Monday, June 30, 2014

let the adventure begin...


Tonight we fly to America for eight weeks of great family, friends and food!!





Friday, June 27, 2014

the chaos of leaving


On Tuesday, we are flying home for an eight week visit.

This whole week, my thoughts have been oscillating like crazy between my huge school-to-do-list, my huge packing-to-do-list, my huge leaving-Taiwan-to-do-list and my huge what-I-want-to-do-when-I-get-to-America to do list.

My poor mind has been a mess.
It bounces from list to list and thought to thought:

Finish grading finals.
Buy cockroach traps.
Would it be better to leave my scooter's gas tank empty or full over summer?
I wonder if Trader Joe's still carries the Tempting Trail Mix.
Ration toothpaste and toilet paper so we don't have to buy more before we leave.
Did my students turn in their registration for next year?
Clean out garbage and recycling cans.
I wonder how much gas is going to cost in the states now.
Pack rain jacket.
Buy charcoal to help keep apartment less humid. 
Write comments on student report cards.
Ask mom to get the Chicken Bacon Ranch stuffed pizza from Papa Murphy's for the night we arrive. 
Arrange ride to the airport.
Clean out desk in classroom.
I wonder if my favorite movie theater in Port Townsend will have How to Tame your Dragon 2.
Buy two months worth of birth control.
Clear out fridge and pantry.
Complete student awards.
Find passport and ARC. 
Double check grades. 
Do I even still know how to drive a car???

Basically, my mind is spazzing out.

I know that I will finish up school on Monday and get everything done and all will be fine.
I know that we will spend all weekend preparing our apartment and scooters for eight weeks of our absence and all will be fine.
And I know that come July 1, I will be in America and I will relearn how to drive a car and eat all of the foods that I love and see all of the people I miss and all will be fine.

But you try telling my brain that.





Monday, June 23, 2014

expat woes: tmi


Today I walked up to one of my Taiwanese coworkers and casually asked her to write it burns when I pee in Chinese on the yellow post it note I was holding.
And without blinking, she did.

Because that's kind of how things go around here.
Most of the time, I have no idea how to do anything the proper Taiwanese way from buying groceries, getting gas, paying bills and so on.
The language barrier is still huge.
Mostly, we just fumble around until we kinda, sorta figure some things out and really friendly locals help us along the way.

Like my coworker, who definitely does not get paid enough to translate my medical woes on a post it note.

Through trial and error, though, I've learned better than to go to a medical clinic assuming someone will speak English or we can kinda, sorta figure it out.
We learned that lesson when we walked into the local hospital needing my husband's last rabies shot after a monkey bit him in Bali. We had all of the paperwork from the clinic in Ubud but it didn't do us any good because it was all in English.
In the end, I played monkey charades, inclusive of sound effects and gestures, and then took my husband's arm and bit it.
That they understood.
And that they found really funny.
But the whole process of trying to explain the problem and then sort out his medical history and previous rabies treatment and what shot he needed took eight hours.

I wasn't too sure how the whole charades thing would work for my current problem so I figured humiliating myself by asking a coworker [who I definitely owe a beer] for help was the best choice.

And lo and behold, I get to the clinic and no one, and I mean not one of the 20 workers who came to try and help, understood what I needed until I whipped out that last resort: my little yellow post it note. And that too they found hilarious because we all knew I sure did not write it.

I am sure everyone wondered: who on earth did this lady con into writing such an embarrassing note?!

Such is the life of an expat.
And such is the life of kind locals surrounded by expats.




Sunday, June 22, 2014

Taipei 101: [no longer] the world's tallest building


Let's be frank here, the sole appeal of Taipei 101 is that it's literally the only really, really tall building in Taipei [and Taiwan too]. It sticks out like a sore thumb and when I was still getting to know the layout of the city, I would emerge from the underground metro and instantly look up and around to orient myself in relation to the towering skyscraper. 

That said, Taipei 101 does have some boasting power. It was the world's tallest building for, like, a year. Now, it must be content to be the world's second tallest building. Sadly, projects in China and the Middle East will quickly demote the tower's tallness status even more.  


