Friday, May 27, 2011


We leave in 1 week, 5 days. I have novels to read and discuss, final papers to write and a single final exam to take. I have barely been focusing on any of it. My last paper, though started early, was finished in a fit of last minute writing that went on late into the night and incredibly early in the morning. I barely studied for my music midterm, and earned an A, which only encourages my horrible procrastination habit. All I can think about is what's happening 1 week, 5 days from now.

An interesting aspect of saving every cent for this trip is watching our spending, especially in the food department. In normal non trip-planning times, I have the best intentions to keep our budget to $50 a week but, you know, snack attacks happen. And sometimes I need that Coconut Bliss. But I've been pretty militant the past couple of weeks, which means some of our meals have been...interesting at times. Take a look.

Broccoli curry spaghetti, original recipe calls for udon and 6 cups of broccoli. I improvised. ps, spaghetti isn't a good sub for udon.
 Knock off Spanky's Bowl (from a local chain) with AFR Cheesy sauce.
 Use-up-the-leftovers lunch of spinach, baked tofu and roasted taters with Daiya (on sale).
 Pizza is awesome, a good use of leftovers and fast if you have dough in your freezer :-)
 After my first 10k, all I wanted was a (vegan) cheeseburger. So I made one as we are poor. V'Con black bean burger with AFR Cheesy sauce.
Pho chay, a tester for Kittee's zine. So fresh and delicious.

Also, some evidence of my laziness.
 The first warm day in Portland I moved my ass outside. Please notice the beer, it is Deschutes Brewery's Twilight making an early appearance!
Yeah, we had no clean tupperware and I wasn't interested in washing dishes.

So, yeah. I'm twiddling my thumbs in anxious anticipation.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cinco de Mayo 10k

This is about two weeks late, but I wanted to share my experience in running my first 10k!

The 10k course was very flat (which was awesome) and took place on a day the forecasters insisted would be full of rain. As with any other race I've done, the rain held off and the temperature was perfect.

I'm not going to lie, this race was hard. I was super nervous the day before and decided to do a quick 1.5 mile loop by my house to get rid of some of the nervous energy. BAD IDEA. You see, I live in the hills of SW Portland. The route I took was one I've taken many times now and am used to, but it's still very hilly. I don't know if I just pushed harder than normal or what, but my legs were incredibly weak the next day and hurt right off the bat during the race. I pushed and kept up with Libby the whole time and we finished in an awesome 1:27, which included a bathroom break! (Yes, this means that I am not fast whatsoever).

At the end, during the two block sprint that hasn't really bothered me before, my legs just gave out. Check out this (hilarious yet painful) photo of the moment I just had to stop:
My sweet friend Jill came up behind me and yanked me into running across the finish line, but my legs were NOT HAPPY. I had to keep walking around to make sure I wasn't going to fall over. It was all rather silly.

Now for the fun part. Can you spot my " glad I finished" face?
Seriously, the beer and the people keep me running.

I have another 10k tomorrow! It's my last race before the trip and I definitely tried to take it easy this week. I weeded last Friday (as in, a week and a day ago to keep my hamstring pain to a minimum) and did a training run Tuesday, but have otherwise stuck to walking. It's the 10 Cane Rum Run and it looks as if we get a mojito AND a Bridgeport beer....WIN.

Wish me luck!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why I Travel

*I felt I should preface this post with a disclaimer: if all-inclusive is your thing, then go for it! I just choose not to.

My sweet husband and I were talking about travelling tonight (ok, honestly it happens every night) and all-inclusive resorts were brought up. A super long time ago, I went on a cruise for a band trip (music festival at sea or something) and all of our food was included in the cruise price. A bunch of high school kids with access to room service? Cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Ice cream buffets! Dinners with a pirate!

While that experience was awesome (I was only a freshman and had only really travelled once prior) I would not do it again. I have always felt that places like the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Cabo san Lucas, Mexico were never for me, but I always assumed it was the heat and the crowds. I wasn't interested in sweating buckets and feeling sticky while wandering around the pristine grounds of a resort. But as I've travelled more and seen the impact tourism can have on a certain place, the reason I can't see myself at one those hot spots mentioned above is a political one. When you buy an all inclusive resort package, your money goes straight back into the company you booked with. You're not buying local. You're not really experiencing the locale you're visiting. Yeah, all you can eat buffets and all the slushie drinks you want are awesome, but you can do that at home, for a hell of a lot cheaper. These places have been sanitized and stripped of everything that makes the locale unique. I keep getting reminded of the private tourist beaches in Haiti that are fenced off to locals. Haiti is the only third world country in North America, and the locals are kept off of their own beaches. What kind of message does that send? You'd think that the tourist dollars from those beaches would have helped rebuild the cities devastated in the earthquake, but the destruction and pain is still there, front and center. If I wanted to visit Haiti, I would go and see the real Haiti, even if it's sad and painful.

