Philippines, The Middle

 Thresher Cove Resort

Thresher Cove Resort

The morning of the 20th Mamie and I awoke to commence our dive trip in Malapascua.  At reception we found out our trip to Gatos island was cancelled that day due to weather.  We decided to dive the house reef they were going to instead and enjoyed seeing lots of different types of shrimps, a big mantis shrimp, five different seahorses, pipefish, horned filefish, flounder, lion fish, and a sea moth!!! I saw so many new things on this first dive I was already in love with what the Philippines had to offer. 

 Scuba Mamie

Scuba Mamie

That afternoon we arrived back at the resort around two in the afternoon where we chilled and ate at the resorts restaurant.  Later, we went to explore the town/island.  I found that with the small and winding roads it was very easy to get lost.  However, the island is small enough that after a few wrong turns the pathways started to look a little familiar.  This island was different for me.  The interior is carved out by very small narrow mostly dirt roads, there were only motorbikes, no cars or trucks.  Everything wove around each other with no real rhyme or reason.  One moment you would be walking along a tall wall that bordered a resort and the next minute you would be looking into someones private yard or home.  Once we were on what I considered the main beach there were more resorts, restaurants and dive schools lining the beach all offering something a little different.  This was where we saw the most foreigner influence.  The menus offered Italian, Thai food or Western fare and there were almost always a few Filipino items as well.  After a fabulous pasta dinner including interesting and great cocktails we wove our way back to the resort to rest for our early morning dive.

 Beautiful cocktails on the beach

Beautiful cocktails on the beach

The next morning we awoke at 4AM to go to Thresher Shoal where you can almost be guaranteed to see thresher sharks.  The dive consists of a long wall where the sharks come to “cleaning” stations in the morning.   We followed our dive guide Victor eagerly and although we weren’t able to sit along these roped areas and watch as the sharks went by we were greeted delightedly by one curious thresher coming right next to our group, and then another later on that we thought was soaring into a cleaning station but alas he kept swimming.  Even though our sitings were short-lived we were ecstatic and I managed to get a pretty good GoPro video of the first one cruising by.  

 Thresher Shark!!!

Thresher Shark!!!

After our thresher dive we arrived back at the island where Mamie and I had a nice post dive breakfast.  We parted ways that day because the Gatos Island trip was back on and Mamie having seen the island diving previously, decided to rest for the afternoon.  Gatos Island was a glorious dive site filled with so many arrays of healthy corals and fish that I was constantly distracted.  I saw squids for the first time, I know this seems unfathomable but it’s true!  I saw my favorites, cuttlefish and varieties of nudibranchs.  I was most excited to see the largest banded sea snake I have ever seen.  Malapascua diving was setting a high bar for the rest of the trip.  

 Banded Sea Snake, not the biggest one I’ve seen, but still big!

Banded Sea Snake, not the biggest one I’ve seen, but still big!

The next morning we were off early early to get the first “ferry” and then a bus from the port to Cebu City north bus terminal then a taxi to the south bus terminal, a bus/car ferry to Dumaguete, then a bus to the middle of no where, and a tricycle taxi to finish the journey to Liquid in Dauin.

Philippines, The Beginning, Part two

 Malapascua Island

Malapascua Island

  As I waited in Cebu City for Mamie to show up I only did a little bit of exploring and a lot of reorganizing life.  This trip and the one to follow were fast and furious so this was my time to catch up on the computer among other things.

 

I managed to find a fantastic coffee shop, only steps from my apartment building, where I did some reading and writing.  This was at Coffee Bean $cent, I ordered a croissant and mint mocha.  I am a sucker for mint mochas, and theirs was exceptional. I haven’t been delighting in as many fancy coffees as of late.  Basically becoming obsessed with bulletproof coffee.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is coffee with butter and coconut oil.  It sounds awful, and I thought as much at first, but once blended in the blender it is all frothy and super delicious.  It also has all the healthy fats our body desires straight away in the morning and I think helps with my appetite all day.  I bring this up because having fancy coffees now with sugar and milk products really don’t make me feel well.  So this mint mocha had to be good to put up with the inevitable stomach ache later.

 

Once Mamie arrived in the city we had a cool little night out down the street at Cubana.  We shared a pizza and some beers and it was fun to know that the beer of choice in Philippines is San Miguel, which is one of my favorites.  The entertainment was not lacking and we had to sing along with the beautiful Filipino woman who was belting out some Alicia Keys songs.  Sadly, by about ten o clock we were knackered and headed to bed for our long journey north in the morning.

