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The Things We Miss

The Things We Miss

We drove away from our home in Denver almost 7 months ago. In these past 7 months we have visited 23 countries (and counting) in a few different parts of the world. There have been times of pure excitement and exhilaration, but also times of fear and doubt. We have learned a lot about the world and other cultures, but we have also learned the value of home. We miss our favorite brewery up the road and running into Target when we need shampoo. Here are a few of the things we miss most:

Phloyd & Leo

Oh, I miss these furry kids of ours so much. They aren’t so good at picking up the phone to let us know how things are. Jen (my sister-in-law) and Karoon (my future brother-in-law) are taking such good care of them and the Snapchats remind us of that all the time. We are so thankful for them loving our animals like their own, but damn…we miss them so much our hearts hurt! The dog and the cat also decided to become best friends since we have been gone which gives us all of the feels.

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Friends & Family

This one is a give in, but it had to be acknowledged. We are used to living across the country from our families, but being across the world from them and in completely different time zones has been really hard. We missed Thanksgiving and Christmas — we never spend these holidays without our families and I am not sure if we will ever choose to be away for the holidays ever again. We have also missed birthdays, celebrations, baby showers and weddings. Facetime, text, and calls are great ways to keep in touch but it is not the same as being there for the important moments.

Our Bed

There is nothing like crawling into your bed and resting your head on your pillow. Everything is just the way you like it and it is one of my happy places. We have slept in beds of all shapes and sizes — some are great, some are terrible. All I know is I cannot wait to sleep in my own bed once again! Especially my pillow and the presence of a top sheet (it is the perfect layer but it has not caught on other parts in the world). To date we have slept in 63 beds.

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Mini hotel room in Christchurch — we kept the suitcases under the bed it was so small!

Coffee

I am not a huge coffee drinker, but I do love to make a cup of coffee from my Keurig, add some french vanilla International Delight, and go on with my morning! I don’t always drink the whole cup but there is something about having my coffee in the morning that makes me ready to face the day.

Scott on the other hand is addicted to coffee. Black, dark roasted, drip coffee if he had his way. There is coffee all over the world, but it is rarely just the way he likes it. Depending on where we are in the world there is espresso, Vietnamese coffee (always sweet), poorly made coffee, and Nescafe powdered coffee. We are always on the hunt for coffee that Scott enjoys, but sometimes I feel like we spent a portion of everyday trying to get the man some caffeine in his system! We have had some fantastic coffee, but we have also had absolutely horrrible coffee too.

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Vietnamese coffee gets top awards in my book.

Not Living Out of a Suitcase

We are tired of packing and unpacking. My bag slightly explodes when we get somewhere and there is no way around it. We miss having clothing options that are different than the usual 3 things we always wear everyday. We have purchased some new clothes along the way, but since we are living out of a carry-on size bag there are only so many options you can carry.

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I have photo evidence of the whole we wear the same outfits all the time thing. The two photos were taken almost 4 months apart on different continents. We are wearing the EXACT same clothes. I will not be able to get rid of all of these items promptly upon our arrival back home.

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November 2016 in Sydney, Australia
March in El Chalten, Argentina (Patagonia)
March 2017 in El Chalten, Argentina (Patagonia)

Grocery Stores/Cooking

There have been occasions we are in apartments with kitchens, hostels with shared cooking spaces, and living in a van with a mini-kitchen attached. We have done a bit of cooking, but for the most part it has been limited. If we were to buy all the things needed to cook a meal (oil, salt, spices, ingredients) we would go broke. Sometimes these kitchens lack really obvious and necessary items for cooking a meal such as a knife or a pan. It is way cheaper in most places to just eat out and you also get to eat the local cuisine, which is one of the main reasons we love to travel.

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In Asia we stayed in some apartments that were equipped to cook a meal. On a few occasions we would go to get groceries and there would be meat that has been sitting out in the open (not on ice) for hours. This was a bit scary and I could not talk myself into buying and cooking this for dinner. Most likely I eat the exact same meat at a restaurant, but ignorance can be bliss. New Zealand and Australia we were able to cook a bit and visit the grocery store. They were much like the stores we are used to back home and they made us miss grocery shopping and cooking most of our meals.

