Four Things You Must Do in Sri Lanka

 

 

When Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka the top destination to visit in 2019, tourism boomed. The country had it all: stunning beaches, incredible wildlife viewing, great exchange rate, colorful and friendly locals. Then, April 21st happened. On Easter Sunday, in the capital city of Colombo, three Christian churches and three luxury hotels were targeted by seven suicide bombers, leaving 259 people dead and the world’s trust in Sri Lanka sagging.

I’m not here to write about the minute details of the attack. What I am here to say is that less than three months later, I visited Sri Lanka, and it’s a perfectly safe place to go. All the pluses mentioned above, and more, hold true. Furthermore, Sri Lankans are not in denial about what happened. They know they have to dig the country out of a hole. They wanted to talk about it. It was refreshing.

If you have plans already, don’t cancel them.  If you’ve always wanted to go, I say: go. My travel companion and I went with One and Only Travels and had our own guide/driver, and four and five star hotels. I’m not getting paid to endorse this company and do so only based on the experiences we had. They offer packages that are flexible and can be changed based on your priorities. Leaving group travel behind was a real plus. And the price we paid was almost embarrassing. We spent two weeks in the country for under $3,000, including airfare, which I booked through cheapoair. 

Here are four things to do that shouldn’t be missed.

VISIT BUDDHIST TEMPLES & HISTORICAL SITES

All the other great stuff aside, my first attraction to Sri Lanka was the Buddhist sites. I remember pouring over books about the philosophy long ago and reading that Sri Lanka was one of the best places in the world to explore Buddhism. Back then, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to get there, especially since it wasn’t considered a safe country due to a 25-year civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2009. But lo and behold, I made it! The grand daddy is to visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy, which holds a tooth which is said to belong to none other than Sidhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha. Don’t expect to see the actual tooth unless you stand in an extremely long and slow moving line, but you can certainly easily take in the ritual of the opening of the golden doors that hide it and watching devout Buddhists as they worship the sight of the tooth.

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My personal favorites were Dambulla Cave Temple located in the town of the same name and offering five ancient caves filled with Buddhist images and statues, some as old as 2,000 years, and nearby Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which was not only a monastery for many centuries, but was once the residence of a very creative king.

 

The entrance to the Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, was once in the shape of a giant lion. Today, only the paws and claws remain, but it is a fun, unique, and interesting climb that includes viewing some well-preserved frescoes of scantily clad women that may be a sampling of the king’s many concubines. Ruins of the king’s fortress remain at the top, and the view is pretty great, too!

VIEW WILDLIFE

Since I was always so interested in the Buddhist aspects of Sri Lanka, I never really considered it to be a great place to see wildlife. Good thing my travel companion enlightened me. Naturally, the best place to view animals is at national parks, but don’t be surprised if you see some amazing creature lumbering down the side of the road:

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This gorgeous lady was happy to be photographed and videotaped for a few minutes, but chased our vehicle when she’d had enough! Ahh, what a memory!

Want to really see some elephants? We viewed almost two hundred of them in Kaudulla National Park. We also went to Sri Lanka’s most famous park,  the extremely remote Yala, where we were blessed with spotting a leopard coming to a watering hole for a drink.

 

Extra added bonus at Yala: viewing the raging Indian Ocean. Our tour included two other national parks, but we paid what turned out to be very small additional fees for our guide to set us up to go to Kaudulla and Yala instead. Worth it! These safaris were private, like the rest of our trip. Top that.

We also visited an elephant rescue as well as a turtle hatchery, which I’ll talk more about below.

DON’T DARE MISS THOSE GORGEOUS BEACHES

As an island nation, Sri Lanka has beaches on all sides. We hit the coast as our last stop, south of Colombo, in the Beruwala area. Beruwala is lined with private resorts. It’s also home to turtle hatcheries, which buy eggs from locals who intend to eat them. Instead, the hatcheries bury the eggs and raise the turtles for three years before setting them out into the Indian Ocean.

