LUGGAGE Lady

Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Archive for the category “Travel”

A Part of My Soul Remains…

DCairoGiza3jpg

You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ~Miriam Adeney

🌏✈🌏

I sincerely apologize for my lengthy absence. Although I’m home from my recent journey throughout Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Greece, a part of my soul remains. Each faltering attempt to convey my experience has left my heart further fragmented. How do I adequately describe human suffrage at depths I’ve never known — and never will? I gravitate toward positivity, but doing so temps me to replace reality with photo-ops like the one featured. Expertly orchestrated. Perfectly contrived. We so wanted to aid our Egyptian guide’s cause. A man who sat knee-to-knee with us atop well-worn, ornate prayer rugs inside Cairo’s Alabaster Mosque and elicited tears by sharing ardent family traditions, religious misconceptions, political frustrations, and dreams he’d likely never achieve (but maybe his son would one day). This 14-hour excursion with our charismatic Egyptian friend touched us on so many levels, compelling us to paint Cairo as a grand destination — and yet…

Just six days before our guide snapped this photo, he’d lost his close friend — a fellow guide who was inadvertently killed by his country’s own military when they mistook him and the Mexican tour group he was leading for ISIS while they picnicked in the Bahariya Oasis. Hence the reason the pyramids were virtually empty. Tourism had already plummeted post-2011 revolution and was just beginning to make a teensy resurgence. Unfortunately, the Russian airliner bombing truncated an already meager recovery.

And that’s just one story…

How can I forget the haunting despair of staring into the eyes of malnourished, shoeless orphaned refugee children in Istanbul? Or strolling the sweltering, dusty, potholed, garbage-filled streets of Alexandria, strewn with butchered animal carcasses bleeding right next to pedestrian traffic? Or passing heavily armed police men and women along the impoverished, graffitied, sand-coated, apocalyptic-looking back roads of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

I promised myself then and there that I would never complain about “first world problems” again. But, back in my comfortable surroundings, how swiftly I’ve rejoined the choir, eagerly adding my own petty verses. Why?? I’ve never been oppressed, persecuted, or brainwashed by my government. I’ve never stressed over where my next morsel of food or sip of clean water might come from. I’ve never had to speculate where I might sleep, much less wonder if I’d live to see another day in the manner countless big-hearted, hard-working, beautiful souls around our globe do every single day.

Bidding an emotional farewell to our Egyptian friend, we confessed how inconsequential we felt. How we wished we could do more to help. “Your presence here means everything,” he said, embracing us like lifelong friends.

Sadly, since our September trip, ISIS and its evil predecessors appear to be growing more emboldened daily, stealing innocent lives, destroying families, raping, pillaging and ravishing livelihoods in the region we visited and beyond. With each bloody news alert, I think of the hospitable, gregarious, respectful people we encountered, from Cairo schoolboys flocking around me to take selfies, to the young women smiling curiously from behind colorful hijabs, to the gentleman rescuing us in Alexandria when our animated map-pointing failed to secure three taxi drivers in a row — and a plethora of generous souls in between.

An open heart is humanity’s greatest resource, mutual compassion bridging two very different worlds.

Suffice to say, a part of my soul remains….

 

 

 

Harmony Begins With Me

Travel-wormhole“Peace begins not with countries, not with nations, and not with governments. Peace begins with you. Peace begins with me. Peace begins with each of us. It is within us.” ~ Prem Rawat

