Posts Tagged journey

I DO Have a Passion!

No, I didn’t wake up to discover that I have a passion for knitting. Actually, I tried knitting…when I was 8. But I certainly don’t love it.

In fact, my first (and only) knitting project was a total failure. I started an aqua colored scarf. Each twist of the needle was a slow process made so much more painful when observing my babysitter effortlessly knit row after row with speed and ease. Amazingly, she never even looked at her hands!

I felt some measure of accomplishment once I had a foot of my scarf done. I had earned that length with hard labor! I thought my scarf in progress was safe in the family room closest, but I was mistaken. Later, I found my scarf unraveled into a tangle of yarn with nary a stitch in sight. And so ended my foray into knitting.

Knitting by the Fire

Mr. HalfFull’s sister shows off her knitting project!

I was once again reminded of knitting during our Christmas travel. My 9-year-old niece was teaching my sister-in-law to knit. She was toiling away on her flat scarf, while my niece had moved onto a more complex pattern of knitting in a circle. I guess knitting is reserved for Mr. HalfFull’s side of the family.

Wow, that was a long tangent! But this post isn’t about knitting. It’s about passion. And as we’ve established, knitting is not my passion. Oh, if only it were that easy.

But apparently, I DO have a passion. I know that many of you have been following me on my Quest for Passion around the world. I was as disappointed as you not to find a path of certainly. All I found was a lifelong quest!

So perhaps you are wondering what this newfound passion could be.  Even I am a bit incredulous typing those words, so let me explain.

I had lunch with a friend who suggested that my passion is seeking out my passion. At first, I stared back with a quizzical look as if to say, “How can THAT be a passion?” He pointed out that it’s the thing I think, write, and read about most. It’s the thing that I willingly explore and am excited to uncover. Isn’t that the definition of a passion?

It’s a new way of framing the idea. Apparently, my passion can’t be a single, simple, easy to understand thing like knitting. My passion is a quest; it’s the journey itself.

This passion led me to quit my job, and enter a place of insecurity and uncertainty. It’s not a comfortable place, but something drove me to it. My passion, perhaps?

I am excited and apprehensive about the exploration ahead. I love reading articles about career happiness. I love stories of how others successfully changed paths. And I have the same hopes for myself.

Spin Class

Ms. HalfEmpty sweats as she contemplates the deep lyrics of “Rhythm is a Dancer.”

As I was spinning away on my bike in RPM™ class, the song “Rhythm is a Dancer” was playing through the speakers with this persistent refrain:  “Oooohhhh it’s a passion.” And it got me to thinking about my passion. Perhaps I should take a cue from the song and…

Let it control you hold you mold you

Not the old, the new, touch it, taste it

Free your soul let it invade you

Gotta to be what you wanna

Can one really be passionate about finding a passion?

  • Have you tried knitting? Was your attempt successful?
  • Has a friend helped you frame something differently?
  • Is this passion just semantics or helpful?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , ,

End of the Journey

Last year, Mr. HalfFull and I embarked on our 30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion.  But it all came to an end 10 weeks later, and we returned to the real world of jobs and schedules.

Sailing in Fiji

Our sailing adventure in Fiji was nothing like that of Robin Lee Graham. I prefer to take airplanes between countries.

A few months ago, I read Dove, the true story of a 16-year-old boy who sailed around the world.  My trip was nothing like the solitude he experienced on his sailboat, but the wanderlust and thrill of adventure on land are similar.  During his journey, he met his wife, Patti.  This passage about her really struck me; it reminded me of my writing here and thoughts as my journey was coming to an end:

There are gaps in Patti’s diary, which was written to remind her of days that meant much to her.  She knew as I knew that we had got too close to heaven too early, that our time in the islands must come to an end; that we would soon have to return to the real world again.

One day I noticed that she had stopped typing.  She had put the typewriter back in the locker where she had found it.  I asked her why, and she smiled and said, “I don’t want to write the last chapter.”

Robin Lee Graham

Well this is the last chapter and it’s been written, like it or not.  As they say, all good things must come to an end.  But the memories will last a lifetime.  Perhaps those memories will continue to inspire me, and help me on future quests.

Recently, I was telling a friend about my Quest for Passion.  He stared at me incredulously and asked why I had to travel to find my passion.  I explained that travel wasn’t required, but it’s a good way to get out of normal routines and change thought patterns.  If you are in the same place, with the same schedule, interacting with the same people, you are less open to new possibilities.  But when you throw yourself into new environments, you are forced to make it work and challenge yourself in different ways.

Mauritius

Mr. HalfFull practicing mental relaxation and flexibility. But he doesn’t need as much practice as much as Ms. HalfEmpty!

This is part of the reason why vacations are so important.  They help to free your mind from chores at home, and give you the opportunity for mental relaxation and flexibility.  Stay-cations can be useful to accomplish projects at home, but they don’t have the same freeing power as getting away and changing your environment.

We are generally creatures of habit.  Many of us say we like change, but change can be hard.  Perhaps we like the idea of change, but the work to get there isn’t always enjoyable.

I think the Quest for Passion is lifelong for many of us who are not innately drawn to something.  My trip is over, but I think my quest will continue.  Patience is not one of my virtues, so I need to learn to appreciate the journey and live my way into my answers.

…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…

Rainer Maria Rilke

I hope you stick around to find out what life is like after the 30/40 World Tour.  Or perhaps you have found my passion, the key to the locked room, or can translate the very foreign language for me.  If so, let me know in the comments.  Living my way into the answer seems like it could be very frustrating!

  • When your trip nears the end, do you worry about writing the last chapter?
  • Has travel helped you think in different ways?
  • Are you a creature of habit or spontaneity?
  • Have you found your passion?  Was it a struggle or did it come naturally?
  • Are you patient?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happening Upon My Namesake

Four Posts panorama

After our one day layover in Madrid, it was time to take a 3 hour bus trip west to VaughanTown. You won’t find VaughanTown on a map because it’s not actually a town.  In fact, it’s in 5 different towns.  Our VaughanTown was outside the village of El Barco de Ávila.

VaughanTown is an English immersion program for Spaniards.  As native English speakers, our job was to help the Spaniards gain confidence in their ability to communicate in English by exposing them to a wealth of speech and accents (including American, British, Indian, and Australian in our group).  The Spaniards pay for the program individually or through their companies, and the Anglos, like us, are volunteers who are compensated with free meals and a free stay at a 4-star luxury hotel.

Bus to VaughanTown

Anglos and Spaniards on the chartered bus to VaughanTown. Some are getting their last few moments of sleep, and others are already chatting away.

Before we could start our little English haven in the middle of Spain, we had to get out of the city and away from all the Spanish speakers.  Most of the participants took the chartered bus from Madrid with us to the middle of nowhere.  But along the way, we made one stop outside the town of my namesake.

