About Sherry Ott

Sherry Ott

Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of http://www.briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She posts over on https://plus.google.com/103115118174711820529/posts as well.

Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at http://www.ottsworld.com.com.


Latest Posts by Sherry Ott

Getting Oh So Distracted in Paris

November 18, 2014 by  

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In three short days I managed to fall in love with Paris yet again.  My original goal in going to Paris was to do the two things I had never done before on my previous 3 trips to Paris – go to the Louvre and Versailles.  However,  I ended up doing neither!  I guess I got distracted – but that’s easy to do in Paris.

Instead I walked around my neighborhood I was staying in, sat at cafes, ate crepes and sipped espressos.   Plus – I had to be honest with myself – as much as I love photographing the outside of the Louvre, I’m not that interested in the art inside.  Instead I went to view the art I love – the contemporary collection at the Pompidou center.  So lest you think that I’m a complete culture-phobe – at least I did go inside a museum in Paris.

Besides museums, I also took in some cabaret and delicious decadent chocolate and French pastries.  One morning I chased the fog to the Eiffel Tower to get a shot of the tower in the clouds. And I also played metro roulette and rode a line out for a ways and then walked through neighborhoods on the outskirts of Paris.  I even ran into friends who also happened to be in Paris, so we had fun in the evenings finding little local joints to sip wine and eat cheese plates.

The three days went way too fast, but I managed to do a lot of photography – and eat a lot of chocolate and cheese.  Paris perfection.

Montmartre  Paris

Montmartre neighborhood stroll.

Eiffel Tower fog

Racing to the Eiffel Tower this morning while it was fogged in was worth it I’d say.

Pont des artes footbridge

The ‘Love Locks’ have taken over the Pont des Artes footbridge in #Paris . Of course the cynical side of me would like to do a study on how many of these locks represent failed relationships. Love…blah.

Pompidou Center Architecture

Love the architectural design of the Pompidou centre. Described as “love at second sight”. Luckily I’m staying near it in my @gowithoh apartment in #Paris – I’ll be visiting the inside tomorrow!

Hugo & Victor chocolate

No – these aren’t marbles – they are delicious filled French molded chocolates from Hugo & Victor. I have officially overdosed on chocolate on my @viatortravel tour this afternoon. We stopped at 9 chocolate houses. I’m pretty sure I’ve made it to chocolate heaven.

Louvre Pyramid

At the #Louvre again – but still never gone inside. I have too much fun playing around on the outside!

rose paris

Beautiful roses graced every table at the restaurant at the top of the Pompidou centre and no one sitting outside to enjoy them but the smokers …and me.

paris metro

Morning commute. I love riding the metro in #Paris as I think it’s one of the best local experiences you can have when you travel. Seeing how people commute in their city is fascinating to me – it’s real life.

Paris Instagram

3 days in #Paris is never enough! Had a great time walking the city, enjoying my local apartment, doing photography, eating ridiculous amounts of chocolate, seeing the Can Can, and spending time w other nomadic friends!

A Las Laderas Peru Home Building Project

November 18, 2014 by  

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Las Laderas

Las Laderas – an impoverished community outside of Lima where we were to build two homes.

The hills of Las Laderas were brown and barren of trees, however they were dotted with little colorful cubes representing simple houses. Josue told me many of these houses built into the hills were filled with single mothers which immediately made my heart sink. The homes were very simple, some made of brick, some of wood, and then many which seemed to be whatever box, wood, and tarp that could be found and somehow stitched together into shelter. This impoverished community is one of the main regions that Project Peru focuses on in helping bring education, homes, and work to people who need it. Many of the children we were staying with at Zapallal Refuge came from homes here in Las Laderas – and that’s what made this whole connection even stronger for me. I had gotten to know the children at the refuge and now we were going back into their community and understanding where they came from.

Today we would be adding to this neighborhood in the hills of Las Laderas. Megan raised $1800 in fundraising and this was enough to purchase materials and labor for a couple of houses to be built in the Las Laderas hills. Megan and I went with Josue the first day so that he could translate for us and get us settled into our volunteering project. He introduced us to Rosa who was Project Peru’s coordinator for Las Laderas projects. Rosa coordinated all the efforts of Project Peru in Las Laderas including being involved in the process of determining who receives new homes. As we walked around the dusty, steep hills with her it felt as if I were walking with a community leader. Everyone knew Rosa and understood how she could be a game changer for them. And simply by us walking around with her we became strangely important too.

