Travel Month: August 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Travel

 

This was a very quiet month on the travel front. We spent August settling back into our Lithuanian life, spent time with friends, and enjoyed just being. Sprinkled amidst the unusually chilly and rainy August weather, we've had a few nice days, which we spent checking out new cafes and restaurants (I really need to do a post soon!), visiting Vingis Park, and cooking with friends.
We took a wonderfully fun day-trip out of Vilnius to visit our friends' sodyba, or country cottage. On a very sunny Saturday morning, we drove the hour and a half northeast to the lakes district (Utena) and spent the day barbecuing, picking apples, shooting a bow and arrow, watching the kids play, and lounging in the grass. It was absolutely perfect.



Personal

 

It feels really nice to be back in Vilnius and to be starting a new routine for the coming school year. Now that Baby ISO is finally sleeping through the night (most of the time), I'm able to stay up a bit late to read. It is absolutely wonderful, and I've finally caught up with my GoodReads reading goal (I'm on track). If you have any book recommendations, share them below!




Freelancing

 

 I've been working secretly (until recently) and quietly on launching my own academic editing and guidance service. The website is launching on September 1! I'll add a link here when it is up and I'd really appreciate it if you share with your friends! I'm really excited to have a separate webpage to offer services and to be able to find and build a relationship with my own clients. I'm also happily continuing working with the several editing/travel businesses that I'm currently working for. 

Hopefully I'll find a nice rhythm this fall of writing/editing/travel/family time. If you have any tips about balancing working while traveling, I'd love to hear them.
This month I've also had three articles published on Trip101. It is such fun writing for them and I always really like the way the article comes out. Please feel free to check out the links below:





Coming Next Month

 

I'm excited for the content coming on In Search Of in September. I've got a guide to Cape May (hopefully with a video!) and a post about Lithuanian botanical culture in the works. Stay tuned :)

How was your month? What are you looking forward to in September? Do you work when you travel?

Awesome Street Art in Richmond, VA

Friday, August 26, 2016

Other than the food, street art was a major highlight of my visit to Richmond, Virginia. There were really two hot spots for seeing street art in Richmond: Uptown and the Canal Walk. Just strolling along West Main street in Uptown, we saw numerous pieces of gorgeous street art adorning many corner buildings. In the Canal Walk, there was a huge gallery displaying giant works of street art.

While we were visiting Richmond, local artists were also creating street art to increase awareness surrounding dumping things into sewers that may drain directly into the James River. While I didn't get any photos of those pieces, I found them incredibly informative, while still being eye-catching. What a great combination and mission!
































The smoking brain and woman in a strawberry jam jar were my favorite pieces. What are yours? Would you like to live in a house or apartment adorned with a gorgeous mural? I certainly would!

First Impressions Of Richmond, Virginia

Monday, August 22, 2016

I wanted to love Richmond, Virginia. Before visiting, I read numerous stories raving about the city and J and I even considered it as a potential place to live when/if we move back to the US. So, we counted this visit to Richmond as a reconnaissance visit. A visit to a city we've never been to to see if we could picture ourselves living there. And we did like it, we really did. But honestly, I'm not sure it is still on our "we could live there" list -- in fact, we are being quite picky and feel so excited that we are able to do this.

Over the next few posts, I'm going to share more details about our trip (including one of the highlights -- the amazing restaurants), but in this post, I thought I'd write more about my first impressions of this capital city.

Where is everyone?


The number one thing that J and I kept asking each other about Richmond was where is everyone. Sure it was HOT outside and we visited during the week, but still expected to see people walking around. The park in the Riverfront district was deserted, nobody was walking around downtown, and we only spotted a few people near Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and they were clearly playing Pokemon Go.



The food is great

 

As I mentioned above (and will write more about later), the food in Richmond was excellent and was one of the highlights of our visit. Everywhere we ate was simply delicious.




