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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Nusa Penida, or Home

When traveling, especially for long periods of time, I think the goal, even if it goes unspoken, is to find a place that makes you feel more like yourself. A place that allows you to drop the habits and expectations of your everyday life and blossom into a version of yourself that feels complete and natural. A “home away from home” as these places are often called, speaks to your values and strips away the unnecessary to give you opportunities to seek happiness/fulfillment/relaxation/whatever you need.

Fortunately for those of us who value and seek calmness, there’s not a recipe for a dream spot that will appeal to everyone. While I’d heard wonderful things about Ubud, and found it to be charming in some ways, it was a place I’d like to visit again for a few weeks, not uproot and move to. Similarly, Singapore was amazing and rich and so darn comfortable, and I could even see us happily living there for a year, but I wouldn’t call it a place that feels like me. Too much city, too little nature.

Before coming to Nusa Penida, we’d heard that it was a place where you’d probably get lost (guidebook) and a place that was mostly uninhabited (Balinese). There were approximately 3 paragraphs in our guidebook about the entire island, and 17 accommodation options listed on Booking.com. While I was immediately enticed, I also worried that the lack of facilities meant we’d be struggling to find the basics for survival. Looking back, it almost seems silly. We took a small fishing boat over from the busy but small island of Nusa Lembongan, where we’d been blowing our hard earned money on a fancy micro-resort (max capacity of 8 people) with a clifftop infinity pool in which to watch the ocean all day long. A quick ride later, we were on the shore at Toyapakeh, one of 2 towns on the island. As we drove to our bungalows, the driver pointed out some decent restaurants and gave us a bit more background on the island. Apparently, barely populated means 35,000 people. The beach is lined with shanties, shacks, and detritus from decades of seaweed farming along the coast. There are cows and pigs everywhere, tied with thin blue lines to palm trees, happily munching away on the nearby vegetation. Chickens run everywhere, as do dogs, cats, and the occasional goat and duck.

Spee holding onto the seaweed collecting baskets on our boat ride

We checked into our bungalow ($28/night for 3 with AC), rented scooters, snorkel gear, and set off to explore. We ate at the warung (cafe) across the street, where the owner’s little boy dumped out his whole bucket of toys on our table, then proceeded to “cook” us a really nice plate of mie goreng, before we got the real stuff from his dad. We bought fuel from the same family, then headed for the often-Instagrammed Angel’s Billabong (sad to report it is mainly just a large but glorified rock pool- the adjacent Broken Beach was WAY cooler). We knew the road was rough, but we had no idea what was in store. Had we checked the maps before leaving, we would have known to counter-intuitively head inland first, but we naively decided to stick to the coast and after a few kms of fresh pavement, ended up on a “road” that’s really a 4WD track. It reminded us of the drive out to Mattole Beach on the California coast- constant ups, downs, and hairpins, all at angles that seem illogical. It took over an hour to go about 20 km.

This is the good road!
Just two explorers, watching the manta rays swim below

At one point we got stuck on a steep hill that was an obnoxious mix of loose gravel and big chunks of pavement laid down probably 20 years ago. We had just passed some children walking home from school, who ran up behind us and eagerly pushed us up the hill as they showed off all the English they knew (Hello! How are you? What is your name?) before waving us goodbye. A few minutes later, we stopped to check the status of our tires, and a father and son from a nearby home came out to help us, adjusting a few things here and there before sending us safely on our way. On the way back, the same family insisted that we come take shelter from a monsoon shower in their garage. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, yelled “Hello!!” or was otherwise extremely warm and friendly. We finally reached the beach, and it was all crystal blue water, stunning limestone cliffs, and rolling farmland- so similar to the coasts near Kiama and in California that it almost felt like home.

Driving back, we were caught in a heavy monsoon shower, but the elation from our adventure kept us from getting too down about it. Plus, the laughs of all the locals as our parade of soaking wet foreigners passed by helped to lift our moods and let us laugh at ourselves a little bit as well. After stopping by for a snack at the same little hut we’d had lunch at, we unpacked and did some research on the island. Later on, we found dinner at a beachfront warung, where we played with a kitten, joked with the owner, and then headed home for a few rounds of cards and a beer on the front porch of our bungalows.  Apart from the noise of the geckos (no, really, they are LOUD) and the ubiquitous roosters, we slept soundly and woke up to a charmingly sunny morning. There’s a little English/Indonesian coffee shop and gallery situated right in front of our bungalows and we headed there for a decidedly Western breakfast and a big cup of Bali coffee.

