trip report: New Zealand – diving Milford Sound, January 2020

The experience at Milford Sound can sound like a big tourist trap with the many visitors all boarding the similar boat cruise. It was an experience we had to settle for during our first visit to the famed fjord when weather canceled our original plans. To my surprise, the natural aesthetics of the sheer rock faces and tall waterfalls among the moody clouds was more than enough to overcome the tourist crowds on these cruises and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience that day. 

16_12_NZ2-70

It only added to my desire to return and see the wonderland from below. Fortune would have it, a couple of diving spots opened up for Mark and I and I would get my wish the second time around.

This is the fifth entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our dives in Milford Sound and our subsequent stay in Queenstown. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

Read More

trip report: Sydney, Australia & travel to New Zealand, January 2020

Other than the Great Barrier Reef, the other thing that comes to mind about Australia is the Sydney Opera House. So on our way to the South Island of New Zealand, we had a long layover in Sydney. To stretch out legs after a few days on the boat, we took the stroll around the waterfront and see that opera house. 

19_12_GBR_30-1-4

This is the fourth entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our brief stop in Sydney on our way to  the South Island of New Zealand. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

Read More

trip report: Australia – diving the Great Barrier Reef, December 2019

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the CNN’s Seven Natural World and UNESCO World Heritage Site covering approximately 133,000 sq mi (344,400 sq km) off the coast of northeastern Australia in the Coral Sea (wikipedia). With recent coral bleaching (wikipedia) from climate change (The New York Times), there was no question of where we were going in Australia. So in this edition of travel2dive, aka just my dive log, we boarded the Ocean Quest liveaboard and really went down under 17 times over the course of 4 days to bring in the New Year.

19_12_GBR_4-10

This is the third entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our diving adventures on the Great Barrier Reef (3) from day 4 to day 8. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

Read More

trip report: Australia – getting in to Cairns, December 2019

Flying to the other side of the world always take a few days especially since I was losing a day to the time zone change. At least I was able to do it in style this time around.

19_12_GBR-1000-2

While the topic of documenting our experienced getting somewhere was something I’ve always included in my past reports, I’m always hesitant to make this an entry for by itself or get too in depth. Unlike many travel websites out there, I am not an AvGeek. Personally, I see getting places as a means for us to see amazing things and not the point of travel. However, we travel a fair amount, and the lack of doing so during COVID shutdown, really made me appreciate the experience and the feeling that comes with the act of traveling somewhere. Whether that is the excitement of boarding a plane, the giddiness being in business class for the first time after we found out we were upgraded, or even the exhaustion of flying halfway around the world with a billion stops because of a cheap airfare. Call me a miles and points arsonist, I am very ready to burn through my points after this pandemic. Anyways, let me know if these posts are something you’d enjoy to read about. Also if there are anything regarding the actual process of travel you’d like to see in the future, I can put more effort in capturing those aspects of our trips.

This is the second entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering my travels into Cairns, Australia from Washington D.C. (2). You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

Read More

trip report: Patagonia – getting out with Mexico City layover, January 2019

With many cheap airfares or award redemption, the flight routing it takes to reach the final destination maybe very roundabout and bad in general. The business class error fare we book this time around involved a long layover in Mexico City. The attitudes each of us has toward travel, similar to all aspects of life, can shape the experiences we’ll have. We can treat these are long laborious layovers as durations of time to waste or go search for some street tacos.

This is part 9 of my Patagonia trip report series. We pick up the trip report after 19 days traveling up the Argentinian Ruta 40 and then driving along the Chilean Carretera Austral (see part 3 of the trip report for the overall summary). You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted. Read More

trip report: John Muir Trail, July 2018 – part 5, Muir Trail Ranch to Kearsarge Pass/Onion Valley Trailhead

A key aspect I’ve highlighted (part 3) about hiking alone on the John Muir Trail (JMT), or traveling alone in general, is that you are not really alone. You end up meeting new friends at places you camp or major stopping points like Red’s Meadow, Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR), and Muir Trail Ranch (MTR). You may end up hiking with them or see them multiple times over the course of your hike, forming trail families (tramilies). When traveling, you end up at hostels where everyone shares your attitude of explore the city or town so it’s easy to make new friends and explore together.

While that social component is very much present on the JMT, there is still plenty of solitude you will experience at part of your hike. This solitude for many of us gives us the opportunity to reflect and gain that aspect of self awareness that we may not have the chance or time to do in our busy and noise everyday lives. Nothing like the sound of your feet crunching the trail mixed in with nature’s soundtrack of rushing water and singing birds to allow you to get lost in your own mind. It can also literally get you lost on the trail when you are so in the zone that you miss trail markers, which may have happened in an early part of this trip. Solitude is a huge part why I hike and I’d say a beneficial quality of hiking. With the uncertainty of my career during this later portion of my graduate studentship, solitude and reflection was something I looked forward to. This is also why I don’t typically listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and music when I go out for a hike and I’d recommend that everyone start off hiking without those either.

18_7_JMT_5-1000-4.jpg
Who needs meditation when the granite walls of the JMT can provide all the solitude you’ll need.

However, feeling lonely is also common as a solo hiker with so many more days on the JMT and other thru-hikes than a typical backpacking trip. Even though I looked forward to the solitude of are part of this hike, I also reached that point of loneliness. For me, this is part of the reason I can never see myself doing any of the long distance thru-hikes such as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and Appalachian Trail (AT). Of course, the point that we feel lonely and the aspect of how each of us deal with it is different. Commonly, this is where the audiobooks, music, and podcasts are a welcome distraction.