Wow, it is spread out

 

So, maybe Richmond isn't as walkable as I first thought (and really hoped). Though not huge, the neighborhoods all seemed very spread out, so much so that it felt as though we walked for hours to get from one place to another.




Awesome real estate

 

One of the things we are looking for in a place is real estate that is much more affordable than CT, NY, and MA. From what we saw online, you really get some bang for your buck in Richmond. And the many houses that we strolled by were very cute.



The first decent cappuccino I've had in the US

 

This is me being a coffee snob and completely spoiled by the awesome coffee scene in Europe. From what I've sampled, many cafes in the US have not quite learned the art of heating/frothing the milk to the right temperature. I was super pleased to find a cafe in Richmond that had not only a nice cappuccino, but a delicious espresso.



No playgrounds?

 

We searched and searched for a playground to bring Baby ISO to, but were completely unsuccessful. I'm guessing we weren't looking in the right places. Any suggestions for next time?

The VCU campus is awesome! 

 

We stayed in an Airbnb near the VCU campus, so we had ample time to explore some of the grounds and surrounding restaurants. It was a really nice (and spread out) campus with some gorgeous buildings. I would have loved to sneak into the science buildings to check out the facilities. Had I planned ahead enough, I should have emailed a professor!




Have you been to Richmond? Where have I gone completely wrong with this list?

I'm linking up with Wander Mum for City Tripping.

11 Ideas To Feel At Home As An Expat

Friday, August 19, 2016



With the new school year starting soon, and us settling into our fourth year in Vilnius, I've been thinking a lot about being an expat. I thought that you may also be embarking on your first experience abroad, or maybe you're moving to a new city. So, I decided that I'd share a few ideas to make your adopted city feel more like home.

Settling in as a new expat can be difficult and tiring but if you employ even a few of the ideas on the list below, I bet that you'll start feeling more comfortable very quickly. I even think this list would help if you are moving to a new city or moving back home! For me, Vilnius didn't start feeling like home until sometime in year two, and thinking about it, by that time, I could have checked off 6 items on the below list. By the start of year 4, I can happily check off 10 (number 11 doesn't apply to me at this stage of my life -- but we do have a cat!).

1) Hang art on your walls


I know, I know, you are likely in a rental, but hanging at least a few photographs or pieces of art will help you to feel more at home. To avoid making holes in the wall (and to not have to purchase tools!), buy wall tacky. It will come off easily and won't leave any marks when you move out.

2) Decorate


Accumulating stuff is exactly what an expat avoids, but being able to add a little of yourself into your apartment really helps to make it feel like home. We've just added a table cloth and a couple of cloth toy bins to our apartment and it has really increased its coziness.

3) Get discount or member cards at favorite grocery stores


We didn't do this for the longest time! No idea why as it is free. Now we finally get discounts and points.

4) Make local friends


Ok, this one is easier said than done, but meeting someone local can open up a whole new view of your expat home. I've found that you can meet people through blogging, local Facebook groups, classes (like pottery), at cafes, and more. 

5) Get a library card


Getting a library card was the first thing on this list that I did. Now I have three library cards: one for the public library, one for a private art library, and one for the university library. This is really essential if you want to save money on purchasing books or if you are a freelancer looking for a quiet space to work.

6) Become involved


Many cities have expat clubs and international women's groups, which you can find online. Other events can generally be found on social media or tourism board websites. For example, here in Vilnius, there is a community clean up that takes place each year around Earth Day. I'm going to make sure I participate in 2017.

This is really the point that I'm really going to work on this year. 

7) Learn the language

 

I've really failed on this one this time around, but learning the language can be very rewarding and open up other avenues for meeting people and becoming involved. When I lived in China, it was essential for me to speak Chinese. My time there would have been extraordinarily different had I not learned the language.

