The picture of Alaska in the depths of winter is entirely click bait. I have green grass right now. But I do have a pretty serious question for everyone today: Are you okay? I ask because it’s January, and let’s be honest guys, no one likes January. Not even those of us with green grass.
The holidays are over. All the PTO has been used. It’s dark and cold. The 31 days in this month is being rubbed in our faces. Diets and gyms are overflowing. All our money went to Christmas gifts and holiday travels. There are very few enjoyable outdoor activities. It feels wrong to drink champagne because there’s nothing to celebrate, unless it’s your birthday. And if it’s your birthday – I’m actually a bit jealous because at least you have some excitement in your January.
I do try and put my Januarys in perspective now that I live somewhere with mild winters. As mentioned there is green grass, 40+ degrees, and even though it rains basically every day, at least it isn’t snow and ice. I’d apologize to the rest of the country but I served my time in Fairbanks, Alaska. I’ve earned these winters.
Despite the varying weather everywhere I’ve lived, I still can’t believe how bleh it feels trying to trudge through this month every year.
How am I staying sane, and how can you too?
- Planning 2018. Taking time to write out every trip, whether work related or personal, and a couple of fun weekend getaways. Just focusing on the prep for all the fun that will be coming soon. Whether it’s booking the excursions/tours for our trip in March or researching where we should spend our 5th anniversary in Arizona, just utilize the slow moments to prepare for the months that will slip by. I use Google Spreadsheets and Google Docs to plan everything, but how stinking cute is this journal?
- Reading. I’ve been more intentional about shutting off the TV earlier and reading for 30 minutes before bed with The Mr. It’s been really nice to have that calm time to catch up on reading. And I need to catch up, as I currently have a stack of 5 books next to my bed. Does anyone else read more than one book at a time?! I most recently finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, and I’d absolutely recommend it.
- Making plans with friends. Since I work from home now, I’m sure that isolation is contributing to my mental sluggishness this month. Getting out of the house and making plans with friends from my old job has been helping substantially. Even if I rather just lounge around in sweats and watch TV when I’m off work, I know I need to make connections with people I enjoy being around and follow through on those plans. If you’re in or near a metropolitan area, Thrillist is great for happy hour, dinner or brunch ideas with friends.
- Classes at my gym and running outside. Can we talk about how wonderful it is to LOVE a workout, and not just do it because of aesthetic goals or because your diet recommends it. Doing it because you love the feeling of endorphins and sweating it out and giving it your all. I’ve been so thoughtful about loving the workouts I do in January and making time for them. Of course I’m not always in the mood to workout, but if I intentionally set aside the time, lay out clothes, let my husband know I’m doing it for accountability – I get the workout in and I feel great afterwards. This is my amazing gym if you’re in the South Puget Sound area, otherwise try out a few classes where you live until you find one you enjoy. It’s absolutely worth the investment.
Cooking and finding creative ways to substitute meat. I’ve mentioned before how I typically eat things I don’t have to cook, and when I commuted 2.5 hours a day, that was the damn truth. But now that I have that time back in my day, I love making home cooked, healthy meals for myself and my husband. I’m also incorporating my resolution to eat less meat into my recipes. I’ve been finding alternatives at the grocery store and learning how to creatively use beans and chickpeas and nuts for more vegetarian meals. This blogger has been one of my favorites so far for vegetarian and pescatarian cooking.
The husband and spontaneous dates. This list isn’t in any sort of chronological order, because if it was, he’d be number one 😉 But having a teammate to make you laugh and plan cute dates – like a pottery studio and sushi! – is the perfect cure for the January blues. That person can also be a roommate or a friend or even your mom. Don’t take for granted all the other loves in your life. When he was deployed last year, my person for spontaneous dates was my best friend/roomie. Just find your person and something you’ve never done before.
- And when all else fails? A generous pour of wine or a large cup of coffee, a freshly popped bag of popcorn, some dark chocolate squares, and your favorite cry it out drama tv series (I opt for Grey’s Anatomy, but pick your poison). When January goes low, you can just get lower in the cushions of your couch with all the necessary survival items and wait it out.
Good luck all. The worst month of the year is almost over.
First, a quick overview to bury the lead 😉
The husband is active duty military, and so our location is pretty much dictated by Uncle Sam. He was first stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska where I joined him after our wedding in 2013. In 2015, we got orders to Washington state and have spent the last two and a half year falling in love with the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
But in 2018 we are now headed to…
We are very excited, and if I’m being honest, sad too. My stomach gets into knots thinking about leaving Washington. The people I’ve met, the community we live in, this old house from 1910 I rag on but secretly adore, beautiful Seattle, the mountains a short drive away, the Puget Sound…I am so sad to be saying goodbye. It was emotional leaving Minnesota and Alaska, and I feel like Washington will still be the most difficult goodbye yet. It’s a ridiculously hard thing to fall in love with places I live and leave a piece of my heart behind.
But I am trying to look forward and concentrate on the new memories to be made in our new home! We’re moving to a small mountainous community in Southern Arizona and I’ve already mapped out all the amazing things to do and see within an hour or two drive. I’ve visited twice before and Michael has lived here briefly so we’re familiar with the city. I have NEVER lived anywhere warm in my life. All three states I’ve claimed residence have touched Canada. I am so excited for hot, dry summers and hours spent soaking up the sun.
The BEST part of this move and what I am endlessly thankful for? My job is coming with me and I don’t have to search for a new one. The biggest, most stressful part of my last two moves has been the window of unemployment. I’m typically scared to spend a dime or enjoy the journey or purchase anything to make our new home feel at home until after I secure a job. I’m somewhat of a miserable unemployed person and get a bit mopey…so it’s a massive stress off my shoulders this time around.
