Pauline Drove Away

It feels like most exotic place I’ve gone in the last two and a half months is the Fedex down the street, so when Memorial Day weekend came about I was anxious to go somewhere. 

My family and I started brainstorming places we could go where we could be outdoors, away from other people and within a reasonable driving range. 

My father’s almost immediate and rather enthusiastic suggestion was, “Go west, young man!” 

Translation: The National Parks of South Dakota. 

And so, we packed into my parents’ travel van equipped with coolers of food for the trip so that we wouldn’t have to stop anywhere to eat, hand sanitizer and cleaning products for when we did need to touch things, and the entire Pure Moods collection because, well, duh. 

It was just like the family road trips we would take all of the time over ten years ago, but with fewer indoor stops, more precautions, and with smartphones- so that my brother and I could now independently figure out that “no, we are in fact, not there yet.”

When I was growing up, we went on long road trips all the time- National Parks were our thing. Having come from Poland, my parents had an incredible appreciation for the variance of the American landscape and so badly wanted my brother and I to see this country. In recent years we’ve opted for more exotic individual trips abroad, but all of a sudden in the midst of a pandemic- driving for 12 hours straight and humming along to Simon & Garfunkel and The Rolling Stone sounded like the best idea ever. 

And it was. 

We hiked through Badlands National Park and watched prairie dogs scurry around the grasslands on our first day, and then headed towards the Black Forest Hills National Forest where we spent two nights in a cabin near Custer State Park. 

There, we trekked all through Custer State Park’s woodsy trails, took the scenic drive along Needles Highway, watched Bison graze in Wind Cave National Park, and visited Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. Along the route we spotted coyotes, antelope, and made bird watching a competitive family sport.

It felt so good to be somewhere for one weekend where it felt like you weren’t constantly in imminent danger. 

(Well, aside from rattlesnakes, getting rammed by a bison if you get too close, or the fact that my father insists on bird watching while driving.)

Everyone we passed on the hiking trails was enthusiastic and kind. You didn’t pick up on any of the fear and distrust that plagues the city where people side eye you if god forbid you accidentally walk down the aisle in the wrong direction at Whole Foods. 

And, there was so much space everywhere! Fewer people visited the national parks than normally would have during Memorial Day Weekend and we found it incredibly easy to maintain a safe distance at all time. 

Traveling already was something that worked for my family, and we felt that we were able to enjoy the outdoors in a way that kept us and others safe. 

My travel plans for this year are going to look a lot different than originally planned, and I’m slowly coming to terms with that.

I don’t think I’ll be doing tequila shots off of some Australian’s perfectly sculpted six pack during Croatia Yacht Week. The safari outfits I already had planned for my trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe will have to wait (which is a shame because I look fantastic in khakis and wide brimmed hats.) And, I imagine that the sunburn that I was inevitably going to get while frolicking the beaches of St. Lucia may not happen.  

That all being said, I found a lot of comfort in this trip because it reminded me that although travel will look different this year, adventure is still out there- just in a different form.

And with lots of hand sanitizer. 

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Canceled

Flight Canceled.

The big, bold, red text in my American Airlines app annoyed me, as if somehow the color of the words alone was rubbing salt in my wounds.

I had been working in sunny Los Angeles for three days and was excited to get on my flight home back to cold and snowy Chicago, like some masochist who had gotten a taste for the other side and happily scampered back to their dark and cruel underworld.

7 degrees tomorrow? Ooooh baby. Half a foot of snow? Yes, yes, give it to me.

(They say people do crazy things for love, and I suppose that’s why we all put our winter coats on in Chicago and just suck it up. I’ll stop sexualizing the weather now, and because I’m sure some of you are uncomfortable, I will carry on with this story that if we’re being frank isn’t a story of much substance anyway.)

I can’t say I was surprised about the cancelled flight- more than 800 flights in and out of O’Hare were canceled. Why would mine be the exception?

And yet, in that not-so-great “woe is me” moment I found myself in a “how do we make the best of this?” situation with a bunch of equally disappointed coworkers also thinking, “Yes. Let’s.”

