Jennifer S Alderson

Introducing author Jennifer S. Alderson

Aloha readers!

Today I’m especially happy to introduce author Jennifer S Alderson – a fellow traveler, writer, and all-around neat-o woman. We connected several months ago, and besides writing interesting books that combine fiction with the specific geographical settings of her travels, she has taught me a lot about supporting other indie authors. Her latest venture, aside from her newest book coming out, is Travel by Book, a Facebook page Jennifer administers to recognize the work of travel writers; whether you’re a reader or a writer, if you enjoy writing with a sense of place – fiction or memoir – join this page and find great new books to read.

Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands.

Jennifer’s travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction. Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment, another art-related travel thriller (working title: Smuggler’s Deceit) will be released in the fall of 2017.

Her travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, is a must-read for those interested in learning more about, or wishing to travel to Nepal and Thailand.

Notes of a Naive Traveler

 

About Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand:

“The ride back to Kathmandu was comfortable and relaxing. There were more overturned trucks (the gas-powered ones seem to tip the most, I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions), goats being herded across the highway by ancient women, children playing games in traffic, private cars and buses alike pulling over in the most inconvenient places for a picnic or public bath, and best of all the suicidal overtaking maneuvers (or what we would call ‘passing’) by our bus and others while going downhill at incredible speeds or around hairpin turns uphill with absolutely no power left to actually get around the other vehicle.”

I was twenty-six years old, had a well-paid job, fantastic apartment and large circle of friends. I had everything, except I didn’t. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing out on the experience of living.

Part cultural and travel guide, part journey of self-discovery, this travelogue takes you on a backpacking adventure through Nepal and Thailand and provides a first-hand account of one volunteer’s experience teaching in a Nepali school and living with a devout Brahmin family. 

Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of Eastern Nepal, take a wild river rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea kayak the surreal waters of Krabi and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.

Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.

Thailand

 

Reviews for Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand:

For anyone who has never traveled to a country whose culture is different from your own, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s an incredible experience, as this journey through Nepal and Thailand portrays. The author’s story is whimsical and at times flirting with danger. For those who have traveled, it’s the trip home that actually is more of a culture-shock, than the places visited. Travelers expect and anticipate differences, but once experienced, we look at our own culture with entirely new eyes. This book gives you that look at Nepal and Thailand, and I recommend it for anyone thinking about taking a trip … anywhere.” 5 stars – Amazon review (Author Rebecca Carter)

“In this phase of my life when time is scarce travel becomes the casualty, but thanks to the eloquent and detailed ticket that authors like Jennifer Alderson buy on our behalf, along we can go for the ride into the most exciting, uncomfortable, frustrating and exhilarating backwaters of our planet — without the need to risk our digestive system on the questionable water and dubious plumbing.

I had the advantage of having traveled to Thailand some years ago, so that with more than half the book in the Himalayas and the balance in my familiarity, I was able to identify strongly with that part-2 of the travelogue and so set a gauge for me to sense how accurately she captures the spirit of a place.
I am happy to say that my experience aligns precisely with how she characterized Thailand; I have confidence then that I can fully trust her opinions from the Himalaya.

“Notes…” is a wonderfully engaging companion that took me to the Himalaya a place I’d love to someday see but am unlikely to ever reach. It did more than send me down the well worn path of Jane or Joe tourist, instead, it gave me an in depth view into the lives or ordinary folk I’d pass on the street of a backwater but likely learn nothing about.
To Jennifer then I say “thank you!” This is a rare gift indeed. Keep traveling for me and us.” 5 stars – Amazon review (Author Michael Smorenburg)

Read more 5-star reviews!

 

Thailand hat tham phra nang

 

Find Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand on Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Amazon UK.

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. Learn more about Jennifer on her blog or JenniferSAlderson.com.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s author introduction, and are intrigued enough to buy one (or all!) of Jennifer’s books. From my own reading experience, her writing is colorful with cultural descriptions, fast-paced, exciting, and worth your time.

 

Have a great week!

M

 

About Melissa:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

From Travel to Romcon and Beyond

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

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Melissa Burovac

From travel to romcom and beyond – an evolution of my writing

In 2012, I embarked on a solo RTW trip that lasted nine months. I had never traveled solo before, and have a healthy dose of social anxiety plus a great fear of getting lost with my poor sense of direction, so this was an enormous undertaking for me. I had help getting prepared from traveler friends, creating lists of places to visit and gear I might need along the way. I put my furniture in storage, not knowing what to expect for how long I would be gone, sold my beloved Jeep Cherokee, and bought a one-way ticket to Mexico. I got a ride to the airport in Lihue, Kauai, carrying only a backpack containing clothes, a point and shoot camera, a 13” Mac laptop, and a water filter. A couple months after my 40th birthday, I was as ready as I would ever be.

