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Archive for the ‘Plotting & Planning’ Category

…and being a nudist

….and being a female.

Prior to going to the Netherlands I happened to start communicating with a man living in England who is also a nudist (we met on a site geared towards that).  It just so happened that he went to Rotterdam quite a bit on business and, naturally, spent a lot of time at nude beaches in the Netherlands while he was there.  So he offered to be in Amsterdam at the same time as me and guide me to the nude beach at  Zandvoort.

Hurrah!

So no sooner had I returned from said trip when I received a message from yet another man from said site* contacted me.  This time from Sicily.  Now when flipping through my handy dandy guide book on all beaches nude  I didn’t see much for Italy.  But this man lives on Sicily “in a house with a garden” and swims nude quite often in the volcanic waters off the coast.  Can you imagine!  So when he offered to host, I had no choice but to accept.

In my history I’ve met a lot of people (yes, mostly men) online.  And no one ever fails to tell me “be safe!” when I meet them…even some of the very men I’ve met in the same manner!  But I’m of the firm belief that the vast majority of men in the world are not psychotic murderers/rapists/maulers…they just like women.  And I like men.

However, I am noticing a difference here. Nothing to raise a red flag, just a difference in personalities between Brits and Italians, I guess.   With the Brit, there was A LOT of back and forth via e-mail, proper planning, full communication on both sides so that we could both be assured that we weren’t said psychotic murdering, raping, maulers.  With the Italian it went pretty much like this:

Him: hi [one sentence about me and where I live]

Me: hi, that sounds like a really great place to live.

Him: So I saw you travel a lot to nude beaches.  You should come here!

Me: I’d love to.  So tell me more about yourself.  Do you want to know anything about me?

Him: Well I would like to know if you can make it here to go swimming in the volcanic waters with me.

I’m in the process of drawing more info out of him. My instinct tells me he’s not being evasive, just less interested in “foreplay” than the actually getting to business portion.  I tend to be the same way so I sympathize.  Besides, we have a couple months to chit chat because I’m throwing caution to the wind and going.  But not stupidly.  I always tell two people where I’m going and who with…so they have as much info as I do.   If he ends up killing me, at least I’ll have experienced nude swimming in volcanic waters.

*I won’t mention the name of the site because I have a bit of personal information there and heaven knows one of you sneaky bastards will try and find me.  You know who you are!

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One Small Step!

I’ve been debating when to buy my tickets to Amsterdam…because I’m damn well going…DAMMIT!   Yesterday on a whim I checked out Continental Airline’s website (really the only go-to airline for Houstonians).   I’ve learned from past experience that the rates on that site are ALWAYS cheaper than any of the usual suspects (Orbitz, Travelocity, etc).  But I was not expecting what I found.

I swear last time I looked about a month ago the tickets were well over 1k.  Yesterday they were only $829 ($699 for  different days than those of my chosing). 

Of course then I was at a stand-still.  Should I wait for them to go down…and run the risk of them not only going up in price but losing a beloved window seat (I have this neurotic thing about being able to see out of the plan at all times)?  Today I decided not to risk it.  I found out that the extra cheap ones ($699) were pretty much booked (no windows).   I will absolutely die if I can’t watch at least take off an landing.  So I booked my ticket…and currently have a whole row to myself.  And the row in front of me.  And the row in back of me.  I have no doubt I’ll be surrounded by take-off. Continental is notorious for overbooking and shoving people on the next flight.

No turning back now!

End Note: I am now in the actual detailed planning phase of this Amsterdam/Beligum/Paris trip.  I am in no way shape or form a “cultured” person.  So don’t go expecting any recaps about how beautiful this or that painting was. Naturally I have to visit the Lourve (because that’s just what you do in Paris), but that’s about it as far as museums go.  Art is boring.  Old art is especially boring.  I’ll be roasting my lovely ass on a beach while you guys watch paint dry (even more). 

Now…consider me giddy!

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I’m a SoCal gal.  Meaning I hail from California.  Each year I go back for Christmas since I get at least a week off.  I like going back.  This is mostly because Houston gets damn cold in the winter. And I don’t want to hear it from you New Englanders and Midwesterners.  50 degrees is damn cold!

