I May Have a Problem

I went to India, took part in a beautiful wedding, came down with a horrible case of “probably shouldn’t have eaten that” and witnessed the US make terrible choices.

It took 3 flights to finally reach the small (for India but still has over a million inhabitants) village that is Jammu, in northern India. The first flight was into Dubai. During this flight, I happened to accidentally drop my phone in-between my seat and the wall of the plane. This was half-way through me watching my second Disney film. So I paused The Frog Princess and attempted to feel for my phone. Nothing. I then ducked my upper half under the seat to see if I could spot it under on the floor, but of course I was not flexible enough to make it that far. So I then unbuckled my seat belt and wedged my self in between the seats, thinking that maybe some how I would be able to get onto all fours and actually be able to see under the seat. Naturally, all I end up doing is momentarily getting my hips stuck between my seat and the back of the seat in front of me. The leg room available in economy isn’t enough to maneuver your body around. I was about to give up and just wait until we landed to look again, but my struggles captured the attention of my neighbor, an elderly Indian gentleman, who at this point was probably wondering where my parents where and why they’d let me sit alone.

He offered me the light from my phone, but because I still was unable to find an angle where I could actually look underneath the seat, it was pretty useless. At this point, I was completely fine with waiting until landing to look for my phone, but because this stranger had offered his help I felt pressured to keep trying.

That’s when I had the brilliant idea to squat on top of my chair and swing my top half under the seat. With my legs out of the way I was able to see everything under my seat. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought about the fact that my butt was completely up in the air… I just prayed that I would be able to get out of the position without falling, ass first, onto my neighbor.

I spotted my phone after about 2 seconds, snatched it quickly and then carefully pulled myself back up, holding my phone over my head victoriously. My neighbor was laughing incredulously at the lengths I would go to to retrieve my phone. Millennials.

Sadly, in the scuffle to find my phone, my 5 euro Danish chapstick had some how dropped into the ether, and I was not about to go through that whole process again, so I silently said my goodbye’s.

I wish I could say my struggles were over. On the second flight from Dubai to Dehli, I had been traveling for 13 hours and it was probably 4 am in Germany, so I attempted to get some sleep for most of that flight, waking up only to eat the dinner offered. As we were landing the flight attendants came through the cabin to collect left over trash and blankets, waking me up momentarily, In my delirium I saw my glasses fly off my lap when I handed the attendant my blanket, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. They shouldn’t have landed that far away. I searched for the next 45 minutes, before having this panicked feeling that maybe I hadn’t seen them at all and perhaps I had put them on my food tray. I flagged down an attendant and shared my concern with her. It took about 20 minutes to explain to her what I meant by glasses. I tried motioning to my eyes, squinting like I couldn’t see and repeating the word over and over again like a crazy person. Finally, “reading glasses” were said, and she understood what I meant, but explained that there were over 400 trays, so there was no way I would get them back. I almost started crying right there. She took one look at my face and immediately said, “But let me see what I can do!” and ran off.

After landing I was told that it’s protocol to check the food trays and they might end up in the lost and found at Delhi Airport. I was given a number to call and sent on my way. Considering the estimated population of New Delhi is 18 million, and who knows how many flights there are per day, I was not hopeful that I would ever see those glasses again, but because I have an unhealthy attachment to objects I was sure as hell going to try.

I called that number every day for 5 days. On the sixth day, I received an email saying that they had in fact found some reading glasses matching my description on a food tray from my flight. I was incredulous. It was a miracle. On the 9th day we were reunited, and there wasn’t a single scratch on the lenses.

Thank you Indira Gandhi International Airport staff!

 

Attempting to Make Friends

No one told me that being adult would be this difficult. Actually that’s not true, I heard that all the time I just had some sort of complex and refused to believe it. Youth…

What I actually wasn’t told was the secret to making friends once you leave school, don’t have a job….and are living in a foreign country.

