Lucky Number 13

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Especially in recent years, I’ve enjoyed everything about the number 13. Probably not for any reason in particular, but I don’t buy into the unlucky connotation it carries in the US. Friday the 13th and 2013? Bring it on. And I must say, if the first month and a half of the year are any indication, triskaidekaphobia (fear of 13) is absolutely no part of my being.

I rang in the new year with my dearest friend in Thailand and proceeded to spend the entire month of January doing as little as humanly possible. Coming back to the States, I find myself surrounded by family and friends. I’ve been to three states since being back and have already made more wonderful memories than any one person could ask for. I feel insanely lucky for the people, places, things I have come back to and am thankful to feel welcomed back with open arms and hearts.

The fate of this blog is still undecided as I’m not sure what would be as interesting to share as the stories these past two years, but life has a way of surprising us. Which brings to mind a quote from a movie I recently watched on some transcontinental flight:

Most times real life doesn’t measure up to what’s in our heads, but every now and then it comes pretty close. -The Magic of Belle Isle

Yeah, that.

Now, halfway through February, I’m getting back into the swing of things at work – a new job at an old company – and making plans for fun adventures in the coming months. So far that’s one of my favorite parts of being back – getting to make plans for the future, knowing where I’m going to be and who will be around. I look forward to making a home for myself somewhere, to settling in a bit, to planting some roots in the ground for a while. It’s you and me 2013, let’s do this.

Up For Air

Seis Amigas

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What’s Next

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The final week in Thailand wrapped up nicely with a few days in Bangkok and a weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur on a visa run. It was great to catch up with a friend there who I hadn’t seen in too many years but had kept in touch with via the internet. The last few days were inspiring in a number of ways and helped to start thinking about what’s next for me. Now I’m back in the states and the fact that it’s not just for a few days or weeks has yet to sink in. But it will. So, what is next?

I write this from California where I spend a long weekend visiting family. Monday I go to Reno for a couple days with mom and to unpack my Thailand travel gear replacing it with items more suitable for colder weather. Thursday I fly to Denver for a three night music fest of sorts during which I will celebrate my last few days of unemployment. The following Monday morning I will wake up, walk across the parking lot from my hotel to my office and start my new job in a new city. I am extremely excited about all of these things.

Over the second half of last year I wrote about the decision to stay in Amsterdam or move back to the states. At the same time and behind the scenes I was also exploring the options of what I might do professionally in the US should I return. This turned into conversations with a number of different people regarding a number of different opportunities. On top of the stress of deciding where to locate was now the decision of what to do with myself. In the end, I chose the opportunity I felt offered the most variety, the most challenge and the most growth potential. Funnily enough, that meant going back to the company I left to move to Europe. Fortunately we parted on good terms and they initiated the conversation to come back. I am extremely excited to work with former colleagues again and to bring back the lessons I’ve learned the last two years. I have a feeling it’s going to be a great role at a very exciting time.

And where might this work be taking place, you ask? The list of places I had considered living was relatively short. The main requirement was that it had to be in the western US as most of my family is located there. Beyond that somewhere with an outdoorsy lifestyle, water and/or mountains nearby, an international airport, a vibrant local culture, music/museums/events, and some decent public transportation. I thought about moving back to California where many of my family are, maybe San Diego or the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland (though I’ve never been) and Denver. I figured the decision would be dictated at least in part to where I’d be working and I guess that was the case at least a little.

Though I lived and worked for this company in Reno previously they also have an office in Denver where a few key people sit. Though the new job is location independent I could see it would be good to join them at least to start. As it was already one of my top two choices, I picked Denver. From what I’ve seen it has just about everything I was looking for and a handful of friends who already live there and love it. Bonus! February is full of travel so in March when there’s not too much snow between Reno and Denver, I’ll drive my car and a few boxes the 1,000 miles (1,600km) to give the mile high city a shot.

As I said, I am extremely excited about all of the new adventures that lie ahead. A new job, a new city, new challenges, new people. I have a great feeling about it all and can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store. I am also looking forward to settling down, at least a little. Finding a place, making a home and having some kind of regular schedule in my life. After two years of constant travel (which I loved, don’t get me wrong) I’m feeling like it’s time to just be for a while. Of course, put me in one place for any number of weeks in a row and we’ll see how long that feeling lasts.

The Real World Approaches

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After the last post, it should be no surprise that plans changed again. I extended my time in Phuket by a couple more days then made it as far as Koh Lanta (a cute little island with resorts and bungalows down the long stretch of beach). I’d intended to be there a couple nights and island hop south to Langkawi, Malaysia for my border crossing. Instead I stayed five nights with Steph joining for a couple well deserved days off and one more day of diving together.

