Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!

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29 September 2011
How a Career Break Turned My Life Totally Upside Down

Today's guest post is from Stephanie Yoder, one of our Meet, Plan, Go! panelists in DC last year. Steph will not be at this year's event because she's off traveling the world. But if you'd like to meet other inspiring travelers like her who are getting out there and living the dream, come out and join us for MPG DC on October 18!

Steph at MPG 2010Last September, I sat on the panel for Meet, Plan, Go! DC, nervous as hell. I was there to share my expertise both as a blogger and an imminent career breaker. In less than a week I was supposed to be on a plane to Tokyo. From there I would be exploring Asia, Australia and more in what I envisioned would be a year long trip before I came back and found myself a real career.

As I sat near the bar, nervously reciting my reasons for leaving, I felt a tad hypocritical. I firmly believed that may year around the world would be a success, but there was no way for me to actually know what the world had in store for me. In truth, and I didn't dare say this out loud, I was terrified.

Looking back now, a year later, I can now say that my decision to quit my boring cubicle job and fly to Asia was the best thing that has EVER happened to me. My life now looks totally different than it did 12 months ago and it just keeps getting better.

Here are some of the ways by life has evolved over the past year:

A new career
In truth I felt kind of guilty calling my Asia trip a career break as, at 25 years old, I'd yet to come close to finding anything resembling a career. I'd been working in publications, which fit in well with my English degree but bored me to tears, yet I couldn't come up with an alternative that actually sounded appealing.

Months before I left I'd started writing about my travel experiences online. I wrote about my desire to travel, to do something different, about planning and executing a big trip, about how bored I was at home. It took far too long for it to dawn on me that what I really loved, maybe even more than travel, was writing itself! Even better: people seemed pretty interested in what I had to say. It was a leap.... but maybe I could write about travel for a living?

And that's what I do now, against all odds. I am a self-employed travel writer and blogger. The money isn't super but the intangible rewards are out of this world. I used to hate getting up and going to work in the morning but now I've become a workaholic!

A new community
When I began blogging and planning my big trip I started tapping into the online travel community -- a fascinating place full of backpackers, career breakers, travel professionals and more. It was so encouraging to meet so many people who also felt passionate about travel. I now have friends all over the world! Sure I haven't met all of them, but it's a great resource.

Steph and Mike

A new love
In the months leading up to my big trip I'd pretty much given up all hope of having a love life. The career-oriented guys I would meet in DC just looked at me like I was a lunatic when I told them my plans. I'd planned to do this big trip solo anyways and I was pretty okay with that.

Then, mere weeks before I was set to leave, I met a really cute guy. Not just any guy, a free-wheeling fellow travel blogger who was headed to China to teach English for the next year. In most situations that would be a pretty big inconvenience but for me it was perfect.

We spent the next nine months hopscotching around Asia. I'd go to visit him in Xi'an, he'd use his vacation time to island hop in Thailand with me. It wasn't easy but a jet-setting, continent hopping romance did feel pretty glamorous. Plus I was in love, with someone who actually understood the restlessness of my soul.

A new energy and purpose
When I was working in DC, wasting away my hours answering corporate emails I felt like I could spend an eternity just whittling my life away without any chance of escape. Now, anything seems possible. If I dropped everything and flew across the Pacific, what else could I do?

After 9 months of backpacking around Asia and Australia I came home for a couple months, to get ready for the next step. In my case, the next step is to head down to South America (I leave this week!). The boyfriend and I are making a documentary about technology and travel. After that, who knows?

I'm not writing all of this to brag, although my life IS pretty sweet. I know that most people who take a career break end up returning to the traditional work force and not becoming free-wheeling backpack hippies like myself. Even so, nobody comes back from a year of travel exactly the same. That's a scary thought, but also kind of an awesome one.

I now know what all that fear was about -- it was about change. Change is scary, but it was absolutely what I needed in my life. Massive change was the only thing that was going to get me on the right track, the one where I belonged.

Stephanie YoderStephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! She blogs about her adventures at Twenty-Something Travel and tweets a LOT at @20sTravel. You can read more about her documentary project at Everywhere Connection.

Meet, Plan, Go! DC on October 18

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27 September 2011
40 days till 40
in which our heroine gets all philosophical-like

Today a countdown began.

I don't typically put much stock in age or birthdays. Many years back, I recall a coworker freaking out because she was turning 25... a whole quarter of a century! Silliness. That being said, the big four-oh is something of a milestone, and seems like an opportunity not to bemoan the passage of time but to regroup, contemplate, and clear some space for what's to come.

too many candles

I got the idea from Britt Bravo's blog, Have Fun Do Good. Last year she wrote about creating a daily practice for the 40 days leading up to her 40th birthday and it seemed like an interesting thing to try. I particularly liked her idea about letter-writing. Who sits down and actually hand-writes letters anymore?

