The Travel Itch

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I hardly know how to start this post. I’m antsy and all over the place at the moment. Frisbee training just got cancelled so now I’m chugging white wine and trying to calm down. Because wine is my answer for everything, wheeee!

I woke up this morning feeling SO thrilled that the temperature was finally below 20ºC. I opened all the windows and sat right in front of the cool breeze wearing a hoodie for the first time since May. As insane as it might sound, I’m fucking done with summer. The heat has made me anxious and crazy and unproductive. I’m ready for autumn. I can’t wait to drink tea and bake pies and be all cozy inside. (It also marks the moment when I switch back from chilled white wine to the red wine I truly desire. Hallelujah.)

It also just started raining for the first time in what feels like a million years, and I am SO fucking excited.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, so I guess I’ll just get to the point.

As you might have noticed, I haven’t been writing once per week as I promised I would do. At times it has been lack of inspiration, but there’s a bigger (and more positive) reason for my silence.

To paint the picture a little better: my travel itch is really out of control at the moment. It’s gotten pretty severe lately, so much so that even though I have a trip next week, another in mid-September, and another in November, I had to plan yet another in October just to feel like I was actually filling up my calendar. People keep telling me that I travel a lot, and I don’t believe them, because I’m insane and apparently my threshold for traveling is ridiculously high. (Also, I never count frisbee as “traveling,” which I suppose isn’t entirely fair, but I can’t help it. So then I have to plan other trips that are not frisbee just to even it all out.)

The combination of this travel itch, my lengthy unemployment, and me feeling like I’m on the brink of losing my mind all combined in a perfect storm in my brain and led to the following decision: I’m starting a new blog. Eeeep!

This probably sounds really silly to, well, all of you. Because if I can’t even make myself write on this one, why the fuck would I start a new one? But here’s the thing: I’ve spent the last 8 months miserably unemployed, trying to find jobs, trying to figure out what I’m good at, trying to figure out how to market myself as a freelance whatever-the-fuck. And it’s been awful. I’ve hated every minute of it, and I’ve legitimately gotten nowhere.

And then about a month ago, I had an epiphany. I’m already unemployed and have nothing to do. And trying to do things I’m good at (in theory) wasn’t going anywhere. So why not start doing something I want to do, and then see if I can turn that into some sort of career? That was when the floodgates opened and the ideas started pouring out, and I’ve spent the past month trying to sort them out and winnow down and focus and make this thing happen. It’s been overwhelming, but I also haven’t been this excited about anything in over a year, so this is huge. Fucking huge.

I don’t want to get too much into details yet (because, of course, I’m still working them out), but I will be starting a travel blog and launching a travel consultancy based here in Amsterdam. I’ve made a goal to have the blog launched by mid-September, and I’ve already started an Instagram account (you can follow it here, if you feel so inclined). I still intend to use my personal IG account for my own shit, and I’ll still be using this blog for personal stories, but the idea is to professionalise everything and, hopefully, somewhere in the future, actually turn my passion for traveling and writing into a career.

(And don’t worry, just because I’ve professionalised doesn’t mean I’ll lose my voice. It’s still my blog and it’ll still be me writing, for the most part. There will just be less profanity. Because I do realise I curse like a sailor and maybe that’s not the best way to get new readers on board… Fucking losers.)

Anyway. I actually dreamed of being a travel writer when I was teenager. And somehow I lost track of that dream. And it’s kind of exciting to find it again. I feel oddly giddy about the whole thing. Kind of like this:IMG_2439(That emptiness behind me is the life abyss I’m about throw myself into, and I don’t even care!!)

So yeah. That’s what’s up. The life update for the masses, if you will.

And since we’re here, and I’m now slightly wine tipsy and feeling sentimental, I’ll just say one more thing. The past year (as many of you know) has been rough. And losing my old job was a lot more difficult than I anticipated it would be. But, despite the anger and feelings of bitterness I held on to for some time afterwards, I will be forever grateful to that job, because it afforded me the opportunity to travel extensively, meet people from all over the world, and ultimately move to Europe to start a new life on a new continent. And that is fucking rad as fuck. So, I gotta give a little hat tip to Five for giving me fodder and fuel for my absurd travel habit. I’m sure I would have been a travel junkie either way, but I definitely appreciated all those free flights to Europe over the years.

