Budapest, Hungary

Greetings! And welcome back to my little nook of randomness. I apologize for last week, I somehow got logged out of my blog, and it is basically a nightmare! All is well now and here we go. So grab a cup of coffee and read on….

I am constantly researching, collecting notes from my travel groups, reading, etc about trips to faraway places, so that when I DO get to hop on a plane, I’m already somewhat familiar with the place I’m venturing to. I love to go to places for the first time, and for this trip? It was Budapest and Prague.

Why those two places you ask? No truly romantic or poetic response to that question. I just wanted to go somewhere. (Besides, a bucket list thing that I just HAD to see………. The Shoes…..) Didn’t have a boatload of money, and it was cheap! I had this planned for a few months and planned to go by myself, but sister had great interest so she came along with. I had zero idea what to expect. We went in late October so it was the very tail end of fall, so the weather would be chilly but not cold. In a word? Perfect. For this week, I will be sharing with you the wonderfully unique city of Budapest, Hungary.

After an uneventful, but very pleasant long Haul flight straight through from Phoenix Arizona to Budapest, Hungary with a short stop in Zurich, Switzerland, we landed safely. We had a spare seat in the middle of us so it was very comfy. Sister caught up on every movie imaginable and I read and wrote. No complaints. I personally love long haul flights. There is just something magical to me about getting on a plane, and getting off in a faraway land.

The first things that were truly different was every sign you came across, very unique and impossible to pronounce. Every word looked like it had too many consonants in it! The second was the money. We got both Hungarian Forint and Czech Crowns since we would be making our way to Prague as well on the trip.


We settled into our hotel. Small and simple but very comfortable with twin beds and everything you need. It felt like a little girl sleepover! The first day after an amazing European breakfast, we went right outside of our hotel and started walking. Little did we know we were right around the corner from Heroes Square.  The architecture of just a normal city road was something to behold. Ornate at times, rigid at others, but all fascinating. As always, with anything  Europe, you can literally smell the history. Here are a few from our walk there and the square with all of the beautiful statues etc.

During the few days we were fortunate enough to stay and explore this beautiful city I was amazed at the years and the history. It was truly different. The city was clean and somewhat organized. Actually it is two cities separated by the river and bridges. One side is Buda, the other side is Pest. Hence; Budapest.

We didn’t speak the language but had very few problems finding anything or getting around. Although we didn’t understand many things on any given menu…..there was endless supply of the countries mainstay dish. Goulash! And yes I ate it every chance I could get. Each time it was a little different, but every time it was absolutely delicious!

IMG_0444We managed to get to an elevation to truly see the city. It was a little overcast, and sprinkled rain, but the view literally took your breath away. The colors looked like it was straight out of a painting. You had the subtle blues and grays of the sky framed with the brilliant oranges of fall. The air was crisp. I think we stood there for a long time just taking it all in.

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One thing about Budapest, is that there seemed to be a surprise around every corner.  You just never knew what you were going to see.

Churches were ornate and bathed in years. The architecture was extreme, the details were endless, the following photos certainly do not do these places justice. There seemed to be a combination of buildings cloaked in deep history, coupled with a newer modern age as well. The ghosts of Communism always lingered.

I was mesmerized by things as simple as a “normal” window or a doorway.

Somehow and some way along our travels we managed to cross a border into Slovakia! Another country crossed off the list! Hungary and Slovakia are separated by a river, and this is how we magically got to get a small taste of another country. No passport stamp though! Boo!

Sometimes, the most profound moments are experienced in a simple surrounding. Perhaps something or somewhere, that few would notice more than a photo op or a “what is this all about”. But I remember reading about this very simple memorial in Budapest, Hungary some years ago and put it on my lengthy list of “have to see’s”.

I have always been borderline obsessed with WWII and the Holocaust. I’ve read many books, seen films, etc. I’m not sure why. It is always an emotional journey  for me, not understanding the whole concept of attempting to literally eradicate an entire population of people. I still struggle with it. I have been told I’m a “severe empath” and I seem to be drawn to those moments in history. And those places. And I was certainly drawn here.

