Saturday, May 31, 2008

five days in vienna

vienna was a nice city, but it really turned out to be all about the people for me. i met some of the friendliest, funniest and easy to be with people there; couchsurfers the lot of them.

vienna has an emergency couchsurfing system. if you need a last minute couch, you can get a list of hosts living in vienna who are willing to take you on at the last minute should you find yourself in town and couchless. since that pretty much described me, i cried help! and that’s how I found my hosts tom and alexandra. tom and alex shared their flat - and more specifically and generously, their room - with me. they are cute, smart, awake and laid-back all at once, and are studying political science and social anthropology respectively. tom good-naturedly tracked me down at 2:30am riding his bike through vienna exchanging sms messages with me after i managed to get lost walking home alone from giovanna and josef's flat. tee hee!

like tom, josef is on the emergency request list. when i discovered that i’d be without accommodations in vienna, i sent out a few requests to people on that list – including josef. josef was out of town when the request went out, but upon his return the next day, I got a text message that he and giovanna could put me up for the night if i hadn't found anything yet. this, despite the fact that they already had 2 other couchsurfers there already. josef has a pretty interesting music collection, and an uncle who owns a winery - HELLO! giovanna is a great photographer and an amazing chef. but tom and alex had beat them to it, and i had already confirmed my stay with them.

tom, alex, josef and giovanna all know each other, so alex and i ended up at josef and giovanna’s one night, and we all ended up at josef's uncle's winery another evening - along with a whole slew of couchsurfers. that slew included:

giovanna and josef's couchsurfers, renee from upstate new york and sean from atlanta. they're both truly fun and funny and travelling around europe now that they're done with their studies in london.

moritz and angela are couchsurfers living and hosting in vienna. somehow the lovely angela manages to live with moe, an insane guy who can make me laugh just by looking at me. after our wine, multi-meat, and fried fat (truly, fried fat in paste form) fest at josef's uncle's winery, we all headed back to moe & angelas incredible place and hung out for hours on their rooftop deck in the perfect viennese night.

moe & angela's couchsurfers, libby and erin, are fabulous canadian redheads. they had barely arrived in vienna - and i mean barely - when moe and angela whisked them off to the winery with us. more strong, beautiful young women roaming the globe. i love it! thank you libby, for passing on the right book to me at the right time!

oh and i should mention patricia, a shall we say, senior surfer with infectious energy that moe and angela were also hosting. she still carries her pack on her back and was in vienna to attend the opera. it's pretty inexpensive if you buy a standing-old ticket, so patricia stands. mind you, some of these things can go on for 4 or 5 hours and patricia stands.

and last but not least was charlotte. charlotte is a couchsurfer living in vienna who responded to a post of mine in the vienna forum. we met, puttered around and talked all day long one day. her travel experience in mauritius was incredible!

so vienna was really all about the people. i loved it. i may have left too soon, but bratislava was calling. and i can always return....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


jane is my friend. i wanted her to be here with me. i've changed so much already on this journey that much of much past life no longer holds the meaning that it once did. but of all the things that have changed, jane is still with me in the exact same way she always was.

Monday, May 26, 2008

gary t

gary and i grew up together. we were both the youngest children in our families, the last remaining with our parents after the older siblings had all left home. we played together, camped together, went to school together, and spent late nights listening to dr. demento together while the sounds of our parents playing cards in the other room drifted in from the other room. but when it came time for high school, we ended up in different places and began to lose touch. eventually i moved out of town. gary got married and established a business. i had a couple of long term relationships and focused on my career. we rarely saw each other over the last 20+ years. now, some 40 years after first meeting, we are here in cairo spending more time together than we have in years. and oddly, it seems that we really haven't been apart that long. after all these years, gary t sent me an email that brought me to a place that i fell madly in love with at first sight. funny how things happen.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

every fiber in my body told me to stay in cairo

i had an opportunity to stay in cairo. i still do. stay and live and work in a place just across the street from the pyramids at giza. watching the sun set behind them. watching them lit up at night. for some reason i've been unable to write about it. i'm not sure what to i want to say about any of it yet. i'll try and put it in words - again - tomorrow.