Side note: I didn’t ask to hold this big, flopping boy. The owner just plunked him in my hands and started taking pictures!  I was afraid of dropping him, and he gave me a scratch or two, not unlike a cat, before I lowered him into the safety of his tank.

Beruwala Beach and the roaring India Ocean lie beyond the boundaries of the resorts, which are protected by security guards. Once you leave the confines of your hotel, you are fair game to any and all souvenir merchants. But the further I got down the beach, the less humanity I saw. Even in a heavy tourist area like Beruwala, it is possible to find a slice of privacy. I also found a monitor stalking around! As the self-proclaimed Lizard Whisperer, I was able to get some pretty good shots of him. Not recommended for everyone.

THE MOUNTAINS

The beach was our last stop before heading home, but as a hiker and a lover of solitude, the mountains of Sri Lanka were the best of the best. To be more specific, the area of Ella was without match on our adventure. This was the place I didn’t want to leave.

Back to Lonely Planet one more time. The famed train from Demodara passes through terraced tea plantations en route to Ella. Lonely Planet rated it as one of the top experiences to have in the entire country. This stumps me, because my friend and I thought it was way over-hyped. The windows were dirty, it was uncomfortable and hot, and children were running up and down the aisles the whole time. If that’s your idea of fun, well, you’re going to love it. We thought being in the car and driving through the plantations was much more wonderful. Oh, and Ramboda Falls, with trumpet flowers in bloom, was simply one of the most jaw-dropping scenes I’ve ever been lucky enough to take in.

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Ella is a Westernized town with more than enough restaurants and shops to please the most homesick American. We drove right through and ended up in a remote enclave called 98 Acres with a view of Little Adam’s Peak, which we climbed the next day. We loved this area so much, we talked about going back to Sri Lanka just to spend more time there!

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I’ve just scratched the surface of the wonders of Sri Lanka. Easily one of my favorite countries, with something for everyone. A visitor can get a pretty good overview of the island in a couple of weeks.

Are your bags packed?

 

 

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: Journey with Dorothy

Oh heck, it’s just been too long since my last post, and here I am two trips behind! Since I wrote last I’ve been to North and South Carolina to see my beloved niece, and followed that up with a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka, which also included a long layover in London. I’m heading to the Southwest next Tuesday for two glorious weeks of hiking, so I’d better get catching up a little here!

If you read all my blogs then you know that I have a “thing” for the Wizard of Oz. I also have a “thing” for weird and interesting places. So it’s only natural that I’d take great interest in an abandoned amusement park in North Carolina called The Land of Oz. There are plenty of stories to be found on social media and beyond about the place. Let me take some of the mystery out of the Land of Oz, and tell the real story.

I won’t go into the history of the park and have anyone yawning. But if you’re interested, and also want to read about the spook factor, click here.

These days, if you’re paying attention, you’ll find out that the Land of Oz has been restored. The park opens on select weekends in the summer, and even fewer weekends in the autumn months. The summer offering is called Journey with Dorothy, and is usually announced in early spring. After some research, I just kept watching the Land of Oz website until the tickets went on sale. We paid about $30 with taxes and fees, but prices may change for next year.

Now, if you’ve heard previously about the Land of Oz and read articles like the one above, then the following news may be disappointing: no, you can’t “jump the fence” of Oz and wander through this “creepy” place on your own. The theme park is at the top of Beech Mountain and is part of a ski resort of the same name. To even get to the park requires a ride on the ski lift, or a bus. (My niece and I took the lift, which takes about ten minutes, and was an extra ten bucks.) The people writing these articles had to have gotten permission to enter the property. Having been there, sneaking into this place isn’t likely. And when you can Journey with Dorothy, who needs to break in?

Here’s how it will go.

Before you start down the Yellow Brick Road you’ll meet up with your group in a gazebo with a beautiful view from 5,500′ above sea level. There, you may be asked to volunteer to be the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Glinda, the Good Witch of the East, or the Wicked Witch of the West. Once props are handed out, you’re ready to go!

