Traveling Tomboy No Heels, No Makeup, Just Adventure Mon, 08 Oct 2012 02:25:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Two Scenes from Jindo Island Mon, 08 Oct 2012 02:25:41 +0000 [...]]]> Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned you!  I simply haven’t really been traveling, and I’ve been working my ass off trying to get my photography business off the ground.  I will start posting here again soon, as I will be taking a motorcycle trip with a journalist friend of mine in a couple weeks.  So, stay tuned!

For now, just a simply diptych while I try to get this blog going again!

Next on the List Wed, 18 Jul 2012 22:23:29 +0000 [...]]]> So, I’ve been thinking about where I want to travel, next time I have enough money to do so.  While I do want to travel pretty much everywhere, I do have a “short list” of places that I most want to visit.  It helps me to stay focused, and to have more concrete, tangible goals.  Here are a few of the places on my short list, as well as descriptions of what I hope to do while there, in no particular order:


I’d like to spend 3-5 months there, on horseback, photographing the nomads, particularly focusing on their relationship with horses.  I found an outfitter that will actually place you with a nomad family for a month to learn certain skills, and I think that doing at least two of those placements would be incredible.  The ones I’m interested in are learning to play the Morin Khuur, Mongolian language training, and learning the Mongolian style of horse training.  Once you’re in Mongolia, it’s quite cheap to get around, but getting there is the expensive part.  This trip will be what The Mongolian Experiment was supposed to be, before I came to my senses.  I will likely start a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign for part of this trip, as half my time will be spent producing photography work.


Little known fact: had I not gone to teach English in South Korea, I was going to teach in Turkey instead, and I almost did.  The mixing of East and West in Istanbul is fascinating to me, and I’d also love to visit Cappodocia and the Lake Van areas as well.  This would be a shorter, 1-2 week trip.  I don’t currently know anyone in Turkey, which makes things a bit more difficult, but with a little poking through my travel network, I bet I can find a contact there.


I am really interested in the Gaucho culture in Argentina.  I have seen some WWOOF placements on sheep ranches in Argentina that are looking for people who know how to ride, and I’d love to improve my skills and learn shepherding in the process.  Plus, Argentina is a beautiful country and I could use some work on my appallingly poor Spanish language skills (especially given that I grew up in Texas!).  About a month seems right for this trip.  I think that learning the Argentinian style of riding would help me tremendously as a horsewoman, and since I have several contacts in Argentina, this trip is likely to happen sooner rather than later.  Plus, it would be a boon for the equestrian side of my photography portfolio.


I’ll be honest – until the last year or two, I really didn’t have much desire to see Spain.  I saw it as hot, dusty, and a bit more inaccessible than some other parts of Europe.  However, thanks to my recent involvement in my Spanish Civil War reenacting unit and learning a lot more about Spain’s history, I am now really intrigued by Spain and its culture, and particularly want to visit the areas of Catalonia and Asturias.  This could be a 1-2 week trip, and it’s one that I think Marc would enjoy joining me on as well, which is always nice.  My family has some contacts in Barcelona, which I suspect could be tapped fairly easily.  The trick with Spain also seems to be to go in the off season months, in the spring or fall.

Thailand (or Vietnam)

This is actually one of my cheaper trips, assuming I can get a good airfare deal.  I’d love to spend 1-2 months in Thailand or Vietnam, preferably staying in one or two places the entire time.  I’d like to rent a cheap bungalow near the beach and spend my days working on getting back into shape.  I prefer Vietnamese food to Thai food, but if there’s a significant cost difference, I’d rather have more time abroad on this trip and save a culinary tour of Vietnam for another trip.  I love beaches and I think that being able to swim every day, plus being able to focus purely on my health for a few months, would do wonders for my fitness.


Ever since learning that Kyrgyzstan is one of the cheapest places to get immersion-style Russian lessons, I have been really taken with the idea of going there for 2 months to learn some Russian.  Like Mongolia, living in Kyrgyzstan is relatively cheap, but getting there is the difficult part.  The language school in question is in the capitol, Bishkek, but it’s rather easy to get out into the gorgeous countryside, so I wouldn’t be totally cooped up in a post-Soviet city.


