Where we’re at: I’ve wrapped up blogging the first quarter of 2019, of which this is a huge roundup.
This period marked a new chapter in my time living back in my hometown, one in which I started to gingerly step back into the worlds of work and travel after three months of full-time care taking and being bound entirely to Albany. Naturally, my mom remained my first priority, and her care and happiness were constantly top of my heart and mind.
My slight increase in freedom and a general stabilization of my mom’s condition allowed me to enjoy Albany more all the time, as I found my rhythm and groove there and was determined to be as happy as possible. Still, as a person who’d spent so long roaming and always craved to feel so free, I struggled to reconcile my reality with my restlessness. Anxiety over the future and the creeping feeling my life was breezing me by not as planned often overcame me. In retrospect, it’s so easy to see how feeling that year was. But at that moment, I was too deep in it to have that perspective.
This quarter’s travels consisted of quick trips around the northeast, with one tropical getaway to get a much needed dose of vitamin D.
Where I Went
• Fifteen nights in Albany, New York
• Eight nights in New York, New York
• Thirteen nights in Albany, New York
• Five nights in Cabarete, Dominican Republic
• Ten nights in Albany, New York
• Three nights in Montreal, Canada
• Eleven nights in Albany, New York
• One night in Danvers, Massachusetts
• Fourteen nights in Albany, New York
• Two nights in Saratoga Springs, New York
• Eleven night in Albany, New York
• Finding Angie. Nothing changed the projection of our year like finally finding Angie, a home aide for my mom who clicked well with our family. I’m grateful every day that Angie came into our lives. And it also made a big difference for me personally when my mom’s partner Miller semi-retired, giving him a bit more flexibility to be home and me a bit more flexibility to work and travel. And Miller started to travel, too — he took two week-long ski trips during this quarter, which were incredibly well deserved and needed.
This is how finally finding a home aide that was a great fit for us changed our lives — we were finally physically able to put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, metaphorically speaking. I still can’t overstate how all-consuming my mom’s care was. But between Angie’s forty hours a week, my mom’s army of loved ones always eager to spend time with her, and our core team, we finally found a way that we could each occasionally start to come up for air.
• Kondo-ing. I started the year very inspired to purge, reading the book, watching the Netflix show, and consuming everything Marie Kondo in preparation. I did dump a bunch, but my attention was scattered, meaning I didn’t really reach the pinnacle of minimalism I was hoping for. Maybe it’s time for a reread and a redo.
• The Bryant Park frozen fountain. It’s such a little thing, but after years without experiencing a proper winter (and mostly struggling with this one), seeing this unique icy sight kind of gave me a sense of the magic of the season.
• Karaoking until dawn. Needless to say, the best part of my trip to New York City was quality time with so many of my friends I hadn’t seen in forever, and my favorite reminder of all the antics we get up to was an impromptu karaoke till sunrise sesh with my girl Angie after the New York Times Travel Show.
• My continued aerial adventures. My first aerial performance of the year was mermaid themed, a major highlight by default! And then not long after, the potential to appear on an episode of a travel show where I could promote my retreats cropped up, which left me scrambling to film a hammock routine highlight video to send the producers — they ended up going in another direction, which was meant to be, but I LOVED the creative push to try something new! I also finally started classes in lyra, which has become my latest and greatest aerial love, in this period.
• Falling in love with my 40th country. Looking back it’s hard to believe I spent just five days in the Dominican Republic, when they made such a huge impression on me. Our long weekend in Encuentro before I moved over to Cabarete solo was Amanda and I’s first time traveling together and we loved it — we adventured by scuba diving and cave hopping and sampling the local nightlife, but also chilled out with beach walks and insanely good massages on the rooftop yoga shala of our guesthouse. Even just having someone to feel creatively inspired with and play with our cameras and drones felt like a joy!
• Frugal flying. I saved myself over $400 on my Dominican Republic trip by booking Albany to Newark and Newark to Puerto Plata as two separate itineraries, as opposed to the exact same flights on the same ticket. Of course I had to fly carry-on to make it work, but that just saved me further (and forced me to travel lighter.) This year definitely forced me to get creative.
