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Feeling at Home

Feeling at Home

Blog Post #3

In the past month at my new home in Ban Fon, I have noticed how easy it can be to point out differences. The way people communicate, ways to show respect, family structures, teaching styles, the list could go on. While I have loved observing how the culture here in Thailand differs my own, I have found it much more comforting to focus on all the ways I feel at home. After all, Ban Fon is my home for now. So here is a list of all the things that make me feel warm and help me forget that I’m an outsider for a brief moment. 

  1. My incredibly kind neighbors bring me dinner, breakfast, and all kinds of khanoms (snacks). I’m typically greeted with “gin khao ru yang? (have you eaten yet?) which is a nice gesture to know that people are taking care of me. In the middle of writing this, the grandmother knocked on my door to come eat snacks with me. We sat on my couch and ate fruits, mostly in silence and some broken Thai, but connecting through food. 
  2. My neighbors have an 11- month- old baby who is always eager to play and laugh. Every day, the grandmother brings him to my house to play for a while while we sing to him as he explores my house. The grandmother doesn’t speak English, and one day she surprised me by greeting me with “Hello!” She pushes me to speak Thai and is so patient when I inevitably mess up. 
  3. The stock clerk at my local bodega says “Okay, see you!” every time I leave which is always a nice surprise to hear someone speak to me in English. 
  4. There is a noodle shop down the street where I eat most of my meals because the owner can make vegetarian food. Every day, other diners ask why I’m eating pad see ew  again, and he laughs and tells them im vegetarian. Every time I eat, he expectantly looks at me until I say “arroy maak maak!” He also always makes sure the spice is just the right amount (I usually lie and tell him I like the spice). 
  5. My friend Surat picks me up from school a few times per week to cook me dinner as we practice English. She always feeds me fruit and then a feast of the best food I’ve had so far in Thailand. Surat and her husband treat me like a daughter and make me feel so welcomed in the community. 
  6. My host teachers have a rotating schedule of who eats lunch with me each day. Spending so much time on my own teaching can be exhausting and its so nice to have a conversation with somebody during the day.   

    Som Tam, my usual Tuesday lunch.
  1. P’Pisan is my friend who owns the local ceramic and arts center. He often invites me to come to make ceramics and learn painting skills from him. This week, I went to a workshop for local art teachers, and they all embraced me into their group. I sat there, unable to understand any of the directions, but still had fun creating something and feeling like I belonged. 

    Arts Teacher Workshop at the ceramic center.
  1. Thailand has the world’s cutest coffee shops and there are several in Ban Fon that I frequently escape to. The Pinterest-perfect aesthetic feels familiar and I like to sit by the Wang river to read or journal. Some of the owners now know my usual order, as I’m probably the only one who orders things unsweetened. 

    The view of Wang River from my favorite cafe.
  1. The way my sweet students greet me every morning, or whenever they see me walking around school. “Teacher Amanda, Teacher Amanda!”  is usually followed by screams of “Hello!” and blank stares when I try to initiate a conversation. My students are so eager to talk to me and have really been the highlight of my time in Ban Fon so far.  

    My first day of teaching this month.
  1. 10. My teachers made bets on how fat I’ll get this year. This will be directly caused by all the khanoms I am given on a daily basis. I’ve really leaned into snack culture and am enjoying all the new foods being thrown my way. Theres only one teacher who bet that I’ll lose weight this year, so I’ll keep you posted on who wins next September. 

As a farang (non-Asian foriegner) in a small town in Thailand, I stick out very easily. Unable to understand conversations around me, the stares I get biking around town, and the lack of fluent communications with anybody remind me every day that I am an outsider in this world. Its easy to feel overwhelmed and lost, but I have tried to keep in perspective all of the ways that I feel like I belong here. While I’m clearly different, there are so many people who are helping me to feel like a true part of this community and ensure that I am well taken care of. The relationships I am building are making this experience far better than I could have imagined. My favorite Jack Johnson lyric states “Home is wherever we are if there’s love here too”. While the displays of love are different here, I certainly feel at home.