Salads

I love eating salad more than most people. It is refreshing, crisp, and I rarely ever get tired of eating salad (there are so many different forms how could I ever get bored?). Asia is not a good place to eat salad. A good rule of thumb is to eat only foods that have been cooked as the heat kills any germs or bacteria. The water used to wash lettuce is generally not water I should be consuming and in most places salad has not been on the approved list of safe things to eat. I have had some unwashed vegetables and been fine, but a giant bowl of salad seems like I am just tempting fate. Fortunately this situation has improved since we have spent time in Europe and Argentina, but people just don’t understand salad as a meal. It just isn’t a thing. A serious desire to eat salad was never something I anticipated, but I cannot wait to eat all the salad I could ever dream of when we get back.

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We hit up the salad bar when we found a Whole Foods in London

Cell Phone Service

Every country we go to we have to buy a new SIM card in order to be able to use our phones while we are out (we really like being able to look up places and use Google Maps). It is not always cheap and it is always a battle for us to use as little data as possible. We can sometimes get in-country call time or texting, but this is not always the case. When locals need to contact us for any reason we generally have a hard time. Usually calls, texts, and other communications to home are saved for when we have Wi-fi and even then we are at the mercy of an unknown wi-fi connection. Sometimes we have great internet and sometimes we can barely book our next place. There have been several instances where we need to use our cell phone numbers to receive a bank access code or password to a wi-fi…we never get these codes. In cases where we have to call a support desk in another country (or the US) we have to use Skype to call, but we need a good wi-fi connection to do this. We carry one of my old cell phones with an in country SIM card. We travel with three phones and none of them work at all times. These are all first world problems, but we miss having our phones fully functional at all times and being able to pick up the phone to make a call when we need to.

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Driving

I don’t even like to drive so I never expected this to make my list. Driving a car provides you with a freedom to go anywhere you want, whenever you want — you aren’t restricted to anyone else’s plans, a bus schedule, or a specific route. We have had the opportunity to drive in South Korea, Australia and New Zealand on this trip and we have loved the freedom it gave us!

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Paychecks

Payday is the best day. Just as the balance in your bank account starts to feel really sad and empty by the end of the month a sum of money is deposited into your bank account. It is magical! I won’t get into the sad feeling that paying bills causes shortly after payday, but we miss payday! It has been a great half a year of fun-employment, but our savings account does not think it is the greatest thing to have ever happened.

Side note: It will also be great to not have to convert how much something actually is all the time. I look forward to the day when $20 is actually $20 and not 455,000 Vietnamese Dong, 314 Argentine Pesos, or 73 Qatar Riyels.

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Craft Beer

We live in one of the premier craft beer cities in America. We miss the perfectly hopped IPAs, floral pale ales, or a session-able saison. Every country has their beer of choice, but for us Tsingtao, Saigon, Angkor, Sapporo, Chang, Singha (I could keep going…) just don’t satisfy us the way a craft beer does! We have had some craft beers on this trip in Thailand, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam but they are usually way more money than we can comfortably spend and it is a rare treat. IMG_1390

IMG_0498 Routine

This is a big one. We have ZERO routine. Sometimes we start to make some semblance of a routine and then we continue on our way to another country, city, or apartment. As soon as we figure a place out it is time to move onto the next. It can be exhausting not to have a routine. I expect no sympathy, but it has been one of the hardest parts of this trip.

Routine was one of the things that drove my desire to go on a trip like this. The daily monotony of waking up, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, and going to sleep felt as if it was the same story on repeat everyday. Being away from this routine has made me want that routine and monotony all the more. Don’t get me wrong — as soon as I am gainfully employed again and have a routine I am sure I will long for the freedom I have now. The grass is always greener. The thing that will be different is my perspective. This year has been such an adventure, but so is every year. Next year might not be filled with seeing the Wonders of the World, eating exotic foods, and getting our passport stamped — but I can guarantee that it will be filled with exciting adventures too (even if some of those adventures involve getting a day job).

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We miss home. When we get home we will miss traveling — maybe when we return home we will have to write another post about the things we miss about traveling 🙂

One Day We Should…

One Day We Should…

“One day we should…” – this little phrase seems to follow me around every where I go. Or maybe I’m the one following, collecting little bits of inspiration scattered along the trail of not enough time. In a sense, our entire upcoming trip is all about the ‘one day we shoulds’ and trying to ensure that the pages off our story are filled with what we’ve done and few regrets. And what better way to start off this chapter than with some much overdue family time? After spending a week in Cleveland with Shelby’s parents it was off to Connecticut to see my family, have some fun and cross a few of these ‘one day we should’ items off of our Connecticut list.

