HOME

HOME

H…umid

O…utdoor

M…otorcycle

E…xcursion

There is no place like Home, they say, and I have to agree. I think my definition of home might be different than most. I’ve discovered over the past two years of expat adventuring that every place is different but in many ways the same. So, did I just negate the phrase? I think not, because no matter how far I roam I cannot replace that feeling I get when I return home. And I’ve realized it is true that home is not a place, but rather being with the people I love and participating in our favorite activities together.

On Sunday we did just that, we enjoyed HOME in one of my favorite ways. We climbed on our Harley’s, fired them up and took off for a ramble through the North Carolina countryside. There is not much I enjoy more than following my husband on a surprise adventure. He picks the route and I happily follow, leaning into the curves and accelerating through the straights and slowing down to yell hello to the cows. 

Sunday was just as perfect day at HOME (see definition above….). A few miles after we began, I was transported to that old familiar blissful state. The wind pressed against my chest and whistled around in my helmet. Small bugs pelted my cheeks, cheeks which had already began to ache from my huge grin. My jaw was relaxed loosely to prevent my teeth from knocking against each other. My hands, wrapped in my favorite black Mechanix gloves, loosely held the handlebars, ready to operate the clutch and the throttle smoothly. My brain told my shoulders, normally a bit tight at the beginning, to loosen up as I settled in to the saddle for my first ride in about 3 months. I was thrilled to recognize that I was as comfortable as ever. Hopping on to Smokey (my softail slim) is always one of the best parts of coming HOME.

After about an hour of riding, my eyes rested upon a familiar site -the Harnett County water-tower. Soon after we flew past yellow tobacco fields – the bottom leaves stripped off as harvest was half complete. To the right, a cotton fields decorated with a smattering of white blooms. A few miles later, my eyes rested briefly on a field of tall corn, drying down and slowly being overcome by morning glory vines invading the from the turn rows. Lush green soybean and peanut fields appeared and disappeared to the left and right. A hawk took flight, legs stretched out. Herds of horses and cattle leisurely munching on grass in the pastures.

We stopped in Angier for a mid-morning refuel. Coincidentally, the place we found was a biker hangout. We received a hearty welcome from the owners, who walked outside to, as they put it, “drool over” our bikes. It was a strange feeling to be able to casually and freely converse with the waitress, in English! But I found myself wanting to say Bitte and Danke and order my food in Deutsche. We enjoyed cobbler with ice cream and a coffee for my husband and a half and half tea for me (half sweet, half unsweet – that way I can have 2!).


As we finished our coffee and tea, we picked our route back home, part of the path would take us on the backside of Ravens Rock state park. I was delighted when the pavement ended and we continued on a gravel road through the woods. Definitely a place to return for a hike with our Hund.


The next surprise came when we accelerated up a windy hill and saw some bicycling friends racing down the hill going the opposite direction. We honked and waved. It’s a nice feeling to unexpectedly run in to a friend in a unlikely place!

We pulled up just as big rain drops began to fall from the sky and I was relaxed, sleepy and content after our adventure at HOME.

Today is a rainy day, so no HOME adventure, instead I’m off to a lunchtime hot yoga class. Staycations rock!!!

Project LIFE: road rules 

Project LIFE: road rules 

This year I had a crazy stint of traveling which took me to 10 countries in 10 weeks! As I described in my blog post, I hadn’t quite put together in my head the magnitude of my travel schedule but I knew I’d be on the road a while and one of the first things I considered before I began my traveling was how I would maintain my new weight on the road. When I look back, I basically instituted a few rules which I plan to continue to use in the future. My life  and work often has me traveling about 30 to 50% of the time so it’s not an option to just take a break from working out or lax too much on my eating when I travel. I could, but I’d lose my gains for sure! So, here are my road rules:

Road Rule #1. Pack workout clothes and good tennis shoes.

When I pack up for a trip I always put a pair of tennis shoes – each one wrapped individually in a plastic grocery bag – at the bottom of my bag (or I wear them on my feet depending on how and where I’m traveling). I check the forecast and then pack either running shorts, tights and tank tops or long-sleeve shirts. If the weather is uncertain I’ll bring a sock hat or ear warmers and running gloves. I also bring a lightweight rain jacket which can be used for workout or just for a cool evening out. This way I’m ready for any weather conditions. 

