beauty and a broken bum.

and the last forgotten post. written six months ago…

since the beginning of our relationship, i have heard about the alpaca farm ryan’s friend had in southern chile. how he had lived there for a few months and helped with the alpaca and the fly fishing lodge. how it was the most beautiful place on earth. how he would muster horses through creeks and mountains. how lucky…

five years later, i am also lucky to experience el saltamontes lodge. the gorroño family’s property in the aysén region of southern chile (about an hour from coyhuique) is stunning. a picture perfect mountain getaway. i am so grateful that we could include a visit to the farm/lodge a part of this trip.

 

ryan’s friend and his girlfriend drove five hours to scoop us up from argentina and drive us five hours back to his farm in chile. we went through the border crossing (a small shack on a dirt road with one guard) with ease and continued on our way into our third country on this whirlwind world tour. 

as we left the high desert of argentina and continued towards the coast, the mountains grew taller and the temperature grew colder, but the sun was still shining bright (apparently not the norm in this area). the barren roads surrounded by nature started to be spotted with tiny farms and adorable mountain homes. my understanding of spanish lessened as the chilean accent strengthened. 

and then, we arrived. ryan jumped out to open gate after gate as we slowly drove by cows and horses and alpaca. a hidden gem. ryan’s stories were right. this was a pretty spectacular slice of this wonderful world. the mountains all around. crystal clear rivers and lakes. 5,000 acres of beauty to explore. 

it was christmas eve, and the rest of lucas’ family and friends greeted us with open arms. they had not seen ryan in ten years. two friends from south africa were down from santiago. they had cooked one of their home dishes, bobotie. we set the table and basked in the christmas cheer, and red wine. 

after dinner, we sat by the fire and opened a few gifts. ryan and i were graciously given a chilean staple, boinas. the hat necessary for true gauchos. we were ready to wrangle the horses!

since the fly fishing season started a bit late this year due to the river, our hosts set us up in a phenomenal riverside lodge with giant windows and quite the view. sure, we’ll test it out for you before this year’s guests arrive… a little bit of an upgrade from the sleeping pads we had been on the past few nights. 

on christmas day, we slept in late. we are really getting used to the south american way… stay up really late, sleep in kind of late. we walked back to the main house breathing in the clear air and feeling the sunshine upon our skin. i’m starting to get used to this whole christmas in summer thing.

cafe and desayuno. slowly we came to life. helping prep the lodge for a christmas dinner with other friends and extended family. and then, taking a break from our chores to enjoy a little christmas day trail ride. 

i grew up around horses. my mom rode horses. my sister rode horses. i rode horses. we love horses.

i was so excited to be back in the saddle. back around these majestic creatures. their gentle gazes and soft noses. horses feel like home. the smells. the sounds. the connection. 

the lead gaucho saddled up a few of the favorites, and we climbed aboard. my horse was a short white one named pelusa. she was the mother of many other horses on the land, and her belly definitely still showed it. 

we walked through the afternoon without a care in the world. this is exactly how i want to spend every christmas. horseback riding through patagonia in the sunshine. i wished my mom and sister could have been there by my side. i knew they would have loved it.

throughout the ride, i kept feeling the saddle sliding to the right, so i would stand up and put weight in the left stirrup to bring it back into balance. exhibit a…

there was a little voice in my head saying that i should probably stop and tighten the girth, but i ignored it. i was sure we’d stop eventually, and we were just on a leisurely stroll at the moment. 

and then the stroll turned into a gallop. 

and then the saddle slipped to the right. 

and then the saddle slipped even more to the right. 

and then i opened my eyes in the fetal position on the ground…

oops. 

you should always listen to the little voices in your head. 

my head and tailbone smacked the ground and poor pelusa went galloping away with a sideways saddle. as a trained lifeguard, my head was filled with flashes of “what to do if you suspect a spinal injury.” i laid curled up on the grass afraid to try to move. would i be able to move? of course i would, i thought. i am fine. 

and slowly, slowly, i was fine. 

lucas called his dad, and he came to my rescue. after a quick utv ride back to our cabin, i crawled into bed and was even more grateful for the million dollar view from our windows. this is where i would spend the rest of christmas. 

i googled how to treat a broken bum and after learning that all i could really do is ice it, heat it, and rest it. i settled into a pattern of ice pack and hot tub. trying to not miss a thing!

there was no way in hell i was going to let a fall off one of my favorite animals ruin my time in this magical place. 

the next day, i hobbled my way through a picnic with everyone by the river. i had to take the truck with the baby instead of the boat, but i still made it!

and the day after that, i hobbled my way through a boat ride on lago norte and lunch in a glass house in the middle of nowhere.

every new place lucas took us to was better than the last. whenever i need to escape the world, i know where to go now. 

after a few days exploring el saltamontes lodge (and letting my tailbone heal), we drove an hour into coyhuique. the town was a lot bigger than i had expected. 

we filled our bellies at the cafe run by the mennonites in the area. french toast, eggs, and coffee. we walked through the market stalls in the main plaza. we browsed sporting goods stores. we went grocery shopping. we ran errands. we soaked in the “city life”. 

we were leaving the next day. 

lucas made sure ryan got one more dose of adventure as they went mountain biking through a local nature reserve. up, up, up and then down, down, down. i’m not sure i would have made it even without a broken bum, so i’m glad i had an excuse to exclude myself this time around.