The kicker about this move? It’s temporary. That’s right, we’ll be moving AGAIN before 2018 is over and we have no idea where. We keep things exciting over here.
I had intentions of sharing our permanent change of station (PCS) guide when we moved from Alaska to Washington and how we prepped for a 44 hour road trip. Well two and a half years later and I never did get around to it. This time around I intend to follow through. Our PCS bible is a lifesaver for moves, and could be helpful whether you’re making a military move or a civilian move.
So I hope you’ll follow along as we start over in a new place, once again. I tend to blog the most when I’m trying to acclimate to a new location so I’m sure the posts will be plentiful. In the meantime, I blame any lapse in posts on trying to soak up every minute left in Washington.
“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
― Judith Minty,
If you have any insight into must see or do things in Arizona or Southern Arizona – please share! Also how do you run in 4,000 feet above sea level?? And how often do you really see snakes in Arizona?!
So many things to learn before April 🙂
On January 3rd of 2017, I said goodbye to my husband for 8 months. I drove him to Joint Base Lewis McChord at 2am, bid him off without a single tear, and then proceeded to spend the entire day crying in bed while working from home. I gave myself the day to mope, but made a promise that by the next morning – I had to move forward. Slowly, of course. But I had to get up and go to Seattle for work and tackle life head on. I found a quote before I fell asleep that night (a thing I do during tough moments in my life):
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Houston
As 2017 nears an end, I can’t help but reflect on those words. I assumed this year would be me asking a million questions and just anxiously awaiting answers that wouldn’t come – “Will he make it home safely?” “Will I make it through this with my sanity?” “Can I survive this draining job without someone to lean on and vent to each night?” “Is the military in our future, or will we be moving to a new stage of our live?” “Will I still be calling Washington home by the close of 2017?” etc.
The thing is? All my questions were answered. And waiting to hear those answers wasn’t half as difficult as I imagined it would be.
He left…and two weeks later I was flying to Austin, Texas with two of my best friends for a girl’s weekend. A couple weeks after that a close college friend was in town for a long weekend. Then it was Mexico with girlfriends in early March. Omaha to visit a friend from Alaska. Minnesota for 9 days with family at the end of April. Alabama for a beachy weekend with my in-laws over Memorial Day. Laguna Beach in late June. A road trip with my bestie all over the Pacific Northwest for the Fourth of July. Victoria, Canada for a birthday celebration. Another amazing college friend came for a visit. Landed a new job in August (that challenges me, allows me to work in leggings, and keeps me travelling just enough to appreciate home!). And finally, between jobs, I finished off the summer road tripping around Iceland for 10 days with college besties.
Then suddenly, he was home.
The night prior to my 26th birthday. Safe and sound. The answer to my biggest question of all answered in a single moment of blurred tears and the tightest hug of my life as our nation’s flag proudly hung over our reunion. And every minute since he’s been home has been some of the best memories in our marriage yet. It’s included 8 magical days in Hawai’i, a couple of gorgeous hikes, a weekend on the Olympic Peninsula, Thanksgiving with family, and so many quiet, reflective moments not worth a blog post but worth a million words in a squeezed hand or a kiss or an “I love you”. We get to end the year in Washington together. We know what’s next for us in 2018 (more on that soon 😉).
I may not have fulfilled any of my New Year’s resolutions on health and fitness…
- The Whole30 turned into the Whole12 in January.
- I missed working out for entire weeks here and there thanks to travel.
- I enjoyed plentiful amounts of cocktails, the happy hour fries from RN74 in Downtown, pints of Halo Top, Fred Meyer sushi (don’t knock it til you try it!), etc.
But what I gained (regardless of a little weight) in memories with friends and family, in precious moments with my husband, in patience and strength in my relationship, in independence as I traveled to new countries and places, in empowerment when I fixed things like the broken lawn mower ON MY OWN, and finally in answers to some of life’s toughest questions was far, far more valuable.
Maybe the quote – for me, specifically – should really be,
“There are tough moments that ask tough questions, but stay busy and hopeful. Work hard and have patience. You’ll get your answers.”
I have questions for 2018. Little logistical questions that give me brief waves of uncertainty and BIG questions that could keep me up at night if I allow them to. But after 2017, I have a good feeling they’ll all be answered. I’m even encouraging myself to dwell on the question of “Should I slow down more often?”. Although I think I may know the answer to that one already…
I post a lot of beautiful views in my blog posts. Here are some* of the beautiful people who helped me forget the questions I had this year, and instead helped me to focus on the moments.
*SOME being the operative word! All sorts of amazing people (my mama, for starters!) are absent from this quick photo dump
It may not be the end of the year quite yet, but this one was too near and dear to my heart to forget to share.
Happy holidays, all. Hope the next two weeks are as beautiful for you as this year was for me!
Is it acceptable that I’m discussing our trip to Hawaii months after taking it?
Although the better question would probably be: is there ever a bad time to discuss a trip to Hawaii? I think we can all agree the answer is no, no there is not.
Over two months ago now (*sob*) we were living Aloha on the island of Maui for 8 days. It was perfect. It was not cheap. I don’t have a lot of insightful tips on saving money. We went all out because my husband was back from deployment and we’d saved a long time for this trip. We spent the entire week either lying on the sand, snorkeling, or drinking. Less adventuring than our norm. We spent our days in the sun and slept 9-10 hours a night. It was idyllic.
We stayed at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali on the west side of the island.
We were upgraded to an ocean view room upon check in and the service only went up from there during our stay. From the bellhop to the maid service, the concierge to the pool attendants, the waitresses and bartenders – everyone was so warm and provided excellent service.
The room was gorgeous. The bed was comfortable. The grounds are lovely. The pools were sprawling and never too busy. The beach was beyond beautiful with world-class snorkeling steps from our hotel room. I have zero complaints about our stay besides price.
