July 31, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Books, Expat, Travel

Allow me to interrupt our regularly scheduled (albeit sporadic) programming to bring you an especially pride-filled post about my “soul friend,” Candace.


You remember her: We bonded on the chilly streets of Copenhagen, we ran in the rain through the hills on the Camino, and we walked the final precious steps to the foot of the Taj Mahal. She’s the kind of friend that I’ve not managed to spend that much physical time with, and yet feel like I’ve known for a lifetime.

But today I want to talk about her passion for sketching, which began long ago, slowly becoming a bigger part of her life, and somehow mine too. Indeed, as I recently immersed myself in a late spring-cleaning of my house, I realized that her sketches – and really adventures, even our adventures – stared back at me from my office bulletin board: an ethereal gaze at the Santiago Cathedral; a thank you note after we both played and worked in San Francisco; a welcome sign for my arrival to New Delhi. Like memories, her art captures these journeys like distant cozy dreams.

Of course she hasn’t just been capturing our journeys (only a mere twinkle in her universe of travel stars), but also her other nonstop adventures, from the Valley of Roses in Morocco to the shores of Fewa Lake in Nepal. And she recently took her passion one step further, too, with a mission to sketch her way across Southeast Asia and Japan. In doing so, she recorded her experiences with a pen and paintbrush, bringing them to life in both words and drawings, and ultimately publishing them in her new book Beneath the Lantern’s Glow. I’ve read every word of it and day dreamed over each of the images, and hope you will too by grabbing your own copy here.

As I write this, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the funny ways the world works: At this moment, she sits across from me as we both work and watch the gentle tide roll in at my favorite place on earth, Vashon Island. Yep, our paths have magically crossed again. From around the world and back, we now celebrate another adventure, the ones to come, and surely the images that her paintbrush will conjure up along the way.

More to come on all of that soon, though. Until then, I return you to my unpredictable schedule of posts about Spain and beyond.

May 24, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Expat

A different language, missing home, questionable peanut butter, and outrageous inefficiencies. I can handle all of these expat gripes. In fact, I often think my living-abroad adjustment process has run its course, only to be seen in the rearview mirror. But the truth is, in some ways I think the worst part has yet to come.

You see, when I moved to Spain, I found it tremendously difficult to say goodbye to my friends and family back home. Over the years, it has, thankfully, gotten tremendously easier, especially as I’ve built my own family here (filled with friends, my husband and in-laws). What I didn’t anticipate, though, is that this family wouldn’t – even couldn’t – last forever. With so many of my friends being expats, my little circle would inevitably evolve as people moved on to the next stop, or even back home. Which brings me to this new lovely (*sigh*) phase in expat adjustment: when you don’t leave, but rather when people actually leave you.

In a couple of weeks, one of my very favorite people on the planet, Heather, will be leaving Spain to move back to the States. Have I told you about her? She’s kind of amazing. We met online prior to her moving to Spain, and instantly hit off due to our shared love for chocolate, festive socks, and often inappropriate silliness. That was three and a half years ago.

Since then, we’ve baked cupcakes, colored easter eggs, and celebrated Cinco de Mayo. Along the way, I got married, she was the best bridesmaid a girl could ask for, and now she’s engaged, and I’ll do my darnedest to return the favor….in LA….because that’s where she’s moving in a couple of weeks.

I get it: this is the bittersweet life of an expat. There are highs and lows, and at the end of the day I’m just incredibly grateful to have formed such an amazing family here in what really feels like my home away from home. But gosh, it just won’t be the same without my number one partner in crime. I’ll miss ya, Sox…and so will Spain.

February 7, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Expat, Madrid, Spain

When talented photographer Izzy Hudgins asks to take pictures of you in your wedding dress for fun, you say YES.

So that’s what I did. And since you’ve all joined me on my wild journey these last couple of years, I thought I’d share the finished product with you, even though it’s not so travel-related.

The offer was admittedly bittersweet. Even though my wedding was amazing in a million ways, my photographers were generally lost and confused, and my hair chica, while talented, did her own Spanish thing. Certainly not the details that matter most, but having another shot at some decent pictures was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

So my friend (and fellow Madrid resident) Izzy and I headed out to Madrid’s Casa de Campo – a massive park reserve, scattered with trees and, during this particular time of year, amber-colored leaves. With big hair and an even bigger white dress, I suited up in the middle of a field, while bike riders and cars zipped by on the nearby road.

