#ThrowbackThursday, Winter

#ThrowbackThursday: SnowEMT

How’s the weather, East Coasters? Haha, I know it’s cold, stormy and snowy there. But I won’t brag about how nice the weather in Oregon has been and how I could walk outside without a coat yesterday. Instead, I’ll talk about snow!

Winter 2012 was my first real snowy winter experience. It was my first winter in Nebraska, and although it was more snow than I had ever experienced, all the seasoned Nebraskans said that it was one of their mildest winters ever.

So on Superbowl Sunday three years ago (wow, was it three years already?) a large amount of snow finally came and I was trapped at the camp I was living at. I wasn’t really trapped because of the snow, but I didn’t have a car. And no one wanted to brave the weather to visit me or pick me up, so I got to eat all the cookies that I made for my one-person Superbowl party. Anyway, I didn’t mean to tell you about my pathetic party. I wanted to tell you what happened afterward…

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You see, I was taking my EMT class at the time, so that was something that was always on my mind. I had gotten a pretty bad leg injury a few days prior since a giant log fell off of a tractor bucket and onto my leg, so I wasn’t able to do much outdoors. But it was snowing for crying out loud, and I needed to build a snowman!

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“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” was not yet a song on everyone’s lips, but I certainly would have been singing that as I went out to find a good spot to build my creation. I had decided that I wanted something kind of Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque, like an army of snowmen or a snowman missing a head because another snowman used it as a bowling ball. Unfortunately, the snow was too powdery to roll any snowballs. I did, however, find a few chunks of snow compacted from being plowed off the road, so I sculpted those into a round shape. After stacking a few of those together, my first snowman was complete!

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I had problems building a second one. The snowballs did not want to stack on top of each other. The top one kept on rolling off until the snowballs were side by side on the ground. That’s when it hit me: this snowman was suffering an injury! And of course, the standing snowman must be an EMT!

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I hadn’t intended to make my snowmen as gruesome as the ones Calvin made in the comic strips, but I had to show that the snowvictim clearly needed help. I didn’t have any coal, but I did find some peppermint patties in the camp kitchen that made for good eyes, as well as carrots for the nose. I turned one peppermint eye sideways to represent an avulsed eyeball. Then, with the watered-down remains of a bottle of red hair dye, I splattered “blood” on the helpless snowpatient. But not to worry…

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Soon it was SnowEMT to the rescue! Both of the snowmen feature arms made out of marshmallow roasters, but I put a pair of gloves on the EMT (since that’s always the first thing to do at any scene!) I wanted to put my uniform shirt on him, but was afraid that it would get wet, or worse, freeze to the snowbody. So I found a garbage bag and put that on the center snowball before putting my shirt on. I finished the effect with my stethoscope, but of course, I removed that after taking the photos so it wouldn’t get damaged.

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I don’t much care for freezing weather, and I’m sure that someday I’ll create a lifestyle that will allow me to release my inner snowbird. But I know that snow can also bring about some fun adventures.

What’s an adventure you’ve experienced in snowy weather?

#ThrowbackThursday, Accommodations, destinations, road trip

#ThrowBackThursday: Winter Weekend at the Creation Museum

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last year I spent a few days in Petersburg, Kentucky. But I did so much more than just spend a night in a BnB!

The weekend started when I had to drive to Columbus, Ohio to take a test. This test would determine whether I would be able to continue my EMT certification, so the weeks leading up to it were filled with lots and lots of studying! Since I wouldn’t know for several days after taking the test whether I passed or failed, I decided to eliminate the exam result anxiety by leaving the testing site afterward and, instead of heading back north where I was living, continue south. Then I would at least have a wonderful memory of a weekend trip, regardless of whether I passed or failed. (Spoiler alert: I passed!)

I had never driven south of Columbus before, and it was mostly farmland until I passed King’s Island park. Then I swung around Cincinnati and into Indiana for a few minutes before crossing the border into Kentucky. From there, it was a short drive to arrive in small town Petersburg.

I stayed there for two nights, one night for each of the two accommodations available in Petersburg. The first night was an incredibly unique location: a bank! Well, at least a former bank remodeled into a guesthouse. Deborah’s Guesthouses provides unique places to stay in Petersburg, but The Bank sounded the most appealing. Although there were three rooms that you can sleep in, the most coveted one is the former vault!

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Because I arrived well after dark, I spent my first night just enjoying The Bank’s amenities before falling asleep. In the morning, I found a guide that provided information to take a historical self-guided walking tour of the town. It was nice to see how this friendly town looked in daylight.

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I then headed to the Creation Museum, which is just a short drive out of the town and a big attraction for Northern Kentucky. It was surprising to go from small town and farmland to immediately hitting a huge parking lot filled with cars! The dinosaur footprints led me to the front door.

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Inside the Creation Museum is a wide variety of displays supporting the creationist theory of how the world was made.

There was an exhibit on what “Lucy” (often considered the missing link) might have looked like…

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There were Biblical wax characters.