Anddddd you get what you pay for. If you’re on a tight budget? I don’t recommend the Sheraton at Black Rock. If you have some wiggle room, it’s worth the investment.
All our time and money flying to and from Fairbanks, Alaska finally came in handy. We paid for our plane tickets entirely on miles through Alaska Airlines. The direct flight from Seattle to Kahului, Maui was about 5 hours and really smooth. I’ve been to Hawaii once before when I lived in Minnesota and I’d had two layovers for that trip. A direct flight was a dream. We also got a free Mai-Tai on the last leg before we touched down in Hawaii so that was a pleasant surprise.
Maui is an incredible island with a ton to do, and a rental car is necessary to take part in all the splendor the island has to offer. The way we chose to enjoy this vacation we really only needed the rental car 3 of the 8 days we were there. We spent a lot time at our resort because our resort and the area within walking distance had pretty much all we needed.
I told my husband I would like to redo Maui or another Hawaiian island staying in an Airbnb or condo and take advantage of the rental car a bit more. I wouldn’t say it was wasted, by any means. The price to shuttle us around to the few activities we did too would have been roughly the same as renting the car for the week.
Snorkeling at Molokini on the Four Winds. Definitely invest in a snorkeling tour. The Hawaiian islands have breathtaking marine life and Molokini Crater is a very unique spot to see it firsthand. I realize as I’m recalling this excursion, I LIED, I do have one useful tip. If you or anyone you know gets motion sick on boats like I do, I absolutely recommend the vertigo/nausea patch you can get from a doctor. I have never felt so good, all day, while on a boat. Even when anchored and rocking – I felt nothing with the patch. I was like a whole new person. It does cause dry mouth and I couldn’t drink enough water the three days I wore it. Literally no amount of water could fully quench my thirst. But as someone who gets motion sick from the littlest rocking motions or spinning, I definitely recommend for a boat ride or the road to Hana! I had to schedule an appointment with a doctor and she just asked me a couple of quick questions. You’re “technically” not supposed to drink while on this patch, but the doctor kind of gave me side eye and said people usually get it for cruises so they can drink. Her final warning to me was, “Don’t over do it”.
Road to Hana. I won’t recap it since there are so many resources out there to read. I’ve done the drive twice. It IS 110% worth it. From the waterfalls to the beaches to the adorable roadside stands. Take a day, drive to Hana, and use the Road to Hana Gypsy Guide. It’s a really useful, insightful narration both directions.
Lu’au at the Sheraton. I have no lu’aus to compare this too. I thought it was a beautiful lu’au with Polynesian dancing and delicious, albeit strange, food. Also endless Mai Tais. Need I say more?
Food & Drink
This part caught us by surprise. We did not have a kitchenette (if/when we go back, we definitely will). The bars and restaurants at our resort were beyond expensive. We went to a grocery store on day one and got everything to made sandwiches and our drinks, and we still overspent our budget by A LOT.
I honestly didn’t ever fully calculate by how much. All bets were off on this trip. When your husband who just returned from Iraq wants to treat you to a nice dinner every night? ITS REALLY DIFFICULT TO SAY NO. There were also so many creative, delicious drinks that I didn’t realistically budget for….
And then the food behind the Insta-glam:
It was perfect. It was the relaxing Honeymoon we didn’t have in Costa Rica (our actual honeymoon that we spent adventuring and having a more immersive cultural experience). Hawai’i is always a good idea. It’s a gorgeous tropical island experience without any of the hurdles of going to a foreign country. If you haven’t been yet, add it to your list. Just be a bit more realistic than I was about how much you’ll eat and drink 😉
I am, of course, itching for our next trip. Next stop in less than two weeks: Orlando, Florida!
Until next time,
This topic is a bit off my normal blogging track, but I’ve had a handful of people reach out and ask about my Motiv activity tracking ring. With the holidays and a new year approaching, I wanted to get this full review up in case anyone was interested in a gift for a friend or for themselves.
There were three main reasons I purchased the Motiv ring:
- My new work from home position has made me want to be more aware of my step count and how much I’m actually moving during the day
- I want to track my workouts. I primarily workout at a class-based gym doing full-body, endurance based HIIT/Circuit and those can be difficult to track
- I wanted an activity tracker I was actually going to wear
***Disclaimer: The only other activity tracker I’ve owned is a Garmin Forerunner 15 watch exclusively for running. I have never owned a Fitbit. Feel free to direct any questions about your current tracker in the comments, and I can tell you how the Motiv ring is different/similar***
The Motiv ring is $199.00, available in two colors, and currently only for iOS. Sorry ’bout it, Android users.
The company sends you a sizing kit to pick your ring size once you order the ring. You can try different fingers and sizes until you’re confident in your choice. They even recommend wearing it for a full day first before choosing. I picked a size 8 ring for my right ring finger. I needed a size larger of the Motiv ring than my wedding ring for my left ring finger. Not sure if they run small or if I have inconsistently sized fingers.
The price point seemed in line with other trackers I’ve reviewed and it was really nice to be able to feel it out before you made a decision on size/finger.
Since I wear a ring on my left ring finger at all times (marriage and all), and never notice it, I really hoped that would be the case for this ring.
Thankfully, it absolutely is. The Motiv ring is bulkier than a wedding ring, for sure. But after a day or two I honestly stopped noticing it was there. When I wear fashion bracelets I am constantly fidgeting with it or taking it off, so I knew I would never enjoy a fitness tracker on my wrist. I’ve also never found a bracelet tracker that was attractive or simple enough to wear all the time.
This ring may be bulky but the rose gold color is very pretty and doesn’t clash with anything I own. I wore it to a military ball because I genuinely forgot it was there and it looks fine in photos.
