souvenir, Travel Journal Tuesdays, writing

Travel Journal Tuesday

A little over five years ago, my grandmother gave me a travel journal. I had previously kept some sort of documentation for some of my travels. During my first mission trip to Peru, I had brought along one of those cheap spiral-bound school notebooks where I wrote about my thoughts, feelings, and activities of each day. I don’t know where that journal is anymore. When I started my first job by the Pacific Coast, I was diligent to journal for each of my thirty-three days of employment. Again, it was a not-so-special spiral-bound journal. I don’t know where that journal is anymore, either. When my tenth-grade class flew to the East Coast, our tour company provided everyone with a colorful booklet with blank lines and writing prompts. I normally would have loved to use something like this, but since we had to turn it in to be graded, I may have been a little snarky and short in what I wrote. I don’t think I even finished filling out that journal, and its possible that it was destroyed after my teacher read it. I really don’t know where that journal is anymore! Even as far back as elementary school, I recall that my second-grade teacher gave us her handmade journals so we could write and draw about our adventures during school holidays, plus anytime we were taken out of school for a vacation (such as my first trip to Disney World). I’m sure my mom has those memories stored somewhere, but I don’t know where that journal is anymore!

Travel Journal Cover

But when I received this beautiful travel journal, I knew right away that this would be superior to all previous travel journals. I initially used it to record my experience on my 2009 mission trip to Peru. Since then, I’ve taken it along to recount my days on my 2010 Northwest choir tour, my mission trip to Mexico, my backpacker vacation to Tennessee, my international trip to Niagara Falls, and my bus ride across the country. And I know exactly where this journal is. It’s the centerpiece of one of my travel-themed shelves!

Travel Memento Shelf

I don’t write in my journal for every trip I take. For weekend trips and other trips where I try to cram too much in too few days, I believe its a better use of my time to go out and experience as much as I can instead of taking a break to write about it. I also haven’t kept a journal for any trips that are primarily focused on working, such as camp conferences I’ve attended. I don’t think it would be interesting to read my journal years later about how I sat in meetings for most of the day. I memorialized these sorts of trips in different ways, such as photography, videos, or blogging. (If you visit The Rivercrester, you can read about almost everything I did while living in Nebraska, from the cool trips that I took to the times I was stuck at camp and only wishing that I could travel!) I don’t really have a criteria for which trips are worthy of my travel journal, but it’s treated like a near-sacred relic, so I use it for the trips that I feel are the most important.

This journal has a great layout, including a bookmark, a secure band, and a pocket inside the back cover to hold small mementos. Each page has plenty of room to write, plus an extra box to emphasize my highlight of the day. I also really like that each page has both a travel quote and a travel-themed Bible verse. It’s almost like having a mini-devotional each day of travel. I can usually fit everything worth mentioning about one day on one of these pages, but on some of the more mundane days (like all-day transit or staying at someone’s house), I can fit two days on one page. There have even been days that were so full of events and emotions, it was a challenge to fit everything even on two pages!

Travel Journal Entry Page

I had never really considered whether or not my journal was suitable for sharing. It wasn’t until a few months ago when I was journaling in the commons area of a Canadian hostel. A Japanese guy sat down next to me, and attempted to make conversation as a way for him to learn English. When he noticed the book on my lap, he asked if it was a diary. Then, he asked to read it! I handed it to him, and maybe it was because I was pretty sure he wouldn’t understand most of the content, but I felt okay with letting him look at it.

After thinking about that ever since starting this website, I decided that I am comfortable sharing the contents of my diary with the internet-connected world. I may change names to protect the innocent or remove pieces that don’t make sense outside the context of my own mind, but I’m willing to be real and unfiltered. So starting next Tuesday, I will have a “Travel Journal Tuesday” where I will post a journal entry every week until I run out. Even though my journal’s only halfway filled right now, I have enough entries to last until at least next summer! Enjoy!

Do you keep a journal for any reason? How do you remember your travels?

saving money, writing

Taking a Travel Break

Many people like to travel as a way to take a break from their routine schedule. Me? I pick up a routine as a break from travel!

