Tag Archives: traveling

What did I learn from the world?

My friend asked me this the other day.

“You have to have learned something important from being away. You can’t just be away for half a year and not learned anything.”

Of course! I believe people are always learning something, everyday, but I know that isn’t what she meant.

I have been ruminating about this for a while. Were we just sun seekers, or did we have revelations that made us better people? Did we come back having gained something intangible? Were we wiser?

To answer that, I am going to tell an anecdote about a similar experience I had. When I was 17/18, I did a month long Outward Bound trip backpacking and rafting through Colorado and Utah. I asked my parents to support this trip because I wanted to find myself before I went to college. When you start out hoping to change your life, it does put a bit of pressure on you, but the trip did not disappoint. What I learned from that trip was that I could start over – do something I never had done before, stretch myself, challenge myself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, and survive AND enjoy it.

But what about that trip proved that to me? Was it hiking up a bluff when I was totally exhausted in hot weather, but watching that my legs managed just fine? Was it cooking cornbread in a lukewarm pan and eating the half raw dough, and laughing about it? Was it leading the group by compass and being so scared we were going to get horribly lost? Or was it just something in the detail of each day, being outside, doing something different, being away, getting your head out of the minutae of normal life for long enough to make a real change? I think it was the latter, actually. And I think it was the same for this trip.

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12 Apostles rock formations along the Great Ocean Road in Australia

We saw so many cool things; it is hard to even relate to them. We saw Buddhist temples that have been around for centuries. We saw rock formations that were jaw dropping in their raw, physical beauty. We stood and looked at the view from one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world. We stood at the edge of an active volcano and watched it´s smoke drift out over the open ocean. Each one of these moments would have been enough to ruminate over for a year, but we packed them together like sardines in coach class. There was not a lot of time to process. 

But thinking back, those moments are stored in some deep place inside me now, to remember when I need to think about things bigger than the four outer walls of my apartment and the 1km radius in which most of my life takes place. And what´s more, it isn’t only those big moments. It is all the details of all the places we visited. The mundane.

  • The lion´s head on the manhole covers in Australia.
  • The fine mist in the morning in New Zealand.
  • That first view of the South Island from the ferry.
  • The chocolate aisle in Australian grocery stores and that amazing shortbread cookie in the supermarket in Cromwell.
  • The airbnb hosts in Kona and their friendly dog.
  • The loads of new people we met.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • The wave of heat when leaving our hotel in Singapore.

Things that are different about waking up in a place with which you aren’t familiar.

What do they do to you? Do they change you? 

Yes and no.

Yes, because they remind you that you are one of billions of people living in one of millions of habitats. Because you realize how insignificant you are. And because of course – you experience things and people and sounds and smells and tastes that you haven’t experienced before. But that just widens your horizons. It doesn’t change you.

No, because you assimilate these new experiences into the core of you. I´ve been reading the Bhagavad Gita and to me it seems like this is the Atma – the real person you are, in my interpretation kind of like your soul. To put it another way, you don’t need to travel thousands of miles to find yourself, although sometimes it cant hurt to shake up your surroundings a little bit so you can get out of stale states of mind. Your self, your “real you” is there inside of you waiting for you to notice it.

Unfortunately, I am kind of stuck on figuring out how this applies to me. I think I need a little more distance. I have, however, seen an example of what I think I mean with my daughter.

Kiddo´s real self, as far as I can tell, was only made more apparent by the trip. The person I think she is – animal loving, music loving, mostly patient, very flexible, night owl/teenage sleeping, verbal, loving, goofy, curious – was not altered by this trip. She didn’t take in all these new stimuli and become some Australian ranger. She just added koalas and emus and kangaroos to her collection of favorite animals. She realized how much birds are exciting when they are all kinds of different colors. She realized she liked Hawaiian music as well as Psy. (Haha!) This kind of thing. No major changes. I think the only thing that we could only do on the trip, other than of course stay out all day in the sun and sand and water, was eat real Japanese food. Kiddo loves Japanese noodles. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that she loves Japanese food, because the list of things she didn’t eat was longer than the list of foods she scarfed down, but she did love the flavors. 

Japan was the first time I have watched her eat soup broth. Usually she picks out the big bits, like, I used to cook her veggies in chicken stock, but she would never drink chicken stock from a spoon. In Japan, she did. It was a very fancy bowl of clear soup, and she loved it. She ate loads of noodles – soba, udon, fried chinese noodles (aka yakisoba) and maybe others. She ate edamame and ikura and loads of rice. But she didn’t touch raw fish, any kind of katsu, anything with Japanese BBQ sauce on it, anything with Japanese pickles touching it, and so forth. So…it isn’t exactly as if traveling to Japan awakened her palate completely.