Road Rule #2. Pack a way to carry your ID.

Now that I live in Europe I have this über cool Marmut fanny pack. And I totally rock that fanny pack when I travel. It’s a great place to throw my phone, ID and some cash when I’m running in a new location. I also have a road ID stuff stash that attaches to my tennis shoes which is just large enough to hold my ID, some cash and a hotel room key.

Road Rule #3. Pack a swimming suit. 

You never know when you’ll find a pool for swimming laps or a beach! Trust me, you will only regret it is you don’t pack the suit!

So, as you can see the first 3 rules ensure that its easy for me to burn calories when I travel. I find that the toughest thing about traveling is that it can be difficult to influence my food options. It’s also a wonderful thing – you have the chance to try new foods! The flip side of this is it can be hard to estimate calories and ensure you’re consuming within your target range. By working out 30 to 60 minutes a day I get an endorphin rush, often get to see some great scenery (if it’s a good place for running outside) and give myself a cushion of 300 to 500 calories each day. I have a habit of getting up early to workout because otherwise it’s difficult on the road due to evening obligations that often end late at night. If I start the day with a workout I’m more relaxed and I can have a glass of wine without worrying about it going to my waistline.

Road Rule #4. The rule of 3.

When you eat there’s a simple trick to apply to 80% of meals to avoid going way over on calories. This is particularly important for dinners. Think of your meal in sections: appetizer, main course, desert. You should only eat one of those, maybe two at the most. I’ve read that bread can also be considered another course, and I actually believe this is true especially if there’s a bread basket and butter. Alcohol is an entire additional category, especially if it’s a long meal. Remember that a glass of beer or wine can be 200+ calories and that’s basically the same as your average bread roll with butter. So, I try to apply the rule of three to say I’ll have no more than 3 of these elements I listed above. 

Here’s a couple of examples:
Bread, main course (lean meat dish or maybe fish if I can get it, or a good salad with protein), desert.

Or, if I want to have that combo with wine or a beer I don’t eat desert.

Another option is to skip the bread completely. Sometimes this is perfectly rewarding for me, it depends on if the bread looks awesome! Then I’ll go for it! Life is short!

Road Rule #5: eat a smart breakfast. 

Hotels often offer some super high calorie breakfast options which you’d rarely consider on a weekday at home – Belgian waffles with cream anyone? Or maybe a few slabs of bacon to go with the sausage and eggs. So, my strategy for breakfast is to try to eat as close as possible to my home routine. For me this is yogurt with granola (perhaps honey as a sweetener – a great way to protect against local allergens) and a piece of fruit. It satisfies and provides good balance. As a bonus, I recently read that eating local yogurt can help you adjust your gut flora to the local foods and leads to less illness when traveling. I don’t know if it works, but it makes sense, so I stick with it.

Road Rule #6: monitor by packing a pair of skinny jeans or using a scale in the gym.

Just to make sure I’m not getting off track, I like to being at least one piece of clothing that is a bit snug on the waist so I can see if it starts to get uncomfortable. Another option is to weigh myself the first day of a trip on a scale in the hotel and then check it every once in a while to see if I’ve shifted. It’s easy to start to creep up on the road and I’d say it’s pretty normal, but for me it’s a cost to benefit thing. If the food is amazing, then I’ll let it happen. But if it’s stress eating or just too many late night big meals I like to exert a little self control.

Road Rule #7: break your habit of clearing your plate

This is a really, really tough one for me. I hate to waste food, but I’ve also discovered that sometimes portions are just way too big. So, if I order a cut of meat that is just more than I can eat, then I’ve finally given myself permission to not eat all of it. But I also try really hard to order smart, healthy, whole foods: lean meats, veggies, nutrition dense carbs. This works pretty well for me and I can clear my whole plate with no hesitation.

I do believe that’s quite enough rules. These tricks keep me sane on the road and help me maintain my goals. Hope they’re helpful for you. 

What are your trick?

