Travel Advice: Wandering the PNW.

I don’t mind dirty fingernails, damp mornings, coffee in a tin cup and salty cheeks.

Sometimes my favorite noise in the quiet crunch of a wooded pathway.

I love finding new ways of seeing light through trees, leaves and moss.

Therefore, days spent exploring nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest are some of my favorite.

Two years ago I dreamed of visiting Seattle and Portland for the first time.

Funny how I said a lot of prayers about new adventures, opportunities to see new places and someone to love–and God handed over a woodsy city boy from Washington state.

This week marks my FOURTH trip to the PNW over the course of the last year.

In the funny rhythms of life, last Wednesday when I touched down in Portland it was also one year to the day since I first touched down in Seattle. August is a good time to visit the Northwest.

In the midst of seeing Andy’s new life in Portland, I’ve also already trekked back up to Seattle this past weekend, and am looking forward to next weekend on the Oregon Coast.

While I don’t have pictures QUITE ready to share. I do have some tips that I have learned over the past year if you’re planning a trip to the PNW any time soon (but honestly, I think these tips can go for any travel adventure):

  1. Do not pack an umbrella. The locals will laugh at you. Opt for that lightweight North Face parka instead.
  2. Do bring a lot of layers because it’s not rare to have a week where there are 90-degree days followed by 60-degree ones.
  3. Go see the tourist spots; but don’t make them your die-by priorities. That always gives you a reason to come back.
  4. Wander into neighborhoods you’ve never heard of fearlessly. Odds are that you’re going to find something you’ve never known you were looking for–and it makes for a way better story when you get back anyway. Hello, we’re explorers here — not just visitors.
  5. Take notes of the places that you visit. That wine bar that had the BEST view? Write it down. You’ll want to remember one day and there’s no guarantee that you won’t forget to take the receipt out of your pants pocket before those babies go through the spin cycle.
  6. Find a good camera. Yes, our iphones are a gift to on-the-fly photography. But you paid a good buck to be here. Take photos worth putting in an album. 
  7. Ask a stranger to take your photo. I know that sounds weird. But your kids don’t want to see all your selfies one day. They may however like to see a nice photo taken of you in a scenic or historic place — where you can actually see you + the background in good proportion.
  8. Don’t eat out for every meal. Not only do you feel like a whale by the end of your trip; but you maybe miss some of the nice al fresco parts of the city you’re in. For example, find a farmers market — get something local. If you don’t have a kitchen accessible, eat something that doesn’t require cooking. Picnics are a fun excuse and if you don’t want to cook or make your own; find a good local grocery store that likely sells pre-made food. You’re doing your stomach, wallet and overall experience all favors.
  9. Read the fliers on light poles. Not every evening of your trip may be jam-packed (and honestly, even if you love itineraries like me — try to avoid it — I PROMISE you that you will still have fun and not waste time) and for those evenings you have more time; what better way to spend it than to walk down the street to the Viking Boat Festival you had never heard of? Or maybe that adjacent neighborhood is having free family movie night down by the Willamette River. Find experiences you wouldn’t otherwise plan.
  10. Prepare yourself to want to return. You’re never going to get to do everything you want. All of the hikes, wineries, breweries, festivals, shows, attractions, ‘hoods. You’re never going to do it all in your trip like you plan. So instead, just plan for this to be your FIRST trip. Do and see as much as you can; but don’t make your itinerary make you miss an experience in the place you’re at. Stay longer if you need to at a restaurant. Wander further down a road. Add an extra stop on your hike. And then just find a way to return later. Because, let’s face it. When you visit, you’re going to fall in love anyway.

No matter where you’re going, when or why–take a deep breath–and if you’re just BEING. Odds are, you’re doing it right.

That’s what vacation is all about!

I can’t wait to show and share the most MAGICAL hike I’ve ever taken later this week. (Thank you, Oregon.)

But before that, I need to go find some Portland tacos….

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Maine, Lobster Guts and Ignoring “Budgeting.”

Me doing Maine.

Me doing Maine.