During my travels I visited nine countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Australia, Cambodia, and Thailand. I encountered natural disasters in most of the countries — two hurricanes, a volcano eruption, an earthquake and a wildfire. As I blogged, my friends joked they knew where I was by where the natural disasters were occurring. “Something exploded? Let’s see where Melissa is!”

Blogging as I traveled was mainly to let my mother know I was still alive. I had childhood dreams of being a writer, but those got lost in the flurry of making a living after college and were completely forgotten. When I returned to Kauai after my trip I didn’t expect such a reaction to my blog; people were amazed I traveled for nine months, mostly solo, and that I didn’t die in the drug wars of Mexico, or some other place they only knew from news reports. Or even that as a woman, I was able to make my way through the world without trouble — some trouble, but not much. The women who followed me online were especially impressed and wanted to know how I did it all by myself. As I heard, more and more, “You should write a book,” I recalled those forgotten dreams of becoming an author and decided to give it a try.

Wandering was born from my blog posts, mostly written in bars and cafes around the world— a little bit drunk, a little bit lost, and toward the end, a whole lot homesick from being alone. This first book of mine was self-published in June 2014.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, though. I was working full-time as a bookkeeper, writing full-time after work — mostly from the back of my truck at the beach with a $200 laptop — and I was exhausted. I lost touch with most of my friends, and was a little depressed with the sudden lack of freedom.

Finally, though, Wandering was finished, published, and it was the most exciting thing in my life to see a book I had written in print. I immediately had dreams of writing more books, but didn’t see enough income to allow me to quit my regular job. I sent copies to every major outlet and publisher I could find online but no one picked up the book. While visiting my sister in Portland I took copies to Powell’s and sold them as used just so I could go back a week later and see my book on the shelf at a bookstore.

So what comes next? I wanted to be a full-time writer but it wasn’t working out exactly as it had in my daydreams. I didn’t have another book planned, and couldn’t begin to imagine what to do with myself.

One afternoon I was flipping through articles about writing on the internet and came across one about romance writers. The three women depicted in the article were raking in huge monthly incomes from churning out romance e-books, and I thought to myself, How hard could it be to write a romance novel?

I was sitting at a bar in Portland, drinking Bloody Marys and turning my imagination to writing a quick, sexy romance novel to generate some income — and I failed miserably. This is actually the only non-fiction scene in my second book Sylvie Writes a Romance.

I love to read classic fiction, sci-fi, horror, biographies — really, anything but romance novels. In my snobby view of the writing world I didn’t consider romance novels as literature, but just a means to pass the time, and not even as “real writing.” I was completely confused when I couldn’t write anything in that genre that was remotely good. It opened my eyes to how much work any type of writing entails.

I came back home to Kauai and bought a couple used romance novels at a thrift store, and sat down to read them. The books weren’t grammatically complicated, and didn’t contain any lofty ideas, and I sat down to write again, never actually finishing either of them. I just wanted to write something for a mass market so I could concentrate on writing something more profound.

I failed again and again, never writing anything I was happy with. But these failures evolved into a new project about a writer trying to write a romance novel and failing, turning to online dating to meet men and hoping to learn the meaning of romance. It’s more comedy than romance, which suits my style much better.

Sylvie Writes a Romance was born, and published in 2016.

Since Sylvie was written, I have been working on a sequel, plus trying my hand at writing a biography. I hope to have both published this year, and still have my sights set on a full-time career in writing.

 

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

 

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Sylvie Writes a Romance

Sylvie Writes a Romance – an excerpt

The following is a chapter from Sylvie writes a Romance; if you enjoy it, you can get it on Kindle or paperback from Amazon. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read the entire book for free!

Sylvie is an writer, trying to write a romance novel. Realizing she knows nothing of romance, she turns to online dating.

Enjoy.

