Sunday, June 29, 2008

Random Musings - Red Carpet Club

In the last year I have flown an average of two trips (four to eight legs) per month and in the last two months I have flown six out of eight weeks. In fact I spend so much of my time in Denver International Airport, that I am seriously considering researching squatters’ rights in the state of Colorado because it is possible I have acquired my own special corner of DIA.

My ‘property’ is located around gate B36. It has no seating save for a floor, but what makes it prime DIA real estate is that it has a power outlet and is located behind the United check-in kiosk. My DIA plot is approximately 4x8, offers a fair amount of privacy, and the ability to charge both my laptop and cell phone. What my plot lacks is free food, the ability to use the restroom without packing up all my belongings, free wireless and most importantly... reciprocal privileges in other airports.

So I face a dilemma for my upcoming trip. First, I only fly into and out of DIA once. From there I will be in Frankfurt, in Paris, in Singapore and numerous other airports where I hold no squatters’ rights or trade secrets. I will be resigned to sitting in one of those tattered pleather, 18” wide, armrest-restricted, chairs reserved for those of us who travel in steerage. I will be left alone in foreign lands where I do not speak the language to fend for a spot in the McDonalds line, to use the public restrooms and perhaps worst of all, to pay $7.99 a pop for Internet connections so slow and unprotected that iTunes will not allow me to download the latest episode of Lost.

This is why for weeks now I have gone back and forth over joining the Red Carpet Club. In the coming months I will be in dozens of airports. I will doubtlessly experience delays and have many hours of time to reflect on the intricacies of mass transit and the effect of grade A jet fuel on our world. After a few moments of cost benefit analysis… $7.99 for WiFi + Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese Combo + self-loathing for eating a Quarter Ponder + Vanity Fair + US Weekly + Economist to balance out US Weekly, multiplied by 15 or so airports, divided by the $500 annual fee, equals a bargain, or at least a justifiable expense.

And so this past week on my way to Cincinnati, Ohio for a pre-trip visit with my family I enjoyed my first legitimate Red Capet Club experience. I kicked it off in Chicago O’hare. I took full advantage of the free Internet (deduct $7.99 from initiation fee). The cappuccino machine (2 lattes, deduct another $8), and had both breakfast, bagel with cream cheese and lunch cheese and crackers (let’s call that $10). Heck at this rate I may make money on this venture.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Plan B

So Plan A, Le Tour Plan was THE Plan for a few months. It was a perfectly lovely plan and in my fleeting spare moments I would daydream about fine red wine, baguettes, soft cheeses and funny men in red devil costumes chasing bikers up mountain stages. But as my marriage began to fail... two weeks in France didn't seem like enough time. The simple hedonistic pleasures of a normal vacation didn't seem like the fix for what ails me. Then, one night in yoga class while I was desperately trying twist my torso over my stubborn, protesting hamstrings like my beloved yogi was instructing me to, I realized I really wanted to go to yoga school.

Now this was a big decision because yoga school doesn't fit into our woefully inadequate American workplace-imposed two weeks per year of vacation time. So as this idea began to become more and more compelling to me I realized its implications. "Rachel, yoga school means quitting your job." Once I was pretty sure I wanted and nay I say needed to go to yoga school I set about finding out just where I should go. I found schools in Mexico and Portugal and plenty right here in the good 'ol US of A. But then, thanks to a fateful search on the 'Internets', I found THE school. And once I stumbled on their website, no others could hold my interest.

This school is in Bali and it is a study of Vinyasa yoga, my kinda yoga. Being able to take the better part of a month to focus on nothing but my practice and myself is amazing enough. But to do this on an Indonesian island where I will be surrounded by volcanic peaks, rice paddies, flowing robes of crimson and orange, and the ocean - well this is the dream.

So just one thing to do. Book a ticket to Bali.

Apparently way back at Clifton Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio they had one of those America-centric world maps. You know the kind where Texas looks bigger than any county and most of the continents. Well I blame this map for my ignorance of just how far away from Paris Bali is. I don't know how many miles exactly, but in dollars, the two places are separated by between $4500 and $8000.


So upon learning of the vast financial divide that separates France and Indonesia, I dedicated a couple of days to my budding depression. I credit these fun new bouts with some of my most hair-brained ideas. I mean only from the depths of a bowl of cold Velveeta Shells and Cheese can one begin to rationalize that if you can fly to just Bali for $4500, or you could circumnavigate the globe for $5,000-$6,000 then clearly, start circumnavigating!

