Postcard from Charleston, SC

This gallery contains 18 photos.

I’m starting a new series called Postcards. I’ve taken some great trips this summer and have several more planned over the next 8 weeks. I’ve decided to post my long-form trip reports on my personal blog but I also felt drawn to share some snippets with you here. I hope you enjoy reading about my … Continue reading

2011 travel recap + gallery

This gallery contains 22 photos.

Woohoo!  I traveled quite a bit in 2011, despite AND because of being unemployed part of the year. Or rather – not traditionally employed 🙂  I will be sharing stories and pictures in trip reports, but below is a recap of my 2011 travel adventures.  I’ve included a small photo gallery at the bottom of … Continue reading

Quick FloydFest video

Love is the answer

I’ve created a short (1 minute) video with some of my FloydFest pictures to share the flavor of the event with you.  I experimented with some new tools, and the speed is a bit too fast for proper viewing.  But at least it matches the music, which is by Asheville band Big Daddy Love ( Enjoy!

North Carolina fun

As I write this, I’m enjoying breakfast on the 17th floor of the Marriott in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina – the town where I am continually reminded that I come from the poor side of the Reynolds clan 🙂

Reynolds American Inc. is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco (and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco!)

I have a longer post in the works about my experiences at FloydFest X, but here’s a quick update for those of you who aren’t on Facebook and are checking in to make sure all is well.

I am safe and happy and appreciating the relative coolness of the mountains. Continue reading

Announcing my America the Beautiful tour

On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ places I may never see again
I can’t wait to get on the road again
~ Willie Nelson

(note: this image has not been altered #satanwantshisweatherback)

I’m not sure if it was the number of 100 degree days in a row or the arrival of seasonal allergies after 11 (!) sniffle-free years.  Or maybe the ridiculous number of construction projects along my daily commute. Or maybe even the specter of 2012 (the election, not the Mayan calendar, although the end result may be the same, ha). But when my National Parks Pass arrived in the mail on the very same day that a guy called up wanting to rent my house for the rest of the summer, it took me, oh, about ten minutes to decide I was leaving town for a while.

The US is a gorgeous country – it truly is America the Beautiful. The geography is incredibly varied and the scenery is often breath-taking. There are more amazing places than it seems possible to experience in an ordinary lifetime. When I unexpectedly won a one-year National Parks Pass, the seed for this road trip was planted. I joked that the Universe clearly wanted me to see more of my own country – and then pretty much realized that was the truth. Ever since then, I’ve been figuring out how to make it all work (both consciously and unconsciously).

Here is the photo that won the contest, by the way. A huge thank you to all who voted! It was taken in December 2009 at the top of the Pacaya volcano, which is outside Antigua & Guatemala City. Guatemala is also a gorgeous country. You should go see it. In fact, you should take any opportunity you have to see the world – it’s full of amazing places. And who knows how long any of it – or any of us – will be around.

(soapbox aside: You know how outraged some people felt about the Casey Anthony trial? Well that’s exactly how some of us feel when corporations and even our own government are allowed to get away with some heinous crime against the Earth. The planet will be (mostly) fine. But it’s a damn shame we couldn’t get our shit together and our priorities straightened out so future generations could have experienced the pristine places we’ve had access to. Instead they will contend with an increasingly polluted, unpleasant world. Some people believe technology will provide solutions that allow us to survive. They may well be right. But surviving and thriving – existing and enjoying – are not the same. Bubble Boy has survived thanks to technology and innovation, but he can’t run through a forest of magnificent trees or roll in a field of delicious flowers or canoe on a stream so clear you can barely see rocks 12 feet down)<– btw, I really wanted to use “soapbox” brackets but it confused the browser…

Anyway I’m going to take the opportunity presented and do a big ol’ peanut ride around the US. I’m going to see what I can see while it’s still here to enjoy.

Job-wise, my temp position is wrapping up and until my lotto numbers come up, I do need to earn a living – preferably one that supports my travel and music habits. So I’ll be using my laptop & wifi connections to handle the job search process. The reality is that most early-round interviews are done remotely anyway – phone, Skype, questionnaires. So I don’t think it’s a huge issue to be on the road whilst looking for a job. My ideal position is one where I can be location-independent anyway, which means I can work from anywhere with an internet connection. That might mean telecommuting and that might mean short-term contracting. Or maybe a position with a lot of flexibility or a seasonal schedule. I’m not sure yet. And I’m not stuck on anything in particular, other than doing something that feels right and not doing evil ;-). So if I’m going to look for a job where I can work from the road, what better place to find it than on the road!

