Add it to my bucket list…

Well, cruises may not be my thing, but traveling still certainly is! In my last blog I talked about all the reasons I didn’t really like cruise life, but I’d be lying if I said at least some parts of it weren’t amazing. Would I rather travel by plane than boat? Yes. Would I prefer to spend an extended amount time in one place than hop around to a bunch of places? Most definitely. But we still got to see some pretty incredible things while docked in Mexico.

Our first stop was the dock outside of Progresso. We were traveling by bus for 2 1/2 hours to reach Chichen Itza – one of the greatest Mayan sites on the Yucatan peninsula. The tour had some pretty mixed reviews: Long bus ride, bland lunch, questionable bathroom on board the bus…if only those people had traveled in Ethiopia! It felt like we were on a luxury trip : )

This is the first time we’ve left the United States since we flew back from Ethiopia via SE Asia in November of 2014, so needless to say, it was about time. But what struck us the most is how similar traveling feels, almost no matter where you are. Take this photo for instance…

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I took it in Mexico, but it could just as easily have found its way on my blog back when I was living in Ethiopia. Life doesn’t always seem so different.

That said, the history from one place to another is what really makes cities and countries stand out. I’ve been to the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, the San Antonio Missions, the archaeological site of Pompei, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame (all UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and it’s these incredible structures (and the stories they tell) that I value most about my time traveling.

I’m lucky enough to now be able to add Chichen Itza to my list, with its gargantuan splendor. But despite the overwhelming immensity, I was struck most by the precise detailing that still survived.

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Each of the figures or animals, still so intricate. Though not all of the structures have gone unscathed. Take, for instance, the main structure for which Chichen Itza is known. That temple has undergone an amazing face lift to transform it back into its former splendor, however, sides of it remain as it was found, a solemn reminder of what can happen to our history if we don’t take care to preserve it.

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A pirate’s life is not for me!

Fun fact: Jimmy John’s has nicer toilet paper than my cruise did.

Ok, let’s back up a bit: A few months ago, Chandler and I began talking about what we wanted to do for Spring Break. He mentioned a cruise and I wasn’t really into the idea, but we didn’t cement any plans.

Fast forward a few months…we still hadn’t made any Spring Break plans…and we were running out of time. So we started looking into Central and South America – at airfare, all-inclusive resorts, and small beach getaways…keeping our options and locations open. However, the more places we looked into, the more we realized we were way late to join the game. Between 17+ hour layovers and room prices of $300-400/night it just wasn’t working out.

So Chandler once again broached the idea of a cruise. I still wasn’t completely sold on it, but it seemed like our best option and I was determined to have an open mind.

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Our first night we were crazy sea sick. I grew up on boats, but let me tell you, a lake is nothing like an ocean (seems pretty obvious, right?). We rocked and rolled all night long and I was running to my Dramamine. Thank God for Dramamine : )

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I Hear The Drums Echoing Tonight

“I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Earlier this month, Chandler and I made the trek up to Waterloo, Iowa. Everyone we had spoken to about UNI’s Overseas Placement Service for Educators had told us to keep our options open and be prepared for a roller coaster of changes and emotions. They were right.

In my last blog, I listed our locations of interest as Monterrey, Mexico; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Athens, Greece; Kathmandu, Nepal; Muscat, Oman; and Asuncion, Paraguay. Well, after interviewing with Mexico, we decided that while they’re a great school, it just wasn’t a great fit for both sides. Slovenia ended up filling their positions ahead of time and didn’t make it to the fair. Bangladesh, Greece, Nepal, and Paraguay required more years of teaching experience from me. Oman was crossed off the list due more to lifestyle reasons than the school itself.

Which makes it sound like we sat around scratching our heads thinking what on earth do we do now? But in reality, we had been contacted by schools in three other countries just days prior to the fair. Countries that weren’t even on our radar: The Bahamas, Ghana, and Venezuela.

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Plan The Escape

I haven’t posted in nearly a year, because I figured that without significant travel in my life, I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say. Especially since this blog almost solely documents my life overseas and my travels.

But now that I’m once again planning a life abroad, I’ve found I have more to say. It might not be as interesting to those who used to read this blog; I haven’t gone snorkeling in Thailand recently, there’s been no spelunking in Vietnam, or haggling in Qatar. Instead, I’ve become an elementary school special education teacher and that takes up nearly all of my time.

Yesterday, however, Chandler and I did get fingerprinted, as requested by UNI’s Overseas Placement Service for Educators. The results came back quick – neither of us have a criminal record : ) Which I guess is doubly good news since I’ll be tying my life to his this July. Maybe every engaged couple should run joint background checks through the FBI together, just so each party knows what they’re getting into!

These background checks were the last in a long list of things we needed to get done before our trip to Waterloo, Iowa next month. Once there, we’ll meet with schools from around the world and hope that we strike up a mutual interest with one of them and choose a place to call home for the next two years.

Some of the potential contenders include Monterrey, Mexico; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Athens, Greece; Kathmandu, Nepal; Muscat, Oman; Asuncion, Paraguay; and so many more. So, as you can see, we’d like to narrow it down!

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Home is wherever I’m with you

I’ve been in Texas two months now and once again I’m making a home in an unfamiliar place. I’ve got an apartment, a job, and I’m making new acquaintances. I’ve spent the last six weeks decorating my home, the last five weeks working, and the last four studying for my teaching certificate – which is paying off, I’m now Highly Qualified to teach ESL here.

