Long-Term Travel: Leave and Never Look Back

Disappear (verb): cease to be visible.

“She disappeared into the world.”


vanish, pass from sight, be lost to view/sight, recede from view; fade (away), melt away, clear, dissolve, disperse, evaporate, dematerialize;

literary: evanesce
“by 4 o’clock the mist had disappeared”


Have you ever dreamed of disappearing, even for a little while? Ever return home from a dream vacation only to find that nothing has changed except you? Have you ever wished you could just pick up and move somewhere far, far away?

Me too. A few years ago it was the easiest thing in the world for me to imagine disappearing, if only to avoid the sidelong stares, pointed fingers, and pitying whispers of friends and acquaintances in this town of not-quite-21,000 warm and fuzzy folk after I experienced a series of horrible circumstances and events. 

So, when I decided, exactly one year ago, to travel the world, I knew I wouldn’t be going back to the lovely valley of the rogue, my home for so long. Ashland, Oregon, is, for thousands of people, a dream-town come true, a Shakespeare-themed, creative, intelligent, active small town nestled in the hills of the Siskiyou Mountains. There is no denying it is gorgeous. I have loved this little valley for over two decades. I have made many friends here, especially in this last year, oddly. So why wouldn’t I want to return?


Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon, photo by Steve Gee

I have always lived a colorful life. At eighteen I left home to live in a commune in the Santa Cruz mountains. Even then I wanted to travel the world, so one day I hitchhiked into town and joined the army. I had just seen Private Benjamin, after all, so I knew I could get stationed in Germany (whatever “stationed” meant). It was 1975, the Vietnam War was over, and the military was downsizing its troops. The recruiter promised me, “You will love Germany.” I lasted twenty-nine crazy days in the softly rolling green lawns of Fort Jackson, North Carolina, before being honorably discharged. (Another story for another time, but all good.)

From the moment I returned home to my parents’ house, I was off. I moved to the shiny little town of Laguna Beach in Southern California, got a great job (I was a hairstylist back then, a career that treated me well for twenty-eight years), and immediately started saving my money to travel to Europe—on my own dime this time rather than courtesy of the US government. My first solo travel was later that same year. I was nineteen.

London 1978

London, 1978. I still have this hat I bought at Harrod’s of London.

London bird 1978

Trafalgar Square

Off I went, exploring England (I love this country; been back four times), Holland (I swear I walked every inch of Amsterdam on foot), Germany (omg I did love Germany; I spent three days with a nineteen-year-old German soldier who looked like James Dean), and France (thank goodness for American foreign exchange students) in just sixteen days on the money I had saved. It was over as soon as it started, but I was hooked on travel, and I’ve never stopped.

Here is what I know about coming home after having a great trip: Nothing is different. Nothing. Not the people or the plays, not the parades or the weather, not the restaurants or the music or the bars or the games or the view or the food or the park. Everything. Is. The. Same. Now, lots and lots of people LOVE this about Ashland. But not me. Not any more, anyway. I crave adventure. I yearn for new. I always have; this is not an all-of-a-sudden desire. 

Did you know that there is actually a thing called “post-travel depression”? Perhaps you have experienced it. Long-time travelers, especially, often feel a huge letdown after a great trip. The only thing that makes it better is . . . more travel.

Must . . . travel

Hence my decision to move to another country once I am done with this round of long-term travel. I want a fresh start, a new country, one that isn’t divided so dramatically that it will probably never unite again in my lifetime. I want to have a blank slate, I want to go where no one knows anything about me. I know my family isn’t happy about it, but I can’t live my life for someone else. That may sound harsh (I’m sorry, family), but I’m simply not wired that way, which is probably why I never had kids. I know my friends in Ashland (my true friends, anyway—I have an awful lot of acquaintances) wish I would come back. But here’s how I know it would go: I would land there after one, two, three years of travel and immediately feel like I was back in time: nothing changed, nothing. Nothing but me.

So, have YOU ever wanted to disappear and not come back? Do you know anyone who has? Do YOU dream of traveling the world on a long-term basis? What are you doing about it? Why or why not? I would love to read your comments!




