I just arrived home from a vacation months in the making a few days ago. Vacation days were booked in February, and the following months were spent saving up funds and booking travel. After much anticipation and planning, things finally came together for a September 1 departure.
This vacation is my first since 2008, aside from taking a week off to move two years ago. A lot has changed since then: relationships have come and gone, I’ve moved house more than a couple times, I’ve started and left several jobs, and I’ve started over completely from nothing. A proper vacation was long overdue.
My vacation was amazing, and I had the opportunity to have so many experiences over the course of it, thanks to some pretty amazing friends and family. I don’t know that I will ever be able to express my appreciation for helping to make this vacation possible.
The most amazing part of this vacation was the sheer number of first-time experiences I had. I attempted to keep and make a list, but it just got ridiculous once it hit multiple pages in length. I want to write about as many as logically possible. I will do my best not to make this boring!
Let’s start with the crazy stuff. On the second day of vacation, the first day of our road trip: we stopped in Redding, California, just off the I-5 for dinner, and then the plan was to head for the highway 299 W toward the coast. Minutes after we started to make our way down the 299 W, we discovered it was shut down due to one of the many fires in the area. I scrambled to find us a detour as quickly as possible, and ended up taking us down two regional roads: SR 3 and SR 36. Little did we know we were in for the ride of our lives…and not in a good way. It was the most terrifying experience I have ever had, to my recollection. We were detouring down these unfamiliar back roads full of sharp turns, at times with no lines painted on the roads or reflectors, and definitely no guard rails to be found the entire time we spent travelling those roads. It was made even more frightening by the drivers coming from the opposite direction around the curves driving 55-60 miles per hour, and that we were driving these roads well after midnight. We didn’t have phone service for the majority of the detour either, so we were also travelling blindly. We white-knuckled our way through the entire detour. Never have I been so thankful to arrive at a destination!
Thankfully, the positive first-time experiences outweighed the negative. I traveled into California for the first time and saw the world-renowned Redwoods. We visited two state parks while we were in California: the Redwoods State & National Park, and the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We hiked two trails, totaling just under three miles. I use the term “hiking” lightly as neither of us are hikers. The tree growth in the first park was not as old as the growth in the second park, but it was beautiful, and an amazing thing to see for the first time! Even though we were dealing with wildfire smoke, it did not detract from the experience in the slightest. Seeing the Redwoods is the first thing I can confidently describe as awe-inspiring. And that was just the first park! The second park we visited was an old-growth park, where the vast majority of the trees were over a thousand years old. It has a completely different vibe from the first. It felt like a truly magical place, and its beauty was almost overwhelming for me. We found a nice little nook just off the trail, and I now describe that nook as one of my “happy places.” It’s pretty amazing though that the Redwoods was just the first of several amazing destinations I experienced for the first time. The next one I was able to experience was seeing and going into the Pacific Ocean for the first time. I saw it for the first time while we were driving up the coast, and smelled it for the first time when we were past the worst of the smoke. The ocean has a very distinct smell, sort of fishy almost but also refreshing! It walked into it the first time when we stopped in Newport, OR where we stayed at the amazing Sylvia Beach Hotel. It was so much colder than I expected! I had a lot of fun and very pink feet by the time we were done and ready to go eat dinner! We visited the ocean again when we were in Pacific City, and had a nice walk on a slightly warmer and sunnier day. The ocean wasn’t much warmer, but it was an enjoyable stroll along the beach. Even with a bunch of people around, it was kind of peaceful. We ended our walk that day with yummy beach coffee. Another first, although much easier to come by! I was really so lucky in that I was able to see so much of nature’s beauty on this vacation. I even got to stick my toes and hands in a real sulfur hot spring while I was in British Columbia!
I can’t forget though, the amazingness that was Powell’s City of Books. I can only describe it as a book lover’s dream. So, basically my dream. We visited twice and I did well in stopping myself from overspending – or spending at all! I can’t wait to go back… I NEED to go back…
Among the many other amazing firsts was the food! I tried so many new foods! I even discovered that I enjoy things I thought I disliked previously. Surprising myself in this way was actually pretty great. It reminds me why I try things at least once. I had my first actual food cart experience in Portland… more than once. It was delicious every time. Absolutely zero regrets. I had the best Thai food I’ve ever had in my life twice from a food cart that came highly recommended, and I also tried a “sushi burrito” twice in two different styles: one spicy and one not. Both were fantastic. Who knew a giant sushi roll could be so satisfying! In keeping with my whole trying foods kick, I tried a new spin on an old staple of mine when we stopped for lunch one day: a salmon Caesar salad! I usually go for chicken, but I remembered that I wanted to try new things on vacation so I changed it up. And boy am I glad I did! It was so flavourful and the salmon melted in my mouth. It complimented the salad much better than I ever expected. One of my favourite new foods I tried was Korean, traditional. Arien’s mom cooked a meal the night before I left and it was excellent. I enjoyed it so much…spice and all. I was rather proud of myself actually! Spicy foods aren’t usually very nice to me. It’s funny though because I was told that she didn’t break out the big guns in terms of spiciness…haha. Baby steps! There was So much good food on vacation too. I will miss it. It’s just not quite the same at home.
This small recap of a few of the MANY firsts I experienced isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. I have so many amazing memories from this vacation that I will remember forever.