Ever since crossing the Oregon border on a Greyhound bus nearly two months ago, I have not stepped outside the Beaver State. That unusual cross-country move, while fun, was tiresome, and I guess I experienced a bit of travel burnout because of it. That doesn’t mean I stopped traveling per se. In fact, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’ve been to lots of places, such as The Bigfoot Trap, Ashland, and just a few days ago The Oregon Vortex, to name a few. But I haven’t been going international or breezing through a dozen states, and oftentimes I come back home at the end of a travel day instead of spending the night somewhere! I’ll never completely stop traveling, but the past few weeks have been a slower, more local pace.

I haven’t spent much time in Southern Oregon in the last few years, so I’ve practically been living like a foreigner as I explore this little corner of the country. Just today, I went to the DMV so I could replace my Ohio driver’s license with an Oregon one. I also voted as a resident of this state and county. (Yay Oregon, for their mail-in-only voting system!) I guess these sorts of things officially make me a local, but it feels surreal. Perhaps now that I can no longer claim to be a traveler in this state, I’ll be motivated to travel elsewhere. But I think I need a travel break, at least for just a little bit longer.

Most people slow their travel down in the fall and winter months. In the past I may have slowed down a little during this time, but I’ve never stopped. I’ve always taken a trip with a roommate or coworker during Thanksgiving weekend, and taken a train or plane across the country to visit my parents for Christmas. But now that I’m back in the town I grew up in, I’ll likely spend these holidays right here.

So what am I doing when I don’t travel?

I’ve picked up four jobs. Four! Of course, one of those jobs is writing, and I’ll still be taking enough weekend and day trips to have something to write about. I also nanny part-time, and I use this opportunity to explore the local area with the kids. Tomorrow, I start a job at as an on-call housemother at a home for teen mothers. And next week, I’ll start training for my seasonal job at Harry and David’s headquarters. I’m hoping to use the next couple of months as an opportunity to make connections (and also money!), so that when my H&D job ends, I can take even more trips while still working around my nannying and housemothering schedule. Maybe this break will allow me to research and network enough so I can travel full-time!

Here’s the tricky part: I’m not going to be traveling much (if at all) this month, but I also signed this website up for NaBloPoMo. This challenge is an offshoot of NaNoWriMo, but instead of writing a novel in one month, participants in National Blog Post Month commit to posting every day of November. While I may not have much fresh content from new trips, I hope I can provide a post every day on packing ideas, product reviews, throwback stories, and more travel advice. I don’t know if I’ll make it, but I believe this travel break will inspire even more travel!

What travel-themed subjects should I write about during my travel break?

backpack, destinations

Backpacking Across Europe

I don’t know when this dream started. Maybe it was sometime in the 60s when hippies fresh out of college wanted to explore the world on a shoestring. But I’m not concerned too deeply about that. I’m wondering when that dream became my dream.

I have a lot of dreams. I want to have a family, become a full-time freelance writer and media specialist, and adopt several kiddos. I also have an entire bucket list specifically for travel goals. The one I’m currently working on is the dream of backpacking across Europe.

Childhood Years

My sister (age five) and I (age nine) in Oahu. Yes, I went to Hawaii with a broken arm. But back then, they had waterproof casts.

My family traveled a bit when I was growing up. Other than a Mexican cruise, all our trips were domestic: Disney World, Hawaii, Yellowstone… you get the picture. I loved every single trip, but I always wanted to travel internationally, particularly Europe. After all, where else can you see the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, Big Ben, and a ton of other notable and historic structures? Okay, maybe in Las Vegas, but Europe is the real deal.

Gaining Independence

Dressing up while working in Bandon, Oregon.

I started taking out-of-state trips without my family when I was twelve years old. Mostly this was with my church, such as our X-treme Praise choir tours around the Northwest. Even on the first trip of this sort, I was brainstorming ways we could somehow take our tour through Europe! At age sixteen, I went on a school trip to the other end of the country as we touring DC, Philadelphia, and New York. Later that summer, I finally went intercontinental- a mission trip to Peru! From then until I started college, I spent my summers living by and exploring the Pacific Coast. I went back to Peru when I was eighteen, and one year later, I took a different mission trip to Mexico. At age twenty, I left my Oregon home and set out for the Midwest.

