Scenes from Jardín, Colombia

As a traveler, I love discovering little off-the-beaten path gems that feel like the real and authentic country that I’m traveling through. I know there are very few, if any, places left in the world that haven’t been altered in someway by globalization and international travel and I’m not the one to say whether that is good or bad, right or wrong. But I do know but there are still many places out there that have maintained their integrity despite temptation from the outside world and it’s these places I try to seek out when I’m traveling. Jardín is one of those places. Yes, motobikes race through the streets and candy wrappers are scattered on along the sidewalk. But cowboys also prance their prize horses through town, friends enjoy a cup of tinto (black coffee) or a cerveza together in the plaza as evening closes in, and the older generation can be seen out and about in traditional dress. It’s a town that has blended both modern amenities and traditional customs while still making outsiders feel welcome.

Here are some scenes from this unique little town that I came to love in just a short few days:












A Day in Parque Arvi


Traveling to foreign cities is great and all, but after a few days I usually find myself longing for some peace and quiet and the greenery of the natural world. The hustle and bustle wears me down.

So to my delight, I discovered that Medellin is home to Parque Arvi, a 16,000 hectare wooded park just a short metro and cable car ride away from downtown.

The park is both a nature preserve where residents and tourists alike can escape city life for a few hours and it’s also an archaeological site that features pre-hispanic artifacts and ruins. Part of the Pre-Hispanic trail – the Camino Cieza de León – actually runs through it.


I took the metro from the Poblado Station to the Acevedo Station then transferred to the Line K cablecar that whisked me up the slopes of the valley and over corrugated-tin roofed houses packed together side by side to the barrio of Santo Domingo. The cablecars – or gondolas – may be my favorite feature of Medellin. They give you a fantastic birdseye view over the valley in which Medellin (and several other municipalities) sit and what’s even more impressive is that they’re not simply a tourist attraction. In fact, I’ve seen very few tourists on the cablecars during my rides up and down. Instead, they were built to help the lower-strata families that live higher up on the valley walls get down into the city for work. Medellin has some pretty cool social projects going on. Check out another one – the escalators in Comuna 13 – here.


Once at Santo Domingo, I transferred to the Line L cablecar that took me even farther up the valley walls and over the ridge into the park. The corrugated-tin roofed houses gave way to fincas (farms) with grazing cattle strewn about then the view below opened up to a huge expanse of wild forest that stretched out as far as I could see. I felt like I was soaring above Jurassic Park!

At the top, I exited the cablecar and was greeted by a small farmers market selling all sorts of goodies: fried empanadas, sausages, and arepas, handmade jewelry, small cups of coffee and locally made mountain wine (which was too sweet for my taste). I bought a cheese arepa to snack on then headed out to find some trails.


Apparently and unfortunately, I discovered that you can’t actually walk most of the trails in the park by yourself and the only tour leaving within the next half hour was a short orchid walk in Spanish, which didn’t appeal to me all that much. So I resigned to walking down a winding paved road (you can also drive to the park, but it takes a lot longer and isn’t nearly as fun) for 40 minutes to a section of the park where I could explore solo – Chorro Clarin (clear stream). I had no idea what to expect, so I was pretty excited when I emerged into this:



There’s a paved trail that follows the stream for a few miles and alongside the path there are day camp sites and overnight campsites equipped with picnic tables, benches, aesthetically designed shelters and even flat concrete tent platforms for camping. Colombia has its priority straight.


On the way back, I figured I had two options: option one was to walk back up the road I had come down (boring) or option two was to discreetly set foot onto the Flora Trail that would spit me out about a quarter of a mile up the road from the cable car station – right next to the carabineros station, or mounted policemen. I chose option two of course, hoping that the rule against walking the trails by yourself wasn’t for safety reasons (after all, there are police on horseback in the park, right?). I think I made the right choice 🙂


Hungry after my hike, I followed signs to a vegetarian restaurant and was greeted by an exuberant hostess who quickly sat me down and served up the most delicious multi-course menu del dia made from organic produce grown right next door. If you made it to  Parque Arvi, don’t miss this spot!


