Tag Archives: travel

Let’s get packing!


In a recent comment on one of Lin’s posts over at the Absence of Alternatives, I let out that I would probably never visit the States. I realize this might sound a bit rash for someone who hasn’t even turned 30 (please let me enjoy being able to say this for just one more year), and truth be told, if it hadn’t been for a since deceased bearded Saudi, I already would have. And it’s not like I don’t want to. For one thing, I dream of seeing every show on Broadway (and you may take this quite literally). My parents have spent their two most recent summer holidays traveling around Arizona/Nevada/Wyoming/Utah/… visiting National Parks and cities whose names I forgot but whose pictures filled me with longing and jealousy. Unfortunately (for myself), I am the lucky owner of a number of obsessionspassions, and one of those evolves around carbon footprinting.

Antelope Canyon, Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona, USA.

Antelope Canyon, AZ. They don't have this in Europe, that's for sure. (Image via Wikipedia)

I have always been very concerned with nature conservation and the like. I remember, even as a kid, telling my mother about recycling, and that she had to separate waste streams of plastic and metal. The poor woman was only barely able to explain to me that it didn’t make much sense to throw them away separately if they weren’t picked up separately (that has fortunately changed). Even to this day I get so obsessed about recycling that I throw my bottles and cans in the trash of the apartment block around the corner (usually under the cover of darkness) because it has separate containers for glass/plastic/metal/… and mine doesn’t. I’ve always used public transportation, and only got my driving license at 25, mostly because my parents kept insisting I get it. Needless to say, I never owned a car. I rarely drink anything but plain tap water, and I’ve been known to come close to dehydration when I forgot my water bottle out or pure stubbornness not to buy bottled water. I travel between Belgium and Sweden by a long, expensive train ride (17hrs, about €170) instead of a quick, cheap flight (6hrs, about €110). And so, I’m sure you understand, even with a GreenSeat certificate my conscience would never survive the torture of my feelings of guilt about throwing 2,46 tons of CO2 in the air. I have, however, found a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve an $800 7-day crossing with the Queen Mary 2

Although... this doesn't look that bad...

I’m just gonna travel through the States via the World Wide Web! Indeed: if an Idiot can cycle coast to coast and Thypolar can shop at WalMart in whichever state she chooses, I sure as hell can visit the States through the interwebz, right? For each state, I will give myself a week of traveling time, so that I would be able to do the whole trip in a year. I’ll research the top sights and must-have-done’s, trying to get a sniff of American history, and alternate with breathtaking hikes and cycling tours. I might even do some culture here and there (although the stars know I was never one for museums). I will then tell you all about what I’ve seen, done, and learned!
Because Lin instigated the idea, I will start my exploration in the state of Illinois and its largest city, Chicago – which, remarkably, is not the capital. I truly thought Springfield was a fictional village inhabited by yellow creatures, but that is obviously my mistake. See, I haven’t even started and I’ve learned something already! If you have any trips for state-seeing, please let me know, and if you’re residing in the US of A: see you soon!

Christmas Eve the scientist way


I spent Christmas Eve at the lab. How geeky can you get?


No, seriously, I did spend Christmas Eve in the lab, but it wasn’t (really) by choice. As has been the case since last Friday, my internet connection at home is still broken, and thus the lab is the only place to connect to the world. I could’ve of course stayed home and watched a movie or so, but we decided to make full use of modern-day technology and I ended up spending Christmas Eve at Ts place. Via Skype.

Webcams on on both sides, they actually put the computer at the dinner table so I could join in the conversation, and later dragged ‘me’ along to the salon for the gift exchange ritual. We always (well… the tradition started last year…) do a Secret Santa thing with the whole family (2 parents, 5 kids and 3 gf/bf make it a big enough group to make it fun). The catch is you’re not allowed to buy a present, you have to make it. Since all of them attended hippie school they are pretty good with crafts and the like (they can sing and each play 15 instruments or sth), so I always feel a bit daunted when I see their presents. Last year for example, I knitted a hat for SE – which I was very proud of, since I had never knitted 4 needles before. This year, NE made a tea hat for her sister, including holes for the pout and the handle, with wool she had made herself. Like in, take what comes from the sheep, clean it, turn it into threads, then knit.

This year, my target was YE, the boyfriend of Ts middle sister. He works at customs in the harbor of Antwerp. And he likes to cycle. That’s about all I know about him. Oh, and he doesn’t like sweets, so baking cookies (always the easy way out ;) ) was out of the question. Finally, I came up with this:

I bought the cheapest water bottle I could find and painted it. Maybe not the most masculine gift ever, but I was pretty pleased with the way it came out, especially when he said that he never drinks enough when he goes cycling – so it will be actually useful. Of course, it’s not a candle shaped like St. Francis or a wooden candle holder, or a mosaic mirror. But I tried :).

And then, as the evening drew to a close, I was silly enough to check the Brussels Airlines site to see if there was any news about my flight tomorrow morning. There was :

This is nót what you want to see on Christmas Eve. I completely freaked out and Ts dad almost jumped in the car to come and get me (which, under good weather conditions, would probably take at least 10 hours. however, there is a reason many flights are delayed: the weather sucks). A refresh of the page 5 minutes later showed the “on schedule” icon, but I’m still pretty shaky. The flight is at 11:40 am, and the train to the airport takes half an hour, so normally I would leave around 10 am, but since a colleague of mine had a train delay of 2 hours, I will be getting up at seven to be on the safe side. T will also be getting up since I can’t check tomorrow morning whether my flight is still leaving (how did people live before the internet??) and if it is even worth it going to the airport at all. Meanwhile, we have decided I will be leaving my christmas presents here and travel with hand luggage only, because there are huge delays in Brussels in the luggage delivery and if there is trouble, I will be more mobile with just a backpack.

This does have the advantage I won’t have to pack too much :D.

Fingers crossed!