Thanksgiving Travel Part 2

Are you from Tennessee? You must be from Tennessee. Why? Because you’re the only 10 I see. 😉

I got into Knoxville, TN around 10:40 in the morning on Thanksgiving. Tired from lack of sleep but jittery from the cup of coffee I had during my layover in Charlotte, NC. We left the airport on a hunt for an early Thanksgiving lunch. All glutinous Thanksgiving plans had fallen through. My baby daddy had to work in a couple hours and his lady was stuck house sitting for someone. So we drove through town but was unable to find a place that didn’t consist of an hour long wait. We went back to baby daddy house for pumpkin pancakes. Soon after, me and the kiddo dropped him off at work and headed to my Airbnb. It was my first time staying at one, so I was a bit nervous.

We head in and meet Daniel, my host. He’s there with his brother and parents. He states that originally he was going to be out of town and leave me a key, but his plans fell through as well. He and his family warmly welcome me and the kiddo in. Shows us around and tells us we are more than welcome to play pool or watch Netflix down in the basement and that we can come celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with them. 

After a game of pool, he calls us up for dinner. A whole spread of home made southern cooking. Smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and a bunch of stuff I have no idea what it was, but it was good. His mother was amazingly kind and even made one of my favorite desserts, banana cream pudding with a graham cracker crust. They were down visiting from Kentucky, apparently less than a 3 hour drive. So Thanksgiving wasn’t so bad after all, and also a great first impression of an Airbnb.

We didn’t do too much after that. I think I slept about 10 hours that night. The next morning “Black Friday” me and the kiddo head to downtown Knoxville. We take an Uber which was relatively cheap, only about $9 for a 7 mile ride. 

First thing is first. We check out the infamous Sunsphere. If you don’t know what the Sunsphere is, it was built in 1982 for the worlds fair. A giant golden ball at the top of a vertical tower and is at a height of 266 ft. It’s like the southern version of the Space Needle…. Except it’s a sphere and it’s not as tall. But, you can get a full view of Knoxville. Unfortunately, the air quality was extremely bad while I was there due to wild fires so the views weren’t as stunning as they could have been. 

Also! If you’re a Simpson’s fan like me, it hit me that this place was on a Simpson’s episode. When Bart and his buddies travel to the world’s fair only to realize that they’re about a decade too late, and at the top of the Sunsphere is a dilapidated warehouse for old wigs. Then they get stranded in Knoxville after accidentally knocking over the Sunsphere with a rock and it falls over and crushes their rental car. Yeah… This is that place.

After our visit to the Sunsphere, we decided to stroll around town before heading to the movies. It was the first official day in downtown for Christmas lights and the opening of the skating rink for the season. There were a million holiday decorations everywhere, vendors in the town square, and even the sidewalks were covered with peppermint candies to show festiveness as you walk through town. There was even a scavenger hunt of sorts for kids. We picked up a card that had 30 squares on it. Each square represented a business that each had an elf on the shelf. Find at least 20 of these elves and submit your card for a prize. I think we only got about 11 or 12, but there’s a month long time frame to get all you can. 

As we walked around finding elves at different businesses we decided it was time to start looking for the movie theater to check out movie times. We see the theater and cross the street, but we get stopped by 2 ladies. They ask us if we’re up for a free lunch. 

What? What? Yes of course. Who says no to free lunch? They go on to tell us that they are shooting a documentary about small businesses and need people to come sit and eat for about 40 minutes and they would pay. I ask the kiddo if she’s hungry and yes of course she is, so we go on our way to the filming. As we walk, the lady who’s leading us to our destination is talking about all the wonderful places to see and go eat dessert after. And all I’m thinking about is what kind of food it might be. We get to our destination, it’s a place called Yassin’s Falafel House. I’m not a big fan of falafels, but I do love a good gyro. So we order a gyro plate to share as well as some baklava. It was filling and simple, and best of all it was free and we got to be in a movie! Not bad for a first trip into downtown Knoxville.

We did eventually make it to the movies but there wasn’t much adventure after that. We did get a chance to check out the courthouse downtown. It was closed but the area was beautiful. Everything was made of brick and the grounds were green and plush. There’s even an amazing bronze sculpture called the Beloved Woman of Justice. I took some pictures of the area and you can find them on my instagram

Beyond that, my trip was short. I did make it to the Waffle House! A set goal of mine and a Southern staple. If you’ve never been there, it’s like fast southern diner food. I love really good food, but sometimes it’s nice to indulge in greasy diner food too.

