26 March 2018

I want to write about this day two years ago, but also this week for the past two years. Today I am itching to travel. I have already obsessively checked enterprise, hertz, and Avis for a rental car to let us go. I’ve woken up from a dream of me fleeing to London and seeing you sitting on a bench because you came after me. I’ve done this life and this day by myself for a while now. But the past three years of doing it with you has made the difference.

Two years ago, we were in Chicago. We had only been together, together for a month—and I had only known you for two. Except when I was allotted my first wedding guest, and no longer looped into the family invite, I took a chance and ask if you wanted to come. So, two years ago, we boarded a plane and went to another city where you practically met my entire family, and that didn’t scare you away.

Fast forward another year to last year where together we were in Montreal, Canada, after just spent the past weekend traveling around Canada and boarded a 10 hour Amtrak train to New York City. For a change, we were with your family, although I had already met them when I too flew to be your wedding guest at your brother’s wedding in Germany.

It’s strange to think that this past week, for the past two years, we’ve been in different cities than our own, but this year I don’t know if it would change it.

I’ve heard a lot of fear resonating from people not in New York, about what it’s like in New York. I’ve had invites to leave, contemplative reasons to go. But as I work from home for the 8th consecutive day, I am thankful for what this city has given me, so for once, I won’t leave it behind.

It’s strange being here, I’ll give you that. I hear the horror stories of what hospitals are facing and what it feels like to have the virus. I catch myself wondering if I, too, could get it because I’ve stayed in the epicenter of the virus in the USA. But at my core, my heart aches for everyone who isn’t as lucky as me, because today I feel fortunate.

I find myself, these past few mornings reflecting on the past and what has happened since I’ve moved to New York. I finished a book about the loneliness that lingers within this city and how everyone feels that longing to be whole. This city is for the strong-minded and the firm will, and I can attest that it wasn’t me three years ago.

But as you grow with this city, it evolves with you. You learn how robust New Yorker’s are. How resilient and sturdy they can be. I’m still not entirely talking about me, but I now know what it feels like to not have a safety net to fall back on within this city. I know what it’s like to feel lonelier than ever and powerless within these hallowed street blocks and dampened dark rooms.

I’ve found myself staring down the fears of New York and submerging myself in those depths to come out the other side feeling the opportunity this city can have. Sure this virus has left many of us feeling stranded and alone, but to me, that is New York.

The city feels lonely now if you think of it in that way. For once in what could have been decades and centuries, not many people are going outside. Dust is starting to collect the stools that are turned over on dining tables and bar tops. It’s strange to see a single paper, tapped to a glass window of a typically illuminated and busy store, noting their indefinite closure. It’s sad to think that many restaurants, stores, and bars that I’ve come to love may not bounce back from this. That so many of my friends have lost an income because of this.

But for once, on March 26th, David and I are doing what we can to keep ourselves happy and sane in our small one-bedroom apartment. We’ve reminded ourselves to wash our hands, tidy our space, and do everything we can to remain as positive as we can this year.

Although I’m itching to go on another adventure, I am glad this year I too am still by my best friend’s side, taking this obstacle on one step at a time.

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Fresh Start for February

When I set out to layout my goals for the year, I had a hard time finding what my focus would be. There was so much I wanted for myself, my career, and future that at times my list was growing without any focus and was quickly becoming a daunting and overwhelming list. But then I sat down and saw how there were roughly 12 overarching themes to everything I wanted, and then I saw how I could use each month to focus on the goals I set. 

January was all about getting organized—and that is precisely what I did. I knew throwing myself straight into focusing on routines or the typical “gym-daily” mentality would set me up for failure, just like in years past. My Unbound Planner has helped me visualize what it is I want and how I will execute it, but it took the first few weeks of January to get everything settled and organized. (If you still are in the market for a new planner, and love goals, I have recommended this one after sifting through the saturated market of agendas).

