Like Riding a Bike

March 21st, 2019

You know the expression about never forgetting how to ride a bike?  Well, I tested it out today on Palau Ubin, an offshore island in Singapore.  I was looking for something to do after I checked in at the airport for my early flight to the Maldives tomorrow, and saw this island mentioned on a number of online “top attractions” lists.  Since it is accessed by the Changi Village Ferry Terminal and the airport is also in the suburb of Changi, I figured it sounded perfect.

I got to chatting with the hotel concierge, and he said  it was a good choice, since the island looks pretty much like Singapore looked before the colonial days.  He told me the best way to get around Palau Ubin is by bicycle. I responded without hesitation, “I think  I’ll just walk around a bit.” Then, as I was in the cab, I had a conversation with myself that went something like this:

Brave Laurel:  You know, you were planning on doing some bicycling this summer in the Baltic, since you have been to the ports many times before and that would be something different to do.

Chicken Laurel: Well, yes, but I was going to practice when I got home…

Brave Laurel: But this island is flat and it would be the perfect spot just to see how it goes.

Chicken Laurel: But I haven’t ridden a bike for over fifty years!

Brave Laurel: That will still be true in San Diego or the Baltic. If you won’t do it today, what makes you think you will do it then?

Chicken Laurel: Oh, okay, I’ll check out the bikes and if they look pretty basic, I’ll …well, I’ll think about it.

Fast forward. I have now ridden over to the island  on a “bumboat” (private boats that offer ferry service). This photo of the taxi service will give you an idea of the infrastructure of the place. Not a car or even a tuktuk in sight, and I wonder whether taking a taxi means you just jump onto the handlebars.


Then to my existential dread, I passed by a bike rental place.  The proprietors called out to me to rent one of their bikes.

Chicken Laurel: “Well….maybe.  I’ll have to think about it.”

Brave Laurel:  Bad, bad girl!

The proprietor pointed to a bike, and I agreed to go up the road a few yards to see if I could avoid maiming myself or someone else.  I actually did it without crashing, but it was pretty terrifying because the bike seemed so bulky.  The owner found another, scaled-down version, and I tried that out.  Lo and behold,  I managed a little better.

Brave Chicken Laurel set out on the bike and discovered several things.  First I was okay if I was not going too fast or anything other than in a straight line.  Second, that is not always possible, and I did a lot of stopping to make minor adjustments in my trajectory if I had to turn or found myself headed for a ditch. I also have no thigh strength for anything more than a slight incline.  But all that is minor compared to the thrill that Brave Laurel had won.

The  ride was beautiful, as this one image will show.

Forty  minutes later I brought the bike back. If you picture me whizzing down the road with my hair blowing back and my girlhood bike skills miraculously resurrected, forget it.    My fingers were twisted with cramps from having gripped the handlebars so tightly the whole time, and I felt halfway to a heart attack with anxiety, but I did it—

I did it!  I even managed a sweeping turn back to the shop by the end, although it almost landed me in the grass.  I beamed all the way back on the boat.

And yes, riding a bike after fifty years is just like—well, like riding a bike. You don’t forget the basics, but the rest is a different matter.  Chicken Laurel is not salivating to do it again, but the primary question of whether I am capable of it has been answered in the affirmative.

Here I am with my bike, below.  Too bad the photo the bike shop owner took makes it look as if I have gained fifty pounds, or maybe it’s just that the photo got a little stretched out in the post,   but I am so stoked about this accomplishment that I will share it anyway.

I think the conversation Brave and Chicken Laurel were having was really about something else altogether.  It was about pushing past boundaries and fulfilling promises to myself about not being so risk-averse that I miss out on the best things about being alive.  I rediscovered snorkeling in the Philippines and bike riding in Singapore.  I am rooting for Brave Laurel to keep Chicken Laurel on the straight and narrow, but in bike riding, sooner or later, I’ll have to learn how to turn.






Happy Travelersary!

March 16th, 2019

This morning I got off the ship in Singapore on the first anniversary of My Year of Living Travelly. Now officially I have to make that plural, since I am booked pretty solid for the next twelve months.

On March 16 2018, I set out from San Diego to the  Amazon with my friend Jane Halsey to start my adventure.  Here we are, ready to go!

And here I am, exactly one year later, with friends, Dayle and Larry, who by coincidence are in Singapore waiting to get on the ship I left this morning. I met them on that first voyage, from Manaus, Brazil to Monte Carlo, so they are in a sense the bookends to the year.

