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2 Years and a Video I never Posted

David and I just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary, which is crazy because it feels like not too long ago that I was blogging about wedding planning!

I realized that while I did a ton of work to make an awesome wedding video (which I put to DVD), I never shared it online! It’s below; note that the first 18 minutes are a video slideshow of the whole wedding weekend (set to music associated with it) and the second 18 minutes are the actual wedding ceremony. Enjoy!

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Cruising: Simple Advice

This is the third and last blog entry about our cruising experience. Check out previous entries about what we did and vacation vs travel. Here is some quick and simple advice – some of which I wish I knew before going!

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Get a room with a balcony: This is our top advice. Spend the extra money, it is worth it! We sat on our balcony to watch the sun rise and set, arrive and leave ports, to read, to drink, and just sit in the quiet of the night looking at the stars. Your balcony is your direct connection to the beauty around you.

Ditch the smart phone: Depending where you go, it might not work on the boat. We didn’t pay for wifi and it was sort of amazingly freeing to have no internet access for 11 days. Take a digital detox. I enjoyed my phone as just a time-telling camera.

Bring a watch: This way, you don’t have to carry your valuable phone everywhere. And you do need to know the time to get to activities on time (like the hairy chest contest or your boat’s departure).

Bring booze! Check out your ship’s alcohol policy. We could each bring on a bottle of wine but nothing else was allowed. We snuck on a coconut water box filled with rum and buried it in our suitcase. They didn’t look too closely. Drinks were very expensive on board so it was nice to have our own stuff. From talking to other people on the boat, it seemed that everyone brought their own booze, ranging from putting a bunch of nips in their pockets to just putting a bottle in the suitcase to buying unused shampoo bottles and filling those up. We also enjoyed cheap local beer while in port.

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Watch the stars: Find a quiet place at night to sit and looking at the ocean and watch the stars. We passed a lot of time doing this.

 

 

 

 

 

Pick your room carefully: They say that the further back in the boat and the higher up, the better. I’m not sure, but being higher up is good because that’s where the activities are and your balcony will have a better view. Also look at the ship floor plan and see what is above and below you to avoid getting a room above the disco that goes til 2am, which is what we had.

Take the stairs: There was all-you-can-eat soft serve iceceam 24 hours a day. Really, take the stairs.

Choose late dinner: Our boat had early seating dinner (6:00) and late seating (8:15). The late seating was good for us because we ate a late lunch every day and it left time to swim, workout, nap, and shower before dinner and “going out” for the night.

Don’t worry about cash: On the boat, there is no money exchanging unless you go to the casino. You are automatically charged a daily rate for tips and anything you buy gets charged to your room account. We do recommend getting some $1 bills and smaller bills from the service desk to have them for tipping and spending in port.

Plan ahead (activities):  Before your trip, take out a guidebook from the library and learn a little about where you are going and what you might want to do while there. Look on TripAdvisor or other travel websites about tours and activities. Book these activities before you go so you don’t have to stress about it while on your trip. The activities offered through the cruiseline were a little on the pricey side, but also so easy. Our dinner tablemates booked daily tours and activities independently ahead of time – a lot of work up front but makes the vacation smooth sailing.

Prioritize what you do: The cruise ship and options of things to do in ports are completely overwhelming. Decide what you really want to make sure you do and prioritize that. Everything else is bonus – you will go crazy if you try to do it all!

Try not to be overwhelmed when entering port: Exiting the port “village” that had restricted access and entering into where touts were was really overwhelming. There are a bunch of taxi drivers and tour guides offering you their services. This is their job – they make their living on tourism. They aren’t begging or necessarily trying to rip you off – it’s just how things work.  If you have an idea what you want to do or where you want a cab to, ask at the tourism desk ahead of time how much you should expect to pay so that you don’t get taken advantage of. 

Appreciate the people: We had several interactions with people (taxis, buses, restaurants, etc) in which local people expressed genuine happiness that we were there and love of their island. They want you to enjoy your time and have a good experience so that you will come back and tell others good things about their island. For the most part, their economies as based on tourism. 