Las Laderas

Looking out over the dusty hills of Las Laderas

However Rosa was not one to abuse the leadership she had. Her love of the area and the people were very evident as she led us through all of the different schools, soup kitchens, and projects in which Project Peru has taken part over the years. She told us stories of the children we had come to know at Zapallal and how/why they were there. It is rare that you meet a person like Rosa and an organization like Project Peru. Their work is their life and they have an indescribable drive to help others and make the community a better place. Rosa was someone to look up to, someone who took caring, compassion, and pride in her work to a whole new level.

Rosa’s son, Michel, was a builder and in his spare time he helped construct houses in Las Laderas. Michel was a big muscular man with a welcoming smile. He could hammer a nail in with 2 strokes effortlessly. He spoke no English, but he was going to be our ‘boss’ for the next few days. Ronald was also a local guy who was part of his work crew – so that made 4 of us to build a couple of houses – the work crew seemed pretty scarce, but then again so were the houses.

Building homes Las Laderas

Megan working with Ronald on building the frame of the home

Michel first made sure that we knew the most important vocabulary – hammer and nails – martillo and clavo. Two Spanish vocabulary words I will never forget. Soon we were hammering away at the wood slabs for the walls learning bits of Spanish vocabulary along the way. Megan and I both perked up with our new hammering duties, excited to be doing something tangible and making progress on creating something. Michel and Ronald continued to work on the wooden frames for the 4 walls and Megan and I swung hammers all afternoon. The house was simple – a concrete slab that had been poured earlier for the foundation, and we would construct and put up 4 walls, and a corrugated metal roof with a slight pitch. The walls had a front and back door and one window. No insulation, no plumbing, no electricity. Simple. But it was a huge upgrade from what was previously there.

The new owner of the house was a single mother with 2 young children. She would hover around the work site with her young son affixed to her back with a blanket the Peruvian way. She kindly brought us freshly squeezed juice, and watched in anticipation wanting to be involved but also not wanting to get in our way. Her 5-year-old daughter, Gina, would flit around trying to keep the curious kitten out of our way. Both Gina and her mother’s excitement was palpable, which made the day’s work even more rewarding.

Las Laderas Volunteering

The owners of the new home. Her excitement was contagious!

volunteering building homes lima peru

Megan and Gina become fast friends.

At the end of the first day we had developed a great rapport (via charades) with Michel and Ronald. We had finished a couple of walls, and started the frames on the next two walls. I really felt like a part of a team – a fun team. Megan was practicing her Spanish more and more with Michel’s help and Michel seemed to really take a liking to Megan teaching her hammering techniques and new Spanish words.

The second day Rosa took us deeper into Las Laderas and we visited a few more projects in the area and met more locals and then made our way up the steep hill to meet Michel and Ronald for finishing the walls. We focused on finishing the 2 walls with the door and window cut. After lunch it was time to get the walls up and together on the concrete foundation. I had no idea how 4 people were going to go about this with simple hammer and nails – but Michel conducted as if we were a symphony directing us to stand there, push here, hammer rapido, while we all propped up the walls. At one point I was hold up the front wall myself hoping that a big gust of wind wasn’t going to blow it out of my hands and down the hillside!

Megan entertained everyone with her new ability to roll her r’s – something that she miraculously picked up one night at the Project Peru refuge we were staying at. Michel would try to give her tongue twisters that would help her roll her r’s – however she would also at times spontaneously combust and start rolling r’s out of the blue. I’m pretty sure any person passing by thought she was loco.

soup kitchen las laderas

Eating at one of the soup kitchens in the community. Staffed by local women it serves as a cafeteria of sorts for a bunch of houses.

We remained in the community all day and went to lunch with Michel, Rrrrrosa, and Rrrrronald at the local soup kitchen where they fed the lot of us without ever asking for money. They knew we were working in the community helping with the homes and we were treated like dignitaries. As we were all giddy on a sugar high of Inca Kola, we joked around about the World Cup and the upcoming game in which the US would be playing. It never ceases to amaze me how much fun I can have with people even though I can’t speak their language. People always find a way to communicate – where there is a will there is a way.

