visiting petra jordan monastery

A Little Photo Essay…Jumping My Way Around Jordan

The wackiest ideas are often born from a single comment, an off-handed remark meant as a joke but then expanded into a full-fledged idea. This is precisely the case with my decision to jump around Jordan; my very first day in the country fellow travel blogger Jodi joked about my recent travels through China where I nailed a perfect jumping shot on the Great Wall of China.

And thus was born the self-proclaimed mission to jump at iconic, historic spots and wide open desert spaces around Jordan…pretty silly but it made a fun task as we traveled from place to place!

Jumping through Petra, Jordan

The the mysterious Nabataeans built the ancient city of Petra, Jordan and the huge city built right into the towering sandstone rocks fascinates me. I love the myth and mystery still surrounding the history of Petra — in short, the Nabataeans were industrious, creative (huge burial tombs, intricate carvings) and super smart (they landed a prime spot on the ancient trade routes).

The Monastery in Petra, Jordan.
Located at the top of a hill inside of Petra Jordan, the Monastery (Ad Deir) is 45 meters high and is still amazingly intact considering the ancient city was built sometime around the 6th Century BC.
The Street of Facades in Petra, Jordan.
The Street of Facades in Petra, Jordan leads from the iconic Treasury into the open city beyond, with vast open spaces and views of carved sandstone rock in every direction once you exit the narrow street.

 

Jodi Jumps too at the Citadel in Amman!

Jodi and I hatched the jumping plan together (along with Jordanian friends Reine and Halla) and our very first jumping pictures in the country took place on one of Amman’s seven hills. The Amman Citadel holds the Temple of Hercules and the crumbling marble towers stand like soldiers looking over the modern life filling the surrounding six hills, hills filled with the people and suburbia of Amman. In short, it’s the perfect spot to add some humans floating through the air!

Jodi from Legal Nomads jumps at the Amman Citadel in Jordan
Jodi from Legal Nomads.com is so happy in this shot I just had to include her jumping for joy over the Citadel ruins in Amman, Jordan. She injured her back pre-trip so it was a rare treat to convince her to jump!
Jumping at the Amman Citadel in Jordan's capital city.
These giant marble columns were 33 feet tall while the temple was in use during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and though they fell over time, they were resurrected and make a perfect jumping spot!

 

The Jumping Continues in Jerash

The ancient city of Gerasa is located in Jerash and the ancient town holds some of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in the Near East (and yes, I copied that nearly word for word from Wikipedia). But it’s true, so I felt compelled to add that tidbit of history here. The Jerash ruins sprawled over a wide area of land covered in shrubs and crumbling marble. Many ruins within the city are still intact, with the city’s “streets” and carriageways still clearly visible as you look down from a nearby hill at the ruins below you.

In Jerash and jumping over the ancient Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, one of the best preserved Roman cities in the near-east.
In Jerash and jumping over the ancient Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, this spot remains one of the best preserved Roman cities in the near-east and the walking through the wide, columned streets give clear evidence of the city’s once enormous scope.
Jumping through the ancient city of Gerasa in Jerash, Jordan.
The well-preserved city of Gerasa in Jerash, Jordan proved an easy playground for the jump-inclined, as well as the traditional tourist too, of course!

 

Making Sand Shadows in Wadi Rum Desert

Harder than it looks, I attempted to create a really cool jumping shadow picture. Unfortunately, as magical as the deserts of Wadi Rum are, they do not allow me to unattach myself from my shadow Peter Pan style! However, that being said, spending a sunset and sunrise in Wadi Rum stands out as one of the top-ten experiences on my round-the-world travels.

Jumping in the red-orange sands of Wadi Rum desert in Jordan.
A shadow jump at sunset in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of my favorite places in the world.

 

The Dead Sea Alive with Jumping Action

No travel prose or wild tangents in my imagination prepared me for the surreal feeling of floating in the Dead Sea. The waters in the Dead Sea maintain about 34% salinity (compare that with a mere 3.5 % in the pleasantly salty Gulf of Mexico near my hometown). Because of the high salt and mineral content of the water it’s customary to coat yourself in brown Dead Sea mud from head to toe. Yes, I kid you not, head to toe in mud.

