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One day in London

29 Sep

Writing is good for my mind. And re-reading these blogs is good for my soul.
But actually going on international trips, well, that’s good for just about everything. I’m feeling a bit stagnant right now — which is why I’m resorting back to one of the most rational and fantastic ways I have to express myself and to ultimatly re-live parts of my life; blog posts.

This one, as the title suggests is about a layover in London, September 2022. Our original itinerary did not have us making any stops in England so CHEERS to travel for always keeping us on our toes.

Who is us?…You might ask. Well, my road-dog for lyfe, Rachel, was getting married! You may remember her from when we climbed Mt. Doom, in New Zealand or from when we told you to “Go to Berlin”.

She’s easy to remember and hard to forget 😉

Anyway, Rachel asked me to officiate her wedding. To LEGALLY marry her.  I was to be her High Priestess.  And the wedding was in Albania.  I couldn’t have been more flattered! (More on that later.  When I feel like posting about it.) For now, Rachel had her fiancé, a handful of close friends, and her road-dog for lyfe (that’s me!) who had a boyfriend named Ryan (hi, Ryan!) who was ready to use a block of his vacation days.

Large group of travel mates

As we departed the Pittsburgh airport I learned that PIT has a stadium license! And that some of the shops have a to-go license which, combined with fair market prices make for an extra fun adult airport experience.  No wonder our sweet airport won airport of the year in 2017.

After finding our hotel (Who knew there were so many Ibis budget hotel options?  Certainly not our cabbie.) we set off in search of some classic English pub grub.

Obligatory fish ‘n chips and smashed peas, battered to perfection.

We continued to walk around and take in as many sights as we could before the highlight of our brief trip started– our Jack the Ripper tour!  We had a fantastic guide named Jamie who walked us around narrow alleys and dimly lit streets regaling us with tales of the infamous serial killer who had terrorized the area in the late 1800s. We were shown the locations of Ripper’s victims, and learned chilling details of his heinous acts. It was both disturbing and fascinating to learn about the brutal murders. With an emphasis on history, wink, we visited bars including Ten Bells Pub, a pub that still stands today and was frequented by several of the poor women victims. We ended the evening pontificating on who Jack the Ripper really was.

Our guide in the red hat, Jamie.

After the tour we went off in search of dinner.  It ended up being from a ‘corner shop’ located in strip mall and not an “actual corner”.   We ate an assortment of “actual chips”, not French fries.  Tomato, tomato, as they say.

The London tube. With our own ‘tude.

Hogwarts express, incoming!

London was fine.  The best part was that so much happens every single day when you travel; it’s enlivening!

A mere handful of hours of sleep later — but with no fire alarms going off, just our phone alarms — we were back at Heathrow airport.

Bloody knackered and ready for our intended adventure,

Puerto Rico: ‘International’ Trip (Taylor’s version)

25 Nov

It had been 15 months since Patrick and I crossed international borders together – other than the ones in our own mind, of course.  And yes, technically Puerto Rico is not an international trip but the denotation of Taylor’s version really demarcates where we were as a society. And also how we felt about it as a trip. We were going international! Post-Covid!

Technically it’s not international but “First intercontinental trip post Covid” didn’t have the vibe I was going for.


It was an impactful trip that happened over Thanksgiving when we were both able to travel and get our feet whet/wet with the thrill of a foreign country (Taylor’s version). Foreign language, foreign food, foreign sea, you get it, she gets it.

Speaking of thrill, I took the red eye. Landing at 4am and “sleeping” on the floor of the airport for 2 hours (I had read it wasn’t safe to sleep on the beach in the dark) until the sun came up at 6:35am when I took an Uber to the water and, for $20, rented the below chair and umbrella for a full day until Patrick arrived. Traveling to the destination is an entire activity when you purchase cheap tickets. 


Here, I slept for 4 hours because I’m a budget traveler who didn’t get a hotel room. That’s all my stuff in that backpack.


Not a bad gig, sure. I did have to wake up every hour to move my chair back into the shade of my umbrella because the sun kept moving. And, at 12:30pm I drank my first of (dozens of) piña coladas too fast to take a picture. I don’t know if I just haven’t had a piña colada in two years or if that was seriously the best piña colada I have ever had.


How many piña coladas do you think we averaged a day?

Here’s a haiku:

Peaceful paradise
Puerto Rico’s island charm
Piña colada.


Puerto Rico felt soo safe! I loved it. Besides sleeping on the beach, they required everyone to wear masks at all time and to show proof of vaccination.  Best place I’ve ever been to at wearing masks, who would have thought? Give them statehood! (if they want it! Which they seem to!) If you wanna travel but haven’t been anywhere exotic — I’d recommend Puerto Rico! We described it as two notches above Jamaica.


Happiness comes in waves. And in the form of no private beaches around the entire island!


Where we woke up on Thanksgiving morning: Sunrise in El Yunque National Park.


Forecast calls for: Best friendship and rain!


I mean, how did you spend Thanksgiving 2021?