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If you choose to go on a cruise, are considering going on a cruise, or use this information to help you plan a trip, let me know in the comments!  If you have your own advice to give, leave it in the comments for others!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2016 in Travel

 

“You’re not Cruise People” – Travel vs Vacation

“I’m interested to hear how you liked the cruise. I wouldn’t consider you just not cruise-people, I might go so far as to call you anti-cruise,” a friend said to me on a phone call the other night. I chuckled as he said it, nodding knowingly. This was essentially the same sentiment we heard from several people upon return from our Caribbean cruise.

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I couldn’t help myself. I held the monkeys.

The short answer: We had a great time, but it’s really what you make of it. I wrote earlier this month about all of the things we did. You could go on the very same cruise and spend all your time laying around, or in the casino, or you could go to the gym 3 hours a day, or spend every minute in port shopping. Nobody forces you to do anything – it’s a choose-your-own-adventure, with a lot of choices available to you. You choose how much fun and adventure you will make out of it. And let me tell you, we are fun!!!

A funny story: At ports, people will mostly do organized excursions or simply head to the beach via taxi. This is mostly what we did, except in Barbados. David and I were like, oh no, we’re adventurous, independent travelers. We will do some organized tours, but we will also adventure on our own. When we returned to port in Barbados, a tourism board person was surveying people about what they did, how they got around, and how much money they spent. When we said we walked into town, went to the parliament, took a taxi to the local history and culture museum, and took a local bus to the beach and spent about $32, she gaped at us, “You must have been here before then?” “No, we’re just adventurous….”

My revelation at the end of the trip is that there is vacationing and there is traveling.

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Vacationing: the purpose is usually to relax and vacate from daily life. You don’t stay anywhere too long and you consume the place. Discomfort is minimized as much as possible and you do activities that are mostly the same anywhere. You’re a tourist and not really getting a sense of what local life is like. You might be on a beautiful beach in Mexico, but you really might as well be on a beautiful beach anywhere. Overall, our cruise was a vacation.

Traveling: you’re actively seeking out what it’s like to be a local and get off the beaten tourist path. You explore the culture, language, food, and history of an area. You’re having new experiences and getting pushed out of your comfort zone. Everything isn’t always great – you struggle through language barriers and hardships and grow and learn from the experience. This was our day in Barbados.

As I prepared this blog, I found a slew of people writing about travel vs vacation (like here, here, and here). Some have an I’m better than you air about them (not super uncommon – maybe endemic to “independent travelers”).

I don’t think one is more “right” or better than the other – they are just different.  It’s all up to your preference and what you need at that point. We love to travel adventurously, but sometimes it’s nice to just take a vacation! That’s where the cruise came from – we didn’t have the time or energy to plan a big trip. But we also love to travel because of the effect it has on us as people.

What do you think? Do you think or feel there is a difference or one is better than the other?

It might be a vacation when this happens...

It might be a vacation when this happens…

PS I promised an entry with advice…this fell out of my brain first. Next one will be advice and then I’ll move on from writing about the cruise…

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Travel

 

“You’re Going to Be Bored”: Our Caribbean Vacation

Last week we returned from an 11 day trip to the Caribbean, which included a 7 night cruise on the Carnival Liberty. We were pretty quiet about going on this trip – partially because I was slightly embarrassed to be going on a cruise (“you’re not the cruising type”), partially because we only booked it about a month ago,  and because we’ve been on a social media diet.

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People we did tell were surprised, since it’s not our usual style of travel. We’re more ” go ride elephants people” than “lay on a ship lounger with a tropical drink people”. We don’t sit still much and we don’t like to do what everyone else is doing. “You’re going to be bored” we were told.

We’re back, we weren’t bored, and we had a ton of fun! This blog entry is going to be a recap of the trip with fun pictures and videos. The next blog entry is going to be more about advice for going on a cruise and our experience “as non-cruise people”.

Like I said, we weren’t bored. On the ship we:

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we got challenged to ping pong by a bunch of drunk guys who said “you must have a table at your house”

  • played mini-golf
  • went on the water slide (a lot. see video.)
  • went in the hot tubs (all of them)
  • went in the pools (all of them)
  • ran the track
  • went to the gym (almost every day)
  • played ping-pong
  • played shuffleboard
  • went to several comedy shows
  • went dancing (80s night!)
  • stopped into the piano bar, casino, karoake, an art auction, and booze sampling
  • watched a movie (The Martian) on the top deck at 10p in the middle of the sea
  • went out to dinner
  • napped daily
  • watched the sun rise and set (almost daily)
  • colored
  • read
  • played cards
  • studied the constellations
  • went to a few shows
  • listed/danced to the Latin house band

If anything, we were too busy! I didn’t sunbathe at all, or take the time to do any shopping.

