Monday, December 7, 2009

Random Law School Update 4

Last Location: Pre First Law School Memo
Arrival Date: August 31, 2009
Departure Date: November 20, 2009

Current location: Pre First Law School Finals
Arrival Date: November 20, 2009
Departure Date: December 8, 2009

Next location: Post First Law School Finals (Winter Break)
Arrival Date: December 17, 2009
Departure Date: January 11, 2010

My first real law school exam is tomorrow. I'm not counting the writing exam and memo as "real" since they were very different in nature than what will be my next four tests. I am doing really well so far. Law school has turned out to be everything I had hoped for, and my life here is one of clarity and light, not of doom and despair. I say "so far" since I have very little idea what to expect in the next ten days of exam-taking and very little idea how I will do relative to my peers. But I am not worried. My peers are brilliant. Even if I were to fall below the median, I will still feel privileged just to have been in their company throughout the exam process.

I will write more on the stakes of the game later. There is a lot to say about the process that is interesting. One of the most important things to know is that law school exams account for pretty much 100% of the grade for a class. There are no graded assignments and only a few classes weigh participation at all, even though participation via the socratic method is a major theme in first year law classes. This stresses a lot of people out, but I think it is great. It takes a lot of the pressure off throughout the semester which makes it easier to actually learn the material in time for the exam. All of the exam grades come out together; I imagine sometime in January. Thus, there is no way for me to actually know how I am doing in law school from a quantitative perspective, which leaves me more room to feel like I'm doing well from a qualitative perspective.

In other events, I was in Tucson last week for Thanksgiving, stuffing myself with vegan goodness and Mexican F (my decidedly favorite burrito joint in the world). And Saturday was Compassion Over Killing's annual Holiday party, which was decadently catered and well-attended by the best and brightest animal advocates in the DC metro area (and, probably, the world). If you are feeling generous this time of year, please send them your love (aka donation) at:



Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Law School Update 2

Last Location: New York, NY
Arrival Date: October 23, 2009
Departure Date: October 24, 2009

Current location: Washington, DC
Arrival Date: October 24, 2009
Departure Date: November 21, 2009

Next location: Tucson, AZ
Arrival Date: November 21, 2009
Departure Date: November 29, 2009

Just finished up week nine of the law school experience. Three more weeks until Thanksgiving, five more weeks until finals begin and seven more weeks until winter break and the end of semester one. But who's counting?

My only complaint is that the days here in DC are getting increasingly gloomy, despite the fact that the temps are currently hovering in the 60s. The inevitability of winter reminds me that I am going to be spending a lot of time indoors the next seven weeks and that the opportunity for hiking, camping, climbing, backpacking (if I could make the time) is quickly passing. This realization illuminates the dramatic lifestyle change I am embarking on as contrasted with the last few years, a feeling for which I will coin the term "Sudden Lifestyle Shift Syndrome" (SLSS). My SLSS is marked by a shift from educating myself by constantly moving to locations of new empirical information and stimulus to the opposite where I stay put and theoretical information is delivered to me to be absorbed and applied. I love the shift from empirical to theoretical but lament the newfound efficiency in my staying put to acquire it.

Jon was sweet to come visit me last week, which was fantastic, but was also a reality check on how little free time I have compared to the last two years. When he isn't here, I don't feel any busier than I've ever been. I have always kept myself occupied and I enjoy my studies similarly to the way I enjoyed working, volunteering and traveling between school. But now I have a vested interest in maintaining my enjoyment of my studies which is, to some extent, dependent on my not coming up with things that I'd rather be doing. Before law school, we were always seeking out bigger and better adventures and making grandiose day plans. Now such plans are relegated to the category of "distractions" on my "things to avoid in law school" list. Yet another illustration of SLSS.

That said, I have gotten out a little since starting school. I made it to the annual Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary Open House with a few other Gtowners last month. And Jon and I have been to New York City twice this fall, first to attend our friends' wedding and a second time to visit the same friends at their new apartment in Queens. Both trips were a lot of fun. Our friends are both animal advocates and the wedding reception was a vegan fantasy with unlimited quantities of brilliantly prepared vegan delicacies. Staying with them last weekend was even better since we were really able to spend time catching up. I was also able to tag along on a flight to Ocean City with a few of my pilot co-students and woke up at 4:30am one morning to get a seat for the US v. Stevens Supreme Court hearing. Pictures are up at:

I've been eating at home since returning to DC in an effort to save on budget, diet and travel time. This last two weeks I went crazy though and hit Asylum, Sticky Fingers, Ella's Pizzeria, Asia Bistro, Washington Deli, and Java Green. We also ordered several new soy cheese pizzas at Duccini's in Adam Morgan and went to the Chipotle in Dupont Circle to check out their new "Garden Blend: The other other white (not) meat burritos." It's a good time to be vegan in DC.

Hope all is well in the lives of you at home and on the road. Keep sending your pictures and updates. It is my turn to live vicariously through you.



Monday, September 7, 2009

Random Law School Update 1

Last Location: Washington, DC
Arrival Date: August 25, 2009
Departure Date: Undetermined

Current location: Washington, DC
Arrival Date: August 25, 2009
Departure Date: Undetermined

Next location: Washington, DC
Arrival Date: August 25, 2009
Departure Date: Undetermined

I spent some time debating whether or not to change the name of my updates. I have not, nor have any intention, of committing to the idea that my travels are over. To the contrary, I must admit to having spent some oh-so-precious moments of my free time over the last week planning trips that will never happen. And I like to think that I will partake in grandiose adventures over my winter and summer breaks.

That said, two thoughts have prevailed my decision to start writing Random Law School Updates rather than Random Travel Updates. Firstly, any travel that I do accomplish from here on out will be done in the context of my being a law student in law school. And secondly, I imagine that months down the line, as I am spending my dozenth straight night pouring over legal topics at the library, the concept of writing a “travel update” will seem painfully far from the truth.

So here begins my newest and perhaps grandest adventure yet. Law School: Year 1.

I have, for the most part, left the details of this undertaking out of my previous communications. But it should be noted that this past week is actually far from the beginning of my Law School experience. It started three years ago when I first began studying for the LSAT. Two years ago, when I spent several days in Adam’s apartment in Korea submitting applications. And a bit over a year ago when I accepted and deferred entry into Georgetown’s class of 2012.

Why Georgetown? I had three major considerations in choosing a school: prestige, location, and gym facilities. Georgetown is good on all three points (particularly the gym facilities) but what really earned Georgetown my vote was their innovative alternative curriculum for first year students. This “Curriculum B” proclaims to teach law in the context of to its economic, social and philosophical framework. All of the things that I wish I had had more time to study in undergrad. I was sold.

The first week has been exactly what I would have expected had I envisioned a precise middle ground between my two law school vision extremes. My optimistic extreme was that law school would be a fun, happy and constantly inspiring place with idyllic surroundings and some free time to pursue personal ambitions not related to practicing law. Less optimistically, I speculated that law school would be a narrow pit of reading and despair that I would fall deeper and deeper into as the year progressed.

I have yet to confirm or deny the later vision, but a strong work ethic and strict discipline will definitely be required if I am to prevent it from coming to fruition. The optimistic view may still prevail; I love my apartment, my campus and the proximity of everything to everything else. But if my first week is any indicator, it looks like my free time will be pretty severely limited. Also, as much as we are using a broader social framework to evaluate the law, the readings aren’t always as interesting as they would be if I were to study philosophy, sociology or economics independently.