💞

Wandering foreign back roads

Sans news bombarding me from every angle

Away from depressing snippets and soundbites

Construed to perpetuate division and unrest

I’m blissfully off the grid

Society’s maladies forgotten

Replaced by a celebration of shared commonalities

Soaking up universal love

Strangers morphing into new friends

Eager to share stories of their homelands

Time condenses

A single afternoon reshaping my heart

Strolling enchanting cobblestone streets

Swapping mutually respectful gazes

Studying exotic features

Stunningly unique

Appreciating cultural nuances

Savoring the international pulse

Rather than having it interpreted for me

I’m reminded

Peace is not something wished for from a distance

But rather an empowering choice made with each encounter

Whether thousands of miles from home

Or in my own backyard

I must give my best

While seeking the same in others

Or risk living a sad life

Where I’m continuously offended

Immediately jumping to conclusions

Making examples out of every deemed wrongdoer

Leaving a dense cloud of negativity in my wake

Dearest Universe

Please draw me upward

Whenever I’m tempted to fly so low

Please open my eyes to just how rewarding life can be

When I remember

I’m obligated to find peace within my own heart

Because harmony begins with me…

💞

💖Dear Treasured Readers, I sincerely apologize for my perpetual absence here. I’m having trouble “returning” from my travels — I promise to catch up with you lovely souls very soon!!

**photo from our recent Balkans adventure: Sibiu, Romania

To My Cherished Airline Passengers,

flight-attendant-blogger-swa-luv-luggage-lady

First of all, I want to thank you for making my job so rewarding. Many of you have visited my galley to share tales of love, loss, hope, heroism, military sacrifice, business innovations, health hurdles, medical miracles, travel recommendations, and lifelong dreams. I treasure every inspiring conversation, laugh, and occasional tear we’ve shared. I strive to ensure your journey is enjoyable and stress-free. So, when you leave my airplane smiling, it warms the cockles of my heart.

Aviators tend to be perfectionists, and my husband is no exception. He prides himself on thorough communication, comfortable cabin conditions, and flying finesse. If he can grease his landing for you, it makes his day. He wants you to walk off his aircraft relaxed, knowing your safety and well-being will always be paramount.

We’re a seamless team, looking out for you and each other on every single flight. When emergencies arise, we have each other’s backs more than ever. I may work with different crewmates each week — but the paradigm never changes.

Add to this synergy, the way you selflessly volunteer when we need medical assistance or respond in some other gallant manner — like the time two of you saved me from hitting the ceiling during clear air turbulence — and you can understand why it’s devastating to have the trust between us compromised.

I don’t wish to marginalize disturbing incidents that capture the headlines. I just want to assure you that, as perplexing as these stories are, it only reinforces our bond. We’re truly in this together. Which is why every time my colleagues and I welcome you aboard, we seek to honor your loyalty by providing the same caliber of service we’d hope to receive when sitting in your seat.

Love,

Luggage Lady

* * *

Dedicated to the beautiful souls of Germanwings flight #9525 — we carry 💗you💗 in our hearts, always…

Travel’s Priceless Souvenir

MachuPicchuWow

“I’ve orchestrated my life around travel because nothing else truncates imaginary woes or realigns perspective so stealthily.” ~ 💗Luggage Lady

✈ ✈  ✈

Two weeks after graduating college, I tucked a second-class Eurail pass into an overloaded backpack and jetted off to Europe. I saw the opportunity as a luxurious postponement of reality, but my ‘delusions of glamour’ shattered the moment that plane skidded to a halt. Far from lavish, the summer of ’88 revamped my sheltered mindset and fortified my coddled heart. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars (and my parents) for this gift.

Twenty-seven years and 56 countries later, here are a few introspective observations:

🌎 Hunkering in Dachau, Germany’s dank concentration camp gas chamber, death’s stench lingered in my imagination. Sickened by such incomprehensible horror, I focused on those who’d somehow survived the senseless carnage, praying they’d gone on to lead wildly fulfilling, dignified lives — complete with every well-deserved amenity.

(I have never experienced true suffering and have no excuse whatsoever for not adding positivity in my brief time here.) 

🌎 Swaying on unsteady legs in an African AIDS orphanage, jet-lagged and longing for caffeine, the guide announced the arrival of his American friends and the children swarmed. Frail arms clung to my knees, giant eyes gazing upward. I bit my cheek until I tasted blood to keep the pooling tears from falling and knelt down to join them.

(I know nothing of hardship. Overfed, overwatered, and otherwise overindulged — I have absolutely nothing to complain about — ever!)

