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There is No Shortage of Joy in My Life

Anything can become normal after 8 months. Even *gasp* traveling the world. I don’t want to take this year for granted though. To fight this feeling, I’m focusing on gratitude this month.

Here are a few things that have brought me joy this year:

  • Waterfall shower in my room in Lisbon
  • JIF peanut butter smuggled from a visiting cousin
  • Smelling Valencian oranges on my walk to work
  • Sunsets and beers in the park at Reigrovy Sady
  • Walking the walls of Dubrovnik
  • Roadside bifana sandwiches apres surf in Portugal
  • Havana Night in London
  • Watching Shakespeare in the yard at The Globe
  • My comfy bed in Mexico
  • Pretzels at the grocery store in Morocco
  • Staying at an English manor in Cotswolds
  • The gold swan at Hot Mess
  • Pasta served out of a cheese wheel
  • Playing card games in a Riad
  • Best $6 chicken eaten outside in Prague
  • Bogota Zumba instructor
  • Picnic on the second lawn
  • Drinking champagne on a double decker bus in London
  • My first Night Tube ride!
  • Sunday roast canal side
  • Taking a mid afternoon siesta in a Spanish park in November
  • Lulo juice
  • Free espresso at Galerias
  • Learning to salsa in Spain
  • Walking through the streets of the Chefchauen
  • Floating along the Vlata in an old fashioned car boat
  • Drinking Pimm’s Cups while watching a polo match
  • BBQ on a back porch in Lisbon
  • Sushi in Rabat
  • Piri Piri sauce
  • Lounging on the bow of boat for hours in the Adriatic Sea
  • Mint tea and cookies at 7AY
  • Bowling in Morocco
  • Avocado Toast at Coffee Room & Bluebell
  • NYE at Andres Carne de Res
  • Octopus in Hvar
  • Breakfast Tamales
  • Floating in an inflatable ring
  • Lounging on the lawn of K10
  • Careem drivers
  • Paella and Sangria
  • “Bacon” by Nick Jonas
  • Hot showers
  • Michelatas and Tacos
 Happiness is not a continual state of bliss. A life should be measured by how many moments of joy you can find.
There is no shortage of joy in my life.

 

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Mexico

Mexico City is the shit.

The Food: Tacos, quesadilla, enchiladas, flautas, tortas. My favorite taco of the month was from Chetito. So so so good. A bit fancier than most taco places but still really inexpensive and MUY RICO. Another top contender was El Caminero. The spicy sauce made all the difference. 10/10. The abundance of street carts was also crazy! I passed at least 25 different carts on my walk to work every morning. The smells were amazing if you were hungry, and a bit overwhelming if you were not feeling 100%.

The Dranks: Mezcal. Whenever you taste just say it is “smoky”. Tequila. My ultimate favorite. Corona tastes so much better here! There is even a bar with it on tap (Salon Corona). I also just discovered the magic of  Micholatas – beer with lime juice in the bottom and a salt rim. Sometimes chili makes an appearance. It makes a cheap beer (Tecate, Dos Equis, Victoria) taste like a cocktail. Upgrade!

Lucha Libre: For Euston’s birthday a big group of us got tickets to see a fantastical night of wrestling and drama. What a hoot. We grabbed our tickets, masks, capes, and 1 liter beers and sat 5 rows away from the ring. I’ve never laughed so hard in a long long time. There was a Blue Panther, there was a Lil Vinny who was all oiled up and wearing short shorts, Santa even made an appearance. I want to be a luchadore when I grow up.

The Pinatas: I love them all. There were pinatas as big as a car and pinatas as small as mouse. My dream was to have a pinata party and the entrance fee was one pinata. Eventually the apartment would be filled to the brim with pinatas.

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Teotihuacan: We took a daytrip to Teotihuacan a.k.a. the “City of the Gods”. Sor kewl! The pyramids were huge! And it was so fun to walk among then and imagine the Aztecs going about their daily business. The steps were very steep and tiny – not for the faint of heart. At some points I had to mimic the mountain goat and do a little sidestep action to make it up. At the top of the Pyramid of the Moon, I had a great view down the “Avenue of Death” and liked to pretend I was a great and powerful emperor. Maybe without the human sacrificing though.

