Category Archives: Travel

What I Ate Wednesday: Portland

mt hood portland | almost getting it together

It’s no secret I eat completely differently when I’m in Portland than when I’m home. This past trip I did eat a little better since I was making daily trips to the juice bar so I was having a green juice every day. I also had a couple kale salads because, well, Portland. I thought it would be interesting to show some of the things I’ve eaten (all delicious, all recommended) and it gives me an excuse to link-up for What I Ate Wednesday.

I always come home dreading the scale but both times now I have been pleasantly surprised at the number staring back at me. (Maybe you don’t weigh yourself everyday and have serious thoughts about why I shouldn’t – that’s cool, but I need to hold myself accountable so I do what I need to do.)

Portlandia wasn’t lying when they said Charlie the Chicken (that was his name, right?) was from a farm 30 minutes away. Most food in the city is locally sourced. Our Saturday ritual has turned into going to Bamboo Sushi, which sources only fish that are plentiful and caught in an ethical manner. All the meat at Bamboo is either from Oregon or Idaho. This past trip, we ate at Pono Farm Soul Kitchen, whose meat is sourced from their farm a few hours outside of Portland. So at least you know your meat doesn’t have hormones and where it came from. It’s not seafood from China like all of my comrades from West Virginia are eating at Red Lobster.

I did discover a juice bar a few blocks from Jake’s, so I would typically get a green juice after my run in the morning which also did a lot for my “am-I-eating-enough-greens? anxiety”. I also really don’t pull out my phone when I’m there, so I’m reusing photos from old posts and don’t have a ton of food photos to work from. I’m really going to do better next week.

blue star donuts portland cointreau creme brûlée | almost getting it together

Cointreau Creme Brûlée donut from Blue Star Donuts.

grassa portland | almost getting it together

Roast shaved asparagus, cauliflower and beets from Grassa.

grassa portland pasta carbonara and lobster diablo | almost getting it together

Pasta Carbonara and Lobster Diablo from Grassa.

oven and shaker cheese plate portland | almost getting it together

Cheese plate from Oven and Shaker.

Pono Farm Soul Food Kitchen Portland | almost getting it together

Clam miso soup and bacon fried rice from Pono Farm Soul Kitchen.

Pono Farm Soul Food Kitchen Portland | almost getting it together

Kushiyaki and Shisito Peppers from Pono Farm Soul Kitchen.

Pono Farm Soul Food Kitchen Portland | almost getting it together

Black Truffle Congee from Pono Soul Kitchen.

Bamboo Sushi Portland | almost getting it together

Salmon Tasting from Bamboo.

green leaf juice bar portland | almost getting it together

Greens Granola Cup from Greenleaf.

Chat with me:
Are you sick of hearing about Portland? Do you hold yourself accountable for eating healthy or do you just eat what you feel like? Do you get anxious if you don’t eat enough vegetables?


Getting it Together on the Road: Portland [Part II]

williamette valley wine country oregon | almost getting it together

Sorry I’m not sorry for the second novella on my trip to Portland.  Read the first part of Getting it Together on the Road: Portland.

This post is dedicated to Frostie the Snow Goat. RIP.

Saturday, June 14th (Cassie)

It’s no secret I require 4-5 runs a week to keep my sanity as well as keep my friends and family from not hating me. Jake was sweet enough to humor me and take me on a run along the river and across the bridge before leaving for wine country. We also stopped by Barista, which may be my favorite coffee so far in Portland.

Saturday was definitely the day I was looking most forward to while planning my Portland trip. If you’ve known me for more than five minutes, you know I love wine. I really wasn’t too educated on the Oregon wine scene as I had never been there, but typically if there is a wine from Oregon or Washington on a menu, I’ll order it.

Pinot Noir is my favorite red (after Oregon Pinot Noirs, it took over the top spot from Malbec) and Oregon is known for its Pinot Noirs. Jake gave me the very important responsibility of choosing wineries to visit, so I spent many hours researching until we settled on Sokol Blosser, Domaine Drouhin, Hawk’s View and Penner Ash.

Because I’m a lightweight, Jake was kind enough to “split” a tasting with me at each winery. At Hawk’s View, our first stop, the sommelier gave us generous pours of every single wine that had probably ever passed their doors. I will regret not purchasing the white Pinot Noir until we go back and buy a bottle. After a stop for lunch at Red Hills Market, a speciality grocer/restaurant that makes it known you are in wine country, we finished the afternoon at Sokol Blosser, Domaine Drouhin (which according to Lonely Planet’s “Pacific Northwest Best Roadtrips“, has the best view in all of the Williamette Valley.

domaine drouhin williamette valley wineries | almost getting it together

The essential Willamette Valley view.

Since wineries are sane enough to cut your day drinking off around 4:30 or so, we headed back to Portland after a pity pour at Penner Ash (which just means we have to go back, right?).

Before we ended up back at Jake’s, we made a quick stop in Safeway for coconut water. After convincing Jake that he had just had a bad coconut water at one point in his life and that he really would like it, we decided to have a blind taste test. Jake found a magical pink Harmless Harvest. Let’s just say Jake is now a
convert to the church of the coconut water (and has the best luck constantly finding pink Harmless Harvest).

blind coconut water tasting | almost getting it together

Blind coconut water tasting. E-mail me for your own private events.

Bamboo was definitely my favorite meal of the entire trip. Oh, and possibly of my trip this last week, too. Jake and I are both nothing if not creatures of habit (Saturday night dinners at Bamboo). Bamboo is a sushi restaurant that prides itself on sustainability and also one of Oprah’s Favorite Things (along with Salt and Straw, which is literally right next door).

I don’t know a lot about sake other than the fact that I enjoy it. Our waiter (who remembered our order) gave us the run down of all the different types of sake – polish, filtration, the fact that the sake we were drinking came from like 5 seeds of one type of rice that was randomly found. Let’s just say that small details were lost on the drinking of the day.

Saturday, June 14th (Jake)
A “Short” Run… Watches Set To Italian Time… My Kind of Marathon… Sake On Bamboo…

Saturday was the break in the weather we were awaiting. Thursday and Friday brought clouds, rain and wind to the Rose City (as it often does), but Saturday was to be the break. The day where Portland evicts grey skies for water damage and pissing the neighbors off.

We had five wineries on the itinerary starting at 11am, unending sunshine and blurred eyes ahead.

Only the blurred eyes bit happened.

The sun did break a bit when we started our run around downtown Portland.

Down 13th, east on Lovejoy, down 10th, east on Glisan, down on Broadway, across Burnside, east to the water, across one of our many bridges, along the river trail, then back west over Burnside.

Does that make sense? It shouldn’t.

Unaware of the time we stopped by my favorite coffee spot – Barista. We unfortunately did not have our phones, not because we had no idea of what time it was, but because of the pack of corgis that were parked next to us. Three of them. Cassie and I were sitting amongst Portland’s toughest gang, it was magical.

