29 December 2016

Happy New Year!

The holidays are a complicated time. While some people enjoy huge celebrations with loving families, many spend them alone with little fanfare. I was one of the lucky ones. I grew up decorating locally-acquired, "Charlie Brown" Christmas trees, hanging stockings on the mantel, and leaving cookies and milk for Santa. On Christmas Eve, my twin sisters and I were allowed to open one present each, then we'd pile into my room and squeeze our eyes shut trying to force the sleep that would never come. When the sun rose, so did we, and rushed to the living room to greedily devour the gifts under the tree.

As we got older, the one-room slumber parties went by the wayside, as did much of the excitement around Christmastime that predictably dissipates with age. The magic wasn't gone, but it wasn't everywhere either. We started sleeping so late our mom would have to wake us. We'd go skiing instead of opening presents. I left for college.

After I graduated, I took a trip to Patagonia and decided I was done with Christmas presents. I couldn't afford both the trip and gifts, so I decreed to everyone that I wasn't doing gifts and therefore didn't want to expect any in return. And for the most part, I still don't give gifts 10-years later.

I want to be clear though that I do still CELEBRATE Christmas. I love everything about it. Spending time with those you love. Sparkling lights everywhere. An endless supply of fattening sweets. COSTUMERY! Yes please.

I've designed my own traditions to replace the presents under the tree. I like to travel internationally or have an orphan's dinner with my friends. This year I was happy to stay close to home to make new traditions in the new home I share with my boyfriend. One thing has remained the same though: creating and sending holiday cards. I love sending cards.

Collections are fun, so here's a look at my holiday cards back back to when the tradition started. In 2013 I started sending New Years cards, and personally I think that's when I really came into my own :) It's fun to see how much the designs have evolved over the years.  

Want a card next year? Awesome! I'd love to send you one! Let me know and I'll add you to my list, but you have to send me one too! I'll show you mine if you show me yours :)


2016

2015

2014



2013

2012

2011


2010


2009

2008. I hadn't yet discovered text overlay...

22 December 2016

Why We Go



I recently joined the board of the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) - our local avalanche forecast and education center - and I'm really excited to learn more about the nonprofit and its mission. When I started backcountry skiing 5-years ago, I had no idea of the places it would take me or the people I would meet along the way. The journey has been incredible, and I'm so grateful to NWAC for being a great resource for our community of winter adventurers. I'm humbled and happy to support its future.

Like any nonprofit, NWAC relies on donations to fulfill its mission based initiatives. Following the basic premise that people will act on behalf of something they love, and that people love what they know, we feel it's important to identify reasons 'why we go'. Other board members have been sharing inspiring stories around what motivates them individually, and I've now spent a good deal of time thinking about this very question myself.


Why do we go?


Why do we risk our lives to spend time in the backcountry? Why do we climb on rocks and huck off cliffs and dive down deep and fall out of the sky? Is it the adrenaline? Is it the adventure? Is it so we can get cool shots in the hopes of one day becoming Insta-famous?

A lot of folks outside of the outdoor community think it's for those reasons, but for me it's because spending time outside makes my heart feel full. When I was a little kid I desperately longed for an outdoor escape of my own. When I was upset about something, I always found myself outside, searching for respite. Set on a 1/2 acre, our property had plenty of shrubbery and yet none of the foliage was befitting of a fort. Occasionally I'd duck across the street to play on stacks and stacks of hay bales which lived year round under a big pavilion, but I was so scared of getting getting in trouble that those visits were few and far between.

As a little kid I dind't ask why. I didn't wonder what propelled me to put on shoes and a coat, open the door, and get lost in my own backyard for hours at a time. I just went, and was happy. Even at a young age, my body took me where my soul needed to go.

But now we're old and we have to attribute our actions to reasons. So here's another one for you: I go outside to feel in control and to restore the balance in my life. You all do too. Our actions are so common we have a phrase for it: "All work and no play make you a dull boy/girl."

Erroneously, people accuse us all of being "adrenaline junkies", when really that's not the point. Scientific research actually backs me up on this one. According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the type of person who is drawn to slow and methodical - albeit dangerous - activities like mountaineering are individuals seeking more emotional control in their lives (we are all emotionally inept nincompoops, apparently). And individuals who do things like skydiving may be "sensation-seeking", but still do so with a strong motivation to gain control in their lives. In short: we do it for the challenge. 