Inevitably I had to leave. Now it’s Friday afternoon and I’m in Bangkok having arrived last night for the final leg of this adventure. A big city lies outside my window, the first one I’ve seen in almost a month. I can barely bring myself to face it. Spending the last four weeks on islands, beaches and dive boats was exactly what I needed. I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been, stress and worry free, and probably on the verge of achieving a completely ridiculous level of tan for January. Now it’s time to start the journey toward the real world, but slowly.

Tonight I travel with friends to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend mostly for the mandatory border crossing to extend my tourist visa but also to experience something new. We will return Sunday night and I’ll have three days exploring Bangkok before leaving Southeast Asia. I’m already struggling with this journey coming to an end so I can only imagine what getting on that plane Thursday will feel like. Fortunately many new and exciting things are waiting on the other side, I’m just not ready to think about them yet.

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Go With The Flow

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What is it they say about making plans, the best laid plans, planning for the unexpected? In the best way, that’s what this trip has been about so far. After minimal reading and research, I made a plan to start my trip in Phuket staying with a friend for a week or 10 days then making my way north to Chiang Mai. The journey would take me from the beaches of southern Thailand to the mountains in the north of the country then to Bangkok.

Well, it’s almost three weeks in and I’m writing this from Steph’s dive center on the southern tip of Phuket. (Ocean Geo Divers in Nai Harn if you’re interested.) Still here. Haven’t left and keep postponing my departure for more diving, days on the beach and quality time with a dear friend. The reasons to stay have vastly outnumbered the reasons to go anywhere else. Sure part of me feels obliged to see as much of the country as possible seeing as it’s so far from home and may be my one and only trip here (though I doubt that very much). But whatever lies deep inside is keeping me rooted here for now enjoying the time relaxing, the time in the water, the time doing as little as humanly possible with no stress or worries in the world. I have a feeling no part of me will look back and think “shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

If I could I might just stay here until it’s time to go to Bangkok for quality time with another friend, but the law will make me leave soon. Only having a standard tourist visa, my time in Thailand is limited to 30 days but my flight back is just past that mark. I have to cross a border somewhere to re-up that time. Soon, though when exactly is not known just yet, I’ll head further south to some other small islands for more beaches, time in the sea, beautiful sunsets and warm weather. I’ll make a short trip by ferry to an island off Malaysia then, somehow someway, get to Bangkok. I’ll probably head out in the coming days but my brain just can’t think that far ahead.

In the meantime I’ll soaking up the quality time and enjoying another day on the boat diving tomorrow (dives 12 and 13). Beyond that nobody knows.

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All Things Thai

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Hello from Phuket, Thailand where I’m absolutely enjoying myself. Totally zoned out from reality and without a care in the world. With that seems to come a lack of motivation to write more than a few words, so as succinctly as I can manage here’s an update of what’s transpired since arriving. I’ve:

-Been in the water (pool or sea) every day but one
-Floated on a boogie board while moored to a buoy for an hour
-Got sunburned in the process of said floating
-Completed my PADI scuba certification and six open water dives
-Had three Thai massages
-Eaten nothing but fresh fruit and Thai food
-Learned two phrases in Thai

There’s more, but those are the highlights for now. Taking this month off between jobs was a fantastic decision. And now it’s time to get back to doing as little as humanly possible.

Between posts I am managing more quick bits on Twitter and Instagram so feel free to check the sidebar here or my feeds on those sites directly.

twitter.com/rachelkae
Instagram.com/rachelkae

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Rachel in Thailand

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I’ve had enough of this cold weather. I’m off to Thailand. Yep, long before I had fully decided whether to stay in Amsterdam or return back to the states I booked a five week trip to Southeast Asia to visit friends who had moved there earlier in the year. Either way the decision would have gone I knew the beginning of the year would be my window to take a break.

Thailand Packing

Tomorrow, two days after Christmas, I board the longest flight and travel day(s) of my life to take the longest trip of my life. I have almost no plans other than starting the trip in Phuket with a dear friend who is now running her own dive shop completing my PADI open water diver certification. I will ring in 2013 in Thailand. Crazy! After Phuket and other than plans the last week of the trip with other friends in Bangkok, I will go where the wind takes me. I’ve received lots of ideas from friends who have been and will figure things out day by day. It’s a whole new kind of adventure and I can’t wait to land in Asia, get in the water, lay on the beach, go up in the mountains and eat REAL Thai food.

Hopefully I’ll be able to add a few updates along the way, photos, thoughts and observations. So for the next five weeks you can call me Rachel in Thailand.

