Every so often we spin through our photos and let the fates take us to a particular image. Each issue of "Travel Roulette" shows the image that was randomly selected and the memories it triggered.
Travel isn't always pretty, but there are no second chances here. It doesn't matter if we don't like the image or memory because well, travel is often messy.
Issue No. 29: The Negev Desert, Israel
The rocks rose and fell like waves moving at the pace of the universe. Serpentine vertebrae pushing from the earth. You have to pass through this massive wall of stone cut to make way for the road in order to see the small surveillance blimp hovering in the sky like a tiny remote controlled cloud.
You squint into the sun and shield your eyes with the flat of your hand like a sailor looking at the horizon looking for land.
Did it move? You think it's getting closer. You think it's watching you because there really is literally nothing else out here to watch.
Except for the bus load of Israeli students taking a break in the shade of the only tree. A dusty sad and litter strewn eucalyptus looking sad and forlorn, maybe even a little embarrassed at the circumstances that led it to this place.
This is one of the few places in Israel not irrigated to a verdant lushness from an ancient aquifer in the middle of the country.
Maybe that's what the drone is doing. Calculating where the sprinklers will eventually go.
issue no. 28: Along the Kumano Kodo, Japan
I am so happy I landed on this image. As soon as I saw it a flood of memories and emotions just instantly struck my core. I got short of breath and a bit teary eyed, to be honest. Walking part of the Kumano Kodo in Japan is one of my all-time favorite experiences I have ever had. The image that you see here marked the end of what would be the toughest day on the trail. It was the longest day, miles wise, and rained the entire time. Some points were an absolute downpour while others were just a light mist that coated every ounce of you. We had rain gear but still felt wet to the core. The air was that bone chilling sort that accompanies being in a thick forest in the spring rain. We were nearing the end of our journey when we saw these two people taking cover from the rain as they left one of the shrines that can be seen along the journey. I was so taken with the beauty of the flags and the umbrellas against the pops of color in the trees. I still am taken with it. We ended our day at a small guesthouse and finally got warm after taking a bath in the incredible hot onsen. I'm just going to sit here and relive some more of my time along the trail.
issue no. 27: Street art, london
As I recall, we were wandering around the Brick Lane area of London one afternoon and stumbled upon a ton of street art. Well, we were purposely in the area to search for such creation and for markets, but were so happy to stumble across so many pieces we loved. There's so much about this piece that I love - the "pinstripe suit" quality of the background juxtaposed with the more bold, incomplete lines of the head. I love how the face pops from what seems like a scarf wrapped around her head. The colors of the scarf contrasting with the dual eye color and continued hashmarks on the face. There's a beauty here, geometry, sadness, hopefulness, playfulness. It feel to me that it reflects much of the world around us. The complexities of living amongst one another, trying to make sense of what we see and can apply a name to. There are contrasts here, but also similarities. An ease in finding this to be a beautifully rendered piece on a wall, on a street in London.
Issue No. 26: Musee de Pont-Aven in Pont-Aven, France
I didn't study art and I'm not an artist. I do tend to be totally bored by most 19th century landscape paintings, and I suspect that I would have been bored by most of the paintings at the Musee de Pont-Aven had we not been to the Brittany coast first.
The Brittany coast literally looks like this painting. The sky, the clouds, the sun setting, the vague hint of cold winds blowing in from the Atlantic and the rocks. Oh the rocks. They are perfect windswept sculptures of the kind you can climb and aren't relegated to a rich few people who can commission their creation or wall them off to charge admission.
But you can't climb these paintings, or even take pictures of them. It's a shame about the latter because I was reprimanded in curt French by the young attendant who kept a close eye on me until we left.
Issue No. 25: Crumbling fortress in borjomi, Republic of georgia
I wish I landed on a better photo from when we visited Borjomi, Georgia, but alas, I landed on this one. Still, this conjures super fond memories of heading out for a walk in this small area of Georgia known for it's medicinal springs, mineral water and beautiful scenery. It had been raining for most of our time in Borjomi and the sun came out to light up this beautiful blue sky. We wasted no time in heading out on a walk along the train tracks and headed toward this fortress. I don't really remember much about the fortress but, I do remember it was necessary to climb, climb, climb to reach it, and that we didn't have time to get there. We left late in the day and Zac had a call with a client and so we decided to go up as far as we thought we had time for and then head back down. So this is really the best view of the fortress on top of the hill that we could find. It's not always about the destination but how you get there. And we enjoyed this walk immensely.