As mentioned earlier in the week, I finally checked off Maine on 2013’s new states. I still find it hilarious that I entered the year wanting to visit one new state. Just one. And instead I’ve checked off:

– Utah

– Washington

– Minnesota

– Massachusetts

– New Hampshire

– Vermont

– Connecticut

– Maine

That’s flippin’ eight states. Blows my mind. No immediate plans to add a ninth state to the list this year. And out of the eight I liked them each in a different way.  After just getting a very small sampling of Maine, my instinct is: more! I want to rent a car and drive up to Bar Harbor so badly.

Boston University has been pretty great about connecting new students with each other and with older program students. Last weekend that meant an hour drive up to Kittery, ME for some clams, lobster and shopping.

I was such a new kid on the bus. No one to sit with.

But that was the plan, right?

Go without a plan and hope to make friends?

Lucky me, it worked out wonderfully. Met a girl, Sarah, from Germany who is in the States to study film. We come from very different backgrounds so there was a lot of bases to cover and discuss on the drive up.

I’m not sure how or why I had such a specific vision of what Maine would be; but it was exactly as expected.

Double chimneys.

Slat wood.

Lots of stone.

Weathervanes.

It was beautiful.

Like this.

Like this.

And like this.

And like this.

The day consisted of trying clams, which if I had to imagine what a booger tasted like I swear . . .

And then more lobster. We were eating in a beautiful open porch restaurant by the river.

Chauncey Creek. Kittery. Maine.

Chauncey Creek. Kittery. Maine.

Seriously, how adorable is Maine?

Seriously, how adorable is Maine?

Clams are weird.

Clams are weird.

Every time I get one of these, I feel like I should name it before I eat it. Is that weird? This is Lionel.

Every time I get one of these, I feel like I should name it before I eat it. Is that weird? This is Lionel.

It was great to actually get some guidance on how to avoid the lobster guts and not get grossed out eating this food that I’m supposed to be fully New-England style embracing.

I finally got over the guts.

What I’ve not gotten over is that I don’t have the same sustainable income as before Boston. The outlets were kind to me. I’ll leave it at that. I am at least being so practical as to only buy very warm or layerable things.

Granted I just did laundry for the first time today and $8 later for three loads of laundry, I’m kind of thinking I might just continue to buy new clothes instead of wash the old 😉

Maine was wonderful for new friends, new food, new state and new sights. Life is so full of NEW right now. And I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of adventure and pursuit. Weekends like Maine are just one more page in the book that is a New England transition. So far,  I think I pass.

Weekend Warriors: Favorite city + Favorite people + Favorite Sports Team.

I grew up in a corner of North Carolina where “Christmas shopping in the city,” or “summer baseball game,” or “weekend at the amusement park,” or even “day trip to get out of dodge” meant taking the winding 2.5-hour drive through the mountains and Georgia foothills to Atlanta.

Most of the trip is a peaceful four-lane road past dairy bars and pastures; however, about 30 minutes before you hit the city the roads widen, the traffic becomes more plentiful and as soon as you cross under the giant maze of bridges (which I discovered was the ‘perimeter’ as I got older), well, then you’re in Atlanta.

Seeing those tall buildings and soaking in the amount of sunshine has always been home away from home for me.

My family would make the trip every couple of months and I feel like I’ve spent many a mile-marker in Fulton and Gwinett counties; birthdays and vacations included.

It was the place I always swore I’d move to when I graduated college and it’s the reason why UGA was my first choice when the time came to apply.

Life happens. You get scholarships and choose an in-state school. You start dating a guy and move to a different Carolina town.

And instead, you visit Atlanta every chance you get.

And every time you visit you’re reminded of how “one day I could totally see myself living here.”

This weekend marked the second annual road trip of high-school best friends from North Carolina through South Carolina to Georgia. We remarked on the trip down how it had been a long time. I mean, sixth grade–when we all met? Well that was almost 15 years ago.  (Insert nostalgic photo of awkward 11-year-olds with braces and baby faces that is probably laying around my parents’ house.)

Best-friend kind of love.

Gigantic Braves fans, a game is always useful motivation to plan a weekend. So a Travelzoo deal later we were south-bound early Saturday morning.

