The seed of an idea …

The seed of an idea, to move from being a sporadic, informal storyteller to putting my thoughts on a more formal platform, took root long ago. The birth of that idea will take me another step further. I’ve gotten past the first stage, where I didn’t speak it out loud. It was too fragile. I lacked confidence. I wasn’t sure my voice had that much value. Now, I’m in my first trimester. I’m settling in to the idea. I’m getting excited about it. Some of the stories I’ve told have encouraged meaningful conversations … with my friends, with my family. But it still feels tenuous.

There are details in the evolution … the business side of it, the marketing; getting the word out. I created a new Instagram account. Added a link to my blog. And I’m on Twitter! But I have not mastered that. This will continue to be an interesting learning process.

But it’s not the heart or soul of my journey.

I’ve thought a lot about inspiration recently. Things need to happen in order to have something to write about. They can be little things … the beauty of the season’s first snowfall. Or they can be epic, like sailing around the Antarctic Peninsula. But mostly, they’re somewhere in between. For me, inspiration can come in many forms. But, travel. Wanderlust. When I’m planning a trip, remembering a place, reminiscing over photos, talking about where I’m going, or where I’ve been, I can feel the vibration in my bones.

Four years ago yesterday, I was with my sister on a trip to Thailand and China. Two years later, I buckled up and headed to Africa. Yesterday, I got my pre-departure briefing for Antarctica. In between, I felt the sand in my toes in the Galapagos Islands. I kissed the Blarney Stone.

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I often wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t tiptoed along the edge of the brink. If I’d never felt an invasive ventilator pumping life-giving air in to my lungs. What if I never observed the relief and joy of my family as I responded after a night of being told I wasn’t going survive? Would I have tried to see so much of the world? Maybe, but likely not with the same sense of urgency. Those things did happen, though, and it gave my life fire. Turns out, the chance to start over was the very best kind of gift. One I won’t ever take for granted.

The seed of an idea … I think there’s a book in that.

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Extreme Adventure … 99 Days

Let the countdown begin. There is something special about being less than one hundred days from the start of an epic adventure; for me, it marks the beginning of active anticipation. Chile, Torres del Paine, Antarctica, and finally, a return to Argentina. This expedition is sure to inspire abundant awe and wonder, and I feel a tightening in my gut. Butterflies. A grin that will likely last for months.

When I first discovered this particular itinerary for Antarctica, I resolved to see the continent as described on Natural Habitat Adventure’s website: by sailboat. Our small group of seven will fly from Punta Arenas, Chile, to an airstrip on King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. From there, we board the S/V Australis. I’ll spend the next two weeks aboard, with six other audacious travelers and five experienced crew. We’ll see penguins and seals and whales and albatrosses. We’ll see immense sculptures of blue and white ice. We’ll kayak in survival suits, and spend up to three nights camping in tents on the ice. I’ll cross the Drake Passage, which has been described as the world’s most unforgettable sea crossing. Did I mention we’ll be in a sailboat?

The Physical Rating of this journey is “Extreme Adventure”. As is typical for me, I am a little bit afraid, and a whole lotta excited.

Before we leave for Antarctica, I’m going to spend a couple of days in Patagonia, hiking and horseback riding among the Paine Massif. The inn where I’m staying faces an unobstructed view of the Torres del Paine granite peaks. I’ve seen photos of this grand range, and felt immediately, spiritually connected. I cannot begin to imagine what it will feel like to stand before it.

Ninety-nine days. Continent number six … here I come!

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#nathab #naturalhabitatadventures #rioserrano #chile #patagonia #antarctica

Won’t you be lonely?

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I’ve imagined what my plan to travel North America will look like. I will take my home with me and traverse the paths less traveled. I will wind through the country on iconic roads, like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Route 66. I’ll hike in Banff and see the northern lights in Yellowknife. I’ll try to visit every national park and monument; Acadia, Pinnacles … Rocky Mountains. Maybe I’ll go horseback riding in the Dakota Badlands or photograph the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

I had a friend ask, “But won’t you be lonely?”

Maybe. Today, I see this as a solo adventure. It’s a little bit scary, traveling alone. The unfamiliar puts a heaviness in my step; a reluctance in my ability to move forward. But the rewards of pushing through that trepidation are great. I feel more open to starting a conversation with a stranger who sometimes becomes a friend. Those conversations have steered me to sublime places only the locals know. On a cool morning, I can fully absorb the stillness, with birdsong adding musicality to the peaceful silence. I can read, uninterrupted. I can go whichever direction I feel the pull.

So I’m afraid, and yes, I might occasionally be lonely. But like so many times before, I have a bold inner voice that insistently pushes … just go. Just. Go. And that inner voice has never let me down.