The ship arrived in a new port each day, around 7-8am and we had to be back on the boat by 4:30p, so we tried to make the most of each day. You bet we were running down the dock at 4:28 on a few of the days!

Our itinerary was:

  • Puerto Rico
  • St Thomas
  • Day at Sea
  • Barbados
  • St Lucia
  • St Kitts
  • St Maarten
  • France (see below)

Having basically a half day in a place doesn’t give you much time to really get to know the place, but we managed to:

  • go river kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking in St Thomas on an organized tour
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Pretty buildings in Barbados

  • explore Barbados on our own, visiting the Parliament, the national museum, and a beach, and successfully taking a taxi and the local public bus

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  • take a driving tour of St Lucia that ended at a type of state park (Pigeon Island). We hiked to the top of an old fort for excellent views, then enjoyed some time on the beach. While on the beach, some local fisherman did net dragging fishing, which was interesting to see (see below video).
  • read for a long time under a tree on a very quiet beach (Frigate Beach), as well as enjoy a show put on by diving pelicans in St Kitts. We also adventured to do a 1 hour ocean kayaking rental at about 2:45p…into a bad head wind. It was a bit too stressful to make sure we made it back on the boat.

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  • ride bikes in (very) hilly St Maarten. Jenny managed to ride the longest, hardest, sweatiest hill she’s ever ridden. Luckily, we enjoyed an almond croissant in France before that specific climb. That’s right, I said France. The island is divided into 2 separate countries – half being part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and half being part of France. Not a possession, but actually France. When they declare a national snow day holiday in France, the tropical island of St Martin also has a snow day (and boy do those on the Dutch side hate that!).

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In a few places, we managed to grab a few cold beers (“Carib Beer” and “Piton Beer”) in the little villages that surround the cruise ship terminal. 2/$5 beers and $6 mojitos were a far better deal than the $6 beers and $9 mixed drinks on the ship!

We also tacked on a few days on each end in Puerto Rico, where we enjoyed going on a food/walking tour, visiting old forts, speaking Spanish, eating mofongo, and visiting 2 different caves.

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We even found our own natural seaside swimming pool that we enjoyed for a good long time before heading to our isolated, treehouse-esque mountain retreat.

That’s the short version of a recap on our trip. Were we bored? No, I don’t think so. If anything, we were too busy (enjoying ourselves). Look for the next blog entry, which will be more about advice for others, and our experience of being “not really cruise people”. 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2016 in Travel

 

Screen Time

I haven’t had a tv in my home for 6 years. I used to say it sheepishly or pretend like I knew what people were talking about when they referenced things on tv. Then I would say it proudly that I didn’t have a tv – I didn’t have a box with a screen that played mindless entertainment and advertisements to distract me for hours. In the last year or two, I realized I was wrong – my home does have that box, but it is in the form of 2 iPhones, an iPad, and 3 laptop computers.

Have you ever thought about how many hours you spend looking at a screen – either a tv, computer, or phone? Some days, at the end of the night, I confess, I am certain that it’s more than or close to 12 hours.  Work has been crazy, so I’ll spend 10 hours at my desk. If I take the bus/train, I look at my phone while waiting and riding. Then when I get home, my “reward” or wind down time is spacing out on my phone – checking Facebook or Instagram or the weather or email or the news. If I have any energy left in me, I do things from my to do list, which frequently involve using my computer. My phone sleeps next to my bed – the last thing I do before sleeping is look at it, then when I wake up in the morning, I pull it into bed and go back to checking through all those same websites in case I missed anything while sleeping and to prepare for the day.

There have been numerous interesting articles about our  society’s addiction to Facebook and other social media. I can’t say it as well as they can, but I can feel it – the impulse to just “check in”. Standing on the train platform, I can’t help but pull out my phone to browse through Facebook. Waiting to meet someone, I stare at my phone to keep myself busy.  It’s a need to see what other people are doing, a need to feel busy, and seeking approval (how many likes or comments can you get?).