Issue No. 24: Textile Exhibit at the Metropolitan Arts Center in Belfast
It's funny that I landed on this photo. We flew to Belfast Glasgow for an overnight visit in order to see Kate Tempest perform at the Empire Music Hall. We arrived in Belfast really early in the morning and started out exploring the city straight away. Zac had booked a taxi tour of the city which picked us up from the airport and then drove around with an incredibly fun guy as we saw the sites of the conflicts that had plagued this area for many, many years. Our afternoon lightened up a bit and we found ourselves wandering over to a hip part of the city and to a great coffee shop. It was late in the day and quite chilly out (it was November in Belfast after all). The coffee shop was a spare, modern affair and was packed with people on their lap tops, having meetings, socializing with this friends over coffee or tea and some lovely baked goods. We took our seats and casually sipped our coffee and tea treats as we watched the windows steam over. The street outside became invisible as the windows were covered first with steam and then the water dripping down. We headed to the MAC afterwards for a little treat for our eyes. There wasn't a whole ton on display, but the building is an interesting combination of disciplines. I was so happy to stumble upon this room of beautiful knitted sculptures. I failed to get the artist's name, however, because I was entranced with wandering around within the space.
Issue no. 23: Hiking the Great Wall of China
I have this strange vertigo when it comes to steep steep stairs. Which is why it's really odd that we keep finding ourselves on some of the steepest stairs and walls in the known world. The Great Wall of China, where we hiked for 6 days and nights is a classic example. The "stairs" are so steep that it's more like a stone ladder. My travel partners thought I made it to the top of this incline because I'm fit but it's really because I was propelled by sheer terror of falling backwards and then off the face of the earth entirely where I would float into space tumbling like an untethered astronaut.
(bear with me while I wipe the sweat from my palms)
Believe me when I tell you this wasn't the most terrifying moment on our Great Wall hike, and forgive me for not wanting to recount them in detail here. I'm saving this post and walking away from my computer for a bit.
issue no. 22: Car Camping on the South Island of New Zealand
I think I have landed on images of New Zealand than on any other place on my phone. I'm not sure what this is telling me, but I was so happy to arrive at this photo. Zac took this shot one night as we were camped amongst the mountains of the gorgeous south island. It was a particularly windy and rainy evening so the fact that he was able to get out and get a clean shot was incredible. It had been a long time since I was in a storm like that in what is essentially a tin can, but for some reason it was so much fun. I was super grateful that we had a van in which we could comfortably sit (and stand) in order to sit out the duration of the storm. Heading out to pee was no picnic, but hey, I was comfy while I was inside. This night and this van continually help fuel my fond memories of car camping and have me looking forward to more outings of the sort in the near future.
Issue No. 21: Cows in the field, vermiglio, italy
It's total serendipity that I landed on this photo of cows in the field in Vermiglio, Italy. It's serendipity because we will be heading back to this very field in a couple of weeks and we could not be more excited. These cows came to visit us towards the end of our time picking flowers in the field just above where these cows are situated. They had just come back down from grazing in the mountains all summer and had free range of fields in town. One morning they decided to make their way up to the field right next to where we were picking flowers and they spent a few days hanging out with us. They didn't seem to mind our presence and we welcome theirs. I loved hearing the little tearing sound of their mouths ripping their favorite greens from the ground. I hope we get to see them again this year.
ISSUE NO. 20: Kinlochleven, West Highland Way Scotland 2016
We had been walking through the Scottish Highlands for maybe five days or more at this point. Sections of the West Highland Way (as it's known) were not always pretty. The inhabitants of the region were forcibly evacuated in the 18th and 19th centuries to make way for massive amounts of sheep. Many of those displaced people left for America and Canada. This is where I learned that Nova Scotia means "New Scotland".