In the beginning, there were way too many nights (actually entire days) spent with my computer. One day, once my passionate relationship with Netflix had faded to self loathing, I realized that I needed human contact, immediately.  I did what most millennials do when they want friends, I searched the inter-webs. This is when I came across a weekly event hosted by Couchsurfing. I haven’t been particularly successful with Couchsurfing as a way to stay in a place for free, but I figured if I showed up I could get at least one person to talk to me.

I RSVP’d and within 10 minutes I had a message from another attendee asking me about the type of photography I was interested in and whether or not I wanted to be part of this project he was working on. Seemed both promising, if not a little strange. But, hey, even if it turned out to be nothing, I WOULD have at least one person to talk to when I got there.

About an hour before heading out I started to feel a little flushed in my face. It was happening. I don’t know how many times I’ve shown up somewhere – be it a hostel or a party – feeling as if I am going to vomit because I didn’t know a soul. Will this feeling ever go away? Probably not. But the entire time walking to the bar my palms were sweating profusely, and I had to choke down the feeling of just turning around and running home. Social anxiety is brutal. I thought traveling might have alleviated some of the symptoms, but I’ve learned that all I can do is fight through it.

I have this really bad habit of showing up WAY too early when I am nervous. The event started at around 8pm, I got there at 730, and people didn’t actually show up until around 10pm. So I sat myself at the empty bar, hoping that I didn’t look as petrified as I felt.

I pushed through the panic and the fear, doing something that, for me, was not easy. But after ordering a rather large alcoholic beverage one of the bartenders started a conversation with me. We ended up having a lot in common, including our chosen careers, and the panic slowly receded into something resembling fun. Through the bartender, I was introduced to more people, and by the end I was part of a clique. My loneliness had been cured for an evening.

I am still on the quest for friends, and have signed up for other activities, like hiking. I think building any type of relationship takes time. Chemistry is rare and attention spans short. I just can’t give up just yet.

 

 

Inside the Volcano

I woke up the morning of our excursion and had a weird memory. It was one of those memories where you don’t know if you dreamt it or if it actually happened. I was 90 percent sure someone had told me that the inside of the volcano would be 100 degrees (fahrenheit, I am sure). So I kept that in mind while dressing for this trip, only putting on a thin sweater, one of my jackets and leaving my scarf behind, despite it being 40 degrees F outside.

When we board the bus taking us to the volcano, the guide hops on afterwards to announce that we are heading into the mountains, and she hopes that we are all dressed warmly enough. Then she describes what to expect inside the volcano. Like the inside of a refrigerator, were her exact words. Turns out we also had to hike 45 minutes across a windy, baron plane. THANKFULLY, they provided us with giant yellow windbreakers for the hike, so I didn’t freeze to death. I feel like I wasn’t the only unprepared tourist on this hike.

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The elevator ride down was absolutely terrifying and way too slow. The man operating the lift decided to mess with us and stopped it abruptly making it feel as if we were about to fall.

Side story: We met two people on this hike that live in the same small-ish Danish town my sister lives in. One of which was at the same party as my sister, but they hadn’t met until this hike. What a small world!

Gunnuhver

I am in Iceland at the moment with my sisters! This is the first time the three of us have done a trip together, and it’s been absolutely amazing.

Summers in Iceland aren’t particularly warm, but the sun never sets, which I could get used to (if that meant I would never have to deal with total darkness)

I’ll post more stuff from and about Iceland later, but this post will focus on a haunted Geyser we went to the other day. I got some pretty cool photos while there. Four of which I gif-ed (made up a new word!) together. I’ve become a little obsessed with gif-ing of late. I spent 5 hours creating one for my About page, and a few months ago I spent 2 weeks attempting to make a stop motion of my travels. That was an epic fail, but the attempt was fun… I guess. And to make up for the fact that I had to put my stop motion project on hold (most likely indefinitely) I’ve been attempting gifs! It’s so much fun! I suggest everyone try it.