Going to the top of Taipei 101 is actually a pretty cool experience. 

Usually I am not into touristy things like this but I have to admit, the one time I waited around in line to go all the way up to the top, I found it a worthwhile experience for two reasons.

First, you get to ride the world's fastest elevator
It only takes 40 seconds to go from the bottom to the 89th floor! 
Second, you get these stunning city views.



From the top of the tower, you can observe Taipei two ways: from the safety of inside the building or from the outdoor observatory deck. If you go outside, you will be treated to howling wind and amazing [albeit hazy] views.

It was incredible for me to finally understand the topography of Taiwan a little more. Taipei is literally wedged in between rolling, gentle mountains. The city sprawls every which way and is frequently interrupted by green, tree covered mounds of earth.

Rivers snakes through the city and from the 90th floor, everything looks like game pieces.

Even from the 89th floor and inside, the views are pretty spectacular:





Travel Info:
  • Hop off the MRT at the Taipei City Hall stop
  • Tickets cost 400 NT, which is $13 USD
  • Observation decks are on the 89th-91st floors
  • Fair warning: the lines are long




Saturday, June 21, 2014

expat anniversary



We are coming up on our second expat anniversary.

Nearly two years ago, we gave away the majority of our stuff, packed up the rest and boarded a plane that would take us from home to the unknown.

The past two years have been extraordinary.
Literally.
The definition of extraordinary is very unusual or remarkable.

And the past two years of our lives have certainly been both.

Don't get me wrong, life abroad is still just life.
Sometimes life is beautiful.
Sometimes life is joyful.
Sometimes life is one big adventure.
And sometimes life is ugly.
And sometimes life is painful.
And sometimes life is monotonous.

Life in Taiwan has been all of that.
Life in America was all of that too.
Life anywhere is all of that.

But there is something unique about life as an expat.
I like to think of it as life magnified.
For me, the beauty is even more beautiful.
The joy is more joyous.
The adventure more adventurous.
Likewise, the ugly is uglier.
The pain more painful.
And the monotony even more monotonous.

I have loved Taiwan and loathed Taiwan, sometimes in the same day.
I have been awed by Taiwanese culture and I have felt disgusted by it too.
I have adapted and my perspective has been forced to expand dramatically.

I am a very different person than I was two years ago.

I am braver.
I am healthier.
I am happier.
I am stronger.
I am calmer.
I am more flexible.
I am even more driven.
I am an even bigger dreamer.

And I am grateful for it all.
If I could go back in time two years, I would still get on that plane.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

adventures in teaching: a class field trip to an amusement park in taiwan



This past month, I was conned into taking my whole homeroom to an amusement park in Taiwan. Okay, I guess it would be fair to say the kids strongly suggested how much they would pretty please love to go on a class field trip and I am a pushover and they know it so I said yes.

Don't worry.
I am not too far gone.
I did say no to the idea of an overnighter.

As an American with an American perspective, I was worried about all kinds of things. Sure, I had taken kids on field trips in the states but they were academic. To a museum. And for every five kids, there was at least one adult chaperon. And the trips were always on school days.

So when I went to the admin office at my school wanting to suggest that I, just I, take 30 kids to an amusement park on a Saturday just for the hell of it, I was prepared to be shot down.

But, all I had to do was say "Can I take the kids to Leofoo Village..." and the answer was: of course.

I teach 8th grade so that means my kids are 13-14 years old.
There are 30 of them.
And one of me.

Trust me, after I got the go ahead from the office, I started to have doubts.

I worried about whether they would be responsible enough to go with just me.
I worried about taking them someplace I had never been in a foreign country that uses a language I do not understand.
I worried about safety and all of the things teachers worry about when it comes to their kids.

But all those worries were for naught.

The field trip day arrived and I gave them my schpeel, which basically reaffirmed everything they had come to learn about me in our eight months together: if I tell them to be somewhere at noon and they are not there by 12:02, I will be convinced a snake killed them or a plane fell out of the sky and landed on them or they were gravely injured while waiting in line for a ride.

