Present in British Columbia

I may have talked about this before, but I am feeling too much in the moment to go back to check. One of the things I love about this cruising life is the opportunity it offers me to more fully inhabit the present.

This might sound weird from someone who spent time on this assignment in Alaska working on talks for Hong Kong and Singapore that I won’t give until next February, but the truth is that although I have to force myself to stay on track to be ready for what’s ahead, my head simply wants to be here now.

Today I went on a Zodiac in Alert Bay, British Columbia. The sky was bright, the water was sparkling, the seals and a Minke whale were doing their thing patrolling the bay. A dozen or more bald eagles watched the show, which of course includes us in our bright orange life jackets. As we moved slowly at the edge of a kelp bed looking for otters (no luck), I had one of those moments in which I said to myself “there is no place on earth I would rather be than right here right now.”

It is a joyous feeling to be just right exactly where you are. I came back to the ship ready to appreciate that the hot chocolate waiting for us was the only perfect thing for the moment, and that everything else was exactly right as it was.

i often get reflective on the last day of a cruise (I fly to San Diego tomorrow from Vancouver), and today was no exception.  Looking back, I have a number of regrets about what I didn’t do or see.  Those all pull me out of the present  I am pulled out of the present by looking forward too, and  since I feel as if I haven’t taken advantage of this  opportunity nearly enough, I plan to request to come back here in 2020, if the fates decree.

Staying in the present is rewarding, but so is looking back and saying, “wow!”  And so is looking forward and realizing how quickly (less than two weeks) until my adventure continues. Today I saw the first signs of fall in the turning leaves on the banks of the islands in Alert Bay.  Soon it is on to Montreal for me, where the nip in the air and the blazing beauty of the passing of one season and the arrival of another reminds me so acutely that the present isn’t just now, but contains all that has happened and all that is to come. Goodbye, British Columbia!  Thanks for the sunset ( below). Glad to have been present for it





A Travel Vow Fulfilled—In Parts


A number of years ago, I took several trips in connection with research for my novels that took me to places where it was cold and rainy. I remember making a vow that the next trip I took would involve a bathing suit and a Zodiac.

All this time I had assumed that when the time came, the Zodiac and the bathing suit would go together. I envisioned coming ashore on the sand of a South Seas island, or the rocky Galapagos coast , or something exotic like that.

Instead I took a number of trips where Zodiacs were as unlikely to be seen as a Metro would be here in coastal Alaska.  As for the bathing suit part,  I have had many opportunities to go to places where bathing suits were the preferred attire, from the pool deck of a ship to Mediterranean and Caribbean beaches.  The thing is, I have decided I honestly don’t like swimming—or even getting wet— all that much, and one of the nice things about getting older is that I don’t care whether I should feel differently.  I don’t, and I don’t have to.  I have gone, since I made my vow, to plenty of places warm enough for other people to be out tanning or splashing around in their swimwear, and that’s good enough for me.

However, in all my travels, I have never set foot on a Zodiac.  Until today, that is, in Misty Fjords, Rudyerd Bay, Alaska.  Misty Fjords is appropriately named, as the photo below shows. The water is glassy and the glacier-carved cliffs tower over insignificant beings like us.  We motored along, stopping to admire waterfalls and bald eagles, before heading back to mulled wine and dry clothing.

So now, at least a decade later, I can say I did it  I have taken a trip involving a bathing suit and a Zodiac, just not the same trip.  Since I didn’t even pack a swimsuit this time, I can’t jump in the Jacuzzi in a feeble attempt to make that claim.  Oh well—two trips (or in my case many) are better than one.  But I still am holding out for the arrival on that sandy beach some day.  I might even put on a swimsuit and get wet for that!



450 Passengers and 1 Frog

Well, the  long stretch of perfect health In  My Year of Living Travelly came to a screeching halt after five months.

I gave a lecture two days ago despite a sore and scratchy throat and  figured I would shake it off, as I usually do. This cold virus had other plans for me.

Since then, I had to beg out of hosting a dinner table and being a panelist on Liars Club, which I love doing. I missed out on a  zodiac adventure yesterday and a shore excursion I really wanted to do today, and have  been holed up listlessly in my room, venturing out only for a cup of tea or something to nibble on with no enthusiasm.

Those of you who have known me from my leaching days are probably aware that a few years back I developed chronic inflammation and swelling of the supporting structure for my vocal cords, which causes  them not to line up the way they should  to produce a strong voice.  It was a severe enough problem that I had to give up my full-time teaching jobs several years before I planned to, since I simply cannot project my voice well, or for very long.

