a journey of discovery, friendship and travel

Posts tagged “USA

The road to Orlando

On the road in Pennsylvania

On the road in Pennsylvania

Working in an office it’s not unusual to receive marketing faxes for a variety of things. Tin sheds. Quickbooks training. Offers to help some Nigerian Doctor distribute the wealth of his recently passed millionaire uncle (all they need is your bank account details right.. How bad could it be).  But we also received travel package offers.

Just before Laura and I booked our trip to Cuba in 2012, we also brought one of these offers (after much deliberation, duplicate phone calls to the company, and receiving the same information).  The package included 3 nights in Orlando, FL, a 2 night Bahamas cruise and 2 nights in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  The bonus, 2 nights in Las Vegas, NV that we used last September when we caught up before I flew home to Australia for a bit of a break.Unfortunately, or fortunately in our case, the package didn’t include flights, just accommodation.  Laura had always said that she’d love to drive down to Florida when we decided to use this package, so what better way to start our year traveling than with a trip to Orlando, a chance to live every childhood dream and visit Disney World and then spend a couple of days relaxing aboard a Celebrations cruise liner to the Bahamas and two days on the beach in Fort. Lauderdale?

And so the trip to Florida was born.

Deciding a route to take on any road trip can be mind numbing.  Neither of us aren’t necessarily against making the most of every opportunity to see something, but after numerous attempts to fulfill our traveling desires, we agreed that too much time in the US was going to drain our budgets significantly and that the drive from Saint Catharine’s to Orlando would just be that. A means to an end. Straight down the Interstates with very little detours.

Initially we had planned a route that would take us to Washington D.C., America’s capital and home to all things political, but after crossing into the US later than expected on Friday afternoon we altered our plans and hit the I90 toward Erie before heading south on the I79 towards Pittsburgh, PA for our first night.

Now you would think that with over twelve months to plan for this little adventure we are on, we would have at least our first nights accommodation sorted.


Don’t be silly… What happens if you want to change plans? (And let’s just say this is not the first time this has happened to us on the road… Helena, Montana ringing any bells Laura?)

So on our first night we learnt a couple of things:

1. Perhaps being very carefree still requires a small amount of planning.

2. KOA campgrounds have a ‘no tents after dark policy’

3. The iPad can save loads of time when you can check availability of cheap hotels (read Super 8’s) and book online.

Night one was also the night we discovered Sheets, a fresh alternative to service station convenience stops and food on the go.

Day two had us up and back on the I79 early.  The further south we drove along the greying bitumen into Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the more evident it become that spring had sprung.  The new tree buds and pink and white cherry blossoms reminders of a new year and new beginnings.

Onto the I77 crossing from West Virginia to Virginia, we drove through some spectacular scenery that is the Appalachian Mountains.  Their peaks only recently cleared of snow and the signs of winter still lingering with the coolness in the air.

Night two, thankfully we had organized.  Friends back in Calgary had arranged for us to stay with family, so with a slight detour east we headed along the I40 towards Apex, NC.

What we found were amazing hosts that welcomed us into their home and lives and shared with us amazing travel stories of their own and a quaint little town that can only be described as peacefully beautiful.

From Apex, NC we hit the I95 and continued our journey southbound, through South Carolina before enjoying some typically southern lunch in Savannah, Georgia at Ronnie’s – think southern fried chicken and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches…YUMMO, at a typical American diner.

From Savannah we continued to follow the I95 hoping for glimpses of the Atlantic ocean to our east or even the opportunity to view one of those stately homes, you know the big old white ones that you see in the movies with the big columns out the front, only to have them blocked by the tall trees and dense foliage of the creeping vines.

Crossing the St. Mary’s river and into Florida we found Waldo (Aussie’s think Where’s Wally) before cruising into Gainesville, FL and spending the night with another gracious host, Laurie.

I first met Laurie back in 2011 when I came to Gainesville to visit with my cousin, Maree and her husband Jonathan while they where living and working aboard at the University of Florida.  Ree had worked some of her magic and arranged for us to stay with Laurie on this trip and it was just the rest and relaxation we needed after a long day driving before tackling the hustle and bustle that lie before us in Orlando.

Pat and Larry and Laurie we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for opening up your lives and your homes and accepting us in (as do both our families).

While it was only a short drive for us to Orlando, it seemed like forever, but eventually we saw the first signs for Disney World.  We had arrived at destination no. 1.


Today is just the begining

It’s a surreal feeling waking up and knowing that for the next unknown months of your life you will be waking up to your own time.  Treading your own path.

What started as a dream in Veradero, Cuba yesterday become a reality and we are now living the life that so many others only dream about.

After packing our lives into Faith (very nicely too I might add), running a few last-minute errands and taking in a quick tour of Lake Ontario, we hit the road. Destination …… south!