My cat the Expat

My cat the Expat

Tonight is the night, it’s finally here, my cat Tony has one more sleep and then he’ll be on his way to America. Before I started to pack for the journey, I clipped on his leash and walked him up to the neighbors to visit and then a couple hours later another neighbor stopped by to say a bunch of words to him in German. He’s a bilingual cat now. 🙂 Because of Tony, and walking him in the courtyard, I met a lot of neighbors. It’s really hard to resist smiling and talking with a person walking a cat! A one-eyed cat makes it even more interesting.


I’m sad that his little neighbor friends are away on holiday and won’t have a chance to say goodbye, hopefully they’ll come see him in America!

I’m excited, I’m worried, I’ve never sent an animal on an airplane and I don’t know how it will feel for him, but I’ve got to trust it will all be ok.

I’m pretty certain every expat has been here before. I got my cat Tony after I’d been living in Germany for about 6 months and I found myself on the couch, once again, struck down with a cold. My friend Monika suggested that maybe I needed a cat to keep my company and I’ve got to say that was one of the best pieces of advice I received in Germany. 

After I got Tony I never really got sick again for more than a day or so and I really have begun to believe in the power of the mind, body connection. I’m sure that new germs were a big contributor, but I do consider the possibility that my spirit and soul needed some nurturing.

So, tomorrow’s the big day. Tony has his EU passport and his health certificate from the vet and his rabies shots, and off to America he goes. The vet asked if he has a green card and I reassured him we’ll keep him fully-employed as a mouser! 


Now we’re off for one more last big sleep. Wish Tony luck on his journey to America. Normally a pirate would go by boat but he’ll be going by plane! 🙂

Bike Bahn

Bike Bahn

I love to plan trips but every once in a while I love to just go along for the ride when someone else has built the plan. It brings an element of surprise that delivers a bit more excitement for what my otherwise be a routine activity. 

Today, this is just what I did. I rolled out of bed at 6 am, brewed some coffee, had a quick breakfast in the courtyard while I took my cat for a stand (cats don’t really walk) and then put the finishing touches on my bike – pumped up the tires and the frame shock. Threw my wallet, a rain coat (it’s Germany you can NEVER trust the forecast) and a banana into my camelback before rolling out of my apartment for the ride to the Düsseldorf HBF (hauptbahnhoff = main train station).

My instructions were to meet my friend (aka epic bicycle tour guide) at Gleis 7 to catch a train for Hamm (supposedly – German trains are notoriously late) departing at 8:47 am. Our plan was to ride a stretch of the Römer-Lippe Route. You can link to the route here

Römer = Roman and this trail is so named because it is located in one of the territories that was ruled by Rome during their reign in Europe. Later it became, and continues to be, an industrial region fueled by a ready supply of water from the Lippe river. This region was also in the past dominated by coal mining and coal power generation. The coal power plants are now gone, but the remnants of coal mining remain in the form of huge iron structures near the river banks.

I thought this post could be a bit about our actual ride and a bit of an instructional guide about how to travel by bike and train in Germany. It’s not so complicated but could be a bit intimidating for the un-initiated. Also, legal disclosure, I am certain there will be some errors and omissions of rules in this post. Honestly, it’s impossible to know all the rules in Germany! But, what we did today worked so hopefully it would work for you.

The first thing is to buy a ticket. While this may sound easy, it can be very complicated! Fortunately, my friend had a local help with this. What we used was a ticket that was a 24 hour fare for the entire state of Nord Rhein Westfalia. In addition to the ticket for you, you also need a ticket for your bicycle (aka Fahrad). You can try to make these selections online but I highly recommend (I cannot underline this point enough) that you go to the DB office and ask for their help during your first few trips. The people at the counter speak English and are very helpful. These are the tickets we used for our trip.


You will also notice the price on the ticket. This ticket is for up to 5 people because we originally planned to be a group of 3. It was still cheaper than two individual fares though. Be prepared to pay to play on German trains! They are not cheap. If you believe you will ride them often you can purchase discount options. As it turned out, I didn’t ride trains as much as I’d anticipated so I never did buy a discount card. But it’s worth exploring if you plan to be a frequent traveler.