Free …

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I had dinner with some friends the other night, and we talked about the difference between our professional lives and how we truly see ourselves. The four of us; three in IT and one in Finance, spend our days with data. With numbers. We configure. We test. We document. But none of these friends seem to be defined by those systematic, methodical tasks. So I asked them, “How would you describe the ‘real’ you in one word?” One labeled herself a hippie, the second, an explorer. In my mind, I was a mountaineer. One simply said, “Free”.

It’s no wonder I’m drawn to these women.

So many of us spend our days doing things that are such a departure from who we really are. I spent some time thinking about my response. A mountaineer. But that single word didn’t fully describe how I want to develop over this next part of my life. I feel most alive when I am in the process of capturing moments … the beauty in the curve of a leaf, the rich scent of a grove of cedars, the melodic sound of a mountain stream. To photograph and write about my experiences makes them a part of me. I want to be outside. Always outside. Wildlife, new places, different cultures … I’m voracious. Intrepid. A wannabe gypsy.

I spent a recent lunch hour browsing Class B motor homes. Downsizing is a big part of my master plan to evolve into … me. It’s going to take some patience to get there. I need to balance responsible saving with spending that supports my travel addiction. I need to clear out my garage, my closets, my drawers. I need to work out a budget. I need to figure out that Social Security sweet spot. I need to stay healthy and strong. So today, I’m a business analyst. But tomorrow …………..

The Enchanted Isles, Galápagos Islands

March 5, 2017: The Galápagos Islands, or “Enchanted Isles” as they are known, are, indeed, enchanted. Magical, mystical, magnificent. I’ve heard this from other travelers to this corner of the world, but until you step foot on the Islands, you simply cannot understand the depth of that truth.

Our days were full … often we hiked or snorkeled before breakfast, then headed back to the sailboat for a delicious meal. On those days, we’d leave early to enjoy the sunrise from one idyllic location or another. The morning light against the rocks, interesting cloud formations, and the crimson sun rising against the horizon absolutely took our breath away. After our morning feast, we’d change our clothes to suit the next adventure … hiking, kayaking, or snorkeling. We had two to three adventures in the morning, and two to three in the afternoon. Every single stop had unique characteristics … it could be mammals, reptiles, geological landscape, or fish that we had not yet seen. Every color of the rainbow shone brightly in the diverse wildlife.

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Our group of thirteen, plus two top-notch guides, gelled quickly. We laughed, enjoyed happy hour together, and supported each other. We stargazed. Oh, how awe-inspiring the constellations were. The stars shine so brightly here! It’s been years since I’ve seen the Milky Way. One night, we convinced our guide to play his guitar. We certainly let him down in the singing department, but his delicate strumming was the perfect accompaniment. Watching the night sky was always a highlight, and the perfect way to celebrate each unforgettable day.

The camaraderie between the group started on day one, when one of our group overslept. Our guide, who bears a striking resemblance to our former president, went to check on him. He knocked on his door. No response. He knocked harder. No response. He went in to his room and called out. No response. He leaned in close and firmly said, “PAUL!” Startled, Paul had two fleeting thoughts. “Where in the world am I?!” And, “Why is President Obama waking me up?” When asked how deeply his ear plugs were inserted in to his ear canal, heresponded, “They were touching.” We collectively knew, at that moment, that the trip was bound to have a good bit of humor. This proved true as the week went on.

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On this trip, we traveled by plane, canoes, a panga (a.k.a., a dinghy), buses, and a spectacular sailboat. We were transported to and fro, and never missed a beat. We had a four-hour delay in Quito that could have gone badly, but instead, we took advantage of the extra time to visit an interesting museum, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to accept the dare to eat a barbecued beetle larvae. When in Rome!

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Now, we’re at the beautiful hosteria, Rincon de Puembo, waiting for our red-eye flight home. The time went much, much too fast. Fortunately, I’ve already booked my next adventure … sailing with six other intrepid travelers to Antarctica!, so the traveling fever will be kept at bay for now. Galapagos … el viaje de la vidas. Salud!

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Otavalo, Ecuador

February 25, 2017: We started the day with a six-mile hike around the caldera at Cotacachi Cayapas. When we reached the 11,000 foot summit, the lake was shrouded in fog. As we continued our hike down, the fog lifted, and we were treated to a breathtaking view of the caldera and surrounding countryside. The lake was a deep blue, the wildflowers were prolific and damp with dew, and the air was cool and crisp.

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After we moved on from our hike, we went to the Otavalo Market, and wandered around … fruits, vegetables, meats, textiles, and my weakness, jewelry. I didn’t come home empty handed. We visited a weaver, and she demonstrated the traditional way of weaving alpaca and sheep’s wool … the dyes they used (worms!), and how they spin yarn.

This is will be my last update until I get back to Seattle. We’ve got a couple of flights to get to the Galapagos, and I will be officially unplugged. Until then … salud!