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What a wild month this one was! I wrapped up a nice little period of family time and personal travel for the first few weeks before shifting gears into a busy period of back-to-back work campaigns to round out the summer.

It was also a weird month as it found me saying goodbye to my East Coast base in New York despite having six weeks of US travel still ahead, which I struggled to wrap my head around. I also had some very frustrating health drama, which always shines a glaring light on how insanely I build my summer schedules — there’s literally no time for anything to go wrong. When they do, things can get a little chaotic around here.

Still, there was plenty to smile about — four states, three weddings, one exciting influencer campaign, and countless special people to share it all with.

Maine Travel BlogWedding #1

Where I Was

• Three nights in South Freeport, Maine

• Five nights in Albany, New York

• Five nights in New York, New York

• Three nights in Albany, New York

• Two nights in Decatur, Illinois

• Six nights in Chicago, Illinois

• Four nights in New Orleans, Louisiana

Maine Travel BlogMaine!

Highlights

• Three beautiful weddings! Two back-to-back family weddings of high school sweethearts reunited decades later in Illinois and one Pinterest-worthy wedding of one of my high school besties in Maine. It was an enormous honor being a bridesmaid in one and reading and poetry-writing in another.

Now, clearly it’s no secret that attending and participating in weddings is expensive. Yet my friend Liz spoiled us with mani, pedis, bridesmaid brunch and letting us pick our own dresses and my cousin Kirsten treated us to hair and makeup — can this trend continue? If I ever find myself planning a wedding, I’m forgoing all bridal party gifts in lieu of covering as many of my crew’s expenses and experiences as possible.

• Checking off a new state. And one that was really high on my bucket list, to boot! Maine lived up to my expectations and beyond — Kennebunkport could not have been cuter, Portland was hip as can be, and Harpswell was full of rustic charm. I’ll be back!

• A big goodbye to the Big Apple. Oh wow, did time just slip through my fingers in New York this summer. While I think I spent less days in the city than any year since before moving there for college, I really made the most of them. A movie and dumpling date with my girl Liz. Trendy Indian food and long walks through Manhattan with my man Anthony. Work out dates with Dallas and Amanda. Hot yoga and brunch with my high school crew. Pilates and brunch (and a drinkernoon) with my college one. Trying that crazy weird rolled ice cream trend AND Dō. Running errands late on a Saturday night and walking through Washington Square Park and just feeling that electric energy of the city that never sleeps. My love affair with this city never ends.

• Having an apartment to myself. When my friend Ashlee realized she and her future hubs would be out of town when I was in New York, they generously offered up their Manhattan apartment to me. A whole residence completely to myself for three nights and four days?! Oh the food I cooked, the takeout I ordered, the seasons of television I consumed while working on my laptop from the couch! After a summer of hopping around hotels, friend’s couches, family member’s guestrooms, and beyond, it was seriously just the greatest gift to have that precious time and solitude to myself to remember what it felt like to be a real human and not a travel robot who’s “on” 24/7.

• Yoga dreams. It’s no secret that I’ve been interested in doing my yoga teacher training “someday,” but in the past year I’ve started to make that day become closer as I’ve narrowed down schools I’m interested in studying at gotten in touch with them to discuss. I was even able to check out the training center and meet some of the teachers of one of my favorite NYC yoga schools, Y7, when I attended a fundraiser workshop they held on my last night in New York. It made something that’s long been a dream start to feel like reality!

•  Making plans. After feeling overwhelmed with restlessness for much of my travel-wise, very safe and tame summer, I was thrilled to finally settle on the perfect next big adventure. It may still be quite a ways away, but just picking it and putting it on the calendar gave me a lot of peace!

• Albany time. Like New York, I feel like I barely got any Albany time in this summer, and that was a big bummer. I have friends and family friends I didn’t see once! But I did manage to squeeze in my usual barre and Japanese dinner date in Latham with my friend Kenzie, and dinner and drinks at the new Rare Form Brewing in Troy with my friend Matt. I even got to show my out-of-town friend Katie around for about 18 hours, though they were pretty stressful — more on that below.

• Highlighting my hometown. I was super excited to partner with Encircled on a post about ethical travel fashion, and even more excited when my mom volunteered to be my photographer for my photoshoot for the post. Isn’t she talented — and isn’t the Empire State Plaza so cool?

