California Trip: Route 1

Hey friends. It’s safe to say that I’m in love with California. It’s the state that has it all. Dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches, rugged mountains, charming vineyards, towering redwood forests, sophisticated cities, the SUN, and so much more. What a spoiled state. (One could say that Oregon has these things, but the weather being what it is, I haven’t experienced them, so hmph.)

For one day, we drove south from Oakland on Route 1, otherwise known as the Cabrillo Highway. We occasionally pulled over to take in views like this… California

strolled along the coast through Monterey and Pacific Grove after a huge meal at Cannery Row Brewing Company

Monterey, California

detoured to do the famous 17 Mile Drive, which includes Spanish Bay…

Spanish Bay, California

Spanish Bay, California

Point Joe…
Pacific Grove, California

California

and the gorgeous Fanshell Cove…
Fanshell Cove, California

Then we came upon The Lone Cypress, landmark of the Pebble Beach Golf Club…

The Lone Cypress, California

And played under this pier…

Pebble Beach Golf Club, California

Before heading back home, we drove through part of Big Sur (which is lovely, but we never found a good spot to pull over for pics on those twisty roads) at sunset.

I highly recommend this drive; it is so scenic. Even the 17 Mile Drive, which costs 10 bucks just to enter, is totally worth it. The beauty in this route is that it can be done any time of year. You are guaranteed incredible views. We experienced some strong wind, but the sunshine was plentiful and the skies were clear. Traveler Tip: In some stretches, towns are few and far between, so fill up your tank and bring snacks. No one likes a hangry passenger.

Stay tuned for more Cali adventures…

xxx

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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}

Portland: 8 First Impressions

We moved to Portland just over a week ago. I have some initial takeaways that really aren’t based off much; the majority of my time has been spent on a massive house hunt and I spend most waking hours researching, viewing, discussing and generally worrying being excited about buying a home. It may have only been a week, but it has been a whole week. I’ve been out and about learning about this little city that we now call home. It will be fun to look back at this list someday and think, wow, I didn’t know anything. (I did something similar for Stockholm here… for nothing, but oh well).

Here are my first impressions:

  1. It rains. Like, all the time. And it doesn’t help that everyone insists this is the worst time of the year. I mean, please. I was about to move to Stockholm. This is nothing. It’s just a bit depressing. Amsterdam was similar when we moved there too, and I felt trapped in our corporate housing there. At least here we have a car. But, with our current housing in the Pearl (one of the most trendy, sought-after areas), I want to walk around. And I can’t bring myself to do it. You want to know why? Well, since I was planning on a move to the frozen tundra of Stockholm and expecting to be reunited with my stuff before spring, I did not bring a single rain jacket with me. They are all in our shipping container somewhere. But you know what I do have? Four down coats. That’s right, FOUR. Five if you count my down vest. And not a single rain jacket.
  2. Everyone drives everywhere. I guess this is a west coast city planning thing, but you can’t survive here without a car. Things are spaced out and public transit is limited. It’s a big change from our Euro life; not owning a car in Amsterdam and relying completely on public transportation was so easy. Now I have to rely on myself, which isn’t as fun. And have car payments. And pay for gas.
  3. Speaking of gas, the stations here are full service. It is SO weird. I feel terrible sitting in my car while some poor sap fills my tank. I guess it’s a job, though?
  4. I’m loving the landscape; it’s totally different from the flat Midwest and the lowlands of the Netherlands. From the wide river it sit on, to the mountains and pine forests surrounding it, Portland is beautiful. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood in the distance. It is quite majestic!  I’m so looking forward to hiking (in my plaid flannel and snacking on my homemade granola) once the weather warms up.
  5. There is a uniform here. Try to go more than a few blocks without seeing someone in a Patagonia down sweater, a beanie, and boots. Try.
  6. We are trying to cook most of our meals at home, but we did go out over the weekend to see what weekend culture here is all about. Something I think I’m going to love is that the dining and bar scene is so relaxed. If you noticed my twitter feed to the right, we have checked out Brix for beers, Saburo for sushi, Corkscrew for wine, and Vault for martinis. Two thumbs up! Looking forward to more foodie exploration.
  7.  Keep Portland weird is a real thing. No really, there are signs that say it everywhere. And it makes perfect, weird sense as you drive down a street with bright purple, orange and lime green houses.
  8. I really need to start watching Portlandia.

xxx

Slight Change of Plans…

Hi everyone. I know there has been a lot of speculation about our circumstances as I haven’t written a blog post since our moving day. You know, the day we were leaving Amsterdam and heading to Stockholm. Well, it was great! Better than we could have imagined, actually. Here is all our stuff awaiting delivery to Sweden:

Moving Day

Here we are in our huge, empty apartment:

Moving DayHere are our very symbolic, key(less)chains, waiting for keys to a new home:

Moving Day

And here we are, just like last year, at the airport (please excuse my crazy hair):

Moving Day

Except we weren’t boarding a flight to Stockholm. We, in fact, had one-way tickets to CHICAGO.

That’s right, folks. There was literally a last minute change in plans.

The morning of our move, with our stuff already packed and the movers already loading the truck, Jaro received a call from his manager in Sweden. She told him to sit down. He couldn’t as our chairs and couch were already being loaded. Her call was to inform him that there was a fantastic opportunity in Portland, Oregon and she didn’t want to stand in the way of him accepting it.

After another call, a quick lunch and a short list of the pros and cons, we decided what was right for Jaro’s career and, more significantly, our life and future. That Wednesday evening, we canceled our flight to Stockholm.