we went out to pizza and drinks in town with some friends. our last night in chile. such an amazing time catching up with lucas and sinja, and meeting new friends.

thank you gorroño family and friends for sharing this landscape with us (and taking care of me).

and now…

we fly 9 hours to atlanta. 2 hours to detroit. 13 hours to tokyo. 

hopefully my tailbone can handle all the sitting. not quite the souvenir i had hoped to bring back from south america, but oh well. it could have been worse. 🙂

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getting witchy in el bolson.

another leg of our december journey, six months later…

it looks and feels the same. like slipping into your favorite pair of jeans. like hugging an old friend. the memories come flooding back.

argentina was the first country i chose to travel to on my own. the first place i lived outside of the united states for an extended period of time. i was twenty-one. i was infatuated with the language, the poetry, the beauty, the lifestyle.

it was interesting returning to a place that ryan and i had experienced separately. a chance to share his memories. a chance to share my memories. 

we only had a layover in buenos aires. we chose to sacrifice a trip to the city for more days with our friends in other locations. but, even at the airport, i could feel the culture immediately. i was in argentina. i could speak the language.

although my spanish helped, portuguese is not the same. but, now i was back in a space where i could say whatever i needed. even though, my spanish is a bit rusty, it felt so good to slip back into a world where i could communicate. i could joke. i could learn. i could connect.

after we landed in bariloche, we did a quick stroll around the town to pick up some sleeping pads and some chocolate. because you always have to buy chocolate when in bariloche. 

when i lived in buenos aires, i spent a week in this town with some friends in a cabin overlooking the lake. we rafted. we hiked. we ate chocolate. 

this time, we boarded a bus and headed two hours south to el bolson, a small laid back town surrounded by stunning mountains. the views along the way, ahhh…

my friend cathy moved to el bolson several years ago after i returned from living in argentina and showed her photos of my travels. she uprooted her family and created a magical new life in the mountains. 

from the bus, we took a taxi to her house. there was no address to give the driver. the directions were something like… turn on this one street, then when you get to this hotel turn again, then after you see this certain homestead, look for a pile of sand on the right. gotta love south america!

we arrived. we hugged. we hugged some more. we met her fiance. we hugged again. we laughed. we laughed louder. we had not seen each other in eight years. 

but, my friendships are like that. i don’t talk or see anyone every day or even every month, and yet, my love for them runs so strong. so strong that i will travel from portland to el bolson to see them get married.

cathy lives on a beautiful property in a one room natural materials home with her kids and her new hubby. they are building a new huge home next door. so far, the framing and walls are up. we strung up a tepee/tent in one of the rooms and set up our home for the next few days. cheap sleeping pads on a dusty wooden floor and lots of wool blankets. 

and then, we prepped. i didn’t really know what i would be walking into, but my event planning skills immediately came in handy. although it was a very small laidback wedding, there was still a lot to do. and in true argentine fashion, everything seemed to be going wrong…

her custom wedding dress ended up not being done and the seamstress stopped responding to messages/calls. the goat they had reserved for an asada had been sold to someone else. but, nothing stopped our dream team. we transformed the woods into a magical fairy wonderland complete with endless lupines and glitter galore.

it was perfect. a summer solstice celebration with lamb asada, smores, and lots of love.

and so was the rest of the week…

we spent the next day (my birthday) hanging out by the rio azul. lounging in hammocks and getting up the courage to jump into the ice cold water. 

we spent the next day rafting down the rio azul. ryan got to be cool and kayak. he had a childish grin on his face the whole time. even when he was practicing rolling in the ice cold water… (that man hates cold water.)

late nights. endless conversation. wild adventures. everything i would expect from a visit to cathy. love that lady and her family. three children who over the years have become beautiful adults.

and then, before we knew it, it was time to head a bit further south. we packed up once more and boarded a bus to gobernador costa, a tiny town five hours south. ryan’s good friend lucas and his girlfriend sinja were going to meet us there. in the middle of nowhere. in southern argentina. 

i love our life.

twenty-four hours in rio.

six months later…
i am posting a blog i wrote back in december about our quick trip to rio…

i don’t know which city is supposed to be more dangerous, but as we stepped off of the bus in rio de janeiro at night, it was a bit sketchier feeling than sao paulo. of course, all bus stations and airports are always on the outskirts of town, so you always arrive to a new city in an area totally unrepresentative of the actual city. what if chicago was just what surrounded o’hare?

we paid fifty cents to use the bus station bathroom then tried to follow uber’s instructions to the pickup location. our uber driver was so sweet. he tried to message me in portuguese to move to an easier pickup location. i responded that i didn’t speak portuguese, and he told me to sit tight. we waited for ten minutes anxiously staring at the moving car on my phone’s uber app. and then, we connected.

it was late. the bus was late. we sat in standstill traffic for two hours entering rio on the bus. i had hoped to get to the hostel before dark, but oh well.

we drove in the dark, intensely aware of every time the uber driver pressed the lock button repeatedly in certain areas. he pointed out landmarks in the dark, and we haphazardly tried to communicate in spanish/english/portuguese. he could not believe that we were only in rio for one day.