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…and lots of Bibles and other ancient Christian work…

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A recreation of the Garden of Eden allowed a glimpse at what the world might have looked like when it was first formed…

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…along with what kind of animals may have existed back then!

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And then there were displays of how the Earth changed once sin entered. (I especially like the display of how Adam and Eve were eating some sort of berry or grape-like fruit, because there is no evidence to show that the forbidden fruit was an apple!)

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Then there was the Ark Room, where 1% of the ark was displayed. (Answers in Genesis, who owns the Creation Museum, is now building a second attraction called the Ark Encounter, which will feature a full-scale version of the ark, complete with all the Biblical requirements of its features!)

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For lunch, I ate the “Eden Wrap” at Noah’s Cafe, which was ah-mazing!

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There were also some outdoor exhibits, that anyone can visit for free. I loved the petting zoo, with adorable, funny-looking animals like alpacas and camels!

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Because it was winter, the pond by the outdoor garden trails was frozen over. Nessie sure looks cold! DSCF5935

Because this trip took me to the Greater Cincinnati Area for the first time, I had to celebrate by going to Gold Star Chili and ordering my first-ever Cincinnati chili. An interesting combination, but it worked! I like it!DSCF5936

For my second night, I stayed at First Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast. I think I’ve only stayed in a BnB once before, when my church youth choir traveled, the very first year I was in it one of my host homes was actually a BnB. This one was a very different setting, being on a farm. One of the house cats followed me everywhere inside, and even insisted sleeping in my bed (until he attacked my feet in the middle of the night, when he was kicked out into the hallway). I stayed in a very nice room.

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But this BnB had more than just nice rooms. And even more than just nice breakfast. One of the hosts was an actor, and I was given a ticket to attend Godspell where he played John the Baptist/Judas. I had never seen the play before, and after hating the musical Jesus Christ: Superstar, I was expecting a disappointment. Boy, was I wrong! That was a great play, made even better by the cast at Footlighters! Another perk of staying at First Farm is that they have horses. I even got to go out on a riding session with the horse Sundance.

Because all Creation Museum tickets are good for two days, I was planning to spend Sunday at the museum as well. The problem was, overnight, a horrible ice storm hit! Everything was covered in ice; it took several tries until I could get any of my car doors to open, and it took even longer to defrost the windows enough that I could at least see a little bit! All that time, I had to be careful not to slip on the road. I considered just heading straight home for safety, but I thought that the road conditions may get better later in the day, so I carefully headed to the museum. (I stopped along the way for a geocache, but when I found it, I couldn’t even open the container because the layer of ice surrounding it was thicker than the actual geocache!)

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I’m not sure if it was because of the storm, or because it was a Sunday, but hardly anyone was at the museum that day, so I was able to spend as much time as I wanted at each exhibit without having to wait to get a good view or worry about someone waiting behind me. This was a much better day at the museum, and I noticed a lot more throughout, like the live creatures near the entrance… DSCF5949

…or Adam and Eve in the garden right before the serpent came down to tempt them…

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…and this creepy door that kind of stood out from its surroundings like a sore thumb…

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…and how there were workers that built the ark just because they were employed, yet they still thought Noah was crazy…DSCF5968

…and having just taken my EMT certification test, the medical diagrams supporting creationism were of note…DSCF5973

…and even though the “Confusion” exhibit featuring the Tower of Babel was small, it had beautiful art.DSCF5974

Of course with the weather, all the outdoor things were closed that day, but here’s one of my favorite animals from their petting zoo: a zonkey! (And the animal behind him is a zorse.)

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There was an almost-hidden exhibit showing different species of dinosaurs…2014-03-01 17.10.37

…and even some geological finds…

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All in all, it was a busy, jam-packed travel weekend, and the snow-covered drive home just made for another adventure. In closing, here’s a picture of me with “Lucy”.

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Don’t forget to sign up for your $25 AirBnB credit, so that you can stay in some crazy cool accommodations like the ones featured above! 

jobs, saving money

4 Ways to Survive a Desk Job When You Want to See the World

It’s only a seasonal job, I have to constantly remind myself. It will only last a few more weeks!

Last month, I began a job at a Harry and David Call Center. I knew going in that I wouldn’t exactly like the job, but my other three jobs combined don’t make as much as my one job at Harry and David does, so I certainly needed a more steady job, even if it was only for a couple months. The two weeks of training were actually kind of fun. It was more like an adventure, because it was the opportunity to explore the company: explore the physical location that is one of the prides of my hometown, and also explore the internal matters of how this business runs, in an effort to be able to transfer some of what I learned into my own business. But after training ended, I was stuck in the call center.

Eight hours a day of nothing but sitting in a chair, reading a script into a headset, and typing whatever I hear.

Clearly not me. I would lose all my incentive pay if I tried to take a picture of myself in the uber-secure call center, so this is what you get.
Clearly not me. I would lose all my incentive pay if I tried to take a picture of myself in the uber-secure call center, so this is what you get.