For wearability I’d give it a 9/10. In a perfect world it’d be a smaller width and even thinner, so that’s the point I’m knocking off.
The ring pairs with an app for your phone via bluetooth and will sync randomly throughout the day, or to be really cool, when you spin it slowly with your hand horizontal. It’ll start flashing blue while you spin it and you can watch it quickly sync to the Motiv app. This makes me feel like I’m in Minority Report, so I do this often.
This is really seamless and I’ve had zero issues with the information going from the ring to the app. 10/10.
Motiv’s activity tracking is my favorite feature. It’s great for tracking steps and workouts.
Its step count is extremely accurate. For the first couple of days, I gauged it against my phone’s health app (by carrying my phone absolutely everywhere) to compare steps and the ring was registering every step. Probably even more accurately than a phone just jostling along in my pocket when I remember to have it on me.
For activity, you can set your number of active minutes you’d like to hit each week and then the app utilizes activity cards to show your progress The activity cards pop up for any consistent activity involving steps. If it’s a consistent walk or run – not just shuffling slowly around the house from room to room – the card will typically just appear and tell you how much activity and steps you just accomplished. Very accurate for walks/runs.
Now for HIIT/Circuit Training – my main choice for fitness – the activity cards don’t automatically pop up. I’m jumping and pulling and squatting and lunging, not just consistently moving in one direction so it makes sense why it doesn’t. BUT that whole time I’m working out the ring is tracking my steps and heart rate. When I complete the activity, it’ll either ask me if I was just active based on my heart rate OR I can simply add the activity. For an activity, I am able to adjust the window of time, label what the activity was, and assess my intensity. Was it a piece of cake or did you max out, etc. I can also edit activity cards that were automatic if I disagree with what the ring assessed. I’ve only had to do this a few times, but it’s a really nice feature to lengthen or shorten the time of the activity if the tracking was off.
I love this feature and give it a 9/10.
The sleep tracker is the most inaccurate part of the ring. I’m also a lazy person in the morning and lay in bed scrolling through my phone for far longer than I should. Yes – it’s a terrible habit. I’m working on it.
Point being – it registers all that time I’m laying there as time spent sleeping. So when I first wake up it tells me how long I’ve slept and then when I finally stand up – it’s added x amount of time that I was still lying down.
It also doesn’t account nightly wake ups very accurately or monitor the way I’ve seen other activity trackers monitor with time spent restless or woken up. It just shows a chunk of time (that’s usually exaggerated). I am not a big fan of this feature and hope an app update in the near future could help with this. 4/10.
Heart Rate Monitoring
A basic feature that registers your resting heart rate while you sleep. If I have any alcohol – my resting beats-per-minute spike that night relative to the number of drinks I’d had. So that’s pretty enlightening. Giving this feature a 8/10 though because I haven’t yet found a spot in the app where I can just review my heart rate throughout the day, only if I’m sleeping or active.
The charge on my ring lasts about 2.5 days. It died twice in the first week because I forgot I actually had to charge it. Now I try to charge it every day for about 30 minutes when I have down time and that keeps it constantly charged.
The chargers are tiny pieces of plastic that I’m terrified to lose. They plug directly into a USB port and your ring magnetically attaches to them while charging. After a month of owning the ring, I can still tell you where both of the chargers are at this very moment. An incredible feat for someone who has lost a literal diamond from a wedding ring and every iPhone charger I’ve ever owned. The company says to contact them if you lose both chargers…so just don’t…
I’ll give the battery and charging an 8/10. I’d prefer something bigger that I’m less likely to lose, but it works really well.
It’s waterproof to a pretty serious depth per the guide that came with the ring. I’ve showered and washed my hands with it, ran in the rain, plunged into dish water, etc. I have had no issues water-wise.
In terms of what the ring can endure, I have already scratched it from using barbells and pull-up bars at my gym. I don’t know if you can expect to avoid this with a ring? That’s probably something bracelet activity trackers can boast about if ring trackers become a hit. I am a pretty low-maintenance person though, so some scuff marks from lifting doesn’t bother me.
I give the durability 8/10 because it’s doing great so far, but it is already scuffed/scratched and I’ve only had it a month.
I really like it. The Motiv ring does basically everything the website guaranteed it would and I find myself excited to check my app throughout the day and see how I’m doing steps and activity wise. I think it tracks accurately and fits comfortably which were the biggest motivators for buying the ring in the first place.
Things I’d like to see improved? The sleep tracking feature. Definitely. I’m not sure how those are measured, but just lying down does not equate to sleep. Also potentially a heart monitor throughout the day. If my heart rate goes up during a client call – I want to know why I’m letting this person stress me out, ok Motiv?
I’d definitely recommend a Motiv ring. At least until they release a tiny dot of a microchip that goes in/on your skin, I’d say this is the next best (least intrusive) activity tracker out there.
I ended up having quite a bit more to say on this than I’d anticipated (surprise, surprise). Thanks for reading! Hope to have a travel post up next week before Thanksgiving. Can you even believe it’s already that time of year?!
Til next time,
Almost 3 months ago, to the day, I quit my job. On the spot. There were a series of events that led up to that exhilarating (and terrifying moment), but looking back now, I don’t have a single regret on how I chose to leave. The day after I quit my job, I boarded a plane to Iceland. Three days after I got back from Iceland, I boarded a flight to my new company’s headquarters to start training for my new job. Three days after I returned from initial training, my husband came home from Iraq the night before my 26th birthday after 8 months away.
Since my birthday, I’ve spent almost all my time navigating my new job and spending preciously missed time with my husband. I’ve also managed to squeeze in a trip to Hawaii with my love, another week long work trip, and a long weekend home to Minnesota.
