Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Susan.

Confession: I nearly forgot how to log into the admin feature on my blog in order to write a new post; it’s been that long. I’m finally at a point where I have some free time, so hello! Hope you’re doing well. Let me catch you up to speed.

The last time I managed to post was in the summer, otherwise known as the Chaos of 2019 (I mean, I just made that up right now; we didn’t actually call it that). Chris and I had decided in January that we were finally ready to say goodbye to our tiny townhouse and find a roomier, quieter place to call home! Once we got the ball rolling, the speed of that little ball accelerated quickly and well, blogging and most other things, including travel, were put on the back burner. We canceled all of the trips we had already planned and booked for the year, which I’ll admit was a bit of a bummer, but we knew it would be totally worth it in the end.

The short story is as follows. First, in February we put an offer on a super cute farmhouse in the country that we fell in love with, but we ended up losing in an all-out bidding war. In hindsight it was a blessing in disguise to lose the bid, because we realized that the house wasn’t exactly what we were looking for and that we could fulfill our requirements/wish list a little better.

Our next plan was to build a custom house from scratch on a parcel of our choosing, but the logistics turned out to be far more complex than we wanted. It was quite difficult (impossible?) to find a lot in the countryside, in our price range, and where high-speed internet is available. The plots within our budget were also eerily remote, and my wild imagination probably would have had a hard time letting me feel peaceful there.

So Chris and I turned to Plan C and set our sights on a new construction house in the country (with FiOS readily available!), but also in a neighborhood setting that would feel more familiar to those of us who might have felt a little spooked living on a large plot of land in the darkest of dark countryside. So, peace and quiet, check; internet, check; not terrifyingly remote, check.

We put an offer on a new build home in March, and immediately started getting our townhouse ready for sale by storing stuff, painting, staging, and doing minor repairs. That sentence makes it sound so easy breezy, but it was a ton of work as you know if you’ve been through this process. Plus all of the work was coupled with making selections on the new build which always sounded fun, but turned out to be a little stressful. I might actually write a separate post about the whole new construction process in case it’s helpful to anyone about to go through the same thing.

Our townhouse went on the market in late April, and we accepted an offer after only five days! That offer actually ended up falling through, womp womp, but once we were back on the market we had another offer within a week and the rest of the sale was smooth sailing. Again, that all sounds simple and tidy, but I sincerely hope we don’t have to do the home sale thing for a long, long time because the process was both physically and mentally exhausting.

I said I’d make this story short, but my word count keeps increasing. I’ll try to wrap it up!

The buyer wanted to move into our townhouse in mid-June, but our new home wouldn’t be ready until end of July, so Chris and I put all of our furniture and belongings into storage and we spent 47 nights in a hotel. We had offers from sweet friends to host us, though in the end the easiest thing was to live the #hotellife for a few weeks. It went by at a snail’s pace, but we got through it and it was all so worth it – we absolutely love our new house.

We have peace and quiet and gorgeous views, plus more room in the house than we know what to do with. I have the kitchen and hardwood floors of my dreams, a laundry room with a window, and other weird things you apparently want when you’re an adult. (Though we also have room for a pool table and a place to play video games because we’re both still big kids.) We’re enjoying the settling and decorating process, and our plan for 2020 is to get back to traveling again which, of course, I’m super jazzed about!

So if you’re here for the travel talk, I assure you there’s more of that on the way. If you want to hear more about the new house and future projects, I’ll probably rattle on about that, too! I’m hoping to eventually get back into the blogging swing of things now that we are unpacked and staying put, so please stay tuned!

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  • Pam Spry - Love your new house and hoping you’ll post more pictures!ReplyCancel

    • Susan - Thank you so much, Pam! It’s starting to look a little more put together, so I will definitely share more photos soon!

  • Sam - So glad you wrote all of this out.  What a treasure to look back later and remember these details.  Hooray that everything fell into place – with some good luck and a lot of hard work and sacrifice!ReplyCancel

Mountains, Festivals, and Elephants in Chiang Mai (Oh My!)

After a few days in the Big Mango, Chris and I headed north to Chiang Mai to add mountains, festivals, and elephants to our Thailand experience. We arrived to find the city decorated from end-to-end in preparation for the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng celebrations, which was the entire reason we planned this trip in November during the full moon when these festivals take place.

On our first full day, we took a road trip up into the mountains and split the morning at two sites: first, the Hmong tribe hillside village, followed by a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Hmong village sits high on a hill above Chiang Mai and offers a peek into the tribe culture via a small museum, lush gardens, and a long pathway of shops selling handmade wares. We enjoyed exploring there and found a lovely spot for a cup of locally grown coffee…as in, it was sourced right there in the mountains! The Hmong people that settled here previously farmed opium poppies until the Thai government intervened and encouraged the tribe to farm other wares such as coffee beans.

After our village visit we ascended upon the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple and I wondered if we should have switched the order of our itinerary that day. Not only was the famous wat overwhelmingly crowded, we missed out on the cooler morning temperatures and found ourselves rushing through the gold-covered pagodas and shrines just to escape the heat. Have I mentioned here before how I don’t do well in extreme heat and crowds? The temple is so beautiful though, and I would still include it on a Chiang Mai must-see list with the strong recommendation to go as soon as the doors open!

