Posts Tagged ‘traveling’

purple eggplantIt’s that time again. The harvest is winding down. Jim bought a small basket of red and green chile so we can roast, peel, and freeze a few baggies to pull out in the middle of winter, when our bodies crave the chemical capsaicin (which produces the heat in chile). The air conditioner is closed up, and the heater turned on.

But it’s also time for one of my frequent journeys to Vietnam. I’ve stopped counting how many this makes — surely I’ve used up the fingers on both hands and am now onto my toes. I can tell you that each time I prepare for another trip, I go through the same bizarre process of mental gyrations.

green (and purple striped) beans Wagner's chile

Roma’s Five Stages of Travel Preparation

Stage One: Avoidance. As soon as I know I have to go on a long trip abroad, I put it out of my mind. After all, the trip is weeks, maybe months away. I sometimes neglect to tell even my family; I don’t want them to fret any earlier than necessary. Although I’ve gotten better about this, it would not have been unusual a few years back to hear the following conversation in my household:

ME: Hey, Jim, I did tell you that I’m leaving on Monday to (fill-in-the-blank-country)?

JIM: What?? No, I had no idea.

ME: Oh, I’m sorry. It was spur-of-the-moment.

JIM: You mean, they only gave you four days’ notice?

Stage Two: Nostalgia.
I walk around my house, the patio, my yard, the girls’ rooms with a sweeping sense of loss and dread. How can I leave all this? I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go!!

Corrales Growers Market with the iPhone, all photos © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Stage Three: Guilt.
Surely my children will be damaged by all my globe-trotting. Don’t people ask me every time I tell them I’m off again, “What about the girls?” I rush around like a crazy woman, trying to make my absence more bearable. I take Em’s Halloween outfit to the seamstress so it will be ready by the time I return. I hang up Dee’s clothes in her closet so she could find them easily while getting ready for school. Jim gets a homemade apple pie–his favorite. So this is what inspired Superwoman, I think.

Stage Four: Panic.
This is the frenzied state I find myself in the day before I leave, my suitcase still not packed. I am relieved to find that my multientry visa is still valid. Whew! It would have been disastrous had it expired. (Been there, done that.) At 8 pm, the hour I should be hitting the sack given that I have to wake up at 3:45 am, I start flinging clothes into my suitcase. It’s cool in Hanoi, hot in the south. Whatever I forget to pack, I’ll just have to buy there. Hmmm, was that a goosebump I just felt?

yellow peppersred potatoes (big ones)
Roma tomatoes

Stage Five: Calm.
Bags are checked, boarding passes in hand. I got an upgrade on the leg from ABQ to SFO. Wandering through airport stores, it dawns on me that I forgot to pack my neck pillow. Pick up a super soft one to add to our collection back home. Also picked up two books I’ve been wanting to read: lit by Mary Karr and Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves. Between the books, my writing and doodle journals, plus a presentation and a bit of writing for work, I will make good use of my alone time. I’m ready for this. Let the fun begin!

A Sampling of (Recent) Vietnam Posts

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lagoon on west lake of hanoi

Lagoon on West Lake of Hanoi, view from the lakeside pier at our hotel (Hanoi in the distance), January 2010, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


my dear Viet Nam
what lies beneath the water?
I see myself in you


Postscript: It is three nights and three days since I’ve landed back in New Mexico after almost two weeks in Vietnam. When our plane hit the tarmac at the Albuquerque International Airport and the flight attendant came on the speaker to say that it was OK to turn on our electronic devices, I sent Jim the following text:


He wrote back:


Cowabunga, indeed.

Landing in san francisco jan 9 2010

Coming back to my life in New Mexico is a re-entry of sorts. At first the transition is gentle. Jim has a dinner of pork loin, baked potatoes, and peas and corn waiting the first evening, and I sleep from 8 pm until 11:30 the next day. Day Two is another reprieve—soft hugs from daughters and Jim’s homemade chicken pot pie—before I’m fully reabsorbed into the fabric of daily life.

