I got my wish.
I love Utah, but I truly despise the month of January there. I’ve said for years that, if I can have it my way, I will never spend the month of January in Utah again – and missing February wouldn’t hurt, either.
Well, we’re off to a pretty good start. We went to Hawaii, followed by a trade show in Las Vegas, then to India – and I’m writing all of this from Almerimar, Spain. It’s surreal.
2017 began with Allison and me moving out of our apartment in Mount Pleasant, Utah. With some help from a few friends and loved ones, we got most of our belongings into a storage unit – we also shed a ton of stuff, selling and/or giving away the kind of things that tie us down.
It was -5 degrees the day we moved out. Ugly-cold. I actually got freeze-burns on my fingers from handling the frigid steel lock on our storage unit. But we got out in the last possible moment, and sped down to Las Vegas, NV, where we would catch a flight to Oahu, HI. It was a rocky start. We got to the gate just as they closed the flight. It was my fault we were late, so I kicked myself as we settled in for a sleepless night in the airport. But the next morning we were under way. Hawaii!
My sister and brother-in-law were married years 6 years ago. They have two teenage boys from his previous marriage, and they’ve since adopted a beautiful little boy to join their crew. And, being LDS, they’ve all made the decision to be sealed together in the temple. For those of you unfamiliar with LDS Temple Sealings, some people do it on their wedding day, and others wait to do it later. In its simplest form, I suppose it’s a way to renew your wedding vows; we believe this can be done in a more lasting, eternal way, by doing so in a short, sweet ceremony inside any one of many LDS temples. A sealing ceremony can also include children, binding them to their parents as an eternal family. It’s a beautiful tenet of our belief system – one of my favorite things about it. The concept of the Eternal Family is as central to Mormonism as our belief in Christ. I’ll try not to get off topic, but here’s more info about LDS temples for the curious among you.
Anyway, they decided to do all of this in some place special to them, and that place was the Laie LDS Temple in Hawaii.
The only way we can afford all of this travel is to work from the places we visit. We try to schedule our day in a way that allows us to meet all of our work obligations, while balancing work with the need to play and explore. You know. Carpe diem, and all.
As you know, I have a real thing for motorcycles, and – whenever possible – I try to rent one when I’m in a new place.
You may also know I have a thing for BMW enduro motorbikes, particularly the F800GS. This model has been my companion on many an adventure. We named her Lie, after the Hawaiian goddess of the mountains.
One of the best parts of my job is that I can do it from anywhere with WiFi. When I worked in corporate cubicles, taking a break meant stretching my legs in a stairwell or – at best – going out for an Orange Julius at the nearby food court. But WiFi freelancing means when I take a break in a place like Oahu, I can go exploring along the coast for a quick ride, or go out and try any one of a million food trucks along Oahu’s North Shore.
Pro Tip: Get Korean BBQ any chance you get.
I loved riding past the pineapple fields. I don’t think I’ve ever seen pineapples still in the ground before.
Poor Allison was so sick while we were there. She had already been sick for the previous two weeks, and was struggling; plus, she had a ton of work to do that couldn’t wait. So she was a trooper, and didn’t come out with me much until the end of our stay the following weekend. I was glad she could join me.
We knew we wouldn’t be back this way again for a long time (maybe ever?), so we couldn’t pass up the chance to go out and see the Pearl Harbor Memorial. It was so worth it.
A ferry took us out to the Pearl Harbor Memorial, which is built over the sunken remains of the USS Arizona.
The USS Arizona is officially the final resting place of nearly a thousand U.S. servicemen. A total of 1,177 men died on board during the attack. Of those, only 229 bodies were recovered. The rest remain entombed in the sunken wreckage. Some of the men who served on the Arizona and survived the attack that day (and the war that followed) – who have lived into old age and passed away of natural causes – have , by special request, had their remains entombed inside the sunken Arizona. They wanted to be at rest with their brothers.
The Arizona has an oil leak, which they leave as-is. They say it leaks about 9 quarts of oil into the harbor each day. You can see the tiny droplets of oil float to the surface, one after the other (about every 1-2 seconds). Local legend is that the Arizona is crying for its lost crew, and that these tears of oil will continue to seep out of the hull until the last surviving crewman passes away.
It was touching, and I was moved to tears. I was mostly containing it, but this kind of stuff really resonates with me (as you know). I had my emotions mostly contained, but there was no hiding my tearful eyes.
