The Ultimate To-Do List

Picture is actually from 2014 NYE, but it seemed fitting here!

Picture is actually from 2014 NYE, but it seemed fitting here!

I’m not writing down New Year’s Resolutions this year.

I’ve decided – instead – to create a list that puts all my other to-do lists to shame: This is my combined “30 before 30/Cville Bucket List/Farewell America Tour.”

These upcoming milestones inspired my list:

May 17, 2015 – After two years, my husband Michal graduates with his MBA from Darden. I end my time working at the Women’s Center at U.Va. We leave Charlottesville, our home for the past two years and say farewell to our friends.

August 1, 2015 – We move to Seoul, South Korea! At the end of December 2014, Michal accepted a job offer. We had other options, but we decided to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as we’ll probably only be abroad for around three years.

September 16, 2015 – I officially say goodbye to my 20s. This last milestone isn’t as life-changing, but it’s still a significant moment to celebrate!

Based on the above, I brainstormed the following. (Disclaimer: Some of these items are less exciting than others, but I’ve included them in here because they’re either activities I’ve wanted to do for a while – or I just need to do them anyway before we move.)

Before leaving Cville:

  1. Visit all the breweries on Cville’s Brew Ridge Trail.
  2. Check out the hot springs in Bath County.
  3. Use my education benefit from U.Va. to take a class. -> Signed up for PR classes this semester
  4. Go cross-country skiing or snow tubing.
  5. Visit a cidery and meadery and do tastings.
  6. Go to a First Friday.
  7. Try out the remainder of restaurants I’ve bookmarked on Yelp for Charlottesville.

 Before leaving U.S.:

  1. Do a cross-country road trip.
  2. Hike national parks that Michal visited as a child.
  3. Go back-country camping.
  4. Go rock-climbing outdoors.
  5. Finish our wedding scrapbook. -> We’ll be celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary this year! So it’s about time I complete it!
  6. Finish my Chicago scrapbook. -> After two years of moving away from the area, I at least have all the photos printed.
  7. Finish the Cville photo book. -> My close friends through the DPA and I have started to pool all our photos together from the past two years into a Shutterfly account. This one is actually the closest to being done!
  8. Cook a meal for my mother-in-law.
  9. Update my resume and LinkedIn profile -> Apply for jobs!
  10. Sew a T-shirt quilt. -> I have a box of shirts I’ve been collecting to make one – probably more – of these.
  11. Go to one last Yelp Elite event.
  12. Try workouts I normally would never do because of their intensity, such as CrossFit or a BootCamp.
  13. Try a mashup workout like Piloxing or Aqua Spinning.
  14. Grow my hair out really long, then cut it all off and donate it to Locks of Love.
  15. Find another TV series that Michal and I can enjoy together, and marathon-watch it from beginning to end. (The Wire is really the only show that we’ve ever both enjoyed watching together on a regular basis.)
  16. Sell/donate/throw out all of our belongings.

Before turning 30:

  1. Learn a new language. -> It’s going to be Korean.
  2. Complete this Book Bingo. (Thanks for the inspiration, Esther and Maddie!)
  3. Go scuba-diving or snorkeling.
  4. Keep up with daily devotional reading.
  5. Research a charity whose cause Michal and I are both passionate about and make a pledge.
  6. Try cooking one new recipe a week.
  7. Visit the Philippines with my parents, brother and Michal.

Want to join me on doing any of the above? Or got a suggestion for me to add to the list?

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Looking back at London during a Darden GFE

One of the best pieces of advice that I could pass on to incoming Darden partners:

When your significant other/student goes on a “Study Abroad” type of experience through Darden, (Global Business Experience, Global Field Experience, a club-sponsored conference, an exchange program, etc.), consider taking the opportunity (if your schedule and finances align) to join him or her for a time – either before it starts, after it ends, and/or during part of the time the trip takes place if possible.

