Google search terms: round 3

Every once in a while, just for fun, I look to see how people in the big, wide world are finding my blog. Sure, I have my few devoted fans who come specifically to my site to see what I’ve been up to, but the rest of my visitors? Yes. The rest of my visitors are not loyal fans tattooing themselves with outlines of Africa and hearts dedicated to the Backpacking Chica. No, they’re just regular folk, playing around on Google. Here are the internet breadcrumbs these little Hansel and Gretels leave behind:

Why you would not take a job in Africa: yes, this was a search string that elicited my blog. Yes, the very same blog that lauded Africa and international travel and inspired one or two people to think about leaving America for the dark continent, was deemed by Google to be the answer to this person’s question (just once, it seems).

“I hate inspirational quotes”: I shit you not, this search term has been use 22 times in the last quarter as a portal to my blog. TWENTY-TWO TIMES! What is wrong with people?

Madagasca mostquitos: I promise, I left all the spelling errors in that one.

Worst time to travel to rome: what’s with all the negativity people? Is there really a bad time to travel to Rome? That’s like saying that there’s a bad time to travel to Paris. Pshhh. Drink two bottles of good French wine and the cold will be nothing but a bad memory.

Boat on rocky waves: Oh yes. I know exactly which post this pulled up. Man, that day was…peachy.

Backpacking blogg: Well, I’m not important enough to get into google search results when people spell the word “blog” write, but I guess everyone’s gotta start somewhere!

Sweaty face: WHYYY? Pourquoi? Warum?

For a look at past “google” inspired posts check out this and this post.


As every good traveler my age…heck, as every good person my age…I’ve been making sure to keep my friends and family in the loop via a stream of facebook photo albums and posts. During the past few weeks, and especially the past few days, I’ve had several comments on the pictures that literally have made me laugh out loud. In fact, I would like to take this moment to apologize to the kid in the Paris airport who will forever remember me snorting hot chocolate out of my nose. I’m sure it scarred him for life…it was very much the chocolaty experience.

So, given how funny some of the comments are, I thought I would share some of the best picture/comment pairs I’ve received:


Comment: “love this pic! its so…african safari! lol”

Message in the sand (please note: the description of the photo said, “Baboon hand print!”):

Comment: “i was wondering why you took a picture of dirt and then i saw the description”

The Essence of being German

Comments (more of a dialouge):

My sister:  “could it be more german! lol”
Me: “I think if you added a guy wearing Birkenstocks, lederhosen, and knee high socks it might get more German”
My dad: “That’s racial profiling!!!!”

Thoughts: My dad is only upset because he actually likes wearing birkenstocks and knee-high socks. I rest my case!


I am not ashamed.

I saw these shoes when I was shopping for Madagascar and fell in love. Maybe it’s the pattern.

I know, only a German could love them. Functional, semi-ugly, and they probably look better when paired with knee-high socks and lederhosen. Yet, I am wearing them in the Frankfurt Airport right now. Not much more needs to be said:



I fully embrace being German!

Home Sweet Home. I mean…Tent Sweet Tent.

I been asked over and over again what it was like for me to live in the forest, and it occured to me how unbelievable it might be to some people that, along with three other people, I lived without electricity (well, we had a generator that we were able to use about once a week), running water, or regular contact with the outside world. We lived in tents, cooked over a fire, bathed and washed dishes and clothes in nearby freshwater sources, and used ‘latrines’ (AKA holes in the ground).

Despite all of these inconveniences, life in the forest was freaking amazing. We were surrounded by wildlife everyday; one of our camps had a semi-resident group of Pogonias monkeys that, on one morning, decided they would jump around in the trees over our camp.

During our time in the forest, we basically had two on-trail camps that we stayed in, one after the other.

The first was christened ‘Etepo Beta’, and sat on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. The camp was pretty awesome, but definitely had some unique topographical issues. For instance, our freshwater source was at the bottom of a soul-crushing ravine that involved a fair amount of controlled butt sliding to get down. It was literally sheer at some points, and I swear I had to use all available handholds to get back up again. Bathing here gave a new meaning to the word clean; by the time we got back to camp we were usually sweating again, so when we said that we were ‘clean‘, what we usually meant was that we had bathed at one point during the day.