This is not the ideal job for any traveler-at-heart. And some days, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it until my layoff date. But here are a few things that I keep in mind about this job, and they’re things you too can ponder when you find yourself in a job you weren’t meant for:

I won’t be working this job forever! If you don’t count freelance writing (which I’ve worked on for six years), I’ve never kept a job much longer than two years, and some of those jobs I actually enjoyed. And I know that this particular job is even more short-term. I don’t know my exact layoff date yet, but it won’t be later than January. Near the end of my life, when I look back on this job, it will take only a few seconds to reflect on its entirety (even though now it seems like each shift is forever)! Instead, I’ll more clearly remember all the amazing adventures I took before and after this brief period of work.

It’s money in the bank. Life isn’t about money, but I will admit that it’s the biggest motivator for me working this job. My hourly wage is pretty decent, and I earn bonus incentive money too. Of course, right now a good percentage of my earnings are going towards Christmas. (Although I will say I won’t have nearly as big of a budget for Christmas this year as I have had in the past, thanks to the fact that I don’t have to fly anywhere this year!) But most of my leftover money is being stocked up in my savings account, ready to be used for all my 2015 travel plans!

There are other perks too. Every job has perks other than a paycheck. I’ve had jobs that provide food and jobs that provide employee discount. This job happens to provide both. I can typically score some fresh fruit (usually pears, of course!) during my breaks, and in training we were even required to sample a variety of treats! I get a 45% discount in Harry and David stores and 30% off on shipped orders, plus there are discount to other stores and services as well as a discount on mailing services. Harry and David even started a charity where their employees can go to a building twice a month and fill a grocery bag with “imperfect” food and other goods. Best off all, if I work until my layoff date, all of these services are available to me until next November! Because I’ve saved money on things like food, gifts, and even an oil change due this job, it means that more of my paycheck is going toward travel.

I challenge myself to learn new things every day. And if possible, I try to learn something that will still apply to my life after this job is in the past. Sometimes it means reading health articles during my break time. Sometimes I try to think about why a particular sales tactic I used was effective or ineffective. And sometimes it’s just an appreciation for things, like how much small business owners have to do to compete with established big names like this one, or how so many of the overnight shift people seem to be so happy while I dread the fact that I don’t get home until after midnight. Learning through experience is one of the main things that fuels my travels. With a little effort, this can be brought into the workplace,too!

destinations, travel tips

Happy Half Birthday to Me!

Today I am exactly 282 months old, or 23.5 years. No, I’m not one of those self-centered people who try to make up as many occasions as possibly to celebrate my existence, but I’ve always used this day as a time of reflection. I’ve only had 6 months of experience being 23 years old, yet in just 6 months I will have a new age to experience! So let’s take a look at what has happened since my birthday, and then plan what to do with the rest of the year!

Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World's Largest Gavel!
Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World’s Largest Gavel!

My 23rd year started on May 10th, 2014. I wanted to celebrate my birthday by taking a trip, because my favorite birthdays have been while I was traveling. I celebrated my 8th, 13th, 18th, and 22nd birthday in Disney World. No, my parents didn’t take me to Disney World just to celebrate my annual milestone; my birthday just happens to be the best time of year to go! But there was no way I would be able to get to Disney World this year, so I looked more locally. At the time, I lived about an hour away from Columbus, but I had never actually spend much time there. So I decided to book a weekend at The Wayfaring Buckeye (reviewing this hostel helped me rediscover my travel writing passion), throw my bicycle in the back of my Explorer, and head toward the city. I may have spent my birthday alone, but it didn’t even matter because I got to go to a topiary garden, a humongous bookshop, a record-breaking gavel, a fun science museum, two street fairs, and Buffalo Wild Wings, accessing all this on just two wheels! I even went to the Capitol Building and art museum the next day, and of course I set aside some time to call my family and just kick back.

At the science museum, I got to ride a self-balancing unicycle that was two stories high!
At the science museum, I got to ride a self-balancing unicycle that was two stories high!

I had been working at a retreat center as an outdoor school instructor. Sadly, the school year was just about ending, which meant the job was transitioning. I had the opportunity to help build a new website, and unfortunately I was also given the task of being a lifeguard. Since my summer work was looking somewhat bleak, I started making plans for my days off to “escape” in the world of travel, which also included filling up the remaining weekends in May with even more travel!

Harding Memorial Tomb
Me at the Harding Memorial.

The next weekend I had to go to Marion, Ohio, which I had never been to before. I looked up things I could do while in that town, and was surprised to discover that President Warren G. Harding had lived there, and now he and his wife were buried there! I decided my first stop in Marion would be to visit the cemetery he was buried in. The Harding Memorial looked like something that should only be found in a place like Washington, D.C. But since it was in Central Ohio, it had the bonus of not being crowded with tourists! After finding a geocache near the cemetery, I eventually made it to the event that brought me to Marion in the first place. Secret Keeper Girl had invited me to cover their event so I could feature it in Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. Since it was a mother-daughter event for tween girls, it was a little awkward for me to go by myself. I’m neither a tween nor a mother! But it actually was a great program with some fun games, a message that everyone could take to heart, and a pre-show concert from Copperlily.

