experiences of a lifetime

Today marks five years since my adventures around the world took flight. Still, it feels like yesterday. Sitting aboard a plane, tipsy from sake and high from anticipation, having just bid farewell to dear friends and family after several days of revelry at Miami’s Art Basel. I was about to embark on a journey of 13 months and countless experiences. First stop Buenos Aires. I often reflect upon those days, particularly when I’m not feeling inspired (even amidst the beauty of Paris), and find myself reliving these scenes… eternally grateful to call them my experiences.

Exploring Machu Picchu beneath a misty sky.

Bathing on the remote island of Fernando de Naronha in Brazil.

Sky-diving over the majestic landscape of Queenstown, New Zealand.

Driving along Great Ocean Road in Australia.

Admiring Jodhpur, the magnificent 'Blue City' of Rajasthan, India.

Catching a glimpse of the Taj Mahal.

A spiritual moment at the temple of Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Becoming fashionable in the city of tailors, Hoi An, Vietnam.

Two days floating on a junk boat in Halong Bay.

Meditating upon the Mekong in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Exlporing the rice fields of Ubud, Indonesia by motor bike.

Inhaling the grand view of Hong Kong.

Driving through the landscape near Lhasa, Tibet.

Climbing the Great Wall of China.

Finding tranquility amidst The Golden Pavilion of the Rokuon-Ji Temple in Kyoto.

A sunrise hot-air ballon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey.

 What are your most cherished experiences? (Have you lived them yet?)

 

travel meets fashion

I love to travel as much as I love designing. Thus, I decided to design a custom travel bag, revealing the three cities closest to my heart. A seemingly easy task, at least for the first two. Paris, since this is now my home and ever since that first visit so many years ago, love at first encounter. New York since it’s where I spent some of the most memorable (and formative) years of my life.

As for the third, that was a challenge. There are many cities I became enamored with, mostly during my journey around the world. Buenos Aires, Hanoi, Ubud (more a town than a city), Sydney, Mumbai, Kyoto, Luang Prabang, Krakow, London, Mexico City… the list goes on. But where was it that stood out in my mind unlike any other? Tokyo. Perhaps because I was there with dear friends on both my first visit and my second. Or perhaps it was due to the freshest sushi I’ve even eaten at 7am after a night of darts and karaoke… or simply, the unique energy and electricity in the air.

Whatever it was, Tokyo won a place on my bag. Along with Paris and New York.

What are your top three?

To make this equally exciting for all fashion savvy travelers out there, I’m giving away one custom hand-painted reversible travel bag to a lucky traveler and fan. With your initials printed on the inside pocket. To enter, leave a comment stating your three favorite cities and join my facebook fan page where I will announce the winner on December 15th. Bonne chance and many a bon voyage!

To order a custom bag or join a bag painting workshop and create your own: info@kasiadietz.com

staring at the sea

I was born a beach girl. Westhampton Beach that is. I have always thought of the journey of life as a walk along the beach, the setting and rising sun marking the passing of time. And forever near a beach I would like to remain. Thankfully, my Italian is a boy of the Mediterranean. Very often we travel to his sea. Monterosso al Mare. Incidentally, the only one of the Cinque Terre with beaches.

With the many tourists in town as well as sun-seeking Milanese, safer to hide beneath an unbrella.

These last summer days I am exploring the wild and less inhabited Levanto beaches. Molto bello!

Staring at the sea I reflect upon the many beaches I have walked thus far in my life. And have come up with my top 5. (Not including my local Long Island beach, those of Monterosso, and the turquoise waters of Corsica.)

1. The 17 barely inhabited beaches of Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

2. The many remote beaches of the Fourni Islands, Greece

3. The beach island of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

4. The elite sands of Jose Ignacio, Uruguay

5. The beaches of Tulum, Mexico

The next 5 remain to be discovered…

all aboard

What I love about traveling is not merely arriving to the destination but the actual movement from one place to another. The travel. While on the road for 13 months I embraced this ‘time inbetween‘, as it allowed me to reflect on the places seen and to anticipate those waiting to be discovered. Many 12 hour plane rides gave me plenty of time to muse, but it is via train, traveling over land (and perhaps under sea), that I always feel most connected to the journey. Put me on a train, and I am happy. (Even simply the Long Island Rail Road or these days, the Trenitalia.)

My most memorable train ride to date was 48 hours enroute from Lhasa, Tibet to Beijing. I could have easily flown and spent more time exploring China’s capital, but I chose the option of adventure.

With only my thoughts to accompany me, I observing as the worlds of Tibet and China converged in my midst. I was one of a handful of Westerners and shared my sleeping cabin with 2 Chinese men, a Tibetan, and a few good books. My conversations were limited to very basic English as I taught the Tibetan man to play backgammon and in turn he taught me a Tibetan game.

I became a voyeur. Much of my time was spent observing life on the train.

The dining cabin became my ‘room with a view’. The landscape my vista.

The sun rose and night fell. And again. I could have easily spent another 2 days enroute.

One day I hope to board the Orient Express to destinations unknown… But these days I will happily settle for the night train from Paris to Venice.

the laughing man

His laughter was contagious. There was rarely anything even to laugh about, yet he laughed often and with great sincerity. This was the way with Mudarta, since the moment I met him and stepped into his taxi in Bali.

He appeared like most taxi drivers, friendly and  filled with small talk that seems almost formulaic. Yet Mudarta was special. His warmth filled the space completely, and his laughter provoked an immediate smile. His philosophies on life were profound and plenty. I chose to be a disciple of this discerning man.