We traveled all over the entire island exploring everywhere we could.  Seeking out vegetables for every meal – though we only found them once – ironically at a bakery.  We left each restaurant feeling stuffed with reasonable okay things to eat. The food was not a highlight, I wouldn’t visit Puerto Rico for the cuisine.


Nature, never going out of style.



Thanksgiving day feast for two with nary a vegetable in sight! (But not for lack of trying.)


When your best friend poses you for a fantastic pic


We tried to find the best food in Puerto Rico and I’m *pretty sure* we found it.


On a hike where Patrick pointed out WILD MANATEES!!!!!!!!


San Juan, the capital city, at sunset.


Forever grateful


¡Viva Thanksgiving (Taylor’s version)!
Let’s travel together again soon?!

Tillamook, Oregon

15 Jun

Surprise, I’m in the mood to write a blog! I woke up from a nap feeling the type of inspired that caused me to leap out of bed and grab my computer. I didn’t want to waste a second of this motivation and have spent the last several hours getting organized. I can.not believe it. I keep looking at my fingers as if they are wands granting me every wish. For years I have been feeling what can only be described as well-fed writers block. 

And now? I’m choosing to write about Tillamook, Oregon, as the title implies. June 2021. A huge thank you to Victoria for booking the accommodation! ❤


West coast.


This story begins one year ago with some very familiar characters.


Oh, hello best friendship called Patrick, Helen and Victoria.


In one of the 14 best beach houses in America.


You don’t have to believe us, believe Conde Nast.


This is our place (for the weekend). We make the rules.


The house was named Stormwatcher and we saw why. We spent days watching clouds disappear and reappear as they turned bruised, dark, and bright blue again; riots of color. There were hues of blue so radiant that it seemed, if we didn’t know any better, someone had slipped us mushrooms. Helen and I spent time feeling grateful we had both a middle school science teacher with us to explain what was going on and an artist who could put this masterpiece into painting.


Watching the surf like we would a T.V.


On the drive, we listened to the best podcast about beavers.


Volcano Rainier.


Upon arrival into the gorgeous town of Tillamook we went on a tour of their cheese factory and pontificated how much cheese we could actually eat. Victoria went to go shop for an entire charcuterie board in order to test the subject, while Patrick and I were put in charge of dessert. ‘No judgement’, I said, ‘if we don’t eat all the ice cream tonight. We can always try for tomorrow.’


I have a secret – it’s another container of ice cream.


The gift shop sold Lactaid pills because…they get it. No one would want to miss out. Tillamook ice cream is delicious. It’s extra creamy because there is less air than other ice creams (at least that’s what the signs said). What we knew for sure was that it was particularly good. We can attest, once you go Tillamook ice cream you never go back. It is not very often that you taste a true wonder of nature and surely Tillamook ice cream is one of them.

To burn off those calories, the team played games and reorganized the furniture. We had ping pong and The Game where I got to use language such as ‘a friend of a friend’ and ‘the perfect one’. The bedrooms weren’t *quite* right and after a bunk bed saga (they weren’t long enough) I convinced Patrick to help me move our beds to the same room which, I’d like to reiterate, was a good idea.


There’s joy inside of us. And outside of us when we’re playing table tennis.


I closed my eyes and saw volcanic red. Oh, everyone sees that? That’s just the sun?


The afternoons were spent on the beach.


Did you know? “Tillamook” is a Native American word for “Land of many waters”. “I’d say it’s also a land of much sand.” – Helen


See Sea Stacks on the beach shore.


Bella and I made up songs about sand. We played in a mountain of sand. We were one with the sand. We loved it. When it was time to go for dinner I told Helen and Patrick to just come get me when they walked by. Helen said “You can not go into the restaurant like that.” I countered, “What if I put pants on?” She said no. That it looked like they had just rescued me from Operation Desert Storm. I was indignant. ‘Do you think you’re not covered in sand?!’ I asked her, incredulously. “Everyone here is covered in sand. I see sand in your hair. On your face. In your teeth.” When she finally convinced me to come inside to shower I saw what she meant.


Do you also have sand in your eyes?


We Tilla took some sand before we left.



The definition of ‘cleaning up well.’


Our days lasted forever and dinner that night was seafood fettuccine plus a lifetime of memories.  For dessert, you guessed it, Tillamook ice cream. 



Everyone was thinking the same thing: How wild the sound of this ocean would be driving the beavers.


Majestic. Even when you leave the couch to go to the bathroom and come back – it takes your breath away.


It was a glamorous house. It was a wonderful trip. As far as the best beach houses in America go, we wanna visit them all. One down, 13 to go.
Back to being adventurous 🙂 


Hey, I moved to New York!

10 Jun

We moved to New York. I haven’t posted in awhile. Let’s get into it.

Affordable storage unit on wheels

Seven hours after this picture was taken (which felt like 3 days in hauling-all-of-your-stuff-across-state-lines time), we made it. Unloading a U-Haul at midnight and sleeping on a mattress on the floor really is what New York City dreams are made of. 

