california dreamin

I’m officially a California girl! I bought a car (a cute Mazda3) and my sister and I hit the road the very next day. I asked Brooke if she would accompany me on my big roadtrip from Iowa to California and she agreed. I have to say that her presence made the whole experience a lot more fun. We made stops in Des Moines, where we visited my friend Maria and her husband John, and then spent the next day driving across Nebraska (worst drive ever!) to Denver, where we did nothing but sleep.

The next day was our first day of pretty scenery. We drove to Utah and spent the afternoon at Arches National Park. It was beautiful, but hot! The car’s thermometer hit 96F while we were there.

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The next day, we headed out on Utah Hwy 12, which was recommended by my brother. It’s incredibly scenic and passes through several national and state parks. It was an early day – we were up and hitting the road by 630am, but worth it. First we drove through Capital Reef National Park, Anasazi State Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park.

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Then we headed for Zion National Park where Brooke and I hiked up to the top of Angel’s Landing. It’s an intense climb. People fall and die on the hike fairly regularly (1 every year or 2 on average.) All of the cliffs at Zion are made of sandstone, which is constantly eroding, making surfaces very sandy and slippery. The last part of the hike is a narrow path on top of a 1400 ft high cliff that has chains permanently fixed in place for hikers to cling to. It was a fantastic hike, but man was it hot out. Brooke and I were very glad to have made it to the top. Angels Landing is to the far left of the cliff behind Brooke in the first photo below.

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We were exhausted, but excited to head to Las Vegas the next day. We stayed at Treasure Island, which was fun. We spent some time at the pool in the afternoon trying to escape the 100 degree heat. We went to a show in downtown Las Vegas that evening, then had dinner at Trevi (Italian restaurant in the shops at the Forum at Caesar’s Palace), then took a walk around and gambled at the slot machines in a few casinos. After we saw the fountain show at the Bellagio we headed back to our hotel for one last drink and turn at the penny slots before calling it a night.

The next day we hopped in the car and drove the last 5 hours to San Diego. The apartment is fantastic, my roommates and I are getting along fantastically, and I’m loving this town. Amazingly, I can see both the ocean AND the nightly Sea World fireworks in Mission Bay from my room. The people I’ve met are all really nice. And while I’m still looking for a job, I have had a few interviews, skills assessments, etc and currently have 2 upcoming interviews scheduled. I’m feeling positive that I’ll find an interesting job with a nice company soon enough. All in all, the last few weeks have been pretty great and things only seem to be improving. Starting a new life is sure stressful, but I’m happy to say that so far, it’s definitely been worth the effort!

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constantly sick with the bug…the travel bug

It’s a busy time of year for people in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s spring and people are planting gardens and crops, dusting off their bicycle/surfboard/hiking boots/barbecue, and getting busy making summer travel plans. I’m supposed to be busy looking for a job in San Diego, which I TOTALLY am. I’m also trying to plan my road trip west to California, but that is kind of hard when I don’t know what day the car I’m purchasing will be ready.

Today, in between stabs at the interminable job hunt I did some travel day dreaming. Lately I’ve caught myself wishing I could find a way to travel for profit, that is to make a business out of my love and affinity for traveling. I don’t want to be a travel agent, but I’d like to help empower people to travel and to have truly incredible experiences beyond what their desk-bound travel agent suggests or what’s in the latest CNN Travel article. Those are a good place to start, but I think I could help people push their own boundaries a little bit to result in a more fulfilling trip than they may have had without my direction and encouragement. If you were planning a trip, would you consider paying someone to help enhance your travel experience? And the same with a long-distance move….would you consider paying someone to guide you through the daunting task of a long-distance move? Because I’ve got quite a bit of experience in that realm as well!

I can help people find spots like this one!

I can help people find spots like this one!

 

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here and there

So….SURPRISE! I spent November to March scheming away so that I could pull off a seriously awesome surprise. I decided to move back to the US permanently. I wanted to time it so that I spent summer in Australia before returning, and that’s exactly what I did. I quit my job at Geyer. My last day working was March 19 and my brother Brian arrived in Australia the next day to spend my last 2 weeks in the country with me. Then he headed back to San Diego and I went travelling! I love to travel, but it’s hard to get the time to do much of it. The best time to travel is when you are between jobs, so I decided to take full advantage. I could write lots and lots about my experiences over the past 2 months, and maybe I will eventually, but for now I’ll just give you a quick snapshot of what I’ve been up to.

