I'm Jamie. An American expat living in Taipei, Taiwan. ink adventure is where I share my journey - you'll find travel photos, expat experiences, and bits about life as a blogger/writer living in Taiwan.
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.
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.
Lake Crescent and the hike to Marymere Falls was my first introduction to Olympic National Park, one of several stops we made during our Pacific Northwest road trip.
Olympic National Park is huge. this is not a place you can explore in a day. in a month, or a year... maybe. the park covers the entire central area of the Olympic Peninsula, and creeps up Washington's western coast. we visited six different locations within the park on our trip, and still barely skirted the outside of it.
the Storm King ranger station was still closed for the season, so when we arrived at Lake Crescent we were greeted by the feathered welcome wagon instead. with lakefront views like this -- and after being cooped up in the car all day -- I didn't mind. we were traveling all the way from the San Juan Islands down to Forks that day, so a stop for fresh air and to stretch our legs was more than welcome.
it was already late afternoon when we stopped. but a short and mostly flat 2 mile round trip hike to spy Marymere Falls was too tempting to resist.
as the sun sank lower, the temperature dropped and I vowed to buy another layer because my teeth were chattering. [though right now the weather in Taipei is so hot and humid that I feel like a steamed dumpling and I'd gladly go back.]
the hike was wet, and the trail was muddy. there was not a dry surface anywhere to be found. in the moments that the light rain stopped, the green leaves still dripped down on us from above. but... we didn't mind that much.
because the silent forest was also full of magic. smiling skull-shaped rocks and twisted roots, moss and ferns and tree trunks bigger than my arms could reach around. and the air -- fresh and earthy and so, so clean. it felt like I was hiking into a fairytale, and I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest for the third time in as many days.
by the time we reached Marymere Falls, I had given up hope of keeping my lens dry. I was freezing cold and wet and muddy... but it was still just magical.
it wasn't the most impressive waterfall that we visited that trip, but it was special because it was the first. with my hands so cold [and my camera perilously damp] I shoved my hands in my pockets and just looked on the way back. the light was slanting through the tall, proud trees in the the most gorgeous way. it lit up the tiny raindrops and the gleaming dark wood and electric green leaves. likely in a way my hopelessly smeared lens could never capture.
but the mental pictures are there, the memory of it. and I value that more.
my thirty-third birthday was a few weeks ago, which means a few days after that, this blog turned six.
sharing a birthday/blogiversary post is kindof a tradition around here, and though I've been slow to get back in the swing of regular posting, I couldn't let the occasion drift by unmarked.
so here are six facts about this blog, and thirty-three randoms bits about me:
1-- I came up with the name "ink and adventure" as we were driving back to Princeton from the job fair in Boston where Luke was first hired to teach in Taiwan. I actually launched with the name "hello, adventure" because I was nervous about the ink part implying I was a writer. [yeah, I know.] it lasted for maybe a month before I changed it to this title -- the one that just felt right in my heart.
2-- there have been 493 posts published on this blog. [16 have been reverted back to drafts. anyone remember the nail files?] the hands down most popular post of all time: 10 days in Bali packing list. it's definitely not the most minimal or useful packing post I've done, but Pinterest just loves this one.
3-- ink and adventure has had too many design changes to count, but I'm proud to say that I've created them all myself. I'd like to think as I went through phases in life and grew as a person, my blog also changed to reflect that.
4-- I shared the highest number of posts in 2014, but earned the most pageviews in 2016 [with a third of the posts.] 2017 wins for annoying marketing emails and unrelated guest post offers received. November 2012 was my most prolific month thanks to scoot crash recovery, with 16 posts published.
5-- of all the thousands of photos that I've shared on this blog, there have maybe been 5 that I have not taken myself. [this doesn't count those from the random month of guest posts I did, or the hundreds of photos my poor husband has been subjected to taking of me -- several included here --but I still think that's pretty impressive.]
6-- I have debated deleting this blog a hundred thousand times. I have thought for hours about changing the content I share [and, actually, have changed it.] I'm not sure where the future will lead us, but at the end of six years I am so happy to have all these memories to look back on.
1-- this birthday post feels weird compared to last year's. but as I'm writing this from Starbucks two weeks belated, I'm just going to roll with it.
2-- I love lists. I love making them, and I love checking them off. sometimes I will add something I've already done to my to-do list, just so I can have the joy of crossing it out.
