Lombok: exhaustion and gratitude

Lombok is fascinating but we are simply worn out. Its been a wonderful but long 4 months since we moved out of our apartment. With 10 days left in SE Asia , we found ourselves struggling to finish up on a positive note, mentally and physically wiped. We’d seen small villages. We’d explored on scooters. We’d stayed in tiny shacks and fancy resorts and everything in between. We snorkeled with sea turtles, went to yoga classes, trekked the rice paddies. We were done, except we were not.

A trip around Lombok by scooter let us move at our own pace and find quiet and friendly places where we could reconnect with why we travel. We were tired of the hustle and the lack of schedule, but we pushed forward, scaled back, and found some peace. Now with only 5 days left in our Southeast Asian adventure, our taste for adventure is sated and we’re winding down our trip with some familiar territory and lots of coffee.

The beginning of the travel weariness started for Justin in Malaysia, 3 months after we’d moved out of our place in Seattle. He’s been cycling in and out of it ever since, trying to live in the moment but also yearning for some stability again.  For me, it kicked in with the discovery of bed bugs in our very upscale villa on Gili Air. The horrified owners did everything possible at 10 pm to get the room as clean as they could, but thé bugs were still there and I still got bit and I still couldn’t sleep just thinking about it. I don’t fault them at all, and they were so helpful and apologetic and freaked out, but getting dozens of bites in a very expensive room was the final straw of travel frustration.

We have often found ourselves stuck between traveling comfortably and traveling in a way that feels more authentic. On the nicer parts of the tourist track (Nusa Lembongan, the Gilis), you might as well be in Hawaii for the lack of local life. But when you travel away from places built to cater to tourists, you get swamped with locals, because you stand out as a tourist, and you are immediately a target. Hello Sir! Where are you going? Hello Miss! Money please! We start slipping back into the assumption we work so hard against that no one wants to have a genuine conversation with us. But often it seems there’s always an angle, and that angle is money. Justin put it well- it’s tiring to play the role of tourist for 7 weeks. 7 weeks of (mostly) surface level interactions. 7 weeks of bargaining, avoiding, budgeting, saying no no no no no without feeling like an asshole.

Its hard to feel that you’re constantly disappointing people. We know it’s a poor country. We totally understand people are only trying to make a living. But we can’t buy everything, and we don’t want to, and it’s almost impossible to escape the assault. Even sitting down to dinner in a warung (for authentic local food) opens you up to hawkers of all sorts.

There is so much good to be found, however, if you steel yourself for some minor inconvenience.  We think of ourselves as the type of people who can handle (and even enjoy) the less glamorous side of travel. We like the slow boats, we like talking to people, we like, no, love learning about local life. But the fact remains that we are a job to most of the people we meet. A guaranteed or potential source of income. We still strive to connect as humans. It brusises the ego when we aren’t acknowledged as more than a wallet, but it is because of our privilege that we even get to consider how we relate to others- our actions as travelers are entirely geared towards enjoyment and not about our economic well-being. We are lucky, very very lucky.

There are also, of course, people and moments that make every bit of discomfort totally worth experiencing. Our stay in Lombok taught us that it is totally possible to be tourists and still connect genuinely with local people.

We rented a scooter and left our bags at our homestay near Mataram. We rode to Tetebatu and checked into our homestay, where we were treated to lunch and coffee and plenty of friendly conversation. We wandered around the tiny village in the afternoon, declining tour offers and waving hello to school kids. We ate dinner early at a warung but arrived home to find ourselves invited to dinner on the porch with the family and other guests. We politely declined, as we were full, went to sleep, and woke up to sunshine and roosters and mosques and family chatter. We organized a tour over breakfast, then spent the morning exploring villages and markets and forests with our guide, before retreating from the rain to share a home-cooked meal on the floor of his house. Hours passed as we drank coffee, snacked, and chatted. The afternoon was much the same once we walked back to the homestay, flowing into a simple dinner and then into drinks, and back into coffee again. We talked music and politics and local life. We went to bed late, warm and well-fed and happy.