I have finally reached a rhythm where I know what needs to be done daily, weekly, and monthly to really maximize my time. But I know things will change in the coming months, which is why in February I have decided to Prioritize Health. 

I knew once I got a bit more organized, the next thing I really wanted to get started on was focusing on my mental, physical, and emotional health. There is a lot that goes into upheaving your life into a new schedule, especially while you are planning on having a significant life change when it comes to starting a new job, so I knew I needed to quickly prioritize myself.

At times, it would be hard to encourage myself to get out of the house and do anything but stare at my computer screen for hours on end. When you are in that mindset, you lose sight of yourself and what can be crucial. There’s a lot that goes into getting out and getting exercise when you think there’s a cover letter you should be writing or jobs to be hunting. When that happens, everything else falls to the side, and negative thoughts, emotions, and actions come into play.

Activities you found fun or enjoyable fall even lower in the priority ranking that they were previously. Who has time to read, when the most you can think about is your expenses collecting in your bank account? Who has the money to enjoy a Friday night movie when the tickets are close to 30 dollars, and you know that would be a good amount of groceries at Trader Joes?

In the past, during my more trying times, I lost myself. When I first moved here, I was a completely different person, and she is entirely unrecognizable now to who I am today. But it was her actions and her depths that have me really reminding myself that I need to take care of “me” first. 

Firstly, putting me first isn’t a selfish thing, and its taken me twenty-five years to really hone in on that. I have come to realize that its okay to say no, and not seek out these melodramatic experiences or friendships. I have learned that negative things happen when I put myself second. I think illogically. I hurt bonds, or worse, I make awful friendships. My health declines, I eat poorly, I don’t get outside, and I practice worse habits.

Now, as I stare down a daunting task of things to complete in the coming month, I thought I would share them along with you here. Every month I have twenty Monthly Goals and Tasks. Two of those tasks are set for me by my planner, “review your yearly goals & last month’s progress” and “add repeating monthly goals.” I have eleven, yes, eleven goals I plan on repeating monthly:

  1. Finish two books
  2. Write 8 blog posts 
  3. Plan an adventure 
  4. Send a letter 
  5. Earn a new career certification 
  6. Reflection writing piece
  7. Practice a new self-care routine  
  8. Learn something new 
  9. Write one chapter
  10. Reward yourself
  11. Plan a big date with David 

That leaves seven goals or tasks to set for the month. From my daunting list of goals, I took the ones that fit best with my theme and set them as goals I wanted to accomplish during the different months. There were only two significant goals in January, whereas February has four.

  • Have a job that best suits my interests  (Ranked #1 Overall) 
  • Under 30 min on Social Media daily (Ranked #13) 
  • Complete Whole 30 Challenge (Ranked #15) 
  • Have Recipes Organized (Ranked #9) 

I felt that these four goals really played to prioritizing health in February. Having an income and a job (outside of my freelance hustle) is really important for my mental health wellbeing. Limiting my social media engagement and screen time will allow myself to spend more time on myself, and those tasks I previously mentioned tend to get forgotten (like reading two books a month). I know I wanted to partake in some sort of healthy living, diet fad, to really get my body in better shape, because I know when I am physically feeling my best, then my emotional and mental health is right there with it. And lastly, I have hundreds of recipes that live on my computer in screenshots, links to websites, poorly taken photos, and scribbled down papers. I know when they all live in one place, I will finally have an easier time finding what it is I would like to meal prep for the week.

That leaves just three goals that I will set for the month after reflecting on the previous month’s wins, and what I can expect for the next month. I purposefully didn’t set all 20 in January, because who knows how I will be feeling in October. Maybe there will be more pressing tasks, such as how I found a fellowship to apply for in January that I hadn’t noticed until the second week into the month. For February, I want to continue with my health goal by trying to reach 10,000-20,000 steps daily. I believe that will have me out there getting active and not sitting on the couch if I don’t find a job on February 1st. I also want to set the goal of learning more about my body and taking care of it because I know certain foods don’t sit well with me, and I need to take better care of my ankle. And for the last goal, I want to reread You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy. While I worked at Celadon Books, this was the first book I was gifted, and it had always stayed on my mind. The first time I read it, it was a skim read for an assignment at work, but not I want to take the time and apply those skills mothing forward—so what better month than a month dedicated to a fresh start.

