Tag Archives: vacation

Small break…

To all of the people who have encouraged this blog, I thank you. I thank you for the consistent support in my expeditions around this beautiful planet as I connect with new places, vibrant cultures and intriguing people.

Unfortunately technology has brought a challenge to my blogging experience as I search for a new photo uploading program. Any suggestions are welcome, so please feel free to email me at:
Universalaughter@yahoo.com

Until then, I’ll give you written updates on the incredible places I’m exploring and save the photos for a later post. Once I’m back up and running, I encourage you to grab a glass of wine, a bowl of fruit or whatever makes you smile and sit with me as I recap my journey.

As of now, I’m circling the gorgeous country of Spain with a full tummy of tapas, wandering eyes searching for my next handstand and a pure smile of peace.

Cheers till next time!
Erika

Not just a Dolphin Tour

I like to focus on the present with a positive look forward, however just for a moment I’m going to step out the “travel blog” and tip toe through a bit of my past personal life. I feel this is necessary for you to grasp the emotional energy that surfaced during this part of my journey.

Please take note that some of the pictures and comments might “hit home” or “strike a cord” with some of you depending on your own experiences. I mean no harm… Just sharing what I view as a beautiful story.

Pamela is her name. The woman that carried me, delivered me, and raised me.
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I claim my mother to be one of my biggest fans. Most parents tell their children that “You can achieve anything you put your mind to”.
When my mom says this to me, she’s teary eyed and expresses it more like “I’m so amazed by you. You’re something special on earth and I love watching you accomplish your dreams. You’re going to impact so many people and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Yeh, I know… What do you say back to that? I feel like “Thank you” is an understatement for the unconditional love that she has supported me with all of these years (even the moments in which she claims aliens took her sweet girl and replaced her with a teenager).

Her story went like this:
Mom in the middle of 2008: “I have an abnormal mark on my breast”.
1st nurse practitioner gives Mammogram and exam: “Looks like you’re fine.”

6 months later

Mom: “I know my body. I don’t know what’s wrong, but something isn’t right.”
Nurse practitioner orders an ultra sound: “The ultra sound shows nothing to be concerned about”. During the test, the nurse tech mentioned that mom had dense breasts and that can make it difficult to read.
Mom: “Try again, look in a different spot”.

3 months later

Mom went back and asked for a different doctor. They sent her to a female surgeon.

New Doctor: “I haven’t seen your films, but nothing is jumping out at me. Breasts can change over time and this is normal.”

2 months and and many phone calls from my mother to the doctors…

Doctor: “For all patients who think they have cancer, following everything you’ve had done, the next step is a fine needle biopsy”.

First two came back negative so they followed up with a third fine needle biopsy.

It’s now September of 2009

Me: “Mom, I trust you, but they did tests and said you’re clear. No more stress ok?”
Mom: “Not ok.”

Doctor calls to set up a PEM Scan (Positron Emission Mammography).

Test results showed cancer and encourages them to give her a PET scan and a Needle Biospy MRI.

After 2 mamagrams, 2 Ultra Sounds, 3 fine needle biopsies, a PEM scan, PET scan and an extreme amount of persistence…

Stage III Breast cancer.

Nov 23, 2009- Bi-lateral Masectomy with 22 Lymphnodes removed.
January 2010- 6 months of chemotherapy (she refused 6 weeks straight of Radiation treatment).

Obviously all that was described above included many long nights, dreadful hospital visits, tears, exhaustion, teamwork, support from friends, patience, courage and an uncountable amount of hugs.

The morning she woke up with a rainbow of hair on her pillow, she called me that day. “It’s time to take it off”. With a hesitant but courageous stride she walks into my shop and sits while I prepare the clippers. Leave it to us to have a little fun with it.

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The beauty underneath it all…
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Personally, I think she dominates the bandana look.
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Then we head in for her first treatment. Previously they inserted a device underneath her skin so that they would have a direct line site rather than peircing her arm or hand each time. This was the first time it was put to use and not the last time I held her hand through it… Literally, I didn’t miss a session.
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All hooked up.
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Moms sassy side kept my faith up…
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..and her attitude kept the treatment center smiling.  Really take a look at the nurses, that’s not fake.  They loved her!
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They kept the room super cold but always had a heated blanket for us.
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During her treatment she would often say “When (not if) I make it through this, I want to be on an island.  Just give me sun and warm sand next to pretty water.”
She had no idea, but during this entire process I was planning to make it happen. So after her first “clean” test (and first haircut) we jet set to the gorgeous island of Barbados. What a vibrant place to celebrate her 50th birthday of life!
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She’s happiest near water so I set up a submarine tour.
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Goofing off on the boat.
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Before and especially since her cancer she has developed a “bucket list”. A list which includes the day that made my trip to Panama City Beach such a memorable one.
BLUE DOLPHIN TOURS is owned and operated by extremely kind people. Ted and Karen have a warm-hearted nature that is present in all conversation and a welcoming spirit that invites you in. If you are ever in this area, I can only suggest to the best of my ability to check this out. It’s an unforgettable experience!

www.bluedolphintour.com .