• Finding my next retreat destination. Aerial retreat centers are pretty few and far between on this planet, so I was starry-eyed when I found the one I did in Cabarete, where I spent two fabulous nights practicing yoga in a treehouse, swinging through the palm trees on trapeze, and taking a private lyra lesson. The universe also conspired to introduce me to Brenna Bradbury, who I clicked hard with, was massively helpful to me in setting up my Dominican Republic trip, and who I am now collaborating with on a trip to Tel Aviv.
• A nostalgic Valentine’s Day. Our throwback Valentine’s Day breakfast really embodied the joy we tried to bring into a difficult year, and is now such a special memory for me.
• My bestie from abroad. I can’t express how good it was to have Janine in Albany again — on of my closest girlfriends from Thailand, delivered right to my doorstep. A far way from the beach, we froze our bums off at Grafton State Park and Peace Pagoda, ate at lots of yummy local restaurants, and enjoyed much time at home with my mom.
• Making the most of Montreal. A hipster bowling date. Cozy massages. So many great meals. A whole weekend I didn’t have to plan. Montreal might not be the most enticing winter destination (seriously, I didn’t even know humans could live at those temperatures), but we had a beautiful weekend.
• My first ski trip in ten years. I waited too long! While I’m definitely a spring skiier and an occasional one, I do want to be able to enjoy the rare winter sports day. It was so great to get back on the slopes when Amanda came upstate for a weekend.
• Undersea Inspiration. I was impressed with many aspects of Boston Sea Rovers, most notably the film festival. Plus, it meant National Geographic Brian Skerry was on the East Coast doing a tour — and I caught him not only at the conference but a few days later for a talk in Albany that Miller and I brought my mom to, too.
• Spring in Saratoga. I was obsessed with The Downtowner hotel, with fried chicken at Hattie’s the incredible array of tea at Saratoga Tea and Honey, and spending the weekend with Ian and Prada.
• Discovering Albany. My new contract with Discover Albany gave me even more incentive to explore while at home, as well. A few favorites from this period included a build your own mimosa brunch at a local downtown eatery, a Museum After Dark tour at the Albany Institute, a local food tour, and some cool winter festivals.
• Out and about with my mom. We managed some pretty fun outings once my mom’s Avastin treatment started kicking in — a lunch out at Olive Garden, a flower show at Cathedral in Bloom, lots of walks around the neighborhood and movies at The Spectrum, the Capital District Garden Show, and our Ikebana flower arranging class Japanese theme night. They are such special memories to look back on, now.
Lowlights and Lessons
• Healthcare stress. While we ended up where we needed to be with my mom’s home health care aide, the road was never smooth to get there — I quickly learned that you can’t just dial 1-800-Angel-Nurse and be blessed with a qualified caretaker who has every skill you need, complete availability, and the right personality match for your family. The cliff notes version is that after going through the nightmare of state agency hires we endured the previous quarter, we finally accepted we’d have to go the private route (meaning we couldn’t use as much of our insurance coverage). Every new attempt meant a new intake process, a new training period, getting used to new strangers in your home — so it was trying.
We finally connected with a local nurse who ran an underground agency of sorts, of home health aides. She set us up with two aides, one of whom was Angie, who really fit with our family and “got it” in a way no one yet had. We just started to feel settled when she came to us one day telling us she was no longer able to sustain working under the nurse, for very understandable reasons, and so we were left with the stressful decision to hire her independently full-time or lose her entirely. We decided to work with her directly, which caused a bit of drama, but ultimately was the absolute best decision.
• Training trials. I struggled with the continuing education teacher training I attended in New York. The teacher’s top priority seemed to be ending the training as early as possible every day, and she also seemed distinctly not to like me — I’d ask a question and she’d literally say, “ask someone else to explain that to you,” and move on. Or tell me I needed to “loosen up.” It really got me down when I had signed up specifically hoping for a teaching confidence boost. The good news? Writing a blog post about it finally gave me the confidence the email the company with my feedback, and they had the best response I ever could have hoped for — they really heard me, deeply apologized, and offered me to audit another training anytime at no expense. I really appreciated that — it’s a good lesson to always speak up, even when it feels hard.
The good news is it didn’t totally dissuade me from my interest in getting back into teaching. I signed up for an online teaching refresher and invited friends over for practice classes as soon as I got back from New York.
