Month 73 was meant to be my “breather” month in between two crazy periods of work travel this summer, which in retrospect is kind of funny because for the most part it wasn’t exactly relaxing — aside from two weeks in Martha’s Vineyard, in which even then there was a constant rotating door of guests coming in and out — I was definitely on the move.
Still, there was plenty of quality time with family and friends, and that’s what my summers are all about. These might not be the most wow-worthy destinations to my readers, but these are the trips that really recharge my soul for my next great adventures.
Where I Was
• Five nights in Nashville, Tennessee
• Four nights in Brooklyn, New York
• One night in Albany, New York
• Thirteen nights in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
• Seven nights in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• Going backstage. This month started with Kristin and I heading up to Nashville to meet my cousin for a few days before her bachelorette party kicked off. I loved having the guest of honor to myself ahead of the chaos of the weekend, and really loved seeing her little country-music-loving face light up when I took her to The Opry for the true VIP experience.
• Experiencing East Nashville. For my second foray to Music City, I got to check out it’s Brooklyn-eque hipster hood thanks to our bachelorette Airbnb’s location there. It’s cliche but its true: I loved it there, and actually wish I’d explored more!
• Wine-ing down. Aside from, obviously, eating obscene amounts of biscuits and fried chicken and reconnecting with my cousins friends that I’ve known since childhood, my favorite part of this trip to Nashville was our afternoon visiting Arrington Vineyards. We splurged for a private tasting and a limo to bring us there and back — both were beyond-worthy investments in the pursuit of silly fun.
• Being back in Brooklyn! This trip, I stayed up in Williamsburg with my recently-relocated friend Liz, and I just about died at the convenience of being within walking distance from so many places I love. It was a busy few days but I packed in so much fun: back-to-back fitness classes with Liz, a night at Bowery Poetry Club with Zoe, rooftop drinks and bowling after-party with a whole big crew, dinner in Manhattan with high school bestie Kristin and her man Mark, reuniting with Ian and getting to show him some of my favorite sides of summer in Brooklyn. God, I love this city.
• Albany, briefly. I hate doing a one-night turnaround anywhere, especially my hometown, but Ian and I were in a huge rush to get to Martha’s Vineyard if we wanted to have a couple nights of alone time after five weeks apart. It was an incredibly chaotic twenty-four hours but we made it memorable with a stunning dinner that Ian whipped up while I was weeping in my closet — er, unpacking and repacking again! Having a bunch of hometown friends over for a backyard summer barbecue was just what I needed to pause and remember life is good.
• Alone time with Ian. In the summer, when Ian and I focus on work and spending time with our North America family and friends, it’s really rare that we get any alone time anywhere. So our few days in Martha’s Vineyard before my family descended were blissful — cooking at home, walking down to the pier for sunset and taking one hour power breaks to read on the beach in the middle of the day all made this weekend feel like a dream.
• Goat yoga! We signed up for this the moment I saw it advertised on the island, but the morning of I was dreading going since it was raining and we had a long drive ahead. It was the goats’ first yoga class and at first they seemed agitated which had me on edge. But by the end of the class everyone was beaming, goats included, and I ended up on the front page of the local paper. Goats, yoga, and the front page: win.
• Photo fun. When my friends Ashlee and J asked me to take their engagement photos, I was stressed. I’d never done an engagement shoot before and it seemed like a pretty high stakes game. But we had a blast and most importantly, we all loved the results. That wasn’t the only fun I had behind the lens that week, either. I finally tried something I’ve been itching to for years — writing words with sparklers and a long exposure. I was officially photo geeking out!
• Beach days and boat rides. Once the whole big Fourth of July crew arrived, Olivia planned a super chill weekend of nothing but sand and sun, which I loved! Of course I snuck in some activities like a little bike ride to the lighthouse and an hour of SUPing in the bay, but otherwise it was plenty of time with our butts in beach chairs.
• Unplanned reader meetup! I always get super excited when Alex in Wanderland readers say hi in person, and it was super fun when it happened in my beloved Martha’s Vineyard, on the deck at Nancy’s.
• Dad time. Our schedules meant that until I headed out to California en route back to Thailand, I only saw my dad for the super brief three days we scheduled our own Father’s Day weekend in Philadelphia. So we made the most of them! Highlights included drinks at Maison 208, a bar with theatrical cocktails and a retractable roof, the Wild exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, rooftop time at my sister’s fancy new apartment building, and hanging out with my dad’s old work crew who so clearly miss and adore him.
• Bonus friend time. Gotta love social media — when I started posting Instagram stories from Philadelphia, my friend Amanda texted me within seconds to tell me she was there too! We met up for a spontaneous night of dancing in a tacky college bar, and it was some of the most fun I had all month.
• Sweat sessions. I go to try so many fun workouts this month and in particular fell in love with POUND fitness in Martha’s Vineyard (but offered around the world) and Sync Studio in Brooklyn. See the health section below for more details!
