Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Posts tagged “traveling

I Literally Make Life Decisions Because of Christmas’s Commercialism

I received a great suggestion a couple of weeks ago. The short version is, “you should start blogging again because you need an outlet for all that shit you keep bottled inside.” The medium version is that a lot of our career coaching at my school seems to be therapy in disguise, and the professor assigned to this particular group saw me, felt that I felt invisible, and was doing her very best to give me even one useful suggestion for how to cope. I will keep the long version to myself for now.

The last couple of months specifically and last year in generally have been a period of upheaval in my life. According to all my social media feeds, almost everyone feels this way. There’s a lot I could dig into there, but instead, I’m going to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about almost constantly in the last few days.

I live in Belgium y’all. I won’t live here permanently, I’m not about become anyone’s expat, especially not here. But I feel so good about my decision to come here and get my MBA. My class is very international. There are 42 students from 20 countries. Something that comes up a lot is the reason that each of us decided to come here.

My answer feels a bit silly sometimes, but I value honesty over appearing to be a very serious person. So here’s the reason I decided to uproot my life and move across a whole ocean:

 

A trip to Paris for New Year’s with my husband at the end of 2016 included a trip right after the new year to Brussels. Purely because of it’s proximity and affordability, we found ourselves in Brussels. And when you are in Brussels, you find yourself in Grand Place. When I walked into the area pictured above, I fell in love.

I’m not sure if this will make sense to everyone who reads it, but energy matters to me. It matter to me for people, places, and things. And the energy of Grand Place appealed to me. And it didn’t hurt that it was still gussied up from Christmas 2016. When I was 6 or so years old, I picked out a bedroom set based on the red & green decorative pillows they added because it was December. Yeah, I’m that chick, and have been my whole life. I was already considering trying to come to Europe for a 12, 15, or 18 month MBA program. But I came back from Brussels and googled “MBA programs in Brussels.”

Once I researched my school, I realized it would be a really good fit and it was the only school I applied to. I was happy to pack up my shit and move to another country, but made sure to leave roots behind in New York for when I’m done.

Christmas is here again, and I went to Grand Place, as you do when you’re in Belgium. They have the tree up again, and I was eager to get a look at it with all decorations in place. It was a bit underwhelming in the daylight, but when I went back the next night, it was better.

It was a really nice moment for me. Standing in Grand Place in early 2017, this new seed of a dream felt near impossible to make happen. And perhaps the huge upheaval of the last year made it more possible, but it didn’t change the fact that it felt huge every step of the way. So when I was standing there in late 2018, I felt really proud of myself.

I made one of my dreams come true. 2018 has been a year of doing a lot for just me, which is something I might be a bit rusty at. I’m still figuring out how to balance all of the things that matter to me. But it was really nice to take this moment and just feel pride and happiness. Christmas is my jam, and I’m excited for getting to spend this Christmas here, even if I have to deal with Zwarte Piet. I might have to do a whole other post about that shit… But for now, let’s just focus on the happy dreams-coming-true, actively-pursuing-my-goals thing for now, okay?


Fifty by Age 50: Bienvenue en Europe

If you follow me on Instagram, you know Chris and I had a great time in Europe!

I feel good about the pictures/videos I posted. I took over 1000 photos while I was there, but I only posted 29 smooshed into 12 different posts. I’m thinking of doing one more that shows all the different bands Chris ended up playing with while we were there. Don’t worry. he was just sitting in with the bands, we did NOT go and make money while on vacation because that would be a violation of their tourist visa laws.

In case you missed me talking about it in literally every blog post leading up to the trip, my husband Chris and I went to Paris and Brussels from Dec 27 – Jan 5. We flew into Paris, stayed there through New Year’s, then went to Brussels for a few days before heading back to the states.

It was a great trip for Chris and I; I feel like we really reconnected on this trip. I feel like I learned quite a bit about myself on this trip, as well as some cool stuff about Europe and travelling.

