travel confessions from a pilgrim.

the other day (ok. the other week.) laura over at german-american abroad, surprised me & tagged me to do a post revealing my most secret travel confessions. i’m sure she thinks that i’ve completely forgotten about this little challenge. but i haven’t! i’d never forget something that encouraged me to talk about one of my favorite things in life. thanks, laura, for choosing me! so, here come my deepest, darkest, inner thoughts about the joy of travel.

oh yeah. first the rules, of course.

  • Post a photo (or photos) and description(s) of your confession(s) in a new post.
  • Tweet your post with hashtag #TravelConfession and follow/tweet @Traveling9to5
  • Tag 3-5 other travelers you’d love to see confess and tag them on Twitter.

1. go local.

our friends’ home in dublin.

the best kind of travel is the kind that allows you to stay for free. agreed? whenever i meet people, i actually think to myself, “if we become friends perhaps i can travel to his/her country/city and stay with him/her for free while i explore a new place. is it wrong that i think like that? i loooove visiting friends, and i love having friends come & visit me. too bad i’ve lived in sweden for almost 2 & a half years and only 1 person has taken advantage of the free lodging i have to offer to anyone wanting to visit sweden. perhaps i should try couch-surfing… so i can travel and so i can offer my home to others. have you done couch-surfing? how was your experience? right now, my love & i are in the process of planning a trip to peking, hong kong, & macau. why there? because it’s freaking cool & (here it comes) because we have a friend living there for a year. see how that works out?!

2. pubs are the shit.

i prefer to find out what a city/country is really like. i like to hang with the locals. that means avoiding big shopping areas (though i do frequent those too. a healthy balance of travel experiences is a good thing, right?), and focusing on pubs, little hole-in-the-wall cafes, boutiques, and bars. then i can try local beer, see local styles, get a feel for local ideas/beliefs, and hopefully hear a little local music. it could be a little scanky or scary, but totally worth the stories i get to tell later.

3. speaking of scary…

the wrong side of the tracks in memphis tennessee.

i will always, always, always end up in the most unsafe area of a city/place. it’s like i have some sort of radar or something. i don’t mean to end up in these places. it just happens. and, yes, i am usually frightened for my life for at least one brief second. my wife, of course, has just accepted that these “little adventures” are part of traveling with me.

4. on the road again.

somewhere out west where the road never ends.

my favorite mode of transportation is by car. i freaking love to drive. capital l.o.v.e. the open road, snacks in the car, music blasting, singing along, tapping the steering wheel, left leg up, windows down, sunglasses on, and no real idea where i’m gonna end up. that’s the perfect road trip.

5. it could take more hours than it should.

this is a genetic defect i’ve inherited from my dad. at any given moment, i could see something – like a barn, or an animal, or a pretty tree, or something weird or amazing, and stop the car. yep. i will pull over in order to get THE picture.  if you travel with me, you WILL have to wait for me at some point. just sayin’.

6. i’m all about inclusive.

i could get used to this. a pool & the mediterranean sea. all day. every day.

i admit it. after traveling to rhodes, greece, last year for a week at an inclusive resort, i fell in love. to be honest, i was very skeptical. i usually travel in order to experience  a culture: people, food, anything different from the life that i know. that’s the point of travel for me… to expand my horizons and touch my soul. staying at an inclusive resort, laying by a pool, being served by scandinavian people (not greeks!) in greece all seemed wrong to me. but, i loved it. i’m ashamed to say it, but i loved the luxury. the doing nothingness that everyday consisted of… well, we did see rhodes old town one day & toured an acropolis another day, so we got a little culture. bottom line: i want to go on one of these kind of resort, all-inclusive trips for one week out of every year. one word: heaven.

