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Reflecting on a Year of Riding the Wind

Sitting here at “home” in California I am hard-pressed to believe what has transpired in the past year.  It’s been loaded with lessons, new challenges, new sights, and best of all, new friends.

Nervous in Cambodia

Last year at this time I was sitting in a cafe, listening to Christmas music in Cambodia.  It was my first visit to SE Asia and the introduction did not go well.  I felt uneasy and out of sorts from the moment I arrived in bustling Phnom Penh.  After a week I continued on to Angkor Wat which was so overloaded with tourists I found it impossible to enjoy.  The tension I felt in this country never left my body and I wanted out.  Sorry Cambodia.  Not a fan.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Recalling lovely October days and a romantic interest in Crete, I returned there on Christmas Day, squeezing in a long layover in Athens where I got to see Hadrian’s Arch and the Acropolis.  So cool.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Back to my beloved…

Arriving in Crete on Christmas evening was bizarre.  The streets of Chania, bustling just a few months before were now empty of tourists.  Without my traveling companions of Max or Hans, I felt alone.  This inspired me to write  a popular post about what long-term solo travel really means.   I wandered the back streets of the old harbor on overcast days, watching the Libyan Sea crash into the harbor walls and spill onto empty promenades.  There was a melancholy sweetness to it.  The romance I hoped to rekindle was not to be, but I was pleased with my speedy recovery from heartbreak.  I’m getting better at that.

Chania in Winter

Chania, Greece in Winter

 A fork in the road…

Briefly, a job offer in Boulder, Colorado presented itself.  Meanwhile, a friend from the Camino de Santiago was urging me to visit South Africa, where he was starting a touring business in Cape Town.  I sat on pins and needles waiting to hear more details of the job with two plane tickets on hold; one for Colorado and one for South Africa.  As fate would turn, the job did not materialize and I left for South Africa in January 2014.

South Africa was a stunner.

And what a great turn of fate that was.  I was in capable hands from the moment I arrived in Cape Town with my friend Darren of DC Tours.  He toured me all over his beautiful city, I hiked crawled up Table Mountain, we saw penguins, and so much other wildlife, including elephants.  I learned so much more about apartheid and South Africa’s rich history.  Finally, Darren and his partner took me on an extended road trip touring the spectacular Garden Route.  Thus began a love affair with South Africa.

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

With open plans until March, I decided to explore more of Africa and booked a 19-day camping tour with Nomad Tours.  While I was surprised on Day One to discover that I had inadvertantly booked myself on a German Tour (whoops), it did not take long for me to accept this situation and enjoy the bounty of positive and amazing experiences coming everyday.  Our route took us from South Africa to Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe covering over 4,510 kilometers (2,802 miles!).

Namibia blew my mind with beauty.

Our first stop was Namibia, a stunning country and certainly in my top three favorite countries.  Highlights included a visit to Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, hiking a sand dune in the Namib Desert at dawn, and an epic walk in the Namibian Desert.  Never before had I experienced the vastness of the desert or the unique pastel colors of this barren landscape.  The landscape really captured me.

Atop a sand dune in Namibia

Atop a sand dune in Namibia

Botswana is green and lush and full of wildlife.

Botswana was next and what beauty!  Bush camping in the Okavango Delta was the highlight with it’s intense natural beauty, the hospitality of the local residents and the real dangers of hippos and snakes and lions which was super exciting!  The wildlife of Botswana was awe-inspiring.

Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta

Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls is something to behold.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Africa was amazing.  Juicy stories occurred during this time but not all can be revealed on the blog.  When I write my book,  you will enjoy at least five minutes of licentious literary delight as the whole story is told.

Zambia was so brief, it doesn’t count.

I traveled from Zimbabwe to Zambia (30 minutes) to catch a flight to Nepal.

Nepal overloaded my circuits.

What a difference a day makes! No place else in the world has slapped me around like Nepal.  From religion which colors all aspects of life, to the terrible pollution contrasted with striking natural beauty, to the confronting poverty combined with genuine hospitality, Nepal confused me like no other place. Kathmandu’s air pollution had me sick for days.  Fleeing the city, I took a long hike with Kaji Sherpa, who led me through the mountains on a trek that I hope never to repeat.  I would rather eat spiders.  Pounds of them.  But am I glad I did it?  I think so.  My knees however, are still pissed.

Poon Hill, Nepal

Poon Hill, Nepal


After months of solo travel, I can’t emphasize how lovely it was to see a familiar face, my mother’s face to be specific.  At age 81, intrepid and strong, she ventured to Kathmandu to meet her youngest daughter.  She too experienced the “overload” but together it was easier.  The highlight of our time together was a day in Bhaktapur, where car-less streets provided a chance to catch our breath and observe the people, the architecture, the temples and the ancient alleyways of an ancient city.

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Barcelona, I love you.

To provide the greatest contrast imaginable, we were then off to Barcelona, a place I insisted my mother see, if only to gaze upon Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia.  She did gaze upon it, and that alone was worth the trip, but as a bonus we had nine wonderful days, eating excellent food and sweets, walking arm in arm through Barcelona’s oldest districts. These days I will never forget.  Then Mom returned home and I continued on.

La Boqueria Market in Barcelona

La Boqueria Market in Barcelona

Santorini is not all it’s cracked up to be.