🌎 When my Guatemalan tour guide asked if he could show me his new house, I agreed but worried what he’d be omitting from our tour as a result. I can barely recall the rain forest, but touring his minuscule cinderblock home, as he proudly pointed to the concrete floor and explained how he’d had dirt flooring his entire life, is something I’ll never forget. Shame prickled in my gut for all the creature comforts I had — and took for granted. Yet, there he stood, with his shy wife and cooing baby at his side, all of them beaming.

(How few material possessions we need! Family, love, friends, and the dreams we build together represent real wealth.)

🌎 I’d already been advised not to wander out of this Turkish port town’s tourist area and shooed from a mosque. Instead of visiting the woman’s designated prayer trailer, I roamed the residential back streets. My heart froze when I heard voices chanting, “American, American.” Before I knew it, a giggling boy and girl were grabbing my hands — just wanting to say hello.

(Political and religious zealots may capture the headlines and fuel fears aplenty, but they rarely represent the spirit of the people.)

🌎 As we prepared to sail away from Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands my husband smacked his empty back pocket and gasped. He’d forgotten his wallet in a massage parlor the previous night. The cynic in me thought we were more likely to be struck by lightning than to ever see the contents of that wallet again. Not only did he get it back, but when he offered a tip of gratitude, the business owner vehemently declined, saying, “You come back and visit me again — that will be my thanks.”

(Most people are good and decent and moral — and cynicism is such an unattractive waste of energy!)

🌎 Beyond the rear gardens of St Petersburg’s Summer Palace, my husband spotted his ideal food venue: a shish kabob cart packed with locals. Turned out, the chef/owner was Armenian and thrilled to have Americans patronizing his establishment. He brought a complimentary sampler platter to our table and sat down. The only problem? His English was extremely limited and, as you can probably guess, we didn’t speak a lick of Armenian. But, boy oh boy, did we ever have a blast communicating about his family and how he ended up in Russia, where we were from and what we did for a living…

(The desire to share one’s story is universal. Cultivate magical connections whenever possible.)

🌎 A darling travel mate was inspiring some Cuban school children to smile for our photographs. She shouted, “Cheese!” Seeing their confusion, she repeated the word in Spanish: “Queso!” Her sweet, albeit — completely lost in translation —  effort sent our group into giggling fits. The vision of middle-aged gringos practically rolling on the ground elicited enormous grins from the kids. Mission accomplished!

(A friendly demeanor and hearty helping of humor can overcome just about any barrier.)

🌎 Whether marveling over the Inca’s artistry at Machu Picchu or rocketing across the sky at roughly 600 mph, I can’t help but stand in awe of mankind’s ingenuity. From architecture to innovation, brilliance abounds! 

(Next time I start flapping my jaw about spotty internet coverage, or shrinking airplane seats, or any other deemed ‘inconvenience’ — may I honor humanity’s achievements by respectfully clamping my teeth over my tongue.)

✈ ✈  ✈

Travel’s Priceless Souvenir??

The empowering realization that we awaken our best selves each time we stretch outside our comfort zones and engage another, whether interacting globally or within one’s community: Greeting, smiling, listening, learning, and appreciating the diverse souls populating our planet, while celebrating how similar we truly are — hearts beating and breaking, just the same.

Machu Picchu -- WOW!

(photo from our Machu Picchu 42-mile hiking adventure 2013)

Bienvenido a Cuba

CubaColors

Proximity has zero bearing. Less than an hour flight from Miami catapults us backward 50-plus years. On the exterior of the tiny Cienfuegos Airport, a bright blue BIENVENIDO sign beckons.

I possess a Visa solely as part of an approved People to People Program. Daily exchanges to include: mingling with artists, vocalists, musicians (including members from the Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club!!), dancers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, historians, teachers, and students.

Being here as a U.S. citizen leaves me both awed by opportunity — yet pondering whether my coming is somehow…unpatriotic.

From a bureaucratic standpoint, our welcome is somewhat subdued. Neither U.S. bank-issued credit nor ATM cards are accepted. We knew this before we came. Cash in hand, we pay a 10% commission to change dollars into CUCs at a rate of 1/1. This is not a bargain shopper’s destination. Cellular service doesn’t exist for those with U.S. carriers, and internet is only available in some 5-star Havana hotels at speeds slower than our modem days.