I took a photo of my February goal breakdown looks like! Hopefully, it will be an inspiration to you all as well. You can see there are still a few blanks of goals and tasks to do, but thats something I learned from January, you are always going to find new major tasks to complete, so I repositioned my twenty goals to wither be priorities or Ideas this month to consider.

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Happy February! 

Highs & Lows

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Before heading into 2020, I had high expectations for myself and what is to come this year. I laid out exactly what I wanted to accomplish this year, and during what month I felt I would be capable of completing it by. I spoke a little bit about this in New Year, New York, but as we near the last week of January, I am entering the reflection stage of how my new resolutions are panning out. I know I want to write something monthly that showcases the highs and lows of each month, but at this point, I am not sure how I can measure it all independently of any extraneous details. Details such as how my income and financial insecurities this month impacts my social life, and travels, whereas how a job and a regulated schedule impacts the exact same entities in different ways (one I don’t have enough money, the other is I don’t have enough time)

In a few months, would I say this month was the best or worst so far? I don’t think it is possible to really measure these highs and lows except for recognizing my input and what the output was of the year. While I think about this, I can’t stop thinking about high and low tides and how they can affect a sailing ship, just as much as a weathering storm. And while I crave another vacation, enjoy a photo from one this summer during low tide.

This month has been a month of learning for me. I am learning how to conduct professional relationships with freelance projects. I am learning new skills, and I am learning how to construct a routine that works for me — and that is simultaneously a  high and low. As I continue to work out the kinks, I find myself still searching for the means to get myself into a routine. I think not having a steady job limits the opportunities I have when it comes to feeling regulated. This week, the last week, I sat and outlined everything I want to do before the end, so we will see how well I can manifest a routine without a job.

This month, I celebrated my birthday, surrounded by friends and loved ones. I traveled upstate with my partner and explored a new city as well as explore more of New York City. I looked back on relationship anniversaries and reflected on personal growth and favorite trips from the past. These were all incredible highs for this month, but it was coupled with some real feelings of insecurity and worry.

Some other memories from this month, I finished Little Women and went to see the film (reviews to come!). I watched an excellent dog for two months and learned the great and not so great parts of having a dog in New York City. And while I learn how to sail this ship into 2020, I am excited to continue to grow this blog until I can input exactly what I can to gain an output of what I always wanted. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll see this linked with my Instagram page.

Beacon, New York

Beacon, New York is making its way as the hip spot for artists and city-dwellers alike to spend time in the city. After having several people recommend the city to us, David planned a day-trip for the two of us to explore together. It was about a 90 minute to a two-hour drive from the Upper West Side to downtown Beacon.  I will list our recommendations below, but first, enjoy the photos!

Food and Drink: Beacon Bread Company, Glazed Over Doughnuts (customizable treats), Meyer’s Olde Dutch, Draught Industries, Kitchen Sink Food and Drink.

Places: DIA: Beacon, Mt Beacon Park, Main Street Shops and Antiques, Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company, and Play Toys and Gifts.

We went on a Monday and most places were closed after the weekend but if we were to go back, we would definitely go and check 2-way brewing and Hudson Valley Brewing, but on Mondays, Kitchen Sink serves up a delicious Fried Chicken special, which makes it worth turning your weekend trip into leaving Monday night!

Leavenworth, Washington

This travel post is going to be a little different than the ones I have posted in the past because Leavenworth wasn’t just a city I passed through, it was a moment of immortalization in my memories.