 

Brian taking photos at a lookout point north of Cairns, Queensland, AustraliaImage

 

One of the many beaches that we spent a night alongside. We managed to park our campervan next to a beach every night of our roadtrip through Queensland.Image

 

View of the opera house in Sydney from the ferry we took from my friend Emily’s apartment in Manly.

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The St Kilda Pier in Melbourne.Image

 

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China outside of Beijing.Image

 

Graffiti on the Great Wall of China.Image

 

Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru.Image

 

On day 1 of the 4 day trek to Machu Picchu on the original Inca Trail.Image

 

On day 2 of the trek at the top of the tallest mountain pass we hiked over – 13,800 feet!Image

 

My trekking group at Machu Picchu.Image

 

Machu Picchu!!Image

 

View over Cali, Colombia in the country’s west.Image

 

The country home of the Rodriguez family – I stayed with my good friend Marcela’s parents while in Colombia and they took very good care of me.Image

Hopefully that was a nice little tease. Promise to try to write more about my travels soon! In the process of moving to San Diego and job hunting….so things have been pretty crazy. Good, but crazy.

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summer sizzle

Oooooeeee it’s warm! Melbourne is set to set a record for most number of consecutive days at or above 30C (about 86F). It’s not crazy hot, but enough days in a row and it is just exhausting. I’m glad the weather is getting it out of its system now as I have a visitor arriving in a few weeks. My brother is coming!

I’ve been counting down to this day for months. Countdowns are tedious enough as it is, but add the unrelenting heat to that and let’s just say that time has been moving at a glacial pace. I know that Brian is freaking out trying to check everything off of his pre-trip to-do list, but I’m excited that his big arrival is almost here. I’m just hoping that he can relax a bit on the trip. We’ll be spending several days in Melbourne, taking a roadtrip along the Queensland coast, popping into Sydney, and then back to Melbourne. I’m also postponing my birthday party by a week so that I can use it as an opportunity to introduce him to my friends.

And that. My birthday. The year of twenty-seven has gone by pretty quickly. Twenty-eight sounds marginally older. What does one do as a twenty-eight year old? I’m probably supposed to be well into saving for retirement, possibly upgrading from a 5-10 year old car to a 2-3 year old model, and hitting some relationship milestone (engagement, marriage, kids.) Sorry to report that I won’t be doing much of any of the above! I guess I’m just going to keep going to keep going through life at my own pace and in my own way.

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2012 in review

Another year down, so it must be time to do this survey again!  Sorry it’s a few weeks late:

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Flew a plane, scuba dived

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Hmm…I’ve misplaced last year’s again.  But I think I did okay….maybe?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Emily had a baby girl in February and lots of my coworkers had babies so I’ve gotten to play with a few as they were paraded through the office.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes.  My friend Jeffrey passed away in July.  He was a beautiful person and far too young.  I still can’t believe he’s gone.  My grandma Diane also passed away.  I am glad she is no longer in pain and am very sorry that I wasn’t able to be there in person during her last months but am grateful I spent time with her when I visited at Christmas-time the previous year.

5. What countries did you visit?

The Cook Islands

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

New challenges in my professional life.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 4 – the date I fell and almost broke my neck

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Winning the award for Best Collaboration at Saturday in Design for the design of a temporary showroom space.  I was part of the group of 4 who designed and managed the construction of the installation.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not learning Spanish very thoroughly even though I live with native speakers.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes.  I attempted (and ironically succeeded) at doing something that should have required a ladder by standing on several stacked cushions.  Of course the cushions slipped and I fell, landing on my throat.  I lucked out with bruised vocal chords, but could have easily crushed my windpipe and suffocated to death (which is what I thought was happening when I first landed) or broken my neck.  I got off incredibly easy and have been noticeably more cautious in daily tasks (like getting out of the tub) as I seem particularly susceptible to strange accidents and injuries.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My leather jacket.  I lost the one I’d had previously a few years ago and the cheap replacement I bought is just that, cheap.  I bought a beautiful jacket that’s comfortable, stylish, and very cool.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My dad.  Not only did he venture outside of the US for his very first time, he braved the 10,000 mile journey and really opened himself up to new experiences and a whole new culture.  Both of my parents had a great time on their trip here (and I did too!) but I was especially excited that dad really enjoyed his time in Australia and really made a solid effort to do things the Aussie way while he was here, even if it was unfamiliar and a bit strange at times.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

