Posted in Travel

Home Sweet Home?

Almost 9 months, 7 countries, and countless new memories later and I’m back on American soil (well was). The amount of joy I felt when I woke up to my babies’ aka Deja and Afam aka niece and nephew after that first night is indescribable. And to think that I considered going a over a year without seeing their faces! Waking up in my own bed was definitely worth it but that doesn’t mean it happened without trial.

The voyage over was probably my worst travel experience to date. 2 stops from Copenhagen to DFW in London and Washington with a 5 hour layover made for a 21 hour trip. Barring the 4 a.m. wake up call and saying goodbye to my best/boyfriend the flight from CPH to London was not that bad, we even got breakfast vouchers at CPH since the flight wouldn’t have food on board which I probably would have slept through service anyways. The layover in London was about 3 hours which flew by between customs, going back through security, and the second breakfast. The journey once I got to the states however was a different story. Our flight from Washington to Dallas ended up being delayed due to weather by about 4 hours meaning I would be landing in in Texas close to midnight. Once I finally made it to Texas I was exhausted, tired, and ready to be home in my bed. Those of you that have travelled with me before know how horrible my luck is when it comes to baggage. This time however my luck had changed my bag was one of the first onto the carousel, which is a big deviant from last or lost. I got my baggage with only 2% battery left on my phone and no SIM and proceeded outside expecting to see my father waiting.

20 minutes passed without any reply from all 5 family members (including the one that was supposed to be picking me up).  My phone finally died and all I could think to myself is “why me”. Like I said 9 months, 7 countries, countless memories, to come back home and be forgotten. A number of different scenarios flooded my mind all involving my sleeping father. He’s either asleep at home, asleep in the car, or heaven forbid fallen asleep in the car while driving. I wandered down the airport halls looking for a phone to use in order to call somebody, anybody. With tears welling up in my eyes finally an airport employee with encouragement from a fellow employee leant me his phone. I called all possible cell phone numbers and lastly our house number which was finally answered by my father. Might I add the airport is 45 minutes away from home. SO 45 minutes later my father picked me up and the last leg of my journey home commenced. Fast forward through the night and insert a smiling niece and nephew and three happy hearts making the journey well worth it.

Despite my entire family forgetting about my arrival to the states the trip was one of my favorites of the year. No beaches, mountains, temples, historic landmarks, or castles but just as enjoyable as the aforementioned. Countless slumber parties with Deja and Afam, meals with my mother and father, a slumber party with Paix and Hobbes aka nephews #2 & 3, and catching up with my sisters and friends made for a great trip home. Needless to saying, trying to see and do all of the people and things I wanted to in my short time there was a challenge. With all of the traveling and social events occurring some of you that have been keeping up with me for a while may be wondering, hey isn’t she still in grad school?

Yes, yes I am. The answer to this question is one I have to remind myself of constantly. But during this trip I did not have to remind myself due to the rude wake up call I received. The class I had been close to completing during the time of the trip was called HR Training & Development. The entire course we had been creating a training seminar that would have to be recorded at the end of the class and uploaded for review. Being the intelligent woman I am I did not put together that this seminar would need to be implemented in real life to a real organization in front of real people until the week before it was due. (Yes I will graduate in December and yes I will be going by Master IJ). Long story short I thank Jesus for my man J-beibs aka Jason Bibler aka ACU Volleyball Head Coach aka my brother friend. I had planned a short trip to Abilene to visit the girls on the team and friends still living there ever so graciously Jason added my seminar into the girls’ schedule as a mandatory meeting. Without this training session done I would’ve failed the class and in turn failed the entire masters program while being only 2 courses away from graduating. The seminar took place on the day it was actually due and was uploaded a few hours late but better late then never. Although there were countless mistakes with my presentation (half of the pages were unprinted in half of the packets) the girls had my back and I ended up with a B in the course. It is people like Jason and the girls on the team and countless others in that community that make my memories of Abilene so fond and the reason why it will always have a special place in my heart and on my arm.