Friday, May 23, 2008

khan el-khalili bazaar; i am in heaven

all photos courtesy of gary taillon

did i mention that i am in love with cairo?

the crew flew to the valley of the kings with david silverman and zahi hawass. i wasn't able to go. bummer. however i did get to stroll along the nile, lounge at the pool, and collect my thoughts from the last week. speaking of my thoughts, i am in love with cairo.

that evening, daryl invited gary, steve, sarah and i to sail on a faluka on the nile at sunset. i cannot describe the sights and sounds on the nile at sunset. while we are sailing, we are often passed by motorized wooden boats filled with local couples and families, painted in bright colors, covered with multi-colored strands of bright lights and blaring loud egyptian music out of bad speakers. if i can get my hands on a few of the photos that steve took, i'll post them... it was my first time on the nile and every moment was spectacular.

joe faluka

daryl, steve, gary, me, sarah

not a faluka

Thursday, May 22, 2008

an average day in cairo

i spent today at the egyptian museum with gary, daryl the producer and steve the cameraman. the museum is old and dusty in exactly the right way. we are with professor david silverman, an egyptologist who is the national curator of the king tut exhibit. in there are currently two sets of tut artifacts touring the globe, and david is responsible for both. they tape the artifacts while david tells us about them. i like david. he's a laid-back guy with a colorful past.

later in the afternoon, we are joined by tracy rowlett, a longtime news anchor from dallas, and his producer sarah. in the tut room, tracy interviews dr. zahi hawass, a prominent egyptologist and egypt's current undersecretary of the state for the giza monuments. i was one of the lucky few individuals to be in the room when the famous gold mask of king tut was removed from its glass case for the duration of the interview with dr. hawass.

all in all, not a bad day.

i am in love with cairo.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

i am in love again, or should i say still...

i hadn't planned to go to cairo and when the opportunity presented itself, i resisted it. and yet i fell in love with cairo before the plane landed.

i'm writing this from a suite overlooking the nile river. the sound of the air conditioning and the cars honking below are music to me.

in a moment of in-your-face synchronicity, my childhood friend gary t emailed to tell me that he would be in egypt working on a film project right around the time i was in france. he invited me to join him and here i am.

i arrived at the airport in cairo from istanbul and was met at the gate by mustafa, an expediter from tarot tours garranah. he obtained my visa and whisked me through customs within minutes. after ushering me to my private car, mustafa told me about egypt, cairo and the buildings we passed as drove through downtown cairo to the hotel.

i am in love with cairo. the sights, the sounds, the energy.

sunset view from my balcony

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

mission accomplished!

i am proud to say that i now have pooped in a turkish toilet! my first experience was on the road back to istanbul from ephesus and my years of yoga training contributed to an effortless squat and drop. couldn't have gone better if i do say so myself! i'd like to give a shout out to everyone in the couchsurfing "i have pooped in a turkish toilet" group for your tips.

no, those are not my feet...


how does one sum up sam? hmmmm? an insane belgian reggae musician. the only one beside me willing to pull his pants down for an authentic photo pose at the ruins of the group toilets at ephesus...

sam's band

basar and signija

basar and signija were my couchsurfing hosts in istanbul.

basar was one of the organizers of the marmaris, ephesus, sirince trip. although my couchsurfing request was last minute, and i would arrive late at night, basar immediately offered to host me in istanbul and bring me along on the trip the next day. he's an officer/scuba diver in the turkish navy and a truly upstanding guy.

signija is from latvia and is studying turkish in istanbul. worn out after returning from the marmaris trip, signija skipped her early morning class, we both slept in, then spent a perfect lazy afternoon together listening to the doors and smiling. if signija and i lived in the same place, i know that we'd end up spending lots of time together - mostly smiling.

ufkum and martin

martin and ufkum (no they are not a couple. it just happened to be a good photo of both of them.)

ufkum is a couchsurfing ambassador for istanbul. less than 20 minutes after posting my last minute request for a couch in the instanbul forum, ufkum answered and promised that i'd have a couch there. although i later ended up staying with basar and signija, i had a chance to hang out with ufkum on our trip to marmaris, ephesus and sirince. it is amazing how similar the two of us are. ufkum works in istanbul for an american company with an american corporate culture. the feelings and words she uses to describe her experiences could have come straight from my own mouth. she'd love to open an italian restaurant and i believe she will do it.

martin is a couchsurfer from germany studying in istanbul. he and i were roomies on the marmaris trip. martin and i share a wonderful lack of passion for those things others find all-consumingly important and a deep appreciation for lazing about.

the human spirit is the same the world around.


dilip was born in india and raised in california. he occasionally claims to a kurd. giggle. he left cali for istanbul on a whim. planned to stay for a week. ended up staying for 5 months... we speak in shorthand. he'll arrive in cairo the day after i leave. weird.


i met daniel in istanbul. couchsurfing the globe for the past 14 months, he is living what i have only just begun. daniel is a collection of stories and facts wrapped up in the guise of a mild-mannered aussie traveler with a dry sense of humor. although he claims that i have a somewhat twisted collection of interests, he cannot deny that it is he, not i, who can whip out the stats surrounding the most twisted of the bunch.

in marmaris turkey, a bearded daniel entertains us with tales of couchsurfing china.

check out a map of daniel's trip so far

Monday, May 19, 2008

and it keeps on coming

always up for a challenge, we're packing in the ruins at ephesus and a visit to sirince for a little wine tasting before the 10 hour drive back to istanbul.

