2017: The Year of Color and Mountains

 Varanasi, India ~ March 2017 Varanasi, India ~ March 2017

2017, you were a surprise. Two years ago, my wildest dreams never would have foreseen me in the middle of the Ganges, watching the evening prayer ceremony… or searching for Durga in the rock hewn temples of a fishing village on the coast of India. I couldn’t have predicted the “sari fail” at the Taj Mahal just after sunrise, or imagined the vibrant towers of Meenakshi Amman temple. I hadn’t yet experienced the breathless exhilaration of the crazy tuk-tuk ride through Jaipur, weaving around camels lazily chewing their cud, cows napping in the middle of the road, overloaded bicycle rickshaws, and every form of transportation imaginable. And I hadn’t yet participated in the joy that came with celebrating the colorful and chaotic Holi with village children, our white clothes quickly turned to rainbows.

 Everest Base Camp ~ October 2017 Everest Base Camp ~ October 2017

Even less could I have envisioned the Technicolor panorama of the Himalayas, the thinness of the air at 17,700 feet, the exhaustion and euphoria of twelve days on a trail traversed only by humans, cows, donkeys, and yaks. The silence interrupted only by the constant sound of the river and the occasional helicopter. Nor could I have predicted that I would land in a remote mountain kingdom, climb to monasteries perched on the edges of cliffs, and become accustomed to colorful flags flapping in the breeze on every hillside, every bridge. That I would witness festivals so full of color and legend, or the national pride beaming through every welcoming smile. I had yet to experience the sound of bells chiming in crystal clear air as prayer wheels spun.

 Long's Peak Hike, Colorado ~ July 2017 Long’s Peak Hike, Colorado ~ July 2017

The US wasn’t entirely neglected. In a ridiculous attempt to prepare for the Everest Base Camp trek, there was that “failed” backcountry hike in Colorado that was over before it really begun – but that turned into a fabulous trip exploring all corners of Rocky Mountain National Park. And I played tour guide in my adopted hometown of Milwaukee, and neighboring Chicago, on beautiful summer days, exploring both old favorites and new experiences – looking at you, donut ice cream sandwiches and Second City!

 Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai ~ March 2017 Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai ~ March 2017

2017 was a full, crazy, chaotic, joyful year. Pulled on by curiosity, constant curves and bends that beckoned; hidden treasures and aweing panoramas revealing themselves again and again. Looking back, I see that how exciting it really was – every sight, sound, smell, taste so unlike what I’d experienced before. And I just wanted more. I wanted to see it all, do it all. The trail didn’t pick up the pace – I did, because it was just that incredible. Those pinch yourself moments, checking that you’re awake, that it’s real. (Yes, that really is Everest out the plane’s window!)

My path branched in so many directions, and quickly. I’m in the midst of exploring so much, and although it sometimes feels harried, like I’m running from one to another, they are all so fascinating that the desire to see where each goes keeps me exploring them all.

 Thimphu, Bhutan ~ September 2017 Thimphu, Bhutan ~ September 2017

Hence the re-launch of this site, and so many facets of this crazy travel life that I dream of bringing forward. There will be some changes, but so many new and incredibly exciting and – I hope – inspiring and motivating things to share! 2017’s trips to India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Colorado will finally be given their proper due – if that’s even possible! And of course, my passport is required for 2018 (and 2019 – eek!).

 Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) ~ Bhutan, September 2017 Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) ~ Bhutan, September 2017

First up in 2018: Colombia and Panama! Colombia has been on my radar for the past year – I’m convinced it’ll be one of the next go-to destinations for travelers looking for a new country to explore. With the 2016 peace between the government and FARC and the country in the midst of bringing all it has to offer to the world stage, it is positively radiant with opportunity. I’m impatiently waiting for February 22nd to arrive: to get back to the Andes, to explore colorful cities, to learn more about a rich history. To trek in the jungles, to raft the rivers, maybe even get some surfing in. And if 2017 was a first for physically challenging trips, 2018 may bring another new first – this time, I’m going underwater! I’ll be scuba certified in time to check out the Caribbean from a whole new perspective, and I can’t wait to see it. And I’m not forgetting about Panama – its so close, and I’ve heard there’s this canal that is quite the feat of human engineering. I’m a big fan of cities that have served as major world crossroads – Istanbul is one of my favorites! – so the idea of another one, sitting on a canal connecting two oceans, and all that has passed through this place, is intriguing.

 Holi in Alipura, India ~ March 2017 Holi in Alipura, India ~ March 2017

Canada, I’m finally getting to visit a bit more! The fabulous Women In Travel Summit (WITS) is scheduled for May in Quebec City, and its been awhile since I’ve done any proper solo roadtripping! The current route will take me through Toronto, Montreal, and on to Quebec, spending a few too-short days in each city. Quebec has been on my list for far too long, and I can’t think of a better time to finally check out this region.

Apparently, 2018 is the year of the Americas… but who knows what the second half of 2018 holds? A year ago this time, I had no idea I would be dodging purple water from a child’s water gun – and then retaliating! – or trekking through the Himalayas to Everest Base Camp later in the year, so I dare not predict much further! And besides – 2019 is already filling with amazing opportunities and new places and experiences that I couldn’t have imagined even six months ago.

Crazy, isn’t it? How much a person’s path can suddenly start twisting and winding. What’s around the next bend, that unknown, can be terrifying. But it can also be utterly amazing. We just don’t know until we get up the courage to take a few steps, and check it out for ourselves. So, up or down, switchbacks or “Himalayan flat”… bring it on, 2018. No matter where this path leads, I’m willing to bet the views at the top are incredible.

 Everest Base Camp Trek, above Dingboche ~ October 2017 Everest Base Camp Trek, above Dingboche ~ October 2017

Best wishes for a happy and adventure-filled 2018!

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