Back in June, I got a text from a friend asking if I’d be interested in planning a trip for sometime in July. I had the entire month of July off from grad school and had actually been scouring the internet for plane tickets over the past few weeks trying to decide how to best take advantage of the free time. So, the opportunity to take a trip and reunite with an old friend seemed ideal. She mentioned a few places she was interested in visiting, I looked up plane tickets and within 12 hours we had gone from 0 to booked on a trip to Mexico.
One of the greatest things about being in grad school is the 5 weeks (FIVE WEEKS) of winter break. I took full advantage by enjoying some chill days off at home, some family time in Florida, and a trip to the madre tierra, España. Read the rest of this entry
Anyone who has known me in the last 4 years or read my blog knows that I spent a significant chunk of time living in Spain after graduating college. Last summer, I moved back to the US to come “home” and start working on the next step in life. What I didn’t realize at the time was how deeply Spain had sunk in to my veins. I developed close relationships. I became comfortable with the language and the kiss greetings and other customs. And I fell into a routine of daily life. But when I made my first trip back last month after having been in the US since July 2016, I discovered just how much Spain, Madrid, and Soto all felt like a home to me.
It was the big things, like the people and the familiar scenery. But it was also the small things, like not having packed my moisturizer only to discover that I still had a bottle in the bathroom drawer. Ordering my favorite foods/drinks that I can’t get in the US. The way the dry air feels hot in the sun but cold in the shade. Knowing where to find things in the fridge. Everything that makes a home feel like a home.
Never would I have imagined I’d feel that way about a place so far from where I spent the first 22 years of my life. The world outside the US had seemed like a fantasy to me. I never thought I could feel so at home in a foreign country. But after 3 years, the longest time I spent consistently in one place since graduating high school, that sense of “home” stuck and stuck deep.
It was a quick trip, but it was just what I needed. I got to hang with my best girls, my adopted family (and extended family), visit my old students and just take a step away from one life and vacation in another for a moment. I know that returning to the US this past year was the right decision. But after a long year of school and “adultish” living, going back to my place of comfort and familiarity was just what I needed to recharge. And you can bet I’ll be back again as soon as I can. Hasta la proxima, España.
This year for spring break, my mom and I were due for a trip. We settled on exploring a part of the country where neither of us had never been – the Pacific Northwest. As someone who has done a fair bit or traveling, I like to have things all figured out as to maximize the amount of things you get to see and do. But for this trip, we decided we didn’t want an itinerary or a solid plan. We bought plane tickets to San Francisco, reserved a car, and had a very loose outline of a few places we’d like to see, and that was it.
We got into San Francisco around midnight (3am EST, for those keeping track) and finally were out of the airport and on the road by about 1:30 or so. Our goal for the first night was to just get far enough north of the city that we wouldn’t have to navigate morning traffic the next day. So we drove for about an hour before crashing at a motel right off the highway. We were exhausted to say the least but the time difference was working in our favor so the next morning we were up and energized fairly early.
That first day, we spent driving right along the pacific coast highway. We stopped in the town of Ft. Bragg to visit a place called glass beach. It was once a dumping ground where people used to throw their bottles and after many years of being churned by the waves, the sand is now almost entirely made of sea glass. We also got to drive through some redwood forests and some precarious mountain roads. Eventually, we made it into Southern Oregon where we decided we’d stop for the night. The hotel we found there was a “lodge” style and included free wine at check in which were all right up our alley. We got some advice from the very friendly desk clerk, although she literally laughed in our faces when we told her we were hoping to make it to Canada the following day.
The next day, we set out to prove our new friend wrong. We decided that we didn’t really want to stop anywhere but we just wanted to reach our goal of arriving in Vancouver. So we drove, and drove. We passed through Portland, through Seattle, and eventually to the Canadian border. It was dark and rainy when we got to Vancouver but we were determined to see some of the city so we went for a walk along the neighborhood where the hotel was.
In the morning we went to Stanley Park to see some totem poles and walked along the water. There were some great spots to admire the skyline. Afterward, we went back south into the US. But not without our stop at Tim Hortons first. That afternoon, we stopped in Seattle to wander through the Pike’s Place Market and had a yummy dinner overlooking the sound. It was a bit rainy in Seattle, but that was about to be expected. Then we kept going South. That night we stayed in what my mom lovingly references as the “Bates Motel.”