Before our 30/40 World Tour, I didn’t even know why my parents picked my name.  But when my mom heard that we would be in Ávila, she shared this with me:

Ending the 30/40 World Tour in Spain is more than just a wonderful place to visit before heading home, but it is also a symbol of being on the edge between the east and the west.  The Greeks called Italy Hesperia or “land of the setting sun” and referred to Spain, still further west, as Hesperia ultima.

Spain is the place from where Columbus changed the understanding of where the world does not end, going from the known world to discover the new world. It is a place where Miguel de Cervantes created a fascinating hero with Don Quixote, the dreamer chasing the windmills. It is a place where you can hear amazing guitar tunes (La Tuna, Segovia, Sarasate, and Albeniz) and see flamenco dancing. While each region in Spain is unique in food, scenery and history, all Spaniards share a love for living life to its fullest with time for siesta and time for workkeeping soul and body well balanced.

highway exit to Ávila

The bus made one stop outside Ávila on the way to Gredos

More amazing, is that the last landing of the heroine’s journeyis not only in Spain but also in Ávila, the city of the famous Teresa of Ávila. While it is a coincidence and not a pre-meditated plan of Ms. HalfEmpty and Mr. HalfFull, it is a potential revelation for the couple, but especially for Ms. Half Empty.

In fact, there is a strong resemblance between our heroine and the famous saint of Spain who was constantly in search of perfection, while at the same time she challenged many of the existing social norms for women in the 16th Century. One of her most famous books, The Way of Perfection, describes her experiences in prayer which ultimately culminates in rapture.

St. Teresa of Ávila painting

1827 painting of St. Teresa of Ávila by François Gérard

The secret as Teresa explained in prayer is that it does not matter as much to think as to love.  Loving in the first place is allowing oneself to be loved. “Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift…”  Hopefully, our heroine will discover this on her quest.  It is not about righteousness in perfection, but about letting go to find oneself.

St. Teresa was a trailblazer, a reformer, a Doctor of the Church, and a very smart woman. She was a fascinating señora like our heroine. She liked adventure at an early age; she even ran away from home at age seven with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. She was beautiful and atypical of women of her time by making the most of her intellect and challenging the men of her time. She had a mind of her own, which she manifested as a mystic, writer, teacher of meditation, and founder of the Carmelites. Her work became classic text in Christian spirituality, mysticism, and Spanish Renaissance literature.

Four Posts

Ms. HalfEmpty at the Four Posts, which overlooks the walled city of Ávila in the background.  This shrine marks the place where St. Teresa’s uncle stopped her from running off with her brother to seek martyrdom in battle with the Moors.

Our heroine’s last landing is truly fitting before crossing the Atlantic Ocean and coming home to hit the road running and engage in a life of love.

Hotel Izán Puerta de Gredos

Our four-star accommodation during VaughanTown — Hotel Izán Puerta de Gredos.  Our room was on the top floor with one of those windows peeking out of the roof.

Woah, no pressure Mom!  Those are some big expectations.  But I do still love Mr. HalfFull (even after spending 24 hours a day with him for 10 weeks), so maybe that’s a good start on the life of love.

At the end of our bus journey, we reached Hotel Izán Puerta de Gredos, which sits on 15 acres of land in view of the Gredos mountain range.  The location was beautiful and secluded — a 30-minute walk from town.  This would be our home for the next 5 days, during which we would spend 16 hours a day speaking English to Spaniards.

  • Who is your namesake?
  • Have you found a life of love?
  • Have you ever participated in a program like VaughanTown?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Worst Flight Ever

Thankfully for our livers, all things must come to an end.  After a weekend of partying in Germany, it was time to depart for Spain — the 8th and final country on our 30/40 World Tour.

Everyone has heard of “German efficiency,” but there was none to be found in the airport security line.  The line wasn’t very long, but was so slow!  They were basically taking apart each person’s carry-on bag despite having a perfectly serviceable x-ray machine.  They even examined my empty water bottle and told me I was not allowed to take more than 3 ounces of liquid.  My water bottle was clear plastic and attached on the outside of my bag.  This extra scrutiny seemed ridiculous.  But I assured them that my visibly empty bottle was indeed empty by shaking it for them.

Our flight to Spain was not direct.  It was also one of the only flights we did not book through STA, since they didn’t have any deals.  We couldn’t find any reasonably priced direct flights from Munich to Barcelona, so we used a discount carrier with a one hour layover in Düsseldorf.

Of course, nothing could be that easy.  Remember how we always say you get what you pay for?  This was another case in point.

The flight from Düsseldorf to Barcelona was delayed.  We had done a great job of booking direct flights with week-long layovers in exotic locales.  Our only true airport layover of the 30/40 World Tour was at LAX, but even then we planned a beach outing in Santa Monica.  This time, all we were able to do was hang out in a terminal filled to capacity with people from various delayed flights.  There weren’t any seats; even the nuns were sitting on the floor.  So we headed to the bar to wait.

Once it was finally our boarding time, they packed us into busses en route to the plane.  Finally, we had made it to the plane.  Thank goodness!

Not so fast.  Our journey was not yet over.  It was not yet time to relax.  This flight involved screaming children from all directions.

AirBerlin plane

After escaping the worst flight ever and arriving in Spain, we paused in the terminal to capture photographic evidence of our tormentor

The irony is that we had been on plenty of other flights with children.  Long flights.  Hours and hours of being constricted to a little seat.  But this tiny little 2 hour flight was horrible.

Perhaps I have a special intolerance as a person without children, but it really didn’t seem like the parents were doing anything.  The little girl in front of us was traveling with her German mother and Spanish father.  She was perpetually backward in her seat so that she could stare at us during the flight.  She got increasingly bold and started sticking her arm through the gap between the seats.

This was a nuisance, but not a major problem…until her arm swatted my drink.  Of course, it spilled all over my legs.  So I got to spend the rest of the day with sticky legs and socks.  Just lovely.

To understand just how much I disdain messes and sticky things, I will take you back to kindergarten.  I hated using glue because it could get on my fingers.  Other kids would smear glue all over their hands and wait for it to dry.  I found this appalling.

Back to the flight.  In the US, they would never serve food on a 2 hours flight.  But this was Europe.  They gave us some sort of boxed meal, but all the “fresh” food was inedible.  I think the sandwich was just mayo — gobs and gobs of mayo.  Perhaps there was something else in the sandwich, but it was hidden by the mayo.

We eventually arrived in Barcelona where we had to hurry up and wait for the train.  Despite visiting Dubai, it seemed excruciatingly hot in the train terminal with little air flow.  I expected it to be cooler in the evening as the sun descended.  Perhaps I was just being my half empty self with additional annoyance and stickiness.

We ended up in a train car with a group of boys on vacation.  With a liquor bottle.  They ended up making quick friends with the two girls nearby, and the liquor went back and forth across the train.  Hilarious people watching!