Albany Travel BlogAlbany

• New family feels. Ever since the first day I met my Uncle Dave’s now-wife Laura, I was hoping someday she’d officially be family. At their wedding this summer that dream came true! I also got to spend time with my cousin, my grandma, and two of Laura’s three kids who I’m now thrilled to have as part of the clan too. My sister and I couldn’t stop commenting on how our brief 36 hours in town were such a reminder of how important family is in the Midwest. Everywhere we went, people were tripping over themselves to chat to our Grandma, help her get around, invite her over for dinner, etc. We told her we felt like we were with Miss Decatur! It was very heartwarming to see a community to focused on taking care of their own.

• That view though. I couldn’t quite believe it when I scored a flight from Decatur to Chicago for a mere $59. I had to pinch myself again when I got to the airport and boarded what felt like a small private jet! The view we had flying into the Windy City was worth twice the price alone — what a cool experience, and very much beat three hours in traffic.

• Beach vibes in Chi-town. I’ve struggled to fall head over heels in love with Chicago after a million visits from childhood up, though my two adult visits in the last two years have shown me the secret lies with Lake Michigan. When Ian joined me in Chicago — another highlight! — we spent the day in our favorite place, the beach, and we marveled that we could walk there from our hostel and literally go from skyscrapers to sand in a matter of moments.

• A very festive wedding weekend. There were definitely some frustrations — and price increases — associated with my cousin’s wedding falling on Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago. But once we were all dressed up and killing time till the wedding started (my sister and I had our hair and makeup done with the wedding party so we were ready to rock hours before the ceremony started) it was kind of fun to wander around and see all the festival madness with our wedding finery on. From where we were in Millennium Park, we could even hear some of the music — and we could definitely ogle the crowds!

• Blogger party! I was bursting with excitement when I opened my hotel door to find Kristin and Angie — and practically cried with laughter that we all were Boomerang-ing each other. Our annual trip together is so special to me — can’t wait to see where we go next!

• Getting an arm workout in. New Orleans isn’t really a city about doing so much as seeing, feeling, and, well, drinking and eating — let’s be honest. But I discovered a new favorite tour to recommend when we spent a morning paddling around on the most culturally interesting kayaking tours I’ve ever taken.

• New NOLA discoveries! This was the third time I was lucky enough to visit one of the greatest cities in the world, and I was thrilled to make some new discoveries like the incredible, affordable Catahoula Hotel, the pool at Country Club, bowling at Fulton Alley (seriously I’m sooooo weirdly into bowling right now) and dining at St. Roch Market. Already excited for my fourth adventure there, whenever it may be!

• Late night karaoke duets. On our last night in New Orleans, we had a brief panic that we hadn’t experienced any of the city’s infamous nightlife. After an amazing night of dancing on Frenchmen Street, Kristin had to head home to hit an early morning flight but Angie and I raged on — giggling our way past big brass band street performers, toasting to the entrepreneurship of dudes selling street meat out of the back of U-Haul pickup rentals, and sipping on our totally legal to-go drinks. Eventually, a kindly bouncer told us where we could find karaoke, and we arrived just in time to cram in a few songs to an audience of about three before the bar finally kicked everyone out for the night. We may have paid for it the next day, but it was the perfect NOLA night — and I hadn’t laughed so hard in weeks.

New York Travel BlogNew York

Lowlights and Lessons

• Aisle anxiety. You can’t have three weddings in one month without a little bit of wedding drama sneaking in, right? I won’t go into any detail for obvious reasons, but there were definitely a couple of occasions where I felt like my insides were flopping around with wedding guest stress.

• Rushing Maine. I had such high ambitions for exploring this beautiful state, but in the end time constraints and I won’t like, summer prices scared me off. I couldn’t find anyone to join for a longer trip and I didn’t feel comfortable camping alone — like I dreamed of doing in Acadia National Park — and also didn’t feel comfortable paying the crazy hotel rates I was finding solo, either. Next time.

• Summer rain. It wasn’t a huge deal overall, but we did have plans rained out in Maine, Chicago and in New Orleans due to summer storms. My biggest heartache was having to cancel our architecture kayaking tour in Chicago, which I’d been wildly looking forward to. A good reason to always pad trips with an extra day if possible!