Fast forward to present day and I’ve been an official Swede (ok not really a Swede but resident) for almost two weeks now. My first full week has passed and my first visitor come and gone. I’m settling in and am excited for the months to come. Lindesberg is a beautiful and tiny town (9000 pop to be exact) that I am excited to call my new home. This weekend we’ll be traveling to Estonia to play their National team as well as Lithuania’s in our first matches of the season. I hope that you will chose to make the move with me and continue to support my adventure in this next season of volleyball and life.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ

Advertisements
Posted in Tips and Tricks, Travel

Thailand Smells of Rain and Curry: Part 3

Once again I’ve skipped out on another week of posts. Fortunately or unfortunately I’ve been enjoying life entirely too much to keep everyone posted. But don’t you worry because once the move to Sweden happens (Thursday) I’ll have a lot more time on my hands. Moving to a town with 9000 is sure to provide plenty of time to blog/Netflix/read/grad school.

BUT I have for you such a treat, Ricky Bobby aka the bestie has graciously written her hilarious rendition of our Thailand adventures and or fails. So sit back and laugh/enjoy/mentally picture all of the below.

Fall, Jump, Repeat: Directions for a Thailand Adventure

Step 1: Fall

Let me start by saying, I would consider myself a person of average balance and athletic abilities—not necessarily graceful or efficient with movement strategies but definitely safe. With this is in mind, I signed IJ, Al, and myself up for a 3-day trek to be full of elephants, waterfalls, bamboo huts, and whitewater rafting. My last experience with a trek, about 14 weeks ago, was in the rainforest off the Gold Coast of Australia. An elderly gentleman with a single-tip cane and a gait pattern that suggested a history of falls safely accompanied us on that “trek.” This man would not have made it onto the covered truck bed the Chiang Mai adventure company was trying to pass off as a bus.

I realize there are unpleasant things about being outdoors. I’m perfectly capable of handling a bug or two and believe it or not I don’t melt in the rain. These small pains are tolerable especially when rewarded with enchanting views. The hike up the mountain took approximately 3 hours. A fellow trekker broke out her inhaler at least 10 times. Tommy our guide and flip-flop enthusiast slowed the pace to allow for medical rest breaks. At every rest break IJ and I were eaten alive by mosquitos until the torrential downpour. At this point in time, I noticed my well-researched and highly-rated hiking sandals were shit in slick conditions. An hour later, we made it to our bamboo hut. We all sat in awe staring out from the top of the world at peace on earth.

With the memory of the asthma-inducing hike up the mountain fresh on our minds we decided to opt out of the extra day of hiking and modify our trek to 2 days. I quickly realized the hike down the mountain was going to be unpleasant. I fell and fell and fell. After the third fall, Douglas, a Dutch boy with 5 walking sticks in hand and elephant pants on body, decided to comment on the poor traction of my researched hiking sandals. I did not appreciate his feedback. After my fifth fall, we made it to the elephant sanctuary/whitewater rafting venue. The elephants were majestic and the rafting was enjoyable in a “this might not be entirely safe” kind of way.

Step 2:

From the edge of the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, you hear your subconscious say back the truck away from this cliff. The Chiang Mai Grand Canyon is a red quarry where tourists with go-pros jump, flip, and occasionally die off of cliffs. Seriously, the 10m cliff was closed due to a recent death. Luckily for us the 7m cliff was available.

I was the first to jump. After minutes of tip-toeing to the edge and multiple heart attacks, I half-heartedly hopped off the cliff with the worst form imaginable. I broke water in a sitting position with my left elbow winging. Despite the instant bruising of my elbow and my recent enema, I felt proud. Do you know what separates the proud and heckling from the terrified and frozen? 7 meters. Ij jumped next. She was followed by the heard of bleached Aussies and their go-pros. An hour later a kind gentleman talked Al off the ledge. We all agreed once was enough for a lifetime and left the cliff to the fearless and quite possibly crazy.

