Karen Johnson

Kuan Yin

Karen Johnson

I'm an independent single woman who loves to travel. Favorite place to visit in a new country? The grocery store.

Scroll down to read my previous posts, and check back often for more pictures and stories.

Until then, here are some of my favorite quotes about traveling:

"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. "
- Lao Tzu

"I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine."
- Caskie Stinnett

"It is better to travel well than to arrive."
- Buddha

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
- Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Silverado Squatters"

"I am rarely lost. Sometimes I'm just taking the scenic route."
- Karen Johnson

"In the end it will be OK. If it's not OK, it's not the end."
- Anon.

North America » United States » Illinois » Chicago July 27th 2014

On July 23, 2014, I walked out of the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago with a bag of money. The Federal Reserve doesn't make loans or take deposits from individuals, but they gave me money anyhow. I smiled at the guard as I walked out; stay with me and I’ll tell you how you can do the same thing. The Federal Reserve is responsible for the monetary system of the United States. They design and print our money, they set interest rates, they regulate financial institutions, and they function as a bank for the nation’s banks. The integrity of the country’s financial system depends on the Federal Reserve System. There are twelve branches of the Federal Reserve around the US. One of those branches is in Chicago, and just off the lobby is the Money Museum. ... read more
Federal Reserve Building
The Grand Watermelon
fed sign

North America » United States » Michigan » Flint July 23rd 2014

Flint is a tough place. Like its namesake rock, Flint is a hard, gray place. The people who live here are tough, too, and take a certain amount of pride, along with a big dollop of good humor, in calling themselves Flintstones. Best known as the home of the 1933-34 United Auto Workers sit-down strike, Flint is also very much a company town. General Motors in its various incarnations has been building motor vehicles in Flint since 1904. At its height, General Motors employed about 77,000 in its plants in Flint alone. Today GM employs fewer than 8,000 people in the city. Needless to say, this has brought severe economic hardship to the area. Based on 2013 FBI crime data, Flint earned the dubious distinction of being named the most dangerous city in the United States, ... read more
Face of Flint
Charlie's ladies
Charlie's Bar-B-Q

Asia » Malaysia » Penang » George Town January 2nd 2014

It was a hot day. The ice-cream vendor outside the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur was ringing her bell invitingly; I stopped to look. On offer was durian ice-cream. Now, I’ve tried durian in various ways from different vendors over the years, and I’ve never met a durian I liked. It’s not so much the smell, which is pretty aggressive – think over-ripe pineapple left to rot in the sun with an overlay of dog urine. For me it’s the texture, slimy and somehow unnatural, plus the fact your burps will taste like durian for hours after. But I’d never tried durian ice-cream; maybe this would be magic. The vendor saw my hesitation and offered me a sample. And – nope, I still don’t like durian, even in sweetened, frozen form. The vendor still made out ... read more
ice cream sellers
Jalan Alor early

Asia » Malaysia » Penang » George Town December 28th 2013

Walking around the old city of George Town, Penang, is a fun exercise. One of the things guaranteed to bring a smile to your face – unless you’re truly a grumpy, old curmudgeon – is the street art. On July 7, 2008, George Town was officially named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique architecture and cultural heritage. As such, the historic core of the city has remained. Renovation of old buildings is encouraged, and there are financial incentives for building owners to refurbish the outside of their structures to historic accuracy. High rises and modern shopping malls are relegated to the outskirts. In 2012 the Penang Municipal Council made the bold move of commissioning a Lithuanian artist named Ernest Zacharevic to create a series of murals around the city. Collectively these are called “Mirrors ... read more
boy on chair
Church Street