**************************

Sylvie found a parking space outside Keoki’s at 6 o’clock, an hour before the promised time to meet Phred69; enough time to have a drink and rehearse the things she wanted to talk about. After purchasing two sets of sexy, matching underwear and a naughty-looking sheer red teddy, Sylvie had looked for conversation tips online and jotted them down in her notebook, which was tucked in her oversized black purse. She had read them over and over while she got dressed and applied her makeup, almost like she was cramming for a college exam, but worried she would be too nervous to remember.

What would be so wrong about treating this exactly like the cheaters in school? she had asked herself, and decided to ink microscopic reminders on the underside of her left wrist to aid her memory.

The notes were simple, only key words to ideas she needed to incorporate into the evening. Touch meant she should reach out and touch his arm or knee on occasion; gaze, to look into his eyes; hair so she remembered to twirl her hair around her finger, or maybe suggestively stick the ends into her mouth and suck on it. The list only covered a few square inches and she was certain Phred69 wouldn’t notice.

The restaurant was crowded, but Sylvie managed to find a single seat at the rectangular bar. She wasn’t exactly sure what her date looked like – the one detail she had forgotten to etch into her mind – but she knew he’d find her in her red dress and heels; she was the only woman so dressed up. After ordering a glass of tequila with ice to calm her nerves, she applauded herself for her flawless walk from the truck to her current seat; Sylvie had walked barefoot from her house, only donning the stilettos upon arrival in the parking lot. She had pictured the runway model in her mind again and sashayed across the blacktop in what she thought was a similar manner. And it had worked – she didn’t wobble or trip over anything, which she took as a good omen for the evening.

Sylvie reached for a menu to decide in advance what she should order; while sitting with her date she would pretend to be indecisive, but now she wanted to think through all the possibilities and choose a dish containing only foods from the sexy list. She didn’t want anything to drip on her dress or leave gobs of green in her teeth.

“You look a little low there,” the bartender said, bringing Sylvie out of her study of the menu. The bartender, tall and slim with an adorable, unlined face, was pointing at her drink. “Another?”

“Yes, please. One more can’t hurt.” Sylvie slyly glanced at her wrist notes, saw smile and touch, and lightly grazed the bartender’s hand with her fingers as he reached for her glass, smiling at him. His hand momentarily froze, he looked into her eyes, smiled back, and retrieved her glass for a refill.

Oh my God, it works! she silently exclaimed to herself. I can do this!

Half an hour before her date, Sylvie started on her second tequila. The shot was much more generous than the first, and came with a sexy smile from the bartender as it was served. Sylvie practically fell off her stool with excitement.

Returning her attention to the menu, she decided on the sashimi for her dinner; without rice, the mouthfuls wouldn’t be too big to be messy or choke on, and she could strategically drip some soy sauce onto her fingers and lick it off while gazing into his eyes. The evening was looking better and better as she finished her second drink, listening to the music.

 

It was last call and she was the only patron left in the restaurant. The bartender slid the check towards her, letting his fingers linger on the paper until she read the words he had handwritten, “I paid your tab and I’d like to take you home.” She glanced up and their eyes met; she smiled her consent – words were not necessary. Suddenly alive with desire, she boldly slid off her stool and walked to meet him body to body, with no bar between them. His strong hands gripped her waist and lifted her onto the bar, sliding his hands down to the small of her back, pressing his face between her breasts, taking in her essence. He tilted his head upwards and kissed her neck, her head falling backward, eyes closed. She wrapped her legs around him and pulled him close as he slid his hands up her back and slowly pulled the zipper of her dress all the way down. His fingertips on the bare skin of her back sent shivers straight to her core, and she knew she had to have him immediately, right there, on the bar. She shrugged her shoulders and her dress fell to her waist, revealing her breasts, nipples erect in anticipation of his tongue and lips. She didn’t have to wait long – his hungry mouth found its way to a sweet spot as his fingers unclasped her bra and gently pulled the red lace away from…

 

A tap on her shoulder reminded Sylvie that she was at the bar to meet her date, causing her to startle out of her daydream.

“Sylvie?”

“Yes…”

“I’m Fred. Nice dress. Do you want to stay at the bar or find a table?”

Sylvie noticed the seat to the right of her was now vacant. “Let’s stay right here.” She smiled in anticipation as she envisioned flirting with both men, and having her choice at the end of the evening.

Fred took his seat, and Sylvie swiveled to get a better look at him. She could tell he wasn’t as tall as her, but he was tan and in good shape, presumably from all the hiking he mentioned in his profile. He had all his teeth – thank God – and while he wasn’t exactly handsome, he wasn’t bad looking, either – short, brown hair with the slightest touch of curl over soft brown eyes.