The next morning we visited the local school. I was so immensely humbled by the welcome we received  (excited kids and gracious teachers), and just being in the classroom made me excited to get back to teaching as soon as we settle. I can only hope we left a positive impression, because the visit certainly made a big impact on us.

After one last coffee, we headed down to Kuta Lombok, where we expected hassle and dingy tourist facilities. We got both, but we also got a welcoming hostess who insisted on making us food, a clean room and good shower, and cheap tasty warungs. Luckily for me, there was also a clinic nearby, as the bed bug bites from Gili Air kept coming up and developed into a full blown allergic reaction. After 2 days of unbearable itchiness, a benadryl injection and some prescription strength antihistamines finally got it under control. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I was so grateful we had travel insurance so the decision to get treated was easy to make.

Our second day in Kuta was meant to be all about the beach, but it rained most of the day, so we relaxed and read instead. We did make it out for some afternoon beach time, and found the surrounding  beaches beautiful, rugged, and surprisingly empty, save a few hawker families and a handful of tourists. Note to future travelers: Kuta beach itself is not great, but worth a walk if you’d like a little more local flavor- beach boys, kids, dogs, and picnicking families abound. The beaches East and west are much nicer.

Segar beach

Mawun beach

We’re slowly winding down now, we’ve made it back to Sengiggi/Mataram and are mostly spending the days drinking coffee, reading, and trying to fix our MacBook (such a fun way to spend 10+ hours and counting). It’s a good time to reflect on the things we’ve learned on this trip so far and to absorb a little deeper the experiences we’ve had. There’s a lot to process, but amidst our exhaustion there is an immense amount of gratitude to the people we’ve met and places we’ve seen. We may be done with Indonesia for now, but we have so much more to learn from this country, and can’t wait to make it back again.

Slow boat!
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Slowing Down (whether I like it or not)

It’s 1:30 pm in Railay Beach, Krabi Province, Thailand. True to historical weather patterns that we hoped wouldn’t play out, it is dumping rain for the 3rd time since we woke up. I’m wrapped in a plush cotton robe, sitting on the front porch of a large 4-star bungalow in the shadow of towering limestone cliffs, overlooking a lush garden, and I would be perfectly content except for one thing. There’s nowhere to run.

Railay Beach lies along a narrow isthmus surrounded by aforementioned giant cliffs. There is a “hike” that goes to a lagoon, but it’s about 900 m round trip and is so steep that most of it is rope-assisted. There’s presumably a beach, but at high tide, there’s none to be found. I think to myself, I could have (should have) run this morning before leaving Ao Nang with its miles of flat road, but know full well I woke up and decided not to for a few marginally legitimate reasons (pouring rain, no sidewalk or shoulder, trash smell, comfort of bed). Too late now; we’re here for 4 days.

I’ve been planning since the start of the year to take it easy with the running on this Southeast Asia journey. I figured after two basically back-to-back seasons of 100-miler training and racing, my body could do with some rest. While there’s a few trails here and there that look exciting, truthfully, our trip is mostly inconducive to running much beyond an hour. I’ve managed to get in about 20-25 miles a week, all mostly easy and slow because it’s too hot and steep to push the pace without overheating. Also, since there’s nothing I’m training for, why would I run in a hot, trash-filled mud pit dodging diesel trucks and scooters?  I’ll happily just stay right here in this hammock and eat another banana.

Except that no matter how many articles and expert opinions I read that tell me taking an extended break is a good thing, the pictures and posts from friends tackling great adventures back home gnaw at me in the special FOMO way that only social media can. I should be absolutely thrilled at my current situation, but part of me (the driven, competitive, primal and, I guess, normal part) feels that I am being lessened with each day that I don’t put in a solid grind on the trails. In the panicked way that our brains work when they don’t have enough to do, I envision this period of less miles per week turns into no miles per week, followed by loss of all aerobic capacity, strength, musculature, a 40-lb weight gain, and a life spent reading crappy novels next to the pool (hey, the selection here is mostly in German, so I took what I could find). I know it’s illogical, but anyone who’s endured a break from training, forced or not, will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Maybe a break would be easier if I were more satisfied with my performance at Cascade Crest (which I’ve already analyzed as had-it-coming, and have accepted on a rational level but not an emotional one). In addition, it took me almost 3 weeks before I had a run that felt good after CC100, and it was barely 4 miles. It’s hard to not feel that I should have recovered faster and felt fresher after a race that was slower than I wanted, even when the data points suggesting the need for extensive rest stared me right in the face (lingering aches, need for lots of sleep, elevated heart rate, irritability). But there’s a gap that still exists between the runner I want to be and the runner that I feel like I am, and it’s hard not to be working my butt off RIGHT NOW to close that gap. Truthfully, what I probably need more than a physical break is a break from that mentality, and thus we are on a trip without trails.