Your journey will last a little over an hour, and in that hour you will start out in Kansas, where you’ll first meet Dorothy Gale. But not until you run into her nemesis, Miss Gulch!

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Toto will be mentioned, but don’t be disappointed to find out that there isn’t any dog jumping out of a basket. Training a dog to follow this whole program would be pretty tough. Anyway, the journey is so well done you’ll hardly notice.

Shortly after Dorothy appears out of the Gale household she sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Then, the storm comes. You’ll follow her through the dark house, across uneven floors that sure feel like they’re shaking and spinning, and when you exit you’ll be in Land of Oz and will start your journey down the famous road!

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As you can see from the picture it’s still a little rickety.

Along the way, all the beloved characters get their time to tell their stories, and you’ll have the opportunity to take pictures of them.

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(Hey, I never noticed the Wicked Witch of the West had a baby, did you?)

Our Dorothy was also very gracious about posing with everyone who wanted photos. Don’t be embarrassed to ask just because you’re a grown up! This experience is for kids of all ages!

As you follow Dorothy and her pals down the Yellow Brick Road you’ll also encounter a witch’s castle, trees with faces, and lots of colorful flowers before reaching Emerald City, where the Wizard will hand out his many wonderful gifts to the travelers.

The journey ends here. What fun!

Just a warning about the weather: we were there at the beginning of summer and it was cold and windy on Beech Mountain. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that however it feels closer to sea level will be how it feels at 5,500 feet. The temperature felt a lot more like mid fall New England than southern summer.

Boone, North Carolina offers many types and prices of accommodations and is twenty miles from the Beech Mountain Resort and the Land of Oz.

Interested in Journeying with Dorothy? Start watching for tickets in March of 2020!

 

Daring Tales of A Determined Woman: The End of the World

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By the time this gets published I’ll be a long way from the End of the World and will, in fact, be somewhere quite normal.  That wasn’t the case this past February, when I traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina, the third stop on a whirlwind trip to Buenos Aires and Patagonia. Previously, I posted about how to get to Patagonia for cheap, and what to do if you’re ever in El Calafate, a popular town to start your Patagonian adventures from. I’ll finish by talking about Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, which is also known as the End of the World because, well…it’s pretty much the last town in Argentina before you either fall into the Beagle Channel or you board a really expensive boat to Antarctica.

I’m going to be completely honest here: this isn’t an exciting place. Ushuaia isn’t hopping with things to do like El Calafate. You aren’t going to see stunning glaciers or world famous national parks. The main reason to visit Ushuaia is to say that you’ve been to Ushuaia, or even better, to say that you went to Antarctica! I can say the former, but I can’t say the later. (Yet!) Yeah, I reached the End of the World, and being able to add it as my location in my Facebook posts made me the talk of the town for about three days. Social media silliness aside, my travel mates and I were grasping to find things to do to fill our time there.

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Before I make suggestions, let’s talk about pronunciation. I hadn’t a clue how to say the name of this place, so I made something up in conversation: oo-shoo-ah-i, and hoped that I was right. Nope! Impress your friends by knowing how to say the name of the town: oos-way-ah. That’s right, you don’t pronounce the “sh” like you would in English. Good. Now that you know more than I did when I was already on my way there, we can now move on to bigger and better things.

After the excitement of El Calafate, I was kind of stumped on the quick one-hour flight down to Ushuaia, with a kind of “now what?” thing going on. When I had done my research from home, the information I came up with was scanty at best.  Yet, my thoughts changed as we neared. If you’re as lucky as we were and get a clear day to fly into the area, you’re going to get the best view you’ll ever have of the mountains surrounding the town:

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And you may just get the feeling that you’re about to land in a dream. Not so, but it’s definitely something to remember.

The town itself, while not particularly attractive, is well equipped, with plenty of restaurants, including a Hard Rock Cafe, gift shops, and quirky venues, like the Ice Bar.  For ten bucks you can spend something like twenty minutes in the place, have a really strong drink, and wear a silver and fur poncho and gloves while rubbing elbows with the Abominable Snowman. This may not seem like a lot of time, but when you see how small the ice room is and feel the cold start to seep in, twenty minutes will seem like an eon. I’m not sorry I went, but just a warning: the people running the place were incredibly rude and unprofessional. Maybe you’ll have a different experience.