Barista Portland | almost getting it together

Jake another day at Barista on a different trip when we had our phones and other dogs were present.

Knowing we were late for our 11am ride to the Willamette Valley, we jaunted back to get ready. Turns out we were 15 minutes early. That said, we left promptly at 11:25.

Our first stop was Hawk’s View. A lovely little place perched above a sea of vines and a friendly horse. We tasted a lot. A lot. Every new glass that went down was followed by an off menu pour by our lovely sommelier. This included a white Pinot Noir. A wine I will dream about for years to come.

Not knowing how long to spend at each winery we jetted to Red Hills Market for a nosh. RHM is tucked in Dundee, Oregon, a charming little town that hosts guests like us on a daily basis.

Next up was Sokol Blosser, a woody scented modern building that would adequately serve as a Bond Villain’s getaway retreat. Naturally, I loved it. Sokol Blosser offered up the day’s only vertical tasting (in addition to their lovely Rose and Pinot Gris). The vertical included Pinot Noirs from 2009, 2010, and 2011. The 2010 was absolutely special. It was not unlike taking a bite of the tastiest fruit imaginable (think if every other red fruit was grown inside of a pomegranate). A short moment on the patio gave way to a selfie and then we hit the road again.

Oregon wine country selfie | almost getting it together

Obligatory selfie.

Our third stop, Domaine Drouhin, gave us the best (at the time) view of the day. This sister vineyard to the century old Burgundy establishment provided our smallest tasting menu – just three wines. We quickly savored the Pinot Gris then the Rose ending on a 2012 Pinot Noir. (Fun Fact: That 2012 Pinot Noir came back to Portland with us.) It’s hard to write this next line because Drouhin was so phenomenal… but we had to run. Time was crushing us like the grapes needed to make these delicious wines and we had two more wineries to see.

At this point, it was becoming clear no two people could do more than four wineries in a day. That’s not even saying do them well. Just get from point A to B to C to D. Not possible. It’s like running a marathon after only training for a three-legged race.

The last winery was Penner Ash. And this view was stunning. The best of the trip. However, time had made Cass and I into a new vintage. We hurried to the bar and were told: “you’re too late…” Upon hearing this, I looked into the news bearer’s eyes dejected, dismayed, destroyed, more d words, and she realized she was in Oregon. She gave Cassie and I a taste of our choosing and sent us outside to take in the last bit of the day. We walked down a trail of hazelnut shells to a bench that stared out into the vineyard and rolling Oregon hills. We talked about the day.

Dinner was slow to develop, but it may have been the best meal of the trip. Our Japanophilia no longer to be contained, we went to Bamboo Sushi on 23rd St. I love Bamboo for its rice. Sushi is said to be “90%” about the rice. I believe this to be true after eating at Bamboo Sushi. This rice is to be marveled. Celebrated. Marched down the street during parade days. This is just the rice. The seafood is entirely sustainable, the sake from each corner of Japan, traditional items like vegetable Yakisoba and others prepared perfectly and a knowledgeable staff that is doting, but never makes you feel like they’re hanging over you. Our bellies stuffed, a crate of sake drunk, we retired.

Saturday was a good day.

Sunday, June 15th (Cassie)
Sunday got off to a slower start than the other mornings. We finally forced ourselves into running clothes and started up towards the Alphabet District (which I now know quite well from running there this week, as well as a few walks). In true Portland/Pittsburgh fashion, it began to rain.

The night before, Jake asked if I wanted dessert at Bamboo and I said no, holding out for Salt and Straw. The line was ridiculous and we weren’t having it, so when the rain blurred from sprinkles to a downpour, we were conveniently by Salt and Straw. At 10 a.m. Jake grabbed my hand and opened the door, not even asking, and we had ice cream for breakfast (Caramel and sea salt in a waffle cone for both of us). “Cass, there’s no line!” Fun fact: I will always finish a kid’s size but Jake has not finished a single when I have been with him yet.

salt and straw portland | almost getting it together

Half-marathon of eating ice cream training.

Never one to let me go hungry, before my flight we stopped off for more oysters and Hemingways at The Parish and then for a cheese plate, kale salad and margarita pizza at The Parish’s neighbor, Oven and Shaker. This meal was replicated (albeit in two different trips) this past week once again in Portland.

After a second glass of rose (after two almost back-to-back red-eyes, I’m going to say that cross-country late night flight requires a solid buzz, as does saying good-bye to Jake), we headed to the airport, where I nearly missed my flight (typical, and truthfully, I was hopeful I would).

I definitely left Portland enlightened and eager to get back (which spoiler alert, I got back yesterday morning from Portland again).

Sunday, June 15th (Jake)
Running to the Sea… One Last Page of Hemingway… The Free Rose Caper…

Glacially moving, Cassie and I collected for a morning run. In contrast to yesterday’s run to the east side of Portland we headed northwest. Past Tanner Springs Park and up Northrup when the rain began. We soldiered on, dodging Portland pellets, headstrong to make it to 23rd and loop down Glisan and then… a revelation.

Salt & Straw, the oft written of ice cream spot that serves a secondary purpose as temporary housing to the hundreds of people a day that will wait in an hour long line for a cone. That said, on this Sunday, at 10:45am, there was no line. We approached the cross street and I mentioned to Cass: “Hey, there’s no line at Salt & Straw…” never one to wait for things, I grabbed Cassie’s hand and gently pulled her in the door. Our run was to be halted for an ice cream break, naturally.

Exiting into the rain some thirty minutes later was hardly a problem. We had ice cream in our bellies and feeling that the world made complete sense. This is a common feeling when one has a belly full of caramel sea salt ice cream that was wrapped in a freshly made waffle cone.

After Cassie packed and stowed her luggage we went on for a bite and pre-flight drink at, you guessed it, The Parish. Cassie had a Moscow Mule and I the old standard – a Hemingway Daiquiri. We threw back a few oysters and took a quick glance over the menu to discover a personal favorite, grilled corn. Without much more than a few brackish mollusks and maize residing in our stomachs we went a few doors down to Oven & Shaker for a bit hearty of a meal.

Salad, pizza, cheese plate, rose, and tequila (Not all in the same bowl mind you) is exactly what Oven & Shaker had in store for us. The cheese plate may be my favorite anywhere with a cache of mozzarella that could melt the heart of even the most cynical food writer. They also specialize in bespoke cocktails and 90’s music. So there’s that.

oven and shaker cheese plate portland | almost getting it together

The most amazing cheese plate in all of Portland, if not the world -Cassie

We let the time slip past us a bit and had to hustle to get Cass to the airport when a phantom flute of rose arrived in front of Cassie. I should say as an advertising strategist; I get paid to take note on what people do and how they act. What I have discovered in my time is that few people can turn down a mysterious glass of rose that appears. Cassie did not disappoint. One more down the hatch and we were off to airport.