Now, it’s not all gloom and doom, although it would be, were my obsessive need for accomplishment not redirected into more appropriate channels (such as daily core workouts). Beer also helps.  When there is a place to run that looks nice, or a particularly strong urge to move, I make it happen. I’m aiming for an hour a day of exercise of any sort, whether it’s yoga or paddle boarding or swimming or hiking or climbing or kayaking or whatever else looks fun and doesn’t cost $100. I’m also writing more, reading more, and just watching people more. My slower metabolism means I don’t feel hungry 24/7 like I do when training, so therefore I spend less money feeding myself, and have more money for kayaks and beer. It may take daily positive self-talk to get through, but I might manage to make it until December without a single run over 10 miles. And by then, we may have a date for Justin’s citizenship interview, and I can start planning a race calendar, and build back up my mileage, and become obsessive about running all over again.

If you’ve ever taken an extended break from training, what strategies did you use to cope? How did the break help or hurt you after you went back to racing again? 

A Place to Call Home: Build Out for a Subaru Outback

When we started planning our road trip for this summer, we knew that our normal sleeping in the car routine wouldn’t work. Lucy is long enough for us to be comfortable if we take out the back seat and lay out flat, but the nightly shuffle of gear from back to front seats wore us down after 1 week, and led to many pointless arguments about who made what mess of a shabby organization system. We decided to build a sleeping platform with storage underneath, so we could easily roll up to a safe spot, spread out our sleeping bags and crash for the night. While there were plenty of similar styled car platforms out there, I didn’t find many great guides on doing this for a Subaru Outback, so I figured I’d share our process and design (preview: it’s so easy!)

Continue reading “A Place to Call Home: Build Out for a Subaru Outback”

Lucy Goes Wandering: Week 4?!?

The week we fell in love with a new town, and gave up on several things. (You can skip soliloquy below if you just want the recap)

It’s odd how time moves on a trip like this. Although, to be fair, time seems to be moving oddly in every situation, excepting the most boring. An afternoon can go on for ages, but an evening of fishing is done too soon. It simultaneously seems like it’s been a month or two since we were in Yosemite, like we were there in a dream, and that it was just the other day (it was 9 days, actually). Packing in as much as we are, it’s easy to have one campsite blur into the next, to lose a day, to forget something really beautiful until you’re late night scrolling through your photos because you have no cell reception and are bored of your book and can’t sleep. We’re trying to be actively aware of our experiences, but to some extent, you can’t really reflect as things are happening. Reflection is the second round of enjoyment (usually). Part of the “stress” of travel is fearing that you’re not getting enough out of it. Are we on our phones too much? Who do I really need to text? Should we be eschewing social media to obtain enlightenment? Who knows. And we won’t know until it’s all over, so for now, we just go day to day, plan and adjust and deal with things as they come, and try to do what makes us happy. A long introduction just to say, here’s what’s been filling up these days:

July 21:  Ran up to Duck Lake (kind of the classic Mammoth hike), Justin fished, and we hung out at Black Velvet Coffee, our adopted go-to spot for the great drinks (Justin wants me to point out that the espresso was too fruity, but the beer selection was good) and enough space for gulit-free wifi mooching. Also made a killer Manhattan when we got back to camp!

July 22: Fishing day for Justin, lazy day for me. Not a bad view in the whole Mammoth area, it’s insanely gorgeous. But also really hot in the valley, too hot to enjoy the famous hot springs (at least during the day).