Then when it comes to boarding the train with your bike, you need to look for the bike train car. You’ll see this on the sign board. In NRW the platforms have four sections: A, B, C, D. When you see the details for your train you just need to look for a pictures on the electronic sign board at the platform that has a picture of a bicycle under a letter. It’s often under the letter D. When you board the train have your fingers crossed that it’s not already full of bikes or baby carriages. In that case you’ll need to wait for the next train. Fortunately, we found space for our bikes probably because it was a bit early in the morning. As the train car filled with more bikes we lost our seat in the carriage, locked up the bikes and headed upstairs for the hour ride to Hamm.


As we traveled along we chatted exchanging travel stories and getting caught up on life. I found a great farmscape at one of the stations we passed. The tractor was the right color!


When we arrived in Hamm, we walked out and found the bicycle sign and started our ride to Lünen.


Our route was marked with the Roman centurion helmet. It was relatively easy to follow. We quickly left the city center and found the Lippe. I paused to admire a tall corn field that bordered some grain bins.

We paused near some cooling towers for a photo. They were impressive structures! I couldn’t tell if the plant was still active.

Soon we entered into a section of trail that was closed in on both sides by trees and we stopped to pick some blackberries.


As we started to takeoff I noticed a sign for a natural area and we paused to admire the view.


About a kilometer later I spotted what looked like a small path to the right so we stopped to check it out. What a surprise when we discovered a herd of cattle called Heckrinder that looked a bit like buffalo. My friend translated the sign for us and we learned that the habitat was a semirestired natural grassland and the herd is an attempt to restore European buffalo. I enjoyed watching the herd move about and we even spotted some calves!


By now we started to get a little hungry and fortunately our lunch stop was nearby. Our plan was to stop at a yacht club in Bergkamen. We passed my favorite bridge of the day and then entered the city.


I knew it was going to be a great lunch destination when a few Harley’s passed us and then we saw a guy in a root beer brown stingray getting an ice cream. Then the place was actually called California! That was too coincidental for me.


This is one of the best parts about bicycle touring by train in Germany. You can enjoy a nice bier with lunch without worrying about the drive home!


The next half of the ride went pretty quickly. Along the way we saw some retired coal mine equipment, an interesting industrial plant and a beautiful swamp.

Soon we entered Lünen and made a very important observation. Almost everyone was carrying an ice cream! This was certainly a sign. We needed gelato. We paused to snap a photo finish and then made our last refueling stop. 


I could not believe they had watermelon gelato. Of course, I had to try some.


We rolled the final 400 meters to the HBF and boarded the train to Dortmund. Then transferred to a train running to the Düsseldorf HBF. This is where it got interesting… the train was packed! Like, standing room only packed. We were able to cram ourselves and our bikes into the car.


Then, perhaps the most entertaining part of the day happened when I watched a girl grab her bike and walk off the train with a tomato plant, an entire tomato plant (!), peaking out of the top of her rucksack.

Soon we pulled in to the Düsseldorf HBF, lugged our bikes down the stairs from the platform in to the station. I was biking home and my friend needed to catch another train to her home. Happy and sleepy and relaxed we hugged and parted ways. Promising to try to squeeze in one more ride in September before I move back to America. Yes, the clock is ticking down. It’s time to grab hold of every moment. But, when is it not? 

Life is short, make it a good ride.

My Practice 

My Practice 

Many things have changed in my life – school, work, state, country, but one thing has remained constant – my yoga practice. I did not realize just how long I’ve been practicing until a teacher asked in a class recently. I did some quick math and realized I have been practicing yoga for more than 20 years!

What makes me keep going back? 

Why is a studio one of the first things I seek out when I move to a new place? 

Tonight as I walked home from the studio in Düsseldorf, I pondered  these questions. 

My interest in yoga began when I was a teenager. I don’t recall if I was first introduced through a home video course or at the racquetball club we belonged to when I was a kid. I do know that it was one thing that made me feel graceful and confident and strong.

When I went to college I kept up my practice at a 24 hour fitness studio that I would pedal to after class on my town bike. I began to learn more about body movement and used yoga as a way to stretch out muscles strained from bicycle racing.

During my postdoc we lived in the Texas hill country and I’m not certain that I practiced but we did take up country dancing. Which is kind of the same thing…? Maybe??? This two years was a blur of working during the day and teaching at night. While I was a charter member of the local YMCA, I’m sure I had stretches where I didn’t train as much as I’d prefer. I spent most of my time either driving to work or working.