A walk around town will provide you with a chance to take a picture in front of the sign touting the geographical End of the World, as well as a another spelling out the name of the town in giant white letters. You’ll also be afforded the best sea level view of Ushuaia, with a reflecting shot of the mountains and colorful boxy buildings:

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If this doesn’t sound that exciting to you, join the crowd. But rest assured, I’ve saved the best for last. The most fun you can have in Ushuaia without going to Antarctica is to get on a boat tour to Isla Martillo, to see the penguins. It’s a lovely experience. You’ll also see sea lions and cormorants, which are similar to penguins. Most tours don’t allow you to get off the boat. We didn’t and I don’t feel like we missed much. The vessel still got close to the animals and gave plenty of time to take pictures.

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Several companies compete with each other for customers. We went with Canoero Catamaranes and were very happy with our experience. Comfortable boat, friendly staff, and nice on-board amenities.

Whew! It took me months to do it, but I finally have a complete trio of Patagonia posts!

Now, time to complete my packing for tomorrow’s trip…

 

 

 

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: Proving the World Wrong

The world around us can be pretty rough place, the people who inhabit it even rougher. They bring us down about things that we know aren’t true, yet they bear so heavily on our minds that they become true. We have two choices in the matter: either we can let those untruths shatter us, or we can prove them wrong. I’ll bet you already guessed that I prefer the latter. There would be no reason for this post if I thought otherwise.

For years I didn’t have people to hang with. Ninety-five percent of my life was spent alone. For my first three and a half decades I had my mom, dad, sisters, niece, and nephews to be with. Some have passed away, others have gone their own way and only come back occasionally, a few are still hanging on. Regardless of where they went, (or didn’t), they left a big hole in my life that took almost as many years to fill.

Make no mistake: I love being alone and take no issue with it. In fact, that subject had its very own blog several months ago. However, over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a very interesting phenomenon taking place: the entrance of great people. It’s an event that I can’t help smiling to myself about, even giggling, because for years, so many potential comrades made me feel like I just wasn’t worth bothering with. As is always the case, there are the haters that still do.

Chasing is for the young and foolish, and I did enough of it to last me a lifetime. What you learn as you get older is that things happen in their own time, not because you want them to. I don’t believe that things happen when you aren’t paying attention or you aren’t “looking,” but that they occur because the timing is right. The timing may never be right for some things, and relationships are at or close to the top of that list. Then again, if you really make a connection with someone, you may just need to recognize when you should “step back” and give that other person some room, while you continue on with your life. I guess it goes back to that old saying, “If you love someone, set them free.” Love can always be changed to like or respect, and the rest of the saying, “If they come back they’re yours, if they don’t they never were,” still holds true. When I stopped chasing and learned to have patience in my potential relationships, good things started happening.

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Here’s something wonderful I have to relate: I was searching Facebook for images for this post, and I came up with way more than expected. And once again I was overwhelmed. Wow, people like me! This fact is still a miracle to me. It took years, but I now have an amazing hiking companion. I also have travel partners. I’ve met a ton of wonderful writers through conferences and book signings. Facebook may have a lot of things wrong with, and you have to take the word “friend” with a grain of salt, but I’ve met wonderful individuals online that eventually became my real, face to face friends. I even have peeps that I meet up with to enjoy some nightlife. After a fifteen year absence, I’m cutting the rug again once or twice per month. Most of these relationships happened all on their own, but I highly recommend Meetup. There’s a huge selection of groups out there that are waiting to find you and are filled with folks who love to do the same things you do.

I hear people around me talking about the many friends they have. The whole world seems to be on the list. But when the going gets tough, where are they? Better to have a few heavy  hitters that are there to pick you up when you’re down than have a stadium full of fair weather buddies. Cement those relationships by being as good a friend to them as they are to you. And be choosy. Not everyone is good for you. If someone is too anxious to be in your life, there’s probably good reason for that.

