Wednesday, April 25, 2012

i'll remember what i forgot

i have pages of notes.
pages and pages of notes. pages litter every surface of my room.
top four things i want to see/experience in china, steps to obtain a pakistan tourist visa, sketched outlines of mongolia's aimags, currency conversion tables.
in my bed i sleep on the right. on the left sleeps my collective library pillages. colourful post-it notes stick out from each book.
this week one of those books is walking the gobi by helen thayer.
when i was reading the book i followed helen and her husband bill as they encountered everything a summer trek through the gobi could throw at them. thirst, logistics, border patrol, smugglers, scorpions, mongolian hospitality, sandstorms, nomadic lifestyles. i was captivated. she was 63 when she crossed the gobi. her motivation, determination and dedication are all things i want.
yesterday while zipping through the last couple chapters of the book, i remembered that i forgot.
that i forgot about what led to me having a bed coated in books about chunks of asia. about what led me to spend my free time in cafes with highlighters and guide books. what pushed me to read travel books recounting other peoples adventures to countries that i want to experience.
i had forgotten why i was going to asia in the first place. mongolia was becoming a passing thought. just another country on my growing list. just another 2 weeks here, train there, new country.
reading reading thayer's book brought me back on track. it reminded me that this trip, this yearning to tramp around mongolia started with me reading a book, watching a docu series, becoming transfixed.
now i am realigned. now my focus is back on mongolia. just getting there. i just want to arrive and see where the country will take me. that's what i did when i left for ireland, and it couldn't have turned our better!

reading walking the gobi made me wish i had just a little bit of thayer's expedition knowledge and experience. thayer has skied to the north pole by herslef, lived among wolves in alaska, kayaked the amazon, walked across the sahara, represented three countries in track and field, is the author of three books, awarded the prestigious vancouver award, and was named "one of the great explorers of the 20th century" by national geographic. i find it important to mention that most of these achievements were made after she turned 50! when i was reading the book, i just kept thinking, 'this woman was in her SIXTIES!?!?! her sixties?!'. i kept having to remind myself that i wasn't reading about some teenager and her boyfriend, looking for some kicks. i was reading about a 60 some year old woman and her 70 some year old husband...walking across a desert. over 2500 km in temperatures around 50C. it boggles my mind.
i really can't do justice to how amazing helen thayer is and how inspiring this book was. maybe you will just have to read it yourself.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

the yearn to learn

the other day i was in a bookstore. completely immersed in the travel section. fiction, non-fiction, guide books. after a thorough perusal of the stacks i was on my way to the checkout with about three books in my hand. while figuring out how much this would set me back, a light bulb went off. i thought of how i hate spending money, how i love saving money, and how i love to read books. then BLAMO! a library card was my solution. i honestly can't believe it has taken me this long to get one. i had one within the first week when i was living in new zealand.
so i put the books back and headed to the library. i left the library shortly later with the same three books in my hands, and lots of savings in my purse!
1. lonely planet's  guide to central asia (here's a 'stan' there's a 'stan' everywhere's a 'stan-stan')
2. rough guide's beijing
3. helen thayer's walking the gobi

cover of her book

when i got home from the library i cuddled up in my bed. i was coated in a mass of travel books. on my lap i had propped a pillow. on top of the pillow sat my travel planner book. it's a lamented scribbler, with a collaged front cover and filled with tid bits of stuff i thought useful when i was reading different books and blogs. while i was cozied up on my bed i realized that i was learning. that i had a genuine interest in learning the geography of these countries, their culture, their countries history etc. i realized that i wanted to learn russian, so i went out and got a tutor. then it hit me. i couldn't remember a time when i'd felt like that before. when i was actually interested in learning something. i mean i guess i wanted to learn how to start a blog, so i figured out how to do that. but it's not really the same thing.
all this got me to thinking about university. about how i didn't go to university because i had a desire to learn. i went because i had a desire to obtain a degree. i didn't crave learning about business law, or communications. i didn't look forward to reading books on the history of leisure or women in sport. there were obviously some courses that i chose to take because i was interested in them, but only some. maybe four or five.
creative writing, poetry, women's lit, cults and new religion, ecology and religion, goddesses and women of power. all of those courses were in the arts department. yet i didn't want to get a BA. i felt like the people who were getting a BA, especially in english, were in the program because they were either super passionate about literature or because they already knew they wanted to get a BEd after their BA. but i wasn't passionate enough about english to get a BA. but i wasn't passionate about my BRM either. it just sounded like it had more possibilities and more flexibility for someone like me. someone who has no idea about what they want to do. but then again, how many people actually do something they think is cool or interesting? they do it for the outcome. for what that degree can do for them.
now that i am graduated, i am still happy i chose doing a BRM. but i am no closer to discovering what i want to do. what to do when i grow up.
it's weird to realize this. to realize that i spent so much money on something i have no real interest in. just for a piece of paper, and after all four years getting it i still am no closer to finding my passion.but maybe with all these books piled on me, all this fandangled learning i've been doing will help me find it.