7. location. location. location.

camping on the hottest night in the summer of 2010. oklahoma, usa.

found a great hotel right in the middle of times square. crazy.

out in the wild or smack in the middle of everything. i’m a little bipolar when it comes to travel. i love to be in the middle of the woods, camping & roughing it. i have never camped in anything but a tent. no rv’s or campers for me (as of yet). on the other hand, i love to be right smack in the middle of manhattan, or any other big, global city. i’d rather pay nothing & sleep in the woods, or pay extra & stay right in the middle of everything. see what i mean? i’m all over the place.

8. nerd alert.

the temple of isis on delos (greece).

i love history. thanks, mom & dad. i love to find out the why’s, who’s, and what’s of an area. museums are great, filled with history & art. a perfect combo. and historical ruins and other places. does it get any better than that? i’m a sucker for anything that sheds a little light on what it means to be part of the human race, how we got where we are, how the past has influenced us today, and any stories & experiences of people who have made a difference. history inspires me & gives me this feeling of connection to all people, through all times.

9. light a candle.

i want to travel the world. i want to see everything. i want to experience everything. i want to meet all different kinds of people. but, there is one thing that i, as a student of theology and a lover of spirituality, am really drawn to… holy places. churches, mosques, synagogues, cathedrals, memorials, secular places, pilgrimage places, abbeys, monasteries, convents, outdoor places – including all of nature. the holiest places on earth are both human-made buildings and naturally created places on earth. when i travel, i have to go there. everywhere. anywhere. i must light a candle in a cathedral, or dip my toes into the ocean, or stand in awe of a forest. these places all ground me. i feel something there. something powerful. something beyond me & yet a part of me at the same time. these are the most important places to visit. most of the time i have no idea they are holy places until i stand there & breathe in everything around me. and then, i just know. i just feel it.

traveling is like breathing. i need it to survive. i am not ashamed of my wanderlust. i embrace it, and as soon as i return from one trip, be it across the world, or just to the next city, i begin preparing for my next adventure. i believe that travel has a direct connection to peace. when we travel & experience something new, when we are willing to get out of comfort zones & meet new people, see new places, taste new foods, cross boarders, and explore new cultures, we open ourselves up. we add new memories and make room in our lives, our hearts, and our minds for new thoughts, new opinions, and new friendships. to travel is to educate. and to educate is to promote acceptance, respect, and peace.

so, my dear friends, get out there and travel! do something new. go somewhere new. be bold. set sail. wander around. soak it all in. and live life!

now, my love at lier.se, ashley paige at for the love of wanderlust, and dace at the long way home… go! give us all your travel confessions. i’m dying to know!

thanks for the little challenge & tag, laura! it’s been fun!

peace in all your travels.

where i stood.

day 1: where i stood

today was my day off. (liz does a happy dance). and guess what i did today? i stood in the kitchen various times throughout the day, in my pj’s (yes all day) and slippers, and made multiple cups of coffee. that’s right. why so much coffee, you ask? well, mostly because it’s cozy & i like the taste of it. but, also because it sat beside my computer on my desk as i typed & planned away practically all day. yes, i was lazy, yet productive, at the same time…

i worked on lots of little writing projects i am beginning now. and it was so much fun. i have most definitely decided that i’m gonna use my mondays for my writing and photography. i like to think of it as my inspiration/creative day. so, it’s all set. i have set a goal, disciplined myself, and now it’s all about the follow through. so far, so good.

the theme for the photo challenge today was “where i stood”. i’ve been thinking about that all day, and realizing all of the places i have stood. i have met so many people. had so many experiences. stood in so many places that lead me to where i am today. i feel crazy blessed to have walked in so many different places…

as a minister in a church in canton, north carolina.

with my dad on the top of a mountain.

in a park in the middle of brooklyn, new york (where i was working with teenagers).

i walked, stood, & sat in the middle of ancient corinth, greece. overwhelming.

in the florida keys for my brother’s wedding.

in the atlantic ocean.