Louisiana is where I again returned to my practice, training at the local YMCA, but I soon found the training in a open space near the noisy weight racks to be a little less than zen. This is when I discovered the peacefulness of a true yoga studio. I began to practice at yoga bliss with some skilled instructors. At this time I was really in to running, I completed a half marathon and trained for a full. I also returned again to bike racing. Yoga became an essential part of my recovery program.

In North Carolina, I became friends with a German expat and learned she trained in hot yoga, so one day I went to the studio and found the perfect combination – Louisiana climate + yoga! Most people won’t believe it, but I actually missed the hot, humid climate of Louisiana when I moved to North Carolina. The studio became my oasis a few nights a week. I enjoyed the physical challenge and deep stretching of hot yoga practice.

When I moved to Germany I wasn’t sure how I’d practice since I was only beginning to learn German. This is when I made a spectacular discovery. I stumbled upon the magic of learning a language through movement. I found a studio that had two English speaking instructors. First I only went to their classes. Then, one day, I wanted to go to class, but it would be taught in German, and I figured “I might be learning German, but I can speak yoga, so maybe I can do this”. I went up to the instructor, explained I was learning German and asked her to correct me if a pose was wrong. As we flowed through the poses I was amazed at how much German I could understand, but also how my body simple knew what to do. Most poses follow a sequence and after decades of practice my body knew what to expect.

Now we come full circle: what keeps me coming back? I believe it is a craving for balance and understanding my body and how I move. Also, funny enough, I don’t usually make friends at yoga, although over time I’ll certainly begin to recognize a friendly face, but simple knowing I’m with like-minded people is a comforting experience. I believe this spirit of belonging is one thing that keeps me coming back. Oh and that familiar tightness is my left hamstring that spring up if I run too hard… or the tightness is my shoulders after a long day on the computer. So, again it’s a mind and body craving.

Why is a studio one of the first things I seek out when I move? Perhaps this is my attempt to find familiarity and peace, in the midst of changing environments and circles of people. I associate a yoga studio with the chance to escape from everything for 60 to 90 minutes. No phones, no speaking, no thinking about anything except my breathe and movement. The studio becomes my home. The one place I can go and know that in the midst of the chaos of my life this one place will always be the same. For this next 90 minutes, I will know what happens next and if I happen to get lost a caring and compassionate guide will come along and help me make small adjustments to find my balance. 

I do believe that this is why I continue my practice. I might pull anchor and sail across a new sea but when I land and drop anchor again, it will be there waiting for me. Much like a sailor seeking out a seaside inn to rest and find nourishment, so my practice provides nourishment for my soul on this journey through life. I find it again every stop along the way. The simple beauty of my practice is that although I, and my studio and my teacher may change, the practice stays the same. Downward facing dog is the same in California and Louisiana and Germany. The only thing that changes is me and my increasing gratitude for my practice and the people who teach me how to understand my body, nurture my soul and be kind to my spirit.

Namaste

Ilhabela

Ilhabela

High pitched chirps punctured by deep-timbered coos tickle my eardrums. Whispering palm fronds dance atop the distant sound of engines racing while sticky tires whine across pavement.

A cool breeze gently runs across the tip of my nose as I lounge in the hammock perched high on a hill-side overlooking the bay.

My eyes gently settle upon the sun lighting up the mainland while the boat harbor rests in the shadow of the mountain. As the sun creeps higher, boat hulls rock in the wake flashing in the sunlight as they rock. A pair of birds flies by, cawing as they madly flutter their wings to keep their large bodies afloat.

These were my experiences during my first morning on the Brazilian island of Ilhabela.  I sat there pondering the series of events that had led me to this moment…

Last fall I met a Brazilian colleague while she worked on a short term assignment in our team in Germany. We quickly discovered that we had a lot in common. She also is a curious traveler and we enjoyed some coffees while chatting about travel and life. After a few months, it was time for she and her husband to leave their lovely apartment in Köln to head back to São Paulo. On one of the last evenings, they hosted a farewell dinner and her husband cooked some amazing Brazilian food and a small group of us enjoyed chatting and talking about life in Germany and our childhoods. 