So, in good faith, I let them scurry their separate ways at the park and was forced to endure horrifying ride after horrifying ride, most of which went really, really fast and turned me upside down multiple times, while my students giggled themselves silly and I screamed until my voice became raw.

I think it was their form of payback for the 10 essays I made them write this past year and especially for the three speeches I made them give.

But, truth be told, I had an absolute blast with my kids.

Was the language barrier an issue?
A little bit.
But one of my students helped me find and order a cup of coffee so all was right in my world.

Was it a little intimidating to be in charge of 30 kids in a completely chaotic and unfamiliar place?
A little bit.
But you know what?
Every single kid was on time or even early for every attendance check in and we had a great day together.


I really love my job. 








Sunday, June 15, 2014

summer undertakings

Summer break has arrived for most of the world but not yet for Taiwan. The last day of school is June 30 and in order to beat my summer-but-still-working blues, I've been busy signing up for fun things to do the second summer starts on July 1.

My two most exciting summer undertakings are:

Enrolling in a Photography Workshop
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I signed up for this workshop with A Beautiful Mess. The workshop is five weeks long and the main goal is to help beginners like me better understand their fancy new cameras. I found out about this workshop when I first bought my Canon EOS M back in February but it was sold out. I had to wait until now to sign up. I am really excited to get to practice my photography back home and learn how to shoot in manual. Plus, I cannot wait to have the time to play around with Lightroom and VSCO Film, which have mostly been neglected over the past few months.

Trip Planning: Eastern European Edition

Are you ready for perhaps my most absurd travel idea yet? Okay, here it is: I am going to take a bunch of middle school + high school students on a two week trip through Eastern Europe during summer 2015. I know, I am crazy. This is something I have always wanted to do though. Maybe I will discover that it is a terrible way to travel and really no fun at all but I kinda doubt it. A friend [who is also a colleague of mine] and I are planning this trip, which will take us through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. I am so excited!!!

It's shaping up to be a great summer [you know, once it actually starts]. 




Saturday, June 14, 2014

taiwan baseball insanity


Hands down, Taiwan does some things better than America.

One of those things is baseball.

Confession: I am not a sports person. I would choose to do just about anything over watching any kind of sports game on TV or live in person.

I decided to give Taiwan's professional baseball league a shot because our friends went to a game and relayed some pretty awesome things to me.

First, the noise makers.
Second, the personalized songs and cheers.
Third, the fireworks and confetti.
And last, the deep fried hot dogs.

So on a steamy Saturday night, seven of us hopped on the High Speed Rail headed north to the city of Taoyuan so we could watch the Lamigo Monkeys versus the Brother Elephants.

Taiwan has a handful of professional baseball teams, all named after creatures: the Lions, the Monkeys, the Bulls, the Bears, the Elephants and the Rhinos. There are stadiums all over the island so everyone can catch a game every now and again. From what I can tell, most Taiwanese people choose one team and root for it with impressive passion and fidelity.

And let me tell you, they take their fandom to the next level!

In the end, this made the difference for me. The one time I went to a Mariners baseball game in Seattle, I was bored to tears. I don't play baseball, I don't watch baseball and I could care less about baseball. What I loved about Taiwan's baseball had nothing to do with what was happening on the field and everything to do with that was happening in the stands.

Watching Taiwanese people go crazy over baseball was by far one of my favorite moments in Taiwan, ever.

Why?

Normally, Taiwanese people are much more reserved and quiet than what I am used to as an American. They are nearly silent on trains and metros and seem to go out of their way to avoid rudeness or making a spectacle of themselves.

That disappeared the second the game started and everyone went crazy.

In order to fit in during a Taiwanese baseball game, a lot of participation is required.

First, each player has his own personalized cheer. When that player is up to bat, the eight cheerleaders for that particular team lead the entire section of fans rooting for that team to sing the song/cheer, which involves words and dance moves.

And the fans participate with great gusto.

Then, when anything happens or is even about to happen, it is imperative for fans to sound their horns or their mini drums or wave their inflatable toys around in the air and scream and shout really, really, really loudly.

It's total pandemonium and this lasts for the entire game!