A rich, full weekend if I do say so.

Chat with me:
What has been your most memorable meal lately? Do you like these recaps, even though Jake and I are the wordiest people in the history of the world?

Getting it Together on the Road: Portland

portland mt. hood | almost getting it together

You may have wondered why I was drunkenly running half-marathons or staying up late texting boys (because they live on the West Coast) and if you did wonder that, you aren’t clued into my life or have too much time wondering what I’m doing. Maybe both. These events culminated in my recent trip to Portland to visit Jake.

Jake, besides being an amazing host as you will find out, is also an amazing writer, so I asked him if he wanted to guest post about Portland – always get an expert’s opinion, right? (Jake actually wrote a piece on Miami for me for the AEO blog last year.) There is so much to share about Portland that I’m splitting it up by Thursday/Friday and Saturday/Sunday because if not, you’d basically be reading War and Peace on your computer (or phone or iPad) screen.

Landing In The Woods… Click-bait Is The Worst… Hemingway Was Diabetic and Other Drinking Facts…  Obsessing Over Travel (And Food)

After we unloaded Cassie’s illegally large carry on we hit my neighborhood – The Pearl District. The Pearl is a marriage between Pittsburgh’s blue collar charm and Meatpacking’s new trust fund influence. So needless to say I’m a fan.

We hit the streets heading south towards Burnside (which cuts Portland between North and South) and ultimately the first stop: Grassa.

Grassa’s home to some of Portland’s best, traditional pasta. Despite this fact, there have been some truly unfortunately worded articles about this spot:

“Is this nonna’s Italian kitchen through Portland’s casual, handcrafted lens or just an updated Olive Garden for the modern age?”

It’s neither. It does not have to be either, but then again saying that isn’t click-bait material.

I believe our next stop was the most frequented of the trip. The Parish in NW Portland has a special place in my heart as the proprietors “moved-in” a few weeks before I moved to the PNW. We’ve grown and learned the city together all-the-while tossing back Hemingway Daiquiris and the briniest bivalves the West Coast has to offer.

After a few tasty beverages we stopped by Heart Coffee for a little pick me up before dinner.

Something you should know about Cassie and I before we move onto the day’s last course is our mutual obsession of Anthony Bourdain’s ever growing list of television properties. No Reservations, The Layover, Parts Unknown – we’ve cited all of these throughout our talks of traveling, eating, and drinking.

In a more recent episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown Tony travels to Northern Thailand with famed chef Andy Ricker, founder of Portland and New York’s Pok Pok. A wonderfully authentic and equally spicy Thai restaurant nestled deep in Southeast Portland. While I downed cold beverages including drinking vinegar and traded jokes with a former colleague, Cassie took time to survey the menu and make new friends while waiting for items I somehow managed to adequately pronounce.

THURSDAY, JUNE 5th (Cassie)
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Portland. I’ve seen exactly 2.5 episodes of Portlandia and listened to two podcasts with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Recently, they had a bear cub on the loose that brought e coli to the city. I expected a lot of flannel, combat boots and Joy Division cover bands. I really didn’t encounter any of those (except maybe some flannel)and instead found a city that really charmed me over (or maybe it was my host, but we’ll give Portland some credit, too).

I may be biased on my opinion of Portland because I had a wonderful host who shares my taste in most things including pink coconut water and hopefully soon, green juice and kale smoothies (baby steps, right?).

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: never underestimate your intelligence to that of a gate agent. I’m really quick thinking on my feet, especially in travel situations. Basically, nothing is going to get between me and my destination.My plane from Pittsburgh to Houston was delayed because some alert light was on and wasn’t going off. Finally, they decided to switch planes. I had a tight connection and I knew I was now going to miss my flight so I opened the United app to check to see when other flights were going from Houston to Portland that day. There wasn’t another flight until 7 p.m. that night, and it is a four hour flight from Houston, so that wasn’t going to fly (pun intended) for me. I found another flight that would get me in an hour and a half behind my original schedule which was much more appealing than 12 hours behind after a lot of fun time in the Houston airport.

Long story short, I got on the next flight to Denver and from Denver, finally made i to Portland early in the afternoon – and right in time for lunch.

Jake, being an ad man (think Don Draper, including the 5 o’clock shadow), has perfected the boozy lunch. Our first stop was Grassa, a self-proclaimed “pasta palace” in Jake’s neighborhood, The Pearl District.

I know what you’re thinking: “Cassie, you don’t even like Italian food that much. Also you hate gluten. What the hell are you doing?” I’ll answer all three in-kind: “Unless pasta is house made, Italian is usually basic and unauthentic. Grassa pasta is neither. I have decided that when I’m traveling, I’ll eat gluten if it’s not processed. Finally, I’m enjoying the hell out of this pasta.”

Grassa is the only meal of the entire trip I bothered to take a photo of, because sometimes I hate taking photos of my meals and also I typically forget. Jake had sent me a photo of their pasta carbonara a few weeks prior and I had been dreaming about it ever since. So that was essential, along with lobster diablo (because how can you say no to lobster anything?),roasted vegetables (to appease my lack-of-vegetable fear) and of course, a bottle of house wine. I don’t know if it’s because I hadn’t had pasta – or gluten – in probably close to six months or if it was truly this good (betting on truly this good) but the pasta was amazing.Likely better than pasta I have had in Italy.

grassa portland pasta carbonara and lobster diablo | almost getting it together

I’m not joking when I say this is literally the only meal a photo was taken of.

We took advantage of our carb-loading to pop into a few stores. Portland truly has some great shopping and a lot of artisan-made goods, despite what I expected of the Portland fashion scene. (It still is my goal to end up on the yet-to-be made Portland Sartoralist. I clearly dream big.

Afterwards, we stopped by The Parish, described by Jake as “cajuny and they have oysters”,where I joined the “regulars” club by the end of the weekend. As I am typically an ‘oysters andbubbly’ type of gal, I ventured out of my comfort zone and tried Jake’s go-to cocktail, the Hemingway Daiquiri. Ernest Hemingway was a diabetic (I had no idea!) and created a rum-grapefruit juice-lime cocktail that was sugar free (You had me at sugar free.

As Jake mentions, we are both huge fans of Anthony Bourdain. I was so excited when he told me about Pok Pok, a Thai restaurant in Portland (with an offshoot in NYC). Pok Pok is owned by Andy Ricker, a James Beard winner and recent guest on Parts Unknown: Thailand. Andy goes to Thailand several times a year to learn more about Thai cooking and develop new recipes. Also, have I ever mentioned that Thai food is my favorite food? (Okay, one of them, it’s hard to choose just one.)

We were joined at Pok Pok by one of Jake’s former colleagues and his wife, who are both lovely people. I don’t remember everything we had, but Jake did save me from certain death by mini-shrimp and I tried drinking vinegar, which is a very Andy Ricker-thing.