And finally, big love to all the people I’ve met along the way, and here’s to the people I’ll meet in the future. I’ve especially been feeling lots of affection for a very particular group of people this week (@TFTD–you know who you are). Somehow I got the opportunity to put together a frisbee team full of people from all over the place, and they are the most fun and coolest and kindest crew on earth, and every time I think of them or hear from them, I feel warm inside. Thanks for reminding me that communities don’t always live in one place. Y’all are my family. So much love. Can’t wait to be reunited with you all sometime soon ❤

Alright, so that got super sappy at the end there. But if you were here drinking wine with me, I guarantee I’d make you start telling me sappy stories pretty damn quickly. Cuz that’s just the vibe I’m in right now. Also, my roommate who has been away for a month will be home in about 45 minutes, and I’m ridiculously excited to see her. So all the warm fuzzy feelings are happening right now. #sorrynotsorry #bitchdontkillmyvibe

Love you losers. Sailor-mouth Christina will never die, I promise. Mwah.

P.S. Lisa, sorry I’m gonna be kinda drunk when you get home. But there’s some wine in the fridge for you 🙂

 

Summer Slippin’ Away

Well, I’ve failed at my “write once per week” plan. But to be fair, I’ve been really busy and that’s legitimately the only reason I haven’t updated in a while. Lots of ideas for upcoming posts, but in the meantime, here’s a brief taste of recent highlights:

1. Turning a chill “club social” into a 4am rager. Fortunately (for me) there is no photo evidence…

2. Winning Dutch Competition with this badass group of ladies. I’m a fucking National Champion, yo.35653551_650726871943903_1019904353110065152_o.jpg

3. Partying at Europe’s largest ultimate frisbee tournament for 3 straight days. (Yeah, I also did some work. Whatever.)36342048_2121985134757086_9085663557005082624_o.jpg

4. Drinking ALL the scotch in Scotland. (More on this one later.)IMG_3401.jpg

5. Cheering on Belgium in the World Cup quarterfinal and drinking far too much beer. (And gin.)

6. Spending the next day hungover, swimming in the IJ, and watching more football on one of the loveliest and laziest days I’ve had this year so far. (Go Croatia!)

7. Spending a warm and sunny Sunday cycling down the Amstel to drink wine in the cutest little Dutch town.IMG_3459.JPG

8. Packing for another holiday, this time off to France for fancy dinner with my dad in Paris, followed by a music festival on a Normandy beach for 3 days…

So, further updates will have to wait until next week. À la prochaine fois! ❤

A Not-So-Epic but Somewhat Hilarious Mountain Rescue

For those who read my last blog post, thanks for taking the time. Y’all are saints.

As promised, I am writing more often, and it’s not going to be about feelings, because I hate those things anyway. Instead, I’ve realised I have a fucking arsenal of ridiculous adventure and drinking stories from the past many years that I have failed to write about (because of the aforementioned “feelings”). So, it’s time now. Buckle up.

These will not be in order. I have no idea what I’m doing. Join me on this wild ride, won’t you?

***

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This first story is fairly recent, and also a new favourite of mine already. In part because it’s completely ridiculous, and in part because it seems to have become a trend that whenever Melissa and I get together, things don’t go exactly as planned. And it’s wildly entertaining.

In April, I went on a girls adventure with two college friends. We don’t see each other all that often, but when we do, we fall back into that easy way of being friends that is so rare and special and awesome that, well, we certainly wish that we saw each other more often. Melissa lives in Geneva, so she and I have seen each other once a year since 2016. The first time, we had a massively entertaining (and potentially dangerous) adventure on a snowy Swiss mountain. And last year, we went on a tulip adventure that was supposed to be a leisurely cycle and instead turned into 20km+ of walking because we planned very poorly. We are really, really good at getting things not quite perfect. Which is funny because normally I’m super good at planning, but somehow, together, the two of us are so relaxed about the whole thing that we just think “it’ll be fine,” and then even when it isn’t, we make it work. And that’s pretty damn cool.

I haven’t seen Eliza since 2015, which, incidentally, is also the last time the three of us saw each other together. And that trip was pretty tame, because we were just hanging out in Boston and having dinner, and the circumstances weren’t quite right for an epic adventure of “oh shit” proportions.