I find Finland rather fascinating.  It has one of the highest quality of life scores in the world, what is generally considered the world’s best education system, and is snowy and cool for much of the year.  Plus, Finnish is something of a language isolate, which is kind of fascinating to me.  There’s a dog sledding outfit up near the Arctic Circle that takes on helpers for 1 month stints year round, and I think I would really enjoy getting to work with dogs every day.


If you had asked me about Botswana five years ago, I probably would not have even been able to point it out on a map.  Then, I met my boyfriend Marc.  He lived in Botswana for three years while his parents were stationed there with the State Department, and he has been on more safaris than he cares to count.  I am a big animal lover, and as a photographer, the call of a safari is too hard to resist.  Due to Marc’s connections there, we should be able to put something together without bankrupting us.  A trip down into South Africa could be part of the same trip, as that’s somewhere else that I really would like to see, particularly Cape Town.

So, that’s my short list.  What places are on yours?

[Photos by:  Al Jazeera EnglishMrmyamicmolMorBCNtamaranichDefence ImagesVisit Finland, and aftab.]
A Three-Wheeled Road Trip? Tue, 22 May 2012 02:29:07 +0000 [...]]]> Though 2012 is shaping up to be a travel-light year for me, I do still have some prospective plans that will get me out of the house for more than a weekend at a time.  One of these plans is for a series of 1-3 road trips of 3-5 days apiece, taken on our sidecar motorcycle, Nadezda.

I have saved up enough money to cover my expenses for three months from mid-June until mid-September.  During that time I will be applying all my energy toward finally making my dreams of making a living at photography a reality, but I also will need a break or two somewhere in there.  This is where the roadtrips come in.

Our sidecar motorcycle has a “comfortable” speed of around 45-50mph, which makes it perfect for country back roads.  It also has enough storage space to carry a few day’s worth of supplies for both rider and passenger.  Furthermore, it is a vintage-styled bike that attracts a lot of attention and friendly questions wherever we stop.  These things, when combined, make it a rather perfect road tripping vehicle.

I’m planning on taking the bike to explore the backroads of West Virginia, Central Pennsylvania, and Central/Western Virginia.  I’ll be eating local, staying in small motels (or possibly camping), and just generally having fun getting to discover the lesser known through the slow and winding roads of the countryside.  Though I have a prospective companion for one of the trips, I’m still looking for someone to come along and ride in the sidecar for the other two trips.  The only thing I can guarantee about the trips is that they will be an adventure.

Are you up for it?

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Yearning for the Abstract Tue, 27 Mar 2012 16:24:07 +0000 [...]]]> Now, I don’t know if there’s something in the water, but I’ve noticed that there’s been a recent trend in the travel community that seems to be prompting people to talk about the concept of “Home”.  Legal Nomads wrote about the somewhat surreal feeling of being homesick when you haven’t had a home in years.  Similar to my own post about why I’m settling, Nomadic Matt wrote about how and why his travel lifestyle is coming to an end.  Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic has been struggling with the existential complications of moving home after years on the road.

What about me?  Well, I’ve been dealing with my own version of travel/home-related angst.

A little over a month ago, it looked like Marc was going to get a job out in rural Winchester, VA (near the West Virginia border).  Without going into too much detail, it would have resulted in us being able to afford to rent a house with money to spare, made it easier for me to make the jump to being a full time photographer, and would have improved our quality of life in general.  I like where we live in Alexandria, across the river from Washington DC, but it just isn’t…me.  Marc and I have talked before about eventually moving somewhere cheaper, more rural, less steeped in stupid city bureaucracy, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  I got really revved up over the idea of finally getting to make some of the changes in my life that I had been waiting for.

Well, there have been complications with that job and it’s looking less and less likely that he will be able to take it.  He’s pursuing two strong leads for other jobs in his field, one with a government agency and one with another contractor like the one he already works with, as he is getting really fed up with the antics at his current employer.  It’s great that he has so many opportunities, but I am finding it hard to be happy for him, because all of his current prospects necessitate us staying exactly where we are, keeping the status quo.

