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And Time Goes On…

Monday, September 30th, 2013

I have sat down and started writing several times over the last few months.  I’d been inspired by different things, but in the end I wasn’t satisfied with the attempts to share what I’ve been feeling as I return to “normal life” after a year of travel.  I guess for starters, I returned to a life that is familiar, but now quite different.  I have grown and changed, as has my current life circumstance.

And then there’s the “time thing.” Time is such a strange thing.  We’ve all felt it, the grueling hour that feels like six, the burdensome workweek that seems to never end, and conversely, the one-week vacation that goes by in the blink of an eye.  It was 6 months ago that I returned to the US, and it feels bizarre and surreal that so much time has gone by.  I find myself thinking, “Six months, how is that possible? I’ve done hardly anything in six months,” when in reality I have done quite a lot.

In my time back I have been with my family in New Jersey twice, including a family reunion in the Poconos, two visits to NYC with dear friends, a night in Philly, and a week in Orlando with my immediate family.  I also spent two weeks in my second home, New Orleans, during Jazz Fest.  It was fantastic to be back in her energy with lifelong friends, and to share her with my love for his first time.  And then, as I’ve worked my way back into “normal life” in Key West, I’m now living with my partner and quit working nights, so right there life is quite different, in addition to keeping busy visiting, teaching, working, and playing.

The thing is that in comparison, a year ago I was in Ho Chi Minh City, I had visited 11 countries, nearly 40 cities and slept in as many beds, been on countless trains and buses, encountered a myriad of new people, and experienced some of the most memorable places of my life.  And I still had six more months to come.  That’s what seems so surreal; to realize how extensive and full my year was, to know how much I can accomplish in a year of no work, no schedule, no responsibility to anyone but self (and travel buddy).  And I did…I experienced a ton of new and exciting things, and when I think back to them, they feel incredibly recent, my memories are crisp and clear, and I am missing it.

I suppose most of all what I realize is that for me it hasn’t been about reacclimating to life at home, rather it’s about getting used to not being on the road and having fresh stimuli thrown at me daily.  Even though the details are different, my home of 16 years is more or less the same.  It’s the new, the unknown, that I’m missing.  Thankfully the world is big, there are thousands of places I’ve never been, and I have a partner who wants to live it with me.

That being said, I am incredibly excited to be traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in 2 days.  Even with its’ close proximity, I have never been there, so it will be a treat.  I hope to cross off the bucket list swimming with whale sharks, going for a dip in a cenote, and climbing to the top of a Mayan pyramid.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

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I Get It…Southern Thailand

Monday, November 19th, 2012

There is something to be said for Southern Thailand.  Yes, it is touristy and expensive.  We’re basically talking about being in the islands here, but there is something magical about it.  It is tropical and exotic, laden with raw, uncut beauty; places where the jungle meets the coast, where limestone structures jut upwards out of the deep blue sea, where white beaches cascade as far as the eye can see, where colorful coral reef can be seen from the water’s surface.

I found the limestone structures to be stunning.  Colors of grey and tan, streaked with black and white and red.  My first sight of these structures was from the plane.  I’d flown from Saigon to Phuket, set in the Andaman Islands on Thailand’s west side.  I could see the small islands set into clear aqua blue waters.  The coral reef was visible, too.  It reminded me so much of flying into the Keys, except that the islands were mountainous and concealed in jungle, rather than flat and covered in mangroves.  These islands are much larger than any of the Keys, too.  I was excited to be in this island paradise for some time.   Ready to get my dive on, I hadn’t dove in sooo long.  Ready to experience new things.  Ready to stay in one amazing chill place for some time.  Mission accomplished.

I flew into Phuket to meet Dore at Naiyang beach, just south of the airport.  We spent one night there.  I wouldn’t recommend Phuket for those who want to get away from regular life.  It is crowded and busy, but Naiyang is a nice small town flanked by state parks with quick airport access.  Makes for a lovely stretch of beach with a bay you can snorkel in, really good seafood, fun bars.  From Naiyang, we took a communal taxi south.  I love those things.  Basically they are extended pickup trucks with benches built in.  You jump on and off at the back for a fraction of what a taxi would cost.  We ended up in Phuket Town, where we stayed for one night before catching the ferry to Koh Phi Phi.  Next time, I’ll skip Phuket town and just head to the islands.

