Snow day nostalgia

We’ve officially been back in the states for more than three weeks now. In this in-between phase of my life, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home—my first home. The city where I was born and the house where I grew up. Good old Greensboro, North Carolina.

This is the longest stretch I’ve spent at home since I was 21 and fresh out of college. But when I walk into my childhood bedroom, it feels like almost nothing has changed. It isn’t a shrine, exactly, but it definitely hasn’t become a home gym or anything either—let’s just say that my mom has yet to be converted by Marie Kondo.

Basically, it’s like an archaeological site of personal history in there. Boxes full of old diaries detailing my 7th grade woes, old birthday cards, photos, trophies, yearbooks…the more you dig, the further back it goes. If I’m home for more than a few days, it’s inevitable that, at some point, I’ll get pulled in. I’ll open up a cabinet or peek under the bed in search of a book or a misplaced sock, and suddenly it’s two hours later and I’m sitting on the floor surrounded by elementary school assignments, simultaneously laughing and cringing at some horrible poem I wrote in the 2nd grade.

Nostalgia is the strangest feeling. Part longing, part relief of knowing the past will stay where it is—the comfort of perspective. Sometimes, like when I crack open that diary from 7th grade, I’m searching for that feeling—the indulgence and security of getting lost in unchangeable memories; the satisfaction of snapping back into the present and appreciating how much has changed.

Other times, nostalgia reaches out on its own and smacks me in the face.

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Friday favorites & feelings

“What was your favorite part?”

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question throughout the past two weeks. No shade to anyone who asked me—I would be eagerly asking you the exact same thing if our roles were reversed.

But man, is that a hard question to answer. Each time, I find myself completely overwhelmed with what to say. The first few times, I’m pretty sure I went with “Uhhhhhhh…oh my gosh. I don’t even know. There were so many things! I should have been more prepared for this question!” Eventually, I learned to throw out a few go-to highlights (hiking on a glacier in Patagonia; playing on sand dunes in Colorado; conquering a 17,000 ft. peak in Peru).

But do you want the honest truth? I still have NO IDEA what my favorite part of the last five months was. And the thought of whittling those experiences down into cohesive stories and sound bites is still overwhelming.

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My brain right now, trying to decide where to go from here.

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Setting a South American pace

“Which do you prefer: a tightly packed itinerary, or an open schedule with plenty of free time?”

It’s one of the most important questions to ask when you’re planning a trip—especially if you’re with a travel buddy—up there with “Museums and cultural sites, or off-the-beaten-path local spots?” and “Four-star hotel or youth hostel?”

Chris and I have been talking a lot about the pace of our traveling lately. While we’re pretty well matched as travel partners, it’s one area where we have to communicate and compromise a bit. I tend to be more of the go-go-go, check-off-the-list, get-all-the-best-pictures, FOMO-driven type, while Chris…Chris would prefer to skip that 6:30 a.m. walking tour. Neither is the right or wrong way to experience a new place—just different.

Our U.S.A. road trip was, on the whole, pretty fast-paced. We hardly spent more than a day or two in one place before we were off to the next destination. While we certainly worked in some down time—and I can’t say that I would necessarily change anything—it was definitely a whirlwind. Two months isn’t as long as it sounds for a country as big as ours!

So, from the start, we’ve tried to adopt a slightly more laid-back approach to this South American half of our adventure. There’s two main reasons:

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Great American Adventure Part Two: Peru & Chile

Well, it’s somehow already here—part two of our adventure starts in T-minus 30 minutes when we board our flight to Lima (by way of ATL of course).

The Torres! Well worth the steep hike
WE’RE GOING TO SEE THIS SO SOON!!!

After a wonderful weekend seeing Hartsville friends and dancing the night away at a beautiful wedding, the past week has been a flurry of packing, organizing, re-packing, calling banks, running errands, buying last-minute supplies, booking hostels, checking and re-checking schedules and flight plans, and hitting up all of our favorite Greensboro restaurants in between all the trip prep. 🙂

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Two months’ worth of gear in one backpack. I think I may have defied some laws of physics, but somehow it all fits!

