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Friday, October 30, 2015

My Memorable (Travel) Life Experiences List

Hi all,
I was inspired to make this list by this post. This is not an exhaustive list, but it lists some of the memories that I obviously remember. I'm going to restrict this to travel-related experiences. I'm trying to be chronological, since that's how my brain works.

The mist and noise of Niagara Falls.

Setting foot in a foreign country (London, 2005). It was like the pictures in a book had come to life around me.

Standing on the metal plate in front of Notre Dame and committing to traveling as much as possible (apparently if you stand there, you're destined to return to Paris).

The overnight train from Paris to Madrid.

Spending way too much on a purse I never use in Madrid.

Having the BEST chocolate gelato ever in Seville. Repeatedly.

Standing on (almost) the edge of a cliff in Ronda, Spain.

Trying to do a flamenco dance with our hosts on a rural Spanish ranch.

Getting lost in the beautiful winding streets of Toledo.

Swimming in the Mediterranean for the first time.

Having rabbit (they lied and said it was chicken) in Portugal.

Standing at the lighthouse on the western-most point of Europe (Portugal) and holding my skirt down because of the wind.

Swimming on the other side of the Atlantic. Also finding out that my parents were visiting the beach on their side of the Atlantic the same day. I waved. (Pun intended)

Wandering through some streets in Lisbon and marveling at the copper-orange color of the roofs.

Exploring landmarks in London by myself soon after arriving and already feeling "back" in a city I knew.

Playing and dancing at the end of the London New Year's Day parade.

My disappointment in LAX for not having food options closer to the gate.

Valentine's Day on the beach in Lorne, Australia.

O-week in Australia. All the fun and community building. All the events with my new best friends.

My weekend schedule of going to work at the YMCA, coming back to Uni to change, then out to explore Melbourne with my best friend.

Sky-diving and bungee-jumping on the same day in Cairns.

Finding a beautiful green space in the headlands near Sydney and taking tons of photos.

Missing our flight in the Gold Coast and spending a rainy day in Coolangatta. At least we saw the newest Harry Potter movie.

Amazingly good salmon hotdogs in a Farmer's Market in Hobart.

The full day we spent exploring the Dove Lake/Cradle Mountain area.

Frustratingly searching for a lake at night only to wake up to find that we parked right next to it (New Zealand). *There's a lesson there*

Driving the west coast of the South Island. It's just incredible.

Learning the amazing community spirit of New Zealanders when we stopped at a very rural pub to call for a tow-truck for a couple we'd passed.

Claiming a private spot over Lake Taupo for a few nights.

Just watching the stars outside of Hamilton, New Zealand.

My host's mother welcoming me by purchasing a huge case of Mexican beer (Mexico City). It was a great idea.

Climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.

The afternoon I spent on the plaza in Guadalajara just sketching.

The drive to Zacatecas through central Mexico.

The sticky humidity and tourist atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta. Swimming in the Pacific was really cool though.

Conquering my own fears on the Alps (skiing) after falling many, many times.

The thermal baths in Erding, Germany, especially the Persian-inspired pool room that I had all to myself.

Watching the surfers on a river in Munich in December.

Driving a manual on the autobahn.

Experiencing the Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt a few days before Christmas, complete with gluhwein and sausages.

Christmas Eve in a bar in my friend's hometown in Germany.

Being alone in the quiet of the snowy Czech woods in ski gear.

Being interviewed as a tourist who came to Berlin for New Year's Eve by a German tabloid-newspaper.

Stopping along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley, to take photos and talking with a father-son duo on motorcycles.

Experiencing (most of) a Yankee's Game in NYC with friends of friends and best friends.

Walking down Coney Island's Broadwalk only to slowly discover that the mass of people were there because we'd visited the same day as the Mermaid Parade!

-------the rest of the memories are chronicled on this blog so I may not list them all----

Checking in my luggage when I moved abroad. "Are you moving?" Yes I am.

My first day as a teacher.

Navigating by instinct (to my friend who was driving) through the streets of Abu Dhabi since our electronic maps were just showing a blue dot on a blank tan field.

Swimming in Yiti, Oman, hoping to see turtles, and finding happily scurrying crabs on an empty beach.

Having help from very nice local women with wrapping a hijab so I could enter the Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman.

Hitting the slopes with my brother in Colorado.

Returning to my favorite restaurant in Mexico City for a michelada, made correctly, and good sushi.

That first glimpse of Petra through the gaps in the Siq.

Climbing up endless stairs and dry creekbeds to The Monastery early in the morning (Jordan). It was all worth the sight and the endless views over the mountain range.

Experiencing a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. Delayed gratification!

Having a great Turkish bath and massage in Kudadasi, Turkey.

