I have always kept a record of my travels. It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film. Now it’s all digital. On Flashback Fridays I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.
The next few Flashback Fridays focus on Mexico, Guatemala, and other Mayan sites that I visited during my study abroad/independent study on Mayan Art and Architecture. First up: the walled city of Tulum, beautifully located right on the Caribbean coast.
Archaeology has always fascinated me. Stories of mysterious ancient civilizations and their fascinating architecture has always made me want to grab my pick and machete and go exploring. What could be more thrilling to this Archaeologist Wannabe, a lover of history & art history, than an ancient city nestled in the Mayan jungle on top of a limestone cliff, with a magnificent view of the blues and greens of the Caribbean. Ah, Tulúm! “Walled City” in Maya, it was built on a natural platform of cliffs that rise 40 feet above the Caribbean, with the north, south and west sides of the city protected by stone walls five meters high and three meters thick. It was originally called “Zama”, or “City/Place of Dawn”, and once you see the breathtaking east view of the Caribbean from there, you can certainly imagine how fitting that must be. The Spaniards, on their first trip along the shores here, wrote about this city with the highest tower they had yet seen, describing it as a colorful city compared to Seville, with many Indians calling to them. In some buildings, you can still see traces of paint. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the Spaniards!
Amongst bits of relentless jungle, there are about sixty structures within the ancient city walls; the oldest dating to 433 BC, the youngest, 1200 AD, and I wander and wonder amongst them for a bit. Tulum is such a magical place–especially if one is lucky enough to stay in the cabanas just south of the ruins. Walking along the beach you can approach Tulum just as the Spaniards did–you can also get there a few hours before the masses from Cancun descend on the site. There in its unpopulated glory Tulum shines.
The actual ruins are small compared to some of the other Mayan sites, but the beach and the scenery make up for the lack of things to do and I could easily spend weeks living in my thatched-roof cabana escaping from life and existing without a care in the world. Unfortunately, I don’t have weeks to stay here–only a few days until I head back to Cancun and back to the USA for my best friend’s wedding on Saturday.
Tybee Island is one of the few places in the world [London is another place, but it requires an airplane ticket as it is much further away] that I return to on a regular basis. In the last 20+ years, I’m certain that I’ve covered the entire island on foot. The boyfriend and I have been there a few times… once in winter, twice in spring, and once when it was a miserable 110 degrees and the sand was too hot to walk on. I’ve taken family trips there. I’ve been to Tybee on Spring Break solo. It’s a perfect beach for me. Not crowded. Not commercialized. And close to one of my top 5 favorite cities in the USA.
Tybee Island’s Landmarks
The fishing pier
Tybee has a fantastic fishing pier. Sometime people even fish from it. I , like many other couples I’ve seen, have made out with my boyfriend at least once on the pier. I’ve hung a hammock from the underside and watched waves roll in. And I definitely have used it as a guide when I’ve gone kayaking. Tybee is a great place to learn ocean kayaking. The waves are never to rollicking and the currents are usually gentle.
Tybee Island Lighthouse
There’s also a lighthouse on the north end of the island. You can tour the grounds and even climb up the 143 steps to the top. I’d recommend not doing that in August, when it’s over 100 degrees though. That’s what I did, and I almost passed out from heat exhaustion.
Looking up at the lighthouse gives an idea of just how tall it is
There’s another lighthouse on the island too…Cockspur Lighthouse. As far as lighthouses go, Cockspur is quite tiny, measuring only 46 feet from base to the top of its cupola. But this structure is no slouch; it has endured high tides, hurricanes, waves from ever-growing container ships, careless individuals, vandals and – for a deafening 30 hours – the bombardment of nearby Fort Pulaski during the Civil War.
Remarkably, the lighthouse suffered little or no damage during the April 10, 1862, Union bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Crews manning 36 guns on 11 batteries stretching along the western end of Tybee Island likely used the lighthouse for sighting as they pounded away at the fort located about 1 mile beyond.
The Cockspur Lighthouse is one of the five surviving historic lighthouses in Georgia. It was re-lit in March 2007.