FRIDAY, JUNE 6th (Jake)
A Donut With A Syringe… It’s Not a Caesar But Your Best Salad Is Great… Buying Penguins In Portland… Losing Ourselves… A Place With Veal On The Menu Appears

Clouds hung over two hungover people in Portland that Friday. It turned out to be a unseasonably (sounds ridiculous) grey weekend. Undeterred, Cassie and I pulled ourselves together, threw on jackets and hit the ground crawling.

First up, we stopped at Portland’s true king of donuts – Blue Star. If you find yourself lost and strung out in Portland do yourself a favor and drop in for some of their fried decadence.

A fitting addition to these puffy clouds of goodness’ caloric content is the delivery method of certain flavors… A syringe. Tie off and settle in (I think I’m ruining your SEO now, Cass) these donuts will cement you in your place for a few moments.

Hangovers in check, we ran down to Tasty’N’Alder for a quick* brunch.

*Any mention of “quick” in these posts refers to Italian quick, which is still an extended period of time.

Tasty is the brainchild of John Gorham. John’s the Chef of Toro Bravo and a forthcoming Mediterranean spot in the Pearl District that has all of Portland salivating. To boil down Tasty is an injustice, but it’s a tapas tour of the world. If I’m not mistaken, Cassie and I ordered eight dishes (including my favorite salad) of increasing deliciousness – we were subsequently defeated by dishes 6, 7, and 8.

Having your tail between your legs is still no excuse to not drop in one of Portland’s lovely houseware/knick-knack/curio stores. My favorite is an airy little space called Canoe, which stocks unnecessarily necessary goods from Japan to Iceland.

penguin canoe portland | almost getting it together

A necessary penguin as now seen on Cassie’s desk shelf at home. #shelving

The rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur. I know there was more drinking and oysters at The Parish, trading laughs with Jose and Katie from Jack Spade PDX, and likely a disco nap in preparation for the oncoming meal.

That meal was from DOC. A secret kitchen type space that creates dishes steeped in Italian heritage with Northwest accents. It’s also one of the few places where I’ve come across veal in Portland.

I could jump on my soapbox in defense of veal, but it seems pointless. Veal is delicious. If you don’t like it you don’t have to have it. I elect to have it. I elect to have my tastebuds attend one of the best mouth parties there is.

DOC is much more than veal, however. The wines, Kumamoto oysters, and (my favorite) malted panna cotta with caramel and pecan don’t just steal the show – they take the town the arena’s in.

FRIDAY, JUNE 6th (Cassie)
Despite being promised* better weather than Pittsburgh, we awoke to cold, cloudy weather in Portland while it was in the 70s and sunny at home. (*I may be making this up) Living most of my 25 years in places with awful weather (let’s not even talk about how miserable weather in Hong Kong is as well as the fact I lived in “tornado alley” in Oklahoma) has made me more resilient so we grabbed our umbrellas and hit the town in search of brunch.

portland | almost getting it together

This photo was actually from Sunday, but it does a good job describing the weather in Portland.

We went to Tasty’N’Alder, which had a suspiciously good sign of a long wait for 12:30-ish on a Friday afternoon. The thing I like about Jake is that waiting for a restaurant means finding a snack somewhere else, which in this case, meant donuts.

By this point if you haven’t heard of Voodoo Donuts in Portland (and now in Denver), you’ve been living under a rock. Voodoo Donuts, according to Jake, is awful, so we went to Blue Star. You know that funny social media sign about each platform as it pertains to donuts? That’s where it’s from. You can actually see them making the dough in house (which is a brioche recipe from the South of France #fancy). I can’t remember exactly what donuts they had that day but do remember blueberry bourbon basil, maple bacon, passion fruit and cacao nib and our donut of choice, the Cointreau cream brûlée.

blue star donuts portland cointreau creme brûlée | almost getting it together

“What do we do with this dropper?”

Inserted in the middle of the donut is a little dropped filled with Cointreau which you can either use as a glaze (which is what we did), insert in the middle or just ignore (if you’re boring). I’m really not a huge donut person (as in I love eating them but I never crave them or order them on my own) but this donut was HEAVENLY. Also, creme brûlée is my all-time favorite dessert.

I am also going to admit here that brunch/lunch/the afternoon may have gotten a little boozy hazy. We ordered entirely too much food at Tasty’N’Alder including a delicious Bloody Mary with sriracha and ginger, radicchio salad (“what’s your worst-selling salad?”), Sicilian hash (duh, you’re with two Sicilians), grilled asparagus, gaucho ribeye, and I literally can’t remember what else, but a lot.

Jake and I then popped into my summer of 2008 spent in Italy drinking too much wine and eating daily tomato and mozzarella paninis with Carly his favorite Italian market for capiccola and wine because he wasn’t done fattening me up yet.

After meeting we walked around and popped into a few more shops we got real Italian and took a disco nap* before dinner.

(*Disco nap is a term coined by me for when you take a 20-30 minute nap after day drinking/being exhausted to get ready to go out again.)

Jake had made reservations at DOC, which in a word was amazing. You walk in and you literally walk through the kitchen, which is probably a total of 16 square feet at the front, to the tables which look forward into the kitchen. They take the “secret kitchen” concept to the extreme and do a 6-course chef’s tasting menu. Everything is locally sourced and on this particular night there were Kumamoto oysters, asparagus risotto, veal scallopini, king salmon, an amazing cheese plate and a to-die-for panna cotta, to name a sample of the dishes we had.

Stay tuned for part two!

Chat with me:
Did you seriously just read this whole post? I owe you one if you did. Have you ever been to Portland? Where else do you recommend there?

Getting it Together on the Road: Toronto

Toronto | almost getting it together

I’ve been a little MIA lately. Between all the travel, races and a photo shoot week at work, my life has been a little nuts. I’m about twenty paces behind where I want to be but I’m currently posted up at a coffee shop to get through all the blog work, freelance projects and general life things that I have let fall between the cracks in the past few months. I more or less have been in Pittsburgh to go to work lately, not that I hate it.

One of my trips was to Toronto to visit Davida. Basically when we met and fell in love in Montreal, it was immediately decided that Angela and I go to Toronto to visit her. I’ve been in Canada more times this year than my entire life, which is fitting because I am in love with all things Canada, minus the snow.

I loved Toronto. I had a feeling that I would. It’s probably on the list of cities that I would live in if it weren’t for the snow and cold (see also, Chicago and potentially Boston). Toronto is really hip, people are super into fitness and oh yeah, Canadians are the nicest. (Except PK Subban – hate that guy.) Davida and Curt are also amazing hosts and tour guides so that didn’t hurt anything.

St. Lawrence Market is your one-stop shop for all things food. From fresh veggies, meat and cheese to pantry stapes to speciality items, they have it all. I’ve been to a lot of markets in a lot of places and this is one of my favorites. And not because of speciality mustard. (Little known fact about me: I recently became obsessed with mustard. It’s bordering on needing Mustard Anonymous.)

st lawerence market toronto | almost getting it together

Does anyone know what condiments mustard is a gateway drug to?

st lawerence market toronto | almost getting it together

Prosciutto: Italian Girl Problems.