Etepo beta bathing area. What you don’t see are the thousands of little crayfish that liked to nip at our feet and seemed to have exponential population growth during the time we were there.

Living in a tent was also not bad at all – I actually slept really, really well. Yes, when it rained incessantly (which it did…a lot), the tarp under my tent usually held some water, which made sleeping on it something akin to a waterbed. But, all in all, it was like a little haven of privacy for all of us.

My tent is the one all the way to the left!

Our kitchen/living room/hang out area. Our bubi porters built us the awesome shelf thing under the tarp.

Hanging out in our ‘kitchen’ on a early evening.

My boss found this plastic chair on the beach, and hiked it back up to our camp…the first of several good beach finds.

At any given point in time, at least 50% of my belongings were soaked or wet. Usually 95% of my belongings were at least damp. Drying out shoes was a losing battle…but I still gave it a go whenever I could, because there is nothing worse in the morning than a wet pair of boots!

After days and days of rain, I would just wake up hoping that enough sunshine would make it through the trees to dry my clothes. Fortunately, at the next camp we could use hot beach rocks to dry our clothes much faster.

Our second camp was like paradise. Really, it was. It was right on the beach and directly next to a nice river – one that did not involve a somewhat dangerous climb. Named ‘seven caves camp’, for the seven caves that were found along the coastline at that point, it was my favorite place during my time out there.

Boss and Seth doing laundry in the river right by our camp.

The kitchen/living area at our second camp was way bigger; Seth is sitting on a plastic chair (different from the first one…this was like a patio chair) that we rescued from the beach trash and sat on in camp.

When we did take days off from doing census we often worked on data entry or doing camp chores. This is me trying to sit away from the generator fumes :-)

Washing dishes was so much easier now that the water was close by.

The last night on the beaches, we had to hike to a different location that was easier pick up point for our boat ride out. We took about two hours to set up camp on a tidal beach that was basically surrounded on all sides by cliffs, ocean, and a river. This involved cutting a camping area in a narrow, densely vegetated piece of land.

Me with a machete…

Me actually using the machete.

For what it’s worth – I would go back in second.

All in a day’s work; yep, this is definitely not sexy.

Want to know what it’s like to start off a work day with a 1.5 hour hike on a rainforest trail involving several ravines and a small mountain?

Until I visited Bioko, I always thought that the cliche “dripping with sweat” statements were simply literary exaggerations. Well, I’m here to let you know that it is most definitely possible to sweat that much. Just moving around camp was enough to get a nice glisten (as my sisters would say). At the risk of forever eliminating myself from being on a reality TV dating show, I’m posting some pictures just to illustrate my point.

I rest my case.

How to leave a rocky, wave-filled, bay on the southern beaches of Bioko Island.

Step number 1: Set up a signal fire.

Step 2: Sleep on the beach until the boat gets here.

Step 3: Frantically flag down the boat with any available materials…ie: neon yellow rain jacket.

Step 4: Desperately try to get an overloaded boat out over the breaking waves and safely into the open ocean.

Step 5: Leaving the bay. Note the fact that the boat was filled with water, the huge waves, and the fact that I sound reasonably scared.


Night time, rainforest style.

Nights were a really weird time in the forest; we didn’t have electricity so we would do everything by firelight or by headlamp light beam. It’s strange to describe the feeling of being confined to such a small area because of a lack of power, although I came to prefer having a headlamp on me…even when I got back to ‘civilization’. I think, as with everything about my trip, pictures say much more than anything I could ever describe (I am, after all, just an amateur blogger). That being said, I’ve put together some pictures that hopefully convey would the typical night was at Camp Drew & Crew.

Dinner was usually started before dark, but more often than not, we finished the final preparations using headlamp light.

On the days when our porters were with us in camp, they prepared the food while we took care of other camp business.

Dinner time!

Reppin´the headlamp.

