A Wanderlust Daydream

I am one distracted adult. It is 7 pm on a Thursday night and I am on the second last row in my Geology class of 60 students, fidgeting in restlessness, ready to leave for the day. Right, my legs can’t always wander, so this imaginative mind takes over for it. Somewhere in between plate tectonics and earthquakes, I found myself in a whole another train of thoughts:

With distance comes clarity. Perhaps, that’s why I love to distance myself, from myself. I travel, to the faraway, undiscovered parts of me. It’s almost shameless how I kiss my changing versions of every particular country goodbye. A new land’s sunrise sees my very gently altering personality- the one that I’d vow to give to only that land in which I wake up now, temporarily. Many have called it manipulative and many others childish, unstable and impulsive. I call it being me. A sworn nomad. If I do not selflessly give away my intricately woven particles particular to the specific country, am I even slightly myself? Certainly not. An empty canvas, I let the winds sneaking through the mountains to meet me, splash paint all over my soul. Red, green, yellow and blue, I am soaked in the very curious mystery of this rich life; rich in wet soil of knowledge, grounded roots of wisdom, and swaying leaves of freedom. “Je suis libre, mon chéri”, I lovingly hum to myself this and every other dusk. ‘Flow like water, your element!’, if only uplifting self-talk was enough to make all my fond ambitious dreams come to life.

‘Has anyone been to Iceland?’ asked my professor, and I was obviously ought to wake up in a thud. I turned around impressed at the raise of four hands. They are extremely lucky to have been to a place where 90% of energy is geothermally acquired from the currents produced in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. ‘Why do you know that, you crazy woman?’, I sighed. If only I were blessed enough to be in Iceland right at this moment. Oh I would breathe in the night sky stolen away by the beauty of Auroras. I would act like wonder woman as I push away two tectonic plates underwater swimming gracefully in between just for a perfect camera shot. I would lick glaciers just to know what they feel like and maybe even take a moment to pray that they don’t melt.

Oops, floating in space again. I nodded in disappointment and disbelief a little like my mom would- disappointment because I am a spoilt kid who will chase her daring dreams in spite of her parents’ disagreement, and disbelief to the extent at which my thoughts could limitlessly wander with unrealistically high hopes. So I nodded and chuckled, carefully, so that nobody would notice. With all the time I waste each day juggling these fleeting thoughts of wanderlust, it felt kind of strange today as it was satisfying knowing in my chest that I am one step closer to my childhood dream, The National Geographic.

Never stop daydreaming,

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KAZI SHERPA – The Mount Everest Record Breaker

In 1998, a mere human being became a legend.

A Nepali Mountaineer, Kazi Sherpa, defied all odds, as he set forth for a record breaking journey – to climb the highest peak in the world aka the Mount Everest (8,848 m) in only 20 hours and 24 minutes without supplemental oxygen.  As I spent my last day in Pokhara, Nepal after having climbed two mountains on the Annapurna Circuit, I took the opportunity of visiting the International Mountain Museum. The whole visit seemed even more auspicious as it was The Mount Everest day, the day Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzin Norgay became the first ever summiteers of the mighty Everest in 1953, 64 years ago.

A little talk was given by a very down-to-earth man standing behind the podium at the assembly room. It hit me – I was listening to KAZI SHERPA, or ‘SPEED KAZI’, the 2000 Guinness World Record setter of the fastest Everest climber. Every nerve in my body lit up with excitement and I couldn’t help myself but ask to borrow a fraction of his time and interview him about his extraordinary journey. Believe me, get some tea or popcorn before reading this one, it’s totally worth your 10 minutes!

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What makes you, YOU, Mr.Kazi?