This is not all one giant excuse for neglecting the blog. Although if it helps, feel free to reread all the above 😉
No this is me saying periods of constant motion and excitement and highs can be incredibly wonderful, and also immensely draining. I haven’t finished one book or taken time to journal or done yoga or enjoyed a cup of tea until this past week, and I finally realized I need to slow. down.
This isn’t saying I haven’t had down time because trust me, I have. My husband and I have spent plenty of relaxing evenings and weekends catching up on episodes of Shameless, Stranger Things, Black-ish, Grey’s Anatomy, etc. I’ve met up with friends and old coworkers for happy hours and dinners, and planned weekends filled with good company. But I haven’t taken time for me, just me, to do the things that fill up my soul in so long.
My grandpa passed away last week. My mom had warned us kids about his health for weeks, but it still hit me hard when I got the call. His passing has left me with warm memories from my childhood, but it’s also has me thinking about life and death. It’s brought bouts of tears, has had me on my knees praying, and even taking moments to meditate.
It’s reminded me the importance of taking a break. Not just to catch up on Netflix or to clean my house or run errands. But to literally stop and smell the flowers, and allow myself to feel any emotions they bring. To sit down in a quiet room with a hot beverage and a blank piece of paper and allow words to flow. To remember that fitness is great, but movement to become more in tune with your body (yoga! hiking! running!) can do more wonders than a workout with intentions to solely lose weight. To let myself think about life and death, and cope healthily with the emotions and questions philosophizing brings.
I have a tendency to let high highs be followed by low lows. Living in Alaska caused a lot of this roller coaster of emotions, and thankfully I feel a lot more balanced as a person now, but I truly think neglecting the moments and activities meant for your soul can be detrimental to this process. It’s moments when I’m meditating or writing or setting my daily intentions that keep me balanced and in check. When I remind myself why I should be grateful each morning, I have a tendency to not have a post-vacation crash of feeling sad and overindulgent. When I take the time to write, whether for the blog or journaling, I come away a lot more at peace and accomplished then when I sit down.
Taking a break for yourself doesn’t necessarily have to be an activity. It could be to pray or meditate or even cry. But there is a lot of personal fulfillment to be found in a hobby done alone, and taking whatever break you need to from friends or significant others or kids to do it. Maybe for you it’s volunteering or singing or baking or napping or practicing makeup tutorials or fishing or what have you! Just find your soul-filling pursuits and get away from the crazy hustle and bustle of life to do them.
I am making a promise to myself this week to finish the book I started 3 weeks ago, to write this blog post and maybe one more, to enjoy two long runs, and to set daily/weekly intentions. Tip: The Five Minute Journal is my favorite app to help with becoming intentional and grateful each day. I challenge myself to be really specific and thoughtful when filling this out, and it still only takes 10 minutes or less from your day.
Filling my days with events and vacations and plans with friends is exciting and completely normal, but there is so much healing and growth found in slowing down. I would challenge anyone who reads this today to make yourself a cup of coffee (or cocoa or tea!) and light a candle you love the scent of and position yourself next to a window or nook in your home that makes you smile, and ask yourself what three things you’re thankful for today. Get detailed. Say it out loud. Let it fill you up.
Not to be terribly cliche, but life is so fleeting. And of course you should fill it with the people you love and surround yourself with good company often, but I firmly believe you should also take time for you. Take moments to reflect and to do things that bring you personal joy. And don’t do it for the Instagram. Do it for your mental and spiritual health. Find what fills your soul, and create time for it each week.
This topic was top of mind for me when I sat down to write this morning, and I think it’s because life will not be slowing down any time soon. Between the holidays, a Christmas vacation to Florida, work trips, and a couple of big moves coming for the Mr. and I in 2018 (stay tuned!) – I am going to need to take my own advice about taking a break for ME now more than ever.
Hope all of you can, too.
Can we take a minute to appreciate how absolutely incredible planet earth is?
Everywhere I’ve ever traveled has left me with a sense of wonder. That wonder has never been more powerful than on my trip to Iceland. The island is so obscure, it becomes jaw-dropping. You can’t tear your eyes away. Green rolling hills that abruptly turn into vast sweeping mountains. Almost no natural trees. Glacial formations and bays overflowing with icebergs that look more like a green screen than reality. Turquoise blue rivers. Black sand beaches. Basalt columns formed so particularly it looks as if someone manually stacked them along the beaches and cliffs. Sudden patches of boiling, sulfur smelling earth that shoot water and churn mud into bubbling grey clay. And the waterfalls. Waterfalls spilling over cliff sides and suddenly appearing in the middle of volcanic fields or an otherwise calm looking countryside, gushing water without any indication of where the water could be flowing from. The most incredible works of art.
Why would humans ever make conscious choices to harm this gorgeous place we ALL call home? Why wouldn’t we all want to take simple steps to reduce our individual carbon footprint? Each time I go through pictures from this trip and then see the news flooded with natural disasters, I feel so called to do something. To do more than just talk about climate change or argue with people who deny science. I’ve been doing some research this week and I’ve found some helpful resources on little things we can do each day to help our world. To help our home. To help the beautiful places we live and travel.
A couple articles about things you can start doing TODAY can be found here, here, and here. I am making a list of things I’m personally going to start implementing and I’ll share those in a future wellness post, because let’s be honest: the wellness of our earth affects our own personal wellness, too.
But back to those waterfalls: those stunning, powerful works of art Iceland is filled with. Here is a complete list of all the notable waterfalls on our road trip. They’re in the order we saw them driving counter clockwise around the Ring Road. These are by no means all the waterfalls we saw. No, we saw waterfalls practically every singe time we turned our heads while driving. Many we’re on private land or so far off the road it would have been too much of a detour. These are all fairly well-known and accessible. The only exception is Svartifoss, which we had to hike too. You’ll see below why that was worth the extra trip.