Cruise lecturing is fine because I have a headset mike planted right next to my mouth and I don’t have to speak for more than 45 minutes a couple of times a week.  The hardest part for me has always been dinner at large tables, since  projecting my voice enough to converse feels similar to the strain of yelling with a healthy voice.   I often go back to my room quite hoarse after dinner, but I have generally recovered by morning.

But not when a cold makes things worse.  If I talk at all in the early stages, I set myself up for the almost  dead certainty of a couple of days  with total laryngitis.  I’m hiding out now not just because I feel like crap, but because I don’t want to have to use my voice at all for the chit chat that is part of life on a ship.

So far so good.  I sound like a frog, but I am not down to a squeak. This self-imposed quarantine has also been good for the other passengers as well, since ships have often been called floating petri dishes, and hopefully I won’t spread this around.

This cold came on so soon after the start of the second cruise that I have met almost no one.  No dinners, no shore excursions, no team trivia after the first two days.  This is a weird one so far,  but since the cruise is a full two weeks, I will still have some time to be my usual self and have fun with the folks on board.

The good news is that I don’t have a lecture for two more days, nor another table to host for three. The bad news is that I am missing Alaska!  Lucky for me I saw a lot on the leg from Vancouver to Seward, and  the new ports are at the end in British Columbia, when presumably I will be my old self again.

One of my unanswered questions about My Year of  Living Travelly was if getting sick would put a damper on my enthusiasm and make me wish I could go home. I now have my answer, at least for something as minor as a cold: If you have to crawl into a cave for a few days, why not do it in  a bed with fantastic linens and fluffy pillows, a cabin steward, and room service? Sure, being sick is no fun, but my life is as good as ever.



Turnaround Time

Wow! I just realized I didn’t post once during the first Alaska cruise.  Maybe that’s a good sign that I really switched gears, but it’s more honestly the result of a busy schedule and poor satellite internet.

i am in Seward, Alaska, between my first and second cruises.  This evening we head back in the direction of Vancouver, from where I will fly back to San Diego briefly before heading off to Montreal for the fall season—can the first falling leaves be on the horizon so soon?

So now it’s transition time. Dan left for the airport a few minutes ago, and after a goodbye at his bus, I went back on board a ship that most guests rarely see.  The cabin stewards look as if they are in the starting blocks for a sprint, which in a way they are. In a few hours the ship will be pristine again and ready for the new passengers.  But right now, the hallways are filled with piles of sheets and towels, and staff are coming through to remove copious quantities of half-empty liquor and wine bottles. A real bonanza if I drank the hard stuff—I’d never come out of my room!  I did go through a massive pile of soda cans and discovered diet tonic water, which I didn’t know they had. Score!  I guess they remove all the stuff in the fridges, even if unopened, then put it all back in later—maybe wiped down?  I will have to ask.

So now, I am doing my laundry—the one time you can be sure the machines won’t be in use—and spreading out to fill all the closets and drawers in the room.  It is so comforting and fun to have Dan aboard, and it would be great to be looking forward to having a friend join me (illness recovery prevented my buddy Sharon from coming along), but I do have to admit, there is something special about calling 100% of the shots about time, space and activities.

And of course, it is time for a mental recap and a new set of promises to myself, as follows:

1) I will skip breakfast except on tour mornings

2) I will cheat less on my rules at lunch, and will skip the buffet in favor of ordering from a menu at the pool or restaurant most days.  Easier to know how much I have eaten.

3)  I will drink more water and less wine at dinner.  I no longer have wine at lunch at all, except if I just finished a lecture

4). I will walk briskly at least an hour a day, on treadmill or in port

5). I will get over my dislike of small hotel-style gyms and give my upper body something to cheer about.

6) I will do more of my work in the beautiful public spaces on the ship, rather than holed up in my room.

7) I will not order room service just because I don’t have a concrete dinner plan.  Something always works out.

8) I will go on more strenuous shore excursions.  There were reasons to be more sedentary this time around (Dan’s broken toe and my need to get familiar with the ports), but there’s no excuse this time!

9)….And on that note, I will kayak at least once  I don’t know why I have it so built up in my mind that I will be a spaz at it and end up in the icy water, but that’s the vision I have.

I am repeating a mantra that I wish I followed a little better:  Being afraid of something is a good reason to do it.   Since this Year of Living Travelly is in large part about expanding my comfort zone, I will do my best to become the Kayak Queeen, and Solo Traveler extraordinaire!

And since ten resolutions has more resonance than nine, I will add my ongoing one:  never let even one day pass without remembering to be grateful for this beautiful life

Time to move clothes into the dryer.  Then into town for that hour of walking—and no, poking around the shopping street doesn’t count!