It is also on the West Highland Way that Jill learned that her shoes didn't fit, causing her to sit out a day of the walk. And it's too bad because it was one of the most varied in terms of terrain. As you can see, the valley we had been in for days was starting to narrow and the rocky landscape turned into scrubby grass and a smattering of trees. The trail remained the centuries old military road we had been on, but it too began to narrow to a footpath around the munroe you see in the middle of the photograph. Several hours later the famous Ben Nevis came into view wearing a crown of cotton clouds.
issue no. 18: Cherry Blossoms at Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa, Japan 2016
I loved Kanazawa, Japan. It was our first Japanese city outside of Tokyo and it was incredible. It didn't hurt that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom either. Everywhere we went we were greeted by such beautiful blooms in such a well preserved town. As we wandered the streets, I remember feeling a sense of calm and history surrounding me. I remember standing outside this Japanese Castle and thinking how fortunate I am to be witnessing this amazing bloom. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty and tranquility of this place that we just sort of stopped and stood amongst the blossoms for a really long time. It's been a while since I've felt quite so at peace as I did while here. This really was a magical place. I hope you can feel the tranquility of the surroundings and bring a little of that into your day, where ever you may be.
ISSUE NO. 19: Calcified waterfall AT hierve el agua, oaxaca, Mexico 2015
We walked through a few small villages with our local guide who was trying to bring tourism dollars to their community. It was the day after my birthday, and this was my birthday present - a visit to one of two calcified waterfalls in the world. The route we took to Herive el Agua was lesser known and infrequently travelled. We passed a tree with a long stick leaning against it. I asked our guide what it was for and he explained that it was a wild papaya tree, and the stick was placed there to enable easy picking of the fruit by anybody passing through. The thought pleased me tremendously and speaks to the strong ties these small communities have with the land and to each other.
We crossed a small spring of water and swam in it's cooling depths before continuing towards the waterfall that was just beginning to show it's hardened face through the jungle around us. We sat in silence at it's silent feet, marveling at the density of time that contains a patience we can't fathom.
At the top looking down you can see the source of water bubbling up from the earth and the slow trail it makes over the edge. You can see the halted attempts to commercialize the enterprise. Halted because of money. Halted because of time. Halted over disputes of ownership and proprietary laws.
issue no. 16: Special dinner at black sesame kitchen, beijing, china
I was so happy when I landed on this image. Not because it's a great photo or anything, but it is a great memory. It was our last night in Beijing and we had booked into a special multi-course private dinner at Black Sesame Kitchen. We were super excited about it and when we met a fabulous brother and sister duo on our Great Wall walk we decided to invite them along. They were totally game for the event and we added them straightaway. This was not only incredible food, but incredible company as well. There was a huge group of Australians at the table and conversation quickly turned to the US election. This was before Trump won the Republican nomination and they just kept asking if his candidacy was a joke. Filled with confidence we responded yes and then had to eat our words several times over the next few months. The food was fantastic as well and ranged from dumplings to asparagus with goji berries to kung pao chicken followed by candied bananas with homemade black sesame ice cream. We loved every dish and this was absolutely the perfect way to close out an otherwise ok stay in Beijing. We definitely saved the best for last.
issue no. 17: Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City
We had just sold our house and possessions the month before, packed up what was left and headed for Mexico. First stop was Mexico City, and then we spent about three weeks in Oaxaca.
I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the size and population of Mexico City, but what I didn't realize is that it has the most parks and museums of any city in the world (outside of Paris). So when I see this photo I think of how new everything seemed. Our new full time travel lifestyle hadn't sunk in yet. I hadn't yet fired my biggest and most annoying client - that came in Oaxaca, so I was working in the morning and in the evening but wandering around Mexico City eating street food and visiting the cool shade of their many parks and museums.
I had just begun to experiment with the timer feature on my iPhone. So I set the timer in this stairwell and put the phone on the ground facing up and walked away. To me it looks like a decaying sun. To me it looks like bubbles rising. To me it looks like the end of so many things.
ISSUE NO.15: Olive Farm, Croatia 2015
Istria is a small region of Croatia that used to be Italy, and you can feel that vibe still to this day. Istria seems to have everything one could want - small towns connected by twisty roads some of which lay in ruins, festivals to celebrate every kind of harvest and seafood. When I say every kind of harvest I really mean it. Olives, wine, chestnuts, truffles, asparagus, scallops, you name it. If they grow or harvest it, they have a festival for it.