HOW TO GET THERE Take the metro to Acevedo Station then transfer to the K line cablecar which will bring you to Santo Domino. No need to exit the metro station. At Santo Domingo follow signs to Parque Arvi and transfer to cablecar Line L that will take you into the park.

COST The entrance to Parque Arvi is free, but the cablecar line J up to the park costs CP 5,200 ($1.70) one way

WHAT TO DO Spend some time browsing the stalls at the farmers market (it’s larger on weekends) and grab a snack before hitting the trails. Tours of the park can be arranged at the tourist information booth straight ahead as you exit the cablecar station. If you want to explore on your own, follow the paved path out to the road then turn left toward El Tambo. At the crossroads of El Tambo turn right and continue down the road for 30 minutes or so until you see a sign on the left pointing toward Chorro Clarin. There’s a hacienda on the right. On the way back from Chorro Clarin either retrace your footsteps or find the Flora Trail on the left just as you pass the hacienda.

WHERE TO EAT The vegetarian restaurant across the street from the cablecar station. Also check out the coffee truck and the local beer stand

Soul Searching in Southwest England + A Photo Gallery

This past summer, I spent almost three months in Southwest England. I had recently upended my life in Seattle and I felt like I needed a getaway where I could reset and reground myself. I was feeling lost and lonely and incredibly heartsick. I was doubting my decision to leave the life I had built in Seattle with my (ex)boyfriend and despite my tearful self-assurances, I felt intensely anxious about my path going forward. Was going back to the ship the right choice? How would I pay back student loans if I didn’t pursue a high-paying career? Would I ever meet a partner who jived with my nomadic tendencies? These questions, and more, left me feeling pretty anxious and lost. While some people might turn to family and friends for reassurance and support, I tend to do the opposite. I needed a solo adventure. Something that would clear my head, mend my heart, and hopefully help me see a more resolute path forward. So I signed up for a three month housesit in southwest England.

It’s actually kind of a funny side story of how I landed the housesit. I was interviewing with the British couple over Skype and they were telling me about their plans to do a three month around-the-world trip with their six year old daughter. Their first stop was New England – a month-long road trip from New York to Maine and back again. Vermont, of course, was on their itinerary, so being the proud Vermonter that I am, I asked where they would be visiting. Lo and behold, they had already booked an Airbnb in the very same small, rural town where I grew up! What!? Underhill, you have to understand, is not a tourist destination. It’s a tiny town with a strong local community, some great mountain biking and hiking trails and lots of cows but not much in the way of tourist infrastructure at all. There are no museums, very few restaurants, no public transportation, and definitely no night life. Nearby Burlington, Shelburne, Charlotte, et al… have all those things and more to entertain tourists, but not Underhill. It’s a mystery how Caroline and Will decided on an Airbnb in my tiny rural home town. And the story gets even better. It turns out that the B&B they booked was located at the other end of the dirt road my parents house is on, only about 8 miles down from my childhood stomping ground. How crazy is that!? And to get even crazier, they ended up wanting to stay a few extra nights in the Underhill area (of course, it’s the best), so they booked a room at my parents Airbnb. The world can’t get any smaller than that.

So it kind of felt like fate that I landed this three month housesit in the UK: I needed a solo adventure, I couldn’t afford all the expenses of a big trip because I had just quit my job with no future job lined up, I had no personal obligations, the timing was right, and the homeowners were traveling to my home town in rural Vermont. All the signs pointed to yes. It was settled, then. Just before my 32nd birthday in June, with my mountain bike in tow, my few belongings stuffed into my backpack, and a sense of adventure that I hadn’t felt for a long time, I left for the UK.

There were plenty of ups and downs over those three months. I wish I could say that I healed my heart, I gained new insights on myself and my future, and I came away stronger than I left. But the truth is that none of those things really happened. England ended up being more about stepping away from it all, not about figuring it all out. And that’s quite all right with me. Instead of getting my ducks in a row, I went mountain biking and hiking every week, I watched wild ponies graze on the moors, I explored small, medieval towns with their quaint markets and boutique shops, I ate wood fired pizza with the locals, I made friends… I also spent days on the couch watching marathons of Gilmore Girls and eating ice cream out of the pint to distract myself from ‘real life’.

