Great Britain Adventure: Days 5-7

It’s been a rough few days. Ever since I learned that Trump was elected, I’ve felt stunned. I respect our election process, but I’m heartbroken over this outcome. I feel hurt and abandoned and angry and scared. I know this horror story is going to be on the forefront of my mind for a while, but sometimes, you need to take a break from it all, practice some self-care, and find some healthy distractions. For me, that means doing yoga, watching Gilmore girls, talking to friends, and… reliving the incredible trip to Great Britain that I had this summer.

With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and wrap up the last 3 days of our trip in one blog post. It’s going to be a long one so grab a cup of coffee or tea and get comfy. Here goes…

Continue reading

Great Britain Adventure: Edinburgh, Scotland!

The first thing you need to know about our experience in Edinburgh is this: Scotland is usually cold and gray and dreary. It often rains. We were prepared for a chilly, gray day.

Instead, we got this:

Edinburg Castle

The weather was BEAUTIFUL and warm and sunny, and everyone was in an extra joyful mood because of it. Bret and I got to spend half the day with a local who was a friend of a new friend we met on our tour, and he was completely in awe of the weather, too. Everyone was eating ice cream cones and lounging outside. All this is to say, my Edinburgh experience was not typical. Continue reading

Great Britain Adventure: Bus Drives to Edinburgh!

We spent most of Day 2 on the bus traveling to Edinburgh. When we first looked at this trip’s itinerary, we were most excited about visiting Edinburgh (and we loved it so much!) but the journey there was grueling. I mean, we were chilling on a bus listening to music and talking so it wasn’t awful, but it was long. The drive was still a great experience in itself, though, because we made several incredible sightseeing stops along the way including:

Hadrian’s Wall. Hadrian’s Wall was constructed in 122 AD to defend the Roman province. Real history, y’all! That wall is nearly 2,000 years old.IMG_3905

Continue reading

Great Britain Adventure: Cambridge & York

Hello! Thank you to everyone who has expressed kind, encouraging words over the loss of my Europe photos. I wish I could say I’m over it, but, clearly, it’s taking me a while to get these out. I wrote about our first day in the UK before the dreaded factory reset, and I keep meaning to write about the rest of our trip, but every time I start to compose another recap, I think about a lost photo that I want to include, and then I feel sad, and angry, and then I don’t feel like writing anymore. It’s a pointless cycle that must end. So, never fear, Day 2 (Day 1 of our official tour) is here!  I can share my experiences on this trip without an endless photo reel. Let’s work with what I’ve got…

After spending the night in London, we found our bus tour easily in the morning. I felt nervous and excited, but also relieved knowing we were in the right place. We started talking with fellow passengers on the bus, and Bret and I were delighted to discover that we were the ONLY Americans in the whole group. There were a few Canadians, but everyone else was from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines, …all over. And there was a huge age range as well: 17 to 74! When the bus started rolling, I couldn’t help but smile because our adventure was officially underway!

Continue reading

New York to London

One of my favorite things about our trip to Great Britain was all of the political conversations I had with my new friends from all over the world. I felt like I’d heard plenty of perspectives on American politics here in the states, but hearing how other countries talked about our education system, gun violence, and healthcare was a really fascinating point of discussion.

I especially loved talking about top political issues in other countries. It was humbling, for one thing, because I realized that even in my own attempts to diversify my media sources there were so many things I didn’t know much about, like the Philippines newly-elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has being called “the Donald Trump of the East,” how English is a national language in Hong Kong (and how you definitely do not equate Hong Kong with China), and then, the many reasons for and against Brexit: Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. And to think that I had so many real political conversations with new friends – FRIENDS – who live in each of these places over a span of a week. It’s such a privilege.

Continue reading

Great Britain Adventure | 2016

I’ve wanted to travel to Europe forever.

I’ve dreamed of visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany. Backpacking. Exploring. I’d hoped to study abroad in college, or find a summer job overseas, but that didn’t happen.

