India and other stories

after a week of cold and rainy and grey weather best suited to curling up on the couch under a blanket, I'm happy to report that the sun has finally made an appearance again in Taipei. I just got back from a long walk and it felt a-ma-zing to have sun on my skin. they say March weather is in like a lion, out like a lamb but I've always found it to be all over the place from day to day, rather than a smooth progression.

but I have been trying to get out more, even when the skies are grey. a friend of mine is in town and yesterday she suggested we hike Elephant Mountain -- despite the weather I can't really complain about spending time together and being out in nature. and in a few days my mother-in-law is arriving for a three week visit. so it seems I need to charge up my camera batteries and get ready for some adventuring.

in other recent[ish] news... I went to India.

it was loud and beautiful and crowded and smoggy and colorful and uncomfortable and humbling and absolutely, utterly delicious. India was all of those things. India was everything, all at once.

a part of me feels like a "bad" travel blogger because I did not even take my camera with me [gasp!] but in truth, we didn't really go to see India -- we went to celebrate two amazing people marrying each other over New Year's. I got to stay in a palace and dance like a bollywood star and eat all the delicious things. I saw donkeys and horses in the street, a guy riding an elephant through a traffic circle, cows literally everywhere, camels and monkeys and even a wild mongoose.

it was actually pretty nice to just let our time in Udaipur be what it was. we spent most of our non-wedding activity days walking around the city. and eating. we took a complicated journey out to the Monsoon Palace for sunset, braved the crowds at the City Palace, and went shopping for traditional outfits... but mostly just ate.

I don't have a city guide or even a packing list to share -- or anything other than a handful of phone photos -- but I can tell you that India was both one of the most incredible and challenging places I've ever visited.

to be honest, I'm still a little bit in awe that I actually went to India. it's not a country I had on my bucketlist or ever really saw myself visiting. as someone who has issues dealing with too much dirt, or noise, or crowds... it got to be pretty overwhelming at times.

I would still say the trip was worth it. [it's tempting to say so for the food alone -- I'm seriously craving poha and papadams after writing this.] but we had a wonderful reason to visit and I'm glad we had the chance. there's a lot of India to see and we only experienced a slice.

but I think for us, for right now, it was just the right amount.


the magic of Mount Cook

it's no secret I love mountains. climbing them, taking photos of them, even just looking at them. maybe it was growing up in the flat midwest, but every time I look up and see mountains my heart just lifts. strange as it may seem, mountains are kindof my happy place.

when I read Emma's prompt for this month's travel linkup -- a place that sparks joy -- my immediate thought was: New Zealand. I've been lucky enough to take two trips to this magical place. though many of the locations we've visited are dear to my heart, the time we spent at Mount Cook / Aoraki and it's surrounding area towers above the rest. [and not just because Mt Cook is the tallest peak in NZ!]

I think a big part of why I love Mount Cook is that our first visit there ended in disaster. our plans to hike the Hooker Valley Track were foiled by a snowstorm [in summer.] we had to cancel our second night of camping there, and the first was virtually sleepless -- spent battling gale force winds to keep our tent stakes in and trying to repair a snapped pole. in fact, we never even made it into Aoraki National Park.

it's rare in life that you get a second chance. and visiting a place as remote as New Zealand? I'm insanely grateful. things don't always go according to plan when you're traveling [as I'm well aware] but our return to Mount Cook couldn't have been more perfect.

the weather? fantastic. the upgraded shower facilities? amazing. mornings with my coffee and a view of the man in Mount Cook? yes please. our camp cooking skills were pro by this point, and we had the routine of converting our camper from drive mode to sleep mode down to a science. we climbed up to view the Tasman Glacier, and stopped to frolic in fields of lupin, and finally finally got to hike the Hooker Valley Track.

and at the end of the day we would throw the van doors open, or sit outside on our "porch" to watch the sunset. the brush next to our campsite was home to a family of rabbits, who would hop around with their floppy ears and adorable twitchy tails. and there was quiet, and reading, and of course some delicious New Zealand wine.

Mount Cook is definitely a place that sparks joy for me -- even just the memory of it. I could go on and on about the fresh air and sunshine, the blues and the greens, and how amazing even our sandwiches that we packed for hiking tasted. [is it weird that I remember that?]

maybe it was having a second chance at Mount Cook that sprinkled our experience with magic. maybe I'm wearing the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia [or maybe blue-tinted based on the photos.] or maybe, it's just an incredible place to visit, and our time there sparked a bonfire's worth of joy.

on a somewhat related note, I've recently come to realize that this blog is another thing in my life that sparks joy. the past few years have been incredibly challenging for me. in trying to focus on taking care of myself, this space was somewhat set aside. I'm not sure if I'll ever be ready to go into the details of all that. but I do know -- at least for me -- writing, and sharing my writing, is an important part of living a happy and healthy life.

plus, I kinda missed it. so I'm back to blogging again, and trying to find a way to make it feel right. it might get a little messy as I figure it out -- but I'm a little bit messy right now. and, well, that's ok. I'll take a little joy wherever I can find it.

 and Maggie at Planes and Champagne for the March Travel Linkup
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