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This was the first geyser I’ve seen up close or walked through for that matter. It smelled like rotten eggs and felt uncomfortably wet and warm when it blew over my face. Being caught in the middle is also very suffocating, but it turns the rocks surrounding it a very beautiful white and it’s mesmerizing to stare at.

I might be paraphrasing, but according to the sign before entering the area, a long time ago some lady got thrown into the geyser because she kept “causing” the deaths of people who’d wronged her. (Sounds like she pissed off the wrong person if you ask me.) Then maybe to make up for the fact that they capital-punished her without any evidence, they named the geyser after her. Poor, poor Gunna.

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Anyways, Iceland is awesome. Everyone should come here.

 

 

Trains, Buses, Boats and a Sleepy Youth

Traveling for an extended period of time isn’t without it’s pitfalls and close calls. On one such occasion, I was traveling through Denmark on my way to Germany. It seemed as if Murphy’s Law (everything that can go wrong will) was in effect that day. I woke up to an email from the train company stating simply the train I was meant to take that day had been cancelled. Panicked, I threw all my belongings in my bag, and rushed to the train station, only to wait in line for three hours with the other poor souls at the help desk. Thankfully, I was able to book another trip for that day, two hours later than the original, but at least I wouldn’t have to sleep at the train station. This being Copenhagen, there was no way I would be able to afford a place to sleep.

The re-routed trip consisted of two trains, a bus, a ferry and another train. The first leg of the journey went off without a hitch. After about 2 hours, I made it to a station on the border, where I was meant to catch a bus to the ferry.  I exited the station and walked to the bus station nearby. Thirty minutes past, but there was no sign of the bus. Dozens had come and gone at this point, but none of the drivers I asked seemed to know which bus I was talking about.

There were 8 or 9 other people in the same predicament as I was, and we eventually huddled together to think of a game plan. Nothing bonds you more to people than mutual irritation. By the time we figured they’d forgotten about us it seemed like was too late to act. The sound had set, and all the train station employees had gone home, so there was no one physically there to help us. We checked time tables, looked for an emergency phone number to call, searched the station website, but before long it looked as if I was going have to sleep at a train station after all. I claimed a bench and tested to see if my back pack would make an adequate pillow (it really didn’t, but it beats waking up with all your stuff gone, I guess). The rest of the group started to settle in around me. Suddenly a shadow fell over me. I glanced up and a lanky youth was looking down at me.

“Hey, do you mind watching my bag, while I run to the restroom?” He asked.

I nodded and sat up. I am used to strangers trusting me to watch their things. I think it must be because my face is so round, and I have dimples. Oh, and I do actually watch their stuff, haha.

A few seconds after he left, the double doors flew open, and an employee of the train station entered the waiting area announcing that a personal bus would arrive shortly to take us directly to our destination.

“I am sorry you’ll have to talk to the company directly to file a complaint or request a refund,” she then announced, like this wasn’t her first rodeo, before leaving from whence she came.

At this point, it was 11:45pm.

We all looked at one another delighted. It seemed as if we were out of the woods. The bus then pulled up outside. I glanced around for the youth, but he still hadn’t come out the bathroom. A few more minutes past, the waiting room was empty, besides myself and his backpack, and I was feeling a bit antsy and irritated. Obviously, the bus driver could see me waiting, but all the same I wanted to get going. Finally, he sauntered out of the bathroom, then started to jog when he saw the waiting room had emptied. Once we were all finally on the tiny bus and on the way, there were a string of high fives and smiles, before most people closed their eyes to nap.

The bus boarded the ferry, I battled with extreme sea sickness for the next 45 minutes, then we all got back on the bus to finish the journey.

I settled back into my seat as the driver proceeded to leave the ferry when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around.

“Look.” The passenger who poked me was pointing to an empty seat, with the youth’s backpack laying across it. In my sleep deprived and sea sick state I couldn’t quite comprehend what he was trying to say.