On Thursday night, we froze our shipment and booked a flight to the U.S. By Friday afternoon, we were in Chicago. Only my brother knew we were coming. You know where I’m going with this… Since we arrived nine days ago, we have orchestrated several surprise appearances, including randomly showing up at both our parents’ houses. How could we not? It’s truly the chance of a lifetime since everyone expected us to be settling in Sweden. And yes, we caught some on camera.

Like my sister at her college, Marquette University:

Surprise

And our cousin Roman, on his birthday, no less. Also, please note the awesome effect of Roman being in Jaro’s reflection on the glass door (that was unintentional, but perfect):

Surprise

I even got my girlfriends on their way to our other girlfriend’s wedding shower after a high-speed car chase through the city:

Surprise

And tagged along with them on the road trip to Michigan to get Stacy, the bride, as well:

SurpriseThese surprises were hilarious and we had SO MUCH FUN doing it. Seriously, the reactions, the screams, the tears, the swears… were all worth it. Thank you to all our unwitting victims. We’ll never forget the love we felt by sharing this excitement with you.

The secret’s out now. We’re back. We’ve only know ourselves for a week and a half, what a whirlwind! Because of the timing, and the fact that we were homeless in Amsterdam, we thought it would be best to be home with family and friends until we figure out the next steps. Incredibly, we will be here for the holidays. Yay! It looks like we’ll be heading to Portland in January where Jaro will be working from Nike’s world headquarters. I’m infinitely proud of him. And so excited for this unexpected twist in our extraordinary journey through life. While we may be stateside, we’ll always be Those Dam Americans. Can’t wait to continue sharing our story with you.

Not to be a big cheeseball about this, but this much I know is true: Sometimes life does throw you curve balls. And sometimes, you get to knock them out of the park.

Thrilled to be back, America. Can’t wait for this new adventure.

Julie

Monday Travel Memory: My First Vacation

In addition to the new Friday series about future travel, I’d also like to share memories of my previous travels. Hope you like it. 

This is me on one of my first vacations (hooray for traveling young!), if a three-year old can have such a thing. I think I had already been to Sea World though at the ripe age of two, but I’ll need to fact check with my mom. And nab a picture to share.

It was the 80’s. I think this is the summer before my little brother came along. I was a couple years old and my parents did the most awesome thing parents can do for their kid – They took me to Disney World. Aren’t parents amazing? As an adult, I now realize how selfless mine were to travel to places like this for us kids. This isn’t exactly a memory (off to a great start here…) since I can’t remember what rides we went on or how many Mickey ice cream bars I ate… and I don’t know what happened to that sweet Goofy hat. All that has faded away with time. Thing is, I’m sure it hasn’t for my parents. I’m sure they remember how much I enjoyed it, which made them enjoy it too.

Parents are the best. I miss mine more than usual today.

xxx

P.S. If you haven’t noticed, things have changed here on the blog! New categories, a more recent photo of us and updated “About Us.” Click around, share with friends, give us a “like” to make our day. Let me know what you think! x

Booked: Sweet Home Chicago

We have booked our flights home to CHICAGO for this December. We’ll be home from December 7 through January 8. A solid month. It’s long overdue… It will be 15 months since we last set foot on American soil. We miss it.

Skyline views from North Ave beach.

Jaro & I on the roof of our old place. Summer 2010. Photo by Kate.

My beautiful sister & I at the Bean just before we moved. August 2011.

I can’t wait to go back. However, the bean is going to look more like this:

My handsome college roommate and I. December 2010.

And the streets will look like this:

Our old street, Leavitt. January 2011.

Oh well. There is something lovely, even romantic, about Chicago in the winter. (Though I much prefer summer.)

Thinking about everything we’ll want to do and everyone we’ll want to see is overwhelming. How are we going to fit it all in? The biggest focus is, of course, people. Then food, then sight-seeing (like tourists!). But I’ll save those other topics for future posts. We have already begun to think of ways to spend quality time with the people we love. Such as:

1. Couch surfing. Many of our friends live in the city. When we did, we had countless sleepovers with people from out of town (and sometimes people from in town too lazy to go home). And while that might have had something to do with our world’s-most-incredible couch (which I’m tempted to sleep on in our storage room while we’re back), we’re hoping there’s a pay it forward system here and people will take us in. It would be fun, right? Maybe we can even pay our rent for the night by cooking breakfast before they head off to work the next morning? I think it would be a great way for us to have private catch up time with some of our closest friends.

2. Hosting a bar night. This way, we can see lots of people at one time for a fun night out. There are so many people we would love to see and I wish we could do individual gatherings with everyone, but some are going to have priority… For one, my best friend Stacy (who visited in May) is getting married on NYE and she will be a huge priority for me since this is her special time. Missing her showers and bachelorette party is an unfortunate consequence of living so far away and I want to make up for it in whatever way I can. Secondly, Jaro’s brother & wife are having a baby in early December (good timing!) and we’ll want to see the little munchkin as much as possible. It’s our first niece or nephew! I think it will also take some of the attention off us. Babies are cuter/more exciting than me & Jaro. Thirdly, we are going to Florida to see my family down there for Christmas and that will pull us away from the Chicago scene for a few days. So… bar night? I think yes.

3. Lunch dates. Practically all our twenty-something/thirty-something friends work downtown. Since I will have free time during the day, lunch dates will be a super convenient way to see more friends. Plus, there are a million restaurants I want to visit, so that will knock some of those out. More on that later.

What else can we do? Thing is, we’ll also still need to find time to just be together back in our home city. Where we met. Where we fell in love. Where we got married. So we need to squeeze some at least one date night in there as well. And spend time with our parents. And siblings. It’s going to be the fastest month of my life. Like I said, I can’t wait.

xxx