Our Cuban guide shares that, up until a few years ago, a local would be sentenced up to four years in prison if caught using internet in his or her home. He laughs, referring to our online shopping as folklore. “Cubans can’t imagine paying for something on a screen and having it actually show up on our doorsteps. Forget about returning it and getting a refund!” Satellite TV is also forbidden. Some people have illegal hookups but know they could face hefty fines if the authorities learn of these.

No one in our 22-person group minds. We didn’t come to Cuba to bury our noses in gadgets. We came to experience the contagious verve of the people…

We step onto crumbling cobblestone roads and into another century. Surprisingly well-preserved American made (and Russian overhauled) vintage cars roar all about. Vibrant colors and zippy music tantalize our senses. Even standing in place, the locals sway to a beat I’m convinced is part of their DNA.

From Cienfuegos to Havana, with stops in Trinidad and stunning beaches along the way, I admire close-knit families, communities, and a refreshing enthusiasm from school children to the elderly. The hope sparkling in their eyes touches my soul in a way I struggle to adequately articulate.

I’m just an ordinary girl — with extraordinary freedoms, privileges, and conveniences I need never question. Gratitude and humility flood my heart.

As we make our way to Havana’s airport the last day, our gregarious guide describes the tedious departure process, adding that clients ask him what the airport is like on the other side of immigration. Are there shops? Restaurants? He shrugs. “Well, maybe one of you will be kind enough to send an email when you get home and tell me because I’ve never been…”

🌎 ♥ 🌎

♥ I dedicate this post to my dear friend & colleague, Maria, who left her beautiful island in the second grade and dreams of returning one day soon… ♥

Be the Difference

BetheDifference

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius

♥ ♥ ♥

How different my days unfold when I share a kind word, carefree laughter, and positive stories. When I pause to lend a helping hand, listen to another, or support whatever causes I can. When I choose love instead of vying to be right!! With so many uplifting options, why — oh why — do I ever choose behavior that depletes my spirit?

And so…

My New Year’s Aspiration is to be:

Focused on present moment

Shunning negativity Realizing

Whatever I deem the world to be withholding

I already possess

Abundance swelling my heart

Gifting me with endless benevolence

Abandoning ego

Remaining judgement-free

Appreciating earth’s unmitigated beauty

Sincerely listening

Speaking only if my words add value

Observing more

Learning

Growing

Loving

Mindful that a smile means the same thing all around the world

Doing everything in my power to

Be the difference…

♥ ♥ ♥

Luggage Lady is off to Cuba!!!! My husband and I, along with 20 others, are participating in a “people-to-people cultural exchange” as we sail along Cuba’s gorgeous coastline, visiting Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Cayo Largo, Cabo San Antonio, and Havana. I promise to return with photos and stories. In the meantime, I wish you ALL a blissful 2015 filled with untold blessings!! 😘

(*photo from trip to End of the Road Kalapana, Hawaii*)

Compassionately Converging

SoulfulConvergence

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ~ Maya Angelou

♥ ♥ ♥

In my dreams

Humanity doesn’t just bustle by one another

We initiate inspiriting impressions

Sans preoccupation or fear of repudiation

Greeting one another joyfully

Sharing a smile

A funny tale

Or maybe even swapping life stories

Commonalities dissolving differences

Respectful minds OPEN

Listening

Broadening

Approachable hearts expanding

Celebrating varying viewpoints and insightful interpretations

No matter how contrasting

Laughter and tears uniting

Difficult situations drawing us closer

Providing opportunity to stand in each other’s shoes

Appreciating the pain

While boldly rebuffing the destructive “us versus them” mentality

Bridging every gap in our power

Mindful we’re in this together

Spreading kindness rather than antagonism

Compassionately converging

♥ ♥ ♥

(Photo from my latest travels: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland)