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The lesser-known, well liked #10 of the @braves. #CJonesRespect

Saturday of all Saturdays, we had tickets for THE GAME. The Braves had been on a wild sweep of 14-straight wins. If the team won Saturday night’s game they would have tied the franchise’s longest streak since 2000 when the Braves won 15 in a row from April to May.

So, of course — we figured they would lose. (We weren’t very confident in the luck we were bringing.)

A fairly short road trip into Atlanta, a customary stop for burgers at The Varsity, a meandering through Centennial Park and the World of Coke gift shop and we were off to the field for a preliminary afternoon of extremely hot tailgating. Man, I’m just not quite accustomed to that heat or humidity.

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The Varsity “Whatya have, whatya have, whatya have.” Um, all the onion rings please.

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These kids are funny.

Our seats were a DREAM. Suite life, baby. I’m not sure if going to a Braves game will ever be the same after seeing one from the bounty of air-conditioning and private bathroom. That said, I would maybe trade for some field-side seats. All the same, it was incredible. Especially considering that there was an hour rain delay. Nothing like dry seats.

J-Hey Kid at bat.

Once the game started up, it was a little bit of a snoozer (three hits up to the 8th inning!) and then a half hour of INTENSITY.

The Braves let up one run to the Marlins off of some sloppy defense and the stadium was erupting in rapture and cheering for an offensive answer once the Braves came up to bat.

We cheered for a single like it was a home run.

Me + current/former roommate. ❤

Three outs and Janish who stepped up to bat, noted has a .000 batting average, stuck out. Looking. Against the worst team in our division.

Sad ending to a 14-game winning streak.

It was humorous to see the onslaught of “You’re not allowed to go to Braves games when they’re on a streak” messages that were sent to us from various friends and family members.

Me + Derek + Brooke + Bradley. Wouldn’t have been the same with any other three.

The game went so late that by the time we got back to our hotel there wasn’t a lot of time to deliberate if and when we wanted to go out to a bar. Luckily we had found a really fun, random karaoke bar, Metro Café Diner, last summer that just happened to be down the street. On the way there, we passed 50 Cent’s truck from Fast Five. Interesting. So we went straight to aforementioned bar and proceeded to stay for three hours drinking Shandy beer and belting karaoke with other downtown-Atlanta strangers. It was of course followed up by a 3 a.m. trip to Waffle House. (Of course.)

What felt like only a nap later and we were back on the road to the Carolinas, smiling wildly at the adventures and fun that we had shared in a cram-packed weekend.

I was left realizing it may be a while before I get to see Atlanta again, so I took a good long look as we drove away. See you again as soon as I can, ATL. I promise.

Savannah Summer Kick-Off (Delayed).

I remember when I would be on summer break from school as soon as I had seen the first week of break end, the reality would hit that I only had a FEW weeks and I needed to savor it before school crept back onto the calendar. I would do the silent week tally in my head with each passing weekend. And I always dreaded the “halfway mark” just simply because then it became a literal countdown. You had less time left than you had already spent.

I do the same thing when I’m on vacation.

“Oh no, it’s Wednesday. We only have half of the trip left. Bummer.”

I’m weird. I need to not start focusing so quickly on what’s happening weeks ahead––but it’s just my nature.

So in the meantime, I try to take advantage of appreciating what’s happened so far this summer and make sure that I keep enjoying every second of sunshine in the meantime that I can.

This summer has been crazy. Crazy busy. Crazy unexpected. And crazy fast!

It seems just like yesterday that we were spending Memorial Day at the pool being lazy and playing water volleyball. Making new friends. And looking forward to three full months of post-work and weekend recreation.

That said, I realize now the “summer things” that I’ve meant to post about are getting further and further in the rear-view mirror. Have to post! I’ll try to do all my catch-ups this week and first give you a picture of the (surprisingly) only vacation yet this summer!

SAVANNAH.

A reunion three years in the making with some of my closest girl friends from being a sister of Alpha Omicron Pi. Aren’t we presh? It is no small feat to stay mediocrely cute when it’s 98% humidity, just saying.

