Riveting Travel

When I left my job a few years ago, I wasn’t sure what job I’d want to do next.  I have never looked for a job in my life, things have just evolved naturally and easily.  Some call it lucky, some call it lazy.  Either way, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, and thinking about it was new to me.

While I was traveling and learning about the world and myself, I started writing.  When I was younger I used to write, but for decades this passion was dormant.  But, slowly at first, and then with more and more energy, it started to reawaken.

I spent a year and a half writing.  Going to conferences.  Attending workshops.  Meeting with writing groups.  Reading books.  And writing.  I started this blog, I wrote several children’s books and I completed a novel.

And, I am still writing.  It feels great to have ideas run through my head, and to chase them from my head onto the paper.  It is a challenging and rewarding craft.

Last summer, another opportunity fell into my lap.  I still wasn’t looking for an actual job, but a friend started a company and he wanted me to be the general manager.  I offered him three days a week.

Nine months later I am working 60 hours a week for this new gig.  It is an internet news radio company called Rivet News Radio, and we launched our app on iOs in December.

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I would never in a million years have applied to work as general manager of an internet news mobile app.  I don’t have any experience in journalism, broadcast or otherwise.  I have never launched a consumer mobile app.  I have never been involved in VC fundraising.  Or even really been a radio news person.

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But, I am a crazy internet news junkie.  During my travels over the last 3 years I have become a BBC fanatic.  My friends make fun of me for how many times a week I forward them articles from BBC.com that I think they’ll find interesting.

It makes sense.  I am interested in the world around me, so finding out current events is relevant to me.  More often than not, I have been to the cities and countries being discussed, and/or I know people living there.

So, working with the news is just an extension of my passion about travel.  I wouldn’t have put that together myself, but here I am.

You can call it lazy or lucky; I call it happy.

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Lietuva Part III: The Surreal Highlights

  • Sitting in the Minister of Information’s office, being asked what I suggested his country do to gain admittance to the European Union.
  • Being left in The Colonel’s car in the middle of Soviet block housing for hours in the freezing cold while my Dad and The Colonel delivered care packages to people.
  • Pounding on my Dads’ aunt and uncle’s door unannounced at 1am, and staying up for four hours with them and their daughters as they prepared an impromptu family reunion party.
  • Hiking up to the top of a cobblestone path on a broken ankle to get a view of Vilnius, panorama-style.

In rereading this entry, and the previous entries about my trip, I’ve realized it may sound like I am whining.  Far from it.

This was an experience I am grateful for.  Traveling with my Dad to his homeland enabled me to understand him so much better.  Seeing the museums, eating the food, hearing the music, all rendered a terribly potent appreciation for my heritage far more than before.

Meeting the incredibly warm, hospitable, funny, and smart people has made me proud to be called Lithuanian.

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Lietuva Part II: The Tale of The Vodka and The Ankle

The first time I went to Lithuania was ten years ago.  I bought my Dad a ticket for Christmas, and we made the trip in early spring.

My Dad greeted me at the airport in Vilnius, drunk, with a Colonel from the Lithuanian army who was somehow commandeered into becoming my Dad’s chauffeur.

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I should back up and clarify a few things:

1)   My Dad went a few days early, since I had to work and was limited to a one-week vacation.  So, it was after several days of family reunion parties that he was meeting me at the airport.

2)   The fact that my Dad was inebriated when he met me wasn’t a big surprise.  First, see point 1 above.  Second, anyone who has met my Dad would smile and chuckle when I say that, even if there weren’t several days of family reunion parties involved.

3)   The fact that my Dad had somehow managed to get an official of the Lithuanian army to serve as his driver wasn’t shocking, either.  It’s not that my Dad has a crazy amount of clout.  He has a crazy amount of chutzpa, and a fair amount of luck.

The Colonel drove us to my Dads’ wifes’ cousin’s farm outside of Kaunas, where I was greeted with a warmth and enthusiasm that was touching.  And overwhelming.  The only English speaker was the eight-year-old, and she was also the only shy person in the whole family.  So, things were a little chaotic for my jet-lagged brain to process.  And even more so once the bottle of vodka was opened, the Euro-techno music started playing, and the dancing began.

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I woke up the next morning not being able to see (my glasses were missing), with a broken ankle, severely hung over, with a camera full of great photos (mostly taken from the floor, I presume, after I had broken my ankle), and with no clue as to where my Dad was.

When my Dad returned from the store (The Colonel had taken him to get more beer), I asked to go to a doctor for my ankle.  This was the first of a series of repeated requests over the next few days, all of which were met with sympathy, and an alternative suggestion (we wrapped it in a bandage, rubbed it with ointment, went in search of a psychic healer – twice – and kept me pumped full of anti-inflammatories and pain killers).

After a hike to see the carp farm, the Colonel took my Dad and I to our new home: army barracks.

I should back up and clarify a few more things:

1)   Visiting a carp farm when one is hung over should be avoided at all costs.

2)   Walking through the muddy, uneven fields of a carp farm when one has a broken ankle should be avoided at all costs.

3)   Sleeping in the army barracks when one is a single, foreign woman should be avoided at all costs.

But hey, the best experiences are the ones that involve a little discomfort and misfortune..

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We’ll Always Have Machu Picchu

I love my dad, but we don’t have a whole lot in common.

My dad was born in Lithuania before WWII.  During the war his family escaped via France and Canada to the USA.  They settled in Chicago, which has a pretty large Lithuanian community.