Ode to Cabin Crew

FlightAttBlog

I wanted to be a flight attendant for as long as I can remember. More than twenty years later, I still pinch myself from time to time. Although my experience has been overwhelmingly positive, there’s a dark side no one really discusses. We’re supposed to be social butterflies with contacts spanning the globe and bags expertly packed for our next exotic excursion, after all. Lonely, isolated, and disconnected are probably not terms most would associate with cabin crew. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe part of it is that we’re so busy caring for others that we forget to care for ourselves. Perhaps we bottle up the day’s negative energy, like the mountains of trash we collect but forget to throw away the former. Or maybe because we’re trained to calmly handle countless emergency scenarios, we’re terrified to admit when we need a lifeline of our own. Whatever the reason, we must do our best to look out for our sky family, honoring the fact that we’re forever united by wings…

💗I dedicate this to a dear sky angel who left this world far too soon. Rest in peace, sweet friend.💗

✈🌎 ✈

Hired for our upbeat personas, quick wit, and reassuring smiles

We’re kindred spirits united by similar dispositions

Our aluminum-tubed office affording a collage of continuous change

Crewmates bonding as seamlessly as the airplane generates lift

 

Perhaps it’s the liberation of zipping

Seven peaceful miles aloft across azure skies

Teetering on sparsely padded jump seats

We share stories those closest to us may never hear

 

Whether swapping tales of adventure

Or unfathomable challenges, lessons, and heartache

We inspire and garner fresh perspectives from one another

A myriad of personalities merging at 37,000 feet

 

Not just a career

But a dynamic lifestyle

Cherished wings

Symbolizing fortuitous passage to a boundless world

Thump against my ever-grateful heart

 

And yet – somewhere between the ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’

A sense of impermanence looms

We’re independent souls

Or we wouldn’t have chosen this profession

 

But sometimes

When that hotel room door clicks shut at the end of a grueling day

A lonely heart slips beneath the covers

Brushing away a tear or two

And questioning

“Who’s going to have my back when my smile falters?”

✈ 🌎 ✈

(♥ Photo courtesy of a dear colleague’s friend. Check out her site, featuring the precious model above: http://karlaquiz.com ♥)

🌎 See also: Love Letters to Malaysia Airlines

Perspective is — Everything

Perspective

Docking in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, I peered out at the torrential downpour. Gusty wind blew rain in every direction. A lone guitarist huddled in a wooden crate, crooning “Sloop John B”  to welcome us. The zip-line operator canceled our tour, and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed with a hot toddy and the book I’d brought.

My husband wouldn’t hear of it, having already revised our plans to hike along the river. And so, I retrieved every piece of waterproof gear I’d thought to pack and trudged toward the ship’s gangplank. As we neared, commotion ensued. We watched an elderly gentleman being hoisted onto a stretcher and whisked away via ambulance.

I ventured into Mother Nature’s wrath, swirling air immediately snapping my umbrella inside-out. I slipped on waterlogged tree roots, my new shoes squished, and I worried that the camera in our drenched backpack was being destroyed. But, oh how vibrant the autumn foliage adorning the forest trail appeared dripping wet, and how serendipitous that a cluster of trees should materialize just as the heavens unleashed buckets, and how satisfying to hear an abundant river gush…

Five miles later, my umbrella had been reduced to metal carnage, mud clung to my backside, and water dripped from my eyelashes — but I couldn’t stop smiling. Accustomed to my prissiness, my husband thanked me for maintaining such a chipper attitude. I just shook my head and said, “I bet that gentleman would give a million bucks to be hiking in the rain right now.”

Sweet Wanderlust

DSC_1030_003

The world enraptures

With spellbinding possibility

Spontaneous adventure ever-beckoning

Enchanting souls await your acquaintance

Charming with their

Inspiring architecture

Mesmerizing art

And impromptu street music

Rousing senses

Revitalizing spirits

An open invitation:

Come this way, dear friend

Devour uncharted terrain, cultures, and cuisine

With boundless intrigue

Savoring how each new experience

Kindles personal reinvention

Whether distant or near

May sweet wanderlust spark

Every footfall of your journey…

 

🌎 🌎 🌎

As I pack for a whirlwind tour of Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, Québec City, & Montreal, I leave you with Khalil Gibran’s lovely words:

“For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind…Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” ♥ LL

 

 

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: