Best of ’09: The One Where I Get Naked and Learn a Lesson

Skipping ahead a bit and doing the Best of 09: Best Lesson Learned. I have a post coming up of my top ten lessons learned, but this one deserved its own post. It was just too good to keep to one little paragraph.

Best 09: The Best Lesson Learned, or How I Learned Not To Be A Prude

Have I told you the story of how I stayed with a nudist stoner in Spain? I didn’t? Well, I think I’m going to have to.

How does a nudist stoner have anything to do with best lesson learned, you may ask. Well, we will need to go into some background basics. You see, I’m an American Prude. defines Prude as One who is excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous. While that definitely does not describe me and many of my friends would probably choke on their own laughter, I have somewhat prudish tendencies when it comes to my body.

That’s not to say I wear turtle necks all the time and dresses down past my knees. I can rock a vneck and mini-skirt like the next one. I’m just….not really into getting naked around other people. I’m fine with nudity in my own home, I’ve been known to walk around naked all the time when I think no one is watching (unfortunately that doesn’t mean I remember to always close the blinds. Hi neighbors!) I sleep naked, I have no problem being naked in front of a significant other if that’s the stage we happen to be at, but put me in a locker room full of other people? And I get all self conscious and shy and shit.This was born around the age of 12 when I sprouted boobs. Puberty was not kind to me. Most girls were in trainer bras at that point but me? OH NO. I shot right past that stage and straight into C cups. It was mortifying. But anyway, this post is not about my boobs and how I was a traumatized pre-teen.

Before we get to the nudist (aka the good part of the story), I have to start at the beginning of this learning process. AKA Learning How Not To Be a Prude. I was in Morocco and Anneke, my traveling partner, wanted to go to a Hammam. I was fascinated by this concept of going to a ridiculously cheap spa and bathing. More fascinating was the cheap massage. The only problem would be there would be lots of other people. Who were naked. Who were going to be looking at me being naked.

The night before Anneke gave me a pep talk in our hotel room. She read stories from the Lonely Planet and I got alittle uncomfortable. I didn’t want women discussing my lady bits much less asking me about them. (I didn’t understand why mine would be any different from THEIRS but I guess the blond hair complex they had extended to…other places.) But I was determined to do it. Of course at the very last minute I started dancing around the idea of not doing it because ohmygod I HAD TO BE NAKED. VERY naked. WITHOTHERPEOPLE. *hives*

We went to a small hammam in the center of the town we were staying at and got paired up with our very own naked bath attendants. We had to strip down to nothing but our bikini bottoms and sit in a room full of other very naked women.¬† Let me tell you. Those bikini bottoms? Didn’t stop this woman. They bathed us, they exfoliated and they put their hands in places I never wanted anyone other than a boyfriend to put there. Even Anneke, an Amsterdammer who was a far cry from even a sixteenth-prude, was feeling uncomfortable as we were manhandled by the woman with the largest breasts I had ever seen.Also the worst case of gravity I had ever seen. Ew.

Sure, the amount of skin that was lost was incredible and I was the cleanest I’d been in two months but the part where the woman put my leg between her massive boobs and and then leaned and called that a massage? COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THAT.

It certainly went well beyond my comfort zone (I don’t think I’ll ever get manhandled in a locker room) and yet, I survived. And while I may have turned several shades of red writing this (believe me, this post has been edited a LOT. TMI may be my middle name sometimes), I’m not as shy about my body anymore. [Side note: The whole Morocco trip was actually a lesson in loosening up: we often had to share bedrooms with doorless bathrooms and have you heard rumors about Moroccan food? THEY ARE TRUE. So um yeah. Lesson in Losing Prudishness LEARNED.]

So where does the nudist stoner come in? I think I’m going to have to take this post into a.. PART TWO.

Yep, I’m going there. Going to the TO BE CONTINUED guns. Until tomorrow…


Best of ’09: Moroccan Whiskey That Looks Like Pot

This post is part of the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge hosted by Gwen Bell.

December 16, 2009: Tea of the Year.

