Living in Prague

Continuing the tradition of taking a month every year to live somewhere else, Kelly, A. and I have just returned from a wonderful month in Prague, Czech Republic.

Karlův most

Previous years have found us in Asheville, NC, Washington, DCPortland, OR and various parts of Ecuador. As I wrote about last year's trip:

It's just long enough to transition away from full-on tourist mode and get to know a place a little bit more from a local point of view. Immersing ourselves in a new landscape is also a great way to get perspective on the world and the rest of our lives - what we value, what we miss, what we want more or less of and how we might make that happen.

This year's trip was different in a few ways. Our last three have all been in the U.S. so we were excited to again be overseas and where we didn't know the language. It was also very new to do this kind of trip with our 11-month-old daughter. We wanted to challenge ourselves in these ways and while it was hard at times, overall it was a really fun and amazing experience.

View from Letná Park

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I've been everywhere and nowhere

I started a map of all the places I've lived or visited. I excluded spots where I was just passing through.

There are a lot of them, and I feel very fortunate to have seen so much.

There are also not very many of them, and it's a good reminder that I have no firsthand knowledge of what's happening or what life is like in most of the world.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.52.09

May I live long enough to get a few more splotches of red going.

Asheville Living

Kelly and I are fortunate to have enough flexibility in our schedules and employment that we've continued the trend of trying to live in another place (e.g. Portland, OR, Washington, D.C.) for 3-4 weeks per year. It's just long enough to transition away from full-on tourist mode and get to know a place a little bit more from a local point of view. Immersing ourselves in a new landscape is also a great way to get perspective on the world and the rest of our lives - what we value, what we miss, what we want more or less of and how we might make that happen.

This year we spent that time in Asheville, North Carolina.

It's a place that I've spent a fair amount of time already - visiting my dad's parents there when I was younger, attending Camp Rockmont for several summers in a row, going on various whitewater rafting/canoeing trips nearby and visiting college friends there more recently - but it was great to experience the city in this new way as it lives into its emerging culinary/artistic/outdoorsy identity. The mountain air, lush woods and trails, flourishing food scene, accessible size, eclectic neighborhoods and friendly people made for a really memorable time.

We stayed at a beautiful Airbnb house near the downtown area, which meant we could walk into town and experience a restaurant, bar, market, sidewalk performance or drum circle whenever we felt like it:

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Exploring Colorado

Kelly and I were fortunate to be able to spend a week exploring Colorado this month, mostly around Boulder, Vail, Glenwood Springs and Steamboat. It was a great chance to visit some family in the area, see some different landscapes, hike/bike/raft/etc., and just generally enjoy life at 8,000 feet above sea level. Apparently there's a lot more of the state than one can see in a few days, so I expect we'll be back again soon. Some photos and notes from our trip follow.

Chris and Kelly

Vail is like Disneyworld (but cuter) for people who want to be able to pick up an expensive handbag or some sushi right after they get off the slopes, with everything laid out just so for the optimal outdoorsy tourist experience:

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5 Things I Learned In Antigua

Half Moon Bay

Five things I learned on a trip to the island of Antigua:

  1. When the whole island is a cozy 12 miles across, accurate maps and road signs are not much of a priority. Great for locals, not so great for visitors.
  2. I still get seasick.   At least the expert diver captaining our transport boat, who has taken Mic Jagger and Dolly Parton for tours, was kind about it.
  3. It's worth paying extra for a place with a negative edge swimming pool
  4. Playing Nintendo games prepared me pretty well for driving on the left side of rough, unpaved roads where a goat or donkey might cross at any second.
  5. If you go in the off season and don't stay at Sandals, you get entire stretches of beach all to yourself.

Antigua was beautiful.  Some photos from the trip on Flickr:

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Back home in Richmond

After a long day and a half of travel that took us through the markets of Otavalo, back through the beautiful mountains to Quito, through long lines and paperwork at the airport, and then to Atlanta and Dayton, Kelly and I are back home in Richmond. Ecuador already feels far away, but we'll soon have a chance to revisit it through photos, video and stories.

Thanks so much to everyone who followed along on this blog, and who cheered us on as we traveled. It was an interesting experience to share and get feedback along the way, and we'll certainly look forward to sharing more of our experiences with you in person.

This will likely serve as the final "real" post here, and we'll eventually take this blog down. You can look for more reflections and our photos soon on my personal blog, my Flickr account and maybe even my YouTube account for some videos.

For now, it's time to rest. Take care!

The Throat of Fire speaks!

We might have mentioned that Banos is located at the base of a volcano, Tungurahua (which means "throat of fire" in the local tongue). Well, literally at the moment we were pulling out of town this morning, that volcano erupted. As in, the road we were on closed as we were on it, police cars and ambulances sped by, and we saw the ash cloud forming behind us. The locals pretty much dropped what they were doing to line up along the road to watch, so we knew it was a big deal. Exciting!

The road was eventually opened at least temporarily, and we sped off into the hills (and we made it to Otavalo where I write from). Do we have good timing or what?

Happy in Banos, Part 2

The spoiling of ourselves continues.  After our "perfect day" we decided it was time to challenge ourselves a bit, so we'd signed up for a whitewater rafting tour on the nearby river Pastaza.  We were a little nervous about it (okay, mostly Kelly) - was it going to be safe, would the guides speak enough English, were they REALLY going to be class III-V rapids as advertised? - but we took a leap of faith.

It paid off - we had some of the best rafting that either of us have ever experienced.  It turned out that they were Class IV+ rapids - not exaggerated at all.  Not only that, they were one after another - no leisurely floating down the river in between to recover your senses.  Huge waves, broken paddles, screams of disbelief, kayaker trapped upside down, dangerous water dynamics, the guide always yelling "FORWARD, FORWARD," and so on.  Chris has never heard as many, um, un-pastorly like words out of Kelly's mouth in one sitting before.  Sitting at the front of the raft, Chris never swallowed so much river water in his life.  But we both stayed in the boat (a real achievement, we'll show you the video!), pulled more than our weight in terms of paddling, and greatly enjoyed the camradarie with our fellow boatmates.  No sea-sickness this time around.

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