After the second night I am a full-time mom once again. I take my oldest shopping for a dress to wear to Winter Dance then plan a menu involving potato-leek soup. I want to sleep during the day but I don’t indulge my longings. If I take a nap, I risk not being able to wake up without feeling like I’ve just emerged from a 100-year slumber.

Something I’ve learned from my trips abroad: unpack within 24 hours of landing and put away my suitcase; else, it will sit on the floor for weeks, a trip hazard in the night when I wake up at 3 am and decide to get up. To avoid hitting an underwear shortage mid-week, I wash and dry, if not fold, my laundry. Connect with friends and family. Pick up where I left off on commitments. Each one of these actions helps me be fully present now that I’m back.

∞ ∞ ∞

There is something about traveling abroad that suits me immensely. I love the solitude of sitting on a plane that’s bound for somewhere far away and feeling like I’m self-contained. It’s not unlike the feeling of freedom that comes from getting into a car and leaving town for a long road trip. How exotic to arrive at nightfall to a town where you’ve never been, to eagerly await morning so you can see what lies beyond.

(Interestingly, the night that I arrived in Hue, Vietnam, right after I slid the key into my hotel room door, I was drawn to the bathroom window where four floors below a tennis match was taking place. And the sights to be had the next day! Ah…saved for another post.)

tennis court under my hotel room in hue

Even so, I would not trade where I am this moment for anything else. There is nothing more comforting than sitting in my small writing room, my daughters tucked into bed, Jim making a late snack of the beans and ham hock that I cooked tonight. 

From the moment I leave my family until the moment I return, I think about them. I notice other children, kids in transit. I smile at fussy babies on the plane. On this trip I even offered to the young parents behind me on the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong that if they needed someone to hold their infant son, I’d be glad to help. They never did take me up on my offer.

Tonight, when I can place everyone I love in relation to myself, I’m content. I am home.

good morning san francisco

-Related to post Reflections Of A Stay-Away-From-Home Mother

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I’m at Arches National Park near the town of Moab, Utah. I don’t know if I’m looking at an arroyo or a wash. Is it both? We set up camp in a low-lying area surrounded by high boulders and pointy crops of red rock. The elevation reaches over 5500 feet.

I’m camping in the desert with photographers from RIT. They are strangers to me until this trip. I’m an MCAD student and see a flyer on the bulletin board for a summer exchange program. I make a plan for one man to swing by Minneapolis on his way to Albuquerque and pick me up. I meet him in a small town in Wisconsin, ride with him along the southern route through Iowa and Texas. We stop to chat with a friendly woman at an east Texas gas station that I would love to interview.

No time. We have to keep driving.

We visit and photograph a hot springs north of Jemez Springs, New Mexico — Spence Hot Springs. It’s a short hike across a foot log over the Jemez River, and up a wooded hill. Before that, I walked around Albuquerque and bought a pair of binoculars in a camera store. We stayed the first night in an old travel motel with a single squat room. Green linoleum floors, a refrigerator, a small stove. It smelled musty like decades of old sweat.

I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for the month trip. It was a time when I took more risks. I didn’t end up being friends with any of the RIT photographers. But the photographs – I’ll never forget pitching my borrowed Eureka! tent right on a ledge over Lake Powell. It wasn’t a smart move. I woke up in the middle of the night to tent stakes being ripped out of the ground by gale force canyon winds. Frightened, I quickly stirred, circled the green flaps and tried to pound the stakes back into the hard earth.

It was no use. I dragged my tent, with everything inside, further back into the grassy area. I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I went out to the edge of what used to be Glen Canyon (until they flooded her to make the lake) and took black and white photographs of the full moon. It was a lonely feeling. Yet the stars were so bright. The way they can only shine in New Mexico or Montana.