DSC_0101Trips back East since Shelby has come into my life have always taken place under the guise of a holiday or quick weekend trip. Each trip routinely includes me ranting about some sweet hiking spot or adventure that I wished we had time for. This trip would be different. For the first time together, we drove through the scenic back roads of southern Massachusetts, arriving in Connecticut with no real commitments. Ready to take advantage ample chill time and the hot, humid summer weather that’s never around over the holidays.

Pulling into my parent’s driveway, it struck me that this was the first time in nearly a decade that I had driven ‘home’. Almost ten years have passed since I left 52 Blue Ridge Drive as a shaggy haired, naive, twenty-two year old. I was headed west, ready to explore the United States and ready to find a new home. Now, having found that new home and the love of my life, it felt oddly fitting to return – just days away from setting off once again, from this same driveway, on a new adventure.

Aside from our unorthodox means of arrival, our stop at my parent’s house started just as every trip to my parent’s house starts – with food. Very little in life can compare to a hot pizza and a cold beer – especially after a solid nine hours in the car – and that’s exactly what my Mom had waiting for us. Food usually takes center stage when we visit our families and this trip already looked to be no exception (all you can eat crab legs with Shelby’s parents had set the bar pretty high).

Our love for Colorado runs deep but one draw back that comes with living in a land locked state is that fresh seafood, specifically shellfish, is hard to come by. We’ve done a good job at keeping an annual lobster boil on the list of traditions back in Denver but the lobsters we scrounge for at the Chinese market can’t compete with what you find in Connecticut.

Day two started off strong with my Mom’s suggestion that we find some lobsters for dinner. An idea so brilliant that it could only be met with a resounding ‘hell yea’ from everyone. Shelby, in particularly, had been looking forward to a good ol’ New England lobster ever since missing out on the last lobster feast I had with my parents a few years back. No way would we be leaving Connecticut this time without cracking a few claws.

An added bonuses of being in a place with an abundance of lobster is that you can usually find a market that will let you pick up your lobsters, already steamed and ready to go. Much easier than dealing with the fifteen gallon pot of boiling water. So my Dad and I headed over to a local market to pick up dinner. That night we feasted on lobster and enough melted butter to float a small boat. I can feel my arteries thanking me already.

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Monsta lobsta

Every time we make it back East I always have the best intentions of seeing old friends but more often than not, this never happens. Our third day in Connecticut allowed us to cross off a ‘one day we should’ item that had been lingering for years.

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Old friends, good times

Hayes and Michelle are two of my best friends from college and as crazy as it seems to me – or anyone that knows them from college – they now have a real, live child. After a few years of saying we’d carve out the time to see them and meet their son, Evan, we finally did. We headed down to a Mexican restaurant on the Long Island Sound for a few beers. It was awesome to finally meet Evan and to spend some quality time catching up.

We high tailed it back to my parents house for a barbecue that my Mom was putting together. Marcie and Randy – some of my parents oldest friends who I consider to be like family – were also coming over to see us and get down on the steaks my Mom was grilling up.

Of all of the elder folk we have in our life, Randy has been particular supportive of our plans to go travel. He’s made it a point to hammer on the fact that life is short and the ‘path’ that most people blindly follow should be questioned more often. He’s told us a number of times that, in retrospect, he wished he had done what we’re doing. Words of encouragement are always welcome when you’re about to stray from the heard and head half way across the world. It was awesome to see them and the steaks were also top notch.

Talcott Mountain Trail Head
Talcott Mountain Trail Head

Connecticut at this time of year is usually pretty hot and steamy. This week was no exception with temperatures well into the nineties. Regardless, there was one hike around my childhood hometown that needed to be crushed. After telling Shelby about the Hublien Tower and the Talcott Mountain trail for years, it was finally time to take her there.

As a kid, Talcott Mountain was the closest thing I knew to a mountain and one of the first hikes I remember doing. The mountain itself – which is more of a large hill relative to what we have back in Colorado – overlooks most of my home town and is one of the first things you see heading east out of my parents driveway.

The trail leading up to the top is pretty short but once you reach the ‘summit’ theres an old tower built in the early 1900’s. The Heublein Tower as it’s known, was once owned by food tycoon Gilbert Heublein who we can thank for introducing America to A1 Steak Sauce and Smirnoff Vodka. The living room on the ground floor of the tower is also where Dwight Eisenhower was asked to run for president. The tower itself is nothing special but you can see it from nearly everywhere in town which makes the experience quintessential to any hiker that’s spent even just a few days in Simsbury.