The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in Budapest that was conceived by film director Can Today. He created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honor the people who were killed by Militiamen during WWII. The men, women, and children were lined up on the side of the river bank, ordered to take off their shoes and face the river, shot in the back so they would fall into the water.

The memorial isn’t big. Isn’t flashy. And honestly? Not easy to find. It is a quiet small place on the river edge, and easily missed. It was a dichotomy of sadness and beauty. Of silence and of screaming. I found my shoes. This one thing, made this entire trip worth taking to me.

I will never forget the shoes…….

Budapest and surrounding areas are truly fascinating. The colors. The choices in architecture, the random things and wares for sale. I could have walked those streets endlessly!

What will I take away from my few days in this foreign city? There are a few things that will stay with me. First, of course, is the shoes! Loved the goulash. The money was confusing at first but once you grabbed ahold of the exchange rate ($10 US = 2800 Forint) we could figure it out. At first glance the numbers were overwhelming. In Budapest there didn’t seem to be much respect for personal space, that was very clear! I got used to being very close to people I didn’t know. The prices (after figuring out above) were very inexpensive. Weather was mild even in late October. There was reasonable  English and people were friendly once spoken to. Paprika is the countries pride and major export, so you can find it everywhere. Didn’t realized there were so many variations of Paprika! Always something beautiful to look at! City transport was decent and wonderful city to walk in. And spending an adventure like this with my sister was something I will tuck away in my heart forever. Too many laughs to count!

IMG_9691 (1)Would I go back?

In a heartbeat!

I hope you enjoyed my story from Budapest. Please leave a comment or a “like” so I can know you stopped by. And any comments on the photography is very welcomed as I am always trying to improve. And any subjects you are particularly interested in let me know and I will create a blog post about it!

I truly thank you for spending your moments with me!

Until next time………as always…… kind.


Five Years of Travel

Greetings! And welcome to my newly revamped little corner of the world. This is a place I share my adventures, my stories, my photography, my books in progress, (I really am writing books…..) and whatever else crosses my path on this wonderful journey we call life. I admit, I haven’t been the most reliable blogger, but it took me a few months to settle some of my life down before I could get on with this new phase. I have spent several weeks organizing my Lightroom library, trying my best to forge a friendship with my MacBook, trying to figure out where the heck I’ve been, and relocating yet again (am in Northern Arizona until end of November right before I leave for Italy but thats a whole other blog post…..)  For those of you who are new, welcome! And for you faithful who have patiently waited for me to rev it up again….welcome back.

I plan on posting a new blog every Wednesday morning, about 9am MST. I have a lengthy list of subjects as I have learned (and continue to learn and save those little pearls!) about how to travel far and cheap, (did you know you can fly from Denver to Paris one way for less than $200?) minimalist packing and how it works well, many many destinations, my year journey to plan and prepare to go abroad for three months next year (yes, on my own. Yes, backpack only….. yes I’m planning on writing a book while I’m gone as well so stay tuned) So? Please add your name to my email list for reminders on new posts, leave a comment with suggestions or your thoughts on any given subject, I’m sure this will be entertaining, and hopefully educational on some level.

I absolutely love to travel, anywhere and at anytime. It is my true passion. There is nothing I love more than going someplace new. I keep it simple, pack light, and bring a journal and a camera. I have many adventures to share and even more in the planning phase. Alas, that gainful employment is necessary, but it also affords me to take off (after much  sacrificing, saving, cutting back, and throwing odd dollars and change in a jar). I started basically traveling for a living with my profession, that being a Family Nurse Practitioner. I work in Family Practice which is very demanding, and I prefer to go to places where I can treat the poor and homeless. It has sent me to some very interesting places. About five years ago I started working this way, and about four years ago I started truly downsizing. At this point, my belongings are in a storage unit, I gave up my rented home, and gave away my car. I basically live out of a little more than a suitcase, hence; my blog name.