 

These girls came into my life my junior year in college. I was already flexing my usual overachiever ways by taking full honors class loads (I think I was still a triple major at the time, man I’m a nerd) on top of some reporting internships and working as an editor on the college newspaper. Teaching children’s church at Cornerstone Summit. But, that wasn’t enough, duh.

So I decided to join the group of ladies colonizing a new fraternity at Appalachian State.

My perception had been that girls in Greek life lived for their organization. I already had a life. I was a busy girl with a lot of focus on doing what I needed to do to graduate successfully, get a good job, spend time with good friends that I already had. But I had room for more.

Joining the colonization of AOII at our campus was one of my best decisions. These ladies were dedicated to the values and principles of our organization (which were values I already held dear), but what made us so strong was that all of us were like me: we all things we were focused on fostering outside of Greek life too. In the photo below you have amazing academics, incredible musicians, wonderful teachers, smart businesswomen and marketers, writers and advertisers. Yeah, all in one photo : ) We weren’t all buttoned-up and professional all weekend though.

Coming from all over the East, and having not seen each other in 3 years, meant that there was a lot to catch up on. We traveled to Savannah, Ga. from all over. A handful from all over North Carolina, one from Nebraska, one from Connecticut and one from Florida. Dedication.

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There was celebrating. (An engagement! A graduation! A birthday! And a lot of other upcoming life changes to celebrate.)

There was sightseeing.

And beaching.  (Aren’t our visors super fly?)

Some sororities have bigs & littles. Well, AOII does too. But since we colonized we had to have twins instead. Here’s me and mine, Brandie. So special. Out of (I think) around 50 (i think? omg, how big was our colonizing class….now I don’t know…) girls, we picked each other. Handing in a piece of paper with the name of our twin preference. Yup, I picked her. She picked me. Soul mates.

LOTS of eating. (And some drinking, maybe.)

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There was running. (Yup, this is from that last run. Sad times.) And morning coffees.

And consequentially, there was embracing the “no make-up” moments. (So nice to have friends who understand the need to run on vacation!)

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There was a lot of smiling.

Whole lot of smiling.

And even more laughing.

But, I guess at the end of the day — it was just a lot of love : )

Later this week, I’ll make sure to share about how awesome Winston-Salem is in the summer; how some of us really know how to throw a kickin’ baby shower; how Brooke and I are experts at country music concerts and how I feel like I am living every day of the past few months to it’s very, very fullest.

 

Suspended.

“We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we’re aproaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:
‘Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended’ They pay for their order, take the two and leave.

I ask my friend: “What are those ‘suspended’ coffees?”
My friend: “Wait for it and you will see.”

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers – three for them and four ‘suspended’. While I still wonder what’s the deal with those ‘suspended’ coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square infront of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in throught the door and kindly asks
‘Do you have a suspended coffee ?’

It’s simple – people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm bevarage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwitch or a whole meal.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such cafés or even grocery stores in every town where the less fortunate will find hope and support ? If you own a business why don’t you offer it to your clients… I am sure many of them will like it.”

Source: A Well Traveled Woman

Finally home with considerably fewer 25 by 25 to-dos remaining.

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Well it started with a slumber party in Charlotte and ended with a burger run in Charlotte. Both were wonderful; but it was the in-betweens that really made the past week and a half so breathtakingly, incredibly amazing.

I was reminded that:

– I’m blessed to have a wonderful job.

– I LOVE the outdoors. I am a woodsy girl through and through.

– Sometimes doing scary things alone are even more awesome than doing them with someone else.

– You should push yourself to do things. You should push yourself to be active.

– It’s not enough to look. You have to try.

– Traveling (especially air travel) requires an immense amount of trust.

– Some friendships are like steel. They just stay and stay and stay.

– I’m an adventurer at heart.

So, this is what alive feels like?

It started with a long flight to Utah that checked off the 25 by 25 to visit a new state when I set foot in the Minneapolis airport. Then I checked it off again when I stepped out into Utah.