I think this is kind of an intensely powerful realization as well as a bit of a let down. Did we travel the world for nothing? I don’t really think that at all. In fact, if anything, this just reinforces what I am learning about Zen Buddhism (so maybe that is why I am having this revelation and not the opposite one!) – that the best way to live well is to be in awe of the world, to be rich from what you already have, to desire just enough to care for yourself and your family, and to practice compassion for all. Being in awe of the world can happen looking at a street lamp on your street, or looking at one on the other side of the world. We have many riches around us right now, where ever we are, and while of course there are tons more things to see in other places,  we don’t need them to feel better or different or fulfilled.

So, there you go, a really long post about how you don’t need to travel to have an awakening. : )

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Melbourne: Food, Zoos, and Prisons

Oh what a wonderful time we had in Melbourne!

First, we ate our hearts out. We had Mexican food, sweets, Asian food (it was a mix of Korean, Indonesian and Japanese), gourmet sandwiches we made ourselves, Australian tapas, beer, wine, and fantastic vegetarian food. Oh, and BRUNCH hello! We ate in St. Kilda, Victoria Market, Fitzroy, Prahran Market, and South Yarra. Kiddo was amazing almost on every occasion, eating with us and not using the iPad very much at all. 

We also had amazing filter coffee at Market Lane Coffee. It was funny because we walked in on a whim (Kiddo was napping in the Ergo and we were sort of dumbfounded about what to do with ourselves) and asked if they by chance had filter coffee and the enthusiastic barista answered that of course they did and then we got into a conversation about Portland and how he had recently met Tim Wendelboe. Wow!

My favorite vittles were probably the mixed pickles at Rice Queen in Fitzroy, the red lentil dal and flatbread at Little Creatures Dining Hall in Fitzroy, and my breakfast at the uber hip Two Birds One Stone in South Yarra.

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Kiddo in her toddler cowgirl hat.

We got Hubby and Kiddo matching ranger hats at Queen Victoria Market. I said I didn’t want one, but I kind of wish I had picked up one anyway. It would have been pretty fun to all match this summer in Norway. Oh well!

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A beautiful mama orangutan at Melbourne Zoo

 

The Melbourne Zoo was a full day activity. It was a good zoo, especially the fact that most of the animals had a good amount of space to move around. We had an amazing time with the grizzly bear and the orangutans – there was a playful baby orang that was jumping and swinging around, along with a couple of maybe teenaged orangs that were wrestling and cuddling. It was breathtaking. They had a really nice Koala enclosure that you sort of meander through. We finally saw a wombat, which was fun. They had a bunch of snow leopards (poor guys – it was so hot!) and a couple of lions and a tiger. They had a huge tapir – man those things are crazy looking! It was a really nice day except for the part where when we were about to get on the tram to go home, we realized Kiddo had lost a sandal, and tried in vain to retrace our steps – it was too close to closing time and everything was closed. It was a real shame – Kiddo loved those dang sandals and they were expensive and super cute. Being leather and sturdy as heck, they easily would have lasted another kid or more. But it is what it is. She keeps asking for the sandals and we just encourage her to wear her shoes instead. Sorry, Kiddo!

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Old Melbourne Gaol

On our last full day in Melbourne we decided to go to the Old Melbourne Gaol. It was my choice. I had just finished the True History of the Ned Kelly Gang, a novel by Peter Carey that I absolutely and unexpectedly LOVED (a book whose hero is a robber and murderer?). Even though it is fiction, it traces the events of the real Ned Kelly´s life and death, so I was excited to go see some of the relevant historical locations in Melbourne. We first went on a tour of the Watch House, which was in use until 1994. Wow. I feel really bad for anyone that had to stay there. The idea is that it isn’t a prison; it is the place you go and are held until you can see a judge. There are no beds, though; it is just a bunch of cells with benches to sit on. Anyway, a woman in uniform led the tour as if we had broken the law, so she was yelling at us and treating us like criminals for a few minutes. Since Kiddo was asleep on my chest she told me in the beginning that if Kiddo woke up we would have to be escorted out. I was immediately in my trademark scared-of-authority meek state, “ok thank you”. Blargh! I hate that. Anyway, it was an interesting look at something I hadn’t thought about (holding cells in Australia), but I was sort of hoping to use Kiddo´s naptime for the proper Gaol tour. We saw it in the end; it was interesting and sad to see the cells and the scaffolding where so many people (some innocent) lost their lives. If I get sad about this, how am I going to handle the Peace Park in Hiroshima?!? Not well, I would venture to guess.