Sylvie’s nerves kicked in again as they ordered a round of drinks, Sylvie’s third in an hour. Her mind seemed to empty of all the conversation tips, so she quickly peeked at her wrist as Fred was facing the bartender, ordering a beer. She wasn’t quick enough, though.

“Is that a tattoo? Can I see?”

Sylvie slammed her arm down onto the bar in embarrassment. “No, I scratched myself earlier and I was checking on it, that’s all.” But she had managed to glimpse the word him, reminding herself to ask about him and look very interested in what he was saying.

“I saw your hiking pictures online; you seem to get out quite a bit. What else do you do?”

“I got laid off from my job about a year ago and I haven’t really found anything else yet.”

“Oh. It’s so expensive to live here, have you been able to get unemployment for so long?”

“Well, I wasn’t technically laid off so I never qualified for unemployment. I was living with my girlfriend at the time, but we broke up and I moved back in with my parents, ya know, to help them out a bit.”

“Oh.”

A few moments of awkward silence followed as Sylvie pondered the idea of getting involved with a middle-aged man who lived with his parents. She mentally shook her head, it’s just for sex! she reminded herself. I don’t have to give him my phone number!

“What do you do for a living? There weren’t many details on your profile.”

“I’m an accountant.”

“I bet that makes good money. Where do you work?”

She stared into his eyes, her mind screaming, don’t tell him! Don’t tell him! and risked a fast glance at her wrist’s cheat sheet to help her turn the conversation back to him. Sylvie had placed her arm next to her glass, and the condensation on the bar had smeared the words into a runny blob that was slowly inching its way towards her elbow.

She instinctively hid her arm on her lap and thought hard for another word on her list: Hair.

Sylvie inserted her right index finger into her hair and began twirling; Fred was still staring at her in expectation of her answer.

Smile. It was coming back to her now. Compliment.

Sylvie fixed what she felt was a warm smile on her face, “I can tell that hiking keeps you in great shape. You look very strong.”

With her ink-stained arm in her lap and her right hand twirling in her hair, Sylvie regretfully realized she had no way to sip her drink. Fred smiled at the compliment and began to talk about his explorations.

“I try to get out of the house every day, ya know, the parents and all, so I’ve checked out all the hikes on the island. I bet no one knows the trails around here better than I do. I bet I’ve gone through 10 pairs of hiking boots this year.”

Sylvie started to reach for her drink but her hand wouldn’t move – she had nervously twirled her hair into a knot around her ring.

“What’s your favorite?” She tugged her hand some more, silently pleading with her ring to let go.

“There’s a trail along the coast I really like, it’s a pretty hardcore climb, about six miles, but it’s got ocean views the whole way. Totally worth it. The other day I was up there and saw this great big…” He narrowed his eyes as he looked at her more closely. “Are you okay?”

Sylvie was not. She didn’t want Fred to see her ink-smudged left arm, but she needed it to get her right hand free of her knotted hair. The dilemma was written all over her face.

“Oh it’s nothing, just my hand is stuck,” Sylvie said as nonchalantly as she could. “What were you saying about the trail? It sounds so beautiful. Tell me more about things you like to do.”

Fred didn’t take the conversational bait. “Your hand is stuck? On what?”

Feeling like she had no other choice, and now desperately wanting to chug her drink to forget her embarrassment, Sylvie lifted her left arm off her lap to free her ring, runny, black ink plainly in sight down her arm and imprinted onto the front of her dress. She pulled the ring off her finger and left it dangling in her piece of snarled hair while she took a long, slow sip of tequila.

“Uh, do you need some help… with… that…?” Fred shyly pointed at the ring in her hair.

“No, I got it.” Sylvie reached out once again with her blackened arm and began to untangle the mess, tipping a bit tipsily on her stool as the tequila finally hit her and smudging ink on her right cheek.

“Uh, you got…”

“I know,” she snapped, wondering how the night had taken such a bad turn so quickly.

“Ok, um,” Fred chugged the remainder of his beer. “I’m gonna get going. You look like you might wanna, uh, go home. Uh …”

He turned and walked to the exit, as fast as he could without running.

And without paying for his beer.

Freeing the ring and finishing the rest of her drink, Sylvie crossed her arms on the bar and rested her forehead on them, absently staring at Colleen’s black shoes.