Learning Pottery with P’Pisan

Learning Pottery with P’Pisan

Blog Post #2 

It’s 6 am and I’m waking up to the sound of my neighbor’s rooster. For the first time, it’s not jarring, but a familiar part of my mornings.  With a few more days until school starts, I am trying to keep busy by exploring Ban Fon and the surrounding towns. It feels refreshing to actually have a plan for my day and I get ready to head off to meet my new friend. 

Yesterday evening on my sunset bike ride, I explored a little further than usual and ended up in a more remote area of town. The air was finally cooling off as the sun lowered behind the trees and I found myself at a small dirt road. My first instinct was to turn around, as it was unclear where it led and I knew it would be dark soon. Then I remembered that I promised to leap out of my comfort zone this year. I peddled on and passed by a beautiful property with tropical fruit trees and lots of pottery lying around. I decided to turn back and wandered around the grounds for a bit, unsure if trespassing is an offense in Thailand. On my walk through the property, I met P’Pisan who runs what I learned to be Lampang’s main ceramic co-op and learning center. Through a mix of broken Thai and English, I managed to ask him if he would be my teacher and give me a lesson in Thai ceramics. I was delighted when he asked me to come back the next morning to learn. 


Me and P’Pisan

So I woke with excitement for plans to see my new friend. In the past week, I had struggled to socialize with my limited Thai skills and I was eager to connect with somebody over a shared interest. I made sure to bring lots of fruits along to offer in gratitude for the time he devoted to me. I was happy to see he hadn’t forgotten when I arrived, and that the learning center was already bustling with people cleaning and decorating pots. 

P’Pisan and I sat at a table overlooking the garden as he showed me how to make a coil pot. My three-week crash course in Thai didn’t prepare me with vocabulary about ceramics or art methods so we used a lot of translating apps to communicate. P’Pisan seemed to become more comfortable speaking English with me as we spent more time together and likewise, I felt ready to use my limited Thai for the first time since arriving in Ban Fon. He told me about the students and teachers who come from all over Northern Thailand to learn about art and ceramics at this learning center. I showed him photos of ceramic work that I had done my first semester of college and felt so happy to be creating something again. 

After I finished my sloppy-looking coil pot, P’Pisan showed me how to use a slip cast mold to make a cup. It was so fun to operate the machinery and feel like I had control over the finished product. While we waited for the cups to dry enough to decorate, we shared the fruits I brought as I showed him photos of my friends and family back home. Afterward, we went on a walk to his office/bungalow where he had all of his paintings and ceramic works on display. He showed me little ceramic pots that his children made for him, too. Once the break was done, we started decorating the molded cups I had made. I was happy to be using typical potters’ tools and also some unique to the area; one was a stamp made from a dried out passionfruit. 

Before leaving, we made plans for me to come back in a few weeks when it was time to glaze my pieces before the final kiln fire. P’Pisan used the translate app to tell me he was happy we are friends and invited me to visit whenever I wanted to make ceramics. As I biked back to Ban Fon, I reflected on how grateful I was to have made a connection with someone new. I’ve realized that in order to survive socially here, I need to strip away my notions of “normal” interactions for the United States. Back home, I would have never wandered onto a stranger’s property or made friends with a middle-aged man. I realized I had spent half my day with this man whose language I didn’t speak, and loved every minute of it. I so am grateful for P’Pisan’s generosity and look forward to learning more from him this year. 

P’Pisan’s gallery




Arriving in Ban Fon

Arriving in Ban Fon

Blog Post #1

Arriving in Ban Fon Ban Fon, Lampang, Thailand 

With an hour’s worth of sleep and a stomach full of butterflies, I began my journey to Ban Fon, Thailand at 4 am. After a month of orientation with Fulbright in Bangkok, we were finally ready to head off to province and really start the year-long journey of being an English teacher in a Thai classroom. We had met with predecessors, learned the methodologies, practiced basic Thai, and explored cultural norms. Now, the Fulbright staff pushed us out the door into the great unknown. Teary-eyed, I said goodbye to all of the beautiful friends I had made this month as we departed to provinces across the country. We spent our time building a support system for the inevitable highs and lows that come with an experience like this. 