That was my last day in Knoxville. The next day I flew out in the morning, again no lines at the airport in which everyone said it works be crazy. I had a lot of time to kill once I got to the airport, so I grabbed a cheeseburger and a glass of wine. Once again, I don’t drink as much as I used to, so after a half a glass I was feeling pretty buzzed. I’m such a light weight. I finished up and got ready for my first flight out. I had a layover in Dallas.

I got in to Dallas. Because of the time change I thought I was late to my next flight. Nope, I’m just paranoid and had an hour to wait. That freaking airport is huge. On my way to my terminal I had to take a tram to another area of the airport. Inside the tram I was approached by a panicking woman who only spoke Spanish. I had to adjust my thinking back to any Spanish I knew to help her. She was lost and looking for her terminal. Luckily I was heading in the same direction so I was able to translate and help her. She was very much relieved. I just hope that when I have my layover in Moscow going into Prague in March, and I get lost, that someone will be willing to help me.

After I dropped her off at her gate I headed to mine. The airport was packed. I anxiously stood around waiting for my group to be called when I had a sudden craving for chocolate. I gave in and bought an overpriced $5 bag of M&M’s. I have so much regret for buying that. I got on board and took my long flight home to Seattle. 

It was a short, exhausting weekend, but also filled with nice surprises. I’ll be headed out there again in a few weeks where I hope I’ll be able to explore a little more and have more adventurous stories to share.

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Thanksgiving Travel Part 1

I have never traveled during Thanksgiving, I’ve never had to. I was anticipating all the horrible things like flight delays, traffic and 2 hour waits through security. That didn’t exactly happen.

I left early from work so I could give myself enough time to get home, make sure I had all my things ready to go and leave. Luckily, my roommates are awesome and gave me a ride to the ferry. If you aren’t familiar with the area I currently live, it’s a bit of a trek to get to the airport. 20 minute car ride to the ferry, 1 hour long ferry ride, 10 minute walk to the lightrail and a 40ish minute ride on the lightrail straight into the airport.

So I get into Seattle at 6:30pm from the ferry. 4 hours before my flight. Again, I’m anticipating horrendous airport security wait times. I’m a little anxious, clearly. But before I start heading to the airport, I remember there’s a small noodle house close by that always smells so delicious and I hadn’t eaten since lunch. So I stop in. It’s called Bibimbop. It’s a small restaurant with only about 10 seats. I order my food and sit down. Bedsides me, there’s a small group of people in the far end of the restaraunt. I just happen to over hear them talking…

“Yeah, I make soda bread sometimes. If you’ve never had it, the one way I can describe it is… If it were a beer it would be the darkest, richest most delicious beer you’ve ever had. It’s so good.”

Ahem. I’m sorry, in my opinion I would definitely not describe it as a delicious dark beer. It tastes like garbage. It’s hard and flavorless. But I grew up eating sweet bread, so what do I know? Anywho… The scene played out like I was sitting in a scene of Portlandia. The guy talking, who everyone in his group was so enthralled with, was a typical northwestern hipster. Beanie, plaid shirt and an ironic handlebar mustache. He went on about his soda bread making and how he lived in Portland for a short time and even talked about how amazing it was to live with vegans and learning how to cook their food.

The conversation kept me entertained until my food came. I had a stone bowl dol sot with chicken. It came with rice, noodles, broccoli, chicken and a fried egg on top. It was a bit spicy but overall good. If you like kimchi… They got plenty of that there. So if you’re into spicy asian food that comes in a steamy hot bowl, I’d definitely recommend going there.

Once I left I jumped on the lightrail and headed to the airport. I got there about 2 1/2 hours before my flight. I thought I was soooooo smart for coming early. I saw the crazy parking lot coming in and all the people rushing to the concourse to get through TSA. I finally get to the security gate. It took me 8 minutes to get through. What the eff? I was expecting hours and hours of waiting. No worries though. It gave me time to study my Czech since I have been putting it off.

The flight from Seattle to Charlotte wasn’t so bad. I was hoping to get some sleep, but I only dozed off a few times. Nothing significant. We did have some turbulence which didn’t help either. The last time I was on a plane with major turbulence, I was flying into Long Beach, California from New York. I thought everyone on the plane was going to puke. Do you ever sit in a plane and just accept that that is the way you’re going to die? I mean, chances are unlikely. Like REALLY unlikely. But let’s face it, you’re in a metal tube floating through the sky with no control over the situation. As soon as I take off, I just accept my fate. Once turbulance hits, I immediately go into Arnold mode and scream to myself “Do it! Do it now!” waiting for the plane to just catch on fire or break apart in the middle. I imagine I’d be happier with being sucked out of the plane and falling to my death and being liquefied once hitting pavement. Much better than being stuck in your seat with an explosion next to your ear and your arm being blown off.