I joined my husband Michal during his GFE last semester, and I couldn’t have been more grateful.

At the end of spring semester of Michal’s first year at Darden, back in May, I couldn’t join Michal during his Israel GBE because it would have been too expensive for both of us to travel there, and his overall schedule did not allow much free time for us to be together anyway. It should be noted that the Israel GBE was an incredible opportunity for Michal, as it included a mix of cultural, business and classroom settings. Read more about Michal’s Israel GBE class here.

At the beginning of fall semester of Michal’s second year at Darden, back in August, Michal applied to more of these types of courses. One in particular stood out: a GFE in London and South Africa that was a consulting project for a Nigerian-based company. The trip occurred partially during Thanksgiving Break, and the company provided a travel stipend for Darden students in exchange for their work. With the ease of some of the financial burden of the trip and the timing during a period I would have been given holiday off of work any way, I couldn’t help but join Michal on his second global experience with Darden.

Michal and I decided to arrive a few days in the UK before he started working in London so that we could spend some time with mutual friends in Cambridge. We found an incredible Airbnb deal that included daily homemade breakfast with a friendly French expat family, and a location on the same block as some of the most popular pubs in town. (We frequented the Elm Tree, for its wide selection of rare Belgian beers.)

Michal and I enjoyed being able to walk everywhere: We toured all the well-known colleges of Cambridge – Trinity, St. John’s and King’s College. We punted down the River Cam so we could get a view of the Backs, and we even attended a choir concert at King’s College Chapel. Almost every moment felt like I was on the set of a Harry Potter movie.

Cambridge

After our jaunt in this quaint university town, we jumped into big city life in London with zest. We stayed at a little townhome-turned-hotel in the South Kensington neighborhood near Imperial College, where Michal would spend his time during office hours on his consulting project. While he worked all day, I visited nearby museums.

Our British friends, who we met back at Darden, recommended all the best restaurants and nightlife in London, along with provided some tips on how to maneuver through all the tourist traps. Of course, we ended up in the rain in front of Buckingham Palace and saw the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.

However, out of all the historic and famous places we visited in the city, my favorite memory with Michal in London was at the end of a long day of sightseeing. At night, we shared a bottle of wine in a dark cavern of London’s oldest wine bar, Gordon’s. Afterward, we walked nearby Embankment Bridge and took in the city and Christmas lights. (Side note: I absolutely adored London’s festive approach to Advent! We went to tons of Christmas markets/festivals, where I found the best Christmas jumper with Olaf from Frozen on it.)

London

Michal ended up going on to the South Africa leg of the trip without me, while I spent a little more time on London on my own before making my way back to the U.S., as it was cheaper to do a round ticket for me. Until that point, I had never explored a foreign city or traveled that much on my own. In total, I spent about a week in London, with the majority of the time by myself.

I’m so glad I took the chance of joining Michal on this experience because this adventure was like the Study Abroad that I ended up never doing while I was in undergrad.

Serene swimming options

My ideal vacation always includes a beach. I love the warmth of the sun, bare feet and the rushing sound of water. In the past month, I’ve found a few new places to swim other than the usual Virginia Beach.

Sandbridge Beach

When my family from Michigan visited me, we made the three-hour drive to reunite with my dad’s aunts and uncles who live in Virginia Beach. Based off of suggestions from my co-workers, we tried out Sandbridge Beach.

My family and I were so happy to find it a lot less crowded and a lot more clean – and just 10 or so minutes away from the beach all the tourists visit. I enjoyed not bumping into people as I was playing in the waves and having plenty of room to spread out on the sand.

And during an impromptu trip to Richmond, my friend and I discovered the James River at Belle Isle Park is another area to swim. It’s a very different experience than being at the shore of a lake or ocean, but equally as scenic and a much closer drive (one hour away).

Belle Isle Park

There are lots of large flat rocks on which people will set up blankets, towels and even folding tables for picnics and sunbathing. In the more still and shallow part of the river, little children will swim.

