A letter from Norway// Hello 2022!

As 2021 comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on, arguably, the most difficult year thus far, while also taking inventory on all the good things that have happened during the pandemic. One of those things has been maintaining contact with my family friend in Norway, Kjell.

Sitting with Kjell (Spring, 2016)

Kjell was a foreign exchange student who lived with my mom and her family in high school. He was part of my childhood and early adulthood from afar through handwritten letters, photos and memories exchanged between him and my mom, but I finally had the opportunity to stay with Kjell in 2016. Those two weeks with his family in Askoy, Norway (near Bergen) has as much impact on me now as it did then.

Here are some of the highlights from my time with Kjell:

Despite the fact that we’ve switched our channel of correspondence from handwritten notes to email, Kjell and I have kept up with regular check-ins and photo sharing! He recently wrote me, shared some family updates and of course, beautiful photos of Norway.

Our fishing spot in 2016 🥲

I wish all of you a happy new year, and wish you continued travel and adventures with friends in 2022 🙂

Chicago Architectural Tour

Last month, Juan and I joined some tourists (mainly fellow Michiganders) on an architectural boat tour of our ‘new home.’ We already knew the true meaning of why Chicago was named “the windy city” but wanted to learn more about the beautiful buildings surrounding us—as well as other quips!

For starters, there are a few prevalent styles of architecture found in the city, including but not limited to: art deco, Chicago school, post-modern and gothic revival. As much as I love art deco, the other styles complement my fav 1950s vintage incredibly well. It’s also important to note some of the most famous architects in the city: Boyington (Chicago Water Tower), Frank Lloyd Wright (various redesigns downtown) and the infamous architects from Studio Gang (St. Regis). If you’re in the Chicago area as a resident or visitor, I highly recommend going on this tour.

I especially love and admire Jeanne Gang, the designer of Chicago’s Aqua Tower. Born in 1964, she was first widely recognized for this building, the second tallest woman-designed building in the world. Aqua was recently surpassed in 2021 by the nearby St. Regis Chicago, also of her design. Gang is one of Chicago’s most prominent architects of her generation—as her projects have been widely awarded. How cool!

Photos taken Saturday, November 13, 2021

Last Day in Lisbon

Tuesday, September 21 was our last day in Portugal, for differing reasons. Dani was leaving for Italy in the afternoon to see someone on the Amalfi Coast, whereas I was flying back to Michigan to finalize packing before moving to Chicago. Our experiences leaving Portugal couldn’t have been more opposite—which I will get to later…

After a not-so-great night of sleep, I was feeling tired yet excited to check out Boca do Inferno: beautiful cliff dwellings and and scenic views in Cascais. I had to check them out before heading home. A cave had been formed from the crashing waves, so as you may imagine, the ocean air and sun on my face felt refreshing after a restless night. We saw individuals, couples and groups of friends hanging out on the rocks, taking photos, laughing together and even fishing! This instantly brought me back to fishing with Kjell, a family friend from Norway, five years ago in Bergen.

The rest of my day went downhill from there (notice I said ‘my’ day and not ‘our’ day). On our late morning train back to Lisbon, I wanted to check in for my flight. I never received an email, which was odd because my flight was in less than 24 hours. I checked my email, airline website AND the Lisbon airport site to find that some of my flights – including Lisbon to London and London to Montréal – had been cancelled. Instead of parting ways with Dani and enjoying a relaxing, solo afternoon in Lisbon, I had to say goodbye at the airport and figure out how the heck I was going to get home. After a realization that this was out of my control and I had to get home ASAP to pack and move, I had to purchase an entirely separate flight home from my phone at the airport—luckily taking me from Lisbon to Paris, directly to Detroit. Near-panic tears and $600 later, I decided to “shake it off” and enjoy my last evening in Lisbon.

Once my sweaty hike to the Airbnb concluded, I was able to enjoy how cute the apartment was. I sent some videos to my friends – both of the apartment and of my sweaty, exhausted self – before taking a shower and heading out for the evening. I enjoyed some street art on my way to find food, wandered into a local cork shop, and even got hit on during my walk to dinner—and trust me, that never happens! I found myself back where Dani and I were the night we met Julian and Max, and I immediately felt nostalgic. I nursed a Coca Cola with lime, some fries and a caprese salad as I watched the sun set over beautiful Lisbon and our European adventure.

Even writing this now is difficult because things have been hard… But that last night taught me to find the positive in every situation, to enjoy doing things solo again, and to let go of what isn’t in my control. Until next time 😉

Photos taken Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Craving Cascais

Cascais, one of Portugal’s most beautiful beach towns, was a must-visit on our week-long adventure. Although Lisbon was my favorite of the three cities, Dani and I were craving the sun, sand and sea that Portugal had to offer.

