Guess which one is about to get checked off the list?…
Dear Family and Friends,
Full disclosure: Christmas is my favorite holiday. While toffee and pie wage war on the waistline and inspire optimistic resolutions, I relish the corny holiday songs and extra helpings.
A white Christmas was not in the e-cards for Tahoe, much to the chagrin of 60,000+ pairs of skis. Matt and I were granted a gray Christmas Eve walking in the misty wonderland of Redwoods covered in spider webs, nature’s tinsel. The crackling of crab shells filled the Robertson house last night, as we all devoured the candy of the sea. The evening faded into the living room by a raging wood-stove fire, wailing along to my talented boyfriend as he serenated his wonderful family.
Since our return from the Spanish land of wine, cheese and lisps, Matt and I have put our sleeping bags to work with regular camping trips.
I got to check off a few more “To Do in 2013” items off my list hanging in my bedroom (literally a 3×4’ list of goals): a bike ride through the golden aspens along Tahoe’s famous Flume Trail and biking up Tioga Pass (Yosemite’s east entrance).
Matt and I celebrated the national day of thanks amidst the vast beauty of Death Valley. We battled the tryptophan long enough to gawk at nocturnal astronomy shows by my favorite artist – nature. My camera could not quite capture the magical glow of Eureka Dunes rising above the valley floor protected by snow-capped peaks
Last week I traded the -14 degree evenings of Lake Tahoe for 86 degree days in Los Angeles. Both sets of parents were in the same city, and I jumped (or rather flew) at the opportunity to celebrate an early Christmas with them. Family, food and shorts kept me smiling and hugging in the massive metropolis.
Although a broken back has kept the running shoes off my feet for six months (an unfortunate record), the wanderlust has not been quenched. I’ve been wondering HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD, and I think I’ve found an opportunity to do so. A Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship proposal to examine the global perspective on the spirit of volunteerism has been on the forefront of my mind. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or connections to places to volunteer internationally (or want to hear more), please let me know.
On this most wonderful of days I am sending you hugs as sweet as Grandma’s sugar cookies. You are the ornaments on my tree of life that shine beautifully on every branch of my being. Wishing you a joyful, healthy 2014!
The modern amenities seamlessly weave into a fabric so rich in history that the footpaths have been worn soft by the soles of hundreds of years of pilgrims on the same path.
For anyone who knows me, I have never been a procrastinator. Yet here I am with the final hours until my final piece of content is due to Tourism Australia and working on one last blog until the clock strikes 6pm in Australia. This dire message, the song that rings from my slightly off key voice to your ears is a very appreciative THANK YOU!
Thanks, gracias, obrigada, to everyone near and far who has not only provided beautiful words of encouragement since the beginning, but also shared my wonderful opportunity with others. I was interviewed on NPR: Capital Public Radio, featured on Channel 2 News in Reno (CBS) and on Loaded TV in Reno, in addition to numerous press releases and mentions on various facebook and websites. This competition has challenged my ability to function well with less sleep while also working a full time plus job, but also provided a reason to share a snippet of my life with some folks who usually only hear it in the quarterly email updates.
I’ve been reconnected with some incredible people, and made new friends with many more. The best part of this two-week challenge has been that I haven’t stopped doing the things I love; in fact I promote them. I truly believe that the source of adventure is within us, and if I can harness my energy and enthusiasm to inspire people to create their own journey then I will be an even happier lady.
So here’s to the people that encouraged me to pursue this dream job, you are the reason that I keep on smiling. I should hear back from Tourism Australia by May 15th and will certainly keep you all posted.
I’ve been dreaming about diving the Great Barrier Reef and watching sea turtle eggs hatch (again) in Queensland, Australia and decided to post an email update I sent out to family and friends about similar adventure in Central America two years ago.