But April was a different story. The 3 of us decided to go to Corsica. Why? I’m not really sure. Melissa suggested it, and I said yes. No regrets, though. That place is fucking awesome.

Melissa also suggested that we do a 2-day cycling trip around Cap Corse, to which I also said yes, because she does lots of cycling trips and knows how they work. And then we organised the whole thing so carefully that we were convinced it was going to be perfect and lovely and awesome. All the internets told us it was “fun” and “beautiful” and “the best way to see the cape.”

IMG_2950.jpgYou do have to admit, it’s pretty amazing…

What the internet failed to tell us is that it was a motherfucking bitch of a cycling trip. One website said it was possible to do the whole thing in a single day, which led me to believe that 2 days would be fairly leisurely and quite doable for reasonably fit people (but not pro cyclists) like ourselves.

IT WAS ALL LIES. Apparently pieces of this ride are a part of the fucking Tour de France.

We had to scale a fucking mountain. A FULL MOUNTAIN.

TWICE.

None of us was prepared for this. At all. In fact, we were so unprepared that on day one, we ran into a man driving a nice car who told us we were going the wrong way after we had already climbed most of the way up the mountain. So we actually had to go back down and start again. And we were not happy about it.

But we made it. We made it up, and made it back down (soooooooooooo much downhill and sooooooo thankful our brakes worked). And then we stayed in the most beautiful tiny fishing village and it washed all of our worries away. Washed them away so fully, in fact, that we were convinced that Day 2 couldn’t possibly be any worse than Day 1.

IMG_6520Day 2: See? Look how happy and fearless we are!

We were very wrong.

We got an early start on Monday so that we could take our time and not rush to get over the mountain. So we stopped for a coffee. And then for lunch. And then to buy a bottle of wine at a local winery. And we gave ourselves a solid 4 hours to cross the mountain pass.

But then we went the wrong way again. Because Google fucking SUCKS.

And then when we righted ourselves, the grade was so insanely steep, and we were so insanely tired, that we just couldn’t go anymore. We walked our bikes for a while, and tried cycling again, and then had to walk again. And then it was 7:30PM and the sun was already getting low and we still weren’t at the top. And we didn’t have reflective gear or good lights, and couldn’t even consider going down the other side with such limited light.

It was intense. Each of us went through all the stages. The “omg can we do this???” to the “YES WE CAN” attitude, to the “no, no, no, we really cannot, I am going to die” attitude. And at each point, the other two would perk up the 3rd and we’d keep going.

Until the point that we stopped. The point where I nearly had a panic attack, but I tried not to, and then Melissa said, “Soooo maybe we should call someone?” and I just started crying. And we stood on the side of a winding mountain road next to a cliff and called the bike rental company. Because we didn’t know what else to do. And we ate snacks. And we waited. And we called other people. Basically, we made all the phone calls.

After about 35 minutes, the bike rental company said they would come rescue us. Which, let me say, is BEYOND the best possible customer service. They did NOT have to do that. But they did it anyway. And charged us only a marginal fee for the whole rescue operation.

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But they wouldn’t just rescue us at a random spot on the side of the road, so we were forced to backtrack to a town we had passed ages ago. (Actually, I think it had been nearly 2 hours since we’d passed that town. But it only took us 20 minutes to get back there. Downhill FTW.) And then we sat on the curb outside the post office and waited. And we waited. And we waited. And we feared that perhaps they would never show up and we’d be stuck in that tiny town overnight. Fortunately, we were sitting right next to a hotel, and we began considering backup plans.

And then the van arrived. And a kind young man emerged from the driver’s side and looked at us with a smile, but you could tell there was pity in his eyes. But, instead of teasing us, he validated us: “Why didn’t you rent e-bikes? Most people do this ride with e-bikes…”

WHY HAD NO ONE TOLD US THAT BEFORE?!

We were so grateful to be sitting in a car, and our driver was so friendly. (I wish I could remember his name…) He drove us to our hotel and wished us well for the remainder of our travels. And basically everyone we met over the next two days looked at us incredulously when we told them about our adventure. “Wait, you DIDN’T have e-bikes? What were you thinking??”