Once you need to walk off all of the mustard food you just ate, head to Queen’s Street West. I actually couldn’t think of the name of this street until I remembered we just opened a new store there. One side is all of your staples: Aritzia, Brandy Melville, Club Monaco, etc. and the other is full of cool boutiques and local stores.

We were lucky enough to have Davida cook for us Friday night (Thai-style mussels, thanks for making me seafood and not murdering me with shrimp) but Saturday night (and Sunday afternoon) we went to Fresh, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant.

When I talk about my eating habits, people automatically assume I don’t eat meat. I enjoy a lot of types of meat (especially super-fatty inhumane ones like foie gras and veal #sorryimnotsorry) but if it were up to me and not my runner’s metabolism, I would probably stick to a vegetarian diet 80% of the time. I’ve been a vegetarian at two points in my life (junior year of high school and my athletic performance really faltered and sophomore-junior year of college and I stopped when I started running half-marathons).

Back to the point – Fresh was amazing. I love combinations of food in bowls and salad which is basically what Fresh’s menu consists of.

Saturday we met Sam for brunch at Rock Lobster. The food was standard – good, but too heavy for me – but the Canadians have invented something called “The Caesar”, their Great White North version of a Bloody Mary. I’ve been on a serious Bloody Mary kick for the past two weeks (blame it on the insane amounts of glucose-filled gels I eat when racing). A Caesar is a Bloody Mary with clamato juice instead of tomato juice and involves a lobster tail. I can get down with that. (I actually think when my family makes Bloody Marys they use clamato juice so maybe I was pre-destined to like them because I’ve had them before without realizing it.)

Caesar from Rock Lobster in Toronto | almost getting it together

Caesar from Rock Lobster with a little Angela photo bomb.

For breakfast Sunday Davida made us her spinach-banana pancakes and I’ve been dreaming of them ever since. I actually made a bastardized version on Thursday for dinner but was too lazy to get out my Vitamix and the food processor does not do spinach justice.

There are a ton of parks and green spaces in Toronto. We were so lucky to have perfect weather the entire time there, so we spent a lot of time outside, walking around and people watching. Davida also made me have a mini-photo shoot in a kimono because she misses my outfit posts (I’ll post it later this week).

On Sunday we went to yoga at YYoga. This is the second yoga studio I’ve been to in Canada and it was very spa-like, just like Enzo Yoga in Montreal. Think Yogaworks if you’ve been in NYC or LA. The class was pretty calm (I think it was a Core Power class). The class was good though and I needed a bit of zen after the insanity that is a 50+ hour week stuffed into four days. Still, Amazing Yoga in Pittsburgh will always have my heart and I’m terrified of moving mainly because no yoga studio has ever come close to AY.

YYoga Toronto | almost getting it together


Chat with me:
Have you ever been to Toronto? What is your favorite condiment?

What I Ate Wednesday: Charleston Eats

What I Ate Wednesday Charleston, South Carolina | almost getting it together

I was in Charleston (South Carolina, not West Virginia) this past weekend, a city known for its food. The weather was kind of crappy, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time or eating a lot of delicious food. Oh, and once again, I can never remember to take photos of my food.  

Lunch – Blackened Catfish Salad and Tomato Tarragon Crab Soup from Five Loaves Cafe

Five Loaves Cafe Charleston South Carolina Blackened Catfish Salad | almost getting it together

Blackened Catfish Salad from Five Loaves Cafe with added avocado.

I actually had read about Five Loaves Café from the Charleston, South Carolina Ramblen page before I left. I’m typically okay finding something gluten free because I love salads and veggies, but it’s important to me to go somewhere that has cool salads and a good selection of protein.

Did you know She Crab soup was a thing in Charleston? I didn’t. I had oddly been craving tomato soup so when I saw an option for tomato soup and crab I had to take it.

Five Loaves Cafe Charleston South Carolina Blackened Catfish Salad with She Crab Tomato Tarragon Soup | almost getting it together

Tomato Tarragon She Crab Soup and Blackened Catfish Salad from Five Loaves Cafe.

Brunch – Mahi Folly Salad from Lost Dog Cafe
I love seafood. I probably have low-grade mercury poisoning because I eat so much of it. I also wanted a salad that involved an egg but that wasn’t possible, so I just got an egg on the side. After all this, I proceeded to eat a Kind Granola bar. I seriously need to never go to bed hungry because then I’m never satisfied the next day.

I actually don’t have a photo of my meal from Lost Dog Café because I was so hungry (I blame it on going to bed hungry Friday night) that I demolished my salad (oh, and an egg and bacon) before even realizing I should have taken a photo.

Snack – Fruit and Yogurt Bowl from Cafe Medley

Cafe Medley Sullivan's Island Charleston South Carolina Almond Milk Latte and Greek Yogurt with Fruit and Granola | almost getting it together

Almond Milk Latte and Greek Yogurt with Fruit and Granola from Cafe Medley.

Saturday was cold, rainy and dreary in Charleston. Why does 60 degrees in the South feel like 40 degrees in the North? We stopped for lattes (holla for almond milk as an option) and I had been jonesing for some Greek yogurt. I felt super satisfied after.

Dinner – Bacon Wrapped Scallops and Cheesy Grits at Blossom
We had a ton of restaurant recommendations in Charleston but Charleston is also one of those cities where you need to make a reservation in advance. I need to do a better effort of planning things like that. We wanted to try Husk but they were full so we went to Blossom, another farm-to-table restaurant downtown. We started off splitting a roast Portobello mushroom salad because Portobello mushrooms are my fave.

Roasted Portobello Mushroom Salad from Blossom Charleston South Carolina | almost getting it together

Roasted Portobello Mushroom Salad from Blossom

I couldn’t leave Charleston without eating grits and also I would die get a sniffly nose and a sore throat if I ate the traditional shrimp and grits, plus everyone knows scallops > shrimp. Then I ate chocolate sorbet and strawberry cheesecake ice cream because it was made in house.

Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Cheesy Grits Blossom Charleston South Carolina | almost getting it together

Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Cheesy Grits from Blossom

Housemade Ice Cream and Sorbet Blossom Charleston South Carolina | almost getting it together

Chocolate Sorbet and Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream from Blossom, both made in house.

I also had a glass and a half of pictured delicious dry rose. I’m excited for rose/iced coffee season, which are one and the same for me.

As I’m opt to do on Wednesdays, I’m linking up for What I Ate Wednesday.

Don’t forget to enter my Purely Elizabeth giveaway! It ends Thursday at midnight!

Chat with me:
Do you have to try all the foods a city is known for when you visit? Do you seriously eat everything in sight if you wake up starved?