Jumping over the salt rocks at the Dead Sea in Jordan
The Dead Sea waters are so salty the salt builds up, creating a pretty white, rocky shoreline.
The pretty salt rocks lining Jordan's side of the Dead Sea.
My first sighting of the Dead Sea at a lookout point on the way to the shore.
Dead Sea Mud, Jordan
Covered in Dead Sea mud from head to toe and on the shores of Jordan’s side.

 

Deserts, Rocks and Jumping Off Clifs!

Though a small country to be sure, it takes several hours between the major historic sites in Jordan and days of stretching desert sands. Our driver and guide were oh-so tolerant to pull over at every view-point, and even joined in on the game once they knew the type of open landscapes we loved for the jumping shots. These last couple shots show the endless desert landscapes that lodged in my memory along with the intricate carvings at Petra and Jordan’s delicious pita and fresh mezze dishes.

An epic starfish jump over the deserts in Jordan, taken on our way out of the Wadi Rum desert.
Desert sands in Jordan
The cool blue skies and open deserts of Jordan stretch on for miles and call for some jumping!

A big hug of thanks to Jodi, without her photography talent there would have been no jumping through Jordan and without her shouts of caution when I jumped near a ledge, there may not have been a Shannon either!

The Dead Sea from Jordan
My epic jumping photographer throughout Jordan :)

The Jordan Tourism Board sponsored my Jordan travels, but the experiences, photos, & opinions are my own :)

krka waterfall national park

A Little Photo Essay…Beautiful Waterfalls, Lakes, and Nature, Oh My!

I see a lot of gorgeous places when I travel, heaps and heaps in fact. About three months into traveling I decided I had to slow down because I was passing everything so quickly that waterfalls, monuments, temples? They all turned to mush in my brain. I couldn’t quite place some of the photos I was taking and that perturbed me…so I slowed down, paid more attention and stopped living through the lens of my camera ever single moment of my trip.

Okay, a bit of lie, I still photographed everything but I made sure to take moments to just sit and stare and take in the natural beauty encountered along the way–take in absorb…be there in the moment enjoying. Below is a photo essay with mini anecdotes and explanations for ten of the more memorable lakes and waterfalls I’ve found in the past three years!

Waterfalls at Skradinski Buk, Krka, Croatia
Krka National Park in Croatia was spectacularly pretty; the park is well developed for tourism with numerous footpaths and wooden board walks leading visitors through the various waterfalls and Roman-era ruins situated along the Krka River. A very good friend from back home was traveling with me for this leg of the trip so we packed cheese and bread for lunch and spent the day taking in the pretty waterfalls!

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Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island, Australia
Lake McKenzie is a truly beautiful perched lake (meaning the lake waters sit atop an impermeable layer of twigs/ vegetation) on Australia’s Fraser Island (the largest sand island in the world and a UNESCO spot). I dug the nearly pure white silica sand and clear mineral waters; although I love salty ocean waves as much as the next person, there’s just something altogether more inviting about turquoise clear fresh water with no possible jelly fish!

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Wentworth Falls, Australia
Wentworth Falls is one of the larger waterfalls in Australia’s Blue Mountains, located just north of Sydney. I was terribly lost on this hike (take a good map!) because there are a lot of waterfalls in these mountains and each time we approached one I was certain it was Wentworth Falls, at least until we reached this big one! Even though our 4 hour hike turned into seven plus, I managed to relax enough to enjoy the sunshine and misting waters, briefly. :) 

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Lake Bled, Slovenia
Bled Island, though tiny, is the only natural island in Slovenia and Lake Bled’s pretty shores are a tourist magnet. This towns sits in Eastern Europe’s Julian Alps and the church steeple on the island, the medieval castle on a nearby hill…the entire setting screams picturesque. It rained throughout my visit but was pretty nonetheless! 

