Entries from August 2012

The Truth About Travel

August 30, 2012

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I need to take a pause in recapping our Europe adventure to “get real” with our experiences while traveling. Because it wasn’t always an adventure and it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be. I was chasing after a Nepal 2.0 and the experience of our trip didn’t necessarily meet those expectations. Even now as I process the trip through blog recaps – it’s being distilled down to a few words and some pretty pictures that make it all look like quite a beautiful time.

But the truth is that traveling can be scary, exhausting and sometimes even boring. Sometimes I felt like we were spending hours just trying to figure out where to go, what to eat and which train to get on for only minutes of payoff. I felt like when I was chilling out, taking advantage of free wifi over a cup of cappuccino or glass of wine, that I was missing out on meeting interesting locals or having stimulating conversations with Jeremy or good people watching or falling in love with the world.

Here are some of my expectations and challenges I came against. If you have any advice on how to overcome some of these I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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The Desire: To Experience a Place Like A Local. The expectation was to go off the beaten path and eat at the local dives and make friends with the people who frequent them.

The Reality: We’re Not Locals. We’re Tourists. Veering off the beaten path is a bit scary and you just don’t know what you’re going to get beyond boiled potatoes topped with a fried egg in a place that smells like mold. The truth is that cities that are set up to handle tourists make you feel like you’re not squandering the precious and limited time you have abroad because there is lots to see. That’s why tourists visit. Also, when you’re traveling in a couple it’s hard to make friends with locals (especially if you’re in a city full of tourists). People think you’re on a date so they leave you alone.

The Solution (A): Travel Where You Have Friends. I’m lucky in that I have this blog and enough people reading it that I have friends (and friends-to-be) all over the world. I didn’t take advantage of that during this trip because I wanted to spend time reconnecting and adventuring with Jeremy. But we were both spending so much time figuring shit out that we didn’t have much energy left for falling in love with each other all over again. It would’ve been nice to make friends with people we already have things in common with. People who could safely take us off the beaten path and share their favorite places with us.

The Solution (B): Spend More Time In One Place. Because I work for myself, I’m location independent and can work from anywhere. I think to truly live like a local I should rent a flat in a city for 3 months or more and not cram every touristy thing possible into two days. Instead of just being on vacation I could balance work and play (just like at home) in another city. I would get the satisfaction of being productive with my work while also taking my time to really explore the ins and outs of a place. Jeremy’s not quite so location independent yet with his job but maybe one day.

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The Desire: To Drink Lots of Coffee and Wine. And stare dreamily into each others eyes while doing so.

The Reality: This is All Good and Fun Until You’re Jittery, Drunk and/or Hungover – all at the same time. We actually got really good at drinking lots of coffee and lots of wine. But at the same time we were usually taking advantage of free wifi to figure out how to use the public transportation, post Instagram photos, read up on TripAdvisor and organize and book our next move. There were no dreamy staring contests.

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The Desire: Be Spontaneous! Go wherever! Whenever!

The Reality: Travel Takes Planning. If we had booked everything in advance from home we wouldn’t be having to do it from our iPhones on the road.

The Solution: Research ahead of time. The idea of being spontaneous was more romantic than the reality of it. I think we would’ve been happier and would’ve spent a little less time with our faces in our phones if we had planned in advance and had a little more structure.

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Without the risk of coming across like a spoiled brat who had a horrible time I should reiterate here that I learned and saw a LOT and will continue to focus on the positive and share more of those insights with you throughout my recaps.

So let me hear it – what’s your advice for having a kickass time while traveling? How do you balance being a tourist with true local experiences?

Day 8: More Budapest

August 29, 2012

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After a late night out, drinking wine on the concrete steps of the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen, we slept in until 11AM. This is so odd for me because family vacations come with early wake-up calls and mornings of exploring before it gets too hot out – followed by middle of the day naps to escape the blazing sun and crowds. But Jeremy and I took our time to roll out of bed and make our way over to the Buda side of Budapest. We made our way up to the Castle Hill area with great views of the river, city and the castle, of course.

We enjoyed a lunch of cheese and schnapps. It was getting brutally hot out so we decided to visit The Hospital in the Rock & Nuclear Bunker – a museum in tunnels below the Buda Castle. No photos were allowed but this top-secret hospital / nuclear bunker only opened to the public recently and it was definitely a Budapest highlight. Not to mention cool at 8º celsius. Afterwards we had a snack of cake and cappuccino and made our way to a labyrinth – more caves under the Buda Castle that apparently Dracula used to hang out in.

