Warm Weather, Warm Heart

Spending so much time outdoors last week made me exponentially happier 💛

Linley and I spent five days at the dog beach, including one morning at sunset. We also met some new neighbors on our block – both human and dog! – and enjoyed some lemonade stands along our afternoon walks. These kids are gets salespeople around here! Chasing Lin at the beach and watching him play with other dogs and kids was incredibly heartwarming—and exactly what I needed 🙂

Here are several photos and videos from our week:

Missing Montana

During Linley’s and my road trip to Washington state last month, we passed through Montana. I’ve heard from a few friends who have been there how beautiful Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park and Whitefish are, but never expected to feel like I was back in Norway—or even in a place like Alaska. Montana blew me away in natural beauty.

Linley being too salty to appreciate the view!
Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

What blew me away even more was the kindness of its residents. I stayed at three Airbnb’s (two heading west, and one on the way home to Chicago) and everyone was incredibly gracious. And yes, I know that Airbnb hosts “need” to be kind, but these Montanans weren’t just hospitable—they were true, “salt of the earth” people who treated you like family from the start.

My favorite Airbnb was our first one in Billings. Our hosts, Jennifer and her dog Izzy, were two of the greatest hosts I’ve ever stayed with (and I’ve been using Airbnb in Europe since 2014!). I enjoyed my time with them more than anything. It was especially nice after a LONG multiple-day drive without many people to talk with, excluding Linley who wanted nothing to do with my bad singing 😂

The only downside of my trip is that I woke up with a nasty head cold the next day (not covid, thank goodness!). Jennifer was so kind and took Linley and Izzy on a walk down by the river because my head felt like a bowling ball. Again, reiterating how amazing and warmly I was treated there. ❤️

This week has been a struggle: learning a new role in a new industry AND at a new company, my marriage falling apart, my happiness in Chicago fleeting, a major fight with my mom and resurfaced PTSD, a general sense of not being able to find my footing… it’s been draining to say the least. But I’m grateful for my road trip memories and want to think about positive moments that have occurred recently. I hope to make and find more of these memories soon…

If you’re ever considering visiting Montana – or are simply passing through – please reach out and I can send you my Airbnb info and travel highlights from Billings, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake and Helena.

Linley enjoying our Airbnb in Billings!

Photos taken Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Welcomed by Washington

Linley’s and my final destination was Washington state—to spend quality time with our friend Bethany for a long weekend. We were graciously welcomed by her, the wilderness surrounding us, light breeze and warm sunshine every day of our visit.

Our weekend together was worth all the money for gas and Airbnbs, time on the road across numerous states and nasty head cold I caught along the way. Having Linley and Bethany finally meet in person was beyond touching—and of course I’d missed her immensely, too!

Until next time, Washington 🙂

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram:

@westiepoo.linley and @adventureinspades

Media taken Wednesday, April 20 through Sunday, April 24, 2022

It’s always sunny in South Dakota

Hello from Billings, Montana! Linley and I are heading on a road trip to Seattle, and we’ve had some interesting stops along the way…

Me changing oil at a gas station in Minnesota, while Linley stares in judgment as I punch a hole in a styrofoam cup for my makeshift funnel…

En route to Washington state, I decided that Rapid City, South Dakota made the most sense as our first overnight stay. I’ve heard by several that South Dakota had an abundance of national beauty once you get past the horrible, incredibly boring jaunt of I-90 West, including the Badlands and Black Hills National Forest. I’ve seen a lot of sunsets in the most breathtaking places, but the sunset driving through the Badlands is one that cannot be ignored.

After a relaxing night at a local Airbnb and an official oil change in the morning, we headed west to visit the Black Hills National Forest—which engulfed us in its natural beauty and crisp mountain air. Linley and I are both avid hikers and thoroughly enjoyed our three-hour trek. Our adventures in South Dakota oddly reminded me of my times in Estonia: sometimes the places you have no/less expectations of can quickly become your favorites!

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram: westiepoo.linley and adventureinspades

Media taken Sunday, April 17 and Monday, April 18

March Adventures

This month has been *a rollercoaster* to say the very least. But I’m incredibly proud that I lived by my core values in my actions and in my words: Empathy, Expression and Courage.

Now that I can breathe, let go of the past and dive head-first into my exciting future, I’m proudly taking a pause from work until May 2—planning some much needed and well deserved adventures for me and my wonderful travel buddy, Linley.

