from India have moved, as well as the fact they share similar religious beliefs, their writing style (Hindu) but also the same openness & kindness due to their spirituality.

I chose to go through India with a tour for various reasons, the main one being I knew it would be extremely difficult to navigate as a solo female.  I waivered considerably about going with a tour, since my one and only other tour experience was while in Egypt.  That tour left me so exhausted by the end of the two weeks I needed a few days to just catch up on my sleep.  I don’t understand how folks go on “vacation” via a tour.  The itineraries are just unbelievable.  But again, in the end I’m glad I did the tour in India, which I cut in half from the original 15 days I had booked to just 8 days.  It was a great decision.  I saw some incredible places, experienced every possible form of transportation available in that country I think, and met some great people too.

I started off in New Delhi, with a wonderful welcome from the son of a couple I had met while in Croatia.  Ilse & Jurgen are a lovely, gracious pair, who I met in Zadar, Croatia they are from Wolksburg, Germany.  Their son, Marc had just recently moved to Delhi from the Philippines.  Marc and his girlfriend, Lay, greeted me at my hotel the afternoon I arrived into Delhi. They took me on metro ride into the heart of Delhi.  It was great!  Talk about seeing it all from a real perspective right away—we walked around the city center a bit, but everything was so muddy since it was still monsoon weather in India, so we settled in for a happy hour cocktail and appetizer.  We only had a couple of hours to spend together but it flew by.  I had to get back to my group, who were having an orientation meeting at the hotel at that evening.  We said our goodbyes and made plans to meet after I was going to leave the tour at the end of the week, when I’d be flying back through Delhi.

I met the group a bit late, but it all worked out—we went on a metro to see Delhi! =)  It was good since we went to a different part of the city than previously with Marc.  We went to the actual New Delhi, where all the new official government buildings are as well as the India Gate, also India’s presidential palace, all made of the same type of red colored sandstone architecture, at sunset it’s quite beautiful.

The next morning we went via train to the city of Jaipur,…

Jaipur is in the state of Rajasthan, India.  It is also called the “Pink City”, which it is in color due to the sandstone much of the city’s made of, but also much of the city is painted that color too.  Here we went to see the Amber Fort (we saw another palace but it was nothing in comparison).  We arrived via tuktuks, which are three wheeled motorized taxis of sorts.  They are powered by compressed gas and they are a blast to ride in!  I must say I was totally awed by the Amber Fort when we drove up to it.  It has walls surrounding it for many miles that look somewhat like the Great Wall of China in terms of their construction.  The rulers during this time period had really good relations with the Mongolian people, so I believe that had some influence on the design of the walls.  The views though from the Amber Fort were just stunning.  The walls surrounding it just seemed to go on forever. 

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Afterwards the group was going to do some shopping with the help of our guide.  I opted to not go with them, since I had no desire to purchase anything and took a tuktuk back to the hotel.  Along the way back I had the driver stop at The Floating Palace for some pictures, which was the rulers “Pleasure Palace” back in the day.  This palace sits in the middle of a lake, when the maharajah wanted to not be disturbed by anyone this is where he would go to indulge himself.  Talk about hedonism!

We moved on the next day, again via train to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located.  We first went to the Agra Fort, which was the home of the emperor.  We had a somewhat rainy, drizzly kind of day unfortunately, but it actually turned out quite nice.  The reason why is from the Agra Fort you have a stunning view of the Taj Mahal.  It was first covered in a bit of a mist from the rain but then it cleared up as we continued around the palace and when you got to the upper levels we had a spectacular view of what awaited us shortly.

I must admit when we finally did arrive at the Taj Mahal, before I walked through the archway, I stopped in my tracks.  It really is an incredible site to see.  When I cleared the archway and all the people are just standing around taking pictures it really was breathtaking…  I now understand why it is a wonder of the world.

We spent several hours at the Taj Mahal that afternoon, taking it all in from every possible perspective.  I wandered away from the group choosing to just sit by the river that runs behind it.  Watching locals that were floating by using empty plastic containers to stay afloat, laughing as the current took them on downstream.

The next day we boarded a train once again, for four hours to a town called Jhansi, from there we took tuktuks to the town of Orcha, which was about a half hour away.  Orcha was great.  We stayed in this great tent-type of accommodation, with beautiful temples as the backdrop.  Orcha is a small town of only around ten thousand inhabitants.  It was just what the doctor ordered after the hustle and bustle of our last two stops.  India really lived up to it’s reputation the past few days, with its masses of humanity coming at you in every direction, its masses of noise, honking horns non-stop, but also with beautiful, beautiful people smiling so easily in spite of the poverty surrounding them.  So genuine, so kind.