We returned on day three focused to put the finishing touches on our first house and start the foundation of the 2nd house. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to finish the 2nd house during our stay, but it was great to get to experience starting a 2nd one and getting it off to a good start. We met the owner of the 2nd house – a young mother who brought her young baby out with her to meet us. She was so appreciative and helpful – at one point she placed the napping baby in the wheelbarrow and dug in and started helping us build the rock wall for the foundation. This is the day when we learned just how much of a struggle it is to build a home in Las Laderas – manually digging out a space in a rocky, dirt hill is not easy. This required the work of a sledge hammer and picks – and lots of muscles that Megan, nor I, really had!

volunteering in lima peru

The mother and her young child – the owner of house #2. She stands in the area where the house will go – after we clear out all of these stones and build a foundation of course!

volunteering las laderas peru

Michel, Megan, Ronald, and me at our foundation site of the 2nd home. We all got along great – despite the language barriers!

At lunchtime we went back to the first house to hang the door and celebrate it’s completion when we were treated with a surprise. Gina’s mother had cleaned off the old construction table we were using for hammering and sawing, put a lovely lace table cloth on it, and surrounded it with 4 chairs. She had made us a celebration lunch that moved me to the core. She brought out Megan’s favorite meal – pollo e fritas and a big bottle of Inka Kola for us all to share. Gina was so excited to be serving us in her new home and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for such a nice gesture. We were supposed to be helping them – and the tables had turned – a table that was dressed up in a lovely lace tablecloth. Our lunch was the perfect way to christen this new home we were a part of.

Volunteering in Lima

Celebration lunch – what a great looking new home!

volunteering in Lima

The first home is complete! Never been so proud of creating something!

I’ve done a lot of volunteering around the world, however I really appreciate the tangible aspect of building houses. It makes me happy to think that we left something useful there – something I know is appreciated, used, and most of all – needed. The whole Project Peru experience was a blessing – like we found this hidden gem in Lima – a place that is often overlooked when it comes to volunteering. The chance to see a bunch of different projects, meet and help out the kids, and build homes was a great combination of volunteering activities. The day Megan and I left was harder than I had imagined it would be. In that short time I had grown attached to the kids and the projects. And as we were showered in hugs and goodbyes, pulling away in the car was strangely sad. But I absolutely know that these kids were going to be just fine. They have a group of loving people supporting them and a future ahead of them.

Learn more about Project Peru, volunteering in Lima Peru,  and the many, many great things they are doing for this community here – projectperu.org.uk
If you feel like donating, please consider giving to the Intrepid Foundation as they match donations!

 

 

Visual Ireland: From Dublin to Belfast & Giants Causeway in the North

November 17, 2014 by  

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The week started in Northern Ireland  with stunning coastal sunsets, a harrowing walk on a rope bridge, and the unique rock formations of Giants Causeway.  In addition, I took a Black Taxi tour around Belfast – an eye opening and disturbing look at the city’s history and how they are moving forward.  And of course while in Northern Ireland I had to have some Bushmills Whiskey while at the Bushmills Inn.  The perfect way to get warm from a chilly day outside – a roaring fire and whiskey!

Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

A beautiful sunset at Giants Causeway. Seeing Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland coast dusk

The ‘blue lagoon’ in Ireland – beautiful dusk on the coast.

Carick-A-Rede Rope Bridge

The Carick-A-Rede Rope Bridge hanging 100 ft above the crashing sea – it was more than a little wobbly! Fishermen erected the bridge so they could check their salmon nets. The original bridge had only a single handrope!

Northern Ireland coast

Northern Ireland’s coastal landscapes are stunning and also colorful when the sun decides to shine! This was the path out to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Even if you wuss out and don’t go on the bridge dangling bove the cliffs, you still get these views!

Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

The rock cylinders of Giants Causeway – so much fun to climb on!

Clonard church Belfast Northern Ireland

Clonard church and monastery where secret peace talks took place in Belfast. And one of the few buildings not destroyed in the neighborhood.

Bushmills inn

When in @BushmillsInn …well – need I say more?

Place Saint Boniface Brussels

Follow the arrow and let the good times roll in #Brussels at Place Saint Boniface.

Trinity College Autumn Leaves

Trinity College in Dublin. Not only were there fall leaves but also fall graduates. A beautiful fall day for a walking tour!

