twenty seven.

eagle creek hike

I don’t think twenty seven was ever an age I contemplated when I was younger. I didn’t ever imagine myself at twenty seven. My twelve year old self was primarily concerned with thirteen. My fourteen year old self was concerned with sixteen and my eighteen year old self wanted to be twenty one.

Twenty seven isn’t a sexy age. It’s closer to thirty than twenty. Sometimes it’s grown up and sometimes it feels like twenty all over again – contemplating what to do in life, how to make a difference and where the journey will lead.

I dreaded twenty six. It felt old and outdated, over the hill of twenty five. Twenty seven, though, feels good. Yes, it’s an older age but my twenty sixth year was pretty transformative and I can’t wait to see what twenty seven may hold.

In my twenty sixth year I learned to have a lot more grace for myself. I look at how hard I judged and criticized my twenty year old self and am so grateful that my twenty six year old self has learned grace. In my twenty sixth year I experienced this country. Travel was a daily part of my existence, hiking, surfing and backpacking were regular activities for me. Being away from nature for extended periods of time became unbearable for me in my twenty sixth year. I finally admitted to myself that my soul comes alive in nature and without regular visits a part of me becomes cold.

I was honest about anxiety and its hold on my life in my twenty sixth year. It’s a battle, a war, and it continues on but it wasn’t until my twenty sixth year that I was honest with it and ready to face it and tackle it. I changed jobs in my twenty sixth year. I stepped out of what was comfortable and took on a new challenge. It’s unknown and scary but a change I’m glad I made.

Here’s to twenty seven. There is no celebrated milestone for this year, no flashy party. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “Happy 27th Birthday” card in the store. Twenty seven feels so good. No expectations come for twenty seven and that is refreshing.

reflection

car is packed.

Last week marked a year since we officially “moved” from Grand Rapids. I have been spending a fair amount of time wrapping my mind around that. Wrapping my brain around all the ways that I see the country so very differently in August of 2014 vs. August 2013. Wrapping my heart around how different my relationship with Chris is this year vs. last. And wrapping my soul around how different I am as a person in one year. My only response is to look back at this past year with deep, deep gratitude.

We set off last year with no idea of what travel nursing meant. No idea where it would bring us or how we’d be changed. In fact, we set out from Grand Rapids with no apparent destination. No contract. No job. We felt it in our bones that we needed to leave so we took a small leap, packed up the car and drove north. After a week of camping and exploring the upper peninsula of Michigan we crossed into Minnesota to spend some time with family.

I was anxious. I don’t do well with the unknown and we were driving about hoping for adventure, hoping for purpose but no real plans for how to achieve that. We arrived on a Thursday into Minneapolis and on Friday afternoon Chris’ phone rang with the call we had been waiting for. Some hospital in a place called Bend, Oregon was interviewing Chris. It was happening.

After he hung up the deal was basically sealed. We spent the rest of the weekend hanging with family and then drove west. Our aimless wandering all of a sudden had ten hour days of driving to it. Our very unstructured days now had everything looking toward this place called Bend. We knew nothing about Bend. We had never heard of it and as we drove through the Oregon desert we thought, “what have we done!”. There is nothing here!

deschutes river at sunset

Little did we know that we would fall in love with Bend. The city emerged out of the dessert full of pine trees, a rushing river flowing through the middle of town and more “outdoorsy” folks per capita than I had every seen. Bend was paramount. We had a burning energy in Bend. When not working we spend every moment hiking, swimming, exploring and camping. We fell for Bend hard. It was unexpected, we had no assumptions and it completely took us by surprise. We were shown beauty in Bend. There was space to walk and think and ask questions and trust God. There were breath taking sunsets, the smell of pine spread all over the city and an abundance of good beer.

We tried to stay in Bend, to extend the contract but there was no extension available. We wanted to hold those moments a little longer and weren’t ready to give our hearts to another city yet. On the last week of the assignment a call came from San Mateo, just outside of San Francisco. We said yes, packed up the car and drove like mad to the city.

land's end san francisco

We arrived in San Francisco on my birthday. I vividly remember how different the city felt from the window of my Scion vs. the plane for the countless times I’d been there before. I remember hotels and meetings and one family vacation in San Francisco, but never living there. Little did we know on that sunny September day that San Francisco had it out for us. Our insanely expensive apartment was a glorified basement garage. Parking was a nightmare as evidenced by a parking ticket and a tow all within a week of each other. I felt like we were in this amazing city that I had loved visiting and but living there was just so hard

The city felt like the popular girl in middle school who was pretty, had it all together on the outside but was still a horrible person to the lowly man on the totem pole. We were certainly the lowly folks on that pole. Eventually though, we figured out how it ran and fell into the “in group” and began to enjoy our time in San Francisco. We walked all over the city, I enrolled in a coding class and Chris really made good relationships with his coworkers. We had friends in San Francisco who were honest and passionate and we clicked with them. We moved apartments and were never so thankful for a parking spot.