“Do what you will while you’re able. Find what it is that you seek.” ~ Xavier Rudd


So all the pieces have fallen into place and next week, I’m loading up the wagon and cruising around the country for a few months. Woohoo ~ I am so flippin’ excited!!! I’ll be hiking and camping in several National Parks, visiting friends and checking out some new towns. Interested in the details? Want to meet me somewhere? I’ll post a tentative itinerary later this week.  Love, Audrey

warning: old material

Note:  the older material on this blog was imported from my personal blog, which I started whilst engaged in Transitional Travel after my divorce. It is meant to provide inspiration and proof that traveling during transition can be a very positive thing to do!

Factoid:  the original name of my blog was Operation Sparkle Search.  It was inspired by the parting comment from my boss, who wished me luck and said she knew I’d get my sparkle back. 


I´m off!  My rough schedules is

Dec 17 fly into Guatemala City
Dec 17 to 19 in Antigua, Guatemala
Dec 19 to 26 in Santa Cruz de Laguna on Lake Atitlan for spanish class
Dec 26 to 28 in Tikal near Flores, GT (exploring massive Maya site Tikal)
Dec 28 fly to Cancun to meet Stephanie
From here it gets a little more loose.  Our reservations for the 28 and 29 got cancelled so we are up in the air now on plans but will probably do some ruins
Dec 30 to Jan 3 in Xcalak, Mexico on as close to a deserted beach as we can get
Jan 3 to 5 more ruins in Mexico
Jan 6 fly home

I was picked up for the airport at 6am in the rain.  I had stayed up all night preparing and was really behind…I confess to possibly the worst packing job EVER.  I got to the airport in enough time to repack and had an uneventful flight.  I arrived in Guatemala City without transport to Antigua (I really waited to the last minute on planning) but found a shuttle straight off.  I rode with 2 women from Ashland, Oregon, which is where my traveling companion for the 2nd half of the trip lives.  Incidentally, as I type this, I just ran into them again and so I suspect they will be some of the travelers you see on the road repeatedly. 

I love traveling and travelers.  You don´t ask “where are you from?” and “what do you do?”.  You ask “where have you been?”, “where are you going?”,”do you know this place or that place ?” and maybe “where do you live (now)?” 

Antigua is a lovely Colonial town.  It is in a valley of about 1500m surrounded by volcanoes.  The weather is ideal.  Everyone said it was very easy to live here and I can see that.  There are lots of people taking Spanish classes and passing through for a few days enroute to other spots.  I think it would be easy enough to enjoy Antigua if you don´t speak spanish, but most people do and the locals speak to you en espanol first.

I´m off to explore and get some sleep.  Guatemala seems to have plenty of internet cafes so I should be able to keep a reasonable blog.  However Mexico will likely be light on web access. 

nb I started this when I was exhausted and apparently did not publish.  I am now 3 days in and more updates to come.

back in the USA

(note:  I’m cleaning some draft posts and found this.  I never published it and I’m not sure why…so here it is – a glimpse into my early post-trip adjustment)

Well, I’m back in the states. I don’t know how many of you will read this now but I thought I’d post an update.

The flight from Madrid to Newark was 9 long hours — long daytime flights are the worst! My plane was full of people from Madrid who were traveling with me to Houston, then on to various points south. There was a whole group going to Buenos Aires, which is another 8 hour flight! I slept a little bit and chatted with my seatmate some. He is from Madrid and moving to St Louis for work. Poor guy will be in for quite a shock, although he seemed aware of the challenges a midwestern lifestyle would present. He is already prepared to drive and wanted to know if he could buy a car for $3000! Anyway, after a layover in Newark, I flew 4 more hours to Houston, then another hour to Corpus Christi. Customs and immigration were easy, I had no baggage issues and my flight delays were all very minor, so overall my travel was as good as can be expected for 18 hour trip.

Getting off the plane in Newark wasn’t much of a shock, as all kinds of travelers were moving through there. But when I hit Houston, the difference was immediately obvious. Everyone – everyone – was on their phone, talking loud and long. Europeans certainly use their phones but not like we do here in Texas. Hell, most of the country doesn’t use their phones like we do! Of course there were hats and boots everywhere – and the Cowboys vs Greenbay game was on – and I was happy to see all that. I saw BBQ and Mexican restaurants – I liked that too.  But honestly, I was really surprised how all the Americans appeared to me after just a few months gone.

