I don’t know the best way of doing this. I don’t even know a good way of doing it. So, I am just going to wing it and see what happens. Ha, that’s funny, this is exactly how our trip to Europe worked out.
The next few entries will be focused on a trip to Europe we took in the fall of 2016. We wanted one last hoorah before we left Hawaii to travel in our van. We were planning on a trip to New Zealand and realized a trip to Europe would bring a lot of opportunities to travel with and visit friends. Our landlords from Hawaii would be in Germany, the Simonses would be backpacking Europe, the Soekers would be visiting Germany and Italy, our friends from college had just moved to Cambridge, my cousin Jake was living in Manchester and the Myerses were living in Sweden for the year. We couldn’t NOT go to Europe. We did very little planning because of all of these opportunities. We knew when and where our friends would be and decided to wing the rest. For that reason this is NOT a “How to travel Europe on a budget post” or a “48 things to do and see in Europe” this is more of a “Here are a million photos of our trip to Europe so we don’t forget what we did and saw” post.
Our photos are a combination of iPhone SE, Canon AE-1 35mm, Canon 5d mkiii, using only the 24-70mm lens and luckily a few taken by our friend Chris Simons. We will happily answer any questions and fill in as many blanks as we can but overall these posts are just for fun and making me feel like I have purpose right now.
As I post each country or region, I’ll hyperlink them in this post.
We only explored the French countryside for one evening with little excuse other than we didn’t know what we were doing. We booked an Airbnb in a small town on our way through. We walked the quiet streets and ogled at the idea of winter gardens and bright green rows of vegetables so late in the fall. While driving the next day we realized how close to Bastogne we would be. We may not have given the stop the appropriate amount of forethought, but we are glad we explored the Battle of Bastogne war museum and Mardasson Memorial. That night our GPS stranded us in an empty Belgian field before rerouting to our Airbnb farmhouse. The stay would be one of the trip highlights. We used google translate to have a three-hour conversation with our host that night. We talked about everything we could until the day’s drive caught up to us. The next morning we woke to the most spectacular breakfast spread. Barbara had made us the most delicious pancakes, offered fruits and pastries, a variety of jams and honey. I honestly wished I would have taken a photo of the table, not an inch was spared. After engorging ourselves, she took us on a tour of her small farm where she had at least one of everything. I swear at any minute a wide-eyed Disney princess could have appeared, serenading us and all of the animals.This. This is my dream house. My dream farm. We spent the next few days in the Netherlands, roaming the cities of Maastricht, Breda, Dordrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.Belgian waffles just on the border of Belgium.The fluffies and not-so-fluffies from our Airbnb near Maastricht. We were hosted by the sweetest couple who had the friendliest crew of animals. In our opinion, Airbnb is a must anywhere you visit. How else are you going to attend an in-house bluegrass band performance on your front step?Mark, our host in Dordrecht is a brilliant musician and master entertainer. We listened to Stringcaster live, drank Belgian beer and stayed up into the early morning hours. Sunset over Westeinderplassen in Aalsmeer.The same scenes in digital and leaky 35mm.Of course I had to do something different while in Amsterdam, so I had a stranger put a hole in my face.We would take an overnight bus to London that night, closing in on our last few weeks of the trip.
Our short time in Switzerland was spent being overwhelmed with its idyllic surroundings. We arrived late in the evening to our Wilderswil Airbnb, but were graciously hosted complete with wonderful conversation and dessert. The next morning we explored Interlaken and took a cable car to Harder Kulm, allowing us spectacular views of the city and Jungfrau, the “Top of Europe”.One of our favorite parts of Switzerland included the homes. Each house built in similar fashion, yet each were individualized by the color of the shutters, flowers adorning the walls or gardens planted. Even the goats or sheep roaming the yards varied just a little, giving neighborhoods a quaint, cohesive feel. We took the short train ride to Lauterbrunnen where we meandered into the valley, finding Staubbach waterfall, small farms and postcard perfect properties. We opted out of taking the cable car to the top of the mountains, the clouds were dense and low the day we were there, blocking any views we were hoping to see. Everywhere we went, we could hear the clamoring of bells. From tinny ringing to deep echoing, the bells around the necks of the livestock clang in an orchestra of sounds. We loved it so much we stopped at an antique shop and I bought a large bell for my dad. We carried that bell around Europe and I don’t regret it for a moment.We rented a car and left Switzerland, leaving crisp blue skies and a desire to revisit.
Cinque Terre consists of five villages along the Italian Riviera coastline. As per usual, we didn’t go with a plan but with the option to hike or take the train between the wonderfully saturated towns, the days flew by. Enjoy only a fraction of the photos we took, I could not resist every angle of every home.
We traveled by train from Florence to La Spezia onto Corniglia. We stayed in an Airbnb in Corniglia and hiked to Vernazza then Monterrosso al Mare the first day. As the sun was setting we took the train back to Corniglia.