There’s always been an obstacle: lack of money or lack of vacation days. But in January, when Bret and I talked through some our hopes for 2016, we returned to our Europe dream and asked ourselves IF NOT NOW, WHEN?! So I did some research, found a reasonable tour, and booked it.

Passport

Continue reading

How to Survive 24 Hours in an Airport 3/3

Alright. Considering I’ve been to Chicago and back for another work trip since I started writing about this Dallas airport mishap, I think it’s time to finish.

So after being grounded because of a storm, and then having to spend the night in Dallas, I was confident that I would make it home on my newly booked afternoon flight.

After spending the night in a hotel, I woke up feeling happy and well-rested. I ate a complimentary breakfast, asked for late check out, and started teleworking from my hotel desk. The morning was going swell …until I found out that Tallahassee was experiencing a flash flood and Tornado Warning. Bret texted me to let me know he was home and taking care of the cats, in fact, he was trapped in our bathroom with both of them for the duration of the Tornado Warning. I missed him, and I wanted to get home, so I hoped the weather would pass soon.

I caught the free shuttle to the airport at noon. I had three hours before my flight so after I went through security, I was looking for a good place to eat. I couldn’t find anything with quality vegetarian options in my terminal, but by now I really had this non-alphabetical tram memorized (seriously – I’d explained it to newbies multiple times). When I realized my gate didn’t have any good veggie options, I remembered a Bennigan’s in D, so I hopped on the tram for the 724th time:

20141014_122620 20141013_165254

And ended up getting a really yummy salad:

20141014_120156

I’d hoped everything would be smooth and normal while I waited for my flight.

Instead, things were weird and disorganized. Other flights were delayed. There were multiple gate changes. One pilot and flight attendant were confused about what plane they were getting on and where they were flying to. At some point there was a mechanical problem and a plane had to de-board. When they made it back to the waiting area, there was an annoucement about having to go to another terminal to board another flight and that they could board with their photo ID if they lost their boarding passes.

I struck up a conversation with other passengers who had been waiting to get home for 24 hours as well. Most of them were in good spirits. When I realized how many people were flying standby and waiting for a seat, I was glad I booked when I did. Everyone who waited on the flight last night couldn’t get a spot on this flight because it was already full. I was just so grateful to have a ticket with a seat number on it.

When it got close to time for me to board, I really thought my flight was going to get delayed.  All the signs were there: an unstaffed gate, the crackle of the announcement speaker with no annoucement to follow, and then the flight disappeared from the flight board. I was preparing to be disappointed. There’s nothing you can do. Stay calm. You will be home eventually.

I was clearly worried, though. So much so that I literally cut my hand open while trying to open a water bottle that I had bought for my flight. It would not open. I took it back to the store where I’d purchased it and said it was “defective” but the guy in line behind me was able to open it. Great. I still had a napkin wrapped over my bleeding hand.

Clearly, stress was getting the best of me. It worked out, though. Our plane arrived and we were allowed to board. It was a small plane and I felt spoiled rotten to have one of those seats on the “one” row — it doubled as a window AND aisle seat 🙂

When I sat on my seat, though, it leaned forward and the whole cushion came out. Something was wrong. I tried to fix it, but I noticed a little piece was missing, and then I noticed the other seats had little straps that mine did not have. I thought about saying something to a flight attendant, but I realized that this was the ONLY seat on the plane that wasn’t taken. It was my only way home. So, I said absolutely nothing.

20141014_165726

See the bandaid? Don’t worry. That’s from my water bottle, not the seat.

And then, within only a few minutes, we were up in the air.

20141014_153335

 

I loved being able to see the shadows on the ground from all these little puffy (storm-free) clouds:

20141014_162632

I could not have been happier to see that Tallahassee “skyline” in the distance:

20141014_165655

I made it 🙂 I was so happy to home. And now I’m even happier because I don’t have any more trips planned in 2014. Let the most wonderful time of the year begin…

Pre-Travel Anxiety

Prepping for travel makes me nervous. No matter how many times I’ve gone on a work trip or even long-distance solo drive, I question if I’m really “ready.” I feel nervous and uneasy…. it’s like I’ve forgotten that I do this ALL THE TIME.