Validation. Also, we felt pretty stupid.

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But hey, we survived. Built some character. And then drank a whole lot of wine. Wouldn’t trade that adventure for the world.

So, Mel: what mischief will we get into next spring?

A Very Naked Birthday Bath

I started this story 2 weeks ago and have yet to finish it. SORRY. I was too busy doing other things (#drinking). But also other, other things. Probably.

ANYWAY.

I celebrated my birthday for five days and have only told you about the first two. The third day happens to be my actual birthday, so I guess I should probably get into it, huh?

So if you recall from last time, my first 10 hours in Berlin were a blur of cross-city transit, coffee, food, beer, failed attempts at clubbing, photo booths, and cocktails. And then sleep sometime around 2:30am. Wifey told me happy birthday at least three times before we went to sleep, and then again first thing in the morning, because she is the BEST wifey.

So on Sunday morning (actual BIRTHDAY day), we woke late and walked to a nearby cafe for breakfast. Which turned out to be hopping, because apparently it’s the best place to have breakfast in Berlin. I’m exaggerating, but only a little. It’s epic. See:

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The best part is I think we paid like €25 for that entire spread. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I could have eaten there every day for the rest of my life (and turned into a giant balloon of a human, but whatever).

Then we got super naked with a bunch of other ladies.

Just like any other Sunday.

Cool?

Ok, moving on.

KIDDING! I will explain.

First, quick backstory: 9 months ago, Wifey and I adventured across Andalusia. During this trip, we visited a hammam. It was A-MA-ZING. And so, when we discovered that there was a hammam in Berlin (one of several, in fact), we decided it had to be part of this trip as well.

So my birthday began with giant breakfast, followed by several hours of bathing and sauna-ing with a bunch of naked ladies. It was awesome. I would absolutely go again. Hell, I’d go every Sunday. It was relaxing as fuck.

And then we were sooooooo mellow, and also very warm (yay!), so we walked for a while in the cold until we found the East Gallery of the Berlin Wall. Where Wifey took this super cool photo of me, because she is great at that:

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We then continued walking in search of a flea market, which we discovered was actually IN club central (i.e. Friedrichshain, where we were the night before). But we also found that it was closed because a tree had fallen into it. (I failed to mention before that there was a code red windstorm happening. Like, state of emergency level wind. Apparently. Didn’t stop us though.)

There had been a small series of fails, and we were also very cold at this point. So we decided on a pre-dinner break. (Translation: We bought beers to drink at the house, and then played loud music while we got ourselves dolled up for a night out.)

And then we went to the brewery.

Oh yes. Because it’s me, and I HAD to find at least one craft brewery in town. And of course we didn’t have a reservation, and they didn’t have a table. So we sat at the bar for a while and the super fun bartender entertained us for about an hour before we actually got seated. (All the while drinking beer. Duh.)

And then we drank MORE beer and ate delicious food (yum). And then, because Mr. Bartender knew it was my birthday (hooray for Wifey!), he surprised us with free shots of who-knows-what! Even better, he took the shots with us. I do wish I remembered what they were… But whatever, it was amazing.

[Note: I almost skipped ahead to our attempt at clubbing, forgetting that we actually went to another beer bar first. But it was super empty on a Sunday and we were afraid we would get sleepy, so we didn’t stay very long. Exciting stuff.]

Because here’s the thing: we wanted to party. We were fairly tipsy (drunk?) after like 7 beers each (ok, drunk). But it was also Sunday, so a) fewer parties and b) we had no idea what we were looking for. We attempted to go to Suicide Circus, which is totally fun but also we were HELLA early (midnight) and didn’t want to pay €15 to get tired within an hour and leave. So we gave up on the big clubs, and aimed for something smaller.

That’s how we ended up at this SUPER WEIRD tiny club that felt like a labyrinth and had porn all over the walls. And my wifey took this photo of me at the end of an epic photo series where I looked really uncomfortable because she kept telling me to look straight at the porn. But I guess she was right, because I look quite calm here (but fun fact: I’m staring at porn).

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So there you have it. My 30th birthday started with naked women and ended with porn. With a whole lot of beer in between. Seems like an appropriate way to ring in a new decade, right?