And that’s how I ended up eating fresh red snapper by the ocean, laughing and crying over a bottle of Pinot Noir while getting to know an incredible woman I had only met in passing a few times at my office who also by chance ended up as stranded as I was.

We’d pause every once in a while and look out at the ocean, amazed at how such a rough day turned into such a beautiful evening and filled with gratitude for the opportunity to stay at a gorgeous resort in Laguna Beach while waiting on a flight the next day.

See, I have an unwavering belief that there is purpose behind every misfortune. You are always precisely where you’re meant to be, whether or not you’ve actively chosen to be there.

My favorite story from my quick trip to LA isn’t any of the random almost run-ins I had with people from my past (you can hear about that over a glass of wine- actually you can have the wine, I’ll order a vodka) nor was it the handsome yet painfully cocky lawyer in the AA lounge who chatted me up about how his sister is on the current season of The Bachelor and shared juicy deets of the reality TV show’s reality.

No pals, my favorite thing was that my flight was canceled and it was awesome.

I’ll leave you with my favorite thing to give in some of my sappier posts- unsolicited advice and unwarranted inspiration.

Find joy in small misfortunes, and if your flight gets cancelled make the best of it.

*editors note (which is still me because I don’t have an editor but this just seems very formal and I’m practicing for the book I’d like to write, which hopefully, will have an editor.) Two of my coworkers took a last minute flight to Vegas out of Los Angeles and spent the night rolling dice in Sin City which is also a totally badass and PK approved way to make the best of a cancelled flight. Do that if you can.

Practical tips for visiting Petra

Simply put, Petra was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of cool things.

I don’t have the words to describe just how magnificent it is, so I’ll give you the next best thing- a few tips for your visit so that you can just go see it yourself.

Wear comfy shoes 

Petra is an entire ancient city, and you  can rack up a few miles walking through it. In fact, from the parking lot to the Treasury alone it’s about a 20 minute walk and a few of the cool view points involve light climbing, so I suggest leaving your cute wedges at home for this one. 

Dedicate the Entire Day

Or two. Or three. Petra is one of the seven wonders of the world for a reason and deserves at least a day of attention! There are so many incredible nooks to explore and details to admire. Also, the light changes throughout the day and some parts of the city photograph better at certain hours. For example, if you go before noon and try to take a photo from the vantage point across from the Treasury, it’s likely that your photo will be against the light. No bueno my friends. Unless you’re super artsy and wanted a silhouette shot- you do you. 

Explore the entirety 

Petra is a whole lot more than just the Treasury, which is the stone facade that you see on every Instagram post (mine included) and the rest of Petra is truly spectacular as well. Take the time to appreciate the other tombs, canyons and temples!

Get THE shot 

There is a neat vantage point across from the Treasury, the most intricate and best preserved stone facade in Petra, where you can get a crowd-less view and photo. If you’re facing the Treasury you’ll see a trail to your right that curves and takes you right to the cliff that overlooks the facade. Climb up halfway for a full body shot, and higher to a carpeted area where you can sit and take your epic Petra shot. 

Haggle

All the prices are pretty much made up- so why not make up your own? The first price a seller gives you will be the highest, and you can definitely get the price down from there. Haggling is an art form I believe everyone should master- otherwise it’s easy for locals to take advantage of you as a tourist. Most of the items I saw for sale at Petra I saw in a dozen other markets, so be skeptical when sometime tells you something is original or handmade. Also if a shopkeeper at a souvenir shop tells you something is camel hair…hate to break it to you but it’s probably not and please don’t pay $200 for it. 

Side note, you can pay in Jordanian Dinar or dollars so don’t worry if you didn’t have time to hit up a currency exchange. 

Nothing is free

Bedouins will stand at every turn and offer you a horse or donkey ride down the trail, and will even tell you that it’s included in your ticket cost. It is not. 

Free is used loosely and if you accept an offer, you’ll be asked to tip heavily at the end. The donkeys and horses are, sadly, incredibly overworked- please walk anyway if you are physically capable. 

