COVID Thriving Earth Day 2020. And this year, I do believe the Earth is feeling it.
In Lima—which prior to COVID quarantine, was the third most congested city on the planet—restrictions led to clear skies, quiet nights, mornings filled with bird song. As Steve and I waited to come home, it hit me hard that we have a massive carbon footprint.
Quite frankly, we fly too much.
So while I’m thoroughly grateful for the amazing trips we’ve been able to log over the last few years, it’s time for a new world of true eco-tourism: One in which we share the beauty that we’ve seen with each other.
I knew I’d never make it to all 197 (I think) countries of the world. But I didn’t think I’d be stopping at 29. Well, I might. And I’m ok with that. Here, in honor of Earth Day, are 13 beautiful moments from the great outdoors. Please share yours with me.
Thank you, Earth. I will now try to pay you back in the most meaningful way I can: by not traveling so damn much.
Black Forest, Germany
Steve’s previous wife, Evelyn, died on January 1, 2010. Together, they built a home in the Black Forest in Germany, her native country.
We keep the house—I’ve been going annually since 2015. When we’re there, we hike. They have these massive benches that are about the right size for Steve’s legs.
At one point, we notice a tree that’s sheared away from its trunk. Yet it still stands, leaning up against another, even taller tree. When it falls, will it make a sound? (Sorry. Some doors are just too irresistible to walk through.)
The nearest town to our teeny Black Forest village is Freiburg. German farmers markets are true things of beauty. Whenever we’re there, I wish my dad had been able to live long enough for me to get him over to see the farms in the land of his ancestors. He would have loved it.
Steve and I were part of a home swap program, and scored a sweet place near Dublin. As long as we were in Ireland, we decided to head west to the Ring of Kerry. This deserted beach, complete with evocative ruins, was all ours one June.
When restrictions to visit Cuba dropped and airlines added flights like crazy, we booked a trip. At the time, absolutely no one thought Trump would be president. Oh well.
We were very happy we made it down for 10 days in early 2017, on a trip that would be very difficult to do now. This picture was taken on a bike ride in Viñales, on the western side of the island where much of the tobacco for Cuban cigars is grown. I had a headache from all the nicotine in the air, particularly when we visited the wooden buildings where all the leaves were drying.
Keukenhof, The Netherlands
Keukenhof, in the Netherlands, does a massive tulip-palooza every year.
So this is not a natural landscape. But ain’t it cool?
Capo Testo, Sardinia
This, however, is a natural landscape, despite how fake it looks. Yes, the water is that color, and yes, the rocks really do look like an enormous toddler squeezed a bunch of Play-doh pieces together and then left them to dry in the sun.
When I close my eyes and think of the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, Capo Testo comes into my head about 80% of the time.
Moving to Michigan in 1999 from New York City, I was struck by the amazing skies. Whether its the 3D clouds during the day or the neon-streaked light show at night, I continue to spend a lot of time looking up in wonder.
My favorite summer vantage point is from behind my feet on the railing of our pontoon. I call it “decrepit.” Steve prefers “vintage.”
Longboat Key, FL
Before he died, my brother-in-law Larry and my sister Becky joined Steve and I for a weekend on the beach near Sarasota. This fellow was stalking around one morning. I love how the sand is so white, it looks like snow.
Another home swap took us to a beach right where the huge River Platte, which divides Uruguay from Argentina, meets the Atlantic ocean. One morning, massive jellyfish—this one is about the size of a dinner plate—had washed up on the shore. This one pulsed gently, patiently waiting for the tide to come and take it home.
Iguaçu Falls, Brazil
Up until we were stranded in Peru, one of my more exciting travel moments was trying to get Steve into Brazil even though his visa hadn’t shown up yet. I had one, but his was delayed. So I’ll write about that sometime.
Meanwhile, enjoy this glorious view of the falls from the Brazil side. We loved the Argentina side and actually ended up spending a lot more time there. But you can’t see them like this from over there, because you’re right on top of them.
Also, did that bird follow us from Florida??
Atacama Desert, Chile
The driest place in the western hemisphere, at a high altitude (about 8000 feet) and with almost zero light pollution: the starry skies over the Atacama at night are like liquid fire. We didn’t have the right kind of camera to do them justice. But at least we had the sense to hand over our phone and not try to do a selfie.
Arches National Park, UT
Of the three parks we visited in Utah, Arches was my favorite. Another gorgeous desert, though this one was exponentially more crowded.
Steve and I took turns reading to each other from Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire as we drove. Abbey’s beautifully expressed book sets a high standard on nature writing, and his thoughts on conservation—he was vehemently against making the parks more tourist-friendly—were tremendously prescient. The irony that we were nodding along with him as we took part in the very wilderness invasion he detested was not lost on us, but still we went. The parks now stand blissfully empty, recovering. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, how long they will have to replenish, and how much people like us, who know better, will respect them and their needs.
Salkantay Pass, Perú
Scheduled for a 10-day trek in the Andes that culminated in Machu Picchu, I managed to get one hike in before President Vizcarra declared a national emergency and closed the country’s borders. In this picture, you can see an avalanche that had impacted our itinerary somewhat. Little did we know.
I truly hope that we can return to Perú at one point and redo the trip. Yes, it will use up some carbon, but I promise to travel less.
But even if we don’t, I’ll always have the memory of coming face to face with this place, whose name in Quecha translates to “God of the Savage Mountain.”
The Marcus Aurelius Moment* of April 23
From Dr. Seuss: To not cry because it’s over, but to smile because it happened.
*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.