Expat Life

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Actually, that title should really read something like ‘8 Planes, 5 Layovers, 6 States If We Count Layovers, 2 Days Hiking, 1 Night In A Cabin Without Electricity Or Running Water, 4 15th Birthday Celebrations, 1 Longer Than Necessary Road Trip, 1 Count Of Trespassing, 20+ Stores Visited For Vital Supply-Gathering, 3 Gold Stars At Doctor Appointments, 1 First Driving Lesson, and 336 Hours Of Family Time’, but Google likes to limit these sorts of things, so we’ll just go with the first one.

This was a busy trip. I mean, our annual trips back to the homeland are always busy. Trying to fit seeing both friends and family in (and working around all of their schedules) with the things we “need” to do when we go back always feels like playing a game of Tetris – I inevitably end up with not enough time and too many pieces still coming down to fit them all in. This year was no different. But what was different was the number of states we decided to visit on a single trip. This year we visited not one, but three states in two weeks…and it was amazing. Like, one of the best decisions we’ve made ever kind of amazing.

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

After four years of saying I would visit next time, I finally made it out to Colorado to see my sister in Fort Collins! The last time I was in Colorado, I was 12 and didn’t yet realize a world existed outside of the books I always had my nose in, so this felt a whole lot like seeing a state for the very first time. And you guys, the Rockies are beautiful! (Not news, I know.) We flew over them coming from Seattle, and whereas most things on the ground appear quite small from a plane window, the Rockies were so massively imposing that it looked like I’d be able to reach out and touch them if I could only roll my airplane window down. And not only that, they were covered in snow…in June! I can’t even remember the last time I saw snow. (No, wait, I think it was Sweden in 2015. So, a lifetime ago.)

In addition to Colorado, while we were on this side of the country, I actually did get to visit a state I had never been to before when we made a side trip to Wyoming for the day. My sister fit that into our schedule just for me so that I’d be able to tick another state off my embarrassingly short list of US States I’ve been to. Speaking of Laura’s trip-planning skills, I cannot express enough how much fun it was to have someone else plan a trip for a change. My only job was to show up, which made these some of the best, most relaxing travel days I’ve had in a very long time, all thanks to her. (This must be how Cory and Lex feel on every single one of our trips. Ha!) I have a couple of posts planned for next week about both Colorado and Wyoming, so I won’t get into the details right now, but you can expect a healthy amount of photos that will make you wonder, ‘Why am I living in a cramped, expensive city 10,000 miles away from family when I could be living here?’ (Never mind, that’s just me.) I’m kidding, but seriously…sometimes it is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

After Colorado, we were off to Tennessee, a place which never fails to inspire me physically, emotionally, and photographically. (Is that a word?) I didn’t have the time to take as many photos as I usually do when we’re back home, but the ones I did get spark such strong, nostalgic feelings in me already that you’d think I took them years ago instead of a week ago. I just love this state and the kind, creative, generous people in it. I could live in every country in the world and visit each and every city and I’d still probably tell you this place tops them all.

Tennessee is like family to me – I don’t always agree with its choices (we were a Trump state – so embarrassing) and sometimes I need a little time away to really appreciate all its good qualities, but it’s mine and I’ll forever love it and miss it (unless I’m living in it) every day of my life. We can probably blame this public display of affection of my home state on the fact that it’s American Independence Day tomorrow and I have zero plans or ways to celebrate it here. The Fourth of July is in my Top 5 Holidays, preceded only by Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday (in that order) and I hate I’m missing out on the celebrations yet again. Someone please have a sweet iced tea and BBQ while recklessly shooting fireworks off in your own driveway for me, okay?

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Abrupt change of subject – one thing that particularly troubles me about life back home is that it continues to move forward while we’re living abroad. (Shocker, I know.) I mean, is it too much to ask that everything stay exactly the same while we’re off gallivanting around the globe so that when we return we can just pick up right where we left off? I realize this may be unfair to expect, but I’ve never claimed to be a reasonable person. For our first three years as expats, I was able to process the steady and relatively minor changes happening back home with a fair amount of emotional strength and fortitude, but these days things are changing so rapidly and so permanently that my skill level in controlling my emotions has reverted to that of my 16-year-old self. Which is to say I’m crying, throwing small objects, and running away from things more frequently than usual.