We are BIG people. I don’t mean just fat, although we are that too. But we are big – we have a big presence and we take up (over?) space. We are loud and we are obvious. I didn’t run into many groups of Americans abroad, so I never really noticed it. But after seeing mostly small, quiet Europeans for 3 months, I totally saw what people mean about Americans. Australians are the same way, by the way – big, loud and obvious. But happy – we are both a happy, optimistic people and I think that is awesome.

Anyway, we are physically bigger people. I’ve complained before about the troubles I had finding clothes to fit my chest and shoulders. And yes we are also fat. I swear to those of you who have never traveled outside the US – people are not fat. I saw one – ONE – truly obese person in Spain and I took her picture.  Cruel? Maybe but she was the only one around.  In Cordoba, I saw a sob-story segment on the local news about a woman who weighed…are you ready…200 kilos. That’s 450 pounds. Her kids were talking about all the stuff she couldn’t do (get in the tiny euro shower) but the woman still walked up the stairs to her flat (huffing the whole way). Her size is virtually unheard of there but she has a metabolic disorder. Interesting how few Europeans have them, by the way…I’m pretty sure our food supply is responsible for this.

And why are we fat? Because we eat too much. The portion size is striking to me. Eduardo, my seat mate from Madrid, ended up going to McDonalds for their most basic burger because everything else looked too big to him.

I went to Walmart the other day because my parents computer has no virus protection and its the only place I know of to buy software in town. As I sat in the car (on my cell phone!!!) I was barraged with BIG – big trucks, big asses and a big store. I swear I spent 2 hours buying 11 items for a grand total of $60.98. I’m reading a book now called The Paradox of Choice and it is about precisely this. We have too many choices and they are limiting us, not freeing us.

And while I’m on my soap box, I would just like to say that while yes, I was able to buy software, wine, hot sauce, organic waffles, white rice, tampons and a broom set all in one store, I feel certain that I would have been able to buy all those things within a 2 block radius in any city in Europe. True they would be at 5-6 different stores but since Walmart is about 2 blocks big, what the hell is the difference?!

OK, obviously I’m still adjusting. Overall, I am happy to be back in the US, so don’t take my bashing as anything other than constructive criticism 😉 I think we could learn a few things from the way Europeans shop, eat and use transportation. And I think they could learn a few things from us about customer service and efficiency.

Sooooo, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m house-and-cat-sitting for my parents in Rockport, Texas. It’s a nice enough town on the coast. The weather is gorgeous right now – high 60’s and sunny during the day. If I fished, it would be an even better place. But I don’t, although maybe I should take it up.

I’m surfing on my parents dial-up connection, surfing jobs and vehicles and places to live. My tenant will be staying in the house for now – he is happy and cares for the house. Without a job or plan it seemed silly for me to move back in that big house alone.

As for a vehicle – I really didn’t want to get one. I didn’t miss a car and got along just fine without one while traveling. In fact, the one time I rented a car, it was a constant worry with parking and theft. But alas, Texas is not Spain and moving around anywhere but central Austin will be tough without wheels. To get from Rockport to Austin on public transport, my only option is bus. Although it is only 180 miles and 3.5 hours by car, the bus takes 19 hours, going through Corpus & San Antonio, and costs almost $40. So I am renting a car next week. But having to buy their insurance means it is very expensive. So I need something. I want a very very cheap car that doesn’t need much initial work. If you know of anyone selling, please let me know! I don’t care about the specs (and I drive standard) since it will be a temporary vehicle. I’m also considering joining Car Share ( and/or getting a scooter and just renting a car when I need to go to Rockport.

Making my way to Madrid…

…from where I will fly back to Texas on Thursday. I fly into Corpus and will spend the week housesitting for my parents, by the way. I have very mixed feelings, as you an imagine. I am very excited to see everyone in Central Texas but also sad to leave Europe. And as for what´s next, well, I´m as curious as anyone. Regardless, I am so glad I took this trip.

The rest of the cruise in Greece was really awesome, both the archaeological sites and the companionship. It was so nice to have my schedule planned out and to have a little posse to spend my time with. Of course, we toured sites most days, so between running around ruins and socializing, I did precious little relaxation!