What I Learned About Myself

  • I have a hard time being around anyone for that many days in a row. I never got sick of Chris, but I got… weary. I need alone time in my life and there wasn’t much of it unless Chris was showering.
  • My body refuses to adjust to changes in time zone. I’ve noticed it when travelling to other time zones in the US, but I thought after a few days in Europe, I’d get to it. But nope, I was up until 6am, waking up at 3pm damn near every day we were there.
  • I freaking love staying in an airbnb. Being able to cook a couple of my own meals and having that “home” feeling while on vacation is great for me.
  • I’m not as out of the box with food as I’d like. I am more adventurous than a lot of people, and I will try almost anything twice (in case it wasn’t prepared properly the first time). But while in Paris, I literally had to drag myself past this one bar/restaurant that has this amazing Chanterelle mushroom penne. My thirst for trying new things was easily outweighed by my desire to keep eating what I knew I’d like. I wanted to eat it ever day, but in the spirit of exploring, we tried a new restaurant every day. I wish we had stopped there once more though before leaving Paris…

What I Learned About Europe/Travelling

  • Those Europeans are stingy with surprising things (because they’re not wasteful Americans): paper napkins, bottle of water, personal space
  • Every single person except one that we spoke to spoke English. Some not fluently, but with my leftover (never-conversational) French we were able to make it work.
  • I need to go thank my middle school and high school French teachers because I was all over those signs that were in French, and I was correctly conjugating words. They’d be proud.
  • Springing for the international data plan was sooooooo worth it. Being able to keep my pictures backed up just in case and having constant access to Google maps was essential to our spontaneous exploring.
  • Booking everything all at once up front is pointless, you book when you get that perfect combination of exchange rate and price.

I was thinking about writing some more posts, getting specific about some of the things that we did. But I may not feel like it. The story of that woman kissing me full on the mouth shortly after midnight on New Year’s is worth telling. Chris getting held up in customs at JFK airport is also a sitcommy tale. The adventures of our flask trough Paris is also nice (I wouldn’t let Chris take a swig at Notre Dame). Eh, it depends on if I’ve got good pictures to go with the stories I think.

I still have to sort through all our pictures. Finding a back door into using the Aura Frame when I have no iPad, iPod, or iPhone took some time, but soon I’ll share all my pics with my family. My parents got a frame for themselves, for my brother, and for me and Chris. I think it’ll be kinda cool to have three households worth of pictures shuffling through our frame.


I’m Gonna Say Christmas Was A Quiet Success

I’m wrapping things up at work now, and my excitement is increasing. As is my tiredness. I’m tired y’all.

I ended up staying up late Sunday night to finish packing and then adding all my clothes into this new closet app thing I’m trying on my phone. It is time consuming to photograph all your clothes, but guess who doesn’t mind lack of sleep, and really doesn’t mind not leaving her clothes overseas accidentally? That would be me!

I was unable to do maintenance on my locs Saturday like I’d planned, so that fell to last night’s intinerary. Staying up to almost 3am two nights in a row when your alarm goes off at 5:10am is just plain silly.

But I did it. And as a result, I’m all packed for my trip, my hair looks neat and well kept, and Starbucks makes coffee to keep one awake. Well, the Starbucks isn’t a result of my poor time management, but my consumption of large amounts of Starbucks is.

I’m excited for the next week or so, but I’m also really pleased with how the Christmas holiday went.

After work on Friday, Chris and I headed to a friend’s birthday party then to Smalls, just like we’d planned. As a result of tiredness and terrible waitressing at the first bar, the only picture I have is the obligatory picture of Sara and me that I almost always take when we’re hanging.

sara-and-me

When we got to Smalls, it seemed that almost the entirety of the birthday party crew had gone over there. We definitely wouldn’t put the club over capacity. Smalls charges a cover to get in, but for musicians (and their wives, cough, cough), they usually let them in. Smalls works hard to foster that homey environment for the musicians and their people.

I say all of that to say that there was no way in hell Smalls was letting in all those people for free. I’m still not sure how they worked it out, but I was cold and there was room inside for me and Sara (and Chris). Everyone else came in a few minutes after that, so I figure they worked it out and the 12+ people on that bar crawl ish paid the cover to get in.

By the time they got in there, I had my customary I’ve-been-up-since-5am-and-will-be-up-until-damn-near-5am drink: Strong, fresh coffee with Bailey’s and Bulleit Rye Whiskey. My girl Marjie, the amazing manager (and aerial yoga buddy) who was working the bar, always hooks me up. She makes it just right so it needs no sugar, and she good-naturedly fights me on the tip. The only time I couldn’t make her take her money was when we were there on my birthday, but little does she know I just gave it to my friend JS to give to her instead, ha!

The band was amazing, as usual. I listen to my own friends and their bands so much that it’s always nice when I get to the club early and can hear whoever is playing the set in front of theirs. I ended up making nice with a sweet girl who lived up the street from the club. She kept requesting a blues with such gusto. It amused me and irritated Chris, but eventually someone called it for the jam session. I stepped outside with her while she smoked (ew, smoking), and took a pretty cool picture of the entrance to Smalls. I don’t think I’d ever noticed how many times the name of the club is written on/above the door.

smalls

The night ended after 4am, as it always does. We got home and fell into a deep sleep. I woke up the next morning, finally checked my mail, and saw that Sara’s Christmas gift for me had indeed arrived like Etsy told her it had.