I told Bret I think I have pre-travel anxiety. It bugs me for a couple of days before the trip. While I’m sorting out all my work outfits, packing my suitcase, and filing away my boarding passes, I FEEL a twinge of, well, panic. My thoughts swirl around in my mind until they’re tangled together in a whole string of crazy: Am I forgetting something important? Where is my badge? Did I pack the right shoes? Do I have bandaids in case my shoes give me blisters? Do I have my phone charger? Ohmygosh Sadie destroyed my iPod headphones…HOW AM I GOING TO FLY WITHOUT MY IPOD?! Those are normal(ish) concerns, I think.

But that’s just the start of it.

velveeta-5I also worry… Is my poor precious perfect little cat going to be okay while I’m gone? Sadie, too? Have I neglected the cats today? Should I buy the cats some new treats before I leave? What about Bret? Should we go grocery shopping together before I leave? Should I make him some pasta salad? Does Bret even like pasta salad? Do I have enough outfits? Did I pack the right shoes? What if I get a headache this week? Do I have migraine medicine? What about granola bars for me to eat during breaks? OH NO WE ARE OUT OF GRANOLA BARS…

…as if granola bars are some scare necessity that aren’t available at every airport, drug store, and probably even in my hotel…

What is this craziness?!

I know some people have racing worried thoughts every day, but I don’t except for right before I travel. I think, to a degree, these kinds of travel-related worries are normal. I wish I didn’t feel this way, though. Lately, I’m wondering if I’m REALLY worried about Bret and the cats and granola bars or if I’m displacing my worries. Is there something else about being away from home that makes me uneasy?

I’ve tried to figure out the source of my travel anxiety.

planeThe first time I ever flew alone was in 2010. I was visiting my [then] boyfriend in Boston, and I flew home to Richmond by myself. I had a direct flight with JetBlue. I had my own little TV to watch. I was served complimentary soda and cookies. Best of all, when I landed in Richmond, my mom was waiting for me. Sounds easy enough, right?

I smile when I consider how terrified nervous I was about this experience.

I was anxious about going through security. I was questioning my ability to find the right gate. I wondered who I’d be sitting next to for two hours. I was scared, and I was filled with relief and pride with each little milestone: I boarded the plane, I found my seat, I buckled my seat belt. I may have relaxed for a while up in the air, but believe it or not, my body filled with nerves again when I landed in Richmond and didn’t know where to go. “Follow the signs to baggage claim” my mom told me when I called her.

If you’ve never done it, traveling alone sounds scary, but now I’m a pro, and this first flight was a big confidence booster.

…And thank goodness!

I never would have guessed it, but one year after that first solo flight, I’d be living by myself in Washington, D.C., taking the metro to work every day, and flying all over the country for work. Alone. I was pretty nervous about my first work trip to Denver, but I made it through. I didn’t need to call my mom for directions when I landed. Instead, I hailed my own cab, checked into my own hotel, and found my way downtown on foot to the conference. A couple months later, I was flying up to Boston for work. Then to Clearwater for work. Flying alone wasn’t a big deal anymore because my boyfriend [now husband] was living in Florida, and I flew down to see him every few weekends.

IMAG3761Flying doesn’t intimidate me anymore, but the pre-travel anxiety is as real as ever.

Today, I’m flying to D.C. for a work retreat. Like, right now! (I wrote this post on Saturday and scheduled it to post on Monday while I’m up in the air). By the time you’re reading this, I’m well on my way. After I land, I’m taking a metro over to my hotel where I’ll be staying on my own for a few days and commuting to the office for a week. I’m looking forward to being in the office and catching up with friends and colleagues. Next week, I’m going to California to give a presentation. Then, in a few more weeks, I’ll be flying to Chicago for our Annual Meeting. It’s old hat now, I guess.