“I think someone is missing.”

I realized in horror that he was right. That kid from earlier wasn’t on the bus, and I guess because I had waited for him to use the facilities he was now my responsibility? This was bullshit.

“Stop!” I yelled at the driver, who then screeched to a halt. I ran up to explain to him that we were leaving someone behind.

There was an audible groan throughout the bus. We then waited. And waited. And waited. But the missing guy never showed. After about 15 minutes passengers started throwing their hands up in the air, and I could see the bus driver getting antsy. Everyone just wanted to leave and I had a sinking feeling that they were in fact about to leave without him. Before that decision could be made I volunteered to go look for him. There was apprehension, but also relief in the driver’s eyes as I exited the bus. It was funny (and by funny I mean rude) that the bus driver didn’t offer to drive back to the boat, so instead I was forced to sprint back to the entrance. I had this horrible feeling that they might leave without me as well.

As I approached the entrance a crew member blocked my way.

“Mein Freund ist im Schiff… (My friend is in boat…)” I panted in grammatically incorrect German.

The guy looked at me quizzically.

“Ich muss ihn holen. Bitte? (I need to pick him up. Please?)” I pleaded, and the guy, judging that the 124 lbs girl in front of him probably wasn’t a threat, waved for me to pass.

I sprinted up 3 flights of stairs to the the main deck, thinking that I would never be able to find him. Lo and behold, I happened to immediately see his mess of brown curls sticking up from the sofa right in front of me. I approached his sleeping form and poked him on the shoulder. He was so dead to the world I had to physically shake him as hard as I could before he slowly lifted his head.

He smiled at me, but when he saw my expression and the empty deck he immediately replaced his easy expression with one of panic.

“We have to go!” Motioning frantically to the door.

While running back to the bus, he kept thanking me profusely explaining how he had just traveled back from Asia and therefore hadn’t slept in 36 hours. I was ecstatic to find the bus still waiting there for us. We were greeted with sleepy claps as we boarded, before zooming away.

Yoga-ing

It’s dangerous to play the what-if game, but my biggest regret when it comes to my trip to Asia: that I didn’t grab at the offer to travel with this really amazing girl from Chile when she invited me to join her further north in Thailand. Instead I went back to Chiang Mai.

With her went my dream of forming a badass all female travel group through Southeast Asia…

Then again maybe if I had gone of this detour, I would have never have gone to Japan and met the people I did there, which would have been a shame. In the end, you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it! (I’ve become one of those motivational fridge magnets)

On my last day in Tokyo, I did get a small taste of what traveling with women might have been like, when I spent the day with Kelly and Caitlin. Praise the company of women.

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Awkward Social Butterfly

It’s important to know your weaknesses.

Now that I have settled in one place for a while I have been trying to make friends. It’s been pretty successful so far. I’ve been invited to a lot parties and get togethers, but some how it doesn’t matter how many I’ve gone to, my heart starts to beat out of my chest every time before I show up, and I still get super sweaty while hanging out with a group of people. I may have undiagnosed social anxiety, but it’s fine I’ll just power through it until it stops.

I also feel like, partly because of my anxiety, I keep making social faux pas.

Things I’ve noticed during social gatherings in Germany:

If you are a newcomer it’s your job to introduce yourself to everyone in the room. You do this by going up to every person individually, shaking their hand and saying your name. A living hell if you are socially awkward and prone to sweaty palms.

When arriving and upon leaving you also have to go up to everyone individually, hug them or shake their hand, depending on how well you know this person

These formalities are a lot of work, and I always find that I either forget to do them or am way too scared to follow through. Instead, I enter the room, say hello to the person who invited me, make fleeting eye contact with a few people, wave weakly and then plop myself down somewhere and just watch everyone socialize. Who knows what’s going through their minds when I do this, but personally it feels very wrong, and I become that weird girl in the corner smiling or nodding along, but never really participating. Part of the problem for me is my German needs work. I understand most of what people are saying, but I get way too scared to speak it, because I know I am going to make mistakes.  In the end, I still get invited places and someone always makes the first move to talk to me, so hopefully everyone realizes I am foreign and forgives me for being so weird.

