Monday, December 31, 2012

Rx in Cuenca, Ecuador

Written by Karen.
One of the biggest challenges that we faced before we left on our trip was how to ensure that Adam could continue to take his required medications.  These aren't unusual or high-risk medications, rather they are the everyday, preventative and ongoing maintenance medications that are required as a commitment to better health.   

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pase del Niño Viajero

Written by Karen.
The big Cuenca Christmas Eve parade was today and it didn't disappoint. The weather was cloudy and cool - perfect parade watching weather - and the mood was festive.  The City erected a serious sound system in the downtown main square and for the next 8 hours played familiar and unfamiliar Christmas carols and music.  

The Pase del Niño Viajero parade and celebration in Cuenca is said to be the biggest in Ecuador, with Ecuadorans coming from all over to participate and to watch.  As we understand it, the purpose of the parade is to highlight Mary and Joseph's travels and to honor the baby Christ child.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Eve Before Christmas Eve

Fresh rose petals on the side of the road 
Written by Karen.
The evening sky is turning pink, complimenting the dark gray and white clouds above and casting a pinkish-red glow over the city.  The colors of the buildings seem to warm and provide a contrast with their blue, orange, yellow and white facades.  Although the skies have been overcast for most of the day, it is still warm outside.  The air is almost soft as it settles in for the night and the first lights of the evening sputter on.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Buses and Baños

Piedra de Aqua, Baños
Written by Karen.
Except for two taxi rides that we took early into our visit to Cuenca, we have preferred to take the local bus to our destination.  This might seem to be an odd preference, particularly since a taxi costs less than $5.00 USD, but where would the fun be in that?  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Venturing Out: Chordeleg, Ecuador

Written by Karen.
Adam gave himself another reprieve from shaving today.  We woke up to find that our Cuenca apartment didn't have any water.  Again.  Zero.  Nada.  This is the third day without having water.  Unlike what we are used to in the States, there is no notification - either advance or after-the fact - that you will not have water and when you might expect to have the water turned back on. You find out that there is no water when you turn the spigot and you get nothing but air.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Flashback: Bogota, Colombia - November 2012

Written by Adam
First of all, I am certainly no expert on South America.  It’s actually my first time ever visiting this continent.  I remember studying South America in about the fourth grade - Peru, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, the Incas, the Spanish conquest, that sort of thing.  Pretty perfunctory, and certainly the material was not presented in any meaningful context at that grade level.

South America was that huge continent located below “ours”.  Mexico was that large country in between the two continents, along with that famous canal in Panama that changed shipping in the hemisphere forever.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Venturing Out: Gualaceo, Ecuador

Written by Karen.
We walked down the dusty cobblestoned streets to the Terminal Terrestre (the bus station) which is in the southern part of Cuenca.  We planned to take a bus and explore several towns: Gualaceo, Chordeleg, and Sigsig. We wound up exploring just one today: Gualaceo.  Cost of the bus ride: 60 cents USD one-way per person.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Venturing Out: Turi, Ecuador

Turi, Ecuador
Written by Karen.
Right outside of the city of Cuenca and atop a surrounding hill is the tiny parish of Turi.  We had read that you can see a very nice and expansive view of Cuenca from this little town, so we walked across the City to catch the bus heading towards Turi.  Cost: .25 cents each for a one-way trip.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ups and Downs of Traveling Slow

Cuenca, Ecuador
Written by Karen.
After not making a fully auspicious entrance into the City, it took us another six bumpy days until we were able to regain our footing and begin to hit our stride here in Cuenca, Ecuador.  

Cuenca itself is a charming Spanish colonial city of approximately 350,000 residents, with a vibrant historical downtown area that is fully being used in the everyday real sense, despite its UNESCO designation of a World Heritage site. The colorful architecture has been well-preserved in the historical downtown district and the cobblestoned streets and sidewalks make exploring the city a pleasure. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Stuck for a Moment

Written by Karen.
Welcome to Cuenca, Ecuador.  I breathe a rather large sigh of relief.  We are high in the Andes mountains; we are so high that both the clouds and snow cover the sharp outlines of the craggy and rugged mountains.  As far as altitude goes, we have dropped from 9315 feet in Quito to 8370 feet here in Cuenca.   

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Calories, Calles and Carreras of Bogota

Written by Adam
One fascinating aspect of walking the streets of Bogota, Colombia is the incredible variety of snack foods and general merchandise that are easily available from earnest street vendors.  There are thousands of industrious people living in Bogota who have staked a claim to a busy street corner to park a pushcart on.  Others utilize the street-level alcoves of large buildings.  I have yet to see a single vending machine anywhere in the city.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Venturing out: Fusagasugá

Written by Karen.
We ventured out of Bogota again over the weekend, heading south this time and dropping 2,943 feet in altitude to visit the town of Fusagasugá. Since Fusagasugá or Fusa, as it is also called, is about 40 miles outside of Bogota, we figured that with an early start we should arrive by 11:30 am, at the latest.  

What's for Lunch?