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Before last year, this town never existed on my travel bucket lists or must-see cities. It just sort of appeared on my radar and stumbled into my life, but now it holds so much of my heart and fond memories. Around this time last year, I was tucking into my thesis depression and searching far and wide for a location that made sense for my novel. Then the trifecta appeared — my love for small towns, random generators, and my boyfriend’s suggestions — that had me researching this town nestled into the Cascade Mountains that replicated Bavarian life in the Pacific Northwest.

I was getting stressed about the little nuances that came with naming characters and deciding their unbiased background that I was using a random name and school generators. Usually they would give 10 options at a time, so I always picked option five. I told myself I couldn’t write about a “David” or The University of Washington. I said I wasn’t going to write my book about a love interest because I thought it was cliché. Then option five was the “University of Washington” and trust me, I thought about lying and doing it again, but something was telling me to just look into it.

Then I started to research small towns in Washington. I had just come home from spending a week in Spokane, not a small town at all, and didn’t know where to look. I thought about Forks, WA, where Twilight was set, but then nothing about the town intrigued me except for the fact that they have vampire tours now. So no, I didn’t want a town clinging to its defined claim to fame necessarily; I wanted something whose charm influenced the way people perceived it. So I asked David.

He suggested I look into Leavenworth. I saw the way the European facades contrasted with the mountainscape and found what I loved so much about Europe in America. I was sold by that, but worried, who was it that live in this tourist-attraction, Disney like town? I was searching for places that weren’t shopping for replica old-time photo booths and every t-shirt variety possible with the same city, just written in different fonts. And then David found it, Mailbox Peak, the ending of my story lied in those peaks, so I knew it had to be in Leavenworth, but I needed to go to Leavenworth and see the town for myself.

I remember getting into the rental car and immediately thinking about how I wanted to document every feeling and thought I was experiencing, so I took photos to try and capture them all. I flip through them all and hear the way. Delicate plays through the speakers as Seattle’s cityscape appeared through the mist and clouds. There were videos about how the sleet splatted on the windshield as we started to drive into the mountains. Or when the sleet turned to massive flakes that coated everything around us until even the tire tread marks blended into the white wonderland around us.

Into town, you heard the laughter of children as they slide down the small hill in city-center. Some buildings had a Bavarian-style on the outside or a sasquatch mascot wearing lederhosen inside, but most had both. It’s a quaint town with charm, locally-owned businesses, and places to explore. But something I don’t know if I could ever clearly describe was the silence that came from the way the snow soundproofed the town. We were there in February when the activities surrounding Christmas had died down, and Spring Breakers weren’t ready to slide into their boots and traverse the slopes.

We came up to the creek, trudging through shin-high snowdrifts until the silence turned into a bubbling of icy water flowed in front of us. I could feel how my jeans were slowly absorbing the snow that clumped onto my legs, but I never wanted to leave. The snow just fell around us delicately, clinging and spotting our hair and furry hoods. IMG_0373.jpeg

We explored even more of the parks, where young adults made makeshift snowboard ramps out of ledges and stairways. We stopped to warm up at Hewett Brewing Beer and Pizza where serves up some spectacular varieties and piping hot pepperoni pizza. So many locals came in just for some crowlers (can growlers to go) and pizzas for the family.

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When we left the restaurant, we headed into the main square where a horse-drawn carriage contrasted against the Dodge pick-up trucks and Toyota Camrys. There were Christmas lights clinging to all of the trees, gazebo, and buildings.

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Then I went into one of my favorite stores, A book for All Seasons where hopefully one day they will stock my book! I hope to go back soon to give more advice-based feedback around the town, but until then, its 100% worth just walking around the snowy days or stopping in for Octoberfest during autumn.

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06 January 2018

This week, New York was quiet. Businesses closed their doors, travelers avoided the streets, and lovers stayed in their beds as nothing but the wind howled past the skyscrapers, brownstones, and buildings that huddled next to one another. The sight was peaceful to look down on from the second floor of my apartment. Individual snowflakes crystalized on the window pane. Piles of snow collected on the grates of the various fire escapes as the street, sidewalk, and cars were blanketed by the snow falling freely in the city. For a while, no footprints carved their way through the pillowy perfection and New York was a stunning sight to see.