24 hours.

our hostel, pura vida, was at the foot of a favela, a brazilian shanty town. our uber driver was very unsure of the location. we entered from a side street and got a full night tour of the favela action. he warned us to be careful.

we found the hostel entrance and hiked up several flights of stairs. a cute space transformed into your typical backpacker mecca. an outdoor bar, several flyers for upcoming parties, and a girl vomiting at 4am in the room above us. it was simple but perfect for our one night.

after dropping off our bags, we set out for dinner. it was 9pm, and we were starving. we wandered a block away from our hostel and instantly the neighborhood went from favela to copacabana. we found our way into one of the best things about brazil… all you can eat buffets where you pay by the kilo. i usually lose when it comes to buffets because my belly can never actually tolerate more than one plate. but, by the kilo? yes please. maybe this is where whole foods got the idea from… 

after dinner, we walked another block down to the main beach drag of copacabana. it was 11pm on a monday, but the sidewalks were full. full of tourists, bars, vendors, crafts, sandcastles, strangers, and that rio energy that you hear so much about. the night was just beginning. people were still hanging out on the beach, which was completely lit with irritatingly bright flood lights. 

with “at the copa, copacabana” playing on repeat in my head, i embraced the moment and ordered a classic brazilian caipirinha, so full of sugar, you could not even taste the strong alcohol. after only a few sips, i could see how they could be dangerous. (must have been what happened to the poor drunk girl above our room.)

with only one day to take in the city, we headed back to our hostel to get some sleep…

there is always something magical about arriving to a new place in the dark. when you wake up the next day, it is like being in a time machine. you’ve been transported to this new place and have no idea how you got there. nothing looks familiar. 

copacabana is just as busy during the day. the iconic sidewalks holding the footprints of millions of visitors. “her name was lola. she was a dancer.” 

we strolled along the beach and over to ipanema, a close by beach with cleaner water and a more chill vibe (plus an epic mountain backdrop). we found a small corner cafe and indulged in some croissants and cafes con leche. ipanema is adorable. full of shops and trendy restaurants. a great way to start the day.

after breakfast, we walked around the lake until the sun was burning my skin. a beautiful little lake in the middle of the city, just a few blocks from the beach. it was slightly odd (since the ocean was so close) and didn’t look very used, but it was well maintained with a great walking path surrounding it as well as several little restaurants. 

and then, onto the main attraction…

we popped into an uber and headed up to christ the redeemer. sure, it’s touristy, but the view is worth it. and, the statue is a phenomenal feat. wow. rio is absolutely stunning.

mountains, rivers, lakes, ocean, skyscrapers, all intertwined. it is a city with history and character and beauty. it is real, authentic, full of life.

if you’re ever in rio, take the train up to the top. snap your selfie with jesus and soak in the view.

with the hours dwindling, we ubered across town to lapa, the party district, just to walk around (and see the arches of course). we hiked all the way up the famous stairs to santa teresa, a cute artsy neighborhood up in the hills.

it was beautiful from up there. quiet and quaint. cafes and shops hiding in every doorway. 

you can take a san francisco-esque trolley up and down, but since we were running short on time, we hopped in another uber and headed back to copacabana for some dinner before our series of flights to argentina. 

a grilled spread of meats, french fries, and a couple of beers overlooking the beach. sometimes it’s simply sitting that gives you the best perspective of your travels. people watching and enjoying your surroundings. 

we’ll be back to rio someday. there is so much rock climbing right in the city. so much left to see. 

but, for now, our 24 hours in rio had come to an end. we grabbed our suitcase from the hostel and sat in two hours of traffic to get to the airport. and then, a ridiculous lineup of flights to get to our next destination: rio de janeiro > sao paulo > santiago > buenos aires > bariloche and then a bus to el bolson.

the things we do to save a little money…

now, onto a friend’s wedding in one of my favorite places on earth.

two days in ubatuba.

back on a bus. ubatuba to rio de janeiro this time. it is windy through the hills, and i think my ability to stare at my computer in vehicles without getting queasy is starting to wear off as i get older. but, i’ll push through…

we arrived in ubatuba after a “three hour” bus ride (which actually took five) from sao paulo. two nights in an airbnb by praia grande, the most popular beach on a long stretch of beautiful coastline.

our airbnb host had been very helpful (and slightly overboard) leading up to our arrival, providing endless details, travel advice, and constant communication. however, due to that, we were able to jump off the bus at the exact right stop and walk 50 yards to her home.

the apartment was straight out of the 50s and definitely could have been lived in by the same woman since way back then. it had that old smell and questionable charm. the gas stove had some dodgy piping, but the view was unbeatable for $50/night. beach in front, jungle in back.

after dropping our suitcases off in our temporary home, we quickly changed into our swimsuits and settled into some serious relaxation. and by that, i of course mean burgers and beers by the beach. now, we might have preferred something else to eat, but it was pretty easy to pick those two items on the portuguese menu and since we were starving from our delayed bus ride, we went with easy.

praia grande was crowded. it was the weekend, but it also turns out that i accidentally picked the high season to visit. lots of local tourists flock to ubatuba in decemeber and january, when the temperatures are hot and the rains are rare.

we walked the long white sand beach soaking in the scenery. kids playing soccer and volleyball. groups of friends drinking too much and causing a commotion. couples holding hands and kissing in the waves. vendors selling drinks and snacks and ice cream and clothes.