Fort Pulaski National Monument is located on Cockspur Island near the mouth of the Savannah River. Fort Pulaski was constructed between 1829 and 1847 [Robert E Lee was one of the principle engineers] to defend the port city of Savannah from foreign attacks and invasion. However, early in the American crisis that became the Civil War [or as some say–The War of Northern Aggression], Georgia state troops seized this masonry fortification.
On April 11-12, 1862, [exactly one year after the events at Ft Sumter] events at Fort Pulaski forever changed defensive strategies worldwide. Union forces deployed bullet-shaped projectiles from rifled artillery batteries on Tybee Island. After only 30 hours of bombardment the 7.5 foot thick brick walls of the fort were breached and the Confederates surrendered.
Today, the fort is a remarkably well preserved example of 19th century military architecture.
The Tybee Sea Turtle Project is a conservation project on the island. Its goal is to ensure hatchlings on Tybee have the best chance for survival. The average length of incubation is 60 days and so observation of the nests becomes a part of the daily dawn patrol. As a nest’s hatching time approaches, cooperators are assigned to “nest sit” during the night until that nest has hatched and the hatchling turtles make their way to the ocean. Loggerheads are the most numerous turtles on the east coast, but their population is still in decline. Nothing makes me happier than to see hatchlings headed towards the sea.
One of the nifty things about losing, then recovering snippets of a blog, is that I can look back on parts of my life with the voice-of-God narration. ‘They’ say hindsight is 20/20 and I can definitely look back on this time with insight. And as I sit around patiently and wait for the school and the board of nursing to get their proverbial ducks in a row so that I can become an actual registered nurse instead of just a nursing school graduate, I thought now would be a good time to look back at how I got here.
I have always struggled with career direction. I struggled with where to go for college (that decision was actually a non decision), what to major in (another non decision), what to do after college, and really, just about all adult life decisions. I have a tremendous fear of commitment that manifests itself in me not being able to make a firm decision about much of anything.
I knew that when I took my career break back in 2010-2011, I wanted to change careers when I came back. But to what? Ah…that is the question
So how’d I end up in nursing school anyway? Because let me tell you, becoming a RN was the last thing I had planned to do with my life.
November 2012– I was preparing for my one and only medical school interview. I had had an interview for PA school in October, and found out I was wait listed. [I violated every ‘rule’ about applying for graduate school possible including casting a wide net and knowing really why you want to go to this particular school. I don’t want to move so I applied to PA school, medical school, an accelerated BSN school that also has NP program, and for good measure a Speech-Language Pathologist school. I was accepted to 2 programs and wait listed to one and rejected to one. I took the GRE and MCAT within the same week. Yeah, that sucked].
The one question I was really having difficulty with was ‘Why do you want to be a physician?’ [or PA or SLP or NP for that matter] because my truthful answer probably isn’t the best answer. The truthful answer is…’I love taking care of patients. I love working in health care. I don’t love my current job. I want to do something else…anything else…where I can use my brain cells so they don’t atrophy from non-use.’
I came up with something better for the actual interview and on December 5, 2012 I received my acceptance letter to medical school. A week later, I received an acceptance to the AccelBSN program and at the end of February, I was notified that I was accepted off the wait-list for PA school. And all the schools had the same deadline of Friday, March 15, 2013 [Beware of the Ides of March and all]. I had hoped to get into ONE school and be on my merry way. This decision caused major stress in my world which I dealt with by working ALL. THE. TIME. [Really. 18 12-hour shifts in a row…one day off, then 17 more] Around the time I was working every day, I caught fifths disease [most likely from a patient]. While fifths disease itself isn’t all that serious, for me, it led to some pretty severe complications.
I put in a deposit at the medical college and the PA school. That extended my time to make a decision as it was refundable until May 15 and PA school started May 27.
On May 11, 2013, while at work dealing with a patient that required my hands to be physically on her for 3+ hours and after the ambulance picked her up, I very nearly passed out. I’m not squeamish so I knew it wasn’t due to I was up to my elbows in my patient’s blood.
