About ten months ago Lindsay and I moved to Japan. Specifically a small(ish) town in the Kansai region, in Nara prefecture. The town name is Koryo, and has a population of roughly 35k. The town is roughly 30 minutes by train from Osaka, and around 45 minutes to Nara city. The other major-ish city that is nearby is Kashihara which is around 15 minutes to the East.
After we left Reykjavik, Lindsay and I spent about two weeks driving the “ring road” around Iceland. It was awesome, and really really beautiful. Rather than write another long book of a blog post about this time, I put together the little video above. Sorry, I know it’s pretty long, and you’ll tell I had to heavily rely on the only so-so software stabilization so there are a few wobbly bits of the video. Overall though the video shows a good chunk of the highlights from the trip / the main things.
There are some things that are not really captured in the video that I’d like to talk more about, but I told myself I’d post something before an entire year passes, so for now just a list of things:
- For car camping, I actually sort of like the cozy camping that happens in a lot of the campgrounds we were in
- The video is really pretty garbage but we took so many videos of driving / roads because the landscapes really are very insanely beautiful / awesome, and the video doesn’t capture it
- Hot springs at campgrounds and Lindsay being told she talks funny by a really angry and aggressive and drunk local
- Just how amazing the Skogar to Thorsmork (Skógar to Þórsmörk) hike was.
- How many times I attempted to get photos of sheep but failed 100% of the time
- How much better some of the photos we took are than the video, but I didn’t want to post photos in the videos
- I didn’t show the photo of Lindsay’s amazing birthday dinner I cooked her after the hike (night of Skogar to Thorsmork). That day was one for the record books IMO
- How when we left Iceland I was ready to get home, but since we’ve been gone I’ve realized how special and amazing it really is.
- I think I’d go back to Iceland some day and re-do this exact trip, but maybe with a month or so of time, more reading, more hanging out in small towns, etc.
Lindsay and I decided this past year to spend a summer somewhere new / interesting, and after some debate and consideration, we decided on Iceland.
The decision to spend (ha?) the summer in Iceland was, as is often the case with us, decided in large part (and semi-ironically) based on cost. In particular the cost of the flight through Wow Air. This is a fairly well known “deal” at this point but basically Wow Air had ~$300ish dollar flights out of Toronto direct to Reykjavik. Lindsay and I had been talking about going to Iceland for a while, and when we saw the cheap-ish tickets within our reach we did a quick search on AirBnB to make sure that an apartment was somewhat affordable (we found a few single rooms for ~900-1000 for a month… which ended up all being “fake”, but more on that later) and just YOLOed and bought the ticket.
Well it’s been awhile since I’ve updated the ol’ blog.
Over a year Over TWO years. So I’ll recap the past events, starting at the previous blog post:
- We ate the ramen for dinner, and had some leftovers that we took to Lindsay’s house. The leftovers were perhaps more disappointing then the original meal. I have yet to attempt ramen again since this last attempt but recently have begun the search for bones to give it another shot.
- Lindsay and I went apartment hunting and ended up finding a great apartment in Chicago. The apartment itself was perhaps a bit odd at times, and certainly rough around the edges (exposed insulation in areas, partially pained ceiling, walls that crumble when you touch them).
- We moved to Chicago, Lindsay got a job at a great middle school, and I decided to start back at ID working remotely. We met a bunch of great new friends, including friends through a cooking community, and some very wonderful people we share the house / apartment with.
- We decided to go to Austin, TX for a month during the summer (
that’s where we are currently at– that’s where we were at when I started this blog post… which is sad, because that was the summer, and now it’s winterthat’s where we were over a year ago. We’ve since moved to a different apartment in Chicago, and it’s now the end of the NEXT summer from when I started this blog post!!).
- We ended up with rat issues in our apartment on Palmer St… we dealt with them for quite a few months, but eventually decided we should move. The rats were in the walls, and I would wake up often times in the middle of the night and pound on the walls to get them to be quiet. Also, the rats ate some of our clothing INSIDE of our bedroom, so at some point the rats were getting inside the apartment itself.