More importantly than my prior expectations, is that I do not feel in the least bit unprepared or under-prepared for law school. My travels have in no way detached me from my foundation in academia and have indeed given me valuable insight to the practical consequences of policy making and incentive structures. The experience that I can best compare to law school, was learning a foreign language abroad in an immersion setting. At first everything sounds like gibberish, but the more you read and hear, the more you truly start to understand. You aren’t expected to know everything right away, you must trust that you will figure it out as you go. I have faith that I will.

Most importantly, as one of my friends made me put it the other day, I am happy.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Random Travel Review

Current Location: Washington,DC
Arrival Date: August 25, 2009
Departure Date: undetermined

Thanks for all of the excellent questions! There were enough that I didn’t include any of my own. Hope you enjoy!

In which location did you learn the most? How/why?
• I wouldn’t know how to quantify my education abroad in order to select only one place. But Korea, India, Costa Rica, and Israel/Palestine definitely make the top of the list:
• Korea for a million reasons of friendship, art, language, food, and randomness. But most notably because I had the unique opportunity to immerse myself in their culture of business and to experience a very different perspective on work.
• Half of what I learned in India I learned within an hour of getting off the plane. It is otherworldly poor and this fact is reflected in everything about the country. But there is a magic there, and hidden in all of the smog and dirt are some of the most spectacular scenes I have seen or will ever see in my life. What I learned in indescribable, some places you just have to visit on your own.
• Costa Rica because it is where I first started to pick up Spanish and to really understand Salsa. Also, visiting the rainforest is like taking an ecology seminar.
• Israel and Palestine are at the forefront of world politics at the moment and visiting really helped me to make sense of that fact. There is a dichotomy between the two nations whereby one possesses a strip of land that they have beautified and maintained richly and another possesses a generous and welcoming, but modest, culture that rivals others in the region. Neither posses what the other has. Witnessing this illuminated the conflict for me.
• I should also give some credit to Mexico, my first third world destination as a child where I learned that there are other places much less wealthy than the US. And France, my first independent international experience when I was 17, where I learned that there are likely few other countries as wealthy as the US.

Which was the most beautiful beach?
• Samara, Costa Rica.

What foreign event/attitude/idea should Americans be more aware of?
• Globalization. Our country is a leader on this front, but our citizenry’s understanding of it varies. The world is very interconnected now, people all over the globe have grown up listening to the same music as I have, seen most of the same movies, and are up on many of the same fashions. When the American markets faltered, so did most of the rest of the world’s. As we rebuild our economy, we should keep in mind the structure of the global economy and consider to what extent we want to focus on ourselves and to what extent we want to participate globally. I believe that there is a lot to be gained, financially, in global markets and that the United States already has a huge leg up on competition. Investments in education will be key to keeping us on par with rapidly advancing Asian countries.

We'd love to follow in your footsteps so how did you pay for all that? I know, none of my business, but gee whiz!
• If you had asked that question a year ago, I would say minimize or eliminate your monthly payments (cars, mortgages, debt, cable, etc.), live simply, and use the few hundred/thousand dollars you save each month to plan a big trip at the end of the year. To make it a big trip, pick a cheap country, find cheap airfare at or STA Travel (works for teachers now too!), and stay with friends or find new friends to stay with on That of course assumes that you have a job, which you may have to quit in order to take your big trip. (Unless you just happen to have one of the only US jobs that grants you three months of vacation a year.) I saved money for my travels initially by minimizing my living expenses for a year and continuing to work when I could as a teacher in both Salt Lake and Seoul. I have not had a job now for long enough that it is apparent that I could in no way continue to finance my travels on my own. But Jon has. Which is why I owe him a really big trip after I pay off my law school debt.

How much did you spend?
• About $12,000USD. But I relied a lot on the hospitality of friends. If you want to include what Jon spent it would be significantly more.

What prompted you to do so much traveling at this point in your life?
• Some of you may have already heard this story. I was preparing to apply to law school and the first piece of advice I got from any lawyer I talked to was, “Don’t go.” Legal careers have one of the lowest job satisfaction rates in the country. So I started asking around to find out what lawyers felt like they were missing and I heard a lot regret for not having been able to travel more when they were young. A career after law school tends to start fast and may require an 80-hour workweek with no time for vacation. Serious lawyers get sucked in to their work, and may not emerge for decades. So, with my usual enthusiasm for getting things out of the way, I thought I would take a career-worth of vacation in advance.

How was traveling with a significant other?
• Traveling with Jon was great. We have everything important in common, the same philosophies regarding food, culture, adventure and travel. But spending 24/7 with anyone for six months at a time can get drab. Mostly because when you spend that much time with someone, you stop growing independently of each other and have less to share with and learn from one another. I treasure also my time apart from him and my travels with old friends and new friends who I met along the way.

Did you ever have to handle illness or injury while abroad? How'd that go? I seem to remember something about a concussion.
• Plenty! Planters fasciitis, multiple ankle sprains, that mini-concussion I got skiing in Park City, poison ivy, a few colds, other respertory problems caused by air pollution, rashes, food poisoning, anemia (years ago in France), and a few cases of traveler’s diarrhea. I bring along Imodium AD, antibiotics and pain medication in case of emergencies and it has really been a blessing at times. Jon too, is a blessing, because he carries me around when my ankle is messed up. I try to slow everything down a bit when I get sick or injured, but it isn’t always possible. Luckily, the doctors that I have encountered abroad in China, Korea, Australia, and India have been worlds more helpful and efficient than any I've seen in the US.

Did you ever eat non-vegan? If so, when and why?
• Yes. I am fairly lenient on my diet when I am abroad. Language and cultural barriers sometimes make it difficult to make certain that every dish I consume is animal-product free, especially from a purist’s standard. But I am not a purist, and certainly don’t recommend that people drive themselves crazy with it when they travel. It is far better from an ethical (and sanity) perspective to support the most vegan food options in each country than to boycott the local cuisine in totality. Potato chips and beer are safe vegan staples but do not constitute an acceptable diet and will not help to promote vegetarian cuisine abroad. It is better to work with local restaurants to develop vegan or near-vegan options. If enough people request it, they are likely to add it to their regular menu. You can see this happening already throughout heavily touristed parts of the world such as South America. I have a blog in the works about eating vegan abroad, check it out at

What was your favorite airport?
• Cool question. Having taken over 50 flights in the last two years, I have definitely come to value good airports. Minneapolis is huge and has tons of dining and shopping options, also seemingly friendlier staff. The Incheon airport outside of Seoul, Korea deserves major credit for being big, beautiful, and having a built-in Jimjilbong. It wins the prize structurally, but I have to go with SLC for character because they have a Squatters Pub, which sells not only a world-class veggie burger and other great vegan eats, but also 8% beer. That, and the airport is equipped with free wi-fi. Invaluable.

In all your journey's and visiting far off lands and meeting all the different people groups with their own beautiful and unique traits and customs, what have you learned about "people" and how will that impact your future, especially as it relates to law?
• Beautifully worded question. Yes, I have definitely learned a lot about people. But most of what I’ve learned is the kind of stuff that you just come to understand. I can’t imagine trying to explain it short of writing a book. One of the deeper things I have observed is that there is a trend of respect for the United States abroad. Not necessarily for our international political ambitions, but very much so for our accomplishments in business and entertainment. And also, I like to think, for our constitutional freedoms. Our justice system needs to live up our global role model status. I hope to contribute to this throughout my career.