Long story made short, I had developed a blood disorder as a complication to the fifths disease. It needed serious and immediate treatment. I called up the PA school and explained my circumstances. They gave me my deposit back, but in exchange I had to give up my space. I also called up medical school to explain the circumstances and was granted a one year deferment. During my medical treatment I had a lot of time to think. I decided that I didn’t want to do critical care anymore. Or at least not now. While I love medicine, I really couldn’t see spending the next ten years studying medicine and doing a residency. [I really, really wanted to do Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, a 3+3 residency, but life is short and time is precious and all].
And so that is how I ended up in nursing school. They had a seat. I accepted. My health cooperated. Classes start in May.
I had always heard that I would have a better time in my 30s than my 20s. I was skeptical; how could older be better? It’s fitting that a decade after my first adventure, I’ve started evaluating my past choices and wondering what my 20-something year old self would think of me now:
Love Prior to leaving for Mexico I agreed to marry my [then] boyfriend. He didn’t want me to go, and I agreed more as a way to not hurt his feelings than because I really wanted to marry him. I knew as soon as he tried to talk me out of going that he was not the one for me. I wanted [want] to be with someone who will support my decisions not try to change them. I wanted [want] to be with someone who has his own dreams but is not afraid to support mine as well. Prior to leaving for South America, I did everything possible to salvage my most significant relationship since, but it didn’t work either. BUT HE NEVER TRIED TO STOP ME FROM GOING. I wanted him to go with me, and thought about him constantly. Sometimes I wonder if it would have worked out had I not gone to South America.
Children I have always claimed to not want to have children of my own. Ten years ago, I was convinced that I never would have considered having children. Now I still don’t think it will happen, but I do occasionally have thoughts about some nebulous future children. Also these day I have little people in my life that love their “Auntie Chelle”.
Passion I have always had a passion for photography. My first camera was a 110 model that I received in 2nd grade. My early trips to England and Mexico sparked my passion for traveling. I have recently [rediscovered] a passion for medicine. I hope to be able to combine the three [travel, photography, and medicine] of them at some point in the future.
Ambition I moved to Mexico to study Mayan art and architecture. I had dreams of returning to the US to start graduate school in International Business and making it big. Ten years later my younger self would be hard pressed to recognize me now. Not only did I eschew the business world for the medical one, I also went back to school to get a degree in Microbiology, and now I’m working towards becoming a nurse practitioner. My younger self avoided science like the plague; my older one is attracted to it like nothing else.
Fear I had no fear when I was younger… jumped right into things. I’m not sure if I was brave or just naive. Now I imagine all the ways I could injure myself… or someone could injure me. In Mexico, I jumped 40 feet into a cenote. I went swimming with sharks. I stared down a bull [OK, he was a baby bull, but he still could have hurt me]. I’m trying to regain some of that, letting go of my fears and embracing the unknown. Traveling to places I didn’t plan. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn’t. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t have a guidebook as the Internet existed but certainly didn’t have the proliferation of information that it does now about travel. I just jumped on buses and found accommodation when I arrived. I didn’t have anxiety about how to get there, or where I would stay.
It wasn’t all great. I remember once going to one hotel on the Mexican/Guatemalan and the guy at reception told me I didn’t want a room even though I insisted on looking at one. That’s because I didn’t notice the locks– everywhere. It should have been a clue that it wasn’t the safest place around, but it was late, I was tired, and the border was closed. I got in the ‘room’, dropped my stuff, and headed for the showers. The bathroom had a toilet seat barely hanging on and a pipe stuck out of the wall. I could pee and shower at the same time. After the shower, I heard my first gunshot. I locked the door, set an alarm, and prayed for a few hours sleep. As soon as the lights went out, the bugs came out. Gunshots I could deal with–cucaraches as big as my shoes I could not. I packed up determined to get the hell out of there–even if it was 1 am. The hotel compound was locked up. I banged on the metal doors until someone came to let me out. He said it wasn’t safe. I said I didn’t care. He let me out, and I walked the five kilometers in the border town where the Zapatistas were active. Not the smartest things I have ever done. I wouldn’t conceived of doing it now, but at 20 I had no fear.
But those are the badges of traveling and I earned many of them. I loved meeting other people and hung out with the few younger people who lived in Campeche. There wasn’t many Americans so I hadto hang out with the locals. I didn’t know the value of that now, but being forced to speak Spanish, watch the novelas, eat the ‘traditional’ food, and assimilate into daily Mexican life was a godsend. In Peru, I lived with a host family while working at the clinic. Their kindness was overwhelming and they had a dog and a cat which was a godsend when I was homesick for Lily and Lucy . They took care of me when I had malaria. I don’t know if I would have died or not, but by having someone around, I did get the treatment I needed.