I Spy…disinfectant spray.

I actually loved the entire process of unpacking.  Culling again (and again). Organizing. Felt really nice.

The after…voilà!

Look at our cute place! Even in winter, she’s gorgeous.

Helpful tips for living in NYC: Have pizza for dinner regularly. It solves any argument…unless you’re fighting about which pizza to get. So many options! Mine: pineapple, arugula, and hot sauce.

Plants, meet music. Guitar, meet plants.

Peep that roasted cauliflower.

My wonderful parents gifted us this multi-purpose dining room table as a moving-in present. We use it for table tennis, baking, writing, and eating.  Look at my opponent drawing me in with that winning smile! Also, check out the intercom. Before this, I hadn’t seen a corded phone since The Baby Sitters club aired on TV and now, I live with one.

From one city known for their bridges to another 🙂

Fun fact (emphasis on the “fun”): we’re neighbors with George Costanza’s parents. Well, the house his parents lived in on the show. If you don’t watch Seinfeld, disregard this information. If you do watch the show, come visit — we’ll take ya! 

Famous neighbors.

Empire State of mind.

It’s been a bit since the move (October), and we’re loving it. Especially, as things are opening back up.

Pittsburgh, you’ve been great, but New York has incredible food, comedy, and so many intramural sports teams, I think we’re staying for a while.

Enjoying every New York minute,

My birthday’s when we say it is.

23 Jun

In my (herd’s) world, if we weren’t experiencing a global pandemic, this would have been major furry-prep time.  I have to acknowledge it.  Anthrocon, the fur-tastic event that gives me all the wags was missed this July but (furry) puns and thoughts are a year-round constant for this Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever doggleganger.  And, going camping for my birthday was a purrfect op-paw-tunity for distraction.  Thanks to a rain delay, Collin and I actually went camping a few days after my birthday, which worked out even better.  We called it my ‘birthday weekend’ (even though it was the middle of the week).  And our celebrations lasted for almost 10 days (culminating with this trip).  The rain delay meant prolonged birthday festivities and I was able talk about our camping trip with friends before, helping build my excitement and anticipation.

The day of: Europe officially barred U.S. travelers due to covid-19.  My club was closed. We’d been trapped in the Dreamflat for MONTHS.  This had (probably) been the longest I’d gone in the past decade without packing a bag for an overnight trip; I was rusty, out of practice, and itching to travel…four months with zero overnight trips.  As I put my toothbrush in her to-go container, it felt magical to be stretching my atrophied packing muscles.

That morning, (even though it was July and my birthday is in June) Collin, wished me a happy birthday and then ‘we’ made one of my favorite breakfasts. (Does it seem like I often say “my favorite breakfast”?  Is this because I love breakfast?)  This time we had a deconstructed egg roll bowl with no left overs. Never mind that I accidentally melted a plastic spoon onto our wok while cooking, I’m the birthday girl.

We continued operation camping-prep and headed INTO THE WOODS! It was rHonda’s first time off-roading (as far as we know).  I kept looking for a clutch (shout-out to Mouse.)  It was a two night camping trip, which was nice as our first night wasn’t our last and we left the tent set-up.



Moraine State Park, Bear Run Campground.



Primitive camping.



A birthday party.


“We’re in it now”, Col told me as we drove up.  It was the most perfect campsite; I hopped out of our car overflowing with joy.  My eyes sparkled as they took in ALL THAT NATURE!  To live in the present, I put my phone on airplane mode, something I hadn’t done in awhile.  I realized I had truly been missing not having cell-phone service.



This is.THE.BEST. (Thank you campsite P-15!)


A HUGE thank you to Collin for being in charge of the fire. The tomahawk – now called hawk – came in handy — and not just for target practice.  Col worked hard to get the fire-resistant wood ignited (daily) and tolerated so much smoke in his eyes (it burns!) for the sake of providing good cuisine and entertainment.  It was because of him that we had s’mores at every meal.

That first night, when it got dark, I rediscovered how downright cool I feel in a headlamp.



July 1st 2020, what a way to mark that this year is half over.


Above: That’s our breakfast cooking.



“You really nailed my birthday present” – me



Just your average glow-up.


“Good morning! Now, am I sore because I worked out with Molly on Zoom yesterday? Or, because we fully slept on the ground?”  These were the type of rhetorical questions I asked as we woke up to the birds chirping, and took deep breaths of fresh, forest air.

For breakfast, Collin taught me what a Moon Pie is and I’ll never be the same.  We sat by our morning fire watching the eggs, veggies, and our eyes get smoked.  Crackles of burning wood complimented the scene as I took a moment to absorb the serenity.  It was a happy birthday weekend.

When breakfast was over we gleefully headed on a drive to see the entire north shore of Moraine State Park.  The scenery and roads were like a natural amusement park for rHonda.  We stopped to pick wild blackberries. Which is how you know the trip was fun. We took a stroll on the beach, checked out multiple marina’s, and spent at least three hours driving around the entirety of Lake Arthur.