***

[On the next installment of Christina’s epic 30th birthday bash: Hangovers & Halloween.]

The 5-day Birthday Party

Now, the thing with this blog is it’s supposed to be fun and light and tell the wild tales of my drunken adventures. Well, it actually started as a blog about food and beer, but it very quickly devolved into a blog about my wild adventures. Because apparently I’m an animal. [Note: It is also full of sarcasm and self-deprecating humour. Oh, and lots of caps lock. Get ready.]

So, my aim from here on out will be to focus on the FUN STORIES (woooooo!) But first, I must say one thing:

THANK YOU to everyone who has reached out over the past 2 days with kind words, comfort, and support. I didn’t expect it, and I couldn’t be more appreciative. All of you are completely and totally wonderful. Thank you, a million times. ❤

Ok, so now that’s done. (Seriously. I love you all.)

Let the tales begin!

Before we get into the dirty details (intrigue!), there are two things I must mention. First, I turned 30 about ten days ago (HOLY HELL). And second, I must introduce my wifey.

I have this friend. We shall call her Wifey. We were roommates in Seattle before both of us moved away to do new things. And once we became roommates, things got serious pretty quickly. I mean, we became wives. (Not actually. But you know.) For the rest of my life, this girl will be my wifey. No one else will ever get that title (well, unless I marry a woman… This is an issue I will deal with if/when the time comes.) Even if/when we both have husbands, we will still be each other’s wives. Our future maybe-husbands are just going to have to deal.

Since I moved to Amsterdam, I expected I would see all my American friends much less, if ever. But Wifey has already visited me (or met me somewhere in Europe) three times in less than two years. Because she is amazing. And, of course, my wife.

A few months back, my wifey suggested we go to Berlin for my 30th birthday. So obviously I said yes. Because a) that sounds fucking amazing and b) I cannot say no to Wifey when she offers to fly to Europe. (Seriously, she is too cool.)

This essentially meant that I got a 5-day long birthday adventure. Because according to Wifey, “well, I’m here, so it’s still your birthday.” Even the day before my birthday was my birthday. Everything is my birthday. It was the FUCKING BEST. I have never birthday’d so much in my life and I loved every minute of it. (Also, when you birthday, you get free drinks sometimes. Yay!)

Now, I can’t possibly share 5 days worth of adventures in one post, so consider this Part I of the miniseries. I took a 9am train to Berlin on Saturday, after some pre-pre-birthday adventures with a few Amsterdam friends. Because if I’m missing my 30th at home, I had to do something at least. It was low-key, just 4 of us. But there were giant margaritas involved (“low key”). I didn’t get drunk (I did). I also didn’t spend too much money on scotch at 1am (I also did). It was chill (actually, it was. Also, AWESOME.)

So the 9am Berlin train was a struggle. But I made it, and managed to mostly kick my mild hangover on the 6-hour journey. I finally arrived to greet my very jet-lagged wife, and both of us had the “omg do we have to go outside?” feeling. But then we DID go outside, and instead of being lame we painted the fucking town because we are rockstars and TAKE THAT JETLAG/HANGOVER/BEING OLD. You will not bring us down.

(Side note: Wifey is not yet 30. She is so young. I am jealous.)

As I am trying to recall the events of that very first day in Berlin, I’m realising that we did literally EVERYTHING. First, we visited the Kaufhaus des Westens (or KaDeWe), which is the largest and most glamorous department store ever. The top floor is entirely gourmet food, so we drank an espresso and ate some snacks. Then we walked to a beer garden in a park. It was insanely cold, so we sat inside, but it was probably the prettiest place in the world and I have decided to be married there (someday). Also I took this amazing picture of my beautiful wifey:

DSC_0875 copyTHEN, we took a bus (first in the wrong direction, followed by the right direction) to a super hipster fancy restaurant. Miraculously, even without a reservation, we managed to get a table on a busy Saturday evening (birthday luck!). And the food was AMAZING. Also the wine. Also the waitstaff were super fun. The place had good vibes.

Then we tried to go to a speakeasy nearby (the kind where you ring a doorbell to get in), but they were full. So we decided to get a drink elsewhere and come back. Which we did, and they were still full, but I think actually the door guy just didn’t like us. Douchebag. Don’t you know it’s my birthday?? (Apparently he didn’t, since we forgot to tell him.)

