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Green Travel: Seeing the World, Treading Lightly

One of the biggest reasons we downsized yet again was to empower us to do basically the only thing on our bucket list: TRAVEL.


And over the years, the two of us, in our past and present lives, have been fortunate enough to see some pretty amazing places. But of course not nearly enough...and so the planning has begun. Are we going to take a full year off? How much longer does our old dog and 2 remaining ducks have in them? Would it be better to do a month here, a month there? The brainstorming has begun, the binder has been created, the financial decisions we make in everyday life now usually include "let's do that AFTER we travel" now...


Along with that, HOW we will travel is super important to us, and fortunately, the majority of our travel over the years has been economical, and therefore far more sustainable than the guides out there suggest. And when we save money? We ultimately also enjoy the trip more, because it's less about gettin' fancy and more about simply absorbing and immersing in the culture, relaxing more rather than checking off lists, and enjoying our time together MUCH more than in those hectic itinerary-led holidays.


With that, here are some snapshots from travel past with some notes on how the trip stayed green, whether purposely or inadvertently...

Paris!

I saw Sabrina with Julia Ormond as a woman transformed into a photographer by going to the City of Lights solo, and immediately I was transfixed. In the fall of 1999, I took off to Paris with my camera, 20 rolls of black & white film, and my journal, and had one of the most amazing experiences. Because I knew I'd be out and about, I spent very little on a teeny tiny hotel room. Because I knew I'd be traveling solo, I spent very little on food because I wasn't going out to the fanciest of spots, and I only ate when I was hungry. Because as a solo traveler I wasn't quite sure if I was ready to try the subway solo and definitely had no interest in driving while on holiday, I walked - EVERYWHERE. And when my holiday package allowed for one 'field trip', I chose to hop a tour bus to Versailles, where I immediately met two women also from the Northwest and the three of us had the same idea - escape the clogged lines inside the palace and roam the grounds instead, where classical music was piped in and we ate strawberry glace instead. I had exactly three outfits, and with exception of this red dress, everything was black and comfortable. I wrote, I sipped wine at cafes, and I photographed a beautiful city just before the new millenium was upon us. My photographs were my mementos - anything I came home with like wine, knick-knacks, etc., were for others. It's been 24 years and I still clearly remember the rush of allowing myself to get lost in the small streets and sleep when I was tired, worrying little about ticking off items on a list and instead finding myself through the lens of my trusty Pentax.

Nine years and change later, I embarked on another solo journey, this time to a place I'd only heard about in a favorite film. Well, a beach twenty minutes south, to be exact, and it was the healing I needed after the death of my father. Casa Frida in Barra de Potosi, not far yet a world away from Zihua, welcomed me with a glass of wine, a hammock on my balcony, and the most simple yet amazing combination of French and Mexican foods for breakfast with those staying in the other three rooms, walking on the beach at dawn and dusk - often kept company by the local stray pups who gave me unconditional love - and again, my camera and my journal as my company. I swam in the ocean for the first time in my life, I discovered a new love for fresh avocado, young coconut flesh and camarones al ajillo fresh from the sea at the ramada nextdoor. I cried a lot, I wrote a lot, I slept even more. Never did I leave town, never did I feel a need to. A cab took me back to the airport and I was forever changed.

Almost two years later I found myself traveling to a vastly different environment, flying out on Thanksgiving Day 2010 to pursue my lifelong family history dream of going to Scotland, and somehow snapping a shot of the castle where one set of ancestors originated (even though it was privately owned). This time I met up with an online friend, who accompanied me as we grabbed the long train ride to Inverness and the b&b owner where we stayed picked us up as we found there was nearly 3' of snow on the ground in what would become their 'storm of the decade'. The snow kept most away, so we had a spot by the fire in the pub across the street pretty much reserved for us in the evenings, and a beautiful spread of local and homemade goodies for breakfast provided by the innkeepers. And I did find that castle, after they just said 'it's up the hill' and I told my traveling companion, "If you see the words Stand Fast, we're in the right place." I nearly broke into a run up that icy hill when I saw the clan crest greet me at the start of the driveway. It's all I ever wanted, and the magic of a 200mm lens allowed me to see just past the gates after traipsing through the trees to the immensity of the castle. Beyond that it was simple - whiskey by the fire, trudging down to the River Spey to gasp in shivering amazement, and joking & playing cards with the other folks on the train on the way back to Kent who had been forced to turn back due to the inclement weather. No driving, no fancy souvenirs, just experiencing a place my ancestors once roamed.


