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Two

I prefer to travel solo. I can stay up as late as I want, sleep in, eat or forget to eat, go here or there and take pictures for hours on end without annoying anyone. Friendly strangers or bartenders usually end my daily solitude, and these random interactions save me from ever feeling lonely.

However, I was never more acutely aware of being single than when I visited Bruges, Belgium. I mean, even the swans were paired up for God’s sake! I should have known – the canals, the romantic boat rides under wispy willows, horse and carriage rides through cobblestone streets that lead to a veritable wonderland of chocolatiers and cozy tea shops. Bruges is meant for couples, and for the first time since I started traveling alone internationally I actually felt… lonely.

I may have gotten over it, but my head wasn’t on straight in April. Here’s what I learned and let this be a lesson for all of you – DO NOT under any circumstances go on a solo vacation when you’re trying to get over someone. DO NOT. If you absolutely must run away, go with a friend. Or, go somewhere without internet or cell phone signal. Climb a mountain or traverse a small strip of the Sahara. Do something that requires so much physical exertion that you don’t have time to notice how everyone in the world is paired up except for you. Otherwise, you may end up doing what I did – texting the person you’re trying to forget because you’re lonely and running up a $350 phone bill. Ouch.

My heart has recovered and other solo adventures await, but I’ve been rethinking the ideal travel situation. If I could have it my way, I’d have a travel companion (someone I know, not some yahoo off a website) who is with me for breakfast and dinner. We’d both, happily, do our own thing during the day and then reconnect in the evening to talk about it over drinks. Does the ideal situation exit? I have no idea. Perhaps I am asking for too much.

What works for you?

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Redefining Happily Ever After

The Sun Already Set

I got married 18 years ago yesterday. Through some odd twist of fate in the Skagit County Clerk’s office, I was granted a divorce exactly 10 years to the day later. In the time since, I’ve literally flown around the world looking for that special someone. The only person I’ve found is myself. I’m pretty happy with her.

My dad doesn’t believe me. He called a while back, telling me how he prays every day that God will bring a man into my life. I told him not to pray for a man. If he’s going to pray for anything, pray that I’ll be happy, that an editor from a travel magazine will call and offer me a job. There was a quiet sigh on the other end of the line. I’m sure he’s still back in Minnesota praying for my future second husband.

When I pitched my Ireland memoir to a literary agent last summer, she asked me, “So, did you end up with the man?”

I replied, “Do you see a ring on this finger?”

She said, “People want happy endings. They want to escape their lives and imagine a better one.”

“Well, those aren’t my readers.” And, I thought, you’re not the right agent.

Does happily ever after mean you must end up with someone? I think every man and woman should spend some time alone before answering that question. Not a week. Not a summer. You need enough good, quality time with yourself to fall in love with your life. Your life. Not someone else’s. Know that you can actually take care of yourself if you have to, that you can have fun on your own, that you can walk into a restaurant at a table set for two and not grow red with embarrassment when the server removes the second setting. Keep embarrassing yourself until you don’t give a shit about saying, “One for dinner please.”

Yesterday evening, I tossed my new camera in the passenger seat of my car. (I call him Nathaniel George, or Nat Geo for short.) As I drove around looking for a place to capture the sunset with Nat, I thought – I have a good life. Today I’m Bellingham, Washington. In a month I’ll be Ireland. If I meet a man, fine. If not, that’s okay too. All that really matters is that I’m traveling the world with my camera, and that’s cool to me. That’s my dream.

Happily ever after can mean whatever you want it to mean.

The World Around Me

I write about the world to understand it; I photograph the world to appreciate it.

Old Boat

What I appreciate more and more is my NIK software, which helps me achieve the HDR look I want. The image above is a composite of the three shots below, adjusted with HDR Efex Pro 2 (part of the NIK software package) and some minor edits using the PhotoShop RAW filter.

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I also used a HOYA NDx400 filter on my 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens, allowing for long exposures that gave the water that glassy quality.

After

London Vintage

Perhaps it was the time of day or the lights surrounding each capsule on the London Eye, but all my photos turned out so BLUE.  My “before” photo is not at all how I remembered that view.

Playing around with my new Nik software today, I tried to salvage it.  I added a vintage filter using Color Efex Pro 4… and I am digging the result. Okay, the “after” photo isn’t how I remember the view either, but it has sort of an old postcard feel to me now.

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After
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Blue Lagoon

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What would you do during an 18 hour layover at Keflavik airport? Stay there and wait? That sounds dreadful. Leave the airport and sleep? Tempting. Rent a car and drive around the Reykjanes Peninsula? YES, PLEASE!!

Having arrived at 11:00 p.m., I left the airport and slept first, but then I returned and rented a car in the morning, determined to explore the Reykjanes Peninsula in the few, short hours afforded me. It was just enough time to pique my interest in Iceland, and I think that’s what the tourism board was hoping.

I suspect that Icelandair deliberately undercuts their competitors on flights between the United States and Europe. Budget conscious tourists will book with them, despite the long layovers at Keflavik. They know that you’ll leave the airport and do something – whether it’s simply hanging out in Reykjavik or using the time to take a drive.

It is clever, because I loved Iceland so much I want it to be a future travel destination rather than layover. Other travelers have told me the exact same thing.

Here’s one example why:

The Blue Lagoon. Tucked away in a field of volcanic rock, steam rises from a geothermal spa. The temperatures were cold on that early April day, and the winds fierce (note lifeguard with winter coat!), but I envied those people with enough time to cast off their cares and clothes and take a swim.

Next time, Iceland. Next time…

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A Prayer in the Wind

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“Thousands of Tibetans have had to flee from their country and live in exile around the world. Their Prayer Flags continue to represent the tradition of sending out prayers, but they also remind us of a nation of gentle people who have been robbed of their home. Prayer flags are still stamped with prayers and hung to let the wind carry their messages in Tibetan refugee villages. Most of the Tibetan Prayer Flags we see today are made in those communities. And so, people around the world have adopted the custom of hanging Prayer Flags to commemorate special events and to transmit their blessings.”

- Peace Flag Project

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“After some time the prayer flags will fade and fray symbolizing the natural passing of all things…”

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