The white was crisp, washing my face in a light that woke me in the morning. I reached out and divided the curtains, exposing the way the snow fell and remembered the beauty that came with winter. As I lied there, listening to crackling wood-wick candles and smelling the way they filled the room with a rich cinnamon and pine fragrance, I sat sipping my herbal tea. I felt the heat through the glass, escaping into my palms as I pursed my lips and blew away the steam. I caught a glimpse of the way the emerald green armchair in my room glistened. I felt the comfort of the blanket enclosed my shoulders and hugged me as I cuddled up in the pillows behind me. I dreamt of mornings like those, mornings of bliss and peace, but never did I imagine I would find those mornings with you.

Now, you are the light that wakes me up each morning. I lie and listen to the steadiness in your voice that greets my soft hazel eyes as they open. I catch a glimpse of your love lingering behind your blue-green eyes as they meet mine. I smell the way your t-shirt clings to the fresh citrus, spice, and musk of the Bearglove scent as I nuzzle closer into your arms. I feel the way your warmth drapes my body in nothing but comfort and relaxation. Never did I think I would wake up to steaming scrambled eggs, peanut butter toast, and tea being carried in on a platter by the man I met on the 6th of January after a snowstorm kept me from meeting him sooner. And at that moment I think about how happy I am to have you as a lover.

I knew when we started talking, I’d never catch a pause when it came to finding the conversation to hold with you. Because with you, the words flow out of me as you constantly push me to think deeper, with more meaning, and thoughtfully. When I caught a glimpse of you, I noticed how brightly my smile shone, and it means the world to me that the light has only brightened over the years.

Today is the 3rd January 6th that I have spent by your side and I wouldn’t change a thing. It was on this day, that I learned of how much greatness someone could bring my life after what felt like a never-ending cycle of misfortune and bad luck. Since then, you remind me how much effort and care goes into a partnership and I will always cherish the laughs, frustrations, and sleepy Monday mornings with you by my side. So, what are you doing tomorrow?

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

On Monday, my partner and I adventured two hours south of New York City to experience first-hand the eclectic atmosphere of Philadelphia.

Among our stops were Reading Terminal Market, The Rodin Museum, The Rocky Steps, South Street, and Elfreth’s Alley. Along the way, we ate donuts stuffed with maple frosting, Wiz with (or A Steak Sandwich with cheese wiz drizzled over the onions), and drank at Paddy’s Tavern; the inspiration for the bar in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

In the future, I will definitely write more about my favorite spots, but for now, enjoy the photo gallery of our stops!

Last Week of Summer

Well, it is the last week of August, which mean the “-ber” months are upon us; “-ber” meaning September, October, November, otherwise known as the best time of the year. I am ready for the days where morning mist pushes up against my rosy cheeks and causes me to tighten my layered jacket around my shoulders. I am looking forward to afternoons illuminated with a soft, golden light that cascades across the yellowing leaves in Central Park. I have waited all year for this time to great us, but we still have one last week of summer.

As summers go, this one has been relatively eventful and problematic. I officially have a degree, but as of today, I am still sending off my resume to jobs, I have little interest in because I am craving a job that seems to be on pause. I have traveled the most this summer out of many summers before, but I think I have lost chances to win over potential companies because of my travels. However, I did finally cross off Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon off my 50 State Countdown list, but I didn’t get a chance to visit my family or home. The last time I was in Florida was 2018, and I miss watching the sunset fade below the horizon as I dug my pedicured toes into the warm sand.

I anticipated having a job before August was over, but it looks like I will begin autumn the way I began summer; hunting. It is strange to think I have spent the majority of summer in front of this laptop typing away at cover letters and tailoring my resume for the various jobs, a task that seems tedious and boring, however, this summer has flown by regardless of the fact that I have been stationary for a lot of it.

