I moved to France on December 1st to spend 3 months working on my French. My time here has completely exceeded my expectations! My French is definitely improving, I’ve been able to do some climbing, plus have spent some quality time with friends here. I did have to switch my flight home to an earlier date, cutting a month off of my trip, as I learned I got the job I was hoping for in Cape Town, South Africa. Bummer about cutting my trip short, but excited for this upcoming opportunity in Africa.
I had planned on staying in Le Vaudoue, a small village near Fontainebleau, for the whole trip, but felt like it wasn’t an ideal place for a beginning French speaker. I stayed there for 3 weeks and then moved down to Lyon.
I was living in my friend’s weekend home in Le Vaudoue. I stayed there this past April, when him and his family still used it as their full time home. I didn’t realize the level of isolation until I lived there by myself. The best was one day when the post woman came. I think she said something about the house being hard to find. I quickly explained that I didn’t speak very much French and she looked at me oddly, most likely wondering, ”What the hell is this non-French speaking American girl doing at the end of this road?” Haha.
Looking towards the Le Vaudoue house from my neighbors house. Yep… the house is down that road, all by itself in the forest.
Le Vaudoue “main street”. It consists of a bar, market, pharmacie and a temporarily closed hair dresser. I love the simplicity of this place.
Hiking through the Trois Pignon area with Guillaume and his family.
My mode of transportation. I really liked when I would stop by the market on the way home, carrying fresh baguettes and wine in my bouldering pad.
Guillaume climbing at Cancier Mercier.
David came to visit Fontainebleau. It was his very first time to be in Font… but it had recently snowed. He still was psyched to try at least one problem, trying his luck on this slippery problem at Roche Aux Sabot.
Since I am learning French, I will start writing some French in parenthesis. I wanted to start with this post, but it was going to take me forever. So… I will start to slowly integrate.
These glow-in-the-dark dragons were one of the small “Memories From Home” items I brought to France.
There are a good handful of tips and tidbits that I have picked up along the way. I assume this list will be dynamic over time, but thought I would post of some of the initial thoughts.
Readily Accessible, Safe Car Camping Spots – A really easy to find, safe camping spot if traveling in the US is Walmart. I strongly dislike utilizing Walmart as a consumer; however, I gladly parked there on my road trip when in between destinations. Walmart welcomes car campers and often has security roaming the parking lots to ensure safety.
Rather than Buying Books – Books can be a bear to take on a trip because they take up space and can be heavy. Some good alternatives are…. 1) Used bookstores or co-ops – If you really must own, look for a used bookstore or coop where you can swap out books. 2) The library – Though you most likely can’t get a library card whilst you travel, you can often check out books from your home library and mail them back. 3) Ebooks – If you have a computer, you can download ebooks. Many books are for a fee (but at least you have eliminated the hassle of books in the car / backpack), but some sites (like Project Gutenberg) provide free books. 4) Audiobooks – Some libraries (for instance Salt Lake City library) provide free audio books. The downside is you must remember to register your card before leaving town. (The SLC Library actually makes you come to the library to register. Why they don’t allow online registration, I don’t know.) After registering you can download audiobooks through a wifi connection. To be honest, I feel like the best solution for books is a tablet e-book reader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) because it is nice to read a book, rather than listen to it, but it is nice to put the PC away and not drain its batteries. I don’t have a tablet book reader yet so can’t completely opine if this is the best solution… but I am longing to buy the Nook one day. Once I get one, I will of course give you the update.
Cheap Flicks – One of the easiest ways to watch movies is through Netflix On Demand. You must be a Netflix account owner, but then you can stream through any wifi connection. Note, that you can only watch Netflix in the States. The next best alternative (States only) is the Red Box, costing a mere $1 per night.
Fueling the TV Addiction - To get your fix on recent television shows, visit Hulu.com. If outside of the U.S. or Canada, you will not be able to access Hulu without an IP blocker of some sort. Sadly, I still have yet to be able to stream video through a tunnel or IP blocker due to connection speeds. (Perhaps you will be more fortunate.) Recently I discovered the site MyFreeGuide (which does seem a little sketchy) listing links to a number of sites, such as DivxDen, where viewing without VPN is possible. Sweet! (An IP blocker site is also ideal if wanting to play Facebook Scrabble outside of the U.S. …. just saying in case any of you readers are fellow addicts like myself.)