So there I sat, on a propellor plane at 7 am, watching the decent into the misty mountains that would characterize my new home. Haley and I watched with awe as we landed on a small runway in Lampang. We used some of our new Thai vocabulary to screech “Dteun dten! Dteun dten!” as we walked onto the tarmac and into the northern-style airport.  I took a moment to myself at baggage claim to send one last good luck message to the cohort and collect myself before opening the doors to this next chapter. 

Haley and I were greeted by our host teachers, and it seemed like every other teacher in the province. I was immediately showered with welcoming hugs, flowers, and of course snacks. I tried to keep track of all the P’s (elders) that I was meeting as we had a photoshoot to document my arrival. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that so many people would come all the way to the airport at 7 am just to welcome me to their town. After all the photos, I gave Haley one last squeeze until the next time we could make the hour-long trip to each others’ towns. 

I piled into a van with the other host teachers and started towards Ban Fon. I felt relieved to turn down a small road and head away from the bigger city. We got further into the area that would be my new home and eventually arrived at Choom Chan Ban Fon Wittaya School, where my house sits on property. I instantly felt the warmth in this home as marks from previous ETAs were left here. The walls are littered with inspirational quotes that I will need at some point this year. I teared up when I noticed that my predecessor had covered a wall with notes from my future students welcoming me to their school. As I walked through my two-story townhouse, I realized that this will be my first time living alone. I find comfort that I have other teacher neighbors nearby, but I know this will still be a huge adjustment for me. Even though this journey will be my own, I feel so supported from others in my cohort and those who have welcomed me into their community. 

I finally had a few moments to myself to let this all sink in. I began making little adjustments to make the house feel like my own and settle in to this new space before going out with my host teacher. Soon enough, we made our way back to Lampang to get some groceries and items for the house. I enjoyed a day out with Kru Oy (my host teacher) at the mall, chatting about family and our favorite things to eat. I was happy to find that there were a lot of familiar foods at the grocery store. I am sure they will come in handy when I am particularly missing home. 

When we returned, all the host teachers and some students were decorating a float for a parade that will take place tomorrow evening. Everybody welcomed me instantly and I enjoyed putting flowers and palm fronds on the display. I felt so welcomed into the communal activities and reflected on how fortunate I am to be in this position surrounded by such lovely people. 

After a much-needed nap, I decided to explore the town a little bit. My walk took me past the market, where I challenged myself to walk in and say hello to some new people. Maybe tomorrow I will go a step further and buy something at the market. On my walk, a friendly woman rode alongside me on a bicycle and asked “bpai yuu tii ka?” (Where are you going?) I told her I was just enjoying a walk through town and she waved bye to me. No matter how alone I feel throughout this year, there are so many people in the community who are eager to practice their English or just curious about the foreigner in town. I continued my stroll past cafes, houses, and soi dogs. I am excited to explore more of my town and form relationships with the shop owners nearby. 

I heard the prayer calls at Wat Ban Fon before I could see it, as today was a holy Buddha day. The temple is my new backyard, as we share a fence between the school. As the speakers blared through the town, I tried to pick up any familiar phrases. I was so excited and proud of my new Thai skills when I heard the monk introduce me as a new teacher at the school. I am not sure what the rest of the half-hour-long announcement said, but I felt accomplished for the day. 

Once the silence settled in again and I found myself alone in this new house, I leaned into the emotional whirlwind that I was feeling. After a month away from home, I let the tears flow. It was a mixture of gratitude, joy, sadness, and anxiety that came rushing out of me. While I still have a week to get ready for the first day of school, I know I have a lot to process before I feel 100% ready to take on this role. Maybe this will be a good time to practice my “sabai sabai” attitude and learn to just let go. 

