The Northern Lights in Iceland

One year ago we were returning from our around the world trip – five continents and 25 countries over 9 months of travels. We saw some incredible things along the way, but the most incredible event came two nights before we came home. I’ll probably write a post about what it’s like a full year after returning, but for now, I’ll let you enjoy the pictures the we took while experiencing the Northern Lights in Iceland.

Showering Without Hot Water

I’ve been somewhat absent from blogging as we’re currently in the middle of a move with a simultaneous renovation.  I even have a post almost complete comparing what the house looked like before and what it looks like now.  However, we’re still in serious renovation and move in mode so the post is still in progress.

In fact, it’s so bad that we’re reverting back to our time traveling the globe!  When we turned on the gas to our house when we finally moved in last week, it smelled like the whole neighborhood was filling with gas!  The gas was turned off the last six weeks while the renovations were ongoing so we didn’t really notice.

So, now we’re stuck living in a house without gas.  It doesn’t affect our cooking too much because our kitchen is still gutted, but it does affect our hot water!  We’ve been without hot water for a few days already, and we have a few days to go.

That leaves a few options – most we used while traveling – cold showers, creative showers, or no showers at all!  Cold showers really aren’t fun so after we took a couple we knew it had to change.  It reminded us mostly of our time in Nepal when we were backpacking through the Himalayan foothills and hot water was hard to find.  No showers happened occasionally while traveling, but as we’re both working now it wasn’t a good option.

Top 8 Taxi Scams Around the World

After nine months of traveling around the world, we experienced our fare share of taxi scams; based on what we experienced and from talking to friends, here are the top 8 taxi scams around the world:

1.  Manipulated Meter (Ho Chi Minh City)

As our taxi driver picked us up from the bus station in Ho Chi Minh City, he was well aware our bus ride from Cambodia probably meant we were new to Vietnam.  As he put our stuff in the trunk, we insisted he use the meter to which he agreed.

As we took off to the hotel, we knew it was only 3-5km away based on our earlier research.  However, I didn’t research how much it should cost!  As the drive went on, we both noticed the meter moving sporadically.  The 20,000 Dong starting rate seemed ok (that was only $1 US), but we noticed it jumping up in large increments.  Every time we looked away, it seemed like the meter would jump even higher.  As he pulled up to our hotel, he stayed a block away to make sure the hotel wouldn’t bust him.  Oh yes, he took us hard.  What should’ve cost us around 80,000 Dong ended up at 500,000 Dong ($25 USD)!!

How to avoid this taxi scam:  Make sure you know approximate taxi amounts for your impending ride by Googling your trip or trying an online site like Taxi Fare Finder.  Next, keep an eye on the meter as some drivers actually have a button or controller they can use to jump the price when you look away!  If the price jumps too sporadically, you might need to take action by telling the driver to stop in a safe spot and paying the amount you researched earlier.
2.  Driving around in circles (Las Vegas)
This one is one of the easier rip-offs for drivers to pull with tourists who are new to a town.  They’ll often take the long way to your destination to rack up higher fees and hope you won’t notice.

Chasing Our Dreams (from Revealing World)

I just had to share Jocelyn’s latest post with you; I may be biased but I think it’s really beautiful art.  If you have 10-15 minutes, it’s well worth a read.
The Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
  Life is but an empty dream!-
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
  And things are not what they seem. 
Life is real!  Life is earnest!
  And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returneth,
  Was not spoken of the soul.
(…poem continues)
I found this poem lying discarded upon a table inside a small home just off the railroad tracks running through a quaint but often overlooked small town in Oklahoma. That home once belonged to my grandmother. It’s where I spent lazy summer days and marveled at my grandmother’s ability to cook, and subsequently burn, every Southern dish to perfection. Now, it’s an empty shell of what it once was, but its serves as “home” for Dan and I as we clumsily and hesitantly decide how to proceed with our lives. The open poetry book, with is cover missing and pages ragged and torn, may not have been simply discarded, but instead perfectly placed.

Taos Pueblo Christmas Eve

I’ve always been somewhat interested in the Native American culture, but after our trip around the world, I gained a whole new appreciation for what we have in the US.  We spent our Christmas holiday in Taos, New Mexico and made it to the Taos Pueblo Christmas Eve Celebration to experience an incredibly powerful night.  I’ll add the full explanation below the incredible pictures Jocelyn took.