Maybe its because I spent over a month traveling the country, or maybe its because although it has been a trying summer, I have done everything I can to sprinkle in activities that make me happy. I take breaks from applying to read, write, and cook. I have spent afternoons dreaming up new book ideas, autumn activities, and decorating ideas for the apartment. There were happy hour dates, movies on the pier, and picnics in the park. I spent afternoons sipping lemonade with my friends and evenings drinking frozé until our brains froze and our words slurred.

I am excited that autumn has come to an end, but it has been a long time since I had a summer like this, and these memories will always stay with me. I won’t miss the sauna that our apartment transformed into or the stench of the heated trash on the sidewalks, but I’ll miss the laughs fighting over the spot next to the A/C and the neighbors enjoying the brownstone stoops while children laugh and ride their scooters. With this being the last week of summer, I have made my list for the final stretch of the season.

To-Do

  • Purge the remnants of summer’s clutter and ready the apartment for the changing of seasons.
  • Get a meal prepping schedule down, so I can continue to enhance my cooking knowledge before I fall into an “I’m too busy to cook” mentality.
  • Grab a Mister Dips from an icecream truck, and enjoy it while the sun sets over midtown while the vanilla trails down the back of my hand and sprinkles fall to the sidewalk.
  • Take my bags to the Columbus Street Farmers Market, and locally source a summer meal.
  • Enjoy a meal on the patio of a new restaurant before all “outdoor” seating is stored away for the year.
  • Fill out my travel journal, or at least compile all the memories from this summer spent on the road, so I can look forward to what is to come.
  • Make a change to the apartment; paint a wall, put up wallpaper, or just make it a cozy place for the months spent snuggling indoors.
  • Keep up the momentum on job applications and nail a career that I would be proud to grow with.
  • Burn the last remaining “summer scents” and get the pumpkin candles ready.
  • Plan for the apple picking afternoons that are to come in the next month.

Tell me, what is on your final summer to-do list? 

Ten Hours in New Paltz,​ NY

This week, my partner and I made a day-trip upstate; trading the height of the buildings for the tops of mountains. Although I love the city, it definetly has its perks and downfalls. I count myself lucky to live here because there is so much to find within the boroughs, but there are also three significant airports within reach, Amtrack stations throughout the island, and busses that will take you all over America. But with so much within reach, it’s hard to not need “an escape” from it all.

For over a year, my partner and I seem to try and get out of the city each month. Because of the opportunity to explore is so plenty, we often find ourselves catching a train or bus just outside of the city limits to try and explore more of New York State and the surrounding Northeast.

This time, we made our way to Port Authority Bus Terminal, where Trailways, a charter bus service, had regular trips to New Paltz. The small town south of Kingston in Ulster County, situated on the cusp of the mountains to the north, is a quaint mountainside town. It’s weird to think that roughly 85 miles from downtown are cities like New Paltz which nestle in the Catskill Mountains that overlook rivers and lush green worlds.

The ride took about an hour and a half, and the first stop is New Paltz. The bus drops you off in town, and it’s a quick ten-minute stroll along Main Street where you can find the bustling spots for a bite to eat, relaxed coffee shops, and boutique stores. IMG_3768

As a reader, I had to check out the bookshops in the area. Inquiring Minds and Barner Books are across the street from each other, and both offer great new and used the inventory to add to your own shelves at home. I spent a lot of time perusing Inquiring Minds, which offered cozy nooks for both adults and children to spend an afternoon reading. Plus, next door is a local chocolate shop and a cafe serving up to twenty different varieties of cereal. Yum!

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From there we headed to Historic Huguenot Street; a National Historic Landmark that is comprised of 30 buildings dating back to 1687 when Dutch settlers purchased land on Wallkill River to build homes and establish their families. During the summer, the preservation efforts offer guided tours every 30-minutes where you will get additional information on the history of the area as well as access inside the buildings.