This view is from the balcony of our apartment. Every morning the sun would rise to reveal the mist that had rolled in throughout the night. Through it you could hear the dogs howling during their truffle hunt. By mid morning the fog had receeded revealing the truffle hunters lining the roads with their trunks open like mouths waiting for a meal. Our hosts were spectacular and we picked olives and they fed us and made us coffee. It was truly a magical place.
issue no.14: Cherry Blossoms Tokyo, Japan 2016
It's funny that I landed on this photo. FB used this same one for a memory of mine today. So the Universe is telling me to think of cherry blossoms. Which isn't really hard to do because I often think of our time in Japan. It was one of our favorite places we've been and maybe part of that is because of these guys. We went absolutely insane for them when we were there. They are intoxicating and deserve their rightful spot as a Japanese obsession. I think part of what made them so magical was to see the joy in everyone's eyes as they wandered around under the beautiful blossom umbrellas. There were people taking photos of the blossoms alone and then those trying to get just the right selfie with the perfect bloom. There were traffic jams of people walking along the paths trying to view the fleeting blooms. There were festivals and oh so many picnics under their canopy. This is what makes cherry blossom season for me. Yes, the blooms are perfection in their short time with us. But more importantly, people bloom for this short period of time as well.
issue no. 13: Blue wall, frida Kahlo house mexico city, mexico 2015
It was August of 2015. We had just sold our house and belongings to travel the world. Our first stop was Mexico City where we stayed for a week before heading to Oaxaca to finish out the month. The line was long to get into the Frida Kahlo Museum, but we basked in the glow of the blue made famous by her. There is such an energy in this color, and in this museum complex. It's part studio part home, part hospital for Frida. You can feel the happiness and misery they had in their lives not fighting for attention, but balancing each other out.
The street is lined with people waiting to get in, but is shaded with magnificent trees that are pulling up the sidewalk with their roots. Lizards make their way along the wall, your feet, the trees. It doesn't feel like you are waiting in line, it feels like this is part of the museum, part of the experience.
issue No. 12: culzean castle, ayreshire, scotland
We decided to descend upon Culzean castle one bright but chilly day in late November. We knew the castle itself would be closed, but had read the grounds were amazing for a nice walk about. This was true. The walks through the woods are really lovely. The property overlooks the water and there are llamas out and about. What more could a girl ask for? Well, it turns out there was a wedding fair at the castle the day we visited. Thinking this would be a great way to see the inside of the castle, Zac and I hastened to the event. We are used to more "open house" sorts of events than how this one was organized. At the door we were greeted by a lovely woman asking if we would like some champagne. "Of course!". Then she started asking the really hard questions - when are you getting married, have you relocated here in Scotland or is this a destination wedding, when are you getting married, how many people, budget, etc. Undaunted, we just started crafting little stories of our relationship. We've been together a long time (true) and finally decided to make it official. Our families were eager for us to have a wedding and would happily come to Scotland. We were whisked off by another woman who gave us the full tour of a small portion of the castle where we could hold our nuptials. We could say our vows at the top of the spiral staircase with our loved ones nestled in chairs all the way down. We could stand at the apex of the atrium while looking down on our guests as well. The possibilities were endless. There was one room that was really charming and I said I wanted to marry in there - it had sea views. We joked that we would have our backs to everyone in the room just so we could look outside while we said our vows. The tour ended and so did our charade. We found ourselves back outside, long married and in the mood for a nice long walk through the woods. The llamas were calling.
issue no. 11: Cape Meares State Park, Oregon, USA
It was March, 2015 when we came to the Oregon coast for the second time. This trip was to determine if we wanted to permanently relocate from Minnesota. The Minnesota we left was still under sheets of ice - the roads were just two worn tracks for your tires. It was a terrible winter, and when we arrived in Oregon to blooming flowers and the ocean we considered our lives. We had a few perfect days of waking and doing yoga and deciding what to do. We had no other schedule or timeline, and decided we wanted every day of our lives to be like that - owning the time allotted to us on this earth to do as we pleased, and not for money. This is when Visa-Vis was conceived. On the coast of Oregon, on this beach. By August we had sold everything and were in Mexico.