Hola mis amigos y familia, Pura Vida! This Costa Rican greeting that represents the “life is good” paradigm of its people has been infused into my newly bronzed, jellyfish scarred skin. The last 3 months of 2011 have been largely spent in various Central American countries scratching mosquito bites and spending as much time as possible in the 80 degree Fahrenheit tropical water. In the beginning of May my cousin Katherine and I flew to Guatemala and spent 3.5 weeks riding chicken buses across the country, into Belize island paradise and up the Mexican Yucatan peninsula to Cancun. I was in LA long enough to do a couple loads of laundry and then I flew to North Carolina for staff training for a company called Broadreach that runs international academic adventure trips. I had a wonderful week of playing games and getting to know the other guides who were all intelligent, active and similarly struck with a serious case of wanderlust. From there I flew to Costa Rica for a couple weeks of solo traveling with no agenda before my Sea Turtle Studies program began. I befriended (shocking, I know) a great Texan fellow named Sam at the Costa Rican airport and we ended up traveling through Costa Rica and Nicaragua together for two weeks. We spent a week in the jungles of Costa Rica and then crossed the border into Nicaragua to see the beautiful Ometepe Islands in Lake Nicaragua and the laid back surf town of San Juan del Sur. Then I returned to San Jose where my two amazing co-guides Liz and Phil and I met the first of our 2 groups of 11 teenagers that we would be taking on a 3-week academic trek throughout Costa Rica. So many travels and adventures to tell and for the sake of saving battery power on your iphone, ipad, i-crack technology I will keep it brief…ish.
Guatemala: “The land of many colors” and potholes
It turns out that Guatemala is quite large, and the majority of Kathri and my Guatemala experience took place on various forms of transportation with our two Argentinian buddies Seba and Guille that we met at a hostel our first night. The local buses commonly called
‘Chicken buses’ are American and Canadian school buses from the 1950s colorfully painted and decorated with Catholic memorabilia on the dashboard and on the exterior and usually stuffed about 30 people or more over capacity. There is always space on a bus, although it might be 3 or 4 to a seat and/or standing room only on the 4 hour bumpy dirt road with drivers who prefer accelerating on the hairpin turns. There is also the option to take a shuttle, which meant 20+ people stuffed into a 14 passenger van, usually with a few people riding on the roof with the luggage/chicken/produce. On one 8 hour ride I climbed out of the back window and onto the roof to wave to the kids in the passing villages and watch farmers burn their corn fields in the highlands. One of the highlights was at a place called Semuc-Champey which has pools of crystalline turquoise waterfalls in the middle of the jungle which you can swim in and jump from one pool to the next. One afternoon clad in bathing suits and tevas we took a nearby cave tour. We each had a candle to hold above our head as we swam through the cave, up underground waterfalls and jumped into pools in complete candlelit darkness deep in the mountain. The guide didn’t speak English and no one asked us if we were
claustrophobic, afraid of the dark or if we could swim. The entire experience cost us about $7 bucks. In short, we loved Guatemala! We also visited the spectacular Lake Atitlan surrounded by green mountains and the legendary Mayan ruins of Tikal, the capital of the ancient people who predicted the realignment of the universe in 2012.
Belize: Go Slow Girl, Go slow
Belize is the stereotypical paradise that really is all it’s cracked up to be. When La Kathri (Katherine) and I arrived to Caye Caulker, we were luckiest girls in the world. Our first night we went to a bar and had a local guy named Pops start talking to us and invite us to his private island about a 20 minute boat ride away. We were traveling with a spanish guy named Pedro and an Isreali girl named Shirly and he said the more the merrier and invited them too.
So, the following morning at “10am” island time, which is really about 10:45am he picked us up on his motorboat and we spent the day snorkeling and catching the fish, lobster, and conch that we bbq-ed that night on his little slice of paradise.
The following day was more of the same incredible luck to be doing all of the touristy things (eating great food, snorkeling on the reef) without paying for it and without the throngs of backpacking hippy dippy tourists, which I usually consider myself a part of.
At one point while I was walking back to our little cabana, a local man on the bike called
out “go slow girl, go slow”. And so I did. We had been rushing around Guatemala trying to see everything and it was nice to stay in one place for 4 whole nights. We caught up on our sunsets and discovered the joy of One Barrel Rum with fresh coconut water. This is an amazing place, you better Belize it!