Written by Karen.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here in Bogota, and is usually served between 12:00 and 3:30 pm.  We discovered the wonderful concept of set menus early in the month and have since tried different restaurants throughout the City.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Off the Beaten Track - Villeta, Colombia

Written by Karen.
In the morning, Adam and I join up with Fernando, a local adventure trek guide, who will take us on a hike that will include walking to a series of waterfalls.  The waterfalls are called the Monkey Leaps, located in the jungle just outside of Villeta. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Off the Beaten Track - La Vega, Colombia

The Lagoon Park, La Vega
Written by Karen.
After making our way from the small town of San Francisco (Enchanted Garden) and grabbing a bit to eat on the way, we drove further south to the small town of La Vega. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stumbling into the Twilight Zone?

A University to Educate Educators
Written by Karen.
Adam and I hit the streets of Bogota again yesterday. This time we headed back up to the northern part of Bogota, to a neighborhood called the 93 Parque. We had seen some pictures of tranquil parks and large trees in established neighborhoods, and figured that it would be a nice area to explore.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Day of Thanks

Written by Karen.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  It is an opportunity to take the time to simply be appreciative.  It is a holiday usually spent with friends and family - who after all - are what matter.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Off the Beaten Track - San Francisco, Colombia

Written by Karen.
Our first foray off the beaten track was visiting the small town of San Francisco, approximately 1 hour northwest of Bogota. A new friend of ours, Carolina, was taking us to where she and her husband, Ricardo, lived in Villeta for a two-day visit.  However, along the way, we planned to stop and see the Jardin Encantado, or the Enchanted Garden, located in San Francisco.  Cost: 12,000 COP ($6.67 USD) per person entrance fee.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Street Graffiti or Fine Art?

Written by Karen.
Every large city has an abundance of street graffiti, and Bogota, Colombia is certainly not an exception. As we've been walking the streets over the past several weeks, I've been taking pictures of some of the more interesting graffiti that we've come across.  Graffiti or Fine Art?  You decide.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bogota Museums - Casa Botero

Written by Karen.
I readily admit it....we like museums. And Bogota has a lot of museums. Some are better than others, but we manage to learn something from each of them.  

We haven't made a dent yet with all of the museum opportunities that are available, but we have visited quite a few so far: The National Museum; The Museum of Gold; The Police Museum; Casa Botero; The Mint House Museum; and, the Charles Darwin exhibit sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History.

Over the next few weeks, I will highlight a few of the more memorable museums that we have visited so far.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Venturing Out: Zipaquirá

Written by Karen.
We ventured out of Bogota about 17 miles to the north to visit the small colonial town of Zipaquirá.  According to Wikipedia, Zipaquirá, or Zipa as it is also called, is one of the oldest colonial towns in Colombia and is more often associated with the Salt Cathedral that was built inside the mountain on the outskirts of town.  We didn't go up to the Salt Cathedral on this day, but did explore the cobblestoned streets and enjoy the ambience of the town itself.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Forecast: 20% Chance of Rain in Bogota

I'll let this video speak for itself.  (You Tube Video: Video footage taken on the bus)  Gonna buy a boat if we hear a forecast of 50% chance of rain!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Top of the Mountain!

Mount Monserrate from Central Bogota 
Written by Karen.
We visited Mount Monserrate today, located some 10,341 feet above sea level with grand, sweeping, panoramic views of the city of Bogota below. It was about an hour walk from our apartment to where you can take the aerial cable car to the top of the mountain.  The walk there is mostly all uphill, and the last mile is probably a sustained 8% grade.  Needless to say, we were sucking air by the time we got to the ticket counter!  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Traffic in Bogota, Colombia

Written by Karen.
When someone says that traffic is heavy, or intense, or crazy, we wonder just how heavy, intense or crazy the described traffic actually is.  Is it like the 405 during rush hour in Southern California, or is it more like the pinball driving experience coming over the hill on Highway 17 into the Silicon Valley?  Or is it like nothing you have ever experienced before?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Safe and Secure

Written by Karen.

Presidential Palace
We've gotten used to the altitude and thin air/pollution and have been hitting the streets pretty hard.  We have logged quite a few miles so far - but walking (and getting lost!) -  is the best way to really get a sense of what's around you when you are in a new place. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bogota - First Impressions

Written by Karen.

Except for the dramatic - and fast moving - clouds and the altitude headache that forces you to take it slow until you acclimate to the thinner air,  it's easy to forget that you are well over 8,000 feet above sea level.  There are no dramatic mountain ranges that tower above you or surround this huge city to remind you that you are at a high elevation. But, the forces that occur at this altitude are strong and we plan to take it slow for our first couple of days.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Written by Karen.

I know - I can’t believe it myself. Six days from now we will officially become vagabonds heading towards the airport with our backpacks weighing around 25 pounds each and, hopefully - with the wind at our backs - begin our travel adventure. Our first destination? It’s going to be high in the Andes - we will visit Bogota, Colombia.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another Transition

Written by Karen.
Like wounded animals who curl into a dark place to lick their wounds, we lay low at Adam’s moms house for several days, popping Advil and catching catnaps to help allay the damage caused by our four-day blitz of moving out of our house.  Our tenants have moved in, and according to our property manager, are very happy in their new space.  This pronouncement also makes me happy.  It’s been quite an effort to get our house to the very best level possible - even though we knew it was for unknown tenants - and it feels like we are leaving our home in good hands.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Great Escape

Written by Karen.