We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas in that city. My anxiety lifted and I learned how to be alone at night while Chris was at work. The ocean was only a few miles away and we spent so much time walking, reflecting, and relishing what we were doing. It felt right and normal and by the time Chris’ contract was up, we had to convince ourselves to leave. We had set out for a year of travel and staying in the second city we ended up in wasn’t exactly “travel”. So we pushed ourselves onward.

The next contract landed us in Riverside, California. We knew this was not going to be a city we loved and were prepared to drive to LA or San Diego at every chance we got. We stopped at The Salted Pig on our first evening there for dinner and immediately knew that was going to be “our place” during our stay there. Indeed, it was. We went to The Salted Pig multiple times a week for Bacon Popcorn or one of their tasty brews on tap. We went to one other restaurant while there. One.

riverside mansion

We tried to find housing and were left with a blank apartment we’d have to furnish or a room in a large Victorian mansion. Privacy seemed like an issue in the mansion but about the effort and cost of furnishing our own place in the vanilla apartment sounded even worse. Reluctantly, we signed up for a room in the mansion. It was the best decision we made in Riverside. We got to know the owners and the house manager. We talked with them often and knew that we could come home late at night to Sal making quesadillas on the stove.

Riverside never felt like it was going to be a long term thing. When I say “long term” I mean it didn’t even feel like we’d be there for three months. And indeed, things felt off and we left after six weeks. It was just too much.

So, what do you do when the world seems off, when north and south seem to be pointing east and west? Buy a teardrop camper and “camp” your way around the country, of course. I went back to Grand Rapids for a work trip and Chris spend endless hours with our camper to get it ready to be our primary home.

tear drop camping

We left Riverside a week later feeling so many emotions, feeling so unsure of what we were doing and feeling like we set out traveling to find answers and instead were left with so many more questions. We decided to start off at a campground just north of San Diego. It was the best week we’d had in awhile. I went to Starbucks every morning to work, Chris surfed and I’d join him later. We cooked out of the camper, walked along the shoreline, had campfires and loved our first week of living out of the camper.

teardrops and san diego

There is a funny thing about “growing up”. Our college selves would have thought we were living the dream: camping out, surfing, being in the sun, living simply. Unfortunately our more adult selves felt like we needed a plan. Not to mention camping in California is really expensive. More than rent expensive. After a month of living out of our camper we turned the Scion east and headed back to Grand Rapids.

After driving madly through Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana we made it back to Michigan. We didn’t tell anyone we were coming back. I even lied to my mom on the phone until we showed up at her house on a Friday afternoon completely unannounced. We felt relief. The burning desire we had felt to leave Grand Rapids in July changed to a soothing calmness of knowing the streets and knowing our people.

After the initial fun and shock of surprising everyone by just showing up, we realized that indeed all of the questions and frustrations that we had on the road didn’t just go away by coming back to Grand Rapids. In fact they were made bigger, pressed harder and we had to make some tough decisions. We decided that Grand Rapids wasn’t going to be where we lived at this stage of our lives. We decided we still weren’t done exploring other states and traveling. We decided that we needed to leave. Again.

And here we are in Portland. We have lived here as long as we lived in San Francisco but it feels so different. Chris and I know this is a different stage than travel nursing. There is much less external stimuli than going from place to place. There is space to actually live “real life”, clean the house, plant a garden, own a cat, hang our pictures on the wall.

Shoes & Petals

This city is taking pieces of my heart slowly but surely. It’s not been a mad love affair like Bend were every moment was filled with relentless energy and drive to see it all. It has been a slow realization, one made up of daily routines and simple practices. It has not been a three month timeline but one with more permanence. And this slow way of falling in love with a city is good. It is quiet and calm. And it is needed.

our stuff. in portland.

dinner on cutting boards

Chris and I arrived in Portland on April 23. Our stuff? May 16.

