Archive | February, 2010
February 28, 2010

Tsunami Tsaturday . . .a Fine Line

Once in a while we’re reminded that we live on a tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Chile, on a continent far away, suffered an 8.8 earthquake as we headed to bed, and we awoke well before dawn to the sobering reality of a potentially devastating tsunami barreling our way.

We go through the drills regularly; the civil defense sirens are tested monthly and even the youngest children know to cover their ears and it’ll end soon.  Everyone I know has batteries, flashlights, water, sleeping bags and a radio in an emergency kit; the computers are routinely backed up and the important papers are all kept together.   We keep our phones charged, our gas tanks reasonably full, and a bit of cash on hand just in case.   We know our infrastructure is tenuous; phone lines crash every time there’s a heavy rain and the power can mysteriously go out when five people sneeze simultaneously around the state.  The possibility of devastation always looms,  perhaps as a part of subconscious life, but we’re island people, and we consider it part of the price of paradise.

This time, however, it wasn’t a drill.  By the time the civil defense sirens began blaring at 6AM — this time, for real — we were already in high gear.  Lines at gas stations and supermarkets had queued up in the wee morning hours.  Supermarkets quickly posted signs rationing Spam, a local favorite that deserves its own blog report at another time.  Ringing phones up and down the street pierced the quiet morning air, and neighbors gathered on the street to compare notes, strategies and supplies.  Friends checked on friends.  It was quiet, deliberate, kind and calm.  It was unlike any emergency I’ve ever known.

For us, we gathered the things that mattered — personal papers, a change of clothes, some food, water and supplies, and our 2 dogs and our cat — and headed to higher ground.   We took an assessment of our treasures — kids special art projects, photos, collections, our beloved Bandit’s ashes, special travel mementos — and moved them upstairs, just in case.  With our neighbor and dear friend Julie, and our new friends (until now strangers simply staying in a rental cabana for a few days) we took refuge in a client’s hillside home, where peacocks roam the conservation lands just beyond the back yard.  We nibbled on cheese, chips and chili, sipped a bit of wine, and waited.  Our animal menagerie settled into their kennels, nestled just outside the front door and within earshot.  We knew we were blessed, and that our “evacuation” bore little resemblance to the images typically conjured by the word.  Yet the fear and the unknown was palatable.  What would happen?  Would our homes still be there?  Would our island suffer the same devastation of southeast Asia, just a few years ago?

It came.  It rolled in, sucking out the water then rolling back in…enough to know it was there, but not enough to make a difference.  We’d been spared.  We’d dodged the bullet.  As one client put it so well . . . what happened, and what could have happened, an incredibly fine line.  Like everyone, we obediently waited for the all-clear, tidied up the home where we’d taken shelter, packed up the car, and headed back to the beach, back home.  We joined our neighbors on our stretch of beach, just to make sure our “home” was really okay.  We celebrated; we exhaled.

All the emergency supplies are back in the plastic bins and the cupboards, until next time.   Life has quickly returned to normal, restaurants re-opened, and the all-day news gave way to the Olympics.  It’s almost as though nothing happened . . . almost.  We walk our beautiful, calm beach and say a silent prayer for our friends in Chile, not quite so lucky.

February 6, 2010

One Bag . . .Countless Adventures!

The Rick Steves books and DVDs are strewn everywhere.  I wake up in the middle of the night to check one more thing or make one more note.  The energy is infectious . . .we’re vagabonding again!  This time, it’s a spring thaw adventure:   a transatlantic crossing to Europe, exploring northern Italy, an Adriatic Sea and Greek islands cruise, then Austria and southern Germany by train and car.

Traveling with children, I’ve concluded, is something like cooking with them.  It’s a hands-on, messy, eclectic, run-with-it-and-see-where-it-goes adventure.  Every great dinner party starts in the kitchen, with everyone pitching in, tossing the salad, adding their own special touch.  Travel — done well — is, for us, a global feast.  Our Vagabonding trip book is coming together, with Sacagawea and Dundee researching the cities and writing one-pagers on the history and sites, exploring the streets via Google earth, building word search puzzles for our destinations, and creating journal pages for us to capture the magic on the ground.

Our new mantra:  down-sizing!  Disciples to our packing lists, we’re in constant search of ways to eliminate, reuse and recycle.  This trip, we’re committed to 51 days with one carry-on bag each, nothing else.  Between airline bag fees and train station mobility, it’s the only way to go, and now, it’s our challenge.  The wheeled bags are being replaced with backpack convertibles; schoolwork is all going digital; our books are on our Kindle; and our wardrobe, basic and interchangeable.

It’s also about organization and planning . . . making the most of the days on the ground means getting it together before leaving home.   Guide books and DVDs, travel sites, travel blogs, and web tools like www.tripit.com put us on the ground, organized and focused.  I love letting travel take me where it goes in the moment, and I believe the best way to do that is to have all the logistics and basics in place and out of the way.

For those that might be interested, some of my favorite sources of travel insight and info include TripAdvisor (the spot for great tips on lodging and restaurants, and also guides, things to do, out-of-the-way spots, etc); www.onebag.com (for packing lists and tips); Cruise Critic for the cruising portions of our trips; TripIt (mentioned above, for itinerary management); BootsnAll, Independent Traveler, and so many others for inspirational insight on the destinations; and of course, Rick Steves for all things Europe.  Want more specifics?  Just let me know and I’m happy to share!

Stay tuned!