Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Responsible Travel

fijiWe should respect the cultures and traditions of the communities we visit, except when those mores and beliefs break down humanity.

In 2002, my friend Nila and I lead a group of women to Kadavu, Fiji, for a Goddess retreat. We planned rituals to honor the four faces of the Goddess: Maiden, Enchantress, Mother and Crone, so that each woman would learn how to embrace the Divine Feminine within themselves and other women.

We were the only Westerners at the small resort where we stayed for one week. The resort owner explicitly told us that we must not “over-socialize” with the native Fijians. They would show us their school, welcome us to their kava ceremony and lead us on hikes. But there was to be no deep human connection, lest our Western ways leave a sour taste with the native peoples and inspire them to leave their island and their culture.

That seemed ethical.


But one of us had an affair with one of the native men. This shouldn’t have been a problem, per se, as this gentleman was well-versed in English and had many opportunities to leave Kadavu if he wanted and remained on the island. Except that the resort owner was also having an affair with him. The young man found his voice and discovered how to stand up for himself.

We were not allowed to tip the native help, lest we provoke jealousy. Then we learned they had not received a raise in many years and so the same woman who had the affair began a scholarship for the children to pay for secondary school. Every woman who came on the retreat adopted a child’s education as their responsibility.

IMG_3375We had a lusty ritual for the Entrantress which provoked two native cousins to have an affair and created quite the scandal and hardship for the woman. We didn’t know they were watching us dance topless in the ocean. For this, I am truly sorry. I don’t know any details of what became of the child. I do hope some women began to understand a little more about the power of the pussy and wield this power as their true sovereignty. I hope we sprinkled some Divine Feminine upon this village.

However, I am most proud of breaking the stigma on sexuality. During the Mother ritual, Nila provoked a conversation that forced me to admit my bisexual tendencies. I liked kissing girls but saying it aloud was literally ground-breaking.  My admission drew me to an effeminate native who wore pink every day. I taught him how to give a massage based on the techniques I had learned at the Mueller School of Massage. I later learned that his bisexual nature had ostracized him from his small island community who believed he was an inherent sinner (based in large part by the mission-installed Christianity). With his new skill, he left Kadavu and found work and a new, empowered life on Viti Levu, the main island.

Lesson learned. Don’t accept bold, sweeping statements without looking first at the Divine humanity and the individual Light.


Dreams Come True at the Oregon Country Fair

Sometimes a highly anticipated experience can surpass keen hopes and dreams. Gratefully the Oregon Country Fair did just that. For nearly ten years I have heard of this free-spirited three-day extravaganza and let my imagination roll around, wondering what could make people sigh so contentedly when they thought of their days on the fairgrounds.

IMG_0640A road trip was in order. Our first stop was to visit my dear friend Ann in Upper Lake. We ate delicious calamari and wings and listened to jazz at the Blue Wing Saloon and perused her new store Upper Lake Mercantile where I traded my pottery for a beautiful recycled rug – perfect for camping… or should I say glamping.

IMG_0600Rambling through the Pacific Coastline we stayed next with Sageman Drums Familia – Kris, Jimmy, Althea and Finn in the Avenue of the Giants – surrounded by ancient redwood forests, ripe blackberries bushes and such amazing good friends and people.

IMG_0605We found Oregon campsites perfectly suited to our needs, bought local jam and rose quartz (definitely for glamping), ate local fish and chips, drank local beer and eased our way into Cascadia – a bioregion in Pacific Northwest, social movement and vision for a country of compatible, open, ecologically focused people. After five days on the road we set up camp at Elfen Wood campgrounds just 1,000 yards from Oregon Country Fair and took a nap in the hammock.

IMG_0678Oregon Country Fair invites you to be the kid running pell mell down a hill with your arms flapping or trying out cartwheels for the first time or dressing up like a cupcake or a tiger or a tree.FullSizeRender (7)

This buoyant open-hearted pulse vibrates through the entire grounds and forms a circle of protection for loving kindness. Its three days without hearing a sharp word spoken surrounded by hundreds of joyous people. Even or maybe especially the babies and kids emanate pure bliss and delight.

IMG_0675IMG_0674There is just so much to see and do with parades, meditation centers, yoga, sacred altars, vaudeville acts, belly dancers, ecology booths, tanning workshops and many stages and alcoves with performers of spoken word, ecstatic Kirtan, hip hop, classic violin, live drumming, rock, funk, on and on it went. The crafted work from pottery to jewelry to glasswork and metal work is so yummy, so dreamy. Joey absolutely spoiled me with treasures. And the food was so tasty and full of flavor.


