Happy birthday to me. Another year has passed and for the first time I truly feel older. It was hard (tiring) for me to party 2 days in a row. The good thing is that I don't really want to either, so its not like I'm missing out on something. I guess that's the good thing about aging - even though you get older and can not do all the things you did when you were 20, you start to want other things in life, and that makes it all right.

I feel a bit older than young, too. Even according to the law and business I'm not young anymore, most youth related laws and discounts are valid until you're 26. And that's okay. I've also never weighed so much as do now (a nice way to say 'I'm getting fat'). Luckily, that's reversible.

Am I afraid of getting older? To be honest it is a little bit scary, but not frightening. I know now better than ever before who I am, what my values are and what I want out of life. I am pleased with the experiences I have gathered on my path and happy that I am living my dream. I am happy and in love. What more could I want?
So where to from here? The whole world is open. I'll be in Estonia for the next month or so, and then - only the universe knows.

Join RED

The best way to raise money to fight AIDS is to make sure that marketers make some money on the deal. RED is not a charity, its an economic initiative founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) founded RED to raise awareness and money for The Global Fund (fight against AIDS).

They have teamed up with some of the most well-known world brands - launch partners were Motorola, Giorgio Armani, American Express, Converse, the GAP (list is growing all the time) - to produce RED-branded products. RED is a branding mechanism companies license to sell these products. Part of the proceeds from the sales go to The Global Fund and thus to help people infected with HIV.To be clear, this is not a campaign. It is an ongoing commitment from businesses to raise awareness and funds to help fight AIDS in Africa. The initiative aims to deliver a sustainable flow of private sector money to The Global Fund.
The RED products are really cool. I bought a RED shirt and a cap by Gap while on the road trip, and most definitely I am gonna buy more RED stuff and choose RED products whenever I can. I think this is a way anyone can make a change in a small way.

I think RED is cool and a great way to tap into crowds who don't care about these issues otherwise. People are gonna buy the stuff anyway, now they have a choice between a product that helps only the manufacturer’s pockets versus one that gives a percentage to a good cause.

While the critics of RED say it is lame and even unethical to use shopping for such causes, I find it bloody brilliant. I think that making socially responsible shopping sexy is the way to go. RED website has also an “impact calculator” that lets you see what your money can buy (a $28 shirt provides 41 single-dose treatments to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission).

Find out more about RED on their website: http://www.joinred.com/


While I am an avid reader most of the time, I couldn't read much during March and April. Now being here I have found time to read again every now and then and I'm enjoying it to the fullest. It keeps me energized, empowered and I just love the feeling of knowing a bit more about the world.

Just recently I discovered a fairly new website called Goodreads that I find cool and useful and I believe most of the book lovers would agree. This site helps you to see what your friends are reading, what do other people think of the books you are interested in and you can discover new books. Definitely worth checking out.

End of the road

All good things must come to an end and so did our road trip. I will try to capture the highlights of the last 2 weeks and the trip as a whole.

America is a country full of amazing natural beauty. Our next destination after Stockton was the famous Yosemite National Park. "It's maybe the most beautiful place on earth", a friend of mine told me once. He wasn't wrong - the park was amazing. Full of mountains, forest, active wildlife. We saw a black bear munching away some berries or something and at we encountered at least 20 deer at a very short distance. The deer were used to humans I guess, or at least curious. We camped in the forest for 2 nights and at one time there were 7 deer at the same time around our tent. The bear activity was so huge in the park area that we were ordered to store all our food and other scented items in a special bear-proof canister.

We hiked, admired the waterfalls, listened to the wind, talked to the animals and enjoyed food cooked on a fire. It was a sublime experience one cannot put in words.

It was really hard to leave Yosemite, but we had to move on eventually to see other amazing places. Next stop - Sequoia National Park. Just before arriving to the park, we saw a sign saying "Cats Haven" and we decided to check it out. It turned out to be a small kind-of-a-zoo where they had endangered big cats, from tigers to leopards to karakuls. We got an hour long tour and saw many different cool cats. For me as a cat lover it was really cool and I learned a lot.