Sunset Malapascua

 Heading to Malapascua in the morning from Cebu City on a bus required us to be up and ready to go early. Thankfully, Mamie was still jet lagged and woke up ready to go.  We took a taxi to the North Bus Terminal and found a bus leaving for the Ferry Port, which is where we needed to be to catch the ferry to the island.  We loaded a big bus with some great seats covered in plastic….you can make your own assumptions here.  It was slow going.  The buses, from what I’ve experienced, rarely go direct.  You have many locals and travelers alike on the same bus routes and it made many many stops.  We made it to the ferry port in roughly five hours, with one or two pit stops for bathrooms and snacks.  The ferry ride was another hour ride and a whole frustrating mess of bartering and trying not to be swindled.  We made it to the new ferry port for the last ferry at 4:30 pm, this is where the Ceres bus dropped us off.  This cute older woman in a stand took 100 pesos for each person and gave us a ticket. After about five minutes with three of us waiting this guy said ‘we “needed” to pay 500 pesos each for the boat to go’.  I looked at him and asked ‘why?’  He said, ‘because there are only three of you’.  I said, ‘so, this is the last ferry doesn’t it go regardless’?  He said ‘well we could go now if we each paid 500 pesos’, the third traveler included a young Filipino girl.  So I asked the girl, ‘do we have to pay 500 pesos’?  She looked confused and looked at the guy like what’s going on.  They talked in Filipino and she started digging for money and looked at me again and I said ‘I’m not paying that’.  She put her money away and the guy said ‘we will wait longer’. A few more people show up. Then he asked for 100 pesos more from each of us.  He even looked at this older woman and said we all have to pay it.  Everyone coughed up 100 pesos more and we were off.  Now this isn’t a typical ferry, or at least the ferries I am used to in Thailand, which are huge and have rows of seats and TVs with crappy movies or music on them.  This ferry is a traditional Bangka, which is boat in Filipino and includes the main boat with the out rigging on the sides.  I was told this type of frame keeps the boat close to the surface to avoid hitting the bottom and reefs.  Anyway, it is small and we leave with about ten passengers.  As we approach Malapascua, after about twelve hours of travel, I am exhausted and relieved we made it.

 On the ferry to Malapascua

On the ferry to Malapascua

 Once on the island it became apparent the only vehicles are motorbikes.  Which isn’t a new concept to me, however, my luggage was a rolling mass of scuba gear in a large Stahlsac suitcase.  So we bartered a 50 peso per person bike to our accommodation at Thresher Dive Cove.  I loaded the bike with my luggage between the driver and myself and realized half my ass was hanging off of the back.  Needless to say of all the bike rides I’ve been on as a passenger that was the scariest!! After about ten minutes of hugging my luggage and squeezing my butt cheeks on this bike we made it to the back of the resort.  It has a dirt parking lot and a bunch of shabby old shacks in front of a steep staircase.  We hauled ourselves up the staircase to the security guard booth and told them who we were and immediately were directed to reception.  It was now night on the island and it seemed very quiet but the ladies at the desk greeted us with warmth and asked us about our diving plans for the next day.  

 Mango Daquiri at the restaurant at Thresher Cove Dive Resort

Mango Daquiri at the restaurant at Thresher Cove Dive Resort

 Mamie and I filled out paperwork, signed up for diving in the morning, and headed off to unload our luggage and finally have a meal for the day in the resort restaurant.  Prices were reasonable and the food was good. Exhausted, we retreated to our accommodation which was right on the beach and big enough for a somewhat oversize twin bed and our luggage. The bathroom was in a building just fifteen paces from our cabana. I was one of the first to enter this bathroom and to my surprise when I flipped on the light a giant spider scurried from the top of the door to behind the toilet. I screamed, loud! I tried to look for him and make noise to “flush” him out, haha, but alas I never saw him again. So I reluctantly and swiftly went to the bathroom and left in a hurry. I ran to the cabana and asked Mamie if she had heard me scream. Fortunately, she had not, my temporary freak out did not wake up the resort. After the adrenaline rush passed Mamie and I crashed on our tiny bed to rest for the next morning’s adventures.

 Spider!!!!

Spider!!!!

 

 

Philippines, The Beginning

The beginning of any adventure is hard, but once you take the first step it all falls into place.  

 From Jackson Hole Airport

From Jackson Hole Airport

 

 Getting to the Philippines from the USA is quite a task.  It isn’t hard per say it is just long! I left snowy mountain peaks for sunny sandy ocean shores and I packed as little as possible.  I had the good fortune of snagging a fairly cheap ticket back in July, and the route was my usual, Jackson to Denver to Tokyo/Narita to Manila.  I usually go to Thailand by this same route so this time my last flight just landed me in the Philippines instead, Hooray!  I also booked a local flight on Philippine Airlines to depart approximately two hours after I landed in Manila to Cebu.  This was probably a mistake, but worked out for me regardless.  Between my flight to Manila being about thirty minutes late and it took about thirty minutes to make it through passport control, baggage claim, and customs, I would not have been on time to check in for my Cebu flight.  As luck would have it the flight was delayed and I was transferred from terminal 3 to terminal 2 on a nice shuttle.  I checked in for my flight and waited about an hour and a half for boarding and departure.  