Because it ran for about an hour, we opted to us the free-app and explore the area for ourselves through their interactive map and history snippets. Running alongside the historic street is the Wallkill River, Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary, and New Paltz Gardens for Nutrition. The grassy path is mowed regularly for leisurely walks around the pond and bird watching. IMG_3695 2.jpegIMG_3691.jpegIMG_3700.jpeg

Off in the distance, you can see the shadowed mountain ranges, cascading in elegant shades of navy across the baby blue sky. If you don’t have your own car, call an Uber to Mohonk Preserve, a fifteen-minute drive out of town and visit the all-inclusive Mohonk Mountain House. The stunning castle-like hotel overlooks Mohonk Lake and ridges in the distance. If the nightly price range is out of your budget for a stay, the Reserve offers a day pass that allows hikers to enjoy the preserve on their property.

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For a small town, New Paltz shows off its spectacular beauty in such a relaxing way. Even if hiking isn’t your forte, there are three breweries in town and numerous restaurants that show off the antique and rustic charm of the city. My favorite stops were Clemson Bros. Brewery and Schatzi’s Pub & Bier Garden of New Paltz. We had a little difficulty getting back down the mountain with Uber since it was a little out of the way from the few drivers in the city, but luckily one woman made the trip out and gave reccomendations of other places to visit upstate.

Before our bus left at 8:00pm, we grabbed a locally brewed beer and headed to dinner where we enjoyed a relaxing night on the patio sipping a German beer that catapulted us back to our last summer spent abroad. Although there is nothing quite like Eibsee Lake and being in the shadows of Zugspitze, something is charming about this little piece of European grandeur in New York. If I could do anything differently, I would definitely save up and stay at the hotel for a few nights, and come back in the autumn when the leaves are changing, and the crisp air hangs over the mountains in the distance.

Camping in the Shadows of Rainier

I lost cell phone service about an hour outside of Mount Rainier National Park. I was the navigator, so luckily Google Maps pinged my location somehow so we didn’t end up lost, but that meant nothing was distracting me from the road ahead.

We were driving from the West to the east; inland towards the coast. For hundreds of miles, all we saw were sprawling fields, deserts of mesas and rugged terrain up until we made our turn and headed straight into a deep forest––Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Elk stood and watched oncoming cars enter the national forest. Daylight forced its way through the cloud and tree cover above. I felt the air whip into the vehicle from the sunroof as the tips of the pines swayed and disappeared out of view. I was at peace looking around as the car wound around each hairpin turn and followed the potholed road.

There was a caravan of us, three cars in a line approaching Mount Rainier and the protected land that surrounded it. My eyes were peeled for more animals lurking between the fallen trees and thick brush. Only the occasional camper caught my attention. Off the highway, on the turn-offs, there were the random trucks, cars, and camper vans perched and overlooking a family nestled along the Nisqually River and listening to Berry and Big Creek bustle.

There were so many of them tucked into the cliff faces, starting campfires, and tiptoeing across fallen trunks like a tightrope walker in the circus that I expected all of us to stop and pick a place to set up camp. To me, and my experience with camping, this had to be what everyone was doing.

However, I learned there are campsites, and that doesn’t just mean the place we pick to set up our tent, but rather for Big Creek Campground was a little culdesac of others pitching tents so close that you can hear them chatting around their picnic bench as you are falling asleep.

A few weeks before booking this trip across the country, my partner let me know there was a plan to head out and camp with his family. I had met most of them last year in Germany, so I figured this must be a big deal since half of them were making the transatlantic flight to enjoy the summer on the Pacific.

“Camping” wasn’t something I had ever experienced. I had religiously watched “You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Camping Party” on VHS. I remembered how they hung the food in the tree so the bear wouldn’t get it, but other than that I severely lacked on what it meant to camp.

The anxiety that began to build made my stomach weak. On our drive, we first approached the cabins where everyone else would be sleeping. It was a quaint log cabin with a hearth and loft sleeping areas. There was a jacuzzi on the porch, running water, and a full kitchen—bigger than the one in our New York apartment might I add.

