Pinch Me, I’m Dreaming

The glazed-over look in my eyes? No, I’m not daydreaming. I’m not off in another world. I’m dreaming, or rather reliving my todays. Sometimes I don’t even believe it’s my life.IMG_1901

For years I thought about how there’s so much more than the Midwest. So much to see, so many adventures. I thought about it, researched it, and yet there was a part of me that doubted I would ever see outside the cornfields and cheeseheads.

Little did I know, an exploration was nearing. It didn’t last as long as I would have hoped, nor did it end as I would have liked, but I did it. From Wisconsin to San Diego and up the coast, my car (and my wallet) took me as far as it could go. And until my car passed out of exhaustion, I trekked from city to city, in love.

33 hours Dad and I drove. Through Chicago traffic, alongside the flat lands of Kansas, into the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Utah until we made our way to the Pacific Ocean. The beautiful, dreamy San Diego, filled with surfer crossing signs and no-cloud-73-degree weather met us lovingly. IMG_1945

As I wrote to my heart’s content, searched for jobs and basked in sunshine, I breathed in all California had to offer. I was met with high taxes and bro tanks too often to count, but overall, it was a dream. After graduating college, I knew I needed something new, something different, and this journey surely crossed out the quota. What I didn’t even know was a possibility became a reality.

I began my first barista job (read here for full story). I hiked. I swam. I drove some more.  And although I came to the realization that Southern California may be slightly out of my price range, it was an experience to remember. With a higher paying job and an apartment, It wouldn’t surprise me if I went back to that sunny place one day.

Leaving San Diego, my travels didn’t end. Up the West Coast I went – to Santa Monica and beyond. I walked the Santa Monica Pier, watched street performers nearby, and stopped at Muscle Beach (where yes, I passed buff gentlemen actually working out on the beach). I ate delicious organic, vegan food in Venice with my wonderfully welcoming, and extra-fashionable cousin.

I got stuck in traffic in L.A. My car overheating during the every-hour-L.A.-rush-hour. I saw Reese Witherspoon driving through Beverly Hills. I bought a flannel and some holey, high waisted cutoffs at L.A.’s best “thrift shop,” Buffalo Exchange (which I still partly imagined to be Kim Kardashian’s leftovers).

And before I left, I made sure to hike up to the Hollywood Sign. Obviously, I IMG_1968sported the beloved Milwaukee Brewers hat in the 90 degree heat while the resident stranger I met along the way kindly showed me the way. Near the top, I received a fist bump with a “Go Brew Crew,” that made me feel at home.

Highway 1 was my companion through Malibu and Santa Barbara and into another section of California. All around me looked vastly different I wondered if I had missed a state line. I spent the next few days, and what would turn out to be the last leg of my trip outside of Sacramento. Still sunny but a little cooler, northern California is just as beautiful. Another cousin welcomed me with warmth feelings of home. We rode cable cars in San Francisco and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. And I realized just how much I had missed green grass in San Diego, or just grass in general.

IMG_1973

We entered wine country with only the best intentions (drink wine) and ended up loving it. Vineyard to vineyard, I tasted the freshest wine of my life. Purely delicious wine that made me believe I could someday become a wine-sniffer, swirler and slurper. All this to say: it was great.

Not long after these wine-drinking, cable car-riding, seafood-eating days, my poor car was laid to rest. It seems my car had dreams of its own that didn’t include another 30 hour drive cross country. So I said goodbye to Ronnie, my cherished and well-worn Volkswagen and hopped on a plane.

For what it’s worth, It’s probably for the best that I didn’t see Portland yet, or I may have fallen in love and never returned. I’ll save that for another day (written with a sly smirk, secretly planning already).

Back to the Midwest I came. It seemed like those 8 weeks flew by quicker than I realized. I also know that in those 8 weeks I did more, dreamed more, and grew up more than I can thoroughly explain all at once. I believe I left part of myself in California that one day I hope to return to, whether on vacation or longer.

A thank you goes out to those who hosted and helped and became vital pieces in my life and adventures. And the sun sets with me dreaming again of palm trees and beaches.