There are two things pulling at me these days: fear and yearning.

I say fear because I am really worried that Marc is falling into the trap of just going with the flow and that our existence five years from now will look largely the same to what it does now.  I don’t want that.  Right now we’re kind of floating down the river of life but aren’t particularly engaged, and I really hate that.  I certainly don’t want more of it.

I say yearning because I feel like I am yearning for a life that I can’t even really define.  I’m yearning for something of an abstract melange of life traits that is more like a movie montage than anything else.  The difficulty here is that while I felt I was on my way toward that life, now that we’re not moving, I feel lost.

So, I’m reevaluating.  I’m taking stock of my life and what I do and don’t like about it.  The next step is to figure out what I can do to get rid of the bad and increase the good.

I’ve had a few thoughts about what I could do, but they’re all pretty clearly based in a desire to have a life that is “not this one” without really having a plan on how to turn them into the life I want.  I’ve thought about going back to Korea for a year, or over to China or Vietnam or even Argentina.  I’ve thought about saving up the money to buy an old towable trailer to refurbish and live in while driving around the country, doing photography projects.  I’ve thought about going back home to live with my parents and work and save up money for who knows what.  The issue with all of these plans is that while they’re all tempting, not of one them really get me closer to what I want my life to look like (except, possibly, the trailer plan).  The only thing they have in common is that they’re not the life I’m currently leading.

The additional complication is that I don’t know where Marc fits into all of this.  I have a bad habit of postponing or even shelving my own plans and desires in favor of those of my romantic partner.  It’s a really bad habit and I worry that I’m doing the same thing once again.  How do you reconcile your own plans and desires with those of your partner when they’re rather radically different?  It’s just not something I really ever learned as a child because my parents were always on the same page, on the same path.  So, I don’t know how most people do it.  On one hand, I don’t think that I should have to shelve my own wants and needs, but on the other, I don’t want to be a jerk who says “my way or the highway”.  Frankly, I’m stumped.

This is one of those side effects of living a less than ordinary life that nobody ever talks about, I suspect.

Any advice would be heartily welcomed.

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Travel Tuesday Photo: Neighborhood Temple Tue, 31 Jan 2012 17:11:04 +0000 [...]]]>

Today’s Travel Tuesday photo comes to you from my time spent living in South Korea.  This is a shot of the roof over the gate to a temple in my small neighborhood.  The temple was only a few buildings away from my apartment, and I could hear people singing and chanting there all the time.  I took this shot on my first full day in the country, while I was exploring my surroundings.

Five Foods I Want To Try In Their Country Of Origin Thu, 26 Jan 2012 21:35:44 +0000 [...]]]>

The best place to taste a food is where it originated, and as a foodie who travels, eating is one of my favourite parts of any trip.  Here are five foods I want to try in their country of origin.  I’ve had all these foods before, but I love them all enough that I’d love to some day get to experience them where they’re best.

Bun – Vietnam

Vietnamese food is one of my favourite cuisines.  I always feel healthy when I eat Vietnamese food, and I love its emphasis on fresh ingredients.  Though Pho seems to be the most popular Vietnamese food in America, I tend to stick to the rice noodle “buns”.  In fact,  just writing about them is making me want to get one from the place down the street!  The food is one of the main reasons I want to visit Vietnam, and I’d love to get a chance to have it where it’s cheap and good!

Sushi – Japan

I was introduced to sushi when I was young and my taste for it has never left me.  Like Vietnamese food, Japanese food always tastes so light and healthy to me – I can eat a ton and not feel like I’ve just eaten a brick.  I was hoping to find good but cheap sushi when I lived in Korea, but I had a hard time finding sushi of any kind, which was heartily disappointing.  Some day I hope to be able to sample the good stuff in its native land.

Steak – Argentina

I’m not a huge fan of beef.  In fact, for the first 20 or so years of my life, I didn’t eat it at all, and even now I eat it very sparingly.  As a result, I’m extremely selective about the beef I eat.  I’ve come to really appreciate a well-made steak that came from a well-raised cow.  I have heard phenomenal things about the cows in Argentina and the beef that comes from them, so I’d love to give it a try.