Bring snacks! 

The food inside the Lost City is questionable at best, and kind of expensive. A small juice will set you back more than Whole Foods, and not everything looked particularly fresh. Since, you’re likely going to be there for hours, I recommend bringing your own snacks and a bottle of water.

Be skeptical of overly friendly locals

The local bedouins run a well known scam where they befriend and woo tourists, particularly young women traveling alone, and offer to take them to the best view points or places that only locals know. From there, one things leads to another, which often leads to an unfortunate situation- just look up Petra Romance Scams and you’ll get the gist. I’m alway for meeting local people, but perhaps let the extrovert inside you sit this one out and stay safe. 

Take it all in 

Lastly, a bit of personal advice…put down your phone for a few moments, stop taking photos and just take it all in when you’re there. The world really is a spectacular place, isn’t it?

Cool, huh?
View from the vantage point across the Treasury! Climb up there.
The Kulkas and the Last Crusade
I took photos here for so long that this cat came up and fell asleep in my lap.
The coolest canyons!
We named the dog Indiana.
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Did you visit Petra and find these tips helpful? Cool. Drop me a line! 

Just Happy to be Here

Claudia and I were sitting in a window at a cafe in Tel Aviv, basking in the sun like cats. We had just finished a large Israeli breakfast complete with shakshuka and Israeli salads, and were now slowly sipping our cappuccinos.

She exhaled contently, closed her eyes and said, “I’m just happy to be here.”

And honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to describe Tel Aviv and Israel so far.

Just happy to be here.

A year ago while in Dubai, I found out that my father would be going to Israel the following Thanksgiving and I called my mom immediately to finagle my way into that trip. I had made the decision that I would like to spend more time in the Middle East, and at that point was looking for every opportunity to do so.

I’m glad I did, because Israel surprised me with how lovely it is.

It’s clean and safe, the people are kind and the men are all tall, dark and handsome.

There’s sunshine and palm trees, and freshly pressed pomegranate juice on every corner.

The food is divine- all fresh and healthy. In fact, I unintentionally became a vegetarian for most of my trip because of how good all of their salads, hummus and pitas were.

I think I’m particularly fond of Tel Aviv because it reminds me of Barcelona a little- it has everything you need. You can explore the ancient city of Yafo and entertain the history buff inside you, you can lay out at the beach under a palm, you can shop for modern artisan jewelry in Neve Tzedek, share a bunch of small plates at a late dinner with some friends, and then boogie until the early hours of the morning.

While my trip isn’t done yet (I still haven’t floated in the Dead Sea or explored Jerusalem), I can already recommend Israel as a neat place to visit. Birthright, Catholic pilgrimage to the Holy Land, or a ridiculous mileage run- doesn’t matter why! Just go.

Sunset over Tel Aviv

Good horn. Good brakes. Good Eyes. Good luck.

“What are the four things that are compulsory when driving in India?”

Mr. Satpal, our driver, looked at my friend Chrissy and I expecting an answer.

“Good horn. Good brakes. Good eyes. Good luck.”

Chrissy and I laughed nervously in the backseat, and with that- Mr. Satpal took off, swerving between cars, Tuk-tuks, trucks, camels, cows, and pedestrians- pointing out water buffalo and monkeys along the way.

It was like a knock-off game of Mario Kart, with Mario driving and Princess Peach and Princess Daisy strapped into the back seat. (Key difference being, there were no extra lives or bonus points.)

Chrissy and I travelled to India for work for the week, but came early to take full advantage of the opportunity and do a little bit of sightseeing. A friend of my father’s arranged a weekend tour of the Golden Triangle for us, and so, we drove from Delhi to Jaipur to explore the city, and then headed to Agra to check out the Taj Mahal.

While the seemingly lawless driving was a bit of a shock at the very beginning, by the second day Chrissy and I were napping in the back seat- oblivious to the surrounding chaos. In fact, I learned a neat trick: if you’re not looking at the road, you’ll be a lot less stressed.