12 days later… at the pacific ocean.

in a gospel choir in denmark.

at the grand canyon with my love

 you know, you don’t have to travel all over the world in order to experience holy, sacred, amazing ground. no. i believe that all ground is sacred. all places have something to offer us. i suppose it’s up to us to slow down a little and soak it all in. the bus stop, the grocery store, the gas station, the hospital, our homes & schools. wherever we stand, is one more experience, one more opportunity, one more place of beauty in our lives. and wherever we stand right now, is the place preparing us for the journey & the steps that lie ahead.

so, where are the places that you have stood in your life? where have you been? what have you seen? what have you experienced? where are you standing now in your life? and where are you going?

well, wherever you are right now, i wish you peace.

summer solstice!

 palm trees in greece. last october we spent a week on the island of rhodes.

happy first day of summer, people! i realize that the solstice was technically yesterday, but i’m celebrating on the day between the actual longest day of the year (yesterday) and the swedish celebration of midsummer (tomorrow). ahhh.. the season is finally here. and while i have no plans of heading home to north carolina during the summer (our hearts are breaking), i fully intend to soak up the sun, the light, and the warmth when & wherever i can find it!

i am looking forward to a summer in europe. geez. how bad does that sound? i can’t complain, huh? on the horizon are a couple of trips: stockholm for some days (you have no idea how amazing stockholm is on a sunny summer’s day. or maybe you do!). ireland for an amazing wedding. a week at a camp in the swedish archipelago (that’s work. but, once again, i get paid to be at camp. ain’t bad, right?). and perhaps a few days in lübeck, germany (we’re saving a trip to visit a friend in berlin for the fall). all in all, squeezing in a few trips here & there sounds fantastic. just what i need to help keep my mind off of missing my family in the states. it’s all about living life exactly where you are anyway, isn’t it? because there’s always something beautiful, something to learn, something to soak up.

as for today, i plan on spending as much of it outside as i can. sweden has given us a beautifully sunny & warm day! first, a little lunch at home. then, some shopping at an outdoor veggie market – fresh strawberries on tap for midsummer’s celebrations tomorrow, and finally some relaxing time with my amazing, mesmerizing wife. oh yeah. gotta do a little work when i get home tonight… more midsummer preparations. yes, i am working on midsummer. but, it’s a joy to get to do what i do. i’m giving a short, inspirational talk at the celebration. think, blog post, only out loud and in public. gonna be great, i hope. wish me luck preparing something inspirational! not that i’m without inspiration… with it now being summer & gorgeous outside.

ok. time to stop typing & get busy soaking up the summer sun.

happy summer solstice, my dear readers! sending you sunshine & peace.

my journey to peace.

about a week ago, i had a request from a fellow blogger, the mezz, to begin a series on my journey to peace. as i said before, i was humbled & overwhelmed. and somehow i knew it was a sign… a sign that the time had come to finally tell the story i had been yearning to tell for 4 years.

so, i’ve begun.

i’ll post my first entry here as a blog post, and perhaps each one after i write it as a blog post too, but you can also follow the whole story at the top of my home page under the “from death to peace” link. i will keep my story there. i have no idea how long it will be, how much i will write, or what i will say exactly. i am just going to write until i am done, until i’ve said everything i need to and want to say. i am not promising a post every day or every week, or anything like that. i will just write as it comes to me.

i am truly excited about this series of posts, of this push that i now i have write and tell my story. i am telling it because i know that i must, it’s just something that i feel from deep within. telling you everything is part of my continuing journey to peace.

so, with butterflies in my stomach, my heart racing, and my hands shaking as i click the keys on my keyboard, i give you my first post…

***************************************************************************

i died when i was 33.

ironically, the same age as jesus when he was crucified.

and that was actually really ironic at that time in my life since i was also completing my masters of divinity degree (= studying theology) and working as a minister in a church. i never expected to die. especially right then. but, i did.

however, that’s not the end of the story. it’s actually the beginning…

you see, i rose again. not in some physical sense like we hear about how jesus rose, because i did not die in a physical way. but, just as i died, i rose… from my death to my life. one elizabeth died, and another one rose. and life would never, ever be the same again.