• A broken body. I had two major health meltdowns in this period — I gave myself second and partially third degree burns on my hand when I was walking Prada and she pulled the leash, dragging me onto the ice with the scalding tea I was carrying tumbling everywhere. It was unbelievably painful and slow to heal, and made care taking difficult. Later in the same month, a filling cracked right out of my mouth at the gym, forcing me to cancel a trip to Montreal to see Ian so I could go to an emergency dentist, where even the most basic temporary fix cost over five hundred dollars. I’m still waiting to return to Thailand for the final procedure.
• Accepting balance. I have a weird obsession with not doing things halfway. Like, I’d rather not go to a movie at all than walk in five minute late. And so it was tough for me to do things like cut short the New York Times Travel Show and leave after just one day, or not take up the Dominican Republic retreat center on their full offer for a stay, or not get to stop and see my oldest sister for a night when I was driving right by her house on the way to my dive show (ironically, on the way back she was in Albany seeing my dad, who’d come to town so I could get away for the night!) But in all those cases, it was time to go home, and I had to accept that.
• Struggling for spring. It was not an easy winter. The dark. The cold. Wow, sometimes I thought I’d freeze on Prada’s walks! My mood is largely effected by the environment I’m in, and I had to work hard to stay upbeat through the short dark days of winter.
• Being apart. Ian and I were together for about four years when my mom was diagnosed and I moved home immediately, forcing us into different countries as Ian is a Canadian citizen. In this quarter he settled into a job in nearby Montreal which had excruciating hours and not great pay, and used his brief time off largely driving down to Albany to see me for not more than one night. Ian is one of the most kind and patient people I’ve ever known and I started to feel enormous guilt for putting him in that position — it was a tough time and needless to say, a strain from our previous breezy life together.
• My Montreal meltdown. Maybe this will be funny someday? I feel like I had the largest tantrum of my adult life during my weekend in Montreal, when Ian and I tried walking a few blocks to dinner nearby when it was what felt like the coldest windiest temperatures I’d ever experienced outside. We took a wrong turn and, realizing I was lost, I lost it. Needless to say I was on a pretty short fuze and Ian and I have indeed laughed about it sense, but I look back and think wow, I was a mess — and I hate the cold.
• Hotel horrors. Okay, I think this is another one that maybe will eventually be a funny memory, but at the time it was completely horrifying! I was beside myself when I came back to my hotel room in Saratoga after a workout class to pack up and take Prada home — and found the entire bed covered in blood stains. Prada looked fine, so I was confused — until I found a tiny cut on her nose. I’d given her a bone to go wild on while I was away, and she’d been obsessed with hiding them in the strangest places around the house (it was hilarious.) Apparently she tried to do the same in the hotel room, because she clearly had cut her nose trying to shove it under the TV and, unhappy with that spot, then went up and tried to dig around in the duvet. I had to go to the front desk and confess that my dog had totally trashed the bedding — they were nice about it and wouldn’t accept money, but I was mortified. Clearly, Prada was still getting the hang of the whole travel thing.
• Coming back to chaos. The great paradox of starting to travel again in 2019 meant that my time at home felt ever more frantic and busy as I tried to juggle my time with my mom, my return to work, and some semblance of a personal life. Every trip meant missing something at home, and every day at home I felt like I was missing out on some great adventure. I always felt torn between two worlds. I often felt like I had a million plates spinning in the air, and they were just moments from crashing on me! And yet, it was an improvement over feeling completely disconnected from my own life, work and passions.
• My Mom’s seizure. My mom had had her first seizure month before, but this one was another level of terrifying — ambulance called, paramedics with wide eyes, went on until it was medically stopped, level of terrifying. After remaining almost eerily calm while I got my mom in bed, called 911, stayed by my mom’s side while directing the house to get set up for first responders, once inside the ambulance I had a moment of pure terror from the front seat when I saw my mom finally go still after nearly an hour of thrashing (they don’t let you in the back — that’s only in the movies) that I could only describe as my first panic attack in years and years. I had a rare moment of total breakdown in the ER and wept deeply, terrified for what the long term affects might be and so bitter that just when we’d seemed to find a semblance of a routine and peace, it was ripped away. We were in the hospital until the next day and struggled for the next nine months with seizure management. Thankfully, this was the most severe she’d ever have to suffer again — but they were truly awful, and I still flash back to that ambulance ride sometimes.