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Waterfalls on Uluru, Ayers Rock
Rain in Australia’s outback is quite rare, just a few days out of every year in fact, and for this reason seeing Uluru (Ayers Rock) with dozens waterfalls cascading down the red rock is supposedly lucky. At least that was the assurance from our tour guide…rain poured from the sky while I was there and though I didn’t manage any upclose time with the huge iconic rock gleaming burnt red in the sunlight, it was pretty and unique. And, I haven’t yet met another traveler who has seen the waterfalls, so maybe my tour guide was right! :-)

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Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
After winding through the dirt roads into the Guatemalan Highlands, Lake Atitlán is a superb reward, it’s perhaps the prettiest lake I’ve ever seen and from the shores three visible volcanoes help form the lake’s borders. Besides the volcanoes, sprinkle the shores of the lake with tiny Mayan villages (and a few super-touristy towns too) and you have the waters of the prettiest lake in all of the Americas (in my oh-so-humble opinion). 

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Semuc Champey waterfalls, Guatemala
Sticking to Guatemala (one of my favorite countries), Semuc Champey is a series of shallow turquoise pools of water with tiny little waterfalls between each stepped pool. The closest town, Lanquin, is still off the fast-growing tourism trail and our group had a grand time frolicking in the pools and (carefully) jumping from waterfalls.  

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Loch Ness, Scotland
From the shores of Loch Ness, Scotland I searched and searched for Nessie the Loch Ness Monster to no avail, she didn’t reveal herself to me so I instead spent quiet days reading on the pebble beaches and hiking through the densely green forests and towns surrounding the lake, taking advantage of the surprisingly sunny Scottish days!

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Connor Pass, Dingle, Ireland
Oh, how I adore Ireland. Really! I do so love it, and all of the pretty, pretty land is reason enough, but the people were super friendly and welcoming too. Dingle is a small peninsula in the south and this is Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in all of Ireland, with views of the corrie lakes, low slung clouds and the nearby Atlantic.

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Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia was one of the handful of pre-planned stops on my RTW trip; the Park’s series of cascading lakes are formed from a series of underground karst rivers, with 16 visible lakes on the surface, all connected by boardwalks and boats. It’s a UNESCO site (I collect these) and on the beauty-scale, it rates high! It takes an entire day to wander through the miles of carefully constructed paths at Plitvice Lakes, so pack lunch!  

This is just the tip of the ice berg as far as waterfalls are concerned–I have yet to see any of the major ones like Niagra, Victoria or Iguazu Falls, but each of these lakes and waterfalls were unique in some way and stand out for that very reason.

Sharesy time! Where is your favorite lake or waterfall in the world and why? :)

turtle diving

A Little Video Memory … Turtles and Tranquility Underwater

Solitude. Tranquility. Utter peacefulness. That’s what it’s like underwater; you become a part of a world outside of human society – we can go down there for a visit, but it’s not ours.

I learned scuba diving the summer before leaving on my travels; my first stop was Australia and I was bound and determined to be comfortable underwater before hitting what I considered the mac-daddy of all sites, the Great Barrier Reef.

A Little Inspiration…A Pastel Sunrise Over Wadi Rum

The gentle vibrations from my iPhone slowly cut last clingy strings of dreams from my thoughts as I pulled myself awake. Looking at the gaps in the tent wall showed just the faintest tint of color lightening the morning sky. The dead silence surrounding me at the Desert Tent Camp in Wadi Rum invited me to curl back into my heavy blanket and claim another hour of sleep – 5:00am seems barely human for a wake up call.

My iPhone was on to me though, and just as my eyelids drifted closed the phone’s insistent buzzing woke me again. Oh yeah, a sunrise camel ride.

The Dead Sea in Jordan

A Little Adventure… An Epically Muddy Day at the Dead Sea

Arriving at the Dead Sea in Jordan earlier this month, I wasn’t prepared for the starkness of the landscape. Conjured up images of the Dead Sea in my mind were of two varieties:

an exotic, remote, and barren desert landscape with an inhospitable lake of water stretching out for miles.
a smiling and slightly accented vendor in any one of America’s super-sized malls rubbing dark brown Dead Sea mud onto the back of my hand, extolling it’s many virtues.

Neither version prepped me for the actuality of the Dead Sea – the region’s bare landscape was the very element lending beauty. And as far are remote is concerned…not so much – it’s a mere 45 minute drive from Amman, Jordan’s capital, and surrounded by a handful of significant religious biblical and Islamic pilgrimage sites.