July 23: Taking care of business day, mostly- speed workouts (😧), permits, groceries, food packing for our backpacking trip, but we did spend a very enjoyable afternoon at a reggae festival in the Village at Mammoth, replete with a solid happy hour and great people watching. And we got to have another  coffee at BVC, so a great day all in all.

July 24: Backpacking! Yay! after an early start from camp, we lacked enthusiasm on reaching the shuttle pick up, and leisurely drank our coffee and read the news. Got on trail just before 9 am, and it was immediately hot. The packs felt heavy, and we had a big trip planned (40 miles in 2.5 days). We werent feeling it. We tried, we did positive self-talk and ate good food, but the love wasn’t there. 15 miles isn’t a long way to go in a day, but we’re used to doing it fast, and our slow 2.5 mph pace (which, yes, I know is a perfectly good backpacking speed) was killing both of us. By the time we had lunch at Thousand Island Lake, we were ready to reassess our plan. We shaved off a day and 14 some miles of fluff hiking, focusing on just the best spots. Found a nice campsite near Shadow Creek, and settled in for a long afternoon of sunbathing and napping.

July 25: Went for a run up to Cecile Lake, fun alpine exploring (recapped on Facebook), backpacked back out to trailhead, caught a shuttle, went for a swim in Horseshoe Lake, then grabbed a growler fill from Mammoth Brewing and went to Burgers (so tasty after 2 long days on trail). Fueled up with a quad shot Americano,  washed my hair in the forest service parking lot (got my first dirty look of the trip!), and we headed off into the sunset to Utah!

July 26: Got to Provo early, found a nice RV campground for wifi and showers and pool and shade, then went into town, found an arcade and a $5 movie theater, saw Ghostbusters, ate ice cream, groceries, bed.

July 27: The day we spent a lot of money and didn’t get any  sleep (unrelated). Gave up on trying to get Justin’s phone to work so replaced that with a new iphone, and gave up on trying to keep ice in our Coleman in the Utah heat, so we bought a Yeti. Then gave up on being outside and sat at Starbucks for 3 hours planning and editing. Found what looked like great dispersed camping near the Mt. Timp trailhead, but spent the evening like this: 9 pm- pack up for bed. 10 pm-request music to be turned down. We get 10% lower. Okay. We read, try to ignore.  11 pm- teens trying to restart their motorbike, literally 800 times. 11:45 pm- plead, tearfully, with neighbors to stop shooting guns and yelling. Recite list of the last 8 songs they’ve played. They comply, thankfully. 12 am- motorbike gets started, there is yelling, some victory laps, and they’re off. 12:10- asleep. 12:20 am- girl in another campsite starts screaming to just let her go home, she will walk, she doesn’t care if she dies. These histrionics continue across the campground, out onto the road. She threatens anyone who requests her not to scream. Seems to finally run out of energy and sit nearby, sobbing and giving half hearted rants every 10 minutes or so. 1:30 am- Nyquil. Ahh…

July 28: Timp in the morning. Got a late start due to the aforementioned shenanigans. Gorgeous run but kicked my butt. Altitude, heat, and rougher trails than expected.

Took a solid swim in the frigid Provo river to bring me back to life. Justin fished, without much luck. Then I saw a guy, had lots of fishing gear, sent him to talk to Justin. Turns out he literally wrote the book on fishing the Provo, and not only did he loan Justin a fly, he took us out for a night fishing on his friend’s private access, showed us a few holes to check out later and was generous enough to share his vast knowledge about trout and the river with us. Justin caught 4 trout, and we came back to a quiet campground.
July 29: Phew. Today. I should stay on top of these recaps. We drove from our campsite back around to Alta so I could run there – kind of a pain, but so beautiful. Spent 4.5 hours exploring peaks, ridges, cattracks, and wildflowers. Much happier run than the day before.

Then beer and fries at the lodge, an afternoon river float, dinner, and now this:

Off to Aspen tomorrow for familiar faces, cooler temps, and bigger mountains! Whoo hoo!!!