Becoming a Backpacker

Pointing out where I was on a giant map that I found while backpacking across the city.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned about hostels, au pairs, and all kinds of low-key travel. I was anxious to use these new found resources, but things kept on getting in the way. It all turned out for the better, as moving what is normally thought of as flyover country provided tons of opportunities. Just three days after moving to Nebraska, I went on a work-funded trip to Mount Rushmore! Work sponsored several other trips, which added several new states to my list of places I’ve been.

A year later, I took a trip that would set the pace for all subsequent trips. I spent two weeks in Tennessee with just carry-on luggage, my own two feet, and a $0-$50 daily budget. It was my first time staying in a hostel, and I’ve stayed in many since. Even with trips that aren’t officially “cheapskate” trips, I’ve incorporated minimalist packing and being budget savvy.

The Realization

One word to describe my Niagara Falls experience? Exciting!

This past summer, I finally crossed borders by myself. Okay, it was only to Canada, and it was only a couple miles from the US border at Niagara Falls. I had recently transitioned from being a general devotional writer to being more of a travel writer. I had already taken a couple partially-sponsored weekend trips for writing purposes, but this was my first big break. Even though I had to work for some comped attractions and lodging, I still had plenty of free time to enjoy this vacation.

I stayed on both sides of the border, but while in Canada, I was sitting at a lookout point, admiring all three of the Niagara Falls, and started thinking. Suddenly, I got what I feel was a God-nudge. You are ready to go to Europe. Really? Yes, this was practically a lifelong dream, but I had pushed it out of my mind the last few years as I was doing extensive domestic travel. This was an exciting realization!

The Preparation

I decided to leave Ohio right before going on this final trip to Amish Country, so I decided to make the best of it!
I decided to leave Ohio right before going on this final trip to Amish Country, so I decided to make the best of it!

As soon as I returned from Niagara Falls, I immediately began planning a European backpacking trip. I picked up the AAA Travel Guides, started a Pinterest board, subscribed to a dozen travel blogs, and re-prioritized my spending and saving habits. But there was one thing that still felt wrong, though I couldn’t pinpoint it. I was about to celebrate my first anniversary of living in Ohio, when I quit my job! I quit for personal reasons, but suddenly, my travel goals seemed to become clearer. I would spend a year back at home while saving up and planning for this overseas excursion.

This is the end of this blog post, but it’s not the end of this story. I am still in the early planning stages of an international excursion, and I’ll be sure to post my updates and ideas here. It will be interesting to see how this long-term dream finally comes to fruition!

 

day trip, destinations, geography, tour

The Vexing Oregon Vortex

Have you ever been to a House of Mystery before? The slanted floor, uneven roof, and caving walls allow for lots of optical illusions and a playground for your mind. But what if some of these illusions continued even after you left the mystery house? You may discover that this is exactly what happens at the Oregon Vortex!

The drive to the Oregon Vortex provided beautiful fall scenery through the quaint town of Gold Hill and the rural area beyond. Even though it is remote, there are plenty of billboard-sized signs pointing in the right direction. We arrived at a historic mining shantytown where friendly staff were happy to greet us. Several of the staff members donned crazy costumes, but I’m pretty sure that was just because it was Halloween.

Because we arrived several minutes before our tour could begin, one staff member mesmerized everyone in the gift shop with the scientific magic of magnetism. He also demonstrated how non-magnetic metals can still react to magnets, and even how magnetism can slow the force of gravity! This was a great primer before we were introduced to the Oregon Vortex, which is believed to be a strong disruption in the Earth’s typical magnetic field.

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I decided to visit the Vortex a bit spur-of-the-moment. And since I went early afternoon on a weekday (and I guess October 31st is technically a holiday to some people), I had a hard time finding someone who was able to accompany me last-minute. Fortunately, my mom had a free afternoon, so I got to spend time with her on this tour! She was actually the first person in our tour group to demonstrate one of the odd features of the Vortex. In the center of the above picture is a brick line. Our tour guide on the left is inside the Vortex, and across the line, my mom is outside of it. It was strange to see their differences when they switched places, and it even felt a little different for them! I noticed that I got a bit of a “seasick” feeling when we started the tour, but after we left, it disappeared. Our guide said that happened to some people due to the polarization. We also noticed that there weren’t any animals around- no squirrels, no birds, nothing. That was strange since we were in the middle of a forest, but for some unexplained reason, many animal species avoid the Vortex.