Barcelo Sants elevator lobby

Can you spot Ms. HalfEmpty? She's sitting in the spacey egg chair in the Barcelo Sants hotel elevator lobby.

After an afternoon of travel that seemed like days, we checked into our hotel — conveniently located above the train station.  This hotel had a space theme.  All the hallways were dark until you walked by the sensor and then a group of vertical lights from floor to ceiling adjacent to each door would illuminate.  It was a neat effect and probably saved a good bit of electricity too.

Barcelo Sants room

Outer space portal above our glowing hotel room bed

Our room was elegantly modern with space touches including a captain’s swivel chair.  There were also round portals in the room with pictures of the moon.  Oddly, one of them was above the toilet.

Barcelona taxis

During our 4 days in Barcelona, I spent a lot of time watching the parade of taxis from my hotel room window while waiting for Mr. HalfFull to coif himself. He takes longer than me! It was great people watching to see the drivers smoke and chat. It was like I was spying from space!

We even had multiple sizes of pillows with varying degrees of firmness.  Plus, there was an amazing ergonomic backrest for sitting up in bed, and a perfect bed tray. Our room was so awesome and relaxing that we didn’t leave until 1 PM the next day in search of food.

Maybe the flight wasn’t actually that bad.  I mean it wasn’t great, but it could have been much worse.  Perhaps we had just been spoiled by awesome airlines with hot towels, edible food, and the gift of silence.

  • How do you select flights?  Price?  Schedule?  Number of stops?
  • Describe your worst flight.
  • Does a dislike of glue as a kindergartener make me an old soul?
  • Is it a sin to spend the whole morning of your first day in a new country asleep?  Or is sleep important to help you enjoy it?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Bus, 3 Days, 1000 Kilometers

Oz Experience Bus

Squatter walking back to the Oz Experience bus, which acquired quite a bit of dirt along the journey

Australia is a big country.  We knew we couldn’t see it all on our schedule, so we chose a small part.  We flew into Sydney, and knew we were flying out of Melbourne.  So Mr. HalfFull decided that it would be fun to see the part in between from the ground, and booked us on an Oz Experience bus tour.

Squatter

Squatter breaking for lunch after our hike to the summit on the final day

Our driver was an ex-military officer named Squatter.  Even though he currently owns his own house, I think he got the name from squatting at his mom’s house too long.  Anyway, he was a great storyteller and made the ride a lot of fun.

We arrived early at the meeting point in Sydney.  Everyone was just hanging around outside the bus, so we decided to get coffee.  It turned out to be a fairly complicated street to cross with inconvenient crosswalks and fast traffic.  By the time we got back, everyone had selected their seats on the bus.  One side had double seats and the other side had single seats.  Of course, most of the singles had reserved double seats for themselves in the front of the bus.  Mr. HalfFull and I wanted to sit together, so we were relegated to a double all the way in the back.  This was not a good start!

Australian Capital Territory road sign

Our whole bus group posing for a photo on the side of the highway

One of the first stops was on the side of the highway.  I was quite confused.  Was the bus broken?  Did someone need to pee?  No, Squatter thought it was a good photo-op with the Australian Captial Territory sign.  He gathered all our cameras as we huddled and shivered behind the sign.

Oz Experience bus on highway

Walking back down the hill to the bus on the side of the highway

Then he commenced talking about Australian war history. I suppose this was interesting to him because of his military background, but I was beginning to wonder if he ever talked about anything else.

As we slowed down in the capital city of Canberra, the bus repeatedly stalled at low speeds in traffic circles.  I was not impressed.  Already I was in the last seat listening to war stories… and now the bus didn’t even work properly!

War Memorial

Red flowers next to the names of the fallen at the War Memorial in Canberra

I soon learned why Squatter was telling us so much about wars.  Our first stop in Canberra was the Australian War Memorial, which is also a museum inside.  Mr. HalfFull enjoyed the exhibits, but I’m not a huge fan of museums.  So a museum about war wasn’t my cup of joe, but I could appreciate that it was a beautiful memorial building.

Canberra

View of a Canberra promenade from the War Memorial

Canberra was a strange city.  Apparently the citizens in Sydney and Melbourne couldn’t agree on which city would be the capital, so they created Canberra as the capital in between.  Canberra is a planned city (actually designed by Americans).  Rather than the usual grid of streets, Canberra follows a wheel and spoke model, so all the main promenades flow into the center of town.  These wide streets are huge and seemed strangely empty.  But Squatter said they were designed for the influx of millions of people for celebrations.  The normal population is much smaller; plus many of the ministers of Parliament don’t even live there full time.

Old Parliament

Old Parliament House with Aboriginal Embassy on the lawn including the word "SOVEREIGNTY"

Our next destination was the Old Parliament House.  When Parliament was in session here, the Aboriginals set up a tent city on the lawn across the street to demand their own embassy.  The tent city has become their embassy, but must be manned to remain so.  Squatter warned us not to take photos of them because it might start a fight.  I didn’t actually see any people at the camp and we took our photos from across the lawn, so I guess that’s okay.  It reminds me a bit of the Occupy DC camps that were recently dismantled.  However, the Aboriginal Embassy had a lot more green space and fewer tents (and no expensive name-brand camping gear; it was pretty decrepit).

Australian Parliament

Ms. HalfEmpty sips coffee in front of Parliament House in Canberra

Queen at Parliament House

British lad on our tour kissing the statue of the queen at Parliament House

After seeing the Old Parliament, we were off to the current Parliament building.  Squatter gave us a tour of the inside and made sure to add a lurid detail about each political figure as we passed his/her portrait.  The design for the building was selected through a worldwide architecture contest.  While the final result is impressive, it’s not terribly practical.  The flag that flies 81 meters high gets so tattered in the wind that it must be replaced every 2 or 3 weeks at great expense.  On our tour, Squatter dared the 18-year-old lad from the UK to cross the ropes and kiss the statue of the queen.  As he knew (and Michelle Obama learned), you can’t touch the queen!  Shortly thereafter, our group was reprimanded by a security guard.

Australia

View from the bus

The rest of our day was spent driving to our overnight accommodation.  After the decrepit nature of the bus, I was rather worried about where we would be staying.  But as we pulled up, I saw the word “hotel” and was relieved it wasn’t a hostel.  I already knew that we paid extra to have a private room, rather than be in a dorm-style hostel.  But if they had both types of accommodations at the same location, I figured I would be roughing it a bit.