We landed in Phi Phi Town, and decided to stay in a guest house on the far side of town.  We’d been warned that it wouldn’t be quiet, but we thought “how loud could it be?”  Well, Phi Phi Town is a party place.  Young kids getting obliviated to booming music and coming home with the sun all loud, and for myself & Dore, not one bar we wanted to hang out it.  The following morning, we took a longtail, to Rantee Beach, the small and tranquil beach on the east side of the island. A longtail is about 30 feet long.  They are the local style of boat propelled by what looks like a weed whacker run by a lawnmower motor.  They’re cool boats, with high sides, and tend to be the style that serves as water taxis.  There were two guesthouses on Rantee, each hosting one of the only 2 restaurants.  We stayed at Sunrise Bungalows, which was run by a very cool Thai man named Momo.  Depending on the tide, the bungalows were right on the beach or water’s edge.  There were some very cool people staying there, too, so it made for a great time.  If one wanted to go to Phi Phi Town, there was a challenging 45 minute hike through the woods, to the Viewpoint, and then down 350 stairs, only to come back up again.  There is a really nice coral reef just off the shore of the guest house, too.  Really beautiful soft coral, nice fish variety, including clown fish and eels.  It was great to get to snorkel in a beautiful place.  One day, a group of 8 of us took a longtail trip to 3 different spots to snorkel.  It was brilliant.

Next stop was Koh Lanta.  We went with this great couple from Hawaii whom we’d met in Phi Phi.  Unfortunately, the day we arrived Tate became really sick from something he ate, so for the three days they were there, he was bed ridden and Sasha had to hang out with us J.  Needless to say, we had a great time.  Rented motos and toured around, stopped at a waterfall, did some shopping, did some eating, watched the sunset, etc…  Lots of beautiful jungle on Koh Lanta, but must go south.

From there, our plan was to head to the Rai Leh Peninsula.  Interesting thing about this location is that the three beaches located here are cut off from the main land by a huge rock wall.  The only way to get there is by longtail, so one feels like it is an island.  What an amazing place it is.  While I’d mentioned that there is limestone everywhere, here in Krabi Provence, it is especially stunning.  Loaded with crags and crevices, holes and holds, it makes sense that this is a destination for rock climbers.  Ao Ton Sai is the northwest beach, located in a bay.  It is the backpacker beach, too.  Very cool, chill atmosphere.  Beautiful surroundings.  A nice place to spend some time.  Relatively cheap, for the islands. Plus, really good food.  Must eat at Mama’s Chicken, and try the tacos at Andaman Nature Restaurant.

The peninsula is rather small.  It was easy to circumnavigate it.  A jungle trail led from Ton Sai to Rai Leh East in about 20 minutes.   East would be considered the “town” of the peninsula; ATM’s, some resorts, some backpacker stuff, only free wifi on peninsula.  There is no beach there, only mangroves, but there is an amazing wall for climbing, and the first place I did my climbs.  Then, head west again, and find yourself in Rai Leh West.  This is where the beautiful beaches and pristine water for swimming are.  There are two bays that make up Rai Leh West, Patong Beach and West.  This side is for the big spenders, really nice resorts costing hundreds a night, so makes sense that the beach is really great, too.  For pictures of the Andaman Islands, click here.

It was here in Ton Sai that we met some amazing people and ended up hanging together for 10 days.  The cool Spaniards from Amsterdam who got me excited to climb, the Swedish ex-Army party guys, and Sasha from Hawaii.  We made for a great crew and I hope our paths cross again.  We all traveled to Koh Phangan together for the full moon party.  You know you’re getting old when drinking huge buckets of alcoholic beverages just doesn’t excite you, getting as fucked up as possible has completely lost its draw, and you’d rather be starting your day, then ending your night, when the sun comes up.  All good though.  It was fun to dance, fun to see people having a good time together, and I made it until about 2am.  I felt like I’d accomplished the full moon party.  Supposedly, there are some really nice beaches on the east side of the island, which we never made it to.  Leaving some things to explore the next time I’m on Koh Phangan, not during the full moon.