Street Life

The day we arrived in Orcha was also the birthday of two of the folks in our group.  We celebrated by hitting the pool that was on the property and had a bit of a pool party that afternoon.  It felt great to be able to just kick back and relax some finally since the last 4 days were just constant motion.  At this point I knew I’d made the right decision to end the tour early as well.

The following morning I started the day with a private yoga session as the sun was peeking across the temples and the river behind where we were staying.  I followed that with fantastic ayurevedic massage.  Talk about feeling cleansed! =)  Also since India’s diet is pretty vegetarian, I decided to not eat any meat for a few days to take full advantage of the massage and yoga session, as well as not drink any alcohol either.  It felt great really.  It’s been now almost another week since then and I’ve still not had any beef and only a little bit of chicken at this point.  But you all know me well—I did finally have some wine and cocktails a couple of days ago, since the group just met up with me here in Pokhara, Nepal.

I can’t skip writing about Varanasi though, since this is where Indian people come to cleanse themselves in the River Ganges as a spiritual pilgrimage.  It is also where they bring the bodies of loved ones to be cremated.  The Ganges and Varanasi have huge spiritual significance for the Hindu people, through its reigning deity, Lord Shiva.  We went out on a boat at sunset, seeing the thousands of people that come to the riverside for their burning rituals, bathing rituals, and prayer ceremonies.  We did a candle flower lighting ceremony together.  I was given three candle flowers to set afloat in the river.  I said a prayer for myself, another prayer for a friend who was getting married that day, and finally a prayer for others.  It was beautiful seeing those candles float down the River Ganges into the night….   Namaste.


Train Time, Town Time…

Written by Carmen on August 27th, 2010

I’m on the fast train to Denmark, which I fortunately made, by sheer luck!  The train was delayed five minutes which is just what I needed, since I’d remembered the departure time at 11:36 a.m. as opposed to the actual departure of 11:26 a.m.!!  Whew…  =)

 Come to find out the reason the ticket was twice the cost of other trains I’ve traveled on the past two months is because, this train loads up on a ferry when we get to the ocean, crossing into Denmark.  How cool, I’ll get to be on the water again!  There was also a special at the bahnhof when I went to purchase my ticket, for only 5 Euros more I’m leaving Europe via first class.  I must be doing something right.

I’m due to arrive in Copenhagen around 6 p.m. where two lovely ladies will be joining me for dinner tonight; they are local Danish friends of another friend back home in the islands.  Gitte & Minna are who will be showing me around their great city of Copenhagen, which Lone left several years ago when she met & married her husband, John. It’s all about the folks you meet in life as the journey of life continues to unfold, right?   You never know where a brief hello will take you, since that is all the time I had with Gitte & Minna in Hawaii.  We met for sunset cocktails at the Hale Koa Hotel with Lone, sipping on mai tai’s together, now I’m on my way to Copenhagen.  “Life is good”, as Lone would say!

 Yet, Berlin is where I’ve just spent the past six days.  Each day the city kept revealing itself to me in a new way, even when I would see the same place on another day from a different street or mode of transport—the city just kept on redefining itself each time, with each impression.  It’s really a unique city in comparison to other European cities for many reasons.  The most obvious one is that it has rebuilt itself, after the 28 years that the Berlin Wall stood through its borders, literally separating families, friends, and communities overnight.  The wall came down in 1989; it went up in 1961, all within my lifetime.  I can only imagine what the lives of those it physically separated must have been like in those days, also in the years that followed when it finally came down.

Berlin Old & New

I remember well when the headlines read “Berlin Wall Coming Down!”  It rekindled dreams of the days when people believed that change is possible.  We could end wars, or an oppressive government, by protesting, that a collective consciousness can move mountains or walls…  How wonderful is that?

Achtung Berlin!!  What a city—from the touristy trap of Checkpoint Charlie, to the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Tiergarten, to it’s impressive museums like the Pergamon and the Jewish Museum, both left me totally impressed, moved and educated, especially the Jewish Museum for obvious reasons.  Thank God, my ancestors did not have to live through any of the horrors that happened to the Jewish people during World War II.  Although the museum really didn’t focus on that aspect at all, but more on what Germany has lost in terms of its society.  So many Jews left the country when they could, both before the war and afterwards, when they said, “Enough”, giving birth to Israel. 

But Berlin is so much more than these things today. 