I never thought I was someone who cared about stuff. I thought flexibility was a strength of mine but I was LONGING for our stuff. We signed a lease on a two bedroom house on April 25 and “moved in”. Chris, myself and four suitcases moved in on that day. We lived in a very empty house eating dinner off of cutting boards we had begrudgingly purchased (we had SO many coming from Michigan!), using plastic silverware that had been washed a few too many times and drinking out of jars which we had eaten salsa out of.

I felt like a 20 year old version of myself living as a poor college student all the while knowing that I had masses of wonderful kitchen items, fluffy bedding, my great grandma’s furniture and plenty of clothes bouncing down some highway across America.

Our stuff did finally arrive. It arrived in a truck 4X the size of the truck that left my parent’s house with our stuff in it. It arrived in a truck that took up a small city block and almost blocked out the sun in the sky with it’s height. I have no idea how they moved or managed our stuff, but it arrived.

huge moving truck

It was like Christmas or a never ending birthday or some celebration where you get a ridiculous amount of things. Box by box stuff came off of the truck. Box after box was loaded into our house here in Portland. As they unloaded one after the other, we tried to direct the movers where to put stuff, not really having any actual idea.

moving boxes

After all of our boxes were unloaded, the movers had four other stops with their massive truck to get to. We signed the papers, shut the front door and looked glassy eyed at all of the boxes. The day we had been waiting for had come, our stuff was here in our house. In Portland.

I make the point about “in Portland” because this was the odd reality that was dawning on us, the permanence of what our wandering lives had been for the past year. We had just had all of our stuff moved to Portland. This sounds obvious but it sunk in deeply that what was purchased for our house on Fairmount St.  was now trying to fit into this house on Holgate Blvd. What was given to us by people we love dearly at our wedding was now coming out of boxes nearly new and ready to be used again.

We are not on the travel nursing rotation anymore. We are not in Grand Rapids for the foreseeable future (foreseeable in my mind is approximately two years). We have just made a huge decision and the hugeness of that decision sank in with the arrival of our stuff. Every box opened and unloaded was another reminder that we have chosen to settle here for a bit. Settling doesn’t seem to be something I’m very good at lately.

Chris went to work that Friday afternoon and I unloaded boxes. This was very healthy for me, to sort and organize, to reflect and decorate. It’s now been over a week since we’ve had stuff and this house in Portland is feeling a little more like home. Our stuff is integrating into the fabric of this house and it’s reminding me that this too will be home. This place will have memories made in it, will have friends stay in it and will hold a lot of life.

 

a mid-twenties conundrum

pink running shoes on pavement

No one told me that after college, after starting a career, getting married, buying a house and after making a myriad of other adult decisions, life still sometimes doesn’t quite make sense. I don’t know if I expected this necessarily, but 26 sounded so old and put together that certainly I’d have things figured out by then.

As many of you know, Chris and I have spent the past year traveling the country. We left our house, our community, our cat, Chris quit his job and we embarked with our Scion full to the brim with whatever we thought we would need for the next year. We thought this year would bring clarity, would give us a little less structure than what we had unknowingly created in Grand Rapids and help us explore and figure out what we “wanted to do with our lives”.

We lived in some beautiful places, made some wonderful friendships, explored parts of this world we never would have and at the end of Chris’ final rotation as a traveling nurse, we bought a camper and decided to be “homeless” for a while, camping up the coast.

tear drop camping

camping CA coast

Thinking back on it now, I’m glad we did it. But at the time this adventure, this year long journey we went on to “find ourselves” and discover what we wanted next ultimately ended as homeless semi-professionals worrying about where to camp. We thought, what could be better than wandering up the coast with no real agenda?

We quickly discovered that this is harder than it sounds. Somewhere in the course of graduating from school and getting married, our outlook on being aimless wanderers had changed. We loved it for a week. We surfed, read books, walked along the ocean and ate fish tacos. We quickly realized though that we were searching for direction and wandering around the California coast isn’t necessarily a prescription for direction.

So, one day we decided to head east and go back to Grand Rapids. We didn’t have concrete plans as to why, didn’t know how long we’d be there but it felt right. We turned the Scion {and camper} towards an eastern direction and drove and drove until we arrived at my parent’s house on a Friday afternoon, unannounced. The thrill and surprise was awesome – I can truly say my and Chris’ parents were so surprised.