Copperlily performing on the Secret Keeper Girl tour.
Copperlily performing on the Secret Keeper Girl tour.

The next week was Memorial Day weekend, and coincidentally, that was the only weekend where I didn’t have any plans. But my work was having a camp out that staff could attend for free, so I turned the back of my Explorer into a bed (while somehow also fitting my bicycle back there) and enjoyed a few nights away from home.

My typical camp set-up included my car (with all my clothes and bedding in the back), my bicycle, and hopefully a provided table to read and eat at!
My typical camp set-up included my car (with all my clothes and bedding in the back), my bicycle, and hopefully a provided table to read and eat at!

Because I had so much fun camping in my car that weekend, the next weekend involved car camping as well! I was invited to a review stay at Turkey Hollow Campground near Millersburg, Ohio AKA Amish Country. I spent two nights there picnicking, sleeping where I could see the stars, walking some paths, and using the camp paddle boat on the pond. During the day, I experienced as much of the Amish life I could in Holmes County by feeding the exotic animals at The Farm at Walnut Creek, touring the schoolhouse, barn, and cyclorama at the Behalt museum, and of course enjoying the authentic shops and foods!

Zebras were one of the several animals I got to pet and feed at The Farm at Walnut Creek. Another highlight was when a giraffe tried to eat my hair!
Zebras were one of the several animals I got to pet and feed at The Farm at Walnut Creek. Another highlight was when a giraffe tried to eat my hair!

My weekend trip to Holmes County ended on June 1st, and sadly that was the first and last trip of June. I remember spending that month working, going to church, and reading. But that also gave me more time to plan a trip to Niagara Falls, which I had wanted to do for a long time! Since Niagara Falls isn’t too far away from Ohio, it would be cheap trip to get there, and I decided to make it even cheaper by taking the Greyhound bus for the first time. Since I had never taken the bus before, I wasn’t sure if the bus station had a parking lot. I decided to drive up to Mansfield to see for myself in early July. And of course, I decided to make a trip out of it!

Doing time in one of the nearly 1000 cells.
Doing time in one of the nearly 1000 cells.

After discovering that there was no parking at all and I would have to arrange for someone to drop me off, I headed over to the Mansfield Reformatory. The outside looks like a castle, and the inside looks like an abandoned prison, which is what it actually is. It has also been a set for a couple of movies and is supposedly a haunted locale. I also spent this day trip visiting a natural park and a natural food store.

Cave of the Winds Trip on the US side of Niagara Falls
Cave of the Winds Trip on the US side of Niagara Falls

The next weekend I headed off to Niagara Falls! I thought this would be my one big trip of the year (fortunately that was proven wrong!) and I enjoyed a weekend of hiking, eating, sightseeing, and visiting Canada for the first time! This trip also really helped me make a name as a travel writer. Starting the eve of my 23rd birthday, I had been comped a couple nights at accommodations for being a writer and reviewer. But this entire 9-day trip only required me to pay for one night of lodging, plus I got a few other perks! But of course, the best part was finally seeing the Niagara Falls in person.

Enjoying the view from the Canada side of Niagara Falls
Enjoying the view from the Canada side of Niagara Falls

A few weeks after returning to my normal life, I got the opportunity to switch my role from tourist to tour guide! My sister had just come back from living in Mexico, and she wanted to explore Ohio before settling back in Oregon. I showed her a few of my favorite places, like Amish Country, President Harding’s tomb, and President Hayes’ birthplace, and she even encouraged me to try out a few new things, like the Columbus Zoo. The few days she spent in Ohio were memorable, not only because they were jam-packed with fun, but also because I decided that I also needed to move back to Oregon after being gone for three years. After all, the main reason I liked working in Ohio was just because of all the trips I could take on my days off!

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Walking through a cute little park next to one of the several cheese factories in Holmes County.

After spending a couple weeks trying to pack what I could and sell what I couldn’t, I finally left Ohio. It was actually miraculous to see everything that occurred in those few short weeks, such as the way my car was sold, the connection to donate my beautiful bed, and the numerous gift exchanges that occurred. I then embarked on my second-ever Greyhound trip, this time for eight days. Although I tried to line up travel writing jobs along the way, it was a holiday weekend and I had a pretty tight schedule, so I couldn’t get anything comped. Yet still, I only ended up paying for one night of lodging (thanks to relatives, former workplaces, overnight bus trips, and one night in a bus station followed by convincing the hostel to let me check in early for free). Besides driving and sightseeing through ten states, I made overnight stops in Chicago, Omaha/Fremont, and Denver. So much happened on this part-moving-expedition, part-road-trip, that you’ll just have to read all five blogs I wrote about it (here, here, here, here, and here) to see what I did!