Mexico: Tacos + Under the sea
Kathri and I had a rough start in Mexico. Both of our cameras, my shoes and her journal got stolen within hours of crossing the border into the supposedly more “developed” country and we decided to wallow in our stupidity by indulging in the best part of Mexico: the food! Every day tacos de mole, al pastor and fajitas stung our lips with a plethora of flavors, with au jus dripping down our fingers and stinging our bug/flea bites and staining our shirts. But it didn’t matter because our mouths were rejoicing with flavor and textures that Californian mexican food has watered down to a safe American standard. The epic food sustained us as we completed our four day Open Water Scuba Diving Certification in Tulum, Mexico.
For $315 each we were granted lifetime admittance to the magnificent underwater world of colors and calmness. We walked through the jungle laden with air tanks, BCs and regulators and jumped 6 meters into a cenote (an underground river canal) known as a “the pit” where a cloud of hydro sulfuric gas floats 28 meters under water until people swim through it. Diving in the The Pit was one of the most beautiful, spectacular experiences of my life. Nature decided to mess with our stereotype of the elements and put them all together: smoky air suspended in crystalline water below the Earth. Wow nature, you win again.
One night at our hostel someone asked me what had happened to my leg. I assumed he was referring to why mosquitos tend to devour my flesh when I noticed there was a long red line tracing from about mid thigh to my ankle. The next day there were blisters forming along the line and I realized I had been stung by a jellyfish. I never felt anything, but it is a bad ass scar to give me some street cred.
Our last day before flying back to the land of flushing toilets was spent in Cancun livin la noche loca. We did not have any club attire, so we dressed in bathing suits and sarongs and somehow managed to get in free to a popular club and dance the night away without paying for anything except for the bus fare back to our cheap hostel in downtown. It was a great night of dancing in the street in the pouring rain and gave us an overwhelming sense of being young and free to end our trip on a joyful note.
[BRIEF WEEK BACK INTO THE USA FOR BROADREACH STAFF TRAINING THEN BACK INTO COSTA RICA]
Nicaragua: $.50 pineapples, and attempting to learn to surf
My travel buddy Sam and I spent the four days in Fortuna near Volcano Arenal in Costa Rica swimming under waterfalls, hot springing in a celestial blue river and cooking with people from all over the world at our $5/night hostel, and then crossed the border to Nicaragua. We spent a couple days exploring the Ometepe Islands of Lake Nicaraguawhere ancient pottery pieces lay strewn across the beach and snakes weave between the thatched roof above your hammock.
Sam had a generous buddy from Nicaragua who let us stay at his beach house in the small surfer town of San Juan del Sur for an entire week fo´ free! I went surfing for the second time in my life on a board that was shorter than I was at the national surfing competition (aka humungous waves) and ended up pretty sore, a bit flogged and redder than a lobster. Learning how to surf is like having any trace of belly button lint flushed out of your body via your nose repeatedly. I lost all fear of drowning and felt like I was in an abusive relationship with the ocean. I am far from able to say that I am now a surfer chick, but I did have one amazing moment where all of the starfish aligned and I caught the perfect wave and looked up to see all of my friends on shore hooting and jumping around for me (*fist pump*) - I felt like a rock star.
Costa Rica: Being Paid to Whitewater Raft, Catch Sea Turtle Eggs and Climb Waterfalls, and be responsible for 10 teenagers in a foreign country
For the last 6 weeks my two awesome co-guides Phil and Liz and I have been taking groups of teenagers throughout Costa Rica with a great organization called Broadreach. I had forgotten how difficult teenage hormonal blobs can be. I didn’t know that there could be anything to complain about while whitewater rafting, ziplining through the rain forest, or hiking up waterfalls in a beautiful tropical jungle; but some of the kids in our first group were not that big on movement, bugs or academics, all of which were in abundance on our Costa Rica Sea Turtle Studies course. We did all sorts of incredible things like walking down the beach at night and watching sea turtles dig their nest and lay their eggs. These 200-300lb creatures are so majestic and I felt lucky to be able to not only watch them but to participate in the scientific research being done at the best sea turtle lab in the world in Tortuguero, CR. One night I got to countturtle eggs around 2am on a turtle patrol. It was in the middle of a lightening storm with pouring rain and I felt 126turtle eggs fall into my hand with my head inches from the turtle’s powerful back flippers. Luckily she’s in a trance while she lays the eggs so I was not in danger of getting bitch-slapped by a turtle.