Our trip happened during a less than convenient time- the city of New Delhi had just declared a state of emergency due to the smog levels. We had to limit our time outside and wear filtering masks. Jaipur wasn’t as bad, but the dreamy haze surrounding the Taj Mahal in my photos? That was just the smog in Agra.

All in all, I consider the experience an exercise in gratitude. How often do any of us actively think about the quality of air we breathe?

Let’s just say that as soon as I landed at O’Hare I was almost okay with the 15 degree weather- the crisp winter air made up for it.

Since I’ve been back, a few friends have asked me about highlights and lowlights.

My trip to India had plenty of highlights, but if I’m being honest (which is always and almost to a fault) there were quite a few things I didn’t love- like the general sense of overwhelm and crowdedness. It also bothered me that at certain forts or monuments people were allowed to walk everywhere and touch everything- without much concern for conversation for future generations. I wasn’t a fan of the piles of garbage on roadsides and disarray of sidewalks and buildings in certain areas, and it made me incredibly sad to see kids barefoot in the street or bathing in the middle of the sidewalk with water from a bucket. The juxtaposition of an occasional luxury car didn’t help.

These are my observations, but I do want to focus on the highlights.

While ten days in India were plenty for me- I feel like I got to see some of the north’s top sights, including one of the seven wonders of the world. The monuments, food and people were certainly a highlight and the Taj Mahal took my breathe away.

The Taj Mahal is something everyone needs to go see at least once in their life. The craftsmanship, the symmetry of it, the grandeur- I’ve never seen anything like it. Wow.

Speaking of wow- food! I’ll admit that by the last day my dresses didn’t fit quite the same. All the daals and dosas will do that to you- but one of my highlights of my trip was actually a trip to one of Delhi’s best restaurants: Bukhara. I’m still dreaming about one of their bean dishes…

Another highlight would certainly be the awesome team I work with in India. It was a privilege to spend five days in the office with them. They even taught me how to dance to Bollywood and Punjabi music, and while I hate to brag- if I had the endurance for it, I could totally have been a Bollywood star.

I’ll have to keep training for that though. Stay tuned on how that goes, but in the meantime if you get the chance to check on the Taj Mahal- go do that.

How I pack a carry-on for long haul flights

One of my not so secret talents is packing. I can pack ten days of fabulous outfits in a carry-on (my current situation in India); I’ve previously lived out of a backpack for 5 weeks (once in Southeast Asia and once in Spain), and I can throw together a suitcase half an hour before leaving for the airport on a work trip.

I just got off my longest ever direct long-haul flight (ORD>DEL) and while I don’t usually write “how-to”s- I figured if I can make someone’s flight at least a smidge easier, that’s a win for me.

(I won’t bullsh*t you, I flew business class to India and slept comfortably during my entire flight. No physical item stuffed into a backpack will necessarily equate [Ambien?] BUT I can help!)

I travel with a hard case carry-on suitcase (it’s from AWAY and I love it) that contains my clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, etc. and a tote or backpack with staple items I keep nearby, usually stowed under my seat. The smaller bag is what I’ll cover today…

Here’s a list of things I always have on hand on a long haul flight:

Noise Cancelling Headphones: They’re bulky and annoying to pack, but every time I’m without them on a flight I regret it. They are incredible for instantly shutting out crying babies and airplane snorers. I have these from Bose, and I love them!

Slip silk mask: Okay, so maybe you don’t need a SILK sleep mask (any kind will do), but this one is just so soft. Essentially for knocking out on the plane even when the lights are still on.

Chargers: I always have my “bag o’ chargers” with me since most long haul flights have in seat outlets. I carry both an iPhone and a Google Pixel, so I always have a few chargers and convertors on hand.

Compression socks: My legs swell up on long haul flights, and it’s just not healthy to be sitting for that long. Compression socks help make sure everyone is circulating nicely. I ordered these from Amazon because they’re inexpensive.

AllBirds: I was a non believer at first, but these wool runners really are the comfiest shoes in the world. They’re like clouds, but for your feet. They’re comfortable enough to wear through the flight, stylish, and…you don’t have to take them off at security!