LOL of the Months
I would say a beach dog attempting to consume my drone and me having to wrestle it into the sand as interception was for sure the most entertaining moment of my travels, this quarter. And laughter therapy was deeply needed.
However, this photo of me looking thirty going on thirteen while skiing in Massachusetts is a close second.
Best and Worst Beds of the Months
Best: It’s almost an impossible tie between Surfbreak Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, which was what thatch roof dreams are made of, or The Downtowner in Saratoga, which was just too Instagrammable for words.
Worst: Honestly, I had nothing to complain about.
Best and Worst Meals of the Months
Best: That’s easy — definitely one of the cute healthy cafes in Cabarete, part of the reason I fell so hard for the surf town.
Worst: Let’s face it — probably something I made, ha. I will say though, I made constant progress in upgrading from being World’s Most Incompetent Chef to solidly mediocre!
As I’ve reiterated many times, finding a home aide that worked for us totally changed our reality. I was able to gingerly step back into a heavier part time workload this quarter as a result and while my days and weeks got more chaotic as a result, being able to use my brain and my creativity in that way again and feel reconnected back to my career definitely brought me back to life.
I continued my stride of eight blog posts a month for January and February, a reasonable goal, (though definitely not enough to dig out of the backlog I was in), finally hitting my goal of ten in March.
I also attended the Boston Sea Rovers conference — a short trip that made me feel reconnected to the diving world and also gave me a reason to be grateful for being the northeast in the winter. It’s a major career goal of mine to speak at a diving show in the next five years and this was great research for that.
I also started to try to focus on more Instagram campaigns this quarter. It had never been a big emphasis of mine, in part because while I was living in Thailand and always on the go, it was extremely difficult to receive products from brands. Getting mail in Albany was no issue, though getting creative with my tripod was a new challenge!
My biggest career move of the quarter by far was researching a future aerial trip to the Dominican Republic and pulling the trigger on launching my next retreat in St. Pete, Florida, which I did right from a coworking space in Albany, New York.
I can’t lie, it made me almost sick with stress and I had to overcome a lot of near crippling internal naysaying to make it happen. I had held off for so long out of fear of what would happen if my mom had an emergency that week, and how I could market an inspirational trip when my own life felt so unglamorous at the moment. Eventually I accepted that no one is immune from unexpected tragedies cropping up in their life. As long as I lay the foundation as smoothly as much as possible and remained confident that the retreat would be a success no matter what — which, thanks to my preparation and my amazing co-teacher, I was — I could more forward with a clear conscience.
Definitely there was a bit of cognitive dissonance for me in chirpily marketing an aspirational retreat while I had so much heaviness with me life, and as someone who doesn’t even know how to not be 100% authentic, that was a struggle. But, I felt a deep calling to continue to pursue my goals and my dreams even in the toughest of circumstances — and I think that resonated with people.
Health and Fitness Update
Are you guys sick of reading how workouts kept me sane through the toughest year of my life? Sorry. They did.
While at home in Albany I used workouts as my daily me time, social break, and reason to get dressed and leave the house each day. Some notably fun breaks from my normal yoga, aerial arts and weight training routine were classes in aerial dance, a chair dance workshop, my attempts at adult ballet and gymnastics, a yin and yoga massage workshop, yoga in art galleries, and Buti classes with a new teacher friend I made. I even went to a 5K running club at a local cidery!
I also brought my passion with me on the road, going on a major pole and aerial arts spree during my trip to New York, trapezing, lyra and yoga-ing through the Dominican Republic and taking pole classes at a small town studio in Upstate New York on my way back from Montreal and Saratoga.
What Was Next
The next quarter would bring me on a quick work and play trip to New York City, on a vacation to Mexico, on a road trip to speak at a conference in Maine, on my first transatlantic flight in ten months to the United Kingdom and the Middle East, and back stateside to Boston for TravelCon.
Brace yourself for tons of content coming up on all those trips, and my time at home! Thanks for following along on this journey, friends.
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.