 It is a vibrant city with all kinds of artists vying to make a mark in the world, be it music, visual arts, classical concerts, you name it—the best talents in the world come to Berlin to launch careers.  I found a great little spot a few blocks away from my hotel that was a music school, with students performing free shows each evening.  It was called the “Schlot”.  Great jazz…for free!  Then I noticed when I was cruising the city on my rented bicycle (the only way to really see this city in my opinion) in the Old Town area, at the Konzerhal, a “Young Euro Classics” series of classical performances in the Konzerhal.  Only 15 Euros per night!  I went yesterday on my last day, with it being a series of piano performances throughout the day at two hour intervals, for only 6 Euros!  Again, I think I’m doing something right.  The pianist came out for two encores to standing ovations—amazing final night in Berlin for me.  I had preceded that by going to the top of the “Fernsehturm” TV-Tower, to get a bird’s eye view of the city. I wound up having dinner in one of those revolving-type of restaurants with a sweet Scottish woman by the name of Violet, who was waiting for a solo seat also.  We had a great time talking over so many things, exchanging emails at the end of dinner.

 And so the journey continues…

Copenhagen via my room in Jaipur, India

Aug. 23rd 4 p.m.  (tea time)

To write of my 4 days in Copenhagen after my last 48 hours in India, may prove a bit difficult to do it justice but here I go…. 

Let me say this though, India is everything you imagine it to be like—sounds (noise, honking horns at all hours, masses of people everywhere, poverty & affluence side by side in the street, on the metro, at a temple) but for now—


I spent 4 nights in this seaside city of 3 million inhabitants.  It does live up to its reputation of being VERY expensive.  My first evening after my train ride from Berlin, I was met at my hotel lobby by the dear friends of another friend in Hawaii, Gitte & Minna, who were my “Ambassadors of Aloha”!  =)  These two wonderful women certainly did their best to show me their city and countryside, in what time they could manage to take off from their busy careers and families.

Scandinavian Sweeties

We rendezvoused around 8 p.m. and walked through the city, crossed a canal with a bunch of folks on a river cruise, were greeted with champagne corks flying, us waving to them a “royal wave” as they continued their celebration they were having.  We finished down on the harbor front in what is the original harbor of Copenhagen, off Larsens Plads.  It was lined with beautiful old homes with typical Danish architecture, somewhat like what you would see in Amsterdam or in the Netherlands.  It was a Monday evening so we didn’t stay out too late but enjoyed an appetizer & a bottle of wine together.  When I said it was expensive, this will give you an idea—I only ordered some soup which was priced about the same as other appetizers on the menu…my bowl of soup was approximately $17 USD.  Ouch!!

 We made plans to meet the next morning since Gitte wanted to drive up to the north end of the island to this seaport town called, Gilleleje–right down my alley!  Unfortunately the weather gods were not cooperating with us the next day, but it was a good day to be driving in a car, as opposed to the rain & cold all around.  By the time we got to our destination the rain had stopped.  We were able to spend a little time walking the docks looking at the various fishing vessels around, snapping a few shots of the area.  We then had a typical seaside lunch from the area, talking together and getting to know one another somewhat finally.  It was a really nice afternoon.  We topped it off by stopping at this castle called, Frederiksborg, for some coffee & dessert.  It turns out the castle’s church is where Minna was married at.  What an incredible setting!

 It literally is still surrounded by a moat, with gorgeous gardens beside it and a lake that looks out on the town where Minna has lived for several years.  We really had a great time walking around there, taking lots of pictures again, since the rain decided to stop again after our decadent dessert of walnut pie—OMG, was it delicious.

 We dropped Minna off at her car in town there and then Gitte drove me all the way back into Copenhagen, where she had to turn around and probably drive another hour to where she lives….talk about aloha spirit.  Thank you, once again.

Cycle City Copenhagen

The next day I took care of a lot of details for my next destinations, such as finding accommodations, flights and so on since it was a pretty cold rainy day.  Finally in the afternoon it cleared up, so I got out rented a bicycle for 24 hours and did some exploring on my own.  I wound up in another harbor community known as Christianshavn—beautiful.  There were tons of sailboats here, as well as houseboats.  I found one for sale that would be just down my alley for my next abode, only problem would be getting it to Hawaii.  Any takers?! =)

 My final day I just rode around the city some more on my bicycle, found the king’s gardens and his castle, Rosenborg.  Again, just gorgeous landscapes, gardens, and some tranquility in the midst of a huge city—I think the tranquility I find in these places is what keeps drawing me to them.  That and also the beauty of the garden designs, all for free. 

Rosenburg Castle

My last evening I hit Tivoli Gardens to ride an amusement ride, for an adrenaline rush.  Maybe in preparing for the rush of adrenaline that I knew awaited me in India. 

 Stay tuned…….


Trains, Towns, & traveling on…

Written by Carmen on August 11th, 2010

I write this from my seat on the train to Prague, in the Czech Republic.  I’ve just finished up 5 nights in Budapest, Hungary after having spent a week in Vienna, Austria.  Next stop after Prague is Berlin, then on to Copenhagen, where a girlfriend awaits to show me her lovely city & countryside. 

