Back to the Alternative Grind
We realized today that we haven’t posted an update in close to two months. How does that saying go? Time flies when you’re exhausted, confused, and energized by new ideas? We arrived home from Germany at the end of September, having traveled for 12 of the 15 preceding weeks. Six weeks spent road tripping across the Canadian and American west followed by six weeks in Europe, with three weeks at home in between to do laundry, repack, and taper for the marathon. By the time we finally returned to our cozy apartment in New Hampshire eight weeks ago, we were jet-lagged, burned out, and ready to slow down. And we were supposed to leave in six days for our next adventure: two weeks of national park hopping in the Pacific Northwest.
The PNW trip seemed like a good idea when we booked it. We had a flight credit to use up by the end of October, and with all of our other travel plans already in place, the only time we could fit it in was during October itself. So back in the spring we booked a flight and rental car but made no other plans. We were going to wing it as we wound our way through the beaches and mountains of Oregon and Washington, ending the trip by visiting friends in Seattle and celebrating M’s birthday.
At least that was the plan until the rainy afternoon during our last week in Germany when we looked at each other and asked one simple question: did we even want to go to Oregon? To cross three more time zones in the opposite direction? To spend fourteen more nights in tents and hostels and hotels? And the simple answer was no, not right now, not this year. We were road-weary, tired, full up on beer and bread and couch-surfing. We wanted to go home.
We weren’t psyched about getting on any plane to go anywhere, but we had that credit to use, and for some strange psychological reason, I couldn’t let it expire. So we looked into our options and changed our flight to head instead to sunny Florida for a few days later in the month. The switch to Florida turned out to be a good idea for a different reason, too: all the parks we planned to visit were closed due to the government shutdown. Instead of being disappointed by locked gates, we swam in the Gulf of Mexico and ran barefoot down the beach. We spent time with family and met up with a new friend. We caught some live music and checked out a veg-friendly tapas restaurant. We sipped rum drinks from plastic cups and watched the sun set with pelicans. We wrote and read and worked and talked and took deep breaths before saying goodbye to warm weather for a few months.
Back home (again!) without sunburns but with sand-smoothed feet, I returned to volunteering with a local non-profit and finished out my annual photo project. M took on a new roles as resource blogger for a poetry journal and as host of a poetry night at our local bookstore. We ran a few 5Ks, celebrated our birthdays, and got back to work on winter plans for our fitness coaching business. We’re both also working on book-length writing projects and firming up our 2014 marathon plans. We are slowly creeping back toward center, trying to figure out how to keep funding this alternative grind we’ve created for ourselves while finding solace in daily routines, whole foods, and long runs.
But Germany is never far from our minds. We’d like to move there someday, to live for six months instead of six weeks. Unlike prior returns when our “good enough” German skills quickly fade away, this time around we’ve actually managed to keep up our practice of the language. We’ve been muddling our way through recipes from a vegan cookbook in German and studying new phrases from a set of flash cards. We frequently speak to each other in German, hoping we’re not developing some strange hybrid Germanglish that only we understand. We have plans to join a local German conversation group, but we haven’t been settled long enough to make that happen. Perhaps next week. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to write. -J