**When I say my adventures with Ricky are always a good time I mean it. We’ve been so lucky to travel as much as we have already and I’m so looking forward to so many more trips. Hopefully within the year we’ll be telling you tales of beautiful Greecian Islands.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ & Ricky

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Travel

Thailand Smells of Rain and Curry Pt. 2

Almost two weeks late is better than never. The second half of our Thailand Adventure consisted of traveling through the bustling city of Bangkok and beautiful island of Koh Samui. After a successful few days in Chiang Mai we felt as though we had this backpacking thing under control. Little did we know what was in store for us the days ahead. Quickly knocking myself back down to novice traveller status, this post will be all about must don’ts when traveling through Thailand.

  1. Don’t Get Scammed.

Okay so apparently this is a pretty common occurrence in the bustling city of Bangkok that all three of us (Ricky, Cousin Al, and I) were blatantly unaware of. After getting a tuk tuk (open-air cab) to our hostel (Here Hostel 9.5 out of 10 stars) we quickly set out to get some breakfast and wander around town on our own agenda. Walking towards our first destination we stumbled upon a huge temple we wanted to go check out. As we walked into the temple, a man that seemed to be a guard informed us that the temple was closed due to the death of it’s monk. He told us to instead go take a boat ride through the canals, see a “floating market”, then hop off and go to the Grand Temple and Big Buddha. It sounded too good to be true, he even hailed a tuk tuk for us and advised us to ask the boat driver about stopping by the original “Black Buddha” during our ride. So off we went on a new adventure seeking out the Black Buddha. Halfway through our boat ride Cousin Al started to get a little suspicious of the situation. Once the reluctant driver stopped at the “Black Buddha” after we agreed to tip him, Al did some investigating and found another group that got scammed into seeing “Black Buddha” as well. The picture of the fake temple he was looking at on his phone was the exact thing we were seeing before us with our very own eyes. The “Black Buddha” we saw was literally painted black then back to gold and the floating market turned out to be one lady in a boat trying to sell us awful souvenirs. All this to say, don’t get scammed in bangkok. People will try to turn you away from temples or offer rides to temples far off. Do your research, plan your day, and stick to the plan! Although this scam really wasn’t the worst in the world we could’ve used the extra 1500 baht on a drink for the hot summer day.

  1. Don’t bargain with Taxi Drivers.

Getting around bangkok on public transportation depending on your location can be difficult. Most tourists rely on tuk tuks or taxis to tote them around. 99.9 percent of the time these drivers will give you a price that is inflated 3 or 4 times over what the meter should tell you. When getting a taxi, always ask the driver if they’ll use the meter, if they won’t they are pretty much trying to rip you off. Depending on the time of day, your patience level, and your bank account, of course bargaining for a taxi ride might do. But for “backpacking” always stick to meter taxis or try your luck with the public buses and metro.

  1. Don’t miss out of the Night Markets.

Night markets are filled with the best food and shopping you could ever imagine. We decided to try out the Ratchada Night Train Market and were not disappointed by our choice. Delicious and cheap food followed by shopping galore. Anything that you could ever want to get as a souvenir or a knock off whatever is at the night market. Don’t miss out on the deals and make sure you bring an empty stomach to match.

4. Don’t skip Ayutthaya

It was 7am when our van came to pick us up for the tour we booked through Here Hostel to Ayutthaya. The van was already packed full and Ericka and I got the pleasure of riding shottie for what we thought would be an hour long drive. 10 minutes later we stopped and our Thai hosts told us to get out. We stood on a curb and waited. And waited. They filled up a van that was headed to Ayutthaya but for some reason our party of three didn’t make the cut so we waited so more as it began to rain. About 20-30 minutes later another van came that we were graciously allowed to embark upon. Low and behold Ericka and I were picked as the chosen ones once more to sit in the front “seats”. After a 45 minute or so drive we finally arrived in Ayutthaya. The stress of the morning was more than worth it because of it’s beauty. The city was once the capital of Thailand but had been burned down after multiple attacks. If you are traveling through Thailand and making a stop in Bangkok a day trip to Ayutthaya is more than worth it, the only advice I would have would be to make the trip on your own. The “tour” that we paid for started late and ended early, was not in the least bit professional and I think making the trip on our own would have been better money wise and time wise.