And finally, do you find that all people, regardless of their environment, level of development, degree of dependency or any other factory such as race, color or religion have intrinsic value and are worthy of life, or have you found that you believe there are some, maybe because of the above reasons or maybe because of particular views that they hold do not have intrinsic value or are not worthy of life?
• One of my favorite moments while traveling came while watching a legless Indian “kick” a soccer ball to his teammates across the beach in Goa with his fist. I smiled at him and he smiled back. We were different in almost every way imaginable, but I remember feeling more respect for that person in that moment than I have had for many of the people I grew up with. I believe, and have believed since long before I started to travel, that all sentient beings regardless of religion, race or species are intrinsically deserving of respect for that sentience. That includes a respect for life, particularly an individual’s right to autonomy of life. However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t bad individuals. If someone causes others enough suffering, they could presumably outweigh their intrinsic worth and it might be in a society’s interest to destroy them. Or if an individual threatens another directly, I believe that gives the individual being attacked a right to defense. As for environment, level of development, degree of dependency and factors such as race, color and religion, these things may affect a person’s worth in terms of lifetime earning potential but are unlikely to alter their degree of sentience.

Which group of people that you encountered while traveling seemed the most uniquely and consistently happy, and what do you think is the source of their happiness?
• This question delves at one of the greatest points of education throughout my travel. Having stayed in few countries much longer than a month, I can’t say with authority who the happiest were, though I do have my guesses. What I can say with confidence, however, is that wealth and happiness are not necessarily interconnected. Being able to feed yourself and your family, however, is important. Some of the least happy populations I have encountered are in the United States, South Korea, and India. The most uniquely and consistently happy? Costa Rica definitely makes the list, along with Bolivia, and perhaps The Netherlands. I think a cultural value for good health is a key factor, as are strong family connections and an illusion of equality, such that people feel like they aren’t so much worse off than everyone around them.

What country had the best food? The worst?
• Best: India and USA
• Worst: Taiwan and France

Where were the people friendliest? Meanest/rudest?
• Friendliest: Costa Rica, Bolivia and parts of the US
• Least friendly: Israel, France and parts of the US

Which country would you most like to live (permanently) if you were to leave the U.S?
• Permanently? Never! The United States is hands down my favorite country in the world. Though I could see myself living for a small while in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica and The Netherlands.



Monday, August 24, 2009

Random Travel Update 49

Last Location: Petrolia, Barrie, Toronto and Niagra Falls, Ontario
Arrival Date: August 20, 2009
Departure Date: August 24, 2009

Current location: Croswell, MI
Arrival Date: August 24, 2009
Departure Date: August 25, 2009

Next Locations: Washington, DC
Arrival Date: August 25, 2009
Departure Date: undetermined

I met Adam in Michigan and together we drove across the border to Canada to unite with Meghan in her small hometown of Petrolia, which is named after the black gold that the area is known for drilling. The US-Canada border crossing was one of the most difficult of my travels complete with attitude and a thorough search of Adam’s car and our personal belongings.

We decided on a road trip east to visit Meghan’s brother and school friend in the city of Barrie, an hour north of Toronto. We spent the first day there relaxing, building a deck, playing a game of zombies, shopping for patio furniture and barbequing on the newly made deck.

The following day we set off for Toronto to play with farm animals, stroll along the beach at Lake Ontario and eat some veg food next to a dead squirrel in Chinatown. In the afternoon we took an impromptu journey to Niagara Falls, which was both incredibly touristed and incredibly magnificent.

On the way home, Meghan was craving sushi, so we stopped at a small Japanese Korean restaurant in Hamilton, which to our glee and amazement had my favorite Korean dish, tteokpoki. If you haven’t been following me into every Korean restaurant I’ve passed around the world inquiring as to whether they have tteokpoki, than you may not understand the significance of this find. It was truly a great moment.

Today, we drove back across Ontario to Adam’s home in Croswell. Tomorrow I fly to DC.



Sunday, August 16, 2009

Random Travel Update 48

Last Location: Farmington, Utah
Arrival Date: August 7, 2009
Departure Date: August 14, 2009

Current location: San Francisco, CA
Arrival Date: August 14, 2009
Departure Date: August 19, 2009

Next Locations: Flint, MI
Arrival Date: August 19, 2009
Departure Date: August 25, 2009

Last week marked the two-year anniversary since I originally moved out of DC. In ten days, I will move back. In the meantime, I am spending time with some of the most important people in my life: my family and friends in Arizona, Jon’s family and friends in Utah, Ben and Haiete in California and, soon, Adam and Meghan in Michigan and Ontario.

Jon and I kept ourselves busy in Utah rock climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon; running a charity 5k for the local farm animal sanctuary, Ching Farm; working at Ching Farm; visiting with friends and driving down to the Bonneville Salt Flats to watch world automobile speed records being broken at the annual Speed Week. Photos to come.

Yesterday, Jon and I drove up to San Francisco to spend time with Ben and Haiete, and for me to attend a weekend law seminar. I have one more stop before I reach DC, but I can’t help but feel a sense of closure coming back to the city that I essentially began my travels in. From here, I will fly straight to Michigan to visit Adam and Meghan, who were my first and most beloved friends in Korea. My travels have come full circle.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for the Random Travel Review. They are quite excellent questions and I am still working on the answers, coming soon.

New photos from Hawaii are up on Picasa, as are renovated Peru and Uruguay albums complete with captions. I plan to add captions to the rest of the South America photo albums eventually.



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Random Travel Review: Call for Questions

So I was thinking that, as my travels are starting to wind down and my Random Travel Updates may flow to a trickle in the months proceeding my entry into law school, I ought to write a mini random travel review answering questions that I have received up till now along with questions that you may have now along with a few questions that I have made up for myself randomly. Then I became worried that the idea may be too corny, and then I thought that I don't care if it is a little corny, I already have random questions to ask myself. That said, I actually do care some about it being corny and may scrap the whole idea if it gets too out of hand on my end. You, however, should feel free, in fact pressured, to send me any questions you may have about anything and everything that hasn't been covered in the last 47 RTUs. Ask as many questions as you like, I think more short questions will work better than fewer long ones. I will be compiling them and their answers over the course of the next week.

To view past RTUs, visit:
For photos:
And for Jon's travel blog:



Thursday, July 30, 2009

Random Travel Update 47

Last locations: Kauai, Hawaii
Arrival Date: July 15, 2009
Departure Date: July 29, 2009

Current location: SLC, Utah (layover)
Arrival Date: July 30, 2009
Departure Date: July 30, 2009

Next Locations: Tucson, Arizona
Arrival Date: July 30, 2009
Departure Date: unknown

If you do one thing in Kauai, make it the Napali Coast Trail. Conflicting interests made the total 22 mile round trip a no go for me this time around but I did succeed in getting Jon and my mom to accompany me on an 8 mile round trip section of the trail on our final day. It was, in my opinion, absolutely magical with dramatic terrain and even more dramatic views. I saw the rest of the trail looking inland from a catamaran, and I am confident that it is impressive in its entirety.

Every other worthwhile activity on the US island, with the exception of trail and beach activities, will cost you. The activities I enjoyed, but am not necessarily advocating because of the price, included a one hour helicopter ride over the island, a five hour catamaran trip down the Napali Coast in good weather (dolphins!), a four hour kayak and hike to a waterfall that was very much overrun with tourists, and a luau.

Equally good and free or next to free activities include, hiking to one (or several) of the many waterfalls on the island, boogie boarding ($6 per day or $20 per week rental fee), picking through smooth glass and chasing crabs on the glass beach on the southern coast, and snorkeling with sea turtles, eels, sting rays and fish at one of the many reefs.