Snowy River

At least the hotel had a nice view of Snowy River

I was right.  This was unlike any “hotel” I’ve ever encountered. We did have a private room, but it was so tiny.  It was basically just big enough for the bed and to swing the door open.  At the foot of the bed was a bookcase.  When I say at the foot of the bed, I mean touching the mattress so that the lower shelves were inaccessible.  This also made the far side of the bed inaccessible without crawling over your companion.  There was a small TV on top of the tall bookcase — far too high to watch.  It was plugged into the cable outlet, but not electricity.  So I brought it down and looked for an outlet.  There was only one, but the cord didn’t reach that far.  I had no idea why they had this TV in the room since it was unusable in the current setup.  We also shared a bathroom with the other room in our block.  Unfortunately for us, it was a dorm style room with 10 people!  The bathroom was a single toilet, single sink, and single shower all behind a single door — such a poor design for so many people.  Our dinner and breakfast were included in the “hotel” dining room mess hall.  Dinner wasn’t so bad, but breakfast was terrible.  They served military style powder eggs.  I was glad when our night was over!

Remember how I told you that the bus was stalling at low speeds in Canberra?  It continued to do this all day.  There was another Oz Experience busload staying at the same “hotel.”  That group was doing the reverse of our trip and would end up in Sydney, the location of the fleet’s mechanic.  So we switched buses with them and were on our way.  I wonder how they fared with the stalling bus.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it would become very important for us to have an operable bus for the terrain we would encounter the next day.

Toboggan Hike

Mr. HalfFull with his toboggan in search of a sledding hill

The “hotel” was mostly inhabited by skiers and boarders since it was at the base of a mountain.  We drove up to the ski area, but only had an hour, so it wasn’t enough time to actually ski — super disappointing!  Instead, we rented toboggans and practiced our most daring sledding moves.

Sledding

Looks like Mr. HalfFull found some snow. Did he leave any for the other kids???

We were a little out of control standing on the toboggans.  But it’s not our fault they don’t steer well!  There were only a few close calls with small children, but we didn’t take any out.  Although, we did see some of them take their friends out.  The real problem was that no one was telling the children not to walk up the middle of the hill where the sledders should be.  We tried to set a good example by walking up the sides, but the children never followed us.

Weighing Options

Mr. HalfFull weighs his options (with two rocks) in the wilderness. Don't fall in!

Back on the bus, our next adventure led us to remote mountainous roads that require a special driver’s license.  These are narrow dirt roads with curves and cliffs — no guard rails.  It was rather exciting at times.  (My mom would have been screaming.)

Squatter & Friends

A koala and other furry friends help Squatter drive the bus through harsh terrain

We stopped periodically to admire the landscape and take photos.  After one such stop, we all piled back on the bus.  But the bus wouldn’t go.

Apparently, there is a safety feature that if the door is ajar, you can’t accelerate.  So Squatter asked the person near the door to shut it.  This shutting process went on for minutes.  There were gentle closes and hard slams, but nothing seemed to allow the bus to accelerate.  Squatter was able to override this safety feature by using the hand brake.  But he knew he couldn’t drive like that for hours on these roads.

Tinkle Tour

Mr. HalfFull goes in search of a tree to tinkle behind

This location was so remote that there is no cell phone service.  So in addition to requiring a special driver’s license, you are also required to carry a satellite phone.  Squatter set up the satellite phone and called the mechanic, who conveniently never answered.  Fortunately, a Mexican girl in her early 20s had similar problems with her old car back home.  She suggested that we remove the fuse to disable the door safety feature.  It worked!

After getting back on the road, the microphone started acting up.  Squatter spent much of the trip telling us great stories about what we were seeing, and also about his experiences working with Aboriginal kids.  So the microphone was essential.

Fixing the Microphone

Squatter breaks out the toolbox to fix the microphone

The microphone was also essential for another reason — making sure all parties were on the bus.  Squatter told us a story about a previous trip where  a guy went into the woods to “hide an Easter egg.”  This trip included two buses with every seat filled, but no one bothered to do an actual count of passengers when they departed that particular stop.  The guy in the woods had been sitting in the back of the bus (I feel his pain) and no one alerted the driver that he was missing.  Apparently, this guy heard the bus engines start, which made him start running with his pants around his ankles and “Easter egg” all over.  He did not catch the bus, and the drivers didn’t realize he was gone until much later.

So on our trip, we would check in on the teams from each country.  Squatter, would ask for Team Germany and the two German girls would respond.  Team Mexico consisted of one girl.  Team Canada sat directly in front of us on the bus and consisted of a 30-something woman, her boyfriend, and her parents.  Team America was me and Mr. HalfFull.  When Squatter would call out, “Team America?” the Canadians thought it was hilarious to scream, “F*@# yeah!” in response.

For a while, Mr. HalfFull abandoned me to go sit up front and hold the microphone wire for Squatter so it wouldn’t be jostled on the rough roads.  Eventually that workaround was no longer effective and Squatter broke out the toolbox, and I got my husband back as a travel companion and seat pillow.

Remember that I told you about my applicator-less tampon experience?  It happened on this day of the journey out there in the middle of nowhere.  But at least there was a port-a-potty with toilet paper, and I didn’t have to use a tree for cover like Mr. HalfFull.

Dirty Bus

Ms. HalfEmpty is incredulous reading the message on the back window of the bus: "I wish my girlfriend was this dirty!!"

It was a dusty, bumpy journey and the bus certainly looked like it.  Remember the British bloke from above who kissed the queen?  He also decided to leave a note in the back window of our bus.  (See photo at left.)

Kangaroo & Joey

A kangaroo with a joey in her pouch

The next day was the final leg of the bus tour and included my favorite part — kangaroos!  I had seen kangaroos twice on the trip so far, but those were only in passing as we drove by.  This time we were in a field of kangaroos.  We were so close; some people in our group even touched the tail of a kangaroo.  It was amazing to watch them spring into the air in person.

Emu

The emu posed for a photo

We also saw an emu in the same field.  It was impressively large, but at least it wasn’t so close that it towered over us.  It fled pretty quickly and I never saw another one, unlike the swarms of kangaroos that allowed us to close in.

Our final adventure of the bus trip was a hike in Wilsons Promontory.  At the summit, we had a picnic lunch on the rocks and enjoyed the view.  From our vantage point, we could see two oceans!

Australian Poop

Can you guess which is emu poop and which is kangaroo dung?

I complain a lot about conditions like the bus and the accommodations.  I’m just not that rugged, and I do enjoy my creature comforts.  But I know we couldn’t have done all of that on our own.  The number of hours behind the wheel was insane; I don’t know how Squatter does it.  But that also meant that we had to wake up early, so he could cover lots of territory.

Kangaroo & Emu Crossing

Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull pose with the quintessential Australian roadsign

Three days was certainly enough for me, but there are people who take a series of these trips all the way across Australia and back.  In fact, the British lad did a 31 day tour across the United States!  I know that’s not my half empty cup of coffee, but we did have some great experiences and meet interesting people during our Oz Experience.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Where do you prefer to sit on the bus?
  • Do you ever stop on the side of the highway to take photos?
  • Do you enjoy war history?
  • Are you a fan of museums?
  • What do you think of the Aboriginal Embassy?  Does it remind you of Occupy DC?
  • Do you enjoy sledding as an adult?
  • Have you had vehicle issues while traveling?
  • What wildlife did you see while traveling?