Ceviche – Spain

This is one of the foods that I actually haven’t eaten much of, unlike the others in this list.  I have only had ceviche once, and I was pretty young, but it made an impression on me.  I’m a huge seafood fan, and I love it when it’s served raw or close to raw, as in ceviche and sushi.  This dish seems right up my proverbial alley and I really would love to try it in Spain, as well as getting to know Spanish food a bit better in general.

Fish & Chips – United Kingdom

This one may seem a bit out of place, given the semi-gourmet nature of some of the other listings here, but it goes along with my (by now obvious) love of seafood and cheap eateries.  Having grown up in the south, I love fried food of all kinds and there’s just something inherently British about a fish & chip shop that you just don’t get here in the USA.  I haven’t been to the UK in about 15 years, and the next time I go, I’ll definitely be stopping by for some chips and a pint.

What foods would you love to eat in their native land?

[Photos by Robyn Lee, Renee S, and Or Hitch]

Travel Tuesday Photo: Roads of Auvergne Wed, 25 Jan 2012 16:56:03 +0000 [...]]]>

Today’s Travel Tuesday photo comes to you from the tiny village of Les Balayes in Auvergne, France.  I took this shot while I was there this summer while visiting Marc’s family and was stunned by the beauty of the region and have been surprised to find that it is rarely visited by tourists.  So, if you’re visiting France and want to get off the beaten path, I can heartily recommend Auvergne!

Why You Shouldn’t Visit France in August Sat, 21 Jan 2012 00:20:27 +0000 [...]]]>

See that crowd?  Take a good, long, hard look at it.  That, my friends, is Paris in the second week of August.  The most-touristed week in the most-touristed city on earth.

Short of a fully comped press trip, I would never, ever again visit France in August, and I would advise you against it as well.  Here is the reality of France, especially Paris, in August:

High prices.  Merchants and hostelers crank up their prices because they know they can.  It’s a great example of supply and demand and you, as the demand, are not on the winning side of that equation.  Say hello to $70 hostel beds and $4 bottles of water.

Yes folks, that's actually a line.

Crowds.  Everywhere.  I’m convinced that Paris in August is some giant study in the maximum occupancy of the city.  The street pictured above is not typically meant to be a pedestrian-only street but the sheer number of people packed into one place turned it into one.  The line to get into Notre Dame rivaled the lines I saw outside Apple stores when the iPhone 4 came out.  Restaurants are crowded and noisy, souvenir touts are at their most aggressive, and staff everywhere are so tired of the foreign invaders that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get poor service.

It’s hot as a Finnish sauna.  France really only has a few weeks of what I would truly consider “hot” weather, and they are all in early- to mid-August.  Combine the hot, steamy temps with a general lack of air conditioning and you will discover what it feels like to feel permanently sweaty and gross in a city of high fashion.

So, take my advice: keep your trips to the land of frog legs and brie to months not named “August”.

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Weekends in Another Century Sat, 14 Jan 2012 03:53:49 +0000 [...]]]>

One of the side perks of being a historical reenactor is that it means I actually get to spend quite a good portion of my weekends out of town.  Though Marc and I have driven as much as 14 hours each way to an event before, most events we attend these days are within 3-4 hours of where we live, if not closer.  However, it’s still good to get out of the house, and you can’t get much further away from daily life than to step into the shoes of someone in another era in history!

While I don’t spend a lot of time on longer trips like many travel bloggers do, thanks to my involvement in the historical reenacting hobby I do still end up spending a sizable amount of my time on the road.  In 2012 I’ll be spending more than 40 days traveling just for reenactments.  To show you all more concretely just how much time I spend on this every year, I’ve decided to show you what my schedule is for this year.  I already posted it over on my reenacting blog, Historically Speaking, but I feel it also belongs here as well.

