Greetings from Haikou,
A Merry Christmas to you,
Happy New Year, too!
Cheers! A haikou from Haikou- how poetic is that! What a year 2007 has been. I've been on the road since March 16 th and have now gone to 27 countries and four islands in Hawaii on this trip!:
Ireland France Belgium Holland Spain Morocco Italy Germany Switzerland Greece
Turkey Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Montenegro Croatia Bosnia Hungary
Slovakia Austria Poland Czech Republic England Wales Scotland China
I'm in Hainan, China now (I spent Christmas in Sanya, but was in Haikou a few days ago) and I'm about to head down to Vietnam to meet up with some friends and explore Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand before flying over to New Zealand and Australia, followed by Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Germany, Capetown, Kenya, Zambia, Egypt, Germany and finally home.... I think. :) Or maybe Scandinavia first.
What a year it's been! I went out with a bang from AIG. We had a HUGE audit at the end of February and for a whole month I was working 60, 70, even a 90 hour week. Ouch! But we passed with flying colors and then I had two weeks to tie up loose ends in the office, pack away all of my things, say my goodbyes to my dear friends and get ready for the journey of a life time.
The first stop was Hawaii- Maui, the big Island, Oahu and Molokai, where I celebrated the big 3-0. Then it was back to LA for a few days before the one way ticket to Dublin, Ireland. And from there... well... everywhere. :) I've been couchsurfing most of the way, which has lead to numerous adventures, countless great new friendships, and experiences I could never get traveling any other way. For those of you who haven't heard of it, Couchsurfing.com is a travelers network of friends who host you when you visit their cities. Genius. So in Italy I stayed with Italians and learned to make pizza and pasta, in Macedonia I stayed with Macedonians and learned about their culture and saw all of the best sites, in China I stayed with a lovely Chinese couple and learned to make dumplings and hot-pot. In Morocco I stayed with a family and enjoyed cous cous as well as quite the nights on the town with the Moroccan Idol (the Moroccan version of Kelly Clarkson) and his posse of friends. :) Got to explore Greece with a really nice Greek guy and enjoy his father's fantastic Greek food. In fact, at this point I've surfed with over 50 hosts in 26 countries!
Highlights of the year included going to Michael Moore's red carpet premiere of Sicko at Cannes, flying past palm trees in the back of a Rolls Royce convertible in Marrakesh, touring Paris, Rome, Palermo and Naples on the back of motorcycles, Amsterdam via a small boat through the canals, plucking berries and grapes straight from the vineyards in Macedonia and Bosnia. Have you ever fallen asleep under the stars on a ferry in Greece, while the warm trade winds brush across your face? Or walked through an ancient Buddhist temple in a remote city in China, surrounded by only snow and ancient Buddha statues? What about passing a yellow monkey while riding a wooden boat through the Three Mini Gorges in China, or staring in awe at St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Acropolis, the Coliseum, the Terra Cotta Warriors, West Minster Abbey, Schonbrunn, the Eiffel Tower, etc.... And drinking gigantic steins of beer at the kick-off to Oktoberfest surrounded by and singing with new friends clad in liederhosen. Or enjoying proper Guiness with a dear new friend in Dublin. The ocean in Croatia is as blue as blue can be, and the 46 degree/ 120 in Fahrenheit weather at a scalding Montenegro beach in the heat of the summer- well you can't forget that! Thumping bass music swirling over the island of Santorini at night, and clouds of steamy spices wafting into the sky of Djemaa el Fna in Marrakesh.
Bicycle rides through the otherworldly karst topography of Yangshuo, passing ancient rice paddies and villages on the way where little babies and villagers feed you mandarin oranges....... or walking amongst rice terraces in the Longyi (this means Dragon) Backbone rice terraces with a wonderful new friend from Australia and local minority tribe women who invite you to their home where they cook vegetables in a fire pit in the floor! That was my Thanksgiving. Hiking through vineyards to get to the mountain where Mary appeared in Medjugorje- the sun beating down on your back. Putting your fingertip in a bullet hole on the side of a building in Mostar and getting chills down your spine, and the awakening of how lucky we are. How about a stroll through the winding cobblestone streets of Ceske Krumlov, or wandering through Domizliche- the tiny Czech town where your great grandfather came from- climbing the bell tower to look down over the town where your roots come from.