Home didn’t seem to instantly give us direction either. I suppose direction was something I’ve been seeking out, looking for in seemingly right places but something that takes time. Direction can’t be rushed and so although at times it feels like an endless waiting room, a tunnel with no light at the end, I do believe that direction exists and sometimes it reveals itself.

My well laid plans for exactly how this or that will go have changed. I don’t really know what my direction is at the moment but I am not in control of it and the less tightly I hold on to that, the easier it is to let this time of trying things, of building new relationships and of discovering new hobbies be for what it is. A season. A truly unique season that I didn’t think would be in my life but one I am grateful for. However short or long it lasts, I’m learning to sit without direction for a time. And that is ok.

city guide: bend, oregon

as chris and i have been traveling, we’ve come upon some hidden gems in both cities that surprised us and places within each of these cities that we just love. for us, we prefer to have one solid coffee spot, a great place to grab a drink and chat, a decent grocery store, and access to nature. the access to nature piece has definitely become more of a focus for us lately as we have realized that in the absence of a huge community, being out in the wild is what gives us life.

so, here is my first city guide. bend, or. bend completely captured our hearts. we had only ever really heard of eugene or portland so when chris landed a job in bend we just hoped there would be something to do. it ended up being some of the best weeks of our life. bend is located on the deschutes river and they have most definitely taken advantage of that with trails along the majority of the river. it is also so close to the mountains that you can easily summit a peak in a day. the old craftsman houses didn’t disappoint either. here are some of my favorite spots.

food, drink and shops

crux fermentation project

crux fermentation project

crux fermentation project

in one word. brilliant. the tap room is set in such a way that you can watch the sun set over the mountains. that view never gets old. crux made the sunset even greater by fashioning their happy hour a 1/2 hour before and 1/2 hour after sunset. ah, the perfect time. they also have a great little outdoor area with games and fire pits. families would come for dinner and a drink and their kids would all play together in the lawn attached. that is a great set up.

chris and i got to know the bar tender there. this ended up being the only place that we wanted to go. we didn’t even try all twelve breweries that are in bend. we tried a few and crux always won. they had a few sippable (aka boozy) beers that were to die for.

lone pine coffee roasters

lone pine coffee roasters

lone pine coffee roasters

this cute little shop is around the corner from the main drag but well worth a dip into the alley way. their chai is to die for. i was trying not to drink a ton of coffee while in bend and this chai certainly helped me out! they make it from scratch (no concentrate here) and it is spicier than most but so good. chris always got a coffee and was pretty pleased.

we made this spot our place to go to chat not work. i visited others to get work done but it was always a treat to have a coffee with chris here.

barrio

on one of our last nights in bend, we thought we should at least give another establishment a chance over crux. we chose barrio, a tapas spot. it was amazing. the atmosphere wasn’t nearly as pretentious as some tapas spots and it had a ton of vegetarian options. it was one of those meals that you don’t eat a ton of food but are so satisfied.

repeat performance sports

this cute little shop has everything you could need for all of the wonderful activities that bend has to offer. it is a second hand shop but so much of the equipment was like new. it is the perfect spot to pick up sporting gear for kayaking, cycling, camping or climbing.

things to do

tin pan theater

tin pan theater

tin pan theater

this is one of the cutest theaters. it has approximately 20 seats and comes complete with a little bar that serves beer, wine, popcorn and snacks although it has to close during the films since it’s right within the theater. the tin pan shows local or independent films. we saw one of the trippiest movies i’ve ever seen but it was worth it for the experience of the tin pan theater.

deschutes river trail

yoga on the deshutes river

yoga on the deshutes river

the river trail was one of the most beautiful and relaxing places to be. it went for miles from city park, duck pond all the way to canyons that made you feel like you were in the middle of nowhere. i would take conference calls along this trail and walk and talk if i didn’t need my computer. the runs along this trail were simply wonderful. chris and i dreamed and planned for hours on this trail.

broken top mountain

jumping in the glacier lakes

jumping in the glacier lakes

this was by far my favorite hike. we left at 10:30 one morning, climbed the mountain, played around in the freezing glacier lake and was back in bend by 4 pm. not too shabby. this hike isn’t super hard and rewards you with such beautiful views and the glacier lake is pretty rockin.

paulina hot springs

digging out springs in paulina

digging out springs in paulina

this was one of the first hikes we did and it was so well worth it. we couldn’t find the lake or the springs so we finally parked in a lot and just tried to figure it out. after a short trek around part of the lake we came upon bubbling water. we found out that when you dig around these “bubbles” you create your own little hot spring. fortunately we came upon others who had shovels and so we have a nice spring dug at the side of the lake. it was certainly hot!