 

Once in Cebu I collected my luggage and followed the signs to the taxis where I read that you should take the white ones because they give you a slip with the taxi information on it where you can contact the government to complain if it was a bad experience. This gives you a little insurance policy on having an easy journey without bartering a price, or being taken on an unsolicited tour of the city.  However, the yellow taxis seemed ok enough and the rates are only slightly different from what the white taxis offer.  This is all stuff I have read so without experience in the yellow taxi I can’t give a 100% view.  

 

Off in my taxi I had a smooth twenty minute ride that cost 250 PP, 5 USD, to the 101 Horizons Condominiums.  I booked this apartment off of booking.com and chose this location for convenience within the city. Getting to a place at almost three in the morning is not the best but it is a relief when you see the host of the apartment, Nica, quietly snoozing on the couch waiting for you at reception.  I will admit I am not good at researching places before I go to them. I tend to book a landing spot sometimes the day before I get there, in this case I had booked this apartment in Cebu one week before departing America.  I would like to think that it is good karma that puts me in places with amazing and thoughtful people. By the time I was in my very own apartment I had been traveling for thirty-two hours.  Even with sleep aids I have a hard time sleeping on planes and buses because the seats for me are so uncomfortable.  So out of those thirty-two hours I think I slept maybe six.   

 

After getting settled and having much needed sleep.  I awoke to a sunny morning with scattered rain showers and knew I needed food.  I made my way down the block to a Mexican taqueria.  I had, once again last minute, read about this place on trip advisor.  I indulged in three carne asada tacos that looked and tasted like they came straight from Mexico at La Lucha Taqueria.  I was so in love that I took a burrito to go for later. The place is a tiny stand that shares almost a hallway with two other food stands in the Mango mall.  It may be hard to find but just go in the mall and look for some food stands on the base floor.  Two young Filipino girls were working, they seemed to be having fun and cooked up some amazing food.  With the airline travel behind me and some food in my belly, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks of journeys and scuba diving.

 La Lucha Taqueria, Cebu City, Philippines

La Lucha Taqueria, Cebu City, Philippines

Not always unicorns and rainbows

            This blog post is going to be difficult to write because it isn’t about being at my best.  In fact it is about being at my worst.  Everything in social media is how everyone is succeeding, jobs, children, partners, travels.  Rarely do we see anything about struggle or heartbreak or being broken.  And if we do I feel it’s hard to read or hard to give a shit.  Regardless of your reaction I just want to write this to show you that the struggle is real and what you see on social media isn’t always the whole picture.

 

            In March of this year, 2018, I was skiing before work, it was a powder day it was beautiful out and I wasn’t doing anything extraordinary like dropping into Corbet’s Couloir.  Check out the insane video below to understand what I am talking about.  

 

So there I am skiing my usual run to work and there were all these skiers lined up at the top of the run. I stood there for quite a while trying to figure out what they were doing, was someone hurt, were they told the run was closed.  I finally decided to go and just skied a tighter line close to the trees. Everything was perfect until I think my skis crossed under the powder and instead of just taking the fall I tried to correct it.  As I corrected the fall and just fell back on my butt I heard the pop and I knew I had done it.  I had done the thing so many skiers before me had done.  I had torn my ACL.  But I sat there, petrified that I may have to call ski patrol, and told myself I just pulled a muscle, no big deal.  So I stand up, put some weight on my leg and find I can ski, but I cannot turn.  I traverse a little bit staying perpendicular to the ski run and I am fortunate enough to find a groomed portion of the run. I start to ski down and find that in fact I can turn and I pick up a little speed and confidence and am convinced I just pulled a muscle or sprained something.  I get to the chairlift, which is a two-person lift, and load it.  I think, phew, I made it.  Now to work and finish out the day.  Less than a minute into the eight minute ride the weight of my boot and ski on my leg take its toll and I am in so much pain I start crying and praying for the lift to speed up.  I get to the top crying in my goggles and slowly make my way to the locker room, and change into my work clothes.  I could not stop crying, the tears were just flowing without me even really knowing what was happening.  My co-workers and boss took one look at me and asked what was wrong.  I re-capped the story and they told me to go the fuck to the clinic.  I left the top of the mountain on the gondola and went straight to the mountain clinic. I’m there less than twenty minutes and I leave in a straight leg brace, refusing crutches.  I was informed I needed to make an appointment with the orthopedist within the next three days because she was almost positive I tore my ACL. I still wasn’t convinced, I kept thinking she’s wrong, it isn’t torn, and it’s just a sprain.  

