I need to take a pause in recapping our Europe adventure to "get real" with our experiences while traveling. Because it wasn't always an adventure and it wasn't everything I wanted it to be. I was chasing after a Nepal 2.0 and the experience of our trip didn't necessarily meet those expectations. Even now as I process the trip through blog recaps - it's being distilled down to a few words and some pretty pictures that make it all look like quite a beautiful time.
But the truth is that traveling can be scary, exhausting and sometimes even boring. Sometimes I felt like we were spending hours just trying to figure out where to go, what to eat and which train to get on for only minutes of payoff. I felt like when I was chilling out, taking advantage of free wifi over a cup of cappuccino or glass of wine, that I was missing out on meeting interesting locals or having stimulating conversations with Jeremy or good people watching or falling in love with the world.
Here are some of my expectations and challenges I came against. If you have any advice on how to overcome some of these I'd love to hear from you in the comments.
The Desire: To Experience a Place Like A Local. The expectation was to go off the beaten path and eat at the local dives and make friends with the people who frequent them.
The Reality: We're Not Locals. We're Tourists. Veering off the beaten path is a bit scary and you just don't know what you're going to get beyond boiled potatoes topped with a fried egg in a place that smells like mold. The truth is that cities that are set up to handle tourists make you feel like you're not squandering the precious and limited time you have abroad because there is lots to see. That's why tourists visit. Also, when you're traveling in a couple it's hard to make friends with locals (especially if you're in a city full of tourists). People think you're on a date so they leave you alone.
The Solution (A): Travel Where You Have Friends. I'm lucky in that I have this blog and enough people reading it that I have friends (and friends-to-be) all over the world. I didn't take advantage of that during this trip because I wanted to spend time reconnecting and adventuring with Jeremy. But we were both spending so much time figuring shit out that we didn't have much energy left for falling in love with each other all over again. It would've been nice to make friends with people we already have things in common with. People who could safely take us off the beaten path and share their favorite places with us.
The Solution (B): Spend More Time In One Place. Because I work for myself, I'm location independent and can work from anywhere. I think to truly live like a local I should rent a flat in a city for 3 months or more and not cram every touristy thing possible into two days. Instead of just being on vacation I could balance work and play (just like at home) in another city. I would get the satisfaction of being productive with my work while also taking my time to really explore the ins and outs of a place. Jeremy's not quite so location independent yet with his job but maybe one day.
The Desire: To Drink Lots of Coffee and Wine. And stare dreamily into each others eyes while doing so.
The Reality: This is All Good and Fun Until You're Jittery, Drunk and/or Hungover - all at the same time. We actually got really good at drinking lots of coffee and lots of wine. But at the same time we were usually taking advantage of free wifi to figure out how to use the public transportation, post Instagram photos, read up on TripAdvisor and organize and book our next move. There were no dreamy staring contests.
The Desire: Be Spontaneous! Go wherever! Whenever!
The Reality: Travel Takes Planning. If we had booked everything in advance from home we wouldn't be having to do it from our iPhones on the road.
The Solution: Research ahead of time. The idea of being spontaneous was more romantic than the reality of it. I think we would've been happier and would've spent a little less time with our faces in our phones if we had planned in advance and had a little more structure.
Without the risk of coming across like a spoiled brat who had a horrible time I should reiterate here that I learned and saw a LOT and will continue to focus on the positive and share more of those insights with you throughout my recaps.
So let me hear it - what's your advice for having a kickass time while traveling? How do you balance being a tourist with true local experiences?
After a late night out, drinking wine on the concrete steps of the most beautiful church I've ever seen, we slept in until 11AM. This is so odd for me because family vacations come with early wake-up calls and mornings of exploring before it gets too hot out - followed by middle of the day naps to escape the blazing sun and crowds. But Jeremy and I took our time to roll out of bed and make our way over to the Buda side of Budapest. We made our way up to the Castle Hill area with great views of the river, city and the castle, of course.