 

 

Food Market at Puente Piedra & Project Peru

November 14, 2014 by  

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Three times every day 50+ people sit down at wooden tables with colorful plastic plates piled high with food at Project Peru, the refuge my niece and I had been volunteering at outside of Lima for a week. I knew it was no easy process to put food on those plates every day, as kids and adults busily work for hours putting together menus that are well balanced yet economical. However, I hadn’t considered the first part of the process – how Project Peru found and purchased the food for so many kids.

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Antonia, one of the many local women who work at the refuge, took Megan and me to the market along with two of the other teenage girls from the refuge. I pretty quickly learned they ran a well-oiled shopping machine. However, it didn’t appear that way at first as we left the walls of the refuge with a wooden crate and a few bags.  Antonia made her shopping list on a soggy piece of paper while sitting on the crate waiting out in the rain for the bus.

Once we arrived in chaotic suburb of Puente Piedra the two girls left us and we went with Antonia. First stop was chicken and fish – my favorite part of the market – the butchers and fish mongers. Whole chickens, beef, pig heads, live crabs, and whole fish were overflowing in the market. Antonia didn’t waste much time and went directly to her preferred vendors and bought up a dozen whole chickens while I snapped pictures and Megan squirmed looking at the inside organs of a chicken. The people in the market were as excited to see me, the foreigner with a camera, as I was to see them and their butchering skills.  Granted – I’m not sure how much of their excitement had to do with the fact that I was with Antonia.  I’m not exactly sure how you’d be received there showing up on your own.  But just remember, a smile and Hola go a long way in any situation.

It was clear not many foreigners ever came to this market – and that was just the way I liked it. Everyone there seemed eager to have their photo taken and even more elated when I showed it to them. There was laughter and smiles as friends in different stalls joked with each other and people vied for my attention like the kids at the refuge.

Strangely, Antonia kept ticking things off her list purchasing things, but didn’t seem to be accumulating anything. I later found out she had the good delivered to a particular stand in the market since there was no way she was going to be able to carry around a dozen whole chickens let alone fish, and a bag of potatoes. Occasionally Antonia would pick up a fruit or vegetable that looked foreign and give it to Megan and me to eat. We normally had no idea what it was – but would always try it anyway. Our favorite – the pacay pod -a green pod that when opened exposed a sugar-rich pulp, similar to cotton candy, surrounding the seeds.  Sweet and delicious!

pacay peru

A pacay vendor.  Megan shows off the pacay pod – a favorite new item we tried.

I could tell that Antonia had a few recipes in mind as she shopped, and I was excited to try the ceviche I knew she was cooking up in her head which translated to her purchases of fish and limes.

After walking around the muddy market purchasing in bulk for about 1 and ½ hours, Antonia smiled at us and led us to the stall where all of the deliveries were made. There we met up with the other two girls who had also been making purchases in bulk and accumulating everything at the one stall. We had a mountain of purchases. Crates of oranges, bananas, limes, clementines, and apples were piling up. So were bags of potatoes, and red onions – not to mention a dozen chickens and equal amount of fish!

If you are looking for a unique Lima market experience that brings you closer to the local culture, then visit the market on your own. The market in Puente Piedra is on every day and is a great experience to simply go and walk around. You can get there by local bus pretty easily from Lima. Go early in the morning for the best market action of course – and don’t be afraid to try things you are offered. You’ll soon be swept up into the hustle and bustle of the vivacious market culture. And it will be a local experience you’ll never forget!

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Corn vendor – love the Peruvian corn – it’s so big and delicious!

Puente Piedra Market Lima

A butcher plays peek-a-boo at Puente Piedra Market

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Fresh Fish – mmmm ceviche!

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Women prepare crabs for sale.

Puente Piedra Market Lima

You can also grab a bite to eat in the market.

Puente Piedra Market Lima

It’s not easy being green – but this vendor pulls it off well! Avocados for sale.

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Rice – a staple in Peru.

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Antonia picking out limes

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Everywhere you look there’s something new and exciting.

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Bananas by the crate

Puente Piedra Market Lima

Teamwork at the market is key!