I can’t remember enough to find the article, but I also read an article about how Facebook can make us feel sad and/or inadequate – everyone else’s life looks so awesome because we only post the good stuff. She has a great job. They are on a great adventure. His marriage is perfect. Life is all roses.  Or if we post the lousy stuff, it’s seen as a cry for attention. Maybe we need to get off-line all together?

Does anyone else feel this push? What do you do about it? I think just being more conscious of it helps. My phone is going to sleep in the living room and not go in the bedroom. I have deleted the Facebook app and will erase my saved password from Safari. I will not use looking at my phone as a reward or wind-down when I get home – I will read a book or stretch or go for a walk. I’d like to try to make Sunday’s as much as a screen-free day as possible. One thing I might do is turn my phone off more often so that I don’t just absent-mindedly pick it up and start flipping through it. If it’s off, I have to consciously turn it on and wait for it.

I don’t know the answer to this 21st problem, but I feel it. And we all see it. Just look around.

P.S. Don’t think that I don’t see the irony of the amount of time I spent looking at a screen to write this, as well as seeing what feedback comes in…

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Lifestyle Design

 

The Power of Traveling Alone

Last weekend I traveled alone to Seattle for a conference. While I have flown to DC, Florida, and Wisconsin alone, there was always a friend waiting on the other end to visit and stay with. This time, I was mostly alone. And it was so empowering and confidence-building. Don’t get me wrong – I love traveling with David (home is wherever I am with him) – but this brought a different level of self awareness and push out of the comfort zone.

 

Upon arrival in Seattle, I got off the plane and navigated myself by train to my AirBnB – staying with Julian and his wife (who I dubbed as my Japanese parents). I headed to downtown to grab a shiny new green Pronto bikeshare bike.  And of course, the first street I went on was the biggest hill in the whole damn city – I could barely walk up it with the bike, nevermind ride. I rode around, went to a park and a bakery, then met up with a friend (ok, so I wasn’t completely alone) for happy hour.

 

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I had my revelation of empowerment on that first night. I was on my way back to my AirBnB, riding a bike down that giant ass hill, alone, at night, in a city I didn’t really know. The air rushed past my face as I sped down the hill and let out a “yeehaw!”. I didn’t feel anxious – I felt exhilarated. I had flown across the country and made my way around a new city. It felt good.

During the rest of the trip, I navigated bike share around the city, went out to lunch alone, and sat at a bar alone. I have always read things about how empowering it is (especially for a woman) to travel alone and be comfortable and confident in yourself to sit alone – and I was always like ‘yeah yeah ok, but I’d rather be with David instead’, not really comprehending the point. As I sat alone at a bar drinking a margarita snacking on tacos while drawing and watching gymnastics on the bar tv (I know, can you believe it?), I felt pretty proud of myself. Because, while I wished David was with me, I could do it on my own and be okay with it.

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Was I acutely aware of myself as a woman alone? Yes. Was I unsafe or reckless? Did I feel unsafe? The answer is mostly no to both of those. It was calculated risk. We were in Seattle for a day on our honeymoon, so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar. I had a detailed bike map of the city. And stayed on the roads with bike paths/lanes. I’m pretty city savvy and street smart. I had a formal conference and network of people. I knew people in the city, including some folks from Boston attending the conference.

I get the feeling my little trip is just the tip of the iceberg for what they they mean when they talk about women traveling solo, but I’ll take it. Has anyone had any similar experiences? I highly recommend for anyone to try traveling on your own. It doesn’t need to be a trip across the country. It might just be taking a trip on the train to a nearby city and spending the day there alone. You will learn and grow and become more comfortable with yourself.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Lifestyle Design, Travel

 

Wedding Recap Part 3: Advice

This is the last entry in a 3 part series relating to weddings. The first was a recap of our wedding with pictures and memories; the second was information about vendors we used. This last entry is about wedding advice, answering the questions: what advice would I give someone who is (recently) engaged? What advice would I give to someone planning a wedding?

First, a word to everyone: don’t ask someone who has been engaged for less than a month when and where the wedding will be. Just congratulate them and be excited (maybe ask about the proposal) – and let them enjoy the excitement of being engaged. For those of you engaged – enjoy it and brush off the questions about the wedding. You will have plenty of time to plan the wedding – don’t feel pushed into planning it.