Sometimes, when a player does something truly great, confetti bursts from one side of the field into the night sky. Then, at the end of the game, a 10 minute firework show that I swear would rival an American fireworks show on New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July celebrates the winning team's victory.

The whole entire thing was one big experience in sensory overload and I cannot wait to go again!




Travel Info:
  • If you want to catch a game, consult this website for game days/times/locations
  • Tickets cost 250 NT, which is less than $10 USD
  • Attend a game along Taiwan's west coast so you can use the majorly convenient high speed rail 
  • Take a free shuttle bus from the train station to the baseball stadium
  • Eat a deep fried hot dog; you won't regret it
  • Bring your own toilet paper! The bathrooms are the squatty potty variety and after two years of living in Asia, I still have to completely take off my pants to use these contraptions. Also, there is no T.P. to be found anywhere in the stadium.
  • Get a horn or drum and participate






  


This post is part of the Sunday Traveler link up. Check out the blog Ice Cream and Permafrost for more great travel writing! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

expat perspective: a new normal


Usually I do not write about topics like this but after two weeks of repetitive tragedies in the United States due to gun violence, it's been a constant topic of conversation in my office and something that is impossible to ignore, even from an ocean away.

Local Taiwanese teachers and parents wonder: what is going on in America and is it safe?

They have a right to wonder. After all, 99 percent of our students go to college in America.

But all I can do is shrug my shoulders in the face of their questions and concerns.

We, the Americans on staff, try to explain that the events that recently unfolded in Seattle, Santa Barbra and Portland are not surprising or shocking.

We are used to it.

We expect it.

As teachers in America, we are trained for the eventuality of it. 

We're taught to lock the doors, turn off the lights, cover the windows and huddle our silent students under their desks or in a corner while trying to remain calm and reassuring.

Some teachers have even been trained to disarm gun men and some now legally carry weapons in their classrooms.

It's the American norm and regardless of what people say or think, it has been for a while.

I grew up in the era of Columbine and remember my father telling me over dinner at the dinner table to zig-zag run or drop and play dead if I ever heard gunshots at school.

Then, from my very first day of teaching in America, I was prepared for the possibility that someone on a murderous rampage would come to my school building with the intent to kill my kids and me. Safety experts came to our staff meetings to go over possible scenarios and how to best respond.

All I could remember thinking the first time I sat through such a meeting is: I am here to teach kids about literature and grammar and spelling. Why am I doing training that people in the army or police force do? This.is.wrong.

But it was my norm so I did it and it is still the American norm so that is what teachers do and those are conversations parents have over dinner while seated at the family dinner table.

After living abroad, I see the acceptance of this for what it is and was: inexcusable insanity.

And now, after two years living outside of America and traveling the world extensively, I can say with confidence: it is not normal and other people do not live this way. 

And luckily, I have had two years in Taiwan to rewrite my norm as a teacher, woman and fellow society member.

And I have.

I live in a country where gun ownership is illegal.
I live in a country where schools have no concept of lock down drills or intruder drills.
I live in a country where my classrooms have sliding glass doors that lock at the end of the day with literal chains and hanging locks.
I live in a country where violent crime is extremely rare and mass murder is nearly unheard of.
I live in a country where everyday, regardless of the time or my location, I feel safe.
Even alone.

I live in a country where the concept of teachers being trained to fight off gunmen is viewed as absurd and insane.
As it should be. 

And I live in a country that has proven to me that the U.S. is not normal.
It is not okay.
Are there other countries out there in similar situations?
Sure.
But it is not the way things have to be.
It is not our only option.

Our kids could go to school and be safe.
We could go to shopping malls, restaurants and movie theaters and be safe.
We could walk down the street and be safe.

Being an expat, especially in Taiwan, has given me new perspective on the world and on lifestyles and on choices.

We could choose to be different.

But in the meantime, I will simply feel lucky that I, a middle school English and social studies teacher, can go to work without fear of violent crime because so many of my teacher friends and so many of your children cannot do the same back home.



Monday, June 9, 2014

the evolution of my travel style

I have been traveling the world for more than a decade now.

When I was younger and poorer, my trips were sporadic. It was three weeks in the United Kingdom staying in hostels and eating discounted, day-old bread for lunch.