This is very general, but the overall culture of hate that seems to persist in media and social media in particular.  It has been especially evident during the US presidential elections and some of the other heated political debates since (i.e. gun control) and I’m just so over it!  Let’s quit being angry and negative and start looking for the positives.  And while we’re on that, can we quit blaming and start working together to solve problems, not just to maintain our own reputations and public image? *gets off soap box*

14. Where did most of your money go?

Some went to my trip to Rarotonga, but I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to start saving a bit.  It’s been earmarked for Brian’s visit here in March, my visit to the US later in 2013, and probably a wisdom tooth extraction at some point.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Moving in with Marcela in July.  It was well-justified too – we have been having SO MUCH fun!  We’re both a bit silly and young for our age, so it works out well.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

A Long December – Counting Crows

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? sadder
b) thinner or fatter? same?
c) richer or poorer? richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spent more time on design work outside of my job.  If I’m not getting variety of experience there, I should at least be practicing on my own at home.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being angry about not getting the opportunities I want at work.  While not naturally a patient person, I’m working on it!

20. How did you spend Christmas?

My two housemates and my former housemate (who is also the brother of one of my current housemates) and I had a Colombian-style Christmas at our apartment in Windsor.  We made a big meal and drank quite a bit on Christmas Eve and exchanged presents at midnight.  Christmas Day was spent lazily watching Christmas movies.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?

No.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Happy Endings, The Vampire Diaries (I know I’m so lame!), Burn Notice, Saturday Night Live

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No, though you could say that there are a few people in my office that I have lost a lot of love for over the year.

24. What was the best book you read?

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Metric

26. What did you want and get?

To take a holiday to a quiet island paradise.

27. What did you want and not get?

Some company on that holiday.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Sapphires.  It’s an Australian film and you should all watch it.  Seriously, go download it!

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I didn’t do much.  My parents had just left and I had such a big birthday the previous year that I didn’t feel like making a huge deal out of it.  A few friends organised a surprise dinner out at a local restaurant that turned out to be super delicious.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A paid-for shopping spree?  More adventures outside of Melbourne?

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Simple basics with personality found in pop colours, an interesting piece of jewelry, and pattern juxtapositions.

32. What kept you sane?

My very level-headed friends that don’t mind my need to talk about everything and make countless lists for everything under the sun.  They seem to have accepted my OCD tendencies of organisation and planning – thanks guys!

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Ian Somerhalder

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Civil rights, health care, women’s rights.

35. Who did you miss?

Jennifer.  This is the first new year’s eve in like 5 years that we haven’t spent together and I did not like it!  I’m so grateful for our skypes, I just hate how few and far between they are.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Juan.  He’s been dating Marcela for 10 years (!!), and while I’ve known her for 2, I only met him this past April.  He moved in with us this December and I’m happy to call him my friend now.  The three of us have a blast together – I’m very grateful for our happy home.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

Life is scary sometimes and it can end quicker than you would ever have guessed.  So be careful with yourself and don’t forget to enjoy the life you have while you can.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Help I’m alive
My heart keeps beating like a hammer
Hard to be soft
Tough to be tender

Come take my pulse the pace is on a runaway train
Help I’m alive
My heart keeps beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer

Help I’m Alive – Metric

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christmas with the colombians

For the first time in twenty-seven years, I spent Christmas away from my family.  It was strange.  I feel very fortunate to have a few friends to celebrate with here because without them it would have been a very sad couple of days.  I celebrated with Juan and Marcela (my housemates) and Daniel (Juan’s brother and my first Melbourne housemate), all three of whom are from Colombia.

Our main Christmas celebration was on Christmas Eve.  We followed Colombian tradition and cooked  a big dinner, then hung out with a few drinks until midnight, when we exchanged presents.  We then continued drinking until we were all pretty well and truly drunk and feeling the Christmas spirit.

We spent Christmas day watching holiday movies, nursing mild hangovers, and eventually cleaning the apartment.  We had used every plate, bowl, glass, and piece of flatware in the apartment, along with a host of other bakeware and cooking tools on Christmas Eve, so the apartment was in pretty sorry shape until we had a massive clean!

A few pictures from Christmas Eve and the aftermath the day after.  Sorry for the blurriness – I’m not very experienced in shooting by candlelight.

