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Happy Mail Days

April 6, 2016

This post is sponsored by UncommonGoods. All opinions and text are my own.

This spring, UncommonGoods sent me goodies to match my love of quirky fun at home and abroad.

Scratch Map

I love happy mail days.

Especially now, when I’m home on maternity leave with two tiny kiddos, I’m grateful that the world can be delivered to my doorstep.  Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Featured Partners, Food, Intrepid

Frogs and Eels and Pig Heads

January 16, 2013

We’d been in Siem Reap for just one night and wandered through the buzzing downtown market stalls: woven scarves and metal jewelry, tourist T-shirts and carved trinkets. Colorful, and fun to gawk at while eating ice cream from Blue Pumpkin, certainly.

But what fun to get up the next morning, hop in a remork, and ride in the opposite direction of the crowds toward a real taste of the vivid, smelly, real-deal village markets supported by the Cambodian families of Tonlé Sap.

Twenty minutes through the countryside, a turn down a few smaller roads, and we arrived at the outskirts of the morning bustle, where space is first-come-first-serve and people set up in the wee hours to claim the best spot. Continue Reading…

Cambodia, Destinations, Featured Partners, Intrepid, Landscape Architecture, Musings

Tonlé Sap Tour: Visiting the Floating Villages of Cambodia

January 9, 2013

An odd juxtaposition: being in a hurry, surrounded by a slow and ancient way of life.

We sped toward Siem Reap, Cambodia on a six-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. The dinner hour pit-stop barely gave us time to catch our breaths, and we were off again, aimed for few nights’ stay near the temples of Angkor Wat. I watched the sun set out the bus window, glazing everything from rice paddies to rustic roads with warm light, causing me to consider the farmers working the land to grow a living with each passing day.

When we arrived in Siem Reap, we knew our time was limited. Though we planned to join people from around the world in flocking to see the ancient Hindu temple complex ruins of Angkor, we also wished for a chance to experience something a little farther from the crowds, something a little more insightful about present day life in rural Cambodia. Enter: a visit to the remote floating villages of Tonlé Sap.

Floating Village of Kampong Phluk: Tonlé Sap Tour

Tonlé Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, a UNESCO Biosphere welling up to 15,000 square kilometers in the rainy season, draining to the Mekong River, and shrinking to 2,700 square kilometers during the dry season. North America’s Great Salt Lake is 5,483 square kilometers, by comparison.

One and a half million Cambodians live in 127 communities around and on the water. Lake dwellers live in bamboo floating houses and stilted structures, fishing for a living and navigating the waterways as they’ve done for centuries, though motors and foreigners and outside developers are changing the tides. Continue Reading…, Destinations, Featured Partners, New Zealand

The Promised Land: From Oregon to New Zealand

December 3, 2012

We’re obsessed. Like new parents about their kid, or grandparents about their new grandchild (you know who you are), we can’t stop talking about her, bragging about her, and comparing everything to her.

We love Oregon. It’s that simple.

Yes, we think she’s the greatest state in the union (but not in the same way Texans do). Yes, we believe Oregon has something to offer everyone. Yes, Portlanders live 90 minutes from world-class windsurfing, skiing at Mt. Hood, gorgeous coastlines, and fertile farmland.

I could be preaching to the choir.

There’s just one problem with living in a paradise. It takes quite a place to actually compete with the beauty of Oregon. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Feature Trips, Featured Partners, Featured Places, South Africa, South Africa Tourism, twoOregonians Tour the Cape

Better than a Bicycle Built for Two: Canoeing in South Africa

September 18, 2012

The verdict after all day on the water? Ted and Bethany are way better at team-canoeing than riding a bicycle built for two. (Oh, Victoria, British Columbia! Cycling in Stanley Park really got the better of us…but that’s another story for another day.) This story finds us in South Africa on an August winter morning, unsure of whether we’d be in for a day of sprinkles or blue sky.

We wore our hiking clothes and packed the rain jackets. Canoeing on the mind, we headed for a classic Garden Route excursion with Eden Adventures.