Salt Lake City, Utah was never a place that I imagined visiting. It never would have made a “see before I die” list. So I’m all the more thankful that work sent me there and I saw some pretty wondrous beauty that I may have otherwise missed entirely. The mountains there? Wow. I thought I would compare them more to my home–but they were just simply so different. Every turn I saw another amazing landscape and probably took 500 photos.

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I was lucky and not only got to crunch in some quick downtown Salt Lake City sights like the Mormon Temple and City Center mall/plaza; but I also got to go skiing at Brighton resort and even made the trek over to Park City to see the hubbub over the Sundance Festival.

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If only I had been able to see a movie! Not only was that night my first night in Utah, first trip out West and first business trip–it was also my first night staying in a hotel alone.

The following two days were spent working the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and it was another layer to the great experience of Utah. Since I worked in outdoor retail with Mast General Store for almost five years it was awesome to see all of the brands that I had once sold and experience the excitement of the retail trade show atmosphere. I text my mom so many times to tell her that I had “found my people.”

You know it’s a great day for me when I get to wear plaid, a down vest, jeggings and boots to a work day. I was totally in my groove. Not to mention there were quite a few beautiful boys there, but that’s beside the point . . .

After a lot of hard work, long hours and awesome fun showing off my client and great food (Red Iguana Mexican is totally worth the wait if you’re ever in the area; the mole tasting was just the best) Thursday came way faster than expected.

Unfortunately so did a huge ice storm.

After waking up to see that one of the major interstates was closed, I had to rush a grand old 25 miles per hour on the other interstate to get to the airport in time to return my rental car and check my gigantic baggage. Rushing through security and scurrying to my gate, I was shocked to see that it was still labeled “On Time” when I finally saw our board. After a fairly quick boarding and finally settling in, I got a little anxious thinking about the four hours of flying in front of me. But at least I was going to have WiFi.

As we got ready to taxi over to the runway, the pilot came over the speaker. “Well, looks like a plane slid off the runway, so the airport will be closing indefinitely. We’re going to be sitting on the tarmac a while.” It turned out that a landing airplane had done a 180 on the runway and no departures or arrivals would be taking place for quite a while.

At first I thought we’d be back on the road in no time, but I soon retreated to the terminal. When the speaker announced that flights would likely be re-commencing at 2 p.m. I got excited. Plans were still alive. I would still be in Boston that night, hopefully.

But hopes were dashed quickly when a short ten minutes later my flight was officially cancelled.

The next two hours were spent in a fury finding an alternate route to Boston. It was either a 9:55 AM flight the next morning or a flight schedule from hell that would take me through two connectors overnight.

That meant that I had seven hours to kill before my 8:10 flight to Seattle.

To a restaurant I went. I needed food. And a stiff drink.

Squatters brewery not only gave me a solid lunch and great beer; but the longer I sat there–the more friends I made. There was the cowboy, the North Carolina lady, the Google people and the runner moms. It was so incredible the cycle of people who came through my table. Some staying for 30 minutes, some staying for hours. Before I knew it I had wasted my entire layover with strangers who became short-term friends and all was restored.

It’s funny how the unplanned became one of the most memorable and dramatic parts of my trip. The unplanned made the story pretty lively.

When I finally made it to my Seattle gate I laughed to see a fellow passenger from my original flight also braving the horrendous overnight flight schedule.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to sleep I thought.

Once I touched down in Seattle I notched my third new state. And also about dissolved to tears. Dear airports, when a person has had that much travel drama in one day–don’t make them go through security again.

While at the gate many people were sharing their travel woes and tires. All it took was a man in fatigues with a sheepish smile saying he was coming from Afghanistan, headed to North Carolina, to give us all a little perspective.

With a little help from a Benadryl, I didn’t even see the take-off from Seattle. After sleeping the whole way to Minneapolis, the next flight to Boston was also a breeze.  Again, a lot of sleep. And a smile when I woke up to see that a flight attendant had left two packs of cookies next to me.

As we finally touched down in Boston at 10 a.m. the next morning the six or so of us who had somehow all united on the final flight let out a bit of a cheer. We all looked gross. But we had made it. 26 hours, four time zones and airports later–we were there.