Every time I venture into the backcountry I learn something new about myself. I overcome challenges. I hone my communications skills. I uncover a new trick that makes me faster/better/stronger/mightier. I discover my resiliency and endeavor on, problem solving to get through obstacles. Most importantly, I connect with my tribe of adventurers, make safe decisions, and come home alive to go out another day. We are a community, and we must take care of ourselves, each other, and our outdoor playgrounds to preserve these experiences we hold most dear for the betterment of us all.

15 December 2016

Colors of The Mountain


My friend is a real Dick. I had the audacity to post a photo of me with "Rollercoaster Face" in the mountains, and he decided to respond with a rewrite of "Colors of the Wind" from the not-at-all racist, highly popular Disney film Pocahontas. I loved it. I made some minor tweaks to the language and am pleased to now represent his masterpiece to you here.


Written by Dick McManus and Kristina Ciari. Illustrated by Disney, with assistance from Craig Hull Rididulous Photoshop.

You think I'm a frivolous skier
And you've been so many resorts
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the silly one is me
How can there be so much that you don't know
You don't know

You think you own whatever hill you ski on
The piste is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every slope and ridge and aspect
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only skiers who are skiers
Are the skiers who look and think like you
But if you wear the tutu of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew, you never knew

Have you ever seen a crevasse crack through the new fallen snow
Or asked the toothless skibum why he smiled
Can you ski with all the shredders in the mountains
Can you play with all the tutus in the wild
Can you play with all the tutus in the wild

Come race the hidden tree runs of the forest
Come taste the local ciders in the lodge
Come play in all the powder all around you
And for once, try to leave your ego at home

The snowstorm and the whiteout are my brothers
The headlamp and hot tub are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
On a mountain, in a season that never ends

How deep is the powder snow
If you pack it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the silence of the new fallen snow
For whether we're on piste or backcountry
We need to revel in the the winter all around you
We need to enjoy every last turn we ever ski

You can own the slopes and still
All you'll own is snow until
You can ski with all the tutus of the wild


08 December 2016

Turns All Year: Month 61

For November turns this year - the first official turns of the season - I revisited the place from October and wow, did it look different! I went with the Sippel Sisters, a pair of real-life twins and the born-into owners of one of the best potential band names of all times. You've all heard about Theresa, but her twin Trisha just moved to the PNW and I was stoked to get out with both of them. I also had some strange flashbacks to my childhood spend skiing with my twin sisters...but I digress.

We left Seattle super early and drove up to Naches Peak, just outside of Mt. Rainier National Park. We were skinning by 8:45am, at the top by 10am, at the top of our second lap by 11:15am, and back at the car driving home by noon. Can we count that as dawn patrol?


When you adventure with twins, everything is the same same, but different.

Theresa forgot her tutu, but luckily Trisha had the green on lock down.

Trying to find a way around the creek...

Skinning into the abyss.

Trying to see zee mountain. Visibility was even worse than it looks.

Theresa stoked to drop in for our first lap!

The snow was light and fluffy in the morning, crusting up as it warmed later in the day. Remarkably good coverage considering the low snow depth.

Trisha may or may not have fallen right after this was taken....

Goodnight Owly. Thanks for joining.


Our friends were around the day before and left us a smiley. We love skiers.

01 December 2016

My First Selfie



Going through a box of old pictures the other day, I came across what I believe is my first selfie. Based on the glasses (and the teeth and the bangs and the seersucker shirt), this is roughly 1992, and I am 8. We had the 1989 GMC Safari van for at least 12 more years. I remember because I passed my drivers test in it. I was too scared to drive my yellow, 1970 Beetle named Lola. She's a manual, and I was afraid of stalling out.

Looking back, I really understand what people meant when they said I'd "grow into my teeth". I also can't believe I lived in that shirt... and the matching pair of rose-print shorts. I have no shame about my beloved neon pink, purple, and teal jacket sticking out of the back of the Safari though, that thing was a solid piece of art. I wore that a lot too. This must be after I learned to ask my Dad to cut my bangs - my mom hated doing it so much she'd cut them super short until I finally stopped asking her.

We took great road trips in that van. My mom in the front seat, my twin-sisters in the middle, and me in the back. My dad bought a top-of-the-line 13" TV with built in VHS player that plugged into the cigarette lighter and we'd watch Aladdin and The Lion King on full blast, my parents plugging their ears and us begging it to be turned up louder because the speakers were off the back of the unit. He still had that thing until a few years ago.