Arches Park. The wash. The arroyo. I’m back in Arches. Not long after we pitched our tents in the campsite, a thunderstorm approached. I was starting to get used to the afternoon rains, 108 degree daytime temperatures that dipped to freezing at dark, fierce lightening that cracked across the late night skies. But this storm was different.

The torrential rain hit suddenly and fast, pelting our sun burnt faces and skin. There were about 12 of us in various camping positions around the site. A flash flood rushed headlong down the cracks and gullies between outcropped rocks, sweeping into our campsite.

No time to think. I was taking a nap when my tent floor started filling with water. Unzipppppped the fly and poked my head out to chaos. Everyone was scrambling to get their camera equipment, clothes, and sleeping bags up off the ground and into the cars. Ankle deep water, rising to the knees. Then it was over.

The fire burned all night, flames licking sleeping bags, shirts, and cargo shorts perched on sticks in a circle around the heat. Eventually, we dried out. But I’ll never forget how quickly the arroyo filled with hot-blooded summer rains, scaring the living daylights out of me. A valuable lesson learned about the arroyo seco and the wash – dry to wet in the blink of an eye. If you are living on the land, beware.

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, September 18th, 2009

-Note: lost track of time when doing this practice. It ended somewhere between 15 -20 minutes, probably closer to 20.

-related to Writing Topic post: Standing Your Ground — Arroyo, Gulch, Gully & Wash

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Fish Out of Water, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Nothing like traveling to make a person feel like a fish out of water. It’s an unnatural act, moving among strangers in airports and on airplanes. I sat next to man for two hours from Albuquerque to San Francisco and said nary a word. Not even “Hi.” Which is how I like it, but my Lord, yesterday on the one-hour drive to Jemez Springs Jim did the “New Mexico wave” (two fingers lifted off the steering wheel) to more people in passing cars than I’ll manage to acknowledge in the next 24 hours.

At this moment, sitting in the San Francisco airport, I’m feeling more bull in a china shop than fish out of water. I checked one piece of luggage but still have a soft leather carry-on that is mostly empty right now but will be filled with scarves and other goodies on the return leg. Then there’s my Samsonite laptop backpack, along with my large-dictionary-sized drawing-and-writing supply satchel. I bent down to pick up a piece of paper I’d dropped in the security line and ended up bopping a kid in the back of the head with two of my bags. Right now all my carry-ons and I are spread across three chairs, like we own the place.

When I went to Spain back in the mid-80s, with clothes and stuff enough to live there for a year, I carried a giant tote bag that was so heavy I had to nudge it with my booted foot down the side of the road. The only rolling anything they made back then were racks-with-wheels, the kind you had to bungie your luggage to, and since only old people bothered with those I used the kick-the-can method. I didn’t get my can even out of eyeshot of the train terminal before someone came along and offered to take me to a guest house with rooms for rent. The guy got me to the place without hitch—I ended up renting a room there for two weeks—although I’d never get into a stranger’s car these days.

Ah, there goes another fish out of water. First off, she’s a she. Not many of us single women around, and for all I know her husband and two kids with matching Dora-the-Explora rollaway bags are waiting for her around the corner. But I suspect not. She has a huge purse plus the kind of ginormous Coach shoulder bag that could knock a quarterback off his feet, much less two little kids. And she’s wearing a black dress, red shawl, and dainty round-big-toe sandals. Not the gauzy pants, layered t-shirts and sweatshirts, and Dankos that most traveling mothers wear.

Mostly I recognize the way she looked at me when she passed. A sort of “Ah, maybe I’ll grab a magazine and make myself at home in a quiet corner instead of wandering about the place feeling conspicuous” glance.


Postscript: I’m presently in San Francisco en route to Vietnam for another work-related visit—my sixth since 2005. I’ve written several posts about travel and specifically Vietnam; this post contains links to a bunch of them. Vietnam was the inspiration for finishing the doodle in this post, which I sketched in a pencil outline almost two years ago. Fish Out of Water was a red Ravine writing topic in September 2007. I finished the doodle on my last trip to Vietnam.