If there’s one thing the Moroccans eat its bread. A whole TON of it. If there’s one thing they drink? Mint tea. It’s what they affectionately call their Moroccan Whiskey. The very first night I was in Fes I was hanging out with this hilarious spanish couple, Nani and Rodrigo, whom I had met in line at customs when I got off the plane. We decided to share a taxi, which lead to us getting a pension to stay at together right in the Medina. After wondering the streets of the Medina (Fes has 9,500 of them.), and somehow not getting lost, we ended up at this restaurant where we had to try two very Moroccan things: Mint Tea and Shisha.

I was instantly hooked on both. Especially the tea. I had to get them to cut back on the massive amounts of sugar they used but once I got it to the right sweetness that didn’t put my teeth in jeopardy, I couldn’t get enough of it.

While I was in Marrakesh we wound up in the spice markets, getting the royal treatment at one particular stand. Free tea, smelling all sorts of spices and Anneke even got a facial. She ended up with several bags full of cooking spices and while I couldn’t justify getting half a kilo of cumin or cinnamon, I could justify getting half a kilo of mint tea. I mean, where else could I get something so yummy?

The only problem was that it looked eerily like marijuana. All green and crystallized and shit. I knew I’d have a problem with it going through US Customs but I thought I could use it up before then. I pulled it out in the hostel in Seville and had a tea making party right there in the lobby that caught the attention of the owner who was watching on a video and came in to see what all the fun was about. Once you smell it you know immediately that its NOT pot (i wish it was. That would be one hell of a big bag of pot!) but it still draws a lot of attention.

I had completely forgotten about it by the time the end of my trip came up in Paris and when I was halfway across the ocean, filling out one of those customs sheets, I realized IT WAS STILL IN MY BAG.

At customs I was asked to go over to the side table to have my bag checked. I was sure that I was going to get thrown into lockdown and yelled at by the FBI for smuggling drugs from Amsterdam (the stamp I was positive they must have seen in my passport). Two women were my handlers and I thought I was in for it.

They then asked to see the tulips I was carrying.

Oh. Yeah those. Never had to show the rest of my bag and I managed to come into the country with a bag of Mint Tea That Looked Like Pot without them even realizing it.


Now if a FBI agent shows up at my house in the next day I’ll know why…

Best of ’09: The 3 Scenes That Equaled the Biggest Rush of 2009

This post is part of the Best of ’09 blog challenge hosted by Gwen Bell.

December 14: Best Rush.

This one was challenging, I will admit. So challenging, that I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, instead there are three moments, all very unique, that equalled up, all together, as the world’s greatest rush this year.

Scene 1: August 6, 2009. Midtown Manhattan.

I had been nervous about this day for months. I had been both welcoming it and dreading it since I had made the decision just a few months earlier and purchased that one way plane ticket to Germany. I came into work that morning and was praying my boss wasn’t going to be in the office, that I would be able to email him and that would be that. I wouldn’t have to actually face him. Three o’clock rolled around though and he came waltzing into the office and I knew that this was it. I had to do this and do it in person.

It took me probably an hour to gather up my courage (and freak out to EVERYONE on GChat), but I walked into his office, closed the door and said the words I had been longing to say for over a year:


Despite expecting to be thrown out of the office and not getting paid for my last week, the resignation went well. He congratulated me on my big life decision and told me that I would have a great time. And I almost called the hospital to send someone immediately because I thought maybe his blood pressure was too low or something even worse.

After walking out of his office I danced my way upstairs and ran around celebrating my freedom with my coworkers, screaming with joy and hugging everyone. That celebration lasted a week and my step was amazingly light and when I took that final sip of champagne my coworkers had gotten me in honor of my very last day, I skipped bittersweetly out of the office into my new life: one free of the negativity that office brought into my life.

Scene 2: August 17, 2009. JFK Airport.

I had almost forgotten to call my banks and credit card companies to let them know I was going to be out of town for a few months so while I stood in line at the gate about to board my Air Berlin flight to Munich, as they were announcing the rows they were seating, I was calling the numbers on the backs of my credit cards and trying to get the message out as fast as I could: I was leaving the USA and I wasn’t coming back any time soon.