We enjoyed a lunch of cheese and schnapps. It was getting brutally hot out so we decided to visit The Hospital in the Rock & Nuclear Bunker - a museum in tunnels below the Buda Castle. No photos were allowed but this top-secret hospital / nuclear bunker only opened to the public recently and it was definitely a Budapest highlight. Not to mention cool at 8º celsius. Afterwards we had a snack of cake and cappuccino and made our way to a labyrinth - more caves under the Buda Castle that apparently Dracula used to hang out in.
When we finally made our way to the actual Buda Castle it started getting a bit cloudy and ominous out. So we made our way over the Danube across the Chain Bridge back over to the Pest side of Budapest where we were staying. We made it down to the St. Stephen Basilica square where we enjoyed a balanced dinner of wine and olives. Oh, Budapest. I like you.
Part of what I loved about Budapest is how spontaneously we had decided to go there. We had every intention of following up Vienna with a visit to Prague but Budapest was calling.
On a 2-hour train ride from Vienna to Budapest we read up on the city and according to the guides I had read up on, I could expect to be mugged, pick-pocketed, and fall victim to something that looked like the movie Hostel upon my arrival.
Part of our travel strategy was to book cheap hotels close to the train station so that we wouldn't have to walk far with our backpacks - but the areas around the stations are typically full of hot pavement and a little bit of hustle. Maybe not the most inviting scene to an unfamiliar city. We exchanged our currency, checked into our hotel, showered and studied up on the city map.
It turned out one of the friends we made on the wine & bike tour in Vienna, Suzy, was in Budapest too so we made plans to meet up with her for dinner. We had a gorgeous view of St. Stephen's Basilica and over beers and dinner we chatted about life, politics and education. Through language barriers we had a fun conversation with a couple of Italian guys sitting next to us. As the sun set we noticed people gathering around the steps of the church with bottles of wine. So we followed suit.
I mentally added "Drink a bottle of Shiraz on the steps of St. Stepehen's Basilica in Budapest" to my bucket list while at the same time crossing it off. It was that kind of perfect. We exchanged life stories with Suzy until 1AM. My eyes were growing bleary as the street really started coming to life. We said goodbye to our new friend and grabbed a taxi who drove too fast down narrow streets back to our hotel. I leaned my head against the window and let my tired eyes soak up the gorgeous architecture, dilapidated and covered in graffiti, passing by. I was glad to be in Budapest.
If the tuna steak with lime & cilantro sauce was the flirty pool boy who helped me get my groove back than this green smoothie is my spouse - reliable, comfortable, and nourishing - the one I come home to at the end of a long day. Melissa and Dallas of Whole9Life actually advise against drinking smoothies during the Whole30. I think a lot of people abuse it as a way to pack in tons of sugar (even fruit is sugar, y'all) and if fat loss and/or kicking a sweet tooth is your goal then a smoothie is not the way to go.
But for me, this green smoothie is a great pre & post workout meal - it's especially refreshing during these hot summer months where leftover bakes salmon and steamed veggies in the middle of the day doesn't sound particularly appetizing. Also, my goals aren't really to lose weight
Here's the recipe.
2 cups spinach
1-2 cups of coconut water (depending on the consistency you want)
1/3 cup coconut chips
1/2 - 1 whole avocado
This first step is the most important: first blend your spinach and coconut water together before adding any other ingredients. I use an immersion blender for about a minute to get the spinach fully blended into the coconut water. Then add the coconut chips and blend for another minute to get those nice and fine too. From there add your avocado and banana - you may want to add a little more coconut water at this point too just depending on the desired consistency.
Also - sometimes I'll play with the avocado to banana ratio. I may use a whole avocado and half a banana or vice versa just depending on what flavor I'm after. You could also add a cucumber to the mix.
Do you have a favorite green smoothie recipe? Let's hear it.
Vienna was a game changer. This city seems to place equal amounts of value on art and functionality which is clearly illustrated when you're taking a ride on the seamlessly efficient public transportation with casual views of some of the most breathtaking architecture in the world passing by like its no big deal. Everyone seemed stylish, progressive and happy.