Ice Pack.jpg

 

I was lucky enough to get into Teton Orthopedics another hour later and have an MRI and X-rays.  The verdict, I tore my ACL and if I want to ski next year I should probably have surgery. The thought of not having surgery didn’t even cross my mind.  I need an ACL to ski and that’s that.  I had one-month left of work and within that month I needed to heal and reduce swelling before surgery.  My mind went into overdrive, I need to work, I can’t be out of work a month before off season, how will I pay all my bills, how do I take care of myself, I don’t know what to do or where to start.  I cried pretty much all day.

That day was one of the lowest points of the next four months.  I have never felt more alone in my life than I did that day.  I had no family nearby to help me, and my friends were busy with their own work and lives.  On top of that, my job requires my body to function well; losing the use of a limb is like losing everything.  Not just your job or money, but your very existence your dignity and humanity.  You never realize the feeling of loss when you have an injury that affects your immediate future.  Living in a ski town doesn’t help much either.  Everyone and everything keeps moving around you. Nothing slows down except you, and you feel pretty worthless.  But after about a week when my knee started to heal and I was starting to do normal day-to-day activities my spirits rose and I was getting back to the grind.  I finished out the work season and I planned the next two months around my surgery instead of my scuba travels.  My mom was coming to help me after surgery and my father after that.  It was all coming together and everything would be ok.  

 Knee swollen post surgery

Knee swollen post surgery

 

After surgery, however, the gloom returned.  I was in so much pain, my mom was freaking out because I was taking narcotics (as prescribed), and I couldn’t go anywhere farther than the bathroom from my bed.  I was in PT before and almost immediately following surgery but all the swelling I got down before was now back, my progress was slow, and felt like it was going no where.  My physical therapists saw me cry more than I would like to admit because this cloud settled over me that I would never get my leg back.  Fortunately, I had booked a counseling appointment for after surgery, I knew that I would need some help mentally to wade through this tricky time. I am so thankful I had an outside source of support because I didn’t want to talk about my struggles with my friends or family.  I didn’t want to burden anyone with my issues, and frankly I was super negative and didn’t want to be told again that everything is going to be fine.  I didn’t really make headway mentally until I did physically.  One day as I was doing wall slides, trying to bend my knee, the physical therapist saw me crying and said “there’s no crying in baseball”, A League of Their Own reference. I laughed through the tears and felt that in that moment we were in this battle together.  Once I could bend my knee and start walking normally I felt and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  

 Wall slides, almost 90*

Wall slides, almost 90*

 

Socially I kept in touch with friends and started getting out of the house more.  My goals for the summer changed though.  I wasn’t going to hike the Grand, or bike 100 miles, so I bought a stack of books I’ve always wanted to read and made that my goal for the summer.  This helped ease the anxiety of feeling like I wasn’t doing anything.  In Jackson if you aren’t doing something you feel lazy and worthless, because no one in Jackson ever sits on the couch, most people are outside with endless activities and objectives to complete.  With my book goal I was able to spend hours reading and feeling as though I accomplished something.  It may not have been a 20-mile bike ride but it was a great book.  Basically, I needed my leg to heal and I needed to give myself a break.  As far as social media is concerned no one was the wiser.  Only people nearest me knew what I was going through and the rest of the world just didn’t really hear from me. 

 

The future looks good now, except I am petrified to ski and scuba dive.  I’m terrified of stepping on a dive boat with all my equipment and slipping.  I am so scared of re-injury, of that loss and feeling of worthlessness.  But if I don’t ski again and I don’t step in the water with dive gear again, then the fear wins.  My loss becomes my life.  Instead of overcoming the fear the fear becomes who I am.  I refuse to let that happen.  I will always ski and scuba dive, because I am an athlete it is a part of who I am, it is not just something that I do.

 Powder!!!!

Powder!!!!

 

            I tell my story not for your pity or pats on the back. I want people to know that we all deal with loss differently, whether it’s a breakup, death, job, or physical ability among other things.  And what worked for me may not work for you.  But letting the social noise go, seeking help, and making different goals for myself changed my perspective and improved my health.  Where I live you have to be back in it immediately, no one allows time to heal.  Everyone is hardcore, you can’t show weakness, and you push through the pain. I always thought that everyone here is a hardcore athlete and I was just active outdoors.  But living here and listening to my therapists, I’m an athlete too. I may not run marathons, climb everyday, bike across the state, ski Corbet’s Couloir, but I am an athlete.  I am active outdoors and push myself every season to be better than I was the last.  Listening to the pressure of the social norms, or society would have only brought me more pain.  I listened to my support group and I took care of myself, physically and mentally, and not because I am weak but because I am strong.  These past five months have taught me to not take your health for granted, that once you lose something you realize how much you need it to survive, and making different goals to take care of yourself is the most important. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, you have to take care of your needs first.  Social media is great and I use it a lot to promote my trips and diving, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story.  We have times of weakness, sorrow, destruction and we have to remember we are all human and life isn’t always unicorns and rainbows.