“Are you ready for another?” The hot bartender was clearly speaking to her. Sylvie lifted her head, ink-stained and tangled, “Just the check, please.”

********************

If you’ve read either Wandering or Sylvie Writes a Romance, I’d love to hear your thought by way of an Amazon review. Thank you!

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

 

Follow me on Facebook

 

 

Birthday Week Kindle Book Giveaway

It’s that time again – the annual Wandering on Kindle book giveaway. Get it absolutely free between now and March 28th!

Check it out on Amazon.

Wandering tallies her hilarious as well as poignant experiences as she travels from Mexico through Central America, sneaks into Cuba, and journeys from Australia to Cambodia and Thailand. Read about her misadventures with crocodiles and the times she encounters erupting volcanoes…and two hurricanes…and a wildfire.

Burovac’s stories will make you laugh while reminding you that life is an adventure—and sometimes you just need to pack a bag and get lost.

Wandering on Kindle – Holiday Sale

Beginning today and ending on Christmas, the Kindle version of Wandering is on sale!

Get it at Amazon – Wandering.

And as always, you can read it absolutely free with Kindle Unlimited.

As a Christmas present to me, leave a review!

 

Stay tuned, my next book will be out in 2016!

Thank you!

Birthday week Kindle sale!

From March 22 – 29, 2015, the Kindle version of Wandering will be on sale to celebrate my birthday!  Get it if you haven’t already!

Find it on Amazon.

 

In other news, progress is being made on the new book!  I hope to have it ready for publication by the end of the year!

 

Thank you!

Melissa

Kona

Kona 2015

written at humpy’s alehouse, kona 2-11-15

I really didn’t want to go to the big island by myself.  I had a week off work, little money, and no desire to spend more time alone.  Shanti talked me into going, and after all, what was I going to do at home all week?  The same things I do every day, including complaining about my upstairs neighbor, and being alone anyway.  There was a big northwest swell coming in and my favorite camping spot would be too junky to swim, and way too big to surf.

I spent an evening trying to find flights, hotels, dives, cars, all the necessary vacation things, and failed.  I’m just not a good planner.  Every time I found a piece of the puzzle, I stressed that the other pieces would sell out before I could book them; for some reason, Valentine’s Week is extremely popular in Hawaii.  Another depressing thought about being alone for vacation.

But Shanti persevered and booked my entire trip, except for the dives.  I had called in advance and made those reservations; there’s no reason to go anywhere if I can’t get in the water.  Dive shops have a much friendlier cancellation policy than airlines.

There are always little surprises when you let someone else book trips for you; I hadn’t realized that my flight from Kahului to Kona was on a puddle-jumper plane.  Normally I don’t mind them, but to get an idea of the conditions, a school in Kona cancelled because the wind gusts ripped off the roof that day.  And there were lots of kids who had no idea of what ‘indoor voice’ means.  Its pretty intense on a small plane, and I forgot my headphones.

We landed successfully and I retrieved my rental car.  I had a choice of a blue, four-door Hyundai or something that resembled a Smart Car.  I still envisioned that Andy might join me and I wasn’t sure either of us could fit in the tiny car, even separately, so I picked the Hyundai.  I made it to Island Naturals to buy food, and ultimately to the Holiday Inn Express.  Shanti had printed me maps for everywhere I needed to go.  She’s so awesome.  I sometimes wonder how I got through life before her.

By the time I got to my room at the Holiday Inn it was dark.  I had three bags: one of camera gear, one of Pablo’s borrowed scuba gear, and a tiny sack with some clothes.  My room had two beds and I immediately decided that one was for sleeping, the other for snacking and napping.  The building next door contained a pizza place called Longboards, specializing in taro crust, and I ordered a medium to go, for my snack bed.  After an hour walk to reacquaint myself with Kona, I had been there for a couple days with Shanti, Pablo and Jason a few years ago, I came back to the largest pizza I’d ever seen.  And it was a medium.  I started to argue that they made the wrong size for me when I saw the large walk past, for a group of about 20.  My pizza could have stuffed eight people easily, and it took up almost half of my snack bed.  I ate about four people’s worth, thought I might never walk again, and threw the rest in the hallway so I wouldn’t be tempted to start eating again in ten minutes.  I didn’t even want it for breakfast, I never wanted to see that pizza again.