First waterfall we came across on the Golden Circle. Very busy, but regardless, stunning. You can see the size comparison of these falls in the bottom photo with the tourists on the left.
Once you leave the Golden Circle and head to South Iceland, you can’t miss this cascading waterfall from the road. It’s still a fairly crowded, but again, completely worth it. Seljalandsfoss was unique because it was the only waterfall that had a trail running behind it giving you one-of-a-kind views.
THERE WAS A LITERAL RAINBOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS WATERFALL. Gorgeous green pastures with sheep and horses on either side ran directly into this massive waterfall. There was a freakin’ rainbow (did I mention that already?) at the bottom and you could hike to the top to see it from a completely different vantage point. This is tied for my favorite waterfall.
The waterfall tied for my favorite. Svartifoss cuts into the landscape from out of nowhere and its basalt formations are unbelievable. It was pretty rainy when we reached this waterfall so I don’t feel like I had the opportunity to truly soak it in, but looking back at the photos, I am amazed. This was the only waterfall we had to hike to in Skaftafell National Park.
HUGE waterfall in North Iceland, a bit of a haul off the main road. Unfortunately I think we drove up the wrong side of it (and there’s no crossing once you’re there). It was really wet and misty. My camera did a pretty piss poor job of capturing this so the largest portion was a bit of let down. Stumbling across all the mini waterfalls upstream was a nice reward for our drive.
Oh this beaut. Turquoise waters. A panorama of a waterfall with one stream highlighted perfectly in the middle for dramatic effect (Thanks, Mother Nature!). A lovely walking path on both sides is joined by a pedestrian bridge where you get to take in how blue this water really is. You’re able to hike down to the water’s edge and just take in all of Goðafoss’ grandeur.
The background of this small, but beautiful waterfall seals the ultimate viewing deal. Snowy peaks and a green mountain range from one angle and then the very distinct Kirkjufell mountain from the other (GAME OF THRONES ANYONE?)
A surprise waterfall not found in our guidebook or on our map! We saw a sign for this guy while driving the Snafellsness Peninsula and decided to take a chance on the bumpy dirt road leading to it. Completely worth it. This was the least busy waterfall of the trip and had only 3 other people milling about. We scaled the side of it for fun and were treated to beautiful views of not only Svöðufoss but the the whole peninsula.
9. Hraunfosser and Barnafoss
Last major waterfalls on our last day in Iceland. These patterned falls were fun to watch from across the river, although I’m still completely mystified where the water was coming from. Turquoise blue water against the green countryside made for a beautiful contrast.
Hoping to get an Iceland Part Three blog post in before I’m headed on my next trip (this weekend!!!). I’ll give you a hint on destination – there will be waterfalls.
“We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children.”
The last 30 days.
Where to even begin.
Landed a new job. Quit my old job. Traveled to Iceland for 10 days with two college friends (more on that below). Flew back to Seattle for a weekend that I spent mostly jet lagged. 60 hours after returning from Iceland I flew to the Midwest to train for a week at my new job. Came home for Labor Day weekend and frantically tried to clean and spend time with my roommate/best friend who is moving to Australia. Welcomed my husband home from deployment after 8 months apart. Had one day off – My 26th Birthday! – with the Mr. before starting my job working remotely in my makeshift home office. Spent every second this last week (when not working) with the husband, whilst simultaneously trying to spend all the the time with the roommate who moves out in 3 days and I may not see for a year.
So you could say it’s been…busy. I can honestly say I have had zero time to write or reflect, and it’s been both a blessing and a curse. But I am making the time to blog about this incredible trip to Iceland. Today’s post includes all the logistics so you can plan your own trip to beautiful Ísland.
My college friend asked if I wanted to join her on a road trip around the Ring Road for 8 days. My husband was the most supportive, encouraging person in the world about it. He told me opportunities like that only come around once or twice in a lifetime. Iceland looked incredible from photos, and I had the savings and the PTO. Why not?
I found a great ticket through United, but flew both United and Air Canada*. I had two layovers both directions. I won’t recommend doing it this way. It was a HUGE pain in the ass to go through customs in Canada when I already had to deal with customs in Iceland on the way there and customs in the U.S. on the way back. In both Montreal and Toronto I almost missed my connecting flights thanks to Canada’s immigration and customs. I can’t remember how much direct flights were, but I’d try to keep your connections in The States, if possible.
*Air Canada gives out XXL Kit Kat bars for free on their flight to and from Iceland. I’m not saying you should fly them for this reason, but I had two Kit Kat bars bigger than my face thanks to them.
We camped in a van for 8 days while road tripping around the country. It was about as epic as it sounds. Camper vans and companies that supply them are plentiful in Iceland due to the number of people who drive the Ring Road. My friend booked through CampEasy. The campgrounds in Iceland where you “camp” in your van are also pristine. No outhouses. All flush toilets and fancy sinks and showers and plenty of kaffi. A handful of them even had Wifi, and all came with an amazing view.
We used this incredibly helpful guide as a starting point and then altered it to fit our schedule a little better. I get a deep fulfillment out of planning trips so I took the reigns on mapping our trip out. Our final itinerary was a loose guide on whereabouts we should be ending each day. There is SO much to see in Iceland. I would highly recommend making at least a plan of how far you intend to drive each day. Unless you have 2-3 weeks, I can’t imagine you’ll be able to see all the highlights of the country.
This is the itinerary I landed on for us. We ended up at almost none of the campgrounds I have listed, choosing to drive a little farther or a little less depending on how tired we were each day. You do not have to make your campground reservations in advance and I honestly wouldn’t advise it. There were so many campgrounds and for the most part, this updated NatGeo map* has them listed.