First Fireworks, then a Parade

It seems as if most of the time I arrive a day too late or leave a day too early to see a city make a big splash, but in Vancouver I was just right, and I didn’t even know it until the excitement was  on my  doorstep—literally.

Many months ago, Dan and I made reservations to come to Vancouver a couple of days before starting a cruise, to give us a chance to look around a little more.  Since arriving it has been one surprise after another.  First, the hotel we booked, The Sylvia,  turns out to be a historic beauty right on the waterfront of English Bay. Second it has been sunny and warm, the water sparkling, and the locals  out in droves on bikes and on foot, enjoying the utter happiness of this beautiful place they call home. With Dan’s broken toe we haven’t been able walk very far to dinnner, and voila, the hotel restaurant turned out to be first rate.

”There are fireworks tomorrow tonight, “ our cab driver said. “You’ll be able to see them from your hotel.”  That was the first big understatement of our trip.  The fireworks were a lollapalooza, part of an International Fireworks Festival, spanning several weeks, in which countries compete for who can impress Vancouver the most with a  25-minute display choreographed to music. The festival has been going on nearly three decades, and I had to shake my head in wonderment that a city could get other countries to come and entertain it like this, for no  reward that I could discern except the bragging rights of winning.  I wonder what would happen if I tried to persuade top chefs to come compete at my place, and then I would clap one of them on the back and say, “Congratulations!  Your truffle-infused duck fat potato confit with persillade and pea sprout garnish wins the prize!  Thanks for coming!  Bye!””

It didn’t take us long to determine that another surprise was in store this weekend, when we started seeing all the costumes and an extraordinary spirit of fun and frivolity everywhere.  Not only was there a comic convention going on downtown, but it was a Pride Weekend and there would be a huge parade passing  by —you guessed it—one block from our hotel.  Drums,  rainbow floats, lots of random marchers and proud onlookers.  Thanks, Universe —I needed a reminder that even though so much seems dark and threatening now at home,  there  has been great progress in my lifetime on this and other social fronts I care about.

I  am feeling like royalty!  I mean, how many visitors get fireworks and a parade?  And then, to top it off, I discovered wines from the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia.  I had been there once with my late husband, who grew up on the shores of Lake Okenagan, and while there we tried the wine and weren’t very impressed. With my penchant for trying local when I travel, I decided to give it another chance, and yum!  I was, of course, inspired by that to give local peach wheat beer a try at lunch in Stanley Park yesterday. Yum too!    So of course I had to confirm my experiment by trying Okanagan wine again today at lunch.  Even better than the first one!  The photo below is included to show what great lengths I will go to to boost the British Columbia economy by drinking their best!  Cheers!




Options and Other Pleasures

It’s almost time to leave San Diego for the next short chapter in My Year of Living Travelly.  I  leave on Friday for Vancouver, where Dan and I will spend a few days before boarding Seabourn Sojourn for 11 days (him) and 25 days (me).

I have only been once to Alaska, briefly,  about thirty years ago, but really it is unforgettable.  I am excited to be hitting the road again, not just to see it again, but because my year ought to be spent as travelly as possible, and it’s time to end a lovely hiatus and move on.

I do have a few observations, or should I say a few points of gratitude to share before leaving, so here they are.

I really appreciated the  ease of being here.  When I am traveling, in some ways my world is smaller.  I have fewer options in a unfamiliar place—no idea where to go if I can’t find what I want at the place I was told to look, no sense of how to get around blocked streets or traffic jams,  few ideas about the best place to get what I feel like eating.  Options are nice!

I appreciated cheap sports.  On the ship, a round of golf costs hundreds of dollars.  Yesterday, nine holes at a municipal course cost me ten. Tennis outings never seem to happen on cruise lines , but if they did, I doubt I could afford to go. Here a couple of bucks at the public courts gets me all the play I want.

Friends.  That really should come first.  My dance card has been so full with getting together with friends, and I have loved seeing every one of them, from people I have known forever, to others I just met on a recent cruise.

Familiar routines have been fun too—walks in the park with Dan, going to minyan at the synagogue, walking to the gym.  Sometimes I feel like a tourist, taking photos of Balboa Park, the golf course, even the American and California flags, as if they are something exotic. Which of course they are, with different eyes.

Overall, the feeling I have had is that I am still traveling, Even here. I lived out of a suitcase, didn’t have a car, and didn’t  set foot in my own condo.  That’s fine with me.  Seeing my life from a different perspective works both at home and wherever else I lay my head, walk my feet, or share my thoughts.