August 26, 2014

ROAD TRIP: SAY HELLO TO OREGON

During my first visit to the US Nick and I took an epic road trip up the West Coast. We traveled from San Diego all the way to Seattle in two weeks, camping along the way. This is the story of that journey and you can read the previous posts here.

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Day #10


Once we left our campground in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park we were en route to Oregon, a brand new state to me and the second state I ever visited. The Oregon climate is similar to Belgium in that it's wet (or so I've heard, we were in luck because the weather was beautiful in August) but the views... well, those are something entirely different. 

Oregon is only the 27th most populated state and it seemed like a very peaceful place to me. Apart from Portland with 583,776 inhabitants, the state has very few 'big' cities with Eugene and Salem as second and third largest city with just around a 155,000 inhabitants. If you keep in mind that San Diego has over 1,3 million inhabitants you see why. Anyway, I'm not sure if I'm comparing apples to oranges (apples to pears in Dutch sounds so much more logical) but I liked the peace of Oregon, its rugged coastline and I absolutely loved Portland. 



THE DIFFERENCES

Oregon might be very different from California in population and very different from Southern California in surroundings, but what was interesting for me to see is how much states can differ from each other. It's not as distinct as driving to another country in Europe of course, but still... states do have different laws and Oregon, for example, has no sales tax making it cheaper for overall living. More than that however, I've heard that in Oregon speed limits are much stricter enforced (going 10 miles above the speed limit is normal down here) and so Californians often get pulled over if they're not paying attention. Also there's no self service at the gas stations in Oregon, they have employees who do that for you. And that, my friends, is about the craziest fun fact I have for you about Oregon!



THE CAMPING

When it comes to campgrounds... I'm very sorry State of California, but Oregon just kicks your butt. Over and over again. Camping is much cheaper in Oregon and generally I've experienced that the campgrounds and infrastructure are better maintained. I don't mind paying for my showers in California, because I know water is scarce but you'll have to step up you're game if you want to come close to the service in Oregon, CA!

Humbug Mountain State Park was our home for one night. It was one hell of a windy spot, with excellent showers and a narrow walkway to an amazing beach. The surroundings were beautiful and provided the perfect setting for a quiet evening of reading, walking on the beach and catching up on some sleep. 

INFORMATION
Humbug Mountain State Park
Port Orford, OR 97465
Tent site rate: 17 dollar during summer 



Have you ever been camping in Oregon?



Travel Tuesday

Linking up with BonnieCamilaJessi and Amy for Travel Tuesday

August 22, 2014

EXPAT LIFE: THINGS I LEARNED FROM MOVING ABROAD

IT'S BEEN MORE THAN A YEAR...

Last month (yes, I totally missed my moment there) officially marked the day I left Belgium and embarked on this international adventure. I actually arrived back on Belgian soil exactly one year after I left (July 10), I really do know how to create dramatic moments. Most of all I cannot believe how fast time has gone by and looking back on my year in the Golden State I can safely say it has changed me (how could it not?). It was a year of continuously stepping outside of my comfort zone: I moved abroad, got married, started working full time, rented an apartment with Nick, tried to make friends and understand every day life and even blogging was a stepping outside of my comfort zone a bit. So there are a few things that I picked up along the way and some previous habits (like uh... eating with knife and fork, sorry mom) that are slowly disappearing, but most of all this crazy thing called life has taught me some valuable lessons...

SOURCE

Trust your gut and go for it

One of the most annoying things people can say to you when you've had some bad luck and don't see how your life will ever be right again is probably how everything will eventually work out (right?). I'm with you on this one, but if there's anything I learned this year it's that as long as you follow your gut (and aim for happiness) good things will come your way. I left my home country with no hope of getting a good job and a few months after arriving here I was offered one. You can call that sheer coincidence, but being able to work in journalism with a journalism degree is kind of a big deal nowadays. I'm not saying it won't be hard (trust me it was), but taking the risks in life you've always wanted to take (in my case: living abroad) are usually worth it!

The future is now so live a little

Ok, maybe not when it comes to life savings and planning big purchases but when it comes to living in a foreign country the most important thing is now. I had a hard time accepting I was going to be really far away from my family for an indefinite amount of time and thinking about it like that it is just depressing. The thing is, no one knows what will happen tomorrow and yes, I might someday move back to Belgium because I miss my family and friends too much but right now I'm living next to the beach in the never ending summer with so many states and even more countries I've never visited at my fingertip. I would be crazy not to take advantage of that and consider myself one lucky girl.