The road, the rails, the rambling this soul has been doing is starting to catch up somewhat.  The week in Vienna was excellent, since I had the pleasure of a couple of girlfriend’s company.  It was great to not have to think ahead or plan anything or research a thing.  Do I sound like I’m getting a bit tired of this traveling nomad’s life??  Perhaps, yes—but the reality is when it’s over with, I’ll wish I was on the road again.  So I’m taking it all in stride as best as I can.  Let me recap some of the highlights of the cities I’ve just visited, while they are still fresh in my memory.

Vienna…  What an elegant city–that’s how I kept describing it to people I would talk with.  Sites that were just a delight to explore more than once were definitely Shonbrunn Castle & its beautiful grounds.  I believe it is something like 40 hectares in the heart of the city.  Simply gorgeous.  Tranquil, even with all the crowds that come to see it daily.  My dear TEFL classmate, Kathi, shared it with me my first day in Vienna.  What fun to explore the grounds, we never went to tour the inside of the castle; the grounds were so spectacular we didn’t want to spend our time indoors!  I returned on another day with a friend that joined me in Vienna for a few days, without really seeing the same areas in the same manner twice.  It truly is a splendid place to spend a day or several hours.

Kathi & Shonbrunn

Something I’ve come to realize in my travels is the real joy I find when I’m in nature.  It can be in a city park, a botanical garden, or lovely settings like the national park in Plitvice, Croatia.  I find serenity in these places, but also a real connection with the environment around me.  I knew this at a young age, when I decided to major in forestry in college, later finishing in horticulture.  After my travels are done, I intend to find work in a national park seasonally. 

Vienna has so much to offer it’s really hard to put into words the feelings I felt about the city, other than it is cosmopolitan, sophisticated, culturally aware, and just a real gem of a city.  The public transportation is excellent; there are bike paths throughout the city too, so if you are so inclined the choice is really up to you.  Fun experiences were at the Rathausplatz (town hall plaza) where my final night they had the opera “Carmen” on the big 50x 80 foot screen with incredible high definition & a sound system that was equally impressive.  All for free! =)  Also, the Praterplatz with its amusement park, the Danube River of course which my friend Tina took me out on for an afternoon cruise.  All equally wonderful experiences and the list could go on & on.


Next stop was Budapest…..

But now I’m on the train from Prague heading to Berlin.

Where to pick up?  I think from where I am—although I don’t want to side step Budapest. 

The city was also beautiful, but a definite air of depression seemed to cover it too.  The buildings were covered in soot, from years and years of traffic exhaust. It sort of gave the city a feel of the obvious in terms of the years of oppression from communist ruling and occupation.  The streets are all under some type of construction with a new metro line being installed, so the city felt like it was trying to come out of its past, but it has not emerged yet.  I hope it recovers the way that the Czech Republic seems to have. 

Prague is alive. 

Budapest was best experienced for me by hitting the amazing baths it’s renowned for.  The one I went to the first day was definitely my favorite.  I went to the Gellert Baths on my last day, which is known as one of the original bath houses.  The Szecheryr Furdo baths where I went first, were pure indulgence, vibrant, & filled with all kinds of people.  I spent a good 6 hours there that day, which flew by.  At the Gellert Baths I stayed maybe 3 hours and was ready to leave at that time…enough said.

Szecheryr Furdo Chess match

Bathing Buda-style!

Budapest also has some amazing sites to visit all of which I really enjoyed, from the Parliament where the crown jewels are on display, to its castle that overlooks the Danube from the Buda-side of the river, to Margaret Island, with its lovely gardens & bike paths to ride along under beautiful wooded paths, while the Danube is circling it’s coastline.  It’s what you make of it right?!  I indeed made the best of the city, in spite of a traveling companion who turned sour quickly.  I knew something was up when that feather floated down in front of me as soon as we entered our hostel—life really is like a box of chocolates….  =)

So as I said, previously Prague is ALIVE!

Its buildings are beautiful, its architecture amazing, the pastel colors of the buildings all speak to you as you walk by them, the tender care that has been taken of them is so evident everywhere you turn.  The city is vibrant, with tourists, locals, music & art forms everywhere you turn.  The weather while I was there was cold, rainy, but instead of feeling like remaining indoors I felt inspired to take photographs in sepia my first day out!  Does that tell you something?

Prague Castle from Charles Bridge

Prague also has a beautiful river flowing through it, called the Vltava River.  It also boasts the Charles Bridge with fantastic statues every few meters on either side of it.  There is no lack of great photography that has captured it from every possible angle & time of day, via the artists that line the bridge as you walk across to the other side of town where its impressive castle is known as Prazsky Hrad.