“My name is Kazi Sherpa, and climbing is my life’s calling. I have summited many mountains out of which eight were above 6000 m. I was in fact born on the foothill of the Mount Everest in Solukhumbu. Growing up, I saw people going for the Mount Everst expedition and it grew in me to do the same. I could never go to school since I was a Yak herderer in our family farm. I didn’t like what I did so I rebelliously left home when I was 14 to start climbing Mt. Lang tang (7,205 m). Lets just say that this is where my journey began. ”

Kazi was only 19 when he first tried summiting Everest. Unfortunately, his attempt failed but his zest never did. So he tried over and over, until one day, on his fifth attempt, he not only made it to the top and back, but also did it faster than any human being on the planet!

 

Can you lay out your experience in detail for us – What were the thoughts that crossed your mind throughout that day as you were climbing?

“I didn’t focus on many things, except my ambition to make a record. The only thoughts that crossed my mind were about where I had to be, at what time and how exactly. But most of all, through my entire journey, I was praying to God.”

You connect your journey with ‘prayers to God’. Can you explain how climbing the Everest could be a spiritual journey? 

“Our two main belief systems are Buddhism and Hinduism. We believe in and worship the Gods and Goddesses (as in hindu polytheism) very much. For most people who are unsuccessful in their expeditions, it is assumed that they have sinned, for example having sex with someone who isn’t their vowed partner. It is believed that the Mountains are so sacred, that they know, and they punish you for your wrong deeds.

For instance, this once I was climbing with a Korean expedition team in 1995, and I found out that they came from the Tibet side and carried a dead dog with them to eat. The next thing you know, a huge block of ice fell on them and and all except two died. That was clearly because they were disrespectful towards our religion. I thank God that I could summit the Everest.

A famous superstition is the signaling of crows. Crows are quite big in Tibet and it is believed that if a crow takes three rounds near an area, that is a warning from nature of an avalanche.”

 

Were you always this spiritual? Did you come across any intuitive signs yourself?

“No, I wasn’t a regular worshiper, but climbing the Everest is like visiting Lord Ganesha’s (Hindu Lord of obstacles) house. So I asked for strength in the form of prayers and got signs from the nature in return. Whenever I had nightmares, it immediately came to me that the day would be a rough one to climb. One time, I saw a lady in front of me, but the next moment, she vanished. When I was sleeping in the tent, I would also hear some noises of people moving around me outside, but no one seemed to be there, and no footsteps on the snowy ground when I checked in the morning. ”

Did you maintain a journal or record your journey in any form?

“I had recorded my voice through the day’s climb, but unfortunately there was a flood at my home later on October 6, 1998, and my recording device and camera was damaged.”

 

Do you know anything about the Everest that people wouldn’t know – what isn’t so much in the mainstream media?

“There is one such thing that many don’t know – In 1953, 12 years before Hillary and Tenzin climbed the Everest, a man named George Mallory tried to summit it. His body is on 8,500 m and is still intact ant frozen. A letter by his wife was also found in his pocket by a group of researchers in the US that I do not know the details of. This mystery has the ability to change history. However, we also have found records of E.Hillary saying that a true summiteer isn’t one who makes it to the peak, but is one who is also able to make it back to the base camps safe and sound.”

 

Would you like to leave a message for the future climbers?

“Yes, people should climb for greater good of the whole globe, not for individual interest. For instance, light should be thrown upon bigger causes like awareness programs about the dead bodies, pollution and little oxygen that there is while climbing. Climate change is another big one.”

Nobody has been able to break Kaji Sherpa’s record till date and to this he smirked showed us how keen he is for someone to break his record and for a good cause. He also said that he dedicates his record to his ‘Apna Rajya’ which means his nation and Nepal is obviously very proud of him for that!

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*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The cameras  used to capture these pictures are Canon EOS 50D and iPone 7. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts!  🙂

Yours,

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NEPAL ON A BACKPACK

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Nepal, a country often overlooked in terms of travel destination as it is seen as a lost space between India and China, is in fact by far one of the most substantial countries I have ever set foot in. Home to an exquisite marvel of nature, the Himalayan Mountain Range, Nepal has had a luscious history that dates back to the Neolithic Age. On one hand, it is the birth place of Lord Buddha, where a strong belief in Buddhism stems from, and on the other, a home for Hindu monarchs that used texts revived from the Vedic age to reproduce lexicon. Even though Nepal was never colonized, it was always seen as an inheritor of a blend of the Indian and Chinese culture located on its South and North respectively, as it allowed various trade routes between the two.

