My first visit to the Rhone Valley, France, was filled with great wine, delicious food and wandering the streets of old cities just to see what was around the next corner. The way the light illuminated one street, while creating deep shadows on the next narrow lane meant that I was constantly lifting my camera to try and capture the scene. Driving next to vineyard after vineyard it was clear to see why the Rhone Valley has such a name for itself in the wine industry and the history of wine making.
Wandering the streets of Spain, feels like stepping back to a time when life was simpler and community was stronger. Town squares were a meeting place for all major events, entrance ways were grand, and people took the time to sit in the street and have conversations with their neighbors or enjoy a coffee or glass of wine.
Instagram worthy photos are impossible not to capture if you are willing to wake up early and watch the sunrise in Cappadocia, as hundreds of hot air balloons fill the sky every morning. With it's consistent winds, stunning scenery and large selection of reputable companies to choose from, Cappadocia is a balloon lover's dream. Hiking up to the top of "Lover's Hill" right in the center of Göreme to take in this phenomenon, I truly did feel like I had entered a scene from a fairy tale.
Cappadocia is one of Turkey's most popular tourist destinations and for good reason! Ancient cave homes from the Bronze Age, and palaces are still visible carved into rocks. Tall "fairy chimneys", or rock pinnacles formed from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, and shaped from erosion reach up to the sky. Walking through this semi-arid landscape, I was reminded of the National Parks of Utah, but with an added sense of wonder of the people who at one point carved their homes into the high up rocks for defense and shelter. With hot sunny days, and cool nights, Cappadocia is a place of wonder that can be explored by people of all ability depending on how far off the beaten path you want to wander. Being a tourist destination there are also plenty of unique hotels, artisan shops, and fantastic restaurants to spend time when you aren't hiking through the valleys, or visiting the open air museums.
The warm sun beats down as we paddle our double kayak across the glassy Mediterranean Sea to the island of Kekova. The now uninhabited island houses the remains of Simena, and ancient Lycian sea-side trading city. On shore pieces of homes, tombs, an early church and a staircase down into the water are still visible after a series of earthquakes destroyed the city in the 2nd Century causing it to sink beneath the water. Kayaking over the turquoise clear water, large pillars from the city long ago pass by beneath the boat of this now specialty protected area of Turkey's past.
Bright blue and aqua water, fresh seafood and a laid back vibe makes the Turquoise Coast a peaceful place to kick back for a few days. Basing ourselves is the seaside town of Kaş, we took a few days to just relax, wander the quaint town, sip an Efes beer on the beach and enjoy wine on the rooftop as the sun went down over the Mediterranean Sea. Once we were feeling rested and ready to explore again we jumped on board a ferry headed to the Greek island Kastellorizo also known as Meis one of Greece's smallest and most distant islands visible from the Turkish coast. The highlight of this island was taking a small boat to Galazio Spilaio (Blue Cave), where once inside the sun rays coming in from the mouth of the cave, reflect off the water and illuminate the stalactites a bright blue color making it feel as if we had entered a scene from the movie Avatar. While so close to Turkey, Kastellorizo, feels like you have entered another country with it's brightly colored buildings, cobble stone streets and uniquely Greek wine. We spent the afternoon sipping wine on the rocks, diving off rocks, wandering through an old castle and enjoying grilled octopus, fresh fish and of course more wine at one of the local restaurants. Taking the ferry back late afternoon to our peaceful room in Kas at The Hideway Hotel, and returning to our rooftop terrace to watch the sun go down as we looked back across the sea to the island we had just spent the day on in Greece.
Once a port town and main center for trade, Ephesus located in Selçuk Turkey, is now an important archeological site with a rich and complex history. Ruled over the years by a succession of Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, the city once was home to 300,000 people in the second century AD. Home to the nearby Temple of Artemis, declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world, and rumored to be where The Virgin Mary spent the last years of her life, Ephesus draws people from all over the world to marvel at what remains of this ancient city. Walking the main street, I could imagine a life so different from mine in a time long ago.
Right off the plane and into the heart of Turkey's cultural capital, Istanbul, where our senses were stimulated at every waking moment. Each day begins with the soothing sound of the morning Azan, or Islamic call to prayer, echoing through the streets just before sunrise. Walking miles on end to explore the history sites of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazar, and resting our feet by stopping for Turkish coffee, the best baklava ever tasted and plenty of cay, a black Turkish tea. With 15 million people calling Istanbul home, in addition to all the tourists from neighboring countries, it is buzzing multicultural metropolis, with some of the best people watching I have done in a long time. Loud music and the smell of nargile fills the alleys around Taksim square at night. During the day taking a fairy across the Bosporus to the Asian side of Istanbul, provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. Seeing the city from the water offers a unique perspective, with quieter streets, markets and green parks I could have sat eating olive, cheese and mezze here for days on end.
Malapascua, an island paradise in the Philippines for scuba diving, white sand beaches and friendly locals eager to share their laid back lifestyle and beautiful home.