At this point it was near midnight, and we thought that we might as well try to check out this Halloween party at this club we heard about. And that’s when we ended up in CLUB CENTRAL in Friedrichschein, and neither of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into. (That place is fucking MENTAL. And super cool.) Plus, post-hangover and post-jetlag, we weren’t sure how long we would last and didn’t want to pay €15 to get into a party we knew nothing about.

So instead we took an amazing photograph:

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And then moved on to a local bar nearby to finish the night off with some cocktails. At this point it actually WAS my birthday (hooray!) so I am very proud to announce that my first drink of my 30s was a mojito. Solid choice, in my opinion. Perhaps this will shape the decade ahead (and fill it with hot Cuban men?? I fucking hope so.)

So let’s see. We basically started the day at 4pm and still managed to hit five establishments before my actual birthday even started. Feels like a win. I realise this is a fairly anti-climactic way to end this post, but let’s remember that a) the next day is actually my birthday and b) we were jetlagged/hungover. Plus, now I’m old, so I guess things are just gonna be more lame from here on out.

LAME. Whatever. I’m still gonna kick my 30s out of the park. Being old isn’t real anyway. 😀

That time I almost stole a kayak in Poland.

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Ok, I might be exaggerating slightly. But not much, actually. I really did almost steal a kayak. The only thing that held us back was the lack of an oar, and therefore no way to steer ourselves down the adjacent river.

So I suppose the next step in this story is to give you some context. Because you’re probably just thinking I’m some asshole who tries to steal people’s kayaks, but I promise you it’s not like that. (Ok, it’s only sort of like that.) Also, I just switched from “I” to “us” in the previous paragraph without warning, and I swear it’s because there were other people involved, and not because I think of myself in the plural. We’re not that crazy.

ANYWAY. A few weeks ago, I went to Poland for work. As many of you know by now, this usually means I go to a foreign country and I spend a LOT of hours in a field watching people play ultimate frisbee and/or selling apparel to said ultimate frisbee players. And then, once us frisbee people leave the fields, weird things happen. Because that’s how we roll. Also, we’ve all gone insane from spending 12 hours a day in a fucking field, and we don’t know how to properly behave in the real world.

And so, on this particular Saturday night, we got into all sorts of shenanigans. The tournament had ended earlier that afternoon, so all the staff were finally done and allowed to actually let loose and enjoy themselves. So that night, it was time to go. And I mean, “let’s fucking GO” level go.

First, I should begin by saying that the crew involved consisted of 4 Brits, 2 Canadians, and myself. We all work in the ultimate frisbee world, in some capacity. So by default, we’re all a bit weird, and totally 100% awesome.

The night started with champagne. Actually, I think we had hard cider first. But then champagne. And then we went out for a very late, incredibly magnificent dinner which involved a very large beer, and then more wine. (And holy shit so much food. Pretty sure the Canadian dude ate 3 entrees because he is apparently a human garbage disposal. I mean that in the best, and most impressed, way.)

And THEN we went to this insane beach bar along the river, which also happened to be right next to the zoo. As we walked through the forest on the way to the bar, we kept passing ridiculous graffiti showing zoo animals who were apparently going into space. I promise you I’m not lying. The images were very upsetting, just look:

IMG_0471I don’t know what this octopus did to deserve being sent into space against its will, but it made me sad.

I was fascinated by the graffiti, as was this British guy Jon. We were so enthralled by the crazy space animals, in fact, that the two of quickly lagged behind the rest of the group. We stopped to marvel at them and took several selfies. And then we lost everyone.

So when we found a beach bar, we assumed we were in the right place. So we bought a beer, and then looked around and realized that there were definitely no frisbee people there. And I think everyone thought we were insane because we wouldn’t stop talking about the “crazy bird” and the “space octopus.” I only hoped that everyone there assumed these were our code names and that we were really awesome special agents. (I’m certain this is what they thought. There’s no other explanation for our behavior.)

We already had a beer in hand, so we figured we would drink it and then continue onwards to find the group. And frankly I don’t remember if we kept walking, or if frisbee people just appeared out of nowhere, because suddenly we were in the right place and everyone we knew was there too. It all seemed to happen rather magically.