As I navigated my early twenties and my first real job, my travel style changed a lot. Travel was still infrequent but it was four weeks in western Europe staying in fancy hotels and eating at real restaurants and using a rolling suitcase.

In my mid twenties, I found myself unemployed and released from all the burdens of the daily grind and my travel style changed immensely. It was months and months living out of a backpack and doing and seeing as much as possible in as many countries as possible, most of which I could not find on a map prior to my arrival.

Ever since my first trip abroad at 17, I knew I was a traveler.
And I knew that whatever path I went down, travel would be a main part of my life.
And here I am, now in my late twenties, settled into the traveler I have become: a long-term expat globe trotting near and far every summer and winter break and often in between.

Sometimes I travel for fun.
Sometimes I travel to relax.
Sometimes I travel to grow.
Sometimes I travel to bear witness.
Sometimes I travel just because.

And through trial and error, I've learned a lot about myself.

I have found what works for me and I have found what does not.
I have found what I get the most out of and what I can skip out on.
I have found how I grow best and how I relax best.
I have settled into my travel style.

It includes:

The husband, always
I know a lot of people dig solo travel but I cannot fathom actually traveling for any meaningful period of time without my man for a few reasons. First, I absolutely adore him. You can get all judgey if you want but we totally have one of those relationships in which we are glued at the hips. And after 10 years of being like that, you can imagine that it's a pretty great place to be. We really like each other. But beyond that, we compliment each other really well.

I am the adventurer, he is the realist.
I get us there, he navigates us around.
I dream huge, he makes sure we don't run out of money.
I get irrational, he soothes me.
He gets bitten by a monkey, I drag him to the ER.
He gets hangry, I locate the nearest food source.
I get scared and intimidated, he encourages me and prods me forward.

What we have works really, really well for us as individuals and for our marriage. I think travel, real, hard core travel, brings two people closer together than most people would think. It's raw and hard and rewarding and there is no corner of the earth I would want to be in without him there too.

The friends, a lot of the time
Over the past two years, we have spent a lot of time traveling with another married couple who we get along with really well. We moved to Taiwan at the same time and became instant friends. We've traveled around Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia together and just booked a three-week trip to New Zealand. It's been really rewarding to find a couple we click with that we can travel the world with. The boys do their Man Thing and we do our Lady Thing. We experience places together and I find the sentiment the more the merrier to be 100 percent true. Also, sometimes it's nice to have a support system to lean on. That time our bank card did not work in Taiwan? Yup, friends to the rescue!

I think the reason we can travel together for extended periods of time and not get sick of each other or want to kill each other is because we spend a lot of time together anyway, day to day, so we know each other well and know what to expect. We do game nights, movies, dinners, birthdays, holidays, coffee dates and random Saturday hangouts.

I think in the end though, we just got really lucky.

Direct flights, when possible
I use cheapoair to book the majority of our flights. Usually, the deals are pretty good. One thing I have learned after one decade of travel is that for me, it is worth it to spend a few extra hundred dollars if that means we can get to our destination ASAP without wasting time on more than one flight or hanging out in an airport terminal during a layover.

Slow and steady wins the race, most of the time
When I first started to travel, my goal was to see as many countries as possible in one go. Now, I am a little lazier. I would rather stay in one place for a while and not feel rushed. I want to get to know an area and get comfortable there. Instead of spending three weeks bouncing all over the place, we are more likely to spend 10 days in one town and 10 days in another.

Bye bye hostels, forever
I am so over sharing a room with strangers. Now, we use agoda to get some pretty great deals that don't break the bank while at the same time saving our sanity by getting a room for ourselves. I think as a couple, this is important.

Experiences are worth the cost, period
We were those people who blew everything we had to get somewhere and then had very little to spend upon arrival. We know better now. It is so disappointing to miss out on once in a lifetime moments because you frankly do not have enough money. Now, we budget a lot more than we think we will need so we can do the things we want. That cruise through Ha Long Bag in Vietnam? Expensive. But so worth it. I would have felt like a dope watching the boats pull away without being on one.