Sidewalks: The sidewalks were INSANE. Walking around and trying to cross the street is a full time job! On our second day here Cara was almost lost forever when she stepped on the top of a manhole, and it fell right in. Her whole leg was swallowed, but luckily with some quick thinking she recovered and narrowly escaped. DO NOT STEP ON POTHOLES IN MEXICO CITY.

Chinampas: I got the opportunity to volunteer on a farm one Sunday. We drove out to Xochimilco (about an hour from downtown) where there is a network of canals and artificial islands called chinampas which were originally built by the Aztecs. These islands are still used for farming and that’s exactly what we were going to do. We were picked up near a church and guided through a maze of allys and tiny paths to find the canal. We then jumped on the shallow bottomed wooden boat and we were off. We made our way through the canals to find our tiny farm island. It was pretty surreal gliding along on a boat while passing a couple of cows just hanging on their own island. We started to help on the farm (moving dried plants, scooping mud from the bottom of the canal for fertilizer, placing plants in the garden plot). It was an awesome afternoon being in the fresh air and being able to see the results of our hard work. By the end we were all covered in mud. Some more than others (i.e. Mud Brothers).

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Dinner with Abuelas: This was a rough experience but I am glad I went. We were invited to eat at a local grandmothers house and help her cook. I don’t speak much Spanish (YET!), and they didn’t speak any English so there was a bit of a language barrier. I tried so hard to be polite but really had no idea what to do or say or how to help. I felt like a helpless baby when they were serving me. I even ate brain accidentally? Tasted a bit mushy. I was so excited when they asked me my age and I was psyched up and ready for this questions. I confidently answered “viernes cinco”! They looked at me confused, girl you are not Friday 5 years old. Oops. I will never forget to say “veinti cinco” from now on.

Trajineras: Our going away party was my favorite this year! We went back to the canals of Xochimilco, but this time we were on party boats ready to have a great last night in Mexico. We did have a slight hiccup on the way to the canals, though. We had a huge charter bus, which was not friendly to the tiny, tiny streets of Xochimilco. During one especially tight spot, we were about to make it through the turn with inches to spare (after an 18-point turn) when the driver realized we were about to hit a car. After some debating, the driver and a few Broatians jumped out of the van and lifted the car to the side so we could pass. I was sweating bullets the whole time. As we passed down the street, the locals were in their doorways shaking their heads at us. Ay yi yi!! Once we finally made it to the port, we found our party boats! The boats, called trajineras, are fitted with two benches and a table in the middle and are painted in insane neon colors. We boarded our three boats and headed into the canal with a cooler full of Dos Equis, chips, salsa, and some music. We passed many other party boats throughout the night and bought some empanadas from one floating boat, and some corn from another. We also passed a creepy baby doll island. It was a perfect last night!

Gracias por todo CDMX!

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Valencia

Valencia is the best!  It has everything! I’m talking:

  1. THE PARK (a.k.a. Jardi del Turia) There used to be a river running through Valencia but the water was diverted to prevent floods. Through a citizen’s campaign in the 80s, the old river bed was converted to a park. It runs throughout the city and is filled with soccer pitches, orange trees, running paths, and on most days, sunshine.
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  2. The Food. There are so many amazing restaurants here. Delicious tacos, burgers, sushi, pizza, and ramen are never more than a 15 minute walk away. However, the highlight of the month is paella and tapas. The move is to order your paella in the morning and then head to the restaurant around 1:30 to eat your meal and relax in the sunshine with a couple of glasses of Sangria or Agua de Valencia. For tapas, I will always get the potatas bravas, which is basically just cut potatoes with an amazing sauce on top. Every restaurant does them a bit differently and they are all SO GOOD.
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  3. The people. The people here are so COOL. I want to be one of them. They dress very well, they are beautiful, and they seem very relaxed and friendly. I love walking around my neighborhood seeing the older folks out and about, and the families walking together with their trendy strollers on the way to the park.
  4. Siestas. People actually take siestas in the afternoon. Daily naps will always be approved in my book.
  5. Not too many tourists. Luckily there are not too many tourists here which makes this place feel special. It helps me pretend I’m one of the locals going about my daily business.
  6. Buildings. The buildings are so beautiful and remind me a bit of Prague.
  7. Walkable. This city is a great size and I can walk just about anywhere in 30 minutes. I love putting on my Coffee Break Espanol podcast and walking along the palm tree lined streets to head into the workspace.