What sets this country apart is its genuine, down-to-earth people that I got to experience first-hand, as I travelled to Nepal this May. Sponsorship wasn’t an idea with which I started blogging, and to me, this offer seemed like a dream. I left my May semester of University courses in the US to fly to Nepal on a backpack as soon as I got the invitation. Zero regrets, this trip did not only open my eyes in many ways, but also injected my soul with pure drops of purpose.

But I shall pause, before I proceed with everything Nepal has to offer to you; something was taken away from it, from our Nepal. In its grace and magnificence, people do not notice its limping and aching cry for help. In 2015, Nepal was shook by an earthquake of 8.1 vector magnitude. Almost 22K died and unfathomable amounts of infrastructure got lost in the smoke of destruction – an unforeseen dystopia.

I stood on that land last week, exactly two years later- May 2017; My heart crumbled. Thousands of Nepali men and women, working hours in a row to preserve and rebuild what was lost- prevalence of unity. Loss of loved ones echoed as I walked down the brick walls that were constantly being renovated. Strange as it was, wherever I went, people smiled with their glistening pure eyes, as if we were their saviors; we, tourists, who were privileged and futile in every way in that very moment.

The Travel and Tourism Board of Nepal had clearly made genuine efforts to make sure they left no stones unturned for us invitees– a group of travel writers and bloggers. We landed in the capital city of Kathmandu on the 23rd  of May, and spent three days soaking in the rich culture, heritage, and energy there, before we left for a road trip to Pokhara– the gateway city to the Annapurna Mountain circuit, where we climbed the Ghandruk and Pothana Ranges for 2.5 days and spent a day white water rafting in Trishuli river on our way. Having overcome too many challenges as we adventured, our group built a sense of family and a kinship toward the Nepali culture. We celebrated our last day in Pokhara at the International Mountain Museum on the auspicious Mt. Everest day. Come May end, we flew back to Kathmandu and attended the Himalayan Travel Mart from the 1st-4th of June, a platform for all online buyers and sellers to network.

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To me however, this trip was so much more than the jest I just gave you. It was a sense of belonging as I meditated amongst monks in a Buddhist Monastery, it was the shared pride in promotion of ecotourism, the number of times strangers smiled at me and said ‘Namaste’, the simple act of running my hand through the fresh water river stream that originated from the mountains I was climbing for the first time, the sense of the fact that everything material can be lost in just a moment from the reconstruction sights that I visited, the satisfaction from the spicy as hell food in the mountains – the food I thought I could never eat, and most of all the realization that there are bigger problems that need solving than my own – an unique sense of inner peace.

One blog post obviously doesn’t do my experience justice; so I have prepared three– ‘How To Be A Nepali in Nepal: A Tourism Guide’, ‘Top Five Places to Visit in Kathmandu’, and ‘My first section-trekking experience in on the Annapurna Mt. Circuit’. I was also very lucky to be able to interview Kaji Sherpa, who broke a record of the fastest climber to Mt.Everest back and forth in just 20 hours and 24 minutes in 1998.

Looking forward to sharing the Nepal blog posts with you this week and the next, and the interview with Mr.Kaji on the 15th of June! Stay tuned 🙂

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*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The cameras  used to capture these pictures are Canon EOS 50D and iPone 7. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts!  🙂

xoxo,

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The AT series: Coffee with Mark Perlin

Photo Feb 19-21The mere thought that I am not the only one who is hiking the Appalachian Trail cuts me a great deal of slack. Mark Perlin, a student from James Madison University, who is graduating in a week, took some time to geek out on everything AT with me yesterday.