Pen: I feel like I always randomly need a pen. Just pack one so that you don’t have to ask a stranger. Unless said stranger is cute. In which case, loose the pens.

Melatonin: I almost never get too jet lagged. I use my travel day to adjust to whatever time zone I’m heading to and sleep or stay awake on my flight based on what time it is in my destination. So if it’s only 6pm but it’s midnight at my destination, you bet I’m taking melatonin, putting my headphones on, and slipping on my eye mask.

Book: Or kindle, whatever floats your boat. I always pack one because I’ve learned that you CANNOT count on all long haul flights to have a TV.

Cozy Hoodie or Cashmere Sweater: Airplanes are cold. There’s a correlation between passengers fainting up in the air and the temperature of the cabin, which is why planes are intentionally frosty. Don’t be a hero- pack something warm.

Refresher Kit: I pack wet wipes, mints, hand sanitizer, tissues, lip balm, and hand cream. I refresh during the flight and 30 minutes before landing and Voilà- new human! 

RX Bars: Always bring snacks in case you sleep through meal service or don’t like the food. Any snack bar will do, but RX Bars are my favorite for long trips because they can get absolutely smashed in your bag and still be fine.

Water bottle: There is very little moisture on airplanes and it’s easy to get dehydrated! I always bring an extra bottle of water or two, and I make a few trips to the back of the planes to get a cup of water from the flight attendants (keeps you moving!)

Oman

NYC

Brazil

Italy

Charleston: Dream Lifters and Horse Carriages

I have always been fascinated by airplanes. 

I took my first flight when I was two years old and have been on well over 200 flights since. 

I flew to Charleston for the weekend with one of my best friends Nicole, and had the honor of being her guest at Boeing’s family day in their South Carolina based headquarters. They open up their hangars and facilities once every few years to the public. 

She’s also obsessed with airplanes, but on the level where she can hear an airplane fly overhead and tell me what model it is. 

No really, it’s wild. Something will fly over us and she’s squeal “Its a C-17!” And I’ll smile politely and wait for it to come into view because frankly, I have no idea what a C-17 is. (Now I know it’s a military jet.)

Nicole toured me around the Boeing complex where she use to work back in Charleston, and walked me through step by step how an airplane gets assembled. 

How cool right?! 

I got to see how the sausage is made. And by sausage I mean giant flying metals machines. 

I also learned a few things about airplane production that surprised me, like the fact that the weight of the paint matters when it comes to the livery of the airplane- it impacts fuel usage. 

And, now I sleep better on airplanes knowing that if both engines go out the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) will kick in and give the plane enough power to land. 

I’m just kidding, I sleep perfectly fine on airplanes even when I’m convinced the plane is rocking hard enough to go down. It’s still good to know there’s a back up to the back up though. 

The cherry on top of the insider experience was being able to see a Dream Lifter up close. I have a friend who flies them and have heard about them, but I’ve never seen anything so massive, not to mention something so massive that is expected to cruise through the skies.

It’s majestic, really. Like a fat Pegasus slowly pulling itself up into the air. 

We spent the remainder of our weekend strolling through the pretty city and sightseeing via horse-drawn carriage like the damsels that we are. Carriage tours are practically as synonymous with Charleston as cobblestone streets and pastel antebellum houses are, so it would have been remiss not to. 

I will say that as much as I loved the glamorous mansions of Charleston and their pineapple fountain, one of my favorite things to see there was the almost 400 year old Angel Oak Tree. At 65 feet tall and 25 feet wide, it’s supposedly the largest live oak east of the Mississippi. It’s really quite beautiful with it’s wild, winding limbs and overwhelming size. 

This post could easily be summed into: “She went to Charleston, and saw a really big airplane and a really big tree,” but on a deeper level I suppose it’s a commentary on Charleston being an intersection of the old and the new. Nature and technology. History and the future. 

But, dear reader, feel free to interpret that however you’d like. 

Vegas, Baby.

I LOVE Vegas. 