Learn more about Project Peru and the many, many great things they are doing for this community here – projectperu.org.uk

 

The Natural Beauty of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest

November 9, 2014 by  

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great bear rainforest

I’m a bear viewing virgin, I have never seen a bear in the wild, which I suppose to some people that seems like a good thing. However, I have always wanted to see a bear in the wild, not because I’m some weirdo with a death wish, but it’s simply because I’d like to see one in it’s natural habitat.

Maybe I watched Legends of the Fall too many times where Brad Pitt not only stole my heart but this thought of a connection to a bear also intrigued me. Or maybe I’ll go a little Freudian on you and say that it stems back to my childhood when we went to Glacier National Park and there was news of a recent bear/tourist death which made me terrified to go out of our cabin, yet my dad drug me out and made me hike the trail practically in tears. Who knows, but no matter how many situations I put myself in to see a bear in the wild – it still eludes me.

A year ago I went to Golden British Columbia and was excited to see Boo the bear – a bear in a grizzly bear refuge who they found as a young cub and raised by humans. Even though he was in captivity, I was still really excited to see Boo who lives in a large 20 acre enclosed area on Kicking Horse Mountain. However, strangely even in captivity I still didn’t see Boo the Bear. For some reason he never wanted to poke his head out for me – he stayed hidden away for the days I was there. “Oh – he was just out an hour ago, but we haven’t seen him now,” the handlers would tell me and I’d walk away after an hour dejected.

But this time it would be different. I was in Bear Country – The Great Bear Rainforest. The part of the world where they were so confident you’d see a bear in the wild that they marketed it on the brochures.

The first day I was at Nimmo Bay we split up onto 2 boats for whale watching and within 10 minutes the other boat had spotted a bear and radioed to us. However it was early on and Fraser, our Nimmo Bay Resort guide, knew we’d see plenty of bears in the 3 days we were staying – so he didn’t turn around and we kept on heading towards the whales. A perfectly fine decision, he was the expert.

But I won’t lie – my heart jumped a bit when I heard the news come over the radio and kicked myself for not getting on the other boat. We saw no bears that day – but we did see plenty of orcas, humpbacks, and sea lions.

Day 2 was the day – the day in which we would go bear watching. I woke up anxious and excited. Fraser and Francisco loaded up the boat with supplies and ensured we all had the proper rain gear since this would include hiking and sitting in the forest. This was a true trains, planes, and automobiles type of day – specifically it was boat, truck, dingy, and by foot in order to get to the waterfall where the bears would be feeding.

bear watching Great Bear Rainforest

The rickety dock at Thompson Bay

After an hour and a half on the boat, we arrived in Thompson Bay at a rickety dock. “One at a time and try to stay to the right,” Francisco instructed us as I looked at the plank from the dock to the land wondering and hoping that it was much sturdier than it looked. As we are waiting our turn I hear a car engine turn over and there is a yelp of excitement on the dock by Francisco – little did we know, but Fraser had arranged for us to use an old truck here left by the one man that lived here. Trapper Rick, as they affectionately called him, happened to be away because he was sick.

The day before, Fraser went to pick up keys to the truck on the Trapper Rick’s boat – he was told to get the green keys. However all Fraser found were purple keys – so little did we know but Fraser spent the whole 1 ½ hr boat ride to Thompson Bay hoping that Trapper Rick was colorblind – else we may not be going anywhere today. Quite a gamble – but I learned from that experience that Fraser has nerves of steel. Just the type of guy you want leading a bear watching trip.

We all pile into the ancient Ford truck and Fraser says, “Wow, this is the first time I’ve driven anything but a boat in 6 months!” I laugh as I know that feeling after being on the road for extended periods. We took off bouncing along a ‘barely there’ road for about 25 minutes. At some point in the middle of this bumpy ride we came across a grouse in the middle of the road. Fraser slowed down and tried to move it along and out of our wheel path as quickly as possible. After all we were on a mission to see bears, and the more time we had at the river the better. We had no time for cute little chicken-like birds.

We finally arrived at a dead end where the forest was declared the victor and simply took over. Francisco unloaded the truck and gave us a quick bear talk about how to react if we saw one. I felt like I was 11 again in Glacier National Park – scared to death about being so vulnerable out in the forest walking around on what they call ‘bear trails’. However, they also assured us that they had bear spray, an air horn, and each of them had a firearm on them.

Somehow knowing that they had a shotgun and a pistol made my stomach turn in butterflies yet also made me calm at the same time. We took off for a short hike through the dense woods. It felt good to be walking for the first time in a few days – but we were abruptly stopped – by the Kakweiken River.