I love planes, trains, long car trips being the driver, walking,  buses, trams and trolleys. I have had major trips abroad, I have taken day trips in my car, and everything  in between. I was reminded recently, (when I was whining about wanting to get up and go again) that I am a very well traveled person. Am I really? I started a list, started gathering photos off of Lightroom (thousands and thousands) and realized that during the past five years of traveling with my vocation, mini side trips, well planned tours, sporadic long weekends, and not needing much of an excuse to take off and go……the list of places is long. Surprisingly long. So as I sit here writing about it today and having a VERY difficult time picking out photos, I feel completely thankful. I also feel extremely excited, as the feet are getting restless again……

So this is what this week’s blog is about. Five years of travel. There are individual blogs planned for the major destinations (San Francisco, U.S. East Coast, Budapest, Prague, London, the South, and a blog post dedicated to the different doors of the world that I seem to be obsessed with plus more I’m sure) Keep in mind, I work full time, sometimes VERY full time, but I have truly mastered the art of capitalizing on cheap flights, holiday days off of work, creative planning, minimal packing, and just not making excuses and just GOING. So get a tasty cold beverage, find a comfy place to sit, and get a taste of the past five years. It has been quite the journey! (and if I can do it, being a single mom, working very full time, living on a very tight budget……then I truly believe that anyone can… just have to WANT to!)

So strap yourselves in, and here’s a thumbnail of some of the adventures I’ve had over the past five years. Some planned. Some not. Had to save for some, and others just filled up the car, made a sandwich, grabbed my camera and went.


I have gotten to drive the Pacific Coast Highway three times…..This is definitely a “have to” for anyone and everyone. It’s endless, gorgeously breathtaking, and a peaceful way to spend a few days. There is no wrong place to stop. It’s all fascinating.


I experienced Scotland with my mum, including pubs, kilts, William Wallace, Celebration of the Haggis (delish!) and spending the afternoon at a Scottish Sheep Farm.


Wine Country in Northern Cali….what can you say? It’s everything that you’ve heard. Miles of winding roads and vineyards as far as the eye can see.


Experienced a taste of Wales, and this is one quirky place! The language, the street signs are an adventure in itself. This is one country I would love to thoroughly explore. Put it on the list!


I had a four day weekend and a total of $500 to spend. Total. (Airfare, Accomodation, food and extras) and went to Victoria, British Columbia. Rode in a little puddle jumper airplane, walked for miles, ate great food, and took too many photos to count. Fascinating place. Highly recommend. Thanks to a $188 flight, AirBnB, and Groupon, the total weekend cost me $496 total. Gotta love minimalist traveling!


Had the opportunity to visit Sequoia National Park twice. The giant Sequoia trees are literally majestic, extreme, and fascinating. I got to go there once with my son which made it really awesome. I drove straight through the park and experienced life above the clouds at Kings Canyon National Park.


I got to drive up to Portland and see Multnomah Falls. This place is pure magic and you feel the strength and incredible beauty of Mother Nature as you stand in front of this magnificent sight.


I spent the longest time I’ve ever spent at one assignment in Ukiah, California, a total of 16 months which translates into 500 consecutive nights in a hotel room. It was worth it as I experienced coastal sights that took your breath away, lighthouses, and towns that I fell in love with including Ft Bragg and Glass Beach and Mendocino.


I was an hour and a half from San Francisco so I got to go there a couple of times. Fresh sourdough bread, the Golden Gate Bridge and trolley cars.



London with my mum along with Chester, York, Stratford Upon Avon, Windsor (where both Her Majesty the Queen and the leader of Ireland were at the time, so there were flags everywhere) and Bath. And I got to see my beloved Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park.


Mum and I got to go back to our hometown of Ipswich, England.


Mendocino deserves another mention. Northern Cali.


My favorite Bed and Breakfast: Depot Hill and Capitola


Random drives to find some “pretty”.


Drove through Yellowstone National Park on the way to work assignment in NewTown, North Dakota.


Experienced the East Coast when I was on assignment in Middletown, CT.