Telecommunications – Skype is your friend. Download it, use it, love it. I am currently in France for 3 months and have now bought an online number so friends and business colleagues can actually call me from a landline and it rings my computer. If I am not available or online, it goes to voicemail. Perfect. I can even send SMS texts… I also have a subscription so I can make unlimited calls to US numbers for only $3 per month. And, of course, all calls computer to computer are free.
Don’t Forget to Backup – If you own a computer (if traveling or not), MAKE SURE TO BACK UP! I always have all my information backed up by Mozy.com and on an external hard drive. I did have my computer hard drive go out while I was on my 10-month trip but lost only one day worth of photos and one spreadsheet thanks to back ups. I backed up all my data before I left and then did small backups while on the road. A good solution would be to carry a travel external drive with you.
Receiving Letters While In Between Cities – If you need mail while traveling in the States, you can receive it through General Delivery. Call one of the post offices in your current location and ask for the General Delivery address. To pick up the mail you will have to go to that post office and show your identification.
International Travel Packing List – If city hopping while abroad, this packing list has worked out perfectly for me. If going on a climbing trip, this info might be useful.
First Aid Kit - Always carry ibuprofen, band-aids and antibiotic cream. If heading to very humid areas (China or Thailand) try and take the powder antibiotic cream. If heading to Asia, include medication for an upset stomach.
Avoid the Visa Headache - I have only had to worry about the visa situation once, when I traveled to China. If needing a visa, ensure you plan waaaaaay in advance as it can be a bear to resolve. Blah.
Coin Purses Are Useful – Many other currencies have coins that are worth up to $2 (or pounds, euros, etc.). As an American I am quite careless with my change because the highest coin value (commonly used coins that is) is $.25. Yet in currencies where the value can be a couple dollars it is amazing how quickly you can gather $20+ of change in your pocket. A coin purse is very useful.
Trinkets for International Travel – Take a handful of trinkets and / or postcards of your home town to give to people you meet along the way. (I got this tip from The Usual Suspect. Thanks, Neal.)
Keeping Track of Travelers – The easiest way to keep track of travelers, is through Facebook. Plus it is so much more personal than a simple email address, allowing the continuation of a friendship.
Small Items that Remind You of Home – I like to carry small items that remind me of home. On my 10-month climbing trip I took a boomerang my friend Neal had sent me from Australia and a comic that my friend Bret had left on my door. On this trip, I brought a handful of postcards, a letter my friend Rob gave me, and the above pictured glow-in-the dark dragons that my friend Kathryn gave me during the summer. I notice a couple small items don’t take up much room, but remind me of my dear friends who are elsewhere.
Scotch Tape – I think I will start carrying scotch tape with me in the future. The reason is I always end up with a bag of ticket stubs, maps, etc. at the end of my trip that takes me eons to actually sort after the trip. (I just sorted through my China bag and I went to China in 2005!) On my current France trip I am automatically taping these things into my journal, on the day I actually received that particular stub. It seems to be working really well.
Less is Better than More – The main tidbit I use when traveling is ‘less is better than more’. (I actually live by this motto as well, owning VERY few belongings.) If you are mobile, it means everything you pack is coming with you, to every destination…. which can be a HUGE hassle. Allow yourself enough time to pack your bag (or car), rethink, and then trim down the included items. Repeat these steps at least two times.
It has been prime Little Cottonwood Canyon bouldering season lately…
My first attempt on ‘Helen Keller’. I didn’t get much farther than this … and yes, those are the starting holds. Picture by Trevor.
… but Rafiti did. He picked up the send this past weekend!! Woot, woot! Picture by Trevor.
Nathan at the Goldy boulder.
Emil on ‘St. Nick’.
Me on ‘Sweet Baby Jesus’. I have only given this line one attempt but would *really* like to try it again. Only problem is it is a high-ball with a crappy landing, so basically you want to avoid falling at all costs while fully knowing the crux is at the top.