3-- next month I get to go back to Tokyo Disney and I am so.freaking.excited.
4-- but aside from that, I will be spending this summer in Taiwan. for the first time. it's going to be really sticky and hot, but I'm also looking forward to exploring this island in a new way.
5-- BUT. so long as our savings plan stays on track, we are hoping to take some really exciting adventures in the year ahead.
6-- I write almost every day. it's usually just in my journal, but it's become such a habit that I hardly consider it writing anymore. [also, I get really cranky if I don't write.]
7-- of the twenty countries that I've traveled to, New Zealand is my favorite. and probably always will be. I would move there in a heartbeat, even if it meant living in a campervan forever. [actually... that would be awesome.]
8-- despite gardening skills running in my mom's side of the family, the only plants I can manage to keep alive are ceramic cacti.
9-- I still wear my hair in braided pigtails. those are cool again, right?
10-- it [usually] takes me a long time to make a decision, but once I've weighed all my options, done the research and made my choice -- I go all in.
11-- my mom mailed me a letterboard for my birthday and I'm kindof obsessed. also, half the messages I have put on it thus far have to do with wine.
12-- I've always been a writer. I can't remember a time when I wasn't making up stories, scribbling secrets in notebooks, or in search of the perfect writing implement.
13-- the book I'm currently writing has been a huge source of joy in my life. revising and editing aren't actually fun, but I've been known to squeal and jump up and down when I think of a new plot point. and sometimes leap out of bed in the middle of the night to run into my office and scribble down a thought before it escapes.
14-- related: the wall of my office is plastered in a mess post-it notes. half of them are in latin or french. the other half have been re-written after I deciphered my 4am in the dark handwriting
15-- my biggest pet peeve about living in Asia is the difference in how personal space is perceived. basically: you get the amount of space that your body physically occupies, and not a millimeter more. and actually, sometimes less.
16-- IKEA has become my new Target. [since there is no Target in Taiwan.] the only thing that reigns me in is that I have to hand carry all of my purchases home.
17-- I still use an actual planner, because the glide of ink on paper makes me happy.
18-- I hate facebook, but it's a necessary evil as an expat. I go through phases of trying to use it in a way that's less distasteful. but mostly, I'd rather have actual conversations with people to be updated on their lives.
19-- I would almost always rather be wearing pajamas.
20-- and if I can't wear pajamas or workout clothes, then a dress.
21-- I'm a video game nerd. husband bought me a Nintendo DS for my birthday, and it is designed to look like Pikachu's face. and I love it.
22-- as much as I'm enjoying Pokemon Ultra Sun, the Legend of Zelda series is still my all time favorite video game franchise. [BUT I am still dreaming of the day they release a game where Zelda is the main player.]
23-- even though I am gluten and lactose intolerant, pizza is still my favorite food.
24-- oddly enough, moving closer to the MRT has gotten me out to explore more of our own neighborhood instead of the rest of the [now easily accessible] city.
25-- washi tape is the solution to 80% of my problems.
26-- I'd rather stay in and split a bottle of wine with a friend or two, sitting on someone's couch than go out and have a fancy drink at a bar.
27-- turquoise is apparently my favorite color. I've been working on decorating our apartment and nearly everything I put up is some shade of blue or green or in between.
28-- instead of feeling guilty that I haven't blogged about so many of my adventures these past few years, I've decided that time has been a good way to winnow through and let me pick the best things to share. [sometimes us travel bloggers can be obsessed about posting every small thing we saw or did.]
29-- three really simple things that make me happy: kittens, sunshine, and wine.
30-- when I get food cravings, they are 80% for something salty and crunchy [potato chips] 15% for something green and leafy [no really, I crave salad] and only 5% for chocolate or sweets.
31-- I've started going to bed at 9pm and waking up at 6 or 7. I don't care if it makes me a grandma, I love it. I get so much more done with my day.
32-- the past two years have been the hardest of my life. I've struggled with both my physical and mental health, and had to fight every day to do anything beyond just taking care of myself. it was hell, and I would never want to relive it, but I know it's made me so much stronger.
33- I'm relying on that strength to help me make 33 a better year. I'm hoping that it brings fierce self-love, heaps of creative energy, peace of mind, and of course -- lots of adventure.
[and a few more happy but blurry moments like this, please.]