12 Apostles on Australia's Great Ocean Road

A Little Travel Memory … Goodbye Ye Faithful Apostles

The scenery on the Great Ocean Road in Australia reminded me of the blown Murano glass scupltures in Venice , Italy. This post was really inspired entirely by the photo below. Like a glass-blower, nature purposefully highlighted the scene with a sizable dose of reddish-orange limestone (two colors opposite on the color-wheel and therefore complimentary :). My tour guide on the Great Ocean Road shared all kinds of facts and stories, with a handful of local lore thrown in for good measure, but it was this drive’s likeness to the another beautiful road that makes me smile inside; the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in California also possesses a constant gag-me-there-is-just-no-end-to-the-pretty-landscape feeling and the Great Ocean Road was actually specifically built to model the PCH.

12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Australia.

On a sadder note, this photo of the 12 Apostles is one of those “enjoy now, it won’t be there later” shots. Originally there were nine limestone formations ( nicknamed the 12 Apostles) and in the intervening years they are crumbling into the sea. These austere sentinels stand guard over the southern Australian coastline and when I visted there eight were still standing. Now, two years later, just seven.  :(

Quick Travel Tips: Great Ocean Road and the Pacific Coast Highway

Where: Daytrips for the GOR leave at least every other day from Melbourne, . The PCH is best done in a rental car with friends and a picnic basket.
How long: All of the highlights can be driven on both of these in about 7-10 hours…but that doesn’t make for a hugely enjoyable day if they’re done in one shot like that!
Personal Recommendations: On the PCH drive, stop off at the Winchester Mystery House – it’s a “roadtrip into the paranormal” and a bizarrely intriguing side-trip. On the GOR, sitting inside the Loch Ard Gorge with the swelling sound of the ocean ebbing sticks with me to this day, make sure you make it that far on the road!

A Little Travel Memory … That Tree Has Something to Say

Walking the wooden boardwalks around Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia I looked up and saw this dead tree with a very clear thought bubble  painted across the sky by mother nature; like something out of a comic book.

I think the tree has something to say

What would a tree say? Even more pointedly, what would a dead tree say on a beautifully sunny day with a bright blue sky like that as a backdrop for the conversation?

This is a question that my bestie Jenn and I chatted about for several minutes from the wooden boardwalk snaking through the pretty waters of Plitvice. Travel has made me more observant that I ever was before I left—I find myself really looking at each new place and experience for the elements and parts that make the experience a whole.

Which is the reason I noticed this tree in the first place. My friend Jenn and I both had our cameras with fully charged batteries and empty memory cards and we tasked ourselves with taking heaps of time on our walk through the National Park to photograph the nature and the creatures we found along the way. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by too much sightseeing on my travels, so tasking myself with new assignments provides myself with an interesting way to engage with a new place.

And sometimes you get moments like this, my best friend Jenn and I staring at a tree and wondering what that tree has seen over the years.

So, what would this tree say? Any ideas? :)

top of muir woods national park

A Little Travel Memory … Getting Lost in Muir Woods

My friend Jenn is a long-time friend from Florida who also made the move to Los Angeles after college. Our M.O. was long hikes through the mountains surrounding LA to rid ourselves of the city-angst. When I started talking about my RTW trip we road-tripped it up the California coast to San Francisco to test our travel style compatibility.

top of muir woods national park
My friend Jenn and I hiked to the top of Muir Woods National Park in California.

With Muir Woods so close to San Francisco we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit the park and see the redwood forest first hand. And like all stories of me hiking anywhere … we got lost for a couple of hours. I say that lightly because we were still mostly on a trail, and we had lots of water, so we knew it was safe enough for us to indulge in the desire to just pick a path and go.

In the end, as with most times I follow instinct and just wander—or in this case hike—it was worth it. Not long after we hiked straight up out of the dark base of the redwood forest we surfaced to the piercingly sunny skies and epic views of the huge trees and hills rolling toward the Pacific Ocean.

Jenn is the only of my Stateside buddies who has actually taken me up on my open offer to all of my friends to meet me somewhere in the world. Last year she flew to Italy halfway through my round the world trip and we spent three weeks downing copious amounts of gelato together between hikes where we took tons of surprisingly similar camera-timed pictures of us in random forests all over Italy and Croatia.