as the sun started to set, we wandered back across the street to our apartment, where ryan proceeded to immediately fall asleep. a few beers and a little sunshine always manage to steal your energy. i thought he’d wake up in time for dinner again, but he just kept on sleeping. i guess he still needed to catch up on some zzzz…

as he slumbered, i strolled down to the local shop and picked up some pasta for dinner. i ate some food, did some work, and retired early. music blaring over loud speakers occasionally streamed in through our open windows reminding us of the party we were missing outside.

the next morning, i unexpectedly woke up just in time to catch the sun rising over the ocean. day two in ubatuba…

we boarded a city bus into the center of town, about a 20 minute bus ride that costs $1/person. ubatuba proper is a cute, decent sized town. there are plenty of stores and restaurants to explore. lots of places to sample brazil’s delicious “pastel,” a pastry filled with whatever you want basically. 

we walked through town and ended up back on the coast. the beach on the edge of the city center is pretty barren. there are no vendors, no umbrellas, no bikinis. but, there are something like 100 beaches along this stretch of brazil’s coastline, so we continued walking the coast exploring as many beaches as we could. 

after enjoying one other beach, we headed back out to the main highway and called an uber to transport us out to the infamous itamambuca beach, known by many surfers. about seven miles down the road.

itamambuca is beautiful. it reminded me of nosara, costa rica. dirt roads lined with elegant homes and understated beach shacks, all leading to the beach. small snack shops and surf stands ready to help visitors enjoy the ocean to the fullest. 

the ocean meets up with the itamambuca river here. the fresh water combines with the salty sea. it was less chaotic than the other beaches near town. there were still beach bars and vendors, but there were way less people. however, the water was much dirtier. perhaps the river’s fault?

we set up shop at a table on the beach, and with our toes in the hot sand and a “stupidly cold” (brazilian saying) beer in our hand, we watched the waves roll in and out.

unfortunately, the waves were not quite up to my aussie surfer’s standards. although the beach is known to have some good breaks, the waves were not cooperating for us this trip. but that’s how it goes when you only have a day or two. not enough time to patiently await the swell. oh well. we’ll have plenty of time to surf in australia next month. 

after we were sufficiently sunned, we shuffled back to the main highway on the dirt roads surrounded by jungle greenery. the bus took an hour to come by. but we waited. because we had nowhere else to be. nothing else to do. no plans. 

when the bus pulled back through the city center, we jumped off and walked the opposite direction along the coast. back towards praia grande via itagua, a hip little neighborhood full of restaurants and bars. 

and then we saw this…

yes, that is someone bungee jumping from a crane. and hang gliding from a crane. and free falling into a net from a crane. 

this was just randomly set up on the side of the street. there was not a fair or anything else going on around it. just long lines to defy death one more day. only in brazil i suppose? we were totally game to try one of them, but our desire not to wait in line won instead.

for dinner, we found a cute little health food restaurant, banana brazil. a welcomed break from the fried pastries and cheese filled everything that we’d been snacking on. so far, beyond the meat, brazil has not necessarily offered us any oh-my-gosh-that-was-fucking-delicious moments.

i remember experiencing this when i lived in argentina. sure, you can find a great meal here and there, but in general, the palette is a bit bland for my tastebuds (surprising i know, with all the white foods i tend to eat). it just doesn’t excite my tongue like japanese or italian or thai or indian or mexican… to each their own though. 

and then, you’ll never guess what we did… we went to sleep. clearly, we both really needed some vacation time…

and today, we travel. 

7am wake up and pack up
8am city bus to the major ubatuba bus terminal
8:30am walk a couple blocks with luggage because we got off a stop early
8:45am make ryan go get cash from an atm to buy bus tickets (sao paulo only took cash)
8:58am hope the bus we want is not sold out
9am ticket office opens, and it turns out they take credit (oops…)
9:30am drink coffee and eat deep fried something
11am bus scheduled to depart for rio de janeiro
11:45am extreme bus stop boredom sets in
12:15pm bus actually departs for rio de janeiro
5pm now, still on the road to rio 

here’s to our final two days in brazil!

p.s. sorry this post is boring. we needed a few days of boring.

one day in sao paulo.

the only way for me to capture an experience on paper is if i write it down immediately. many of my travels disappear into memories before the details make their way into words. a few photos get posted here and there to help jog my memory years later. 

but, it is the trips that include lots of bus time, flight time, and alone time that end up being best documented. this trip is one of those trips. first up? brazil!

we are on a bus heading from sao paulo to ubatuba. just reaching the peak of the serra do mar and heading down the hills to the beach. our quick trip to brazil is something of a city sandwich: sao paulo and rio de janeiro with some relaxing beach and surf time in ubatuba in between. 

after a five hour flight to atlanta and a nine hour redeye to sao paulo, ryan and i arrived in brazil absolutely exhausted. (the late night celebration in san francisco prior to our initial flight might have been part of the problem… thanks viv, ruth, and andrew…) we quickly skipped through customs and threw our one overstuffed suitcase into an uber. yep, an uber. ordered straight from the app with ease. ¡vamos a jardins village hostel por favor! 

oh wait, they don’t speak spanish in this south american country?! shit. 

i haven’t visited a country without a native speaker or being able to speak the language in a little while. it is sort of fun to be forced to learn some portuguese and create my own bastardized version of spanish, english, and random google translated portuguese words. turns out i can understand enough key words to get by. and the google translate app is like cheating really… with the photo hover translate feature?! i can’t wait to tell our children about the days when traveling to a foreign country was WAY harder.