*It DID least us astray twice, listing campgrounds that were no longer there. For those moments, make sure ONE person has a working phone.
Iceland can be fairly expensive. It’s an island in the middle of nowhere. Pretty expected.
- Prepare to spend a hefty amount on groceries, and even more if you intend to dine out. We only ate breakfast out once and dinner out twice. We grabbed beers at local places twice as well. Otherwise, we loaded up at the Bonus grocery store three times. Enough for 2-3 days of meals and snacks with the little fridge we had in the camper van. Convenience stores are located throughout the Ring Road and always have hot dogs, ice cream, and candy so you won’t starve – even if you do run out of of groceries and/or can’t find a restaurant in the middle of nowhere.
- We each bought a bottle of alcohol duty-free at the airports because we were warned alcohol is expensive in country. Those lasted us for the duration of the trip
- This is technically Europe and they’ll occasionally charge you to use public restrooms. Be prepared. And if it says “coins only”, they mean it. Even if you wave a more expensive bill in their face because you have to pee so bad. Icelanders won’t be impressed.
- You can use your credit cards everywhere. The only time I even truly needed coin/cash was for the bathrooms a few times. It is always fun to get a bit of cash from the country you’re visiting, but no need to go crazy. Even the campgrounds take card.
- The views are free. The waterfalls, the continental divide, the glaciers, the icebergs, the geothermal areas, the black sand beaches, the volcanic areas, the hikes, etc. All of it. Free.
- What costs money are the hot springs and geo-thermal pools. You can drop anywhere from $8 – $80. The Blue Lagoon and comparable hot springs will be the most expensive and local city pools will be the least. And don’t gape or roll your eyes about swimming in a country that far north of the equator, because the swimming was one of my FAVORITE parts of Iceland.
The Fun Part
Here’s a small peek into some of my favorite sights over our 8 days of explorin’. One of the most jaw dropping places I have ever visited.
Iceland | Part Two will be all about Waterfalls & What to Pack. Hope to have that post together in less than a month from now 😉
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
We’ve officially hit the 7 month mark and besides very vague references in a few posts, I’ve basically avoided this topic altogether on my blog.
Why? Well, I cope best with distraction. I don’t particularly want to remind myself of his absence, or the low moments where I physically ache because I miss him so much.
With that said, I do believe in being authentic in this space. I think I’ve managed to get through the past 7 months pretty damn well. (M – if you read this and disagree, just lie for my few readers OK? ;)) I’ve found joy in personal passions like travel and writing, and have had the BEST support system to lean on throughout the entire process. Women, including myself, have a habit of not giving themselves credit where credit is due, so I won’t go so far to say I couldn’t have done it without other people. But having my best friend as my roommate, calling my mom & dad, texting my sisters, and taking trips with some of my closest friends has made it exponentially easier.
Of course, it’s not quite over either. But I’m feeling confident enough to share how I’ve completely smashed this deployment, and how you can too.
These tips could also go towards a spouse’s extended work trip or a career change that results in different cities, etc. Just don’t tell a military spouse it’s “basically the same thing”
if you value your life.
How to persevere through a spouse’s deployment: an unofficial, slightly sarcastic, biased guide
- Have or get a full time job that sucks up all your time, energy, anger, and soul. Every moment you could spend being miserable about your spouse half way across the world, you’ll instead be far too frustrated about work and inundated by monotonous spreadsheets to even give them a second thought.
2. Plan trips with savings from #1. Plan a bunch of trips. Yep, keep planning. Add another weekend trip that month. Why not got there too? Now try and work out how you’ll have the PTO to take them all, how to budget like a mad man to afford them all, and plan intricate details for each day. This will keep you busy for days.
3. Marathon all the Netflix shows your spouse would never watch with you. Teen angst dramas like The OC? I’ll just power through that twice, thank you. Throw in some rom-coms and tear jerkers to really drive this one home. Anything they would sit on their phone playing Candy Crush during, you watch the shit out of that.
4. Somehow manage to time the deployment around your best friend/roommate’s schedule, so you have 1) someone living with you to listen to all your angst and 2) someone to ALSO hear any strange night noises. Make sure said person is also the best company for a day hike or an entire day spent at a winery.
5. Send care packages, at least once a month. Ask your family to join in on it too. Send texts with too many emojis. Send pictures of your smiling face. Cheer your spouse on. It’s easy to forget because you are “struggling” without them, but you are the one who still gets all the amenities of your day-to-day life. You can call for a pizza or grab a beer or get on a flight for a vacation or jump in your car and drive. Try to brighten their day, any way you can.
6. Join a gym with classes where coaches tell you what to do. Bonus points if parts of the workout involve med ball slams, battle ropes, deadlifts, or burpees. Basically, anything that you can either throw or get so sweaty you become disoriented and forget you have a spouse deployed.
7. Get a couple of great work friends who suggest happy hour often. No distraction is as good as a third margarita on a rooftop in downtown Seattle. Exhibit A:
8. If the deployment falls in the summer months, work on your tan. There are few things in life as instantly gratifying as tan lines after an hour or two spent reading in the sun.
9. Re-read the entire Harry Potter series. This one requires no explanation. It’s Harry Potter. Of course you should re-read it when you have some spare time.
11. Make your feminist self proud and mow the lawn, trim the weeds, change that weird LED lightbulb on the back porch that went out the week he left, troubleshoot vehicle issues, and if you’re REALLY FEELING TOUGH put together furniture – all on your own. You’ll cuss a lot and maybe even cry once or twice, but you’ll still have the dignity of not begging someone to do it for you.
10. Go out into nature. For more than just a tan. Hike. Run. Kayak. Swim. Enjoy the fresh air. Remind yourself that this deployment is temporary, and honestly so are you. The world will be here so much longer than all of us. Be humbled by that. Take a minute to realize how insanely short 8-9 months is in the grand timeline of existence.