My absolute favorite moments: trading The Wicca Cookbook for a t-shirt from my inspiration Jen Delyth, creator of the iconic Celtic Tree of Life, and when a girl of 11 or so screamed with sheer delight for her friend who juggled 14 times – absolutely thrilled for her friend’s success. Where else do you find that kind of support – but at Fair.FullSizeRender (6)

Here you feel your bigness and truest oddball self and know deep acceptance. This full expression of being opens possibilities of how to be in everyday life. It’s so tangible, so real that all the drive home I imagined stepping into the Light of My Greatness all the way home and was greeted by an email inviting me to Faeland Festival in New York. That’s what I call an
answer from the Universe.

Local’s Guide to Mammoth

“The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go”


Photo Credit: Giuseppe Vicente First Snowfall 2015

These words by famous explorer John Muir greet the traveler upon entering Mammoth Lakes, California. Nestled in the Eastern Sierras, about 35 minutes south of the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Mountain is a world-class winter wonderland. This quaint alpine town at about 8,000 feet in elevation boasts a world renowned ski resort, more than 45 restaurants, live entertainment and plenty of cold weather activities such as, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, sledding and ice skating. Here are several insider tips on how to enjoy winter in Mammoth Mountain like the locals do.

Food & Drinks:

  • Groceries: If you didn’t bring your own food and need to plan for dinner, snacks etc…remember there is only one major grocery store in Mammoth, so plan ahead. Locals know to get to the store before 8am or before the slopes close at 4pm—and Friday’s steer clear if you can—as they are as packed as the SoCal freeways at rush hour. Natural food can also be found at Sierra Sundance Whole Food Market.
  • Coffee: Stellar Brew and Natural Café serves up fresh roasted coffee in a cozy, homespun atmosphere. They make foods from whole natural ingredients (including vegan and gluten free) and sell local crafts.
  • Breakfast: Good Life Cafe offers delicious comfort food that tastes like grandma made it.
  • Lunch: The Latin Market on Tavern Road offers the best authentic and inexpensive burrito in town.
  • Happy Hour: Locals favor the Outlaw Saloon for their weekly appetizer specials and pro game watching. Slocums offers reduced appetizers and a collection of signature cocktails.
  • Friday Nights: Most locals frequent Roberto’s for tasty Mexican fare. The chips are made from flour tortillas and are incredible fluffy and tasty. Upstairs sports a great view. Across from the north village and tucked downstairs, Clocktower Cellar has a great beer selection, 160 different whiskeys, a pool table and foosball table.
  • New: Bleu offers wine and craft beer tasting and an exquisite menu of farmstead cheeses, grass fed and wild game meats, sustainable seafood and freshly baked artisan bread.
  • Hidden Gem: Tom’s Place, located 20 minutes south of Mammoth, has been a local’s favorite for nearly 100 years. The setting of this fishing hot spot is rich with crusty character(s).
  • Beer: Mammoth Brewing Company offers a steady supply of staple and seasonal craft beer, made on-site, often with hops grown nearby. Growlers are half-off the first Wednesday of the month, and you can bring in a growler from your home town and have it filled up here.

Hitting the Slopes:

  • The locals get to the Main Lodge by 8am, to ensure a close parking spot, which doesn’t require lugging yourself, equipment and crew aboard the bus and you get ahead of the traffic both coming and going. It’s best if you can park at Chair 2 or 4 for the smoothest time.
  • The Mill at Chair 2 is a great spot for a quick snack or drink or just a chance to just rest and put up your feet.


  • Sledding: The best free sledding can be had at the top of Deadman’s Summit off Hwy 395, just north of Mammoth Lakes.Woolly’s Ski Park is located on Highway 203 on the right heading to the ski resort that features a heated deck, tube lift, adult drinks and snacks.
  • Ice Skating: The Mammoth Ice Rink is awesome for outdoor skating.
  • Snowmobiling: Ride through the trees with either Snowmobile Adventures or DJs at Smokey Bear Flats.
  • Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing: Tamarack Lodge is your connection to experience the serene beauty of alpine lakes and ancient forests.
  • Gondola Rides: Check out stunning views at the summit of Mammoth at 11,053 feet.
  • Live Entertainment: The North Village features live music and a packed schedule.
  • Hot tubs: There is nothing better than soaking in the natural hot springs created by ancient volcanic activity. Check out themaps for directions. Be certain to be respectful of others in the tub, park a fair distance from the tubs and clean up after you leave.