Prior to meeting him, I knew that thru-hike and section-hike existed but I had never heard of something called ‘flip-flopping’; that is exactly what Mark is going to do. He has wanted to hike the trail since he graduated high school and wants to eventually get the triple crown in his bag.  How he would flip-flop is by starting midway in Virginia (Va) and going up North to Maine to return hitch-hiking back to Va. Then from Va he will go South to Georgia and repeat the process till he is back to Virginia for good. An optimistic and dreamy person that he is, he encouraged me for my journey and gave me some excellent new tips in terms of clothing and research resources for AT.

Mark’s tips on clothes, electronics and resources:

CLOTHES

He is taking two pairs of tops, pants, underwear and socks. His clothes are obviously synthetic, since they dry quickest in rainy conditions. For underwear, he highly recommended the brand EX-OFFICIO. He loves it because of it’s high quality and durability. The sock brand that he went for is called DARN TOUGH.

ELECTRONICS

He is taking a phone, an iPod and a power bank. It’s minimal electronics and his iPod has all the songs, books and podcasts that he needs. To record his journey, he is taking an empty journal.

RESOURCES

Just like Chandler Thomas (my the other AT interviewee), Mark has bought Awol’s AT Guide, an all inclusive AT guide-book that 99% of the hikers refer to. He will carry it with him and tear off pages as he goes.

He also referred me to Erik the Black’s Blog and said that it has helped him a lot. He bought all of his gear online.

Mark is all set and ready to leave in mid May. I wish him luck on his journey!

To read more about why I want to hike the AT, click on this link.

xoxo,

Arushi Sachan

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Why am I hiking The Appalachian Trail?

The nature is so powerful and it had always called me, as if it held my freedom in it’s palms and tempted me through each breath of my life to come and taste it – my own freedom called.

Photo Feb 25-7‘It’s a calling’ – Tom Kennedy

I get asked this question very often- why on earth did I decide to section-hike the Appalachian Trail for two months when everything is going just fine in my life and I’m in the middle of getting my undergraduate degree?

Well theres the catch – when is everything ever just fine?

Last November, my best friend (also my roommate) and I watched watched ‘WILD’, a Reese Witherspoon movie based on a true story of a woman who hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail in the US west coast after she lost her mother.

That was it. 

I mean it wasn’t. Yes, I was born and bought up in Dubai, but I never did fit in. Cities with glittery lights did touch me, but never as deep as the nature. The nature is so powerful and it had always called me, as if it held my freedom in it’s palms and tempted me through each breath of my life to come and taste it – my own freedom called.

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Being 20 and having traveled across the globe to come to the US and study amongst the most beautiful valleys that could every be – The Shenandoah, I realized that maybe after all, things do happen for a reason. Like Rumi once wisely said ‘What you seek is seeking you’. 

This isn’t the reason though; but what this is, is a path that might lead me to find out why I am here- my being.

So after watching Wild, this strong urge to hike the Appalachian Trail got triggered within my roommate and I. We made a pact to do it this year in the summer. We both were as serious and clueless at the same time as we could’ve possibly been. For me, the journey began then itself- November 2016. Since then, I have grown tremendously as a human being. The path of soul searching isn’t something you’d have to deter yourself from your present situation to go on, I have learnt- it is an ever-manifesting thought process that simply depends on how strongly you desire it.

I very passionately desire soul searching, and hence, I will be hiking the trail.

I have been doing a lot physically and mentally to prepare myself for it and I will keep writing about it as I go, for it is the journey that I am focusing on and not the destination.

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*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The camera  used to capture these pictures is Canon EOS 50D. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts!  🙂

xoxo,

Arushi Sachan

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CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL – WASHINGTON D.C.

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The breeze that knows not how to grow weary after a stormy winter startled me this spring day. Cherry Blossom and Kite festival In D.C., a delightful annual event to volunteer in, where echos of nature drove playfulness in people that came from all over the world, to be made one. The winds were in our favor with a 12℃ temperature and a good business for all the food trucks that surrounded the Washington Monument.