we are in brazil for five days. we haven’t traveled like this in awhile either. quick stops in multiple places to see as much as we can before going onto the next country. we have had the privilege and luxury of spending weeks or even months in most of our travel destinations. time to shift the mindset. we’ll never see it all, just sample and take notes for next time.

and so, we spent our first 24 hours in brazil, walking around as much of sao paulo as possible. my feet have blisters and my shoulders are sunburnt, but my belly is full and my heart is too. 

sao paulo has a population of 12.11 million people. it is the most populous city in the southern and western hemispheres. it is the 11th most populous city on earth. 

and yet, it felt manageable.

of course, we didn’t have time to visit everywhere, but the neighborhoods we visited were clean, easy to navigate, and full of cheerful paulistanos (sao paulo locals). 

our hostel was in an area known as jardins, down a cute little alley.

it was a couple blocks off avenida paulista, one of the main bustling city streets crowded with men in suits, street vendors, and an endless variety of people. 

that was one of the main things we noticed right away. it is impossible to typify a brazilian. every time i thought i’d hear english or german or japanese come out of someone’s mouth, it was portuguese. every time i thought, “that person is for sure a tourist,” they’d prove me wrong. brazil should maybe steal the american title of “melting pot.”

and everyone is lovely. from the uber driver trying to point out attractions to us in broken spanish…
to the shaved head barista teaching us about the history behind the delicious “bread of cheese”…
to the old man helping us find a misplaced credit card at the empanada bar…
to the woman at the phone store directing me to a place where i could find an outlet converter…
to the waiter at the brazilian steakhouse explaining how to take advantage of all the tableside-carved meat.

every confusion caused by our lack of portuguese came along with a loving smile and a joyful willingness to help. 

we walked from our hostel in jardins all the way to vila madalena, an artsy district full of hip shops, galleries, and cafes. it was further of a walk than we expected, but it was a great way to take in our new surroundings. 

we toured beca de batman, an alley filled with amazing street art. all of sao paulo is covered in street art and graffiti. buildings, sidwalks, walls, cars, there is art everywhere. but, this specific alley is a famous spot to see a lot at once. 

after this, the effects of our redeye started to set in. we were both exhausted. like, barely keep our eyes open exhausted. we stopped to fill our bellies with empanadas and hoped it would give us a little energy boost. 

it didn’t. so instead of walking an hour to our next destination, we called up an uber. $4 for a 30 minute drive? yes please. ryan instantly fell asleep as we battled traffic to the central part of sao paulo or the old historic downtown. 

the calm, artsy vibe of vila madalena and the poshness of jardins disappeared. we were now back in what felt like a city. people everywhere. smells everywhere. an underground system of rails below us. the blazing afternoon sun above us. we let ourselves get lost. walking the streets taking in as much as we could.

throughout our travels to major cities, we inadvertently have started a tradition of going up to get a bird’s eye view of the city from its tallest building. usually it is overpriced and overcrowded, but it is always worth it. a chance for perspective. a chance for orientation. a chance for awe. 

the edificio italia has a 360 degree viewing terrace from their 42nd floor. it cost R30 (about $7.50 USD) and included a free glass of wine. a real steal compared to the $30-60 you usually spend getting to the top in places like hong kong, seattle, tokyo, chicago, etc.

sao paulo sprawls forever. in every direction. there is no one main clump of skyscrapers. it is a sea of skyscrapers. 

with my shoulders getting progressively more red and our lack of sleep getting progressively more impossible to ignore, we decided it was time for a little siesta. after realizing we were in an uber pickup hell (three drivers couldn’t find us and canceled even after we tried moving), we jumped into a taxi and fiercely fought our heavy eyelids. 

sure, we only had 24 hours to take in as much of the city as possible, but enjoying an afternoon siesta is definitely a classic way to experience south america. 

we passed out hard but woke up just in time for dinner. what kind of food did we want to eat? meat, of course! 

when in brazil, a churrascaria it is pretty much a must-do. an endless delicious variety of meats on a skewer brought to your table and hand carved onto your plate.

the restaurant we chose came complete with a beautiful buffet of sides as well (and the above photo on their website). not to mention a tasty flan for dessert. 

after we literally could not eat another bite without spewing, we strolled home in complete satisfaction. it was only 9:30pm, but we had to catch a bus early in the morning, so we settled in and drifted back to sleep. 

i know, we must be getting old… in a country known for its celebrations and not going out until the sun comes up… 

we’ll have to see what rio has in store. 🙂

that one day we got engaged.

five years ago, i met a man rock climbing in maple creek canyon in utah. we happened to both be going to kentucky for a month. and then, i followed him back to australia to see if it was something more.

five years later, he dropped to one knee and held out a ring. i’m a sucker for a good love story, and so far i’ve been given all the makings for a romcom box office hit (including a cute foreign accent). 

but for now, i’ll just skip to the engagement proposal story so i can start directing people to my blog instead of leaving out more and more lovey-dovey details every time someone asks. and so that in the future, i’ll actually remember the details…

a few months ago, a longtime beloved festival (the event that i work for) attendee emailed me asking if he could propose to his girlfriend on the stage at this year’s festival. after asking my boss, i realized there was no way in hell i was going to be able to convince him to halt the main music lineup for a random patron to takeover the microphone and share his love with 3,000 other patrons. (he’s not quite the romantic that i am.) i gave up on that idea but was committed to helping this man find the space to propose at the festival.