At 7:38 am, after literally working all-night, our little caravan consisting of Chinook and our VW Tiguan pulled out of our driveway for the last time. Our new tenants are expected to pull into our driveway at 8:00 am and begin moving into our home, which they will now call their home for the next nine months. We beat the clock by some 22 minutes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Meet Chinook

Fish Camp, California
Written by Karen.

Last week, we were standing on the driveway talking with one of the guys who was putting a new roof on our house.  He was asking about our '84 VW Vanagon - our beater named Chinook.  So named because whenever we went on a road trip, like the massive salmon that is DNA-programmed to swim upstream to return home, he somehow always got us home again. Whatever adventures, breakdowns, or mechanical issues that we experienced out on the road, we still got home safely and usually with a tale or two!  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Those Dratted Details

Paris, France
Written by Karen.
Well, the saga of wrapping things up around here continues.....we are beyond busy as we strive to reach our goal of beginning our travel adventure early/mid October.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Almost There...

Written by Karen.
We are fast approaching the moment when we will reach out, turn the handle, open the door and walk across the threshold and start a new journey into the unknown.  

A travel journey that Adam and I have chosen to take together and that we expect will bring additional changes and new perspectives to how we live, think, eat, and experience life.  In short, we are finally ready to jump off the cliff and spread our wings!  First stop: South America.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is The Pursuit of Dreams Selfish?

Written by Karen.
I was having a conversation recently with a person that I know casually, when he asked, ”You know, you already have a great life, live in a great community, have a great career, drive great cars, but yet you want more?  Isn’t that a little selfish?”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Progress Report

Written by Karen
Heading for open seas with an uncertain horizon
Oh, the twists and turns of life!  When we decided that we were going to take a year – or two – and go travel the world, I started planning. Adam quickly took the approach that we would depart on our travel adventure whenever we were ready to go, and that planning would only serve to frustrate us.  I took the project management approach that we needed deadlines, timelines, markers, and objectives in order to meet our goal.  How else do we plan for an event like this?  How else would we know that we are making progress towards reaching our goal?  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Essentials - Yes, Less is More

Written by Karen

Full boil reduction
There is more than a slight bit of irony that we are now working so hard to winnow down the amount of things that we have worked so hard to acquire.  In cooking, this winnowing process is similar to the process of simmering something down to its essence, or creating a reduction as a chef would call it.  As you boil liquids down to a more concentrated and flavorful taste, less liquid and more concentrated flavor is the more in this case. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Flashback: Munich, Germany - Oktoberfest! - September 2010

Written by Adam

After paying a visit to the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen, the very next morning we made our way by train into nearby Stuttgart.  We then set our sights upon paying a brief visit to Munich, where the 200th Anniversary celebration of Oktoberfest was imminent.  Even being essentially a white wine kind of guy, I still wanted to go if at all possible.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Travel Budgeting 101

Written by Karen
Two of the most frequently asked questions that I receive about our upcoming around-the-world travel adventure relate to our budget: How are we budgeting for this trip, and how much do we think this trip will cost us?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Flashback: Zuffenhausen, Germany - September 2010

Written by Adam
Sometimes the seeds that finally sprout to see a particular part of the world are planted years before you actually arrive.  Visiting Zuffenhausen, Germany is one of those exact situations, at least for me.
When I was about twelve years old, I went to the movies with my father and younger brother.  We all drove over to the Century 21 Theater in San Jose, California, home of a big screen and an even bigger sound system - at least in those days.  We saw a double feature way back when.  The first movie was Grand Prix, starring a youthful James Garner playing a Formula One racecar driver.  Open wheel racing, exotic European circuits and locales, but other than that, I don’t remember very much about the plot.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day Trip to Napa Valley

Written by Karen
A gentle-sloped vineyard in Napa Valley
It’s a relatively short driving distance from the Bay Area, but it is a different world when you arrive in Napa Valley.  So, we took a day trip to Napa Valley with some friends of ours yesterday. It was an opportunity to catch up, hang out, sample some great wines, eat good food, and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Downsizing - Lessons Learned So Far.

Written by Karen
Santa Cruz, California
When Adam and I determined that we would take a year or so sabbatical away from our current lifestyle and travel around the world, we started to downsize. It was a practical decision.
In the Bay Area, storage facilities start at $200/month for roughly the size of a suburban bedroom. That’s not much space when you consider we currently have a 1400 square foot house with 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 bathrooms and a full garage. Even with significant reductions to the amount of stuff we currently have, it will still be an expensive proposition to store and manage whatever household items that we decide to keep. So, starting to reduce the amount of stuff we had accumulated over the past twenty-five years was a motivating factor in our decision to downsize.