The entire experience was filled with hilarious moments, like having a kid have a snake fall on his head, get stung by a scorpion and lay down on a fire ant nest all within 24 hours. We did a bio-luminescent snorkel one night which felt like we had entered Pandora’s glowing night time world from Avatar. We went on dolphin/whale tours and snorkeled with white tipped reef sharks and hawksbill turtles and swam about 100 meters away from a 6 ft. crocodile. We ate delicious fruit on the daily and volunteered at elementary schools where the local kids had rarely, if ever, seen a car. The trip was life-changing both for me and (some of the) kids, but I can’t help but feel relieved that I am currently only responsible for one human being. I have a whole new respect for parents.
And now I’m back in LA for a little less than a week and then off to peaceful, familiar Washington with no return ticket and no exact plans. I am looking forward to settling in one place for an extended period of time but where that will be remains a mystery. I’ve got a few ideas of what to do next swirling in my mind, but I haven’t been around a reliable source of internet long enough to really research and act upon them. More great things to come!
I hope that you are all happy and healthy and I would love to hear what’s been going on in your neck of the woods recently. Do not feel compelled to write a “War and Peace” Part II as I have subjected you to; I’m back in the land of cell phone coverage and would enjoy hearing your voice.
Besos y Abrazos,
I started with a relatively simple premise: An adventure a day. After 24 hours I realized that this campaign would be impossible for me. How can I limit my adventures to JUST one a day?
I’ve been told that I’m always on the move. As one friend told me, “V, you aggressively carpe diem.” The last couple days may be his case in point.
Thursday I slept three hours due to a million vibrating molecules of excitement at the prospect of being a park ranger in Queensland. Waking up was not quite as exhilarating. I love my job as the Communications Liaison for the CA Tahoe Conservancy, an environmental state agency, but computer screen glare doesn’t fill my vitamin D daily dosage.
I biked home to host a quick happy hour on my patio below the vanilla scented Jeffrey Pine. By 6:30pm my friend Tim and I were heading towards Cave Rock, a previous cultural site for the Washoe Tribe to catch a sunset over Lake Tahoe. At 8:30, after a quick refuel of overly greasy burritos, the California standard, we drove to Fallen Leaf Lake. The moon was so full it seemed to drip into the aspens and light the trail. No headlamps necessary as we joined the coyotes in their eerie howls. Salsa verde finger licks and reflection of snow-covered Mt. Tallac made the minutes pull the moon further overhead.
The next day, after another full day in the office, my coworker and I changed into shorts and sandals and pushed off into the blue silk of Lake Tahoe on a windless afternoon. Every time I paddleboard through its crystalline water I find myself in awe. The sand lines wiggle beneath the liquid line that is so clear you have to remind yourself it exists. A vertigo of phases as the eyes move through liquid into air without a visible transition. I can’t describe the feeling of seeing Tahoe inside out, separated from the cold water by two inches of fiberglass looking out towards 8,000 foot white peaks. Moments like these, available in my very backyard, remind me why I live here.
Then again, absence makes the heart grow fonder and I am on the move as I type. This time Matt Robertson and I are rolling down the California coast towards the wooded coastal wonderland of Big Sur. I’ll be surprising my Dad, who is currently camping in San Simeon with my stepmom (the co-surprise coordinator, her official title). We should be pulling in about 1AM since both Matt and I spent all day manning booths at the South Tahoe Earth Day and weren’t able to leave until 6pm.
Even weekend warriors can manage to push the limits on the number of laughs and wows packed into a day. The moments of gratitude for living such an awesome adventurous life are reflections of the joy within.