once onsite the second weekend of august, i met with him and helped plan a time for him to get on the microphone at the yoga pavilion. on saturday afternoon, following a great ecstatic dance set, he professed his love in front of her family, friends, and a small dance floor full of other attendees. 

i stood on a hill overlooking the proposal feeling pretty proud of myself and basking in their love. i walked back down the forested pathway to the office getting drunk on chlorophyll and glowing from their love. everyone loves love.

when i returned to the office, i told my boss how i had just facilitated my proposal perfectly. he looked confused. he asked me where. i told him at the yoga pavilion. he said, no no, i think we should do it at the stage. then i was confused. i thought you said we couldn’t do it at the stage. 

all the sudden, he realized i was talking about the guy who emailed a few months ago. he changed his tune and gave me a high five, finally joining me in my pridefulness. then, he started hounding me about organizing the staff photo. he had been bugging me about it all weekend. typically, it was not a big deal and a pretty last minute thing. we would just pull as many people as we could to some discreet location sometime on sunday. 

this year, he said he wanted it on sunday afternoon at the stage right before manoj’s dj set, so all the staff would stay and dance a bit to his set afterwards. (manoj is a good friend of many beloved staff.)

cool. sounds good. staff photo planned. now stop bugging me about it.

back to the grind. i run around nonstop during the festival. as the general manager, i have most of the answers, so people ask me all of the questions. my mind has zero time to think about anything unrelated to the festival.

i made the announcement for the staff photo over the radio on sunday morning. all call, all call. the staff photo will be at 3:15pm at the stage. be there and bring your smiles.

3:15pm came quickly, and i rounded up all the admin staff in the office to head down to the stage. a couple of my coworkers alerted me that it was pretty hot outside (since i had not left the office since breakfast) and encouraged me to take off the black leggings i had on under my green dress. 

okay, leggings off. now let’s go.

i asked our security manager to borrow his megaphone, and we headed to the stage. 

it was the middle of the final day of the festival and the dance floor was packed. all the staff gathered together and waited for the current musician to finish their set. i continually glanced around the audience trying to figure out who was missing. which staff members would i need to radio individually and remind them to get their butts down to the stage for the staff photo?

i didn’t see ryan, so i texted him to make sure he was on his way. 

the music ended, and we all congregated in front of the stage on the dance floor. several of our festival photographers were there to help capture the moment. megaphone in hand, i directed everyone to squeeze in closer and move to get out of the sun. eventually, i slide into the front row, and the staff photo was complete.

we all hugged and started to clear out. i said thanks to everyone and thought we were heading back to work.

but, then my boss announced that he wanted to do department photos…

my thoughts: department photos? you’ve got to be kidding me. everyone has so much work to do. we never do department photos. there are over 20 departments. this is going to take forever. ughhh… 

he took the megaphone out of my hand and called out for the operations department to gather. (i guess the boss always gets what he wants.) the operations crew (ryan’s department) gathered on the dance floor. one photo down, a million more to go…

next up, they called the admin department (my department). i started walking out and all the operations crew pushed everyone else back. 

i yelled out something dumb like “oh now we’re doing couples’ photos?!”

but instead of an admin department photo, ryan and i were left alone in a small space on the dance floor encircled by hundreds of my fellow staff and thousands of festival patrons. (the view behind us looked something like this…)

he had changed out of his filthy work clothes and put on a nice button down aloha shirt. he dropped to one knee and held out a ring. 

holy. shit.

my hands went straight over my mouth as shock and awe overtook my body. it is hard to surprise me (especially when we have discussed marriage and i knew it was coming), but he did. 

it was too loud to hear over the audience’s cheers, but i think ryan did actually ask me to marry him at some point, and i am pretty sure i said yes.

our friends from hawaii adorned us with a handmade lei and flower crown, and the operations crew gifted us with champagne to uncork over the crowd.

manoj’s dj set began and the endless group hugs turned into joyous dancing. what a perfect sunday afternoon.

and all this time, i had no idea that i was planning my own proposal. that my boss and boyfriend were scheming to make me the center of attention. that thousands of patrons would high five us the rest of the weekend. that my engagement party would have 3,000 people.

apparently some people are allowed to stop everything for a declaration of love in the middle of the dance floor at beloved festival, and i am deeply grateful to be one of those people. thanks elliot. (i am also grateful that my gals made me take off my leggings in preparation for photos that will be shared forever.)

thank you to everyone who made it happen. to everyone who kept it a secret. and to everyone who continually supports us in our relationship and in our love. 

it is not easy living a love that involves friends and families and jobs and homes across two different countries that are separated by a giant ocean, but we have done it. we will continue to do it. and it is absolutely worth it.

we love you. we love each other. now let’s plan a wedding… or two…

*****

p.s. i am sure i left out a few amazing details that ryan will alert me to after reading this. i’ll be sure to edit if he feels i left out anything absolutely essential. he always seems to think i do…

p.p.s. if you’re one of those people who is just dying to see the ring, here is the beautiful one that ryan slid on my finger at the festival.

however, he knew that i have dreamt of a custom ring designed by my friend rosemary for quite some time. so, this is not the forever ring. we will be going through her amazing love story custom ring creation process soon to craft a one-of-a-kind symbol of our relationship. check her out if you’re in the market for jewelry.