Lowlights and Lessons
• Never ending phone drama. I’m actually annoyed just writing this, ha! I knew my phone was on its way out for a while, and the second I touched down in New York from Nashville I went to trade it in at Verizon for the next model. I literally wasted an entire day in Verizon struggling to backup my old phone and transfer it to the next, and after literal hours I gave up and went to Apple, where they told me the method Verizon was trying was whack. Fine, a wasted day on something I thought would take an hour but at least I had my new phone.
Two days later I pick up my phone in Albany and the screen was completely black. I rushed to Apple first thing the next morning and they basically handed me a new phone and told me I’d been given a defective model. Again, an enormous stress and waste of time. Later that evening we arrive on Martha’s Vineyard (an incredibly stressful journey to make the ferry thanks to that unexpected field trip) and I realize that the lock button on the side of the phone is a little sticky. Within a day, it’s completely stuck. There’s no Apple in Martha’s Vineyard so I live with it for two weeks and go to Apple again the day I touch down in Philly, where they hand me yet another brand new $800 iPhone and say sorry, it was a defective model. I wish the story ended there, but my files never backed up properly to the new phone they gave me that day and I was too traumatized to try to go back again for a few weeks. To this day it’s not resolved and I just keep avoiding calling Apple Support. Ughhhhhhh times one million.
• Big bachelorette stress! I learned a lot from this trip, my first major big group pre-wedding trip; mainly that it’s good to establish ground rules regarding things like group meals and transportation plans ahead of time. I wasn’t in charge of this one and as a Type A Party Planner™ it was hard to take a backseat sometimes, but I got plenty of ideas for future trips where I take the helm in the planning stage. Apps like Splitwise were made for this!
• Martha’s Vineyard malaise. Usually my time on the island is like one big dreamy music video but this year there were a few funky moments, perhaps emphasized by the fact that with only one big trip this summer (instead of my usual several spread out over a few months) I was feeling rushed and nostalgic before I even arrived. On the frivolous side I was bummed by a few little things like the captain being a little rude on our very expensive boat charter (essentially the actual definition of #firstworldproblems?) and certain favorite island restaurants not living up to their usual greatness and no one wanting to come out dancing with me on a night I was dying for a little boogie. On the much more serious side, I had a lot of unexpected tension with my family when they arrived and was crushed by how out of sorts we were. Later, I found myself weeping for the state of the union on the Fourth of July when I went out to, I thought, enjoy a cute little parade around the neighborhood. I went home and declared it just another day and buried myself in work to avoid the panic attack I felt creeping up over how much hate and meanness has seeped into my beloved home country. So, there were some weird moments.
• Baaaad movies. I quite literally tried to walk out of a movie theater for the first time in my entire life (Ian stopped me) when we went to see Song to Song, the title of which still makes me shudder. Another night, out of desperation, we went to see 47 Meters Down, which was also pretty bad. Going to the movies is usually one of my favorite things about being in the US and this summer was kind of a letdown in that regard. Turns out I wasn’t alone in my thinking! Pretty much every major news outlet ran some sort of story on how it was the worst summer in decades at the box office.
• Hosting horrors. After years of site crashes and hosting issues, I switched my hosting plan to a much more expensive service. Being my tech-averse, disastrous self, things got a little messy especially since this all went down while I was on the road in Nashville. There were a LOT of growing pains as my new host and I tried to shore my site up (which stretched on for a few months) but dang, it was so worth it in the end. I love love love Performance Foundry… I think I just found my lifetime site host!
• Self torment. I really struggled with my weight and my confidence over this month. By the time I got to Martha’s Vineyard I felt so cripplingly uncomfortable with myself I was just about crawling out of my skin and totally consumed with thoughts of my physical appearance. It was not a good place to be.
• Family matters. I had a really painful, gut-wrenching blow up with one of my family members this month and it left me with a dark cloud following me for weeks. Do you ever have someone you just keep repeating the same fights with over and over and over again? It’s really painful not being able to break that cycle with someone you love so much. I get a lot of reader comments and emails that reference my “perfect family,” which usually leaves me laughing — we love each other something fierce but we are not even rounding the corner of perfect.
• My Nashville field trip. I will never, ever forget my adventure in trying to blow up bachelorette balloons in Nashville. With a lack of Party City locations in the downtown core, I was on a mission to figure out where I could inflate my Etsy purchases. I ended up at a Rite Aid, where after a pretty comedic group effort, the staff ran out of helium after just one balloon! To my absolute disbelief, the elderly cashier shruggingly insisted on PERSONALLY driving me down the street to Kroger when she heard I didn’t have a car with me and would otherwise walk. I was so tickled I took a selfie of us that tragically was lost in the Great iPhone Disaster Sweep of Summer of ’17. Luckily it’s already burned into the ‘ol brain bank for anytime I need a laugh.