– A

IMG_1985

Advertisements

Semester Flashback

Image

As I look back through my pictures, keepsakes, and postcards I realize I have ventured. Of all the words I could use to describe these past 16 weeks, I know that “wasted” is not among them.

London, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge – England.

Aix-en-Provence, Marseille – France.

Dublin – Ireland.

Geneva, Montreux – Switzerland.

Cinque Terre – Italy.

Zadar – Croatia.

Edinburgh – Scotland.

Unbelievable. I’ve experienced more than I could have ever imagined. Dreams that once seemed unattainable suddenly seem doable. I know the possibilities are truly endless now. It’s almost like my time in Europe has given me a second wind. Try new things. Meet new people. Enjoy what I do. Make time for the important things.

While I’ll still probably achieve the near-shameful act of watching and re-watching whole seasons of TV shows, laying in my bed eating dozens of cookies, or relaxing on rainy day, I know what’s out there in the world. I’ve engulfed myself in new cultures and am confident I could do it all over again. Even more than that: I want to do it again.

Who knows when or if that will happen, but somehow in the back of my mind I know my own capabilities. I know the millions of options available. And thank Jesus that I am able to experience and follow-through on them. I’ve acknowledged Big Ben more times than I can count. I’ve hiked to the top of Italian villages and traveled by train through the Alps. I’ve had fresh seafood on the French Riviera and seen the most beautiful sunset in the world. I’d say I’ve lived.

This will be a semester that I will never forget. It’ll be the stepping stone into an exploratory life, lived in full, with adventure at the forefront.

xx

Cathartic Walk

To a runner, walks seem close to a waste of a time. Why should it take me 35 minutes to walk somewhere when I can easily do it in 10 minutes running? It doesn’t make sense. Walks aren’t even an option in most runners’ minds. It’s a sign of weakness. A sign of giving up. Unless it’s at the end of 26 miles, walks are just the middle of the madness.

Me? They’re cathartic. A cleanse of emotions. There’s a trace of rebellion linked to walks that draws me in. It’s taking time in the busyness to rebel and slow it down. I don’t have to fight it any longer like I used to. In the past going on walks meant thinking rather than being.

Being is enjoying the pace, freeing your thoughts, feeling the freshness.

Thinking is panic, worry, mind-racing.

England has warmed me up to the idea. With too much time on my hands, it was the peaceful part of the calm. Unnecessary? Maybe. I had to find something to do with my time and sleeping suddenly seemed like a waste. What was there to do in a place with less than a dozen stores, no warm coffee shop, and no car?

Walk.

I discovered new paths and sought out the best spots. I was lost on purpose. I gained a deeper sense of direction. I stumbled upon treasures. I bathed in the sunless days, the ones with misty rain, and the ones with compelling winds. I thrived in the sun-filled times.

I walked.

photo-2

A Wale of a Time

Cardiff, Wales.

Dragons are for real, and castles are the city center.

Being only a short four hour bus ride from London, it was ideal for a day trip in between studying. In less than 24 hours I was falling in love with this city and it’s excessively elongated language. Not only did it have the cutest hostel, but also the cutest coffee shop. Cute may sound like a kiddish compliment, but these were exceptionally inspirational. The hostel had daybeds in their lobby, fabrics galore, mason jars scattered, and a desired quaintness. The coffee shop had dozens of different light fixtures, exposed brick, and sea-foam colored tea pots – what more could a girl ask for?

Image

Image

The cities main park was filled with blooming tulips shouting spring, an incredibly peaceful river, and these flowers that look as if they came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Without even scavenging the entire town, I knew it was a splendid place. It’s more of an underrated tourist attraction, making it even more appealing to a traveler like me.

A hidden gem of sorts.

Image

Image

Bagpipes and Book Writers

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland, to me, always meant… what? Heavy accents, kilts, bagpipes, and sheep. I can’t pinpoint the reasons these images correlate to Scotland, but they do. Even so, I surprised myself with shock when I saw a man in a kilt, playing the bagpipes on the street. And he wasn’t the only one! The more we walked, the more we saw – or at least heard their peculiar sound. How adorable!