He joined the army.  After he married my mom he was stationed in North Carolina and Texas.  Then, he was sent to Vietnam.  And, I have great photos of him and my mom having a rendezvous in Hawaii while he was there.

After my parents were divorced he did some work for the army in Madagascar and Lithuania.

Once we were in high school, he would take my sister and me to Jamaica or Mexico for our annual vacations with him.  Today, he and his wife, Stase, still love taking trips to Mexico and Jamaica.

There is a lot more to my dad outside of his travel biography, but I really don’t know that much about it.  And, if you asked him about me, I am not sure he would be able to tell you very much.

But, one thing we have always been able to connect on is traveling.  When my sister and I were little, my dad used to take us on vacations every Christmas, Spring Break and summer.  We would go to places like the Wisconsin Dells, Indiana Dunes, Jamaica, Mexico.  Almost all of our joint memories involve traveling.  One of our favorite stories is the time we rented a car in Mexico, and it ran out of gas in the jungle and we had to hitch a ride into town with a truck, my sister and I smashed in the cab, and my dad standing on the bumper, hanging onto a chain.

Now that I can take him places, we have gone to Lithuania, St Petersburg, Moscow, Estonia, South Carolina, Colorado and Peru.  He gets so excited to see all these new places, and I love being able to give him those experiences.

The nice thing about traveling is that we have plenty to talk about without ever running out of topics:  the new food we are trying, the music around us, etc. etc. etc.  We can relax in each other’s company, and enjoy the moment, without feeling awkward that outside of the love we have for each other, we really don’t have a lot in common.  We have travel, and that’s enough.

Books In Flight: Our Common Ground

I was a bitchy teenage daughter to my mom. I think back on my behavior now, and cringe.  At times, I was argumentative to the point of being down right hostile.

The two of us battled on a daily basis (on the days, of course, that she was in town and wasn’t traveling).

But, we had one common ground, an area that was neutral territory, that we could talk about without causing any friction: reading.

And, because my mom traveled so often, she would feed our shared addiction with a continuous supply of books she had purchased at the airport and read on her latest flights.  My bookshelves are full of these books from her, books she would hand to me after she finished them.  We would talk about them with warmth, and without any fear of tripping each other’s sensitive emotional landmines.

We read all kinds of these books, but the most common were: Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Robert Ludlum and John Grisham.

To this day, when I go into an airport bookstore, these memories make me smile.  And, that smile is especially bittersweet if there is a new book from one of these authors, since I know if my mom were still alive she would have already beaten me to buying and reading it, and would be waiting for me to finish it so we could talk about it.

My Mom Died While Traveling

I know that’s a shocking title, but it’s the truth.  And it conveys how pervasive travel really is throughout my life (and was through hers).  But, the odd truth is that she died on a work trip, as did her dad.  Even odder, he was traveling from Chicago to California, and she was traveling from California to Chicago.  Live by the sword, die by the sword, so to speak.

My mom was born in Washington D.C., where her dad worked for the Truman administration.  My grandfather used to travel to San Francisco every month,  and once or twice his whole family joined him there.  He died when she was 10, and her mom moved the family to Europe (Italy and Switzerland) for a year.

When they got back stateside, they moved to Chicago, where my grandmother remarried.

My mom went onto college in D.C., and then moved to North Carolina and Texas with my dad after they were married (he was in the army).  When he was deployed to Vietnam, she moved them back to Chicago.

After my parents divorced, we moved with our mom to Arizona, and then California.  We went on lots of trips to places like Hawaii, New York, and more than a few national parks.

My mom’s job was crazy high-travel, mostly back and forth from LA to Chicago.  My sister and I used to joke that she had a second secret family there :).  But, after years of giving her a hard time about her frequent trips to Chicago, they became a blessing.  My sister and I had each moved there after college, and it was so awesome that our mom was out and able to visit with us a couple of times a month!

Weirdly enough, she was in Chicago when she died.  As sad as the whole experience was for us, the silver lining was that she was in Chicago since we could be with her for the whole process of the bypass surgery, recovery, stroke, life support, etc.  And it meant we could bury her in Chicago.  I mean, sure, we could have moved her body if she had died at home in LA, but I don’t think we would have thought about it.   As it was, we buried her in Skokie, and go visit her regularly.  If she hadn’t been traveling at the time of her death, we couldn’t do that.  After giving her such grief for her trips to Chicago, I couldn’t be more grateful for them now.

Welcome to Not on a Digitized Road: Part II

So, in my last entry I explained the charter for this blog.  But I’ve had people ask me about the name itself.

I spent most of my adult life working for NAVTEQ, a company that made digital maps for navigation.  So I’m a little bit of a geek when it comes to maps and navigation systems.

For anyone who has ever used a navigation system, and driven (or walked) beyond where the map has coverage, you were probably prompted with a message warning you that, “You are not on a digitized road,” meaning that the detailed directions will cease, and you are on your own until you return back to civilization.

A couple years ago I quit my job, and was taking a road trip through Kentucky, visiting friends and family.  As I was driving through the back roads, looking at the fall foliage, my navigation system warned me that I was…yep…no longer on a digitized road.

At that moment in my life, that rang very true, and sounded more profound than, I’m sure, the developers of the nav application had intended.  Sure enough, I was not on a digitized road.  I was about to embark on a year-plus of traveling the world.  And when I returned, I was going to try my hand at being an author.  This was all new to me: exciting and unchartered.

I have yet to turn back onto a digitized road — and I am loving every minute of it.