Six Reasons to Spend Six Weeks Abroad

In America, it’s uncommon to hear of people taking really long vacations or trips lasting more than two weeks because most companies in the US don’t offer much paid time off or allow people to work remotely. In Europe, things are a little different. Spain and Germany give their workers 34 days of paid vacation, Italy and France give 31, but in America only 25% of workers are guaranteed any paid time off. Add in the fact that many companies are still scared to let employees work remotely, and you probably don’t hear, “Guess what? We’ll be gone for six weeks!” very often or at all.

Justin and I feel so fortunate to be able to say those exact words. “We’ll be gone for six weeks!”

In less than a month, we will be embarking on our Euro Adventure 2016: six weeks, five (planned) countries, four booked AirBNBs, three train rides, two carry-on bags, and one month-long home exchange with a lovely Dutch couple. What the heck are we thinking?! Continue reading

Bad Schwartau

In elementary school, I used to tell people that Schwartau was the shortened version of my real last name, the Ellis Island version given to my ancestors when they immigrated to America. My real last name was Schwartauburgerhifinfiner. My friends believed me, for years. But it’s not true.

My real last name is Schwartau.

Growing up, I knew that it was

(a) German

(b) hard for people to say

(c) harder for people to spell

(d) the last name of very few people in America (according to this site, only 107 people in the US have this surname, and this site confirms)

and (e) also the name of a jam and jelly company in Europe

Every year for Christmas, my dad would order hundreds of jars of Schwartau jams, from the mini to full size, and we’d give them to everyone: teachers, neighbors, friends, the accountant, their lawyer. (Try the wildberry, so tasty!)

Never once, as a kid, did I think I’d get the opportunity to visit the town that birthed Schwartau jam and, maybe, my family: Bad Schwartau. But in 2009, my dad made that happen. Let me share with you our Bad Schwartau adventure, in pictures.

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#TBT: The Time My Dad Tricked Me Into Eating Squid

I’ve always been a less-than-adventurous eater; I ate PB&J sandwiches or peanut butter & crackers every day for lunch from Kindergarten through 5th grade. (Not kidding. Not even a little bit.) As an adult, I’ve definitely expanded my food horizons — mahi mahi tacos! bahn mi sandwiches! grilled octopus! — though my dad would still describe me as non-adventurous and picky. I don’t eat red meat, I can’t handle the texture or temperature of raw fish, I’m lactose intolerant, and I will gag if I even have to look at pieces of tomato. I’ve come a long way, though, from where I was when he first took my family to Europe.

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The Last (and Worst) Time I was in London

As we’re planning our 2016 European adventure, we’re talking about all the places we are interested in visiting — for me, Paris is always a must see, but not so much for Justin. At the top of his list is London.

london wakefield york 048

London is a beautiful city, with a rich (and bloody!) history, full of people who speak English and a theatre scene that can’t be missed. Yet, every time I hear the name of the city, my heart starts to race in a panicky way and my mouth goes a little dry. I haven’t been to London in over a decade, but the last time I went was one of the worst travel experiences of my life.

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#BathroomsOfTheWorld: Le Lèche-Vin, Paris, 11e

#tbt to that time I went to Europe with my dad, my brother and his girlfriend…

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