This is how Lake Arthur looks from the north.


After a long day of exploring, we chose to hit up Shmily’s for some well-deserved ice cream and continue our geographic expedition by checking out the rest of the Bear Run Campground. Only ONE time during our entire stay did a car did pass our camp site and it was very memorable.

For dinner steaks in a cast iron pan over a fire. The sleeping on the ground situation could be improved upon (next time) but other than that it was darn.near.perfect.



Steak, butter, shiitake mushrooms, toasted ciabatta and onions. Is your mouth watering?


In the evening we played Pandemic Legacy TWICE and WON BOTH TIMES!! This really was a charmed trip.  In the morning, before we left, we wanted an adventure on foot and chose to hike the southern part of Lake Arthur.  I, personally, preferred the southern shore; it’s smaller, prettier and has better views.  The trail we chose was called Sunken Garden.   Portersville exit on I-79.



Lake Arthur from the south.



Leavin’ me beggin’ for s’more.



As I always say, I’ll never take sleeping in a bed for granted.
I hope to smell like smoke for a week.
smokey ‘mi

My First Month in Quarantine

13 Apr

Right now – and for more than a month – we have been sitting tight, with not much to do. The current status of this pandemic requires a forced release of control and some people are, understandably, struggling.  There is so much discomfort in not knowing what the future holds.  Although, heads-up, I do think that coming out of this is going to be much tougher than coming in; like reverse culture shock.   Looking for things to remain the same, I have a feeling that people might wind up a bit crestfallen.  We can’t anticipate all the ways that this global pandemic is going to change the way that we travel, communicate, learn, do, buy, dress, go out, teach, work, and date  Although, goodness knows, the internet is certainly giving guessing a go.

On my end, I don’t mind giving up control.  I don’t mind things changing.  My experience backpacking has been full of things not going the way I expected, flights getting canceled, entire itineraries changing, a new country being thrown into the mix, cars breaking down, hitchhiking, rain delays, and seeing the world in all of its mess and glory.  AKA, I have spent a decade developing the “go with the flow” side of my personality.  So, a sudden change in plans – especially when a month doesn’t turn out like I had expected – is already in my repertoire.

Yes, I had some travel plans get canceled (Mystery Trip 2.0, for example) but I’m doing my part to fight Covid-19, I’m staying home. Actually, on the whole I’ve been craving less travel.  And so, this past month of self-isolation and stationary lifestyle has suited me.  Recently, I wrote about how my time in the Peace Corps was eerily reminiscent of parts of my time in quarentine.  I feel very well-versed at doing nothing and being happy.

My favorite analogy between quarantine and travel that I’ve come up with so far is to draw a parallel between self-isolation and a road trip (remember those?) because the day to day decisions involved in both are so banal; Should we stop for gas now or in a little bit? Sun chips or Sweedish fish as a snack?

During quarantine, I’ve kept a calendar of events which includes gems like “Trash AND recycling day” because that’s an actual bullet point on my agenda tonight.  So, without further ado, my quarantine calendar:



Madness at Trade Joe’s


March 13th
– I had a t
ailgate with Em, pre-Costco.  With lines the size of amusement parks.  THANK GOODNESS for that extra freezer space those girls lent me.
– “The only time getting tested and finding out you have influenza A is positive.”–mom
– Hellooooooo, Collin!


March 14th
– Entertained ourselves with outdoor PAC man.
– St Patrick’s day party with “dare Jenga.”
Farewell to live comedy — for now — at the St Mary Fire hall show.


March 15th
The world is closing its borders and seemingly shutting down.
– Hotel breakfast; whipped cream and Kashi cereal; I absolutely love being a grownup.
– Party for the Health of It and the musical discovery: “Still of the Night.”

March 16th
Pittsburgh is closing all bars for 2 weeks.

Collin, literally every day: I just wanna Netflix and Chill.
The week everyone needs to stay inside: I MUST go outside, run around, and burn off all of this energy.



A fairly empty schedule, in direct contrast to how long this blog is.


March 17th
Quarantine and ch(elp)ill
West Virginia, the last state to report a case of Covid-19.
– A unique St Patrick’s day celebration with Aunt Marjean, Cousin Dwayne, and a fantastic, new, pop tab obsession.


March 18th
Happy birthday, Colleen!
– Apple bread, filming funny videos with Collin, Photosynthesis,
and a Bitcoin purchase.

After getting grapes thrown at me I retreated and, while screaming, laughing, crying yelled “there are no grapes in my pants!”

“Goodnight, baby doll.”
“Goodnight! You made me scream so many times today, it was so fun.”



That bed is heaven.


March 19th
One week since Collin arrived.
– Read an article titled “Freezers sell out as consumers stock up,” and I get it.
– From now on, when we say “sprinkler kisses”, you know what to do.
My face brushed is the best part of shower day.


March 20th – Friday
It’s hard to know what day it is.

– Finished my taxes and subscribed to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.


March 21st…


I’ve been eating well.


March 22nd
Sunday morning bliss: We watched E
x Machina and played Monopoly.