Exciting Trips to Come

 Red Sea coral reef fish

Red Sea coral reef fish

 I know I have not been blogging recently, but I have been putting a lot of energy into future dive trips. So many exciting things coming up and here is a brief blog post on where we are going and what we are doing.  Most of these trips are exploratory, if you’re interested in coming along please contact me.

 

The first place I am heading is to the Philippines this October.  It is just around the corner and I am so eager to gain a better understanding of the country and experience the incredible diving. 

 Philippines

Philippines

 

Next up is Egypt.  This is a girl’s trip only, and is available to those of you beautiful babes who want to explore this country and underwater habitat.  The plan so far, is to do about a weeklong live aboard in the Red Sea followed by a week or more sightseeing on land.  The live aboard has not been booked but the hope is to have that done by January.  And the land tour may consist of us meandering around to all the pyramids and happening spots.  We may decide to do an organized tour but it would probably only take up a couple of days. This is to take place in May 2019.

 Red Sea beach

Red Sea beach

 

Fall 2019 is proving to be full of new places.  Very loose planning has a possible visit to the Maldives before or after we do a week long live aboard in Chuuk or Truk Lagoon, Micronesia.  This live aboard trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Chuuk is known for being the largest graveyard of wrecks in the world.  For more information on Chuuk Lagoon click the button below.  

 

I hope a little spontaneity will prompt some unplanned stops but as far as the next year goes this is what is in the works.  If you are interested please let me know as soon as possible.  Some of these trips have already been booked and deposits paid. Space is limited.

June 2017 Diving Catalina Island, CA

Visiting California was the last stop on my whirlwind spring adventures.  After being in Jackson for two days and driving to Big Sky for a few days I was on a flight out of Bozeman, MT. 

Flying into Palm Springs airport and spending the next few days catching up with my friend was amazing.  The best day of my trip to California was diving near the northeast coast of Catalina Island.  

We left Palm Springs at about 3:00 AM and arrived at the pier in San Pedro around 6:30 AM.  Once on The Magician, we readied our equipment and signed all the legal forms, standard boat procedures.  The boat ride to Catalina Island was about two hours, one of which I tried unsuccessfully to nap.  The other hour was spent meeting new people and eating a delicious feast for breakfast. 

As we moored up to the first dive site everyone was putting on his or her gear.  I myself was wearing a Sharkskin Climate Control Top and Sharkskin Paddling Pants underneath a 7mm Henderson wetsuit.  I had to adjust my weight belt for all the extra neoprene.  In addition to the added exposure suit, I was trying out a new Zeagle Zena BCD.  Upon entry, I realized just how much colder the water was, 17C or 63F, from my usual tropical water diving, 28C or 82F. 

The step off of the boat caused my body to go into a natural reaction of hyperventilation.  I quickly opened my wetsuit to let in more chilly water to allow the neoprene to do its job and warm the waters inside the suit.  As I waited for everyone to enter the water I tried unsuccessfully to slow my breath.  As the group was descending I was not only fighting hyperventilation but a cold headache too.  Ouch!!  This new environment and new equipment quickly became a hindrance.  I had to slow my decent from the groups, concentrate on slowing my breathing and focus on the other divers instead of the icy molecules of my brain.  It was 13C or 55F at the bottom of our descent.  I know most scuba instructors will probably never admit difficult situations but I have to say that it happens to all levels of divers.  Engaging a normal breathing pattern calmed me and helped my body relax in the frigid water, which in turn acclimated a short while later and my frozen headache subsided.  I didn’t think California diving would be a challenge to me.  I know now to spend a few extra minutes at the surface to acclimate before I descend.  I also recognize for myself, the need of a hood when diving anything below 20C or 68F.   

Now, once I was breathing naturally and my popsicle head thawed, this beautiful kelp world opened up to me.  According to local divers on the boat, this is the first year in a long time the kelp has been abundant here.  The cause of the copious amounts of kelp is that the water temperatures had stayed cooler which allowed for them to thrive.  Kelp in all its glory is like this fantasy maze that you have to slowly and carefully pick your way through.  My fin strap snagged a few times but it was easy to stop and untangle especially with a helpful dive buddy.  I was happy to see such a picturesque ecosystem and I was able to appreciate a few new sea creatures to add to my list.  