One of the reasons I finally relented and went on a trip instead of saving money was that my upstairs neighbor had a house guest for the week.  I love my neighbor, but my house just wasn’t meant to have a downstairs apartment; every movement she makes is amplified and echoed, and I haven’t had a full nights sleep in months.  Two people above me meant that I wouldn’t sleep all week.  And wow was I surprised, sitting on my snack bed with my ridiculous-sized pizza, when all I could hear over the TV was the people above me pounding across my ceiling.  Fuuuuuuuucccckk.

At least I still had some Nyquil left from my cold.

But I’m on vacation, and the diving starts tomorrow.  All up from here.

Hell yeah! or no. (Fuck yes or no)

A friend sent me a blog post, which led me to another. Both extremely relevant to me at this point in my life of trying to figure out where I want go and what I want to do. And who should accompany me on this journey.  (Read them both, they could be life-changers for you, which is how I was introduced to them).

Another friend, Bill, someone I’ve only recently met, shared his blog with me, and we talked about living life exactly how we want, and accepting nothing less.

It seems amazing to me that after the amount of time I spent working on my personal growth, these are concepts that I haven’t gotten right yet.  I’m not saying that in a disparaging way, but in the light of having an old concept presented to me in a way that makes more sense, with more of a concrete example to follow.  There are a few things to which I say ‘Fuck yes,’ but the major decisions of my life are always based upon a lesser of evils; this doesn’t make sense anymore.

I justify my major decisions in various ways: if I don’t take this job, I might not make enough money to survive on my own; if I don’t rent this house, it may be months of begging friends to live on their couches before I find somewhere I want to live. Making money and having a solid place to live are a couple of the most important decisions that are a part of everyone’s lives.

I had a discussion at work with my boss a few weeks ago, we talked about my future and what I want to do; he had offered me a solid position doing something that I’m good at, but which, after thinking about it, I knew would be unexciting and unfulfilling to me.  A couple days later, I declined.  He was perplexed, because in his mind it would be a good fit for me, given the skills he sees in me when I’m at work.  Somewhat frustrated (in my mind), he asked, “what do you want to do?”

“Buy a boat and spend my life taking pictures of dolphins.”

It just popped out of my mouth without thought.

That’s my Fuck Yes, I guess.

But instead, I took a different job, somewhat half-way between taking pictures of dolphins and working in an office.

Several days later, I had a short discussion with Bill about life, and living it to the fullest. His only stand on the matter is to follow your passion, no matter what, and that’s how you live a completely fulfilling life.  I objected with the usual “it costs a lot to live here” and “I don’t want to starve and be homeless.”  Bill had absolutely no pity on those statements.  Do what you love and if you’re happy doing it, the money will follow.  The universe takes care of people following their dreams.

To most people that see my “highlight reel” of posted pictures on facebook, they see a happy girl doing great things and don’t guess that I still haven’t gotten this basic life concept figured out yet.  Maybe I’m too scared to give up the tenuous hold on security that I currently have.  Tenuous security is still security.  It takes a giant leap of faith to start something new and believe that it will work, while giving up what I know is working even though it’s not perfect.

I’ve made some major changes in my life in the past few years, partly in thanks to Shanti and Andy convincing me that I should take time off work and travel, to see what’s outside my comfort zone.  But settling back into the security of my comfort zone happened almost immediately when I returned, in terms of jobs and housing.  I’m more aware of what’s “out there,” and what makes my soul happy, and these things don’t happen in my current comfort zone.  Just when I think I have so much figured out in my life, it seems that it’s time to shake it up again.  It’s scary and exciting, and it’s time to embark on new adventures.  It takes courage, which doesn’t always appear when it’s needed.  I have to make it happen.  And this might be the journey I’m meant to take now.  And make it stick, at which point the scary dream will become my new comfort zone.

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Amtrak across the States

Last week I rode the Amtrak from Portland to Cleveland, just for fun. And, of course, to get somewhere.

I’d only ever been on trains in Italy and Thailand and was wondering how much different they might be. I couldn’t afford a sleeper car by myself so I booked a single seat for the entire three day trip, figuring I could spend my days walking around the cars to exercise my sore butt when I sat too long.