I don't play favorites when it comes to travel, but a definite highlight was stepping out on the Willis Tower Skydeck's transparent ledge on the 103rd floor!
I don’t play favorites when it comes to travel, but a definite highlight was stepping out on the Willis Tower Skydeck’s transparent ledge on the 103rd floor!

I have spent all my time since then within Oregon boundaries. I got a few nanny and babysitting jobs right off the bat, but while I continued to search for a more regular job, I took a few Oregonian excursions. This included going to the Bigfoot Trap, spending the night in Ashland, and touring the Oregon Vortex, among a few other day trips.

Due to the height change in the Oregon Vortex, my mom and I could finally see eye to eye!
Due to the height change in the Oregon Vortex, my mom and I could finally see eye to eye!

As I mentioned, in addition to my writing work, I started to in-home childcare since moving to Oregon, which now includes a regular part-time nanny gig. A few weeks ago, I was also hired at Harry and David World headquarters to help with the Christmas rush. Not too long after that, I was also hired as a housemother at the Magdalene Home, which is an organization that provides housing and resources to teen mothers and their children. Over the past week, I have been training for this position, and I’m really looking forward to it! My training ended today, just in time for my new training at Harry and David to start tomorrow! I’m actually surprised that working four different jobs is going this smoothly. In fact, the only downside is this means I have early starts every day for a couple of weeks, which will then probably switch to a crazy combination of late nights and early mornings.

So there you have it: just about everything I’ve done over the past six months! So what do the next six months have in store? Obviously there’s work, with the goal to save up enough money so I can enjoy a backpacking trip to Europe, and possibly other destinations! I will also be going forth as one of the few remaining editors of Christian girl magazines, since most of our competition has gone out of business. In response to this, there are plans to expand and improve Girlz 4 Christ, and I am planning to apply for it to become an official non-profit organization! So far I’m not aware of any trips coming up in the next six months, but I’m sure they will happen in early 2015, and I’m ready to take advantage of any opportunities made available to me! Other than that, I don’t really know what will happen for the rest of my 23rd year, but I’m excited to find out. I’ll give you an update on this six months from now- hopefully while celebrating a 24th birthday excursion!

Bucket List

My Travel Bucket List

I’ve already accomplished a lot of my travel goals, but all my goals are far from complete. Here are the top 75 items that are currently on my travel bucket list:

1. Backpack Europe. Accomplished July-October 2015

2. Return to Washington, D.C. to explore everything more in-depth, including every Smithsonian museum.

Here I am at the DC Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I absolutely MUST go back!
Here I am at the DC Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I absolutely MUST go back!

3. Go to Memphis.

4. Explore states along the Gulf of Mexico.

5. Sing the Full House theme song while going over the Golden Gate Bridge. Accomplished August 2016!

6. Skydive. Completed May 2018!

7. Visit all 50 of the United States. (I’m over halfway there, and it’s starting to get tricky!)

8. Appear on national/international television or in a feature film.

9. Help at an orphanage in six different continents. (Two down, four to go!)

Posada de Amor, the orphanage I've volunteered at in South America.
Posada de Amor, the orphanage I’ve volunteered at in South America.

10. Do something worthwhile in Antarctica. (A cruise would be nice, but I’d like to do something of benefit.)

11. Go to all the major oceans. (I’m not sure if the Atlantic counts since I took a boat over it, but never actually touched it, but so far I’ve only been there and the Pacific.)

My experience at the Atlantic Ocean involved seeing the Statue of Liberty!
My experience at the Atlantic Ocean involved seeing the Statue of Liberty!

12. Win a contest where travel is the prize.

13. See all five of the Great Lakes. (I knocked out three of them in just the past year!)

My first time seeing a Great Lake- Lake Erie in Cleveland!
My first time seeing a Great Lake- Lake Erie in Cleveland!

14. Live in the Mountain Time Zone. (It’s the only zone in the continental U.S. that I haven’t lived in yet!)

15. Fly in a helicopter.

16. Live in a van or RV while going on an extended road trip. (I lived in an RV for one month, but it didn’t go anywhere!)

17. Take a balloon ride. (I once took a tethered ride, but I’d like to go higher and for longer.) Completed May 9th, 2015!

The balloon that I took a tethered ride on
The balloon that I took a tethered ride on

18. Meet another travel writer and go on a trip together.

19. See the Grand Canyon and remember it! (I don’t remember the trip I took there as a toddler.)

20. Walk through the Holy Land of Jerusalem.

21. Officially go on a press trip.

22. Explore at least one Caribbean Island.

23. Take a trip that does not involve being on any motorized vehicle.

24. Work full-time in travel and writing.

25. Go on a backpacking trip. I don’t think I want to conquer the entire Pacific Crest Trail, but I’m game for an overnight hiking trip.