• Alteration altercation. Wow, am I spoiled by the seamstress I’ve been using since high school in Albany! When I dropped two bridesmaid dresses off for last minute, minor alterations at a tailor around the corner from my sister’s place in Philadelphia, I didn’t even think to ask for a price estimate (stupid) as I figured, well, it’s gotta get done regardless. So I seriously almost fainted when I went to pick them up and the bill was $208 — almost double what the dresses cost together! — for two hemmings, a dress steaming, and a modesty panel added to one of the dress’s cleavage. My Albany seamstress would have charged me $50. Serious life lesson learned there — plan ahead when it comes to special event alterations.

• Back at the end of Month 73, when I was in Philadelphia, I started to feel a familiar old eye infection come on. It waxed and waned from Maine to Albany, and I struggled to find anyone who would take a new patient with janky insurance.

By the time I got to New York City, I got straight off the bus and walked straight into an urgent care center, where the doctor could not have been more condescending or dismissive. She walked in and declared I had conjunctivitis before even looking at my eyes (been there, done that, this did not feel like conjunctivitis) and then threw around a few casual burns about me not coming in sooner (I WONDER WHY LADY). I warned her I had terrible insurance and asked her to write a prescription that wouldn’t wipe me out, so imagine my surprise when I got to the front of the line at the pharmacy and they told me I owed $189 bottle for a 10mL bottle of eye drops. Considering my lack of faith in her diagnosis, after some tearful back and forth with the pharmacist I just bounced.

By the way, serious broken system alert: I asked the pharmacist to tell me a medication that would be more affordable so I could go back to the urgent care center and specifically request it. He told me he couldn’t look up costs in his system without a specific script; and the doctor also had no way of knowing what the cost of various medications would be under my insurance on her end either. Meaning literally the only way to find an under $50 prescription would be trial and error, bouncing between the doctor and pharmacist until we hit bingo! I’m probably missing some obvious reason this doesn’t already exist, but why isn’t there an app a doctor can open, plug in your insurance, and see right in the exam room how much your script will be so they can ask if you can afford it?

That wasn’t the end of it, either. While I was in New York, one of my pupils blew up to about double the size of the other, a mild version of a previous incident that sent me to the ER three years ago. Finally, with that particular symptom — pupil asymmetry can be a sign of brain trauma — my mom was able to beg our way into an appointment with a family friend who’s an eye doctor back in Albany. I took the train back and set off on a string of terrifying appointments where I was told to cancel my upcoming trips, where it was suggested I’d be lucky if I didn’t have some neurological damage, and where I was eventually stuffed into a machine for an ocular MRI, which the nurses sympathetically told me is the worst kind of MRI. (You’re basically in a head brace for an hour while a machine shines bright lights in your eyes and loud beeps in your ears and you have to stay perfectly still.) My friend Katie actually arrived in the midst of this nightmare and poor thing was introduced to Albany by kicking it in a hospital waiting room. Results, when they finally came back? Inconclusive. Get another one. Ha! The fun continued in Chicago, where I spent the morning of my cousin’s rehearsal dinner running around trying to get my doctor in Albany to call in another antibiotic which at this point I would have paid anything for — thankfully, it was a mere $5.

The most annoying part was, I don’t even know what was wrong with my eyes or what eventually made them get better. I am going to go for that follow up MRI when I’m back in the US again, though.

Eye DramaHealth drama 🙁

• Arm angst. Believe it or not, that wasn’t my only health drama of the month! I also went in for my second attempt at having my implanon birth control implant removed from my arm after the routine removal failed last summer. This time, they did both x-rays and ultrasounds to locate the implant before opening my arm up, but even after several doctors consulted they still couldn’t get the dang thing out. With the next step being going under general anesthesia in an operating room, I think I’m just going to accept it’s in for good. I really loved my implanon for the years I had it and I know it was the best choice for me and I am just that unlucky one in a million for who the removal was not a simple experience, though I am less than thrilled every time I look at my scar-riddled left bicep. To add insult to literal injury, one night I was out for dinner with a friend and drove back home to look in the mirror and gasp when I found myself covered in blood — my stitches must have ripped out on the drive home, leaving me looking like a crime scene.

By the time I got to my uncle’s wedding, I was exhausted — my arm was aching from the removal attempt, my kidneys were sore from MRI contrast dye, I had two ugly bruises from IV lines, I had a weird rash from some medication, and my eyes were still making it hard to spend any length of time working on my computer. I truly hate to complain about my health when I’ve been so blessed with it in so many ways, but it was a month that tested my patience.