We did some diving on the North and South shores which was quite enjoyable, but I saw near as much diversity of wildlife snorkeling the shallower reefs, and the price of diving on Kauai is very high. Sea turtles and eels are plentiful but visibility is mediocre. Unless this is your only opportunity to dive for awhile, I recommend saving it for another vacation.

As for vegan food. The world renowned vegan restaurant Blossoming Lotus, one of my expected trip highlights, closed its doors shortly before our arrival and moved to Portland. Tragic. Now the options include a multitude of Thai restaurants, some Mexican, a few good health food stores, a bakery with vegan cheese pizza, and Taco Bell.

I am not sure whether I've mentioned it before, but if you have any say in the matter, never ever fly Delta. The whole operation is a joke and an embarrassment to The United States. They keep their prices low by cutting everything including legroom, personal entertainment, air-conditioning, meals, windows on window seats(!), and most noticeably customer service. We have yet to have a positive experience with them. American Airlines is also pretty awful.

Salt Lake City is fantastic. Even the airport.



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Random Travel Update 46

Last locations: Amman, Jordan; Petra, Jordan
Arrival Date: June 30, 2009
Departure Date: July 2, 2009

Current location: Tucson, Arizona
Arrival Date: July 2, 2009
Departure Date: July 15, 2009

Next Locations: Kauai, Hawaii
Arrival Date: July 15, 2009
Departure Date: July 30, 2009

This update is mostly to inform you that I have three newly edited and fully captioned photo albums up on Picasa from the Middle East, that we are currently in Tucson, and that we are leaving today for Hawaii.

Our short stay in Jordan was really fantastic. Petra was spectacular and very deserving of its spot on the New Seven Wonders of the World list. We stayed late our first day and arrived early on our second to enjoy the whole site to ourselves. Having a site as grand as Petra to ourselves was an experience unmatched by any other, and the absence of other tourists was a welcome change from what we had come to expect in South America.

Amman, too, was more than worth the short time we spent there. My favorite thing about the city is prayer. Muslim prayer is a regular occurrence, happening five times a day in every populated area in the Middle East (with the exception of Israel). But it is particularly wonderful in Amman, where the prayer, always spoken in song, reverberates off Amman’s many hills creating the echo effect similar to that of an organ in a Cathedral. Except that in this case, the whole city is the Cathedral. The effect is magical.

You can find my photos at:
Visit old and new blogs at:
Or check out Jon’s take on things at:



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Random Travel Update 45

Last locations: Eilat, Israel; Jerusalem, Israel; Bethlehem, Palestine; Tel Aviv, Israel; Jericho, Palestine; Siesta Beach, The Dead Sea
Arrival Date: June 21, 2009
Departure Date: June 29, 2009

Current location: Amman, Jordan
Arrival Date: June 29, 2009
Departure Date: June 30, 2009

Next Locations: Petra, Jordan
Arrival Date: June 30, 2009
Departure Date: July 2, 2009

Our goal was to avoid the incredibly expensive ferry directly from Nuweiba, Egypt to Aqaba, Jordan by crossing into Jordan by land via Israel. We were going to head north through Jordan and cross back into Israel via the Allenby/King Hussein crossing through the West Bank. Upon arriving at the Israeli border of Jordan however, we were informed that there is an incredibly high departure tax when leaving Israel. So, we quickly changed plans and got a bus out of Eilat the next day to Jerusalem where we enjoyed the hospitality of one of Jon's old friends, Dan, from their days in The Sierra Club.

It's hard to write about Israel and Palestine without getting into politics and religion. It is easy to want to pick sides in the matter. On one hand you have an elite class of wealthy occupiers severely oppressing the less prosperous former land tenants, on the other, you have a nation of individuals whose land has, since the beginning of time, been disputed. As our cab driver in Bethlehem put it, "All I wonder is, after the Israelis, who's next?"

It is impossible to deny that the Israelis have done amazing things with their little strip of the Mediterranean desert, turning it into a no-holds-barred first world resort destination. There is air conditioning, well-serviced public bathrooms and superior infrastructure. For this, you pay about five times as much for everything and have to put up with the Israelis. I am not convinced that it is worth it.

Despite being multitudes richer per capita than their neighbors to the South and East, the Israelis won't hesitate to add a little extra to your bill, whether it be for going three minutes over time at the internet cafe to adding "too much" salad at a salad bar. Transgressions that wouldn't even garner a baksheesh request in one of Israel's poorer Arab neighbors. Racism, as in most countries, is alive and well here, which isn't so much surprising as it is ironic.

On a suspicion that I would like it more, we planned two mini-trips to the WestBank. We spent the first day touring Bethlehem and reminiscing over all of the sitesthat made for the basis of much of my Christian education growing up. We saw the places where Jesus was born, cradled, crucified and buried. And I did like it. The people who we met, from a group of little girls to a convoy of soldiers, were all marvelously friendly, warm and welcoming.

The second trip, on our way from Jerusalem to the Israeli-Palestinian border with Jordan was to Jericho where we spent the evening floating on the Dead Sea and coating ourselves in the mineral rich and addictively squishy Dead Sea mud. We spent the night in the city and woke up the next morning to see Hashim's Palace, a gorgeous ruin where we were the only visitors. In fact, we didn't run into a single other tourist in Jericho. Despite it's vast share of Holy Land sites and historical religious significance, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has near annihilated tourism in the West Bank. The only trouble we ran into was when we befriended a local youth living next door to us in our budget hotel. He turned out to be crazy, and spent the better part of the late night banging on our hotel room door and picking at the lock pleading for us to hide him from the Israeli Police.

The border crossing the next day was a disaster. After spending two hours and our last 100 shekels to get to the Jordanian border, we were told, for the first time, that we were at the only border crossing with Israel that could not issue a foreign visa. Two more hours of waiting confirmed that we would have to go back to Israel and re-enter from the northernmost crossing, 60 kilometers away.

Getting back into Israel was a whole new nightmare which required passing through an infinite number of checkpoints all bottle-necked with Palestinians impatient to get home. Another two hours got us through this mess and to a pull-off where we waited patiently for a bus that would take us north an hour later. We hitched the final few kilometers from the bus drop off to the required border crossing and eight hours from our departure from Jericho, we arrived in time to watch the sun set on the beautiful northern Israeli countryside and passed effortlessly through the deserted checkpoint.

And that is how we arrived in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Random Travel Update 44

Last locations: Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria, Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt
Arrival Date: June 2, 2009
Departure Date: June 13, 2009

Current location: Dahab, Egypt
Arrival Date: June 13, 2009
Departure Date: June 21, 2009

Next Locations: Jordan
Arrival Date: June 21, 2009
Departure Date: Undetermined

My favorite thing about Egypt is the ubiquitous reply to being American: "Obama! Number one!", sometimes repeated many times in a row in order to make sure that we know that they know that Obama is in fact "number one". It was particularly nice that Obama decided to come to Cairo the day after we arrived, presumably to thank us for all of our hard work on his primary campaign. I am going to return the favor by visiting him in DC this August.

With the exception of Dahab, Egypt is a chaotic place with an overwhelming presence of ancient and contemporary historical value. A recent resurgence of Islamic conservatism has many women walking the streets in black niqabs which revel only the eyes of the wearer and only a handful of local women choose to go bear-headed. The vast majority wear a hijab, and despite the near oppressive heat, no female goes anywhere wearing short sleeves.