After an exhausting morning of travel mishaps, we were ready to do absolutely nothing on the beach. We walked down beautiful winding roads toward the shore, where there were tons of authentic restaurants and tourist traps ready to be explored. Past that was a smaller, somewhat crowded beach, but we found a secluded spot to lay our towels and our heads for a little while.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear the sounds of the water crashing on the cliffs around us, people speaking different languages again and feeling the sun on my cheeks (cheeks on my face that is — it wasn’t “that” kind of beach!) 😂

Dani wanted time to herself, but I wanted to eventually get in the water. It was cold, refreshing and was exactly what I needed. Ever since I was a little kid, I loved the cold water because it gave me an instant rush and felt like comforting bath water after a little while. I’m not sure if it gives me a “nostalgic” feeling per se, but being in the water is my happy place. Dani woke up and took some candid photos — which is normally a cringeworthy idea for me — but I felt good about myself and figured I should embrace the feelings I had that day.

Although I was soaking wet, we had a lovely dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. It was nice to sit and talk about absolutely nothing as we enjoyed some spicy food. Soon afterward we wandered around and explored some cute shops, including a gelato place we were aiming to check out on our way back. The sunset was too good to miss, and we even met some Swedish women with the most adorable dog — instantly bringing me back to my study abroad days. All in all this was the most relaxing, peaceful evening of the trip, which was much needed for both of us. We shared some laughs, grabbed some gelato and moseyed our way back to the apartment.

Little did I know my entire trip home was about to change. I had a COVID test-related scare based on my airline and it honestly put me in a spiral. I had to call Juan and everything… foreshadowing to what was probably my worst travel experience to date. But in the spirit of positivity, everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and I was able to calm myself down to enjoy my last evening with Dani.

I was deeply saddened that Dani wouldn’t be spending the last night back in Lisbon with me, but I did enjoy the time we had together. It was a great vacation full of culture, exploration, getting lost together and meeting the coolest strangers-turned-friends along the way ☺️

Photos taken Monday, September 20, 2021

A bumpy ride from Sintra to Cascais

One of the pains of international travel are all of the “twists” you encounter: things don’t go according to plan, circumstances change… but it’s also one of the unexpected joys of being somewhere new! Adapting to changes and allowing yourself to be so immersed that you’re flexible and shrug it off is going to pay off in the end ☺️

Once Dani and I had nasal swabs stuck up our noses, we checked out of our charming AirBnB and started our journey to Cascais–a lovely beach town on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Although our tests went smoothly, the journey to breakfast didn’t. Our driver was very touchy on the breaks, and in tandem with the windy roads, Dani was a little car sick. We chose to grab a quick bite to eat in the fresh air with a stunning view. And to add even more to our “off” morning, it took us forever to grab a bus from Sintra to Cascais, and when we finally arrived in the mid-afternoon, we were both feeling a little woozy.

Breakfast with a view

As we freshened up and got settled in the city center, we called an Uber to drop our bags and change into our bathing suits at the AirBnB. Our driver was one of the nicest I’ve met, and even got out of the car to ask someone in a café where our building was located in the complex and carried Dani’s luggage up to our door. The elevators in the building were semi-broken, and the apartment itself was… bare bones to say the very least. Our host even made us leave four euro in her mailbox as a COVID tax–something the other hosts didn’t even mention or require of us.

Our “beach resort” AirBnB

All of these bizarre turns irritated both of us, but we handled it in very different ways; Dani was more “put off” than I was, and I tried to shake it off and make the most of our beach day. We strolled downhill toward the coast for about 15 or 20 minutes, and the rest of our afternoon and evening was one of the most relaxing we had the entire trip. Stay tuned… 🙂

Third Anniversary

Nine years of knowing each other, eight years of schooling combined, seven job changes total, six states visited, five countries together, four years in Saginaw, three years of marriage, two homes and one cute pup!

I absolutely loved Lisbon!

My vacation in Portugal came at a weird time: we were about to move out of state, my role suddenly became busier at work and certain relationships remained in a strange place. Despite the chaos that was September and some mishaps while traveling, I was very excited to go on an international adventure again. My last trip outside the US was in 2019 when Juan and I explored Ecuador and Chile together, and I appreciated every moment of my time in Europe.

After a full day of train rides and an overnight flight from Chicago to Toronto and finally Lisbon, my friend Dani and I arrived first thing in the morning. Our incredibly gracious Airbnb host, Sarah, picked us up from the airport and gave us a brief tour of the city. She even offered to stop for some amazing views and took a few photos of us. Although we were both exhausted and I seriously wanted to put some makeup on, this was such a kind gesture and these are some of my favorite photos from the trip.