So despite my intentions of ‘figuring things out’ in the UK, I left England still feeling pretty lonely, lost, anxious (particularly about money), and unsure about how things would continue to unfold as the year went on. But I also left with some pretty great memories, a handful of new friendships, and most importantly, I left England with a regained sense of being a strong, independent, female traveler, an identity that I feel like I lost during my four years in Seattle. It was good to feel that confidence again and know that I still have the travel mojo 🙂

Onward and upward!

Below are a few of my favorite photos that I took from various places and adventures around southwest UK. I hope you enjoy!


I spent a lot of time in Exmoor National Park because it was one of the closest nature areas to where I was housesitting aside from the Quantock Hills. Besides being gorgeous, the park is also home to numerous herds of wild ponies, which I never got tired of watching. Many of my trips into the park were with my bike since the mountain bike guidebook I found in Exeter had a whole section of rides in Exmoor. Each one was stunning!




I only spent one glorious day in Dartmoor National Park and I regret not exploring it further. It’s different from Exmoor in that it’s more wild (think actual moorland rather than farmland) and there are ancient stone circles and standing stones hidden among the valleys and hills, something I didn’t come across in Exmoor. Of course, wild ponies roam freely and the cattle and sheep that graze within its boundaries have the best life of any farm animals I’ve come across in my travels. Plus, one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes episodes was filmed there – The Hounds of Baskerville 😉




Like Exmoor, I spent a lot of time in the Quantock Hills mountain biking and taking the dogs for a walk. It’s a beautiful area, if a bit more popular and crowded than the other two parks. Some of the downhill rides were top notch, but the climbs back up were not…



I found this beach in an off-the-beaten-path guidebook that was sitting on the bookshelf in my room. I used that guide book for a lot of outings over the summer and it never disappointed. Every destination was off the beaten path and it felt like I was actually discovering a local’s only place every time I ventured out per its instructions. Kilve Beach was no different. I actually missed a turn trying to find it because the road down to the beach was so inconspicuous. The beach itself was fascinating. Crazy geological features, huge prehistoric fossils, beautiful views out to the ocean, and an adorable (and delicious) little cafe that serves light lunch fare in a ramshackle (but historically significant) old church.





The farm I was housesitting at was pretty remote, but thankfully I had an awesome neighbor – Amy – who lived in the ‘malt house’ right next door. She’s a bit younger than me, but we hit it off and we’re actually doing a road trip together in California in April! Super excited about that. Aside from movie nights, wine nights, walks with the dogs, and picnics on the lawns, we went on a few adventures farther afield. One of my favorites was to the super cute town of Clovelly. No cars are allowed in town because the cobblestone streets are so narrow and steep, which made the vibe even more quaint and charming. The houses – all brightened up with flowers and garden beds – are built close together and overlook a small bay and boatyard. A few of the houses were actually set up as the would have been in the old fishing days with lanterns, antique furniture, old pictures and photographs, cast iron cooking utensils, etc…





Towards the end of my stay in England, my mom came for a short visit. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride because tension often runs high (I won’t go into that now), but we did embark on some fun adventures. One of those outings was to the old Roman city of Bath, renown for its classical architecture and, of course, its geothermal baths. Funny story – we actually thought that we could go into the ancient Roman baths, so we walked around the exhibit with a large bag packed with towels and swimming suits… turns out you can’t soak in the 2000+ year old pools. Silly us.




Another adventure my mom and I went on was an overnight trip to the southernmost county of England – Cornwall. Prior to visiting, my only reference to Cornwall was the binge-worthy British drama series – Poldark – that takes place in the Cornish countryside. If you haven’t seen this show, I highly recommend it, it’s sooo good! And a little sappy 😉 The landscape scenes alone will make you want to visit this gorgeous part of England.

We didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore since I had to get back to the house and dogs (Amy was kind enough to watch over them for a night), so we did a whirlwind tour of a few standout places.

We went for a short but stunning hike in Zennor head. Unfortunately I had a back pain thing going on, so I couldn’t do anything too strenuous, which was a bummer since it was so unbelievably beautiful there.