(By the way, the Charlotte airport is crazy big. It’s like a giant mall and everything is so shiny.)

Too graphic? Happy Thanksgiving! Off to Tennessee I go. Part 2 will be all about my amazing adventure in Knoxville.

Over 100 Days

When February 2016 rolled around, I knew something needed to change. I just turned 31, living a redundant life, trying to work hard and be the best mom I could. I haven’t grown. My life, stagnant. Ever since I left home at 18, I’ve been busy and not making the best decisions either. I went to college, dropped out and moved in with a boyfriend (we’ll call him M). From there, I became a young alcoholic. After my boyfriend M and I broke up, I later met my future fiance “C” and father of my child.

We were together for 5 years. The love of my life. We lived in California, he worked in the veterinary field while I worked 2 sometimes 3 jobs. I loved it. I kept myself occupied while working at places that I loved and had lots of perks. When my daughter was born we moved from California to Washington where my mom, aunt and grandmother had moved just a year prior. They insisted on helping us with the baby. Just before my daughters 2nd birthday, I broke up with “C”. He was an alcoholic and I was no longer one. I had learned responsibility and new perspective on life and did not want my daughter to be around a person who was unfit to even take care of himself. It was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made, but I had to do what’s best for the kiddo.

I have been a mother since I was 23. I haven’t had the chance to live the life I wanted. That’s my own fault for my actions and decisions. My daughter did save me though. I went from drinking a fifth of vodka just about every night to about 2 years sober after she was born. Then when her father and I broke up I started drinking again but only socially about once a week . I had always dreamed of traveling and seeing the world but I knew it wasn’t completely possible with a small child.

True we did take road trips and flights around the country with her. She’s probably seen more of the country than most adults I know. Hell, at this point she’s seen more than me. With that said, my domestic travel was not enough for me. Like I said, life had been stagnant. Without going into too much detail to make a long story short, “C” has grown up over the years.

I had made every effort I could for our daughter to see him and communicate with him. He is now financially responsible and hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in years. With his success and my growing unhappiness I asked if he could do me a solid and care for her while I can figure myself out and try to grow as a person. After several months and trips visiting each other, we agreed it was the best for the kiddo to live with him and he was open to helping me out in any way possible. Now she gets the chance to see what it’s like living with daddy!

Believe me, this THIS was the hardest decision I have ever made. A majority of my adult life has been being a mom, what do I do now? Travel of course.

I spent months researching different continents to travel to and places to see all over the United States. I wanted to see and do everything. It was overwhelming the possibilities. I researched back packing through the USA and heading in to South America going along border towns and countries. Seeing places like Peru and Chile and even going a bit further inland and seeing La Paz, Bolivia. The intention was to make my way around the entire continent while staying as close to the water as possible. But then I had more ideas.

What’s in Australia? Or Africa? How about Asia or Europe? Asia and Europe have always been a top priority traveling. I started researching on travel options to each place before remembering the Trans-Siberian Railway. It goes through several time zones, countries and crosses over 6,000 miles depending on which trains you take. It seemed perfect since I can travel from Singapore up to Shanghai and take a ferry to Japan. Then from Japan, take a few ferries back to the mainland in Beijing to catch the train into St. Petersburg or Moscow Russia before deciding where to head next. The possibilities are endless. After thinking about budget and time, I knew there is no way I could do this on savings alone. That’s how I came across teaching english as a foreign language, or TEFL.

I researched and researched and found a nice school in Prague, Czech Republic. They help with networking, the skills you need and job placement. So it was decided. I booked my trip to Prague and over last 10 months of 2016 I have been planning and saving for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m scared shitless but am excited to do something completely new and on my own. Now the course is 4 weeks long to be certified as a TEFL teacher, so once that’s done I will figure out what to do next. There’s a good chance I will stay in the Czech Republic, but there is so much opportunity to travel and see more. So I may go off and Couchsurf for awhile, do some Workaway type stuff or even WWOOF it for a bit.

So here we are… I have just over 100 days left until I leave the country. Between now and then I’ll be blogging about my upcoming trips to Tennesse, California, New York and any local trips I may do. I’ll probably also be posting information on some of the research I’ve done to cut costs, saving money, how to travel on a budget and everything in between.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my first post! I look forward to writing many more.