We made it across the river in two groups on a dingy secured with a rope and pulley system that went across the river. It was pretty rudimentary – but it did the job. I went over in the first group and Francisco and Fraser went back to pick up the others and left us alone and immediately I was tense.

My bear experts and protectors were in a dingy in the middle of the river and we were just hanging out on the bank – I felt rather exposed all of a sudden. They got everyone over the river and started off hiking again. Soon we came to a rustic cabin with a million dollar view. This is where we would be hanging out for the next few hours to wait for the bears to come.

great bear rainforest

We traveled by boat…

great bear rainforest

We traveled by truck…

great bear rainforest

we traveled by dingy…

great bear rainforest

We traveled by foot

bear watching great bear rainforest

To make it here…our bear watching river

 

Why would they come here near this remote cabin? Because there was food here – not us luckily – there were hundreds of salmon here. There was a waterfall in front of the cabin and a fish ladder had been built here years ago. Fish Ladders are constructed to help the fish get upstream easier. When we walked down to the bottom of the waterfall you could see the masses of pink salmon jumping upstream – or at least attempting to jump upstream.

It was fascinating to see their struggle and I found myself enthralled by them. However they were our bait – the reasons the bears would come – so I couldn’t get too attached to them! We sat down on the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall and waited. I’d scan the rocks downstream by the riverbank just like Fraser taught us trying to see any movement I could. I felt like I was on a police stakeout…waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen.

But nothing happened.

We waited for a few hours and no bears showed up. My mind went into a spiral wondering if I was cursed. I mean really, how can you not see bears sitting in the remote forest at a waterfall full of salmon for 3 hours? They were getting ready for hibernation – they are in their ravenous eating mode – but still they didn’t show up.

great bear rainforest

Trapper Rick’s cabin

It’s not only me who was dejected; Fraser was distraught. He told me he was really disappointed that we didn’t see any bears – more than normal since he knew I had never seen one before. I console him. After all, it’s not his fault, the bears just don’t like me. Everyone else on the trip was also feeling a bit down that I didn’t get to see a bear as they had all witnessed one before.

We continued for the next day to scan the coastal banks while on the boat and even scanned the roadside while driving to Port Hardy – but we saw nothing. Someone suggested that I hang out at the garbage dump and I would most certainly see a bear. I told them that having my first bear sighting at a garbage dump was sort of like losing your virginity in the back seat of a car – more of an unfortunate experience than a good experience. I loved everyone’s enthusiasm around trying to have me see a bear – but only a bear in the wild would do.

So, I went to the Great Bear Rainforest and didn’t see a bear. But I did see a grouse. Fraser said he had actually seen more bear in his lifetime than grouse in this forest – so in some ways seeing a grouse is actually more rare. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to make me feel better or not.

I actually think my #BearWatchingFail was a good lesson, real travel adventures have no guarantees. If I wanted a guarantee, then I’d just go to a zoo, or maybe Disneyworld for a manufactured experience. No, I wanted a real experience and this was a great reminder that Mother Nature doesn’t always hand those over easily. Just because a place offers bear or whale watching, it doesn’t mean that it will actually work out. It’s always good to keep your expectations in check no matter what the marketing material says.

great bear rainforest

Me waiting for the bears to arrive…but they apparently didn’t get the memo.

Regardless, I can sit back and say that my overall experience in the Great Bear Rainforest was phenomenal even without a bear. The landscapes, culture, stillness, and unique environment was enough for me to fall in love with the area. It’s not about one bear, it’s about the overall experience and your attitude. As I sat on the little 18 seater planer on the way back to Vancouver, I silently rejoiced in my grouse siting. In fact – I bet no one else on the plane saw a grouse in the Great Bear Rain Forest except me.

Disclosure:  For this first week of my road trip I am a guest of Failte Ireland.  However all opinions expressed here are my own.

Donegal Ireland & The Wild Atlantic Way, The Road to Mars?

November 7, 2014 by  

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I moved a bit quicker through 3 counties along the Wild Atlantic Way last month. My driving moved up yet another level closer to ‘local’ as I zipped past tourists and tractors on the small winding roads that reminded me of ribbons blowing in the wind. At one point I actually decided that I couldn’t have done this trip with anyone else – I would have hated being the passenger in a car on these roads – I would have been a ball of stress! Getting to drive yourself is yet another great reason to be solo.