The thing that I enjoyed the most about Prague was it’s wonderful music scene, with composers such as Mozart having adopted it as a second home, during his glory days, it has brought a diverse population of musicians with the best you could ask for in everything from classical, to opera, to jazz, blues and beyond.  I was in Prague only for 4 nights but was able to hear live music for free in the Old Town Square two of four days, due to the Prague Jazz Festival being put on by the Agartha Jazz folks.  My last night I spent listening to some hot R&B, by a Scotsman named “Stan the Man” at the U Maleho Glena club.

Berlin—you have a tall order to fill!

Prague at night


Croatia Coastal Time…

Written by Carmen on July 23rd, 2010
Good morning to you all, as I sip my lovely cappuccino delivered with a smile in the foam.  How can you not start the day off with a smile???  I am sitting in a lovely courtyard off this great little pension in the heart of Old Town Zagreb, Croatia.  I have beautiful flowers spilling out of their window boxes next to me and the waterfall just kicked into gear as did my coffee.  I am catching the 3:45 p.m. train to Vienna, Austria today and will be meeting up with a sweet TEFL classmate, Kathi, who just returned to her hometown of Vienna after living in Argentina the past year.  I’m sure we will have some fantastic catching up to do!!  But wait–I’m still in Croatia for the day and want to share about my time here in this country.

I arrived here after just a few days in Veronna and Venice, Italy.  It was a great way to begin my “water therapy” time after having spent the past 2 months or so in desert climates of Northern Africa and Israel.  I took the ferry from Venice to Pula, Croatia which is on the Istrian Peninsula area of northern Croatia.  The town is known for it’s old Roman colosseum ruins that overlook the harbor.  Nice point of entry and plenty of other ferry options to continue going south hopping into harbors of towns along the way. 

I must admit a bit of disappointment though when I got my first look at the “beaches” there….all rock.  Unique yes, it’s what the geography of the area is, that make up these islands, but for this tropical island gal it just was a bit of a let down.  On the positive side though the water was fabulous!  The Adriatic is a very inviting place to swim in.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had been diving in off of a sailing vessel instead!  Okay, I will state the obvious–spoiled to my island ways of life I’ve left behind just a little bit? =)

The towns were all gorgeous with cobblestone streets and fantastic ruins.  Arriving into the towns via water, on the ferries was a great way to get my perspective, along with a feel of the area before deciding to stay or move on.   I did this for Pula, Zadar, Split and then finally landed in Bol, where I stayed the longest.  It had just what this tired traveler was looking for, a village.  Not a town, nor a city.  And one of the most lovely stretches of beach these islands have to offer, Zlatni Rat.

Zlatni Rat Morning

I had met a really sweet couple on the ferry to Zadar who I ran into the morning I arrived in Bol, travelers from Ottawa, Canada, Lyne and Ghislain.  We made plans to meet up the next day for dinner and wound up spending another day going to Hvar Town together.  They heading on–me doing a day excursion and a “recon” investigation of Hvar Town, which after said inspection, this exhausted body said stay put!  Which I did.  I spent a couple more days on Bol,  from which I did another day excursion to Jelsa and Vabroska, beautiful little towns too.  I decided at that point to continue heading on south to more islands and towns which were beginning to look the same to this weary soul, that what I needed was to a change of scenery and to be with some friends that I could connect with beyond the chance travelers, even though those random folks you meet along the road is what this journey is about too.  

Pula Harbor

Lyne & GhislainBol Harbor View


Change of scenery is just what I got when I headed off to Plitvice National Park!  It’s forested, lush, waterfalls from travertine terraces forming beautiful lakes that are pristine in every sense of the word.  Visitors to the park are not allowed to swim in the waters and it’s fantastic to see lakes and marine life in an beautifully preserved environment.  I spent yesterday morning hiking through the park for several hours and did it ever give me the recharge I was so desperately needing and a chance to refocus.  I will miss the ocean for sure, I already do–wishing I could take a dive in the water again.  But good friends await me and new cities to explore.  In less than a month I will no longer be traveling the countryside of Eastern Europe’s great cities…I’ll begin two weeks in India finishing in Katmandu.  Wow!!

Plitvice Lake


Across the Sands of Time–Morocco, Egypt & Israel

Written by Carmen on July 7th, 2010

It’s a bit hard to write this latest post for various reasons.  I guess first off since it’s been about a month and a half since my last one, when I was in Morocco.  But the other big reason is because so much has happened since I last wrote, it’s hard to know where to pick up and what to share of all that has transpired since my last writing.  So I will do what seems the easiest and that is to pick up where I left off, in Tangier, Morocco and having found my grandfather’s grave.