Wake for free breakfast, every day

We are sleepers. We stay up late and sleep in late. But when traveling, we set the alarm, roll out of bed and eat that free breakfast. It's one less expense and a way to save some money, especially on those longer trips. Plus, you're ready for the day and can go explore without worrying about your stomach or locating breakfast.

Independent + self guided, a must
I have been on one bus tour and I will never do it again. I want to travel at my own pace and leave room for my own whims and judgment. I do not like being on someone else's schedule. I would rather rent a scooter or hire a taxi and risk getting horribly lost or missing out on something rather than being told what to see and how to experience it.

A very full backpack, every time
We hate checking luggage. In fact, we only do it when coming or going from Seattle to Taipei with our huge red suitcases that we stuff with new clothes or coveted food items. Otherwise, for vacations, we always carry on. It saves time and after once having to wait one week for our luggage, we learned it's better to use a backpack. That said, I do not pack minimally. I lay out each article of clothing and make sure it can make two or three outfits and that I have my cute shoes + earrings + necklaces. I am just not into the hippie, backpacker look. It's not me.

Loosely planned, most of the time
One time I tried to plan a very detailed trip itinerary and I learned quickly those go up in flames easily. Now, I have a general idea of where I want to go and what I want to do but I try and take each day one at a time and not plan too far ahead. I love to wait until I talk to locals or people who've been around the block to get ideas of what to see and do. Some of our best adventures required hand drawn maps. You can't get those in the guide books.

... I know over time my travel style is likely to change as it has over the last 10 years. Our friends will move. We will move. We will sometimes have more money and sometimes have less money. I know that in the future, travel may not be as frequent as it is now.

But one thing I do know is that regardless of how we do it, we will be travelers.




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New Zealand

source

It's happening.

We're bought our airfare!

We will be in New Zealand with our awesome friends Luke + Jamie from January 29 - February 19! That's three full weeks to explore.

Usually, I do not plan trips very carefully.

But as we have a one-income household and so do our friends and NZ is quite expensive, we're having to be more careful.

I am welcoming any and all advice: places to stay, places to see, car rental companies, road trip routes, really good restaurants, how much I can expect to spend for 2 people weekly, etc.

I want it all! 

So far our only plan is this: ROAD TRIP.

You can see it's not a very well developed plan.

That's where you come in. I don't care if you've been or if you've just seen something on TV or in a book, I wanna know about it!

Also, we have a 24 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea so I welcome all tips for how to make the most of the city in one day. What are the not-to-be-missed attractions??





Sunday, June 1, 2014

homeward bound

In exactly one month, Sean and I will board a plane that will take us from Taipei to Seattle! We will get to spend the entire summer with our family and friends! I am so excited because I have not been home for a visit in nearly two years.

I am already starting to fantasize about the restaurants I will eat at, the grocery stores I will shop at and all of the fun things I will do. Heck, I already pulled out our two huge red suitcases just so I can look at them and get excited [even though, let's face it, we will most likely pack the night before we leave and just throw in dirty laundry so we can use our moms' washers and dryers].

Here are some Pacific Northwest activities I simply cannot wait to experience this summer:

1. Staying in Port Townsend 
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My favorite place in all of Washington State is a little town called Port Townsend. Sean and I lived here for three years and when we feel homesick, it is most often for this place. We love everything about this town from its rocky beaches, green lush forests, mountain views, delicious restaurants and funky shops. I can't wait to wake up in my favorite town and get to do anything I want, which usually includes browsing the bookstore, grabbing a coffee from a French bistro and swinging in a beautiful waterfront park! 

[Confession: sometimes at work, when I am so over it, I digitally stroll around Port Townsend using Google Maps. I "walk" down Water Street and even pass by our old houses! You could say I am a PT stalker.]

2. Camping at Nehalem Bay 
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Every summer, we go camping along the Oregon Coast at least once with Sean's family and usually once by ourselves. Our favorite camp site is Nehalem Bay. It's a cozy and stunning bay along the Pacific Ocean in northern Oregon and it's perfect for water sports [more Sean's thing], sun bathing [more my thing] and hiking. There is also a rugged seaside town called Manzanita nearby that has great Mexican food and one of my favorite book stores in the whole wide world. I always get burned to a crisp and eat way too many Smores when we camp here, but I enjoy every second we spend in our tent, around the camp fire, in the forest or on the beach! 