I was so relieved to not only see my baggage somehow made the full trip, but it was a huge treat to walk outside and see an old, very close friend. It’s funny how you don’t have to talk to some people constantly for them to still feel like home every time you see them.

Sarah and I had tried to plan many trips in the past. But we’re both a little plagued with follow-through issues.

It was a gigantic victory that Sarah mentioned Montreal. I booked a flight. She found us a discount. And we freaking were there. In Boston. And we were roadtripping it.

Massachusetts marked new state number four. A short few miles down the road, New Hampshire became new state number five and a handful of mountains and white steeple churches later we found ourselves in new state number six, Vermont. So many new states. And I only asked for one!

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The next six hours were a great adventure of crossing the border and finding ourselves eventually in Montreal, Quebec.

I vastly underestimated the amount of French that we were going to encounter and it was a happy surprise to find myself testing my memory everywhere I turned. I’m sure Sarah got tired of me reading all of the signs out loud; but darn it, I just couldn’t help it ha. It was a lot of fun to remember everything and actually put it to use. Give me a few months there and I was just certain that I’d be mumbling along the French fluently with the best of them. I’m counting this as my 25 by 25 to surround myself with French.

While we were there we mostly ate. It was so freaking cold that you didn’t want to be outside any longer than you had to. But we also fit in a few sites, mostly exploring around Old Montreal. My favorite was the Notre-Dame Basilica. It was absolutely gorgeous and throwback to my 90’s childhood–it was the place where Celine Dion got married. Crazy gorgeous architecture and impressive stained glass. Also came with a side of a history lesson, so that was appreciated.

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Yup, that’s escargot. And then some poutine. It was a tasty trip. And we walked away with some totally awesome slippers and syrup — ha.

Crazy enough, winter storm Luna caught back up to me on our trip back and we were faced with a ridiculous snow storm driving the six-hour return to Boston. We made a short pit stop at a Mom and Pop Vermont restaurant for breakfast and booked it back to the States.

The best part? Getting my iPhone to work fully again. Oh how I missed mobile internet.

Once we made it to Boston it was really my first opportunity to get a taste of the city.

It’s amazing how different it was than I imagined. Somehow I simply lumped it into the New York City bucket and boy, was I proven wrong. Instead Boston had this great, neighborhood, home and cozy feel. It’s rare that I visit a place I could see myself living; but I really loved Boston. In a mere 24 hours we did the trip halfway downtown to explore Brighton, Alston, Kenmore and peek downtown. We had coffee and bagels and then wandered to Cambridge to see Harvard and some shops, then having some pizza and Sam Adams.

It was such an adorable day. Boston was covered in snow and everyone looked helplessly bundled up. Compared to Montreal though, Sarah and I finally felt comfortable! There were drinks with Sarah’s boyfriend and friends and navigating the train back to their apartment.

Boston was really something and while I was there only for a flash we really packed in some sights. The next morning before my flight home we made a trip to Brookline for pretty much the best French toast I have ever had, witnessed drama when someone fell in front of a train (I don’t think they were hit, but it did cause quite a delay) and a final awesome last stop to see Fenway Park. It was again. . . one more kind of beautiful.

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Once I finally returned to Logan International Airport I couldn’t get home fast enough. An anxious flight to Atlanta, a gorgeous sunset from Atlanta to Charlotte and then I was back in Katie’s Jetta. Finally, finally on my way home. This time with some pretty worse-for-the-wear luggage, dirty snow boots, wind-burnt cheeks and a lot more travel savvy.

Truly one of those once-in-a-lifetime trip opportunities and I am so glad that I sucked every good second out of the eight days. I am so proud. I’m doing things. Saying I’ll do them. And doing things. Whew, but I did have one small failure.

That 25 by 25 to get a stamp in my passport? Border services failed me.

So . . .who’s up for some tropical international travel? Let’s start planning. Preferably before October 7 : ).

In the next few weeks I want to do some closer recaps on the great restaurants we visited–but in the meantime, no more hold-ups on me making new posts!