For this round of wedding dress shots, I stepped up to the plate as my own hairstylist and makeup artist (with curler assistance from a friend). Getting all dolled up minus the stress made me feel like a kid again, but with the added bonus of whistling passersby. Surprisingly fun, really.

Not more than an hour later and we were done. I wriggled back into my street clothes and back to reality. And the result? A handful of shots that I personally think give the originals a run for their dinero. Bittersweet indeed!

No matter where you are, if you’re looking for a well-traveled, talented and sweet photographer, Izzy’s your girl. Now based in Savannah, she continues to make trips to places both near and far – so no wedding locale is off limits. I only wish that we’d met before my big day!

*For those of you following wedding dress fashion trends, I just want to point out that my lace sleeves predate a certain royal wedding ;).

January 17, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Expat, Madrid, Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe

“Watch your cell phones!” yelled the barista as a couple of teenagers prowled through the foreign-filled Madrid coffee shop. I knew the drill, so at first sight of the shady looking kids, I had a hand firmly covering my cell phone and the other clutching my purse.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a band of sketchy kids pass through a Starbucks, fake petition in hand, appealing for irrelevant signatures. Just a couple of months ago, while sitting with a friend in another Starbucks, one of these kiddos laid their folder on top of my table, strategically over my cell phone. His plan was to distract me with his little spiel while dragging my phone off the table and into his greedy little hands. Fully aware of Madrid pickpocket shenanigans (and proudly not once a victim – knock on wood), I grabbed my phone and blurted out in Spanish, “I’m not an idiot!” – because that’s apparently the only thing that comes to my mind when someone tries to rob me.

I don’t tell this story to entertain, but to warn traveling foreigners to seriously watch their stuff. These freaks have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves (along with a lot of stolen crap too, I bet), so you should make sure you know where your possessions are at all times. And the more touristy the spot, the more careful you must be. Starbucks, especially in Madrid anyway, is a pickpocket’s paradise. I personally try to steer clear of it, but a certain Italian friend of mine – eh hem, Guido – insists on meeting there.

Happy traveling, and watch out for those teenage petition peddlers.

Update: Well in the event that you fall prey to pickpocket tricks, it turns out that a fellow blogger of mine in Spain, Cat at Sunshine and Siestas, just wrote a “what to do if your cell phone is stolen in Spain” blog post. Between her and me, we’ve got your foreign back.

December 14, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Expat, Spain

This holiday season, as I pack my suitcase (make that: stare at my bag and hope it packs itself) for the States, I thought I’d give you all a little gift. OK, maybe you won’t find this gift as terribly exciting as I do, but humor me here.

I’m serving you up just three of my favorite blogs. Why three? Well, because I follow maybe hundreds of blogs, and adore an impossibly large chunk of them. So rather than go on and on about why I love getting coffee with TheViatrix or talking endlessly about croquetas with The Travelling Editor (both awesome blogs, by the way), I’ve widdled them down to a digestible three quirky and perhaps under-appreciated ones. When their blog posts arrive in my inbox…errr, Google Reader…I get all pumped to open them up like long-awaited Christmas packages.

So without further ado, let’s start unwrapping them. Oh, the anticipation!!!

American in Spain
On a regular basis, Erik makes me laugh, scratch my chin and say “awww”. He gets insightful about politics, ultra-nerdy with tech experiments (which are, admittedly, pretty darn entertaining), and sentimental over his darling half-Spanish and half-American daughter, Nora. Both smart and witty, his posts are worth the read.

Pass the Ham
I recently discovered Pass the Ham, and honestly don’t know much about its author, “Hamantha” (with no “about” page, I can only “read” between the lines). Where’s she from? The US, I think. Why’s she here? Well, probably for her Spanish husband. What I do know is that she’s hilarious, she loves Spain, and her blog title has the word “ham” in it – so clearly the most important bases have been covered.

Ode to Moms
I’m making a stretch here for this selection: not only am I SO not a mother, but Ode to Moms clearly falls way outside the realm of travel and Spain. But I call the shots here, so this blog makes the cut :). Some inconceivable hybrid of fashionista, clothing designer, and super-mom, she shares tips that will make us all a little bit more put-together during everyday life – mom or not.

So there you have it. A small, readable list of blogs that you can actually consume (calorie-free!) along with all that holiday candy. Make like Santa and give them a visit. But not through the chimney, because that would be weird. Oh yeah, and impossible.