A Year of Travel

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It comes as a surprise to no one who knows me that this year seemed to be defined by how much I traveled.  In fact, you might be sick of hearing me talk about it.  Too bad.  You can stop reading.  I think this might be the first year that I've finally stopped listening to or worrying about the people who say "oh my god! you're so busy! you're always doing something!" Yes, this is true. I've stopped defending it. This is my life. I've had some amazing opportunities and I've been blessed with friends across the country and have finally figured out how to budget my money to allow me to do much of it. While I love staying at home and nesting and recharging, I want to embrace my ability to see as much as I can while I have the ability to do so. 

Here's a quick run-down of this year of travel:



The first trip of the year was to Houston, for a meeting with my fraternity board.  These are not restful trips - from the moment we land to the moment we leave, we are talking shop the entire time, including time I would typically be sleeping.  Thank god these are some of my best friends.  We got a brief reprieve from business to visit the caverns at Buffalo Bayou - I can't imagine these fared well after Harvey this August. 


February was full of friends and family.  First, up to New Jersey to see my sister-in-law's new house and visit Batsto Historic Village in the Jersey Pine Barrens. Next a day trip with my best friend Cait to a winery in Virginia for some girl time and a quick but fun photo shoot in the rain.  Finally to Pittsburgh to see my family where we explored some architectural salvage shops.


March took me back to Houston with Todd for AJ and Joel's wedding.  We got there Saturday morning and left Sunday night but I'll take any time we can get with those we love.  Two weeks later I left for Portland, OR.  The APX convention was there this year so I took the opportunity to visit with one of my longest friends, Karen, who lives just across the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA.  I had some time to hand out with her and Zach and go snowshoeing around Mt Hood on a STUNNINGLY beautiful day, then some time to myself to explore Portland, Multnomah Falls and Hood River.  The last third of the trip was back with my APX brothers for business and some fun in Portland.


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In April we went back to New Jersey for Easter, then I spent a weekend in Wilmington, DE for a landscape conference.  The month ended with a trip to State College for the LARCH banquet where we celebrated the retirement of two legends of the Penn State Landscape Architecture department and attempted to celebrate my class's 10 year reunion.  Only 6 of about 30 of us were able to make it up, but we still had a great time visiting the Penn State Arboretum and having a few drinks around town.  


May meant NEPHEW TIME!! Carter Thomas was born early in the month so back to New Jersey we went.  A quick trip to PA for a wedding and a visit to Pittsburgh by myself at the end of the month.  On the way home on Memorial Day, I decided to finally stop by the Flight 93 Memorial in Shankstown, PA, just off the PA turnpike near Somerset.  I really don't have words to describe how emotional the visit was.  The bravery and sacrifice and pain of those passengers and their families.  A beautiful place for their souls to rest.



In June we went up to PA to go camping at Gifford Pinchot State Park and hike and relax around the lake.  I don't sleep well in a tent anymore, but I enjoyed having some time in nature, even if there were others around us, and the time to start and finish Ann Patchett's Commonwealth. Next we headed to Virginia wine country for another great wedding.  I really didn't know many people so I was a little apprehensive at first, but luckily we met some great people (Penn Staters!) and danced the night away. Finally I headed to Chicago to meet my GC for our summer meeting - our house had a view of the Chicago skyline. I got mildly lost on a morning run and ate some great vegan food in Boystown, all decorated for Pride Week. Unfortunately, I drank a wee bit too much whiskey the first night and spend the rest of the weekend paying for it physically.


What?? No travel?? I had surgery the last days of June, so used that as an excuse to stay put and recover for the rest of the month.  


After a month of rest, or at least staying within state boundaries, travel hit full on in August for the next 4 months.  Started with a visit back to New Jersey, then down to Cincinnati, then ending in Utah.  My friend Kelly lives in Cincinnati and we wandered the UC campus, visited a working farm and went hiking in Indiana.  Lots of talking, lots of wine, and lots of adventures.  Then home for a few days and back on a plane to Salt Lake City to work with our Regional Directors in Park City, Utah.  I was able to build in a bit of extra time again and went hiking in the Wasatch Forest, saw Joan Osborne in downtown Park City and spent an afternoon on the VERY hot and bright Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake.



September's main trip took me back down to Birmingham, Alabama, a city I really love and last visited over 10 years ago.  Lord knows it's gone through its shit, and probably still is, but from a visitor's perspective it doesn't shy away from embracing its struggles with Civil Rights and combines beautiful art deco architecture with some great outdoor spaces.  I had heart palpitations from exploring Railroad Park; it's such an amazing urban park.  I also took one evening to see a show at WorkPlay - Penny and Sparrow and Lowland Hum - something I love finding wherever I go.  My last day wrapped up with great biscuits for breakfast, a long walk around the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and a visit to the Vulcan monument, high up over the city. 


October was a wild ride.  First I headed to New Orleans for Leadership Conference, where I was able to spend some time wandering the French Quarter and wondering why people live here, since I didn't dry out the entire trip.  Then I hopped a train up to Long Island to visit with two of my best friends and finally wrapped it up with a flight to the other side of the country to work with one of our California chapter's in Berkeley.  That last trip was not more than 36 hours with 6 hours of sleep total, but I loved working with our chapter, hanging out with other brothers in fraternity leadership roles who have become friends, and getting to celebrate a friend's architecture licensure.  It wore me out those and I have minimal memory of the next two weeks.



The last "big" trip of the year was a roadtrip up to Vermont with Todd.  We saw two shows in Burlington (Yonder Mountain String Band and Carbon Leaf), stayed on a farm with heritage sheep and turkeys, drove around back roads and explored small towns.  A long drive for a short trip, but I'll take a little time in Vermont rather than no time at all.  Later on that month we went back to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving and had a full yet relaxing trip seeing my extended family and friends.


I really don't have any photos to go with December.  Travel wound down and was just surrounding family visits for Christmas, which we did the week before and stayed at home to relax for the holiday itself.  Some travels I've blogged about more one on one and a couple I still intend to do.  It's been exhausting but rewarding.  A couple trips are on the horizon for next year, but they are fewer and more deliberate (I hope).