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By Marylin

Chrome Hubcaps, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Chrome Hubcaps, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am baffled by most of the high-tech inventions that have come into our lives in recent years, so I am going to express my appreciation for one that is really low-tech. How low? Well, how about wheels? Not just any wheels. I’m talking about the ones that have made my traveling life so much easier and better! I have been an enthusiastic traveler for many years, and being a woman only five-feet tall, with mighty muscles-of-mush, the lugging of luggage has always been a challenge.

My first set of wheels was on a metal cart, in the mid-1970’s. I had observed airline attendants using these and thought they would be great; and they were. It just took time to get my bags strapped on, and a few times the bungee cord wasn’t fastened in quite the right strategic position, and my belongings gradually looked like they were about to drop off, each going its own separate way! But my skill at hooking boxes and bags on the cart improved, and I was even able to keep apace with the British Railroad cars, which only allowed ninety seconds at each stop, for disembarking!

The first wheels I saw actually attached to luggage were on bags belonging to a group of Japanese tourists. I’m sure I turned a lovely shade of jealous green, with eyes glazed over. I had to have a wheeled bag! The first one that came into our local stores only had two wheels on one end, with a strap at the other. I didn’t linger to try it out; I just handed over my money, and could hardly wait to use it.

While it did save time and I didn’t have to bother with the cart, it wasn’t entirely satisfactory. As I mentioned, I am “vertically challenged,” which meant I had to lift my end of the bag by its strap. This proved to be worthy of being an Olympic event which, unfortunately, I had not trained for and so was very tiring.

There had to be a better way. There was, or so I thought when I spied a different version. Yes, it still had a strap but it came with four wheels, one on each corner — a proper set-up for wheels, right? After all, this is where cars, trucks and buses have their wheels; it can’t miss! It rolled along behind me, smoothly, about 90% of the time. Unfortunately, the remaining 10%, it fell onto its side as if it had lost its balance. This happened at very inopportune times, usually while I was entering or leaving crowded elevators in posh hotels. The cause had to be something about going over uneven surfaces (like doorways) that made it behave like a falling-down drunk!

Two decades have passed since my quest for the perfect luggage began, and I am finally satisfied. Again, in observing flight attendants I decided to purchase the same kind of luggage they were now using — a bag with two wheels on the bottom and a rigid, collapsible double bar on top. I can pull it, push it, turn it any way I want; it follows without falling or even faltering! I love it!

In my opinion, frequent flyers should be rewarded for time spent in the airport, as well as in the air. In the meantime, I am just happy that someone thought of the “moving sidewalk,” enabling one to either rest a bit or make “double time” when racing to catch a plane. That telescoping walk-way that we now use to board the plane can only be truly appreciated by those of us who used to sprint out on the tarmac to the plane and up the stairs during a blizzard, with a wind-chill factor of minus 60 degrees!

Ah, so many inventions connected to travel to be grateful for, but luggage with wheels is still my favorite!

    Free Wheelin, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Lock & Key, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Texture, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Marylin (aka oliverowl) is a freelance writer living in Wyoming. She has written essays for a weekly column in the Ventura Star Tribune and collaborated on two picture books for children with her grandson. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. This is her second piece for red Ravine. You can read more from Marylin in her post, Kindness.

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My Whites, laundry on the line on my rooftop terraces, downtown Granada, Spain, photo © 1987-2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

The first time I got on a plane I was 17. Mom said to dress up for the occasion; she normally wore a skirt and heels for plane rides, and she sometimes took a Valium right before the flight. I wore jeans and clogs and acted like I’d been flying all my life.

The travel bug bit me on that trip. I was like the kid whose parents never let her eat candy. Awake for the first time to its pleasures, I couldn’t get my fill. I vowed I would become a world traveler.