now i can split my life into two completely different parts. two volumes. two phases. two me’s (and yet the same me). before death & after death. however, it did not all happen in one day; my death and rebirth spanned across one entire year. though, i could actually say that the death part was shorter than the rebirth. perhaps i’m still in the rebirth part… still discovering.

during that year i finished my master’s degree, traveled to ancient greece, led a college group to scandinavia & the baltic countries, got divorced, quit my job at the church, spent an unbelievable amount of time alone with my journal & my thoughts, met my soulmate, sold or gave away almost everything i owned, and moved to denmark. but those are all of the external things that were going on.

internally, i was finding peace. in the midst of chaos, confusion, pain, and uncertainty, i found peace. in a journal entry dated 16 may, 2007, i wrote:

not until this week did i realize that in my life-long quest for peace, i sought the shallow “peace without conflict” in my marriage [and my entire life up to that point]. on monday, i took the bull by the horns and was finally ready to accept and experience peace as presence… in the midst of conflict. all fear has been cast out…. in the midst of pain, i found peace and strength and courage.

that was the death part.

the rebirth part began internally, as i began discovering myself. and the journey inward, combined with the journeys i made around the world that year, brought me back to life.

and so, begins my story. a story that i have been yearning to tell for 4 years now. finally, the time is right. so, i’m going to tell it here. to all of you.

it is my journey from death to peace.

now this is my kind of traveling!

i don’t have time for this.

i have so much to do, and it would be so much better for me if i would get my responsibilities done first and then write here, paint my nails, play around on the internet, etc. but, i don’t work like that. nope. i am the best procrastinator that there is (something that drives my wife crazy). but, hey, that’s me. and i always get things done.

anyway, in honor of my next traveling adventure (which begins tomorrow evening!) i am going to post something written by one of my favorite authors, paul coelho. i know that it may sound weird, but even though i am traveling to my home country, to my family, to familiar places & people, i still see it as an adventure. i still see it as an opportunity to learn something or experience something new. it may be a totally different perspective than traveling to a country that i have never visited before, but why not travel to my home country  with open eyes & an open mind, ready to see things in a fresh, new way? my perspective is a bit different now, anyway, you know. my perspective now is that of one who lives in another country, and who visits her home country, which in an of itself teaches me new ways to think about & look at my motherland.

i read somewhere that when you live in another country, you fall more in love with you home country.  and that rings true to me. what i mean is: living in sweden, i am more american. and when in america, i am more swedish. i do not belong in either place, yet i belong in both places. it sounds as if i don’t have a home, or don’t feel comfortable wherever i am. but, on the contrary, i feel that i have 2 homes. 2 countries. confusing. complicated. yet, very cool.

ok. back to the text i am going to post… i must say, that paul coelho has captured exactly how i feel about traveling. and i’m sure that many of you would agree. lina & i do not desire to travel to exotic & new places in order to lounge around (though lounging is good, as i learned at the resort we stayed at in greece last year) and be served in our native language (s). we want to explore, grow, learn, meet, experience. we want adventure – to end up on the wrong side of town, to walk into a seedy bar, to see what real people look like & how they live. this is how we like to travel. this is how we want to travel.

i’m gonna copy & save this article that paul coelho wrote in my journal, so that i am reminded that anytime i set off to a new (or old) place, i remember my whole purpose for traveling in the first place. it’s a journey. the world is my classroom. and to feel my soul dancing the most, the only thing i need to do is set off, ready to soak in something new, meet new people,  and expand my horizons. traveling (in a different way) is just what i need to feed that nomad soul of mine.

Traveling in a different way

By Paulo Coelho

When I was very young I discovered that, for me, a journey is the best way to learn. I still have this pilgrim’s soul to this day, and have decided to relate some of the lessons I have learned, in the hopes that they will be useful to other like-minded pilgrims.