We arrived around 5:00pm, which meant as the sunlight was slipping away, we needed to make our way to the campsite to make building our home a lot easier. The three of us, myself, my boyfriend, and my boyfriend’s father set back off onto the road and followed the GPS to our campsite. We parked, surveyed the land, and got to work. There was a flat piece of land, a picnic table, and an ominous toilet paper roll hanging from a branch just off the path of our site.

They began pulling tents, sleeping pads and bags, and blankets from the trunk. It went fairly quickly, and I was helping, but in my mind, fearful thoughts were racing.

“Check for Ticks!”

“You didn’t bring any winter clothing? You know it’s going to be freezing!”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t be camping.”

The tent looked cozy when it was filled with blankets, but when I kneeled to place my borrowed hoodie, beanie, and gloves, I felt the forest floor directly beneath my knee and realized all the layers didn’t mean comfortable.

I started to set into a small panic attack. I needed to use the restroom, and I could feel the tears welling up from fear. I thought I looked like a prima donna. Like a snobby girl who had never camped and expected a tent big enough to fit my space heater, cloud mattress, and vanity set. But really this was just new, different than anything I had ever experienced. I felt exposed and overwhelmed and couldn’t control my emotions.

In the toilet, I cried. I felt misunderstood. I didn’t know how to vocalize that I was excited to try something new but also simultaneously terrified for no rational reason. When everything was set up, we headed back to the cabins to join the rest of the family for dinner and smores. Most everyone who planned on camping for one our two nights during the trip decided against it when they saw the look of the cabins. The general consensus was that they were “too old for it” or “it’s supposed to rain.” I was scared they knew something that I didn’t, that I was in for a bad experience, so I started to believe it.

I went inside myself, trying to hide, but also calm myself so I could function with everyone else. I was tired come 8:00pm. The sky was deepening, and I knew the father would want to head back to the camp. I think I realized then that I was feeling these strange tinges of feeling left out. I felt like we would miss out on something; maybe midnight boardgames or last-minute smores; perhaps even a shower at night, or having a light in the bathroom.

I went, I wanted to camp for at least one night. So before we left, we brushed our teeth with the cabin’s running water and changed into sweatpants. The headlights on the car illuminated out tents in the dark and the smoke rising from the campsite next to ours. My partner turned to me, “absolutely no food in the tent, Hannah, I mean it.” I knew he was cautious, but he also knew I had a stash of M&Ms in my seat pocket. I left everything because I had been listening to scary bear encounters on the drive up.

Our tent was unzipped as we said goodnight to his father. I shone my iPhone light onto the ground, so I knew where I was walking and unlaced my shoes outside the tent, so I didn’t track any dirt into the sleeping area. We zipped up and began to lay out the blankets over one another. There was only one sleeping bag for the both of us, so we unzipped it completely to lay on top of.

My partner held onto me tightly as there was nothing but stillness on the air surrounding us. Eventually, we heard his father’s snores, but other than that, there was nothing. It was quiet, and I was able to fall asleep quickly from my anxiety earlier, causing me to be exhausted.

I tossed and turned quite a bit from the cold. I burrowed myself into my partner’s body heat and tried to hogg the blankets. I woke up to the sound of a rooster calling and his father stirring. My neck ached, most likely from how I slept, but it meant I had a hard time looking at anything the next day; however, I survived.

I ended up camping the next night with no anxiety whatsoever. It reminded me of sleepovers with friends, and I was giddy to be cozying up to someone I love. After then, the rainstorms fell over mount Rainer, leaving our tents to drip from the roof. We spent the last two nights in the cabin, while the symphony of snores echoed from the three double beds and twin bedroom upstairs.

At times I missed the quiet. I look forward to camping again because next time it won’t ne something new. I will have already known what to expect, and know how to pack. I will be able to anticipate what we will need and what we can leave behind. A pillow, is 100% somethin gyou should splurge on if I were to give any advice on the topic.

Check out how we got to this point on my previous post about driving across the country!