  1. Don’t go to China Town on an Empty Stomach.

After a long day of adventuring and not having so much time in bangkok, we decided to spend one of our evenings in China Town before hitting up a night market. We planned to go to a very high rated but local Thai restaurant near our hotel and then walk down to China Town. Dinner was delicious but we were more than stuffed. After our mile or two walk down to China Town we were expecting to see market stalls and things to buy. Low and behold China Town is more of a eating toursit spot than a shopping one. The food stalls and open air restaurants looked absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the only thing Cousin Al and I had room for in our stomachs was durian. (If you go to Thailand or Asia in general you have to try Durian and let me know your thoughts!). All this to say when making the trip to China Town go with an empty stomach and prepare to stuff it full with delicious oriental food.

6. Don’t miss out on the last Resort.

After 3 days of being bamboozled in Bangkok Ericka and I (Cousin Al had to cut his vacation short and go back to real life) were so looking forward to our time on the beautiful island of Koh Samui. We (and by we I mean I) chose the cheaper option of flying into Surat Thani taking a bus to the ferry, taking a ferry ride to Koh Samui, and then taking a van to our hostel. This resulted in a 7 or so hour voyage from Bangkok to the Island which was building up our expectations even more. Upon arrival at the hostel our mouths dropped. We pulled up to what looked like a run down shop and was greeted by a boy with an Ipod. He found our reservations and walked us through the office out into what looked like peoples’ homes and into one building with a finger print lock. He walked us into our newest dorm room and my heart sank. The room was huge with numerous beds all empty aside from one other fellow traveller who was out at the time. There was however a guy “fixing” the bathroom/shower that informed us that the shower was broken and everyone would be sharing the bathroom upstairs (the terror). We sat on our beds and Ericka’s mattress was literally the height of a piece of paper, there was dirt all over the floor, and once Ericka returned from the run down bathroom she had been eaten alive by a mosquito. After 7 hours of traveling to get to a beautiful island to relax after a week of jungle trekking and city hopping to say my expectations were not met was an understatement. We decided to head out and get some dinner neither one of us expressing our feelings about the hostel. In the middle of dinner I couldn’t take it any longer and told Ericka I needed to get out of that horror house. She agreed and what happened the next two hours I’m not proud of. At dinner we booked a 4 star resort equipped with 4 pools and 3 bars with their own beach. We are horrible people. We went back to the hostel and planned to sneak out but were stopped by one of the guys working at the hostel informing us of the night out everyone was attending. He was so nice. Despite the great hospitality of the hostel we were determined to get out of there. We waited until the group left for their night of partying and snuck out. With our 12kg bags to tote we began the one mile walk of shame to our new home. One thing was quickly discovered. We are resort girls. One of the wonderful things about backpacking in Thailand is that luxuries are still “cheap” by American standards. Our resort was only 50 bucks a night which was well worth what we got out of it. When traveling cheap abroad, especially as a backpacker, go for hostels they are a GREAT experience. But for the last leg of the trip, or for a beach destination “splurge” a little bit and you won’t ever regret that money spent.

Backpacking through Thailand with my cousin and best friend is a memory and time that I will never forget. It can easily be called the highlight of my summer because of all of the amazing adventures we experienced. Up next a trip to the states to see family and friends followed by a quick stint in Copenhagen. After that, I’ll be taking my three suitcases and loading them on to a train to Sweden to start my next chapter of life.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