My dad kept the van after my parents' divorce, and when I was 11 we took a long road trip down to Disneyland. We pulled the middle seat out, and I relinquished my solitude in the back, instead taking the spot in the front next to Popi (as I had re-branded him) while trying to learn how to read a stupid road map. Driving through the night, we'd sleep on the over-hearted floor of the van with a thick blanket under us to keep from burning up. Popi would drink a lot of water and drive until 3am, using a full bladder to keep him awake.

The California trip was the first time I can ever remember wearing seatbelts. No one had a car seat. My sad would smoke his cigarette while driving down the road, using the smoke to teach us about the physics of wind and aerodynamics with the windows cracked at different distances.

Those were different times. Gone are the days where you let kids steer the car when they're 5 or move the shifter when they're 7. No more sleeping on the floor or going without a seatbelt. No more manual cars or reading physical maps or VHS movies or cigarette lighters with actual lighters that get hot enough to actually light a cigarette.

I'm not so much sad about these changes as nostalgic for the past. I think kids should learn how to drive a manual. I'm still not a great navigator but dammit, I did eventually learn how to read a map. And while science lessons by cigarette are not the best for you, they're certainly easy to understand.

My niece is 10, and she'll never know what it's like to take a photo and not be able to see it instantly. I'm sure in 20-years she'll look back on today nostalgic about a different set of things, but for now I'm a little sad for her that she'll never experience the surprise of finding her very first accidental selfie.

24 November 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

As someone who posts a new blog every Thursday, I'm growing the love the fact that I have one required time every year to give thanks.

I'm thankful for a lot of things this year: my incredible friends and family, a supportive community of adventurers, and of course the approaching winter. But I'm thankful every day to work for a company whose mission statement so closely resembles my personal ethos.

To celebrate Thanksgiving every year, The Mountaineers send a message of thanks to its community. As the marketing director, I'm primarily responsible for crafting and distributing this message. While I didn't come up with the beautiful design below, we used my picture and words. Just like the last two years, I feel personally moved by the way it turned out.

In an especially tumultuous time in our country, I, too, am thankful for our public lands. I'm grateful for those who came before us, like the late, great Polly Dyer, and fought for the wild places where we play. We all need to do what we can to protect our public lands; to let our grandchildren experience the sensation of discovering an untouched place.


17 November 2016

The Magic of Winter

Me on the left with my friend Marley. 1989.

Growing up in Montana, winter was always close at hand. We never spent much money on Halloween costumes because we'd end up wearing our ski pants and heavy winter jackets over the top anyway. My birthday is in mid-May but, by all accounts from my childhood, it was a winter birthday; I often got snow as a birthday present. I graduated high school on June 2 in sunny, 70-degree weather. Ten days later it dumped 14", covering my small town in tree branches which couldn't withstand the weight of the heavy muck on their new spring growth. It even snowed on the 4th of July one year, a memory which still makes me smile 25-years later.

My dad, especially, loved winter. He loves to complain about the cold now, but when I was two he built a luge off the back deck of our house in Whitefish. After we moved to Bozeman, he maintained a skating rink in our backyard for at least two winters. We didn't spend so much time skating on it, but I remember learning a lot about the science of snow and ice: melting points, ideal freezing temperatures, why you need to keep leaves from freezing into the ice. It's probably the best science lesson I ever had.

He also loved to ski. My parents met in Steamboat Springs, CO., where my dad worked as a ski instructor. They eventually moved to Montana, got married, and had kids. Both of my parents vowed to get me and my sisters skiing at a young age. We loved it. Our local ski hill let you ski for free until you were 10, so I was 10 until I was about 14. Shortness is good for something.

Throughout my life, winter has come to mean different things to me. Play, cold, ski, shovel, defrost, frustration, joy, rejuvenation. As a child, a fresh coat of white filled me with wonder. Today, a fresh coat of white refills my soul.

I've surrounded myself with people who feel the same way. I love watching my friends get excited about winter. I love seeing their faces light up, reflecting back exactly what I'm feeling inside. Right now my community of snow bunnies is giddy with joy, sharing snow memes and favorable forecasts. We're chomping at the bit to get out and enjoy the white stuff, and are envious of those who already have.

I'm grateful to have the privilege to enjoy winter, one I know is not afforded to all. I've lived through winters good and bad, and have seen marked changes in my short time on earth. Montana doesn't get snow on my birthday very often anymore. My niece, who's 10, gets fancy Halloween costumes because she can actually wear them. I can't remember the last time it snowed in June.

