And one post to rule them all...
When I announced that I was leaving Weight Watchers after nearly 14 great years, I got a lot of nice notes and took a lot of calls. The consistent advice was to take advantage of the time while I could. After all, I pretty much hadn’t stopped working since I was 12 years old. One of the notes I received was from a man 25 years my senior who had gotten to know me well over the past 10 years. I had always held him in incredibly high regard as did everyone who knew him. Excerpting from his email was the following couple of lines…
“... People like you, and me at that time, have worked for years without any real break, and this allows the first extended opportunity for time off and for reflection. It's good to know you're heading for the beach for a couple of weeks, and my suggestion based on experience is to look for more chances to do things you've always wanted to but haven't had the time. Work will always be there…”
It really struck a chord with me, and I began to paraphrase it as “visiting the places I have no time to visit.” In fairly short order, I found myself organizing about 5 months worth of heavy travel to places I always wanted to see, particularly places that were not very convenient to access. I now find myself looking back over the last five months, and my memories runneth over. Some of the more notable ones, organized chronologically, include:
Phoenix: This is where the trip started, at the annual Google Zeitgeist. I always feel lucky and glad to be invited as these guys are consistently doing and looking into interesting stuff. More than that, they get an amazing line up of speakers. And they bring their self-driving cars.
Grand Canyon & Hoover Dam: From Phoenix, I picked up a rental convertible and started to drive, happy as if I had good sense. First stop was the Grand Canyon, which I had never seen. I think the movie “Vacation” had put an unfair and mocking pall on it. One excellent morning hike later, and I was a converted believer. Huge. Colorful. Incredible. After my AM hike, I drove four hours to see the Hoover Dam, stopping on the side of the road to take advantage of the opportunity to fire a 50 caliber machine gun. Because, well, why not.
Pacific Coast Highway: From the Hoover Dam (actually Las Vegas), I drove across the desert to LA to spend a weekend in a city I have truly grown to love despite the fact that I live in the NYC area. From there, it was a drive up the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway to see a friend in Mill Valley, CA. Along the way was the ever-amazing Big Sur area, spectacular coast lines, Carmel, and many other eye candy stops. I wrapped up this segment with some excellent California hiking (Mt. Tam) and was able to see the last leg of the America’s Cup from the Golden Gate Bridge.
London: From San Francisco, I hopped the plane to London where I was connecting with two old friends from college. We reverted back to the form of stupid college guys over a too-fun weekend. Along the way, I watched Fulham play football with their characteristic mediocrity in a tough loss. I was reminded by how much I still like my college friends, now dating a quarter of a century ago.
South of Spain: From London, one of my buddies joined me for a week bumming around the south of Spain. We started in Grenada, and saw the amazing Alhambra which dazzled with its incredible art and engineering in a place built over a thousand years ago. And I learned about the Golden Ratio of beauty in the process. From Grenada, it was hiking in Sierra Nevada with its beautiful terrain and white washed villages. We also got to Rhonda, home of the original bullfight and found ourselves at a farm that raised bulls for bullfighting. Barbaric, but beautiful.
Hong Kong: From Spain, I was home for a month, flying around the states, delivering a few speeches along the way. Before I knew it, I was on a plane and off to Hong Kong. I just flat out loved this city with its amazing fusion of modernity, funky art, Chinese tradition and its amazing green/glass/concrete vistas.
Bhutan: I had a quick stopover in Bangkok where I needed to fly in order to get a flight to Bhutan. Countless hours of hiking in the Himalayas. Buddhist temple after buddhist temple. Amazing moments of beauty and solitude punctuated by witnessing this amazing, happy culture.
Bangkok: Two day stop-over again before getting to New Zealand. Saw some disturbingly large golden Buddhas as well as a tiny green one. It’s a hot, teaming city that was just getting its period of civil unrest started when I was there. Amazing and full of life place.
New Zealand: Always wanted to go here, and not just because of the Lord of the Rings. Long, hard, rainy but oh-so-gorgeous 8 day bike ride down the west coast of the South Island. Glaciers, rain forests, rugged beaches, beautiful hills. Pushed myself biking. Met some really excellent people. Queenstown rocks the house. I want to go back!
Sydney: My last Asia-Pac stop. I’ve been there many, many times, and I was happy to go back. Took several endless city hikes which destroyed my feet but dazzled my eyes. Tried surfing for the first time in my 47 years and actually go up on a board.
Costa Rica/Nosara: Had two weeks home for Christmas and then it was off to Nosara with family for a week. Perched up on a green hillside, mostly isolated other than the eerie sounds of howler monkeys. Tried surfing for a second time, and spent quality SUP time. Beautiful part of the world and still pretty undeveloped.
Chile: Home for a week, and then off for my 20th wedding anniversary. Spent one week on the moon (Atacama desert) and the other at the end of the Earth (Patagonia). Lots of hiking. Lots of pictures. Way cool animals. Discovered that guanaco meet is really tasty.
And now I’m home. Time to get started on the next chapter of my life!