Getting it Together on the Road: San Juan Del Sur

san juan del sur nicaragua | almost getting it together

Confession: I am a former geography bee champion. I competed in the National Geographic Geography Bee in 6th grade, was on my high school Geography Bee team and took an AP class AFTER-SCHOOL in high school for Human Geography and scored a 5. Bet you didn’t think I was that smart, did you? Concord University in West Virginia actually wanted me to come study geography and run cross-country (not a big deal – their team is all walk-ons for the most part, I think). So basically, somehow my brain is wired to love cultures and traveling and maps and things like that.

I read about Chicabrava in a Refinery29 article about best places for a solo trip. I decided at the beginning of the year that I wanted to take a trip somewhere by myself. I went surfing in Hawaii, was decent enough to get up on my first couple of tries, so I decided – sure, let’s go to Nicaragua. Funny enough, I didn’t know where Nicaragua was on a map. Don’t blame me, we all know we don’t learn enough about Central & South America in American schools. (Heck, we don’t learn enough about Canada. Or really anything for that matter.)

San Juan Del Sur is on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Managua, the capital and home of the major international airport in the country. The drive is kind of cool, you pass Lake Nicaragua and the two big volcanos. It’s definitely a surf town and it’s one of those little places that make you forget you’re not in the US. The expat influence is pretty huge and you’re definitely not the only gringo or gringa around.

lake nicaragua | almost getting it together

This is what the tail end of 14 hours of traveling looks like. Oh, and Lake Nicaragua and a volcano.

There’s a lot of shopping, mostly touristy-places or shops filled with weird stuff that’s either outcasts from major clothing factories (saw lots of counterfeit Hollister, actually) or Central American stuff that isn’t really my style of effortless cool. (Am I a jerk for saying that’s my style?)

I did stumble on a super-cute store called Auric. Auric sells a lot of their own designs and it is very Brandy Melville-esque – most stuff is one size fits most. They have a lot of handmade cheap jewelry that doesn’t look cheap, denim shorties, tanks for guys and girls and fun leggings.

auric san juan del sur nicaragua clothing | almost getting it together

Auric in San Juan del Sur.

If you forgot your rash guard or want a new swim suit, check out the Chicabrava shop. They carry a lot of prouducts from Billabong and Roxy, as well as some of their own designs.

A week or so before I arrived, SJDS opened its first raw-foods café, Buddha’s Garden. They have a lot of great salads, raw pizza, “zoodle” dishes and a multitude of smoothies and fresh juices. Buddha’s Garden also has raw treats like a Chakara-inspired layered cheese cake and a TiRAWmasu.

Nicaragua is known for their amazing coffee. Stop by El Gato Negro for a coffee, latte or tea and grab a breakfast sandwich or lunch while you’re there. If you plan on getting your coffee to go, be sure to take your own cup because they don’t do takeaway service as to protect the environment.

If you’re in the mood for tacos, try Bad Ass Eats like I mentioned in an earlier post. Most beaches also have their own taco stands. If you want traditional Nicaraguan food (read: rice and beans), there is a market in town you can wander through with lots of open seating and open kitchens where you can get some Central American staples.

There are a lot of street snacks too, but for the most part, they are gone by the end of the day. Look around for a guy selling coconuts for a dollar a piece (Emily, remember that time we paid like $7 for a coconut in Miami?) There’s also a woman who sells fresh mangos with the option to get this spicy sauce and salt in the bag as well. I tried a bite of a sauced-up mango and it was pretty delicious but I was also in salt-overload from the ocean so I stuck to the classic.

On one of the side streets, there is a woman who posts up every night to sell barbecued chicken. Apparently it’s really famous and delicious so if you have a chance, try it.

If you’re in SDJS, you’re likely there to surf or go to the beach, and if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong. (Kidding, kind of. Who doesn’t love the beach?)

san juan del sur nicargua | almost getting it together

Playa Madreas.

If you need surfing lessons, stop by Chicabrava. They do private lessons and I promise you’ll get up on a wave by the end of the day. My fifty-something year old father could get up on a wave on his first day (albeit in Hawaii, where the waves are a little gentler) and these girls are all amazing instructors.

Survivor: Nicaragua was filmed in San Juan Del Sur. This luckily brought a lot of infrastructure to the town and the nearby beaches. Playa Remanso, Playa Hermosa and Playa Maderas are all popular beaches with good surfing. Just don’t take anything valuable – theft is not an uncommon occurrence.

san juan del sur nicaraguasurvivor nicaragua | almost getting it together

Me beside a Chicabrava truck that was used in Survivor: Nicaragua.

If you want your hangover to get started around 7 p.m., head out on a catamaran tour. You can book one at most any tourist-y place in town and they offer an open bar (beer and rum drinks – and the rum in Nicaragua is both very good and very cheap). They take you out on a 3-4 hour tour and you anchor at a private beach where you can swim to shore. Make sure you take a friend who is a strong enough swimmer to lug a bag of beers to the beach. I also had the most epic ceviche of my life on said catamaran tour.

catamaran tour san juan del sur nicaragua

Catamaran chillin’.

Recently, a Canadian-theme bar opened in town, The Loose Moose. You can get a Molson and then make bad judgment calls after a few too many of their huge sangrias that are $5 and very strong and order a poutine. I also can get behind drinking at any bar with lots of hockey jerseys and we know my love of Canadians. If you want to interact with the locals, this probably isn’t the place to go though.

If you’re in the mood for live music, try the Black Whale. They have a stage in their outdoor area and a pretty diverse crowd. A drink will only set you back a few dollars.

Want an epic sunset with your mojito? Try El Timon for happy hour which has both seating in the sand and under a roof if you’ve had a little too much time in the sun.

san juan del sur sunset nicaragua | almost getting it together

San Juan del Sur sunset.


  • If you’re a snacker like myself (or anyone super-active), pack your own snacks. I suggest always traveling with nuts and protein powder, along with granola/energy bars and apple sauce packs if you think you need the extra fruit/fiber/natural sugar. All of those things are difficult to find there.
  • Most places take American currency; so just stop by the ATM before you leave home.
  • Pack sunscreen and deep woods bug repellent – the bugs get really bad in the summer and rainy season.
  • If you’re looking to find a business online, check Facebook – many of the local businesses use Facebook rather than a dedicated .com address.

PS: Did you win my NuttZo giveaway?

Chat with me:
Have you ever been to Nicaragua? Do you want to go? What subject were you best in at school?

Getting it Together on the Road: Savannah

tybee island savannah ga | almost getting it together

The Southern US often gives me anxiety. Do you know it’s absolutely impossible in 2014 to find a coconut water in southern Virginia? That’s not the kind of place I want to call home. Savannah, however, is different.

I’ve been going to Savannah on a semi-regular basis since I was a little girl. One branch of my family had the wits to get out of the north so I have traveled to the Paris of the South for weddings, races, vacations and of course – time spent visiting my family. Savannah has all the charm of the south while still being a part of the 21st century.