The price for the trip was great, only $280, and I could bring all my luggage without those horrible checked-bag fees from the airlines. The only downside to traveling that long for a great price was having to deal with people nearby that I wouldn’t normally want to talk to. While most people were great, one man got on the train, turned to his nearest neighbor, and instantly started talking politics; abortion, welfare, how ‘those blacks’ in Ferguson were only causing a fuss to make money. People like him are precisely the reason why I wear headphones at all times, even if I don’t have any music playing – it’s a great way to eavesdrop while not having to get involved in a conversation that would make me want to punch someone. Another guy, maybe 25 years old, turned to his neighbor, a hippie with long dreads hand-sewing patches on his raggedy pants, and struck up a conversation about how awesome his motorcycle is, and how he regularly outruns cops. When the dreadlocked guy failed to have any satisfactory response, he changed the subject to how he owns the greatest new computer and gadgets, and is the most tech savvy of anyone he knows, which got him a couple of nods and the same basic non-acknowledgement or care. Neither of the speakers, obviously, knew how to choose the proper audience for their platforms.

Another aspect of life on a train is dealing with people’s general presentation. Smells. The hippie guy probably hadn’t showered in a week, which made me consider suggesting a policy to Amtrak about hygiene. Maybe free showers should be provided for people traveling more than a few hours. It was actually a bit of fresh air when the guy started peeling and chewing on raw garlic. But people need to get to where they’re going, and if Amtrak is the most cost-effective, then good for them for doing their traveling.

My in-car conductor was great; he snuck me into the sleeper car during a great sunset so I could take a picture from the back of the train when I told him I was documenting my trip. He regularly came to my seat to point out upcoming points of interest, and kept me informed of stops and the workings of the train.

The first leg of my trip ended up being six hours late, due to heavy freight traffic. This possibility was disclosed when I purchased my ticket, but as I wasn’t in any big hurry I didn’t mind. The entire train received a free meal as an apology. The food was good. Aside from coffee every morning, I didn’t eat any other meals on the train, I had brought a bag of food to eat in the observation car. I figured that if I had to be on a train for three days I should be prepared with food that I knew would agree with me. And I was on a budget. But the bathrooms were surprisingly clean and plentiful. Important for long distance travel.

I had a six-hour layover in Chicago that I was half-planning, wondering what I could see in the city without getting too lost and miss my connection. When we pulled into the station, six hours late, the conductor pulled the train directly up to the departing train for those of us making the connection, we only needed to walk 10 feet to our new train. This, I was told, was not normally done, but they did it as a courtesy for those of us about to miss the Lakeshore line. We made it with a few minutes to spare, and I was grateful. And my parents were grateful that I was going to get home on time, not a day later.

I did have an ulterior motive to taking Amtrak across the States. I had read about the writers residency program that Amtrak offers and wanted to apply; but by the time I heard about it, over 20,000 people had applied and the program was shut down for the year. What better way to get a jump start on my application for next year than to take a train, post pics along the way, and show them how much I loved it? I did get some writing done on my new book, but enjoying a private suite while working would definitely keep me from getting as distracted as I was in my seat. I just can’t help listening to everyone around me, good or bad, which is one of the great aspects of travel.

Overall, I loved the trip. I spent three days watching the scenery, thinking, making new friends, relaxing. And I can’t wait to do it again.

 

 

 

Visit my Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts to view the original posts from the train.

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Worst dive buddy ever – scuba diving on The Great Barrier Reef

An excerpt from Wandering, from the Great Barrier Reef:

 

I went with the same company but still had to fill out all the same paperwork about experience and medical conditions and such. All the certified divers were grouped together, again only about 20 of us. One English woman with a high-pitched, whiny voice had dozens of questions for the crew. One of the questions in the paperwork was “Have you ever dived in the ocean?” and she immediately flagged down a crewman and asked, “Which ocean? This ocean? What if I’ve dived in a different ocean? Does that count? Are all the oceans the same? I did dive in one but maybe it doesn’t count?” She had endless questions about the basic paperwork and the crewman sat down, realizing that he wasn’t going to get away from her any time soon. I was sitting with a Canadian woman, Tamara, and we were practically rolling on the floor laughing.

When we arrived at the dive site, the certified divers were called back to gear up and my gear was set up next to the crazy woman’s. She had trouble with her regulator, but not really, and called several crew members over to look at it. They all said it was fine, but she demanded that someone switch it out. Then we were seated, strapped onto our tanks and ready to go, when the boat ran over and severed the mooring line, which meant we had another 15 minutes to sit in full gear while they fixed it. Crazy woman started making small talk with me. “Have you dived here before?”

“Yes.”
“Is this ocean salty?”
“Um, I think that’s what defines an ocean, there’s salt in the water.”