Still, as I’m writing this on Saturday, I’ll tell you that I’m feeling uneasy about the experience. I’m not nervous about the flight, or the public transportation, or the hotels, or anything specific really. For the most part, I relax on the plane (unless it’s unusually bumpy – then I grip tight on the armrests). I’m confident in my ability to find a cab, read signs, and/or ask for directions when necessary. And even though I miss Bret, I sleep like a baby in my own hotel room. I try to remind myself of these things and assure myself I’ll be okay.

But why? Where do these fears come from? I don’t know, but I’ve decided that something about the idea of leaving home alone bothers me. The idea of it. And then I’m fine. Honestly, once I’m on my way, I’m good. I’m okay.

Here’s how I manage:

  1. ONE WEEK BEFORE I LEAVE For now, try to keep my pre-travel anxieties under control by making excessive packing lists and writing out my schedule so I don’t wind up wondering if I should go back to the grocery store for granola bars the night before my flight.
  2. A COUPLE DAYS OUT I over-prepare. I write down the hotel address on a piece of paper and make sure it’s with me the day of in case my phone dies and I can’t find an outlet. And I write and journal and try to remind myself that I feel this way often, but the trips are worth it, and everything always turns out great.
  3. WHEN I FEEL ANXIOUS This usually hits the hardest about 48 hours out. I keep calm by chunking everything into manageable steps and talking myself through the scenarios: Can I manage the ride to the airport? Sure. Can I stand in line to go through security? Yeah. Can I find my seat on the plane? Of course. And if there are things I’m not comfortable with, like whether I should take a cab or public transit to my hotel, I check out the options before.

And this is perhaps the most helpful step for some reason: I FOCUS ON LIFE POST-TRAVEL. When I keep thinking about leaving, I’ve also found that it helps to think about coming home and all the post-trip things to look forward to. After these three trips, it will be my FAVORITE time of the year and I can look forward to:

  • Pumpkin carving, apple cider, and Hocus Pocus coming on TV
  • Food & Wine Festival at Epcot
  • Writing in my Grateful Jar every day
  • The 2014 Jingle Bell Run (this year we’re calling it the Jingle Bell Stroll)
  • My sister is coming to visit meeee we’re going to drive around and look at Christmas liiiights
  • Seeing all my cousins and grandparents at Christmas Eve

I feel better already 🙂 …Although, still not 100% better. Thanks for reading my pre-travel anxiety inter-monologue. If you have any other recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Cruising 2014 | Day 5

May 29, 2014 |  George Town, Grand Caymam

THE BEST DAY.

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog! I have plenty of excuses: I helped train someone to take over my old  job, I started a new job, I spent a week training in D.C., I was away this weekend, and now I’m getting geared up for a work trip to San Francisco. But, you know, I can make excuses all day or I can carve out an hour each day to work on a blog post. I don’t want to give up on these updates, and I want to remember how wonderfully relaxing this trip was. So, I’m back!

Looking back, Day 5 was our favorite cruising day. It started off with a fantastic breakfast. We ordered room service: eggs, hashbrowns, a roasted tomato, a fruit platter, a pastry platter, coffee and orange juice all for a grand total of $0.00. Yep. Room service is so convenient (you can order by phone, TV, or hanging the knob on your door!) and there is no charge, although we tip.

DCIM103SPORT

We decided to do room service instead of a sit-down or buffet breakfast because instead of docking right next to a pier and walking off the ship at our leisure like we had been doing for the past two days, at Grand Cayman, everyone had to take tender boats from the cruise ship to shore. We were warned that can take up to 45 minutes. We weren’t scheduled to dock until 8, and we were supposed to meet for our excursion at 8:45, so we wanted to get one of the first boats over.

The tender was fast, simple, and enjoyable enough. I wondered if I would feel sea sick from being on this tiny boat, but I didn’t. It was a fun adventure and we got to chat with some other first time cruisers.

DCIM103SPORT

We knew we had to look for a yellow tent, and friendly people were there to help direct us and check our tickets to confirm we were in the right place. We were there by 8:30, so we had plenty of time. It was hot and overcast early in the morning.