Honorable Mentions (aka more reasons why Valencia is the best):

  • Valencia orange trees can been seen on every corner
  • The Central Market has everything! Fresh fruits, vegetables, coffee, wine, beer and even an extremely fresh turkey if you need it for a thanksgiving feast
  • Neighborhoods Russafa and El Carmen and unique and have unique restaurants and stores
  • Churros and Caliente Chocolate
  • 6 different Zara stores within walking distance
  • Dogs on leashes everywhere

I day dream about living here again one day. I imagine having a little scooter and zipping around town to meet my friends for an afternoon of paella and sunshine. Or having a family of Spanish children and walking them to the park for a soccer game. Or being an old lady heading through the streets on her way to a card game.

Highlights of the month include:

  • Meera surprising us with a visit! She flew in from London and we had and awesome day eating paella and drinking sangria and catching up. I miss that kid!
  • Taking a siesta in the sunshine in the park.
  • Tacos & Margaritas at La Llorna.
  • Seeing La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It was so huge and the ceiling looked like white paper origami. Also the stain glass created a rainbow of light and was really, really beautiful.
  • Thanksgiving! 40 friends. So much food. A lot of wine. Spilled stuffing. Cozy sweaters. A Thanksgiving day rap. And football!
  • Tapas dinner at Vuevula Carolina.
  • Avocado toast at Bluebell.
  • Learning Salsa and laughing my butt off.
  •  Watching the Marathon runners at KM 40. The runners we so close to the finish, I was so excited for them! I was so inspired I actually went for a run the next day.

 

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How I’ve Changed

It’s been 6 months, but it seems like I’ve lived several lifetimes since I left Madison, WI on May 28. Here are a few ways I’ve changed since leaving on this trip:

  1. I am excited for the future. Before I left on this trip, I was stuck. I had a decent, well-paying job but I wasn’t learning anything new. I worked long hours and I did not get to see the sun during the winter months. I wasn’t meeting new people and the friends I did have were moving away. I had a clear path laid out in front of me, but all I saw for my future was more of the same. Since signing up for this trip, I’ve had plenty to look forward to. First I was excited to meet my friends for the next 12 months. Next it was a side trip to Croatia. Then it was taking a trip to watch polo in the English countryside. Next it was eating Pastel de Nata in Lisbon. There is no shortage of adventure in my life. And as each month comes to a close, I have a whole new city to explore and new adventures to plan. While this crazy schedule will change at the end of the year, I hope I continue to plan adventures and explore whatever city I am in. I once heard that the recipe for a successful life was to have something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. At the very least, I will make sure I always have something to look forward to.
  2. I have a bit of perspective. I understand now how the United States looks like from the other side of the world. From an outsider’s perspective America can be: self-centered, focused on accumulating wealth, focused on spending that wealth, loud, obsessed with comfort, wasteful, sometimes the bad guy. This was hard to realize but I think healthy. The sooner I can accept that we have some issues, the sooner I can try to fix them.
  3. I take risks. I realized before I left on this trip that I was very risk averse. I would stay home instead of going to a party where I only knew a few people. I would not go on dates. I would say no to brunch invitations because I was afraid of being awkward. This person seems so foreign to me now. I make plans and I invite others (sometimes strangers!) I show up to hidden bars on top of parking garages and don’t worry about how I’m going to find it. I say yes when invited to have lunch in a local’s home, despite that fact that I will probably get lost trying to find the house, and despite the fact that I do not speak Arabic or French and they don’t speak English. 90% of life is just showing up. I am so thankful that I’ve gained the courage to step out of my comfort zone.
  4. I am more open and vulnerable. I talk about my dad frequently and bond with others who have lost a parent. I ask for help when I need it. Sometimes I ask for Advil when I had a headache, other times I ask to interview with a friend’s company. Previously I was independent to a fault. I HATED asking for favors and was not happy when favors were asked of me. That was obviously not healthy. It is okay to need help and to ask for it.
  5. I have a clearer path for the future. Exploring different cultures, landscapes, languages, and lifestyles is helping me focus on what I want out of life. I want to have a healthy work/life balance. I want to live in a city with a lot to do. I want to push myself to meet new people and build new relationship. I want to plan adventures and invite others. I want to continue learning.
  6. My appreciation for my family has deepened. I now realize how successful they are and I am so proud of my siblings for being fun, kind, and smart humans. I am so lucky that they like to hang out with me! I am also so grateful for my mom for supporting me on this journey. I am so lucky that she is a strong, independent, caring, and interesting lady. I am so proud that I am 50% Laurie.