I could continue on with the various adventures to be had: snorkeling off the beach, scrambling down cliffsides to fresh springs along the ocean, exploring cave temples, driving the stunning coastal roads, eating at all the local warungs and restaurants, chatting with the multitude of friendly school kids, but I think I’ve given enough examples to make a point. After one month of traveling (exactly one month, as if it was scripted for a movie), we’ve found a place that feels genuinely warm, offers ample adventures, and happens to be affordable as well. So we’re staying. Not forever, just a week, but long enough to absorb a little more of this place, see the hills and hidden beaches, read some books, learn some Bahasa Indonesian, and focus on what makes us feel complete: the right balance between adventure and relaxation, good food and good conversations, meeting and learning from new people.

Malaysia : Balance and Contrast

The advantage (and disadvantage) of stepping out of familiarity into an adventure is the almost certain exposure to the extremes. You will experience physical and emotional discomfort, but also absolute bliss. Physical sensations are heightened, meaning you notice more and feel more whether you want to or not. In Malaysia, we found that the richness of the place was in the contrast between pleasure and suffering, and more so the balance between the two. There were some things we disliked about the country, but the things we loved were amplified as a result.

We arrived in Penang, Malaysia after a flight from Krabi. Its also completely possible to connect over land, but it entails 12ish hours of buses and taxis and for about $20/pp more you can take a one hour flight. Being averse to wasting time, and having some surplus in our budget, we went with the flight. We picked up a car in Penang for the week- we knew there were a lot of things we wanted to see that required driving, and we didn’t want to rely on taxis or organized tour groups.

In the end, I’d second guess renting a car again, especially for our itinerary. While it was helpful in seeing a few sights, especially in Penang and Ipoh, there was also the added stress of driving in a country with road conduct vastly different from the western world. People passed on blind corners of curvy mountain roads, tour buses crammed their way down narrow 2-way streets, and pedestrians, lacking sidewalks, took to the edges of the lanes. Justin drove the whole time, and while I knew I couldn’t have done nearly as well as he did, my anxiety as a passenger turned me into the backseat-driver-from-hell. That being said, having autonomy over plans, and avoiding crowded transport and taxi scams for a week was pretty nice.

Back to Penang. We stayed in a hostel, which after several days of luxury lodging on the beach was a bit of a shock, but gave us an opportunity to be a bit more social. And the location, right at the junction of Little India and Chinatown, in the heart of the historic district (and backpacker ghetto) meant plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and cheap food within walking distance. I’ll write an entire post about the food in Malaysia, but for now, I’ll just say that it’s mindblowing good.

We spent most of our 3 days in Penang exploring Georgetown and seeking out new foods to eat. We loved the city for its size and the diverse mix of cultures. A little history lesson: Penang was one of the British Straits settlements and this early trading establishment brought along many Chinese and South Indian workers and merchants, along with a lot of money. So there are grand colonial buildings mixed with gardens and Chinese shop houses. But more impressive than the architectural mix of cultures is the religious harmony that results from a long history of sharing the same small island. A block away from where we stayed, there was a mosque, a Hindu temple, several Buddhist temples, and a Methodist church, all lying over a short stretch of the same street. The tourist billboards termed it something hokey like Axis of Harmony, but the sense of tolerance and peaceful coexistence was legitimate, and refreshing amidst all of the hateful discourse we’re hearing from the Australian and US political fringes. It wasn’t just buildings sitting peaceful next to one another; shopping malls and hawker centers alike were packed with people of varied races and religions, going about their daily lives in, for lack of a better word, harmony.

We met a pair of guys from Penang and KL out at a bar one night, and asked if the vibrant multiculturalism we saw in Penang actually worked as well as it seemed. They said, well, it depends on where you are. In the cities, it works, and the constant influx of Western tourism and businesses helps keep it that way. In the rest of the country, Malay cultures and Islam are dominant and there’s more racism (against South Indians in particular.) We didn’t notice the racism when we traveled into Ipoh and the Cameron Highlands (although we’re white, so why would we?), but there was certainly a larger Muslim influence, and I felt more comfortable adhering to the conservative customs of the area and wearing pants and sleeves around town.