I was also inspired by the Holstee Manifesto, which I recently purchased as a poster. Its simplicity is brilliant and profound.

Holstee Manifesto

And finally, I've been reminded a lot lately of one of my favorite quotes:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-- Albert Einstein

So, in an effort to shake things up a little bit, maybe restore some of my recently-depleted mojo, and slide headfirst into 40 with as much zest as I can muster, I've decided to spend the next 40 days on the following practices:

* Connecting. I don't know about one letter a day like Britt, but I am going to take this opportunity to write, with an actual pen, on actual paper, some notes of appreciation. What a fun way to connect, and in a more in-depth way than the typical text message or Facebook "like."

* Clearing. This is the big one. I feel compelled to clear away space, mentally and physically, for new projects and new possibilities. Clearing away distractions.... So many ways to clear out clutter.... There's the digital version, a la Chris Brogan's "Great Unfollow Experiment". There's more concrete activity, such as clearing out closets or stacks of unread magazines. (Marks shifts nervously in the other room. Don't worry, I'm not going to toss out any of your stuff without your permission!) There's also a more abstract idea of clearing out bad habits that hang heavily like stale cigarette smoke. Hm. I'm not sure what shape this will take, but I feel there's great potential here.

* Nourishment. Massage. Yoga. Drinking more water! There are a number of ways to nourish the physical self. Play. Creativity. Meditation. And then there are ways to nourish the spirit. I already do most of this stuff, but not usually with sustained focus.

Quite by chance, smack in the middle of this will be Meet, Plan, Go! on October 18. It's an inspiring event anyway, but I'm wondering if the confluence of timing will yield a little extra somethin-somethin this year. Hm.

OK, enough navel-gazing! Thanks for indulging me, faithful readers. I may check in from time to time on this little experiment, but probably not. ;) We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog topics of mostly-travel with a dash of gardening-cooking-wining. I also have a few more fun guest posts lined up in the coming weeks, so don't change that channel!

* Britt Bravo: Have Fun, Do Good
* The Holstee Manifesto
* Chris Brogan's Great Unfollow Experiment
* Come join us at Meet, Plan, Go!
* Vote for me in Tripping's contest (ok, totally not related, but there's just a few more days left, so I had to get one more plug in there!)

win a trip with Tripping!

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20 September 2011
Raising Travelers

Today's guest post is by #DCTravelTweetup regular and Meet, Plan, Go! Ambassador Jennifer Parker (bio below). If you'd like to meet fellow travelers like Jennifer who have great advice, tips, and tricks to share, come out and join us for MPG DC on October 18!

If you’re a traveler and a parent, there is no doubt you struggle to manage your love for both. Balancing that trip to Europe against the rising costs of day care seems a daunting task. Not to mention the plain day-to-day monotony of life…soccer games, piano practice, school work, etc. I know how you feel. I did it for 23 years and have just recently come out the other side with my youngest now in college.

Bottom line, you should make every effort to remain true to your passions (travel and your children) and make it happen! You will want this for your kids; they will thank you for it later. Personally, we raised our kids traveling their entire lives. Exotic destinations and visiting new places was how our family spent our time. Whether it was local or international, my kids were traveling. As an individual, I have traveled to over 14 countries and many, many of those were with kids in tow (and sometimes in lead!).

TulumIndulge me for a few minutes while I share the fabulousness that comes out of raising travelers. My kids are the most socially adjusted kids you will ever meet; they don’t know a stranger and adjust to all levels of conversation. It’s beautiful to hear them order food in Spanish and then watch them plan trips with their friends. Our daughter, now 23, is taking a year off to live abroad before moving to New York after college. I might add that she knows absolutely no one in New York. She has targeted Paris for that year in between. Knowing how expensive Paris can be and how dirt poor she is, she still has no hesitations, “I will just make it work, Mom.”

Our son, upon graduating from high school, decided to travel through Europe for 2 months (on his own dime I might add) prior to beginning college. He is not traveling with companions; he is comfortable that he will meet people abroad traveling through local hostels. And, of course he will. I came home from work one day to find had planned his entire trip, day by day.  He is starting in Portugal, on through Spain, then up to France and finishing with a stint in Germany. All planned out down to the Euro rail stop in each city.  He put together a budget of the costs (breaking it down to the daily meal level and Euro pass costs) and determined a monthly savings plan for himself between now and his departure.

Another example of the beauty of raising travelers is an Italian exploration story. I am divorced (now remarried for 11 years) and the kids traveled with their father to Italy last year. They were 22 and 17. I will never forget receiving that call, “Mom, we are in Venice!” As the conversation progressed I realized the group they were traveling with had decided to stay in for the day. My kids, realizing they only had one chance to experience Venice, took off on a train to conquer it alone. Hearing this, I literally must have fallen out of my chair and immediately went into “mommy” mode. Do you have a jacket? Do you have a map? Where are you going? Do you need me to google anything? They laughed at me and said, “Mom, we got this!” And, so they did. They called later to talk about all of the places they visited and the bar they drank in…uh-hum! They had discovered Venice together, like a sister and brother should. I remember hanging up the phone and thinking that I have never been more proud of them!

