On Travel

Chicago

What does travel mean to you? The word travel. What is it? I’ve been reflecting on it recently. Much like home, it’s kind of elusive to me. Or maybe not just elusive, more like… evolving.

See – A few months ago, I was getting myself excited for a move to Stockholm. So many new countries to explore up there. I had never been to Norway, Finland or Denmark. I craved the idea of a trip to Iceland. I was excited to drift through these Scandinavian countries; exploring beautiful landscapes, exposure to new cultures, meeting interesting people, eating all kinds of seafood (can you imagine?). Scandinavia. It sounds so mysterious. So cold cool. I would have continued to travel. To be uncomfortable (and okay with it). To be amazed. To be inspired. To be changed. From living abroad, that became my definition of travel. While not always glamorous, it was always thrilling.

Then, we slammed on the proverbial expat brakes (not intentionally) and moved back to the U.S.

“Travel” as I knew it will now be more difficult. We bought are buying a little house. Eventually, a little pup. Jaro’s job is a little more… local (read: not back and forth between Netherlands and Ukraine). Our life is a lot different. In a lot of ways, it’s simpler. And one of my first thoughts was, when am I going to travel again?

Gaining all this insight from my experiences over the past eighteen months and now faced with a “familiar” (what I previously would have called boring) life, I realize that I need to redefine travel. The word. It can’t be limited to the things I mentioned above. It longer means a visit to a foreign country. Or interacting with foreign people, foreign languages, foreign currency. It no longer means being uncomfortable… necessarily.

It means a lot more. Of course, it still means those things. But, it also means a day trip to Cannon Beach. Or a drive out to the Columbia River Gorge. Or a quick city getaway to Seattle or San Francisco (especially if that includes a day trip to Big Sur). It means getting out and seeing a new place, anywhere. And respecting it. And appreciating it. Even if it’s just a new part of Portland.

World, I’m ready.

xxx

P.S. My evolving thoughts on friendship.

{image from our flight to Chicago, our first glimpse of the States in 14 months}

Monday Travel Memory: The Sahara

Happy Monday, ya’ll. How was the weekend? Jaro and I checked out the Portland Seafood & Wine Festival (which was awesome), met a friend for drinks, and tried a new-to-us sports bar for the Superbowl. Wasn’t wow-ed by the game or the commercials, or the bar… but at least we’re getting out.

So. I’m on a sunshine kick these days. I guess that after living in Amsterdam and now Portland, I relish any moment that I can (or did) soak up some Vitamin C. And sometimes, the sun can truly be art, no? Since it’s on my mind so much, thought I’d share one of my favorite images from our trip to the Sahara Desert last winter:

Sahara Desert

I love how the sun is a giant, bright, white ball in a cloudless, blue sky above those truly spectacular dunes. So simple, yet there aren’t enough words to describe it. Pretty sure Jaro and I just stood there, alone, like a coupla idiots, staring at it as it slowly dipped behind the sea of sand. Awe-inspring.

Daydreaming about… Big Sur

Happy Friday, cats. My post earlier today was totally impromptu; it spilled out of my brain since I’ve been alone this week. Also, I felt all out of whack that I didn’t write one yesterday. So bonus, today you get two. Back to our regularly scheduled programming…

As I woke up to another dreary gray day in Portland, I so desperately wanted a warm, sunny getaway. Since we’re closing on a house later this month, I can’t exactly justify a trip to Mexico. But god, I was ready to cry say whatever house and book myself a ticket to somewhere warm. I still might do it.

BUT. Doesn’t a road trip through Big Sur sound like the way to go? It’s a breath-taking stretch of California coastline that I just want to devour. With my eyes. I mean, just take in this picture:

Big Sur, CA

{image via}

Doesn’t that look heavenly? So wild and beautiful. That also describes my hair on a good day. Speaking of appearance, obviously I’d wear this road trip worthy outfit:

Girl at the beach

{image via}

And I’d just love my sun-soaked life. California dreamin’ indeed. In related news, the sun is now out. Need to scramble outside quick.