Below are some of my highlights of Savannah.  If you ever need more suggestions, feel free to e-mail me, tweet me, send me a note via carrier pigeon.

Savannah actually has a great shopping scene. When I get married, I’m going to decorate my entire house with stuff from Paris Market. Paris Market is filled with finds from flea markets and estate sales from – you guessed it – Paris, as well as the rest of the world with different cities and countries being represented at any given time. Currently the store is filled with finds from Egypt and India.

paris market savannah | almost getting it together

Upstairs at Paris Market

paris market savannah | almost getting it together

Downstairs at Paris Market.

paris market savannah | almost getting it together

Dying for this to be what my house looks like.

Besides Paris Market, Broughton Street also has Anthropologie, Kate Spade and Marc by Marc Jacobs outposts, just to name a few. If you want to find something a little more local with a smaller price tag, stop by Red Clover, whose offerings channel Francesca’s Collections, albeit with an even smaller price tag.

Savannah has options for just about every appetite. Go for complete gluttony at Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House, where you wait in line for a lunch of meatloaf or fried chicken, plus over twenty different side dishes and desserts, all eaten family style. I’ve done it once, many years ago, which was enough.

If you want to have a cute and quirky brunch with your girlfriends, I suggest Soho South Cafe. They have all the American-bistro classics from salads to sandwiches to quiche, with mismatched tables to boot. If you have to wait for a table, their bar area is super cute, too.

soho south cafe savannah ga | almost getting it together

The bar at Soho South Cafe.

soho south cafe savannah ga | almost getting it together

House Mixed Salad at Soho South Cafe, complete with added chicken and avocado (of course).

I’m also obsessed with Your Pie, the Chipotle of the pizza world. Read more about my obsession with Your Pie.

If you’re still hungry, I also suggest getting the falafel at Zunzis or grabbing a coffee at Gallery Espresso, conveniently a block from Red Clover.

Obviously, being a beach babe, my seriously favorite thing to do in Savannah is go to Tybee Island. The drive is beautiful, the beach is clean, and there are a ton of cool shops and restaurants on Tybee.

tybee island savannah ga | almost getting it together

Beach is better.

There’s always a race going on in Savannah –  or go for a loop around Isle of Hope for some stunning views, old plantation houses and an abundance of Spanish moss. Frosythe Park is also a mile around, so you can do loops around there and it affords some great people-watching. On Saturdays there is a Farmers’ Market there as well.

The Bohemian Hotel has a cool roof-top bar. The crowd is kind of older, but if you’re a girl, that means someone will probably buy you a drink.

Bohemian Hotel Savannah Ga | almost getting it together

With my cousin Jaime at the Bohemian Hotel in Savannah. Champs on champs.

I’m also a fan of Abe’s on Lincoln, mainly because there are Lincoln Logs. It’s super dive-y but also super fun.

abe's on lincoln savannah ga | almost getting it together

Clearly not the most flattering photo of me ever, but I should have been an architect.

Chat with me:
What’s one of your favorite cities to visit? When you’re traveling, which do you love most – shop, eat, play or drink?

What I Ate Wednesday: Nicaraguan Eats [2]

bad ass eats san juan del sur Nicaragua | almost getting it together

I’m a terrible blogger. I never remember to photograph my food. I think it’s a muscle memory you have to train. Or it’s because I’m lackadaisical in most things I do. I wish I could be a more serious person. Did you know the Spanish word for “almost” is “Casi”? I think this blog name was meant to be.

I’m writing this at 6:30 a.m. since I woke up for a run and it’s pouring the rain. I wanted to share a few more of the things I ate while in Nicaragua. I still am having a little white rice PTSD – I saw a container in the fridge at work yesterday and almost had a panic attack, but other than that, I’m already ready to be back there, waking up early to surf, not waking up early to push back a run because I’m being a baby and don’t feel like running in the rain.

This isn’t a whole day of eats – just random things I photographed that you’ll probably see again if I ever bother to do a recap. (I will, I promise – getting serious over here).

Smoothie Bowl from Buddha’s Garden

buddhas garden san juan del sur | almost getting it together

Smoothie Bowl at Buddha’s Garden.

I was Skyping with my #WCW, Davida, last night and told her about the smoothie bowl I ate at the new raw foods cafe in San Juan Del Sur, Buddha’s Garden. Her reply? “Of course you would find the only raw foods bar in Nicaragua.” This smoothie bowl was made with a papaya base, then topped with mango, banana, watermelon, chia seeds and raw granola. I love how not-sweet the raw granola was. Do I now need a dehydrator? The answer is no.

Fish Taco from Bad Ass Eats

bad ass eats san juan del sur Nicaragua | almost getting it together

Fish taco from Bad Ass Eats.

You can’t go to a beach town without a fish taco, even if fish tacos aren’t really native to Nicaragua (still Mexican, but readily available at every beach stand and just about every place in town). This was super messy. It’s crazy windy in San Juan Del Sur (offshore winds from Lake Nicaragua, hence why the surfing is so good) and whatever creama sauce was on it was everywhere. Then I also felt the need to dump a random hot sauce on the counter into it. The tortilla was a  homemade corn tortilla and was so good. BUT – the fish tacos my dad and I made from “It’s All Good” still are the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. Is that blasphemy?

Lobster from Cloud Farm

lobster cloud farm |  almost getting it together

Lobster… with the dreaded white rice.

As I said before, my meals were included in my lodging. The next to last night included lobster. I don’t even know where you find lobsters in Nicaragua, aren’t they a cold water creature crustacean? It was delicious and was in some red veggie sauce. The green thing is some sort of squash (though I wish it were kabocha squash) and the thing that isn’t rice is mashed potatoes. I’m just not into mashed potatoes/white potatoes in general… They’re both just bland to me. I was kind of hungry after I ate this since it was a few slices of squash and one lobster tail so I ended up making a salad with a random cucumber and tomato I found with balsamic vinegar and this delicious smoked cheese.

Steak and Chicken Kebobs from El Colibri

el calibri san juan del sur Nicaragua | almost getting it together

Beef and chicken kebabs at El Colibri.

I had spoke with a few people who had visited San Juan Del Sur, including Abby from All Dolled Up, who told me about the sangria at local Mediterranean restaurant, El Colibri. We went on their second to last night – their lease was up and the owners of the building wanted to start their own restaurant there. Since Nicaragua’s only food to speak of is rice, beans and plantains, I felt zero guilt about eating a cuisine I could get at home. Everything looked amazing – they had Spanish meatballs, steak with vodka bacon sauce, gnocchi (how I miss you, gnocchi) – but I went with chicken and steak kabobs (I love all things grilled, especially grilled veggies) and they were nice enough to swap polenta (weird polenta craving) for the potatoes.

