Stamps in my Passport

I really like to travel. I have discovered through early frustrations with group travel that I prefer to travel without a plan and with the freedom change my plans as I know more about the environment I am traveling in.

So here's where I have been in a chronology of trips abroad:

Belize -- Winter 1995

On a trip through the school, I visited the Yucantan Penninsula, complete with Mayan ruins, tropical rain forest and coral reefs. We ate fresh baracuda and I saw some of the biggest mosquitos of my life. This was an awesome trip to a really awesome country.

One of the largest industries in Belize is ecotourism. As a result nearly 1/3 of the forests and reefs are protected in some way or another. Belize also as the second largest barrier reef in the world. If you go, be sure to visit the Belize Zoo.

Italy -- Winter 1996
Rome to Milan in 11 days

This was a school trip. I have blurry images of tours in a charter bus with 36 kids and racing through museums looking for the famous paintings cause we didn't have time to just look and enjoy where we here. I do remember good food and walking around venice and along the Tiber in Rome, but I never learned the names of the trees I loved along the river there. One my most vivid memories was the flight back from Milan to Copenhagen. I was completely exhausted from the trip. Looking out the window I could see the Alps and I was completely overwhelmed. I just looked out the window and said, "That's what I want to do. That's where I want to be..."

Switzerland, France, Italy -- Summer 1996
Classic Climbs trip with International Mountain Guides

After my first trip to Europe, I decided that I didn't like racing around looking at buildings and art that I wasn't really interested in, just to say that I had done it. However, when I saw a brochure of a climbing trip to the Alps, I thought, "That is an excuse to go to Europe!"

So six months after my first trip I was back in Europe, this time to challenge some of the highest peaks in the Alps. All together it was an awesome trip. I was a little lonely, an idealistic 17 year-old girl with a group of 34 year-old guys, but it was a really good experience. I found that I was as strong as the rest of the guys (after training heavily in Washington with my mother for two months), but I was not nearly comfortable enough with crampons on rock, and that held me back a bit. I still need to work on my technical skills. But I was pretty happy just not to be the slowest in the bunch.

We successfully climbed 2 peaks. Mt. Blanc, 15,767 ft (my current elevation record and the highest peak in the Alps) on the boarder of France and Italy and the Monch in Switzerland.

The time spent between climbs was spent touring areas at the base of the mountains we climbed. My favorite were the towns in the swiss Alps that had no gas powered vehicles, it was wonderful. I actually cried flying into Zurich from the plane, cause the farms were so beautifully manecured. People in the states just don't care for our land like the Swiss do.

I think it is an interesting turn that my mom has a new job doing secretarial work for International Mountain Guides. She actually climbed with two of the head guides years ago. (I know I had a bit of a reputation to live up to...) Anyway, I think it is a bit of a dream job for her. Now she can talk to prospective clients about stuff she loves and actually has some personal experience and knowledge about the "product."

New Zealand, Samoa -- 1998
Solo trip to see the Southern Cross

After I graduated High School I defered my admission to college, worked for 9 months, sold all my snowboards, and traveled for 6 months in the southern hemisphere.

I had intended to spend a month in New Zealand, but when I got there I slashed my budget and decided to stay as long as I could (4.5 months). I ended up living on about $12 US a day. I traveled almost exclusively by hitch-hiking, which is a relatively safe and accepted mode of transportation in New Zealand.

I absolutely loved the country. Everyday I did something worth remembering, I could talk about it for a month. One of the most wonderfull things about my trip was hitchhiking and meeting the people. I found the people who stopped for travelers where the people who really wanted to show you around their country. I met one elderly couple who picked me up on the way to a remote trail head. I visited them some months later in the north island and stayed with them for a week. They showed me around some equally remote regions of the northern island. The cool thing is that I still keep in touch with these people! This type of hospitallity was commonplace in my travels in New Zealand.

Samoa was pretty much an opposite extreme. I currently have no desire to travel alone in a third world country. Between the dogs and the men, I was completely uncomfortable being alone in both Western and American Samoa. It is a shame that all the beautiful tropical areas of the world are so chaotic and undeveloped.

Austria -- Sept. 1999
Sonnen-Finsternis! (Total Solar Eclipse)

Before I saw my first solar eclipse I thought it was just a good excuse to go traveling to Austria with my sister. Afterwards I have to think of really good excuses to miss them.

Neda (my sister) and I went to Austria in Sept. 1999 to see a total solar eclipse. The 2 min 47 seconds of totality were probably the most exciting few minutes of my life. I was hysterical. Gradually over a period of an hour or more you could see the moon blotting out the sun. Then all of the sudden it just got dark. The street light above us came on. Lights across the valley as well. The horizon got dark. I was searching through partial clouds to see stars. Then I saw one and I couldn't stop screaming and pointing, "A star! A star! A star!" Then I saw another one and I started screaming, "Another one! Another one! I see another one!" But it started growing and it turned out it was the sun and it was over. I don't know how to describe how insanely cool this moment was. All kinds of people try to tell me they have seen a solar eclipse and they don't seem to think it is such a big deal, but then it turns out they didn't see a TOTAL solar eclipse, believe me there is a difference. Go see one!

Australia -- October 1999
World Solar Challenge Solar Car Race

I spent October of 1999 down under racing the MIT solar car in a cross-country race from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia. It was an unparalleled way to see the outback, (although I will have to go back to see the rest of the country). Our car placed 8th place overall, first pace in our class and top of the US entries. See more about this on my solar car page.

Senegal -- May 2003
Visiting Neda

My sister Neda studied in Dakar, Senegal for 8 months. Josh and I decided to spring for the ticket and spend his meager two weeks vacation there. It was a pretty crazy experience. My first day in the market I got my first marriage proposal, and doubtless I would have gotten more if I had dropped my Josh-shield or spoken better/any French. The markets were an absolute mad house. I guess I haven't really been anywhere before that really haggled for things. In senegal you haggle (Wahalee) for EVERYTHING. I don't know how we would have gotten by without Neda to arrange taxi fares and help us purchase souvenirs. It wouldn't have been as fun a trip for sure.

It took us a good week to get brave enough to leave the house without Neda's protection, by then I was close to mastering the traditional greetings, so I had a lot of fun walking to the beach with Josh and making all the guardians we met on the way thing I "Deguna Wolof." I doubt they were ever fooled, but it was still fun. I think I got more use of my Wolof than my French. Wolof is a really cool sounding language.

I suppose I could talk about this trip for a long while too. People gathered on the floor to eat with their hands out of communal dishes. We had "fresh meat" visiting some of Neda's friends one day. When we came back the next week I discovered that the sheep are raised and butchered on the roof!

It was strange to visit the beach in a city surrounded by water, but to be the only ones amoung hundreds who knew how to swim. I now completely support swimming as a graduation requirement from MIT. When we were in Senegal a US exchange student drowned. I would really hate to be the parents of that kid. There is really no excuse, so learn how to swim people.

Josh has lots of Senegal photos on his site... beautiful beaches, interesting fruits, sheep on the roof, mosque in Tomba, colorful public transit. In general we were surrounded by swarms of people, so these were the quiet shots.