the library at ephesus

dilip at the roman theater at ephesus (photo by daniel)

the temple of hadrian (photo by daniel)


Sunday, May 18, 2008

the thing about marmaris

it's a beach resort on a nearly closed bay with just a small passage out to the aegean sea and is considered the meeting point of the aegean and mediterranean seas. it's really quite beautiful, but the thing is that, to me, it looked more like a huge lake than the sea. it is surrounded by tall mountains that slope down almost to the shore and there are pine trees everywhere. to me, that means lake. but the moment you jump into the water, it's pretty clear that it's not a lake. it was the saltiest water i think i've ever been in, which made bobbing about in the water pretty fun. we were there right before the big tourist season, so the weather was great but there weren't any crowds. day 1 was lounging on the beach and going out to dinner. day 2 was a 7 hour boat trip filled with eating, drinking, swimming and music.

huma, dilip, sam, daniel, ibrahim, and ufkum

signija and basar

just another perfect beach at marmaris

huma and daniel

sam the crazy belgian and me

Friday, May 16, 2008

16 couchsurfers packed in a van

sometime around 10pm, we begin the 10 hour overnight drive from istanbul to marmaris. i met basar and signia, my couchsurfing hosts, and jenk (phonetic spelling) late last night after arriving at the ataturk airport in istanbul, then taking the havas to taksim, and then the 110 dolma to kadikoy. the other 12, i just met.

istanbul, not constantinople...

flew into istanbul from nice last night and boy are my arms tired.

lyrics to istanbul not constantinople

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

i am whole again

filling replaced. no problem. it cost the equivalent of about $45 american dollars. composite, not metal. if you ever need in dentist in aix-en-provence, check out christian moscardini at 39 avenue paul cezanne. he rocks.

day 7

passing lightly through

so i travel through other peoples' towns and lives carrying the entirety of my life with me. my interactions with those i meet is the entirety of my experience during that time. there are no kids, no bills, no responsibilities to distract me. i understand that, for them, i am just a little portion of their lives that are otherwise filled with other things. they are my focus and i am their brief diversion. and there's such beauty in that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

softened by the road

I've been softened by the road. My heart is wide open again - or maybe for the first time really - and I’ve found the love of my life. I’ve found what I want to be when I grow up. This is it. How can you say that just one person or just one thing is the love of your life? This life travelling, couchsurfing; this is the love of my life. It would be selfish to hoard this feeling and keep it to myself.

more of the same

remember ubby dubby? wiki ubbi dubbi

bruno told me about the french version - javanais. wiki javanais

who knew?

Monday, May 12, 2008

alexandre and bruno

losing my filling has turned out to be a great thing because i couldn't be happier than i am right now, and i wouldn't be here right now if i hadn't lost the filling. i'd be in italy. but i'm staying with alex and bruno while waiting for a dentist appointment that bruno managed to get scheduled for me.

so i've been hanging out on the couch next to bruno all day, each of us glued to our laptops absorbed in updating photos, couchsurfing profiles, and websites, and just generally screwing around online. if we were a tv show and someone tuned in to watch us with the volume muted, i'm sure they'd never catch on to the fact that we don't actually speak the same language. they might just think it was a remake of the odd couple.

for those of you that know me, bruno probably knows about as much french as i know spanish. that fact that i speak no french and bruno speaks very little english hasn't stopped us from bantering back and forth all day long like old friends. at times, bruno will start talking to me in broken english and then finish in french about something happening online or on the tv, and i'm pretty sure i get what he's saying although i don't actually understand the words. i answer in english and it all works out. and because we're so comfortable together, i forget that we don't speak the same language and i do the same. i ramble on too quickly in english until i finally catch a look from bruno that says he's totally lost.

everything is as it should be. i love this.

about alex and bruno. they are far braver than i. they are both getting rid of their possessions and heading out this august for an around the world hitchhiking trip that could take them 5 years to complete. and i guess there's really no completing it. they'll both likely end up staying somewhere they've found along the way and never returning to this life. incredible.
alex's blog & bruno's blog

i spent the last few days at the couchsurfer camping event really getting to know them and i love them both. alexandre works in info technology and is the couchsurfing ambassador for aix-en-provence. bruno had an appliance repair business. alex and i shared a tent while camping and he sacrificed his own comfort for my own. we shared an air mattress that would slowly deflate during the night. alex is a big guy, so while his body weight pressed the air out of the mattress (i think the leak was on his side), the remaining air would form a pocket under me. by the morning, he'd be sleeping on rocks while i'd be slumbering peacefully on a little pillow of the last bit of air left in the mattress. and on one particularly cold night with me in my silly little fleece sleeping bag, alex generously outfitted me in all his sweats and jackets so i wouldn't freeze. he was in shorts.