Although I love eating while traveling, I’m also a creature of habit and truly love making my own meals because I love cooking, so coming home is always a little bit of a relief for me – I no longer have to forage for food out in the world and instead can throw random stuff in a bowl and eat it. I’ve also been eating mustard on everything since I didn’t have mustard for a week and I’m currently OBSESSED.

I’m linking up with Jenn from Peas and Crayons for What I Ate Wednesday.

Chat with me: What food/condiment are you currently obsessed with? Do you like eating out/eating at home more? What’s the best thing you’ve ever ate traveling?

Getting it Together Thursdays: Collect Moments, Not Things

stonehenge england | almost getting it together

What do you remember more – that amazing Spring Break trip you took with your girlfriends in college or the sweater you bought last week? If you’re anything like me, you don’t realize you own two-thirds of the things in your wardrobe, so it’s probably the trip.

I love to travel. I was bitten by the travel bug at an early age. I am very lucky and blessed that my family puts importance on spending time together doing things rather than buying things – while most people asked for a new MacBook for high school graduation, I schlepped my two-year old laptop to college and instead, asked for a trip to Europe. The laptop I eventually did have to purchase a week into school now lays forgotten and unused in my basement, but I still fondly remember visiting Versailles with my grandmother just about every day.

My friends often ask how I have money to travel so much – the simple answer is that I am really cautious about where my money goes: I pack my lunch everyday for work rather than buying it, I make my coffee instead of stopping at Starbucks for a latte every morning, I live at home (I know, this isn’t something to necessarily be proud of at 25, but I save so much money) and delete those sales e-mails. Think before you buy – do you really love it? If not, don’t buy it. That money could go to something more meaningful.

Maybe you don’t have the travel bug – you can still collect moments with your friends and family. Each birthday and holiday, I try to buy my friends and family something that requires us to spend time together. I bought my grandmother a spa package this Christmas, took Friend Emily (who seriously I have to have guest post about her Green Trekker) out to brunch and a mani/pedi for her birthday and bought tickets to a concert for Angela for all her hard work over the summer.

In college, I drove a beat-up Ford Taurus (because I was a terrible driver, it was purchased for me in perfect condition) and all I wanted was a new car. After a summer trip to Italy, my dad told me “I was going to buy you a new car this summer, but I decided the memories you would make in Italy would be worth more”. Think about that next time before you spend money – will you remember what you buy or will you remember that trip or event you are saving money for?

Chat with me:
Do you collect moments or things? (It’s okay to collect both :))

Getting it Together on the Road – Preparing for Travel to a Third World Country

mekong river delta |almost getting it together

While you’re reading this, I’m probably getting my butt kicked by some waves in Nicaragua. The WiFi situation is not good (i.e., third world country Internet) so sorry for my laziness/lack of photos. Also now you know why I’m not commenting on your blog. I’ll be back soon, I promise!

Can I even say Third World country? Is that politically correct? I think it’s developing nation but whatever, I majored in fashion, not poly sci. This post isn’t about how to act in a Third World country – act like a normal, respectable human being and be compassionate, duh – but rather, how to prepare so you can have an awesome, stress free trip and maximize your time doing cool things, not dying of food poisoning or getting Tom Hanks-ed at the terminal when you don’t have a visa.

I recently joked to my father while packing for Nicaragua that I couldn’t remember at what point in my life that I traveled somewhere so unprepared that it caused me such post traumatic stress disorder that I grossly over-pack every time I leave the house, let alone the country.

In college, I studied abroad in Hong Kong for 6 months, which is clearly not a third world country – it’s much cleaner and more advanced technologically than the US in many places. I literally had no idea what to expect especially since I didn’t even know where it was on the map (nerd alert: coming from a girl who competed at the State Geography Bee numerous times). So what did I do? I thought about every country in Southeast Asia I would potentially visit while there and prepared accordingly.

  • Check what vaccines you need.
mekong river delta |almost getting it together

Me five years ago in the Mekong River Delta, not dying of malaria because I was prepared.

If bugs are bad where you are going (so, basically everywhere in Central/South America, Africa, or Asia), and you can get anti-malarial pills, do it. Something in them definitely helps keep bugs away. Also use a bug repellent with 40% DEET. I don’t care about the chemicals, I care about scratching myself to death in my sleep and how I look with shorts on.

Make sure you get booster shots. One polio shot in the US as a child is good, but in places where it hasn’t been eradicated, it’s probably a good idea to get it. Same with hepatitis A – you can get it from contaminated food/water, and last I checked, kidney transplants aren’t fun.

If you’re going to South America or Africa, you’ll need a yellow fever shot. You can also get a typhoid shot for Central/South America and Africa. Five years ago I was able to take pills for typhoid, but allegedly according to my doctor now it’s shot-only.

  • Find out if you need a visa.

This should be self-explanatory – see if you need a visa in any of the countries you are traveling in. If you’re a US citizen, it’s more likely you’ll need one than your foreign pals. Take visa photos (you can get them taken at any pharmacy) for any country where you get a visa upon-arrival.

Always make sure you have at least 1-2 completely blank pages in your passport as well as at least 6 months’ validation left. If you’re traveling and about to run out, you can stop by the American Embassy (you usually have to make an appointment) and get more pages added.

  • Pack snacks.

I know, I live in fear of being hungry. I pack snacks for the drive to work basically at this point in my life. You never know what the food options are going to be where you’re going – I kind of remember one Sunday in Italy where everything was closed, including the grocery store, and I was literally about to eat my arm I was so hungry. I only kind of remember because we finally found an open bar and a bottle of wine on an empty stomach with our new 80 year old friend Rocco really did me in.

I’m also a complete psychopath and pack oatmeal, nut butter packets, Kind bars, chia seeds and protein powder with me whenever I go anywhere. Then I know I at least have some nutrients in the form of fiber, protein and healthy fats. My family actually packed a suitcase full of American food for me every time they came to Hong Kong (then took back a suitcase full of crap I was over).

  • Get currency before you leave.

Third world countries are great at ripping you off with fees and awful exchange rates. Some countries I’ve visited, like Cambodia, take American money – but it has to be in PRISTINE condition because counterfeiting is rampant. If you give your bank enough notice, they can order any currency for you for free – you just pay the exchange rate.

Also – tell your bank you’re leaving or they’ll cut off your card.

  • Don’t flaunt your wealth.

Leave the good jewelry at home. I don’t care if you feel naked without your [insert jewelry here]. So do I, but I’d rather feel naked for a week or two rather than never see it again. There’s pickpockets everywhere, even in Pittsburgh, I’m sure, but you don’t want someone to cut off your wrist for your diamond tennis bracelet. Also it just makes you feel guilty. This tip is also especially good for Europe, especially Southern Europe. A gypsy once stole my grandmother’s wallet when we were in Barcelona (still hasn’t turned me off from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding).

Chat with me:
Have you ever traveled to a Third World country? How did you prepare? Would you ever want to visit one?