Winter is a cleansing, rejuvenating time. It blankets the earth in white and offers respite to our plants and animals in need of rest. It provides magical snow days to kids across the world. It's inspired snowmen and igloos and ice caves and backyard luges. It gives us a blank canvas to start anew. Everyone should experience the magic of winter.

I'm going to fight like hell to make sure my kids and their kids will have winter too. I can't do it alone. If you're interested, head over to check out the good people of Protect Our Winters (POW) and make a donation. I have.

10 November 2016

Things that are important to me



We all have things we hold dear - things that make our souls feel whole and our heart's shine. Here's a list, in no particular order, of things that are important to me:
  1. Recreation: I love getting outside, whether it's in a tutu or not. The fresh air and the mountain breeze rejuivnates me in a way that nothing else can.
  2. Creativity: I enjoy that I work for a company where I can be so creative, and where I don't have to fit a mold to be rewarded. Tonight I'm wearing a unicorn horn for a work-related event. Because I can. It's awesome.
  3. Fairness: I've always had a strong barometer for fairness. I don't know why, but I get very upset when I feel like things aren't fair.
  4. Snow: Growing up in Montana, snow has always been a part of my life. I have to drive a little further to get to it, but I'd like to see it stick around for all of the winters to come.
  5. Facts: I like living in a fact-based world, which I know is more aspirational than reality (for example: Christopher Columbus was a horrible human being why are we taught he's so great in US schools?!?). But facts are important, they inform decisions and create an even playing field.
  6. Equal Rights: My best friend in high school came out to me when he was 14. I was the first person he told, and it changed my life forever and for the better. I can no more choose to love women than he can choose to love women. Why is that so hard for people to understand? And why should he be judged differently than me because of it?
  7. Earning It: Unlike many of my peers, I worked through college and paid for it myself. I bought a house this year on my 32nd birthday, and I earned every penny (and paid off my college loans). I believe in helping people, but I also believe in working hard for what you have. Entitlement does not sit well with me.
  8. Active Listening: I'm not always the best model of this, but I do think collaboration leads to a better product and victories are sweeter when shared.
  9. Wildlife: I once let a spider, who I named "Stanley", live in my shower for a month because I didn't want to kill him. We had a good time together, Stanley and me. I also love elephants and turtles and frogs. For no other reason than they're awesome. And birds. Because birds are basically little dinosaurs.
  10. Freedom: I can write this little blog every week about anything I want, and don't face persecution for it (other than a few internet trolls). We're supposed to live in a country where everyone is afforded the same opportunities.
Not-ironically, this is also a list of things I'm really afraid of losing under the new president-elect. I've been so humbled by all of the posts from my fellow Hillary supporters online who are willing to have hope for at Trump Presidency. I'm just not there yet. I'm still very, very afraid.

I'm afraid for my niece, a 10-year old living in a red state. What kind of sex education is she going to get? What kind of resources will be available to her when she needs reproductive health support? What are the boys in her class going to learn about consent?

I'm worried about my job. I work for an outdoor nonprofit. Will there be a place for conservation work under a Trump presidency? Or will we just take a big step back on the environment? Will recreation even be available for my kids?

I'm afraid for my friends who are LGBTQ, or not-Christian, or who aren't quite "white-enough". Will they be safe?

I'm worried about my way of life. Both as a recreationist and as a woman. The snow-capped mountains are my escape, my place to wander and renew my soul. No one bothers me for being a solo female traveler. If I can't go there, what will I have? Where can I go?

03 November 2016

Turns All Year: Month 60 (5 Years!)

I met Christy in October 2014 when she attended an event at The Mountaineers. We were premiering Pretty Faces, a ski film featuring only women, and Christy volunteered to help. She showed up in bright red ski bibs, adorned with a white helmet with a pink mohawk and glowing unicorn horn. This girl had ridiculousness written all over her, and I knew immediately we needed to be best friends forever.

Christy, her two amazing daughters, and fimmaker Lynsey Dyer (read more about the film here)


I got to know Christy at more ladies' events, and have been lucky enough to partner with her on a few SheJumps/Mountaineers events. We've traveled together, enjoying turns together at Alta, SnowBird, and Schweitzer. We also shared a few soul-restoring days together at our local Crystal Mountain.

When it came time to organize a SheJumps fundraising climb of Mt. Rainier, Christy not only came up with the idea, but adeptly organized most of the trip. She's talented, smart, dedicated, and passionate, and she has more costumes than all of us combined. I have always been impressed Christy's endless enthusiasm and zest for life. This girl knows how to have a good time, and is superb at making people feel welcome and included. And to top it all off, she's a great mom to two girls, two dogs, and a barn-full of goats!

