Today, I found my groove.

Today was the first day since arriving back in Cartagena that I felt in sync with everything going on around me.  I feel like I hibernated a bit after we came home, trying to process the transition back.

When people ask me about living in Colombia, I often talk about the quality of life you are able to have here.  What I sometimes fail to mention about living abroad is the mental energy it takes to live your everyday life.  This is not a whiny rant, so don’t go there.   It can be a real struggle to live your everyday normal life where you still can’t fully communicate and where the cultural customs can still be quite different from what you would choose.  I occasionally have to give myself the “you can do it” pep-talks, but more often, I head into the world armed with google translate, bi-lingual friends and the courage to outlast any awkward situation.

So, today, walking around our city on some solo errands somehow felt like I had found my comfortable place again.   The city is always alive and buzzing and I just needed to borrow some of that energy.

So without getting to wordy, here is what we have been up to the last month or so…  Swimming, enjoying the coffee and all the views.

It’s also no secret that I love animals.    We have been treated to so many cool and unexpected encounters since we got back. Red Squirrels, Monkeys, Iguana’s, and my favorite was the Sloth.

It may have been a slow start, but that’s ok.  I need to be reminded that even though we are a year and a half in, this isn’t an easy process.  There are good days and bad ones, and most days have a little of both.

Nomads Christmas: Part 3 – Oregon

Last leg of our trip and we took a quick flight into Portland.  Home.

We celebrated second Christmas and spent some quality family time that was long overdue.

So good to relax by the fire, and let the cousins make up for lost time.  New Years Eve was spent with these cuties, teaching them about make up.  Perfect night.

I also try to squeeze in a few “normal” life activities when we are home.  This trip, we made it to story time at our local library, my kids are still surprised when it’s in English. Visiting friends, going to the movies, some beach time and new fun games rounded out our final leg.

It’s never easy to get back on that plane, knowing it will be 6 months before you get to see these moments again.    We are used to the traveling by now, but the saying goodbye is still just as hard.   We cherish the people in our lives who have stayed with us on this journey, who host us and send us care packages.  Being an expat is a roller coaster of excitement, sadness, guilt and a million other emotions in between.   We appreciate all the love.

We red-eyed back to Cartagena and I thought about all the hours my children were traveling.  Planes, road trips and back again, and not one fuss about it.   If they take away this one skill, to learn to love traveling, this will have been a great success.

Nomad Christmas: Part 2 – Santa Cruz, CA

Our road trip north was a trial run for an epic national parks road trip I hope to have sometime soon.   Leaving from Malibu, we made our way towards Santa Cruz.

 

I put together a travel guide for both my kids for our road trip.  I included a kid-friendly map, some pictures all about the State of California and some road trip scavenger hunt sheets so they can keep a look out for what they have seen instead of being glued to iPads the whole trip.

First leg was smooth, we were able to see some of the Thomas Fire devastation along the way, it was terrible to see so much scorched land.  We stopped in Pismo Beach for a quick lunch of In N Out and a park pit stop.  Perfect way to get the wiggles out.

 

Upon arriving, we got to spend time with one of our favorite families.  Thank you so much for hosting us and mostly loving on my children.

We wasted no time exploring, first stop was Monterey Bay Aquarium, a family favorite.

 

I get asked a lot why I support certain animals facilities and not others.  The plain fact is they vary so much from one to another – whether it be a focus on conservation and education vs just making money (ahem, SeaWorld) Monterey does a fantastic job being a leader in Ocean Health and especially the impact of plastics.

And next up was seeing the tall trees of Nicene State Park. Bonus points for finding a swing over the creek.  It was wonderful to smell the fresh air that you really only get in the middle of the forest.

 

I did get to try a few new things before the year’s end as well.  One was visiting a float spa.  Basically you float in a pod of perfectly temperate salt water in the absence of stimuli.   It took me a few minutes to quiet my mind, but I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxing it was and how much quality thinking I was able to do.  Thank you Sage Float Spa of Capitola.

 

It was a quick few days but such good ones for the soul.   Family, fun, and all the feels.   Next up, the final leg in Oregon.

Nomad’s Christmas – Part 1 : Los Angeles

We scheduled a pretty full holiday on our way to the West Coast this year, and it was just as wonderful as we’d hoped.   Our first stop was Los Angeles.   One thing I get asked constantly is how I travel with small kids.  I did write about it here, but also, it is the norm for our family now.   My kids are used to long lines, hauling bags, full flights and car rides.   I use that time to get them excited about what is coming and also reflect on what we have just done.

With no time to waste we booked an appt. Santa,  got right into cookie making, last-minute shopping and some much-needed family time.

With such a late start to our holiday break,  it felt a little tight trying to fit all these much-loved activities in before Christmas, but keeping these traditions alive is so very important to me.   Christmas Eve we roasted S’mores by the campfire and read The Night Before Christmas.   Of course, Christmas morning was full of excitement.

We spent the rest of our days playing at the park, practicing some bebe-shooting skills and generally enjoying the mid 70’s weather.  Cake pops included.  It was bliss.

Los Angeles isn’t for everyone, but we are lucky enough to enjoy a small slice that most people don’t get to see.  In the beautiful mountains above Malibu, we listen to the birds sing, get to see all the stars at night and relax with the peace of more trees than people.  It makes coming home something we all look forward to.

Next up, our Road Trip to Northern California.

High Tea: Cartagena City Guide

I was lucky enough to get invited to my first High Tea.  The beautiful Intercontinental Cartagena is trying out a few new menu options for guests, and we were able to test them out.  What fun to drink tea and eat cake in the middle of the afternoon? This should be a regular thing.

If that perfectly sized chocolate cake makes your mouth water, it should, because it was amazing.  Also, there may have been cocktails…

Afterwards, we were treated with a Cartagena sunset, I will never tire of these either.

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The Caribbean Christmas Spirit

There is no shortage of holiday spirit in Cartagena.  They are getting ready for Christmas long before Halloween and it only ramps us the closer you get.   Lights, trees, so many decorations, it’s really a festive place to be.  We watched the parade and lighting of the Christmas Tree in the Bay of Bocagrande last weekend, and it really kicked off the season.

And let’s talk about the Christmas trees.  They are in every lobby and just as beautiful and grand as they come.

I do have moments where I miss the cold weather, the smell of a fresh-cut pine in my front room, snuggling up in Ugg Booths, soft blankets with a cup of cocoa (I am currently in a tank top and flip-flops), but I know that is waiting for me soon.   Today, I will enjoy the beautiful lights that adorn each street of the city.

It is interesting to see how other countries celebrate holidays and I have to admit I am so thankful that Colombia loves an over the top Christmas.   We’ve only just begun.

 

Playing the Tourist

With family visiting, we got the change to revisit some of our favorite places in Cartagena.  The list is getting longer and it’s so fun to show off some of the special places we love…..  Here is a photo recap of our past week in no particular order:

 

From Thanksgiving to lazy island beach days and just about everything in between, we ate good food, enjoyed good company and had a few adventures to remember along the way.  It’s easy to love this time of year.