Climbing down the cliffs at Pamukkale with a new friend.

The sunset view of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque from a ferry in the Bosphorus, Istanbul.

The high-above-the-city view after climbing a "mountain" in Istanbul (Asian side).

Swimming in the freezing pool in my hotel in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia looming down and the moon high above.

The Fourth of July fireworks show in Houston, Texas.

Experiencing Business Class on a Singapore Airlines flight from Houston to Moscow.

Scuba diving off a long boat off Belitung Island, Indonesia. Just the guide and I in the water.

Following the local procession through the village streets to celebrate the end of Ramadan in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Exploring a waterfall with new friends outside of Yogyakarta. Also jumping off a cliff edge into the river.

Randomly having dinner with several Italian travelers on the beach on Gili Meno, off of Bali.

The spectacular sunset I experienced in Ubirr, NT, Australia.

Having a beer at an old haunt north of Melbourne with my best friend.

Doing yoga on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Wandering Bangkok until my feet hurt, including circling a street market several times (both to avoid rain and because I kept missing the turn out!)

Randomly deciding to eat lunch at a shop in a Bangkok street market, only to notice that there were clipping on the wall talking about it being a great restaurant. Yay instinct!

Lounging across 3 economy seats on a very empty Qatar Airways flight from Bangkok to Doha mid-day on a Monday.

That's all for now!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Upcoming travel plans - 2015-2016

Just to note what's coming up:

December 2015/January 2016 - Qatar and UAE with family!
I'm staying local since my winter break is only 2 weeks and it'll be nice to show some family members around my side of the world.

January 2016 - Thailand.
I'll be jetting back to Thailand for another teacher conference. Another quick one. Professional conferences/trainings are often in Thailand because it is pretty centrally located for Asian international schools.

February 2016 - I have a long weekend break....somewhere.
As of this moment I have no set plans, though I had a crazy idea that involved flying to Zurich, skiing under the Matterhorn, then getting back to Saudi for class on Sunday. That's a little too wild, even for me. So I'll be searching for a quick trip. I've been really wanting to ski, but that might just have to wait until...

March/April 2016 - Spring Break for 2 weeks...somewhere.
I don't have plans yet but this certainly a better option time-wise if I want to ski in the Alps. The season will be nearly over so if I time it right, I can possibly get off-season prices. But going to central Europe for 10 days (because I'm going to do time on the sides, unlike last year) is going to be pricey and I'm not sure I want to spend the money in the spring or wait for...

Summer 2016 (June-August) - Europe!
I'm going to backpack Europe. Plans are going to just be an inbound city and an outbound city, otherwise I'm going to wander. I'm an absolute planner and after this past summer in the USA, Indonesia, and Australia I learned that I want to be a more flexible traveler. It would have been nice to just pick up and leave once I didn't like Bali, or stay in Yogyakarta a few more days. So I'm going to try it. No plan, just me on the ground in Europe. I figure Europe is a great place to try to push my travel comfort-zone since I've been there before and the "summer backpacking Europe" cliche is a cliche for a reason. So that's the plan. I'll also be on a tighter budget than this past summer because I'll need to spend as I go, instead of booking in advance. Luckily I'll take very few flights and a lot of trains or buses, so that will cut costs (and I've always liked being able to say I can travel cheaply).

August 2016 - At the end of the summer I'll be going back to Saudi Arabia for (what I'm planning on being) my last year there. Then it will be job hunting time! Also saving money time! So 2016-2017 will be less travel-intensive, and I think that after these coming months (above) I'll be okay with the break. Then again maybe I'll just travel more locally and see all the Saudi spots while I can. Place your bets, haha.

Happy teaching and traveling!

Bangkok, Thailand - Curriculum Design PD

Ah! More coming soon! This is a place-marker post.

Eid Break in Bangkok, Thailand. I went for a teacher conference. I got there a day early to wander Bangkok.

(coming soon) Here's a compilation video of my time in Bangkok in October 2015. Sorry that there is no soundtrack with, so it might be a little boring: Bangkok - Eid Break, October 2015
Basically Bangkok is pretty cool. Go check it out if you get the chance!

The conference was about teacher leadership and curriculum design. Presented by Bambi Betts. It was worthwhile, though more geared toward administrators, curriculum coordinators, and heads of department. She was a great presenter. I'll try to upload/attach the notes I took soon.

Happy teaching and traveling!
- Christina

Koh Lanta, Thailand

Ah! More coming soon! This is a place-marker post.

Eid Break in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Here's a time-lapse video of the beach by our resort. And here's the infinity pool (there was a second pool closer to the beach).  Also, the time-lapse again but with a video of the sunset at the end (0:45 seconds)

Scuba photos and video coming soon!

(Professional photos from the dive photographer - Scubafish!)