Have a charmed weekend, friends.

xxx

P.S. That first image’s blog source cites Big Sur as a romantic getaway. Valentine’s Day is a mere two weeks away, if you know what I’m saying. I’ll casually suggest that this hotel looks splurge worthy.

On Friendships

Picture this: Two young women are walking down the sidewalk, looking at their phones and accidentally bump into each other. They apologize and smile at the same time, then realize they are carrying the same purse. Want to be friends? one of them asks. Yes! is the answer. Then, they hook arms and head into the nearest coffee shop and a beautiful, meaningful, real friendship blossoms. 

THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

I just moved to a new city where I don’t know anyone. How on earth do I make friends? Anyone who has moved can probably relate in some way. I would like to think I’m outgoing, personable, even funny sometimes, but it’s not like I can walk into a bar and be like, hey, I like your shoes, wanna be friends? Or interrupt girls dining at the same restaurant as me  and say, hey, you guys remind me of my friends back home, can I join you?

We have now been in Portland for a month and I’ll admit, I haven’t made any connections yet. Unless you count the barista at the cafe across the street. We’re real tight. I’ve let myself be consumed by this house hunt. The only way I can try to change this is by getting active in Portland and getting out. I have to “put myself out there.” Which can be really uncomfortable, even for a social person like me. It’s like… dating. Yuck. It’s intimidating. I think especially so since we’re back in the U.S. where everyone always appears established. Comfortable. Not with a sign on their back saying, hey I want new friends, come talk to me. 

When we moved to Europe, it took awhile to find friends there. I would pass little pow-wows of hip women having drinks together or shopping together and sigh. I want that! It took… four months to finally meet people. That’s a long time. I ended up stumbling into a group of other new ex-pats (none were American, interestingly) and we formed an instant bond over that commonality. Jaro once said that being an ex-pat is like being on a deserted island. You make do with what you have. And he’s right. We ended up forming unlikely friendships with people that we may not have been friends with if we were back in our cozy bubble of Chicago. I now treasure those friendships even though I may never see those people again. Isn’t that interesting?

The other thing about those ex-pat friendships is that somewhere in the back of my head, I knew it was temporary. And so rather than fully immersing myself into the group, I held on more closely to my friendships back in Chicago. This was a delicate balance that I think, in retrospect, I tipped too far. I gripped my life back in the States so hard that it was really difficult to focus on my life in Amsterdam. Most weeks, I had at least five or six skype dates, always an hour or longer. Always varying times, and varying days. It was like a job. It kept me tethered to my apartment. And, unfortunately, it prevented me from really putting myself out there in the city where I lived. That, combined with all the travel we did (I traveled a solid 1/3 of the 14 months) and wanting to spend quality time with Jaro (which was never enough), I never really got settled. I don’t have regrets, but moving forward (pun absolutely intended) I’m going to do things differently.

Now that we’re in Portland, I can’t act like this is temporary. We just bought a house for crying out loud. We are going to be here for a long time. Maybe forever. This is my life. Here. In Portland. Time to start acting like it.

With Jaro’s work schedule (he was traveling this entire week and we spoke maybe twice, for instance), I will need to focus on myself. I’m proud to say that I’m starting! Here are some things I’m going to try and where I hope I’ll meet some new friends:

  • I joined a yoga studio, CorePower Yoga.
  • I signed up to volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society.
  • I’m going to take photography classes. (started researching some options)
  • I bravely stuck my name on a sign up board at Powell’s to join a writer’s group here in Portland. (and already got one response!)

And that’s just the beginning. I’m also thinking about language classes (would love to be fluent in Spanish and eventually French), possibly a book club (’cause this girl loves to read) and maybe, just maybe, I’ll work. That’s a whole different story in itself as that would also include a career change…..

Any tips? I’d love some insights from others that have gone through a move and needed to create a new life for themselves. I admire anyone that has had to go through it. It takes so much courage.

xxx

P.S. An insightful article about making friends as adults. Anyone think I can spearhead a Portland social club?