This tank is hilarious and will be put to good use as soon as we’re back from Europe in the New Year.

namaste

The night of Christmas Eve, we went to a party for my friend Michael from college. He looks amazing, all slim and toned. He was always handsome, but damn if he’s not aging well. We did the math and realized we met over 13 years ago. We drank more egg nog shooters and stopped talking about that, lol.

mike

We stayed at this party All. Night. Long. We were laughing and drinking and talking and playing games. Chris and I had some friends nearby who checked in our activity for the night. Michael was down for the-more-the-merrier, so we invited them over and it went from a small gathering of family and friends to a ruckus house party situation. I hope he has more parties like that in the future.

I almost forgot to take a picture with Chris, but then I remembered. I’ve greatly improved my selfie game from back when I almost always cut half my face out of the picture. But the other party guests didn’t know that. So when I raised the camera back towards us, flash ready, someone offered to help take the picture.

Apparently, without breaking my smile, I brusquely said no, and because I’d already pressed the button before he spoke, the camera flashed immediately after. Everyone found this amusing if caustic. It took them awhile to explain to me why it came across that way. I guess they didn’t know I’d already pressed the camera button, so there was no rapid fire No-Smile-Click that they perceived.

Chris was cracking up the second the word no came out my mouth, as you can see below. I’m clearly drunk, as evidenced by my big ass smile. And my lipstick is also staining his lips, lol.

no-help-chris-laugh

Christmas was a very very lowkey day for us. So lowkey that at no point did we leave the house and no point did we put on pants. I happily watched The Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3 while cooking dinner and lunch. The only thing I photographed all day was the shrimp wraps I made for lunch, go figure.

shrimp-wraps

I squeezed a lot into just a few days because I was on a time crunch. The only real fail was David taking forever to get home from the airport last night after spending Christmas with his family. Even with staying up to finish my hair, I couldn’t stay up as late as necessary to watch the Sense8 holiday special with him. He says he’ll wait for me and we can watch it when I get back. I hope he doesn’t leave me behind like he did when it came to watching Supergirl.

Seeing as how we have over a week in Europe, I’m hoping it can be as eventful, but also more restful. Wish me a safe flight y’all, my plane takes off in 6 hours!


Still Got Time To Get The Holidays Right, Or At Least Better Than What I’ve Been Doing So Far

There’s a medium sized chance that I’m getting Christmas, and life, back on track.

We actually got a tree yesterday. And by we, I mean, my husband went and got one before he had to be at school while I was at work. That poor little tree is still undecorated.

We still have a couple of days to make it happen though.

The cats are once again welcoming of the tree. They play with each other around it, drink from the tree water (which leads to vomiting, but you try and stop them), and pose in very photogenic ways around it.

The plan is to somehow magically find time to go buy lights for the tree, and maybe a couple of ornaments. We have a few. I bought Starbucks cup ornaments on a whim a couple of years ago, and there’s something made of glass that I don’t remember getting, so Chris must be responsible for those.

I think that will be the full extent of the Christmas decorating. If we’re in New York for Christmas next year, maybe we’ll build on that.

The main reason not to do too much is that we’re going to Paris for New Year’s! I’m super excited. I finally finalized our travel arrangements and accommodations today. I know, I know, cutting it kinda close there. But it’s done.

I’m hoping to change up our travel style a bit. We have a habit of doing a whole bunch of nothing when we travel. To be clear, I say that with extreme prejudicial fondness. My favorite thing to do on a day off is nothing. Chilling out, making sure I don’t tire myself out, and making grand efforts only to eat.

But I’ve been inspired by the travels of those close to me. They leave their rooms each day, exploring everything they can walk or ride or boat to, taking amazing pictures every step of the way. I’ve decided I wanna be more like that.

With any luck, our days will be spent exploring the city on foot, stopping at museums, shops, galleries, pubs, and cafes. Our evenings will be filled with good food and live music. And then we’ll do it all again the next day.

The leisurely nature of exploring and being spontaneous appeals to me more than making an itinerary just to see all I want to see it. I’m gonna have this attitude: If I see it, great. If I don’t, then that’s just a reason to come back again one day.

Wish me luck that when it’s time to put on pants, I actually get off my ass and seize the day.

And wish me luck that the French speakers in Paris and the French and Dutch speakers in Brussels are kind to us. Did I mention we’re going to Brussels too? Only took me 32 years to take a trip to Europe, trying to squeeze as much out of it as I can.