We tried rounding up some company for our hike but both my Mom and Sister seemed more focused on the possiblity of melting in the heat as opposed the prospect of going on a sweet hike with us. Slightly disappointed that we were on on own – and to discover that in nearly thirty years of living in Simsbury my Mom had never actually done the hike – we set off for the trail head. The heat wasn’t much of factor since the dense foliage of the Connecticut woods acted as shade. We saw a few frogs on the way up and made pretty good time getting to the tower.

The Hublein Tower
The Hublein Tower

The tower was open so we were able to take the stairs up to the top where there’s a sweet observation station. You can see for at least a hundred miles in any direction on a clear day. On that day it was slightly overcast but the view was still awesome.

While we certainly love sampling local restaurants whenever we’re traveling, nothing quite beats a home cooked meal from your Mom. When we got back from our hike, my Mom cooked up some salmon filets and a few side dishes that could certainly rival any local eatery. Considering that our next quality home cooked meal might be a year away, this meal was much appreciated.

In between all of the food and small daytime adventures, our time in Connecticut was mainly spent running around taking care of last minute errands. Random odds and ends that needed to be wrapped up kept us on the move so it was really awesome to find out that my Aunt Amy and Uncle Rich, along with my Cousin Lauren and her Boyfriend Alex, were headed up from New Jersey to spend the weekend with us.

When they arrived Friday evening, my Mom put together some hors d’oeuvre for everyone to snack on including my favorite – her clam dip. After we polished off the appetizers and a few drinks, we all headed over to a local restaurant for an epic late night happy hour. Everything on the menu was half priced. Get at me lobster mac n’ cheese. This dish was loaded with full on lobster claws. You’re doing alright any time you have lobster twice in one week.

No trip to my parents house would be complete without a typical Berke style brunch. I’m pretty sure it was at one of these brunches that Shelby was first introduced to the glorious combination of lox, bagels and cream cheese. Now, I doubt that she loves lox – the bacon of the sea – quite as much as I do, but there’s no escaping it when you get my family together.

To add to the momentous occasion of brunch, my Grandmother – despite not having much of a clue who any of us were – was able to make an appearance. It was awesome to have her there, but damn, Alzheimers is one hell of a disease.

Before leaving Colorado, Shelby and I had gotten back into the swing of things and started making an appearance on the tennis court. Our tennis racquets came along on the road trip and we had been on the look out for a tennis court since arriving in Cleveland. No such luck so far. Imagine our surprise when we found out that Lauren and Alex also like a good volley from time to time. On top of that, Alex also happens to drive around with a tennis racquet in his trunk. Game on.

The top-seeded Berke’s took home court advantage at my old high school trying to complete a dominating week against the soon-to-be Lieberman’s in straight sets. Shelby came out strong, chasing down shots and placing her own with pinpoint accuracy. We took an early 3-0 lead but the visiting team rallied, breaking back to go up 6-5 eventually winning the set 7-6. They’re from Jersey so I’m just going to assume there had to be some cheating going on.

My sister, Emalie, showed up while we were playing but by the end of our first set everyone was about ready to melt into puddles on the court. Running low on water and high on perspiration, I called an audible and herded everyone into the car with promises of a sweet swimming hole.

We drove about fifteen minutes to a spot that had become a favorite of mine as a teenage – Enders Falls. I had told Shelby about this spot many times in the past but it had always been too cold to go. I would have been excited to finally show it to just her but now I had a real crew along for the ride. I’m not saying that I had planned to get everyone to the point of near heat exhaustion and follow it up with swimming under a waterfall but if I had, the plan was working.

Waterfall rock slide
Waterfall rock slide

My guess is that everyone was a little skeptical when we pulled off the side of the road and into a small dirt parking lot that looked a lot like a trail head and very little like a place to go swimming. I could tell that people were starting to get a little grumbly – the combination of heat and hunger was starting to take it’s toll – but I insisted and we took off into the woods. Barely twenty feet in and we started to see people in bathing suites emerge from just beyond the tree line. We were close.

Another fifty feet down the trail and there it was – water fall after glorious water fall, cascading into deep swimming pools. Even though it looked sweet, no one decided to take the plunge down the natural rock slide that emerged from one of the falls. For Shelby and I, having no health insurance makes hurling yourself off a twenty foot waterfall slide seem a bit risky but we all enjoyed a good swim. Leaving Enders Falls feeling refreshed, we headed home for some pizza. There’s no such thing as too much pizza.

After grabbing some brunch with one of my best friends, Kevin, and his girlfriend Eileen, we spent the following day paring down our gear into it’s final configuration. Deciding what goes in a forty liter bag for the next year of your life certainly sparks a twinge of anxiety. But, after months of searching and far too many hours spent at REI, we were feeling semi confident that we had all our bases covered gear wise.