• Getting a notification that my Lyft driver Ca$hFlow was about to arrive in Nashville. Ha! He was every bit as fun as his name hinted, and our bachelorette group felt we’d truly hit the rideshare jackpot.
• My sister and I nearly floating ourselves out to sea while distracted by a selfie session. Typical! I literally laughed so hard at my sister screaming “moooommmmyy!” at the shore my abs hurt. The best part? I have the whole thing on video thanks to being so flustered I left the GoPro on, and it will be making an appearance at my sister’s wedding someday.
• Unintentionally creeping on a famous dude. When I got to the one-gate Martha’s Vineyard airport to fly to Philadelphia, I was shocked to see a line snaking through the check-in desks. The guy behind me and I started speculating on what the holdup was, and chatting about the island. I saw people looking at us and assumed it was because I had wet hair and looked like a hot mess after running behind and rushing to the airport like a crazy lady (typical). Finally, when we were approaching security, a girl turned around and said to the man, “I’m so sorry, I don’t want to bother you, but I’m such a huge fan,” and carried on with something about football. Basically everyone in line was smiling at him and nodding and then shaking his hand. After, I turned around and said, “well, you didn’t tell me you were FAMOUS!” and we both had a huge laugh. I still have no idea who the guy is.
Best and Worst Beds of the Month
Best: This was kind of a treat for me — I didn’t check into a single hotel for a whole month! My favorite bed was the one in Martha’s Vineyard, for the sheer fact that I got to sleep in it for thirteen nights in a row.
Worst: Probably by default the ones I spent sleeping on a floor, ha, but truly they were nothing to complain about either.
Best and Worst Meals of the Month
Best: So many it’s hard to choose! Nashville is literally always delicious and I particularly swooned over dinner at Tánsuŏ, brunch at Biscuit Love, and dinner at Pinewood Social. In Albany I loved our gourmet backyard barbecue by Ian and in Martha’s Vineyard I loved discovering that dark dive bars like The Ritz and Offshore Ale Co. have incredible food, too!
Worst: Sadly we had a very disappointing brunch at Butcher and Bee in Nashville with a really nasty waitress who couldn’t have made it clearer how displeased she was to be serving a huge bachelorette party.
Another month in which I spent a small fortune! The culprits of this one were obvious — a bachelorette weekend that I winced when I saw my bill for (I can’t seem to help myself from going over the top for these things), two expensive flights (one obscenely so and one only sorta), paying a full year of a very upgraded, expensive website hosting plan, getting a new iPhone and a few ridiculously indulgent meals that in retrospect are way out of my comfort zone for what I would like to pay. I also splurged on a gel manicure and massage at an airport spa out of desperation (I really, really needed a manicure and I had a crazy long manicure) and they were both terrible and so expensive I still want to punch myself in the face when I think about them months later.
After years of being extremely, devoutly frugal, it’s been fun to start to make enough money where I don’t fret over every single purchase. That said, I have perhaps let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction to the point that I hope I can let this summer be a wake up call to myself and be a little less frivolous in the future.
Aside from my post for The Opry I had no travel campaigns this month, which was a nice break — however, I had so much content to catch up on the ones from the previous month and so many to plan for the ones ahead, it didn’t necessarily feel like one!
I got to do some fun new projects this month like write my first ever print article for Sport Diver Magazine and do my first paid Twitter chat (I’ve since done another — they are the most fun I’ve ever had with Twitter!) This was also the first month I got a payout from the new display ads that I implemented on my site and WOW was that a fun check to receive. This was another amazing month for income and I was excited to end it with a very tidy profit, despite my recent penchant for indulgence.
Health and Fitness
I started off the month eating my body weight in Nashville biscuits and trying unique American delicacies like the Burger King Fruit Loop milkshake and I don’t regret a bite of it… but it was nice when I got to Martha’s Vineyard and could chill a bit on my one way ticket to heart-attackville. There, I got back into my regular workout groove and Ian cooked healthy, beautiful meals every day.
I actually got an impressive number of fitness sessions in this month thanks to a slightly more relaxed travel schedule. I hit up a HITT class at GetFit615, an acro yoga at Steadfast and True, a private yoga class at Shakti and a buti yoga at East Nashville Yoga all in, duh, Nashville; in New York I flexed my ClassPass to hit up my favorite studios for pilates, hip hop yoga, spin and HIIT; in Philly I hit my sister’s gym and found a buti yoga class at Tuck Barre and Fitness; and in Martha’s Vineyard I played at goat yoga, discovered my deep love of POUND fitness and otherwise took as many classes as I could at The Mansion Fitness Center. I had so much fun checking out so many great classes and discovering so many cool new workouts!
What Was Next
Maine, more Albany, more New York, Illinois, and New Orleans
Thanks for coming along for the ride <3
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.