  • There is a free bus service to transport you throughout town running every 20 minutes throughout the day. There are five different bus lines with different stops and the hours vary depending on the line.
  • Driving to Mammoth: From SoCal, the least expensive gas is at Fort Independence, just north of the city of Independence, even includes a casino run by the local band of Native Americans. If you are traveling south into Mammoth, fuel up at Topaz Lodge. Highways 120, 89 and 108 are typically closed all winter. Road conditions change quickly, so be certain to have chains with you this winter, and know how to put them on as the chain installers may or may not be working. Have water and non-perishable food in the car as well. Drive 20-30 miles an hour in snowy conditions.
  • Flying to Mammoth: The airport is conveniently close to the city of Mammoth Lakes and easy to navigate. Make sure to check weather conditions as the plane will not land if the wind or viewing conditions are too severe and will return back to your original destination.

Dave Mc Coy, who turned 100 this year, brought his portable tow line to Mammoth Mountain in 1941 and opened the first chair lift in 1955. Mammoth now has more than 150 named trails and 28 lifts (includes 9 high speed quads, 2 high speed six-packs and 3 high speed gondolas).

Landing Gear Down

It’s been a week since I’ve been home and so far all is well. It’s a bummer looking at Jeep’s delectable pictures of corn on the cob and rhubarb pie or fun shots of the nighttime concerts and people riding bikes across Iowa on RAGBRAI. But I also know it’s been topping at over 100 degrees with extreme humidity as they ride up to 80 miles a day – so my jealousy does know its bounds. Still, the lure of traveling by bike and the wind that blows calls to me and has me wondering about my next vacation.

A vacation that now has to fit within my two weeks annual leave since I’ve taken on my first full time job – in yes, I’ve said it before, 16 years.  I feel a bit like I’ve run my own marathon. I made my own schedule as a literary agent assistant, massage therapist, author and consultant for this stretch. I rode the waves of raising babies, moves, divorce, downturn of economy until it was all too much and I craved for that stability.

Heather Nova sings in Avalanche, “Security’s the whore in me that never lets me fly,” and living as I do on the border of the capricious, free-spirited Sagittarius and the stoic, hard-working Capricorn, I know this sentiment well. But you know, it’s like my friend Gina said to me many months ago, security of that paycheck gives me peace of mind and that’s freedom, too.

Case in point: Monday morning, my son Kobe came to me with a hangdog look whilst I was flipping pancakes in my new business attire. I kept at the pancakes until I noticed tears welling in his eyes. “What’s wrong?” Silently he led me to my room to point out the third ceiling fan that he had broken in a matter of 1½ years. The first one broke when he swung the pillow over his head to whap his brother, the second when he threw a hackie sack up to see how far the blade could send it. Both times I lost my nut because money was so tight a new pair of shoes or haircut meant I didn’t buy groceries for the week I didn’t have them. I learned to love rice.

Since then I’ve learned resourcefulness, including how to use a screwdriver. So I hugged him and said I knew how to fix it and I had the money to take care of it. Still he was shaken, so I told him I was sorry that he felt scared and assured him it was really okay. He took a shuddering breath and dried his tears.

It was then I realized that I was safe. Security was no longer a whore that kept me from flying, but bought me the wings I needed to soar.

Adventures Unlimited – Part I


With a car full of gear and clothes, two bikes and a kayak on the roof of the little car that could, Jeep and I head for the I-40 route to Denver. Just passed Newbury Springs, Jeep points out the hillsides that will soon be covered with hundreds of bird and bat-killing wind turbines. A dust devil whips up sand in front of us as I contemplate the fate of unfortunate flying critters that will get evaporated or implode and hope for renewable energy that regards all life on earth as our community brethren. Imagine.

Tumbleweeds pile up against a barbed wire fence like insulation in the blazing 116 degrees. We pull over to swim and float in the cool Colorado River for an hour.  The water is dee-vine and the sun feels like a warm blanket. We dry off, pile back in the car and meet friends Rue and Scott in Flagstaff for the art walk before heading out into the desert to throw down the bags and sleep under the stars.


I buy turquoise earrings, an agate rock and an onyx business card holder (for my new job) before we drive into Petrified Forest National Park. Even though it’s hot as Hades, we take the bikes off the car and ride through the desert terrain. The gorgeous colors in the 13,000 old logs represent the trace minerals in the quartz, such as iron, manganese, carbon and sometimes chromium that provides a true green.  The striated hills are colors of ochre, wine and tans. I’m learning to shift gears without the chain falling off as I slog up the hills. This is good.