“But is it really salty?”

“I don’t know how to answer that.”
“I’m asking because I’m really thirsty.”
At that moment I knew that she would be assigned as my divebuddy. It was my fate.

Crazy did ask me to be her buddy while we were waiting for the mooring line to be fixed. I tried to weasel out like before, crossed my fingers, and told her that we get assigned and couldn’t choose. I wished I had asked Tamara but completely forgot, and we were strapped into our tanks far away from each other. And, as luck would have it, I got Crazy for a buddy. I’m sure the crew was chuckling about being rid of her for a while. It was a group dive, but she was still my responsibility.

It was time and we finally jumped in. The first thing Crazy did was swim over and grab my arm; the dive hadn’t even started and I was already annoyed. I did my best with hand signals to let her know that at no time was she welcome to touch me, and I headed to the bottom. In the minute it took to get there I received six OK signals from her.

I like to dive with a little space, so if people are crowded around the guide I’ll hang back, or if people are doing their own thing I’ll go up front, just as long as I can see what I want and not bump into people. Crazy never got more than two feet away from me at any point; no matter how hard I tried to make some room she would swim over and touch me. Every time I looked up to see what was touching me, I’d see her flash the OK sign. I wanted to give her the finger but thought that might be a bit much. She went so far as to swim up to my head and throw an OK sign in front of my mask. I wanted to turn off her tank.

I’m not a bad dive buddy, but partners need to check on each other only so much. I was always aware of where she was, even when she wasn’t touching me; I looked back many times since she refused to swim in front of me, and she always seemed fine. That, in my opinion, is what was required of me.

There was a lot of great sea life on the dive, but my annoyance level was pretty high and I didn’t enjoy everything as much as I could have. Forty minutes of OK signals.

We were back on the boat for our surface interval, getting our tanks refilled and our gear ready. I only wore a skin suit for the first dive and was kind of cold, so I was trying to find a half wetsuit to wear as well. Crazy sat down and started to lecture me on the proper way to be a good dive buddy. She didn’t think I was doing my job.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d give me the OK sign more often when we’re under water.” I think I had given her one for the entire first dive. I let her know that I always knew where she was and she looked fine and I didn’t feel the need for constant OK signs.

“How do you know I’m OK if I don’t give you an OK sign?”

“Well, you’re swimming along normally and looking at stuff and look pretty OK so I don’t feel I need to ask.”

“But how will I know if you’re OK if you don’t tell me you’re OK?”

“Well, if I’m swimming normally and looking at stuff and I look OK then you should just assume that I’m OK too.”

“You need to give me more OK signs on the next dive, I need to know that you’re OK.”

I had to turn and start talking to the woman on the other side of me because I was afraid I was going to hit Crazy.

We jumped in for the second dive and immediately I had my shadow throwing OK signs at me. I refused to give her even one for the entire dive; I get a little stubborn when I’m annoyed. I looked back at Crazy several times; I did my job. But this time I concentrated on the reef and all the wild things living down there and ignored her as much as possible. There were squid, white-tip reef sharks, turtles, rays, unicorn fish, another giant Napoleon wrasse, and huge groupers; completely excellent.

We had about seven minutes left to dive when I felt Crazy grab my leg and pull me backwards. That’s fucking enough, time to turn off her tank for real. Her ear felt funny, she signaled, and I didn’t give a shit. I got the guide’s attention and signaled that my buddy was sick, then swam away in hopes that he’d send her to the surface. But she wasn’t sick, there wasn’t anything wrong with her ear, she just wanted attention, and after several more OK signals we resumed our dive.

During our lunch break I made it very clear that she was not to speak to me again.

The third dive was spectacular; I started it off by getting attacked by a good-sized triggerfish. It was mating season for them and they actually build nests and defend them ferociously. It would have been nice if the crew had warned us, since they dive at the same mooring every day. I was descending, minding my own business, when a big fish with pointy teeth charged at me. It was more funny than scary because trigger fish are so cute, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried to swim away but he kept nipping at me, and I could see Crazy having a minor underwater heart attack from the exertion of all the OK signals she was throwing at me, which I ignored.

Most surprisingly, though, on the third dive she mostly left me alone. I looked back for her here and there and she had given me several feet of personal space. Aaah. And when we surfaced, I never had to see her again.

 

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

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Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

 

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Seadragon video from Tasmania

This video accompanies the previous post about sighting a seadragon in Tasmania.

 

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