Traveling American in a VW Van – pt 11

Traveling American in a VW Van – pt 11

Moab, UT

The air was cooling in the desert as the sun had set when we found a nice spot for the night on the side of Highway 128. We parked the bus next to the Colorado River and decided it was probably time for another shower. The desert is really hot, after all. We waded in to the rushing waters and felt the icy chill as water splashed over our heads. We got about as clean as you can get in a river and headed back to the bus for sleep. Headlights of passing cars shined into the windshield as we thought about how we possibly made it here.

“Can you believe we are here in Utah, halfway across the country?”

“Not one bit”

And then we slept.

Arches National Park

The sun was rising as we made our way through town and up to the entrance of Arches National Park. Boasting a thousand Arches, we were excited to see the structures that defy gravity. The bus climbed onto the mesas that we slept below last night. It was another race against time as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, threatening our ability to drive. The scenic drive through the park let us stop at Thor’s Hammer and the Windows Section as we skipped through the orange sand beneath our feet. Double Arch was so big that people used to walk across it. Millions of years of erosion at work lead to these stunning and temporary arches. Next up was the famous Delicate Arch, as seen on the Utah license plate. A quick hike lead us to the less crowded viewing area across a valley.

“Those people look like little ants over there”

“We probably look like ants to them, too”

It was still early morning when we chugged up to the end of the road. Devil’s Garden  was a 9-mile loop around a concentrated section of arches in the park. A gallon of water each and a pocket map and we were on our way. Careful to stay on the trail, we wound our way through this desert garden. A close look at the soil beside the trail, and we could see the micro life growing. It looks like black and crunchy dirt, but its actually decades of work of fungi to provide life to desert plants. One step on these little guys could ruin years of progress as the biological crust provides nutrients for native plants.


We trudged through sand and rocks as we viewed 8 beautiful arches along the way. Partition Arch was my favorite. I climbed right in the window and looked out to the park below me. The stunning view left me only wanting more. More arches, more peaks, more hikes. We continued on, following a young family on the same hike. At one point, I looked at my hands to see that my fingers had swollen to twice their size. My rings were about pop off my fingers, so I resorted to holding my hands above my head the rest of our hike.


It was still early afternoon when we finished our hike and climbed back into the bus. We quickly headed down to the visitors center parking lot to wait out the heat. We managed to find the only shady spot in the parking lot and took our time wandering around the wonderfully air conditioned museum. We learned about the history of the arches, and then went back to do it again a few more times as the temperature was about 105 that day. Safe to say we melted in the bus.

Later in the evening, it seemed that another traveler in a classic Mustang was waiting out the heat too. We struck up conversation with Chuck and his two young sons. He seemed to be drawn to the road for the same reasons – freedom from responsibility & reality of normal life. They had also been traveling around the National Parks, but in a smaller ride. They gave us some tips for scenic roads towards Canyonlands National Park and we bid them farewell as they drove off into the red dust.

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 10

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 10

Goodbye Colorado

We woke in a Walmart parking lot, which was beginning to become another familiar place on the trip. Quickly, we jumped out of bed to make breakfast in the empty spot next to us and brush our teeth inside. Conrad changed the oil while I got the bus ready for takeoff again.

The bus found herself back on i-70 heading further west toward Utah. The scenery seemed to change every mile we pushed on. The warm browns and forest greens of the Rockies blended into the bright red rocks in the desert. We were now entering the land of deep canyons and dry tumbleweed.

“Hmm it looks like we just landed on Mars”

“Maybe we should be calling this a rocket ship instead”

Eventually it got too hot to drive any further, so we headed to Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction to stop for the night. The road to the park winded up a red mountain and through tunnels until we reached the top of a canyon. A quick hike around the rim showed us the town on the horizon and massive red boulders below us. After the bus cooled off for a few hours, we picked out a private spot in the campgrounds and got ready for lunch. I was grateful for the icy cold shower I took in the shade of a desert pine (I think it had been a week since my last one).