She's also a great skier. With October winding down and me without my monthly pilgrimage on skis, I was elated to get a text from Christy suggesting a day in zee mountains. She had a plan and we were GOING FOR IT!

The universe had other plans.

First, Christy got a flat tire. And not like a just-put-air-in-it-and-keep-driving sort of a flat tire, but a your-rim-is-ruined-drive-to-the-closest-gas-station-do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-$200 kind of flat tire. Always the considerate ski partner, she let me know right away and I enjoyed a nap in my car while she sorted it out. Actually, she managed to get her father in law to come tow the car, drop her kids at school, and get to me only in just over an hour. If that's not a special kind of skill, I don't know what is!

Then we arrived at zee mountain, and it looked like this:



Given the lack of snow in previous days, we weren't expecting pow, but we weren't expecting dirt. With little time to waste and a deadline for me to be back in town, we set off with the adventure dog Strider into "the snow" (quick safety note here: it's never a good idea to have a "I need to be back in town by X time" qualifier; it's fine, in fact a good idea, to set a turn-around time if you don't make your intended destination, but rushing is never a good idea and can lead to unintended consequences).

This is going to be "fun"!

Time to skin! Strider post-holed the whole way poor thing.

We hiked for a short time through mostly snow but also a lot of muck, until we reached the place where previous skin tracks started. We could have just walked all the way to the top of Naches Peak, but my rule for Turns All Year are "skis on my feet for an hour", which means uphill counts!

Photo by Christy.

Christy and her pooch.

Getting closer! Strider post-holing some more. Photo by Christy.

We made it to the top right when dense fog was rolling in. Of course. We ate our sammies and "rested" after nearly 600' of uphill climbing.

And we took selfies. Because: of course we did.

Smiles for days.

Then we "skied" down. It was...skiing. We got in some turns while laughing at our own lack of coordination and trying to dodge the rocks. We were mostly successful.

"Dropping!"

Styling!

"Carving!"

Chasing!

We were back at the trail in short order, but just because we were on the trail didn't mean I was ready for the skis to come off. We gingerly inched over the rocks to ski almost all of the way back to the car. Before we knew it, the little adventure was over.

They say "you don't know unless you go". In this case, we went and it was worse than expectations, but I've gone and won so many times that this felt like a win. It helps with an awesome adventure buddy! And hey, that's skiing in October. 

In denial about running out of snow.

Two types of skiing: snow and water!

This guy in the parking lot took SO many photos of us. I dind't get the memo on making a more awesome face.

So happy! I made it to 5-months of TAY!

27 October 2016

An Open Letter to Outside Magazine



Dear Outside Magazine,

As an Outside subscriber for the last 8 years, I'm a fan of your work. I look forward to receiving my newest magazine in the mail, and I read most of them cover to cover. I've even given a subscription to a friend as a gift. But your latest Buyer's Guide gives me pause, and I think you can do better.

In your Editor's Letter, titled "Let Her Rip", you call out the outdoor industry for not doing better by female adventurers. "...so many gear companies seem to have missed the memo. Our female ski testers unanimously complained about women-specific models that had been lightened and softened to the point of riding like overcooked noodles."

As a female who works in, and is an active participant in, the outdoor industry, I'm familiar with the industry's proclivity to pink it and shrink it. I rode men's skis for the better part of three decades, until a few companies started designing gear that could keep up. I've stood in my fair share of gear shops where employees ignored me and spoke only to my male companion, or worse started mansplaining to me. Your message is spot on.

You go on to call yourselves out for your own past grievances. "Outside, of course, is guilty of marginalizing the stuff, too. This is our first Buyer's Guide that hasn't cordoned off the women's gear in the back, for instance." I applaud this move, and thank you for ending the column with, "please, gear manufacturers: design equipment that can keep up." If anyone can make an impact on an industry that's been slow to respond, it's a national publication with 2.4 million subscribers (and Outdoor Research too, you guys rock!).

Then I turn the page. Full of excitement and glee, I see the list of your six test contributors. All of them are men.

The next five content pages are skis for men, then a page of boots (presented as gender neutral, although a cursory search shows they're men's boots), then a page of women's skis. One page. With three skis. The five pages for men feature ten skis.

Backcountry skis are presented the same way, with four pages showcasing eight skis for men, and one page jammed with eight backcountry products for women.