All the things for the next year
All the things for the next year

When Monday morning came around we said our goodbyes’ to my family and headed down to New Jersey. Our flight to Taiwan left first thing the next morning out of Newark airport so it made sense to meet up with my Aunt and Uncle once again and spend the night at their house. As we tried to fall asleep and get a few hours of rest that night, I all I could think was that this leg of the trip seemed to fly by.

All to often, spending quality time with family remains on the ‘one day we should’ list. Holidays are always awesome but they usually include a strong element of chaos and never enough time to relax and really enjoy just being together. If anything, these stops to see Shelby’s parents and my family reinforce the notion that the moments we’ll look back at and really remember will be these moments. Not the forty plus hours a week spent at the office or the hours watching tv each night. Sure, prioritizing these moments in life means making the time and often that comes at the sacrifice of the all mighty dollar or the seemingly important responsibilities we’ve burned ourselves with. But it’s moments like these that you would trade all of the money in the world for as you take your last breath. If I can take anything away from the start of this journey, it’s that each breath should be treated like currency and one should spend them wisely.

Road Trippin’

Road Trippin’

After our crazy couple of weeks in Denver wrapping up at our jobs, spending some time with family with a quick trip to Texas, packing everything in our house, and several send-offs from our amazing friends…we needed some serious relaxing time. Thank you to everyone who wished us well on our journey in the past few weeks. I can speak for both of us when we say that we were completely overwhelmed (in the best way possible) and feel so loved. Thankfully we didn’t move to Mars so it is easy to keep in touch and we will be back living in Denver soon enough. There are so many things I could say about how hard it was to leave and our complicated thoughts on leaving, but words fail me. Instead, I will tell you all about our first week on the road!

USA Road Trippin’

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We have officially started our journey around the world with a bit of road tripping through the United States. Since I had sold my trusty Corolla just before leaving, we were left with Scott’s CRV to get us across the country. After two days, several states, and a lot of cornfields we made it from Denver all the way to Cleveland, Ohio to spend a week with my parents. We chose to drive a less direct route to stop along the way in Kansas City to get some BBQ at the original Oklahoma Joe’s, which is also called Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, located in a gas station. The BBQ was so good that we weren’t even mad they were out of burnt ends and that we tacked on an extra hour or two of drive time. It was absolutely worth the stop!

Worth it.

Doesn't All Good BBQ Start at Gas Stations?
Gas Station BBQ is the Best Kind of BBQ. Photo via: Head First 

Cleveland

My parents did an excellent job spoiling us in Cleveland. Most of our time was spent eating their food, drinking their beer, sleeping-in late, swimming, and knocking off some items off our to-do list. It was a great change of pace to the chaos that comes with moving! We also had to check out some of Cleveland’s finest dining options, such as the all-you-can-eat Alaskan Snow Crab feast, and some trendy areas (The Flats & East 4th Street) throughout the week.

So much crab...

The Flats (East Bank)
The View from the Flats (East Bank) along the Cuyahoga River.

Niagara Falls

Horseshoe Falls

The highlight of the week with my parents was out quick trip to Niagara Falls is actually a collective of three waterfalls: Bridal Veil Falls, the American Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls. The falls straddle the international border between the USA and Canada so naturally we had to go to both sides. We made it to our first country (besides the USA) in our trip! The American side has more to do in terms of observation decks, waterfalls, and activities and is widely considered the more beautiful side of the falls. For this reason we decided to stay on the Canadian side so we could view the “prettier” side of the falls. I would highly recommend checking out both sides, but staying the night in Canada to get those killer views! We stayed in a hotel with an impressive view of all three falls…again, we were very spoiled and soon our expectations have to be knocked down about 10 levels for the rest of this trip!

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We split our two days in Niagara Falls with one day on the US side and the other on the Canadian side. On the American side we decided to check out the falls from below on the Maid of the Mist, the 20-minute boat ride that takes you right to the bottom of the falls. It was really crowded with tourists, we all got wet, and we all thought it was awesome! 🙂 On the Canadian side of the falls we explored the observation deck to see the falls from the top, checked out the Canadian casinos, had lunch with a view, and then said our goodbyes to my parents before getting in the car again to head east another 7 hours to Connecticut. We had the best time this week hanging with my parents and we cannot wait to spend out last week in the States (for a while at least) seeing more family, visiting friends, and packing our bags for the trip!
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Not the worst hotel room view I have ever seen