12. Tell your spouse you love them, every single chance you get. Whether it’s on WhatsApp or through an email chain you just keep responding to without an answer or you write it down 7x in a letter you send each week. Say I love you.
13. Plan an epic post deployment trip that includes a beach and drinks with umbrellas. This is one of the only moments on my blog I’ll tell you not to use Airbnb. Get a nice hotel. Make that concierge plan your day. Let housekeeping clean for you. Order room service. You’ve f**king earned it.
14. Plan an epic outfit, hair, makeup for the day you get to be reunited and picture the moment in your head one zillion and ten times.
15. This last tip is TBD. I’ll get you an update on this one once he’s back in my arms.
“It has made me better, loving you.”
– Henry James
It is finally August. I can hear a collective groan from anyone still in school or in the northern states where our summers are brief and fleeting, but I get my husband back soon y’all. I can’t wait for summer to be over this year.
I’ve been stay as busy as possible lately to help the days fly by. From weekend trips to reconnecting with good friends to a healthy mix of both. Just over a week ago for my best friend’s 25th birthday – three of us gals went to Victoria, British Columbia for an epic girl’s weekend to celebrate.
Victoria is a gorgeous, modern city at the tip of Vancouver Island with trendy restaurants, adorable shops, and a European flair. I already am hoping The Mr. would be up to revisit in the fall because there was so much I didn’t get to see in our two-and-half days there.
This city is in Canada, so make sure you have a passport.
As mentioned above, Victoria is on an island. The only way to get there is by way of water or by air. Commercial flights, sea planes, cruises, or ferries. Technically, you can “drive” if you’re willing to “drive” your vehicle on to a ferry. Coming from the Tacoma, Washington area – it made the most sense for us to take the Coho ferry line out of Port Angeles, Washington. We drove from Tacoma to Port Angeles, found a lot to park our car, and then walked on.
This was also the most inexpensive method. $18.50 one way, or $37.00 round trip.
The ferry has beer and wine, so feel free to start your weekend right once you board with a nice plastic cup of bubbly. The ferry ride takes about 90 minutes. It drops you off right in downtown Victoria at the bustling waterfront.
If you’re not using Airbnb yet, please do yourself a favor and make an account. More often than not, Airbnb saves money and gives you a more authentic experience wherever you’re travelling. Marko’s 3rd floor apartment in Victoria’s Old Town was the perfect place for our girl’s weekend.
- – Restaurants, shops, bars, and breakfast joints lined the street the apartment was on and we could see the entrance to Fan Tan Alley from our window.
- – Marko was also the most accommodating host. Our ferry got in earlier than check in time and on our day of departure left later than check out time, and he allowed us to use the apartment as long as needed on both ends.
- – The apartment was spacious and perfect for 3 (or 4) of us with two in the bed and one on the full pullout futon.
- – Full kitchen and bathroom, etc.
- – I’d recommend it for the location alone. Very easy, safe walk home after enjoying the nightlife in Victoria.
- Visit British Columbia’s Parliament building
The building and grounds of Parliament are so beautiful, it’s worth at least walking around and snapping a few photos. The three of us wanted to know more about the history, so we did the free guided tour as well. The inside of the building is stunning. Not a single ornate detail was missed in the architecture or artistry of this building. Definitely worth the 40 minute tour.
2. Check out the Empress (and indulge in high tea if you’re feeling fancy)
The Empress is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen a part from maybe The Plaza in New York City. It also comes with a hefty price tag for both its rooms and its Afternoon Tea. We opted to not do tea here. It was $75 a person. I’m sure it’s more than worth it, but we were eating out for every meal and getting drinks all weekend so we opted to save money with a different, cheaper tea room (see below!).
3. Or save money and do High Tea at the Venus Sophia Tea Room instead
The Venus Sophia Tea Room is located in Victoria’s China Town and it was ADORABLE. We did the afternoon/high tea.
4. Check out China Town and Fan Tan Alley
So many little fun restaurants and shops in Victoria’s China Town and Fan Tan alley
5. Explore the shops along Government Street (& maybe grab a drink at a pub like Irish Times)
6. See Parliament at night
7. Take a water taxi to Fisherman’s Wharf and explore the cute water homes/restaurants
Victoria’s food scene is unreal. It has the second highest restaurants per capita in North America (after San Francisco). My recommendations are simply based off where we went. There were plenty of places we couldn’t get seats or walked by and wished we weren’t so damn full. This is in the order I was the most excited about the food and/or drinks:
- Veneto Tapas Lounge (Get the duck poutine & ask the waitress for a cocktail recommendation)
- 10 Acres Commons (The bartenders here were extra lively, and generous with their pours. Tread carefully.)
- Jackson’s Ice Cream Float
- Milestones Bar & Grill
- Irish Times Pub
- El Furniture Warehouse
- Little Jumbo Restaurant & Bar
- The Drake
- Darcy’s Pub
The birthday girl enjoying a beer at The Drake (on the same street as our Airbnb!)
And of course, we ordered poutine as often as possible.
10/10 recommend a weekend trip to Victoria if you have any interest in food, a trendy urban waterfront city, or want a little taste of Britain. It was such a fun weekend.
Anything I’d do differently?
- – Bring a roller bag for your luggage because unless you’re staying at the Empress, you’ll be walking along the streets to/from your hotel with that duffel on your shoulder.
- – Maybe take some time to check out the British Royal Museum or rent kayaks or paddle boards. These suggestions come down to timing and company.
- – Finally, I would not recommend drinking so much rosé your last night out, you spend the last day in your Airbnb glued to the couch or toilet until you have to ride a ferry back home 🙂
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt”
Until next trip,