 

 

one month of finding balance.

two full months on the road based out of our van, moby clit. aptly named by my auntie because ryan insisted that our big white van was not big enough to be called moby dick. plus all cars are ladies right? you can call her moby or mc for short.

month one…

our first destination was red rock canyon national conservation area, just outside of las vegas and part of nevada’s mojave desert. we spent three weeks there hanging with a gang of lovable canadians. it was a gentle ease into van life with such a major city only a 15-minute drive down the road. with friends for ryan to climb with, it also allowed me to keep up my full time job and not feel guilty that he had no one to belay him.

that is one thing that i am realizing about van life, it is hard to keep up on all the work i have to do. before when i was on the road, i had multiple clients who only expected a few hours of my time each week. but now, i have one main employer who expects 40 hours of my time each week. so just like everyone else working the 9-5 grind, i am basically a weekend warrior. i might switch out a tuesday for a saturday, but i pretty much only climb three days a week. and i’m sure ryan is getting over the fact that we need to wake up at 7am and find cell service for a couple hours before we head up the rock and off the grid.

but welcome to real van life. it is not all play, but it is worth it.

it is worth it to experience things like the stark juxtaposition between city and nature. las vegas is a weird town to begin with, but when you seclude yourself amongst the rocks for several days and then saunter into a casino covered in sweat and dirt, you really feel out of place. we treated ourselves to one night in old las vegas, but otherwise, we tried to stay out in the wilderness.

since this was our first destination, we had to get back into the swing of climbing. our fingertips needed to turn red and raw before callousing. our forearms needed to tire out entirely. our calves and gluts needed to get used to the long, uphill approach hikes. our minds needed to reacquaint themselves with the innate risk that comes with climbing.

but eventually, our bodies adjusted. our brains adjusted. and our way of life adjusted.

we spent our days climbing the red rock and our nights playing cards or sitting around the fire. and on rest days, we filled our bellies with cheap mexican and unlimited wifi. it was wonderful.

then, the clouds rolled in and the thunder roared. it was time to move… the climbing life is always dictated by the weather.

the whole group relocated to one of my favorite small towns in california, bishop. it is at the foot of the sierra nevadas and near mammoth lakes. although most people go there for the bouldering, we found ourselves hanging out on the beautiful granite cliffs of pine creek canyon.

i had to remember how to trust my feet on tiny granite crystals. i had to remember how this magical rock could be sticky and slippery all at once. i had to remember how to crack climb. (i had to do this in red rock as well.) and i had to remember why i love to climb.

it is easy to be unmotivated when you live on the road. since there are no time constraints, there is no pressure to cram it all in. leisurely mornings (sometimes too leisurely) have become our standard. we’re lucky if we have put on our harnesses by noon. some days, i am all for this, but other days, i wish i could find a little drive. a little more excitement to conquer the rock.

“wherever you are, be all there.” – jim elliot

this quote is on an old tea bag tag taped to the back of my phone. so far, i am finding it hard to heed these words on the road. when i am on the cliff, i am worried about missing important emails. when i am staring at my computer, i am worried about missing epic climbs.

but, there are moments where it all comes into balance. even if it is just that one minute where i am at the top of a climb looking out over the canyon below with my best friend by my side realizing how lucky i truly am. or that one minute where i am sitting in bed catching up on emails next to a campfire realizing this is an amazing life i lead.

but back to bishop…

aside from the amazing rock climbing that is in and around bishop, the town is one that we could see ourselves spending a bit more time in. it is close to skiing, climbing, hiking, hot springs, and lots more. it is four hours to los angeles and las vegas, give or take. now if only the ocean were a little closer and had good surf, i don’t think ryan would ever leave…

before heading north to catch my mom in san francisco for mother’s day and visit my aunties, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at whitney portal.

wow. what a stunning area. with views of mt. whitney, unique rock formations in the alabama hills, and gorgeous pine trees lining the bottom of giant granite walls, this detour was well worth it. and so was the taco truck and pub in lone pine, population 2,035.

now if only i had starred in one of the hundreds of movies filmed in this area

coming up in month two: san diego, joshua tree, and yosemite

van life: red rock canyon (video tour)

we left portland at 9pm on thursday, april 12th with red rock canyon, las vegas, nevada set in our google maps. we were so excited to hit the road and sleep our first night in the van, that we didn’t even care that we would only drive about three hours before needing to pull over and go to sleep. so excited, that we totally didn’t even think about the fact that the pass over mt. hood might have snow… which it did.

despite the chain requirement warning, we slowly pushed through the pass and safely found our way to the redmond, oregon wal-mart, our first home away from home.

it was freezing. we didn’t think about the whole snow thing at all. we curled up close in our new cozy bed, too lazy to unpack our extra sleeping bags.

in the morning, we woke up and hit the road again. i worked for 10 hours while ryan drove for 10 hours. and then, we arrived in vegas. our first climbing destination.

we met up with some friends who were in town from hawaii and were treated to a true las vegas luxury dinner (from a famous chef that i can’t remember the name of) after a full day of exploring red rock canyon state park. it was so great to share our home with some good company. plenty of space for four… thanks nate and nancy!