The most recent of these offending events was having to say goodbye to the last remaining home (the structural, not metaphorical kind) from my childhood. I’ve got 23 years of memories wrapped up in my grandmother’s house – not just memories of family gatherings at holidays or everyday visits (although breakfasts with Mamaw are indeed very special memories), but an even deeper kind. The kind that come from living there every summer, and once for a full year, during my formative, wildly unpredictable, and absolutely unforgettable teenage years; the kind that make someone else’s house feel like home. As much as it hurt to know this trip would be the last time I’d ever set foot inside her house, what made it worse was the fear that this might also have been one of the last times I visited my grandmother when she still remembered who I was. Change. Aging. Dementia. Death. I deal with zero of these things well and could write for days about the many worries I have about all four, but I will take a page from my grandmother and accept the inevitable and move on. (Or at least pretend to, anyway.)

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl Three States, Two Weeks, One Happy Girl

On a happier note, not only did I get to see my sister in Colorado, but she followed us to Nashville shortly after we arrived. Bonus days with one of my favorite people in the world make my heart so happy. And so does the fact that in 9 weeks, I will finally be an aunt! I gifted her with the title 15 years ago, so it’s about time she repaid the favor. :) A new baby in the family is the kind of change I can totally get on board with! I’ll be flying back to Colorado in August or September to meet my new niece or nephew, so I’m guessing this summer will break my jet lag record, which was previously held by the summer of 2016. (Totally worth it, fyi.)

Speaking of births, my rapidly-approaching-adulthood little one celebrated her big 15th while we were back in the US. I suppose it’s a bit cliche to say it’s all gone by so fast, but that doesn’t make it any less true. When I look at her, it’s hard not to marvel at life and wonder how the heck we got here so quickly. (For the record, similar thoughts cross my mind every time I look in the mirror.) One day while we were out and about in Nashville, on a whim I pulled into an empty church parking lot, put the car in park and told her to trade seats with me. Her face lit up like I’d just given her everything she’d ever wanted and I felt that familiar ache that is wanting to see your offspring grow and succeed, but also keep them right where they are forever. Parenthood is not for the weak, you guys. And neither is teaching someone to drive for the first time. We were in an empty parking lot with like zero possible objects within a reasonable distance that she could hit and yet adrenaline was still coursing through my body as if we were in some sort of high-speed chase. But she did great, absolutely perfect actually, and she knew it. She was so proud of herself that day. These are the parenting moments I live for.

I’ve got another excessively wordy/reflective post planned for Thursday as we reach our one year in Singapore mark this week, but then regular travel stories are back on the agenda for next week! It’s going to feel good to write about a trip that just happened instead of desperately trying to recall stories and events that happened two years ago which has been the norm here lately as I try to catch this old blog up to date!

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  • Such a wonderful trip home! I would also like to make it to Colorado one day!

  • One of the hardest parts of flying away is knowing this might be the last time you see someone. I imagine she’s very proud of the woman you are, and the family you have.

    • That is very true! Hopefully I’ve still got many opportunities to see her in the future, I’m just not sure for how much longer she’ll remember me when I’m there. :( And thank you. Miss you, friend.

  • What a visit babe! xx

  • I feel the same, I forget that life goes on without me while I’m not in NY and when I go back and people are older, married, have had kids, I hate missing out on it all. It’s great that you’re able to spend time with people when you do go back though! Also, driving?! I’m pretty sure I was NOT perfect and my mom had several heart attacks teaching me.

    • I think my mom is probably glad she wasn’t the one who had to teach me to drive. Almost 20 years later and I’m still not very good at it. :)

  • Julie

    Here’s to hoping I can make it to Colorado next year (well, make it beyond the Denver Airport which I’ve connected in numerous times). You should be given the gold medal for packing in as much as possible. Three states in two weeks, that’s mad skills especially since they weren’t some of the teeny tiny ones you have on the East Coast :) Glad you had a wonderful home visit, looking forward to catching up on your other “Out West” ones.

    • Well, we certainly didn’t see the whole state of Colorado or Wyoming while we were there, just places in them. That would have been impressive – ha!