It was then that a cute Japanese couple (about our same age range) approached me. The woman offered me a Kleenex. At first, I followed that stupid, gut reaction to say, “no thank you.” They smiled and turned away, and I realized I was missing out on an important moment. I followed after them and motioned that I would like a tissue after all. They offered it to me gladly, and with reverence, and the symbolism of what was happening struck me to my core. I was wrecked. It was so clear that they were there not just to see an interesting tourist attraction or historical monument. They saw me mourning our fallen, and – in their effort to offer some small comfort to me – it was clear they were to personally participate in the healing of those old wounds.
That moment softened me in ways I wasn’t expecting, and truly defined my experience there.
Well this is it. Last video of our travels to Greece last summer. It takes you from our last days in Athens to the streets of NYC (my first visit ever). Amazing and surreal to go from seeing the remains of temples and buildings first constructed 5th Century B.C. to seeing the modern-day Manhattan.
The video starts out with us cruising through nearby neighborhoods and familiar sites that we walked through during our weekly routine. The Parliament building at Syntagma square. The food and markets at Monastiraki. Our metro station. The U.S. Embassy. Of course, before leaving Athens, we had to hike up the hill in the center of it all to see the Acropolis close up.
We were ready to go home.
Each time I’ve flown internationally, I’ve returned via NYC. But this would be the first time I actually left the airport and visited the city. It’s always a thrill to see the skyscrapers from the airports from the plane as you’re about to land. I almost don’t even mind the long wait to get through customs (almost). I enjoy the feeling of being back in the US, and seeing that giant American flag watching over the endless zig-zagging queue of travelers shuffling through line and waiting get their passport stamped.
Anyway, here’s last video from our wandering last summer:
Watch the other videos on our home page by scrolling down to that section. Or click here.
Allison’s sister, Annie, was there to pick us up when we got stateside. We arranged to get a hotel and spend a little time exploring some of that NYC has to offer.
I’ll include a few of my favorite images from NYC, in [roughly] the order that I saw experienced them.
TAKING THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY
MIDTOWN, THE SUBWAY, & LOWER MANHATTAN
9/11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM
BROOKLYN BRIDGE & NY AT NIGHT
It was stunning and a bit unbelievable to see the city up close for the first time. I’ve been to some big cities, but nothing like New York. I was amazed by the cleanliness of Central Park. I was surprised by the filth and complexity of the NY subway system, as compared to that found in London and Athens. I was gratified with the reverence and tone of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the busy-ness of Times Square.
Also, I was unimpressed by New York pizza that I’ve heard so much about. Meh. I’ll have to try Chicago next.
I really enjoyed walking the Brooklyn Bridge. While taking in the sites and sounds, I remembered watching the news footage the day of the 9/11 attacks, and watching all the masses leave Manhattan on foot using this same bridge (and others).
Overall, I was in awe of the scope of it all . . . just how big, and just how small New York is. I mean, they built it on a tiny little island, and filled up every possible space with buildings and people. To get to one of the biggest cities in the world, you have to take a boat or a bridge. Unreal.
By the time nightfall came – after all the flights and sleeping in airports and walking around Manhattan Island on foot – we were spent. Sitting on the ferry, the low hum and rumble of the engines was a soothing lullaby, and Allie prettymuch passed out immediately. Aside from getting back to Utah, our journey was at it’s end.
Find more of my stuff on VAGABONDORIGINAL.COM or find me:
The week before we left, our place was a bit of a disaster. There were piles and boxes and suitcases all over the floor. Our days were spent sorting, organizing, packing, donating, storing, repacking, deliberating, more repacking, and weighing our bags – over and over. I tend to try to bring everything, for every scenario I can think of. Jeff prepares for the ones I don’t. Between the two of us, our bags fill up quickly.
We flew standby with a layover in Chicago, but we missed our first flight to London, so we had to stay the night in the airport. It was a little miserable trying in vain to sleep with the constant, loud music and PA announcements, but we were glad to have somewhere to lie down – even if it was on curved couches.
When we finally arrived in London, it was nearing midnight and certain metro and bus lines were shutting down for the night. After walking and dragging our bags around for so long, we finally made it to our Airbnb flat. Jeff compared it to Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor, saying, “I can’t recall the taste of strawberries . . .”
We showered and crashed. We both agreed that it was probably the best sleep we had the whole trip.
London is one of my favorite cities in the world, so it was really important to me to show Jeff my favorite parts. Since we were exhausted from so much walking and hauling bags around, it was essential that we take it kind of easy so we weren’t ruined for the whole rest of our trip. Luckily most of these places are within walking distance of each other or a few metro rides away.
Our first stop was admiring Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey from Parliament Square while we had a picnic lunch of sandwiches and crisps from the corner store. We also made it a point to photo bomb as many tourists’ photos as possible.