After a few days in Penang, we drove away from the coast for the first time and headed to the Inland city of Ipoh. The attraction was rumors of cooler weather and jungle scenery, plus a less – traveled city and more amazing food. Some of these things were true- we visited some amazing cave temples set into vast limestone cliffs, and the more open landscape led to some cooler breezes. But the city itself was unremarkable – the food and architecture paled in comparison to the same attractions in Penang. The brand new apartment we were so keen for turned out to be basically a Bluth  home (for non-AD fans- absolute lowest end cheap) without very basic things found in a cheap hotel, like a kettle or cups or shades on some windows. We got out as soon as possible (which was 2 nights of awful sleep with alarms, power outages, and loud neighbors), and didn’t even get back our deposit as the manager was nowhere to be found at checkout.

We headed further inland, to the Cameron Highlands, where, we had been assured by Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor and various travel bloggers, gorgeous mountains, cool nights, hiking, and small towns awaited us. I’ve been trying to come up with a good analogy for what our arrival was like. For you Seattle folks… imagine you’re told you’re going to visit Mt. Rainier, and you actually  end up in  Rainier Beach.  For Australians, imagine you think you’re going to the Blue Mountains, and you actually end up in the busiest strip mall in the Western suburbs. We counted 57 giant tour buses lining the tiny road one morning. There was decent food, but nothing like the culinary paradise of Penang. The hostel we stayed at was fine, but full of younger people seeking mostly to get drunk and do guided walks along the local trails.

Speaking of the trails, they were the whole reason we came to the Highlands. I was craving a trail run desperately. Upon arriving, we found out that some were closed due to armed muggings, others were mostly overgrown, and all were not recommended to do solo. Now, I’m usually pretty brave, but the thought of bashing down an overgrown root – strewn trail with a potential to get mugged, in the rain no less, was, to put it lightly, not appealing. Nevertheless, I headed out to the most used trail, which was supposed to be a nice riverside jaunt. I missed it the first time, but circled back and found a small muddy footpath lined with litter, running alongside a polluted waterway along the back of some apartment buildings. I’m sure you’re all hoping that I stuck it out 200 meters and it became a wild jungle wonderland. It didn’t. I turned around and kept on the only sidewalk in town. I found another trail, tucked across the street from more apartments, but when I followed it, I ended up winding through some very poor and remote  farms and abandoned that trail too. The disappointment was intensified by how strongly I disliked the town- the whole reason I’d come was for good trails, and that was turning out to be a myth. Trying to find the good, we hit another trail in the morning, but trail is a misnomer – it was like a muddy obstacle course, and due to the clouds, there was no summit view to speak of, just moss and telecommunications towers. I tried to keep a good attitude, and a huge group of middle school aged students and their teachers coming up after us helped, but it was still hard to enjoy because it was so different from what we expected.

We bolted to Kuala Lumpur, which entailed 3 hours of nerve-wracking driving (very narrow curvy roads, no lines, no shoulder, and traffic all over the place), and a long stint in gridlocked traffic. Did I mention we had a handy GPS unit from 2001? It was good at giving us a big map we couldn’t zoom in on, announcing turns and exits approximately 3 meters before they came up, and insisted on taking us the wrong way down one-way streets.

Why does one day or place or experience impact more than another similar one? We will definitely come back to Malaysia, particularly Penang and KL, as we appreciated the deep mingling of cultures that characterized both of those cities. I’ve come to think it’s the contrast and balance between the good and the bad that makes things vibrant. Following our hellish descent from the Highlands, we found KL to be equally overwhelming, but with a dose of comfort and a cleanliness that balanced out the noise and crowds. We watched as thousands of people strolled the shopping mall and parks at night, enjoying the cooler air and light show in the shadow of the glamorous Petronas towers. It was ironic that this scene was more peaceful and calming than anything we saw in the Cameron Highlands, but you don’t always get what you expect while traveling, and I guess that uncertainty is part of the appeal as well.

georgetown-2

(All photos by Justin Richards)

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.