Related:  All posts in the 30/40 World Tour series

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Period.

Period.  Full stop.  The end.

NZ waterfall

The lovely Whangarei Falls in New Zealand are not the flow I'm talking about

Nope, not that period.  I’m talking about that enjoyable time in the heroine’s journey, whether she is home or traveling abroad.  You know, the one that comes monthly — or 3 times in 10 weeks if you’re super lucky (or perhaps half empty).

If you read my packing list, you know that we had small bags — certainly not enough to last for 10 weeks.  The plan was to do laundry frequently and replenish toiletries along the way.  This included feminine products.

Our quest for feminine products ensued late one night after driving all day through New Zealand.  We were starving in the wintery darkness, but I wanted to make sure we found a store before closing time.  Thankfully, the first shopping center we stumbled upon contained a huge store called The Warehouse, akin to Target in America.  We found the appropriate aisle with a wide array of products.  Most of the brands were unfamiliar, but I wasn’t too worried because they all seemed similar to the products that Mr. HalfFull buys for me at home.

However, I did find it odd that the tampon packages were so small.  I checked the count on several boxes of various brands, which all seemed to be about the same.  I was slightly suspicious, but at this point I was too tired to care and figured it was a first world country with similar products; everything would be fine.

I didn’t end up opening those Kiwi tampons until Australia, nearly a month later.  Yes, they were indeed different; these did not include an applicator.  What?!?  I’ve NEVER seen a tampon without an applicator.  I’ve seen cardboard applicators and plastic applicators and even ones that collapse into smaller packages, but never NO applicator.  Hmm…this seemed a bit tricky.

bus safari

Ms. HalfEmpty midair in a remote, restroom-free area of Mount Kosciuszko in Australia

We haven’t told you much about our adventures in Australia, but it included a bus safari through the mountains between Sydney and Melbourne.  What’s along the twisty, winding mountain roads from Sydney to Melbourne?  Exactly, my point — not a lot of towns.  For much of the safari, we were bouncing along dirt roads on mountain cliffs that require a special driver’s license.  In other words, we were in middle of nowhere.

You might be asking, “What kind of bathrooms do they have in the middle of nowhere?”  Answer:  the porta-potty sort, with no running water.  So no running water and no applicator?  Way to think this safari thing through Mr. HallFull!  The same man who convinced me to walk out of an international airport had now stranded me in the rugged wilderness along the banks of the Snowy River during my visit from Aunt Flo.

At least I had the foresight to save hand wipes from airplanes and brought along antibacterial gel from home.  But yes, it was gross and uncomfortable, especially with one porta-potty and a busload of people waiting for me to figure out how to use an applicator-less tampon.

maxi liner

Fun facts on the maxi liner!

Although I didn’t run out of my American tampons until Australia, I needed the new maxis in New Zealand.  These too were different than the ones I’ve seen in the US.  But this time, the difference was fun!  The throw-away sticker liner included trivia; Mr. HalfFull and I learned all sorts of silly facts.  For example, did you know that in Pacific Grove, California, it is a misdemeanor to kill a butterfly?

So I guess my experience with feminine products in the South Pacific was half empty and half full.

  • Does your husband/boyfriend buy your feminine products?
  • Have you ever seen a tampon without an applicator?  Is this typical in foreign countries?
  • Do you think the lack of applicator is for environmental reasons?
  • Do you travel with hand wipes and antibacterial gel?
  • What products (or lack of products) have complicated life while traveling?
  • What products have made you chuckle?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stumbling Out of the Gate

We landed at Fiji’s Nadi (pronounced “nahn-dee”) International Airport before sunrise. Mr. HalfFull booked the first week of our trip in the South Pacific, so I expected him to know every detail, or at least the next step that would get his booty from Air Pacific’s airplane to the beach hammock he’d been raving about during his last week at work. He was fairly certain that we could walk to the marina from the airport, but he grabbed a map at a rental car counter just to be sure.

I waited outside for Mr. HalfFull, who reported that the woman at the rental car desk said it was a half hour to the marina. I asked if he was sure she understood that we were walking and not driving, since she worked for a rental car company. He was convinced that she understood.

Mr. HalfFull also asked her if it was safe to walk along the main road. He meant safe for pedestrians, with a sidewalk or at least distance from traffic. Interestingly, she assured him it was safe due to the abundance of military personnel in town. Hmm…

Nadi Landscape

View of the Nadi landscape as we walked away from the airport

We exited the airport on foot and saw a couple of the armed military men she mentioned. It felt great to walk after being on an airplane for so long, and Fiji’s lush mountainous landscape was gorgeous in the morning sun. We found ourselves in Nadi’s rush hour, with lots of decrepit vehicles and many pedestrians including children in school uniforms.  Smiling people greeted us on the sidewalk with a cheerful “bula!”

After we passed our first traffic circle, a Fijian man started walking with us. We definitely stood out as pasty white people walking along the busy street lugging our backpacks. He asked us where we were going, telling us he was on his way to work as a local pilot who flew between Fijian islands. We told him a bit about our trip, and he replied that it was nice to see a father and daughter traveling together. Hello!?! I quickly responded that we were married and showed him my ring, and we soon parted ways.  Mr. HalfFull must have been looking pretty haggard after 27 hours of flights and layovers!

We continued our walk and were soon joined by another Fijian man. This guy was much older with a full graying beard and gruff demeanor. I thought he wanted to pass us on the sidewalk, but he started walking in step with us and asked where we were going.  I was a bit scared at this point because the new guy did not appear to be as friendly as the pilot.  But we told him we were headed to Denarau Marina, which he said was a long way. We replied that it was okay because we needed a good walk after flying, and the woman at the airport said it was thirty minute walk. “Bullshit!” he exclaimed. According to him, it was a two hour walk from the airport. I knew she meant driving time, Mr. HalfFull!

We further explain our destination to John, the gruff man on the street, and he informed us that our boat doesn’t even leave from Denarau Marina! What? How could Mr. HalfFull be so utterly wrong? He claims that we need to drive an hour south to Likuri Harbor. (We later learn that our second accommodation was scheduled to leave from Denarau Marina, and Mr. HalfFull mistakenly thought that both left from the same harbor. This poses an even bigger issue because now we are not sure we will be able to catch our second early morning boat four days later, since we will be an hour away.)

John guides us to a taxi in front of a nearby hotel and instructs him to drive us to a hotel with bus transfers to Likuri Harbor. We are very uneasy at this point. Where are we going? Why did John help us? Did he have our interests in mind, or was he in cahoots with the taxi driver? How could we have gotten into this mess? What is it going to cost?