Looking back through the photos of this amazing year—visiting nearly 30 countries and every continent but Antarctica—I found this photo of me sporting my favorite slogan, “Home is Where the Anchor Drops.

Note the two-fisted champagne.  I was holding  the photographer’s as well as my own, though some who have traveled with me may doubt that explanation, and with good cause.

That tee shirt got me thinking, because I am not sure I agree anymore.

Home is where my suitcases are. Even when I am back in San Diego, I live out of suitcases, because my condo is rented out. I really don’t have a home now.

Home is my wallet.  Money and credit cards make everything okay.

Home is crawling into bed, wherever that might be.  Right now it is a hotel bed in Singapore I am snuggled into as I write this.

Home  is seeing and touching my passport as I travel.  Yes, I compulsively worry about that,  and giving it a little pat is strong reassurance that I am okay.

Home is wherever  I put my toothbrush.  Much of the time as I move around I can’t remember exactly what pocket of which bag it is in  (example: right now), but it’s another thing it is very grounding to locate.

Home is having local currency.  Many places take dollars, but I still feel better knowing I have money for the taxi or the food hawker. Makes me feel at least marginally more local.

Home is FaceTime with Dan.  It is so nice to know he’s there, and that he’s got my back.

Home is clothes that still fit.  All’s right in the world when  I can zip up my pants and button my shirt. Add to that, home is when the laundry is newly done, and I have a choice of anything I want to wear.

Home is email and Facebook. Because home is friends, even many time zones away.

Home is pulling out a room key that (miraculously) I have not managed to lose.  Home is the absence of such annoyances.

Home is taking my shoes off after a loooong tour day.

Home is knowing I have a posse of friends on board.  I know so many crew and usually find a few lovely passengers fairly quickly. On this last cruise, when my hard drive crashed, I knew there were so many people who would help in any way they could.

Home is the latest hurdle surmounted, whatever it is.

Home for me is not an address anymore.  It isn’t a strucure with a roof and walls.  Home is where I am.  More than that, home is me being who I am. Home is saying “I got this”about whatever comes up. Home is simply feeling grounded and adequately in control. No anchor needs to drop. I carry all the home I need with me.




March 11th, 2019

This cruise has marked a first for me.  I have to admit that, despite having a lot of fun with the guests and crew,  I am eager to get off the ship in Singapore in a few days.  There are a couple of reasons for this, the most compelling of which is that the meltdown of my hard drive has affected my comfort zone.

I am glad to have a good backup plan—and I am so relieved I do—but I don’t like having to rely on it. There’s a drone of worry that my slides won’t pull up from my flash drive onto the laptop in the show lounge, and even when they do, the formatting and some of the builds vanished in the exporting from Mac to PC, and things aren’t exactly the way I want them. So far so good, with two lectures to go, but it hasn’t been good for the peace of mind I usually have in abundance.

The second is that, as far as I can recall, this is the first back-to-back cruise I have done with the identical itinerary in reverse.  Some of the ports are good for one day but a bit thin for two (and in a few cases, three), so my eagerness to go ashore has been depleted, especially when the weather is as hot and humid as it has been. I am usually fine with “been there, done that,” kinds of ports because at the very least, it’s a different day, different people, different possibilities for serendipity.  Still,  I am a bit tired, and not really as up for that as I might be. Better get used to repetition  because this summer i will be going around and around in the Baltic for two months!

Third, this has been a long assignment for me.  I left home in early December, beginning in Bali, and not ending until Athens in May—five months total, and I am now into the fourth month.  I have been on and off ships, but mostly on.  It’s so long without a break,  because Australia and Asia are so far away that going home and coming back was too gruesome to consider when I set up my schedule.  Getting my life essentially for free while onboard was a huge part of the equation in pulling together My Year of Living Travelly, and paying the bills for land expenses can get pretty steep for a community college pensioner, so I set it up to have as much of the former and as little of the latter as possible— at most about nine or ten days on land at a time.

Still, this is the life for me.  I look forward to getting my laptop problem fixed, and expect that will put some bounce in my step.  And then—Bucket List!—I am off to the Maldives, a cluster of islands in the Indian Ocean, on an itinerary that will work its way back to Singapore,  with most stops, including Sri Lanka, in places I have never been, or am eager to see again.  I can’t wait!  But first a little recovery time, for my laptop, and me.