Where to Visit – Crags to Visit as a Solo Traveler (Perhaps I will later make a post of all climbing destinations)
Tips and Tidbits
I don’t plan very much when I travel. I usually pack up the bag and car and simply take off, figuring my path along the way. I usually will have a couple destinations in mind, but fill in the majority of the trip along the way (this goes for backpacking trips through foreign countries and rock climbing road trips).
I realize this spontaneity isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I have created a map of climbing destinations that are good stops for a solo traveler (meaning ability to find climbing partners). This map is public and editable, allowing anyone to add markers and information. (If you can not edit for some reason, please leave a comment and I will add your suggestions to the map). It is definitely missing information as I can opine only on places where i have visited. For instance, the only place I have climbed in Colorado is Rifle, meaning this really is the only destination I have added.
Map legend: The markers are colored for the type of climbing for which the area is known. Green = trad. Blue = Bouldering Red = Sport. Yellow = All.
If you are fortunate and have a traveling mate, your options are definitely wider. I came across a google map of rockclimbing the world. When I first came across it I thought it was fab, but now I realize it is incomplete. Still a good resource and should be included on this post, but also means that perhaps I will make my own map of world destinations.
Rock Climb the World Map. Author unknown. He/she states it is open to public edit, but I don’t see how I can edit when I am logged into my account.
Do you have any suggestions or thoughts? If so, please comment or reach out to me.
I stopped by my friend Erich’s blog the other day. He lives in Boone and is always taunting us blog readers with his pics of fabulous gneiss lines. Sigh. So, I thought I would throw up some pics of my own from this past summers adventures.
Ben going for the redpoint attempt on ‘Social Values’ in Causey. Such a great line!
The view from Dog Lake trail in Millcreek Canyon (in Salt Lake).
Pang insisting that we do all crack boulder problems in Joes. I insisted on all crimp lines.
Josh in Indian Creek. Yes, we climbed there in August.
Ben on a variation of ‘Variety Delight’ in Little Cottonwood.
Guillaume bouldering in Big Bend.
Pang on ‘Big Man on Campus’ in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
A good handful of my friends like to use the bowline knot rather than the figure eight when sport climbing. The reason of preference is usually because the bowline knot is easier than the figure eight to untie after loaded with pressure (a fall) making it ideal when projecting a line. I had yet to learn this knot well enough to visually check it, having to double check the knot by inquiring of the climber if it looked correct. As a belayer I feel like I should understand everything that is going on with a climb, including the knot, ensuring that I can personally double check everything. So today I watched this video to learn. It’s cheezey, but does a good job at explaining the technique.
If you have any other useful resources to learning the bowline or other important knots, please feel free to comment.
I absolutely love my birthday (August 18!) since it is the only “holiday” I celebrate. Last year I started the tradition of working on a birthday challenge with 2008 being spent jamming out 28 routes in a day (epic!).
This year I turned 29 and now prefer bouldering, so wanted to search out 29 new (meaning never been sent by me) boulder problems in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
On the “magical day” the temps were fabulous, with a high of perhaps 80.We started at 7:30 am and finished around 6:30pm.I had a couple friends (Guillaume and Camilo) who climbed with me all day with others who popped in and out through out the work day, with a good crew showing up for the last couple problems at the Split Boulders. (It was really nice of everyone to show up… thank you!)
Trying for the send of Shingles Stand.