Buzzing with gay people, the atmosphere almost felt like that of a carnival – a good substitute for not being able to be in Japan right now. It made my heart happy.

A few of my close friends and I went to volunteer at the festival. We helped make kites from scratch and got a great opportunity to interact with visitors from all over the United States and also the world. It was truly a delight. The trees were absolutely breathtaking dressed in their pink and white blooms. With the wind, it felt like spring gave us it’s first chill to tell us it is finally here – oh what a grand welcome it demanded.

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And obviously, I couldn’t have missed out on taking pictures of the beautiful architecture of my walk from the Smithsonian Metro station to the Monument.

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We ended our eventful evening with a delicious dinner in Falls Church at a Korean Restaurant called GOM TANG E. I got the Chef’s Special Spicy Chicken dish and it was absolutely delicious even though it was on the costlier side of the menu prices- $19.99.

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The Cherry Blossom Festival lasts until 16th of April at the same location in Washington D.C. and I recommend everyone to go! Here is the official website- http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org. Don’t forget to go checkout their parade next week!

*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The camera I used to capture these pictures is Canon EOS 50D. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts!  🙂

xoxo,

Arushi Sachan

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SWANNANOA – THE ABANDONED MANSION

Photo Mar 30-22Amongst the beautiful valleys in Virginia lie some of the most historically prevalent structures- discovered and undiscovered. I am going to tell you about a place you haven’t seen before- The Swannanoa Mansion.

A relaxing Thursday afternoon, I sat sharing a celebratory coffee with my roommate and best friend Jessica, who recently earned the title of graduate assistant for a post-grad degree in occupational therapy. As I expressed my pride in her, she stopped and stared; and I knew in that moment that her mind stirred just another crazy spontaneous idea – “Let me take you to a place where no one goes, you will love it!”

I am not one to say no to adventures, and so we set forth on a 45 minute drive from harrisonburg to Augusta County, with some nice indie music, refreshing conversations and mesmerizing views.

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We might have crossed the ‘No trespassing’ sign to get to where we did, but hell the destination was worth it – An abandoned mansion just like the Villa Medici in Rome, built by the millionaire James Dooley back in 1912 for his wife Sarah. It is said to have taken a workforce of 300 men and eight years of hard work to assemble this symbol of love with absolutely gorgeous Georgian white marbles and Italian gardens.

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What added to it’s beauty was the aura. I was impressed by the ability of this structure to take me to a different era. It really felt like I was in 1900’s when this place could’ve been a perfect mountain retreat in the midst of industrialization and transportation that flooded towns during the Gilded Age.

Seeing the cracks in the marble and creepers that grew over the years evoked so much within me. It inspired me in a lot ways- How could something so beautiful exist?

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And as we walked around, we saw the unreal view one the Blue Ridge Valley as the sun was setting.

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*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The camera I used to capture these pictures is Canon EOS 50D. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts! 🙂

xoxo,

Arushi Sachan

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Top 5 Useful Tips To Prepare For The AT

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Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Chandler Thomas, A 23 year old broker who who left his job to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine – An extraordinary step in an ordinary life. Lucky for me, I met him just in time, before he set off to leave from Virginia to Georgia this Saturday.

What? The AT? To which he smirked, having earned and saved enough to sustain himself for two years. He must indeed be a great salesperson.

When did it come to him? At the mere age of 16, when he watched ‘Into The Wild’, an Emile Hirsch movie that dazzled so many, and he became just another fan who failed to resist buying the novel, which deeply inspired him to make this trip. He lived all these years since, actively dreaming about hiking the AT at least once a month- No surprise that he has manifested his passionate thought finally.

So what were his five KILLER TIPS to help us prepare for the AT? Or for that matter, any long duration hike?