I think you see where I'm going with this.

Turning page after page, my excitement about your challenge issued in the Editor's Letter faded, and my disappointment in yet another empty promise grew. In reality, this Gear Guide IS different than your previous Guides. It's worse. Last year you had 12 pages of content for women. This year you have six. Your Guide is 120+ pages. Even if 40 of those pages are ads, and another 40 feature unisex gear (which I'd argue, as your photos clearly show men's products), that leaves 34 pages devoted to men. A male to female ratio of nearly 6:1.

Even your "Meet Your Maker" features - stories of influential employees at DPS, Arc'teryx, GoPro, and Hoka One One - are sexist. Is there a reason Stephan, Greg, and Chris are all photographed proudly interacting with their product, while Lindsay's photo is a closeup "beauty shot" of her face?

I know hundreds of women and girls who are getting after it: they climb and ski and paddle and hike in skirts and live in vans and pee outside and aren't afraid to get dirty. They're all hungry for stories reflecting the nuance of gender and race and sexual orientation. Look to organizations like SheJumps and the Outdoor Women's Alliance who are engaging these women. These same women who are not reading Outside magazine.

They would, but they can see right through your empty promises. You point your finger at "the industry" while publishing stories like "Train Like a Girl" and shuffling the pages of your Gear Guide and calling it progress. You jam nine female products onto a single page and reserve two page spreads for one piece of male gear. You say we will see more women's pages in the months ahead - why not now? Why not this issue?

I'm disappointed. I let myself believe you were different. You even gave it a good college try. Maybe you will change, but I won't be reading to find out.

Sincerely,

Me, and all the other women who won't be pandered to

20 October 2016

What Your Tutu Color Says About You



So you're thinking about getting a tutu. Congratulations! This is a big step in your journey toward becoming a true outdoor enthusiast. Everyone knows: you aren't really an adventurer until you've adventured in a tutu.

Your choice in tutu color is important. Your tutu is the very first thing people will notice about you, and you don't want to send the wrong message with purple when you're really more of an orange. That could get ugly.

To help you on your journey of discovery, you'll need to know what each tutu color represents to determine if it's the right color for you. Presented below in no particular order, here are your options:

Purple: Highly psychic, you probably know what people are thinking before they open their mouth. You're seen as mysterious and secretive, and you are the proud owner of a truly intuitive mind. But inside you are full of turmoil, with two distinct camps setting up their arsenals for battle. Pull on the purple tutu and breathe easy, because you always have a soft, tender, harmonious side that just wants everyone to get along.

Orange: Well aren't you the social butterfly. Flitting from crowd to crowd, you are a roller-coaster of activity (and emotion). When you aren't busy being the center of attention, you can be charming and offer real insight for others in need. But your fuse is short. Try not to hold a grudge when you inevitably covet a different (and somehow better) tutu belonging to a friend.

Turquoise: Like the calm serenity one finds off the coast of Fiji, your soul is always seeking calm. You long to escape your life - your friends, your family, your job, your annoying neighbor, and that guy who will just not get a clue! - and dash away to a place far, far away. Independence is important to you, and yet you allow yourself to be tied down by so many things. Stop taking on so damn much, buy a freaking tutu, and go outside already!

Dark Blue: Take a deep breath in. And out. And in. And out. Like a hot vinyassa flow yoga class, you are level-headed and balanced. You're a peacemaker, and value truthfulness and direct communication in all of your relationships. You're nearly perfect in every sense of the word. If only you would shower more.

Pink: Strong and confident, you are wearing a tutu and don't care who sees! You're creative and generous, and will fight to the death for the people you care about. You love the peaceful bliss of spending time in nature but are always sure to bring the party with you. Who cares if your flamboyant ridiculous is off-putting? You're making the world a better place for you.

Yellow: Quiet and happy, you find contentment in the simple pleasures of life. You take the high ground, and would never debase yourself in a confrontation about something silly like who are we voting for the next President - Clinton or Trump? You're analytical and a good reader of people, but frankly you aren't all that much fun because you tend to be what we call "book smart". The tutu will help change this reputation. Avoid the tutu when you are feeling overwhelmed by others, because people WILL talk to you whether you want them to or not.

Red: Like the fire and brimstone that created this great hunk of earth we call home, you are not someone to be messed with. You are full of enthusiasm and energy, and you're adventurous with food, travel, and sexual partners. You feel called to action by a strong force, and can find yourself in hot water often. But most people love your fiery spirit. Keep on being you. Be careful not to wear the tutu when your Saturn is in orbit - it will bring imbalance to your Chi.