Juan and I beginning to prepare dinner

Juan and I beginning to prepare dinner

Juan hand-shredding the chicken for our Vietnamese chicken mint salad

Juan hand-shredding the chicken for our Vietnamese chicken mint salad

sugar and spice holiday cocktails

sugar and spice holiday cocktails

our apartment got incredibly romantic after being lit only by candles and the christmas tree lights!

our apartment got incredibly romantic after being lit only by candles and the christmas tree lights!

Juan

Juan

almost ready for dinner

almost ready for dinner

me

me

Marcela & Juan

Marcela & Juan

the wrapping paper tube "phone" proved to be the most popular toy

the wrapping paper tube “phone” proved to be the most popular toy

the aftermath

the aftermath

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the end approaches

Are the Mayans right?  Should I be preparing for the end?  I’m choosing not to, but it is the final month of the year, so I’ve started to do a little end of the year reflection.  What have I done in 2012?  Has it been good?  Bad?  Productive?  Enriching?  Or has it been a placeholder year?

For me, 2012 has been busy, and a bit of a rollercoaster at times.  I began the year by ending a month-long trip to the US and had THE BEST time.  Coming back to Australia felt like a come down and it was hard to get ramped up for the year ahead.  I went to some free outdoor concerts during the summer.  I prepped for my parents’ visit in March, which was spectacular.  I flew a plane.  I almost broke my neck and then couldn’t talk for a week.  I survived my first annual review at work.  I moved in with a close friend and realised how starved for human contact (and affordable heat) I had been.  I missed a funeral.  I started tutoring in my spare time for extra cash (to combat a change in tax laws for foreigners.)  I was heavily involved in an Australian design festival…and our installation received an award…yay!  I won an iconic chair designed by Arne Jacobsen over 50 years ago, and automatically added almost $18k to my net worth…weird!  I missed another funeral.  I took a week-long trip to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.  I learned how to scuba dive and even got certified.  I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in 3 years thanks to a very good friend, who offered to host it 9 months in advance.  And now it’s December, and I’m busy preparing myself to spend my first ever Christmas outside of Iowa and away from all of the family traditions I love so much.  And I’m also thinking ahead to 2013 and what it may hold.

Maybe I’m just bored tonight, but I have been thinking about what resolutions I may make for 2013.  So far all I have come up with is that I want to just persevere in 2013.  The first two years I spent in Australia were good and all of the tough things I dealt with relating to the life I left were missed birthdays, weddings, and babies.  This year I missed funerals.  They aren’t the kind of event you can have or participate in belatedly, which is what made them so much harder to stomach.  Lately I’ve also been very unhappy with the work I’m doing at my job as well.  My personal life has been fairly subdued in that I spend time with few friends, but it has been very fulfilling in that I’m not spending time doing things or being with people that I don’t really want to be with.  And of course I’ve had some awesome adventures.

I guess the main theme here is that things have had their ups and downs lately, and I don’t see an end in sight for a lot of it.  So it’s time to buckle up, hold on, and try to enjoy the ride the best I can until it smooths out and I am truly loving every second of it again.

In 2013 I’m looking forward to a visit from my brother Brian in late March, seeing an old friend who will be moving from Chicago to Sydney in January, and a trip back to the US in (American) summer.  The trip hasn’t been planned at all yet, but I’m guessing it will be later in the summer to allow me to save funds to be able to stay longer and do more.  Hey, if I make it late enough I could even catch the ISU football season opener!  Next season will be the 10th anniversary of my first year at college and my first ISU football season…can’t think of a better time to go back🙂

A few photos from a few recent wanders around Windsor and Melbourne looking at some of the truly unique and beautiful street art with my good friends Marcela and Annie….

hanging out in a laneway near home in Windsor

hanging out in an unnamed laneway near home in Windsor

Union Lane, Melbourne CBD

Union Lane, Melbourne CBD

Union Lane, Melbourne CBD

Union Lane, Melbourne CBD

Union Lane, Melbourne CBD

Union Lane, Melbourne CBD

Centreway Place, Melbourne CBD (laneway that is just below my office)

Centreway Place, Melbourne CBD (laneway that is just below my office)

Centreway Place, Melbourne CBD

Centreway Place, Melbourne CBD

Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

Hosier Lane, Melbourne CBD

AC/DC Lane, Melbourne CBD

AC/DC Lane, Melbourne CBD

AC/DC Lane, Melbourne CBD, home of Cherry Bar (the epitome of the dirty rock bar, and yes of course I've been)

AC/DC Lane, Melbourne CBD, home of Cherry Bar (the epitome of the dirty rock bar, and yes of course I’ve been)

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