SOURCE

Being an expat isn't glamorous

There will be are times of crying, sobbing and being overly depressed and seeing a Kinder Bueno at World Market is the only thing that can lift your spirits (cote d'or or Leonidas would be even better but like that's ever going to happen!). My first few months as an expat were overwhelming and I felt like a hormonal teenager who just got dumped by her first boyfriend (the boyfriend being Belgium and me actually doing the dumping). Everything and anything could set off my tears. It might have been a tough decision leaving everyone behind and heck, at times you might have even thought they'd be the only ones crying because you were the one who got to discover a new country. But you quickly learn that being an expat isn't all that glamorous. After that first shock and moments of wonder, you realize that life on the other side of the world involves work, bills and finding a good hairdresser too. Making friends is hard and overcoming that feeling of complete helplessness when you can't find something in the supermarket can be even worse. Making a new place your home is hard work and I didn't fully understand that until I got here even though it is really rewarding in the end...

You'll be stuck in the middle forever

I experienced this feeling when I visited my family in Belgium again last month and had the same feeling when I left London almost four years ago now... That new city or country you are calling home, whether it's indefinite or for a year is quickly going to take up a special place in your heart. I anticipated this with London but I had never thought of living in the US until I met Nick so life took me by surprise on that one. Going back home last month made me realize how used to the life I am here by now and how I sort of cherish that part of me living here. Funnily, I also feel more attached than ever to Belgium BECAUSE I live so far away. Isn't that strange? Whether it's the friends you make overseas or the fact that you're married to someone from a different country... I guess the serial traveler is bound to be forever divided between the places they left pieces of their heart in. 


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How about you? Where did you leave your heart and what did travelling teach you?

August 19, 2014

ROAD TRIP: CAMPING IN THE REDWOODS

During my first visit to the US Nick and I took an epic road trip up the West Coast. We traveled from San Diego all the way to Seattle in two weeks, camping along the way. This is the story of that journey and you can read the previous posts here.

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DAY #8-9 AND COUNTING


Let's take up where we left off concerning the Travel Tuesday series: our not-so-in-the-present road trip that we took along the West Coast when I first visited the US. After the city sights of San Francisco and one more short camping stop that I decided to skip (in case you did the math and were wondering where day #7 went) for entertainment value, we arrived at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. I was ready for some forests and wilderness and I was pretty excited to see these so called enormous trees. Let me tell you now that these pictures I took will not come close to the feeling of actually standing there, looking up to one of those giants and feeling completely insignificant in the universe.

"The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always" 
  John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America

THE REDWOODS


When you read that the Coast Redwood includes the tallest living tree on earth (379 ft or 115,5 m), you know you're in for a unique experience. The Coast Redwood is closely related to those other tall American trees: the sequoias, and can be found, as the name suggests, along the coast of California and Oregon. Wikipedia tells me these majestic trees don't grow in Southern California for lack of humidity. So if you ever find yourself up north the Redwood National and State Parks will show you just what these giants are capable of.


"It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time" (JS)

Calling the Redwoods "ambassadors of another time" is hardly exaggerated since these majestic trees are among the oldest living things on Earth. Walking among them was almost a spiritual experience and I don't say that lightly. Some 95% of the original old-growth trees have been cut down. I can't imagine how many people you would need to tackle a tree like this. 

At the moment, the tallest living tree is the Hyperion, which was discovered in Redwood National Park in 2006. Before 2006, the record holder was the Stratosphere Giant (112,84m or 370,2 ft), one of the trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. In that same park, you can still find the trunk of the Dyerville Giant, which fell down in 1991. The tree was estimated to be a 1.600 years old and its trunk has been preserved for visitors to walk along. 


THE CAMPING

We camped in the Redwoods for two days and after having the traumatic experience of waking up to rain drops falling on your head, we took the necessary precautions. Having one big tent that wasn't rain proof and one smaller one, we came up with the brilliant idea of placing a tent within a tent. I know, we're geniuses. Too bad we weren't paying attention in Biology because there was no change of being rained on, what with all those giant trees catching the moisture before it could drop. Still, our tent structure WAS efficient to keep the numerous insects out of our sleeping area. 

Fun fact: this was the first time ever that I heard of and saw a bear box. I have to admit I was a bit uncomfortable at the thought of bears roaming around (in my defense: I'm a city girl). And I did triple check to make sure I hadn't left any of my precious Bath & Body Works purchases in the area. Rest assured, we didn't see any bears but it was all very exciting. 