Green: Work work work work work, you are responsible to a fault and frankly it's amazing you found any time to buy a tutu and take it outside at all. You choose your people - and your adventures - with great care. You're popular, admired, and respected, but can be too strong at times. People appreciate your practical advice, and your penchant for bringing tasty treats. Order a tutu with extra tulle so you can make some snack pockets.

White: Like the Virgin Mary, your soul and spirit are clean. Wait, who are we kidding? What are you hiding under all those layers of fluffiness?

Rainbow: Wow, you just can. not. make. up. your. mind. Pick a goddamned color, it's really not that hard. You are like a tornado, hurricane, typhoon, and Seattle #Stormapocalypse2016 all rolled into one. Just...stop.

Black: Are you kidding me? Do you think you're the black swan or something? You know that's not a real thing, right? This is not an acceptable tutu color. Don't even think about it.


Order your tutu* now as a way to show the world your commitment to all things awesome and ridiculous. Bonus points if you buy crazy leggings and leg warmers to match.  

*Note: You can add the word NEON to the front of any of these colors to prove you have extra flair. You also get extra points for making your own.

13 October 2016

Vacation Planning vs. Vacation Reality

Plan

Spend two-glorious-weeks enjoying tropical paradise in Central America. You've never been there and have no idea about the actual geography, weather this time of year, or available sights to see, but this is going to be fun because you can plan later! Anticipate time for activities like hiking and spelunking and exploring the Mayan ruins and hopping around from city to city. Also schedule down time to read and relax and roast yourself under the sun like a rotisserie chicken. Buy tickets flying into Guatamela City and out of Belize City.

Reality

Look at a calendar and realize your trip is actually only 8-days long, including travel time. Google 'map of Central America' and realize those countries are bigger than you thought, and those pictures from your friend's trip where she did all the fun things that you wanted to do is not going to happen. Lambaste yourself for not doing any planning before booking flights, other than spending an inordinate amount of time agonizing over Zika and whether or not it's safe to go (it totally is). Cross 'hiking' and 'spelunking' off your list. Also cross 'relaxing in the sun' off because it's hurricane season. What? You didn't think to look that up either?

Beg your friend who just went there to plan an actual, achievable itinerary for you. She does a great job, but it's still....ambitious. Why the hell didn't you just book a trip to Hawaii you idiot?


Decide you are going to skip the whole cultural immersion experience at the lake down south. You're sure everyone is exaggerating about the great food anyway. Opt to do a quick turnaround in Guatemala City instead and fly north shortly after you arrive. Buy more airline tickets.

Arrive in Guatemala City at 9:30pm. Get into a cab with a driver and his son who was holding a sign with your name on it because today is Dia de los Ninos so the cabbie brought his son to work despite the fact that it's well after his bedtime. It's still adorable. Arrive at your hotel after passing through guarded, locked gates surrounding the entire neighborhood. Crime is bad here. Say a silent thank you for your friend who told you to book a place and a driver in advance. Plug in the mosquito repelling device, take a shower, and set your alarm for 4am.

Take the 6:30am flight to Flores where you're accosted by cab drivers when you walk out of the terminal. Finagle a ride to Tikal to see the large, impressive Mayan ruins there. Say a silent thank you to the universe for letting you hop onto a guided trip with an Israeli family who really didn't want you to join at first. Asking directions to a bathroom comes with unforeseen benefits.




Spend 4+ hours exploring Tikal. Marvel at the power of the jungle to cover every square inch of earth, then marvel at man's ability to take it back. Listen to Howler Monkeys while standing above the jungle canopy. They're unbelievably loud and sound really aggressive. Be glad they're so far away. Wow, it's so incredibly green here. And hot. You're sweating in places you didn't know you could.

See a moncĂșn out of the corner of your eye and think it's a monkey. "Hey, everyone, I found a monkey!" You'll exclaim. It's not. It's a Central American racoon. Whatever. You still saw it first!


See and hear more animals: monkeys, toucans, and more moncĂșns. Look unsuccessfully for tarantulas. You aren't too disappointed when you don't find them. Finish your tour with the satisfaction of knowing you had a really great experience and enjoyed a historic place free of many other tourists (it's the low season afterall. Did you know it's hurricane season?).