The 29 boulder problems weren’t nearly as hard as the routes, mostly because we were focusing on easy problems in order to get in the needed quantity before our tips were too sore and because I still have a lot of boulders to explore in LCC, making “new” problems very accessible. The 29 ended up being:
Easy Arete v1 (Secret Garden)
The Bulge v1 (Secret Garden)
Go Right v3 (Secret Garden)
The Scoop v1 (Secret Garden)
Cynthia’s Arete v2/3 (Secret Garden)
Space v0 (Secret Garden)
The Plane v0 (Secret Garden)
Left Arete v1 (Secret Garden)
Crystal Move v1 (Secret Garden)
Face v0 (Secret Garden)
Unnamed v0 (Secret Garden)
Jug Haul v3 (Secret Garden)
West Face of the Tower v1 (Secret Garden)
Tower Crack v1 (Secret Garden)
Walkathon v0 (Secret Garden)
Jugs v0 (White Pine South)
Warm Up Arete V0 (White Pine South)
Eastern Ways V1 (White Pine South)
Wacko Variation v4 (White Pine South)
Wacko v3 (White Pine South)
Fang v2 (White Pine South)
Ramp Move v1 (White Pine South)
Pinch Me v0 (White Pine South)
Rooted v3 (White Pine South)
Arse v2 (White Pine South)
Stacie’s Face V1 (White Pine South)
Arete v0 (Split Boulders)
Fook Yu v1 (Split Boulders)
Big Mouth (AKA Man Eater) v1 (Split Boulders)
I also attempted the following:
Rub My Butt v4 (Secret Garden)
Shingles Stand v4 (Secret Garden)
Drive By v2 (Secret Garden)
Over the Top v4 (White Pine South)
Hidden Fish v2 (White Pine South)
Karate v5 (White Pine South)
Full Mindy v5 (White Pine South)
Mr Smiley v6 (Split Boulders)
Overall, I hopped on a total of 37 problems and finished up the night drinking wine and beer at the house with friends. Yet another perfect 8/18. Seriously, thank you to all of you who came out for climbing and drinks. I really appreciate it.
Camilo loving the Lone Star Taqueria.
Next year is the big 30 and I am already brainstorming a new adventure. If you have any suggestions, please comment as I would love to hear all ideas.
I’m not quite sure why I have been slow to post lately as I have had content just waiting in the coffers. Oh well… better late than never.
Picture by Patrick Lionais.
As mentioned in my previous post, blog reader Lydia had sent in an email with 3 questions regarding travel. Here is question #2 with response.
What do you think was the biggest challenge on your trip?
As a preface to this question, please note that the trip was fantastic and I would highly, highly suggest everyone take some time off in their life to do a climbing trip or an extended travel (non-climbing trip) as the experience is invaluable (I am still hoping to do an around the world trip at some point). However, there will definitely be a handful of challenges that present themselves. These challenges will vary for each individual, but these were the three largest that I faced.
Feeling Lost – It is easy to feel “lost” while living on the road. I am a very goal oriented person and I noticed I felt lost for the first 6 weeks, not understanding why exactly I hit the road. (Yes, that sounds silly.. but I definitely met other people who felt the same way.)The key was for me to make goals.Sure climbing goals were good, but I made other goals of things I wanted to accomplish. I had to look at it from the perspective that I had a 10-month break from real life and decide what I wanted to do with this time.I ended up with a list of goals that included a number of books I wanted to read, a daily time frame to try and learn French, learning to become more comfortable with the terminal window (um, I like geeky things like that), and I focused on journaling, trying to understand patterns in my life that I perhaps wanted to change upon getting home.
Loneliness Sets In – I was surprised at how loneliness could just creep up out of nowhere.I was traveling solo, how I usually travel, but I had yet to do such an extended trip by myself.There were definitely time periods of loneliness.Not loneliness for a significant other, but loneliness for a friend who already knew my story: someone who already knew my job, my family situation, my travels, just me.Upon meeting people there was always a “data dump” where people asked the usual questions and sometimes I just missed the familiarity of a good friend.And even though a good friend at home should have been just a phone call away, I noticed they really weren’t for the sole reason that we were living completely different lives. Interestingly, I made new SLC friends (a couple who I had met right before my trip and a couple that just reached out to me through my blog) that had lived on the road and new the highs and lows… and these people became dear friends. (A great example of this being my friend, Melissa.)
Finding Your Groove Upon Arriving Home – I think the hardest challenge for me was finding my place upon arriving home. I have been home 3 months and have yet to find this groove. I think it is because I was coming home to yet another time of transition of finding a new home, finishing one job, finding a new job, hoping to make a move to a new destination, etc. I have had a surprisingly rough time …. but I think the takeaway is for me to learn patience and just believe that things will work out how they are supposed to when the timing is right.
Hope this helps you out, Lydia. Thanks again for writing in.