south sister

south sister in a storm

south sister in a storm

i’ve written about this hike before but thought i should mention it again here. this was one of the most mentally challenging hikes of my life. it starts going straight up through trees which is really quite beautiful. you get a small break on fairly flat land until you are basically walking up a gravel wall. there is also a false summit which is particularly lovely.

my advice is to steer clear of this hike is there even resembles a cloud in the sky. the first time we tried we didn’t bring much along thinking we were pretty good hikers and it would be no big deal. we got caught in a storm with winds and freezing temps. the second attempt was a sunny day and it felt like a completely different hike.

so long san francisco.

feet on the street of San Francisco

it has reached the time to leave san francisco and see what else california has to offer. i say that in a very passive way because we have been given opportunity to stay, but feel like it is time to leave. we have learned to love this city and it may have finally started to love us. but in this sweet year of travel, we have decided we need to move on.

Golden Gate Bridge at dusk

Golden Gate Bridge at dusk

it seems like we have been in san francisco for a long time. and we have. we came in the youth of fall and are leaving in the middle of winter (although this weather has certainly confused us)! so much life and transition and learning has been done here. we met amazing people and developed deep friendships with them. we learned new skills, how to be even more hipster, and what small space looks like. our definition of home changed while we were here.

Ocean Beach near sunset

Ocean Beach near sunset

we showed up on my birthday with the whole city seeming fresh and new. for the first two weeks we went on walks in all of the various neighborhoods just trying to figure out things like how pacific heights blended with the marina. or how to get from the mission to our house without going through the sketchy parts.

The Wiggle - best bike route around

The Wiggle – best bike route around

chris mastered the commute to san mateo knowing exactly when to leave our place to get to work on time. i mastered the commute down to my class at general assembly in the evenings. we learned the value of quarters for laundry and dollar bills for the bus although i was always one quarter short of a dryer load. golden gate park has the treads of my sneakers in its path from our house to the beach and back on countless runs. and the pie shop probably knows our names. i drool just thinking of that pear caramel pie.

we were able to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and niece a few times. we saw elephant seals (gross), hiked in marin, camped all over the place, and even made it down to joshua tree and san diego. on days where we stayed closer to home we found peace and space at land’s end or the presidio. it was so wonderful to be in the middle of a city but able to escape to these places at a moment’s notice.

Chris at Ano Nuevo

Chris & the Elephant Seal

Thanksgiving Day in Marin

Thanksgiving day in Marin

it is amazing what a short four months can do. i still can’t believe all that happened in that short time but it also feels like a very long time. i am so very happy to say that it felt good to pack up our apartment, throw it all in the car and move on. southern california will house us for the next few months which is somewhere i never thought we’d live.

Drinks with Glory at the Top of the Mark

Drinks with Glory at the Top of the Mark

so, we transition away from big city life, public transit, wonderful friends, an amazing church, and the hills of san francisco but i know with all my heart that God has something for us here in southern california. he will reveal himself in new and expected ways. and we will be transformed again. this i love.

i miss grand rapids.

there. i said it.

traveling is awesome. it’s amazing. i have seen and experienced some pretty awesome things in the past few months for which i am forever grateful.

but it’s not home. we try to make it home. we decorate with things that represent us and don’t take much space. we try and forget that space matters in our home and pretend we’re okay with it not representing us at all. but i miss home. i miss my house. i miss my creaky floors and paint chips and the old bones of that house.

i miss our community. i miss the evening that has no plans and a list of wonderful friends to call and have over for tea or a glass of wine. i miss being known. i miss having friends who know my story so that experiences or events that come up don’t need explanation but make sense and are woven into our story together.

i miss our cat. i will take the title of crazy cat lady any day. our cat is currently missing, roaming the streets of grand rapids and that breaks my heart. i want to cuddle with her and play fetch with her. i want a warm furry body to know when i’m sad and come and comfort me. i don’t want to be alone in an apartment, i want a cat with me (cue, pathetic cat lady).

i also know, deep within me, that this time is precious. i know we are supposed to be traveling right now even though it feels lonely and uncomfortable. i take comfort in that. i believe in that. and i also know that i will choose to live in grand rapids. it is not because i grew up there and have no other place to go. it is because i love it. it is because there are amazing people there and that is worth a lot.