The male culture is like that of undersexed adolescent boys and men have a difficult time vocalizing their appreciation of the opposite sex in an appropriate manner, an unfortunate phenomenon that even Islam and five prayers a day is apparently unable to remedy. Otherwise, Islam has done wonders here. Despite a high poverty rate, theft is almost unheard of and you can get out of most tourist scams and heckling by making an appeal to religion (helps if you speak Arabic). Though worlds dirtier, hotter, and louder than anywhere we visited in South America, Egypt is also worlds more interesting.

The cheapest flight out of Tucson was, unusually, a Sunday flight on the 31st of May which, to my delight, makes the dates of our trip very neat to work with. Day 1, June 1st, was spent on a long layover in Amsterdam which allowed us to arrive in Cairo on Tuesday June 2nd, exactly six weeks prior to our departure date from Istanbul on Tuesday July 14th.

I had meant to write this two weeks into our trip, but that goal has been delayed due to my inability to spend much more than 15 minutes at a time in the internet cafes which, like most places in Egypt, blatently encourage cigarette smoking by hiring only chain smokers to work the counter.

Our first week was packed with us getting out of the way all of the things that one must see when on a visit to Egypt. We spent three days in Cairo, couchsurfed in Maadi, checked out the famous Khan El Khalili market, killed time at the Ahwahs (traditional Egyptian coffee houses) playing backgammon and reminiscing over Jon's old Egypt days, and of course hung out with Barack Obama during his visit to the Pyramids of Giza.

On the night of day three, we hopped on an overnight train south along the Nile to Luxor where we saw all sorts of impressive Egyptian sites before heading further south to 47 degree Celsius Aswan where we floated along the Nile on lazy Feluccas, rode Camels to ancient Christian establishments and perused the Nubia Museum which was surprisingly worthwhile (and air conditioned). From Aswan, we took the uncomfortable 15 hour train back up to Cairo where we spent the morning before connecting with our afternoon train up to Alexandria.

We spent another afternoon in Cairo, where I visited the overpriced and under air conditioned Egypt Museum while waiting to catch the eight hour overnight bus to Sharm El-Sheikh, our first stop on the Sinai. We spent US$100 on a hotel room, $15 on lunch, $30 on dinner, $15 at the coffee shops, $30 to go dancing and left the next day to avoid blowing through the rest of our Middle East budget in a single weekend. Best thing about Sharm: The Hard Rock Cafe in Naama Bay which serves up a delicious Veg Burger and almost equally delicious frozen drinks in an air conditioned non-smoking section. Extra bonus: there is toilet paper in the bathroom. Truly incredible.

Better than Sharm, is the smaller and more authentic-feeling Dahab, just an hour up the East coast. It is a budget divers paradise, where you can strap on your gear and head straight to the ocean from your hotel at $25 per dive, gear, guide and tank included. An air conditioned room for two costs less than $10 and a candlelit waterfront meal adds up to $5 per person. It is about as idyllic as it gets.

Tomorrow we leave for the ancient city of Petra in Jordan and from there head north to the Dead Sea, Amman and Jeresh before crossing into Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

I was able to post the first set of Egypt photos to Picasa which I will attempt to edit and caption when I am reunited with my Macbook. For Jon's take on Egypt, visit sometime next week. I have been going through my emails to make sure that I haven't left any unanswered, often the consequence of my leaving the internet cafe abruptly due to cigarette smoke or computer failure. Please help by resending any emails that I may have missed.



Sunday, May 31, 2009

Random Travel Update 43

Last locations: Quito, Ecuador
Arrival Date: May 25, 2009
Departure Date: May 27, 2009

Current location: Tucson, AZ
Arrival Date: May 27, 2009
Departure Date: May 31, 2009

Next Locations: Amsterdam The Netherlands, Cairo Egypt
Arrival Date: June 1, 2009
Departure Date: Undetermined

While Jon and I were enjoying some falafel and baba ghanoush at a Lebanese café in La Paz, it occurred to me that being in South America was, for me at that moment, like sitting through a movie just after seeing a trailer for another movie that I would much rather be watching.

If you read the back cover of the Lonely Planet’s guide to South America, you will get the following review, “Challenging? Check. Rewarding? Beyond your wildest dreams. South America is made for travel—the griping, spine-tingling, adrenaline-charged type of travel you live for.”

In reality, the most challenging part of travel in South America is remembering not to flush your toilet paper down the toilet. Or, moreso, trying to get off of the gringo trail…a near impossible feat. And as for rewarding, sure, but so is every destination if you arrive with the right mindset.

South America is definitely made for travel. It is as if the whole continent were taken up by the tourism industry, thoroughly chewed and regurgitated for the travel-hungry masses to enjoy. And there are masses. While Americans are at home working hard at their careers and enjoying their annual two-week holiday, the English, Israelis, Germans, Dutch, Swiss and Aussies seem to have sent the majority of their youth out to go “discover themselves” for months at a time on the beaches and bars of every country with a good beer-to-euro ratio.

As for griping, spine-tingling, adrenaline-charged, in reality, South America is pretty laid back. And while you can adventure sport to your heart’s (or budget’s) content, the truth is that adventure sports tend to be griping, spine-tingling, and adrenaline-charged regardless of what continent you do them in.

That being said, do go to South America, just maybe don’t do it the way we did. There are many destinations that would be worth spending two-to-four weeks in and getting to know the local community and environment. Better even would be to study or work there. Cities and towns that I could really see myself staying for several months or more include: Buenos Aires, Santiago, Valparaiso, San Pedro de Atacama, Sucre, Samaipata, and La Paz.

I don’t have much time to finish this. In just over two hours Jon and I will get on a plane headed to Egypt by way of Minneapolis and Amsterdam the latter of which we will be for ten hours.
New photos of Bolivia are up and Jon has several new blogs in the works. Visit and



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Random Travel Update 42

Last locations: Tiwanaku BL, Lake Titicaca BL, Machu Picchu PE, Nazca Lines PE
Arrival Date: May 10, 2009
Departure Date: May 19, 2009

Current location: Lima, Peru
Arrival Date: May 19, 2009
Departure Date: May 20, 2009

Next Locations: Mancora, Peru
Arrival Date: May 21, 2009
Departure Date: May 22, 2009

Machu Picchu: √ (check). Like Disneyland but with less rides and real stones, Machu Picchu is one of those magical places that I'd be happy to never visit again. In an effort to salvage at least part of the experience, we opted for an alternative trek to the Inca Trail, which is littered with 200 tourists and 300 porters a day, few of whom care significantly about their immediate environment or the act of trekking in general.

Still, paying hundreds of dollars to trek with guides, pack mules and eight other foreigners at half the pace we would otherwise choose, is pretty distant from my idea of fun and adventure. The scenery, however, was breathtaking (as was the altitude at times), we met local indigenous people along the way, and the food, though it took the cooks hours to prepare, wasn’t half bad.

As for Maccu Picchu, it was every bit as incredible as people make it out to be and almost every bit as crowded. The photos taken cannot do it justice, and I don’t blame the hundreds to thousands of tourists who arrive each day to marvel in person at what must be one of the world’s most spectacular archeological sites.

Another cool archeological site in Peru is the Nazca Lines. We saw those today via a sobrevuelo (overflight) in a four-passenger private aircraft. They were impressive, but the three of us (me, Jon and Jon’s friend Aaron) agreed that they are much smaller than we were expecting.