issue no. 10: Black Sand beach, huia, north island, new zealand
This was the morning of our second night spent in the camper van at the area in Huia, New Zealand. One thing to know about New Zealand is that it takes forever to drive anywhere. Honestly, you need to drive about 20 miles and it takes like 3 hours or something. There are signs everywhere about not falling asleep because of the fatigue that sets in. We were well used to the exceedingly long drives at this point and pushed on down this dirt track onto a grassy area to get near this beach. It was completely muddy where we parked the van but taking a 5 minute walk to this beach in the morning was worth it. At sunrise, the surface sparkled as if millions of diamonds were hidden beneath the trillions of grains of sand. This was also one of the silkiest of sands I've ever felt between my toes. On this morning we carried our beverages down to the beach and said "good morning" to the local men who had set up tables and chairs to have their morning breakfast ritual on the beach. Too bad we had to wind back up that dirt road later on that day. At least we were well rested and relaxed after this gorgeous start to the day.
issue no. 9: rock formations at petroglyph national monument, nm usa
Freshly back from Mexico and hot off my mother's memorial in Cleveland, we were still so new to all this. I had fired my biggest client while in Oaxaca and was preparing final documents as we drove from Minneapolis to Cleveland to Kentucky before heading west to our final destination - a reunion trek with friends in Colorado.
We don’t do anything by half measures, so we took the long route. Skimming Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas we arrived in New Mexico for a few days with my ex-girlfriend her husband and little baby. The weather was brilliant. The sky even more so. We took off hiking for the day and got lost in the shapes.
I love nooks like this where the wind and rain and the baking sun all leave their evidence. As I stare at formations like this I can’t help but think of what it looked like 400 or a 1000 years ago, and what it will be like in another thousand. Eventually trees will grow here. Nobody will know what lay beneath the forest floor.
issue no. 8: ice cream from the cow & moon, sydney, Australia
God I wish I could remember exactly what these flavors were. I think the one on the left was a raspberry crumble and the right is pistachio. That's probably pretty close - though could also be really far off. The flavors at Cow & Moon in Sydney can tend to the different, so the flavors I mentioned may just be too tame. None of this really matters though, because the most important thing you should take away from this is the next time you find yourself in Sydney, you must stop at the Cow & Moon. The amazing hosts at our B&B just down the street mentioned Cow & Moon to us almost immediately on our arrival. They extolled the virtues of this amazing ice cream and told us of their numerous awards. We are not one to turn our noses up at such a glowing recommendation by such lovely people so we immediately headed over (ok, we ate some dinner first, but it was really quick). Normally, Jill is all about splitting our sweet treats (less calories, etc.) but she was so excited by their flavors that she insisted we each go it alone. Then she doubled down. It was that good.
issue No. 7: DD's Wedding, Minnesota
We labored with how we could fit a visit back to the US to attend DD's wedding. We had planned on going from Italy to somewhere east. Turkey or the Middle East or India. We had no intention of coming back. But it was so worth the journey. She is one of our favorite people in the world, and she has been from the moment we first met.
I'm sure you have people like this in your life - you just love them from the word go. People whose crabbyness doesn't even bother you. Not that D is ever crabby. But you know what I mean. You just love them no matter what they do. It's magical.
We didn't expect to spend a ton of time with her at the wedding, which made those few one on one moments all the more special. She was radiant, and brings out that light in everybody.
issue No. 6: Meander falls, tasmania
I have so many photos like this from our travels - closeups of the various flora we encounter on our walks. Something about the various shades of pink in these "berries" drew my eye while we were walking through Meander Falls in Tasmania. This walk is considered one of the "60 Great Short Walks" for this area. I remember it being really lovely. I also remember that for some reason I was expecting the trail to be rather level, but neglected to really understand that this trail went to falls. And with all trails that involve falls, there's some incline involved. It wasn't much, but if memory serves, we had done some good incline the previous day and I was wanting to rest my quads. But, alas, we did not and were rewarded with a quiet, beautiful trail full of bright pops of pink berries. My legs rested on the drive back to our inn.