Zion in Utah


Monterrey California was very cool. Eating seafood out of paper as you walked. Everything was pretty. And when I saw the interesting mileage sign? This is the day I decided I should experience Dubrovnik, Croatia. Which I added to my three month Euro trip next year.



I needed to go someplace and I needed someplace that 1) required a passport and 2) was as cheap as possible. So I headed off to Hungary! My sister decided to come with which was an extra and unexpected blessing! Will have its very own blog post as just far too much happened!!


2nd leg of that impromptu sister trip was Prague, Czech Republic. We both decided we could live here. Again, a specific blog about this fascinating place! Can’t wait to go back!


The South, Charleston, Hilton Head and Savannah and yes, I broke my arm…..

There were definitely more side trips, but I’m sure you get the picture. I have traveled far and wide with what I had at the time and the list turned out to be surprisingly long. Very humbling.

This was kind of like a list. There will be more specific posts coming I promise, at least 12 are in the works as I type this.
I have pretty extreme plans coming up for the next 12 months. I plan on working hard, saving all I can and making all of this happen. So please stay tuned. I will be posting one time per month about my year plan to travel Europe next year for three months with a backpack. A lot goes into doing something like this at my age, so I am starting now. I also have a trip planned in December and another in April. I realized I can’t wait anymore. Time isn’t waiting for me.

So my time is now.

Thank you so much for spending your moments with me! Please leave a comment so I can know you stopped by.

Until next week…… always…….be kind.



Nature’s Song

Greetings! And welcome to my little corner of the world. I will thank you in advance for spending some of your moments here with me as I share with you what turned out to be quite the adventure!

As most of you who have visited my blog before now, I am a Family Nurse Practitioner who travels for a living treating patients and have done for the past few years. Hence; my blog title “Life in a Suitcase”. I prefer to treat the poor and homeless, which has taken me to some of the most interesting and off the beaten path locations. I spent the past 16 months in Northern California in a small town and have recently relocated to Flagstaff Arizona. For now, I will be here until mid November and as always, I have no idea where the wind will blow me next. I go where the need is.

I have been fortunate enough to have my middle son, Joe,  stay with me for a few weeks. He is a brilliant photographer and my favorite photo of him is standing in the middle of a gorgeous slot Canyon looking peaceful as he stands in front of his tripod and camera.  For any of you who are photography nuts, enjoy seeing beautiful places and things I encourage you to follow him on Instagram “just_joe_w” you will certainly thank me for that one! I guess I have mentioned this to him more than once, since one day he announced he was taking me there. Seriously? Taking me there? Wow… about thrilled!!

Hence; our unexpected, and yet very memorable adventure. I can honestly say this unexpectedly pushed me to my absolute physical limit. The kind of limit where your brain tells your legs to move forward: but they stay gridlocked…..and shaking. Feeling like a combo of rotting wood planks and jello. I still am undecided which.

We took off in the car and drove. I never asked where we were going. Or how far. I just know we kept driving. And driving. And driving. We passed both Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, two very well known and extremely touristy Arizona spots, and hundreds and hundreds of parked cars. We kept going up the highway. He said “turn left up there at the curve”. I saw nothing. A makeshift dirt road. But nothing else. I’m not sure I recall even seeing a sign. I should have been nervous. This seemed like a wonderland for varmits and snakes and all those Arizona desert things you see on National Geographic and are thankful you are in Jammie’s sitting safely on a couch in a living room. Or scared. Or something. But I was with Joe. So trust trumped everything. I felt as I seemingly was in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of nothing. But Joe was there so I thought “I’m good”.

We were on a Navajo reservation and met a collection of very welcoming and friendly young people who were genuinely happy to have us there. Joe had been here before and he described his previous trip here (where my favorite photo was taken) as a short hike in. Short climb down. Amazing view. Take some photos. Short hike out and done. No worries. I got this!