Asia » Malaysia » Wilayah Persekutuan » Kuala Lumpur December 25th 2013

I think my marathon transit time getting to Malaysia may have set me up for the difficulty I had getting around Kuala Lumpur. Actually, “marathon” is a poor descriptor; even I could have strolled 26.2 miles in 32 hours. But I digress. Give me a working compass and an accurate map I can usually find my way around just about anywhere, with the exception of shopping malls in Singapore. And Kuala Lumpur isn’t that big, and there is a pretty good, very inexpensive public transit system. The issue seems to be the rush to modernize. The current prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, has decreed that by 2020 Malaysia will have moved from being a developing country to a developed country. That’s not a lot of time in which to make that happen, and while you ... read more
another wall
can't get there
find the mall

Asia » Malaysia » Wilayah Persekutuan » Kuala Lumpur » Bukit Bintang December 21st 2013

Many people, myself included, say disparaging things about American consumerism, especially around the holidays. My friends, you ain’t seen nothin’ till you’ve been in a shopping mall in Asia. Let me set the scene: It is the third week of December. It is 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the air so thick with humidity you can practically chew it. I’m in Malaysia, a Muslim country. I step into KLCC Suria, a beautiful upscale, air-conditioned mall at the foot of the Petronas Towers. In the center court is a stage set with an enormous teddy bear, a fireplace that could shelter a family of three, and a larger than life Santa. Onto this stage steps a group of attractive young Malay singers who promptly start singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Now, is it just me, or does ... read more
Bentley dealer
musical stairs
roller coaster

Asia » Malaysia » Wilayah Persekutuan » Kuala Lumpur December 20th 2013

On the top floor of the KLCC Suria mall, next to the Petrosains Discovery Center, was an intriguing sign “Dialogue in the Dark.” It didn't give a lot of details, but what the heck – I figured I’d pay my money and take my chances. To start out, I was asked to take off my glasses and my hat, and to put them, along with my bag, in a locker. I was also asked to bring along five to seven ringgit – about US$ 1.50 – so that I could make a purchase inside. I was given a white cane and told my guide would be Yousef. I was then led into a pitch black room. A lot of places that are touted as being pitch black really are not. You can usually make out a ... read more

Asia » Malaysia » Wilayah Persekutuan » Kuala Lumpur December 16th 2013

I don’t remember why I thought it was a good idea to book my trip from San Diego to Kuala Lumpur by going from San Diego to San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, 32 hours and five airports when all is said and done, but I did. Probably because I’m, shall we say, frugal (sounds so much nicer than saying I’m cheap) and probably because I wanted to use miles to upgrade to business class. I’m one of the few people I know who actually like airports – other than the standing in line bits. This trip gave me the chance to look at several airports, and some of them are clearly falling behind. A recent Skytrax survey showed that of the top 25 airports in the world, none of them are ... read more
Changi horse
Changi concourse
Changi snooze lounge

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem May 20th 2013

Looking back over my trip to Israel and Jordan, there a few mental postcards I keep. Here are a few of them: Guns and Moses Two things stood out for me in Jerusalem: first was the large number of Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews,) and the large number of defense forces in the city. There are a lot of soldiers and police of various services in Jerusalem, most of them heavily armed, especially in the vicinity of the Old City. Walking around, you are likely to see representatives of the Jerusalem District Police, the Israel Police, the Israel Border Guard, various branches of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), and members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. You get used to seeing soldiers – male and female - sitting on a bench or in a café with their machine ... read more
by Jaffa Gate
Haredim by Old City
Putin Pub

Middle East » Israel » South District » Eilat May 10th 2013

I grew up reading Cold War spy novels and watching James Bond movies. Border crossings and the exchange of enemy agents often figured prominently in such fiction. Those stories had at least a brush with the facts, though; the Glienicke Brücke, a small bridge linking Berlin in West Germany with Potsdam in East Germany, was the site of many such exchanges. I was reminded of those stories as I walked across the lonely border between Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan. I took an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Eilat. This flight left from Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion Airport, not Terminal 3, which is for international flights. I got there a little early, and the terminal was full of IDF soldiers, most of them carrying machine guns. Other than the lady in ... read more
strictly forbidden

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