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….

/\^/\^^/\^/\/\*

Advertisements

The Atlanta I Love.

I’ve been in love with Atlanta since I was probably five years old.

Something about the skyline driving through to Braves games or the combination of road-side farmers stands and urban graffiti. I have always loved the eclectic southern-ness of Atlanta and it was a beacon of “the good life” for me since I was a teenager.

“Man, if I live in Atlanta when I grow up — I will be the HAPPIEST,” I thought and wrote in my diary probably 50 times from 2001 to 2010.

I couldn’t wait to be able to go to The Ted on any given day of the week, read the AJC on the reg and officially be considered a peach state resident. Strange aspirations maybe, but they were all tokens of the city that I obsessed about.

I had and have been to other cities of course; but Atlanta has always been magical to me.

Growing up I would tell anyone who would listen about how one day I would probably be VP of Communications for the Braves and if not that maybe I would work at CNN. Lofty ambitions, but life is funny. And great sometimes.

You can imagine what people said when I announced four months ago that I was moving here. It was the smallest surprise of the year. Half the people I told thought that I already lived here.

Now, I live here.

Every day.

I don’t think I’m a bonafide Atlantan yet by any means. I DO have a Marta card; but I’ve never been to a number of the local institutions like Manuel’s or the Landmark. I’ve yet to really run very far on the Beltline and I’m not sure I could find my way around on the west side of I-75. I have no idea what the best restaurants are in Decatur and I haven’t been to a single festival yet. There is a lot to still see and experience on my “Atlanta To-Do List.” In fact, I probably need to create an actual list.

Related: If you live in Atlanta and have suggestions on what earns me my Atlantan certificate. Please advise.

But now on any given Tuesday I can go to Braves games, explore new restaurants, neighborhoods and museums.

Atlanta is home.

And I love Atlanta.

The trails. The parks. The history. The culture. The diversity. The food scene. The music. The access to hiking, swimming, home, friends and family.

There are so few things that could improve this city for me. (Aside from much improved public transportation. That’s it.)

But I found an Atlanta that I loved even more when Andy visited last week.

It wasn’t in a specific place or an activity. We had:

  • normal nights at home
  • tacos at Superica
  • drinks on the Beltline
  • King of Pops shade breaks
  • hikes on Stone Mountain
  • tent time at Lake Lanier
  • tomahawk chopping at Turner Field
  • picnics at Piedmont Park
  • meanderings downtown
  • sightings at MLK’s childhood home
  • lots of neighborhood explorations

It was a normal week of me trying to share why I loved this city so much.

Since moving here, it has been so fun–but I promise you that each exploration was paired with “I wonder what Andy would think of this?” or an “I can’t wait to show this to Andy when he visits.”

Can you imagine how lovely it was to just adventure and have him there to talk about it?

It was the BEST Atlanta yet.

Turns out when you combine the city you love + the person you love, it results in the BEST days. But, not to cheese ball, basically Andy and I always have the best time regardless of what city we’re set in.

I was pretty close to right at 14 years old when I thought that living in Atlanta would be the end-all to pure happiness.

But this week I saw a side of an even sweeter Atlanta that I hadn’t quite experienced yet–and oh boy, I cannot wait to visit that place again.

In the meantime, I get to keep exploring. I get to keep finding new reasons that Atlanta is my favorite. More parks to venture into and more neighborhoods to wander. More days to learn about myself in a city that–over the years–has been integral to my figuring out who I am.

While I really wish Andy was coming back tomorrow or that my trip to Portland started Wednesday instead of three weeks from now–I have Atlanta. And if I have to be patient for the day that we get to make a city ours, I’m positive that 95-degree heat, 80-percent humidity, and all, I wouldn’t take any other place while I wait.

We call this my “drama tiara.”

I can’t help that I was born with a type-A personality.

Symptoms include overactive planning, over-thinking small details and needing to feel entirely in control at all times.

Sometimes, when the planning is going wrong, I have no control and the small details are overwhelming—my feelings decide to take the reigns.

And I put on my “drama tiara.” Aptly named by either my mother or bff Katie. I can’t remember.

Amen.

I get extremely worked up and everything is just, for lack of a better phrase, well…it’s all going to hell!

Then the second phase of this 3-year-old-style meltdown begins–which is the inability to move on. I have to dwell and sulk and freak out until something magical happens that neither I nor anyone else can forecast that alleviates my anxieties.

I’m, admittedly, kind of a nut job.

This is what I really need to be telling myself…

Over the past year it’s been too easy for me to get into these funks and forget that the thing that makes me feel better is pretty simple.

It’s Jesus.

This past week I’ve been constantly working on finishing SIX final packages for my internship. (Y’all that’s like 60 hours of work, likely.) Not to mention I’ve been working on that whilst saying goodbye to Andy as he moved away from Boston (just goodbye for a week—but in my full drama, I’m acting like it’s goodbye forever) and also packing up my first Boston apartment.

Somebody get me a piece of pie or something.

It’s just moments like tonight on a Saturday night feeling sorry for myself and looking at my to-do list and the empty spot next to me on the couch that I kind of have to pinch myself. And remind myself that I control my feelings — they don’t control me.

So, y’all — maybe some prayers over the next week while I get my life re-situated!?

In the meantime, I’m hanging out on the REVO Church Podcast page. Feel free to join me, :).

^^ That.