We suggest purchasing a Cinque Terre card, it covers the train and bus fare and entry for hiking fees. The train stops at all five towns frequently however the buses only stay local to each town and do not travel in between. The trails open and close intermittently, so be sure to check if the routes you want are clear. The following photos are in no particular order and taken from any of five villages or in between. Costello DoriaCorniglia at sunset.AND LOOK WHO WE FOUND!!? Chris and Shauna met up with us for our last day on the coast. We hiked and ate gelato and caught the sunset together, traveling with friends really is the best way to do it.
I’ll attempt to make this short and sweet, naming the places we visited but not in detail. My best friend Sara has been involved in the wine industry since college so Italy was the perfect place to integrate her passion with their trip. We were just lucky enough to be there. In south Tyrol/northern Italy we toured two vineyards. J. Hofstätter being the first.
Abbazia Di Novacella was our second stop.A few cuties we found in Italy. Venice wasn’t even on our radar but Sara and Dustin had plans to visit so again, we tagged along. I would love to tell you where any of the next series of photos took place…but we were constantly lost and I truthfully have no idea.Unfortunately, we were only in Venice for one night but I am so glad we added it to the trip. The memories made there were some of our favorites. We left the next morning and sadly parted ways from the Soekers, Florence being the first place we would explore just the two of us. Florence CathedralMercato CentraleGustapizza will forever hold our hearts…and our bellies.Sunset view from Piazzale MichelangeloPonte VecchioPiazza della Signoria at night.I developed an obsession with lemon Fanta…but I can’t seem to find it in the States.Uffizi GalleryBoboli GardernsAs if Italy couldn’t get any better, we took Maile and Jesse’s advice and hopped a train to the coast. Check out our next entry if you want to be inundated with pixels.
We arrived in Munich around 8pm, were scooped up by our beloved friends/landlords and swept off into 24 hours of pure hospitality. We were hosted by friends of friends for two nights and we could never express how grateful we are of our introduction to Germany. We were in the Meadows of Therese, amongst the towering tents by 10am the next morning and our first Oktoberfest experience was underway.
Oktoberfest has a dizzying way of filling your day. We were in constant whirl of “look at that” “taste this!” and “let’s go here!” We ate and drank beyond our limits, toured the tents and struggled to keep up with the energy surrounding us. And just like that, we were off the next morning to meet Chris and Shauna as if we didn’t just drink a barrel of bier! The Simonses are our good friends from Hawaii, they were also backpacking through Europe at the time and had a formative influence on how we traveled for the next few weeks. Tim and I had never been to Europe, never stayed in an Airbnb, or even taken a train or subway, Chris and Shauna eased us into the trip and we are very appreciative of that.We rented a car and drove south into Bavaria. In Schwangau we found Neushwanstein Castle. It may look familiar, being the inspiration of the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
A short drive brought us to Füssen, a quaint municipality with charm and shops to spare.The next day we made it to Garnisch-Partenkirchen to hike Partnachklamm, a beautiful gorge formed by the ice-blue Partnach River. Sunrise brought fresh goodies from the bakery. Every morning in Bavaria and Tyrol, Tim and Chris (thank you, gentlemen) would walk to the nearest bakery and bring us fresh pastries. In Scharnitz we hiked and enjoyed the crisp autumn weather. Tyrol, the northern part of Austria, gave us the opportunity to sleep at the base of the Alps. We stayed in airbnbs most nights and were never disappointed with the experience. Kössen is an adorable Austrian town surrounded by green rolling hills and swarming with bees!! We hiked and biked all we could for the two days that we had.The border of Germany and Austria splits Taubensee lake in half. There was a small marker with a capital T and B on each side. We were (I was) giddy with the coincidence. Tyrol and Bavaria, Tim and B. Get it?! Taubenseehutte, a small inn and restaurant at the top of the hike, allowed us a place to rest our legs, take in the view and enjoy a refreshing beverage.The next morning we rented bikes and meandered to Walchsee, stopping for ice cream, photos and more BEES!! Tim deserves an award for this day, I don’t know if it should be for acting or pure strength but he woke up with food poisoning and powered through our seemingly gleeful activities, pedaling over ten miles to keep us on schedule. The next day we drove back to Munich where we parted ways with the Simonses (but don’t worry, that’s not the last you’ll see of our little backpackers!!)Recognize the mugs?! Yep, we hit Oktoberfest for round two! This time, with our Soekers. Unfortunately, Tim was still feeling the effects of food poisoning :(. I still can’t believe he persevered with such tolerance. Dustin’s Opa is originally from Germany and now lives in the US. Opa travels to Germany every few years to visit family. Sara and Dustin joined him last year and we could not have had a happier coincidence. Sara and I ran around like five year olds, riding rides and laughing ourselves silly. Haufbrau House tent from the BalconyTim, Dustin and Opa lead us to new games and rides, humoring our excitement. We ended the night at the real Haufbrauhaus and hope to be back so Tim can enjoy the experience too. Thank you for showing us the ropes, dear Opa!
I started this blog almost two years ago. Now that I officially know no one visits it, I can start posting. If you know me, this makes total sense. No pressures, no expectations, nowhere to go but forward. I started to write this specific post before we moved from Oahu (a year and a half ago), and I will publish it from Nebraska far removed from the daunting feelings of leaving the island life. So, for all intents and purposes, this is a retroactive blog (technically all are) that I hope catches up to present time. I love writing, I love sharing stories and photos, but my mind and heart don’t like to sync up with that type of openness. This blog is meant to be cathartic, to get all of the feels out on proverbial paper. A journal if you will, a journal with photos and a public url. So, here we go!