We had a large group, but our tour guide divided us into groups of about 15-17 people, and each group got it’s own tour bus. Ours was #5. The bus was comfortable and air-conditioned, and the driver had a microphone so we could hear everything he shared about the island. He even made a few stops for us to take pictures. Our tour was scheduled to go to the turtle farm, a Tortuga rum shop, HELL, and then a Stingray City adventure. We did all of those things but not in that order, I think they stagger all of the smaller groups.

Our first stop was in “Hell” and our driver told us that we’d have 15 minutes to check it out. We learned that this area was named “hell” because of the crazy rock formations in that area that formed from acid rain. We snapped a few pictures and then went inside to mail postcards to our families.

DCIM103SPORT DCIM103SPORTDCIM103SPORT DCIM103SPORT DCIM103SPORT

We piled back into the bus and drove to our next stop: the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory. Well, it was just a small store (everything was grander in my imagination) but we got free freshly-baked vanilla and chocolate rum cake samples and they were delicious! There were also free shots of rum available, but we skipped those.

DCIM103SPORT

Our next stop was the turtle farm! We had an hour to spend there and to be honest my first thought was, “I hope that’s enough time!”

It was.

I’d been imagining what this Turtle Farm might look like for months. I imagined a HUGE property with different air conditioned aquariums and “farms” with turtles of different ages. It was well-organized and it seems like they have a great operation going on that helps sustain the turtle population (they farm them each year and then release 90% into the wild), but it was much more, well, unstructured than I imagined. We saw the giant turtles first.

They were climbing all over each other, but they had plenty of space to swim around. We learned a few facts like the males have longer tails, and the females have shorter tails.

After that, we went over to the pools of 1-2 year old turtles. We were allowed and encouraged to pick them up, but I declined. I felt bad for these turtles because there didn’t seem to be enough supervision. Kids could hop into the pools and lift the turtles up. There were plenty of signs around demonstrating how not/to handle the turtle (don’t hold them out of the water too long, they could overheat, lift with two hands under the shell; do not grab their fins). I just wished there was someone there enforcing the rules and monitoring everyone.

DCIM103SPORT

From there we ventured in to see the hatchling and education building. One room had foam boxes full of eggs that were growing:

DCIM103SPORT

We watched the video which explained a lot and convinced me this was a good operation. Other than that, the only things that we had access to were a restaurant and the gift shop(s). I was hungry – we both were – and luckily we found a piece of banana bread we could buy to hold us over.

I was pretty excited but also really nervous about our next stop…

DCIM103SPORT

… 2 hours in Stingray City.

I brought our water shoes so I went ahead and put those on. I thought that would make me feel safe and protect me from their stingers (spoiler alert: you’re only allowed to go in barefoot). So, the back story: fisherman used to clean their fish on this sandbar to avoid mosquitoes. They found lots of stingrays there sunning themselves and staying protected from the sharks in the deeper water. They fed the stingrays some of the left over fish guts, and this essentially domesticated them. Nowadays, you can go out on this sand bar and play with the stingrays. I love animals. I really wanted to do this. But I was scared – especially when they told me I had to go barefoot.

Check out my fake smile:DCIM103SPORT

And then, we just hopped in with the stingrays.

DCIM103SPORT DCIM103SPORT

I was so scared.

I’ll let the video speak for itself, but I was squealing silently every time one brushed up against me: http://youtu.be/2fT5NERv8Wc

Bret was brave and cool and as a cucumber so that made me feel a little more courageous. We both held a female stingray and Bret even kissed her for good luck! Of course, we bought the $40 worth of digital photos they took of us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did it!!!

DCIM103SPORT

The boat ride back was nice and relaxing. The boat wasn’t fancy – but it was functional – and they gave us free water and fruit punch if we wanted it.

We had to wait in a long line to catch the tender back over at 2:45. As soon as we were back, we changed clothes really fast and then made our way up to Johnny Rockets. During “Happy Hour” you can order anything off the menu including milkshakes and sodas for a flat rate of $6/person. I ate way too much (onion rings, fries, tuna melt, vanilla coke, chocolate milkshake) and Bret ate even more! But after skipping lunch, it was a good feeling. We pulled away from the dock while we enjoyed our meal, and it was perfect.