26. Be part of a live studio audience.

27. Find a thousand geocaches.

The first of what will eventually be 1000 geocaches
The first of what will eventually be 1000 geocaches

28. Tour Boston.

29. Spend a week speaking English at a Diverbo program.  Completed August 2015!

30. Visit the smallest country (Vatican). Completed September 2015- I saw the Pope there too!

31. Go through New England in the fall.

32. Become proficient enough in driving stick shift that I can actually drive on real roads.

33. Go zorbing.

34. Be in four places at once in Four Corners.

35. Proficiently surf.

On the day I rented a surfboard, the lifeguards declared too harsh of tides. So I spent that week strictly boogie boarding!
On the day I rented a surfboard, the lifeguards declared too harsh of tides. So I spent that week strictly boogie boarding!

36. Go on the Eiffel Tower. Completed July 2015!

37. Visit a non-U.S. Disney Park. Completed July 2015 at Disneyland Paris!

My most recent experience at the United States Disney World
My most recent experience at the United States Disney World

38. Go to India.

39. Be among the Alps.

40. Go to Istanbul or another intercontinental city. Completed October 2015!

41. Become fluent in at least two languages.

42. Become conversational in at least three languages.

43. Go jet skiing.

44. Find a location where Back to the Future was filmed and quote lines that were said in the movie at that location. Completed April 2015!

45. Attend the Olympics.

46. Go to the new World Trade Center.

Ground Zero when I went in 2007- construction for the WTC had barely begun
Ground Zero when I went in 2007- construction for the WTC had barely begun

47. Visit a nation where freedom of religion is limited. Completed October 2015!

48. Eat Mediterranean food by the Mediterranean Sea. Completed August 2015!

49. Adopt children and take them on adventures.

50. Stand on a significant longitudinal or latitudinal line, such as the Equator, Greenwich Meridian or International Date Line. Completed in Greenwich, London May 2019!

51. Be inside a zeppelin.

52. See a giant panda.

Does this red panda that I saw at the Columbus Zoo count?
Does this red panda that I saw at the Columbus Zoo count?

53. See Northern Lights.

54. Use my travel experience as inspiration to write a professionally-published book.

55. Spend a period of time living in another country.

56. See the real Parthenon. (I already saw the one in Nashville!) Completed September 2015!

Inside the Parthenon... in Nashville
Inside the Parthenon… in Nashville

57. WWOOF

58. Tour the Capitol Building of my home state.

59. Tour the Capitol Building of every state I’ve ever lived in. (One down, at least three more to go!) (Added California Capitol in April 2015 after seeing the Ohio one the year before. Now I have to see Oregon’s, Nebraska’s and anywhere else I happen to move to!)

60. Take at least one trip every month for the rest of my life.

61. Work in orphan care or adoption.

62. Go rafting on class five rapids.

This trip only got me up to class 4 rapids
This trip only got me up to class 4 rapids

63. Rappel off something incredible, such as the Grand Canyon or CN Tower.

64. See the Hoover Dam.

65. Recognize a celebrity on the streets.

66. Go to the North Pole.

67. Go to the South Pole.

68. Be invited to a speaking engagement.

69. Go on a zipline canopy tour.

70. Become capable of cooking authentic ethnic cuisine dishes from around the world.

71. Own a species of South American camelid.

As for now, the closest I get to camelids is the annual Alpacamania
As for now, the closest I get to camelids is the annual Alpacamania

72. Meet a lifelong travel companion.

73. Go somewhere, probably Germany or France, where the last name “Lippe” is more common.

74. If time travel or teleportation are ever invented, do whatever it takes to get onboard with this endeavor!

75. Make new goals and never stop adventuring!

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?

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! 

culture, resources, travel tips, voluntourism

Should You Become a Voluntourist?

Most of my travels are not simply vacations. On the contrary, I like to use my travel experience as a way to give back to the communities I visit. It all started with a mission trip to Cieneguilla, Peru, back in 2007.

Volunteer in Posada de Amor Peru Orphanage
My friend Erika and I with our little Peruvian friend Melissa.

My high school youth group went to the Posada de Amor orphanage and their neighboring Eliel Christian School. We did construction and painting projects, taught English, and spent quality time with the children. I had such a great experience, I returned two years later.

Playing games with the Rayitos group at Posada.

In 2010, I heard about another church that owned a mission in Carmen Serdan, Mexico. They offered trips for people to help out with the handicapped orphans they care for. I went along, and although we didn’t see even one touristy thing, I had a great time!

The orphans at the Mexico mission were all ages, such as 41-year-old Lupe.

Even though I haven’t gone on another “mission trip” since then, I have incorporated volunteering into elements of my travels. Ever since I was old enough to help, I’ve loved volunteering at camps offered by the Girl Scouts and churches, like this time at Camp Tadmor near Lebanon, Oregon.

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Some of the nine girls in the yurt I was in charge of.