In my experience, initial social interaction is just so different in the States. Whenever a stranger arrives at a get-together the host would introduce them to the room, everyone would wave, say hi, and the newcomer would then learn people’s names by talking to them one on one. When people arrive or leave parties where they know everyone, no one really touches everyone there. They might hug a good friend or the host, and maybe, depending on the age, situation and number of people, shake everyone’s hand (but that feels very formal). At most you would wave at everyone and then say hi or bye.

Thoughts? Does anyone have any awkward stories involving cultural differences?

Working Like a Mad Woman

Or maybe I am just a mad woman working…

The sun has been shining here in Germany (finally, winter here has been horrible on my psyche). I woke up the other day and felt light as a cloud. I even cracked a smile. Which was really strange, because I am by no means a morning person. It took me a second to realize that there was sun streaming in through the uncovered window of my room.

Sunlight is a natural anti-depressant, people.

Anyway, I haven’t been able to truly enjoy the wonderful weather, because I’ve been working on my graphic design portfolio. I just created a poster for my friend’s band, O.J. on the Run, and I am pretty freaking proud of it.

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Side story: every time I show this poster to someone, to get their opinion, the first thing out of their mouth is not:
“Oh wow, Sarah, you are a creative genius! That poster is amazing!”
It’s always:
“OJ? Like OJ Simpson?!”
EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Which was actually hilarious the first time. And to answer everyone’s question: No, they didn’t name their band after OJ Simpson or orange juice, it’s the initials of their first names, Oliver and James. Although, I am sure they must have realized the connection.

Now let’s move on to the compliments ;)

I am also running with this idea to start a podcast! I bought a microphone and everything. Sadly, the microphone was really crappy, so I am going to have to invest a little more money into it, which is fine, it’ll motivate me to actually go through with this thing. I am so nervous to put myself out there! Yeah, I’ll quit my job and go through all my savings to travel, but the moment I come face to face with potential rejection I freeze up and want to run away. Probably a completely normal feeling, but really annoying all the same.

Attempting to Channel Annie Oakly

So I shot a gun for the first time at the urging of a Swede, and, no, the irony of that statement hasn’t escaped my notice. Although, from what I’ve heard, Swedish people own a lot of guns. I don’t know about you, but not exactly what I think of when I think of Sweden.

Anyway, back to the topic. I shot a gun in my Aunt’s backyard while I was on a mini road trip across the southern US. As much as it pains me, the often times uber-liberal, to admit it, the pistol was kind of…okay, a lot of…fun to shoot, even though I am a HORRIBLE shot. I kid you not, no one knew where the bullet went exactly, but given that it was her backyard, in view of a church, I really hope it didn’t hit anything (or anyone) important.

The shotgun was terrifying to fire, and I most certainly will not be doing that again. The kickback and loud sound scared me so badly I screamed, which entertained everyone. Needless to say, I will not be doing that again any time soon, but mostly because of pride. The next time I shoot a gun I want to actually hit the target.

 

 

lost down the rabbit hole

For the past week-ish I have been working on this stop motion project. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to try stop motion, plus I’ve been wanting to put something creative together from my trip. Since I lost a lot of my photos on that dead drive, the prospect of creating something was depressing, BUT then I started making my mom’s birthday present and decided to create a stop motion project out of it!

The whole process has been really tedious, a lot of crafting, crouching, climbing and building. I am so proud of the tripod I built out of cardboard, the back of a calendar, two chairs and some plywood. It looks amazing, guys.

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I woke up the other morning and my legs were so sore I couldn’t climb the stairs properly, which means not only is this project creatively stimulating it’s also like a work out!

Here’s a sneak peek of the project:

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