The taxi driver was very engaging and wanted to tell us all about Fiji and the sites we passed. He even played a burned Bob Marley Legend CD in the car, which he offered to us for FJ$2.  Needless to say, we didn’t invest in dead pirated technology.

He said he could drive us directly to the harbor instead of the hotel. At that point, we had no idea what we were supposed to do, so we went all in and agreed to let him drive us directly to the jetty.

Hindu Temple

Largest Hindu temple in the Southern hemisphere

Along the drive, he stopped at a Hindu temple so we could take a photo. I did not get out of the car for fear that he would drive off with our luggage. He stopped again at his friend’s souvenir store so he could get coffee and we could spend money. This was rather awkward since we were at the start of our journey and traveling light, not wanting to carry extraneous items. He asked if I wanted coffee, so of course I said yes. After some commotion, the shop owner presented us with a glass of Coke, saying his coffee machine was broken, but this was just like coffee. Ha!

Finally, we arrived at a clearing next to a wooded river in the middle of nowhere. There was no town, no houses, no boats — just a small, rickety, wooden dock with an old shack nearby. There wasn’t even a sign to inform us that we were in the correct location. Suffice it to say, I was nervous and not happy with Mr. HalfFull.

Fisherwomen

A haggard Mr. HalfFull with Fijian fisherwomen

There were a few sturdy Fijian ladies at the dock and we asked them if they were going to Likuri Island, but they were going fishing. They explained that the powdery black substance on their faces was natural sunscreen. I guess a mud mask can be sunscreen, but it looked reminiscent of blackface and made me uncomfortable until they explained the purpose.  We bid the ladies farewell as they boarded their canoe and paddled away; we were left alone at the dock.

Fisherwomen Float Away

Fisherwomen floating down the river

We still had no confirmation that we were in the correct location or if a boat was ever coming. Thankfully about fifteen minutes later, a van showed up with another passenger heading to Likuri Island. We had been in Fiji two hours and this was the first independent confirmation that we were in the right place!

Ms. HalfEmpty meets Ms. Holland

Ms. HalfEmpty & Ms. Holland watch the boat arrive

The girl who arrived (dubbed Ms. Holland), was traveling the world alone after graduating from university. We were relieved to find her and became good friends on the island over the next few days. She was almost done with her five month trip, which included some of the same places we planned to visit, but in the opposite direction around the world. So we were able to glean a few tips and insights from her experience. We chatted for a long while before the boat arrived.

After another half hour, a car pulled in with an older Australian couple driving and a Fijian guy with a Robinson Crusoe Island t-shirt in the backseat. After a few hours lost in the fog of travel, things were finally starting to look promising! About fifteen minutes later, two boats pulled up to the wooden dock, and we grabbed our luggage in preparation to board. But the Aussies informed us that we were waiting for two more buses full of people. Apparently, there was a schedule, we just had none of the details, which drives me crazy. It’s not like I’m a control freak; I’m just a realist. After all, I had allowed Mr. HalfFull to plan this segment of the trip. (Note to self: always check fine print after he books anything!)

Eventually, we boarded the second boat and arrived on the island to singing and guitars. Of course, I did not arrive in a state of relaxation. That sneaked up on me the next day, when Mr. HalfFull was relieved of his travel implementation duties. More details of our (mis)adventures in Fiji and the start of our trip to New Zealand will be published on September 12th as a guest post on theprofessionalhobo.com.

  • Have you experienced travel (mis)adventures?
  • Have you ever departed an international airport on foot?
  • How detailed are you when planning a trip? Is winging it part of the fun?
  • Are you fearful of strangers in foreign countries?
  • How long does it take you to relax on vacation?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Fiji Time

Air Pacific

Our Air Pacific flight landed early in the morning in Nadi, Fiji

Bula everybody!” I probably should apologize for not posting since leaving the United States, but actually I’m on time. Let me explain. Within an hour after setting foot on the main island of Viti Levu, we were quickly indoctrinated to Fiji time. As we learned repeatedly, there is “your time” and “Fiji time.” When the 9:30 AM boat to Likuri Island motors up to the rickety wooden jetty at 10:45 AM, it’s on time in Fiji time. When we were told to be ready for snorkeling in 2 minutes, about an hour later we’d board the dingy headed to the reef.  Thus, we would often clarify if a stated time was our time or Fiji time. This blog post is right on schedule, considering I’m on Fiji time!

Island Lodge 4

Our lodge -- perhaps the most opulent hut on Likuri Island

We roughed it a bit more than I expected at the beginning of our 30/40 World Tour. Mr. HalfFull offered to book our Fiji accommodations, which seemed awesome until I realized that he considers me to be Ms. HalfRugged. This week taught me that I’m a little more resilient than anticipated, but perhaps only a quarter rugged.  In fact, my new found rugged side felt like we were totally wimping out by checking into a posh hotel for our last night in Fiji.

Sofitel

Our chic bathroom at Sofitel

This guilt quickly subsided as I enjoyed my first hot shower since leaving the safe confines of Northern Virginia. It felt so luxurious! Mr. HalfFull was even able to do our laundry (not in the shower). Plus, we experienced feeling cold again in air conditioning, which will hopefully help us transition to the winter temperatures in New Zealand.  (We’ll have to remind ourselves of the heat and mosquitoes while shivering next week!)  And of course, my favorite treat was freshly brewed coffee! I’ve been making do with instant coffee since arriving in Fiji, so I really savored the perfectly prepared cappuccino after dinner. It was glorious!

Bush Walk

Local Fijian took us on a bush walk to search for coconuts

Our travel misadventures began shortly after leaving the airport in Nadi, Fiji, but I’ll have to fill you in after we get settled into Auckland, New Zealand.  Suffice it to say, the overarching theme of our week has been the friendliness and generosity of the locals – pedestrians in Nadi, Hindi taxi drivers, fisher-women at the dock, tribal villagers, pretty much everyone. The landscape is certainly breathtaking, but the Bula spirit truly sets Fiji apart. We have been welcomed into the family with huge smiles (some with more teeth than others). The Fijians have certainly set the hospitality bar high for the rest of our quest. For now, here’s a small batch of my favorite photos, each of which has a story from our first week in Fiji.

View from Likuri Island

View from Likuri Island; these awesome sitting hammocks are made in Fiji

Bonfire on Likuri Island

Bonfire lit singers to welcome boat of dinner guests

Warrior Paint

Mr. HalfFull was invited to go native with warrior paint

Dance show

Evening show included dancing, machete twirling, and even fire dancing (in an amphitheater made of highly flammable dried coconut leaves)

Ms. HalfEmpty eats breakfast

Ms. HalfEmpty eats cereal by headlamp because electricity is off until 7 AM, but we had to catch the 6:30 AM staff boat (with the island's trash bags)

Sunset on Drawaqa Island

View from Sunset Beach on Drawaqa Island (it's not just a clever name)

Mr. HalfFull atop Drawaqa Island

Mr. HalfFull (sans warrior paint) practices machete dancing atop Drawaqa Island

View of sailboat from village

View of our 108 ft. sailboat from the tribal village island we visited for a kava ceremony and dancing

Native Fijian village

Native Fijian village in Yasawa Islands

Vinaka vakalevu!
(Thank you very much!)
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Cultural Immersion Training!