Life is a breeze if you're flexible and easy to please... when you can't find a proper hotel (proper as in one without a prostitute trying to rent a room!!) for a fair price in Bari, Italy while you wait for your ferry to Greece, you can just stay up all night drinking coffee and wine with a lovely Swedish couple, chatting and laughing until the sun finally rises. And the views in Budapest- sitting on a hillside sipping Turkish coffee and watching the red sun set over the Mosques while the prayers are sung over the city. Wow! Palaces, castles, churches, abbeys, temples, snickets, canals. Boats, motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, buses, planes, trains- lots and lots of trains, bicycles, ferries. Always moving, always seeing.
There's so much to tell and share, and all good. I have to say that for the past 9 months of being on the road, it's been almost perfect- but staying positive and meeting tons of fantastic people has a lot to do with that. :) I wish that I had been blogging on the way to keep you all up to date on this journey, but the minimal internet that I do get is usually used to figure out where I'm going next, how I'm going to get there, and where I'm going to stay. And emailing mom and dad to let them know that I'm safe. :) But I can assure you that there are plenty of pictures to tell the story and my New Year's Resolution is to BLOG so that you can play the old "Where's Waldo/Deena" game.
Favorites included beautiful Vienna and Edinburgh, as well as my beloved Germany. Ohrid Lake in Macedonia was also a beautiful visit as I was adopted by an incredible family who took me in as one of their own. And I can say the same for Serbia, Italy, Romania, England, Turkey, Germany. Actually, there's so much good everywhere that it's impossible to explain it all. :) Italy- wow! I've had such wonderful hosts everywhere, and without them this journey wouldn't be half of what it's been so far.
The art has been fantastic- Florence, Rome, London, Paris, Vienna, Shanghai! The ballet in Prague, the Philharmonic Orchestras in both Vienna and Dubrovnik, world class operas in Vienna and London, The Tang Dynasty show in Xi'an, and fantastic acrobats in Beijing. Damien Rice in Cardiff, Wales, Yoav in London. Wow! And the countless local bands at bars.
I had the chance to party with movie stars in Bulgaria with a friend from LA who was directing a movie there. That was very cool and I must say that Steve Zahn (he was in "Sahara") was quite a nice guy!
And of course there was the celeb filled Cannes Film Festival where I saw 25 movies, met tons of French film folks and went to about 17 parties! :) There was also the princess of Latvia who I shared drinks with in London, the ride around London in a Lamborghini, and a tour of Parliament with a friend who drafts legislation! Not bad!
It's been awesome! Bouncing around Italy with a dear friend from college enjoying Limincello, pizza and Pibrokio :), running around Greece with two beautiful Canadians that I befriended in Sicily, visiting old friends in Italy and Germany- my home away from home. I'm lucky enough to have a very dear friend in Germany who takes amazing care of me when I stop in Frankfurt to rest from the travels. Imagine, if you will, waking up to fresh coffee, delicious pastries, home cooked meals, and one of your best friends to share your adventures with every few months. Perfect.
So, there it is. One great year with more standing in front of me! The world is beautiful, life is beautiful and I am blessed! So blessed. But I can't tell you how much I'll appreciate a closet, a big comfy bed, a washer and dryer and all of the comforts of home when I get back. That's the one thing I'll be happy to have and ready for when I return. Consistency. Getting to see my friends and family week after week, not packing and unpacking. Having a normal life again. :)
I miss you all very much and think of you so often. There have been so many little reminders of those that I love since I've been on the road- not a day goes by that I don't think about a dear friend and wonder how they are- so please email back and let me know what you've been up to.
All of my love to you and yours, and may many blessings come your way in 2008. Thank you for all of your love, prayers and support!!Happy New Year and all of my best wishes for 2008! I love you all and can't wait to see you again!
domingo, diciembre 30, 2007
All around the world
Lo que publico hoy es una carta íntegra que me ha llegado de una chica con quien me encontré este verano en Budapest (y con quien volví a quedar en Viena), que estaba realizando una vuelta al mundo gracias a una excedencia que había pedido en su trabajo. No tiene desperdicio...