One Year to Plan a Year

Well, I IMG_0448am making it official. Today is the first day of, okay, the rest of my life, but more specifically, a year to plan a year (or more!) of traveling around the world, or RTW. (Those of you who know me know that once I set my sites on a goal, I achieve it.)

I have, consciously or unconsciously (or both), been preparing myself for years for this to happen. A few years ago I created a new career that allows me to work wherever there is an internet connection. As a freelance book editor, I get work from various publishers, including a big one in Chennai, India. I’m ready to purge most of my belongings, although I’ll keep my house in Southern Oregon for a while. But I’m ready, willing, and (finally!) able to begin the preparations that at one time seemed so daunting.

I’m already making a list of people I know around the world in Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Australia, England, and other places. This is a great way to start an itinerary, by the way! (If I know you and you are in another country, please say hello and remind me!)

I used to think I needed the safety and security of a home and community, and while those things are still valuable to me, there is so much more I want from this one brief moment of time I have called life. I can’t save the world, I can’t make a huge difference, but in my own small way, I can touch the lives of others around the world as I enrich my own. I’ve already discovered several RTW travelers, men and women, old and young, who are living their dreams. Every one of them says the same thing: it’s not as hard as it seems, once you get started.

So here it is. I’m starting. Join me?IMG_0449







Rainbows and Sunshine

Rainbow country

Rainbow over Ashland

I live in Rainbow Country. I have never seen as many rainbows, or as frequently, as I do here at the southern tip of the Rogue Valley. And they’re wide—often one can see a full half-circle rainbow, from one end to the other, arcing across the fields on the far side of the valley. Or perhaps it’s dropping a pot of gold into a pond on the near side while stretching its colors to drop into a grove of trees way over there, that way. It’s remarkable; in fact, most people I know have a love affair with our rainbows. If there’s a big, juicy bow stretched bright across the middle of the day, you know it’s going to be all over Facebook in just a minute. With pictures. It’s cool.

Of course, I’ve seen rainbows all my life. As a kid, I was always excited to see a fraction of a circle of color peaking above the low hillside across the street. I’d run into the house yelling, “Rainbow! There’s a big rainbow!” to anyone who was nearby. I remember rainbows being pretty special and rather rare. So what is it about the Rogue Valley that gives us Rainbow Country? Well, it’s all about the layout and the weather.

Ashland sits at the base of the Siskiyou mountains, with Mount Ashland at its back, toward the south. We face northward, looking out over the black ribbon of I-5, which cuts smoothly down the narrow valley. Grizzly Peak is due north. The expanse of valley spreads east to west. So here we have this long, narrow, tight valley, where mist and sunshine mingle together to demonstrate nature’s physics.

More often than not, the suggestion of a double rainbow, that reflected rainbow of the rainbow, occurs. Sometimes, while watching, the double rainbow will become brighter and brighter, becoming almost as bright as the primary bow. I mean, wow! How cool is that!

So with the sun at our backs, the east/west valley at our feet, and the mountains across the way as a backdrop, everything comes together perfectly to create a canvas for our stunning rainbows. We never know when they’ll appear, but when conditions are right, which they often are in the spring and fall, we are treated to Rainbow Country’s greatest spectacles. And, no surprise, Ashland is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Wildflowers and Spring in Ashland’s Lithia Park

Fairy playground

Fairy playground

I confess… I admit it. I’m not a photographer. I have an old digital Canon that I mostly keep on “auto” setting, and I know how to zoom. That’s about it. But when I hike above Lithia Park, on the trails in the hills above the main park path, I have to take picture every few feet. There’s just so much to see!

In the spring, wildflowers bloom in abundance. They’re mostly tiny–teeny dots of color pushing up between soggy, old, dead leaves and mats of pine needles.

But once I train my eye on them, I see them everywhere! They’re snowy white, royal purple, deep blue, and butter yellow.

They’re smaller than a candy dot and as big as a gumdrop. And when they’re just starting to push up from the cold, damp ground, they signal the promise of thousands more to come.