In the more rapid portion, we saw adults who were more daring with rafting and kayaking. We spotted one couple on a more peaceful part of the river, who sat on some rocks, partially submerged in the water, with the river current flowing over and past them.

We weren’t prepared for this outing as we didn’t know what to expect, so we sat near the edge – our feet in the water. I hope to return with a swimsuit next time I’m in town.

 

I’m still curious about Virginia’s swimming holes. Any suggestions on which are the best, or are there other nearby (not too crowded) places to swim?

 

Three’s a Charm: Our anniversary in Detroit

Detroit Anniversary Date

Michal and I celebrated our three-year wedding anniversary while I was in town last month. In honor of the big occasion, along with the fact that Michal is interning this summer in our hometown area, we decided to do it big in Detroit.

There happened to be two restaurants opening on the same day we went out on the town, so we just had to try both – drinks and an app at one, and then a more developed dinner at the other. Both Wright & Co. and Antietam treated us well. We especially enjoyed our multiple-course meal at Antietam, with our (bonus!) complimentary champagne. These restaurants definitely represent the resurgence of Detroit’s bygone era, as they were set in restored buildings that were once left abandoned. Check out more details of what we thought of each restaurant on my Yelp review page.

Afterward, we revisited the Detroit Riverfront, an area I remember fondly from childhood, most vividly during the fireworks show of the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival (now non-existent, as it has split into two different events). Michal recently was there when his mother’s artwork was on display during River Days, but it felt all new to me, as much renovation has taken place in the past few years. We giddily ran through the water fountain with all the kiddies and then strolled lazily through the garden and marsh area of Milliken State Park.

All in all, the evening was truly a celebration both of our marriage and of the revitalized city that we will (hopefully) return to after graduation from Darden.

Missing Michigan

Last week, I enjoyed the perks of Michal’s summer internship location in Dearborn, MI.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The Detroit suburb may not be as glamorous or appealing of an area to visit during the summer like Cali or NYC, but we were excited to simply be close to people we’ve missed while living in Cville and Chicago. In the week I visited Michal, I was grateful to be able to witness almost every type of life-changing moment within our circle of friends and family:

  • Helping Michal move into his apartment before he started his new job
  • Co-hosting a baby shower/going-away party
  • Dancing the night away at a wedding with friends from undergrad
  • Surprising a friend on her 30th birthday
  • Celebrating the engagement of one of Michal’s former college roommates
  • Visiting friends who just had their first baby
  • Checking out my parents’ and Michal’s sister’s newly renovated homes, as well as my cousin’s recently purchased home
MichiganVisit

Highlights from my visit to Michigan

In a stage in which there is so much transition and uncertainty, it is so reassuring to know some parts of life can still remain the same and that we can always “come home.” I’m looking forward to my next visit to obviously see my husband, but to also spend more time with all of our loved ones.

Not to mention, Michigan is best experienced in the summertime. (HINT: A topic for a later blog post.)

I appreciate any tips on how to answer the question: “Why come back to Michigan?”

 

Spring Break – Part 1: Road trip in the South

In an effort to save some cash (and some of my vacation days from work), Michal and I passed on the big group, tropical getaways and kept it a little closer to home. For five days, we did a road trip to the Old South, visiting Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. We absolutely loved the warm weather, romantic scenery and gourmet comfort food. Below are highlights of this trip, but also check out our staycation in Cville!

Phenomenal food

Out of all priorities we have when traveling, dining is definitely #1. Michal and I always look for unique, cultural experiences from divey take-out stands to fancier sit-down meals. We love all types of cuisine but like to focus our efforts on seeking out places that make dishes and drinks we ourselves couldn’t make or easily get at home. In Charleston and Savannah, we had our fill of fresh seafood, pork products and bourbon-based cocktails.

