Denver, CO: Day 2

DSC_04811

Well, it has been a bit of whirlwind since my second day in Denver, and I lost track of posting, but day 2 was filled with beautiful art and hipster coffee shops, so it is definitely something I still need to share. Denver wasn’t my cup of tea, as a whole, but I did love the art museum. Not only was it huge, but it also had one of the most extensive Native American exhibits I’ve ever seen.

Another happy little surprise was that I got in for free! I’ve been to most of the museums that it covers in Seattle, but if you haven’t checked it out, yet and you bank with Bank of America – look up your city for “Museum On Us.” Basically, the first weekend of every month you get in to museums (general admission, no special exhibits) for free. All you have to do is show your debit/credit card. Which is wicked awesome because I love museums like nobody’s business. On this round, it saved me +$20 dollars…which I then spent on books. But the point is, getting into museums is always a bonus.

Anyhoo, I thought I would share some of my favorite pics from wandering around the Denver Art Museum and Denver itself. One thing that I will say, is that being at some crazy elevation kept me from taking long days of exploring because I could not breathe. It was the worst. But, I did manage to visit a few spots before feeling like I was going to collapse from my faux smokers lung.

DSC_0487
These were all made out of tree bark. Which makes me feel like I do absolutely nothing with the basic resources I have accessible to me.
DSC_0490
One of my favorite paintings, which I bought a postcard for. I never thought of Denver as the “Wild West” but I guess it is. And that makes sense. Shame on me.
DSC_0485
I wish you could see how big these cows really were. Something about cows, but there were statues of them all over the city. (*I know, I know, the city’s history or whatever)
DSC_0496
Beaded purses that probably took a lifetime to make. It’s crazy to think that artifacts like this lasted hundreds of years. Talk about making something that will last a lifetime.
DSC_0497
I love Native American designs so much. Maybe it’s my own heritage coming out, but I’ve always been so attracted to the beauty of intricate and geometric patterns.
DSC_0502
Yeah yeah. A real chief’s feather headdress. As in not from an culturally appropriating ad. That’s right Free People/Urban Outfitters: I’m talking to you.
DSC_0503
This pic does a good, but still not completely extensive job of showing how huge this space was. There was so much to see!
DSC_0504
Be still my heart. I’ll take one of each.
DSC_0506
This picture looks super cool and high-up like I’m one of those awesome photographers who climbs things in the name of their art form. Lies. It was taken out of a museum window. But looooook – mountains!
DSC_0507
Somebody painted this by hand. Appreciate that for a moment.
DSC_0511
So there were a couple of Samurai exhibits. The other one was an additional $20 to go see, so I chose to look at the main exhibit armor instead of the fancy shmancy ones. I don’t regret this decision. It was still pretty cool.
DSC_0515
This picture has no significance except that I love beautiful rooms. And just outside there were two Monet paintings that made my heart soar.

When Life Pelts You With Lemons…

DSC_0970

I won’t apologize this time, for the weeks I’ve been silent on my blog. Mainly because life has been serving me a platter of lemons, which I’ve had to skillfully squeeze and mix into some very spontaneous lemonade. To make a long story short, I got laid off from my job a couple of weeks ago and it was extremely abrupt and unexpected. The result was buckling down into “go mode” and starting to figure out how I would pay my tribute to the student loan gods (among other bills etc.).

I’m very happy to say that things have worked out well enough that my bills are covered, and although there is a pay cut involved with now supporting myself – I am considerably happier in my new job and more inspired to create, write and wake up in the morning.

So, what else have I been up to?

Well we relaunched our beautiful website The Exploress, which was a lot of collaboration and a lot of hard work – but we did it! I’m so proud of my beautiful team of writers and photographers and I absolutely love being able to work alongside them to tell their stories of travel and adventures.

And speaking of adventures – in just a couple of weeks, I’ll be headed out on my very own (with two of my best friends!) backpacking adventure around England, Ireland and Scotland. I’m so happy I could cry. Our itinerary consists of four stops, at the moment. We’ll be starting out in London, jumping on a bus up to Edinburgh (no trains – thanks boxing day), flying over to Dublin and then flying over to Stratford Upon Avon (where Shakespeare is buried!).

