6 times the ocean left me speechless

Happy World Oceans Day! As a Mermaid-American, I have been drawn to the ocean for as long as I can remember, and the more I travel, whether by sail or by land, the more I realize how much it means to me. Here are 6 times in my travels the ocean left me speechless. Let’s preserve our oceans so generations to come can experience its power and beauty.

 

 

Diving off the pier into the phosphorescent harbor of Ascension Island and feeling the blackfish nibble my feet.

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Snorkeling (and kissing!) friendly wild stingrays off the reef in the Cayman Islands.

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Climbing the mast of the Oosterschelde after 30 days at sea and seeing the entire Atlantic spread out before me like a shimmering blue carpet. I felt like time had stopped we now lived in a flooded world.

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Releasing a baby sea turtle into the ocean off Baja, California at sunset, watching it crawl down the beach and get swept up by the waves, to happily live the rest of its life at sea.

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The first time I stood in the bow of a schooner in rough weather, and felt the boat lift off the surface of the water. When I jumped, it was like leaving the earth for a while.

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Racing a pod of joyful pod of hourglass dolphins off the Falkland Islands.

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What’s your all-time favorite ocean experience?

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4 ways spending Thanksgiving in Rome taught me how to travel

It was November of 2005, and I was spending my fall semester of my junior year studying at in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when four fellow students and I decided to be daring and have a continental adventure before we went home for Christmas. Ryanair direct to Fiumicino, here we come!72772880_89029e1777_z

It seemed clever and brave. But the truth was, I had never before visited a non-English speaking country. I had never spent a holiday abroad. I was still terrified of speaking Italian, and I carried my own personalized phrasebook with me–printed on paper–at the very top was “No parliamo italiano.” In other words, for the love of god, please don’t talk to me. Please don’t make me humiliate myself. Above all, I was terrified of doing something wrong.

 

  1. How to make friends–no, family!–out of anyone. The truth was, I didn’t know any of my traveling companions that well. One was a softspoken boy from Alabama who liked tacos; another was an angelic Catholic girl from eastern Pennsylvania who just wanted a souvenir rosary from the Vatican “‘Bring me something holy, Angela!” my mom said. ‘Just bring me something holy!’” Another was a tall, dark-skinned girl from Indiana I’d never even met. “I never thought I’d be traveling to Rome at age 19,” she gushed. I was skeptical.

These weren’t exactly the cool, glamorous traveling companions I’d dreamed of. They were as naive as I was, if not moreso. But as it turned out, they were right for me. We helped each other read maps, puzzle out signages and agree to skip the overpriced tour of the Colosseum. We listened to our shoes tap on the polished floors of ancient churches, and had our pictures taken with some guys dressed up in cheesy gladiator costumes. I was the best at languages, so when a woman asked about the book I was reading on the train, I spoke for all of us. No parliamo italiano, I said with an abashed grin. My friends thanked me. And I didn’t die.

 

  1. How to travel cheaply. Of course, as tourists, none of us had planned to eat anyplace except a restaurant. Certainly our parents never did while traveling. Except this was Thanksgiving, so if we wanted anything close to a traditional American turkey day, we quickly realized we’d have no choice but to –gulp–shop locally. I’d never been so terrified. What if I didn’t understand what something was? Would I have to ask?. For someone clinging to her sweaty phrasebook like a deflating raft, and with crippling shyness around people I didn’t know, this was genuinely terrifying.

Tiptoeing into the store, we didn’t find a big frozen Butterball–none of us knew how to cook it anyway, but we did find some turkey breasts at the deli, and my friend said she thought the Italians eat potatoes. (Gnocchi, right? Right?) And pasta was just as starchy as pumpkin and sweet potatoes, so that was a good stand-in. Cranberry was out of the question, and we didn’t have the first clue about how to make stuffing. All in all, we only had maybe one or two of the Thanksgiving trappings. My stomach started to sink. Homesickness was creeping in. But I stuck my chin out.

 

  1. How to feel at home anywhere. We were all ready to leave the store, when I turned around and realized my companions weren’t with me. Then I heard sweet little Angela’s voice behind me at the deli counter. She spoke clearly, loudly enough for the entire store to hear. “Formaggio?” Silence, for two, three seconds. Then the guy laughed and handed her a huge hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and we skedaddled back to the hostel. Alive.

Back at our crowded hostel near Termini Station, we Americans took over the kitchen and whipped up our sad little turkey breasts–which, warmed up and coated with, what else, tomato sauce–didn’t look so sad anymore. We forgot the butter, so our potatoes weren’t exactly creamy, and the utensils seemed to date to Tiberius’ reign.  And of course we made pasta, because Italy! Angela and Cody, of course, insisted on holding hands and saying grace. The kitchen started to feel a little warmer; the city not so dark and foreign. These people–these strange, stupid American kids–started to look, well, nice.

 

  1. How to be thankful. We rejoined all 12 or so of the rest of our hostel companions–two backpacking Serbians, a group of English chavs, and that one Irish guy who shows up hammered at every hostel on Earth—-and instead of trying to dazzle each other by naming all the exotic locales to which we’d traveled, we played parlor games. And then we actually talked. To strangers. Who didn’t hate us, even though we’d appropriated the entire kitchen for the past three hours and probably didn’t clean it all that well. This seemed to be the biggest miracle at all.

Up till then, all I’d wanted was to get out of this alive. But that Thanksgiving, something changed. I was thankful. After all, not everybody gets to go to Rome at 19. Not everyone gets to travel at all. Not everyone has a family waiting for them across the ocean when they’re broke and weary and ready to go home for Christmas. Not everyone has that moment where they realize for the first time that this isn’t a fluke. That I didn’t have to be a terrified tourist. That I could be smart, That I could be brave, that I could be wise. That I could be a traveler.

 

Post-Pirate Day roundup o’ fun

Wish I made this.

September 19 has come and gone, but thanks to the Internet, the piratical fun doesn’t have to sail away into the horizon just yet!

Thar she blows!

Disney Parks are still celebrating not just Pirate Day, but Pirate Week.

Shiver me timbers! Oxford Dictionaries goes hunting for pirate phrase origins.

Check out Mental Floss for 17 Swashbuckling Pirate Day Facts, like how they picked September 19 (hint: it has something to do with the founders’ ex-wife).

This vintage Dave Barry column from 2002.

Christina Hendricks, honorary pirate princess.

And finally, I’m perhaps most excited to find about The Pirate Fairy, a DVD release upcoming from Disney about a pal of Tinkerbell, voiced by “Mad Men”‘s Christina Hendricks, who not only–you guessed it–runs away to sea, but hooks up with the young Captain James Hook.

Just a guess, but I think that’s Skull Island behind them.

Avast, International Talk Like a Pirate Day is Here!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is upon us!

Some of us pirate princesses be settin’ sail for Krispy Kreme in our rip-roarinest pirate togs for thar free doughnut.

Others be headin’ to the galley and whippin’ up rum cocktails. Or rum cakes. Or the official Princess of Pirates rum pudding.

Need help on your pirate lingo? Time Magazine has the essential tips for soundin’ like a scallywag.

E! Online has thar favorite arrr-esting pirates from pop culture!

My pick for most glamorous pirate girl.

And finally, over yonder, Penguin Books has a list of the top classics of pirate literature, everything from “Peter Pan” to “Treasure Island” to “Con Men and Cutpurses: Scenes from the Hogarthian Underworld.” Book to keep ye company durin’ those long, stormy nights on the sea!