And then there’s the textures. Oh, my, the textures. From decaying old logs to spongy green moss, the textures of the forest cover it all.

Smooth, rough, soft, scratchy, ribbed, and spiky. The woods and forest floor yield endless textures of nature, slowing my hiking rhythm to a snail’s pace.

Driving home from what turned out to be a pretty leisurely walk through nature’s treats, I pulled over no less than six times to attempt to capture the plethora of blossoming trees. Really, they’re everywhere! Ashland has a short window in the spring when, it seems, everything has flowers pushing through rough, wintery bark.

Yes, Ashland is full of nature’s eye candy in every flavor, if only we slow down long enough to notice. And maybe point and shoot an old camera in hopes of capturing just one taste.


Coffee Houses: Part of Ashland’s Charm

20130326-202635.jpg I moved from Southern California to the Southern Oregon town of Ashland in July of 1993. I had been living in Orange County for seventeen long years, and was really ready to get out of there. I hated the traffic, the noise, the competitive atmosphere. When I moved to Ashland I felt I had finally moved home.

That was nearly twenty years ago, and I’ve never had a day of missing SoCal. Ashland embraced me with her warm, inviting, liberal arms. I met scads of people right away. I got involved in the community, which I’d never been comfortable doing in California, even though I’d owned my own business there.

I now live next door to Ashland, in the tiny little town of Talent. Its population is a minuscule 6,100 compared to Ashland’s 20,200. I live so close to Ashland, though, that I can get to the downtown plaza faster than half the people who live in Ashland. In fact, I spend most of my time out of my house in town, simply because it’s such a groovy place to hang out.

I freelance, so when I need to get out, my office comprises half a dozen charming little coffee houses in town. Some are easy for tourists and visitors to find, such as Boulevard Cafe, which is part of the Stratford Inn. Boulevard is a top hangout choice for locals who like the open, sunny atmosphere, the great selection of loose teas, and the plentiful tables with outlets for laptops. Clearly I’m not alone in calling this favorite shop my office.

Other coffee hangouts, such as Case Coffee, are not as easy to stumble across if you don’t leave the downtown area. Case is across the street from Southern Oregon University and is typically missed by visitors. This may change, though, because Case just won one of the prestigious Good Food 2013 national awards for its coffee, an honor indeed for this tiny little hideaway. Find Case Coffee at 1255 Siskiyou Boulevard, right across from the emerald green lawn of SOU.

Also off the beaten path, but sometimes discovered by out-of-towners, is the Rogue Valley Roasting Company, or RoCo, as it’s affectionately called by locals. Since it’s near a few B&Bs, visitors often chance to stop in for some of their delectable spanikopita, scones, or pumpkin muffins. This rustic old building has been well-preserved. While I don’t know its history, it has surely seen many generations come and go. Sit outside on the front porch, or go around to the shaded patio to relax and watch the slow traffic go by.

When I want to experience Ashland’s abundance of visitors in a relaxing, homey atmosphere, I stop by Bloomsbury Coffee House. This charming bookstore coffee house boasts comfy stuffed chairs, wifi, reading materials, and the good cheer of its owner, David, who is usually on the premises either serving coffee or cooking in the kitchen. You’ll find the famous Bloomsbury’s bookstore and its independently owned coffee house on the main drag, a few blocks up from the downtown plaza. Head in and up for a cuppa.

The list of coffee house hangouts goes on. At any one of them, a visitor can engage with the locals, who often visit their beloved baristas. These offices-away-from-home remind me of why I love Ashland. I sure didn’t get that feeling when I had coffee at a Denny’s in Costa Mesa. California, I don’t miss ya.

To visit any of these local gems, check them out here:

Boulevard Cafe: http://boulevard-coffee.com/

Case Coffee Roasters: http://casecoffeeroasters.com/

Rogue Valley Roasting Co: http://ashlandcoffee.com/

Bloomsbury Coffee House doesn’t have a website, but you can check out the bookstore here: http://bloomsburyashland.com/

Oh, and apparently the Denny’s in Costa Mesa closed. 😉