This trip is coming at the perfect time, and I’m so happy for it to be a bit of respite from my American life. It has been kind of hard to get back in the swing of fast-paced crazy U.S. life, but I’m doing my best and overall I’d say I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, right now.

I’ve started a new job, which is remote, so I’m working today from a beautiful coffee shop near my house. I’m working on social media and marketing with them – which is a bit of a dream come true, because I get to write and come up with marketing schemes. I love being able to take both branches of work and really dedicate myself to the overall mission of the company.

Oh! And I do have a couple of upcoming trips, apart from my UK one, that I’m really excited about:

I recently took a road trip to the Olympic peninsula and that was both beautiful and balming for my soul. You can see some of those lovely pictures below. And NEXT weekend I’m taking a snowy adventure to Leavenworth! I’m so excited for so much beautiful snowy goodness.

Oh! And I’ll be headed over to San Francisco, for a week, in January! So really the whole travel life style is working beautifully, at the moment. The thing I’ve learned about travel is that if you make it a priority (and better, if people know you’re the type to jump at the opportunity), the adventures will come to you. I promise to keep up more on the blog, since the storm seems to have calmed for the moment *knock on wood*. Especially while I’m backpacking – I plan on smothering you all with stories and whimsy about my adventures.

DSC_0918
DSC_0937

DSC_0940

DSC_0944

DSC_0953

DSC_0962

DSC_0964

DSC_0968

DSC_0973

Lessons Learned In Amsterdam: Day 2

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.55.57 AM

I’m not in Amsterdam anymore, but I still thought I’d write a recap of what happened so you all don’t think I fell into a canal or never came back from Holland.
After going to bed at the beautifully early time of 10pm (I had been up at 5 am – and I had no kids there. Yes, I slept.) on Saturday night, I woke up the next morning at 7:30am and headed on a solo adventure around the city.

I admit that this was kind of intentional. The night before had gone from slightly sketchy to etch-a-sketch real quick and I decided to go home early. But Amsterdam in the morning light was lovely. I was basically the only one awake in the city, but the stores were just starting to open up and the coffee shops had been opened for a bit, already. I suspect they open early so that all the tourists who had a bit too much “fun” the night before can grab some caffeine before boarding their trains, planes and buses back to wherever they came from.

I love walking around cities when no one is on the streets, though. No matter where I am it’s always my favorite time of day. I feel like this time, whether early morning…or the other kind of early morning, allows you to really get to “meet” the city. Not the people, tourists or the culture that has grown out of whatever twisted ideas people of that generation have placed there, but the actual city.

You get to see the skeleton architecture without the forms and figures of other people shadowing them. And the thing about European architecture is that there really ARE things you should be looking at, when it comes to buildings. They are beautiful and intricate with carvings and embellishments that just do not exist in the modern world. The buildings carry stories. And, even if just for a few hours, I get to walk around and learn them. And THAT is one of the biggest reasons I travel.

Another reason I travel is because I’m obsessed with Van Gogh. Like if you saw my bedroom wall you would understand. I’ve always been in love with his paintings since I was 10 and saw The Starry Night for the first time. At the time I had no idea who had painted it, but I knew it was the first time I saw a “rule-less” art form that I could connect with freely.

It just so happens that Amsterdam holds the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in its Van Gogh Museum, and I was not disappointed by the experience. I’ll also take this time to say that, if you go there, BUY THE MEDIA GUIDE. It was so worth the extra 5 euro to be able to hear the stories and extra information about each piece of his work. And yes, I almost started crying involuntarily when I saw “Sunflowers” not only because they’re my favorite flower, but also because that’s one of my favorite paintings… and if you watch Doctor Who you’ll know why.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.04.52 AM

After that I went to the Ruks Museum and saw some Rembrandt (which, honestly, the museum was kind of obsessed with) and my first Vermeer, which was absolutely breathtaking, as I knew it would be. To be able to paint like that. Insane.