Mudarta was deeply spiritual. He often paid tribute to the Balinese gods by partaking in traditional dances. His days were spent working in a hotel and his nights on the road. Several years earlier he had chosen a wife, based upon the simple formula of shared affection and compatibility. Together they raised a child, little Regi, who accompanied his father on our prophetic journey, quietly listening to the wise discourse, smiling with his eyes.

It was that day in his taxi, winding through rice fields, into a village of wood carvings and wild herons, up into the scenic heights overlooking an active volcano, into the thoughts and teachings of a simple, happy man, that I experienced great peace. 

I often think of Mudarta, this modest man and the melody of his laughter. And always, I smile.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition. (Mudarta is one of the favorite people I met on my journey around the world. We still keep in touch.)

the journey inwards

In lieu of the film Eat, Pray, Love which opens today in the US (and soon in Paris I hope), I have been reading a lot of travel related blogs and stories. This film (as 99.9% of the modern world knows) is based on the best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert in which, seeking emotional solace, she spends 4 months in Italy eating, 4 months in India praying, and 4 months in Bali resulting in love. I often, and more so these days, reflect upon my own journey, in which I spent 13 months traveling the world, Italy, India and Bali included. During my travels, I read and mostly enjoyed the tales of Eat, Pray, Love, even though mine was a very different story. I ate nearly everything, prayed often, and yes, I did experience love. The most important love affair of all. 

The Journey Inwards

The best investment I made in my life was not my education, which taught me the necessity for discipline and hard work, nor was it the purchase of my apartment, which ingrained in me a deeper sense of responsibility, and it was surely not my rare acquisition of a vintage bag or designer chair. It was the journey within myself, one year spent traveling around the world.

There is nothing so beautiful and equally frightful, as complete freedom. Time which is yours to fill as you desire. There exists no agenda other than to experience life in it’s many unfamiliar tastes, smells and sights. Every day unfolds into a unique composition, captured forever by the mind.

My journey began in the cobbled streets of Buenos Aires, where the heart beats in tango rhythm, to Fernando de Noronha, one of many paradises found, a secluded island off of Brazil’s Bahian coast, to the ancient civilization of Machu Picchu. I have redefined what exist for me as the wonders of the world. And this was only the beginning of what I consider to be my greatest love affair, with the world as my suitor.

The following months found me sky-diving amidst the majestic mountainscape of New Zealand, exploring the limestone formations along Great Ocean Road, completely taken with the natural wonders that became the background of my life. My mind’s eye is rich with visions from these days in which so many lives were lived.

My most profound moments were experienced in the land of color and contrasts, India. It is here that the heart reigns, amidst the urban toil and drudgery of Mumbai, into the grandeur of the pinkgold and blue cities of Rajasthan. This land speaks of an intricate past and a blossoming modernity, unequivocally captivating and nourishing the soul.

Southeast Asia became a history lesson as much as a gastronomic exploration, amidst the floating villages and ancient temples of Siem Reap. In Vietnam I tasted an endless variety of noodles and rice dishes to satisfy the most curious of palates. Within the limestone formations of Halong Bay I experienced the grandest sunset that lit the sky in hues of red. The island of Bali became one of my most revered homes. It was here that I so deeply appreciated the simplest of pleasures; food, shelter, and what becomes the most valued to a traveler, the kindness of strangers.

Inbetween my enlightened city tours of a frenetic and evolving China beginning in Shanghai, I stepped upon the sacred soil named Tibet. The chanting of monks accompanied me into the vast open space of snow-capped mountains and serene lakes. I was living within a dream, perhaps the most vivid and surreal of all. Or was it the other-worldliness of Japan.

Europe began my chapter of friends and family. Aside from intermittently traveling with a trusted friend, I often met with acquaintances, some from the life I left behind and others which I had collected along the way. I was often alone and did my best to enjoy this time. Loneliness is a common symptom of solo traveling, resulting in strength, understanding and greater reliance in the self. 

I felt undeniably fortunate to experience the lives of my friends who had created homes in remote parts of the world, beginning with the turquoise waters of the Aegean in the coastal town of Bodrum. In Turkey I also experienced Cappadocia, another great wonder of the world. I entered and exited these scenes as though they were pieces of my own life, digesting each cultural nuance and idiosyncracy. With my family In Poland I found refuge in the woods of Bykowce, a place where I spent so much of my childhood. Time to digest and reflect upon the pages that were written and the many lessons learned through my resignation to life as a traveler.

My final weeks were spent immersed in the majestic urbanism of Mexico City. I was satiated with visions of ruins that spoke of a rich history. I found my last refuge upon the deserted shores of the Yucatan. The most simple of paradises was Tulum. It was here, beneath the reflection of a star filled sky that it occurred to me that this journey was as much an exploration of the world as of myself.

Tulum

My final destination is paradise. I am living in a cabana on the Caribbean shores of Tulum. Falling asleep to a cacophony of waves and waking to a turquoise sea. Mornings of yoga and diving in the reefs and underground caves of the cenotes, afternoons spent walking the tranquil beaches, reading the books of others as I write my own…simply and beautifully detached from the world. With scarce electricity, the stars illuminate the night sky. Time ceases to exist, this privilege of time that is mine for moments longer. My mind is filled with thoughts as I recollect the grand adventure that has been my life for so many days and nights. The perfect place in which to find respite as one chapter closes and another begins…

Isla Mujeres

The island of women. This is where Sooji and I indulged in a last reunion after many months of solo travel, to recount our moments created together and apart. Upon these blissful shores I said goodbye to my dearest travel companion as she returned to NYC, to another life and time. I bask in the sun for my final 2 weeks…