On Day 6 Jeremy and I rode rented bikes all over Vienna - from one side to the other and back again. Over cappuccinos for breakfast, desserts for lunch and wine for dessert we started a conversation that hasn't stopped since. A conversation about our next move. A conversation about doing the right thing. Exploring ideas to make the world a more beautiful and functional place. A conversation full of intention, purpose and plans for action. A conversation about putting our money where our mouth is. About how to make a world that looks and feels a little more like ... Vienna.
All of this big dreaming was followed by a conversation about where we'd go next - as in, the very next day. I fully expected to be buying train tickets to Prague - but my gut led us to Budapest.
It was the kind of weekend where sleepy mornings turned over to a cup of coffee. Or two. Then three and four. Where a moody sky reached out to the cool morning air - meeting in the middle for a spectacular public display of affection. Where the same conversation I keep having in my head tried to find its way out of my mouth but the path of least resistance led to my tear ducts instead. Where dreams of never ending tunnels and teething babies left me with the distinct feeling that I'm forgetting something. It was the kind of weekend where moments of still surrender were punctuated with a sense of urgency that comes from a constant craving for uncertainty ... or perhaps the four cups of coffee in one sitting could be the culprit. It was the kind of weekend where nothing felt quite right but everything couldn't be more perfect.
When I first embarked on the Whole30 I would read tweets and blog posts from people talking about being on Day 23 and LOVING it!!! Meanwhile, I was on Day 4 and going through some pretty emotional refined carb and wine withdrawals. I was feeling like I would never reach Day 23. Ever. That time would stand still and I would be craving cupcakes forever.
But here I am. Day 23. And I love how I feel but I'm not triple exclamation mark loving everything about the Whole30. In fact, I have become pretty neutral about the whole thing. When I think about cravings or wine, or anything else I think I'd love to have a taste of, it's as if I'm viewing those emotions from the 3rd person - from the outside looking in. Being this emotionally detached from my food has been kind of a blessing and a curse. I mentioned in my last Whole30 post that my outlook on food has shifted from this thing of desire and cravings to a means of nourishment. Cultural and social context has been all but stripped from my meals - and I was feeling a little bit sad about it.
But this tuna steak I pan seared last Friday was a game changer. It was straight up sexy. We're talking a mouthgasm delivered straight to my tastebuds sexy. After my first bite (standing over the kitchen counter) I insisted that we sit at the dining room table (versus the breakfast nook or couch) to savor our meal. After the second bite I considered lighting a candle to celebrate my dinner plate getting its groove back - but forget about it - I didn't want to let that tuna steak out of my sight.
It comes down to the sauce. If I'm learning anything in the kitchen from this Whole30 experiment is that it always comes down to the sauce. So even if you don't eat fish - I beg of you - pan sear a block of tofu and pour this sauce on top. You can thank me later.
I'm not going to post my food & workout log this week. Mostly because it pretty much looks identical to the past two weeks. Plus this tuna steak. And some zucchini pad thai - also a game changer - that I'll be posting next week.
So here's the pan seared tuna recipe. I found it here - the top hit when I Googled "pan seared tuna steak".
Cilantro and Lime Tuna Steak
2 big handfuls fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, sliced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, grated
2-3 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 (8-12 ounce) block sushi-quality tuna
1 ripe avocado, halved, peeled, pitted, and sliced
In a mixing bowl, combine the cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, lime juice, coconut aminos, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir the ingredients together until well incorporated.
Place a skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Season the tuna generously with salt and pepper. Lay the tuna in the hot oil and sear for 1 minute on each side to form a slight crust. Pour 1/2 of the cilantro mixture into the pan to coat the fish. Serve the seared tuna with the sliced avocado and the remaining cilantro sauce drizzled over the whole plate.
Go here for the recipe for the cauliflowered rice pilaf I served with it (or buy Well Fed).