And so I began to research round-the -world-fares. This all came together rather quickly really. I spent a couple of evenings learning how to use the takes-a-rocket-scientist-to-decipher online trip builder and once I gave up on that I called Sippy.

Sippy is my travel agent. I met Carolyn, a.k.a. Sippy, at a wedding last summer, we became instant drinking companions and now friends. Poor Sippy had no idea who she chose to sip mojitos with that ill-fated night last June. But now a year later and two weeks of about 100 emails, phone calls and general panicked correspondence later... she has pieced together my dream itinerary.

Plan A has morphed into this:
  • July 9 Denver to Frankfurt - not really sure what I am doing for the first ten days, but hey... what could go wrong, Europe is cheap right now - oh wait it's NOT cheap right now - darn. UPDATE - From Frankfurt I am visiting London and Ireland for the week before the Tour.
  • July 20 -29 Beth and I gallivant around France, ride Roberto's coattails, hand out obscure jerseys and stuffed lions and subsist on red wine, dairy products and bread.
  • July 29 Paris to Denpasar, Bali where I will attend Yoga Teacher Training for 22 days, followed by a few days of surfing, diving and general bliss.
  • August 30 Singapore
  • September 3 Vietnam
  • Later in September, Korea
  • Late-September or October-ish, Thailand
  • October or maybe November sometime, Australia
  • Winter-ish, New Zealand
  • End of the line... Fiji
  • After that, return to somewhere and figure out what to do next
So there you have it. Plan B. Plan B scares the crap out of me. But since I feel absolutely driven to do this, I will. And with any luck when my trip is over I will have more clarity than when I began. I will be stronger, more self-assured and generally speaking, better. And failing that I will be tanner, my hair will be longer, and I will be rich in the way of airline miles.

Plan A


Last September I went to Europe for my first time. As soon as I landed in Florence, Italy I was inspired. I took hundreds of photos and wrote pages of witty, apt, and flowery observations. When I got back to the US all I could think about doing was going to Europe again. I started collecting ski area vacation planners and seriously considered trying to learn anything in French, German or Italian. But sadly this is about as far as I got.

Then in late winter I remembered a long-standing offer a friend had made. This friend goes to France every July for this little sporting event they have over there. This friend had on multiple occasions said Raquel (he calls me Raquel) you should crash on my floor and ride my coattails through France sometime. And this friend restated the offer when I called him in March and said Roberto (I call him Roberto) I am seriously considering riding your coattails this July, you see I am turning 35, my marriage is falling apart, and I can think of no better rite of passage into my now single, late-30's than being surrounded by hundreds of men in spandex who weigh less than I do.

This is how I came to book a Mileage Plus ticket to Geneva and a few days of following my dear friend around the Tour 'D' France. (I am aware that Le Tour is actually Le Tour de France, but in honor of my friend Roberto I shall refer to it as he pronounces it.) Then I mentioned this plan to my best friend Ms. Lara Beth Mitchell, also a very dear friend of Roberto's. Beth too had an abundance of United miles, three hours and ten agents later she had a ticket to Paris and now this jolly threesome had a plan. Roberto would work, Beth and I would eat and drink our way through the Tour D France and generally try not to distract Roberto too much.

Of course the ultimate goal here is to be the girls who hand out a jersey to that day's leader. We aren't picky - pink polka dots, green, heck if there is some obscure lemoncello jersey given to the guy who shaved his legs the best that stage, I'd settle for that one!

This was Plan A, the plan from which all others sprung and it was a damn fine plan.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Beginning


What do you want to do?
A seemingly innocuous question, and yet one that has become the bane of my existence over the last six or so months.

It's right up there with those other seemingly normal questions that cause the knees of the one to whom the question is directed to buckle. Those questions in chronological order are:

  • What's your favorite subject?
  • What college are you going to go to?
  • What do you want to study?
  • Are you seeing anyone?
  • When are you going to propose?
  • When is he going to propose?
  • When are you getting married?
  • Have you found a dress yet?
  • When are you going to start a family?
  • Are you trying yet?
  • Have you chosen a name?
  • Where will your child go to college?
Rinse... and repeat.

The answer to "what do you want to do" has been eluding me for the better part of six months. It kinda took a back seat to - How can I save my marriage? Do I want to save my marriage? Does he want to save our marriage? Now what?

The mere mention of the dreaded question was known to render me a bumbling, slobbering, sobbing mess. Usually at the most embarrassing of times.

But about a week ago I figured out what I want to do. I had one of those epiphanies I've heard so much about. And thus the birth of this blog.

Stay tuned. My adventure is about to begin.