Our next plan was to drive through the Mt. St. Helen’s National Park. We drove as far as we could with the snow and saw lots of mountains and beautiful scenery. Through the snow and the fog it wasn’t quite possible to discern which of the many peaks was the volcano, but we decided we definitely did see it. After, we headed south to the Oregon border where we went east to drive along the Columbia River, which was an excellent scenic drive. Eventually we continued on south to the town of Bend, Oregon where we once again managed to find the hotel that offered free wine at check in.
The next day, we set off to see Crater Lake. It was quite an adventure actually getting to the lake because there were road closures due to snow so it took us awhile to find a clear path. Once we were finally heading up, we saw just why they had to close the roads. I had never seen so much snow in my life. As we got higher, the mounds on either side of the road got steadily taller until they towered high above the car. At the top, the visitors center was completely buried and we had to use a back tunnel entrance. But the view from the top was definitely worth the trouble. Afterwards, we were planning to go check out some water falls on our way south, but it turns out that “Klamath Falls” is just a small town in southern Oregon and is not actually home to any real falls. Rookie mistake. But that gave us some more driving time and we made it into California where we stopped for In n Out before heading to Napa Valley for the night.
Our day in Napa Valley was the first time all week that we actually stayed in one location for a substantial period of time. Wine country was gorgeous and we stopped at three fairly distinct vineyards to get a well rounded experience. Then we went over to my mom’s aunts house where we had dinner with some cousins which was really great. It’s fun finding family all over the place.
We had a peaceful morning the next day just hanging out with our aunt and then we went into the nearby town of Sonoma. Sonoma had a really cute downtown area that was very walkable with lots of shops and things to see. It was a gorgeous day out too. That evening, we went back into San Francisco where we were staying with my mom’s cousin for the night so we could get back to the airport bright and early.
Overall, such a great trip. It was a bit of a whirlwind but that was exactly what we wanted.
The New Year in North Carolina kicked off with a nice winter storm. Ever since I moved down here from Chicago, I always found it a bit amusing how much people freaked out/are amazed by the snow when it falls. But amusement aside, 3 inches of snow down here can actually wreak a lot more havoc than a foot of snow up north because of the lack of resources. Up there, there was a whole fleet of snow plows just for my high school alone. But down here, there might be 3 per county. They do the best they can but the roads are left a lot messier than they would be after some flurries. I felt brave enough to drive in it but I definitely recognized a difference. Today it should be up to 50* and then nearly 70* by Friday, so the snow will soon be forgotten.
Yesterday kicked off second semester. My university was closed due to the weather but my classes are all online so I thought it was the responsible thing to do to at least get started. But turns out only one class had even posted anything yet, so that didn’t actually take too long. This semester will be nice because not only have I gotten into the swing of online classes, but also some of the professors are the same from last semester and their classes are organized in the same way as the previous ones.
I’ve adjusted pretty well to living the “stable” lifestyle back here. It’s not to say I don’t miss the travelling and the experiences I had over the last few years, but I’m definitely glad to be here for the time being. There’s a lot to be said for even just the certainty of knowing what I’ll be doing, even if some of the circumstances could still fluctuate.
Cheers to the new year and for ever continuing adventures!
Three years ago, I made the biggest, craziest and best decision I’ve ever made up to this point in my life: I flew across the Atlantic for the first time to live in a foreign country with some people I had met over the internet. I barely spoke the language and didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that I wanted an adventure. And adventure I found. But while I loved every experience I had over those 3 years, I decided a few months back that I was ready for the next chapter. So, this is how I now find myself living back North Carolina.
Living abroad has been an incredible experience that has afforded me so many opportunities over the last few years. But one of the downsides is that being so far from home means that I have had to miss out of quite a few big events back home. For example, this spring my little brother graduated from university and I couldn’t be there for it. But an upside of living abroad is you can find an alternative solution to get around the guilt. For me, that meant after his graduation, we met up in Europe set off on a 10 day adventure which involved a 7 day mediterranean cruise, 7 cities and 3 countries, which we aptly dubbed EurBROtrip. The following is a brief summary of those events.