Anyway, we had a great time in Melbourne. It was a place we felt comfortable in. We missed the beachiness of Sydney a little bit, but it was great to get out of the car for a few days and be able to see a lot of the city in a few short days. We would definitely go back!

Breakfasts on the road

This morning as we ate the “big brekky” – that is Australian slang – that Hubby cooked for us (a fried egg, sausage, a grilled tomato and toast), we started talking about what we have eaten for breakfast. We are still in our third country on the road, the first of which was the US, so that leaves just two different breakfasts to get used to.

At my parents, we either ate nothing (Hubby) in order to stay hungry for the other two huge meals or the day, or yogurt/fruit/chia drinks (me). Or we both had toast with cheese or something more akin to Norwegian breakfast. We drank coffee every morning. Alternatively, we went out and ate hundreds of calories of pancakes or something.

In Hawaii, it depended on where we stayed, but mostly we ate either yogurt and fruit or bread and cheese. On Kauai we ate out several times because we found this fab restaurant that had organic produce grown on the property. In Honolulu we ate out once at a hipster café because I had practiced yoga in the morning and was starving and required food immediately. In New Zealand we ate toast, yogurt, and eventually big English breakfasts for the last few days when had a place with a proper kitchen. In Sydney we ate out since we stayed in one tiny bedroom. Breakfasts were really tasty there, but ex-PEN-sive. Everywhere since Portland has had amazing fresh fruit and veg, especially tropical fruit and stone fruit. For me, this has been one of the most fun parts of the whole “escaping winter” thing – back home I would be eating apples, apples and…dried fruits, probably. Here it is literally (antipodean) summer, with all the fresh harvest that brings.

Anyway. Most of the time on this trip, we ate in, and we were talking about how nice that is. Usually, I associate eating breakfast out with (a city) vacation. (When we spend the summer at the cottage, we never eat out for five weeks!) Vacation in that sense means not planning ahead, having someone serve me a cute little teapot that I don’t have to clean afterwards, and getting to pick out whatever I want from the menu. But since we are gone for so long, it is actually really nice to have one long stretching weekend feeling, where we lounge around various motel rooms and b&bs, drinking coffee (Hubby) and herbal tea (me – I have tried to wean myself from daily coffee since I so quickly experience severe withdrawal which is annoying if one day we cant get any caffeine in my system), while Kiddo gets to run around – and no one cares!

We talked about how nice it is that we both like good food (and coffee, and beer, and wine!), so that having a nice meal makes the day feel like an accomplishment. We found a cute little food shop the other day that is only open on Saturday, I think, and sells only organic and/or biodynamic food. We got steaks, breakfast sausages, lettuce, rocket, tomatoes, peaches and jam. It was all delicious. We just ate the last of that food this morning, which was sad but fun. What will we find to eat next?

In about two weeks we will be moving on to Asia. That will bring a whole new dimension to food. Probably, it will be awesome. Kiddo loves rice, noodles, edamame and chicken katsu, but we wonder if she will like Singaporean food and Malaysian food. What will WE eat for three meals a day? But we are excited, and if it is anything like these past few months, it will be sumptuously satisfying. 

Over-/under-stimulated toddler

Kiddo is used to a sort of quiet and kid-friendly life. I stay home with her, and usually each day we would have an activity. We did a music class on Thursdays, a playgroup on Wednesdays, a swimming class on Fridays, and then some sort of park visit or art project or something on the other days.

Then we started traveling. We will be out all day, not really doing kid friendly stuff, but when we get home, grandma and grandpa are home and they play with her. Grandpa plays the piano, she chases the dog, a new or forgotten toy is unearthed and suddenly its 10pm and everyone is exhausted but her.

Then, for two nights, she stayed up until 1:30am. I don’t know if she just “didn’t want the party to end” or didn’t get enough fresh air or rest between our errands and car naps, but the first night, I was convinced it was a fluke. Then it happened the next night and I wanted to scream.

So finally, that next day, we instituted a toddler-centric day. We went to the zoo. We didn’t eat lunch out. We didn’t eat dinner out. We just went to the zoo and came home and instead of searching for bathroom sinks and Hawaii airbnbs, I got down on the floor and played with her. And don’t you think she went to sleep at 9:30pm. Lesson learned!