I spent only four days in Tangier.  I traveled there alone, not certain of what would come of it.  Let me begin by saying this, I am so grateful that my grandparents had the foresight to leave Tangier when they did, in 1914 when the Panama Canal was completed, to live in Panama…

I would not leave my hotel at night while in Tangier.  The looks I would get in the daytime from the people on the street were enough.  I was always dressed very modestly.  Maybe this image might help to sum it up for you folks, in the afternoon, when everyone would be out for their afternoon tea, as you walk down the main street, at every sidewalk cafe all that would be sitting at the outside tables would be men.  Period.  On my third day I finally decided to heck with it, I went to the famous, “Cafe de Paris”, sat down inside and had my first mint tea….with all the men in the room, and only one couple in the entire place.  Does this begin to explain what the time in Tangier was like? =) 

I had some fun too, as in my first camel ride.  Another followed in Egypt at the Pyramids…

Let me just say again…four days alone in Morocco was enough….

The positive side was finding my grandfather’s and great grandfather’s graves.  I believe I am the first person in our families to have been to their graves since the day they were buried.  What I wasn’t prepared for were the emotions that overcame me when I finally stood before my grandfather’s grave.

At this point, I wish to record some of the thoughts I wrote down in my journal.  Because to be honest, it best says what I feel I want to say at this point, instead of trying to describe all the experiences in each country I was just in.  Each country was unique, different, each very special.

I think my last journal entry says it best and hopefully can bring you all up to speed with where I am at, at this point in my travels–so here are some very honest, unedited, insights.

June 24th/Old Jaffa Hostel

I’ve been trying to gain an understanding of the history of everything I’ve experienced.

Assimilating it, trying to put it in perspective, with my own family’s and ancestors history. Looking at it all with eyes wide open, trying to understand the people and their cultures, and how it all translates into their daily lives.  It’s such an amazing experience for me on so many levels.  As I was sharing with a girl, I met at the hostel last night…. 

You see it on the news, or read about it in a magazine article, but you really don’t get it until you see it and live it a little.  In reality you are only scratching the surface….it’s so complex, the layers of history, wars, corruption, and struggles these people have been subjected to–I can only barely begin to understand what their lives are like.

The beautiful part of this history lesson I am living though is this.  I have been able to connect family to each other.  I have been able to connect for myself, a sense of understanding at last of the fabric of life, generations laid out before the following generations.  To enable future generations to have better lives.  To those of us who chose to take from what was laid out before them.  The paths were not easy for any generation to continue down.  But what I have learned is this–

My grandparents

My great grandparents

My ancestors back to before the Spanish Inquisition

They each had a choice to make, a path to choose.  Including my mother who chose the most difficult one; for love.

The path was not an easy one for any of them.  They experienced isolation, loneliness, Probably at times extreme doubt, if their decision was the right one.  But now today, I look around, very grateful.

For their strength

Their passion

Their commitment to their hearts and their beliefs.  Thank you.


Jaffa, Israel at Night


Spanish Steps

Written by Carmen on May 22nd, 2010
I write this latest blog from the town of Tangier, Morocco, where my grandparents once lived till they settled in Panama at the turn of the century, somewhere around 1914 when the Panama Canal was completed.

I have been for the past few weeks retracing the steps of my ancestors.  First in Spain, in the town of Coria, where they once lived before the Spanish Inquisition, now here in Tangier, Morocco.  It’s really a wonderful rich heritage we have in our family, ours was Jewish in nature so it has some amazing biblical history behind it as well.  I wish I was better versed in the bible than I am and of world history too.  I can say this though, this journey has given me an amazing education so far!

I’d like to share from where I  was last in the town of Coria, Spain.  A town that’s city walls date back to pre-Roman times,  Yes, you can see it in the blocks that formed the first gates to the city here in “Puerta del Sol” (Door of the Sun) the way I first entered this old town, of my ancestors.

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol


The town of Coria is still very much a town.  It’s main feature is the amazing cathedral that sits on this hillside overlooking the surrounding, Alagon River valley.  The old Roman bridge still is intact that leads from the walled city across the Rio Alagon heading to points south.  The direction my ancestors would have gone, back to here, Morocco, since they did not convert when the period of the inquisition began, towards the end of the 1200′s.  The reigning, King Ferdinand III, set forth a legislation in 1227 that regulated the life of the Jews.  Prior to this though, the Jewish people lived in this area from around the 700 A.D.  when the Moors first conquered southern Spain.  Again, if you could see the beautiful countryside that still exists today, you would know what touched me so much about the area.

 I have to share that my timing was really wonderful as well, since fields were in bloom everywhere I turned.  Poppys, daisies, lavender colored flowers, roses galore and these roses still have the sweet smell of a rose… 

The ancient Roman aqueducts still exist as well, they were used to irrigate the fields and I think still do to some extent today in certain areas.  And then there were the sheep in the fields still living life as it had been most likely a thousand years ago.