“This pasta is done perfectly. Which is crazy ’cause it was frozen and made in the microwave.” – Collin


March 23rd
“Shelter in place”, officially.
– THIS MORNING I HAD COFFEE. (and now I can’t sleep).
– Our new set up for work = looking at each other.
– (Obviously) this quarantine has been great for my blog life.
– Lunch time discovery: We need two microwaves.
– Fleabag, Season 2


March 24th
Every day’s the same:
9am Wake-up / 9:30 Out of bed / 9:45 Start work
11:45 Change / 12
Workout / 1:15 Stretch
1:30 LUNCH / Free time / 5pm Dance
9pm Make (the same) schedule for tomorrow


March 24th


“I could tell you so many Assembly of Gods.”  – Getting to know Kendyll better, and loving it 😂


March 25th
It was a no schedule day!
–  Zoom Yoga taught by mumzy.
– I like it the best when I’m lounging all-up-in Collin’s space.


BBQ frozen pizza, add broccoli and corn


March 26th
– Cardio day in the park
– Read a
Michelin Star chef article about gnocchi… and then I got gnocchi!

“This is the worst experience of my life. I’m not kidding.” – Collin making fudge, after the wax paper ripped for the second time.

Live hard, laugh hard; the Sammi Travis story.


March 27th


Comedy in my living room.


March 29th
– Egg salad for breakfast because I live with the BEST chef!


March 30th
– A concert hosted by Elton John (our first).



Family Zoom.



An evening porch hang.



March 30th
Woken-up abruptly….they were towing cars out front :/


Thanking workers at Allegheny General Hospital.


– Surprise, a quarantine present which makes me into a human toddle!
– A phone call with Rebekah, my expensive friend. I felt sparkly after.
– In my own living room, the Banff Mountain Film Festival.


Actually, I don’t have too much to complain about.



March 31st
Food shopping day!
– “This is wild, this is so fun!” – me, at our Doce Taqueria car picnic.



Ever seen McKnight Road this empty?


– A Scale bug attacked all my houseplants.  “A pandemic of a different scale,” Dad said.
– A pandepic hang with Molly 🙂  This is just, like, available to us.


April 1st
– A new April Fool’s Day tradition = Michigan roast
– Played Cards Against Humanity with Emily and Laura!  One quick note for the makers of this online game, taking all the cards (by accident) shouldn’


April 2nd
– Tennis while we still could.


April 3rd
– Those “famous nachos”.


April 4th
– A hunt for the ages!


April 5th
It’s both trash AND recycling day, a big night in our household.
– Chatted with foreign friends; Paula on the cruise ship!; Katie K.; Ira.
– Pork chops for dinner and a lemon poppy seed cake (sans poppy seeds) for dessert.


April 6th
– American Dreamer, the stressful movie thriller with Jim Gaffigan that we liked.
– Clapping in gratitude for the health care workers and a short walk to see the full, maybe pink moon.
– Beto’s reheated…but we kept the cheese cold.
– A “Hoseparty” hang and game night with my parents 🙂



If you can’t handle me at my worst than you don’t deserve me at my best


April 7th
A new low: I didn’t leave the house once today.


April 8th
Samantha Traverstein (I’m Jewish now.)
– Chag Pesach!  A sedar through Temple Sinai with homemade matzoh anointed with olive oil. The best I’ve ever eaten, even with the wax paper.
– Two Guvners, National Theater of London, a play.  [2012. James Cordon (pre talk-show).  And Christine Patterson, an underrated actor.]

Q: “What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”
A: “Waking up and being happy.”





April 9th
– A package from Sam Dorky! Pittsburgh, like I suspected, has really fast mail service.  It’s so fun to have the same exact flavored items in two different states.
– A scallop pasta dinner and then, the funnest Molly hang!  Lesson number one:  Let’s do this again.


April 10th


Spring has sprung.


In the middle of the night: Does it sound like someone’s here?
Don’t you dare kill my roommate.


April 11th
First time filling up the car with petrol since March 13th.
– Homemade, to-die-for brookies.
– Hi, Trisha and Joe!
– The Amazing chicken lunch special at the Sesame Inn by a gorgeous, flowering tree.
– A second sedar, hosted by Aaron.
– Helen’s Instagram live comedy show!
– Forbidden Island, the board game.

“Are you busy?” – Collin
“No, why, what’s up?” – me
“Could you, like, maybe google how to get gorilla glue off of your skin?’” – Collin, after fixing a wooden spoon in the kitchen


April 12th
– Tonya contacted me ❤


Googled “big bunny”, was not disappointed.



There goes the cat. – Wendy
I wanna see the cat. – Betsy
I don’t believe they have a cat – Marvin



April 13th
– Started Schitts Creek and, unrelated, we froze Little Debbie’s Swiss Rolls.


It’s only Quarantine if it’s in the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.



I’m not taking this Sparkling Isolation for granted.
Sparkle sparkel,

Wisdom from the Corps; How my time in quarantine is similar to the Peace Corps

5 Apr

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
— John F. Kennedy.