After dinner, we wandered around the park to find a good place to watch the sunset. Hues of orange and red danced on the rocks as she fell further and further in the sky. It was our last night in Colorado and I reflected on all the unexpected turns in the road we had so far. The times we were broken down on the side of the road. The times I wanted to turn around, but Conrad pushed me further on the trail. Even the times when I didn’t get to shower for a week and has an ever-present layer of dirt on my feet. Colorado had been good to us, but it was time to keep driving west.

The next morning we woke at sunrise and quickly said goodbye to the first leg of our journey before the sun threatened the long drive ahead of us. Back down the mountain we went towards i-70.

“Welcome to Utah!” we both screamed as the bus chugged across the border into a new state.

We veered left on a scenic byway towards Moab, UT for our next stop at Arches National Park. Every turn offered stunning new canyons and mesas that were glowing in the morning light. We squealed with delight as we entered the Wild Wild West. The road followed the Colorado River as it offered the only oasis in the desert. It was like we found ourselves on a new planet.

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 9

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 9

Leaving the Rockies

Or so we thought. We woke at what was now a familiar view on the side of State Rd 7.

“Time to head out of town?”

Wrong. We knew instantly that we should have gone back to the shop in Loveland rather than turning around days before. Good thing I have AAA. They towed us to a local school parking lot that was within the 7 mile limit and offered us a push to get her kick-started. Nothing. We were left at the bottom of the school parking lot until the tow shop reopened tomorrow. Guess this is a good time to wander around. We walked to a nearby gas station to use their outdoor plugs and find some ice for our ever-soggy cooler. Later, we cooked some all-too familiar pasta while we listened to the rodeo announcer a few blocks away.

The next morning, we woke with frustrations and worries about what to do next. A few hours on hold later, we managed to get a tow to take us back to the shop in Loveland. I smooshed in the middle seat next to our driver as the bus was raised onto the back of the tow bed. It was a sad day on our journey, but it meant we were one step closer to figuring out what was wrong with our home on wheels. On the bright side, we twisted through Roosevelt National Forest for the third time and listened to the stories of Scotty and his life in Estes Park, CO.

We pulled up to the shop and were welcomed by Pat and Matt, the nicest mechanics on the planet. Pat even let us take his VW to the grocery store for lunch while he worked on our bus. About 30 minutes later we were coasting back on i-70 heading further west. The temperature was dropping quickly and so was our oil pressure. It seemed like we were chasing the sun as we climbed higher and higher over the 14,000 ft peaks as dusk was looming overhead.

“Do you think we’re going to make it over the mountains?”

“I sure hope so”

We passed signs that claimed the speed limit was 70, although the tick on our speedometer would not move past 35. My palms were sweaty from the anxiety as the night grew darker and our cell reception wavered. I am still surprised that the bus was able to make it over the Rockies. Soon enough the mountains rounded and rolled into the flat plains of western Colorado. Okay time to sleep.

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 8

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 8

Rocky Mountain National Park

It was time to trek over the famous Trail Ridge Road, the only way to get to the other side of the park. We chugged up the mountains and curved around bends as the air thinned and the wind sped up. Eventually, we were driving on the ridge lines of the Rockies.

“Can you believe we are 14,000 feet in the air?”


Twisting and turning and the smell of other cars burning through their breaks welcomed us to the top of the world. We cruised past glacial fields of snow and herds of elk eating the grass. I couldn’t count the number of times I screamed “wow look at that!” during our drive across the great Rocky Mountains.

“How do you think people got across these mountains before roads?”

“They used wing suits of course.”

A few hours later, we made it back to (relatively) even ground on the west side of the park. On the hunt for a campsite, yet again. This time, we decided to splurge and stay at a real campsite rather than the side of the road. This was mostly because we were running low on water and had a pile of dirty dishes to clean. We managed to find a spot and set up for dinner outside. We watched the sun creep behind the mountains and welcome in the stars around us before heading off to sleep.

