Tag Archives: 2011

Down the rabbit hole

the pier

        nom nom nom   sorry mandi

what is this i don't even

mmm kingcake

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Finally, a post about my upcoming trip! I feel like it’s easier to talk about my previous travels, because it’s only with time and distance that I realize what it was I learned from them. I find it harder to talk about upcoming journeys because a.) I am kind of superstitious about dumb things, and typing things into a blog about an upcoming trip is one of them (completely illogical, I know), b.) I have so much to do, I can’t believe that I decided now was a good time to start a blog, and c.) I don’t have any photos to post of a trip I haven’t gone on yet!

But anyway. I’m super excited right now, so much so that even after working somewhere around 10 hours today and being completely exhausted, I want to type this up! I’m so excited because I got to skype with my lovely friend who I’m going to visit and travel with in China, M., for 2 hours tonight! Our plans are coming together nicely. Now if only we can manage to find each other in Beijing…(Which is a dilemma I’d love to find myself in many times over: having to find a good friend in a foreign city so we can adventure about. A tough life indeed.)

M. is absolutely wonderful! (Hopefully she’ll forgive me for posting photos of her on the internets. ;) ) Somehow, we attended the same high school but managed to never meet one another. I ended up working at a coffee shop that M. had worked at previously (before she studied abroad in China). When we finally met after she returned to the US, we ended up becoming good friends after working some long and crazy shifts in that same coffee shop making weird raptor noises at ungodly hours, at Christmas parties playing Candyland, after adventures on abandoned piers, and over King cake and nachos.

Anyway, long story short, M. moved to China and has been working there for a few years. I said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I came to visit you in China?” And M. said, “Let’s do it!!” And thus, the epic plan to take the Trans-Mongolian to China was born. From the very first time that we talked about it, to actually discussing the minute details of when and where to meet up…it’s been a long road, but it really is a dream coming true. In exactly one month, 9,530 miles away from my current location, we’ll be meeting up again to hunt for Peking duck in Beijing. The last time we saw each other was a late night chat in a gas station parking lot in the hot and sticky humidity of Louisiana.

Some days, I feel very lucky and blessed indeed, no matter how bad or long of a day I’ve had. Today is one of those days. To know that my hard work is going to support something I love doing makes it all worth it. But getting to explore China with an amazing friend? It’s the icing on top of a sweet cake.


New Year’s plans


Tu Lan

San Francisco, California, USA

It seems like every time Christmas and New Year’s holidays approach, I have new travel plans. In previous years, I’ve gone with friends to one of my favourite cities in the world, Austin, Texas, or with my family to San Antonio, Texas. However, at the beginning of 2011, I went on an adventure with a dear friend to San Francisco and Yosemite.

We spent our time in San Francisco walking, walking, and walking some more. We were very lucky, as the weather was great for most of our time there. We got lost in Golden Gate park, we found a true Southern diner that had excellent grits after wandering around the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, I kept running out into the street trying to get the perfect uphill street shot but never really did, rode the ferry to Alcatraz, had the *most* fun hanging off the railing of a streetcar, couchsurfed for the first time, met random nerds at a trivia night in a bar in Russian Hill over mulled wine and Connect Four, and then drove through a thick fog to Yosemite.

I expected to fall in love with San Francisco, considering how beautiful it was, how I’ve always idealized California, how nice the locals were (they weren’t even snobby when I said I was from the South), and all of the great things I’d heard about it over the years (including some very interesting stories told to me by a high school teacher from San Francisco in Spain). But something about the city was just too gritty for me. Something didn’t click with me. I could never see myself living there. Still, looking back through my photos and reflecting on the trip almost a year later, I realize that I enjoyed myself a lot more than I thought.

This next year, I’ll be spending New Year’s Day in Moscow. I love starting off the new year by doing one of the things I love best, travelling. It makes everything seem fresh and new and all the possibilities of the future endless. Wish me luck.

To Dingle through the Conor Pass

To the Dingle Peninsula from Cork via Macroom, Killarney, and Tralee, Ireland

Ireland was a life-changing experience for me. Part of it was the sheer beauty but most of it was the amazing people I encountered along the way. I couchsurfed, stayed in a couple of hostels, hiked around, and spent the rest of my time in pubs and had a blast along the way. I took buses the entire way – incredibly tedious, but I was a poor student on spring break. At least the views were incredible.

The name of this post is the route of one of my favourite bus rides I’ve ever taken, pictured above. Stunning weather, stunning scenery, and I’ll share a secret with you: I had almost no idea where I was going. My couchsurfing host from the night before had, very graciously, taken me to a little get together of other CSers. They gave me a list of suggestions when I asked where I should go next, telling me where go if they were on vacation. So, instead of following my original itinerary, I took their advice and headed to Dingle. I decided to do so at about 11:30am. My host, C., gave me a lift to Cork and I just barely made the last bus to Tralee at 12:30pm.

After travelling from Cork to Killarney to Tralee, my bus was finally on its way to Dingle. Outside my window I watched the sheep, the mountains, and people. Endless swaths of rolling emerald fields. It’s like footage from every movie you’ve ever seen set in Ireland, but so much better and vivid and real in person. And nothing like any scenery I’d encountered before. I love that on buses and trains you can get a brief sense of what a country is like, geographically and culturally.

I didn’t know what to expect at the end of the ride. After all, I’d hopped on the bus without much clue of where I was going. I caught a glimpse of far-off mountains the longer that the bus ride went, as more and more people emptied out. The mountains started edging closer and closer. “There’s no way that’s where I’m going,” I thought to myself. “No way. That would just be too perfect.”

Sure enough, that’s exactly where we went. But when I saw that the last stop was a tiny fishing town nestled amongst the hills, I was pretty apprehensive. The bus “stop” was a bench by the harbour. Was this what I had flown 4000 miles to experience?

It turns out it was all that and more. “Stunning” is what I texted to C. afterwards. I loved the Dingle Peninsula. I ended up biking 30 miles around it the next day, on a whim. It’s one of my favourite places I’ve ever travelled to, perhaps especially because I’d never even heard of it until I got there.

One day, I’ll go on an entire journey like this. No time constraints, just my bag and an open mind, following the suggestions and advice of whomever I meet along the way.