A passport with no more blank pages.
A weariness of packing and unpacking the same clothes over and over.
The knowledge that forever memories are being made and the great pleasure of not working.
This is my 5-week journey around the world.
I’m in Umbria now on the final leg, 10 nights in the gorgeous La Dolce Villa. We’ve planned wine tours, horseback riding and a cooking class but other than that, plans are fluid.
In a nutshell, this is what I’ve done on my trip:
- Peered across Hong Kong Island (if only for a moment), through the dense fog that shrouded my 118th Floor hotel room
- Got a flavor for the streets of Hong Kong on a five-hour walking tour
- Saw the best and worst of Bali
- Tried surfing, hated it and lost a diamond earring in the process
- Shed the diamond earring, a gift from an old boyfriend, and shed some bad Karma
- Dived one of the world’s most dangerous dive sites and survived
- Realized the impact of my constant negative internal banter on my happiness and well-being
- I got drenched in an open-air taxi in Khoa Lak, caught up in the Thai New Year that is celebrated in many ways, including dousing each other and anything that moves in as much water as possible
- Met 25 amazing people on a live-aboard dive boat in the Similan Islands on the Andaman sea
- Missed the Mantas, Whale Sharks and Mola Molas but got to see plenty of octopuses (or octupi), turtles, fish schools, coral landscape and other wonders of the sea
- Visited the 2004 Khao Lak Tsunami memorial and dumped every US dollar in my wallet in the collection box
- Experienced the amazing efficiency of Asian airports and airlines
- Saw Singapore’s Marina Bay Hotel ‘s spectacular light show from my hotel balcony which was too outrageous to explain
- Had a couple Singapore Slings at Raffel’s Long Bar
- Dripped in sweat every time I stepped out into Singapore’s equatorial climate and learned to accept a perpetually sticky, sweaty state of being
- Stopped for two nights in Paris and had dinner with an amazing former colleague and now friend
- Walked the streets of Paris on a glorious Springtime day
- Rented a car at Rome airport and drove (twice) to Umbertide
- Settled into a 10-day villa experience in an old converted schoolhouse
- Learned to live with bugs and little creatures – bees, flies, dragonflies, salamanders, spiders – who have in one way or another shared my lodgings.
Here’s what I felt:
- A love for Hong Kong’s soaring beauty and sensed that I had met New York City’s long lost twin
- Learned that noise is everywhere and that I need to get over my hyper-sensitivity
- A connection with the reality that American self-centeredness holds us back from appreciating the greatness of other nations and cultures and realizing that, while great, we aren’t the best there is
- A deep love for Asian people, culture and (real) food
- Reminded of how much joy diving brings me because 70 feet below sea level is simply the only place on Earth where my mind stops
- Disappointed by the paradox that Bali is – a dirty, chaotic paradise
- Deeply saddened by the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami on Khao Lak, Thailand and realized that our 9/11, while different and incomparable, evokes a similar feeling of huge, unexplainable loss
- Feeling compelled to leave a lot of my money behind in Bali and Thailand as I witnessed the dependence on tourism
- Noticing that the ever-present open air temples (Hindu and Buddhist) in Bali and Thailand are a constant reminder of the power of faith
- Experiencing the customer service culture of Asian airlines and tourist destinations and thinking it’s not simply a function of Ritz-Carlton caliber training, but is in some part, just how people are. Realizing this when I experienced the often forced kindness, snarky-ness and fake smiles of the middle-aged Western airport and airline staff
- Deeply frustrated and a bit disgusted with the extreme inefficiency found in Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and Leonardo Da Vinci airports when contrasted with Hong Kong, Denpasar, Bangkok, Singapore airports
- The buzz-less effect of three diluted Singapore Slings at Raffels’ Long Bar and feeling like the ultimate tourist
- The simultaneous relief and sadness of being back in the Western world and my comfort zone
- The fun in connecting with others’ stories of personal transformation born out of adversity
- The good feelings elicited by Paris’ Spring sun, air and fashion
- The comforts of first class travel on my long-haul flights
- The thrill of driving on Italy’s roads and the extreme satisfaction in the fact that Italians simply do NOT drive in the passing lane
- Being with four twenty-somethings, feeling both old and wise and enjoying the opinions and insights of the younger generation
- Listening to symphony of tree frogs, birds, crickets and other creatures who inhabit the beautiful hills of our Umbria Villa
It’s been great blogging and sharing my journey along the way!