Backing up a bit, our last few days in Bolivia, before our miserable overnight bus ride from Copacabana to Cuzco, were some of our best. The ruins at Tiwanaku were surprisingly calm with few tourist groups. While the city itself needs a lot of rebuilding since the Spanish plundered it in the 1500s, the stone-carved artifacts that have been found on the site are very impressive. The Tiwanaku civilization is thought to have predated the Incas by thousands of years and is perhaps the longest continuous societies in the history of the Americas. The surviving ancestors of the Tiwanaku are today called Aymara, while the descendants of the Incas are Quechua. Also present in Bolivia are the descendants of the Amazonia people, today known as Guarani.

We spent our last night in Bolivia on the Isla del Sol where the sun is said to have been born in local Aymaran folklore. We supported the local economy by taking a private boat to the northern shore which allowed us to see all of the archeological sites virtually untouristed since most visitors have to hike two to three hours up to the north shore and either spend the night or hike back down the same day. We were able to see all the north shore sites that evening, eat dinner, spend the night and wake up before sunrise the next morning to hike down to the south shore and explore our hearts out before the others were even awake. It was one of the highlights of our trip and very much somewhere that we hope to return to someday.

And return we will. In the meantime, Jon and I have decided to save the rest of our South America tour for the future. Instead of going on to Colombia and Venezuela next month as planned, we will be taking a flight out of Ecuador next week, spending a few days in Arizona to repack and upload photos (my hard drive is full again), and then catching a plane to the Middle East from where my Random Travel Update will be based for the following six weeks.
Keep keeping in touch.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Random Travel Update 41

Last locations: Santa Cruz BL, Asunción de Guarayos BL, Samaipata BL, Cochabamba BL, Torotoro BL, Yungas Road BL
Arrival Date: April 10, 2009
Departure Date: May 1, 2009

Current location: La Paz, Bolivia
Arrival Date: May 2, 2009
Departure Date: May 9, 2009

Next Locations: Tiwanaku BL, Lake Titicaca BL, Cuzco, Peru
Arrival Date: May 10, 2009
Departure Date: undetermined

First, in regards to Swine Flu: Please, stop supporting confined animal agriculture. As complicated as the media tries to make the issue, it is no mystery as to how these epidemics come about. Anyone who has ever witnessed a modern day animal processing facility will attest to the filthy, overcrowded warehouse environments that breed such disease. The contemporary method of raising pigs, cows and birds for slaughter is not only cruel and environmentally degrading; it also poses a serious threat to public health.

To learn more factory farming and the current epidemic visit:

CNN also ran a news story highlighting this threat:

The most effective thing that you can do as a concerned citizen is to boycott the meat industry. For tips on eating vegan visit:

We really like Bolivia. It is rugged, moderately undeveloped, colorful and cheap. Taking a bus is still an adventure here. Our first bus ride from Uyuni to Sucre included 10 hours of unpaved, unmaintained road, five river/wash crossings, countless sharp turns on narrow roads bordered by steep drops and passing vehicles, a guy who threw up two times, a three hour wait in near freezing weather at 2am for a transfer bus with no bathroom access. Following that, we learned that planes are actually quite a good deal in Bolivia, costing less than the same distance in Argentina by bus in cama or super-cama class.

The Bolivians may be some of the cutest people in the world. On Sunday we went to something called “Cholita Wrestling” which involves cholitas (the diminutive form of “chola” which refers to indigenous Bolivianas who live in cities rather than in rural indigenous villages) wrestling cholos (masculine form) in a boxing ring. Though not specifically about Bolivia, the movie “Nacho Libre” would provide you with a very good idea of the nature of the event. Or you can watch a match on youtube. The Cholitas tolerate getting beat up pretty bad before they come back to win the match. If your interest is spiked regarding all things Cholita, the Travel Channel has an episode dedicated to them.

Today we did a super-touristy thing and biked the ¨World´s Most Dangerous Road¨ proclaimed as such in 1995 by the Inter-American Development Bank in reaction to its record annual death toll of 200 to 300 passengers. A few days ago, we rented a car (Jon´s idea) and headed out from Cochabamba to the very rural town of Torotoro to explore caves, canyons and dinosaur prints. Previous to arriving in the desert college city of Cochabamba (not unlike Tucson), we spent ten days in the beautiful town of Samaipata where we spent our time taking Spanish lessons, meeting with locals, and volunteering at an animal refuge. Before that, we attended the Biennial
International Theater Festival in Santa Cruz, during which we learned acrobatics (pictures to come). And, previous to Santa Cruz, we stayed in the charming city of Sucre after the completion of our 3-day tour by jeep of The Reserva National de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa and the Salar de Uyuni; the highest, largest and most impressive salt flat in the world.

There is more to say. I think Jon plans to elaborate on each activity in his next blog post. Look out for it next week at For about half of the Bolivia pictures, check out Check again next week for more.



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Random Travel Update 40

Last locations: Santiago CL, Viña del Mar CL, Valparaiso CL, La Serena CL, San Pedro de Atacama CL, Uyuni BL
Arrival Date: March 17, 2009
Departure Date: April 6, 2009

Current location: Sucre, Bolivia
Arrival Date: April 7, 2009
Departure Date: April 10, 2009

Next Location: Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Arrival Date: April 10, 2009
Departure Date: April 12, 2009

Long email synopsis: Chile is a very awesome country, diverse both in geography and demography. Check out the new “Thanks!” column at and photos coming soon to Jon's blog is being very well maintained at

Santiago, Los Andes, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso, La Serena, San Pedro de Atacama. City, mountains, beach, port, beach and desert. Chile has a privileged geography, encompassing the greater part of the western coast of South America. It is as tall, North to South, as the United States is wide but thinner across than the state of California. Bordered on one side by the Andes and on the other by the Pacific, it is in a good position for self defense and since its liberation from Spain has successfully defeated both Peru and Bolivia to reach its current size.

Chile is a beautiful country. Every bit of it, from the Punk-ridden streets of Santiago to the unapologetic street art in Valparaiso, the rolling valleys flanked by beaches in La Serena and the desolate but serene desert landscape in Atacama. And that isn’t even half of it. The South is said to have some of the best scenery.

And Chile, like Argentina, isn’t poor. Some call it the most European country in South America, but Jon and I both found it distinctively more American than Argentina. In line with Buenos Aires over the top Europeanism, I would venture to call Santiago one of the most American countries in the world. Gargantuan shopping malls occupy more than several strips of land, containing familiar names such as Ruby Tuesdays, Taco Bell, and Roxy/Quicksilver. The music scene is alive and well and the style-Punk, Goth, Hippy and Emo-rivals (if not outright beats) that of New York City of LA.

Thanks to Chile’s liberal immigration policies, the population is diverse and the food scene is cosmopolitan. Capitalism seems to reign, but public dissent is common and, as in Uruguay and Argentina, is often expressed in spray paint. In Santiago, we finally got to see the vast street markets that we get a small taste of in DC, where vendors sell everything from stockings, to fruit juice, sunglasses, used clothes, empanadas and brand name knock-off goods.

Despite comments from fellow travelers that Santiago was only worth a passing day on the way to more worthwhile Chilean spots, we adored it and ended up staying for four. Though, perhaps it was in part due to our luck in having Jon’s childhood neighbor, Joel, from Farmington and his beautiful Chilean bride, Paulina, there to show us around.

We got bored in Viña del Mar but ate up the scenery in Valparaiso, which wins the award for coolest, or at least most art inspired, city in America. The pictures say more than I can. With art, it seems, comes good veg food. We ate our share of vegan hamburgers, soy carne empanadas, seiten-lasagna, banana-soymilk liquados (smoothies) and vegan churros. Perhaps it was too easy. For me, negotiating “beans instead of meat” and “avocado for cheese” has very much added to the uniqueness of my travel experience.