I have 6 more months ahead of me. I can’t wait to see what happens on the second half of this journey!

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Morocco

This was a unique month filled with new experiences and being out of my comfort zone. I am so glad I got to go on amazing adventures and experience a country so unlike my own. Living here was by no means easy, but it was worth it. I am especially grateful to the Moroccan people who were so kind and welcoming. Special shoutouts to:

  • Adil who kept us safe on our hike and throughout our trip to Chefchaouen.
  • Every restaurant waiter who had extreme patience when we didn’t speak Arabic or French…or Spanish.
  • Ahmed for introducing us to the heavy metal version of Katy Perry’s Dark Horse.
  • Wafa for generally being a cool badass.
  • 7AY for the delicious lunches.
  • Yassir and family for inviting me to Friday couscous in their home.

Here are a few things I did this month:

  • Showered in a bucket.
  • Had an ocean view apartment.
  • Smoked hookah with my roommate while watching Casablanca.
  • Heard the train station announcements from my bed.
  • Got my first henna tattoo.
  • Did donuts in a Toyota in the desert.
  • Dodged donkey stampedes in the Fes medina.
  • Encountered turtles, stingrays, snakes, and parrots all in one day.
  • Wanted to buy 53 rugs. Refrained.
  • Told a seller that I couldn’t buy his gold faucets because I didn’t have a home.
  • Road a camel in the desert.
  • Got lost in the blue streets of Chefchauoen.
  • Swam under God’s Bridge. It was very cold.
  • Learned how to make Argan oil.
  • Danced and drummed with the Berbers.
  • Drank too much mint tea.
  • Worked in a tent.
  • Slept in the Sahara dunes.
  • Picked up ten bags of trash on the beach.
  • Ate lunch in a gully stream.
  • Cried when my computer broke.
  • Scored a goal in a soccer game against a bunch of Moroccan men.
  • Was washed like a baby in a Hammam.
  • Drank wine and sang 90s songs under the supermoon.
  • Played legos with Mohammad.
  • Ate prickly pear from a road side stand.
  • Rocked the kasbah.
  • Ate WAY too many tagines.
  • Fed a wild monkey in the cedar forest.
  • Bowled less than 80.
  • Picked up my washing machine after it fell over mid-cycle still shaking on the ground.
  • Puked in a car in the Moroccan mountains.
  • Stayed in three fancy riads.
  • Drove 25+ hours in a car.
  • Taught my friends how to play Bupkiss.
  • Almost lost an eye to a pillow allergy.
  • Walked to pick up Dominos because I failed at ordering over the phone.
  • Passed 100+ donkeys on the side of the road.
  • Careemed 9 times in one day.
 It’s been real Morocco. Shukraan!
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My People

We met in the beer gardens of Prague, swam around the islands of Croatia, rode the Night Tube home in London, learned to surf together in Lisbon, and trekked through the mountains of Morocco.

Life is so much better because you are in it. To my Darien family:

Thank you for laughing at my jokes.

Thank you for planning adventures and letting me tag along.

Thank you for celebrating the 4th of July with me on a Serbian barge.

Thank you for butchering the Czech language. Prosim?

Thank you for making travel days *fun*.

Thank you for helping me pretend I’m posh in the Cotswolds.

Thank you for hosting the inaugural pool party.

Thank you for learning to dive in Croatia.

Thank you for grilling out on a Sunday night in Lisbon.

Thank you for giving me a ride in a dingy.

Thank you for helping me eat pasta out of a wheel of cheese.

Thank you for taking me to a jousting tournament.

Thank you for swimming with me to the sea cave.

Thank you for being my roomies, friends, and family on this crazy trip.

I’m grateful to have found you.

 

 

 

 

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Lisbon

LISBON IS THE COOLEST.

It’s got everything: Sun. Sea. Surfing.