An early morning wake up call was not welcomed here as we packed up our bags to head out on a backpacking trip. Packed up and buckled in, we were eager to head out on the trails for the next two days. Again, the bus had other plans. It took all of our effort and resources, but we eventually got her started with the help of a park ranger. He towed the bus out of our camp spot and then helped me push her until she roared to a start. That was a close one, but we were finally off to our destination near Grand Lake.

We found the trail head and headed out into the wilderness for the weekend. We were lucky enough to snag a back-country permit near a great stream and waterfall. It was time to set off on our adventure so we meandered through a The beginning of our hike was slow and smooth as we passed through flowering meadows and ponds. Then up, up, up we went towards our destination. It was then that I understood the importance of good backpacking gear. We had our sleeping bags tied on our packs with rope and water bottles swinging from their carabiner clips.


“Sleeping bag down!” I yelled every few minutes as I watched Conrad’s careful arrangement unwind in front of me. Eventually we made it to a nice stopping point near the falls and ate our PB&J lunches while fighting away flies.

“Time to keep moving”, Conrad nudged me to get up and finish our hike. We crossed stream after stream on little wooden planks until we made it to a secluded camp site off the main trail. A little bridge helped us across a creek that flowed heavily below us. It was time to set up camp and take a nap under the pines. Later, we hoped over trees that had succumbed to being eaten by the pine beetle and made dinner on a log in the stream. After some chilly baths in the stream, we nodded off to sleep, wrapping ourselves in as many clothes as we could find.


Morning came again and so did the time to pack up our stuff again (it’s a lot harder to fit it in your pack the second time). The hike back was accompanied by several “Ow I’m sore” comments as we set out to finish our 15 miles. We stopped at the same waterfall again and enjoyed chatting with a local woman who does interviews with tourists. She saw our Lifestraw and wondered how a tiny little thing can filter so much water. We ended up taking a wrong turn on the way back and did part of the loop on an equine trail. We spent a lot of the day dodging poop and holding our breaths. At this point, we resorted to holding our plushy sleeping bags and battling through the hike. Finally, we landed eyes on the bus and were happy to be home.

Now, we headed back over Trail Ridge Road and got to see the other side of the beautiful Rockies as our time here came to a close. It was too late in the day to move on to our next destination so we decided to stay another night in the Rockies. We found our lovely spot on State Rd 7 from a few nights before and tried to ignore how smelly we both were. Finally sleep.


Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 7

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 7

Rocky Mountain Bound:

Yay! We are finally on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park! First, we had to make a pit stop at the mechanic in a nearby town called Loveland. We pulled up and parked in between several other VW buses. The shop owners were on a lunch break so we decided to cook up some quesadillas in the parking lot. Finally, the long awaited day had come where we could get the hex-bar fixed (that broke back in Tennessee). We had the replacement part with us and it was fixed in a few hours. We had the chance to chat with the friendliest mechanics we’ve ever encountered and got some great recommendations on things to do while in the park.

And we were off! We chugged up the backgrounds climbing higher and higher as we neared Rocky Mountain National Park. Twisting and turning around corners that offered vistas even more beautiful than the ones before it.

“Can you believe we’re really here?”

“Not one bit.”

The bus was running pretty hot, and I don’t blame her. Those mountains were steep and she needed a break. So we pulled over at a stop that gave us our first peak at the glaciers ahead of us. We played with the chipmunks and waited a while until she would start back up again, although it felt like ages. Minutes later we were passing by the “Entering Rocky Mountain National Park” sign to welcome us to the first big destination. After getting some advice and maps from a ranger at the visitor center, we headed back through the quaint town of Estes Park to find the trail head in a seldom visited corner of the park.

We began to climb the 7 miles to the top of Estes Cone (which looks like a nipple looming above us). I closed my eyes as I took in the warm afternoon breeze that rippled through the aspens and the smell of fresh pine needles around us. Most of my hike was spent huffing and puffing up the steep mountain trail while trying to keep Conrad in my view ahead of me. The higher we climbed, the more our view of Longs Peak opened up in front us.

“You want to climb that one when we finish this trail?”