Recently, my friends, Justin and Audrey, over at Shop Good asked me to design a t-shirt for their third annual Mustache Bash. I enthusiastically obliged. But when they also asked me to photograph the event I went through a list of reasons why I couldn't: "I'm not a real photographer." "I don't really know how to use my camera." "Why me when there is so much talent in OKC?" "My friend so-and-so who's a photographer would be so much better for this job!"
Justin is probably one of the most chill people I've ever met. Even when he's talking about things that would get most people riled up - like the problem with the word "hipster" - he still speaks calmly... without urgency or raising his voice. So when I'm all spazzy saying "Photograph!? I couldn't possibly... You know I'm not a real photographer right? No guarantees." He simply replies "You can do it." with the kind of reassurance that makes me believe him.
And with that ... I did it. Here's what I captured:
I've expressed my desire to be able to capture the more candid moments in life - the un-art directed snaps where you have to work with what you've got - and this gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that. I'm thankful that Justin and Audrey gave me the push and encouragement to practice becoming the kind of photographer I want to be. Admittedly, I'm a bit heavy-handed on the color adjusting in post. I use Photoshop as a crutch to make the photos a little more stylish and to make up for my lack of skills in getting it right, right out of the camera. But I can live with that, for now.
As far as the Bash goes - it was a blast to see a block party bringing Oklahoma City to life on a Thursday evening.
J & K started this blog project to document the remodel of their 1929 historical home in the heart of Oklahoma City. It has now turned into a documentation of life, food, fashion, freelance, inspiration, design, adventures and details around the J & K house.
Kathleen works as an award-winning brand consultant and designer specializing in small business branding at Braid Creative & Consulting. Jeremy is a software engineer and is the left-brain to Kathleen’s right.
You can contact Kathleen at
jeremyandkathleen (at) gmail (dot) com.
All photos and graphics by Kathleen unless otherwise stated. Feel free to use them with permission or credit.
Anatomy of an Outfit
Sometimes I like to get dressed and take pictures of myself. For all of my outfit posts click here.
Freelance Matters: A series about how I tackle freelance issues such as estimating, billing, to-do lists and how to fire a client.
Trekking to Everest
In October 2010 Jeremy and I trekked through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It completely changed my life. Read about the entire adventure, day-by-day, here.
Braid is a creative & consulting business I own with my sister. We do branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. On the Braid blog I share branding adventures, how-to articles and advice on the creative process. If you need a little brand therapy of your own visit Braid or subscribe to the Braid blog RSS feed here.
What We Eat
We like to eat really good food - at least 3 times a day. Sometimes I blog about it - click here for recipes and yummy ideas.
J & K: Blog Archive
- The Truth About Travel
- Day 8: More Budapest
- Day 7: Hello Budapest
- Green Smoothie
- Day 6: Planning Our Next Move
- The kind of weekend...
- Whole 30 | Day 23
- Mustache Bash No. 3
- Day 5: Wine and Bikes in Vienna
- About Face
- Whole30: Days 9-16
- When Having A Dream Job Takes Work
- Day 4: Vienna
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Foreign Exchange
- The Whole 30: Day 9 of my Detox
- Day 3: Auschwitz
- ▼ August (16)
- ► 2011 (257)
- ► 2010 (387)
- ► 2009 (406)
- Eva Black | Spaces
- Emma Dime
- Life as an Artistpreneur
- Jane Reaction
- Ink & Letters
- Meg Biram | The Edit
- Sarah Von Bargen's Small Biz Blog
- Design Crush
- The Equals Record
- Emmarie Designs
- Rory Gordon
- Yellow Brick Home
- The Creatives Project
- Silly Grrl
- Photographers Skeen
- The Clothes Make the Girl
- Bringing Design Home
- Pip & Estella
- A Practical Wedding
- Kind of a Sideshow
- Sandra Juto
- Old Sweet Song
- Rambling Renovators
- Brooklyn Bride
- Design Crush
- Experiment in Poverty
- The Jealous Curator
- Making it Lovely
- Dressing on the Side
- The Oklahoman
- Young House Love
- Oh So Beautiful Paper
- A Cup of Jo
- Brooklyn Limestone
- Glamour Weddings