Headed West

26 11 2008


I’ve always wanted to take a long train ride across the US. Its been romanticized in my mind ever since I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s film North By Northwest, where dreamy Cary Grant travels incognito on a train because he’s been wrongly accused of a murder and is trying to escape from the police and get to his friend for help.

So when I realized that due to certain circumstances I had a one way ticket out of San Francisco, but still needed to figure out a way to get there to visit my sister Mona, I found it a perfect opertunity to drink in the west through a long train ride.

The next thing I knew I had booked myself a 52 hour train ride from Galesburg, Illinois to Emeryville, California with bus rides on both sides. I started to question myself, wondering how much fun it would be after all if I was sitting next to someone smelly, or if there was a relentless crying baby a few seats in front, or an anoying person talking too loud on their cell phone the whole way. Eek!


Luckily it all worked out and I had an amazing time. The route that I took is called the California Zephyr. It is thought to cover some of America’s most dramatic views, and be the most scenic railway route the country has to offer. And I didn’t even know that when I signed up! The sights were breathtaking as the train made its way west, crossing the continental divide in the rocky mountains, the donner pass in the Sierra Nevadas, and winding deep gorges along the colorado river.

Along with the natural beauty of partially frozen rivers, rusted pine trees, snow dusted mountains, and red soil plateaus, I also got to see a naked camper standing full bearded with his hands on his hips as he watched the train pass by.


At certain parts I really did feel like I was in the wild wild west as the conductor shared anecdotes of the early railroad days and pointed out highlights along the way. We passed country that had no highway for miles around, a sight unique to rail passengers eyes. The train has a ‘viewing car’ which had large glass sides and leisure seats facing the walls, for optimal viewing. The train itself wasn’t that crowed for most of the trip. I had two seats to spread out on, rotating from book, to computer, to ipod, to window gazing. It was delightful. I felt as if I was seeing a Bob Ross painting come to life.


I highly recommend a cross country train ride to anyone who may have the time. Its a wonderful way to travel, AND its 18% more energy efficient than flying or driving. How about that.


Since I’ve Been Back

19 11 2008

Hard to believe that its been a month since I completed my post contract travels and returned to the U.S. of A. Over all its been great being back. The transition was smooth, despite resistance that I felt prior to my Asian departure. Its felt really good, and so far I haven’t been missing Korea nearly as much as anticipated (but feel like that day will come sooner than later).

Here are some of the highlights of the last month:



Who would have guessed that my number one highlight since being back has been Dan? He met me at the airport with the most beautiful bouquet I’ve ever seen and its continued up hill since then. He is fantastic. Being apart for so long I half forgot how amazing it feels to be together.



Rachel & Mike’s Wedding.

One of the reasons why I came home when I did was to witness the marriage of high school best friend Rachel to her honey Mike. They are such a great couple, and it was such a great wedding!



A week in beautiful Tennessee with my mom!

After two weeks in Asia with my dad I had to get in some mom time. So, the two of us headed to the Tennessee Glades for a week of soaking in the most fantastically gorgeous fall I can remember. It was the first time mom and I had taken a vacation together. Lots of heart to hearts. It felt good.



Catching up with friends! Most notably:


My 8 hours with Lindsey.

Weekly visits with the Bolts.

Chicago trip with a little Eileen, Erik, and a Gavin fix.


WHATS NEXT? Lots to look forward to in the near future…

My 26th birthday on Saturday, a 55 hour train ride to San Francisco, Thanksgiving! with Mona!, Seattle visit, Happy Camp @ Martha’s with Dan…and much, much more.


18 11 2008


After a week in Vietnam I headed over to Malaysia. For me Malaysia was separated into two distinct parts. The first part was a week on peninsular Malaysia with my daddy-o, spent mostly on the beach. The second was a week in Borneo where I traveled alone, exploring both the city and jungle.

From Ho Chi Minh City dad and I flew into Kuala Lumpur, spending the night in the dodgiest hostel I’ve ever set my eyes on (sorry about that dad!) The next morning we went to the island of Penang where dad had an old Baha’i friend. It was WONDERFUL to visit with them, wonderful food, wonderful conversation, warm and fuzzy all over. It was great, but I was really ready to head to the beach. So, that’s what we did! Langkawi, where we spent 5 days on the beach, is a chain of 99 islands, most uninhabited. It was destination vacation location for many middle eastern honeymooners. Never thought I’d see a woman in a Burkah on a jet ski, but that’s a whole different story.


Our days were filled relaxing and reading on the front porch of our little chalet, with the beach being our front yard. It was so beautiful and just what I wanted. Other then eating, reading, and relaxing we visited a mangrove, rented a car and drove around the main island, took a cable car to the top of a mountain, and dad went snorkeling and had a massage.

The day that dad went home I spent the night in the KL airport. Not recommended. And the next morning I found myself in beautiful Borneo. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to be doing with myself, and the next thing I knew I was on a bus into the heart of the jungle where I spent the next 3 days along the Kinabatangan river, one of the world’s most unique ecological area. We would travel up and down the river at dawn and dusk searching for monkeys (I saw HUNDREDS each day), orangutans, crocodiles, flying squirrels, giant lizards, and exotic birds, all of which we saw. Frequently seen in the area are elephants, rhinos, and wild boars, but we didn’t get to see any. During the day we hiked through the jungle, looking for tracks, wild ginger, orangutan nest, and whatever else we could find.


I spent the second half of my week in KK, Borneo Malaysia’s largest city, which was really more of a town compared to some of the other places I’d been the last 3 weeks. Antra, an amazing young woman who I met in the jungle accompanied me and served as an excellent travel companion. I was really blessed to cross paths with her as she makes her way across the world this next year.

See more photos from my Malaysian journey HERE


17 11 2008


Two days after my contract finished I left all my belongings in Korea and jumped on a plane to Hanoi, Vietnam. In the days and weeks prior to my departure from Seoul I had been thinking a lot about the return home, tying up loose ends, saying goodbyes, and preparing for reverse culture shock. Somehow that process, I think, led me to neglect preparing in full for my post contract travels. Hanoi’s million motor scooters and aggressive tourism sector threw me off kilter and left me with furrowed eyebrows, defenses up, a quick pace, and set on not letting anyone scam this foreigner.

I was blessed to have the travel companionship of my father, the one and only Bob Quinlan. Luckily his ‘bright eyed-bushy tailed, easy going tourist style, eager to connect with everyone he met’ (even if they were trying to rip him off) attitude balanced out my ‘cold, defenses high, don’t mess with me cause I’m a seasoned traveler’ attitude. It was really great traveling just the two of us, the first time that we had done anything remotely like that before.


We had planed to spend a couple of days in Hanoi, then take a side trip to Ha Long Bay (which was one of the parts I was most excited about when planning our travels) then end the trip with a few days in Ho Chi Minh City. Unfortunately as we were heading out of the city towards the bay our bus had to turn around because a tropical storm was brewing up. I was totally bummed that we would be stuck in cities the whole time, but it was good to be reminded early on that when traveling you’ve gotta be flexible. So, in some ways, while still disappointed, it helped us adopt a travel attitude of flexibility which served useful for the duration. And it gives me an excuse to go back!


Being a youth during the time of the Vietnam War dad had a great interest in connecting with that vital part of Vietnam’s history. So, while we were there we saw a lot of war museums, monuments, remnants, and Ho Chi Menh related tourist sites. I’m really not a big fan of war museums and memorabilia, but I knew it meant a lot to my father. We also saw a cool water puppet show, got some great bargains at the markets, and ate some wonderful food.

If you would like to see more photos visit my facebook or Click HERE.