Greetings from…New Hampshire! We last posted from Prague more than three weeks ago. So what have we been up to since then? Everything except blogging, it seems. We’ve continued to wander and travel, both internationally and domestically. We’ve attended weddings and birthday parties, dance recitals and backyard barbecues. We’ve hosted out-of-town relatives (a challenge when homeless…) and danced the night away at concerts in the city and to sounds by the sea.
All of that brings us to tonight, the last night of this month. It’s also our last night of voluntary homelessness and our last night on the road for a while. Tomorrow morning we will pick up the keys to our new apartment. Construction is complete, and the crew is putting the finishing touches on the newly renovated textile mill along the river that runs through our town. We will be the first ones to live in the space, and we’re looking forward to making it our own.
Several people have asked me, “Now that you’re not working, what do you do all day?” I used to try to explain how I spent my time, as if what I was doing outside of a corporate workplace had to be justified. I have realized over the past several months that there are so many things wrong with the question, and I rarely attempt to answer it anymore. But tonight, in reflecting on why we haven’t posted in weeks, I took stock of what I’ve been doing with my time this month, and by extension, my life. The answer is quite simple: I live…as fully and authentically as I can each day. I run, I hike, and I travel. I spend time with family and friends and strangers. I cook them dinner, babysit their kids, and help them move. I attempt to speak foreign languages and eat spicy foods and finish ice cream cones before they melt. I read books that make me laugh and watch movies that make me cry. I manage my finances, plan our meals, and research topics that interest me. I plot and scheme and daydream about my next gig. I take pictures, paint, write, and create. I eat and I drink and I breathe. I live deeply, sucking the marrow out of life. And since I’m wired to be analytical, I count things…
In the month of July alone, we logged nearly 5,000 miles by air, 1,000 miles by train, 2,300 miles on the road, and 200 miles on foot. We spent at least one night in 14 different cities across 3 countries and 4 different U.S. states. That brings our tally for the past three months of wandering to 26 cities in 3 countries and 10 states. We’ve spent nights in the homes of family and friends, in hotels and hostels, and at B&Bs and campgrounds. We’ve milked the hotel points we earned during years of business travel, and we’ve mastered the perks of our rewards credit cards and travel-related loyalty programs. The longest stretch in any one place was 13 nights at a friend’s house in Virginia. The shortest—a simple one-night stay—happened in many places…11 to be exact. Everywhere else fell somewhere in between.
After all that travel, beginning tomorrow night, we will again have a place to call our own. And we plan to spend at least a few nights there before we hit the road for our next adventure… -J
We’ve been in Europe for over a week now and have yet to post an update. Not for lack of things to talk about, but more for lack of time to write and infrequent internet access. Tonight, in Prague of all places, we have free Wi-Fi at the hotel and are back in our room at a reasonable hour. So a quick update! We’ve had a series of amazing adventures since arriving in Germany last week, beginning with three days of family festivities surrounding M’s cousin’s wedding. We attended the civil ceremony at the town hall, or Rathaus, and the church ceremony in Aschaffenburg, where M read a passage in German during the service. There was also a garden party in the rain, complete with an outdoor viewing of the Germany-Italy semi-final game of the Euro Cup and plenty of strong beer. We next explored Berlin for two days before meeting up with M’s cousin, C, and his wife, S, at their apartment in Leipzig. After we logged an early training run through the park yesterday, C and S showed us around town, including a huge monument to the 1813 War of Nations battle at Leipzig (Google it…). We wandered around the university area and stopped at some of their favorite pubs and bookstores. At the monument, we climbed to the top for a view of the city, but the picture here doesn’t do the experience justice. We made our way back to their apartment and capped off our non-traditional 4th of July with a balcony barbecue of tofu curry wurst and grilled gouda and hours of conversation in at least two languages. It was a fantastic evening to close a perfect day. We didn’t even miss the fireworks.