Crossing ‘Rainbow Bridge’ at Niagara Falls, ON life continued for everyone else like it does day in, day out. Hundreds of visitors lined the viewing platforms on both sides of Niagara Falls, while others took a closer look from the water on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boats as they closed in under the thundering falls.  The mighty sound of falling water from both the US and Canadian falls carrying to the bridge were we sat idle enjoying their majestic beauty. Waiting to cross the US border.

With passports in hand we edged closer and closer, before finally being approved and allowed to enter the US.

Hello to our new lives.

The Inevitable Question: Why?

Inevitably we all get asked the question. Whether it comes from our parents, siblings, friends or work colleagues, we will all get asked the one question so many people wonder. Why?
Why do you want to pack up your life, buy a backpack and head out into the unknown? Why are you leaving your family, friends, a secure career, your home? Why put yourself in harms way when you can stay home, in a country with less crime, or less corruption, or less poverty? What are you trying to prove? Why are you doing this? The question of why may not always be easy to answer.
I have found it very difficult at times to put into words why I have, and am going to continue, to travel. 95% of people will be happy with the half-hearted, vague answers that I inevitable use: because I can; I just wanted change; it’s a great adventure; it’ll be so much fun; I love exploring. The list can go on and most people I talk to are happy with these responses. It’s the 5% who want more of an explanation that I find it hard to answer.
How do I describe the feelings that are evoked by travel? The calm that settled over my mind and body as I sat meditating on the edge of the Grand Canyon; Or the feeling of complete inner ease and comfort experienced racing through crazy traffic on a tuk-tuk in Cambodia among the dust, the horns, the trucks and the smells. How do I explain how I felt watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat? Or sipping Iced coffee in a Vietnamese cafe while I watched the world buzz around me?
Is it possible to share the sheer joy bursting from deep within as I let my body be guided through the foreign steps of salsa dancing in a club in Havana Vieja? Laughter spilling from the mouths of my dance partner and I as we enjoyed the moment. A moment shared with a stranger, who other than a few hand gestures and basic words, I was unable to communicate with.
Sharing a warm welcoming smile with an old woman whethered beyond her years due to extreme poverty and war as she stands sweeping her dirt floor, reminds me of the strength of the human spirit. My memory of the curious young children who ran along beside me in their pristine school uniforms as I walked down the dusty path to get breakfast, giggling and nudging each other, brightens my day. The richness exchanged in the friendships I have made abroad, and how it feels to be embraced by an entire family while sharing their special holiday traditions, are things that can not be replicated. The connections and interactions with people from other backgrounds, cultures and religions is where I have learned some of my most valued lessons as an adult. Being part of life in a country other than your own, even for small periods of time, is a gift.
Travel is what makes me feel alive. It’s what makes my heart beat and the reason I get up every day. I look at my life and it is obvious how the emotions, feelings, experiences and exchanges I have had while traveling have shaped who I am today. I like the growth I can witness within myself that has come from leaving my comfort zone. This development of who I am will continue with every new experience and I am excited by that.
I’ve been taught by people who have nothing, that possessions don’t equate to happiness. Knowing this deep within my heart and witnessing it, makes leaving all my ‘stuff’ irrelevant. Leaving my family was the most difficult, and remains the most difficult, aspect of choosing to live abroad. I have full respect for the concerns people have about my safety. I understand that the world does not work the way we are used to in North America or Australia. Corruption exists, worldwide, to varying degrees. People who travel a lot learn how to minimise their safety risks. I accept that there is a possibility, however small, that I may end up in a bad situation. I may end up in a bad situation no matter where I am. We all take risks in our every day life because we believe the benefit outweighs the risk. For me, the benefit of travel far outweighs the risk of travel. I’m not proving anything. I’m living.

it all begins at the beginning

Not everything in life was created equal!

Some of us live in a world that is fast paced, continually changing and ever evolving. Sometimes we struggle to keep up, other times we flourish.

But out there, beyond what we call ‘normal’ is another world. A world that can be just as much the same as ours, but also a world that is much slower, much more basic and to us, a lot more interesting.

I first met Laura at an Australian meet up group function in Calgary, Alberta. Low and behold we literally lived across the road from each other and as two single girls we got together on the odd occasion for dinner or just to get out of the house, but it wasn’t till our first ‘road trip’ that we really become friends.

A lot of people can’t believe that I agreed to do a cross American road trip from Calgary to St. Catherine’s with someone who I’d only met such a short time earlier, let alone in a secondhand car that had only been purchased 3 weeks prior. But I did and it’s up there with some of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

x J

Laura and I enjoying a ‘couple’ of tasters at Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Chippewa Falls, WI.