I was texting my friends as I sat down, saying my goodbyes. I also was twittering as I waited to go. (click to see larger version)

When the plane (finally) took off, my phone turned off and stored in my purse, and we soared into the clouds above NYC, I knew this was it. This was really happening. I had quit my job and was on my way to to the trip of the lifetime. I definitely did a happy dance in my aisle seat.

Scene 3: November 15, 2009. Paris, France.

Three Months after I had started my adventure I found myself in Paris at my last stop of the trip. The entire trip had been one big high, one big massive rush but it all culminated in this last stop. I had never been to Paris and its one of those places that I had always dreamt of going but had yet to make it to. It hadn’t even made it into the final cut until a month prior, when I had found a ridiculously cheap flight from Barcelona (which I proceeded to abandon and go early). I arrived after taking an overnight bus from BCN and I was exhausted but super excited to be there. After I had checked in and showered, I headed to the Eiffel Tower to meet the Messenger.

I got off the Metro at Trocadero and couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower so I thought¬† maybe I had the directions wrong. I called the Messenger and he said I was in the right place, I just had to walk in the direction the statue was facing. I rounded the corner and there it was. The Eiffel Tower.

I squealed with joy and bounced up and down. I WAS IN PARIS. This, this RIGHT HERE, was the whole reason I was on this trip. That feeling? THAT’S what I was traveling for. I can’t even describe the high, the rush I felt upon seeing the Eiffel Tower. It practically brought tears to my eyes. In fact, every time I saw that building, I was overwhelmed and amazed and wanted to go hug that damn building. I was in PARIS. I was in Europe. I was in love with my life.

I think its safe to say, that this whole trip was my BEST OF 2009.

Best ’09: The Best Place

This blog is part of the Best of 2009 blog challenge hosted by Gwen Bell.

Best Place: A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

Place: Coffee shop in Barcelona where I sat for hours on a daily basis, drinking cappuccinos which turned into glasses of wine, reading a book, having therapy sessions with The Messenger. I wasn’t bothered by the waitstaff to have more and I could just relax. Out of all the places I could choose from–the living room of the hostel on the Isle of Skye that felt so much like home with its fireplace and friendly people, the rooftop terrace of the hostel I stayed at in Sevilla where I could lie in hammocks with a glass of wine during my siestas–this one, this place, really stood out. Its my goal to find a place just like this to hang out in, wherever I end up.

Best of 2009: Life is Such a Wonderful Challenge

This post is part of the Best of 2009 series, hosted by Gwen Bell.

Best Challenge: Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

I sat in the train station in Copenhagen and had a moment of realization. A BIG moment of realization. I was all by myself for the next couple months and it was up to me, and only me, to make sure I got to the end of it in one piece. I had to make the travel plans, I had to figure out where I was staying each night, I had to figure out breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had to do this all on my own.

Its not like I hadn’t lived on my own for nearly 10 years, six of those in New York City. I was used to taking care of myself. So what was the big deal?

Yet my heart was racing and I was almost regretting my decision not to go to Iceland with my dad and brother. I stood in the middle of the train station, where no one spoke a word of english around me, announcements going off here and there and I was all by myself, whether I liked it or not. I was doing this.

I’ve had a few challenges this year; trying not to commit homicide on a horrific coworker and an unappreciative boss, moving in with my parents, quitting my job. By far the best, and most rewarding though was setting off on my travels by myself, without set plans.

For the most part, I didn’t know where I would be the next week, or sometimes even the next day. While this kind of freedom scared me, I also loved it. I loved being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted and I didn’t have to consult with a travel companion. If I wanted to stay in another city for a week instead of the two days initially scheduled, I could do it. .

When I found myself in sticky situations, like when I was in Scotland and a guy showed up at my hostel saying he had a message for me and proceeded to freak me the fuck out, I was the one who had to make the decision to leave early for the sake of my own safety. I had to look out for me.