I could write chapters about this excursion, but I’ll keep it to the point with some fun pictures.
On this day I got to watch my mom go from a  51 year old “survivor” to a “full of life” 12 year old!
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This was our guide, Russell. He was another great addition to the day, in fact, he made the “tour” feel like a day on a boat with friends. His knowledge of the water and everything in it was impressive and comforting. Thank you Russell!
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We got to make him blush.
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Off we go!
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Snorkeling along the way! Russell jumped right in and starting searching for cool stuff!
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I chose to stay in the boat to capture these moments and had no idea of the emotions that would play in my heart. To see her truly happy from within, absolutely made my heart smile.  At one point I had teared up with inexpressible joy. My mom was finally in the water with these amazing creatures, doing what she had always spoke about.
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Survey says?
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Winner!

Dear mom,
If I got to pick again… I’d still choose you.

May I please get a little sand with that?

Huacachina Peru – check it out!
click here for the full website
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Do we look like little kids on a holiday morning? Felt like it!
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Getting all strapped in for the buggie ride to the peak of the dunes. This is one of my favorite pictures of Ashgan, what a darling smile!
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…and we’re off! (clearly not having any fun at all).
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We made it to the top with time for some quick action shots. Please keep in mind our shoes are standard snowboard boots, meaning it would have been easier to handstand with center blocks strapped to my feet. I really have no excuse for my late jump in the third picture… Way to go Simon and Ashgan though!
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Time to get strapped in!
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..and then we ride!
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Thank you Augusto for a great day! (Including the mouth full of sand you so kindly offered mid flight and let’s not forget the bruised bum from the “landing” of your ever so talented jumping skills). All smiles though!
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Machu Picchu

I feel a huge challenge trying to describe through words and photos the magnitude of energy and massive beauty that this place holds. If Machu Piccu has been on your “list” or this page intrigues you whatsoever, please remember:

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN… SO DO IT!

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Earlier in the week we met a retired tour guide. He invited the 3 of us to sit close as he described in full detail the secerets of making the best of this experience. From the less known routes to the best times to be in certain places. He was so kind to “let us in”.

TAKE NOTE: I will not be exposing all of these hidden treasures. If you are arranging to go to this sacred place, please email me directly and I will then possibly share more information… Maybe.

3:30 alarm clock and my eyes have no problem adjusting to the dark as I tip toe around the other backpackers who are peacefully sleeping their “sunrise on the mountain” away (enter sneaky giggle here).

We are on one of the first busses to the top of the ridge and can actually see the entrance gates! I must add during the ride we met a sweet girl from Switzerland that was traveling alone… A new friend! We invite her to join us and now there are 4.

As we near the gentleman taking tickets, I hear “passport ID please”…. I feel my heart hit my feet and my stomach hit my throat. I didn’t have it on me. I had made it all the way to the entry gates with no form of ID to prove that I, Erika Young was indeed the ticket holder of “Erika Young”. He asked me to step aside so others could enter. As I make eye contact with my sad stricken friends on the other side, I realize there was no “talking” my way through this one.

I closed my eyes (seriously stood there with my eyes closed for a min) and said to myself “he will let me in”.

I hear “seniority…miss!” I opened my eyes to see him flagging me over. As I approach he says “I’m only allowed to excuse one a day, go ahead.” I may of heard bells of “Hallelujah” at that moment, either way I take only a second to thank him then rush through before any mind changing could happen. I’m in!

We follow our confidential intstructions from our new friend (the retired tour guide) and up we go. Steps, stones, rocks, stairs, curves, cliffs and ridges… We reach a peak and stop to observe the sun rising over this beautiful city. Please excuse the bum shot but I wanted to show the extreme of some of the steps.
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Not only are we alone up top, but observe the number of tourist that haven’t reached the lower city yet:
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After watching the sunrise and toasting to the incredible beginning of this adventure, we make our way down into the city.
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On the left is a woman who was in the much later years of life being piggy backed all the way to the center… What’s your excuse?
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…and of course I was honored to add this one to the list!
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Cusco… Another reunion? Of course!

While studying in Buenos Aires I met a fun loving couple from Amsterdam. Right away they felt like friends I had known for years! Ashgan’s gentle energy and constant smile is a perfect compliment to Simon’s sense of humor and ability to make you feel right at home. This admirable duo has enhanced my journey. (Thank you new friends!)
We had our fun in Argentina and parted ways “till next time”…a few weeks later I’m taking a bus to meet them in central Cusco to plan our adventures to Machu Picchu!

A sweet farewell to Marty (as he digs one last time in my pockets looking for homemade toothpaste).
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We spent the day wandering the city and hiking the road to Sacsayhuaman near Q’enqo to see the statue of Jesus Christ. Im not a historian, but I was told the White Christ stands guard over the city of Cusco and was a gift from colonial Palestine in 1945.
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View of Cusco.
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Met a friend on the way down.
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A few city photos with the first being an Irish Pub! Again to mention that I’ve found one in every country so far… This one brags to be the “highest in the world”.
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This little lamb was supposed to pose like this:
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…but I must of dripped some ice cream on my neck because she was nibbling away!
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Good night Cusco… Tomorrow, Machu Picchu!
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