Later the same evening we arrived to the Sequoia National Park. Sequoias are the largest living organisms in the world (reaching up to 115 meters in height and 7 meters in diameter). They also live up to 2000 years and more. So the forest we walked through was older than so many architectural historical monuments. The bark of sequoias was very thick - ~30cm which makes them almost immune to diseases and bugs. The only way they die is by falling down (they get really big and heavy and the roots are not able to hold them anymore). They are so big that in order to get the whole tree on the picture I had to make 3 separate pictures - from a distance.

We also met the largest tree in the world, named General Sherman. Its approx 2200 years old. At the base you had to walk 33 meters(!) to make a circle around it.

You really feel like a midget when walking through a sequoia forest. They say that a human is to a sequoia as a mouse is to a human. It was weird and fun to see "normal" trees next to sequoias where they seemed like teeny-tiny trees. The time spent in this forest was truly magical. The person under the sequoia trees on the last picture on the left is me.

After seeing the Giant Sequoias we continued on to Las Vegas. We drove through Death Valley, but as it was night time we didn't see that much. Las Vegas is something else and hard to describe, you have to experience it. It has a main street called The Strip which has all the casinos (or the majority). The strip is very long and it is not really possible to visit all the cool places in 1 day. Las Vegas resembles to Dubai in the sense that they have copies of real buildings there, like the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triumph, different buildings from Paris and New York. But its all exterior - inside the casinos look mostly the same. What surprised me was the size of these casinos - they were gigantic. I think Las Vegas (or the state of Nevada, to be more precise) has become so famous because its the only place in the US (except for indian reservations) where gambling is legal. We spent there 2 nights, Thursday and Friday and got to see the night life. Casinos offer drinks for free, so many people just went there to get drunk and perhaps one or two per party were also playing a lot. The population increases a lot during the weekend which is also reflect in hotel prices - on the weekends its double price.

We gambled in different casinos, visited some of the most famous ones and I ended up losing 100$. Oh well. Who hasn't got luck in gambling has luck in love, as they say.

After Las Vegas we set our eyes on Grand Canyon. It was too far to make it in 1 day, so we stayed the night at some national park at a lake. The next day our air conditioning stopped working, so the next days were a bit sweaty. Before reaching Grand Canyon we passed through a city called Kingman where a man happened to pass us, glanced at our tires and said we should put on our spare as our tire had worn down to the core. Good thing he noticed as we sure didn't and so we replaced 2 tires.

I also had to spend some time in the local jail.

We reached Grand Canyon during the sunset and got to see an amazing view. It was getting dark fast and we needed to find a camping spot. We chose to drive to the furthest camp that was there hoping there are some free places. To our dismay after 40 min of driving we discovered it was full. As it was dark already and we weren't sure there was room at other camps, we decided to camp illegally. So we just grabbed our sleeping bags and wandered into some random bushes and slept there.

Grand Canyon is indescribable. It is so much larger than life, larger than anything. Just breathtaking. You can stare at it for days, it just mesmerizes you. When some of the things we saw where not as great as we had expected, Grand Canyon exceeded my expectations. We also went hiking on a trail that descended 800 meters (and what goes down has to come up). Now after hiking in all those parks I think we're in pretty good shape ;)

The park gets 5 million visitors per year, so it was really crowded, but that was okay. When you go hiking you don't see that many anyway as most people are lazy.

After seeing Grand Canyon we started driving back towards Austin, Texas. Other places worth mentioning were the Hopi and Navajo indian reservations and the city of Santa Fe. I am definitely curious to find out more about the native americans and the reservations - when you're in them you're like in another country. Maybe more about this in another blog post.

Santa Fe was a very cool artsy city, a haven for artists I imagine. Full of galleries, arts and crafts shops. The city seems to have strict building restrictions as most buildings were made of adobes.

As I mentioned earlier, United States has amazing natural beauty. On this trip we saw so many spectacular views and sightings that eventually when a view was a little less than absolutely breathtaking, it didn't seem so great anymore. We got spoiled. Some of the things we saw were not so amazing as I had expected (Golden Gate bridge, Hollywood blvd), most by far more magnificent than I had even thought of. During the first 2 weeks I said almost daily "this is the best view I've ever seen". I am so glad I got to go on this trip, it was nothing less than astounding. Another dream fulfilled.