One time when we were chatting over a coffee she told me about a house that she and her husband own on an island near São Paulo called Ilhabela. She said that I was welcome to visit for the weekend, and I thought to myself “sounds lovely but I don’t know when it will ever happen…”. As it happened, I wound up in Brazil for an extended business trip and my friend offered to host me. There it was, it was actually happening! I was heading to Ilhabela.

On the appointed Friday, we hopped into her car for the long drive across São Paulo from the office to her apartment in a neighborhood called Pãolista. The distance is about 20 kilometers and traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as it can be, but it still took about 40 minutes and it was amazing to see the size of this city! It is huge! About 12 million people live in São Paulo and my friend told me they have a new mayor who is really working to revive the city and renovate the downtown. I saw more of the city as we sat in Friday night traffic at the beginning of our 4 hour drive to the beach.

Just in case you’ve never sat in traffic in a Brazilian city, I will explain it to you. I must say, it’s an interesting experience! Motorcycles and scooters zip between the lanes of stopped cars at fast speeds, sometimes stopping to push in a car mirror so they can squeeze through. Along the concrete median between lanes you’ll find painted piggy banks perched up for sale. A few men will be roaming between the cars holding high a stack of white towels for cleaning the house – advertising a negotiable price of 10 for 10 reals. Another man strolls by holding aloft a wooden pole with a variety of car chargers and selfie sticks made in china. Just in case you’re hungry or thirsty, that’s no trouble, you’ll also find men carrying snacks of all types and also people stationed with coolers of water and juice and even beer! So, you can do your shopping on the run.


As we neared the famous São Paulo city train station we saw an interesting sight indeed – a man dressed up in a Brazilian/American costume waving the flags of both countries! My friend’s husband Franz told me they’d arranged this specially for me! 🙂 


I enjoyed admiring the architecture of the city.

After about an hour we left the city and entered the countryside. As we passed through the favelas I was delighted to see boys flying kites and participating in a famous Brazilian tradition of kite fights! This is dangerous sport where the goal is to cut down your competitor’s kite using razor sharp wires. I had heard about it on a video during the Olympic Games in Rio. It was exciting to see the cultural phenomenon in person!


As the sun began to set we decided it was time for a break and pulled into a rest stop that was a combo petting farm and country restaurant. Such a lovely place! My friend introduced me to a local delicacy – a cake made from creamed corn. Perfect snack with a strong coffee! We still had a couple of hours to go in our drive. On the way in I stopped to say hi to a pony and a brand new baby goat and on the way out couldn’t resist snapping photos of a turkey roosting near an ostrich. 


We continued our journey – chatting nonstop. Franz commented that he was used to the nonstop conversations! Our next stop was to board the ferry that would take us from the mainland to our island destination. There was a long line and fortunately my friends had a fast pass so we drove right onto the boat. 

We made a quick stop for beverages and then headed to the house. A walk up a steep stairway led us to our paradise! The house stunned me – dark wood, walls of windows, cool white exterior decorated throughout with a palette of blue and white – this was an oasis! We collapsed after making a plan to not have a plan for the morning. Not a bad way to end the week!


Saturday morning, I woke with the sun, sleepily searched around for all the supplies to make coffee and hit start on the Cuisinart. Then I made my way out to the deck to watch the show. It did not disappoint. Go back to the first paragraphs to learn my auditory and visual experience. As I lounged in a perfectly placed hammock – here is what I saw:


After a few hours Franz emerged and proposed that we take off on a bicycle tour of the island. I was game. I love how my sporty reputation precedes me and everywhere I go I can find someone willing to take me on an adventure! First Franz whipped up my favorite of all favorites Brazilian breakfast – tapioca pancakes!


We rolled the bikes down the steps and took off. Our first stop was at the Igreja Nossa Senhora Da Ajuda church in Vila which was beautifully decorated for a festival season.

Then we stopped to check out some traditional boats beached on the shore.

We continued north and paused to take in some beautiful views and I couldn’t resist the urge to try the Archers pose as I precariously balanced on the edge.

As we headed back south we paused for a refreshing agua de coco. I absolutely love this drink!


Our adventure resumed and we stumbled upon some people buying fresh fish straight from a boat. Wow, they looked delicious!