We caught a day-time show at the cliffside Minack Theater, which was such a trip. I’m not a huge theater aficionado, but this was a definite highlight. The theater is carved out of stone and is situated right at the edge of a cliff that overlooks the English Channel. The views were absolutely insane and the show itself – Nell Gwynn – had us in stitches.

My mom wanted to see a real castle before she left, so we stopped at St. Michaels Mount, an island fortress just outside of Penzance. You can walk to the island at low tide or take a boat shuttle if the walkway is covered in water. Since the tide was high in the morning, we took the boat over then walked back a few hours later along the long, paved footpath.



I visited and explored many more places than these few highlights, but these were some of my favorites. I can’t wait to get back and explore more of beautiful England. I hear there’s some fantastic mountain biking in the northern regions, especially Scotland and Wales 😉


Biking The Grand Western Canal To Knightshayes Court


During this past summer in England, I spent a lot of time taking the dogs for a walk along the Grand Western Canal trail which was located just a few minutes drive from where I was housesitting in Stawley. The trail is a 11.5 mile bike/walking path that runs all the way from Lowdwells (basically just a parking area) to the small, cute village of Tiverton. Apparently the canal was dug in the late 1700’s to connect the English Channel to the Bristol Channel, but it was never finished because the railway beat them to it. Now it’s just a pretty waterway that cuts through stunning farmland and is home to families of swans, ducks, and other wildlife.


After a few weeks of settling into England and housesitting life, I decided to ride my bike from one end of the Canal to the other and back again. I started at the north end and cycled south along the mostly flat gravel track toward Tiverton. The track passed under a million ridiculously cute and quaint stone bridges plastered with ivy and ran past picture-perfect English estates with manicured gardens. It was a pretty easy pedal, perfect for a lazy ride where the ‘experience’ is more important than the destination.

After about an hour and a half of pedaling, I arrived in Tiverton where I stopped for a quick coffee at The Flying Pickle before setting off on backroads to Knightshayes Court, a majestic old manor about 3 miles outside of town. At Knightshayes, I parked my bike and explored the grounds with included a beautiful walled kitchen garden, expansive greens,  manicured terraces, wooded paths, and a playground made from a gigantic fallen tree. Then I entered the manor and strolled from room to room gawking at all the cool, old memorabilia. Before heading out, I treated myself to a delicious elderberry ice cream cone and from there it was a slow, contented pedal back along the canal.



A Month Of Fun

Ok, it’s been a ridiculously long time since I’ve posted my whereabouts and adventures in California and I apologize! My intentions were to post at least once a week, but that obviously never happened… I do have several excuses for why I’ve been a bit MIA, though:

1) I’m a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist makes it really hard to stick with messy projects and right now I feel like this blog is a messy project and subpar for my standards. My writing isn’t as good as I want it to be, the layout isn’t perfect, I’m constantly critiquing my photos, I’m second guessing what I want to publish… the list goes on and on and it’s been a bit paralyzing. I want this blog to be something that I’m proud of and right now it feels just too novice. I know it’s ridiculous because nothing is perfect when just starting out, so I’m trying to remind myself to be patient and take baby steps. It’ll morph into something I’m proud of eventually as long as I stick with it.

2) I’ve been making friends and having fun! I’ve met a handful of awesome people in the Bishop and Mammoth Lakes area and we’ve been packing in mountain bike rides, motorbiking, river floating, hikes, shenanigans, etc…. Between that and husky-sitting, I simply haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit down and write and edit photos! More about all that fun below.

3) I picked up some massage shifts at the Double Eagle Spa in Mammoth Lakes to make extra money while I’m on ‘sabbatical’. To give you a refresher, I quit my health coaching job in March without a real plan. I thought I was going to get a summer job working with Backroads but that didn’t pan out so I had to get creative in order to keep my bank account topped up and not stress about money. I only was on the spa schedule for 3 shifts a week while housesitting for my brother and sister-in-law, but it was a perfect reintroduction to massage since it had been about 4 years since I’d given my last one!

Now back to the fun I mentioned above. But first, I should let you know that I’m writing this post from a beautiful vantage point on the front lawn of the amazing old English estate I’m looking after for the next 2 1/2 months. I’m surrounded by flower-studded gardens, layered stone walls, rose bushes, sheep pastures, and birdsong. It’s magical! Let me wrap up California then I’ll get onto my English adventure.