When we went to Europe, I realized that I loved getting lost, I loved fumbling the language while ordering and I loved navigating the local options for transportation. Have I told you what a HUGE fan of the Paris metro I am? HUGE. Sure, we're American tourists. But we're the kind of American tourists that want to see the world outside of ours. The US is a beautiful place, but it's familiar. It feels as if we can go see any part of the US at any time, while other continents feel special and new. The world is giant and vibrant and I want to be a part of that. Each place I've ever visited, Europe and North America, has a special place in my heart for one reason or another, simply because I feel lucky that I got to visit it. I also understand that there are places in Europe that cater exclusively to tourism, but there's a difference between those and resorts. You're still immersed in the country, soaking up the  language and culture, squeezing yourself into tiny cafes.
I realize in the past year I went to Hawaii, played on the sanitized beaches and went to an all inclusive luau. But it's not something I would do on a regular basis. We rented a condo, shopped at local markets and ate at local restaurants. We explored the rainforests on our own and hiked to an old church perched on the edge of the island. Sure, Maui is an incredibly touristy place. But my dollars go straight to the residents running those shops and restaurants. If I were to do it again, it would be different thanks to what I've learned from my past experiences.
Rick Steves is one of my favorite guidebook authors and I think he has done so much for American travel. Through his television shows and books, he's shown Americans how to take a couple of steps off of the busy, tourist lined streets and into the small villages, back alleys and mom and pop shops of Europe. He illustrates the importance of sites like the Tour d'Eiffel, the Coliseum and the Tower of Pisa, but he also shows you there's so much more of Europe to see. He's inspired people like me to explore the bigger picture, to use travel as an educational tool, to enter another world.  Here's an excerpt from his book, Travel as a Political Act. 

Why do you travel?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Now I have the rest of the silly song in my head.

Like I eluded to before, I am taking this post to talk about the dynamics of this trip versus the last one. Now, I don't know if I can call myself a seasoned traveller, but I recently noticed that I have been on a plane at least once a year for the last 5 years. This is crazy to me because 1) I HATE PLANES and 2) it seems that I never go ANYWHERE. But that's not true.

2006) Vegas
2007) Disneyland, Vegas
2008) Santa Barbara/Disneyland
2009) Europe
2010) Hawaii
2011) Europe

That's one random list. Please don't take these trips to mean that I am made of money, because I guarantee that 4 of those flights were either paid for by a friend/work or standby. I am an uber frugal traveller. I bring my own food (at least, as much as I reasonably can) I eat only bread and coffee all day (in France it's worth it) and have stayed in my share of fleabag hotels (right on the parking lot at Disneyland, too). Our first time to Europe was financed by an inheritance, this time around it's mostly financed by a tax return. Both trips have required a strict budget: $100 bucks or around 70 euros a day for two people after rooms and transportation. This part is non-negotiable. If I want to pay my rent when we come back, we can't spend more than that.

So, some changes we're making this time around.

1) Beer journal. Belgian beers are my favorite beers, and I fully plan on trying a bunch. Yeah, this seems like we'll be breaking the $100/day rule real quick. But for the most part, we're staying in places where we have a kitchen or at least a continental breakfast. Bagels in my purse say what? We even have a plan for the journal: each beer gets a numbered sticky note and a photo so we can keep track. We tried so many delicious wines in France (the bottles were SO CHEAP) and didn't keep track of a single one.

2) Two cameras. I'm bringing my baby over. This means we'll have to buy more memory, but it's worth it. I'll also be covering up the brand name with electrical tape.

3) NO OVERNIGHT BUSES. It's not worth the carsickness.

4) Railpass. The trick for figuring out railpasses is calculating how much each point to point ticket will cost. If it's more than $40/day, then the pass is worth it. Some of our travel days are less, but there's at least 2 long haul days (Cochem to Munich, Rothenburg to Brussels) that will make the pass worth the cost up front. We also bought a second class twin saver, which cuts the price by a third.

5) I will have sugary snacks for Jeff at all times. He is NOT going unconscious this time around.

I feel like we're going into this experience a little wiser. We will not be bringing a portable DVD player with us, we will be prepared to wash our clothes in sinks, I will bring a better jacket. Right now, I'm loving how well we're planning for this one, even if some days are hectic travel days and some are going to be spent riding bikes to the North Sea. Oh yeah, I'm doing that.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

One Month, Four Days

Atomium in Brussels

I swear to god this month is going to draaaaaaag.

Sometime this weekend I'm going to write a post about what we're doing this trip versus the last one. Because honestly I have nothing else to talk about.