In closing, don’t believe what the world says. You’re really okay.

If I am, you are, too.

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: Picking up the Pieces

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When I did my first autobiographical post in February, you can bet that I planned on doing the second one long before now. Rather than waste time trying to figure out why it has taken me so long to get back to my life story, let’s just pick it up where I left off.

My father died in 1977, when I was ten years old, and everything changed dramatically. Life wasn’t much fun anymore. My family was devastated, no one more than my mother, who lost the love of her life. I know a lot of people never had parents and families at all. I’m not whining and making excuses or comparing my losses to anyone else’s. All that aside, my father’s death crushed my family. We would do a slow unraveling that would end in many explosions over the years. I can relate everything that went wrong back to that event.

But my mother, a woman with no more than a high school diploma, somehow kept us going. I don’t know how she managed. She certainly didn’t go into debt to do it, nor did she have to work three jobs. She retired at a reasonable age, too. Mom was a hell of an amazing woman, keeping six kids clothed and fed, including one daughter in college in Brooklyn and another daughter with a severe disability. For a long time I was under the impression that she had nothing to live for after my father died. That’s the way it seemed for many years as I watched her drag herself through the long days without Daddy. I know better now, for she had her kids to live for, even if much of her died with my father. Her heart didn’t beat the same again for years. I believe that it took her a full fifteen years to be able to accept his death.

Mom missed out on retiring and growing old with her love. On happily reflecting back on their many years together. On the slow-moving RV with Dad behind the wheel and Mom the passenger and navigational assistant. Her life would eventually get better. She would find another passion, but never another man. No one could replace Daddy.

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As for me, the death of my beloved Daddy, who instilled his love of the outdoors in me, taught me to ride a bike and swim, and was my first hiking partner, awakened two things that would change my life nearly as much as his death did.

As tough as it is to find anything positive in the death of a loved one, particularly an untimely demise, there’s always something you can point to, and sometimes you have to. Perhaps the two positives I’m talking about would have come out anyway, even if Daddy had been there. I’ll never know for sure. But the pall that shrouded my family definitely influenced me to seek different worlds, even if they weren’t real.

Around this time, I started to write. Maybe at first, just a few notebook pages here and there. Later, hundreds and hundreds of pages that went into binders. By the time I hit my early teens I had already written a book of over a thousand pages! Typed, it would probably only be half that, but that’s still five hundred pages. One thing was always for sure: the lives of my characters were always a hell of a lot better than mine. They had whole families, not broken ones, and they were always in love and did a lot of kissing. Well, I guess some things haven’t changed. 🙂

The other thing I began to lean on was maps. I loved maps. I still love maps. (Sorry, no GPS for me!) Mom had a set of Encyclopedia Americanas that were old even then, but I couldn’t get enough of them. The books were on a landing between the first and second floors of our family home. The landing measured about six feet by six feet. Enough room for a narrow bookcase, and plenty of room for me to sit and pull out the volumes.

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My first love was a map of California, but the whole United States was all right with me. Hardly a surprise that I turned into a traveler whose first love is her own country. Another fact: I lived in California for five years. Not a big stretch of the imagination, right?

These two necessary escapes would serve me well throughout my life.

I promise not to let three months go by before I write the next installment.

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Daring Tales of A Determined Woman: Welcome to El Calafate, Patagonia

Back in March I did my first Patagonia post. Here’s the second in a three-parter.

You’ve arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and are eagerly awaiting your Patagonian adventure. Maybe your first “hop” is El Calafate. Here’s what to expect.

El Calafate, a three hour flight from Buenos Aires, is a jump off point for day trips to Lago Argentino, Perito Moreno Glacier (in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares) and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, amongst other destinations. These were the three choices of my travel companions and I, and may be yours, so for the sake of space, I’ll concentrate on them.