How many years have I heard about Santorini?  It’s like the unicorn of vacation spots…the ultimate and seemingly unattainable vacation destination for many people.  And so I went to see for myself, arriving during Easter week which is celebrated (hugely!) in Greek Orthodox Greece.  I got a sudden and odd job making chalkboard signs for an odd man.  But it was a neglected dog that shaped my view of Santorini and led me to discover the terrible plight of animals in Greece.  Volunteering at the Santorini Animal Welfare Association, the only shelter on the island, was an eye-opening and rewarding experience.  Unfortunately, due to the way animals are willfully abused, it’s not a vacation spot I enjoyed.  If you’re an animal lover, think twice about Santorini as a destination.  Or keep your eyes closed and don’t stay long.

Santorini at Easter

Santorini at Easter

Hello again Crete.

After three weeks in Santorini, I returned by ferry to my beloved Crete.  There I made many new friends and traveled around the island with them while enjoying a horrible case of tonsillitis.  I returned to my spot, Agia Roumeli, and experienced weeks of creative flow, drawing again after years of stagnation.   And then, a simple email from Germany set me in motion again.

Best office ever! Agia Roumeli, Crete

Best office ever!

A trip to Regensburg, Germany…

trip from my favorite village in Crete to Regensburg, Germany had me positioned to meet up with the German professor and his students. The next day, we meet and I venture out with 8000 devout Catholics on a 75-kilometer religious pilgrimage through Bavaria.  Naturally.  After touring Regensburg in a hobbly-kind-of-way, I return to Crete to continue the creative streak.

End of the Bavarian Pilgrimage

End of the Bavarian Pilgrimage

Returning to the United States

I visited my mother and sister in Southern California while I fretted about what to do next.  Wanting to continue my creative streak, I accepted a volunteer position at Yosemitebear Mountain Farm.  But first, I visited my best friend in Oregon and enjoyed a good old-fashioned 4th of July block party with her and the family and a couple weeks of Portland summer fun.

Fourth of July

Fourth of July Smoke bombs.

I arrive at the farm on July 17th and romance ensues.

I didn’t expect, or want this to happen.  It was magical.  And difficult.  Despite the new stresses, I quit smoking cigarettes after 28 years of addiction.

Me and Bear in Yosemite

Me and Bear in Yosemite.  Behind every great man…

Three months into our relationship and unable to problem-solve constructively, Bear and I broke up and I left Mariposa.

Meanwhile, I turned 45.

45th Birthday

Celebrating my 45th Birthday with my sister and family.

Is this where I expected to be at 45?  No.  But I am so grateful to have gotten here.

A week after leaving Mariposa, I returned.  We were determined to try again.  So far, so good.

In December, I launched my new website to sell the art I created in Crete.

Free-Original artwork by RFAW. All Rights Reserved.

“Free” – Original artwork by RFAW. All rights reserved.

And here I am.

Looking back, it’s no wonder I’m tired!

Thank you.

For those who have journeyed with me, through this blog or in the physical world, I thank you for your time and love and support and the laughs and lessons we’ve had together.

Remember that I am not a trust-fund baby, nor have I ever earned more than a lower-middle-class salary.  I put travel above all else for years before embarking on this journey.  It was my priority above all else.

If freedom and adventure is what you want, there is no better time to go for it.  Never in the history of mankind have we had the opportunities that are available now.  It is possible.  It is attainable no matter where you are starting from.  And yes, it is awesome.  And if traveling is not your dream, and you are satisfied with where you are, my admiration goes out to you because you have achieved contentment, which is really the ultimate goal in my book.

I wish you all a happy 2015 and may all your dreams come true!


  1. I absolutely love your blog as it continually inspires me with every post. Although I find myself stuck in a loop of bills and things I think I “need” I wonder at what point financially is it possible and where do I obtain this courage you so nonchalantly carry around? Happy to hear you found love in Yosemite. <3 <3 Thank you and I hope that one day I realize that I will never be happy unless I stop holding myself back. – Heather from PA

    • Hi Heather. Thanks so much for reading. Don’t be fooled into thinking I am courageous all the time. I get scared and full of doubt myself. One thing I discovered is that courage becomes easier with practice and confidence is built through the act of doing what you are afraid to do. So, acknowledge that you’re scared, take normal precautions to be safe and then DO it in spite of fear.
      I also discovered along the way that happiness can be found anywhere. Don’t be fooled into thinking that “when I do this….I will be happy”. For sure, I found a greater sense of well-being traveling solo because my self-esteem grew (which made me happier) but ultimately, as they say, where ever you go, there you are.” Find happiness where you are today and keep working towards your goal.

      So keep reading, try to position yourself so that you can live your dream of traveling if that’s your dream (get out of debt, save, minimize your material possessions, start planning dream trips) and you might surprise yourself that after many, many tiny incremental steps you may find yourself “ready”.

      Please use me as a resource if you have questions about how to get going. Travel is the best.

  2. what a lot of fun adventures you must have had!

    • Indeed! Thanks for reading Karen!

  3. A delicious review of a delightful journey. And your writing becomes clearer and sharper with each entry. I look forward to the next.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Laura Walker Scott. And congratulations on making all of it happen.

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