During the rest of the afternoon, we watched some kids try to boogie board on the Flow Rider, we played some ping pong, and then made it back to our room for showers and laziness. We decided to skip formal dinner tonight mainly because we were still SO FULL from Johnny Rockets. Instead, we headed to the Champagne Bar for some delicious cocktails. We talked with another couple who was also on their first cruise, and we really enjoyed talking with the bar tender. We told her about our stingray adventure and she told us about when she had to jump in the water during cruise training.

She gave us each a free drink, and we headed over to the Once Upon a Time Show! This show was fun. The cast sang pop music while acting out parts of popular fairy tales.

After the show we were finally hungry(ish) so we went to Windjammer. I got my usual salad and a roll and added a seafood baked potato. We came back to the room for a few minutes and I considered all the fun things we could do: get the drink of the day in the souvuineer glass, go to the casino, watch adult karoke, go see our pictures, have a nightcap at the Champagne Bar. Well, we did it all. We got the lemonade-y drink of the day. It was very tart. We spent $20 at the casino. We found some of our port pictures.

After that we really fought the urge to be tired.

We went to the coffee shop and each had a coffee. There was a late night white party up at the pool, so we went up there to see the set up. There were fun crazy lights and some people were lounging on the chairs watching a poolside movie. We walked around a bit and then Bret decided he could handle a couple slices of pizza. We went to Sorrentos and shared a few slices. It wasn’t even 11, but I was dragging, so we decided it was acceptable to go to bed.

At the time, we felt like we were going to bed early, but when I consider everything we did that day, I think we had a very full very fun day. I’ll try my best to get Day 6 up this week!

Cruising 2014 | Day 1

It all started back in February.

After our first “pool day” of 2014, Bret took a nap, and I searched for an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. I narrowed the choices down to two cruises and two resorts and after Bret woke up, we weighed the options, and ultimately picked the 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. Best decision ever!

BookingSince that moment, I’d been anticipating May 25, 2014. I’d been looking forward to Caribbean beaches, unlimited pastries and coffee, and endless relaxation and bonding time with Bret. I should preface this by stating that Day 1 was literally the most stressful day of MY LIFE the cruise, so, know it gets better after this.

Day 1: One of our favorite aspects of the cruise was that we could DRIVE to Port Canaveral from our apartment. No flying required; no hotels needed. While I was stoked about this money-saving option, for weeks leading up to our cruise, I had reoccurring nightmares about missing the ship. Our plan was to leave at 7AM and arrive at 11AM. Boarding was scheduled from 11AM-3PM so that gave us some wiggle room should something catastrophic happen.

Something catastrophic happened.

We left early as planned. I’d called my sister (the experienced cruiser) and she gave me cruising tips like: get up early one day and take photos of the ship before it’s crowded! Always take the stairs instead of the elevator! And, if you’re too full for dessert, get it to go! I talked to my mom, too, and she wished us a happy trip. I was feeling good and stoked about our vacation. At this point, we were on track to arrive at 11:30AM.

As we were entered the halfway point of our trip, though, we blew a tire.

flat tire _ 1

It’s really a blur now, but we pulled over to the side of the road, confirmed the tire was flat, and Bret went to work. I can not over-emphasize how impressed I was with Bret’s behavior. He was SO calm. I was tense, but he just moved around carefully and with a purpose, jacked up the car, situated all of his tools, and started unscrewing the lug nuts. He even had a smile on his face! I helped where I could, but I was floundering. Mostly I remember sputtering useless three word sentences like, “Can I help?” and “What is that?” and “Everything is okay.”

I tried to focus on the positive things (flat tire is on the passenger’s side of car, we have all the tools we need, Bret knows he what he is doing…), but I was frazzled. Mostly, I was worried that something was going to fly off the road and hit us. Fortunately, a roadside assistance service truck from State Farm pulled over to help us. It was like a dream! This guy had more tools and a huge flashy sign telling traffic to move over. I was happy that we were no longer alone on the edge of the highway.

