Oct 14

Rasputin’s New Adventure… Without Me

While in Quito, Ecuador Rasputin and I had an unfortunate parting of the ways. In a separate post I will outline the details but the short story is that on Thursday, September 10, 2015 after 9 years as my travel companion, Rasputin was stolen from me (as was my purse).
My only hope is that Rasputin has found a new friend who will bring him on new adventures.

I found Rasputin on June 22, 2006 in a train station in Copenhagen. I had just finished a tour of Scandinavia and Russia. On the Russia half of the tour our “day song” was Rasputin. I thought he should have a name that reflected the trip I was just finishing.

The choice of name worked out well for Rasputin. Although many people gave a double take when I said the name, it was easy to say, “like the Russian monk” and people knew exactly what his name was. And if taking a picture with a stuffed giraffe isn’t a conversation piece, his name was.When I needed a name for my blog, Rasputin was the inspiration, the little guy with me that took pictures with. We would then go home and he would write the blog with me, in spirit at least.

From the day I got him, Rasputin was my little travel buddy, he made me feel a little less lonely on my solo trips. We’ve been to Disney World several times and even Disneyland once. He’s been to Egypt, Australia, England, Scotland, all over the US, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and the highlight of his little life to South Africa to see real giraffes in the wild. Oh, and a giraffe head on a wall and giraffe skinned purses. South Africa was both a highlight and a humbling experience for Rasputin…

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Rasputin was a tricky little guy, a bit like a cat with nine lives. When I went to Australia, right after a shooting at LAX, I left him in my office. Fortunately I was able to talk someone into getting him (and my neck pillow) for me and bring it to me at the airport. They really must love me at work… But Rasputin sometimes fell out of my purse and would be rescued by an excellent taxi driver. Then there was the time that I left him at the art of animation studio at the Hollywood Studios, remembering him when I got to Star Tours. I had to wait at the back door for the ongoing class to end and then ask the cast member about my giraffe I left on the table.

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My purse in Quito, Ecuador was the end of his ninth life. But his spirit will live on. While my brother in law always thought I was nuts, people generally loved Rasputin. Flight attendants frequently asked about him, and friends bought him presents for his birthday. He even made friends with other stuffed giraffes. After his loss, I now have a menagerie of stuffed animals donated by friends. I’m not quite sure what I will do with all of them. No stuffed animal can replace 9 years with Rasputin, but the idea of having a little something with me to keep up his mission of traveling the world would be continuing his legacy.

Feb 16

Choosing Scandinavia and Russia

When I tell people that I have traveled to Scandinavia and Russia they often ask, why? Here’s my journey…

After doing a 2 week tour of Europe with Contiki I had picked my next trip – Eastern Road – Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Krakow, Vienna, Warsaw. It was a 2 week trip that I had heard good things about. The problem was that I “fell” into some extra time off of work and wanted to take advantage. I wanted to go away for 3 or 4 weeks and on a whim looked through the Contiki brochure. Did I want to do the Eastern Road tour and another tour, or just do some independent travel before and after? Then I noticed this 33 day tour of Scandinavia and Russia, it piqued my interest. I started looking up some info on Scandinavia and after seeing some pictures realized it was beautiful there, I mean really beautiful – beyond anything I could imagine. Russia was easy since I’ve always had an interest in WWII and the Cold War. My next issue was dealing with the fact that this would be a “budget” tour – we would be staying in cabins instead of hotels. I did some more research and found out that in Russia we would be staying in hotels and that the cabins were pretty decent. I bit the bullet and in January I booked my trip for May. A couple cabins are a small price to pay for seeing a fjord (whatever that was), a glacier and the midnight sun.

I loved Scandinavia, it was a beautiful place. I was actually sick my whole time there and ended up sleeping on the bus a fair amount. I would often wake up and look out the window and see a waterfall, or a lake or a beautiful mountain view. Almost all of our campsites were in great locations, often on a lake or nestled in the mountains. I’m not a terribly outdoorsy person, but being in a place like this made me one.

On our drive to Nordkapp from Hammerfest to see the midnight sun we kept seeing reindeer, I kept trying to take pictures. They wouldn’t stop long enough for me to get a picture, but that was a gift. It was fun to watch them in their natural habitat (there isn’t much of a population this far north). The little ones would follow their mother around and the medium sized ones seemed to be playing with each other. Who needs Animal Planet when you have this? Then there was the one at one of our breaks on the drive. It was a lone reigndeer, a young looking one. He was just standing there and I jumped off to get a picture of him. One of the guys from the tour walked up to him to feed him something and the reigndeer ate it and hung around. The story differs depending on who you ask at this point. My story: The reigndeer turned to me, flared his nostrels and charged me, I ran away barely surviving the incident. Apparently the video shows that the reigndeer started to walk towards me and I panicked and ran away. Hey, where I come from animals aren’t friendly! Everyone then tried to feed or pet the reigndeer, it was funny to watch because I think he started getting freaked out by them. But the sweetest thing was that when the bus pulled away the reigndeer started to follow the bus and was at a full run.

I’ll leave Russia and more tales from Scandinavia for another day.

Feb 06

Falling asleep

Last night I was reading a friends travelogue and after 60+ days of traveling he was starting to crash. Hitting that point where you don’t know if you could stay awake much longer, or travel much longer. I must admit, I find it amazing that he lasted 60+ days, even if he did have a little bit of a break after about 40 days. Travel can give you the energy of a new light bulb even when you’re tired, but then you can burn out just as fast when you’re in an amazing place.

In 2005 I did my second Contiki Tour (first in Europe), it was an amazing experience. I had been to Amsterdam; Munich, Innsbruck, Venice, Rome, Florence, Lucerne and Paris. So where did sleep deprivation hit? The Vatican Museum.

I was on a tour with the most painful ear piece that was ever created in my ear. I sat down for a little lecture about the art early in the tour and it took all of my willpower to stay awake. I could understand, it was an intense tour of Europe, we were up early in the morning. I was able to perk up enough to enjoy the vast majority of the museum after the lecture and did enjoy the Museum. Then a few days later I went to see Moulin Rouge, the one in Paris that they made a movie about. I had spent my day running around Paris seeing as much as possible – Notre Dame, the Louvre, Arc de Triumph, Musse Rodin. Despite some time to relax before the show I could NOT keep my eyes open during parts of the show. My memory of it is a blur of jugglers and half naked women in nifty costumes. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, I did fall asleep in the first row of Cats a couple years before that. But Moulin Rouge was much better then Cats.

But it was in the Hermitage where I pulled off my best falling asleep act. I was soooo excited to see the Hermitage, I heard it was either the biggest or the second biggest museum in the world (depends who you ask,) a true palace. It was the Czarist rendition of French opulence. I couldn’t stay awake, I was actually falling asleep as I was walking. I didn’t even know that was possible. I kept walking into people and having to apologize to them (thankfully most were from my tour). It was bizar, I still don’t understand how I was that tired I had been sleeping decently for most of the tour. And I felt so bad about it. I remember most of the place, sort of. I think we saw some Picasso’s?? But I do remember the red room and the gold room, but we went in a bunch of others too. I bought a book, and that helps jog my memory, but I do still feel like I missed something that day. Of course shortly after the tour was over I woke up. Maybe I should take all of this as a hint – that museums just aren’t my style?