(Climbers must have repelling gear and a bivy permit, which we did not)

The final stretch was a tough one, and the trail could only be spotted by finding the rock cairns to guide the way. A fun rock scramble on our hands and knees welcomed us to the very top of Estes Cone and the views were worth the work. Every place i set my eyes on amazed me. Gusts of wind rippled through my body as I stared at the snowy peaks of the Rockies that were surrounding me. We enjoyed a snack and tried to hide our food from the sneaky alpine squirrels. We stayed as long as we could before heading back down the mountain as light was leaving us.


“I guess we should find somewhere to sleep, right?”

So we headed back down the mountain to find a desolate country road in the park.

“There it is! I found our spot!”

We parked on the side of State Road 7 with a nice mountain view in front of us. Time to pop the top and get cooking.


The next morning I woke to Conrad nudging me and trying to get some words out. Eventually I heard “It’s sunrise” and I shot out of bed so fast that I knocked my head on roof. (Probably the 40th time on the trip). It was too cold to leave the comforts of the bus so I shot some pictures of the pink morning light shining into our bed. Then I fell back into the comforts of sleep.


Hours later we woke and got ready to do another hike on the east side of the park. The bus had other plans. We tried and tried and tried to get her started, but it seemed she liked the view so much, she didn’t want us to leave. A few hours later, my AAA membership came in handy and we revved to a start.

“She sounds pretty angry today.”

“I guess it’s back to the shop for us.”

So we cruised through the park and through Roosevelt National Forest  towards our friends at the shop in Loveland. Our day was spent gawking at the towering white cliffs above us as the road followed a bellowing river. We made it near Loveland when it was time to stop for gas. She had been running fine the whole day so we decided to turn back around and head to the west side of Rocky Mountain. Silly us.


Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 6

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 6

Boulder, CO

Two weeks later and we had finally made it to Boulder! We had some friends to visit and some mountains to explore. We also had a bus to fix but it was Fourth of July weekend so it seemed we had to stay put for a few days. That’s okay, we had plenty to do. We wandered around downtown Pearl St and into all the galleries we could lay our eyes on. Everything we saw was inspired by the mountains that started a few blocks down the road. We met a few very interesting people (probably due to the fact that the Grateful Dead was playing two shows that weekend) who were interested in the bus. Our friends recommended that we eat at the Boulder Tea House, which was hand painted in Tajikistan and gifted to the city. Amazing patterns covered the walls and ceilings in little specks of color. The food and tea was so yummy that we went back twice. Eventually we made it back to our friend’s home to enjoy a comfy and warm bed.

4th of July:

We got to celebrate our 4th climbing on some giant red rocks! Our hike began in downtown Boulder, following the stream all the way to the base of the mountains.

“Hey those look like some cool rocks, wanna climb to the top?”



So we trudged our way up to the top of these magnificent red fins. It was difficult to find a navigable route to the top, especially with a clunky backpack on.

“I’m scared.”

“That’s okay. Keep climbing.”

Eventually I made it to the top, following behind in Conrad’s footsteps. We made a little nook in the rocks and enjoyed the views that surrounded us. In front, we saw all of Boulder and little specks of Denver in the distance. Behind us, we saw the beginning of the Rockies. Happy Independence Day, America. You’re pretty spectacular.


We met some more nice people playing in the rocks who were locals and come here to climb on the weekends. It must be nice to have this kind of adventure so readily available. We read some books and ate some nuts as we watched the light fade around us. It would have been a great place to stay for fireworks, but we worried about the bus because the only thing protecting her was a garbage bag in the window.

The next two days were relaxing as we met up with another friend and drove up to Flagstaff Mountain to watch the sun set. I watched the orange light dance on the mountain peaks before finally slipping behind them for the night. We got some much needed rest before heading out to the mechanic and Rocky Mountain. Our time in Boulder showed us many interesting and kind people, although eclectic may be a better word.

“That’s it”, I decided. “I’m moving to Boulder.”