And of course, this one important errand:

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Being in a different country is NOT stopping me from voting in this election! But I can’t say I’ll miss all the nonstop political coverage. 

It’s been a little bit hectic, but I think we’re as ready as we’re ever going to be. We don’t have every step of our route planned out (trying to leave some room for spontaneity), but here’s the general itinerary:

Peru:

  • Lima
  • Cusco
    • Vinicunca (“Rainbow Mountain”) day trek
    • 4-day Inca Trail trek into Machu Picchu
  • Puno & Lake Titicaca
  • Arequipa & Colca Valley
  • Arica

Chile:

  • Santiago
  • La Serena
  • Elqui Valley
  • Punta Arenas
  • Puerto Natales
  • Torres Del Paine National Park

If I’m being honest, I’m much more nervous about this trip than our U.S. route. I haven’t traveled like this since my study abroad days in college (somehow more than 6 years ago now)…and this time, neither of us speak hardly a word of Spanish. [Side note: I bought “learn Spanish” CDs for the road trip and we listened to a grand total of one 30-minute lesson. So “Hola, senorita! Habla Ingles?” is about the extent of my Spanish knowledge. This should get us pretty far.]

But knowing that I’m a chronic over-preparer, I’m reminding myself again that we can’t be ready for everything—and between the two of us, we’ll be able to figure it all out one way or another. After all, we did make it through that one time in Paris when we accidentally got stranded in a strange suburb at 1:00am when the trains stopped running.

And with that said, I have a plane to board…wish us luck! Hasta luego America, see ya in two months!

Learning to live in the moment

11,332 miles.

54 days.

25 states.

16 national parks.

Two tarantula encounters.

One fender bender.

Zero regrets.

… We’re back from our U.S. road trip!!!!!

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The “after” picture—all four of us (including the Subaru) made it back in one piece! Unfortunately, you can’t tell how extremely dirty everything and everyone is in this photo.

It was, in a word, a WHIRLWIND. After a couple of days basking in the simple pleasures of things like a real bed and a hot shower, I’m still processing everything that we experienced. I think I might be for a while yet. (Luckily we took eight billion pictures to help me remember it all.) But one thing I can confidently say is that we live in a giant, huge, stunningly beautiful, diverse, enormous country. (Did I mention how large it is?)

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A good day in the Badlands

After our wonderful stay in Wisconsin, we said goodbye to family and—clean, rested, with the car neatly packed and a cooler full of cheese—started our journey west.

Fast-forward nearly 400 miles of incredibly boring southern Minnesota interstate…and we finally crossed into South Dakota! We ended up camping in Palisades State Park for the night—juuuust over the border to the east of Sioux Falls. After a good night’s sleep, we decided to do a little exploring before getting back in the car. And it was the coolest place! Originally an old mining town, the park featured a winding river with crazy rock formations and trails all along the shores.

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We went for a short hour-long hike, and at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday, didn’t see another soul. It ended up being one of those unexpected road trip surprises: a hidden gem just outside of Sioux Falls. If you’re ever in the area, you should definitely check it out.

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After that, it was onward to our next destination: Badlands National Park, the first national park of our trip! It was just a few more hours of boring interstate (and about 8 million tourist trap billboards) away, about an hour east of Rapid City. After we took photos with the sign (obviously) and purchased our pass (we’re official card-carrying NPS annual pass holders now, NBD) we headed into the park.

dsc_0678And about two minutes later, we felt like we were on another planet.

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Rubber bands & Ziploc bags

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Locked & loaded: ready for two months on the road

The summer before I went to college, I spent MONTHS getting ready.

I made lists on lists on lists. Over and over I ran through them all in my head, trying to think of every possible thing I could need for my dorm room. One morning, my mom found me rummaging through a cabinet, hoarding a small selection of office supplies: rubber bands, scotch tape, scissors, Ziploc bags.

“You know,” she said—in the simultaneously kind yet all-knowing voice only a mother can master—”I bet there’s someplace in Chapel Hill you can buy those if you need them.”

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