- We ended up moving to a new wonderful apartment in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago
That’s the basic life update for our own memories, but I’d like to spend a tiny bit more time writing about our time in Austin as it was a wonderful summer and I feel like it would be sad to not capture some of the memories from the trip for the future. Already many details are going to be lost, but I’m going to just take a stab at it, as they say. And by “they” I mean.
So, what can I say about the summer in Austin..
Well, a small break from the past year of travel style blog posts.
While traveling through Japan, Lindsay and I really fell in love with Ramen and decided that on the top of the “things to do when we’re home” bucket list we’d put “make real-ass ramen.” I want to take a second to point out that this was very much a team effort, though I may have spent a bit more time reading/researching/asking questions about what recipe to follow, which steps to follow, etc. But the point is, this was a team activity, even if I don’t write it up as such.
As you may recall (I’m actually not 100% sure we talked about this on the ol’ blog), the choice to come to Barbados was based on a few things.
First, we had expected that sometime in this year of travel we’d have had some opportunities to swim around in some beautiful water somewhere. India we figured that Goa would be this experience, but Goa was not exactly that experience, and we quickly ran into fall and winter in Asia and Europe without ever having any “go to the beach and go swimming” experiences. So, we figured on the way home we’d stop somewhere tropical.
I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table in Michigan, Tristan and Izzy are to my left and right working on homework. We’ve been home for three weeks. I mention this because although I know it sort of ruins the whole “reading a travel blog real time” thing, I feel like my memory is already fading and so I’m going to write as I remember things, which may not be perfect. After we left the mountain home, we headed to Porto. The drive was somewhat long, but not particularly eventful. Porto was pretty great. I think it was probably all of our favorite city in Portugal. It felt touristy, but perhaps also a bit more casual and a bit more approachable then Lisbon.
When my parents first got to Lisbon, we really had very little in the way of concrete plans set for the next 2 weeks. Initially, my mom and I planned to take the brunt of it, and the she got really busy with school and passed the task to me, and then I, knowing my lovely mother would want more input than she cared to admit, decided we would just “play it by ear” and plan as we went. That turned out to be a great idea, as it was that mentality that led us here. Originally, in our basic sketch of the trip, the plan was to head north and then take on the south, lounging on the beaches just before they arrived back home. Thankfully, our lack of concrete planning gave us the mobility to look at the weather, head south first and on our way up to Porto, stop in Serra de Estrella. It was my mom’s suggestion, and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip for all of us.
After a few days in the country, we headed to the Algarve, specifically, Lagos + Sagres. The city of Lagos was quite small and it was great for easy exploring. My parents went to the fish market, my dad waking up around 6 am one day headed down to pick out some delicious tuna for us for dinner. We celebrated Easter (Kev and i standing the entire mass from the balcony, my parents sitting at the alter) and found about 15 items wrapped in tissue paper hiding in various places around the house. We had a gin + tonic tasting event, “sponsored” by Kevin, who claimed (and was correct, sadly!) that given the chance to have 4 drinks, we couldn’t tell the difference between them. We went sea kayaking and swam in the beach. We went hat hunting for my mom (which turned out to be quite a feat!), and ate a delicious Indian dinner. My dad tried gelato for the first time, and they ate their first salted sardines (another Portuguese specialty). We ran on the beach, looked at cool urchins, played paddle ball while Kev practiced his card trick. We went to Sagres and ultimately to “the end of the world!” aka, the south-eastern most tip of Europe. We geo-cached and ate egg salad sandwiches and chocolate seashells on the side of the road. Needless to say, we killed it.
So, we drove south. Our ultimate destination was a little city called Tavira, and more specially, a tiny island off the coast called Ihla de Tavira. The plan for my exhausted parents, after weeks of preparing for this trip, was to chill out on the coast for a while, run on the beach, read a book, and relax. Knowing that we were going to be on the beach for the next few days, we opted to check out the Portuguese countryside, and man, what a great decision that was. We literally were in the middle of NO WHERE, or at least it felt like it, and it was a total change of pace from the busy city. We stayed in this amazing log cabin, were greeted by the world’s biggest dogs, and chilled out on the giant porch overlooking the desert-esque landscape. It was pretty cool.