I returned to Barcelona for a few days of r&r and museums, then met my friend Peter (the geologist) for an amazing weekend in the country. We drove to Huelva province where they raise the prized black pig (the BEST jamon…which we call prosciutto) and hiked around a rural landscape filled with castles and tiny villages. I am talking “don´t hit the old man herding his sheep across the only road through town” tiny. It was perfect and a great glimpse into another side of Spain. And wow was I ready for some cool mountain air!

I´ve just arrived in Cordoba, where I´ll see the Great Mosque. Tomorrow I return to Madrid and then Thursday I fly home.

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

I’m cruising in Greece!

Just a(nother) quick update. I promise promise promise I am going to blog about Paris, Amsterdam & the other sites in the Netherlands that I visited AND Portugal. Internet time has been rare and – since I decided to take things down a notch in Portugal – I’m spending more time reading and journaling, which I wanted and needed to do.

On Saturday I flew from Porto, Portugal to Madrid for a brief stopover enroute to Greece. I had booked a very inexpensive week on a Classical Greece EasyCruise early in my planning, knowing that I may not even make it. But after ditching Turkey, I found reasonable flights between Spain and Athens so I decided to take the cruise. I am very glad. Not only is it a teaser for a longer visit to this region (Greece, Turkey and, of course, Italy are on the list) but the cruise is just what I needed right now. I will be in one place – my own miniscule cabin – for an entire week. I have my tours prebooked and have already met some fun friends on the boat. And I can get a desperately needed pedicure, ha! Life should be easy for this week.

By the way, it finally happened. I was tired and hungry and faced with nothing but sweet pastries and dry ham sandwiches for breakfast. So I did it…I ate a McDonalds Egg McMuffin. And it was damn good. I even got fresh-squeezed OJ (they have to upgrade in Europe).

In Madrid, I immediately ate some tapas. Oh how I missed tapas…I’m not really sure why I ate anything else in the evenings!?. I then went to the Reina Sophia museum to see Picasso’s masterpeice Guernica“. My interest in the Spanish Civil war, as well as World War II, greatly increased during this visit to Europe. American soil feels very removed from most of the affects of World War II….even Hawaii feels like a foreign country when you visit it (admit it…) Over here it is so clearly still a part of the collective conscious in a different way than at home. And as a visitor, it is very powerful to see a picture in a building lobby of the bombed out shell it was in WWII and to see how profoundly these wars influenced the art of the time. Guernica is/was a town in the Basque country of northern Spain where, in 1937, Franco allowed his buddy Hitler to try a new technique on the town: carpet bombing. There is much debate around both the intention of this air raid and the casualty details, but the bottom line is that the town was effectively incinerated and much of the civilian population died horrible deaths. The news shocked the rest of Europe – remember this type of air raid (or perhaps even air raids period) was a relatively new concept at the time. The leftist Republicans of Spain claimed it was done on purpose, which would be a war crime. The Nazi’s claimed it was an accident — the first example of “collateral damage”?

At any rate, Picasso was working on a commission for the Paris Worlds Fair (?) and quickly switched gears to paint Guernica. The museum has various studies he did for the mural (it’s huge) plus a series of photos taken as the work progressed. These are fascinating because they show how the mural contents changed as time went along. There are also works by Dali and many others, of course, include Joan Miro. I really enjoyed the museum and want to amend my previous statement that I don’t like or get modern art. It is abstract art that I don’t get.

Sunday morning, I got up insanely early to fly from Madrid to Athens. It took 4 metro trips, a plane ride and a taxi to reach my ship! It is a small ship – about 250 passengers – and the demographic is totally mixed (although mostly American and British). This type of “interest cruise” is a new concept for them – usually they do party cruises around the Greek Islands. They seem to be are testing ways to extend the season. It is chilly at night (about 50 F) but in the high 60’s or low 70’s during the day. Today it was sunny, cloudy, windy and rainy at various times. We are cruising to various ports overnight, where we pile on the dreaded tour bus and get to visitin’ historical sites. At night we have drinks and dinner and they are threatening us with disco contests and the likes.

There is even a guest lecturer from Cambridge – a lovely postdoc in Archaeology named Michael. He seems very knowledgeable and a good speaker (ie not overly academic), so we hope to re-learn our history in easy-to-digest bites. I feel like I will learn quite a bit. I am ashamed to admit I remember next to nothing from my schooling on ancient greece…in fact today we learned that “Greece” didn’t even exist until recent history. But more on that later.

I am at an internet cafe in town right now…it is prohibitively expensive and unreliable on the ship, so I will likely be out of touch for most of the week. I fly to Barcelona on Sunday night. Cheers!