Here’s a quick recap of some fun adventures that happened over the last month:



One friend that I met while in California is a really good mountain biker and he took the time to teach me some mountain bike tricks that will help improve my riding. These tricks include bunny hops (jumping the bike over little roots and rocks in the trail) and getting air off larger features to smooth out the ride. Usually when approaching things like big rocks or drops I’ll go around them or slow down considerabelyto ‘absorb’ the potential jump. Not any more! I definitely wouldn’t say I’m pro, but I have a decent handle on bunny hops and small jumps now after some practice: get lots of speed, compress the handle bars, shift the hips way back, don’t crash.



I also learned how to ride a motorbike (i.e. a dirt bike)! The same friend has one and he brought me out into the sandy fire roads outside of Bishop for a lesson. I was a bit hesitant because, in my mind, motorcycles and dirt bikes have always been too dangerous (thanks dad), but it was loads of fun and I feel like I picked it up pretty quick. It wasn’t as scary or dangerous as I had imagined! Granted, I was completed shelled in my friend’s dirt bike armor, which gave me a false sense of safety for better or worse. But as someone who loves adventures, I now can’t get the idea of doing a long-distance motobike ride out of my head… Vietnam? Mexico? Madagascar?



So the third time I got on a motorbike was this adventure up to the Spark Plug mines. I’ve always had a ‘just do it’ kind of attitude, especially when it comes to outdoor adventure, but this ride pushed even my limits. The first part was great – riding along back roads next to a beautiful canal with cows watching as we passed by; green pastures filled with wildflowers all around us and snowy mountains as the backdrop. It was absolutely gorgeous. But then we got to White Mountain Road that would lead us up to the trailhead and things got a bit rocky – literally. The road was not a road, but more like a washed out ditch filled with softball sized rocks that we had to navigate our motorbikes along. My whole body was tense the entire ride, which is the opposite of what you want! We made it, though, with only a few minor spills and I really came to appreciate that armor.

At the trailhead, we met two more friends who had mountain biked up the road (I can only imagine how miserable that was) and from there we hiked up into the ravine toward the mines. I really had no idea what to expect from this adventure, but it turns out the old camp at Spark Plug mines is incredibly cool. The hike took just over an hour and raised us about 1500ft where we eventually spilled out onto a plateau overlooking the canyon below and the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. On the plateau was the Spark Plug mine camp. Most of the cabins have been ‘adopted’ by locals and stocked with all the necessities for an overnight or weekend away: blankets, flashlights, books, games, matches, you name it. We played a quick game of darts in the first cabin then continue to explore the rest of the camp. A sort of museum housed old relics from the mining days like shoes, all sorts of rocks from the area, letters, photos, tools, etc… There was also horseshoe pit, a mini pingpong set up, bocce ball, and a whip that we all took turns trying to crack. After a few hours wandering through the camp, we made our way back down to the bikes and slowly navigated them down the road of hell.



One of the iconic summer things to do in Bishop, CA is to float the meandering Owen’s River. It requires two cars because you need to drop one at the take-out site and one at the start, but with a bit of planning and a hot summer day it’s paradise. Apparently the river is usually pretty slow and lazy but because this winter saw so much snow it was flowing pretty quick! Loba – my brother and sister-in-law’s husky dog – floated along with us on her own tube, which made the trip that much more entertaining. (Sorry, no photos because I don’t have a waterproof camera!)


Growing up, skiing and snowboarding was pretty big in my family. We lived only 15 minutes from the mountain (Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont) and every few years we would take family trips to ski meccas like Banff and Switzerland. But after heading off to college and embarking on my travels, snowboarding fell to the wayside as I got into yoga, hiking, and mountain biking instead. But thanks to the nudge from my brother while I was visiting, he convinced me to get back on a board after a 12 year hiatus I’m so glad I did! It was tons of fun and I picked it right back up, just like riding a bike. I’m not sure when or where I’ll be snowboarding next, but hopefully it won’t be another 12 years!


So that was a very quick round-up of this last month, which was packed with some fun adventures. I’m going to try my best to keep posting and get over my perfectionist tendencies and just ‘see what happens’ with this blog. I’ll be in England for the next 2.5 months, so there are sure to be some more adventures to come!