Dore and I said farewell to the crew and headed to Koh Tao to do some diving.  People had started seeing whale sharks again, and I was really hoping that we just might.  For me, that is one of the things on the “I really hope to see” list.  We didn’t, but we did do 5 dives, and it was very cool.  I felt really comfortable, we did a night dive, and it was great.  I hadn’t been on a dive vacation in years.  Chumphon Pinnacle, a reef sitting in 90-120 feet of water, was one of the best dives I’ve ever done.  The coral structure, both hard and soft, is just spectacular.  The soft coral, the anemones, and fans, and other plant life were probably the greatest number I’ve seen in one place.  On the night dive were these small plants with long leafy branches that waved in the current.  The fish life was way cool.  Saw cobia, moray eels, and a crocodile fish; blue-spotted sting rays, huge hermit crabs, and red-banded shrimp; big groupers, little groupers, and lots of kinds of parrotfish. Then, add in the clownfish, the angelfish, and all the other tropicals.  It was awesome to be diving again, and not in a mud hole looking for lobster.  Three days after I left Koh Tao, Dore dove with a whale shark.  Freaking awesome.  For pictures of the Gulf of Thailand, click here.

At this point, Dore and I said “goodbye.”  Of course, not for good.  I will see her in Sydney in a couple of months, but there is a good chance that this will be the last time we travel together like this.  What an amazing journey it has been.  Among other things, it has certainly been a testament to mine & Dore’s friendship.  When you travel with a close friend for four months straight, you get to know them really well.  For all the times that were challenging and difficult, that we argued or had to get away from each other, I’ll forever cherish our friendship, and regard our travel compatibility highly.  We did good, D.  I miss you, Sista.

I bid adieu to Dore and the islands of the Gulf of Thailand.  It was an all-day ferry and bus excursion from Koh Tao to Phuket, so that I could fly north to Chiang Mai.  Next blog, Chiang Mai, Visa Run, and Pai.

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An Open Letter in Support of the Occupy Movement

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Giving yet another voice to the movement, this letter was written by Ethan Nichtern of New York and Michael Stone of Toronto, as  “An Open Letter from Buddhist and Yoga Teachers and Leaders in Support of the Occupy Movement.”  It reads:

“As teachers and leaders of communities that promote the development of compassion and mindfulness, we are writing to express our solidarity with the Occupy movement now active in over 1,900 cities worldwide.

We are particularly inspired by the nonviolent tactics of this movement, its methods of self-governance, and its emergent communities founded in open communication (general assemblies, the human microphone, the inclusion of diverse voices, etc). These encampments are fertile ground for seeing our inherent wisdom and our capacity for awakening…We share in the thoughtful calls to address massive unemployment, climate change, the erosion of social safety nets, decaying infrastructures, social and education programs, and workers’ wages, rights, and benefits…Most importantly, we believe that individual awakening and collective transformation are inseparable. For members of spiritual communities, mindfulness of the situation before us demands that we engage fully in the culture and society we inhabit. We do not view our own path as merely an individualistic pursuit of sanity and health, and we believe it would be irresponsible of us to teach students of mind/body disciplines that they can develop their practice in isolation from the society in which they live. We are inspired by the creative and intellectual work of the Occupy movement as an essential voice in facilitating a more compassionate and ecologically grounded basis for practice…{to read the whole letter}.”

Thank you, Ethan and Michael, for communicating it so well.

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Paddleboard Yoga

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

My favorite new yoga practice is Paddleboard Yoga, and it seems that this trend is catching on.  So much so, actually, that Yoga Journal recently posted a short article on how it is taking off from coast-to-coast.  Paddleboard Yoga focuses largely on balance and core strength, things we also practice on land, but are a big factor to not ending up in the water when on a Paddleboard.  I practice with the Key West group out of Hurricane Hole Marina and Lazy Dog Charters.  You can find out more about them at www.KeyWestPaddleboardYoga.com.

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Yoga on the Beach

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

I’m substituting Wednesday morning, for Don from Yoga on the Beach.  Come join me for yoga class, overlooking the beautiful waters of Key West, from Ft. Zachary Taylor.  Class is from 8:15-9:45am.  Walk-in $18.  Call 305-296-7352 for more information.

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Back in the Keys

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I’m back in Key West.  Great time in New Jersey, yet I’m so glad to be home.

I am available for massage, by appointment, starting immediately, throughout the Lower Florida Keys.

Yoga classes resume Monday, November 8th, 8:30am, at Parmer’s Resort on Little Torch Key.  Classes will be held Monday and Thursday mornings at 8:30am.

Looking forward to getting back with you all.  Click here if you’d like to contact me directly.

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