It’s fabulous, and wild, and over the top. It’s vain, it’s lustful, it’s envious, it’s greedy. (Sin city- amirite?) 

It is so many wonderful and horrible things all at once. And… I’m very okay with that.

I had the privilege of speaking at a conference in Vegas last week, and figured I might as well take advantage of the trip and stay through the weekend in the spirit of bleisure.

Side note: I was recently informed that the term for combining business and leisure travel is bleisure, but I super hate that word and we will not be using it moving forward.

Anyhoo- I called one of my Seattle girlfriends, Claudia, who has a tendency to say yes to anything that involves buying a flight, and before long she was busting into my suite at the Cosmopolitan on Friday ready to boogie.

We kicked off the night at my favorite bar, The Chandelier in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, and shortly thereafter found our way to the roulette tables where Claudia proceeded to win money, and I proceeded to lose someone else’s money. As soon as her sister landed, we moved our party over to the dance floor of TAO Las Vegas, in the name of scientific research, of course. We just had to know how it compared to TAO Chicago.

No Vegas trip would be complete without some pool time, so we spent Saturday at Marquee Day Club, protected from sun and sweaty bodies under a private cabana featuring a private dip pool (with jets!)

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of a day club, it’s pretty much a night club but…during the day. And, instead of LBDs, everyone wears teeny tiny bikinis. Or a thong Speedo if you’re “that guy.” Yes, there was a “that guy” there and I have seen things I cannot unsee.

The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur, but we had cocktails in a Garden, and watched semi nude women swim in a human sized fish bowl at Zumanity. Again, typical Vegas things.

Saturday night, we boogied on tables at Hakkasan watching Steve Aoki jazzercise all over his DJ booth and pour champagne into people’s mouths, all while some hotshot in front of us threw stacks of dollar bills into the air.

I, too, don’t believe me.

Moreover, I’m starting to think that the level of casualness with which I wrote the last few paragraphs is a good indication that I should take another year off from Vegas.

Or, perhaps, it’s an indication that I should write a PK guide to Vegas.

Yes, I think I’ll do that.

Seattle with a side of Vancouver

I’ve been to Seattle about four or five times over the past two years, primarily to visit a few of my best girlfriends who live out there.

I *think* I love Seattle but I have yet to distinguish- do I actually love Seattle or do I just love the time spent there with my girlfriends?

We spent our Saturday day drinking at wineries, and dancing in bikinis on Diana’s balcony (I blame the wine) with a view of the Space Needle.

This counts as sightseeing, right?

At this point I’ve seen a good chunk of Seattle already, so my girlfriends and I were relaxing in her hot tub, when one of them said, “So, should we drive up to Vancouver tomorrow?”

A spontaneous road trip!? A PaulineFlewAway dream come true!

I was so genuinely excited to go and giddy at the thought of such spontaneous plans.

Naturally, I began bombarding my friends with questions.

“What time are we leaving” and “where will we stay,” and “how long is the drive” and “can we stop by Whole Foods to get healthy snacks before we leave?”

My friends looked at one another, unfazed, having known me for years.

“We’ll play it by ear, Paulina.”

I silenced myself for a good minute, and continued, “we should figure out the best route there,” and “should we make dinner reservations? We should, yeah. Okay, I’ll look up the best restaurants.” and “we should start packing!”

One girlfriend looked at the other and laughed, “Can we give you a Benadryl? Chill.”

I realized I could really take a hint from my friends. Their plan genuinely was to just wake up the next day, start driving and figure it out when we get to Vancouver. I was in absolute awe of their ability to just go with the flow. They’re so…chill.

I am anything but chill. In fact, I am the opposite of chill.

I run my life with the rigor of a drill sergeant.

I wake up at 5:30am during the week, and sleep in until 7 or 8 on weekends. I have plans for each and every day scheduled at least four weeks in advance. It’s all in my calendar(s). You may have even seen an invite come through if the plans involved you.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t like spontaneity – I have a few nights here and there blocked off for shenanigans, and a few morning hours baked in for recovery.

I call it, “scheduled fun.”