That being said, our best food was by far in La Serena where Nichole, one of my friends from Tucson’s, family resides. They generously offered to host us for three nights on our way from Viña to San Pedro, and the stop turned out to be more than worthwhile. More than gracious, they went out of their way to serve us vegan versions of Chilean delights such as pastel de choclo, fresh bean soup, and sautéed veggie lasagna. Ricisimo! Makes me wonder why don’t we have more Chilean food in the US. On top of it, Nicole’s dad, who is an astronomer and pilot, took Jon, me and Nicole’s cousin, Christian, on a private flight in a Cessna 182 to view the local scenery from an advantaged position.

It is impossible to thank our many hosts enough for their generosity and for what they contribute to our travel experience and global education. As a small token of our appreciation, I have added a “Thanks!” column to the left-hand side of my blog. Check it out at:

A 17-hour overnight bus took us from La Serena to San Pedro, a small, but heavily touristed pueblo on the Northwestern edge of Chile. There we realized that not all Chileans are as patient with our gringo-ness as our friends in Santiago and La Serena. But we loved it all the same. Being in the desert was like home for me and the surrounding mountains like home for Jon. The town, however, was in many ways cooler than home.

Despite a huge influx of tourism in the last few years, San Pedro has managed to hang on to its all-adobe structures and dirt streets. Cars are rare and necessary only for travel outside the town as the pueblo encompasses maybe four square blocks. The highlight was stargazing at a French astronomer’s house a few kilometers outside of San Pedro. Nichole’s dad had told us that San Pedro is the world’s foremost location for astronomy due to its classification as the world’s driest desert (no clouds or rain). We were thankful for the insider advice.

Another great experience was sandboarding, which I found works much better with real snowboards, functional Velcro bindings and wax (my sandboarding experience in UAE was useless). After sandboarding, I managed to re-sprain my left ankle in The Valley of the Moon and had to take a few days off laying in bed with ice reading the book that Jon’s Kiwi friend from his Aconcagua summit gave us. It is the first book I have read for pleasure since my book sabbatical, which began right after I graduated from college. I was reminded about how much I like to read and also that my imagination may be a bit too overactive for Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I spent several nights up into the early hours analyzing the perfectly detailed psychology of the crime. Perhaps I should stick to Spanish-language children’s books.

We are now in Bolivia and it feels like our South American adventure has just begun. Cheap food, dirty buses, unpaved roads, cutting edge indigenous fashion and breathtaking scenery is key. We’ve been here four days and already I am in love with the experience. Jon calls Bolivia “the land of my dreams” since several scenes have evoked deep memories of past sleepful experiences.

More on Bolivia later. My hard drive is full and space (and time) must be made for photos. Look for Chile pics later this week or next at:



Monday, March 30, 2009

Random Travel Update 39

Last locations: Santiago CL, Vina del Mar CL, Valparaiso CL
Arrival Date: March 17, 2009
Departure Date: March 27, 2009

Current location: La Serena, Chile
Arrival Date: March 28, 2009
Departure Date: March 30, 2009

Next Location: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Arrival Date: March 31, 2009
Departure Date: April 2, 2009

We are three countries into our South American itinerary. It helps not to plan a trip if you want to be truly surprised when you arrive. When I read in the Lonely Planet that Argentina’s economy had crashed in the early aughts, I had imagined rampant unemployment, abandoned storefronts and dingy supermarkets. It doesn’t help that my worldview of Latin America has been decidedly shaped by my earliest trips to the grubby streets of Nogales and litter-strewn beaches of Puerto Peñasco in Mexico as a child.

Argentina is not a poor country. In fact, in the early 1900s, it possessed one of the world’s richest economies. The gorgeous architecture, efficiently wide street design and abundance of monuments, parks and urban forestry in both Buenos Aires and Mendoza is a testament to Argentina’s history of wealth. Since its heyday, Argentina has had significant political turbulence and economic instability. The 80s and 90s were a dark period and in late 2001/early 2002, the country officially defaulted on its $93 billion debt and plummeted into economic turmoil. You wouldn’t know it visiting though.

While locals complain about things not being the same since the collapse-for example certain products are no longer regularly stocked on supermarket shelves and the sidewalks aren’t always repaired- Argentina itself is still distinguished. The supermarkets are supermarkets just like those in the US with sorted isles, air-conditioning, grocery carts and automated registers; the highways are developed, lit and paved; the tap water is potable, even for visitors; hot water is ubiquitous and the service establishments are clean and comfortable. The Argentinians themselves are proud, well dressed, well spoken and generally relaxed. The architecture, population demographic, and cultural ambiance is very European. So much so that a fellow traveler called Buenos Aires the “most European city in the world”. When asked to clarify that is was the most European city outside of Europe. He said, “No, the most European city including Europe!”

It is very European. Except perhaps cleaner and more modern. Not to mention, a much better value travel-wise. Consider it when you go to book that next trip to Paris or Rome.

Uruguay is also incredibly European with charming architecture, inspiring street art and a pasta/pizza eating population. The three cities we visited: Montevideo, Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacramento each had their own distinct vibe. Montevideo is a quite, picturesque city along the coast. The city’s working population appears around 6pm to drink mate out of handcrafted gourds, replenishing each cup from their mobile thermos. Punta del Este is a ritzy beach resort city with strings of expensive high rise apartments and upscale restaurants crowded along the boardwalk overlooking modest strips of sand overrun by Uruguayan and Argentinean ajumas and their brightly colored umbrellas. It is expensive. Colonia is a small colonial-style town with cobblestone streets, willows and an atmosphere that feels like letting out a long sigh, ahhhhhhhh. And from there you can take a ferry to Buenos Aires.

Chile deserves it’s own update. We are currently in La Serena, heading to north to San Pedro de Atacama this evening. I will try to send out another update before we reach Bolivia.

There are new photos from Mendoza at:
Jon's blog and some sweet pictures from his Aconcagua summit are at:



Thursday, March 12, 2009

Random Travel Update 38

Last locations: Montevideo, UR; Punta del Este, UR; Colonia del Sacramento, UR; Buenos Aires, AR; Iguazu Falls, AR; Mendoza, AR; Penitentes, AR; Parque Aconcagua, AR
Arrival Date: February 18, 2009
Departure Date: March 10, 2009

Current location: Mendoza, Argentina
Arrival Date: March 10, 2009
Departure Date: March 17, 2009

Next Location: Santiago de Chile
Arrival Date: March 17, 2009
Departure Date: Undetermined

Photos at:
Blog at:

I waited too long again to write an update and now the events of the last three weeks swizzle in my head like sweet sugar candy memories. The pictures will say more than I can. Bright graffiti in the streets on Montevideo, colorful umbrellas on the beaches of Punte del Este, cobblestone corners in Colonia del Sacramento, tango dancing on the streets of Buenos Aires, breathtaking drops at Iguazu Falls National Park, Spanish classes and wine in Mendoza…and the Andes.

The Andes hang on my mind like an ex boyfriend that I just can’t forget. Jagged rocks tower above like colossuses and rugged terrain makes it hard to keep your feet on the ground, your head gets light, your heart races and you feel as though you might as well be in the clouds. I spend every moment wanting to return to them.

