It’s the little things that remind us of a good trip: the pop song on the radio that played in every bar in Spain; the grey beat-up backpack that dutifully carried all our belongings; and the site of red wine served from a penguin.
It’s the latter that reminds us of all our hot Latin nights, dining on the sidewalks of Buenos Aires eating juicy steaks and cheap house wine.
“Wait, did she say wine from a penguin?”
Yes I did. Yes I did.
After another week of urban-living, Tom and I decided to escape Sydney for the weekend and visit the famed Blue Mountains. Although, it's hard to call it an “escape” when living in Sydney is such a lovely experience.
Either way, we left for the weekend to visit the mountains. Our adventure (or I should say, my adventure) started on Friday afternoon. While Tom was working, I had the unfortunate job of picking up our rental car.
All by myself, and left to my own devices, I had to drive for the first time outside of America. On all our past trips, Tom kindly assumed the driver role. So, trying not to let on to the all-too-trusting car rental agent that I had no experience driving on the wrong, I mean “left,” side of the road, I confidently took the keys and failed miserably by walking to the wrong side of the car.
A Walk Through Sydney
Walk with me for a moment. Pass through the urban canyon of shiny glass skyscrapers laid out on either side of you, blocking the otherwise unobstructed sun. Despite the ‘scrapers attempt to envelope you with their long-stretching shadows, glimpses of the bright blue-sky peek through.
Till now, you feel as though you could be in Any-City, USA. Then you hear a lady behind you greet her friend, “how ya’ going?” and a man hurries along his companion, “come on, mate.” A sign advertises an $8.50 “breakky,” the Australian term for breakfast. (They love to shorten words here and add a diminutive ending. Other examples include koaly and footy). You are not in America.
We finished a week in Melbourne with a rather strong buzz; not of the alcohol sort, but from the caffeine. We had been warned that Australians in general, but Melbournians in particular, are extremely discriminating when it comes to their coffee; so much so that a Melbourne local not only has his favorite cafes, but his favorite baristas too.
From my own informal and by no means exact survey, I would guess that each block in the city averages at least two cafes, of which the vast majority are small and independently owned. Not only are supremely high-quality beans the simple standard in this town, but the baristas are of equally high caliber, weilding a portafilter and steamwand with such agility it would make any American-born hipster blush. And this is precisely why Starbucks didn’t stand a chance in this town.
From Backpack to Garment Bag
Chink, chink. I heard the electronic lock on the hotel door release and in walked Tom looking pretty swanky in his designer suit.
“Hi, babe. How was your…”
He stopped mid-sentence when he turned the corner and saw me forearm-deep in a sink full of dirty laundry in the hotel bathroom, scrubbing my underwear and shirts and draping them across the shower to dry.
His initial thought was to remind me that we do have money to pay for laundry services now. But a more pressing question entered his mind instead:
“Why in the world do you have so many dirty clothes already?”
I had arrived just two days ago to meet Tom in Australia.
Nashville may have a replica of the Parthenon declaring it the “Athens of the South,” but I’ve got 5 drunk bachelorettes and their high-heel wearing, short-skirt-sporting entourage, click clacking up and down Broadway that say this town is more akin to the likes of Las Vegas. That’s right, welcome to Nash-Vegas, Baby!
About 6 years ago Tom and I stopped by Nashville on a road trip to my see my grandparents. We like to think we discovered this little gem, as it was just then budding into the “Vegas of the South” it is today.
We reveled in the cheap drinks, free live music, and the anyone-can-make-it, “what’s your dream?” vibe. Last month we returned to Nashville to find it a little larger, a little louder, a little more fun, and a whole lot tastier. The city has grown tremendously and it is not expected to slow any time soon.
And the food scene blew up while we were away. Now, premium cocktails shaken by top mixologists and menus that read like Hipster food porn are as accessible as fried chicken and a bud light. But before you think that Nashville just sold out to a bunch of lumber-sexuals, think again. The girl taking your order still has a Southern drawl and she still sings and plays guitar at the local honky-tonk on her nights off, hoping to get discovered.
But chances are, she’s not really from Nashville. In fact, nobody in Nashville seems to actually be from Nashville. It’s a mecca of transplants; people on their way to somewhere, but in no hurry to leave.
So if you can’t tell by now, we are fans. We highly recommend a trip to Nashville, and we are living proof that you can go there (twice), never visit the Grand Ole’ Opry and still walk away satisfied. Below are a few recommendations and highlights to help you plan your trip; so read it and then book your ticket to Nash-Vegas, baby!
Yesterday, in a matter of minutes, I lost all hope in humanity, and then regained it again.
As soon as the door to the hotel gym shut behind me, I realized I had left my keycard behind on the floor where I had been working out inside. Unfortunately, I needed the key to unlock the doors to the gym. So there I stood sweaty and tired (because 15 minutes of tabata will quite literally kill you) and really dreading the trip up to the lobby to get a new key.
Then I saw that there was still one man inside on a treadmill. I thought to myself, surely he wouldn’t mind to hop off that treadmill and run over to open the door for me. It would only take him all of 2 seconds. And besides he had just seen me leave the gym so he knew I was not some vagrant off the street that sneaks into hotel gyms for kicks (although I probably looked like one. I’m not pretty when I work out and if you are, I hate you).
So I knocked. Nothing.
I knocked again. Still nothing.
Well, I figured New Years is a great time to update you on Tom and I and our life after traveling abroad. And since it is now almost Valentine’s Day you can probably guess that “stop procrastinating” was not one of my New Year’s Resolutions.
Anyway, we have been back in the States for just over 5 months now and every week, we seem to relive our last year. Conversations often start with “last year at this time, we were…” And if I were to complete that sentence this week, I’d tell you we were hiking hiking around Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia (probably my favorite part of our entire trip!). Talk about nostalgia!
As you can imagine, this can get a little depressing week after week, and it did, so we decided we must do something about this.
We Are Home
No more views of Caribbean beaches, no more signs in Spanish, no more bans against flushing toilet paper down the toilet, and free water at every meal.
We are home.
As our plane lifted off the runway in Bogota, Colombia a few weeks ago, I looked out my window and watched the giant peaks of the Andes that had become such a familiar sight over the last year turn into nothing but tiny anthills. The clouds eventually enveloped the plane and I knew that the next time I touched down, it would be on American soil.
My heart felt heavy, excited, torn, melancholy, scared, happy, and blessed all at the same time. To be honest, I don't know what I was feeling because I had never felt it before.
It has been nearly a year now since Tom and I left our jobs to travel. It has been a whirlwind of an adventure that has included 14 countries, 2 continents, and 3 broken Apple products.
And here I sit on a fairly secluded beach on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. One friend described this spot as a slice of paradise, but I have to disagree.
I mean, if spending all day laying in a hammock, cooling off in the turquoise-blue ocean, and sipping mojitos is paradise, then yes, this is the place. But if paradise is supposed to be our ideal existence, something we can live out and enjoy eternally, then a place of total rest just won't do.
Now, don't get me wrong. Rest is good. It feels good, but I would venture to say that it is actually impossible to enjoy rest, maybe even impossible to have any rest at all without actually having work.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!