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Do your research few months ahead of your hike. It is a good place to start as it helps you organize your thoughts. Watch YouTube videos, watch vlogs and read as much as you can. Chandler’s recommendations:

 

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You are not the only one who has made the brave decision to sacrifice your 9-5 life to be able to hike the trail. Connect with the AT hiking community through different platforms and get to know them. Chandler’s recommendations:

  • AT Reddit
  • Internet connectivity: Social Media platforms and YouTube following

 

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The most important question for me- how do you deal with food on long hikes? Chandler seems to have it all figured out with sufficient food for the first five days until he could buy the next bunch. He says it depends on whether you like warm food or you are okay with cold; that is the deciding factor to whether you’d need a portable stove or not. But keep in mind that the stove increases the overall weight- so only buy it if necessary.

He packed a lot of chocolates, candies, tinned food, tortillas and Nutella. He also suggested to have them available at hands length somewhere on the sides of your backpack where you could easily grab them on the go without having to stop, wait and eat.

 

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It is of vital importance that the gear is of good quality (i.e. durability factor) and it fits you well. Hence, Chandler asks us to buy all the gear at once toward the end, since it can be expensive.

So how do we plan our gear? The BIG THREE, he said:

  • BAGPACK
  • SLEEP SYSTEM
  • SHELTERS

A great resource to have the entire set up at the bare minimum weight is Erik the Black’s Ultralight Backpacking Gear List (2016). It’s best to stay between 40 lbs to 60 lbs. A few things to keep in mind are the temperature you’ll you be hiking in, and personal preferences. But at any cost, be prepared to stay protected from the heavy rains as they are unavoidable in the AT no matter what time of the year you decide to hike. It’s viable to get a pair of crocs and a net to protect yourself from insects. Remember to get something to keep you busy– a couple of journals or a go pro; music helps a lot.

The two equipment companies that Chandler recommends are:

 

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Training for the AT is a two-step process: Physical and Mental. You can train physically by going on regular weekend hikes with heavy backpacks or simply walk miles in a row on side-walks to find out your all-day-pace. This will increase your stamina considerably. The primary focus should be your legs as the backpack’s heavy weight can cause knee problems potentially as you hike for miles in a row.

Mental strength can be increased in doses. It is good to keep going when you are the least motivated- that is the real test of your mental strength. A little discipline and avoiding a lot of social media indulgence can go a long way. Positivity is the key, though.

Talking to Chandler was very insightful as I not only gained access to these great resources, but also made an awesome friend that I might potentially meet through my section-hike this summer. I am excited to walk for days in a row in a bare-minimum-survival mode and develop a relationship with mother nature as I go. Watch out for more about my preparations for the trail as I blog about it bi-weekly under the new website category: ‘The Appalachian Trail’.

Follow Chandler and his adventures on instagram: WE THE WAYFARERS

xoxo,

Arushi Sachan

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39th SAINT PATRICK’S DAY PARADE – WINTERPARK, FL

On Sunday, 5th of March, I had the opportunity of seeing the 39th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Winter Park, which is the only one of it’s kind in Central Florida. A delight to the eyes of  locals and foreigners, a total of 75 organizations/units participated. The only difference that make the whole experience unique, was that they were not the only ones to participated- The audience was equally as involved in their shamrock green dresses and joyful spirited attitudes. Yes, there was Irish music, some killer tap dance moves and  hundreds of happy people. Here are a few snapshots that I took at the N Park Ave and E Morse Blvd intersection.

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Read more about how I spent my last week in Orlando, Fl over spring break: The two faced world – Orlando, Florida

Also, check out all the fun places I visited during my downtime in Central Florida: Central Florida- Spring Break 2017

*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The camera I used to capture these pictures is Canon EOS 50D. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts! 🙂

xoxo,

Arushi Sachan

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Central Florida- Spring Break 2017

SCROLL TO SEE ALL THE FUN PLACES I EXPLORED OVER SPRING BREAK IN ORLANDO, FL 🙂

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Read more about how my last week in Fl doing service opened my eyes to a lot of things I knew nothing about: The two faced world – Orlando, Florida

*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The camera I used to capture these pictures is Canon EOS 50D. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts! 🙂

xoxo,

Arushi Sachan

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