When the State Farm guy asked where we were headed, I told him Port Canveral, and he smiled and said, “You have a cruise to catch!” Then, he told me about a horrible graphic accident that caused him to lose his memory. He doesn’t remember his wedding, honeymoon, or the first two years of their marriage. Perspective.That made our flat tire seem like not a big deal. He helped us get the spare situated, but we noticed the spare wasn’t holding air. He said we should go to a service station, but, unfortunately nothing local would be open on a Sunday.

This is where the real panic set in.

He said something like, “maybe try PepBoys?” and my fingers went to work on my phone. I knew I wanted to search for the closest PepBoys, but my brain wouldn’t work. Navigation? Google? Which PepBoys is closest?! I could barely even see my phone in the sun, and I kept typing the wrong keys. I mistyped “Pep” three times. Meanwhile, my mouth said something weird like,

“Do you think we should just leave our car here and get a cab?”

At this point, Bret was on the phone with the nearest Pep Boys and confirming that they were, in fact, open.

Our State Farm guy pumped the tire full of air and said that should hold us for the EIGHTEEN MINUTES it would take us to get to the next town. Those were the longest 18 minutes of my day. In the car, I locked eyes with the GPS and kept telling Bret, “4.3 miles. 3.8 miles. 3.3 miles.” Oh, I hate even thinking about this.

When we finally made it to PepBoys I was relieved, but NO ONE could move fast enough for my sanity. The mechanic was nice and sympathetic and promised to get us back on the road as soon as possible. The guy at the front desk wanted to chat. That would have been much healthier way to pass the time, but I was trapped in my erratic worries. I felt miserable. I felt like pacing. But, don’t worry, I just sat still and tapped my foot like a crazy person. Meanwhile, Bret took this picture.

Repair shopI texted my sister who kept me calm. (Aren’t sisters the BEST?! Mine is). She reminded me that we still had plenty of time. I talked to an 89-year-old man who lost his wife a few years ago. All he said was that he really missed her. Again, perspective. We are in a happy, healthy phase in our life and if for some reason this vacation didn’t work out the way we planned, we still had each other.

Fortunately, they had some tires in stock. Bret had to decide which to buy, because when he asked me, I was incapable of forming logical sentences. I’m pretty sure I said something like, “Well it’s one tire…” which means nothing. Fifteen minutes later, they got the tire on and they also fixed our spare tire just in case. Of course, then they wanted to talk about a must-do restaurant in the Florida Keys…(?) Next time, guys.

Our new ETA was 12:50PM, but we hit traffic. I felt like crying, but I held it together. I kept thinking all-I-want-is-to-get-on-that-boat. We pulled across the bridge and in view of the port shortly after 1:00PM, and I felt instantly better. The parking ticket station was broken, people were confused, and cars were blocking each other as everyone tried to drive in different directions. We couldn’t figure out where to park, but at this point, I was calm. I thought, “We’re here. We’re going to make it. What does it matter if it takes us 15 minutes to park?” …and Bret moved into freak out mode, “WHAT IS GOING ON?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! MOVE YOUR CAR!” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I’m sure it was something like that.

The actual entrance to the ship was super well organized. Everyone was in a fantastic mood. I told the woman checking my ID about the our flat tire, and she said next time to just call her! I felt so much better, and by 1:45PM, we were on the ship with an hour to spare! I sent my mom this picture to let her know that, yes, I was safe and happy to be on board even though I had been sweating and covered in grease for the past 4 hours. Look at my cute waterproof SeaPass holder!

arrivalDo I look frantic? Well, I still was, a little. Boy was I happy to lay on that bed for  a few minutes.

We had lunch by the window and – you guys – Bret declared right then and there that he loved cruising. Unlimited buffet with a pretty view of the water? He was hooked. We had a really nice lunch: potatoes, eggplant and mushrooms for Bret, and salad and tuna for me.

lunchAfter lunch I felt a bit better. We walked around and explored the ship’s promenade, found our muster station, attended the First Time Cruisers meeting, returned to our room, got our luggage, and then headed down to a muster station for the real drill which was HOT but painless. At this point, I was telling myself, NOW YOU REALLY SHOULD FEEL RELAXED, but I still didn’t – not quite.