WHAT TO DO

To be honest, when you're in a forest the main activity will probably include walking. Or hiking I should say (maybe hiking is supposed to be faster than walking in which case there's no distinction with me). But of course you can go biking, running, swimming, etc. There are 10 miles of scenic beach to be discovered but we decided to hike to Fern Canyon because of our time frame: a good 4.6 miles and a perfect way to see a bit of the park. Fern Canyon is absolutely beautiful and along with a lot of other people I can definitely recommend this hike if you don't have a lot of time. 

The park consists of old growth redwood and was designated as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve.



Our two day stop in this magnificent park definitely left an impression on me. It was one of those moments when you realise there are so many wonderful places and things to be discovered across the globe and just never enough time...


"No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe." (JS)  

What was your most spiritual travel experience? And have you ever been to the Redwoods? 

Travel Tuesday
Linking up with BonnieCamilaJessi and Amy for Travel Tuesday

August 15, 2014

EVENTS: 10 REASONS MY MOM ROCKS

IT'S MOTHERSDAY (AGAIN) IN BELGIUM


No reason for panicking, your did not forget Mothers day. Unless you live in a certain region of Belgium that is. Around Antwerp you'll find some crazy people who actually celebrate Mothers day
 twice (Fathers day too by the way). Because once is not enough! So the 15th of August is kind of you're second chance if you screwed up in May. I didn't for the record, but I thought it would be nice to share this list I wrote on my old blog for my mom a couple of years ago. Being so far away from my parents has definitely made me appreciate them even more. Highly emotional content to follow: consider yourself warned!


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  1. She has my back, always. Whether it's a situation with my landlord that needs to be solved or I'm just having a bad day, she's always there to make angry phone calls or send intimidating letters. I hope I'll be able to do that myself one day...
  2. She looks beautiful. Even though she's very conscious about her age now and always worries about the so called wrinkles (I can't see them!) and the grey hair. She's got style and she's got class!
  3. She is an amazing shopping buddy. I can't deny that I prefer shopping with my mom over shopping with anyone else, cause she's brutally honest and yes, she sometimes pays for my clothes... 
  4. She has a sweet tooth. And she raised me with a sweet tooth as well. It's the best thing to go grocery shopping with her and enjoy a bag of sweets on the way back home. Good memories!
  5. She is intelligent and ambitious. Four years ago she started studying again after hesitating for several years. She gets higher grades than I ever did and enjoys her Spanish literature and history classes and I look up to her for that. She's writing up her thesis as we speak, you go mom!
  6. She takes took care of my dog. When I went away to university, it was my mom who took care of my dog and 'my best buddy' in a way I could probably have never done it. Ok, admittedly she totally spoiled her, but I think the feeling was mutual...
  7. She trusts my judgement and I trust her unconditionally. When I brought home the love of my life, who isn't from across the street but rather from across the pond, my parents invited him in with open arms and I can't thank them enough for that. 
  8. She's silly. Laughing and giggling all the time. It makes me giggle.
  9. She was a crazy music fan in her days. Knowing all the obscure bands from the eighties and listening to heavy new wave in her room. Poor grandparents... I guess I have her to thank for my musical upbringing (my dad contributed with AC/DC and Status Quo).
  10. She raised me and my sister. And we turned out to be pretty cool, I think. 
(11. Because she (and my dad) let me follow my heart. And it must not have been easy) 

I promise this is all the melodrama you'll get from me today, now go grab a tissue.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

August 12, 2014

DAILY ROUTINE: WHEN VACATIONS TURN INTO STAYCATIONS

It feels kind of weird to write another blog post again after such a long time, kind of like so much have happened that I don't know about. It's only been a month and a half but I also feel like 3 months have been crammed into one, you know? Going back home was amazing, but as you can probably imagine our days were packed to the brim with activities. We stayed up late, drank too much cava, had multiple parties and basically just never got over our jet lag. Those two weeks were definitely much too short...

And what happened to the weather in California while I was gone? I must have unintentionally brought back a bit of that Belgian humidity with me, because my lord it has been humid! Can you believe it even rained last week? In-the-middle-of-summer-for-crying-out-loud! Getting attacked by mosquitoes is something I'd happily said goodbye to when moving to California last year, this wasn't the deal San Diego! Let's pray the weather gets back to it's usual perfection soon, because I can't cope with these luxury problems. 

So the last two weeks one of my friends from university visited my new hometown (it's not like I didn't want to start blogging right after I got back) and I just seized the opportunity to discover more of San Diego and LA with her (great stories coming up!). It felt great to be a tourist in my own town for a bit, but I can't wait to catch up with all of your adventures I missed. Because honestly, I missed blogging!
*Spoiler alert: we went on a celebrity homes tour in LA*

So, have you missed me?
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