There was a bat ray that was so cute because his face looks like he is smiling at you.  He wasn't very interested in us though and swam off after just a minute or two.  There were tons of Garibaldi, these are part of the damselfish family and are bright orange in color.  On our ride back to the California coast we spotted and spent a few moments with an Elephant Seal, they can reach up to 3 or 4,000 kilograms, that’s up to 8,800 pounds!  His nose was like a short version of an elephant's.  I later read his short trunk is used for very loud roaring noises, and the chambers inside act similar to a rebreather, to collect moisture from exhalations.  Both of these functions are important during the mating season.  It was so cool to see something so different.  I loved California diving and next time I will be better prepared.

The days following diving were spent mostly around a pool and celebrating yet another birthday!  I left my friend and our pool days quite sadly.  I returned to Bozeman then Big Sky for just a night and said farewell to everyone on my way back to Jackson Wyoming to start the summer season.

 

Girabaldi Damselfish
Kelp, Girabaldi, Diver
Kelp Forest

May 2017 Thailand Part I

Thailand Part I

I had to break this entry into two parts because it was overflowing with information.

After Hawaii on the spring tour, was a swing through Jackson, WY to pick up Beth on our way to Thailand.  This trip has been one of her lifelong dreams.  

After about 27 hours of travel, we spent a few days in Bangkok to adjust to the time and meet some of my divers.  When we arrived in Bangkok we headed to The Grand President Hotel.  To be in a foreign place so far away and feel like you've arrived home is the reason I frequently stay at Grand President.  When we weren’t lounging by the pool we were touring the big city.  We ate marvelous meals, went shopping for souvenirs, and leisurely boated down the river.  

My first errand generally starts with MBK Shopping Center.  I like it because it is conveniently located on the BTS light rail at the National Stadium stop.  MBK is known for its wide array of offerings and cheaper prices.  I always come here for cell phone issues and purchases, custom-made business cards, and souvenirs.  If you need or want anything you will probably find it there.  Once the errands were done we took a river tour.  

To get to this particular company we took the BTS to Saphan Thaksin stop (Thaksin Bridge) near Mandarin Oriental and Peninsula Hotel.  Then you can walk, 20 minutes, or taxi/grabcar, 10 minutes, to Jacks Bar.  We had some great spicy Thai food and a beer on the dock next to the boats.  We departed from Jack’s Bar on a low-key river tour.  We took pictures and stopped at one of the temples.  If you prefer to make more stops and view more of the temples and attractions just let them know.

Besides Jacks Bar and the great breakfast at the hotel, we enjoyed two meals in particular within walking distance of Grand President on Soi 11.  One was at Pizzeria Limoncello and the other at Oskar Bistro.  Pizzeria Limoncello offers wonderful Italian food with a decent wine selection and of course homemade limoncello.  This was the first place outside of Italy that I actually enjoyed the limoncello.  Oskar Bistro is more of a social gathering spot with great food, wine selection, and surprising craft cocktails. Well-made drinks are not always easy to find in Thailand.  I always enjoy my favorite signature cocktail, the Spicipirinha, it's a caipirinha with spicy Thai chilies.  After a few well-spent days and meals we headed south to Koh Tao.  

Considering the luggage we had and the adventure I wanted to show everyone, we took the train south overnight and then the ferry in the morning.  The train, although timeworn, is one of my favorite things to show people on a budget.  I have been on trains in other countries and this one is very old school.  It can be cheaper than flying especially with luggage but please do not “save money” and buy a 3rd class ticket.  Get a 2nd or 1st class AC sleeper ticket.  This way you will have a good night sleep on your travel south.  Like I said, the trains in operation right now are not new; do not expect a luxury sleeper.  I think they are comfortable but they are definitely showing their age.  

Koh Tao was hot as usual and had beautiful weather when we arrived.  The following day Beth enjoyed some beach time as I went diving with clients.  The highlight over the next few days of diving was seeing the Whale shark.  These animals are filter feeders and are so big and amazing to watch underwater.  The dive experiences everyone had were great and some fears were left behind.  Another water day spent around the island was snorkeling off of Aow Leuk beach.   The water here is a turquoise color.  On this particular day, visibility was good, and the corals and fish were bright and abundant.  Days of diving, eating amazing food, seeing a Whale shark, and snorkeling on beautiful reefs fulfilled everyone's desires.  After Koh Tao my group of divers travelled to the Andaman coast while Beth and I went north.  