• Packing panic. I know I complain about packing fairly often in this section, but this was truly the worst packing experience of my life, to date. The majority of my “stuff” is in Thailand and at my mom’s house, where I use as my home base for packing and unpacking all summer. Well, thanks to pretty much moving into the local medical center for two days, I found myself packing for six weeks of US travel and oh, nine months of living abroad starting at 10pm at night with a 6am flight the next day. I seriously think I might have just curled up on the closet floor and died if it weren’t for Katie, who not only kept me focused and got me through an exhausting night but also volunteered to drive to the post office and mail packages to my various destinations the next morning. Seriously, can you say life saver?

• Overwhelmed in New Orleans. Minor compared to the above, but I seriously love New Orleans SO MUCH I think I was totally overwhelmed by the idea of trying to do it justice for the first time without my sister, who used to live there, leading me around. In the end my biggest regret was not going to see Rebirth, who does a weekly Tuesday show at The Maple Leaf. The girls were wiped — I was too, for sure — and I got too intimidated at the idea of going to a show by myself. Weird because there are so many things I truly love doing solo! A phobia to tackle for the future, I suppose, as I was kicking myself hard later for not grasping the chance for a second round of what was truly one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen the first time around. My second regret? Not getting more group photos or portraits of each other when I had the chance with two bloggers by my side! We did take tons of photos, but I guess for once we were too distracted to turn the cameras on ourselves — which is, in large part, our actual jobs (ha!)

LOLs

This sign in New Orleans — literally still cracks me up.

• Pretty much everything about our night out in New Orleans. Angie doing the jig in the street when she saw a cockroach (sorry, girl!). Our Uber drivers leaving us in stitches. The “friendship shot glasses” I spontaneously purchased from the band merch table on Frenchman Street. The karaoke man coming over to personally inform us he didn’t think that Disney songs were a crowd-pleaser at 2am. I had had a pretty tame month up until that point and don’t think I’d been out past 10pm more than once — sometimes you just need to get a crazy night with your girls out of your system!

Decatur Travel BlogDecatur

Best and Worst Beds of the Month

Best: Wow, this is a tough call this month. Ashlee’s apartment, which I gloriously had all to myself? Our charming Airbnb in Maine? I think in the end the top honor has to go to Catahoula Hotel, a true gem of a boutique hotel in New Orleans.

Worst: Sadly, I’m going to have to give this distinction to Freehand Chicago, purely due to the size of the rooms. Perhaps if we’d come at another time of year when we weren’t paying Lollapalooza prices I might not have been so bitter about paying so much to essentially sleep in a closet but at the end of the third night I was kind of crawling out of my skin — and I live in a pretty tiny apartment, yo.

Best and Worst Meals of the Month

Best: A seriously tough call to make in a month where I traveled to three major food destinations! Though Portland is Maine’s celebrated eating city, we loved our dinner at Frontier Café in Brunswick just as much as our brunch at Hot Suppa — both we worth traveling for.

In Chicago, I just about died with joy over my fried chicken at Parson’s Hot Chicken, the red velvet donut at Glazed and Infused, and our pizza at Homeslice. Shoutouts to Aviary, Hampton Social, and Three Dots and a Dash for being standout cocktail experiences, too.

And New Orleans? Everything in that city tastes good.

Worst: N/A this month! Woo hoo! Well, considering the amount I traveled, it was probably something crappy in an airport.

Chicago Travel BlogChicago

Spending

This was another pricey month that added up to double what I live off in Asia, despite doing a fair bit of freeloading (love you fam and friends.) My biggest expense were the weddings I attended — gifts, new dresses, getting my hair done (which was well worth it, I was obsessed with my braid even the day after and actually really needed a haircut too) our first hotel in Chicago, the balance on our Maine Airbnb after using up what credit I had, etc. They were worth every penny though!

Offsetting those costs, I was incredibly grateful to my mom for covering both the hotel for and flight to Illinois for the weddings for my sister and I — such a treat! With work covering my final flight into Louisiana, I paid just $59 all month for flights, and cashed in my first round of Amtrak Rewards (why didn’t I sign up for that years ago?!) for one of my train rides between Albany and New York. So on the transportation front at least, it was a cheap month!

Saving

On the plus side, I had one of my highest earning months ever, pulling in several really fun branded content campaigns and continuing to be impressed with my earnings from my Mediavine display ads.  I also did a few small projects like a paid Twitter chat, a social media push for Women’s Dive Day, and some branded Instagram and Facebook content that were fun just for being different!