Doing the nightly foot check. I wrote an article for the Naples Daily News about this whole can of worms.

Twice a week we turned on the satellite phone. We would take turns sitting by the phone – it was our only contact with the outside world.

Books became the ultimate entertainment…no facebook or myspace here!

Hot drink time was probably my favorite time of the day after bathing. There is nothing as delicious as a hot beverage at the end of a long day. I preferred hot milk (powdered milk, some sugar, and some cacao powder), while the two guys preferred coffee, and Polly was all for a fully chocolaty experience.

Blood sausages and raw meat. Barbaric!

I LOVE German butcher shops. I don’t care what anyone says – they are absolutely fantastic. While in Germany with my boyfriend, I took him to a butcher shop. The goal: to buy meat for a picnic.

Inside the family-run shop, thick silver hooks speared meat hanging in glass-door refrigerators. A little chilled, I glanced over our options: a dozen varieties of sausages, rabbit, pork, duck, chicken, and cow. Looking over my grandmother-assigned shopping list I noted the items needed: met (a ground beef/pork/onion mixture eaten raw on bread) and ground beef. The rest was ours to choose.

Raw meat. To eat. Uncooked. To be honest, I absolutely love met. But my boyfriend? A worried crease on his forehead told me exactly what he thought about the whole business.

Tapping my foot to the sound of a hidden employee chopping meat, I wondered if this kind of butcher shop would even be popular in the United States. Meat is often so packaged: perfect, blood-drained, and completely detached from the reality of what it really is: a dead animal. Now, I love eating steaks just as much as the next person. However, having the reality dangling on a silver hook in a storefront is not exactly appetizing. Especially when the ground beef is literally ground right in front of your eyes (as occurred on this occasion).

Anyway, dead carcass or not, I was excited to dig into our spoils. Spreading the met over a butter-covered broettchen, I offered my boyfriend a taste. Taking a smaller-than-usual bite, he chewed thoughtfully and I was delighted to see that his response was positive. Immediately he set about organizing two slices for himself, which were swallowed before they even really existed. Raw or not, it was a delicious meal.

So, I guess the lesson of the story is: even if it looks and sounds completely and utterly disgusting, it might turn out to be absolutely delicious. I should probably make this my mantra for the upcoming months. If the locals eat it, I can eat it too!

How to drive on the autobahn in Germany…and survive!

Driving on the autobahn is a little scary, let’s be honest. I would know because I drove on it!
In the summer of 2006 a few friends and I decided to do a two-week tour of Germany. After doing the math, it was cheaper for us to rent a car (even with gas costs) than it would have been for us all to buy train passes. Renting a car is not hard. All you need is the ability to be able to drive manual (after trying numerous big-name companies like Hertz and Budget, it became obvious to us that no one was going to be able to guarantee us an automatic vehicle) and a valid, American driver’s license.

Our cute little rental car – stopped somewhere on our way down to Munich, Germany

Anyway, being under 25, we were only allowed to rent the smallest class of cars and we were entrusted with a cute little VW. Being German-built, we assumed it would hold it’s own. Wrong! Careening down the typically narrow lanes, we urged the car onwards (the max speed being only 180km/hr), only to be passed by BMW’s and various other luxury (and non-luxury) vehicles. After our initial shock at the country’s penchant for speeding, we soon acclimatized and were more than happy to join in on the fun.

Our VW tryin‘ to keep up!

Don’t let me dissuade you from driving your Europe trip – the Autobahn is really not as bad or as unsafe as its reputation might suggest. I have read that the Autobahn actually has a lower fatality record than that of the United States (although, I have yet to find reliable stats on this). The idea of a zero speed limitations on the Autobahn is actually more of a myth. Granted, many areas do allow you to speed your dear heart out, but just as many areas (around cities, in high traffic areas, around construction, and in mountainous terrains), speed limits are in effect and strictly enforced using speed cameras. Likewise, the rumors of unsafe and reckless German drivers are also false. German drivers, from my experience, were safe and courteous. Just make sure to move over and allow people to pass you!

Myself, as the navigator!