I was happy when I did have someone to travel with, even if it was the same guy who freaked me out in Scotland, and happy to hike through the mountains by myself, taking in the gorgeous surroundings with just my camera to experience it with me. All that alone time allowed for a lot of soul searching and taking deep breaths and just being. It was the best learning experience not only for who I am and what I can handle, but of who I wanted to be when I came back to reality.

Now I’m faced with a new challenge: living with my parents and figuring out my next steps in life. Is it to return to Europe to continue traveling? Is it getting a real job now and staying in Michigan for longer? Or do I move to a new city and get a job there? The world is my oyster and I can do whatever I want.

Isn’t life such a wonderful challenge?

The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge: Day One.

I heard about this Best of 2009 Blog Challenge through the grapevine and when I read up about it (which you can do here) I decided I must participate. What better way to break in my new blog than by reflecting on the past year? (it makes sense in my head, ok?)

It’s December 1st and the topic today? Best Trip of 2009. I already love it.

2009 for me has been one big adventure. I’ve been to Vegas for my birthday, out to Wyoming to visit my bestie and her baby, to Michigan several times to see family and a ski weekend in Vermont with coworkers to test my running into walls abilities. But none of these trips compare to the biggest adventure of all: quitting my job, packing up my stuff and backpacking through Europe for over three months.

I tried posting about it while I was away but that didn’t really happen unless you count documenting my incident (and subsequent travel) with the Messenger. I don’t think I will ever be able to fully capture my ENTIRE trip–way too much happened. On top of that, I don’t even have a real desire to write about it; it was so life changing and…well I can’t even wrap my brain around how awesome it was. I feel like if I really revisit it, it will lose its specialness.

Yet, there are so many things that stand out in my mind, like:

How it felt to climb Preikestolen in Norway and actually do it, something I was unsure I would be able to do about half way through.

How it felt to not be able to communicate with anyone around me in Spain and having to actually use my little translator book to find out if I could leave a bag in the hotel after I checked out.

How amazing it felt to be able to do whatever I wanted. How, at 9 at night, an hour before I had to be at the bus station, I could decide that I wanted to stay another night and just not go. I had nothing tying me down, or making me go anywhere.

The great connections I made with people; how you would hang out with someone and for that night they’d be your best friend and then the next day you’d part ways to wherever else you were going and the cycle would start all over.

How excited I got over a sit-down toilet and hot water in Morocco after three days of squat toilets, smelly water and dirty beds.

The first rush of adrenaline when the camel lurched upwards and then the amazing peace of riding through the sahara under the stars.

When I rounded the corner in Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower for the very first time and jumped up and down squealing because holy shit I was in Paris. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Being able to laugh so hard til I cried with someone I hadn’t known for very long over three kite surfers losing the battle to the wind.

Riding through the streets of Amsterdam after dark precariously perched on the back of a bike on the way to a party where I was the odd one out in a room full of friends; not feeling left out, but instead one of the family.

Being mesmerized by the most gorgeous boy with the most sultry eyes I’d ever seen while sharing beers and laughs until two a.m. in Bergen, Norway. Subsequently not being able to get his eyes, or how much of a sweetheart he was, out of my mind since.

Having the shit scared out of me by a complete stranger in the middle of nowhere Scotland and then having that same stranger become one of my closest friends over the course of two months of travel.

Getting my nose pierced in Edinburgh on the spur of the moment.

Going into every sex shop in Amsterdam’s red light district and getting high in a coffee shop.

Staying with a nudist stoner in Spain and getting naked in a Hammam in Morocco with a bunch of other women.

Seeing Anne Frank’s actual diary in person and how cool that was. Also how incredibly powerful that museum is.

How amazing it felt to be inside the Sagrada Familia, not because I am religious but because it was such a gorgeous piece of architecture that was still ongoing, by one of my favorite architects.

The power I felt after having my DSLR stolen in the Barcelona bus station but then stealing it back. I felt like I could take on the world.

There are so many things to remember, but out of all this, I will never forget how happy I was.