Convict Lake Loop


I’ve been housesitting for my brother and his wife for a few weeks now while they’re off galavanting in New Zealand and one thing I learned pretty quickly is that huskies – especially young ones – need A LOT of exercise. I’m not talking about the usual 1-2 walks a day that satisfy normal dogs. No, I’m talking about at least 3-4 HOURS (or more!) a day of good quality romping: wrestling with neighborhood dogs, chasing field mice, digging holes, climbing rock piles, going on adventures etc… If you need more exercise in you life, get a husky 😉

The other day I could tell that Loba was getting restless (despite her social outings with neighborhood dogs), so we drove up to Convict Lake to hike the three mile loop that circumnavigates the bowl-shaped basin. Little did we know that the epic snowfall that hammered the Mammoth Lakes area earlier this year was still in the process of melting so we had to do a bit of delicate snow-walking on the south side if we were going to make it all the way around the lake. You know how some spring snow gets a shiny, hard crust on its surface? Well one unbalanced step could have sent me sliding down a steep icy-crusted snow bank and into the chilly lake water 😮 That would not have been fun. Loba didn’t seem to have much trouble, though – she was in her element, as husky’s usually are in winter weather. As I trudged along, picking out my next step and trying to stay balanced, she would zoom up and down the snowy hillside and dig holes in the heavy, dense spring snow. Occasionally she’d look back at me with a “what’s taking you so long?” look. We made it through the wintery section and then came to the boardwalk that spans the backside of the lake. Because of all the snow this year, some of the boardwalk was in pretty bad shape 😦 The trail crew will have quite a bit of repair to do this spring and summer once all the snow is gone! When we finally hit the north side there was no sign of snow, but plenty of signs of spring. I shed some layers as the sun now bore down directly on me and I even considered taking off my boots and soaking my feet in the clear lake water. Loba didn’t hesitate to get her paws wet.The contrast between the north to south sides was pretty dramatic, but the lake in the middle remained equally enchanting. I found this blog post of Convict Lake in the summer to give you a different (less snowy) perspective.







Massage Etiquette

I thought I was done with coincidences for awhile after discovering that senior deckhand Ian Strachan and I played together as kids in Maine, but today turned up another surprise. We were hiking through the tropical rainforest of Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal and I started talking to a couple in my group. They mentioned that they’re from Connecticut, and naturally, since my mom grew up there and my grandparents still live there, I asked where in Connecticut they were from. Stonington, they replied. Since that’s the town over from where my grandparents live (Mystic) my response was, “oh, do you know Dave and Ginny Schimdt?” knowing that it was a shot in the dark. But yes, they know Dave and Ginny Schmidt. Quite well actually, I think they said that they ran into them at the grocery store the other day. It really is a small world.

On a completely different note, I’d like to share a list of massage do’s and don’t’s that I came up with last week. Several of them arose from an awkward (not in a bad way) and rather humorous massage I gave the previous trip. It was an older gentleman who was not in the best of shape, to say the least. To make a long story short he pretty much directed me in what to do, saying “when are you going to get to my feet”, “when are you going to get to my hands” and then halfway though, he fell asleep. When he started snoring and blowing air out from between his lips and scrunching up his face into a ball my first thought was “be careful who you marry.” Several times I had to turn my head to keep from laughing. But from that I came up with a few rules for massage etiquette. Here they are:

1) Wash your feet. Please.
2) Don’t talk (much). It’s hard for the massage therapist to concentrate and it can’t be very relaxing for you.
3) You may think your leg or arm is too heavy to lift, so you try to help by lifting it yourself, but it’s actually much easier for us if you stay limp. Not to mention more relaxing and more beneficial for you.
4) Unless it’s a really horrible massage, don’t try to direct your massage therapist. Asking “when are you going to get to my feet” is kind of rude.
5) If you have a cut or a rash or open sore, please let your massage therapist know. In this case surprises are not fun.
6) Be on time. Even five minutes early if you can. You’ll get a longer massage and we won’t have to rush.

That’s all I came up with, but I’m sure there are many more to add. Let me know if you think of any!