This week’s Wild Atlantic Way Instagram update was full of volatile weather – which makes great photography.  I started the week in County Galway where I was introduced to yet another landscape as I went through the town of Roundstone – aptly named since the whole landscape there was huge round stones! Then I made it to the little popular town of Clifden in Connemara. This was an area where I actually had a connection. A guy I met 4 years ago on the Mongol Rally hosted me at the Dolphin Beach House. His family has been running this perfectly placed home on the Sky Road peninsula for years so I was excited to finally get to see it!

I drove through Connemara National Park, the Bens, and fjords and towards County Sligo where I stayed on beautiful Enniscrone beach B&B for a night. It was here that I ran into the surfers along the Wild Atlantic Way.

On to County Donegal to see the largest cliffs along the Wild Atlantic Way – Slieve Leage. It was a windy, rainy day again and I felt like I needed to strap into something when I got out of my car and the wind nearly blew me over! I had to skip the walk to the summit due to high winds and poor visibility – but the overcast skies made for super photography. After another night in a great rural B&B on Inishowen peninsula I got up early the next day and headed to the northern most point – Malin Head. No one was out on the roads that morning – just me and the sheep – and spectacular views.

I was sad to turn in my car…really sad…we had such a great relationship going. And it was just this week that I figured out I had an auxiliary input and could listen to my music on my ipod! My favorite days were these rainy, stormy days where I could sing at the top of my lungs and enjoying the winding views.

boat tied to dock

I realized that my Instagram feed was lacking diversity in color lately – so I bring you blue.

Connemara biking

My biking path today. I had moments of rain, wind, & sun – typical day in #Ireland w @All_Connemara

Enniscrone Beach

Watching the surfers at Enniscrone Beach go out for the morning

tunnel

A green tunnel in Connemara along the #wildatlanticway

abandoned house

The Irish countryside is littered w old crumbling stone homes like this. I find them beautiful memories of the past and often make up stories in my head as I pass by about the families who used to live there. You have a lot of time for your imagination to run wild when doing a solo road trip!

wild atlantic way donegal

Stormy days really do create the best photography. #wildatlanticway

sligo wild atlantic way

On the road again in County Sligo!

Wild atlantic way donegal

I feel like I’m on a road on Mars – but it’s just Donegal Ireland along the #wildatlanticway

Silabh League Cliffs

I adored the colors at Silabh League Cliffs – the aqua of the water & orange/ yellow of the foreground. The wind was brutal up there but the view was worth it!

sheep wild atlantic way

My last day on the #wildatlanticway – I’m heading the the northernmost point in Ireland – Malin Head. The roads are quiet – it’s just me and the sheep.

Cemeteries, Abandoned Buildings & Frightening Places

October 31, 2014 by  

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Every country has them…abandoned scary places. Places that give you goose bumps and make the hair on the back of your neck prickle. For Halloween I thought I’d compile my best scary and creepy pictures from around the globe. It’s heavy on abandoned buildings and cemeteries since those are two things I love to photograph.

Let’s hope you don’t ever get stuck in some of these place alone at night! Trick or Treat! Just in time for Halloween.

Beelitz Abandoned

The abandoned cafeteria of Beelitz Heilstätten, a sanatorium for tuberculosis treatment methods in the early 20th century near Berlin.

haunted house ireland

An old crumbling house in Connemara Ireland

Delhi cemetery

Graves in Delhi India

door shadow

Situated in old East Berlin, the abandoned Alte Fleischfabrik (Old Meat Factory) was owned by the Konsumgenossenschaft (KGB), a consumer association, and was established in 1899.

Presentation Cemetery Cork

Graves of the sisters at the Presentation Convent Cemetery in Cork Ireland

broken lock

A broken lock at one of the many buildings of Beelitz

voodoo gravesight new orleans

Voodoo graves in New Orleans

grave

A grave remains in this residential area in Kauai Hawaii

Residential School Alert Bay

St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Alert Bay BC Canada. Abandoned school where the First Nations people were forced to assimilate into Canadian Catholic culture.

abandoned home Maui

Abandoned home on Maui Hawaii

haunted dentist

Beelitz Sanatorium near Berlin also had a dental room…not a place I’d like to be for a tooth ache.