And Jon. I left him in the first camp on his way up to scale Cerro Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes, the Americas, the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. At 6,962 meters (22,841 ft) it is higher than any mountain outside of the Himalayas. It sits just a few kilometers east of the Chilean border, four hours by bus (and six more by foot) Northwest of Mendoza. Though, Jon is scaling the farther end of the mountain, which is a 35 kilometer walk to the base from the park entry and, from there, 8,000 vertical feet to the top. The season ends on March 15th, which gives Jon half the normal amount of time allotted to acclimatize and ascend. Being the end of the season also means less predictable weather, colder temps and stronger winds.

While I was at the first camp with Jon, a group of guides and film crew came by to film a segment about mountain rescue operations. There is a lot of controversy surrounding an only partially successful rescue operation in January that the Argentinean press is apparently covering with a bias against the rescuers. The ABC story takes a more impartial approach. It seems to be big news here, having come up in several separate conversations even after I returned to the city. I get the impression that fatal accidents aren’t so common.

In other news, I survived my first earthquake yesterday morning, which gave me the opportunity to learn that Mendoza province is the most seismically active in Argentina. The whole city was leveled in 1861 and hit again in 1985 and 2006 by medium intensity quakes. Apparently, mini quakes and earth tremors like the one I experienced are very common.

When Jon returns, we will depart for Santiago and from there up the Chilean coast to Bolivia where we’re likely to stay for a month.

Keep the emails coming. Bandwidth comes and goes, but I’ll definitely read them even if I don’t respond immediately. If you want a postcard, send me your address.



Sunday, February 15, 2009

Random Travel Update 37

Last location: Farmington, UT
Arrival Date: January 19, 2009
Departure Date: February 05, 2009

Current location: Tucson, AZ
Arrival Date: February 05, 2009
Departure Date: February 17, 2009

Next Location: Montevideo, Uruguay
Arrival Date: February 18, 2009
Departure Date: February 19, 2009

I have spent the better part of this month in a chocolate/sugar coma. And then, last Monday I was riding switch on my snowboard at The Canyons and I caught an edge throwing my head onto the ground which hurt and maybe gave me a mini concussion which I would know for sure if I went to the doctor but I won't because the test necessary for diagnosis costs too much money. So, perhaps this explains why I haven't written, called, texted or skyped you this month. I have barely researched our trip to South America. We leave Tuesday. I made Jon watch The Motorcycle Diaries to get psyched up. It turns out that the itinerary that Che and his friend Alberto took, is very similar to ours. Same time frame, same countries, same order. I don't foresee us turning into communist revolutionaries upon our return, though perhaps slightly softened, Spanish-speaking, Salsa-dancing capitalists…

Now, like I said, we have only scraped the surface in terms of pre-trip planning so this itinerary, beyond the next few weeks, is incredibly tentative, but good enough to give you a modest idea of where we'll be:

Montevideo, Uraguay
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cordoba, Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina
Santiago, Chile
Chilean Coast
Uyuni, Bolivia

Villa Tunari, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia/Lake Titicaca
Cuzco, Peru/ Machu Picchu

Lima, Peru
Undetermined, Venezuela

Undetermined, Colombia
Undetermined, Ecuador

Undetermined, Ecuador

Send me your recommendations and definitely let us know if you plan to be in any of those places around the proposed times. New pics from Arizona and Utah are at: In addition, you can now view all past and present Random Travel Updates at



Monday, January 19, 2009

Random Travel Update 36

Last location: Tucson, AZ
Arrival Date: January 4, 2009
Departure Date: January 19, 2009

Current location: Phoenix, AZ (layover)
Arrival Date: January 19, 2009
Departure Date: January 19, 2009

Next Location: Farmington, UT
Arrival Date: January 19, 2009
Departure Date: TBD

I think it was my uncle who asked me the other day what I liked most about Tucson. So, being one that is prone to making lists, I decided to jot a few things down…

Why I like Tucson:

Not having ants/termites/mosquitoes in my bed/room/kitchen.
Going for a hike in the middle of January and having to shed my sweater because it's hot out.
Family dinners.
Not having to drive anywhere to go on a hike.
Cruising in the Prius and rolling down the windows for AC in December.
Lovin' Spoonfuls, Yoshimatsu, Karuna's, and The Casbah.
Burritos. Everywhere.
Cacti. Quail. Javalina. Roadrunners. Hummingbirds. Bunnies.
The cat.
My parents.

That being said, I leave Arizona today for Utah where I will meet up with Jon who has been away for the last three months. It is 80F in Tucson right now. It is 33F in Salt Lake. I brought gloves, a jacket and a snowboard :)

Tomorrow is an exciting day. If you have thoughts, comments, opinions about the inauguration, please share. If you'll be in DC, I would love for you to send along links to your photos.



Monday, January 5, 2009

Random Travel Update 35

Last location: Banff, Canada
Arrival Date: December 26, 2008
Departure Date: January 4, 2009

Current location: Tucson, AZ
Arrival Date: January 4, 2009
Departure Date: January 19, 2009

Next Location: Farmington, UT
Arrival Date: January 19, 2009
Departure Date: TBD

Photos at:

My non-vegan cousin may be the most brilliant vegan cook ever. This Christmas, her and my aunt teamed up to create one of the most righteous family feasts yet. We had terra chips, hummus, jalapeno cranberry sauce, strawberry mandarin spinach salad, cranberry bread, candied carrots, rosemary roasted potatoes, green bean supreme, a vegan roast by Field Roast Grain Meat (available at whole foods) and chocolate cake. Of particular note was the cranberry sauce, which is absolutely brilliant with jalapeño (who would have thought?); the vegan cranberry bread, which was sticky, tart and sweet to perfection; the green bean supreme which I never liked as a kid but love now that it’s been veganized; and the eggless chocolate cake which was decadently moist on the inside and flawlessly crisp around the edges. I have attached the recipes for you foodies out there. They are also available here with pictures.

When it became apparent that I would be in North America for the winter, my parents invited me to join them on their annual ski trip departing the day after Christmas. This year we went to Canada for the first time as a family. We stayed in Canmore, a small town between Calgary and Banff put on the map when it hosted the Nordic events for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. 1988 is significant because it is the first year of Olympic Games that I ever watched. (Points to anyone who knows what city hosted the 1988 Summer Games.)

We skied three resorts in Banff National Park: Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise. Norquay is small and untouristed, a local spot with great attitude but not-so-great-snow. Sunshine and Lake Louise are world class resorts comparable to those in Colorado and Utah with wonderfully rugged (read rocky) terrain and a healthy respect for avalanche danger. On our fourth day, we took a break from downhill to try our skills at cross country skiing at Canmore’s Olympic Nordic Track. On our final day, we packed up and drove two hours north along the Icefields Parkway to stare in awe at the massive glacier formations and ice falls impressively suspended over towering rock formations.

If you live or travel in Alberta, I recommend checking out The Coup in Calgary, a super trendy joint serving up spectacular meals and a live DJ on the weekends. This place is no secret and is obscenely popular. Expect a worthwhile wait. In Canmore, I highly recommend The Chef’s Studio Japan for Sushi. The menu is great for vegans (they even leave the fish out of their miso), the staff is uber friendly and the bathrooms include chalk so that you can guiltlessly tag the walls. If you are anywhere in Canada, I recommend checking out the new Vegetarian Chicken Sandwich at KFC. Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken sells vegan chicken that is absolutely delicious. The people at the counter may not know that it is vegan so make sure to ask for no mayo. Unfortunately, it is only available in Canada. So, if you live in Canada and don’t mind eating fried food every so often support it so that they’ll start offering it in the US. Related trivia: the first KFC ever is in South Salt Lake, Utah.

There is more to write but I’ll save it for update 36. Thanks to all of you who wrote back with your New Year’s updates!