By the time we left our paradise, we had officially lived there for four years. The second longest amount of time we lived in any state. We found a place to call home.Over the four years we kayaked coasts, jumped rocks, swam with dolphins and let the pacific lazily lap at our feet. We also built relationships, started companies, flourished in our careers and joined a community. We weren’t ready to leave, but the journey we’d been planning with Savannah was already set in motion.
We left for Europe in September 2016 and returned for ten days in November to soak in as much as we could before we said our goodbyes. First thing we did was drop our bags and hit the beach.Oahu was home because of the people. We owe much of our experience and love for the islands to our landlords. Our landlords who have become family. How cliché, but we planted our tree there (literally), we lived our best lives in that valley. Our landlords had a helicopter visitor that serendipitously dropped in the last few days we were on island. Seeing the North Shore from above capitalized the beauty we’d been living amongst. I’d like to think we didn’t take our time on island for granted, that we appreciated every sunset, every blooming street, every family dinner. It all feels so far away now.
The valley we called home, in the stretching depths of Pupukea was known as Valhalla. Our landlords were examples of hospitality and spared no spark of ingenuity or creativity. We hosted outdoor movie nights, sang Christmas carols amongst the palms and often gathered in that space. Our ceremonious send off, the creation and burning of our viking ships is just a small illustration of the depths of their zeal.We went to our favorite spots, indulged in our favorite foods and spent time with some of our favorite people. If you’re ever on the North Shore of Oahu, Haleiwa Bowls was my favorite açai bowl spot.Elephant Thai (now the Elephant Shack) for our last date night.And our afternoon with our loves at the beach. It hurts my heart that I won’t know every story of these littles’ lives. Auntie Bumblebee is so much of my identity and I can’t share that love in person every day with these boys. (+two baby girls since this photo was taken)We drove past this fence full of bougainvillea every single day. I finally took a film photo before we left. Whenever we get a home, heck a wall, this will be printed and displayed so we can again pass it daily.Maile drove us to the airport. She played local music, handed us Hawaii brewed beverages and sent us off with leis around our necks and tears streaming down our cheeks. This is the last photo we took while being able to claim Hawaii as home and I’m still overwhelmed thinking about it. Maile, one of the biggest regrets we will ever have about leaving Hawaii is not discovering your love sooner. We are so lucky to know you and your wonderful family.
Someday I want to write about everything we did in Hawaii. About all of the people we love and how they helped us grow. For today, I did a thing. The thing was small and not entirely all-encompassing, completely self-indulgent but I needed to start somewhere.
Before you read this know that Tim and I wrote our intros for Savannagon separately, he didn’t know I had started one and I was shooting a wedding when he wrote his. I found his draft and it brought me to tears, it’s short and to the point and exactly how I feel. If you haven’t read his yet, do that first…then if you like, read mine. You’ll see how all of this makes sense for the both of us.
Like many stories about the transition into an alternative lifestyle, you hear about a need for change, for clarity, for mindfulness. Tim has been committed to the US Army for twelve years (including ROTC) and now, with the chance to make decisions based on his own will, we really don’t know what we want next. We LOVE Oahu and miss our families in Nebraska, but no one place or career is calling loud enough.
We don’t think that there is a better time for this.
You see, we have been toying around with this idea for over two years. It started with the hopeful joke about living in an Airstream. After we dug in we started to realize our needs and limitations, we wanted this to be our reality. Living simply with no restrictions. This Vanlife movement may seem like a hippy dippy fad, but we really believe that having less and doing more may be the answer to our insatiable appetite for things. Vanlife means freedom for us. Freedom to see our loved ones and explore this nation (world) like so many of us talk about but never do.
We found Savannah in a fateful Craigslist ad. Everything about her was perfect.
In early 2017, we will embark in a cross country journey. We will be at the mercy of Savannah, a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon, willing her to as many National Parks, driveways of loved ones and dead ends as possible. We will camp and explore, I hope to photograph the journey, and my hope for my husband is that he finds his passion. Tim puts everything into his job right now and has from the beginning, I’m excited to see where else that determination will take him.
We will be blogging about this transition, our journey and would love to answer any questions you might have.
So many stories begin like ours. We worked really hard through our 20’s, we were on our way to living the American dream. At some point along the way life didn’t make sense anymore. We may never be able to fully explain our rationale but here we are. Simply put, life as we knew it wasn’t why we existed, our families were living and growing without us. The world we knew was largely shaped by the choices we made a decade ago. We knew it had to change. The only career I knew no longer made sense to me. What else is there to do besides buy a van and plan an adventure?
Inspiration is important. Personally, I was motivated by my nieces and nephew along with Brad and Sheena from DriveNachoDrive, if you like adventure and haven’t read their book I highly recommend it. B is already a free spirit, I’ve known that for awhile. She has been waiting the past 16 years for me to catch up.