Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here: Month 1, Month 2, Months 3 and 4, Month 5, Month 6, Month 7,Months 8 and 9, Month 10, Month 11, Month 12, Month 13, Months 14 and 15, Month 16, Months 17 and 18, Month 19, Month 20, Months 21 and 22, Months 23 and 24, Month 25, and Months 26 and 27.
This too-short domestic stretch marks the time between two great adventures — my return from Burning Man and my departure date for my Peru. It was a mostly a month of work cramming and errand running, but as my mom reminded me, that’s what happens when you try to stuff a years’ worth of life administration into a short thirty day period!
Where I’ve Been
• Thirteen Days in Albany, New York / USA
• Four Days in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts / USA
• Six Days in New York, New York / USA
• Three Days in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania / USA
• Seven Days in Albany, New York / USA
• One Day in New York, New York / USA
• Time with Tucker! My parents bend over backwards to make sure that Tucker is in Albany when I am (these days, he spends most of his time in Philadelphia with my dad) and it means the world to me. I wish I could pack this pup in my backpack wherever I go.
• Nights out with friends. While I love making friends on the road, there’s nothing quite like hanging out with people that know what you looked like on the first day of college — or high school. I managed to squeeze in some gallery hopping and cheap tacos with friends in Brooklyn, and some birthday festivities, Biergarten evenings and movie dates with those in Albany.
• Starting app reviews on Alex in Wanderland. It’s no secret that I’m an iPhone addict, and so I’ve loved dipping my toes in the world of app reviews for the first time. I’m always looking for ways to expand business — and this is a pretty fun one!
• Playing tour guide to Anders! Originally I thought I’d just get to show him Martha’s Vineyard and New York City, but with some schedule manipulation we were able to fit in a little over 24 hours in Albany as well. It was great showing him around my hometown, and terrorizing him by inviting over 20+ of my closest family friends to inundate him with questions while he was still suffering from jetlag.
• Seeing the fantastic progress in my mom’s Martha’s Vineyard house renovation. I love design and DIY almost as much as I love travel, and so watching (and virtually participating, when possible) in this process has been a dream! It’s hard for me to put into words exactly how much this place means to me. Next summer, I’m hoping to triple my time here.
• Being a tourist again in New York City. It’s been a long time since I went sightseeing in my adopted hometown, and it took an international visitor to give me the kick in the butt to do it again. I fall back in love with that city every time I step foot it in.
• Medical wins! While I’ll never go back to my optometrist again after this month’s appointment, and my surgery was a fairly intense experience (see below), I did have two victories on the health front. After calling around to several “travel doctor” offices and being quoted a small fortune to get the Yellow Fever vaccine I’d require for Peru, I found that the Albany County Department of Health offered it for a total of $135 — about half of what I originally thought I’d have to fork over. Similarly, I was absolutely dreading returning to Planned Parenthood to replace my Implanon — love the work they do, but on my last visit I waited four hours to pee in a cup! Sadly my favorite travel birth control is extremely hard to get ahold of in the US, despite being one of the most popular methods in Europe and Australia. Yet with some serious sleuthing I found a new doctor in my area who provides it, and I loved him. It’s kind of funny that finding doctors you like and trust is rare enough to be considered a highlight, right?
• The overwhelming response to my reader survey. You guys blew me away! Fellow bloggers told me that based on my traffic I’d be lucky if I got 100 responses, but I actually topped out at 300. The positive feedback, brilliant suggestions and overwhelming support in those responses were incredible.
• An impromptu cupcake date. Back before I left on The Great Escape, I dabbled in the wedding industry in New York, working for both a couture wedding paperie and also a brilliant wedding designer. On my last morning in New York, I met up with two of my old friends from that world, Ara and Molly, for cupcakes and catching up. It made me remember how lucky I am to have friends from so many walks of life.
• Being a bridesmaid to my dear travel friend Justine! I loved being a part of this special day and also getting an up close look at some fabulous Jewish wedding traditions that I loved so much I might just adopt for myself someday. Oh, and I found the perfect gift for my travel-found friend — a pair of monogrammed passport covers in the couples’ wedding colors.