Then we headed to St. James’s Park that was teeming with ducks, geese, swans, and the friskiest squirrels that chased each other and tumbled around in the grass. From the park, there are great views of Buckingham Palace and my favorite building in all of London, Horse Guards.
While planning our trip to Italy, I knew that if we wanted to do and see all the things that we had on our wish list, we’d need to skip a lot of the long cues to get into museums and monuments. Luckily, I had visited the Victoria & Albert Museum on previous trips to London and knew that not only is it free with no lines, but it also has plaster casts from dozens of original sculptures from around the world.
We decided to skip the Accademia in Florence and had the David all to ourselves in the V&A. To be able to admire his magnificence in solitude was, for me, so much better than waiting in line for hours to just catch a glimpse of him as you’re herded along with the rest of the crowds.
Not only did we have the David all to ourselves, but Michaelangelo’s Moses, Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, Trajan’s Column, and many other masterpieces. If you find yourself in London, don’t miss the V&A.
After sunset, we made our way to the Tower of London and walked across the Tower Bridge. It was chilly and windy, but the panorama views of the city skyline were incredible.
I wanted to treat Jeff to some local pub grub. After a quick Google search, The Lord Nelson led the top of the list by quite a margin (as we soon found out for good reason). Though the quirky, cluttered, and mismatched furnishings and decor added to the hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, the food was exceptionally good. I had my usual fish and chips and Jeff had a burger that was stacked with toppings too tall for anyone without a detachable jaw.
We finished the night with a walk around St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s another of my favorites in London. I’ve always felt on very sacred and hallowed ground when I’m in its presence. I love the stories of its survival during the Blitz, that it served as the backdrop for Walt Disney’s favorite song, and was a perfect place for an afternoon nap the first time that I traveled to Rwanda.
It seemed the fitting place to spend our last night in London before heading to the airport the next day.
Stay tuned for our next update: Rome – The Eternal City
To see more photos:
Wander the Wild on Facebook | Jeff’s Instagram | Allison’s Instagram
Last Sunday, Jeff and I took a drive to the mountains, and though the winds were bitterly cold, I got some pretty great shots. Isn’t that view amazing? Though I was planning to use one of the ‘Novembers’ I had done in calligraphy, I liked the look of this practice one I’d just done with a pen.
November is going to be a really great month. Besides the obvious return of my favorite cold and dreary weather, there’s the start of the holiday season, and I’ve been itching to try this recipe and this DIY.
I’ve been a little shy about broadcasting Wander the Wild to the world, but it’s been nearly a year and it’s time to share it with all my family and friends. Stay tuned for the launch and chances to win some giveaways.
No one is as excited for Fall as I am. That seems a bit high on the hyperbole, but I’m sure it’s true. Though I missed a lot of the heat during my cross country travels with my sister and mom this summer when we were blessed with unusually cool temps across the mid-West, it was still more than enough heat and humidity for me. All summer I dreamt of the crisp days of Autumn and they are finally here. Utah may not have much of an Autumn season, but it’s sure gorgeous here. The canyons are full of warm hues and the skies are streaked with cotton candy colors at sunset.
Jeff and I have had a number of projects that have kept us here locally for a time, but Spain is nearing quickly. We still don’t have a solid date yet, and we may not yet until relatively close to departure, but we love that flexibility that we can stay as long as we want or we can go as quickly as want. We are excited to go and can’t wait to get there, but we feel good about staying here to get these projects completed. It’s nice to feel at peace with where we’re at right now and not longing too much for our future wanderings. Besides, it’s October in Utah. What more could you want?
Feel free to save this handsome image to use as a desktop background or check out the calendars I made for October.
HAND LETTERING BY ME, PHOTO BY JOE FLOYD
For the past few years my sister who lives in Pennsylvania has traveled cross-country to visit family in Utah and stopped at LDS Church History sites along the way. This year she asked me to come along with her three boys and our mom to tour Nauvoo, Carthage, Liberty, and Winter Quarters.
Luckily, the children were mostly darling (bribery was used liberally), the weather was lovely in Nauvoo when we were nearly always outside, and I’ve been surprised how excited I’ve been about learning about my family history. It was difficult leaving Jeff for 3 weeks, and I admit I was rather sad and lonely at times, but soon we will leave all our family behind as we travel to Europe, so it has been a lot of fun to spend so much time with my family that I rarely see.
My favorite part of the trip was going to the Nauvoo Temple. The symbolism in the architecture, the dark stained, antique carved wood, the Sunstones, and stained-glass windows, all of it reminiscent of the time when the early Saints were settled there.