Before I go any further, however, let me say this: if you’re a hiker like I am, this would presumably be your fantasy destination. After visiting I have to admit that I’m not heavy duty enough to spend that much time battling the elements of Patagonia on foot. I visited in the dead of summer. The days trips we took offered chances for short, informative hikes, and that was satisfying enough for me. The closer to a getaway vehicle, the better for when the unpredictable weather decides to take a turn for the worse…or much worse, which can happen pretty darn quick. Also, keep in mind that the road conditions can be horrendous at best, so if you have the idea of renting a car, just be well prepared. At the very least, know how to change a flat. We saw several drivers dealing with them., and you may be miles and miles from any kind of assistance.

Flying into El Calafate gives you a good idea just how remote this landscape is.

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Then, the town appears and a really big plane lands at a really small airport.

Tour operator Patagonia Dreams has an office at the Comandante Armando Tola International Airport in El Calafate. Too early to check in, we stopped by and booked all our trips the morning we landed. Please note that the website quotes prices in Argentinian pesos (ARS). Divide the price by the going rate for the day, somewhere between 37 and 39 ARS to US dollars. The trips book up quickly, so do it as soon as you can. We lucked out and were able to get on the three tours we wanted, starting that evening.

We checked into our very cozy hotel picked by Tripmasters. No complaints whatsoever about their choices. You have the option of changing what they pick. We didn’t and were very happy in all three destinations.

El Calafate is a boom town with an ample amount of restaurants and the same rugged feel of, say, Fairbanks, Alaska. Middle of nowhere aspect aside, I managed to score a gluten free pizza and a meeting with Pennywise at MAKO fuegos y vinos. In Patagonia. Go figure. Just one of those days that will stay with me forever, you know?

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Later that afternoon we were picked up at our hotel for our first excursion, across the Patagonian steppe to the banks of Lago Argentino. Just a quick note on pick-ups: none were on time. They were either late or early. This seemed to be true all over Argentina. I suggest to be ready ahead of time, and be prepared to wait. Roll with it. Like with anything you have no real control over. Getting crochety isn’t going to get you far, and hey, there are enough Ugly American stories out there. Don’t be one of them. Please?

This tour included a short hike on a picturesque trail along the edge of the enormous body of water, and a hearth-made meal in a cave as the sun set on the opposite side of the lake.

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A great start to our Patagonian experience!

The following day we started out early on a tour to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, home of the world famous Perito Moreno glacier, a massive chunk of jagged ice that’s nearly the color of the sky even on gray days and, unlike most glaciers, is growing instead of receding. Buses evidently run between here and El Calafate for a cheaper price than the tour, but I recommend spending the extra money (which isn’t that much, all things considered.) And if you’re in reasonably good health, don’t even think of missing the chance to hike on a glacier, crampons provided and incredible pictures guaranteed. This is a must-do experience to add to your “special day” file.

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This tour includes a (frigid!) boat ride across Lago Viedmo. Expect to be on the road a total of about eight or nine hours to see the glacier, have lunch, and do the two hour glacier hike.

Speaking of world fame, Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine makes all those “world’s best national parks” lists, and the entry is well deserved. But just the trip from El Calafate was one of my favorite ever life experiences. If you’re booking through Patagonia Dreams, ask for Sylvester as your guide and Alejandro as your driver. (They aren’t paying me to say this.) Your guide will pick you up at your hotel in a normal-looking vehicle and transfer you to this monster, that I nicknamed The Beast:

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It’s a Mercedes! No idea what kind, couldn’t find it online. What I do know is that when other drivers saw us flying along the dirt back roads to Torres Del Paine they moved over! Sylvester and Alejandro treated us to an impromptu safari that included guanacos, rhea, and South Andean deer.

Keep in mind that if you’re coming from Argentina you will need your passport to cross into Chile. You’ll complete the long but incredible day with four new stamps, two from Chile, two from Argentina. In between you’ll view the famed triple-horned Cuernos del Paine and fall in love with stunning lakes and waterfalls.

