Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Temple in Kathmandy, Nepal, decked out for the Hindu holy holiday of Dashain

Click on title to view photo in large format: Neighborhood temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, decked out for the Hindu holy holiday of Dashain. Celebrated for 15 days, the national religious festival falls in either September or October every year, depending upon the lunar calendar, with the first, seventh, eighth, ninth and the tenth days being the most important. During the holiday, all government offices and schools are closed, as are many private offices, as Nepalis travel Read More

You will forgive me if stray from my normal travel narrative, but I recently passed an important milestone in my life and I feel compelled to write about it. On January 24th, I celebrated my 20th anniversary of being clean and sober. It is difficult to remember how horrible my life was back then because today I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.

My descent into alcoholism and drug addiction was gradual and horrific. What started out in my early 20’s as fun – having a few drinks with friends after work each day – grew into an obsession that would not allow me to pass a bar on my way home from work. At the height of my alcoholism I was drunk all day, every day, which led me into drug addiction. Alcohol being a depressant, at some point I needed something to get me “back up” so I could drink some more. Cocaine was the solution in the beginning, but it soon was not enough, so I moved on to freebasing crack cocaine.

Barbara Weibel, a grateful recovering alcoholic, now enjoys a life as a successful travel writer and photograper

Barbara Weibel, a grateful recovering alcoholic, celebrates being clean and sober for 20 years at a cafe in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Frankly, I don’t know how I  survived. I should be dead three times over from the things I did to my body and soul. Fortunately, I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Puerto Rico one night to “support” my boyfriend, who was also a raging alcoholic. Most of that meeting is a blur, as it was conducted in Spanish. Although I speak fairly good Spanish, the talk was filled with idioms that cannot be directly translated Read More

Tibetan Thangka paintings at a shop next to the Swa Chapu Ganesh Buddhist Stupa in the Chhetrapati area of Kathmandu, Nepal

Click on title to view photo in large format: Tibetan Thangka paintings at a shop next to the Swa Chapu Ganesh Buddhist Stupa in the Chhetrapati area of Kathmandu, Nepal. These pieces show the mandala associated with the Kalachakra Initiation, which the Dalai Lama gives twice per year in locations all around the world. Artists train for years to produce the delicate Thangkas, which are often painted on Read More

Novice monks at the Sakya Tharig Monastery near the UNESCO World Heritage Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal

Click on title to view photo in large format: Novice monks at the Sakya Tharig Monastery near the UNESCO World Heritage Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. The youngsters stopped cleaning a courtyard of tumbled bricks and debris long enough to pose for a photo. Their serious expressions changed into broad grins when I showed them Read More

Typical street scene in Kathmandu, Nepal, with people riding on the roof of overloaded van bus

Click on title to view photo in large format: Typical street scene in Kathmandu, Nepal. The overloaded van bus with people riding on the roof is typical of public transportation in Nepal, not only in the city, but also on cross-country trips. As with most Asian countries, traffic is willy-nilly, with cars, Read More

Four months. Fourteen countries. Fifty different destinations. By the time I reached Sarajevo I was exhausted. I’d accomplished my goal of visiting all seven of the ex-Yugoslavian countries plus Albania, but poor Croatia had been given short shrift earlier in the summer. Rather than battle high-season crowds and a record-breaking heat wave at the seashore, I fled to the capital of Zagreb. Not only was it cooler, it was virtually empty; everyone in the city was at the coast. As a result, I’d missed the Dalmation Coast cities of Dubrovnik, Zadar, and Split. I had a choice to make. Should I try to see all three in the eleven days left before I was due in Italy? Exhaustion provided my answer. I couldn’t even think about moving that fast. Instead, I booked a vacation rental apartment just outside the Old Town of Split, Croatia for the entire eleven days.

Silver (east) gate of Diocletian's Palace in Split, Croatia

Silver (east) gate of Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia

It would turn out to be one of the best travel decisions of my life. Nanka, the owner of the apartment, informed me that her aunt, Ljubica, was eager to meet me, as she was a retired journalist. A few days later Ljubica and I met for lunch at Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once home to the Roman Emperor Diocletian. I had explored the palace by that time, but as a local, Ljubica knew the secret places. She led me to a tiny cafe tucked into an obscure corner of the fortress Read More