We sat on our balcony, changed for dinner, and were escorted to a cute little window table for two. Dinner was delicious! I ordered seafood spaghetti and Bret had steak and a baked potato. I loved that there were no prices or extra charges – everything was included with the vacation we’d already paid for.

After dinner we relaxed in the room a bit and ordered ROOM SERVICE from our TV: two mixed drinks and some fruit. We ate on our balcony. And, gosh, that glass balcony was just perfection.

room serviceAnd then we decided to do some more ship exploring. I was happy to be outside in the cool dusk up on the deck, but I think at this point I was just plain exhausted. I remember feeling like we walked up and down so many stairs. We had a great walk around the full-size outdoor track, though, and we saw the movie playing on the big screen on the pool deck below us. Bret finally got his first piece of pizza from Sorrento.

When we went back to the room a couple hours later, all I wanted was a relaxing shower, but the shower was awful and sprayed directly in my face. I couldn’t breathe! (Bret later showed me how to adjust the shower head so it would not spray me in the face. It’s detachable).

Shower_2Even though our driving experience was rough, I was excited to be on the ship. And if I didn’t need a vacation before, I did now. I know you’re probably not sold on a cruise after this post, but I promise, every day after this one was MUCH better.

Cruising 2014

DCIM103SPORTBret and I didn’t take a traditional honeymoon after we got married. Instead of taking a romantic trip to a tropical paradise, we spent half a week in Las Vegas at a conference with several of our colleagues. It was a good decision at the time, but we promised each other that we would take a REAL honeymoon vacation in the near(ish) future.

Well, 14 months later, I am thrilled to share all about the 7-night Western Caribbean cruise we took this past week! We had an amazing time and are both now completely obsessed with cruising.

We both journaled throughout the trip and collectively snapped over 600 pictures so I’m going to split our vacation recap into several blog posts. For now, I just wanted to say that we had a really, really, really amazing time and if you haven’t cruised before or if you’re not sure that cruising is for you, I’m here to tell you it’s the best idea ever!

Here are a few teasers:

1. We saw AMAZING shows on our ship including one at the ice skating rink…DCIM103SPORT

Yep, our ship had an ice skating rink on board along with a rock wall, a putt putt course, and a FlowRider surfing simulator.

2. I got a massage from a stingray! I was terrified but it was worth it for the photographic evidence:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Together, we learned how to make 6 different authentic Mexican salsas in Mexico:

Blog-0293

4. And best of all I did NOT get malaria while in Haiti (heads up, though, if you’re going to be in Haiti around dawn or dusk, malaria precautions are recommended):

DCIM103SPORT DCIM103SPORT

This private Royal Caribbean island was beautiful. Bret and I both think it looks like LOST from a distance.

We wanted to soak in every minute and make lots of memories and I can’t wait to revisit all of them by blogging about our cruise. Check back later this week for more.

I hope everyone had a Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Wilmington’s Future Heartbreakers of America

A couple weekends ago, my sister and I woke up really early and drove several hours to visit my cousin at UNC Wilmington. My sister and my cousin and I are all really close and love each other a LOT, but now that we’re adults, we live and school and work a few hours away from each other. Through our childhood, we have tons of shared memories of Richmond, VA parks and mountain trips and 4th of July’s at Cape Hatteras, but all of those memories involve our whole families and a lot of boy cousins. This is the first time that we’ve spent a weekend together in our adult lives as just the three of us, so it was a big deal.

I consider this first adult cousin weekend a success. We had lots of girl time and got called “future heartbreakers of America” by a random man on the boardwalk. The best part of the trip was getting to explore this beautiful place I’d never even visited before. I love Wilmington. I love that there are palm trees. I love that there is a beach and downtown area within 15 min of each other. I love the weather. I love that there’s an Olive Garden. I love that my baby cousin lives there now. Its perfect.

Continue reading