Muckross Abbey cemetery

Muckross Abbey in Kilarney Ireland. Old graves intermingle with new among the ruins of an old Abbey. Creepy to walk around on a rainy day.

STASI Prison

Old STASI prison cell in East Berlin.

Abandoned house PEi

Abandoned house that reminded me of a scene from Poltergeist. Found on Prince Edward Island Canada – the weeds/flowers are a nice touch…

printing factory berlin

Abandoned Printing factory outside of Berlin

Beelitz abandoned photography

Beelitz room – not too cozy…

Abandoned Turkey

A destroyed and abandoned resort along the Lycian Way in Turkey

PEI Cemetery

Cemetery next to the raging sea on Prince Edward Island Canada

 

A Beautiful Walk Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way…

October 29, 2014 by  

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I continued to work my way north along the Wild Atlantic Way coastal drive and with each hair raising bend and narrow road I began to fall more in love with the Irish culture and history. This week I crossed 2 counties, County Kerry and County Clare, and took the time to slow down, get out of the car for a bit, and use my own two feet to finally do some walking in Ireland.

I think any good road trip needs to have a mix of driving and activities else you stop really ‘seeing’ things; your eyes get used to simply scanning the road at 50 mph and our brain tunes out the rest. Oh – and your ass gets really sore. I got in touch with Ireland Walk Hike Bike, a local adventure operator along the Wild Atlantic Way, and I was able to get to places off the tourist map as well as learn an immense amount about the history and culture of the area. I went out with them in Killarney and on the Dingle Peninsula and it was so nice to be the passenger for a bit and just soak in knowledge. They took me on little hikes around the area, parks, secret photo spots, crumbling Abbeys, old movie sets, and waterfalls. We braved high winds, and pelting rain, and Linda even held onto me while I inched to the edge and took a picture with gale force winds trying to blow me away!

Then they equipped me with maps, B&B reservations, detailed hiking instructions, and sent me further north on my own to see and hike around the Burren, an other-worldly limestone landscape. I did a 14 km self-guided hike while the rain and wind lined up like planes taking off on a runway and then would come rolling across my path in intervals. I was reminded once again that nothing brings you closer to a culture and feeling of a country than walking through it through the good times and bad weather. And the feeling of accomplishment when you complete a hard day is you get to bask in the glow of satisfaction – and treat yourself to a Guinness at the local pub.

Everything started to really come together this week – the land, people, history, and culture. I can hardly wait to see what next week brings on the road!

Kerry Cliffs

The #wildatlanticway lived up to its name today as I was nearly blown off the Kerry cliffs! The blue Atlantic waters below crashed against the coast violently as I held on to the railing!

Muckross Gardens

Take a seat. Walking around Muckross Gardens w @southwestwalks – after the rain the colors come out in full force!

Killarney scenic lookout

Oh Ireland – I even love you when you rain all day. Scenic lookout in Killarney

Dingle Penninsula Home

A home made for the displaced people of the Blasket Islands. Blasket Islands are pictured in the background. W @southwestwalksI

Dunquin Peir dingle

The road to the sea – not for the faint of heart! This winding sea road was the way to the dock and a landing spot for the people living on the Blasket Islands.  Never would have found Dunquin Peir without the help of @southwestwalksI

Cliffs of Moher sunset

The Cliffs of Moher at sunset. And I finally learned how to pronounce Moher correctly (it’s not more) thanks to the locals!  I did a fabulous 6km hike from the cliffs to the town of Doolin – a great way to get beyond the tourist views!

Doing a self guided walk on the Burren from @southwestwalksi – & staying dry w @exofficio

dry stone walls ireland

Stone walls of Ireland fascinate me. I wonder how long some have been around? They use the limestone rocks from the Burren and stack them into fences that run throughout the landscape ensuring that no cows or bulls came charging after me today while I was hiking! They make the Ireland landscape look like a beautiful patchwork quilt.

Ballyvaughn signpost

Which way should I go?! Sightseeing w @southwestwalksi today around Ballyvaughn!

Poulnabrone

The Burren’s famous Poulnabrone (Portal Tomb) dating back to 3800BC. The capstone alone weighs 1.5 tons- begging the obvious question – how did they do that?!

 

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