Monthly Archives: December 2016

Enduring Friendship

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”

Jim Morrison

For the first time in seven years I went abroad with another woman (aside from spending 6 hours in the Bahamas with my mom in 2013)! When I realized how much time had passed since the last “girls trip” I felt very surprised – how could I have let that happen? I feel strongly about women and girls doing things that challenge them even if it’s not “gender appropriate” and being intentional about creating and reaching personal goals and dreams well into adulthood. Yet, I’d never been able to work out having another join me on a trip and I know I’ve dreamed about exploring a new  area of the world with one of my friends.

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Celebrating hiking the Rio Jucar gorge

This autumn, a friend I’ve had since age 14 (more than half a lifetime ago) joined the journey to Spain.  I’ve visited twice before and it remains a place that feels so comfortable and perfect to share with someone. It is only natural then that even with the new dynamic of two individuals, we would have a fantastic week of exploring mountains with a series of hikes, trying some amazing food and taking part in lots of laughter in Madrid, Cuenca, Valencia and many places in between. If you can’t imagine enjoying a vacation could be difficult, you don’t know what it’s like being with someone all hours of the day, even whist sleeping. It can be a challenge at times..especially if the person is me! When with the right person, ups and downs are less extreme, which was something I had forgotten. Recovery from major stresses happens more quickly and shady environments are less alarming. Mistakes are less draining emotionally and two heads tend to be better than one, especially if there is a language barrier.

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Hiking in the Sierra de Guadarrama

I’ve written about the relief of feeling anonymous or allowing your true self to come out when free of the (sometimes self-imposed) labels and habits associated with impositions of day-to-day rat race life. I’d only experienced that kind of freedom as a solo traveler. However, while in Spain, I was able to have that freedom and it was invaluable and a true sign of a healthy friendship (or maybe just two healthy people?). Was it worth a seven year wait? Maybe. I do know that it was one of the best experiences of the year and I’d definitely recommend you go and ask an old friend to go on an adventure with you right now – even if it’s close to home.

Goodbye 2016

Now that the sun has begun to set on the year, it’s a natural opportunity to remember all the wonderful things that came out of it. The last twelve months took me away from home for forty nights, visiting four countries as well as eight U.S. states. I was very fortunate to have more travel opportunities than 2015. It made life fascinating and rich, which is exactly how it should be. The experiences were diverse – traveling alone, with family, with friends, with a partner and for work. Adventures included oceans, mountains, castles, redwoods, bears and whales. I got lost, fell ill to food poisoning, cried, and slept on an airport floor. On the whole it was a beautiful year and I’m so thankful the way it unraveled. There were a few ups and downs, one captured in what turned out to be the most popular post of 2016, Mending Myself. Fifty six of you checked it out the day it was published! Take a look if you haven’t seen it.

Over the next week or so I will write about the best things 2016 gave me.

Thank you for reading! I’m happy to know you all take interest in my travels. Also, thank you to my family and friends that encourage travel, join me on adventures and put up with my schedule! These kinds of support add meaning to these experiences.

Spain: Castilla-La Mancha, a Road Trip

After spending a week in Spain with a friend and driving through Castilla-La Mancha on the way from Cuenca to Valencia, I’m so excited to share the beautiful journey. This trip was the first time I drove outside of the U.S. and although I found the cities nightmarish to navigate, the empty mountain roads were an absolute pleasure to drive!

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View of old Cuenca

After two great nights and far too much wine in old Cuenca, it was time to head for Valencia, starting along highway 2105 in a flamboyant orange Captur. The clear day offered amazing views from the winding road which looks down on the Rio Júcar gorge. The first stop, about a twenty minutes into the drive, was Ventano del Diablo. From this perch one is able to see the jewel colored river and impressive rocks that make up the river gorge. We missed all this during our extremely foggy and cloudy hike the day before. Between Villalba and Uña are several breathtaking views of the river and covering this route definitely set the tone for the day.

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Ventano del Diablo

The next break, not much further along, was Embalse de la Toba. Here you can get a closer view of the water while hiking on the rocky banks. It was a pity to visit the area in November, as it would have been a perfect location for dipping toes into the water to cool off on a hot day. The white, read and brown shades in the sides of the gorge contrasted beautifully with the cerulean blue water and green trees, and eagles soaring high above.

After the short break we continued through Serrania de Cuenca, a nature preserve that includes several towns. The road had many bends and steep grades do it needed to be followed slowly. As we went we were treated to views of dense pine forests, dramatic cliffs and rock formations, cute little farms, old villages and snow capped mountains in the distance. There was one magical moment when, with sun shining full, light snow fell down onto the road. We did not encounter anyone else during our stops. This made the experience feel more intimate, as if the landscape was a special place of our own for exploring at a leisurely pace.

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Rio Jucar

All the opportunities for exploration in the area could be enough to keep a visitor busy for a week and would be heaven for a backpacker or cyclist. Over the course of the trip I had been moved by the beauty of the mountains and forests we encountered but this day was even more special. I don’t believe I have ever experienced such dramatic change in flora, fauna and weather than the wonderful way between Cuenca and Valencia. I am so thankful for the experience. Each time I visit Spain I learn more about then nature and culture. Even now i know some day I will be back and find something even more amazing.

Thanks for reading!