Pulling up to the entry kiosk at the “Ebb & Flow Wilderness Section South Camp” point of the Garden Route National Park, we paid our 22 Rand each (a total of about $5.45 for the two of us) and drove just a bit further into the park. Down by the reeds and the river stood a brown building on stilts, hovering high enough to avoid seasonal floods and provide an overlook to the fifty or so canoes and kayaks waiting down below. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Feature Trips, South Africa, South Africa Tourism, twoOregonians Tour the Cape

Half a World Away from Stumptown: Visiting the Knysna Forest

September 13, 2012

Oregon = forests. Timber industry history shaped many a town and family tree. Ted’s great grandpa was a logger, and we know our beautiful canopies and leaves and bark and needles (almost) like the back of our hands. (Though that whole “Oregon Pine” thing left us a bit flummoxed at first.)

South Africa’s forests and woodcutters, on the other hand? We drove down the N2 highway through the Garden Route’s “Knysna Forests” and didn’t understand what we were seeing. Our foreign eyes couldn’t make out the distinctions and our shallow knowledge of South African history left us without context. Four hours (guided! thankfully not lost in the woods) changed all that…

Ted and I met Dennis, our guide, at the Harkerville filling station off the N2, just beyond the city of Knysna, climbed into his trusty Toyota 4×4, and set off for a visit to a beautiful patch of remaining indigenous forests. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Feature Trips, South Africa, South Africa Tourism, twoOregonians Tour the Cape

twoOregonians Tour the Cape: An Introduction to South Africa

September 12, 2012

South Africa is a country of complexity and beauty, tension and freedom. It’s large enough to justify a year long visit on its own while accessible enough to explore well in a few weeks’ time.

We struck a compromise: two and a half months inside the borders split three ways between slow-paced visits, temporary rootedness, and zippy road trips around the country’s Cape.

What could two travelers from Oregon learn about South Africa, and what could we share with the world? In our upcoming posts, we do our best to dispel a few myths, reveal a few secrets, and share our real-life glimpse into this far (from Oregon!) corner of the planet. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Featured Partners, Italy, Walks of Italy

Our Italian Job: Escaping Disneyland Venice

June 18, 2012

Ted and I watched The Italian Job on a date night back when it was in theaters. I bought the DVD and would turn it on it during college procrastination sessions. There’s that scene at the beginning: magical morning mist, a burst of pigeons rising in unison from St. Mark’s Square, and soon after, a speedboat chase shattering the calm of idyllic Venetian canals.

We were in Italy for a month, surely we could visit Venice, fall in love with the ambience, flirt with cliche, and make it out unhindered by the logjam of 15 million visitors who arrive each year.

Not forty five minutes in, though, and we were ready to call it a mistake. Such a shame, we thought, considering the city’s magical reputation.

We’d taken the train in from Verona, hoping to see the highlights before bidding Italy “Arrivederci!” later in the week. True to warning, sluggish crowds gawking at fake murano glass and glittered Venetian masks clogged the zigzagged streets. Shop windows, mobile stalls, sweaty bodies, pushy people, narrow walkways, dead ends, crowded footbridges and kitschy gondoliers wordlessly taunted us, “Suckers! You’re in for it now!” Continue Reading…

Featured Partners, Italy, Walks of Italy

Milan in a Day: Visiting Da Vinci’s Masterpiece

June 16, 2012

That Mona Lisa moment.

If you’ve been to the Louvre in Paris, maybe you know it?

Awe and a twinge of disillusionment in the same breath.

Entering the gallery to see a tiny little painted woman smirking back across the room honestly underwhelmed me after a teenager’s lifetime of seeing reproductions plastered across canvas, t-shirts, and tapestries.

Then there are moments when reality exceeds expectations.

Continue Reading…

Destinations, Featured Partners, Italy, Photography, Walks of Italy

Paying Pisa a Savvy Visit Part I

June 13, 2012

Confession: at times on our independent trip around the world, we are absolutely, unabashedly tourists.

“We’re foodies. We’re fans of great design. I love taking pictures. Ted loves drinking coffee. We play the tourist part, signing up for guided treks, sailing the seas on a cruise ship, and snapping cliched shots at guidebook hotspots…”
Writing Honestly From the Road

When the opportunity to visit Pisa and see the monumental sights presented itself, we penciled out our itinerary excitedly as adventures began falling into place.

Continue Reading…