Starting off:

  1. Get the book A Practical Wedding and read it BEFORE you dive head long into crazy wedding planning. Seriously. Get it from the library even. Or tell me and I will order it for you on Amazon right now.  Both partners should read it. The wedding industry is completely insane and this book will help you to be conscious of avoiding falling into traps, or at least make you aware of the traps you might fall into (i.e caring about things you’ve never thought about – who cares what material the tablecloths are made of?). It’s not a guide about how to plan a wedding, but something we found really insightful and read multiple times during the course of our engagement.
  1. Like the book says, do a brainstorm of all the crazy possibilities of what you’d want for a wedding. Think of all the weddings you’ve been to and stuff you liked and didn’t like. Then, figure out what your non-negotiables/must haves are. Then talk to your families and find out what their expectations are/what they really want. Then come up with some compromises. Relatedly, think of what you care about the most and put the effort/money into making that awesome – and let other things go as acceptable but not perfect.
  1. Avoid the wedding-industrial-complex. This is all the bridal magazines and websites that have all the crap of what you “must do”, “must have” etc. There is an overwhelming amount of stuff online and in books. Find one or two you like and use those.

Watch this video. It is nearly 100% true and had us laughing hysterically. Watch it several times throughout the wedding planning process and you will see how true it rings (and when we found ourselves stressed and at each other, we would say “but the table runners need to match with the cumberbunds!!” to bring ourselves back).

  1. Include your partner in everything. It is for the both of you. At the same time, divide and conquer – like one person assigned to researching photographers while the other researches bartending services, then decide together. One person shouldn’t get stuck with everything.
  1. Plan your wedding date knowing that the 6ish weeks leading up to it will most likely be insanely busy and stressful (and if they aren’t, hooray for you!)
  1. Spreadsheets and listmaking are your friends to not get stressed out. Have a list that’s a month by month break down of what you should do when. We also had a shared Master Google spreadsheet (with about 14 tabs on it) that evolved over time.
  1. If an engagement photo shoot is possible, do it. It’s great to get to know your photographer (and they you) and helps you practice getting photographed. It also is like a rehearsal for the wedding and helps knock off some jitters and can be fun. Think of it less about the product you’ll get and more about the experience.

Mantra to repeat: “We will not remember what our wedding looked like. We will remember what it felt like.”

  1. It’s going to be more expensive than you thought – like 2-3 times more (even if you say “I just want something small/simple/not fancy” – see above video). It’s hard to compare across venues and vendors because some include everything and some include nothing. Just know it’s gonna cost more money than you thought possible.
  1. Don’t do any wedding planning or talking in the 45 minutes before you go to bed. It will disrupt your ability to sleep.
  1. Unless you want to spend your every waking moment (and some sleeping) between now and your wedding either doing wedding planning or worrying about wedding planning, try to book stuff that includes more than 1 thing/is a bunch of stuff tied together/is traditional. Our camp wedding was AMAZING and I don’t regret it AT ALL. If you asked me for advice in the months leading up to the wedding, I would have said don’t do it. It turned out perfect, but wasso muchwork (see blog 99 days before wedding).
  1. Along those same lines, DIY seems like a great idea (fun! creative! save money!) but it doesn’t really save money and creates more stress and requires so manydecisions. Pick one or two projects, and that’s it. And/or, farm out projects to people who want to help – and let go caring about it and just trust they’ll do something that works well enough.

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From the heart:

The engagement is not just about leaving enough time between getting engaged and the wedding to plan the wedding; it’s also about emotionally preparing for marriage and a huge life transition. Use it as processing time for the transition. Discuss important topics with your partner (self guided/with prompts or formal counseling). Know that it’s totally normal to feel a crazy range of emotions through this whole process that you would have never expected – from anxiety to fear to sadness to excitement. It’s definitely a transition time and you should take the time to embrace, acknowledge, and work through your emotions.

Relatedly, there will be all sorts of family stress (inter and intra) trying to manage everyone’s expectations and needs. Again, more than you would have ever thought. Take a deep breath and remember the cumberbunds.

Other resources:

 

And that’s it, I think. I’ll walk away from putting wedding things up here..and move on to something else. I started this website about quitting my job and lifestyle design, then it transitioned to a travel blog, then wedding focused. Now, it will probably just be a variety of ruminations.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Marriage/wedding