after a few days of climbing and a few nights camped out in a casino parking lot, we met up with some other friends and moved out to campsite closer to the canyon.

it’s been almost two weeks since we landed in vegas and since we moved in our new van life. these first couple weeks have been full of learning. learning what works, learning what doesn’t, learning what we’re missing, and learning what we love.

life is pretty great. i am so proud of ryan and the home he has built us. it is cozy and has everything we need for the life we love to live. it is a blessing to wake up every day and look around at the beautiful creativity of my partner. thank you ryan.

and now, what you’ve all been waiting for… a super awkward video tour of the final product!

beginning van life: week 8-10

so it turns out that ryan isn’t great at documenting a van build… since i was working full time (and overtime) while we were stationed in portland for the past two months, i could not help get footage of the amazing process ryan underwent to produce our new home.

since my last blog post, we have completed the van!!!

it took about 4-5 weeks of full time work, and i am still totaling the expenses, but probably around $8,000 for everything including the vehicle. more details on expense breakdown to come soon.

in the final weeks of the van build, a lot of things came together…

ryan framed the kitchen and modified a piece of bamboo donated by my boss for the counter top and pull out table/desk.

he built out the cupboards and drawers. complete with soft close hinges! and then, he gave them all a couple coats of oil to protect the wood and make the grain pop. our van is majorly cedar, including these beautiful cupboards.

 

as everything came together, some of the last details were finished up. we added a vent fan over the bed to draw air from the front windows throwout the van, and ryan finished up all the electrical.

the sink was custom made from a bowl to minimize depth and allow space for our pull out table/desk.

 

and then there was the one thing that i contributed to the van… the curtains. i will admit that i cannot even take full credit for them since a friend of mine did assist with the sewing. thanks elana!

and then, we unpacked our storage unit into the van and moved in…

now, to hit the road…

beginning van life: week 1-7

the number one question from everyone these days has been, “how’s the van coming?” so, i guess it is finally time to do our first update on the pending #vanlife chapter of our lives.

it has been seven weeks since we arrived in portland, and we have been super busy. ryan thought he would have all the free time in the world while on a break from work, but he was very wrong.

our first three weeks here were pretty mellow. lots of craigslist searching and alert setting, checking out various vans, and daydreaming about creating our new home. since ryan was not working full time like me, there was also a lot of boredom and anxiety to get started on this next adventure. that boy does not like to sit still for more than a day or two at a time…

we joined a climbing gym in portland, which gave him something to do while we continued to scour the internet for our perfect van. we needed to get back in shape anyways. our forearms and fingertips were definitely not up to climbing road trip status. but, after seven weeks, they are starting to get there.

after about two weeks, an alert popped up in my inbox: 2004 chevy express 2500, 164,000 miles. i forwarded the info to ryan, and he went to suss out if this could be our glass slipper.

turns out that it was. but it also turned into a hilarious example of a craigslist fiasco…

after getting the van home and getting ready to register it, we realized that we had the wrong title. what?! for the next several hours, my brain thought about every possible scenario. was this a stolen van? did we just get swindled? it turns out the answer was no. we bought the van off an electrical company that was selling off a couple vans from their fleet; we just had another van’s title.

during this time, ryan also realized that the transmission could use a little work. lucky for us, the owner had to meet us to exchange the titles. when we picked up the new title, we learned that the vehicle we had purchased was actually a 2003, not a 2004.

this was used to our advantage as i tapped into my schneider debate skills and negotiated a partial refund due to the less than perfect transmission and older than expected vehicle. threatening legal action (without actually knowing anything about the laws surrounding craigslist purchases and bill of sale stipulations), we got them to agree to a partial refund.

with the actual title now in hand, we registered the van in our name and dropped it off at the transmission shop for a makeover while we headed down to lake tahoe for a little snowboarding fun with friends for week four.

we returned to portland in early march, and ryan got straight to work. he joined a community workshop space, so he had access to all the tools he would need. and now what you’ve all been waiting for…

week five:

  • removing the stickers from the outside
  • stripping the inside of shelving and cage divider
  • insulating the walls and floor
  • sanding the wood wall panels
  • waterproofing the wood wall panels (the only thing i have done to contribute thus far)
  • starting to install wood wall panels

 

 

 

week six:

after endless hours researching and unsuccessfully finding a van bubble topper for a decent rate and reasonable turnaround time, we abandoned the idea of adding a higher roof onto our van. at least for now. standing up in the van is definitely a very exciting luxury, but in an effort to save time and money, this part of our plan has been postponed.

  • finishing installation of all wood wall paneling
  • insulating the roof
  • installing wood ceiling boards
  • wiring the van for our ceiling lighting and mood lighting
  • online research and ordering of parts

week seven:

  • installing LED mood lighting
  • prepping holes for ceiling lights
  • building bed frame
  • oiling wood wall panels “to make the grain pop”
  • designing (and arguing about) under the bed storage compartments
  • designing and planning out the kitchen
  • more online research and ordering of parts

and there you have it! three weeks of hard work and ryan has already created an amazing new home for us. i can’t wait to see what else he has in store for _______! (we are taking name suggestions. “rowdy” has been suggested as a throwback to the previous owner’s company “gowdy electric” but we’re still open to ideas…)