Events are listed like so:

Date – Location – Era – Event Name – Unit Attending With

January 28-29 – Fort Indiantown Gap, PA – WWII – Battle of the Bulge – None (Press)

February 24-26 – Newville, PA – WWII – Winter Line – Kampfegruppe Martz

March 17-18 – Jamestown, VA – Timeline (WWI) – Military Through the Ages – None (Press) (w/ East Siberian Rifles)

March 23-25 – King & Queen County, VA – Revolutionary War – School of the Soldier – Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment

April 14-15 – Lexington, MA – Revolutionary War – Battle Road – None (Press)

April 20-22 – Newville, PA – WWI – Neuville Tactical – None (Press)

April 21-22 – Glenn Dale, MD – Timeline (Algerian War) – Marching Through Time – 1er Regiment Etrangere Parachutiste

April ?-? – Big Pool, MD – Revolutionary War – Fort Frederick Market Days – Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment

May 18-20 – Virginia Beach, VA – WWII – Virginia Beach Air Show – Tretiy Vzvod

May 19-20 – Carlisle, PA – Timeline (WWII) – Army Heritage Days – Kampfegruppe Martz

May ?-? – Dundalk, MD – Roman Era – Roman Days – None (Press) (w/ Legio XX)

June ?-? – Louisa, VA – Vietnam War – Vietnam Tactical – Civilian Press Corps

June ?-? – Reston, VA – WWII – Sully Plantation – None (Press)

July 21-22 – Ticonderoga, NY – Revolutionary War – Defiance & Independence – None (Press)

August ?-? – Louisa, VA – Vietnam War – Vietnam Tactical – Civilian Press Corps

August ?-? – Nokesville, VA – Timeline (Algerian War) – Tank Farm – 1er Regiment Etrangere Parachutiste

September 15-16 – Gettysburg, PA – WWII – Ike Farm – (possibly w/ Tretiy Vzvod)

September ?-? – Reston, VA – Timeline (Roman) – Virginia Scottish Festival – None (Press) (w/ Legio XX)

Considering that there are probably going to be a few more events added to this list (especially in October and November), at 18 events (and probably counting) this may be my busiest reenacting year yet!  One change I’ve noticed is that I’ve started to attend a lot more of the public events “out of uniform” as a photographer instead of a reenactor.  I still usually go with a unit and help them set up, but I’m not dressed up myself and am mainly there to take pictures.  It means that I get to attend more events, but it also means that I reenact less.  It’s a trade-off, and one I’m still trying to get the balance right on.

If you’re going to be at an event or in the area, let me know!  I’d love to meet some of my travel readers in a different context than usual!

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Christmas in Texas: My Favourite Passenger Fri, 06 Jan 2012 23:50:49 +0000 [...]]]> When I was a kid, growing up in my family’s house in Bellaire, one of the many small cities that make up the greater Houston, Texas area, we had a wonderful black-tri Australian Shepherd named Duck.  He was named duck for two reasons: first, he used to sit in his water bowl and had an affinity for water; second, his fur was so oily that water would slide right off, as it does off most ducks.  So, he became Duck, forever confusing to people at dog parks everywhere.

Sadly, a few years ago, Duck died.  After a year, my parents got another black-tri Aussie, this time a girl who they named Lola.  I haven’t grown up with Lola the way I did with Duck, but I have spent enough time around her to know that she is a great dog.  She’s very sweet, rather smart, and is quirky in a way that I really enjoy.  One of her quirks is a fondness for riding in vehicles of all kinds.  She flew in our family plane on the day my parents picked her up from the breeder, and she absolutely loves to fly.  She also enjoys more terrestrial transportation, however, and she loves to ride in the front seat of my old truck, which my parents now own.  She stares out the front windshield and loves to smell the fresh air whooshing by from a partially-opened window.  When you get up to highway speed, she lays down and puts her head on your lap.

I drove my truck a few times while I was home and I always made sure to give Lola a quick trip around the block when I came back from whatever errand I was running.  During the year I spent living out of that very vehicle, I had many friends riding shotgun in the passenger seat, but I think Lola is my favourite driving companion.

I had my mom take a few portraits of Lola and me in the truck, as I felt that it would be a very good representation of both of us.  Here they are:

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