The changes in me have been gradual but profound; I’m not the same person but much better and much of it due to traveling. I don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t experienced life this way.
I freaking love the Olympics… everything about them… pageantry, sport, and adventure all rolled into one huge event. In an effort to make 2006 a much better year than 2005, I decided to a few things differently. One, I’ve moved. For the first time ever [other than as an infant or study abroad], I’ve moved away from South Carolina. I love South Carolina, but right now, SC has too many bad memories. Death of a parent, a lying, cheating bastard X 2 that I dated. Pretty much everywhere I went had some kind of memory attached to it.
I also haven’t been on a vacation since 2002 when I returned to Mexico. After having lived in Mexico, and traveling all over the country and dipping my toes into parts of central America, not going anywhere for the entire time I was in school was hard. I have wanderlust so bad I can hardly stand it. As a means to that end, in December, a mere two months ago, I decided that I wanted to spend my birthday in Italy. Why Italy as opposed to *Spain*--where I’ve wanted to go since the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona?
The Olympics or better yet, the Winter Olympics which I’ve never seen. Hell, until very recently I’ve never even seen a hockey game much less seen anything like curling, luge, bobsled, skiing, or any number of other winter sports. But in only two months time, I’ve managed to snare a ticket to the opening ceremony in Torino, a plane ticket from RDU–>Zurich–>Roma–>GSP, a train ticket from Zürich to Milan, a train pass for Italy, and tickets to olympic events in Cesana and Bardonecchia. Oh and a place to stay those first five days I’m in Italy when the world’s cameras will be joining me on my Italian adventure.
I CANNOT WAIT.
*Spain is still high on my travel list. I would love to hike the entire Camino del Santiago or explore Andalusia. Or Barcelona. Or Galicia. Salamanca. Really, I’d love to find a way to move to Spain to live for a year or so.
What is this place?
Hi, I’m Michelle and this is my own little corner of the interwebs where I write, share photos, and interact with others in the blog-o-shpere. So in addition to that–Who am I? I am –in one way or another– the following: hiker + backpacker + swimmer + pediatric respiratory therapist + registered nurse + avid traveler + cat parent + gardener + photographer + medical science junkie + adventure-seeker + DIY enthusiast + voracious reader + history and science nerd + football fanatic + aging athlete + wannabe chef + trying not to succumb to the trappings of a 9-5 life. And beginning in 2018, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar.
Everyday life doesn’t have to be routine. Anyone can do just about anything he or she wants to do– sometimes one has to find creative ways in doing it. Sometimes one has to tear down the barriers that might stopping them. Everyday is an opportunity to choose your own adventure. That is what I ultimately write about.
Charleston + Portland + Vancouver + London + Cardiff + Bristol + Asheville + Wilmington + Atlanta + Richmond + Savannah + Knoxville + Thru-hike the Foothills Trail
Charleston + Reykjavik + Stockholm + Orlando + St Augustine + Seattle + Columbia River Valley WA and OR + Portland + Pacific Crest Trail + Wales Coast Path + Charlotte + Ocracoke Island + Kitty Hawk + Great Smokey Mountain National Park
Charleston + Asheville + Tybee Island + Budapest + Pecs + Vienna + Prague + Berlin + Copenhagen + Stockholm + London + Washington DC + Montreal + Quebec City
Italy + England + Venezuela + Mexico + Jamaica + Dominican Republic + Haiti + Peru + Colombia + Ecuador + Bosnia + Albania + Serbia + Kosovo + Russia + Czech Republic + Croatia + Argentina + Chile + Paraguay + Bolivia + Brazil + Uruguay + Slovakia + Austria + Switzerland + Slovenia + Netherlands + Belgium + Romania + Montenegro + Ireland + Wales + Scotland + Macedonia + Northern Ireland + Belize + Guatemala + Costa Rica + Poland + Finland + Panamá + Nicaragua + Honduras +