At 26 I moved to Granada with $6,000 cash and two suitcases. I trusted everyone and made friends easily. Within weeks I was heading out with Teresa and Alicia to see the country. I became fond of saying, “I’m taking a vacation from my vacation.”

Within a year I’d been all over Spain and Portugal, plus France, Germany, and Denmark. And nary a picture to show for it. I had Dad’s old Kodak yet I brought home exactly seven photos—all grainy and dark. I do, however, have four filled notebooks. And a handful of postcards I never sent.

Yesterday we walked to El Torcal, an eerie rock mountain, and we got a ride down with a busload of little boys. They were singing songs and clapping.


When it comes to traveling abroad, I have a mental block about cameras. For as long as I can remember, I believed that a photograph could never do justice to reality. Cameras proved a poor attempt to capture something that defied ownership—the experience itself.

I also saw cameras, like maps, as the domain of tourists. (I have spent hours wandering lost in foreign cities, unable to ask for directions and too proud to consult a map.) In Spain I was ashamed of the loud, nasally, jogging-suit-wearing Americans who stood in front of cathedrals, snapping shot after shot, and then bothering passersby to take that final picture that contained the entire family.

I was a traveler. A world citizen, not a visitor.

And so my arrogance accompanied me to every place I visited (and every experience had) since. Standing amidst throngs of Vietnamese peering up at a Virgin Mary as tall as a building to see if we could tell whether it was rain or tears running down her cheeks. At the train station in Delhi, searching my purse to find change for an old woman with an open trachea cavity. Walking at dawn through an entryway that opened onto gardens and pools, the white marble of the Taj Mahal shimmering like an oasis.

I’ve been to Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua. Costa Rica, Mexico, and China several times each. Singapore, Ireland, Israel, South Africa. Most of the photos I have from those trips (if I have any) were taken by friends or co-workers. There I am, the only white person in a pub in Soweto. (I even took my camera to South Africa, pulled it out during a safari then put it away whenever people were around.)

I missed my opportunity to capture the phenomenon of “the Jeepni”—those long, open-air Jeep-buses—that dominate the streets of Manila, even though they captured me.

Only 7am yet it seems as though the city has been alive for hours. Everything is coated with a gray dust that goes from black at street level up to the color of light gray in the sky. Signs: U Want 2 B Rich? and Fish-Head Pet Store & Tire Repair. A man is cooking roadside and another bathing himself. People adorn their Jeepni’s: Gemini, Godspeed, Lady Rowena, The Born Winner, Something Special, Jesus the Provider, Jesus the Savior, Jesus Love, Holy Jesus. Jesus has a corner on Jeepni names.

Poverty looks the same in all the places I go. Too narrow roads lined with shacks selling snacks, fruits, peanuts, corn. Children and animals too close to the cars and buses and motorbikes that go careening through the streets. All things for sale, recycled, old mufflers, tires, plants. The Jeepnis choke out black smoke as they wind their way through the streets. Cheaper than buses, but to ride them you have to hold a handkerchief over your nose.

It’s been more than two years since I’ve traveled abroad. I’ve enjoyed the time off. I went to too many places. I hardly remember most of what I saw. It’s been good to stay home as my girls have gotten older.

But finally, it’s time to start up again. In less than two weeks, I’ll take a trip to Vietnam. It’s part of an assignment that will probably take me there at least one more time, maybe more, in the coming six months. I have zero photos from my prior two visits. This time I intend to whip out my camera, whether people notice or not.

I know what’s changed. It’s this blog and the opportunity to publish my photos and write about my trips. (I fear I’ve exchanged one form of arrogance for another.) But no matter the motivation, I aim to make up for lost time.

How about you? Do you do photos or do you just do?




(The top six photos were all taken by me in 1987-88 while living in Spain. I scanned them for use in this post. The four images at the bottom of the post are postcards I purchased that same period in Spain.)

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