3. Visiting the Sequim Lavender Festival
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Every year, my mom and I go crazy at the Sequim Lavender Festival. In a town close by where we live, there are a bunch of lavender farms along the highway. Each summer, the farms organize a huge festival. We visit our favorite four or five farms and listen to live music, wander around fields of purple and of course buy copious amount of lavender scented beauty products. This is always one of my favorite summer activities!

4. Road tripping to La Push
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When I was 18 years old, Sean took me on our first official "trip" as a couple. It was a four-hour road trip to the very northern edge of the Washington Coast. We ate burgers and drank milkshakes at a roadside joint called Sullys and then he took me hiking to Third Beach at La Push. Five years later, this is the exact spot we got married at! Any summer means a road trip to La Push!

5. Moped-ing around Victoria, B.C.
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From the time I was a little girl, my mom would take me to Victoria B.C. on day trips or on a mommy-daughter weekend get away. This city is so special to me. I have such fond memories of having tea at the Empress Hotel, taking horse drawn carriage rides and walking around the fabulous Royal BC Museum. It is even more special to me because it is also the place where Sean and I honeymooned. We had a blissful experience in BC, my favorite of which was renting mopeds to scoot all around the Canadian island! My mom got us a hotel in Victoria for our five-year wedding anniversary this summer and we cannot wait for the adventure we are sure to have!

6. Hiking the Olympic National Park
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The Olympic National Park is practically in our backyard. Every weekend when I was unemployed, we would go hiking with my brother. There are so many trails to choose from and so many beautiful things to see. Some hikes are long and grueling and others are easy and mellow. Either way, I love lacing up my hiking boots, grabbing some trial mix and hitting the trails. There is something so majestic and peaceful about walking through the true wilderness!

7. Shopping at Pike's Place Market
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Any trip to Seattle would be incomplete without a visit to Pike's Place Market. We usually hop on the Bainbridge Island ferry and spend the day in the city. We love to watch the fish being thrown and pushing and shoving our way through the incredibly crowned halls of the market. We always end up buying a bouquet of flowers and hopping across the street to buy fresh bread and pasta.

8. Picnic-ing in Chetzemoka Park
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Any beautiful summer day is the perfect time to grab a blanket and basket full of booze and food and head to Chetzemoka Park. The park is along the water front and has beautiful mountain and water views. There is a botanical garden and usually a wedding or some event to spy on. My favorite feature is the tire swing as long as Sean doesn't get it in his head that he wants to make me scream really loud.

9. Riding ferries
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For me, home will always be synonymous with ferry. I grew up in Kingston, WA, which has a ferry that goes to Edmonds, WA. My mom commuted on that ferry every day for almost 20 years. When I was a young child and in daycare, I would commute with her too. Later, I rode this ferry every day for three years to get to school and back. Then, Sean and I moved to Bainbridge Island, WA and I rode a ferry everyday to Seattle for work.

Any time I am on a Washington State ferry, I feel at home and at peace. The views are stunning, especially in the early morning when the sun rises over the Cascade Mountains or in the late evening when it sets over the Olympic Mountains. I am so looking forward to getting on a ferry, heading to the top deck and letting the wind whip my hair all around as I admire everything that is home.

10. Being with my people

Last but certainly not least, I am thrilled to pieces that I get to spend seven weeks catching up with the people I love and miss. I will get to see my mom all the time. We can shop and sit in the sun and drink wine and listen to music. I can squabble with my brother and meet his lady friend and love on his dogs and see his new house. I can meet my friends' babies and see their new homes and talk over the phone and grab lunch and try and cram in as much time as possible together. I can hang out with Sean's awesome family and see their new house and eat a lot of ice cream. These people matter. They matter so much and I cannot wait to see them. I know it could be a little weird. Two years is a long time. But I also know that regardless of time and huge life changes, we will find a way to connect. And I can't wait! 

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