Sounds fun, right? Okay, okay.

So in Seattle, under the influence (of my girlfriends), I did something wild and gave my Type A side a weekend off.

The next afternoon, the gals and I hopped into the car and began driving to Vancouver. Normally, I would have had an aneurysm about not leaving early morning to make the most of the day (Carpe that Diem!), but today I was being chill.

My girlfriend directed us the wrong way and we proceeded to drive an hour in the opposite direction which would have lead to aneurysm #2, but… not today Anxious Satan!

And just like that…the rest of the weekend really fell into place. We stopped in Chilliwack at a Sunflower festival and had a photoshoot. We had a fabulous Italian dinner in Vancouver, went out in Granville, and stayed in a cute boutique hotel we found last minute by the waterfront. The next morning I jogged through Stanley Park, we had excellent pastries at Purebread, and we got dizzy on the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

It was everything that a Vancouver trip should have been, and it wouldn’t have really made a difference if we had planned it a month ago or day of.

It’s healthy to look at life from someone else’s perspective and try on their approach for size, if only for a weekend. I spent the rest of my time in Seattle catching up with additional friends and overall feeling a lot more relaxed.

I’m looking forward to more spontaneous mini trips in the future, but for right now…my plans this evening include making reservations for every meal I will have in Vegas next weekend.

Old habits die hard.

 

Norway

Best for last, Lofoten & Abisko

I wrote quite a bit about my trip to Scandinavia. I wrote about Belgian beers, and Swedish Fikas; my thoughts on Helsinki’s architecture, and my fascination with Vikings in Oslo.

But, I didn’t write about my favorite part of the trip, and frankly, where I spent the majority of my time.

The Lofoten Islands in Norway and Abisko National Park in Sweden.

I suppose I didn’t write about it because a part of me wanted to keep it just for me. When something is so beautiful that it feels like walking in a dream, you want to protect it. God forbid those places become the next Iceland, overrun by hoards of tourists.

Selfish, I know.

But, one of my guiding principles is to inspire people to travel to destinations they otherwise wouldn’t have thought to visit. So, here I am- sharing.

(Also my mom kept nagging me to write about it.)

Located in the Arctic Circle, in the north of Norway, Lofoten is an archipelago decorated with mountain peaks and arctic fjords, dramatic bays and Caribbean-esque beaches.

We spent three days hiking and driving through the linked islands, and I felt like Owen Wilson every time we turned a corner.

“WOW. wow. woooow. WoW. wowowowow.”

Every curve of the Lofoten’s roads revealed a picture perfect scene: bright blue waters with dramatic fjords in the background and tiny red cabins adding a pop of color. The fishing villages throughout the island are all the same shade of yellow or red. They’re now transformed into vacation rentals or private cabins, but they look like they’re straight out of a storybook.

My favorite hike was a brief, yet challenging trail to Kvalvika Beach, which is absolutely breathtaking. Mostly because you have ascend and descend a very steep hill to even access it. But, once you reach the top of the hill, huffing and puffing, you look below and you’ve entered another realm. Huge boulders cascade into green meadows with grazing sheep, which further down turn into a white sand beach. I can’t do it justice- just look it up.

After Lofoten, we drove over the Norwegian border and into Sweden to explore Abisko National Park for two days. I wasn’t expect to love Abisko as much as I did because I couldn’t imagine going from fjord views in Lofoten to a valley, but I was incredibly impressed.

I could (okay, I did) spend hours wandering all over Abisko. It’s so incredibly walkable: it’s relatively flat and well maintained, in fact some hikes are even wheelchair accessible. But just because the hikes are easy, doesn’t mean they’re not interesting. You walk alongside roaring canyons and through flowering meadows, all while maintaining a gorgeous mountain background.

Few things calm me down more than quiet walks in nature. The rest require prescriptions.

If you find yourself in Scandinavia, my advice to you is: Keep your time in the cities short. Go be in nature, climb a mountain, wander through a valleys, take a silly picture atop a fjord.

Spend your time in the great outdoors and you might just find time standing still for a little while longer.

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