1] Avoid museums. This advice may seem absurd, but let us reflect a little together: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to seek out the present, than the past? Usually, people feel obliged to go to museums, because ever since they were small they have been told that traveling is a search for this type of culture. Of course museums are important, but they require time and objectivity – you need to know what it is you want to see there, otherwise you will come away with the impression that you saw several things which are fundamental to your life, but cannot remember what they were.

2] Frequent bars. Unlike museums, this is where the life of the city can be found. Bars are not discotheques, but places where the people gather to have a drink, pass the time, and are always willing to chat. Buy a newspaper and observe the bustle of people coming and going. If someone speaks to you, strike up a conversation, however banal: one cannot judge the beauty of a path merely by looking at its entrance.

3] Be open and forward. The best tourist guide is someone who lives there, knows everything, but doesn’t work at a travel agency. Go out into the street, choose someone you wish to speak to, and ask him or her for directions (where is such-and-such a cathedral? Where is the post office?) If this bears no fruit, try someone else – I guarantee that in the end you will find excellent company.

4] Try and travel alone, or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be looking after you, but this is the only way of truly leaving your country. Group travel is just a disguised way of pretending to go abroad, where you speak your own language, obey the leader of the pack, and concern yourself more with the internal gossip of the group than with the place you are visiting.

5] Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything – not prices, nor cleanliness, nor quality of life, nor means of transport, nothing! You are not traveling in order to prove you live better than others – your search, in fact, is to find out how others live, what they have to teach, how they view reality and the extraordinary things in life.

6] Understand that everyone understands you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be afraid: I have been in many places in which there was no way of communicating with words, and I always found support, guidance, important suggestions, even girlfriends. Some people think that if you travel alone, you will go out into the street and be lost forever. All you need is the hotel card in your pocket, and – should you find yourself in extreme circumstances – take a taxi and show it to the driver.

7] Don’t buy much. Spend your money on things which you won’t have to carry: good theater, restaurants, walks. Nowadays, with the global market and the Internet, you can have everything you want without having to pay for excess baggage.

8] Don’t try and see the world in a month. It is better to stay in one city for four or five days, that visit five cities in a week. A city is like a capricious woman, who needs time to be seduced and reveal herself completely.

9] A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller said that it is far more important to discover a church no one has heard of, than go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel, with two hundred thousand tourists shouting all around you. Go to the Sistine Chapel, but also get lost in the streets, wander down alleyways, feel free to look for something, without knowing what it is. I swear you will find it and that it will change your life.

thank you, paul. now, with that said, i’m off to complete all my work duties. then, it’s time to pack my bags & head off on a new adventure tomorrow. i’m ready to travel, to an old & familiar place, but in a totally different way.

peace & love, my friends.

counting down the hours.

looking back over this year, i realize that it has been truly, truly amazing! i have completed my first full year as a resident of sweden, traveled around the world some, learned a new language, experienced new traditions, enjoyed every single moment with my love, missed my family so much i felt like my heart would break, gotten a job, learned the true art of fika, and oh my gosh what an adventure it has been!

here, take a peek.

january

in january i finally finished reading this awesome book about the hippie, peace-lovin’, one of my idols beatle. it inspired me at the start of a new year to begin writing my story, and it of course inspired me to follow the road less traveled, to just be true to myself in every way. from the time i had moved to sweden (in august 2010) until january, i spent most of my time at home. reading, writing, having fika with friends. it was a weird time in my life, but very cozy. kind of a sabbatical. with the new year, though, life began to pick up speed, so it was good to begin it feeling inspired by one of my idols!

february

 in february i was in the middle of my swedish for immigrants class. check all of us immigrants out! we’re representing the states, the phillipines, poland, & iraq in this picture. these girls were amazing friends during the first half of this year, but we’ve lost touch since summer. i definitely have to figure out a way to reconnect in 2012!