We returned to the city in time for lunch and decided to eat at a women’s prison, as you do. The Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution Vocational Training Center rehabilitates inmates for reintegration back into society. The women learn skills in traditional Thai massage, as well as run the adjacent restaurant where Chris and I enjoyed two variations of Pad Thai – one is the more familiar style we see at home in the States, and the other is when the dish is enveloped in a thin, crepe-like egg wrap. Both delicious.

We also tried the signature dish of Chiang Mai, khao soi, but I (please don’t throw rocks at me) wasn’t a huuuge fan. We tried it again later in the week and I still couldn’t get on board, but I’m glad we at least tried it. Exploring new foods has become one of our very favorite parts of travel whether we actually like every dish or not!

And then as if our day wasn’t satisfying enough already, we finished with a truly magical private festival reception at our hotel resort (stay tuned for more about our Thailand accommodations in a future post). We got a little dolled up and dined under the stars accompanied by thousands of lanterns gently floating overhead. To partake in both the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng traditions, we each lit and launched our own krathongs and lanterns from the peaceful banks of the Mae Ping River.

I’m not sure what else could top that night, except I DO KNOW BECAUSE IT’S ELEPHANTS.

We spent the next day about an hour north of Chiang Mai at Elephant Nature Park! A whole park of elephants. So many elephants. And you get to interact with them and feed them and care for them and hear their stories and it’s amazing. In fact, here are a few of my favorite images from that day, but I think I’ll write a separate post solely about ENP (background info, logistics, what to expect, etc.) because we had such a fantastic experience and took one billion photos.

On our last full day in Chiang Mai, Chris and I spent our remaining time getting hour-long traditional Thai massages (for $6!), patronizing our favorite cafe one last time, shopping, and then scoping out the night markets for souvenirs and street food. As you scroll through the photos below, note that we chose to eat mango sticky rice rather than grasshoppers and crickets, and I’m thankful for that decision.

And that wraps up our time in the north! If Chris and I ever have the opportunity to return to Thailand, we will undoubtedly spend time in Chiang Mai again. I can easily understand now why it has become a backpacker favorite in the Southeast Asia region – we found a little bit of everything here, and the size of the city felt significantly more manageable compared to Bangkok. I would have loved to stay longer, but next up on our itinerary was a bit of island hopping around the Andaman Sea!

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Three Nights in Bangkok

…and the world’s your oyster.

Oh, wow. I am months behind on blogging our trip to Thailand and Cambodia! I blinked, and one quarter of 2019 flew by in an instant, so here we are in April and Chris and I are busier than ever. Before all of the trip details become a blissful blur, I should definitely get a post written even if it has to be a short and sweet photo essay of sorts.

I heard advice from many travelers that a trip to Thailand without at least some time in Bankgok is incomplete, so we spent the first three nights of our itinerary in the Big Mango. I don’t know what would have felt like enough time to really get to know the action-packed Thai capital, but three nights definitely wasn’t it. We successfully hit some big highlights though including several of the must-see temples, a food tour (my favorite way to get to know a city), the flower market, a floating market, and some Muay Thai boxing.

The frenetic feel of the city overcame us the minute we arrived and Bangkok kept the same intensity throughout our stay, day and night, but the calm oasis of our hotel helped soothe us weary travelers after each day of exploring. And they had such an amazing breakfast spread. If we ever have the opportunity to return someday, I’d stay there again in a heartbeat.

We managed to try just about every mode of transportation – tuk tuk, BTS skytrain, MRT subway, longtail boat, and Chao Phraya River Express Boat. Bangkok is about as sprawling as a large metropolitan area can get, but their public transport system is impressive and was fairly easy for us to navigate. I feel like we were able to cover quite a lot of ground during our short stay.

And now, because a slew of pictures is worth more than a few hundred words (and because I think this will be the quickest way for me to get caught up on posts), here are some of our favorite images from our favorite moments in Bangkok.

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2018 in Review

Exactly how late is too late to wish someone a Happy New Year? I feel like the first two weeks of January are fair game, but today might be at or past the point in time where we all just need to move on with it. In any case, I do hope your 2019 is going well and that your resolutions are holding strong, or that you have gleefully dismissed them altogether in favor of something more fun.

I’m looking back on 2018 with a fondness of mainly travel memories and items crossed off of the ol’ bucket list. Chris and I added three new countries to our tally and revisited a couple of favorites. We found ourselves in Honduras, St. John, Scotland, Thailand, Cambodia, and Colorado (plus day trips around the DC/MD/VA area and into West Virginia as well). We cheered as our beloved Washington Capitals skated their way through the playoffs and went on to win the Stanley Cup! Our love for live music was fulfilled by attending several concerts including The Killers, Matt & Kim, The Smashing Pumpkins, 311, and CHVRCHES. We celebrated with friends as they exchanged wedding vows on a beautiful day in August, we celebrated our own 11-year wedding anniversary picnic-style in one of our favorite parks, and we celebrated the holiday season with family (and breweries).

I’ve now sat here for five minutes trying to remember any major lowlights of 2018, but oddly enough I’m not coming up with any! I asked Chris, and he can’t recall anything either. Cheers to that, and I hope you and yours have a lowlight-free 2019!


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Photo Friday – Lantern Festival

I can’t wait to write more about our trip to Thailand (and Cambodia!), but just haven’t carved the time out to do so yet. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite images of the trip. The Yee Peng (or Yi Peng) Festival is the reason we scheduled our travels in November, and it did not disappoint! More soon.

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