We continued along a beautiful bike path – I was really pleased with the pedestrian infrastructure – and saw a tractor rig pulling a boat out of the water. It was basically a high-boy like you’ll see in tall crops such a sugarcane which is a huge crop in Brazil. We paused for a while to watch a complex operational to pull a big pleasure boat out of the water.


Our journey continued and I was pleasantly surprised to meet another bicycle girl.


Our last stop was at a point near a smaller island where the beach was prepared for a crowd of people to enjoy the beautiful day. 


By this point I was warm – I don’t know what I was thinking wearing a sweater and yoga pants! So we booked it home to get ready for the beach.

Mariana was rested and ready to go and I soon realized that my bikini, while being purchased in Brazil, was not Brazilian… if you know what I mean… so, I asked Mariana if she would help me find a proper Brazilian bikini. She was definitely ready for the challenge, so off we went to town!

By the second store we had found the perfect suit and a beach outfit to match. Mariana declared that I looked very Brazilian – and I could pass for someone from Rio! Oh boy, I better not let this go to my head! We made one last stop to buy a pair of Havianna flip flops and I customized them with a coconut charm.


The sun was high, temperatures were climbing accordingly, and I was properly outfitted, it was time to get to the beach! Along the way we got a bit hungry and thirsty and stopped at a tiny bar for a snack. 

When we walked up to the beach I met Franz’s family. And they asked if I’d like to try wake boarding behind a jet ski. Why not, I thought, I’ve done this before on a boat in a lake… actually I just said “Yes” and then I thought, geez I hope I can get up. Let’s just fast forward and say it was awesome! Very different then being on a lake – the wakes coming from many directions.  


I made a few passes then headed in to get some rays and refresh myself with a bier while I chatted with the family. We chatted until sunset and then headed home to clean up before reuniting for dinner.


The family gathered for a meal of fresh fish and it was fabulous! We exchanged about American and Brazilian culture and the nephews shyly practiced their English with me while I struggled to recall the Portuguese I had learned about 8 years ago. 

As we enjoyed our meal one of the relatives asked if I was disappointed they were not fluent in English which made me really sad. Why does the entire world feel a need to become American? I feel very conflicted about this emotion, but I believe there are many ways to live and communicate in many languages and many countries. I just hope that Americans reading this understand the significant influence we hold in the world. 

Before we headed home, we gathered for a fun photo with the nephews and I felt honored that the family took me in as one of their own.


The next morning we were sleepy! But when Franz suggested that we run to the beach I couldn’t resist the chance to start the day with another tour by foot. All I can say is it was one hilly route and a totally different exerience than going by bike. Soon after we arrived the family joined and we relaxed in the early afternoon sun.


I decided if would be fun to rent a stand-up paddle board to try it out. It is a lot harder than it looks! At first I stood up and fell off a few times, I’m sure providing loads of entertainment to everyone on shore. Then, one of the nephews came out to help, but that was a little tough because I couldn’t understand his instruction since i t was alles Portuguese! Awe, but we still had fun! I went back in to shore to rest and this is when Franz’s mother explained that I should approach it like dancing. So, I went back out for one more run and it worked! It really felt like a lesson in life: roll with waves, accept the changes and find your balance. Suddenly I was paddle boarding!

Sadly, it was soon time to head out for a delicious lunch before we packed up and headed home to the city. We enjoyed one final sunset before our departure.

It was such an amazing weekend and all I can say is Muitos Obrigada to Mariana and Franz and the family that accepted me like their own. I can’t wait to return with my husband for a week exploring this paradise!

Fare thee well

Fare thee well

Anyone who has been an expat knows it is a time of farewells. 

As you prepare to leave, you say farewell to your current life. Some say farewell more permanently by selling their home and many possessions. Others, like myself, move on temporarily with the plan to move back after a predetermined period of time.

You say farewell to your friends and family with promises to catch up during home visits.

Unknowingly, for some, you also say farewell to the person you were before the move. If you're lucky, or perhaps determined(?), the little bits of yourself that are unproductive or negative get stripped away and you remain with the core of yourself that you love and cherish.

You say farewell to your familiar shopping habits and favorite brands of food and clothing and cosmetics (ok, if depends, we live in a global corporate world and many brands can be found everywhere it seems).