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My mom wasn’t the only person in our group that demonstrated an anomaly. The guide made sure to include everyone in our group, even the young children. Since I was the tallest, I was picked on a lot. In the above picture, the guide and I stood a few feet away from each other and placed a beam on top of our heads. Everyone else noticed it was slanted since I was several inches taller. But when we switched places, the beam was almost level! IMG_20141031_152011_895[1]

After several experiments near the outskirts of the Oregon Vortex, we ventured further in where the House of Mystery was located. I’ve heard that houses like these are built to be used at fairs, amusement parks, and tourist traps. But this is the house that is said to have inspired all the other mystery houses, plus it has a 110-year history to boot. This was built to be an office and tool shed in the old mining town, but after it was abandoned it eventually slid off its foundation. No, it isn’t covered in cobwebs as suggested in the picture above. The staff just decided to decorate everything to celebrate Halloween, which is also their closing day. I did like their little ode to The Wizard of Oz:

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The demonstrations done inside the House of Mystery were even crazier than the ones done outside. Not only did the Vortex affect things, but now all the weird slants of the house confused us too. We all appeared to be standing sideways, even though we were trying to stand straight. There was even a broom that, when stood on end, would stay balanced! It looked like it was leaning into thin air, but it was actually standing straight up and down!

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The hovering broom was crazy enough, but it was even more insane when we saw a bottle seemingly roll uphill (because what looked like uphill was actually downhill). An ordinary golf ball was thrown down a slide out the window, but it also appeared to roll uphill as it returned to us!

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Is it possible that the golf ball was magnetized, or that the broom was fashioned specifically so it would stand up? I’m sure that’s what many people reading this are thinking, and there is that possibility. But after visiting here, I doubt it. The staff told us that, if we returned, we were welcome to bring our own levels, measuring tape, and any other objects we wanted from home. I may have to try that in the future, but all their tools looked exactly like what you would get in any hardware store. I even felt and shook the golf ball, and even tested it for magnetism before we rolled it out the window. I don’t believe it’s all a hoax, even though I can’t explain it all. There have even been scientists perplexed at what happens in the Oregon Vortex. I guess that truly makes it a mystery!

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After a few more demonstrations inside the House of Mystery, we exited from the uphill side to continue our tour. After the guide showed us some things, he gave us the opportunity, he gave us the opportunity to try some things out on our own, and even offered to take pictures!

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I am five inches taller than my mom. We stood on a level surface (we even checked it with a level several times) with a beam on our heads. At first we looked like the picture above. I was quite a bit taller than my mom, which is typically normal. But then we switched places and took the next picture…

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We were almost at exact eye level to each other! The change in the beam’s slant is a great indicator that this happened, but if you still don’t believe it, go ahead and measure us in each of the pictures. No one knows exactly what happens in the Oregon Vortex, but one theory is that our atoms are more compressed in certain areas.

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We went to one final area near the farther end of the Vortex for the last few demonstrations. On this level piece of wood, we could see the participants get shorter and taller as the walked one way and the other! We could even see size comparisons as two people on each end walked towards each other!

When the outdoor tour ended, our guide encouraged us to come down to the gift shop where he would show us pictures of significant changes that happened to people while in the Oregon Vortex. There were even some pictures where magnetic lines showed up in the film as a result of the strong magnetic force. As we walked to the gift shop, our guide turned to us and asked, “Does it feel like you’re walking downhill?”

After all the questions he had asked us, like “Does this look level?” “Does this look larger?” “Do you feel different?”, which he then disproved, we thought we might be in for one last anomaly. But we were outside, with normal reference points. It really did feel like we were walking downhill! “That’s because you are” he said with a smile. Yes, there might not be much education behind the Oregon Vortex (other than teaching us to keep an open mind to new paradigms), but the hilarious staff is guaranteed to entertain you!

Would you like to visit the Oregon Vortex? You can’t. Well, at least not right now. They close for the winter in November. But not to fear, you can line up at their door beginning in March, and experience the historical, entertaining, and most of all, mysterious Oregon Vortex!

Thank you Oregon Vortex, for providing admission for my mom and me! We truly loved your attraction, and our opinions were not swayed by anything other than the great service you provide for every guest!