All things considered, I’ve had a really good month. I attended MerMagic Con with my best friends in Virginia and saw another best friend who lives in D.C. I also spent the weekend in New York City with my cousin/sister—which was long overdue and insurmountably fed my soul. Traveling this much again and spending time with my best friends is something so sweet to me, I can’t even put it into words.

The week I was liberated from my previous employer, I also landed a position at a company I deeply admire. What better way to celebrate than see one of my favorite indie rock groups in concert? Seeing Glass Animals was a total riot—Dave Bayley certainly delivered and didn’t disappoint! Live music is something I’ll never take for granted because I’ve missed it oh so much…

These moments and everything in between — including some nice meals, days at the dog beach and get togethers with friends — made March a wonderful month in the right direction for me.

It’s only up from here! 🙂

Don’t forget to follow my dog and me on Instagram!

@westiepoo.linley and @adventureinspades

Photos taken March, 2022

Life’s a (dog) beach!

My beloved dog-turned-best friend, Linley, and I are blessed to live so close to the most popular dog beach in Chicago.

Note: “Close” in Chicago terms means either ~an hour walk, or a ten minute walk plus two train stops followed by another twenty minute walk (Or an 11-minute drive…).

Regardless, it’s nice being so close to what we love: Lake Michigan, the sand and the sun!

I’m taking a little sabbatical from work—giving Linley and I more opportunity for fun in the sun. Over the past five days, we’ve gone to the dog beach twice. Watching Linley smile and make new friends, prance around the shore, get the zoomies in the sand and let the sun hit his face instantly warms my heart. I forget about all my problems when I’m around him 💛

On Monday, my friend Andrea met us at the beach—followed by a lovely stroll around Uptown, her soon-to-be new condo and an outdoor dinner. We ordered burgers (mine was vegan of course!) and I asked for a plate of grilled chicken for the little guy. Linley was such a good boy—per usual. I’m also lucky that he’s great on long walks and the CTA trains.

Photos and videos taken Wednesday, March 16 and Monday, March 21

A very “Chicago” St. Patrick’s Day

The obligatory, quintessential way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day in Chicago? Checking out the green river!

Having visited Chicago several times before relocating here, I hadn’t seen the green river since I was six years old. Fortunately, we are just a quick drive from downtown and we were able to stroll the Riverwalk when it was calmer from all the weekend’s parade shenanigans. Seeing this tradition without the rowdiness of the typical parade setting is a blessing in my book 💚

Cousinly Quality Time in NYC

The last time I saw my cousin in New York was summer 2017—far too long ago. But all that changed last weekend as we finally spent time together in The Big Apple.

My flight got in late Friday evening, so we grabbed a nice dinner and a quick night cap. We went back to Katy’s place—which was super cute and exactly what you would expect from a New York City apartment—and got ready for bed. Being with her again meant the world to me!

We attempted to take a stroll that Saturday morning, but the weather told us otherwise. Katy found a cute little cafe where we mixed up our coffee orders (totally my fault!) and then made our way through Columbia’s campus—en route to brunch in Times Square.

At Friedman’s, Katy, her sister, dad and I had the best potato-filled brunch of my life. The gluten free chocolate chip pancakes and sweet potato fries were to die for, but the conversation and that feeling of picking up right where we left off were even better.

No matter how stuffed we felt, Katy and I were determined to make our way to her friend’s birthday celebration, which was full of crafting and watching Broad City. I’m incredibly lucky to have met Katy’s high school, college and now grad school friends—because we have always lived in different states and I’m a few years older than she is. Katy and her friends are always welcoming, which was really nice and led to a fun, lazy day of candle making and painting. I definitely made everyone laugh when my paint exploded all over the table, but at least I can say that I predicted the future 😉

Still full from brunch (no joke!), Katy and I grabbed dinner at an awesome vegan place called JaJaJa—where our bartender Mario called us twins and handed us each a free shot. One of many reasons why I love my cousin as much as I do is that we can go from the most profound conversation to laughing and joking around. Our meal was full of that, which is something I’d missed very much and very deeply. We ended our night out with another drink at a different bar, playing a game of “What’s Their Backstory?” and me guessing one of our bartender’s names on the first try.