So I’m quite used to packing t-shirts and tank tops and shorts and perhaps the one pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and fully enjoying the warm sunny sunshine. Now it looks as though the reverse is true.  Apparently a rare 50 year Arctic Blast has hit my home state.  The irony is, the next few days here in Houston will be in the balmy 70s.  This after getting my first patch of snow last week.

This normally wouldn’t bother me, even though my mom has this thing about turning up the thermostat but apparently doesn’t have this thing about buying down comforters (a lessen I learned myself here in Houston the hard way early on).  However, I had this whole long trip planned down and up the PCH to the amazing array of nude beaches along the coast.  Blacks, Pfiefer, Red, White & Blue, etc….  And now those plans have been thwarted; because I love being nude on a beach as much as the next person, but even my nipples have their breaking point.  You might have wondered why I’d even plan such a thing in winter anyway.  But  that’s the beauty of not having seasons!!  It never ever changes.  That’s why so many people want to live there. 

So now I have to figure out what to do with my rental car for 2 weeks in LA.  What would you do with 100% free time, a rental car,  and limitless options in Cali?

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My flight back home from Puerto Rico was overbooked.  So naturally I, out of the kindness of my own heart, offered up my seat…in exchange for a stay in the airport hotel, free food, and a voucher for $350.   Actually I was sort of hoping something like that might happen since I have several trips planned this upcoming year.

Today I booked the first (after my trip back home for Christmas).  It’s a surprise that I don’t want to ruin here just yet, so I won’t say where to.  Since the city isn’t all that popular I was worried about the cost of the flight. But as usual Continental came through for me. 

Side Note: while in Puerto Rico on my conference I learned that my flights from Houston are much cheaper than flights from other parts of the country.  Generally speaking I’m spending about $300-$400 no matter where I go in the (continental) US and surrounding areas.  My fellow conference attendees were spending about $600 or so just to get to Puerto Rico (which only cost me about $350-$400).  I’m pretty sure this is due to the fact that Continental has a hub in Houston…and maybe the cheap cost of gas?

The round trip flight to [insert future destination here] was listed as $382.  OK so I’d be out a few bucks.  But the final tally?  $451.94!  Most of that was “fees and taxes.”  Out of curiosity I clicked the link discussing what exactly those “fees and taxes” were.  Most of it was rubbish about “passenger” this or “excise” that, etc. etc.  But this one caught my attention:

September 11th Security Fees of up to $10 per roundtrip. One way travel may incur fees in excess of $5.

I’m sure this is due to the “increased security” at all the airports.  I used quotes because I myself managed to get in and out (twice) of Puerto Rico with a bottle of pepper spray attached to my key chain. This after having my suitcase (but fortunately not my purse) actually unpacked and searched  twice; you know, because I look so much like a drug dealing terrorist. In my defense I had no idea it was on there until I got back.  But who would bomb a plane coming from Puerto Rico anyway?

Of course the tax may just be another attempt to stick it to Americans.  It probably goes to buy donuts  and a foosball table for the breakroom in TSA offices across the country.

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Collective

Courtesy of Matti Mattila on flickr
Courtesy of Matti Mattila on flickr

bikini bottoms, ipod tunes, island breezes, tiny cars, overheard foreign conversations, mopeds, colorful money, getting lost, sunsets on foreign seas, strange seasons, massive crowds, isolated stretches, packing, crazy drivers, toes in the sand, lost in translation, learning to say hello, anonymous men, wandering walks, hand gestures, public transportation, careless flirting, strange coins, missing home, writing in notebooks, comfy hotel beds, people watching, airport lounges, takeoffs,  landings, crystal beaches, getting away, fortuity, salty water, tan lines (or lack thereof), interesting sculptures, perfect laziness, fitting it all in, halting English, pins in maps, incomprehensible street signs, international pride, living out of backpacks, strange customs, fitting in, standing out, weird flavors, sense of history, bottles of sand….