If you have and travel tips, things to see or do in Thailand and surrounding countries I’d love to hear from you.

First Week Back

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I’ve been back in the states for a week and boy have I kept busy. Every day has been full of errands and activities, the evenings spent catching up with friends. The feeling of being back in a place where I have so much history and so many great relationships is wonderful. So many things, moments have helped reinforce that the decision I made was the right one. I’m happy to be home.

But not being one to sit still for very long I was already up in the air Friday headed to Denver for a weekend similar to the one this time last year. Two days surrounded by friends, meeting new people and enjoying some of the best live music on the planet. Like last year the stellar weekend was over almost as quickly as it began. Two short days and nights were full of memorable moments, laughter and a Saturday night show that I can’t imagine will ever be topped. The difference between this December and last is that I won’t have to wait 6-12 months to see these people and do these things again. In fact, plans are already set for the next such weekend in February on the last weekend of my two month break.

2013 is already full of great plans and possibilities. I’ve had a lot of people asking if I’ll keep this blog going even though the Amsterdam experience is over. For now, the answer is yes. There are some fun and exciting things ahead and I think the transition back to life in the states – the ups and downs – is all part of the story. It ain’t over just yet.

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Hickman-Dalton Gang

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The face of pure joy

Christmas Isn’t Christmas in The Netherlands

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At the beginning of the month a good friend and fellow Rachel asked me to be part of her December Guest Blog Blitz. I happily accepted, then the month got a little busy. Yesterday while sitting at a local brewery and restaurant waiting for my car to be serviced I put my head down and shared some thoughts on the holidays in The Netherlands.

Take a stroll over to Rachel’s blog not only for this post but to be party to her wonderful writing style and all the adventures she’s now taking on married to a cattle broker. Enjoy and happy holidays!

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Changing Tense

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The countdown is over. I’m back baby!

Monday’s travels were as smooth as could be expected though it did seem my luggage was inspected at every possible checkpoint. Who knew my bags were that interesting? The final destination of this journey was Reno, Nevada where I lived before moving to Amsterdam and where my mom still resides. As we flew over the mountains and lakes on the approach, all I could do was smile. I missed this landscape and scenery. Mom greeted me outside the terminal, helped with my bags and took me back to her place, my home base for the next two months.

Later in the evening I met up with a group of people for drinks to keep myself moving and awake in the hope of bypassing jet lag as much as possible. It was in the course of that conversation that, for the first time, I referred to my life in Amsterdam in the past tense, using was instead of is. As the words came out I fought to keep it together. In that moment I realized that the chapter has ended. I can only imagine there will be many more of those moments, little things I do/say/see where it all sinks in. Of course I will be sad, I will miss so many things about my life there, but the next thing to run through my mind will be the adventures ahead. Many are already planned, others are in talks and even more haven’t made themselves known just yet.

So here I am, back in the US. Reno, NV of all places. But I’m home. Everything about being back feels right, reassuring me that as difficult and labored as the decision was I chose right. Now comes the process of readjusting to American life, at least partially, and getting used to speaking about Amsterdam and my life there in the past tense. Is changes to was.

The Countdown: Too Few

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Day zero is just around the corner. Daunting. In happier news, it’s after 8pm Sunday and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit down and write all weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday have been jam packed with friends, activities, meals, and packing. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I’ve never been overly social or one to have a very large circle of acquaintances, preferring instead for a few close friends. Last night I was surrounded by most of those few, important people in my life here in Amsterdam. I feel really lucky.

There have been a few tears this weekend as one would expect, but for the most part I’ve been enjoying each and every moment. Seeing Amsterdam through fresh eyes. And speaking WAY more Dutch than ever before. What’s up with that? Maybe there really is something that clicks at the two year mark or maybe I’m just getting it all out while I can.

Now it’s a quiet Sunday evening at home. My bags are all packed and just waiting to be taken back across the sea tomorrow. I know I’m crazy to leave such a great city as Amsterdam – one that after traveling all around Europe for two years can’t be matched by any other. But for every great memory I’ve had here and for every sad thought about what I’ll miss, there are an equal number of exciting moments and adventures ahead. In fact, the next two months alone are enough to last a lifetime but I’ll save that for another post. And as a bonus, I won’t have to miss it for long. I already have a return visit planned for an undetermined period of time around Queen’s Day 2013. That thought alone comforts me, knowing it will only be a few months until I’m back here again in this city and with these people.

So for one last time in 2012 and as a Dutch resident… Goedenavond Amsterdam. Slaap lekker en tot morgen. Ik how van je.

Rachel in Amsterdam Amsterdam from above