It also reminded me of this movie I saw when I was 12. It’s a Hallmark, so don’t watch it without some tissues.

Brush with fate – trailer

After that I really had only a couple of hours before my train came, so I dropped in on McDonalds (it’s tradition to try their food when I travel) and their french fries were spot on – better than the original fries in the US. Which is saying something since five countries later, I’ve tasted some pretty nasty non American McDonalds meals. Of course, the argument could be made that any meal from McDonalds is nasty, but I appreciate that European places seem to try harder to make healthy options available.

Next up was the train station and reading my new “The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh” book, which is such a good read, if you have any interest in art. So much snark from that man. The guy on the train kept looking over at me because I was holding this biographical book and giggling like a child. My life.

Public transportation was free in Paris on Sunday due to the Charlie Hedbo events, so getting back home was a lot easier than it might have been. And that was the end of my adventure.

Also a couple more lessons learned from Amsterdam:

1. If you’re not a bike you’re not important.

2. You can get lost in tiny cities too.

3. They aren’t homeless people, they’re postal workers.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.57.22 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.56.52 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.56.27 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.56.13 AM

Even Heroes Get Homesick

DSC_1200
Paris, France

“But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find, nor remember what it looked like.”

Right now I’m making my way through the forever-favorite book, The Hobbit. I know, I know, all the rest of you read it in 7th grade when you were sporting rainbow braces, but I was off busy doing something else, and never had the chance. With the movies coming out, though, I decided to make it my book for the summer (one of a few).

Obviously it isn’t summer anymore. So I guess I didn’t quite make my deadline…but I’m still determined to finish the book, and I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.

One of my favorite things about J.R.R Tolkein is that, when he writes, he doesn’t romanticize the struggles of the adventures (which, personally, I think kind of makes it more romanticized, in a way). Throughout The Hobbit, again and again and again, he writes that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit longing for home. No matter where he is, how good or bad things seem to be going; he remembers the tranquility of his hobbit hole and longs for it.

I don’t know about you guys, but I often find myself reading books that seem to coincide exactly with the kind of encouragement that I need. Or maybe, I find the encouragement in the books I read, because I need it.

Regardless, if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that: I love adventures. I love living them, I love writing them and I love hearing stories about them. I love holding my breath while watching adventure movies, getting caught up in narratives and being on the edge of my seat – eyes wide and ready for the grand conclusion.

This hasn’t changed from when I was a kid and I’d spend weeks reading stacks of books about people who took their circumstances and turned them into stories worthy of being passed down through generations. That’s what I wanted then, and what I live for now. I want my life to be a story I can read back to my children; something that will have them on the edge of their seats, anticipating the part when mom _________________ (fill in the blank).

Adventures aren’t just something I think are necessary, but essential for my life. I need to travel, explore and see new things. I need to have my breath taken away by landscapes and oceans, to meet incredible people and take my place among the millions of experiences the world has to offer.

But the perspective of an adventure can be pretty different when you’re in the middle of it vs. when you’re hearing it second hand. Hungry wolves chasing after you might sound exciting from the security of your living room, but while you’re actually running from them– breath staggering, panic stricken eyes wild with fear, it’s probably not quite the same feeling (although, I’ve never been chased by wolves, so correct me if I’m wrong).

As humans, it’s in our nature to romanticize the past. We tell embellished stories (especially in my family) of what happened, who was there and how many obstacles there were; a foot long puddle turns into a raging river, a 10-inch trout becomes a 60-foot whale.

The stories get passed down from one person to another and then to another and another, until nobody even knows, for sure, what the facts are. As the details trickle down, from one person to the next, details get lost and scrambled in translation – especially emotions such as fear or uncertainty; finally, we’re left simply with the grand tales of bravery – unaware that the hero or heroine was having panic attacks before they made their brave, life altering, world saving decision.

I know personally, when I look back, I have a habit of romanticizing my past.

Somehow things always seem better when they’re not in the present. Life seems so much more exciting in the future; so much more secure and certain in the past. But if I’m honest, I realize that just isn’t the case.