It only took a few very long flights across the Pacific ocean, a four hour bus trip and a short taxi boat ride to get to paradise, but once in Malapascua the long journey was instantly justified with a smile that could not be wiped off my face and a lingering sense of peace. A small island in the Philippines north of Cebu, Malapascua is known for its scuba diving, but the above water attractions are just as stunning. Days begin with a sunrise boat trip to an outer reef, just as the sun is peaking over the horizon we jump into the ocean and slowly descend to see the famous Thresher shark, with its long fan like tail feeding on small cleaning fish. Emerging to the surface of the water the warm sun now shines brightly illuminating the clear blue and aqua water, some of the most stunning colors I have ever seen. Sipping hot coffee on the boat, it's only 7:30am and already I feel like everything I had hoped for has been surpassed. Back on the small island we call home for a few days, breakfast is a fresh mango smoothie and banana pancakes. Sunscreen is reapplied for some island hoping adventures, followed by reading in the hammock and an afternoon nap. A fresh seafood dinner eaten by candlelight with toes in the sand and we are off to meet new friends for karaoke and disco night where locals and tourists meet on the basketball court to drink rum and dance under the stars.
"If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots instead of feet."
Is travel an addiction? I believe so. I am always dreaming of the next new place to explore, to experience, and to absorb. Sometimes I catch myself getting ahead of the moment, dreaming about the next. I get so excited about what is to come that I forget to be where I am. Other times I am in a place, where my mind is so still, my body is soft and my heart feel completely at peace. These moments, these places, each sunrise is what I am grateful for. We choose our own path in this world, we make sacrifices for what is important to us, and the memories fuel the future dreams. I will always be a wanderer through this stunning planet, and my goal is to stay present each step of the way.
My first trip to Utah's desert area began in Zion National Park. Rounding the bend toward Springdale in our 1991 Ambulance, converted into adventure camper, my mind was already blown by the brightly colored rocks towering either side of the road. Entering the park I knew we were in for an adventurous few days of hiking, exploring and photo taking. Each hike we did had it's own unique view of this incredible canyon. From the vastness of the Canyon Overlook trail, to the jaw clenching cliffs of Angel's Landing, to the washed out entrance of the Narrows and the stunning sunset at The Watchmen I couldn't take a step without having my camera ready for another shot. The beauty of this place can not be described in words and instead has to be seen first hand. What struck me about Zion National Park is that it's awe inspiring views really are accessible to all. A free shuttle that runs through the park gives passengers views up into the canyon in all directions and plenty of short paved trails allow one to get close to the brightly colored rock. For those with more mobility moderate trails are well maintained, and the adventurous souls have no shortage of elevation to gain, as over over mountain and around every bend, there seems to be a new valley to explore or peak to be summited.
As the sun illuminates the iron rich rocks of Bryce Canyon, Utah, I wander down deeper into their shadows. Peering up I am amazed at their jagged form that has taken millions of years to be carved into these shapes by the wind, sun, water and snow in the sedimentary rock. "Do you see the hunter and the rabbit?" someone asks, pointing off into the distance at one of the Hoodoos. Bryce Canyon National Park is said to have the most abundant number of these tall skinny spires of rock called Hoodoos that often form shapes sending children and adult's alike on a scavenger hunt through the park to spot them all. Driving out of Bryce Canyon at sunrise, these panicles slowly disappear in the rear view mirror as we return to a landscape more familiar, almost as if we are coming back to earth from an adventure on a far away planet.
When a last minute invitation to come down to Costa Rica for a few days of surfing and relaxing in the sun came up, how could a girl say no? This trip was not about taking photos, in fact I even dared to leave my Canon 5D Mark III behind, and instead allowed this to be about seeing the sunset through my eyes without a camera in between the action. Of course I couldn't help but snap a few shots on my phone and point and shoot, which always makes me appreciate the quality of a good camera when I look back on the photos. While I got home and wished I had taken more photo, the time away from a camera was a much needed break that I feel fortunate to have been able to take and allowed for more fun in the water!
Arriving in Tokyo, Japan I was stuck by how a city can be so clean and quiet and yet so bright and lively at the same time. Small independent bars that seat only 8 people line Golden Gai streets, each with it's own theme and feeling. 24 hr sushi restaurants mean that you will never go hungry in this big city. The ski hills in the north island's area of Hokkaido lived up to their reputation of "Japow". Powder so deep that if you fall on a snowboard getting back up again can take a while and don't worry about lift lines or crowded runs, because there are so many different areas to ski that there is an open run for every taste. After a full day on the mountain coming home to a relaxing onsen, (a natural indoor or outdoor hot spring bath) to sooth the muscles, and a multi course traditional Kaiseki meal to not only feed the belly but the soul makes it hard to ever leave this place. Japan is a place I already can't wait to go back to full of hospitality, natural beauty and food to die for.
A quick escape to Puerto Rico, might just have been a life changing experience. While I have traveled to many (39) countries, Puerto Rico struck a chord in my heart. The ease of traveling to a tropical island, that still has the convenience of being a US Territory makes a trip to Puerto Rico an extremely approachable destination. Amazing surf, white sand beaches, a tropical rain forest and incredible snorkeling and diving topped off with beautiful smiles and welcoming people. While this trip was part work and part pleasure, the soothing sunsets and warm sea water made it an experience of reconnection to all that which is important to me.