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When we finally made our way to the actual Buda Castle it started getting a bit cloudy and ominous out. So we made our way over the Danube across the Chain Bridge back over to the Pest side of Budapest where we were staying. We made it down to the St. Stephen Basilica square where we enjoyed a balanced dinner of wine and olives. Oh, Budapest. I like you.

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Day 7: Hello Budapest

August 27, 2012

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Part of what I loved about Budapest is how spontaneously we had decided to go there. We had every intention of following up Vienna with a visit to Prague but Budapest was calling.

On a 2-hour train ride from Vienna to Budapest we read up on the city and according to the guides I had read up on, I could expect to be mugged, pick-pocketed, and fall victim to something that looked like the movie Hostel upon my arrival.

Part of our travel strategy was to book cheap hotels close to the train station so that we wouldn’t have to walk far with our backpacks – but the areas around the stations are typically full of hot pavement and a little bit of hustle. Maybe not the most inviting scene to an unfamiliar city. We exchanged our currency, checked into our hotel, showered and studied up on the city map.

It turned out one of the friends we made on the wine & bike tour in Vienna, Suzy, was in Budapest too so we made plans to meet up with her for dinner. We had a gorgeous view of St. Stephen’s Basilica and over beers and dinner we chatted about life, politics and education. Through language barriers we had a fun conversation with a couple of Italian guys sitting next to us. As the sun set we noticed people gathering around the steps of the church with bottles of wine. So we followed suit.

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I mentally added “Drink a bottle of Shiraz on the steps of St. Stepehen’s Basilica in Budapest” to my bucket list while at the same time crossing it off. It was that kind of perfect. We exchanged life stories with Suzy until 1AM. My eyes were growing bleary as the street really started coming to life. We said goodbye to our new friend and grabbed a taxi who drove too fast down narrow streets back to our hotel. I leaned my head against the window and let my tired eyes soak up the gorgeous architecture, dilapidated and covered in graffiti, passing by. I was glad to be in Budapest.

Green Smoothie

August 23, 2012

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If the tuna steak with lime & cilantro sauce was the flirty pool boy who helped me get my groove back than this green smoothie is my spouse – reliable, comfortable, and nourishing – the one I come home to at the end of a long day. Melissa and Dallas of Whole9Life actually advise against drinking smoothies during the Whole30. I think a lot of people abuse it as a way to pack in tons of sugar (even fruit is sugar, y’all) and if fat loss and/or kicking a sweet tooth is your goal then a smoothie is not the way to go.

But for me, this green smoothie is a great pre & post workout meal – it’s especially refreshing during these hot summer months where leftover bakes salmon and steamed veggies in the middle of the day doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. Also, my goals aren’t really to lose weight

Here’s the recipe.

Green Smoothie
2 cups spinach
1-2 cups of coconut water (depending on the consistency you want)
1/3 cup coconut chips
1/2 – 1 whole avocado
1 banana 

This first step is the most important: first blend your spinach and coconut water together before adding any other ingredients. I use an immersion blender for about a minute to get the spinach fully blended into the coconut water. Then add the coconut chips and blend for another minute to get those nice and fine too. From there add your avocado and banana – you may want to add a little more coconut water at this point too just depending on the desired consistency.

Also – sometimes I’ll play with the avocado to banana ratio. I may use a whole avocado and half a banana or vice versa just depending on what flavor I’m after. You could also add a cucumber to the mix.

Do you have a favorite green smoothie recipe? Let’s hear it.

Day 6: Planning Our Next Move

August 21, 2012

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Vienna was a game changer. This city seems to place equal amounts of value on art and functionality which is clearly illustrated when you’re taking a ride on the seamlessly efficient public transportation with casual views of some of the most breathtaking architecture in the world passing by like its no big deal. Everyone seemed stylish, progressive and happy.

On Day 6 Jeremy and I rode rented bikes all over Vienna – from one side to the other and back again. Over cappuccinos for breakfast, desserts for lunch and wine for dessert we started a conversation that hasn’t stopped since. A conversation about our next move. A conversation about doing the right thing. Exploring ideas to make the world a more beautiful and functional place. A conversation full of intention, purpose and plans for action. A conversation about putting our money where our mouth is. About how to make a world that looks and feels a little more like … Vienna. 

All of this big dreaming was followed by a conversation about where we’d go next – as in, the very next day. I fully expected to be buying train tickets to Prague – but my gut led us to Budapest.

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