After six months of anticipation–having booked our flight back in January–we are waiting patiently in Terminal E at Logan for our outbound flight to Frankfurt via a short layover in Dublin. The clouds are rolling in, but we are hoping for an uneventful departure. We will arrive at our first destination (M’s uncle’s house in the small town of Grosswallstadt) sometime tomorrow afternoon. Our initial few days in Europe will be filled with celebration…first of M’s cousin’s wedding and then of the finals of the Euro Cup, which we hope to witness from Berlin’s famous Fan Mile. After a few days exploring Berlin and Leipzig next week, we plan to roll east through Dresden on our way to Prague, where we will explore a city new to us both. We are excited and honored to be sharing in T’s and S’s wedding festivities, and we are equally excited to be embarking on another leg of our journey together. We hope you will join us on the other side…of the Atlantic!
Our Virginia adventures continued yesterday with a day trip into Lynchburg. A few weeks ago, while still back in New Hampshire, we had sought out and registered for a 10K race downtown. We have a goal of running a race every month this year, and due to our travels, a Virginia race best fit our schedule for May. Neither of us had been to Lynchburg before, and running the race was a great way to see part of the city. (You can read my full recap here if you’re interested…)
After the race, which had an early 8 AM start, we did a quick change of clothes at the car (tucked into a shady spot in a free parking garage) and walked several blocks down Main Street to the Lynchburg Community Market. We planned to fill a bag with fresh local produce, but first things first…specifically, breakfast. We assumed the long line at Barb’s Dream Hut inside the marketplace was a good sign, so we ordered veggie omelets and shared a side of hash browns. We also ended up sharing our table with a local couple in their late 70s. They were newlyweds, having just tied the knot last December, although their first date was actually 63 years earlier, before he introduced her to his best friend…whom she subsequently married. It was a sweet story and part of a lovely conversation.
After breakfast, we wandered around the indoor market, picking up some Vidalia relish and locally roasted coffee before hitting up the farm stalls outside. We loaded two shopping bags with onions, peppers, squash, cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes, and kale, plus a loaf of fresh bread and a tub of sun-dried tomato goat cheese. As is typical for farmers markets, we paid a lower-than-usual price for produce fresh from the producers’ trucks and a higher-than-usual price for artisan breads and cheeses. For us, this is a fair trade-off, allowing us to support the local economy (wherever we are) and satisfy our own desires to know what we are eating and how it was made.
We left the market and walked back to the car, stashing our goods before driving over to the Old City Cemetery. The cemetery is more than a burial ground, as it contains five small museums paying homage to Lynchburg’s role in the Civil War and the railroad’s role in Lynchburg’s history. Lynchburg’s location on the James River and at the convergence of three major railways led to its establishment as a major hospital site during the Civil War. The cemetery is filled with history, including the graves of more than 2,200 Confederate soldiers and numerous early cultural and political leaders from the region.
Our next and final stop in town was the Anne Spencer House for a visit to her garden. Spencer was a poet and part of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Her house is part of the Pierce Street historic district (one of seven historic districts in Lynchburg), and the garden has been lovingly restored by a local non-profit group. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk, and we found ourselves alone there on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We wandered the garden paths and sat in chairs outside Edankraal, the writing cottage her husband built for her so she would have a quiet place to write and be inspired by the beauty of the garden. The garden is filled with history, both in the stories of significant visitors that stayed there and in the plants and flowers in the garden, many of which have persisted since the Spencers first planted them in the 1930s and 1940s.
On the way home, we talked about how we would love to have a cottage like Edankraal someday, a quiet place for writing and possibly for living. For now, we are getting used to writing and living wherever we find ourselves, which this week is at our friend’s mountain retreat. After the short drive back there, we unloaded our bounty and got down to the business of making the most amazing grilled sandwiches using the fresh bread, onion relish and goat cheese. We capped the day by heading up to the second-story deck to watch the sun set over the mountains, thankful for a perfect day and the opportunity to explore places like Lynchburg. –J