River Tour
The King on a building
Train

April 2017 Hawaii

I never realized how much I wanted to travel until I started doing it.  This last spring I explored many things.  I love the beauty of nature and being in Hawaii in April was by far one of the more stunning places.  It was so amazing to see a young volcanic island with such a diverse array of flora and fauna.

We stayed on the Big Island of Hawaii and explored the volcanoes, had a submarine tour and visited many beaches for snorkeling and surfing.  Hawaii is gorgeous and I can't wait to explore other islands in this incredible archipelago. 

We flew into Kona, which is on the west coast of the Big Island.  We stayed at a timeshare in the Waikoloa Resort, a thirty-minute drive north from Kona airport.  This resort, in particular, had it’s own golf courses, shopping centers, and grocery store.  Everything you need is on site.  We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment.  It was very nice and right on the ground level close to the communal barbecue and hot tub for that complex.  The only downfall of this particular room and on this particular level is that the residents above us decided every night to throw food down to the feral cats.  How Rude!  

Anyway, over the next few days, we checked out some snorkeling beaches and signed my nephew up for surfing.  He went for two days with Kona Mike's Surf Adventures and had so much fun.  I highly recommend this company everyone was very enthusiastic, professional, and safe.  Snorkeling was good pretty much everywhere we went.  My sister, however, loved Kahalu'u Beach Park.  This spot was convenient because the surfers were off to the right practicing and to the left was an easy entry snorkeling area.  It was full of beautiful fish and corals.  This area was great for snorkelers because of its gradual depth change.  Once out of the water there were places to shower off and buy food and refreshments.    

I originally came to Hawaii with grandiose dreams of scuba diving, but the universe had other plans.  I had a bad sinus infection most of the trip and equalizing was not going to happen.  So we did the next best thing and everyone was able to participate!  We signed up for the Atlantis Submarine Tour in Kona.  This tour was so much fun and so easy for everyone.  The submarine had two rows of bench seats facing either side of the submarine.   There were many windows, perfect for everyone to get a good view.   We went about 100 feet deep and toured around about 25 acres of coral reef and saw all sorts of sea creatures.  We also saw a wreck.  I would never substitute this for scuba diving.  However, if you have a member of your group that doesn't want to dive this is a great alternative.

Now, for those of you who love jewelry beware!  Sharing the same office space as Atlantis Submarines was Maui Divers Jewelry.  They had beautiful black coral pieces set in gold and silver.  They also had you fish for an oyster and find your special pearl.  The ladies working the counter were very friendly and very good at their jobs.  

The last day of our trip, in retrospect, wasn’t planned very well.  The Big Island has five volcanoes two of which are active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  The best way to see the island and its volcanoes are by helicopter.  There are many helicopter company locations around the island so you can easily book and leave from close to where you are staying.  We missed our chance on the helicopter tour because we decided too late and the bookings were full. Since we couldn’t do the helicopter tour, we took a long scenic drive.  Our first stop was in Hilo, which is very green and lush, compared to the Kona side, which is rougher with lots of volcanic rock.  We then dipped south toward the Kilauea volcano in Volcanoes National Park. When entering the park you can stop at Kilauea Visitor Center for information and history.  They also have a little theatre that shows videos of different eruptions and lava flows throughout the years.  After our stop at the visitor center, we rushed to a few observation areas.  I loved being able to actually see the crater of the volcano, the layers from the old lava lakes, and even the steam coming out of an active vent.  Kilauea volcano is such a different and amazing landscape from other places I’ve been.  The Volcanoes National Park is fairly large and definitely a full day or two days trip if you really want to hike and explore all the observation areas and different ecosystems.  Our visit was short and sweet as our flight was that night and we had to get back to Kona.  With so many things to do and so little time, I was off on another adventure.  I can’t wait to come back and explore more.

   

lava ecosystem
 Submarine Tour

Submarine Tour

Volcanoes National Park

Homestead Crater

Happy September!!

A few of us will be making the trip to Homestead Crater for a lovely two day diving adventure.  I have a couple of open water students and hope to have a few former students join us for a mini vacation and fun dive to enhance their comfort in the water.  If anyone is interested we will be there September 25 and 26.  Let me know soon, as I will need to book more space for any additional people.  

As we move to the latter part of the year I will be traveling a lot.  If you are interested in meeting me somewhere, i.e. Thailand, please contact me to work out a time and place to meet.  I would love to consult you about your travel plans and answer a few key questions if you are unsure of any aspects of your travel (Please remember that any consultations are subject to a fee).

I'm looking forward to the next few months and cannot wait to be on a plane again.  I am already meeting a few people abroad and know that may spiral into a lot of people.  It should be a great time!  For those of you who don't work these next few months, enjoy your time off!  And for those of you who do, don't forget to take a break and take care of yourself.  