ISSUE NO. 5: Isle of Arran Scotland: KING'S Cave Circuit
We had almost dismissed this hiking circuit on the Isle of Arran because we thought the main focus (a cave where Robert the Bruce encountered a spider or some shit) was really boring. I mean, it's not like it was a megalith predating Stonehenge or anything, which can also be found just up the road on Arran.
But our ferry didn't leave for another three hours so we decided to give it a go. The King's Cave Circuit is a shorter and easier route, but is mainly along the coast as you see here. It is stunningly beautiful, and when you turn to go back towards the car, you wind your way through some mossy mushroomy forest that is quiet and mysterious.
Lesson learned - if you are there and have the time, why the hell not? You never know what surprise awaits you.
Issue No. 4: Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is on the North Island of New Zealand. We spent a few weeks car camping around the North after having been in the South. Everything about the North felt different; the weather included. We had planned on walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but upon stopping at the Center were told that it was too windy and rainy to pass in the days we planned on being in the park. So, we opted for a much shorter trail to Taranaki Falls. This is a view from that trail. I wish I could remember more about that day. I remember being disappointed we weren't going to do the hike we came for. I remember being thrown off our plan for the North island because of the terrible rain we were having. I remember feeling in awe of the beauty of the falls (that I would see in the photo next to this one on my phone) and I remember feeling like I wished we had left more time for the South Island and not so much for the North. It's not that I didn't enjoy this walk, because I did. I love a good rocky walk along a river and if falls are included I am in love. It's just that there was so much to figure out while we were there (like where we were going to sleep) that I let that get in my way of enjoying the moment. Seems hard, I know. But reality creeps in at the most inopportune times.
ISSUE NO. 3 - art deco theater bangkok
This is a true example of what Travel Roulette is meant to be. I scrolled through my phone and landed here and had no idea where or what it was. It isn't the greatest picture. it's off center, kinda blurry. Are those people behind the counter? Is this a bank?
Oh no, it's that art deco theater that we sought out! That's it. The photo says January 31st, 2017. Usually my phone adds a geotag, making this much easier. Where were we then? South East Asia. Hanoi? No...I think...Saigon. The photos before this are of the Jim Thompson house. So Bangkok. A quick google search of "art deco theater bangkok" reveals the name: The Scala Theater!
Other memories flood back. The little street this deco theater was tucked into could have been lifted from an American main street. If it weren't for the heat and the smells and the hum of mopeds. Little shops lined this short block. Across the street was what looked like a travel agent whose logo and font were of a bird in flight, wings vertical in the air, long body extended for flight.
Before this we had gone to the Jim Thompson house, but I don't remember them together. I remember trying to beat the heat with an overpriced and over sweet mango coconut milk boba tea in a modern mega mall - only to find a cheaper better looking one near this art deco theater called The Scala.
Issue No. 2 - Hong Kong Street Art
This photo was taken on the streets of Hong Kong in February 2016. Hong Kong has an incredible amount of street art which seems to be enhanced by HK Walls - a yearly event in which artists take over walls throughout the city. We came across this amazing piece quite by accident (we had been following an HK Walls 2015 map) and instantly fell in love with the piece. Even looking at it now, I'm transported into another time and another place. I love how dynamic the coloring around her eyes is and particularly love the streaks of color "running" from the mask. This combined with the mirrored color behind is just incredible. The expressions on these two say so much. One last thing I loved about this scene is the man sitting in front of this mural preparing some food for the day. This is the beauty of street art - the mash up of beauty and creativity with the need to use the streets to live one's life. Such a gorgeous exchange.
Issue No. 1 - Volti di somacort dinner Festival, Vermiglio, Italy
This festival has no name that I can find, but it was a village wide progressive dinner with no less than 8 courses. You buy a ticket and wander house to house eating traditional dishes from the region and as the sun goes down the music starts. The houses included in the tour were those that survived the bombing of WWI. The walls were lined with old farm tools and taxidermied animals or looked like old cellars where the cows were once milked.
These two women picked their way over the cobblestones on stilts dressed like they were riding swans. So very Alice in Wonderland. I do believe earlier in the festivity one of them tapped Jill on the shoulder and terrified her. It was after the sun went down that they turned on their lights, making the illusion of floating all the more apparent.