Lucy Goes Wandering: The Backstory

One of my biggest flaws is my general assumption that whoever I’m talking to was party to the minutes/hours/days of internal dialogue preceding the first words out of my mouth. (Or in this case, keys pecked out by my fingers). On a weekly basis, I have to stop, back up, and fill in the plot for whatever scheme or diatribe I’m subjecting my dear patient husband to. And thankfully, someone pointed out that I need to do the exact same thing with this whole trip. While Justin and I have been scheming and planning for months, I’ve generally been restrained in my social media sharing (mostly due to the hectic pace involved in preparing while working, but also partly out of modesty). So here it is, the what and how and why of Lucy Goes Wandering.


What: Lucy Goes Wandering is the name we’ve given to the roadtrip portions of our longer season of adventure: 7-8 months of travel that bounces us all around the globe for purposes of weddings and exploration and citizenship. We start with roadtrip, back to Seattle for Cascade Crest and a wedding, then Australia for Emma’s wedding, Thailand/Malaysia/Indonesia for fun, Australia for a wedding, then back to the US to finish Justin’s citizenship and see my family for Christmas, then back to Australia when the citizenship finishes.

Why: We’ve had a long term plan to travel this summer, then relocate to Australia. Originally, it was going to be South America for 6 months, but then those plans fizzled and Justin’s sister Emma got engaged and scheduled her wedding for mid-September, giving us 10 weeks to explore somewhere. We realized we hadn’t really seen much of the American West, so we settled on a roadtrip.(Actually, the roadtrip is really two roadtrips: a large loop around the west this summer, focused on mountains and fishing and sunshine, and a second cross-country loop in the winter with a focus on visiting family/friends and skiing as much as we can afford). Why the west? All the mountains and running and fishing our bodies can handle, plus lots of sunshine and good breweries.

And finally, why not???

How: That’s the major category of question we’ve gotten: How did you afford it? What did you do with your stuff? Where are you staying? I completely understand the luxury of not working for 8 months, and that this whole thing may sound absurd or entitled or irresponsible. But let me be clear: we worked two jobs for 3 years- lots of 70 hour weeks, lots of Fridays and Saturdays spent pouring beer instead of drinking it. We were frugal, and we kept our goal in mind. We put aside enough money for a house down payment before we even started budgeting for this trip. Speaking of budgets, we made a realistic list of expenses over a year ago and figured out how much that meant we had to put aside each week. And then we did it. We picked up weeknight shifts even though it meant we were tired for a day or two. And then, suddenly, the years of hustle were over and we were on the road.

As for our camping set up, I’ll detail our Lucy build out in another post (only waiting on good photos). But basically we built a sleeping platform in the back of the car, got a roof box, and can store everything we have either under the bed or on the roof, meaning we can pull up to a spot and be tucked in 3 minutes later. We did this to save money on camping, because money you don’t spend camping is money you can spend on beer and french fries.

As for our stuff, most of it returned from whence it came (Goodwill), and our favorite clothes, nice cookware, and ski gear is in storage, ready to fly to Australia when we do. I don’t miss any of it, except comfy chair, which found a safe home.

Where:

For the roadtrip only: we started in the North Cascades, after a test run at Mt. Rainier, then hit Bend, OR for a visit with friends, then Portland for a wedding. After that, southern OR coast and northern California coast (all those details here: Week 1, Week 2). Then Yosemite, and now Mammoth Lakes to round out week 3. Upcoming : Uintas mountains in Utah, then out to Aspen, CO to see my step-brother, more wandering and running around Colorado (Silverton for Softrock if I can swing it), up to Montana via Wyoming/Yellowstone, then on to Idaho and Cascade Crest on August 27. Then a few days to play around the mountains or Seattle, before the San Juans for another wedding. And September 7 we fly out to Australia. Our plan is flexible, as we really only have a few places we have to be, so we are feeling it out as we go. After years of juggling tight schedules and never feeling like there was enough time for things, the wide open itinerary is so liberating.

So on we travel, for the love of sunshine and new playlists and a clear mountain stream, for the joy of sunset on new peaks and a good Americano after a week of making your own, and for the sake of being, at least for this small moment in out lives, almost completely free.