From March 2010 – May 2012 I served in the United States Peace Corps, stationed in Jamaica for over 2 years.  Now, April 2020, 8 years later, I find myself sitting on my white couch in self-isolation, thinking back to those years and feeling totally prepared to fill each hour, which, after a decade, turns into a day, after an eternity, a week, and, after an eon, will turn into the month of April.


“Travel teaches us new ways to measure the quality of life”. – Rick Steves


I’m including links to past Peace Corps posts which I HIGHLY recommend reading because, 1. honestly, what else do you have to do, and 2. I was a way better writer back then (probably because I was reading so many books).


Here’s a time I almost. ate a bug.
Here’s one about being a single woman in Jamaica
Here’s my day to day.
A favorite called “Excess vs. Not quite enough.
This one’s a quick one: It was SO HOT where I lived that…
And finally, while there, I updated my resume


Below is an excerpt to show you just how little I actually did while in my 2012 quarantine, I mean, in the Peace Corps:

“I’ve been in Jamaica for 14 months and here’s what I have to show for it:
My community knows who I am.
I am a proud dog owner.
I can pretty much speak and understand patois.
I have re-discovered a love for reading.
I am the walrus coo-coo-ka-choo (?)”


TBH, there are some marked differences that make this 2020 quarantine much easier.

A.   I have a boyfriend living with me! (WAHOO!!! Peace Corps couples, hot dang did you guys have it good).
B.  I have running, hot water and air conditioning.
C.  This pandemic will not last 27 months. (RIGHT?!)
D.  Netflix, duh.


But, here are TEN ways my Peace Corps experience is just like my quarantine:

  1. There’s an emphasis on home cooked meals and harder to make recipes.44432_629715288489_2670673_n.jpg


    Pizza with whatever ingredients us Peace Corps volunteers could find.  (I think that’s ketchup.)


  2. The temptation to adopt an animal(s) to keep you company.


    A photo of actual dogs I adopted.


  3. Sharpening of weapon skills for either agriculture or civil unrest.39506_628166023229_5824424_n.jpg
  4.  At home workouts with whatever water bottles, cans, and bags of sand you have available.


    Dance party; party of one.


  5. Crossing boarders…in our own minds. Dreaming of where in the world we might have been or are planning to go.248509_743898249919_6754115_n.jpg
  6. Projects (like arts & crafts or home improvements).


    Andy, Angie, and is that Valina? Repurposing old tires into garden beds.


  7. Grocery shopping is an activity to get excited about!!


    Looks like she’s going to bake  “bammy” (out of cassava root) for dinner


  8. Laundry


    This laundry is “hand-washed”.  (Hand washed means something else in this climate.)


  9. Making friends as you can. In Jamaica, it was cockroaches who laughed at insecticides; you sprayed them and they got bigger.


    A parade of ants.  I mean, new friends.


  10. Taking time to intentionally go outside and notice the sunsets.24824_609341158409_5449305_n.jpg


This quarantine will end; you will look BACK on this period of time and, my instincts say, due to what memory does to your brain, you’re going to remember it fondly.


“Di ting sort out.”



On an unrelated and completely lighthearted note, I wanted to share some fun sports facts for a much needed diversion:  The New Zealand rugby team is called The All Blacks. The New Zealand basketball team is called The Tall Blacks (take a minute here). And, there’s one more — they have a badminton team — The Black Cocks.  That’s for real.  And, the very first article that comes up when you Google it is: “Black cocks hard for New Zealand to swallow”.

Doesn’t that country seem like it has a really good sense of humor??  Probably the best way to handle all of the pain in the world.  I mean, not necessarily for all of the people who are actually having a difficult time but definitely for those of us who are required to sit on the couch.


Three goals. Two years. One love.

In solidarity,

Best Friendship

1 Feb

I had a brief layover in Seattle AND I’M SO GLAD I DID! (what uncertain times we live in now). Not only was I thrilled to be onto the mainland (and off of all islands for awhile) but the best reason is (and always will be)… FRIENDSHIP!!!  HELEN AND PATRICK LIVE IN SEATTLE 🙂


The bomb dot com


Bel picked me up in a big white truck and impressed the heck out of me with her ability to park it in a compact spot.  (Later, Patrick ALSO impressed me with that same skill. Conclusion: My best friends in Seattle are really good at parking big vehicles into small spaces.)  

I slept so well (in an actual bed!) and had a real bathroom to use; (Thank you!) an incredible space, generosity, and forever best friendship!  On this trip, the only downside was that it was SUCH a bummer that I missed Victoria ❤  


Kitty kisses.


The very next day I visited Bella at her temp job which, ironically, was difficult to find.



A place of work or, my next obsession?


Helen, it must be said, got me into Geocaching.  She took me to find my first (and second and third) cache.  Good job, and I mean that literally.  🙂

We met up with Patrick and I got to enjoy Helen enjoying some drinks (that dry period is over!)  “What do you guys wanna do?”
“I think we should go Geocaching”. -Sammi
Question:  How do you go from one restaurant to another with adventure in between?
Answer:   Same way you turn 120 feet into a mile. Geocaching!