I will update you all on our Crater trip and add pictures of our fun adventure along the way!

 

 

To Travel Or Not To Travel, That Is The Question?

Year after year I come across more and more friends, family and just people in general that say wow you have the life I always wanted.  I travel a lot.  I travel for fun and I travel for work and yes I have no kids so it is easier.  But today I want to talk about you.  What is holding you back from traveling more?  Everyone has a reason or two but today I want to talk about time and money as it pertains to travel.  

What I hear a lot, especially when I talk about Thailand is, I need at least a month to see all of Thailand and I can't get that kind of time off of work.  Well what if you made your trip a little more specific.  Why do you want to go to Thailand?  Because you don't have to see "everything" to make it a trip of a lifetime.  What if you just want to go to scuba dive, or snorkel or golf or see the craziness of Bangkok.  Pick one thing and focus on that to narrow down your time spent on this trip.  Next money, yes the plane ticket is expensive, especially if traveling from the US but here's the thing that no one thinks about.  Let's pretend the plane ticket is $1000, and you spend seven days in one place in Thailand doing the one thing you came to do and you spend say another $1000 on that place and that one thing.  Now, I know what you're thinking because I've heard it over the last five years.  That's a lot of money for just one week and it's so far and I won't have time to see "everything".  In the last five years how many of you have gone to Vegas for a weekend?  And in the last five years how much did that short two to three days cost you?  I went to Vegas recently for a bachelorette party I was there for the last half of the weekend which was two days two nights and I flew from a not so convenient location.  I dropped $1000 on two days in Vegas.  Yes, that is right half of what it cost me to go to Thailand for the week, seven days, only afforded me two days in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Now please don't assume I didn't want to spend that money in Vegas.  I made a decision to spend that time and money on an important and special occasion.  

Annually we all have to make decisions.  Decisions like, do I go to Mexico for a week or do I buy that gym membership, that i'll probably never use, so that I can go to Mexico next year looking super fly?  We, and I include myself in this conversation because I am guilty of it to, make decisions every day that affect our time and money.  Instead of trying to save for that "vacation of a lifetime" make time to go on vacations all the time to specific locations for your specific reasons.  It doesn't have to put you in debt when you focus your trip on what you really want to do instead of doing a whole lot of everything.

Panama

Here I am in Panama hoping to have some amazing dives and meet super people.  It is raining today however so most of my plans are at a standstill.  I am here visiting my long time friend Jamie who has been working here for an international school.  It is amazing to hear about the work she has done, the places she has seen, and the experiences she has had in a foreign country.    Being here is very symbolic because I would like to think I inspired Jamie to take the leap and live in a foreign country.  We were sitting in a bar in our hometown of Helena, MT both feeling like there is this great big world to see and she not quite knowing if leaving was what she wanted to do.  I, in no way, helped her move to Panama but I would like to think I created a path for her to follow into the unknown by relating with her all I had learnt from stepping outside my comfort zone.  A lot of times we get into our day to day routine and when we think about the logistics of travel or moving it often times becomes very overwhelming and scary.  I have walked people through the steps, from immunizations they need, to how to get there, to what they should do, and if I'm not traveling with them I even give them ways to contact me.  I have found that people who aren't traveling with me but meet me at a certain point feel immediately relieved.  The pressure of taking the planning and organizing a trip off of peoples shoulders is immediate and the response is physically visible.  I often hear people say, this trip has been a nightmare I'm so glad we finally ran into you, this day was so easy with you.  I had another person step off the dock in Koh Tao and literally fell into my arms saying oh thank god you are here.  I have to chuckle because I was there once too.  Crying on a beach wondering how am I going to do this, where do I go, how do I get there.  There is no right or wrong way to travel, but there is definitely an easy and a hard way.  I like to think that most people I've met, like Jamie, have been grateful for my ability to help them take the leap, travel to a foreign country, and enjoy the experiences they have.  

Website

No one told me setting up a website would be quite this difficult.  Yes, you have to be on the computer A LOT, which I also wasn't expecting.  But the actual choosing of content and pictures and what am I going to say and where should I put this and do you think people will look at that.....all to get very close to the end and think..."what if no one even looks at my website?".  So, here it is world, flaws and all.  A website that is putting everything I love to do out in the open for you to experience with me!  Suggestions are appreciated for the betterment of me or my website, meaning, positive constructive criticism appreciated.  I would like to thank all the people who have brought me to this defining moment and the five women who in the past few weeks have made this a reality, Suzi, Rebecca, Trish, Sherry and Dawn.  Thank you ladies for the "how to" and "who to call" and the editing and artistry!  Love you all!  And for all of you interested in trips, well, Contact Me!!