Drink your first beer of the trip. Ahh, now it feels like vacation. Order a second beer to enjoy with your "nachos": a plate of delicious tortilla chips over a spoonful of refried beans dribbled with queso.


Leave Tikal and stop on the way to go for a Canopy Zipline ride. It's cheap and sounds like fun. On your way up the first ladder you  see why it's so cheap, but cross your fingers the jungle hasn't eaten all of the tower completely and that they can support the weight of you, your travel companion, and the two guides.

Go for your first zip. Do 7 more, half of which you spend hanging upside down and the other half of which you spend in the "superman" position. To achieve this position the guides will remove your harness and put it back on you backwards while you're standing 50' above the ground. Try not to let this "safety oversight" bother you too much.


Stay in a lovely hostel in El Remate. Wander the tiny town and discover a glorious dock adjacent to an empty restaurant. Everything is empty actually. You've come during low season.

Enjoy a beer on the water. Then a second. Decide food is probably a good idea and send your capable travel partner to order something to share. He'll think he ordered Ratatouille for $40 GUA (roughly $6.50 USD), when really he ordered three giant shrimp for a much higher price. This explains why the waitress/chef/owner was so giddy...


Walk back to the hostel. Ask the helpful woman at the front desk to help you book a bus to the "totally awesome, absolutely must do" cave tour the next day. Realize, yet again, you will not be able to make it to the tour on time in the morning. Sulk for a minute. Give up on the tour entirely, and book a 5-hour bus/water taxi ride straight to Caye Caulker outside of Belize City. Sleep.

Board the bus to Belize. Drive 2ish hours in relative discomfort through the countryside. Marvel, yet again, at the incredible power of the jungle. It's everywhere.

Arrive at the border crossing. Gather your stuff and wait in line, where apparently pants are optional. Get stamp #2 in your brand new passport and walk into Belize to board a new bus. Cars don't really cross the border here. You have Guatemalan cars and Belizean cars, but not both. Now it's time for the Belizean bus which has been sitting idle. It's so hot it makes you nauseous. Power through.


Arrive, at last, on Caye Caulker (pronounced key). You won't find cars here - only golf carts and incredibly rusty cruiser bikes to help you navigate this tiny atoll. It's the best thing you never knew you wanted.

Wander "up" the island toward The Split, a small waterway between the north and south islands created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Find a hotel with reasonable prices and an amazing view for two nights. Book it.

Watch your first tropical island sunset from the roof with a beer in hand. You could get used to this.


Wake up in paradise to go on a snorkeling trip. With 7 stops you'll see everything: manatees, turtles, eels, sting rays, fish of all kinds - including Tarpin who don't have teeth but are 2-3' long and jump like crazy out of the water - and one seahorse. Bring your waterproof GoPro to capture the magic, but it won't turn on because GoPros are like that sometimes. Whatever. Who needs photos when you have memories? You also have a sunburn.

Move to a new hotel two days later. A cabana further south, away from "the city". On the second floor, it has a fresh breeze and a water view. It's incredible. Lay at the end of the dock under the thatched roof of the palapa. Enjoy. At lunch time a man comes by selling fresh chicken tamales. Order one. Regret eating it for the next week.


Use the kitchen in your cabana to soothe your sour stomach. Start your day with eggs and pancakes. Make pasta one night and bake a cake the next day. Eat the cake for days. It's delicious. Savor all of the good choices you've made and ignore the 'eating tamale' oversight.

Discover the island bakery. Eat all of the things. Why didn't you look for this sooner? These ham and cheese pastries are devine! Drink fresh pineapple juice. Eat fish for dinner every night, sometimes while sitting in a swing-chair. Enjoy another beer...err, wait, did you say 'Rum Punch'?






Catch your own yellow snapper using only a line (no pole), some stinky sardines, and your glowing personality. Take it to your favorite restaurant and have them cook it for you. Somehow it tastes even better than the other fish you've eaten. More authentic. You're surprised they left the eyeballs in this time though. Even more surprising is that they're hard just like a tiny marble.

Realize it's been sunny your entire trip. How did this happen? Isn't it hurricane season? Take the double kayak around the island to celebrate. Take it back to The Split to watch the sunset another day.




Commit to staying forever...or at least until the end of your trip. You love it here. Why go anywhere else? Use your bikes and your snorkels and read your books. Lay in the sun. Let the happiness that comes with not having anything to do or anywhere to be wash over you, and be thankful you finally relaxed enough to embrace this whole "no plan" thing.

Ask yourself, "Who needs Hawaii?"