Fields in bloom (2)

Rio Alagon (2)Goats in field

Sadly the existence of my ancestors was not meant to remain the same.  They had to leave this beautiful area or risk being imprisoned for their religious beliefs.  I met with Juan Pedro Moreno who coincidentally is the Director of the Royal Prison, he’s also the leading town historian.  He shared some wonderful insights into my research and also downloaded the family history I’d brought along that day.  He informed me that the history of Coria and it’s rich heritage was being digitized, and should be live sometime around the end of this year.  Pretty amazing stuff.  He showed me original documents of  the 1200′s when the rulings came, we spent about an hour together talking, then exchanged email addresses and I left feeling pretty pleased with my findings.

Coria, Spain

Coria, Spain

I left Coria to explore another town nearby in this region known as “Extremadura”, which literally translates to meaning “Hard Extremes”, which in my opinion is a really well kept secret in Spain.  The accommodations were really affordable, the food was incredible, the people were extremely kind, gracious and the wine was a nice surprise too! =) 
Trujillo is where I stopped next to explore, the home city of famous Spanish explorer, Francisco Pizzaro.  I must admit a bit of disinterest in learning of his famous conquests of the Americas, first Central America along with Balboa and then South America and the Incas, but if it were not for his conquests and explorations we might not be who we are today…
The Spanish were conquerors indeed.  When they won over a region they would build their cathedrals on top of existing temples or religious sites as way of “staking” their territory, as with the Incas, the Arab’s mosques,  and so forth.  So the picture above shows a beautiful cathedral that the Spanish built on top of the existing mosque! 
But I now sit here in Morocco a country my ancestors lived in as long as they had in Spain.  When I share that I am here doing family history research, people say some very kind things indeed.  I actually was not planning on coming down to Morocco, since I’d been here before and had found some great information, but never my grandfather’s grave site.  I changed my mind about coming to Morocco after seeing this double rainbow the other day while I was in Trujillo.  It literally was finishing  on the Camino Real, in the direction my ancestors would have gone back here to Morocco.  I saw it as a good omen to return to Tangier. 
I am glad I made the trip back down here.  This time I did find my grandfather’s gravesite.
I also found the old synagogue in the medina with the help of a guide named, Saide.  In the synagogue the pews had inscriptions of the member’s names where they would sit at service.  I found my great grandfather’s seat as well… 
Following Rainbows

Following Rainbows


Stateside–So many Sunny Spots in the road….

Written by Carmen on May 3rd, 2010

I don’t know where to begin–other than chronologically.

I arrived in the US of A on April 1st at 11:59 pm into Nashville, TN.  I stayed at the home of another traveler, a dear sweet individual, Ruthie Lyman, whom I’d only met briefly in Hawaii, when she was winding down from her two year’s of traveling.  It was wonderful to stay at Ruth’s as my first “re-entry” back into America, since the adjustment back into daily reality of the USA, can be shocking on lots of levels. 


But Nashville from Salvador, Brazil?!! =)

Ruthie Lyman

Ruthie Lyman


My time in “Nashvegas” as Ruthie calls it was tons of fun, we sailed, I got to get some health checkups taken care of, I met her dear step-mom who has won her battle with breast cancer, and made some wonderful new aquaintances. 


Interesting enough, the weekend I arrived my dear niece, Anjeanette, was in from Ohio with her husband, Kevin for a weekend getaway from the kids.  We had a blast going “honky tonking” with Ruthie as our tour guide that Saturday night.  But to beat it all the first place we sat down at had “Brazilian Billy” playing country and western.  How’s that for some good serendipity?!

A week flew by and it was time to go on down the road to my family in Ohio…

I rented a car and did the drive up on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  It felt great to be on the road driving through such lovely countryside.  It was springtime in full bloom!  Gorgeous.  The drive took me through Kentucky where I noticed National Parks signs for Abe Lincoln’s birthplace and decided to make a little detour on my way up.  I was really glad I made that stop, it was fantastic to see and also relate it back to the place I’d just left behind, Salvador, Brazil where 15 million slaves had come through it’s port over the years…. 

Great serendipity.