Things changed since his venture here. Now it was a guided tour. A preservation effort to protect this place. I looked around and didn’t understand “this place”. Dirt. Miles of dirt. Dirt as far as the eyes could see. Sun beating down on my skin already. Why didn’t I bring a hat? Oh well, I brought water. I wasn’t gonna die. Again…. trust trumped everything. Joe seemed excited. We hopped into an old van and drove a couple miles. Bumpy, windy, turns, more bumps, close to four wheeling. Started feeling a little nauseated. Did I eat breakfast? At this point, if I did, it wasn’t enough. Got out with a young man in a hat named Damien. “Follow me”….. and so? We did. Not sure where to. It was me. Joe. Damien. Me the only one without a hat. Walking on the dirt. (My eyes frantically racing to and fro to spot anything long and close to the ground resembling anything even remotely close to a snake) Followed closely behind Joe…….pretty darn close………

What I expected was a short hike in. Short climb down. Amazing view. Take a few pictures. Hike out and done wasn’t even close! The hike was on soft sand. Soft SAND! Have you ever walked in soft sand? For MILES? I could have just worshipped my son after mile #1 for convincing me before we left to “put on your Nikes mom……you don’t want to be wearing those sandals – trust me” (the most comfortable shoes EVER and I have put many a mile on them)  I reluctantly replaced my go to hiking sandals and wore my Nikes. Ohhhhhh how thankful I was!

We started climbing down. There were openings. And closings. And very extremely skinny and seemingly steep ladders that the boys tackled without blinking. Then there was me. Do I go forward? Do I turn around? It was awkward but dammit!! Just do it Catherine! Don’t show them that you are scared to death and are perpetually wondering what in the hell have you gotten yourself into…… just take that breath and DO IT.

And so I did. My life mantra came in handy. And often during this experience.

“Just keep doing the next right thing”

And at this point, it was one step in front of the other. 

The deeper we got – the more beautiful it became. It was just me, Joe and Damien the tour guide. He shared native stories, details about the Canyon, and was very kind and patient with me. I wasn’t expecting to learn so much. I wasn’t expecting to feel so connected. To the land. To the people I was sharing this day with. Or to the generations of Navajo that had lived in this area for the past centuries. It was very surreal. The views of this place were nothing short of breath taking. To the point of me becoming emotional.

The sun was very hot. But in amidst the Canyon it was cool. The breezes that blew through the sometimes very narrow nature made hallways sounded like quiet music. There were moments when no one spoke. We just listened. And it was more than just listening with your ears. I found myself listening to this amazing place with my entire being.
If I could describe this experience in one word. It would be “Spritual”. There is just something magical and unspoken about being that close to something so pure, so ancient, and so indescribably beautiful.
I will be forever thankful that I say yes more than I say no. That I can go and try things that are perhaps a little more than I should. And that  I can appreciate our Great Mother Earth and her beautiful paintings, her hidden secrets, and hear the sounds of her songs.

I almost didn’t make it out of there. The kind of silent fear like “Oh my God, I’m not sure I can do this” I felt like we went up more than down, my legs barely worked, and around every corner just one more “almost there”. I ended up in Joe’s hat. Stopping every few feet at the very end. Having to really reach down and do the “mind over matter” thing. I mean seriously.

When I look back now, I laugh at myself. It was one of those “bucket list” things that pushes you to your limit, and then just a little bit more. A moment when your son says whole heartedly that he’s proud of you., because he had no idea it was going to turn out like this either. And an impromptu day that left you a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser, and a whole lot more thankful.

I will never forget it.

The place is Northern Arizona on the Navajo reservation. Waterholes Canyon. I highly recommend. I saw no varmints or snakes. Definitely wear good walking shoes and be prepared for soft sand. And be prepared to see Mother Earth’s beautiful paintings and serene songs that she will sing to you, if you just stop and listen close enough to hear.

As always, thank you for stopping by and sharing your moments with me. My purpose is my family, but my passion is to travel and find that next adventure. I have many plans in the works clear through next year, and I invite you to join the journey for photos, stories that are sprinkled with a little reality and  a whole lot of humor.

As always…….be kind.