helen and the two camels that accompanied her and her husband across the gobi

this week(or maybe month) i am reading walking the gobi.
at the age of 63, helen thayer walked across mongolia's gobi desert. she was accompanied by her 74 year old husband bill and two camels. they walked 1600 miles across the desert in the summer of 2001. 
i will keep you posted on this one!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

i am a crier

today a package arrived in the mail. it was from my mom. a birthday/easter present. 
i read my birthday card and instantly started crying. my mom has a knack for buying the most personable cards for every occasion. she makes it seem like the card was written just for you. i was in the kitchen when i read this with only the two year old boy as company. he was buckled in his high chair and turned around. 
“emmie otay?” 
“emmie’s crying”
“cause she loves her mommy and daddy too much”
i pulled myself together to finish serving him and his sisters supper, and wrapping up all the bed and bath time routines. 
when i was back in my room i opened one of the things in the package. cycling home from siberia. the book i have written about and referenced countless times on here. after i read it for the first time i asked my dad to. so he started it when i was home over christmas break. i am a severe dog earer of pages. so with each page that i had creased, he jotted down the page number and reason for dog earring it on the back of a christmas card envelope. and he added notes of his own too.
so when i got that book out of the parcel i sat down and started to read through his notes.
pg 57 quicker to melt solid ice than snow
pg 78 by yourself you are seen as a kind of nomad, searching adventure. in pair you look like tourists & tourists get robbed
pg 88 note address of each family you stay with or each person that helps you
pg 129 iodine drops
pg 220 ice cream -sugar & fat, does not dehydrate you
pg 236 stay out of indonesian waters - pirates
pg 353 but surely we(you) are brave my dear daughter emily anne
notes on the christmas card envelope
i didn’t get very far before i started crying again. hard. the kind of crying when your face squishes up very tight around your eyes and you try with all your might to keep your lips touching to prevent your mouth from opening. and when you blink the tears well up more and more, until they start rolling down your cheeks. and then you realize you haven’t taken a breath in ages, so you take a gigantic inhale that involves your whole body. toes clenching, shoulders raising to your ears. 
when i was taking these all encompassing breathes, that got louder with each exhale. i wondered if they could hear me upstairs. so i composed myself. i started to think about this family. this family that i live with, but am not apart of. this family that is so different from my family. different in every way. sometimes i feel sorry for the kids here. i think that they will never know that my ‘happy’ is so much more than theirs. that they will never know what its like to actually have the most amazing parents. i feel bad that their mom doesn’t cuddle up with them on the couch and eat ice cream out of the tub till the sides get mushy or walks them to school every morning, that their dad doesn’t come into their school as their show and tell or says i love you and tucks them in every night. but then they say something like “if you don’t cut my eggo i’ll get mom to fire you!” and i feel better. 
before i tucked the note away back into the book, i read this.
“...cycling home from siberia - extraordinary, only admiration and emotion beyond belief that my only offspring, how she has so much life in her...”
and then it started all over again. 

prep work

the prep desk

i just got back from my hawaiian workation. 
and now all of my thoughts are on my next adventure. 
i want this trip to be more outdoorsy than my last. 
i think part of this comes from that fact that one of my favorite parts of my last trip was when i was camping for three weeks in the australian outback. pulling up to the side of a dried up river bank just as the sun was setting, and waking up to 19 kangaroos outside my tent. 
this outdoorsyness factor is what scares me most. i am not outdoorsy in the slightest. so  the list i have developed of ‘what i need to get’ is extensive. tent, stove, boots, gps, sleeping pad and bag etc. 
i have been researching product reviews and gear guides for quiet some time. this is a trait i get from my mom. when i know i’m am going to buy something, i research the shit out of it. because of this, i have a pretty good idea about the types of stuff i need. but since i completely lack the skill and physique that usually accompanies that type of product knowledge, i feel like a complete dinkus when i go into stores and start asking questions. 
all i am confident in so far, is that i plan on heading to beijing in july. 
i can see myself arriving in beijing. couchsurfing in the city for a week, doing some day trips to highlights close by. then i plan on making my way by train into mongolia, and up to ulaanbaatar, the capital city. i will probably stay in a hostel for a couple days in the capital before staying with some cser’s. i will try and gather as much information as i possibly can in UB(ulaanbaatar) before i head off on my own. and this is where my imagination goes wild. i might head north to ulan ude or irkutsk, russia. or east towards all of the ‘stans’. 
i spend my free time adding to my already massive lists, searching for couchsurfing hosts in northern china and mongolia, pricing plane tickets, reading blogs about people who have travelled similar routes, and checking visa application procedures. 
the trip that i am planning doesn’t feel real yet. probably because camping and hiking aren’t really apart of me. and probably because my days are spent living in a mansion with toddlers and preteens...just about as far from where i plan on going as i can get. 
i don’t know if i will just go for a couple weeks, or months, or if i will be home for christmas. but that’s what i like. it’s one of the things i liked the most about my last trip. the not knowing. that when someone asks me what my plans are like for the next week, i can say that i have none. that i can travel with them for a bit if i want. the freedom, the unknown, the adventure of it all.
these next few months will be packed full of trip preparation so i will do my best to keep you posted.