I also give this man (and all the other bagpipers out there) props. He can rock a kilt and play this mysterious instrument to a T. His manliness rating climbs the charts in my book!

Image

During our weekend in Edinburgh, which proved to be a truly fantastic city with plentiful amounts of royal and literary history, we came upon a quaint coffee shop filled to brim with influential power. The Elephant House. Not only home to hundreds of elephant paintings, pictures, articles, and statues but also a favorite inspirational spot for author J.K. Rowling. According to the shop, she spent day after day sitting in this cafe, turning her imagination into Harry Potter. I was hooked to this place purely from my new-found love and affection for elephants, but after hearing about its importance, I was swooning over it. It was as if I could sit down, see Edinburgh castle and the rest of the city out the very window this world-renowned author looked through, and find the words to my own book.

If only.

Image

Although I couldn’t find the words to any book-in-the-making, I did thoroughly enjoy this city. With its hilly demeanor, there are numerous lookouts over the entire city – from Arthur’s Seat (a rough 800+ ft climb) to the castle’s hilltop and to Calton Hill on the far side of town – which in turn are excellent front row seats to a picture perfect sunset.

Image

When Your Skin Smells like the Sun

You know that smell, when you’ve been outside all day long on a hot summer day.

On the beach. Playing catch. Barbequing with family.

And at the end of the day you go inside, and recognize you have the true scent of summer.

It’s as if nothing is more perfect than those carefree days.

Image

Zadar, Croatia resembles those sweet days, with their precious aroma. It’s a place where sitting at the outdoor cafe is like a job. Where watching the sunset is the day’s main event. And gelato is an essential part of any meal.

Where the water is crystal clear, ready for a beach bum’s splash.

Image

A place Alfred Hitchcock declared has “The world’s best sunset.”

The perfect setting for a true spring break. To finish off my two weeks of vaca, I chose to spend it with a lovely companion in the lovely town of Zadar. Easily the most relaxing trip I have yet to experience. Sleeping in, reading next to the water, cold beer in hand, overlooking the excitement of nearby islands and ferries crossing.

And when all was said and done – it was as if my skin smelled like the sun.  Image

Gelato, Color, and the Sea

 

Italy.

While I am absolutely head over heels for mountains, I am equally in love with the sea. It’s surreal the bold colors of not only the water, but everything – from the houses to the greenery and even the food.

Italy was my parents and I’s second country visited after Switzerland. From Montreux, we hopped a train into the glorious Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is like hidden treasure with its five small villages, each with its own identity and culture on Italy’s west coast. As we slowly discovered four of the five villages during our two days, we took time to relax and enjoy the newness.

Since I already had a firm addiction of pesto on my pasta, that was first on my to-do list with the sauce originating in this northern Italy area. We searched out a precious little restaurant for the tasting of true Italian homemade pesto. It was divine. For our other meals we tended to stick towards our favorites with some Italian flare – my dad loves his meat, so he usually went for the meaty or fishy dishes; my mom and I enjoy our pasta, so we tried different variations of raviolis and noodle dishes. Of course gelato and fresh pastries were a must – we certainly indulged ourselves.

Besides eating too many calories, I would consider traveling itself to be a workout. Maybe it’s not easy to see in the pictures, but there are plenty of mysterious hills just waiting to be discovered by fit travelers. For the most part, we tried to follow our lovely guided books by Rick Steves, but one specific trail seemed to be off the grid. We searched for his incredibly detailed trail and instead landed in what seemed like hours of uphill climb. Hundreds after hundreds of stairs later, we discovered a beautiful (accidental) lookout over the Ligurian Sea – completely worth the sweat and adventure.

Italy may be one of my favorite traveled countries even though we didn’t actually see any of the usual-touristed places. There’s something intriguing about their life – so laid back, so at peace. It’s on my list of future travels, for sure.

Also, shout out to my co-travelers: My parents! They not only flew all the way to England to visit me, but let me drag them around Europe, onto trains, into unknown places. What great sports!

Until next time,

xx

Image

Image

Image

Image