Chicago Travel BlogWedding #3

Health and Fitness

Let’s just say this wasn’t my strongest month in this department. I did literally zero workouts in Maine or Illinois, where I ate with pretty reckless abandon. On the positive side, we made it to a Bounce Ya Brass dance class and a kayaking tour in New Orleans and walked about a billion miles — plus I did make some effort to eat decently, at least a few meals (truly a herculean effort in that particular city.)

To give myself some credit, I really did hit it hard when I was in New York state, cramming in as many barre classes as possible in Albany and seriously going nuts when I was in New York City, somehow attending seven fitness classes in just five days. I just had to get those fitness trends in before hitting the road again! Some of my favorites were my usual Y7 yoga obsession, POUND, Aqua Cycling, and a free high intensity yoga class in Highline Park. I miss my ClassPass just writing this!

New Orleans Travel BlogNew Orleans

What Was Next

A whole bunch of Florida (Jacksonville, Cocoa Beach, St. Pete, Tampa, various Florida Springs), Las Vegas, and California!

Wouldn’t be the same without y’all!

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.

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14 Comments...
  • Angie Orth
    November 28 2017

    Our NOLA night out was a highlight for me, too – cockroach jigging aside, haha. Probably my most fun night out all year!
    Angie Orth recently posted..Stop the Presses: I Found the World’s Most Comfortable Travel Shoes

    • Alex
      November 30 2017

      Although we DID give it a run for its money with our 90’s karaoke night at your house — HA!

  • Rachel
    November 28 2017

    I JUST tried Y7 a couple weeks ago – which location do you go to? I love how dark everything is in there – so relaxing 🙂

    • Alex
      November 30 2017

      Hey Rachel! Oh I love it so <3 I mostly go to Williamsburg but I've also been to their Upper East Side and SoHo locations and the HQ for workshops in Bowery. And now I've been to the West Hollywood one too -- gotta catch 'em all!

  • Megan
    November 28 2017

    Wow, I hope you’re able to get that eye thing settled at some point! I’m glad you enjoyed Chicago a little more this time around,I looove living here. If your life is less hectic next time you’re here hit up your readers for fitness company- I could totally get you into a free barre class.
    Also, not to be annoying but just in the name of accuracy, it’s Glazed & Infused- a multi-layered pun 🙂

    • Alex
      November 30 2017

      Ah, thank you for correcting me! I updated the post — at least I got it right in the original Chicago post 😉

  • Elizabeth Howell
    November 28 2017

    Oh man, sorry to hear about all your health drama! Having to deal with it in the US definitely does not help, but sounds like you still made the most of your month!
    Elizabeth Howell recently posted..Seeing Dragons IRL in Komodo National Park

    • Alex
      November 30 2017

      I kept thinking, “this would be so dang easy and cheap in Bangkok,” ha. Ah well, my eyes like to keep me on my toes 😉

  • Amy
    November 29 2017

    The medical dramas sound awful, no need to apologise for complaining about those, it sounds super-stressful. What a packed month too! Always love reading these reports 🙂
    Amy recently posted..Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, a German Fairytale

    • Alex
      November 30 2017

      Thanks Amy! I’m cranking them out in anticipation of catching up on things around here 🙂 Very exciting moment to look forward to!

  • Dominique
    November 30 2017

    Oh wow, doctors in the US don’t sound that great, what a scary time you must’ve gone through! Luckily your eye is better, but it would always be good to find out what’s wrong. If only to set your mind at ease! Health issues and travel can really tire a person out!
    Dominique recently posted..Mulu National Park – Animals of the Night

    • Alex
      December 1 2017

      Indeed — I can get quite spooked about my eye issues. Really looking forward to finally having laser correction this year so I can get rid of my contacts, which I suspect are a major player in these reoccurring infections.

  • Britt
    December 4 2017

    I literally just saw a commercial for this app called GoodRX and it made me think about this post -specifically when you mentioned some way of seeing if different prescriptions have generics or lower costs. Based on the commercial, it appears as though that’s what this app does. Might be worth it to check it out! The commercial said its membership free, and provides coupons for prescriptions.

    • Alex
      December 5 2017

      Oh my gosh Britt, one of my friends JUST told me about this app! I am downloading it the second I get back to the US! Thank you for the tip — this is why I love you guys.

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