Back to the Sand - Returning to Saudi Arabia for Year 2!

Ah! More coming soon! This is a place-marker post.

Here we go - Year 2! Grade 1! Let's do this!

Melbourne, Australia - The Return

Melbourne video is here! I'm sorry it is long (1 hour!), and there is a lot of talking. I didn't spend much time editing.

I love Melbourne. I studied abroad here in 2011. I was happy to be back. Also my best friend lives here. The trip was like any trip - good and bad. Overall I'm glad I got to be nostalgic and revisit some spots. I didn't see as much as I'd planned/hoped, but those spots aren't going anywhere. I've learned to travel with the mindset that if I don't see it this time, I'll see it next time. It has lessened my travel vs. tourist stress soooo much.

Oh and I got a tattoo. Yay!

More coming eventually.. as always.
(Old SKYDIVING VIDEO!!!! From 2011...)

Check out the photos below!

Best friends from study abroad reunite at Federation Square!

Biking in Melbourne's CBD

My first tattoo, from Green Lotus Custom Tattoo Studio, Melbourne

Melbourne, early evening

Melbourne, early evening


Revisiting my favorite exhibit in the Melbourne Museum

Now (Aug 2015) and then (Feb 2011), over the Yarra River

Over the Yarra River

Visiting The University of Melbourne. Notice my fashion choices, haha! Bali pants with a winter coat!

Walking and talking near UniMelb

He graduated!

Yarra Valley, north of Melbourne

Deciding on fancy cheeses, in the Yarra Valley

Saying farewell to Kakadu friends who also came to Melbourne! (Vera and Kathi) - notice the outfit differences - hot to cold! At Southern Cross station

Happy teaching and traveling!
- Christina

Darwin and Kakadu National Park, AUSTRALIA

Ah! More coming soon! This is a place-marker post.

Here is the video of my Northern Territory adventures. Mostly on the tour.

This is a cute video of a kid jumping in the ocean at sunset. It's cute. Enjoy.

I missed Australia and was soooo happy to be back, especially following my slump in Bali.

Kakadu National Park is gorgeous, go see it. I took a group tour with Jump Tours since it was the best way to see a lot of Kakadu in a few days.

Darwin is a blimp of a city - great for party-hardy folks. The museum is worth it. The botanic gardens are pretty. The whole location just feels so isolated, it's a unique feeling to be so distant from another major city.

I had one day in Darwin after the tour before heading to my next destination. A new friend from the Kakadu tour (Vera) and her hostel roomie (Sam) joined me to wander around Darwin all day. We walked a historic sites tour route on our own, took a noon nap at the Darwin Waterfront, walked through the Botantic Gardens, visited The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Museum, and ended at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market. 

Oh and I need to write about flying away from the sunset, that was a cool view. Sadly my camera didn't see it like I did. (Flight from Bali to Darwin)

I posted some photos below! (The watermarked ones were taken by our tour guide/amateur professional photographer with his professional equipment. Perks of having a photo-loving guide!)

Ubirr Art Site


On the climb down, overlooking Maguk

Gunlom Falls 

Gunlom Falls

Gunlom Falls

Gunlom Falls


Gunlom Falls

Driving in Kakadu

Upper pool at Gunlom Falls

Nourlangie (I think)

Upper pool, Maguk

Upper pool further up-river, Maguk

Mindil Beach with Vera and Sam

Mindil Beach

Corroboree Billabong

Darwin Waterfront

Florence Falls

Florence Falls

George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens

Happy teaching and traveling!
- Christina

Bali, Indonesia

Here is the Bali video! Enjoy. :)

Basically Bali wasn't for me. Perhaps later in life.
The Gili Islands are cool though - great scuba diving! Scuba-diving video!

Also make friends with other solo travelers, fun is better (read: more likely) together!

Photos below! I know there are a lot, but no one was there to share it with in person. Enjoy!

My Airbnb hotel in Canggu, North Kuta, Bali

Enjoying the pool in the afternoon

Canine friends at the hotel

Festivities in Canggu and decorated offering spots

Biking (bicycle) in Bali

Chicken crossing the road in Bali

Biking (bicycle) from my hotel in Canggu down to Echo Beach and back. 

Ubud Monkey Forest

Monkey attack at the Ubud Monkey Forest, haha


Echo Beach

After swimming at Echo Beach

Echo Beach

Temple at Echo Beach

Echo Beach

Facing Gili Meno from the dive boat

On the dive boat, Gili Meno

Facing Lombok from the dive boat

Disembarking on Gili Trawangan

Scuba diving off Gili Meno

Scuba diving with sea turtles! Gili Meno

Art gallery in Ubud

View before a meal in Ubud

Happy teaching and traveling!
- Christina