8) Shop and cook local

 

It is a bit of a pet peeve of mine when I speak with other expats or travelers who ONLY eat food from their home country. Sure, I sometimes miss my favorite dishes from home, and I've been known to hit the import store on occasion, but I've met people who won't even try the famous local dish (it's fine if you don't like it, but you've got to try it at least once). So much about a place is in its food.


9) Join local Facebook groups or mailing lists to learn what's going on

 

Social media, particularly Facebook, is a great way to see if anything cool is happening near you. For example, in Vilnius, I've joined Vilnius Expats, Vilnius Area Online Yard Sale, and Play Group in Vilnius (just search them on Facebook if you'd like to join). Additionally, I follow my favorite restaurants and cafes as they frequently post events. I also send out a monthly newsletter where I share events happening in Vilnius, so feel free to subscribe!

10) Start a garden or grow a plant

 

I've been wanting to have a small herb garden for a while now, but every time we travel, our plants die. I've now resorted to planting a few Crassula (a genus of succulents) that will hopefully survive our travels.
 

11) Get a roommate

 

This isn't a practical option for me at this point in my life, but when I lived in China, I had up to four local roommates. And it was awesome. They showed me the best restaurants for noodles and Thai food, as well as woke me up at the crack of dawn for karaoke birthday parties.

In Vilnius, instead of a roommate, we have a cat!



What do you do to feel at home in your adopted country? What point are you focusing on this year?

3 Things To Do In Westerly, Rhode Island

Monday, August 15, 2016



Near the border shared between Connecticut and Rhode Island, you'll find the small city of Westerly, Rhode Island. For a break from the beaches at Misquamicut or Watch Hill, head to downtown Westerly -- this is exactly what we did on a dreary summer afternoon during our visit home in CT. With a plan to meet some friends for craft beer and pretzels, we arrived early to check out what else Westerly has to offer.






1) Savoy Bookshop and Cafe 

 

I always love a great bookstore, so I made a mental note of Savoy when I read about it over the winter. The newly opened Savoy Bookshop and Cafe shares owners with Bank Street Books in downtown Mystic, CT, which is my favorite locally owned bookstore; therefore, I knew Savoy would also be great.

Savoy Bookshop and Cafe features a two-floor space full of best-sellers, books by local authors, travel memoirs, and gifts. Several of the books feature notes with reviews from the staff. Downstairs, is a fun children's section packed with activity books and stories and a small play area. On their packed events schedule, expect to see book launches, readings, and signings -- check their Facebook page for the schedule.

The cutest little detail I noticed at Savoy was a tiny fairy door, where kids (and probably adults as well) leave notes. What a cute idea and what a lucky fairy to live in such a great bookstore!






2) Malted Barley


I suspect the Malted Barley is a hopping bar at night because of its very sticky floors and dim lighting, but in the afternoon, it is a calm spot for locally brewed beers and freshly made pretzels. J and I shared a flight of beers from their extensive menu (though they were out of several we wanted to try). When our friends arrived, they suggested trying their pretzels, so I ordered an asiago cheese pretzel with an apricot dipping sauce, which was really tasty. Surprisingly, Malted Barley also offers gluten-free vegan pretzels, hence why our friends suggested this spot!

*Sorry for the dodgy photos from Malted Barley. My camera decided to bite the dust while in Westerly!









3) Wandering and Window Shopping


When I was a kid, I used to visit Westerly pretty frequently in the summer. Just wandering around the downtown during this trip, I saw numerous new shops, restaurants, and businesses, so it appears that Westerly is up-and-coming after several years of neglect. The cute Christina boutique, which stocks bohemian clothing and home items, is just one piece of evidence supporting this.

Also around Westerly, you can paint your own pottery at Get Fired Up -- I've been here several times and it is always fun, especially with kids. If you time your visit right, you can enjoy Shakespeare in the Park performed by Colonial Theater. I used to look forward to these outdoors plays each year when I was younger, so if you are in Westerly at the right time, I'd suggest attending!





Have you visited Westerly, RI before? Don't pretzels and beer go perfectly together?