I never could have guessed that just over two years later I'd be crossing a different ocean, down to Australia to be a WWOOFer at a sustainable homestead & vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula town of Indented Head, and to finally meet the intriguing, brilliant and utterly handsome man I'd been chatting with for nearly two years...the one who would a year and a bit later upend his whole life to come to America for a new life as my husband and so much more. I used frequent flyer miles saved for a decade to get there, I enjoyed free room & board as a WWOOFer, and took the train from Melbourne to the countryside to do it. Later my love showed me around some of his favorite haunts, some very cool street art, and we shared our lives over coffee and walks along the Southern and Pacific Oceans. We knew our lives were going to change, we just didn't know how much quite yet...

At the end of the year, thanks to a combination of his 8 weeks of PTO at his employer and my self-employment status that regularly saw consulting work dwindle at the end of the year, we decided I'd come back for a whole month, and he'd then fly back to the US with me for another month, to see what we could do with 8 solid weeks together and if it meant something even bigger. I flew back to Melbourne, and we lived together for the whole time, and seeing more of the country by taking a bus rather than driving down the Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell. Where neither of us would have known where to stop along the way, we lucked out with a bus driver who stopped us all for bathroom breaks at the beachside locales that were nothing short of stunning, including the 12 Apostles, also known as Sow and Piglets. Australia was expensive so this was a DREAM! We hiked up the paths overlooking the ocean, slept late, and returned to the city invigorated and connected in our love of travel. Christmas BBQ with his family (we took the tram of course) and beach walks nearby? How could anyone want something store bought? Who'd want to drive in weather like that? I know the simplicity of our life together, our new journey, was going to be the core of us.

We honeymooned in 2014 on a road trip exploring what we called "the Raymond Carver trail". We were a car-free couple, so we rented a super economical little car for the trip and headed down Highway 30 to the coast, rode bikes along the Mighty Columbia, walked through the rainforest at Lake Quinault in Washington, awed by the biggest old growth trees. We visited his grave where my honey left Ray a note, ate at Carver's favorite cafe in Port Angeles, and then hopped a ferry to Orcas Island to sleep late, learn about the majestic orcas in an eco-friendly manner, and just BE. While we were on a road trip, it was a relaxing one in that we just were there to be in nature and pay homage to a legendary Northwest writer.

A year later we were off to France to explore Paris as a couple and experience the countryside as well. We stayed at Airbnb apartments rather than hotels, which at the time was a fraction of the price they are now, and again walked just about everywhere. We bought baguettes and cheese and wine and kept our time focused on immersing ourselves in the amazing architecture of the city and peaceful bliss of the flower of Giverny, waking up to sunrises and quiet, and taking the train rather than drive to get to and from the country. Again, the bliss lay in the simplicity.

A couple years later we went on our last international trip, a year before the pandemic hit. Zihua - but in a very different vibe. For the first time in a tropical locale, we splurged on a fancy mini-villa on the beach complete with an infinity pool on the balcony. And you know what? It was okay for a short time...but it truly was not 'us'. The place we stayed was closed off from the community, inaccessible on foot and therefore requiring a cab to get into town, and I felt...disconnected, both financially and culturally. While my birthday was celebrated and the food was good, it was a trip that gave me an important reminder about travel that I'd heeded in the past, but this time somehow had lost sight of - surround yourself in the place you've traveled to. If you find yourself around people who look and sound like you? You've taken a wrong turn. The trip ended early with my getting violently ill, and I sometimes wonder if that was a sign. But going forward? I will not forget the lessons I've learned on these continents we've set foot on.


Asia, Africa, South America? Leave the light on...




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