When I went to Nashville in 2012, I realized that was the headquarters of a nonprofit magazine that I write for. Before going, I e-mailed the editor asking if we could meet. She responded, saying I was coming during important planning days for the magazine, and I was invited to help with this. I was glad to help out!

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In the building where we worked on Devozine.

This past summer in Niagara Falls, I learned about a ministry called the Magdalene Project, which helps homeless people, prostitutes, and low-income families. I called up the director and asked how I could help. After asking me about my skills and passions, she offered to let me help chaperone a trip with their kids’ club.

Niagara Falls 2014 507
Daisy and I touring Fort Niagara.

After all this volunteering in my travels (the buzzword for this is “voluntourism”), you’d think I would encourage everyone to go out and try to volunteer on all their travels, right? Well, sort of. I’ve learned a lot since my first trip to Peru, and I’m now more selective about how I voluntour.

Before I volunteer afar, I volunteer near home. I taught a local youth group a game where they got to slap peanut butter bread on me!
Before I volunteer afar, I volunteer near home. I taught a local youth group a game where they got to slap peanut butter bread on me!

I think the most important rule is this: if you wouldn’t volunteer at home, you shouldn’t volunteer while you travel. Hapless volunteering is a terrible way to try to make your trip meaningful. If you want to volunteer while you travel, find a local charity to work with before your trip. This will help you gain experience and make sure you’re cut out for the job. Don’t want to help near your home? I hate to break this to you, but this indicates that you shouldn’t volunteer afar either. If you want to help your destination’s community, you can still make a difference by purchasing from family-owned shops, staying at local accommodations, or sending donations to worthy causes. You must be dedicated to give your time.

Comparing heights with little Angela and her tutora. This is one of the local women who are hired to care for the orphans, thus forming a long-lasting and mutually effective relationship.
Comparing heights with little Angela and her tutora. This is one of the local women who are hired to care for the orphans, thus forming a long-lasting and mutually effective relationship.

I’ve also learned that just because an opportunity exists doesn’t mean I should go for it. In fact, this can potentially hurt their community! For example, our Peru trip leader told us that two of our tasks were to play with kids and do construction. The problem was, I never picked up a power tool before! I should have at least learned the basics before going. Better yet, the money spent on my plane ticket could pay local experienced construction workers to do the work. Then, instead of just helping the orphanage and school, we could help local impoverished workers as well!

Now, while I’m no construction expert, I do know how to play with kids. But was that beneficial? The kids did have fun playing with us, but I know it hurt everyone emotionally when we left. Volunteering long-term, or at least keeping in touch through letters and frequent visits, would be a less harmful way to form relationships.

Looking back, I think the one thing we did that was of real value was teach English. This is a sought-after skill in business, thus breaking the cycle of poverty. Since we were the only native English speakers in that area, we were best suited in this department.

The kids in this program were told I was just helping for one day to prevent attachment. I was able to utilize my childcare and health skills in the pool and at the park. (The kids also got the treat of sharing my waterproof camera in the pool!)
The kids in this program were told I was helping for just one day. I was able to utilize my childcare and health skills in the pool and at the park. (The kids also loved sharing my waterproof camera in the pool!)

Contrast this to my recent voluntourism experiences. Before I went to Niagara Falls, I talked with the ministry director and offered to help in any way needed. (I also worded it so she wouldn’t feel obligated to place me if it was a hassle to get me involved.) She did what all charity leaders should do: asked questions! She wanted to know about my past volunteer experience, profession, church involvement, and even my hobbies! With that information, she could find the role where I would be most effective, which happened to be chaperoning a field trip.

Same thing goes with my experience in Nashville. If I hadn’t spent several years writing for Devozine, I would have been more of a burden than a blessing. In addition, I didn’t waste money by making special volunteer trips. I’d already planned extended travel in these places, so I was able to maximize my buying power by staying in locally-owned small hostels, buying from local businesses, and spending time learning about the actual culture and needs of the area.

Are you still interested in voluntouring? If you’ve read this far, I assume you are. The above wasn’t meant to scare people from voluntouring (because it CAN be a meaningful and helpful endeavor), but rather to just get people thinking about how they voluntour. I could continue to provide information on other things to think about, such as your ability and availability, safety limitations, legal requirements, and how to find worthy organizations to voluntour with, but all this information could fill a book! Instead, I’ll refer you to someone who already wrote a book! I learned a lot from Kirsty Henderson, a worldwide traveler who has volunteered in several countries. She wrote The Underground Guide to International Volunteering: For experiences that go beyond beaches and the backpacker trail. The eight chapters are filled with essential information, such as why you should (or should not!) pay a fee to volunteer, different types of volunteering, and a guide with a country-by-country breakdown of organizations you can help and what they provide their volunteers. I used this to discover a few opportunities that I’m looking forward to being a part of!

I would like to thank Kirsty Henderson for providing me with a digital copy of The Underground Guide to International Volunteering: For experiences that go beyond beaches and the backpacker trail. And no, she didn’t pay me to say nice things about it- I just really like her book!

