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“…A Trip Takes Us.” May 21, 2013

Posted by Jen Pappas in B-Sides, Poems and Misc..
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“A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” – John Steinbeck

The other day, I finished reading John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley – In Search of America for the first time. I must admit, its left me itchy to travel again and slightly irritated that I have no pending travel plans. Hell, I’ve been married nine months and still haven’t taken a honeymoon. My passport is morose.

As I neared the end of the book, I realized something rather obvious – about reading and traveling. It’s not the immense beauty of Montana skylines and roadside diners that make me want to pack up and go, it’s the endless monologue that goes on in one’s head – that’s what I truly want. On a true journey, one can’t help but feel like a newborn baby, seeing the world and people and signage in archaic fonts for the first time. Everything is a miracle. Wonder, patience, confusion… you feel it all like so many refractions of conflicting light all day, every day. It’s exhausting, but it changes you. Indelibly.

Idle days. Chance conversations. Human connection. Heartbreaking interactions that have nothing to do with you – yet do. This is what Steinbeck’s book makes me yearn for. “I fear the disease is incurable.”



The Kiss April 5, 2012

Posted by Jen Pappas in Costa Rica Posts, Poems and Misc..
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from August 6, 2009 Journal Entry

Today after our run, we sat down on the lounge chairs by the pool to stretch and finish sweating. A yellow butterfly kept circling my shoulders as I stretched, finally landing on the back of my shirt – mistaking the bright emblem for a flower. It perched for a moment before flying away. I took the shirt off and handed it to Steve who bunched it up so only the flower-like logo was showing. We waited. After a moment, the butterfly again landed on what it took to be a flower. Slowly, Steve brought the shirt closer and closer to his face until he was nose-to-wing with the creature. I held my breath, watching as he bent ever closer, rubbing the tip of his nose against one yellow wing, giving it an eskimo kiss.

It was as intimate as writing a letter.

Ode to Rosario April 5, 2012

Posted by Jen Pappas in Poems and Misc., Rosario.
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Ode to Rosario

journal entry

Slices of Bogotá June 8, 2011

Posted by Jen Pappas in Bogota, Poems and Misc..
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from December 19, 2009 Journal Entry

Bogotá smells delicious: fresh sliced pinapple and mango intermingle with grilled corn, hot coffee, melted cheese rellenas, and other unnameable foodstuffs wafting out of open doorways. The cobblestone streets even let off a cool, earthy smell unlike the sewer stench and general decay of any other big city in the world.

The air is thin. The clouds barely budge an inch until evening when the chill disperses their languor, revealing a calm, deep night. Teenagers gather in the plazoleta and narrow alleyways of Calle 2, sipping boxed wine out of colorful straws, laughing between blots of conversation. We pass by slowly, as if they’d ask us to join them if only they could decipher the childlike curiosity – the desire to belong on our faces in the dark.

Crowds shuffle slowly down Carrera 7, elbowing one another without malice to get a better look at the various goods laid out on the street’s parade of plastic tarps. Everywhere people are shouting their wares: “Tamales!” “Llamas!” “Fruta!” It’s a maddening collision of sight, sound, smell and incidental brushes with humanity. Which brings me back to my original point, Bogotá smells delicious.

Passing Time May 25, 2011

Posted by Jen Pappas in Poems and Misc..
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As many long-term travelers know, there’s a lot of downtime on the road, and not just in train stations or on overnight buses. One can’t spend their entire day sight-stumbling, drinking and meeting people. As much as I’d like to challenge the notion, one can’t spend their whole day reading and writing either. So when we weren’t out exploring, people-watching or eating, Steve and I played a lot of games – namely Travel Scrabble and Cribbage. Those who know us well know that Steve has the obvious advantage when it comes to numbers, while I have the upper hand on words. From the day we left the United States in July to when we returned in mid-January, here are our final tallies for killing time.

Jen: 27 Steve: 24

Steve: 91 Jen: 67

Las Muralles May 19, 2011

Posted by Jen Pappas in Cartagena, Poems and Misc..
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Once impenetrable,

once the cache of pilfered

jewels and money,

where the Spanish came

to bathe in gold ducats

and pull women’s hair.

Once the grand fortress,

once the unconquerable

treasure trove

of the 17th century.

Now anyone can scale your walls.


even your name sounds romantic.

Who could blame the lights

or cobbled streets –

the balconies adorned in wild bougainvilleas

for drawing the tourists in droves?

Who could have foreseen

the thousands of people

who would pose by your cannons

and enter your dungeons

before ordering overpriced cocktails

on the cusp of your northern walls,

overlooking the sea?

Everywhere we see

the disappointing decay

of Calle Media Luna…

which we have come to learn


half moon

and other times, croissant.


Oh, how the walls must wail

some nights,

deep in their mortar.

For the splendor lost,

the secrets untold,

the magnificent duty…

How they must wail too

for all the facades

that have risen up instead,

silencing the past.  


It Won’t Always be Like This April 18, 2011

Posted by Jen Pappas in Costa Rica Posts, Poems and Misc..
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from August 9, 2009 Journal Entry

Part of me knows it won’t always be like this. Waking whenever we please, pulling out a book to read until we’re finally ready to get out of bed. Flipping channels on an old, 25-inch Sankey TV using a big toe because we can’t find the remote – stumbling across our favorite programs at odd times, in different languages.

We won’t always have the luxury of playing three consecutive games of cribbage during happy hour, waiting for the sun to set, smirking to one another about the underage American girls four seats over, ordering shots (with a chaser!) for themselves and strangers.

No, it won’t always be like this. Preparing a cocktail in our trusty blue water bottle to bring to you down at the beach in between surf sessions. Running errands in town before finishing another book underneath the horrifically loud ceiling fan. Shopping for cheap bags of rice and eggs for that evening’s dinner. Tickling our psuedo pet cat between the ears, dodging piles of trash on the road outside our condo complex. Where later you will return, shower, dress into a different pair of shorts and plop back onto the ramshackle sofa declaring, “What a hard day of work.”

It won’t always be like this but maybe somewhere down the line, something else – equally wonderful will step in and take its place so I can write about it. Just as I’ve done here.

Vicariously Living Through Ourselves April 8, 2011

Posted by Jen Pappas in Poems and Misc..
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Woe. I look back on the time Steve and I spent in Latin America with longing. As with any place one spends extended time in, I’m lonely for the dusty towns, wide-eyed children, Spanish lilt and endless busrides. Simultaneously, strangely, it all feels very close and very far away. Yet, 14 months back in the States, and I’ve only just finished putting the photo albums together. We finally built and hung the photo collage we’d been imagining since we first started this blog, a daily trigger for vicariously living through ourselves.

Our hallway photo collage

Unfortunately, our bank accounts are still suffering from our spontaneous, impractical, one-hundred percent amazing trip, so the hallway must suffice for whatever wanderlust lingers. Which in my case, never really goes away, but is sated here and there every couple of years or so.

In lieu of having no new places to document, I’ve been going back and improving the existing blog: adding titles and tags, cleaning up categories, etc. It’s a poor substitute for actually digging in and exploring the world, but I know the next trip is never far away. Luckily, I have notebooks full of things we never published and never shared. Private moments, poems, drawings, conversations… So, until that next passport stamp or visa application, I give you the unreleased b-sides of our trip: the good, the bad, the strange, and the ugly. Enjoy.