You say farewell to your workout routine and eating habits.

You say farewell to being able to easily communicate thoughts and emotions and needs to nearly everyone you might meet in the street or in a shop or near the coffee pot at the office.

You say farewell to being able to call up your folks, basically whenever you want to, because suddenly you're faced with a 9 hour time-zone change.

If you move away from your loved ones you might be saying farewell to simple things you cherish more than you realized, like coffee and a walk with the dog every morning.

Saying farewell is painful. We've all seen that person at the airport standing there with tears rolling down their face watching a loved one roll through the security cue. Some of us have been that loved one standing in the line also crying to the point that a poor security guy hands you (me – wait did I just admit that…) a pack of tissues to wipe your face and blow your nose.

After you say farewell it's normal to expect a bit of a grieving time (but you'll be surprised by the grief because you're an expat and it's all supposed to be exciting and fun!) and during this time it's difficult to be open to new experiences or see the positives appearing before you. But, eventually, after the grief lifts and you've made yourself available for all the promise of your new life an amazing thing begins to happen.

You find yourself saying hello (Hallo, in my case) to the butcher behind the meat counter in your local Turkish grocery that you nervously walked in to hoping your first shopping encounter won't be a total disaster. Especially considering your limited command of the German language. And you discover that not only does he speak perfect English, but he deeply loves America!

You discover a local McFit gym that is just a 10 minute walk from your new flat and is open 24 hours a day for the cheap price is $19.99 a month! Then, you find an amazing yoga studio and hundreds of miles of bike paths and coworkers who also commute to the office by bike and happily bring you along the learn the route. Then through a series of events, you might even discover an entire new sport and throw yourself into it with so much passion that you proceed through level tests and have created an entire new sports hobby and network of friends that you never could have imagined.

You begin to make new friends – fellow expats from around the world. When you lock yourself out of your apartment you meet your neighbors, who are kind and generous and offer you a cup of tea and cookie as you wait for the locksmith to come and open your door. Then later over a glass of wine you exchange lively conversations learning about your respective country customs and politics. You get to know your new co-workers and neighborhood shop-keepers and your sports training coach.

And after a year or so, you are on a first name basis with many restaurant owners and waiters in your neighborhood and suddenly people are smiling at you with recognition on the street and you feel that you belong, maybe even more than you did back home.

Then, suddenly, it's time to go. And if feels strange, very strange, to look back and realize that somewhere along the way you have come to belong in this new place. And you need to remind yourself (convince yourself truly, because that old fearful feeling can begin to raise its head) that the new you will also belong in the old place.

The old familiar feeling of grief begins again (hey, at least it has lost the element of surprise!), but this time you're grieving your new life, that in the beginning was fun, then so difficult that you wanted to run away home, but in some way by fighting through and staying, now has become a field of victory. One that you will leave victorious and with tears in your eyes for the people you, again, leave behind.

As I sit here in my apartment with about 60 days to go, the guest room is prepared for my expat friend / traveling partner (and occasional therapist – hey, one of the most valuable things I learned out of all of this is that it's ok to ask for help from friends) and her husband will stay in my apartment for her last week in Germany. It will be a bittersweet time for us. We've been through this chapter together and it has created a bond that will never be broken, but I know that things will change for a bit as we morph back in to our previous lives. New patterns will be established and then we'll find time for a ladies shopping trip, or a coffee or maybe a BBQ with our families. For now, we will enjoy the moments in our last week in Germany before we both move on.

A new chapter in an old place. This will be a novel experience for me. In the past, every time that I've moved on it has been to a new place and never backwards. But I don't feel like I'm moving backwards this time. (Backwards – for some reason it sounds unproductive.) This time, I'm moving forward with a renewed understanding of myself and gratitude for the people in my life who tolerated my long absences and welcome me home with open arms when I return. I have learned (with occasional setbacks) to live the adage "don't look back, you're not going that way". I've decided that the only reason to look back is to harvest the learnings and then use them to improve your life as you move forward.

So, if you're considering an expat, be prepared for the farewells which will become a constant in your life. Don't forget to look out for the Hallos, which will sometimes (often) be hiding in the most unlikely of places and will shape you into a beautiful new creature if you're willing to respond to them with a warm smile and an open heart.