#ThrowbackThursday, culture

Throwback Thursday: Costumes and Fall Fun

 

I did a little bit of trick-or-treating as a kid. I was a clown, a doctor, a prairie girl, and once even a Lowe’s employee! But when elementary school ended, so did the Halloween festivities. But not too many years later, the costumes came back, and they were better than ever!

Costume parties inspired me to get creative and make my own costumes. It all started when I stuck a laundry basket around my waist and filled it with clothes. The following years included a street, a playing card, a bucket of popcorn, a postal package, and this picnic table:

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Although I haven’t gone to any costume parties in the last few years, I started making a dress out of plastic bags. I finished it in 2012 and wore it while volunteering at a church event. It turned out to be a good thing, because I made popcorn for four straight hours, and the plastic dress saved my clothes from grease stains! While moving out of Ohio, I found it in my closet and had to take one final picture for old time’s sake.

 

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Of course, I don’t save costumes for being October-only. I even dress up in my travels!

There was the traditional Peruvian dress in Peru…

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…the kooky rock star at Lifelight Music Festival…

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…Joining a bunch of little cowboys at Camp Tadmor…

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…some super-heroic adventures in babysitting…

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…and meeting Phineas and Ferb while dressed as Perry the Platypus!

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There are a few other activities I’ve done to celebrate the harvest season. I loved learning about Latin American culture, so one year I decorated a Dia de los Muertos table.

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I wanted to enter some pumpkin carving contests, but when I went to the store, I realized that watermelons were a lot cheaper. This foot carving in the watermelon won two awards! I also roasted miniature s’mores inside the melon.

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Yesterday at my Toastmaster’s Meeting, we had a fun night with snacks and costumes. Check out my egg-cellent apparel!

Photo: We had great fun tonight at our "themed meeting". Our guests were astonished. Lewis won for Best Table Topics.

#ThrowbackThursday

Throwback Thursday: Around the World in One Room

In spring 2012 at Camp Rivercrest in Nebraska, we were gearing up for summer camps. Our summer theme was “The REAL Adventure”, and I wanted to use that theme for all it’s worth. The one downside of working at summer camps is that you can’t really utilize the summer to travel. Since I was the camp nurse, I had to stay at camp 24 hours a day except for my day off. (But then again, I didn’t have a car at the time so I was completely at the mercy of coworkers offering a ride.) Because I couldn’t spend that summer traveling the world, I instead brought the world to the camp chapel.

Of course, I couldn’t do this alone. I worked with some very talented artists who did all the detailed art, including a stage scene and globe that aren’t pictured. But I did enjoy coming up with ideas, like turning each section of the chapel wall into its own continent.

My favorite was the Antarctica wall because I got to put the winter camp decorations to re-use. I also put the most work into this wall, making everything except the penguin and dogsled.

Antarctica

And of course there’s the continent where I’ve had most of my travel experience, North America. While I had a wealth of experience in this continent, the only representatives I made for the North American road trip are signs for Route 66 and In-N-Out. The funny thing is, I’ve been to In-N-Out several times and don’t see too much that makes it special, and the only times I’ve been on any part of Route 66 is when I’ve visited California and it’s the quickest route to make it to a nearby destination. So this wall wasn’t very representative of my travels.

North America

I guess I don’t have a finished picture of the Voyage to Asia, but the program coordinator brought in a bunch of decorations that she got from her time in China. In fact, a year after that summer, she moved to Asia!

Asia

The Europe wall wasn’t complete in this picture either. I hadn’t been inspired to backpack across Europe yet (or else this would have been a MUCH better wall), so we focused it on athletics and called it Tour de Europe, which is why you see the yellow jersey biking along the path, and we later added Olympic rings since they were held in London that summer.

Europe

Then there was Latin America, the only other continent I’ve visited to date. Although it ended up being more of a Mexican theme than true South American, I did enjoy cutting all of that papel picado!

Latin America

Because of last-minute inspiration, I later decorated the Australian Outback Adventure wall with colorful boomerangs. I also painted the koala, but someone else drew it!

Australia

I didn’t do much with the African Safari wall, except add the black dashes (which connect all the continents around the room) and make the continent. I actually made all the continents, though I got help with the painting and cutting. I looked up pictures of each continent on my computer, then plugged my computer into a projector. I hung paper where the projection was, and traced. Africa was probably the easiest because there aren’t so many nooks and crannies to trace and cut!

Africa

While I had a lot of fun helping decorate each continent wall, it was important that the partitions in the front of the chapel were also decorated. Stage right was a map from the United States to China, because it was our goal to raise money for a Chinese orphanage. It made a great visual reminder. We covered the stage left partition with all sorts of maps. These giant foam cutouts were just falling apart in storage, so I decided to give them new life and use them as decorations.

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Each circle had John 10:10, the summer’s theme verse, in a different language.

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Being able to look at at amazingly-decorated chapel all summer certainly encouraged me to live a full life!