I arrived in my dear sister’s home in Dayton, Ohio late that evening.  It was great to see her again even though it had only been 2 years since my last visit.  We spent good time together, going out to eat dinners, catching up on everything and just being at her home.  Luisa is struggling with some health issues, but I have faith she is going to get better, since she’s definitely eating healthier these days (I was a bit of a bad influence though). =) 

She was definitely my second sunny spot on the road…

Mi Hermana (my sis)

Mi Hermana (my sis)

But time was starting to slip by, I had tons to do before heading on the road again, for the second leg of my journey.  Plus I needed to meet the newest addition to the Rettig family, my niece, Eliana.
It was great to spend some time with Anjeanette and Kevin and their beautiful, beautiful family (yes I am a bit biased as well).  AJ & Kevin are doing an awesome job raising 3 fantastic little people, Carsten, Arabella, and Eliana, ages 5, 3, and 1 and a half. 
I arrived at their place on my birthday the 16th of April.  AJ, Sis and I all went out to dinner for a “girls night out” when we returned to their home Kevin and I went back out for drinks at a local tavern.  It was great!  We had some great conversation and stayed till we were good and ready to go…  All in all a wonderful birthday shared with family.
Rettig Family
The next day we all went to King’s Island together.  It was so much fun watching the kids on all the little rides.  I took a ton of pictures that I will cherish forever.  Then to top it all off, Anjeanette said she’d stay with all three kids while Kevin and I went on the Double Dragon rollercoaster!  Turns out AJ’s never been on it yet–if I’d known that ahead of time I would have insisted on her going.
My weekend with them flew by…
Again such sunny spots in the road of life.
I had so much prepping to do at their place for my next leg of my journey, that I sadly felt I didn’t get to spend much quality time with everyone.  But time was moving forward on my departure and other destinations before leaving the country again, that it was like cramming for midterm exams. I had to get my hotel reservations lined up, eurail pass research done, destination research, on and on…
Everyone was great about it though, even though I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all, but when my two weeks in Ohio were coming to a close I had gotten everything somewhat addressed, so I could finally take a deep breath and enjoy what little time I had remaining with them.  Luisa and I indulged on Earth Day getting massages at a wonderful retreat-like place called Harmony Farm.
So with lots of love in our hearts, some precious moments shared, I flew out of Dayton for Washington, DC.  I had never been to our nation’s capitol and oh my goodness am I ever glad I made that trip!! =)
During my two weeks of cramming in Ohio I didn’t take much time to research my accomodations in DC, such as what part of town it was in, etc.  I’d found a decent deal at what looked to be a b&b more than a hostel–was that ever misleading.  Fortunately though I’d also contacted a dear, sweet couple I spent 24 hours with in Valparaiso, Chile on New Year’s day.  We were all staying at the same b&b in Valparaiso, called La Casa Azul, where I met Melanie and Shiloh. 
Shiloh had proposed to Melanie on New Year’s Eve in Santiago, Chile.  When I met them I instinctivly sensed something was “up” and just came right out and asked Shiloh,  “Did you just get married?” he replied, “No, I asked Melanie to marry me last night!”  he blushed big time! =)
Sunny spots all around me again…
What was supposed to be just one night’s stay at their place turned into my entire 5 days in Washington, DC.Menyu nite Melanie & Shiloh certainly know the meaning of hospitality and graciousness.  We had a couple of fun nights out for dinner and this photo is at one of them, called MeNyu.  Great food, even better conversations and just a nice time all in all.  My last night in DC we ate at a Latin cuisine place I had discovered, along with their friend Bob, called Sabores, which served feijoda a very typical Brazilian dish, that has it’s roots in the African slave traditions in Brazil.  For my Louisiana friends it’s an even better, meatier version of red beans and rice.  Yumm!!  We had caipirinas in honor of my last six months in  South America, the owner gave us a wondeful bottle of Cava sparkling wine from Spain and we didn’t want the night to end.  Great time & memories.
I need to say  something though about my impressions experiencing our nation’s capitol for the first time in my life.  What an AMAZING city DC is in every possible way.  The design of the city, all the fantastic monuments in rememberance of our countries heros, our soldiers in wars long ago and not so long ago.  I was so taken by it I had to call a friend and thank him for what he does for our country.  And yes, Freedom is not Free.
We live in the first country on the planet to ever be a decomocracy in the New World.  The statistics I read said by the turn of the 20th century there were a dozen, now there are over a hundred.  We are blessed to be American.
I left DC the next morning for my final stop on my stateside whirl, for the wedding of my cousin, Jason Jacobo to Laura Boyd.
The sunny spots turned into an all out GLOW by the end of the weekend!! =)
I met some relatives for the first time in my life.  I saw some of my favorite relatives again, I discovered a whole new wonderful family in Laura’s as well.  What a fantastic weekend it was.  I really should devote a whole new blog just to the wedding in all fairness, but I have so  much to catch up on still for Pollyroger that I feel a bit overwhelmed again.  So instead I will close with this picture of the sunniest spot of all–two people who have come together and made wonderful worlds collide, Mr. & Mrs. Jacobo. 
Jason & Laura

Jason & Laura