I’m talking:

  • Intricate tiles on every building
  • Delicious seafood at every corner
  • Castles
  • Beautiful sunsets every night
  • 3 clouds total for my entire month stay
  • Pretty pretty people
  • 3€ bottles of wine
  • 30 minute train ride to the beach
  • Trams
  • Street Art

Let’s get into details:

Top 3 Restaurants:
  1. A Cevicheria — Ceviche. There is a reason its a regular on Top Chef. Best meal in Portugal. Also there is a giant octopus on the ceiling of the tiny restaurant.
  2. O Prego da Peixaria – Great steak sandwich. Yum sauce. All about that value.
  3. O Amario – Authentic Portuguese food with great Sangria. Eating at 8:30 we were early.
Top 3 Touristy Places:
  1. Pena Palace – Very tacky, very high in the sky. See below to find me looking flawless.
  2. Village Underground & LX Factory – One of our workspaces this month is an old shipping container at Village Underground. Very trendy and cool. Right next door is LX Factory with delicious restaurants and cool shops. A little out of the way though, I walked 45 minutes along the highway to get there. I tried to Uber back but the Uber went a terrible way home and it cost me €10. Super high for Lisbon standards. Fail. I’ll try the bus next time. IMG_6006.jpg
  3. Timeout Market – Top restaurants around Lisbon all have food stalls here. It is a 3 minute walk from my place, extremely convenient and delicious.
Top 3 “Hot Spots”:
  1. Park: A hidden bar on top of a parking lot. V. trendy with an amazing view of the bridge.
  2. Pink Street: I’m going to compare Pink Street to Bourbon Street in the US. The street is literally painted pink and houses about 13 clubs and bars and it doesn’t get going until 1AM every night. The last club closes around 6AM. Fun fact: I’m living on Pink Street this month. It is a great location, but the street is FILLED with people all night long, every night. And as I’m making my way to the workspace in the morning, the bar owners are washing the street down from the previous night’s debauchery. Ear plugs are a necessity this month. IMG_5921.jpg
  3. Barrio Alto: Another drinking hot spot. Here the bars are very tiny and the move is to get your drink and hang out in the street, people watching, avoiding the guys selling dumb souvenirs and roses, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Below is a Barrio Alto illegal corn dog purchase.IMG_6010.jpg
Top 3 Songs:
  1. No Letting Go – Wayne Wonder
  2. Old Pine – Ben Howard
  3. My Way – Calvin Harris
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Top 3 Memories:
  1. My surfing dreams came true. Growing up in Ohio, I somehow identified as a “surfer chick”. I had never attempted to surf or even been to the ocean more than 5 times, but after watching Blue Crush I just knew that was the kind of girl I was. I obviously had a white choker necklace and cut out pictures of Hawaiian surfing chicks to add to my collages plastered to my bedroom walls. I guarantee I had a “Surfer Gal” T-Shirt from Hollister. Choaka Brah!! Back to present day: We woke up super early by Lisbon standards (8AM) and rode in a old white van 45 minutes to the coast. It was foggy as heck and we spent the next 30 or so minutes picking out our wetsuits and struggling into them. We snapped a few sick photos and then started our warm up with a fun game of capture the flag in the sand in our wetsuits. Very tiring but we were ready to surf!! We went through a few exercises and learned the mechanics of doing a take off. Next it was time to jump in the water. I headed out into the foggy surf with my instructor. I was up first and my instructor (probably 16 years old) lined my board up and told me to go. The wave took over and I was able to stand up! Woo. I am officially a surfer! Where is my surfer seal of approval?? After many more attempts and a lot of sea water swallowed I managed to stand up a few more times. It was an awesome day and I can OFFICIALLY say I surfed in Portugal. Check that one off the bucket list!
  2. BBQing on the back porch with a bunch of friends. After missing out on Labor Day in the US it was such a good time to get together with a bunch of friends to grill together on the back porch just chilling and sipping wine in great weather. It was a random group of people, but just made me so happy to be surrounded by happy, funny people.
  3. Watching a Champions League soccer game. We went to support Benefico and it was awesome! Everyone was dressed so well and had their Benefico scarf. It was also crazy that the opposing team (Turkey) was corralled away from the home team fans and surrounded by security. Apparently things can get rowdy! It was also fun that the crowd would cheer every time someone made a semi-respectable play. They were very liberal with their cheering. So encouraging! The only angry cheers were at the refs of course. Benefico was 1-0 the majority of the game, but with literally 1 minute left, Turkey scored to tie it up. Home team was sad, but I was fine with seeing one more goal 🙂

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