Right now, I’m struggling with a Bilbo Baggins mentality.

Maybe I don’t live in Middle Earth, but I would consider my life an adventure right now. I’m in a strange place, with a strange culture and language surrounding me. I have no idea what the next year of my life will entail. But, all in all, life is pretty great right now.

So why am I still longing for the past?

I love the family I’m working with, I couldn’t have asked for a better match in personalities, tastes, hobbies and general atmosphere.

BUT…here it comes: I’m homesick.

I don’t really want to admit it, because I thought maybe I would miraculously overcome nostalgia (and I did for about month) but this week the homesickness has been hitting pretty hard.

It’s not saying that I don’t love the adventure that I’m on. I’m making awesome friends, getting to try new experiences and generally loving life – but there’s still a part of me longing for my hobbit hole (aka Seattle).

I miss friends, I miss my routine, I miss my bike, being able to call people up to go watch the sunset at Golden Gardens, or to WOW to drink bubble tea; I miss speaking and hearing English, and I miss being able to effortlessly talk to random people when I go out.

It’s expected and normal for us to want what we had before, whether it was bad or good, it was known. And who wouldn’t want to be somewhere they know over somewhere uncertain?

But right now, I’m reminding myself of the beauty in learning to love something I’m uncomfortable with. And let me tell you – sometimes it is VERY UNCOMFORTABLE to be living in a country that is so different.

But that’s part of the adventure, right!?

I’m so thankful for all of you who have encouraged me, sent me mail (which seriously makes my week) and have generally uplifted me during this transition. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing community around me, and I’m excited for what’s up and coming in my life – even if it means missing my city a little in the meantime.

Seattle will always have my heart. And striking out into the unknown can be extremely intimidating at times. But I’m learning to accept the fact that even the greatest heroes and heroines sometimes find themselves longing for home.

10665711_10204172456965047_9015377252074158795_n
I found a beret at a Paris street fair. Needless to say: J’adore.

228af07451553167c6efbe0f0a01ccd1

Welcome to Orleans, France

DSC_1080 number2

Last weekend me and another fantastically awesome au pair, who lives in a town near me, went to explore the closest “big” city – Orleans, France! I’m not going to lie, it stole my heart. The city is stunning, and has a historical background to match up to it’s amount of awesome. Known for a famous battle, won by my childhood hero Joan of Arc, I loved being able to walk the streets and just simply marinate in the culture and beauty. DSC_1045     DSC_1036 DSC_1037 DSC_1038
DSC_1042 DSC_1043 DSC_1044 DSC_1045 DSC_1046 DSC_1049 DSC_1050 DSC_1051 DSC_1053 DSC_1057 DSC_1062 DSC_1063 DSC_1064 DSC_1067 DSC_1068 DSC_1074 DSC_1075 DSC_1076 DSC_1077 DSC_1078 DSC_1079 Continue reading “Welcome to Orleans, France”

Bumble Bees

DSC_0975

Yesterday was the first day that I watched the kids, alone. All three of them. It was pretty hectic, I’m not going to lie. They are all extremely high energy, and the semi-barrier of language made communicating with them a little hard, all around. But aside from them trying to kill each other over UNO and rugby tackling during soccer, it was fun to be able to paint, play some soccer (aka football) and get out of the house.

My favorite part of yesterday was stopping to find time to look some insects. I know it sounds frightfully interesting, of course. But I definitely took some videos of flys (which allow you to get SO CLOSE, here) and some photos, also. After we went to the park, we also found a little flower garden where there were tons of bumble bees (an American name which the kids thought was HILARIOUS), and as the kids found the biggest ones, I hopped around on my camera trying to get the best shots of the fearless insects. Here are some of the fruits of this labor, and some other adventures from yesterday:

DSC_0913 DSC_0914 DSC_0915 DSC_0934 DSC_0942 DSC_0932DSC_0930DSC_0950 DSC_0955 DSC_0960 DSC_0961 DSC_0963 DSC_0964 DSC_0970 DSC_0972 DSC_0976

DSC_0977DSC_0980

Audrey Hepburn

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”