We laughed, longed for Barrel Thief burrata, listed all the provinces and territories in Canada (“Newfoundland and Labrador?  Oh, that’s the ‘and Herzegovina’ of Canada” – Helen) and ate some really incredible Thai food.

The next day I visited Bel’s private, residential gym, showered, and had some quality best friend time on the Instagram famous rooftop coupled with a fire pit and some wine 🙂



It’s even better than it looks.



For dinner, Patrick joined us and took us to a DELICIOUS Jamaican restaurant with festival, Ting, ackee, callaloo, and no salt fish.

After, Bella did my hair (THANK YOU!) while Patrick helped me brainstorm and create the puzzle that is: “Walter you doing for Collin’s birthday?” (THANK YOU!).  All the while, “Reputation” played in the background.

The next day, Helen and I both devoured and renamed a yummy kale-sadilla. And, I got to see Patrick’s great new apartment!!  We had lounge access and a fun, fast-paced, secret trip-planning session — which now we know was all for naught.  

Before, drumroll please….



One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.


…Cozying up to watch the new TAYLOR SWIFT NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY!

As we designed our perfect space, Patrick and I walked to get some cookies for the team, despite the rain.  Chip had 12 kinds of cookies…and we wanted one of each, please.  Plus ice cream.  


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Dessert distribution.

Despite wanting more time to sleepover at Patricks, hug VB, eat Helen’s breakfast (she was going to cook), meet Ashely, watch comedy, and a longing for that upstairs remote to work on that downstairs television, this Seattle trip was darn near perfect.  Obviously.


When P-Mart dropped us off, Bel and I stayed up as late as possible, with best friend chatter, not wanting to miss out on a moment of soaking each other up.  I was VERY grateful for the early morning (does it count as morning if it’s still dark outside?) ride to the airport.

And then, I slept for a full 3 hours on the tray table.

Zero wake-ups,

Aloha, Hawaii

28 Jan


A very clear sign indicating that we have, indeed, landed at the airport we meant to.



There are 8 main islands in Hawaii.  


We were on Oahu, the most populated Hawaiian island aka WE WERE BACK IN AMERICA!!!!!!  Rachel and I had traveled back in time, repeated January 26th (because time is just a construct) and were more bedraggled than ever.  
We flew on Jet Star (which is not as nice as Jet Blue).  Once in Hawaii, our initial car rental fell through.  So, at 7am we walked to another rental spot, waited an hour (where I talked to Molly who was JAZZED; should I become a landlord in New York?!), picked up our rental car (with an adorable Hawaiian license plate), and promptly slept in the airport parking garage for 3 full hours. We were WIPED.

Rae and I woke up feeling slightly refreshed and, using miles instead of kilometers, drove on the right side (right side, right side) of the road to see important WWII history.



Part of the Pearl Harbor war memorial.


After a fish dinner at Zipped, the Hawaiian Eat ‘n Park, and shaved ice that was just okay, we slept – in the car, in a safe neighborhood – for 10 straight hours.


January 27th



Rise and shine!


Breakfast and lunch were from the grocery store and included gummy bears rolled around in dried plums.  Later, we tried poi (food) and didn’t love it. 



Describes how we felt about most things in Hawaii.



 A beach from above.



Eye candy all DAY


The whole island is small (and we were used to driving), so Rachel and I decided to see everything.

The temperature here made us think of Goldilock’s porridge:
New Zealand, south island:    Too cold
Australia:                                    Too hot
Hawaii:                                        Just right




“Well this is nice, driving around Hawaii with sand on our feet, listening to Jack Johnson.” – Rae

Side note: Turns out, I love upbeat, Hawaiian music.  (“Is that a ukulele?!”)



Location of a world class surfing competition.


Banzai pipeline, preliminary competition.  At noon (on a Monday) we witnessed some “Epic conditions for finals day.”  It was really cool!  There were HUGE waves that were mega intimidating and talented, strong surfers, each with their own special ritual before they went into the water i.e. praying on the sand, kissing the water, ect.  There was even a  professional surfer (who I had to google) named Billy Kemper. 

“Should we add surf competitions to things we don’t understand?” – I whispered to Rachel. 




Leaving no nook, cranny, or road undiscovered.



Dole plantation.  Featuring, delicious pineapple ice cream.


As we wrapped up our tour across the entire island, Rachel and I used a McDonald’s bathroom for all it was worth before spending the night, sleeping in our car, in a new neighborhood.  We found our DREAM spot to park/sleep but, two hours later, another car pulled up behind us with a VERY loud engine that they would’t turn off.  “Go away!” Rachel frantically whispers, “You’re blowing up our spot!”  After 30 minutes, with still no signs of them leaving, we found another (almost perfect) spot.  Unrelated to that car (but very related to sleeping in one), I’m fairly certain that I will never again take for granted getting up to pee in the middle of the night AND THERE BEING A TOILET (vs. holding it all night/exploding due to being in a LITERAL neighborhood with no bush for cover).  That night, I slept with some pee in my pants.