Mr. HalfFull is back in grad school getting his second Master’s degree.  Since he is a student again, we are eligible for great student pricing on flights from STA Travel.  Perusing the brochures, it’s obvious their packages are geared toward the younger party crowd.  Not wanting to be caught unprepared, we decided cultural immersion training was in order.

Old School Movie Poster

I don't recall seeing this cultural documentary at Sundance

As luck would have it, one of my little brother’s best friends from high school is an officer in a fraternity at Mr. HalfFull’s university.  This young man has persistently invited my 40-year-old husband to pledge all year.  Obviously he’s seen Old School too many times, and wanted a Blue of his own.  Serendipitously, we were invited to the fraternity’s last party of the school year, at a time when we needed cultural immersion.  Things were falling into place!

Whilst dressing for this workout-themed soirée, I saw Mr. HalfFull donning his beloved Super Chargers headband, and began to have serious reservations.  But like usual, I allowed Mr. HalfFull’s enthusiasm and convoluted logic regarding the cultural value of this event to overcome me (much like our wedding, but that’s a story for another day).  Somehow, I don’t recall this part of the heroine’s journey.

Shockingly, after 20 years on the party circuit, this was Mr. HalfFull’s first official frat party ever.  Somehow he’d never set foot in a fraternity house and was overly excited to finally experience these foreign people with their strange customs and rituals.

At my alma mater, all the fraternities were grouped together along the same street on campus.  But this frat house was in a suburban single family neighborhood.  Those poor neighbors!

We walked up the cul-de-sac and couldn’t help but notice the house directly across the street from the fraternity.  We found ourselves staring into the eyes of the Virgin Mary (well, a statue of her) in the front yard illuminated by multi-color spotlights.  Naturally, this statue was pointed directly at the frat house.  Mr. HalfFull was excited to experience so much culture before even setting foot in the fraternity!

Six Person Beer Bong

Some sort of ancient fraternal team building exercise

Upon arrival, my brother’s friend introduced us to royalty — the fraternity president — who had a receiving line in kitchen en route to the thumping basement.  Our first cultural activity in the house was a six person beer bong.  I quickly realized Mr. HalfFull would not be the only one experiencing a first that night!  I found myself flanked by three tall African-American gentlemen, at least one of whom Mr. HalfFull thought he recognized from March Madness.  The chugging experience was not particularly to my liking; perhaps further investigation will be necessary in New Zealand or Australia.

Like any good frat house, this one had a game room complete with unfinished basement walls, a shelf full of empty beer and liquor bottles, and two long tables for flip cup and beer pong.  Upon entering this sacred chamber, Mr. HalfFull remarked, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”  I laughed, but the kids seemed confused.  To further class up the establishment, the brothers installed a stripper pole on the dance floor.  Guess which one of us nearly tore his bicep spinning around it with reckless abandon?

The sticky, humid, beer-soaked dance floor displayed a wild assortment of movement patterns.  Alcohol seemed to increase kinesthetic gyrations while decreasing balance, which may account for the women leaning heavily upon their dance partners.  I think the proper dance term is grinding; we witnessed this practice with guy/girl, girl/girl, and even a fair lady sandwiched between two gentlemen (perhaps she had less balance than the others — how noble of them to protect a damsel in distress!).  Mr. HalfFull just kept muttering, “That’s someone’s daughter!”

At one point, Mr. HalfFull left to refresh our libations, while I chatted with my little brother.  Emotionally scarred by his reserved sister intruding on his stomping grounds, he disappeared; so I went in search of Mr. HalfFull.  As I walked across the laser-lit dance floor, a brother asked me to dance.  I’m most familiar with the social dance etiquette of swing dancing where you rarely refuse a first dance with any guy.  You might not find him appealing, but it’s a friendly culture, and a dance is not so difficult to endure for a few minutes.  Plus, he could even turn out to be a good dancer.

Thus, I don’t really have much practice declining offers to dance.  But after witnessing the proximate dance technique around me, I knew I couldn’t say yes!  So I defensively pointed to my wedding ring and blurted, “I’m married.”  The look on this kid’s face was priceless.  Scared and confused, his eyes were screaming, “Who let the old people in?”  I was thinking, “Where’s my boy Blue?”

Up until this point, Mr. HalfFull was in favor of leaving our wedding rings at home this summer to reduce risk of loss.  However, this cultural immersion seems to have changed his mind about the utility of rings.  Lesson learned:  wedding rings are frat boy kryptonite!

Mr. HalfFull believes that nothing good can come from men dancing over the age of 25, with the exception of your wedding night.  But in the heat of all this cultural excitement, I found him grooving to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.  Not wanting to be left out of the fun, I joined him and practiced our newly acquired dance techniques.  Together, we belted, “You and I / We’ll be young forever.”  I guess anyone can feel young at a frat party!

IHOP at Night

International House of Pancakes is hallowed ground

Looking back, I learned that attitude can make all the difference when approaching novel situations.  Perhaps I need to keep this in mind as we travel the world.  But I’m still Ms. HalfEmpty, because someone has to contain Mr. HalfFull!  (After all, Blue dies in a pool of K-Y.)

To top off our night with the full cultural experience, Mr. HalfFull and I headed to IHOP.  It is international, after all.  We needed to debrief, and perhaps Harvest Grain ‘N Nut pancakes would further prepare us for the culinary adventures that lie ahead.  (Anthony Bourdain would not approve.)  We noticed that the hostess segregated patrons into three sections of the house.  For some strange reason, we were seated in what appeared to be the trouble maker section with all the boisterous kids.  Perhaps it was the headband.

Are we now prepared to party during our 30/40 World Tour?  I don’t know, but at least we got some practice under our belts.  Thankfully, the universe thinks I’m ready, and sent me next-day confirmation via fortune cookie:

Fortune Cookie

Half full fortune for Ms. HalfEmpty

The night life is for you.

  • How old is too old to attend a frat party?
  • Have you ever partaken in a beer bong ritual?
  • Would you travel around the world with your wedding ring?
  • Can anything good come from men dancing over age 25?
  • Which part of IHOP is international?
  • Do you believe in fortune cookies?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Heroine’s Journey?

Stereotypical around-the-world trips seem to be undertaken by youthful backpackers eager to explore (and apparently party across) the world — those who just graduated from high school, those on college break, or recent college grads.  I certainly don’t fit this mold; I’m older, married, have career experience, mortgages, and car payments.  And most importantly, I’m at a crossroads.