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Splurge that was worth it: The Olde Pink House in Savannah

The ultimate traditional Southern experience: Servers were helpful and friendly, inviting us to tour themed rooms in the historic house-turned-restaurant that Thomas Jefferson helped to design. We enjoyed a feast that included classics like pecan-crusted chicken and scored flounder.

Best meal deal: Vickery’s Oyster Roast in Mount Pleasant, near Charleston

We hadn’t even planned on visiting this restaurant until a co-worker suggested it to me. So glad we didn’t miss out! For just $12, we got a ginormous bucket of fresh, steamed oysters. Not to mention, the views on the creek and marsh where the oysters originate, steps from the restaurant = priceless.

For full reviews of these restaurants and other establishments that we visited, check out my Yelp page.

Scenic strolls 

Hiking is our favorite pastime, as evidenced by my other blog entries. With this region, we more so experienced relaxing strolls through city and country life. Our favorite walks were through Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston and Tybee Island Beach near Savannah.

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Gardens: Expansive and breath-taking, especially with all the Spanish moss on the trees, bamboo forests and mazes of flowers. We took in a variety of picturesque views around every corner.

Beach: Very well-maintained, with clean, soft sand – perfect for walking barefoot. If we ever needed to take a break, we could grab a seat on the many swings lining the shore. Bonus water time: We rented a room in a house through Airbnb that had a convenient location next to a boat launch so we could easily use the homeowner’s kayaks!

This road trip is definitely one of our most memorable, and we hope to do more in this region as we’re here for only one more year! I’ve gotten suggestions for Asheville, NC, the Outer Banks and the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

What are other cities or places in the South that we should visit?

The Never-ending Hike

DragonHike

All the twists and turns, peaks and valleys of my favorite hike this summer left me feeling exhausted yet accomplished – much like most significant experiences in life.

My husband and I experienced several peaks and valleys before getting to Darden.

When we stopped working at the end of May, we wanted to travel before our big move from the Midwest to the South. I had just completed my sixth consecutive year of teaching high school English and journalism, so I relished summer break. It meant even more to me this year because Michal rarely ever had the same vacation time as me while working.

For approximately two months, we traveled in the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Our U.S. trip consisted of visiting friends in NorCal and SoCal and meeting family in Boulder, Co. On the other hand, our Southeast Asia trek encompassed completely new adventures on our own in Singapore, three regions of Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong.

Through our travels, we had common activities. We immediately sought out where the locals eat and drink for an authentic meal. (Can you expect less with two Yelp Elites like us?) We would visit historical landmarks highly rated in travel guides. And we always found a way to set out on some sort of a hike.

We traversed near the Hollywood Hills and within the Red Woods in Cali, we scaled the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado, we took romantic walks on the beach in Thailand, we immersed ourselves in the city life of Singapore, we got lost in the temples of Cambodia, and we ultimately climbed Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong upon recommendation from a fellow Darden FY.

Out of all our hikes, I most remember Dragon’s Back for the experience and the views.  It wasn’t like our other hikes in which we eventually reached the top or the destination within a couple hours, properly celebrated our journey with a few photos and then immediately went back. This hike lasted all day and into the night. It was true to its title, containing several peaks and valleys to simulate the back of a dragon. Each peak provided a different perspective. Distances between each peak were varied. And when we thought we were “done,” we ended up continuing on other trails that were linked.

Our memorable day of hiking in Hong Kong reminded me much of what our journey has been like since graduating from Michigan State University six years ago, where my husband and I met. I especially experienced those “valleys” of exhaustion in my first few years as a teacher, those “peaks” of my tenure when I was most proud of my students as I saw them grow and improve, and those uncertain moments of trekking through life when I wasn’t sure if I could continue on this “path.”

Now that I have left Chicagoland, and the profession of teaching, at least for these two years in Charlottesville, VA, I feel like I am beginning a new hike like that day in Hong Kong. I am not exactly sure yet what I will be doing while my husband is at Darden, but I can trust that there will be a peak in my near future because I will keep going until I find that next view.