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 5

Traveling America in a VW Van – pt 5

Colorado Springs:

The bus backfired and sputtered up the foothills of the Rockies as we neared Colorado Springs. Our first stop: Garden of the Gods. I saw giant red fins in the distance and squealed with excitement as we neared our first mountain destination. It was mid-afternoon as we approached the park, so we stopped at the visitor’s center across the street to learn about these alien-like rock formations. Conclusion: sandstone does some pretty amazing stuff. Time to explore! we headed to the park to play on some big red rocks. Giant fins and “No Climbing” signs seemed be be everywhere I looked. I found myself thinking that this was just the beginning of a wonderful summer. After we felt satisfied jumping on every rock in the park, we decided it was time to find a place to sleep.IMG_2898

So we headed out of town and into Pike National Forest where we would stay the night. The sputtering didn’t stop, though and we made a judgment call to pull over on the side of a curvy highway until the traffic slowed down a bit. Our luck prevailed again! Just as we were hanging out upstairs, Conrad spotted the tail lights of a fellow Westfalia. Jake introduced himself and offered to help us out since he noticed the engine flap was open. He gave us a great recommendation about where to camp for the night and sent us on our way. Dusk was falling over the mountains as we chugged uphill.

“Hey look at those rocks!” we seemed to be yelling in unison with our hands pointing out of the windows.

We became more and more nervous as the bus tried to make it up the mountains in the National Forest. Once we pulled into the campground, we realized it was all full. Of course, it’s Fourth of July weekend, I thought. So we climbed further up the road and pulled off in a clearing next to another young couple who had made camp there for the night. As we soon found out, the bus is very fragile and things break pretty easily. Just as we pulled in, the driver’s side window fell all the way down and wouldn’t roll up again. Time to take the door panel off. Without the right tools to fix it, we resorted to taping a plastic bag to the frame so the bugs and rain wouldn’t get in. But, we figured that we may as well explore the campsite and not let it bring us down. It had a beautiful path that lead to a meadow of wildflowers and big boulders. Conrad played on the rocks below while I took in the view in front of us. At that point, the PB&J lunches had worn off and we started to get hangry (anger due to hunger). We hurried inside to make dinner just as rain poured over head. The rain brought more cool weather and I tried to keep the feeling in my toes as I drifted in to sleep.

Morning came around and we laid in bed for a few hours more than usual. It was cold and damp and we really needed the sleep. I eventually mustered up the energy to roll out my yoga mat and stretch just as the morning clouds began to burn off. I heard the leaves flutter around me as my toes wiggled in the damp earth and I was happy. Later, when we had the bus packed and ready to go for the day, we found ourselves stuck for a few hours. It had gotten pretty cold overnight and Conrad was worried that the battery was shot. We were lucky again because few hours later, we were on our way to Pike’s Peak.

It was a warm afternoon as we hung out in the parking lot to get aboard the train up to Pike’s Peak. Conrad was frustrated because he couldn’t get the window back up, but I reassured him that it would be alright once we got to our friends in Boulder. We saw some hikers come down off Manitou Incline, which is 2,744 steps gaining 2,000 ft elevation. Then it was time to board the red trolley to the top of America’s Mountain. We sat across from a sweet couple originally from India, but now living in Texas. The train twisted and turned up the mountains as we climbed to our destination. During some parts, we were able to spot the road where cars race to the top (and even some bikers/runners).


“Why didn’t I bring a jacket?” I thought as I stepped off the train into the 30 degree air (wearing shorts & a tank top). I guess our luck finally ran dry because we stepped to the edge of the mountain, expecting to see thousands of miles ahead of us. Rather, we stood in the middle of a cloud, seeming as if we may fall off the edge of the earth. I think I liked it better.

We made our decent back down the mountain with grumbling tummies and sleepy eyes. The cool night air made for a perfect drive, though, as we started to battle more inclines to drive north towards Boulder. A beautiful sunset and a few hours later, we finally pulled into our friend’s home with the promise of a real shower and a warm bed to sleep in for a few nights as we celebrate the holiday weekend.