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Top 10

Green Sand Beach

Green Sand Beach (courtesy of theohiosource on flickr)

Mostly the order of my upcoming trips has been a matter of money, convenience, and fortuity. I’m going to Puerto Rico because it’s for a conference at work.  I’m going to Costa Rica because it’s hella cheap and a friend of mine goes there often and gave me enough so that I’m not totally clueless. I’m going to Amsterdam because I know a guy living there right now who promised to show me around.

But none of them has been in the top of my list of places in the world to visit.  It’s not that I’m not thrilled about visiting any of them, but if I had my dithers, the following would be my priorities.

1. Brazil.  I majored in history in college with a focus on Africa and the African diaspora.  It was then I learned that Brazil had imported more black people (aka slaves) than any other country in the Americas.  I think I was more intrigued by the idea of black people actually speaking Portuguese than I was by the history or the people themselves.  I was determined to study abroad in Bahia, a plan which was thwarted by an unexpected illness on my part.  Since then Brazil has always been on my to-visit list.

2. Greece. I think it was my trip to Israel that did it.  The flight attendants were forcing everyone to sleep and as such we were in no uncertain terms told to keep our window shades down. The screen on the seat in front of me informed me we were directly over Greece and I couldn’t help but sneak a peek.  So I nudged the screen up a tiny bit and gasped at the beauty thousands of miles below me.  Later when I became addicted to nude swimming I was happy to learn  that Greece has a plethora of them. That secured it’s place on this list.

3. Hawaii. I’ve been to Hawaii twice. My first trip I became gravely ill (I think this may be a  theme in my various travels), and couldn’t enjoy it much. The second time I managed to bottle black sand…which quite ceremoniously broke in an unfortunate DIY shelving incident (know where your wall studs are and use them!).  I’m determined to go back and rebottle some…making sure to nab some green sand while I’m at it.  And naturally visit some nude beaches while I’m there.

4. South of France. I’ve been a huge fan of Sidney Sheldon ever since my dad introduced me to his novels at the age of 11.  For some reason a good portion of his characters ended up at some point in this strange city called Nice in the south of France. Running with the theme of his novels the city always took on a glamorously adventurous air and I had it in the back of my mind that I’d go there some day. But the Mediterranean coast is such a big place and Nice is just one of many exciting cities (Cannes, St. Tropez) that you hear about and dream of going to.  So why not all of them?  Plus topless is a suitable alternative to nude.  HUGE difference (more on that later), but suitable.

5. Egypt. I know it’s so typically touristy, and probably nothing like I expect it to be, but it’s still one of those places you have to visit.  Especially if you are a history major.  There’s just too much there to ignore.

6. Bermuda. Pink sand beaches.  Enough said

7. Cape Town, South Africa.By all accounts it’s a beautiful city. I’m also curious to see how race relations have panned out since the end of apartheid.  Naturally the idea of going leaves me a little anxious but it will most definitely be an experience. 

8. Maldives.I want to see them before they disappear.  With global warming going the way it is, this is very likely in the near future.  At some point in my travels I’ll have an informal goal of reaching a certain number of places to visit. I don’t want to be cheated out of one simply because I waited too long.  Especially one that has so many beautiful beaches!

9. Galapagos Islands.  While in college I originally dabbled with the idea of studying abroad in Ecuador. This was mostly to visit the Galapagos islands.  That plan was usurped by Brazil but has always been at the back of my mind still. It has to be the most interesting place on earth.

10. Mexico.Simply because it’s a sorry state of affairs for someone born and raised in California and currently living in Texas to not have even set foot there.  Especially since on three occasions I’ve been close enough to actually see Mexico from my car (driving through El Paso, a surreal experience indeed).

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280 To Go

280. According to Wikipedia that is about how many island territories there are in the Caribbean. 

It seems odd for someone with a “travel” blog to say, but I have never been to the Caribbean.  It’s especially odd considering my present proximity. In less than a month that little quirk will be resolved.

One of my goals in the years to come is to go to visit one island territory a week for a whole year…or at least the equivalent of that.  With vacation, holidays, and paid leave (and perhaps a few “sick” days), it may be possible.

At some point before this whole endeavor is over (on my 40th b-day) I will have visited all 280.  That right there is a full quarter of my goal!

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