My solution these past 7 years is, of course, Meg. This was the first hiking-centric or backpacking trip I had taken in a long time without her due to circumstances out of our control. That unpleasant loneliness served as a reminder of what is truly important in my life. And within that, I learned the axiom to help guide me through this uncertain point in my life.

This is part 5 of my JMT trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

Read More

trip report: John Muir Trail, July 2018 – part 4, Red’s Meadow Resort to Muir Trail Ranch

Throughout my hiking career, there are always days that just does not go your way.

It didn’t go my way when my hiking partner abandoned me on the Tour du Mont Blanc when we had missed the correct trail. I was never more miserable on our aborted attempt up to Long Peak where I didn’t get enough sleep, probably felt altitude sickness, and was shivering uncontrollably in the little rocky hut at the keyhole. Getting sick also brought our first attempt at Ausangate to an end. The thought of “what did I get Meg and I into,” crossed my mind several times when we flew 2 days down to Torres del Paine only to walk through a consistent downpour where visibility was a minimum to begin our trek. That kind of weather would return to greet us on our first time through the Huemul Circuit, but added to the sopping rain was one of the steepest and most dangerous downhills on slippy dirt I’ve every hiked down. Staying in Patagonia, “Oh No” and several other words of anger were spoken when we accidentally snapped a pole in our tent on the O-circuit, but at least it was near the end of our hike and it worked out. The other time our tent pole was snapped in the Lofoten Islands by crazy winds brought our hike to an end. The panic that threatens to wash over me when we realize we were lost in a snow covered terrain during a way too early season hike of the Walker’s Haute Route is not pleasant. Neither was slogging a full day through soft snow, post holing with every step, also on the Walker’s Haute Route. Nor was trying to skip going up a snow field by going further ahead to the next lodging only to be dumped on my a thunderstorm … yes on the Walker’s Haute Route. That hike had quite the experience now that I think of it, it’s a wonder Meg stuck around after that.

When I started writing this, I did not anticipate a trip down memory lane of the most terrible days we’ve had on the trail. However, these are only a portion of the overall hiking experience. An reflection Arnold and Becky had about backpacking in the earlier part of my trip was that it consisted of 60% suffering and 40% benefits. That specific ratio can be argued, but tolerating the suck is a necessary part of achieving the awesomeness in hiking or really anything worth doing.

All those terrible, no good days that one can experience during a hiking career can emphasize all the negatives and can push us emotionally past that point of quitting. But it is hard to make sounds judgements after those kind of days while in the state of low moral. I’m not sure where I heard this, but if you are ever thinking of quitting something after a bad day, don’t make that decision until you’ve had a goodnight sleep and a fresh mind. If you still feel the same way in that refreshed state, then you truly know that is the right choice.

While the John Muir Trail (JMT) during the peak season is relatively tame in comparison to some of my other experiences, there are times when the trail will test your tolerance. The section between Red’s Meadow Resort and Muir Trail Ranch was the section that tested my tolerance the most.

18_7_JMT4-162.jpg
A professional fly swatter you’ll find on the JMT, trying to enjoy the view.

This is part 4 of my John Muir Trail (JMT) trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

Read More

trip report: John Muir Trail, July 2018 – part 1, decision & planning

Sometimes you submit an application for a permit with a three day start window for one of the most popular trails in the United States Park system on a whim. And sometimes you’ll just win that golden ticket on the first try. That’s the short story of how I took a long unpaid leave in the summer of 2018 and spent it walking through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

18_7_JMT_1-1-5.jpg

This is part 1 of my John Muir Trail (JMT) trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below.

Read More

trip report: Busan, South Korea, June 2018

 

I can’t say that South Korea was high on my list of places to visit. However, when your buddy is getting married there, it’s a good opportunity to visit. While I only had a few days to experience the southern city of Busan and even less time being able to spend it with my good friend Dongil, it is a place worth visiting for the food, beach, and hiking.

Read More

trip report: Singapore, June 2018

 

Singapore is well known in the travel blog and travel hack community, though mostly for its award winning airport. That’s how I knew Singapore having spent a couple of nights laying over there a few years back. It wasn’t a place I’d intended to visit, but work brought me there anyways. With the surprisingly popular movie Crazy Rich Asians (imdb) providing a full on commercial account of the city and the world’s longest nonstop flight between Newark and Singapore restarting (thepointsguy), I figure I’d provide my experiences there.

Read More

trip report: Wales, May 2018

The origin of our trip to Wales was open ended, so much so that we didn’t know Wales was our destination until a couple weeks out. This trip serves as an example of an unplanned road trip that’s a culmination of cheap flights across the pond, an expiring travel voucher, and no time to plan. The end result was cliffs, rocks, castles, and fish and chips.

18_5_Wales-1167

Read More

trip report: Costa Rica, December 2017

For the last 3 years, we’ve enjoyed the southwest companion pass. On multiple occasions on this blog, I’ve mentioned that it is currently the best travel hack. The companion pass has provided us the means for direct trips to fly out to Colorado for our road trip, visiting Arcadia National Park for July 4th, visiting family for the holidays, attend the many weddings, and helping us reposition for our international trips. Recently Southwest has also announced that they will be flying to Hawaii as well. One destination I’ve had my eye on when I went for it initially 3 years ago was Southwest’s international destination of Costa Rica.

cr-20

Read More