As much as I love the city, my favorite moments with Katy are always the simplest ones. I cherished our night of listening to Leo P on the sax, hearing her tell me more about her partner Ben and drinking tea until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. And it’s truly all of those “in-between” moments (taking the subway, walking to a destination, etc.) that make me love and miss Katy as much as I always do ❤️

On Sunday, our last day together, we started at a gluten free bagel and sandwich shop, and a stroll through Central Park. It was cold—especially with my iced coffee—but it was so worth it! Seeing people out and about because of the weather and our semi-decent coronavirus situation was something that didn’t go unnoticed, and something we certainly didn’t take for granted. We braved the cold until we couldn’t anymore, so we relaxed at Katy’s apartment, enjoyed more tea and life/family-related conversation, then ventured off to find more delicious vegan tacos!

Our time together always flies by and feels too short. I wish Katy and I lived closer together because she’s truly a sister to me. I don’t know who or where I would be without her in my life.

Spellbinding Sintra (Part I)

Lisbon was a wonderful city, but it was time to move on and explore more of Portugal. Sintra, which is a relatively quick train or bus ride away, was our next destination on our girls trip. Dani and I (mostly me!) were a little hungover from the night before, but it was so worth it. We slowly got around, packed up a little bit, sent a good morning photo to our new friends Max and Julian, then ventured in the city center to find some breakfast. Our original plan was to grab a “traditional American breakfast” consisting of more than pastries, but they were packed – which is to be expected. Plan B was still great because we had some great beverages and a big, filling breakfast. The best part? We saw the most adorable dogs walking by! How much better could it get?

After breakfast, we checked out of our favorite Airbnb and headed to the train station. Something about the train station in Lisbon reminded me of my first out-of-country travel experience: Hamburg, Germany in 2012. It was a very deja vu moment, but it sent me into nostalgia and comfort. Dani and I sat on the ground and talked about some of our favorite TV shows as we waited for the first train to Sintra. Maybe it’s all the train rides between Michigan and Chicago, Illinois when I was a kid, but I’ve always loved the train and it’s my favorite way to travel. We boarded the train early, got settled in, and arrived in Sintra about an hour afterward. Downtown Sintra was so cute and we were gushing at how adorable the city was. Dani lost her train ticket, which we needed to exit the station, so we both had to book it through one, timed gate with her luggage and mine. She went ahead of me and we booked it, but the gate automatically closed on my backpack! Thank goodness it didn’t crush me because that would’ve hurt!

Once we arrived to our next Airbnb, we were truly in awe. It looked like a mini castle! The architecture was stunning, the flowers and greenery around the yard were adorable and we instantly felt like we were in a quaint, English countryside home. The inside was also decorated with nice bedding and unique designs accompanied by a map where we could pin our home locations and a guest book to sign. Dani and I had been sharing a bed during our nights in Lisbon, and it was weird to have two separate bedrooms this time! But it was also nice because we had a lot of room for each of us to freshen up, jam out to some Britney Spears (#freebritney) and put on some dresses to visit the castle.

Stay tuned for castle photos, history and anecdotes!

Photos taken on Sunday, September 19, 2021

Enjoyed Lisbon a little longer

The blessing for someone like me is that travel plans can always change – oftentimes for the better. When traveling, especially internationally, adaptability and spontaneity are crucial when you want to have a good time. Luckily, Sarah (our Airbnb host) picked us up and allowed us to store our luggage in her laundromat, and shared that we needed to scrap our day two plans, and stay in Lisbon another night. Dani and I quickly agreed that was the right move to make, so I quickly cancelled our Airbnb in Obidos and booked another night in central Lisboa. All I have to say is that Sarah is an incredibly kind, adventurous soul and more people need to be like her!

Once we dropped our luggage, we grabbed a quick bite and wandered to the flea market – the largest one I’ve ever seen (even compared to the one on Le Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence, France). The vendors were smiling, organizing their stations and even creating art on-demand. Dani and I fell in love with these gorgeous dresses: hers was long, navy and a unique brown/rust color, and mine was a burgundy/purple masterpiece. We obviously had to buy them! Rather than the typical “tourist traps,” try finding places like this because you’ll come home with the most authentic gifts – for you and your loved ones.

After meandering the cobblestone streets of central Lisbon, we ventured to the sea for some air and a great view. We walked along the ocean on a walking and bike path to a cute glass pop-up restaurant for some chips and guac before we had to meet our next Airbnb host. Little did we know that our next Airbnb would be the best, most amazing one I’ve probably ever stayed in – especially considering how last-minute it was. Kids, sometimes it pays to travel without a plan!