march

 yep. it’s march and the snow is still hanging around. i think the first snow was in november, so i lived for the first time in my life, with snow on the ground for about 4 and a half months! i loooved it! though, i must admit, i started to wonder if spring would ever come…

april

at the end of april, the snow was gone and flowers slowly began to peek out. the days seemed to be a bit warmer, but the nights were still chilly. on the last day of april all of sweden celebrates the coming of light, warmth, and spring with a giant bonfire. i went to a celebration with my love’s parents, while my love worked the whole night. it was a really fun tradition of grilling out (the first one of the season), singing traditional spring songs (swedes have traditional songs for everything), and enjoying a cracking, warm, beautiful bonfire out in the woods. looking forward to next year!

may

 the days were now longer, the sun was shining almost every day, and we were longing to be outside. it was also the month of my love’s birthday, so time to celebrate her & everything that she means to me. she is my everything… my inspiration, my best friend, my joy, & my love. ♥

june

time to celebrate in june! sweden’s national day was the perfect celebration for the month where i graduated from my swedish course after only 5 months (yes. i am proud since it usually takes about 2 years). i made a day trip to stockholm with my swedish class, our youngest niece was born, and i began a paid internship at lina’s work place. whew! life got busy real quick.

summer trip to the states

 atlantic beach, nc with my family! the best!

 my love & i in our “hometown”, asheville. oh, how we love this eclectic, nature-loving, diverse, alive city in north carolina!

 nyc, baby!!!

july

 back in sweden in late july, and back to work. but not without some relaxing, fun times with friends. july is a great month to enjoy the “midnight sun”… the days are so long and sweden is so beautiful.

august

 we worked together at lina’s job, which was quite slow actually. from mid-july to mid-august all of sweden is on vacation. except us, this year. but we spent some quality time together at cozy outdoor cafes, with some youth that lina works with, with friends at a birthday reunion in stockholm, and celebrating/working during the huge outdoor august festival in the city. beautiful days, beautiful weather.

september

 my birthday month!!! well, fall was on it’s way in september & it was back to the grind for all of us… including me! I GOT A JOB!! yes, that’s right. a real job! working at a church, albeit only 10 hours a week (yeah right.), but a chance to get back to doing what i do best: working with theology & young people. at the same time, i kept doing my internship at lina’s work, so life was really busy. the crappiest thing was that all this working now meant that lina & i had completely different schedules, and not that much free time together. meh. for example, i celebrated my birthday evening alone (well, we had a wonderful fika the week before) since lina was working. it was the culture night in norrkoping, and that equals a night that hippie, artsy people are all over the place. it felt like asheville! i spent some hours wandering the streets, going into local independent stores, listening to music, drawing on a cathedral floor, hearing poetry, and visiting my favorite little music shop which smells like incense & has cool, funky music. oh yes, it was a good day to turn 37!

october: traveling again!

 lina’s parents celebrated their 60th birthdays by taking the family to greece for a week. seriously? a trip to warm, sunny greece in the middle of fall?! nothing could be better! and it was a fantastic, amazing time with all 6 adults & 4 kids!

 for halloween & the end of october, we were off to ireland to visit some friends for a long weekend! we spent 3 days in dublin doing all things irish, from visiting the guinness storehouse/brewery to eating in cafes to shopping in the best places to walking in parks to touring cathedrals to hanging out at pubs, eating amazing food, watching irish dancing, and visiting the coastal areas north of dublin. i wanna go back!!!! (and we will next september! our friends are getting married!)

november

 we celebrated our second thanksgiving in sweden in november. we invited family that had never experience thanksgiving before and ate traditional american thanksgiving food (yes. i cooked it… with help from lina!). then, after a big, long dinner, we cleaned up the dishes and got right to the decorating of our apartment for christmas. the holiday season had arrived!

december

yes. a truly amazing year. i am overwhelmed, humbled, excited, and in awe of the journey so far… who know’s what 2012 holds in store for me, my love, little zola, & our crazy, beautiful life together. whatever it brings, i’m ready!

welcome, 2012!!! i’m waiting!

happy new year’s eve, dear readers!  celebrate big – wherever you are & whoever you’re with! peace.