Prior to our check in at Sarah’s Airbnb, Dani and I stored our luggage at her laundromat and shared a lovely afternoon in the city center. We admired the cobblestone streets, winding roads, quintessential Portuguese architecture and laid back demeanor of the locals. Dani and I sat in the park on the grass – and soaked up some sun and good conversation. As simple as this moment sounds, it was probably one of my favorite memories from our girls trip. We shared some laughs and enjoyed beautiful landscapes and playful dogs around us… until a dog who was chained to a chair took off, was running in circles with the chair behind him, and headed toward us! Dani was unfortunately in the chair’s direction, and was hit in the side! I can’t even begin to explain how or why this happened, but this would only happen to her. Despite this “incident” for the lack of a better word, we laughed and it became one of many inside jokes from our vacation.

Late afternoon was filled with some logistics: heading to the Airbnb, receiving the luggage from Sarah’s husband, unpacking and freshening up before dinner. Taking that first shower made me feel like a new person, and I was ready to take on the evening. We ventured back into the city center at a slightly slower pace than we anticipated; one of our bus drivers didn’t stop for us when we were at the stop! Travel mishaps like this are supposed to happen, and that’s when you laugh it off and enjoy the slower pace that is Europe – something I’ve been craving for a very long time.

Our first dinner in Lisboa was spent outside at smaller, cute tables with some cocktails and Latin food. I had a wonderful pisco sour and some vegan tacos. Although messy, they were SO worth it. Dinners are served later and slower in Europe, but I actually prefer meals that way, so I soaked it in and felt right at home. Dani and I strolled around and saw some fun street performers and other diners smiling, living in the moment. We took a bus and walked back to our Airbnb, had some difficulty with our door and asked some neighbors for help and were excited for the rest of our time together.

Photos taken Friday, September 17, 2021

New season of life

On Friday, September 24 we said hello to our Chicago home. And on Sunday, September 26 we said goodbye to our first home. What an emotional “changing seasons of life!” Seeing it empty reminded us of our first time viewing 747, and made us realize all the memories shared over the past two years. Saying hello and goodbye simultaneously is never easy, but the memories will always be cherished and it’s not a goodbye to our neighbors: simply a “see you later.” Wherever the three of us go, the house will always become a home 🏡❤️

A spectacular September in Michigan

As my last couple of weeks in the mitten come to a close, I move into my new season of life with a full heart. I was able to spend time with my best friends and although no time spent is ever enough, I’m heading to my new home with happiness and peace in my decisions. I could think that my time in Michigan was filled with “lasts,” but I’m truly elated for all of the upcoming “firsts” to be experienced with my small family unit 😌

September 1 – spending the evening with an old neighbor/friend, and our dogs

September 2 – celebrating a friend’s birthday with sushi and cocktails in Ann Arbor

September 3 – a long overdue phone call with one of my best friends from Asheville

September 4 – all-day quality time with one of my best friends and our dogs, filled with much needed conversations and exploring

September 5 – breakfast with a dear friend who instantly makes me feel at home, and floating in Ann Arbor with two friends and Linley

September 6 – a morning walk along the river

September 7 – floating down some rapids with one of my best friends, right before the storm

September 8 – spending nearly all day on the couch with Juan, watching Never Have I Ever while I worked

September 9 – Linley’s “Gotcha Day!” festivities

September 10 – we received an offer on our house and took Linley on a nice afternoon walk

September 11 – Linley’s third Doggie Splash and dinner with good friends

September 12 – our last hike at the arboretum

September 13 – morning snuggles with Juan and Linley before work and a much-needed phone call with a dear friend

September 14 – a night on the town, all on my friend Donna

September 15 – another great night with a friend in Detroit, and watching Lin run and play with his friends

Linley’s Gotcha Day

Four years ago, I saw Lin’s sweet face on PetFinder and we rescued each other. The poor fella was abused, abandoned and had two days until euthanasia in Texas. He has been through so much, and I’ve been trying to make his life a brighter place ever since September 9, 2017.

Each Gotcha Day (birthday for rescue pups) I’ve tried extra hard to make his day even more special. This year, we kicked off our day with an hour-long hike in the woods. He enjoyed marking his territory, and we even saw some deer!

While I worked, we spent the entire day snuggling on the couch – which is one of our favorite pastimes 💛

After work, Juan and I took him to one of our favorite downtown areas and strolled along the river. Per usual, we had a great walk as a family.

We wrapped up our lovely celebration by running around with puppers at the dog park, treating Lin to some ice cream, and snuggles before bedtime ☺️

I can only hope that Linley is as happy as he’s made us throughout these past four years 🐶

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 😂

Throwback Thursday: my month in Thailand

I have one month left before I leave my home state of Michigan. Wow. It’s exciting and emotional all in one. In times like these, I often reflect on parallel experiences that brought me to a similar state of mind, and for me, this is primarily my month volunteering in Thailand.

My time in the northern part of this beautiful country was exactly what I needed at that time in my life; I was in desperate need of an adventure and a positive change to get me through. My move to Chicago will open new, exciting opportunities and will allow me to explore common territory in a different way. I’m very much looking forward to pursuing my career aspirations, desired lifestyle and newness the same way I did in Thailand not too long ago.