All I can say is… wow. THIS place was truly perfect. The view. The space. The furniture. The central location. The surrounding architecture. The sounds of the people and the city. It was *perfection.* We were like little kids on Christmas morning! Dani and I relaxed, took photos on the balcony, and even walked around all the rooms to admire our amazing, rare find (and dare I say channeled our inner photographers and models!).

Little did we know our time in Lisbon would only get better…

Despite the fact that we wanted to keep soaking in the sun and wonderful views from Carlos’s apartment, we dressed up and got ready for an evening stroll and one of the best dinners of my life (no exaggeration!). We dined at a local hotspot (shout-out to Sarah for the great recommendation) where we could see a beautiful sunset on the ocean. I chowed down on some sweet potato, beets and zucchini with arugula salad (and fries!) and enjoyed a dry, red, full-bodied Portuguese wine. Dani ordered some dessert, which led us into one of the best nights of our trip.

Two men sitting next to us eyed our dessert and asked what we ordered. Max and Julian, a couple from Germany, immediately fit into our conversation as though the universe wanted us to meet. We told them to slide their table and chairs over, which led to sharing sangria and several hours of laughs and profound conversation. We talked about love, friendship, traveling, and laughed about so many little things in between. Max and Julian truly wanted to get to know us, and vice versa. It was probably my favorite interaction with strangers while traveling that I’ve had in a long time, and maybe ever. It reminded me why I love travel as much as I do (especially solo travel). You never know who you’re going to meet and how much of an impact they’ll have on you 🙂

The four of us didn’t want our night to end, so we headed downstairs for more drinks at the bar. I think Max and I both had about five or six drinks that night, and not did I pay for it the next day! But nevertheless it was worth it. Julian is half Portuguese, making our drink orders significantly less complicated. I wish I lived closer to max and Julian, and hope to see them again sometime. It was around 2:30am when we finally decided to head home. Dani and I strolled back to our Airbnb sad that we had to say goodbye, but blessed to have spent such an incredible evening with even better friends. We talked for another hour or so, sat on the patio to soak in the sounds of Lisbon at night, and went straight to bed.

Swanky Speakeasy

One if my favorite spots in my tiny hometown of Fenton, Michigan is the Relief and Resource Co. – a speakeasy with amazing cocktails, great eats and superb service. The ambiance and artwork are bar none! My friend Donna and I enjoyed gin cocktails and charcuterie here this week, and had a wonderful time per usual.

The only thing that would’ve made it better is if Linley could’ve joined us 😌

Photos taken August 31, 2021

August Gratitude

August was, admittedly, a month full of turbulence, and was my last full month in Michigan. Despite all of this, there’s always light in the darkness. Here are some highlights that made me smile 😌

August 1 – kayaking, hiking and dining in Ann Arbor with Juan and Linley

Hiking at Gallup Park

August 2 – dinner and hot coco with my favorite cousin who visited from New York

Reunited with Katy

August 3 – an evening on the lake with one of my best friends

August 4 – Linley enjoying himself at Home Depot (and loving all the attention!)

August 5 – back to Home Depot!

August 6 – a good night with a great friend

August 7 – profound conversations

August 8 – checking out the Chicago home

Wrigleyville here we come!

August 12 – a night out with an old friend, and some new ones

August 13 – meeting Mindy, Tom and Autumn at the dog park

Lin’s favorite spot

August 14 – heading to Detroit’s infamous Eastern Market with one of my best friends, and being a friend’s plus one to the greatest wedding I’ve ever attended

August 15 – lots of small pups for Lin to play with at the dog park

August 18 – Linley getting Bark to School photos taken at camp, and playing with his friends at the dog park (again!)

August 19 – a dear friend taking my late-night phone call, and making my evening brighter

August 20 – a fun night in downtown Detroit

August 21 – Linley finally cooperating for a bike ride

August 22 – an afternoon at Belle Isle and eating ice cream

August 23 – getting to know my friend’s new boyfriend and having a little too much to drink on a Monday evening

August 25 – dinner and drinks with a bestie

August 26 – a best friend being a great listener

August 27 – celebrating Juan’s “big promotion” at our favorite jazz club

August 28 – reuniting with two of my best friends and spending the day together

Gonna miss Rochester Brunch House!

August 29 – family bonding in Ann Arbor

August 30 – seeing Lin run around with his friends at the dog park

August 31 – dinner and drinks at my favorite speakeasy with one of my closest friends

Speakeasy in my hometown

And, Lin was just grumpy all month long 😂