i want to go with them.



hardened by the road

i am becoming hardened by the road. physically. mentally. my heels are covered in blisters, some old and some new, but they don't hurt. my nails are broken and dirty but they don't bother me. i cannot count the number of freezing cold showers i've taken without batting an eye. i bashed the heck out of my hip and i survived. i managed to lose a filling from my tooth and didn't even notice. and when i finally did, my first thought was that it would be no big deal to just let it go until i made it back to the states. i can sleep anywhere. i can eat anything. i am immune to cigarette smoke. i even let bugs crawl on me (how about that k&b!?) i am becoming hardened by the road and i love it.

the spoken language

I ended up in France without ever thinking that I’d visit France in my lifetime. I don’t speak the language and it doesn’t matter. I ended up at a huge 3 day weekend couchsurfing camping trip attended by somewhere around 80 people, and I may have been the only one there who didn’t speak French.

After spending considerable time talking to a number of people whose grasp of the English language was only slightly better than my grasp of French, I finally came to realize that communication using the spoken word is overrated. We pay so much attention to finding just the right words to express the nuances of our ever-spinning, all-important thoughts that we don’t actually pay attention to the person behind the words. We are two egos and two brains interacting while the essence of that person takes a backseat.

Yeah, you could say that the spoken word can be used to express the essence of a person. Blah blah blah… and it can. But I think that most of the time, it just becomes a little intellectual exercise in building complexity around what, at the core, is very simple.

When you don’t share a common language, it’s pretty difficult to fall into that game. To understand what the person is trying to communicate, you actually have to pay attention what's behind the words; the actual person. If you can’t get the words, you’re forced to fall back to a more more primitive - and maybe more real - method of communication; sensing the essence of that person.

When you do that, it's pretty amazing. So Jean-Pierre, Patrick, Seb, and the rest, this is for you.

heather, this one's for you

first of all, no, i was not drinking. this is day 4 of the butt/hip bruise. nice, eh?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

the synchronicity of tentsurfing in the verdon

a couple of days ago, i was heading to italy. i thought i might just stop off at nice or antibes on the way there so i sent out a few couchsurfing requests. it turns out that one after another of my potential hosts - along with about 80 other people - were all going to be out of town at a big camping event for the weekend. what kind of event? why, just a big paca (provence alpes cote d' azur) couchsurfing camping extravaganza held at esparron de verdon in the alpes de haute-provence.

after a short but semi-frenzied attempt to find a ride and a place to stay there, i managed to find a ride - and a space in a tent replete with air mattress - with alexandre, the couchsurfing ambassador for aix-en-provence. not too shabby, eh?

beautiful location. incredible people. i managed to meet and talk to just about every cs'r that i had just emailed looking for my next couch. patrick, alfie, romain, robert... and i was in the same campsite with a couple of the people i had met in aix-en-provence while being hosted by jordan. another alexandre that i had briefly exchanged a couple of email with about meeting up in croatia in june managed to find me there too. he introduced me to his sangria and i taught him a few new american english swear words. too many great people, too little time.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

a bit of hollywood in marseille

i only had one female friend in high school. that was liz, and we lost touch long ago. she got married and had kids and i didn't. there's a kind of shorthand, an unspoken understanding between friends that goes along with that shared past, and i'd never really known what that felt like. (ok, allen doesn't count because 1. he's not a chick and 2. we didn't go to high school together.) yet somehow i find susan in marseille; a woman born in '62 like me who was in hollywood at the same time i was hanging out there. although we didn't know each other then, there was still a bit of that shorthand present when we talked. we grew up in the same era with the same music, the same clubs, the same vibe. and i met her in marseille. had susan and i both not already had separate plans for the weekend, we would have spent far more time together. and i could go back, but i've already spent much more time in france than i thought i would. italy awaits and suddenly three months seems such a short time. oh, did i mention that marseille has a magnificent coastline and is really really old? wiki Marseille

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

lovin' lyon

i am so glad that i ended up making it to lyon. the three of us were hosted in an incredible flat overlooking the rhône by quentin, a guy that jordan met in spain. the night we arrived after hitching there, we were invited to a nearly all night party at celine's. despite some rumors to the contrary, the french do indeed know how to throw a party. and in a slight departure from my time in aix, i found myself surrounded by french students studying architecture as opposed to american students studying french. i can't articulate exactly what i loved about lyon; the city just felt good. craig and i spent one day just wandering. we saw the ruins of a roman coliseum, we hiked up the hill to the basilica notre-dame de fourvière, and we wandered about in the narrow streets of old town. we had to leave too soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

who's the luckiest girl in the world?

i am.

me, yura, jeremie, quentin and jordan