The old model of “maid, matron, crone” for women’s lives was based on a much shorter average life-span.  Modern technology, over the past 150 years, has literally doubled the life expectancy of women in industrial societies (from 40 to 45 years to 80 to 90 years).  With lower birth rates, “matron” takes less of a bite than ever out of the prime years, and the debilitation of old age is pushed off for decades.  This gives instead a life structure of “maid, matron, 20-or-30-year-blank, crone.”  There are no historical social models for that second-maturity period.  It’s something our time is having to invent.

I am most definitely in that “20-or-30-year-blank” period, attempting my second maturity.  Hopefully, my 30/40 World Tour: Quest for Passion will help me usher in this next phase of life.

The Power of Myth book cover

Today Mr. HalfFull sees this defining book from his college years in a new light

I’m not a fan of ancient mythology, fantasy, or science fiction genres, but Mr. HalfFull recently suggested to me that perhaps our trip really is a quest.  Of course, we dubbed the trip a Quest for Passion, but it’s somewhat in jest and mostly because it sounds awesome! =)  Yet Mr. HalfFull now contends that I may be on “The Hero’s Journey,” which he learned about in the early 90’s (when I was a 10-year-old…haha) watching “The Power of Myth” hosted by Bill Moyers on PBS.

I begrudgingly watched that old interview with Joseph Campbell, and was pleasantly surprised to find that much of it resonates with me today as I ponder my upcoming trip.  Campbell asserts that there are two kinds of hero journeys — heroic acts and spiritual journeys.  Obviously, mine would be a spiritual journey, which is described as a death and resurrection, like the transition from childhood to adulthood.  This type of journey involves a going and a return, which is exactly my plan.  Campbell also discusses how spiritual journeys must be taken intentionally, rather than being conscripted.  The only thing certain in my mind is that I’m ready and willing to go.  As Mr. HalfFull would say, “Let’s light this candle!”

Chart outlining The Hero's Journey

Chart outlining The Hero's Journey

The basic outline of the hero’s journey comprises three major stages:  a departure (before the quest), initiation (adventures along the way), and return (with new knowledge from the journey).  The first stage in the departure is a “call to adventure.”  Mr. HalfFull and I have been thinking about our round-the-world trip for years.  Well, he came up with the initial vision, and I’ve been thinking (and stressing) about it for years!  My ISTJ nature persisted in channeling his ENFP energy, so together we could sort out the minutiae that renders a quest of this magnitude possible.  We have truly inspired adventure in one another.

However, I had my doubts about this whole heroine’s journey when I saw the next step of departure, titled “refusal of the call.”  Hmm.  Well, we have talked about the trip for years, but did we go?  No.  We considered going after our wedding in 2009.  We considered going last summer in anticipation of our 30th and 40th birthdays.  Whoa, twice we refused to heed the call to adventure in the past!  Thankfully, we have now been inspired by “supernatural aid.”  In our case, events in our professional lives conspired to lead us toward travel this summer.  Mr. HalfFull changed careers, becoming a teacher with summers off.  Meanwhile, I’d never felt passionate about my career, and my small company was sold twice, finally being absorbed into one of the largest companies in the world.  I don’t know what I want professionally, but I definitely don’t feel a meaningful connection to this revenue-fueled behemoth.  So here we are, ready to cross the mythical threshold in five weeks.

feet on the beach

Belly of the Whale? Nope, just Ms. HalfEmpty's feet.

The final step in the departure phase is the “belly of the whale,” which represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.  Campbell explains that within the context of the belly of the whale, water represents the unconscious.  Much of my trip revolves around water since most of my destinations are island nations.  So as I lay on the beach looking out at the water, I’ll have to try to figure out what my unconscious is telling me.

The second major state of a hero’s journey is initiation, which involves trials.  This scares me a bit, but I do realize that you can’t grow if you don’t challenge and test yourself.  Campbell thinks of these trials as losing yourself and giving of yourself in order to transform your consciousness.  I wonder what revelations await me…

Campbell also believes that the landscape and conditions match the readiness of the adventurer.  So the hero will not get more than he is prepared to handle — not what he thinks he can handle, but what the universe knows he can handle.  So at least I’ve got that going for me!

According to Campbell, as humans we all operate in relation to a system that is governed by our minds.  The key is to operate within our humanity, governed by our heart and spirit.  From a young age, we are conditioned to align with a programmatic life: sitting still in our school desks and raising our hands to speak, while learning to play by society’s rules.  I am particularly susceptible to this, and Mr. HalfFull often jokingly refers to me as a robot, while trying to bring me back to the human side.  [“Robot is a bit cold; she’s more of a cyborg,” says Mr. HalfFull.  Darth Vader would approve!]

Empty Coffee Cup

Nirvana? Maybe I just need a refill!

Apparently, the goal of this whole heroine’s journey is to find a place of rest and repose within myself.  To allow action to come from my center, so as not to create tension.  Campbell explains that ideas like Nirvana are not actual physical places, but rather a psychological state of mind where one is not compelled by desire, fear, or social commitments.  Sounds like a tall order for Ms. HalfEmpty, but definitely a worthy goal. Perhaps this suggests that my quest for passion might culminate within myself as well.  For now this heroine remains content with her current itinerary, searching for Nirvana with Mr. HalfFull along some of the world’s loveliest beaches or perhaps at the bottom of a cup of coffee.

Campbell mostly speaks to the hero’s journey; I’ve read that the stages of the heroine’s journey are similar, but the circumstances are different.  The journey of a female hero

…does not involve swinging a big, phallic sword like a man (or Joan of Arc), nor defying patriarchal oppression. She does not run away from her evil father, pretend to be a man, or move off to an Amazonian commune. Her struggle is to find her own way at a time in her life when all her previous duties and roles are gone, when she doesn’t know who she is anymore, and is in a spiritual crisis.

Wow, that last sentence really resonates with me.  Let’s break down my current existential crisis:

  • Struggling to find a path that works for me (check)
  • At a time when my previous professional role is gone (check)
  • While feeling like I don’t know who I should be (check)
  • Spiritual crisis (well, I’m more of an agnostic, but sure, check)

It has been suggested that the final return phase is also different for heroines.  Crossing the return threshold often involves a meeting with the heroine’s parents.  Coincidentally, my parents will probably be picking us up from the airport when we return in August.

Mr. HalfFull, perhaps I really am a heroine on a journey…

  • Where did you travel as a youthful backpacker?
  • Do you enjoy ancient mythology, fantasy, or science fiction genres?
  • Have you embarked on a hero or heroine’s journey?
  • Is Mr. HalfFull getting me swept up in his flair for the dramatic?
  • Can Nirvana be found at the bottom of a cup of coffee?
  • Is simply traveling enough, or does a framework of meaning add value?
  • Do you tend to follow your mind or your heart/spirit?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,