• Partnering with Eagle Creek. I’ve been one of the authors on the brand’s blog for quite some time, so it was fun to officially partner with them to test out some of the products I’d been writing about for so long. So far they are a hit, and it made packing for Peru a lot less painless — dare I say fun?
Lessons & Lowlights
• Surgery sucks. While I feel blessed to have comprehensive health insurance and the best personal nurse/mommy in the world, I can’t deny that having a complex adenoma removed from my breast was not exactly the highlight of my year. From biopsies to consults to post-op check ups, the entire process took seven different appointments — not an easy scheduling feat to begin with given my travel schedule, and made even more frustrating by getting bumped from the books on more than one occasion (“Uh, no, can’t do next week — I’ll be in Indonesia.”) Luckily the operation itself was much less traumatizing than the surgery I had in my left eye a few years’ back, and the recovery was relatively seamless.
• Any yet I’m ever grateful for my health. While we were in Martha’s Vineyard, my mom got a call that one of our closest family friends Steve — someone who has been like an uncle to me throughout my life — had suffered a stroke and was heading into 10+ hours of surgery to repair an aortic tear. Waiting for the news post-op was excruciating, and the recovery has been long. My mom rushed back to Albany and was at the hospital nearly every single day, and I feel so grateful that I was able to visit three times in my short window back upstate. Just a few days ago I let out a happy cry when I read the latest email update — Steve is home!
• I need to find a better way to deal with stress. I’m not proud to admit that I was reduced to tears several times this month by all the things I was trying to balance — and all the ways I felt I was failing. I wanted to be a loyal daughter, a devoted friend, and an enthusiastic tour guide, but I also wanted to spend every single second glued to my computer bulldozing through work. I was back answering emails the evening of my surgery, pain pills be damned! I’m not sure how to find a better equilibrium here, but I better start searching.
• My gear is getting old. Or maybe just tired. Either way, this month I noticed a lot of the gear I tote around the world — my mobile office, if you will — was in serious need of upgrade. Unfortunately my budget disagreed, so I’m hoping that all my electronics hold up until next time I’m stateside. My underwater camera is on the way out, and my dSLR is starting to malfunction occasionally — but all I could afford was a sensor cleaning. My computer is slowing down and the track pad periodically stops functioning — but I couldn’t quite manage to justify an upgrade. Considering the amount of wear they get I’m not sure how much I can do, but I am going to try to be more gentle with my very expensive mechanical friends.
• It’s time to develop a thicker skin. Despite the fact that 90% of my survey responses were heartwarmingly positive, I felt sick to my stomach by some that seemed a little mean spirited. Well, I guess I asked for it!
• Get AAA. On a month when I was logging ridiculous hours literally on the road, the car I was driving broke down three times! Luckily none of the issues were catastrophic.
• Whoever designed the New Jersey highway system was blind, a masochist, or both. No further elaboration needed.
• This was simply not enough time at home. I left the US feeling completely not ready to go — not a good feeling at all. Normally I am bucking at the gate for my international adventures, but this time I felt rushed and a little overwhelmed. Next summer, I hope I can schedule in a longer, uninterrupted chunk at home.
I wanted to be healthy this month, I swear I really did. I was preparing for The Inca Trail, after all! But surgery a week after my Burning Man return sidelined me from running and weight lifting for two weeks, though I was able to bike ride toward the end of that period. I probably fit in a paltry total of six workouts this month.
I didn’t go out of my way to eat healthily, though being under my mom’s good influence always helps. Also, I was so busy this month I barely touched alcohol — always a good sign for the waistline!
Guys — not to brag, but I killed it this month! (Totally bragging.) Between extensive freelancing projects and a huge advertising push here on Alex in Wanderland, I had my most profitable month of all times.
Despite being in a wedding — a typical budget buster — expenses were low thanks to the generous hosting of friends and family. One habit I’ve gotten into when stateside is eating out constantly, which is no big strain on the wallet in Thailand but is a little indulgent when you’re hitting Panera and Chipotle on a daily basis. That and gas were my major expenses of the month, as I drove between every single one of this months’ destinations (albeit in a family car I’m lucky enough not to pay for).
What would I do without you guys? Thank you, as always, for coming along for the ride!