January 28th

We drove to the airport before the sun rose and we lived that lounge life.   Rachel left. (Tears emoji!) We had been counting the days until this trip was over and yet, I still felt a huge pit in my stomach when we separated.  She and I started texting almost immediatly.  

My flight was boarding in one hour.  I was that much closer to “cashing in on one months worth of snuggles.” Collin was so patient while I was off, tramping the world.  

During the 5.5 hours to Seattle (here I come!!!) I reflected on this past excursion.  I knew that I would never again take a journey for this long, away from home. [Even though, yes, I’ve been on (way) longer trips before.]  — that chapter of my life was coming to a close.  I felt SO grateful for my experiences AND for the acute awareness of its finality.

In a lighter vein, I did the math; I had deleted over 8,000 photos on my phone…making the grand total of pictures I had less than 10,000, a number I felt proud of (and, of course, has since risen).


“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect”      – Paul Theroux



To the mainland I go…



In retrospect,

New South Wales, tales

26 Jan



January 22nd

We woke up NEEDING Vietnamese food.  We walked to this:



We over ordered.


Full, we headed to the Sydney Aquarium.



Here, we finally saw some penguins.



And, a dugong!



There are only TWO dugongs in captivity in the whole world.  This one, a male, eats lettuce all day every day (’cause sea grass grows too slowly) and he receives bean sprouts as a reward. It was extra fun to watch him eat because, earlier, we had received bean sprouts with our Vietnamese food (see above).

After the aquarium, Rachel and I kept walking.  We tried to visit an Instagram cafe, but it was closing; Rae bench bartended, we popped by the casino, and then?! Met Rusty for dinner.  It was luxuries to hangout with him!  SO wonderful to catch up! AND SO MUCH FUN 🙂



Everyone say: Juan Pablo Montoya 


January 23rd
100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Raman for lunch, Jojo the Rabbit at an adorable movie theatre; I closed my West Pac bank account, it was the end of a era era era. Matt, darling Matt, picked us up and gave us a tour of his gorgeous new home.

“Say knife” – Rachel
“Knoife” — Matt


Forever friends.


There was a warehouse brewery tour, koozies from The Grifter, talk about sports, a night train to Newcastle, bench bartending on the train platform, and the hottest train ever…with not enough water.



Pour me another one, please.


When we arrived, Kelsey and Travis had a bed set up for us ❤  Never mind that it deflated a few hours later and we had to move to couch because the next night, Travis let us sleep in his air con.  Thank you, Travis!


New Castle
{Did you know that New Castle, Australia is also referred to as “The steel city”?}

January 24th

Australian Aldi (Al-dee), a chat with Collin — Kate, in Rochester, made our day better with an upgrade, a walk for Rae and I down Darby street, a complicated cold coffee that did me good, and our first introduction to LOLA, the french Bulldog.



G’day Lola!


For lunch we ate gnocchi (emphasis on the g) at the Cranker (thanks Kelsey!), followed by Bloody Mary’s, and the Beach Burrito Company for dinner. Unrelated, you wouldn’t believe how big the bats are here — they look like crows.  At dinner, there was an offer to burn incense and we couldn’t help but notice that there was an appreciation for our accents outside of major cities; “Lets trade accents when you get back from the bathroom!” – Ellie



Cheers ❤


Above: A brewery on the water hang. 

Below: The brand new/free subway with exactly 5 stops

Not pictured: Watching Hughy warm up for karaoke and a good night’s sleep with air con.



Riding the subway to no where.


January 25th
Brekkie with charcoal activated DELICIOUSNESS.


A morning beverage that was so tasty I don’t ever want to forget it.


Goodbyes to Travis, emphasis on “THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!!” 🙂

A (better) train ride back to Sydney with an airport hang…that included Matt and Priority Pass 🙂


IMG_1828 2.jpg

Hanging out anywhere that will have us.



TRIPLE J HOTTEST 100: Sitting on a Melbourne bench, with all of our earthly possessions, eating, listening to the top 10, loving on most of them, hating on number 5, and jamming out to number one; Bad Guy, by Billie Eilish. 



Possoms in the park; a possy.


That night, we slept in an expensive hostel where weren’t allowed to use the stairs, and had the worst nights sleep.

January 26th

Australia Day
Invasion Day
Send Scott an email Day (!)

We skipped the Australian Open, visited a lovely market, and headed to the airport…where we put on all of our clothes and were hot (in temperature) hunchbacks. ‘Nothing suspicious going on here, customs officer’, we were just wearing all of our clothes to avoid extra airport fees.

In Melbourne, we LIVED THAT LOUNGE LIFE!  One of the best airport lounges either of us had ever been to; including +216 worth of bonus bucks to spend (which we DID!)




And, yes, after that, we were on the plane back to America (thank god).

In road dogs we trust,