We pass the Historic Route 66, visit the Hubbell Trading Post where I drool over turquoise cuff bracelets and Navajo rugs and take a peak into Canyon de Chelly National Park. We travel most of the day through the desolate Navajo Reservation made that much bleaker by the fact that I was reading One Thousand White Women and had just reached the inevitable part of broken treaties, massacres and forced enslavement.  We turn on the reservation radio station and I listen mesmerized to the cadence of the unfamiliar language.

With darkness descending we take a dip in the San Juan River while bats fly overhead eating mosquitoes.  Thank goodness for bats. I hope for all our sake, we figure out a way to save them, and ourselves.

The evening is capped off with a salad and beer at Cottonwood Steakhouse in Bluff, UT listening to Johnny Cash. The outdoor patio is set up like a Wild West town, with mining tools lining the wooden fence, crude posts and mock store fronts. A short drive out into the wilderness and we lay our heads once again on the dirt to rest.

Little Windows

Last week my friend Pilar closed the door to a cleaned out apartment – homeless on purpose. Her snake Pythia and dog Loki stayed briefly with me while she and her boyfriend Michael ran last minute errands – drop off a few things at the storage unit, exchange the bulky cotton bag liners for silk liners at REI. Pilar, Michael and Pilar’s 15-year-old daughter Xylia are leaving for a year of traveling through South America with nothing but a backpack for each of them. Space is going to be a premium.

Pilar and Michael took the dog and snake and string instruments that would store better at a friend’s place in Oregon, rather than their storage. Check that off the list. Xylia graduated today. Another biggy. With no time like the present for the start of their adventure, tomorrow this little crew is off for Maui to spend a month relaxing, practicing their Spanish, and getting used to having all their possessions come out of a backpack.

They will “wwoof” it on Michael’s aunt and uncle’s farm and secure all the South American stops and contents.  Wwoof stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In fact they plan to wwoof it in some of the countries they will visit, like Ecuador, Chile, Argentia, Peru, maybe even Bolivia and Columbia. Pilar will also be visit villages that are using combinations of midwifery and Ayurveda practices (she’s an Ayurvedic doctor). In a month’s time, they come home for a couple of days, make any last minute purchases and off they go.

I’m so happy for the liberation Pilar is experiencing by shedding all that “stuff” as George Carlin would say.  One of my favorite clips because I think its damn funny when he jokes about how attached we all are to our stuff.  I’m also happy for my girls and their guy because of the adventures they will have and the people they will meet! One of my most favorite things about traveling is that you really get to know yourself a little better, too. You get to see how you respond to surprises, disappointments, fortunes and misfortunes.. .  without the convenience of all that stuff serving as a barricade between you and them

You can follow Pilar, Michael and Xylia’s on their blog


Snow Camping..

Apparently if you build a cave in a mound of snow, it can get up to a toasty 30° F inside. Snowcaves they are called. That was Jeep’s selling point to get me to go snow camping with him this winter. Hmm, I’m disinclined to acquiesce.

Not that I’m unwilling to sleep outside. On each of our jaunts to Oregon, we “sneak camp,” usually sans a tent, in our cocoon sleeping bags – mine a fab bag from REI. Sometimes you can hear the semi trucks rumble past on I5 or owls hooting while on the hunt.

When Kobe and I drove to Montana last summer, I ventured to throw down the bags just north of Vegas about a mile into the desert. In the morning as we rolled up the bags and mats, a beige scorpion scrambled from under bag to the car. Part of the adventure, I shrugged.

No, it was memories of frozen toes and the burning thawing sensation as a kid skiing June Mountain and those pictures of Jeep and his best friend BJ snow camping with icicles hanging from eyebrows and beards that deterred me.

But sometimes life tricks you. Ever notice that?

Recently Jeep and I visited friends, Rue, Scott and Morgan in Sedona. I wanted to see Rue, aka Tipsy Kitty, play roller derby – even ordered a killer ensemble from Sock Dreams and wore my new t-shirt “Hit like a Girl, Play Derby” to cheer on the girls from Dirty Verde. But the bout was cancelled due to rain that never came – (their rink is outside).  Instead, we ate scrumptiously and watched Planet Earth, before Jeep and I retired to our tent in their backyard. We woke to a surprising six inches of the most beautiful snow. Absolutely gorgeous to see white cresting the red rocks and clumped on pines.

Now, Jeep and BJ called that “snow camping” – even though the warm shower was just 10 feet away. And though I rather prefer to earn my stripes, this one I’ll take.