One thing I’m not doing is traveling. And after years of constantly moving about, it feels weird to be stationary. I traveled down to Glen Rose in February to spend my birthday at Dinosaur Valley State Park, I shopped in Dallas, and I, of course, now live in Fort Worth, but that’s as far as my exploits have taken me.

And you know what? It’s not so bad. Yes, I wake up most mornings just itching to hop a plane and head somewhere new – I’ll probably always have that impulse. But I have to admit, I don’t hate having a home. And not just one I can carry on my back! Here’s my confessional time: I’m a nester. I like to nest. And I’ve found inordinate joy decorating my apartment and knowing I won’t have to leave it any time soon.

And any time I really crave having an adventure just around the corner, I remind myself that getting into my car each day and seeing if it still runs is an adventure! My Caddy leaks oil, has coolant issues, and was recently hit in a hit-and-run. But you know what, she’s mine, and I love having the freedom to drive again.

Any time I find myself craving exotic foods, I remind myself that I live in DFW! There are restaurants everywhere, serving every kind of food imaginable! And better yet, I don’t have to go to a restaurant to have cultural foods – I can simply make it myself! Because for the first time in two-and-a-half-years, I have a well-stocked kitchen and fridge.

And finally, I’m not spending my days stuck in a dead-end job I hate. I’m working toward a goal…a goal that will get me where I want to be – back abroad. I’m currently working as a substitute teacher and I recently enrolled in an alternative certification program here in Texas. I spend my current free-time studying for tests to certify me to teach ESL, Special Education, and Early Childhood through Grade 6. By the end of the 2015-2016 school year (during which I hope to be a full-time, paid, probationary teacher), I’ll be a fully-certified teacher.

Which means I’m looking at a long-term return abroad starting fall 2016. And in the meantime, haven’t you heard? Teachers get summers off : ) So I’m already making a list of places to visit stateside this summer. And then who knows where Chandler and I will head off to in 2016…

Never a tourist in your own city?

So the saying goes, “You’re never a tourist in your own city,” but those who say it have clearly never had anyone visit them. My boyfriend arrived in Minneapolis December 21st, and after Christmas and family events had died down (in places like Brainerd/Little Falls/Randall/Elk River), we found ourselves back in Minneapolis – civilization.

We spent the first few days looking at jobs, apartments, and other big kid things before realizing: it’s MINNEAPOLIS! And I hadn’t shown Chandler anything (nor given him any reason to want to stay a while longer unless you count freezing weather, no snow, and enough sunless days in a row to make anyone depressed).

So we started our tour of Minneapolis on New Year’s Eve – at 612Brew. Chandler loves breweries and sampling local beers – I’ve always been more of a wine or gin drinker myself, but even I found something I liked here! The space was small, but between the cozy atmosphere, board games on every table, and food truck outside, the place felt like home. And their Payback Oatmeal Porter didn’t hurt either : )

My sister accompanied us as our DD (and constant entertainer) and we found ourselves weaving through downtown showing Chandler our favourite buildings, restaurants, and libraries. After a quick stop at Mesa Pizza (because yes, at the age of 24, I still crave mac ‘n’ cheese pizza), we made it back to my sister’s for a small house party to ring in the New Year.

Because things had been so calm the night before, we were able to start the next day (fairly) fresh and early. Our first stop was for brunch at Colossal Cafe. Shortly put, it was delicious. And you should eat their egg and cheese sandwich on a homemade biscuit immediately.

Then it was off to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, one of my favourite places in the city, and TripAdvisor’s top attraction in Minneapolis. After nearly four hours, we realized we had only seen 2/3 of the exhibits! Some of the art reminded us of our recent trip abroad (and made us want to go back!). Other bits reminded us you can never escape where you’ve been haha (Ethiopia):

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From fall to winter in two hours

A journey that began the morning of June 3rd ended last night when my flight landed in Minneapolis. Two and half years – that’s how long it too me to fly around the world. But I’d say I got a good amount done during that time. I’ve also seen an incredible amount of the world.

According to TripAdvisor I’ve seen 6% of the world with Chandler, and even more when factoring in what I’ve done on my own. The map below recounts everywhere we’ve gone together – which is literally everything I’ve done the last two year and a half years, with the exception of my trip to Italy summer of 2013 with my mom and sister.

Map of tripThese last two weeks were spent in DFW, Texas…the area that Chandler’s always considered home. It was really exciting to be somewhere that was familiar to at least one of us. I got to meet his family and friends, see where he grew up, and go to some of his favourite spots.

One of the first things we did was go to the Gaylord ICE Show featuring Frosty the Snowman. It was hilarious seeing people not accustomed to cold/ice go through the exhibition – and lest you think I’m mocking Texans, I’m far from used to that same cold and I’m sure I looked just as silly!

But really, the sculptures were stunning – the attention to detail was amazing and the Frosty theme was so much fun. They even had ice slides for the kiddos…which only made me want to click my heels three times to be sledding back home in Brainerd.

Gaylord ICE 1Gaylord ICE 2Aside from that afternoon, we had strictly fall weather in Texas…which was awesome given it’s my favourite season and I knew I had definitely missed it in Minnesota this year!

I spent Thanksgiving with Chandler’s family – it was lovely to be surrounded by a family during a holiday! The following day Chandler, his brother, and I went to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, all of which was lovely, especially the Japanese Garden. The trees were stunning and the site of them being reflected on the water was incredible.

We spent the afternoon wandering through the grounds, feeding the fish, and goofing off. All the while, the temps were high 60s, low 70s – a perfect reminder of why I love this season.

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