ChicagoAs a traveler and parent, this is absolutely what you want for your kids. And, you already know they learn through our guidance. Therefore, it is almost your job to introduce them to the world so that they learn the skills and get comfortable in a travel setting.

So, what next, money? Yes, the big thing is the cost. I am not going to say it’s easy, because it isn’t. It takes a bit of planning, prioritizing, budgeting and watching the specials. You will have to budget at home during the year to make travel happen. And, you may have to cut things out. Don’t think of it as “cutting,” think of it as trading.  Trade a little shopping, a few nice dinners stateside for dinner in Belize….it’s worth it!

Yes, there is more airfare involved when the whole family travels together, but hotels are the same cost for one king versus two doubles. Meals can be somewhat reasonable by finding bargains. Eat from street vendors; it’s typically cheaper and tasty. Consider getting a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) or house swap, instead of a hotel. If you buy groceries, after you land, you can eat breakfast before leaving each day and occasionally, after a long day of exploring, make a dinner or two. 

ZorbOther ideas of how to not break the bank are to have picnic lunches on the mountainside and hike around town instead of going to the theatre. Lay on the beach with crackers, cheese and wine (for the parents). Also, enjoying some of the little local amusement parks in Europe always brought us tons of joy at a reasonable price. We ended up meeting really great people and explored funky rides like a flying Panda bear ride in Germany or large water filled orbs that bounce down the side of the mountain in New Zealand.  

At the end of the day, you may not be able to attend all the plays, eat at every restaurant and take in all of the guided excursions. However, you are doing something so much bigger. You are introducing future travelers to the world.
When your kids are married and have children of their own, just think of the amazing experiences you can have together raising another generation of travelers!

Enjoy and relax – you and your kids deserve it!


Jennifer ParkerJennifer Parker is a recovering corporate executive who loves to travel the world with her family. She has reviewed hotels and writes travel related articles for various sources. Her passion is expanding the minds and educating people to explore the world outside their own front door. She has traveled to 14 countries and over 440 cities around the globe. Jennifer is an endearing wife, loving mom, travel addict, friend to many, wine enthusiast and a career gal who has never met a stranger. Catch up with her on Twitter at @jenniferparker3 or via her blog Traveling Through Life.


Meet, Plan, Go! DC - Oct 18, 2011


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16 September 2011
Photo Friday: there's a fungus among us

almost looks good enough to eat
almost looks good enough to eat

Last week NPR's Science Friday did a piece on how, due to the recent torrential rains, there seem to be mushrooms EVERYWHERE. Inspired by this, I took a walk through my neighborhood. Sho 'nuff... shrooms aplenty. What was meant to be a quick walk to stretch my legs soon turned into an obsessive chronicalling expedition, with me stooping in front yards and patches of roadside grass to snap pics with my phone. Once I started, I couldn't stop!

unseen by most passersby
unseen by most passersby



striped umbrellas
striped umbrellas



Super Mario mushroom
Super Mario mushroom?

I also had a little fun with Instagram:

watching the world go by

almost floral

little seeds

The heck with stopping to smell the roses... I recommend you stoop a little lower and check out the mycological wonders awaiting you in the damp spaces of your world!

See more fabulous travel snaps at Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.

win a trip with Tripping!

Oh, and speaking of travel snaps, Tripping.com is running a photo contest. Wanna help me win a trip? Vote for my submission, taken during our recent Finger Lakes winery trip. Vote once a day if you want to, between now and Sept 30. Thanks for your support!

* Science Friday: Rainfall Brings Bumper Crop Of Fungi
* Three unexpected Finger Lakes finds
* Vote for me in Tripping's contest

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09 September 2011
Photo Friday: rain, rain, go away!

This week's rain has been a bummer, reminiscent of some of the heavy rains in tropical places we've visited. (Although it's much more fun to experience rain in an actual rain forest as opposed to rain flooding into your basement.) Here's a snap from the archives:

rain at Arenal Volcano
attempting to view lava flows in the rain at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, is one of the country's top sites to visit. When I was there in 2007, it was recommended time and time again as a must-see. Unfortunately on the day I took the tour to see the lava flows, a torrential downpour blocked most of the view. I did get to see the volcano from afar under better weather conditions, but it wasn't quite the same. There's a much better pic in Marina Villatoro's guest post on Arenal.

view of Arenal from dowtown La Fortuna
view of Arenal from downtown La Fortuna

See more fabulous travel photos at Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.

* browse
all photos from La Fortuna
* browse all photos from Costa Rica
* read blog entries about La Fortuna
* read Marina Villatoro's guest post: Arenal Volcano

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