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Weather permitting, a short hike to Salto Grande Lookout to view the spectacular falls of the same name is also a possible. This is the last stop before heading back to El Calafate, about three hours away, including the time it takes to recross borders.

Whew! What a three days! I’m exhausted just remembering it!

Next stop: Ushuaia, also known as “The End of the Earth.”

Until then, start making that Patagonia dream come true!

 

Daring Tales of A Determined Woman: Spending Money Wisely

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Hey, it’s been a while since I did an opinion piece, so I think it’s about time! Today, let’s cover one of my favorite subjects: money, and spending it wisely.

Listen, it’s true: I do a lot of stuff. I travel as much as is humanely possible in the time that I have and with the money I earn, hike like a fiend, write and publish books. Because of these experiences that people see as expensive,  I guess I give the unfortunate impression that I’m made of money.

“She must be a trust fund baby.”

“She must have an inheritance.”

“She must have someone paying her bills for her.”

Actually, surprise! None of the above are even close to being true. No trust funds or inheritances here! And I’m single, live alone, and have no one to fall back on. What is a fact, however, is that I know what my priorities are and I spend my money smartly.

Now, that said, I’m a firm believer in spending your hard earned dough on what you love. Me, I love traveling and hiking and books, so I forego other things and activities to do what I want to do most. I’m going to tell you some of the stuff that I choose not to fork over any cash for. For me, they’re a waste of money. But what’s a waste for me might be very important to someone else, so that person should spend their money on it. Don’t take it personally. I’m telling you what works for me, a single woman living off one salary and stretching it pretty nicely. And the first step to doing that is to identify what you prioritize, so you can get rid of what you don’t.

Let’s first take the example of traveling. If I travel as much as possible it means that I’m home as little as possible! That doesn’t mean I’m going to live in a dump. But it does mean that owning my own home probably isn’t at the top of my priority list, nor is an expensive car. Homes and cars are also money gluts, and I need money to travel a lot, so do you see how that works? Why would I spend a whole lot of funds on things that aren’t my priority when I can save that money toward my true loves? By the way, I rent a duplex that I consider my home, and own a car that I adore. Best of all, I get to take five to eight vacations a year! Win-win-win.

Next example: hiking. It’s an illusion that hiking is an expensive hobby. Sure, you need the basics: boots, a backpack, poles if you have knee problems or if you just want poles. That’s about it for me when it comes to equipment. If you plan to hike long distances, in the winter, or camp, you’ll need more stuff than that, and it might get pricey. But the way I do it, hiking is basically a freebie. Oh, and I should mention that most of my travels include hiking. Isn’t that great the way those two things go together?

Here are couple of things that are wastes of money for me, based on my first two priorities. First: joining a gym. Mother Nature is the world’s biggest gym, you can use it whenever you want, and it’s free. Why would I pay money to work out? Second: getting my nails and toenails done. No way in the world I’m spending my money on these things. Long, fancy nails are a burden when you’re running around the world dragging your own bags and sleeping on airplanes for twenty hours. As for those great pedicures most ladies love, those ladies don’t have feet like mine that hike fifteen hundred miles a year. Enough said, right?

The point being: sacrifices have to be made to get what you want, unless you’re made of money. Trim the fat, or don’t complain that you don’t have the funds to do what you love.

Some things can’t be sacrificed. For me, writing and publishing books is one of those things. I’ve been honing my craft for forty years. Self-publishing was not my original choice, but I’ve put a lot of time, energy, and money into it, to the point that I’ve learned to do much of it cheaper and easier. The choice between having pretty fingernails that are just going to get broken on a hiking trail and having my cover artist create a bang-up cover for me is a  no-brainer. To tie all this stuff together, when I travel I hike by day, write by night. My priorities fit together so nicely!

In a certain weird way, I’m flattered that people think I’m loaded when I’m really not. So if you’re one of those people…thanks! But the reality is that I don’t waste money. Every penny counts.

You have to eat, sleep, and get to work everyday. After all that is taken care of, pick your priorities wisely and stick to them.