We ordered more beers and then spent some time sitting on a very funky piece of architecture that I believe Jon referred to as a “geometric orgasm.” I wish I had a photo of it, but I don’t. It was pretty cool, though. His description was fairly accurate, to say the least.

And that’s when we saw the kayaks.

So here’s a little thing about me: when I get drunk, I like to do things that a) I probably wouldn’t want to do while sober and b) seem WAY more fun than they actually are. So at that particular moment, I was inexplicably excited about sitting in a kayak. Actually, I think I was more excited about the prospect of going down the river in said kayak, but getting into it was step one.

Fortunately, Jon (who I had only just met) turned out to be as ridiculous as I am, so he was as excited about this idea as I was. So we went to the kayaks. And we crawled into one. And I think we sat there for a good hour, with the very serious intention of actually taking the kayak down the river, but lamenting the fact that we didn’t have an oar. Pretty sure someone was hiding the oars from us, probably because whoever owns the bar is very smart and knows that stupid drunk people will otherwise try to steal their kayaks. (We totally would have stolen that kayak. Totally.)

IMG_0499This is a terrible photo, but it proves the existence of the kayaks and us being in them.

Eventually we got out of the kayak, because sitting in a non-stolen kayak and doing nothing gets pretty boring after a while. But then we were hanging out on the floating dock next to the kayaks, and the Canadians thought it would be funny to untie the floating dock from the thing it was attached to. While Jon and I were on it.

So for a brief moment, a new idea came to be: Let’s take this raft down the river!

IMG_0500Our Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn rafting adventure begins! (Except not.)

We very quickly realized that was a terrible idea and we would probably die, but fortunately there was still one tiny chain keeping us attached to the mainland. (Without which, we were totally fucked, actually. Because, if you can’t tell from the photo, there was no way off the raft at that particular moment.)

But then, as Jon attempted to pull us back using that tiny chain, it snapped. I was completely unaware of this fact, but he began to panic and kept telling me to “Jump! Hurry, jump to the other dock!” while I kept saying “Dude, chill out, you’re overreacting.” Because I just thought he was being a sissy. But apparently, for a brief moment, we almost actually floated away down the river. Which would have been exciting, but then I probably wouldn’t be around to tell you this story, so I’m kind of glad that didn’t happen.

And of course, in the midst of all of this chaos, we continued to drink beer. In fact, despite the fact that we’d just had a near-death experience*, we managed to continue drinking for several hours. And then a wedding party showed up after their reception, which apparently had been at the zoo. We thought a zoo reception was pretty cool, until this guy kept yelling “DO YOU KNOW HOW SCARY IT IS TO BE IN A ZOO AFTER DARK?! THERE ARE BEARS EVERYWHERE.”

It was about this point that I realized I was far too drunk and tired to be having a conversation with someone who has severe bear-phobia and is still suffering PTSD from his nighttime zoo experience. (Frankly, I think he’s an idiot, because I would LOVE to be in a zoo at night. That sounds fucking dope. You could pretend to be a jungle explorer. You could practice your night vision. YOU COULD STEAL A MARMOSET.)

(I promise I wouldn’t actually steal a marmoset. I barely know how to care for myself, let alone a small monkey.)

So, after many failed attempts at conversation with the terrified-of-bears man, we decided to leave. And before we even managed to make it out of the park, the sun was rising.

Leaving a bar at sunrise? That’s some college-level party shit right there. I haven’t done that in years. Mad props to the crazy British/Canadian crew for partying like rockstars.

I am so proud.

 

*Ok, we didn’t actually have a near-death experience. But it could have been a near-death experience if we had floated away. We just didn’t try hard enough.

*****

[Next time: When in Ireland…]

All of the Gin: A Story of My Dad.

DSC_0167 copyThis is how I hook all you gin-lovers. With a super sexy photo of Hendrick’s.

Once upon a time, almost two and a half years ago, I wrote a story about how I got my cousin so drunk while wine tasting that she made a fool of herself in front of the entire family. It is one of my greatest accomplishments. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But I am very proud of it, and it’s a story the family will never forget.

(And before you stop reading because you think I’m a terrible person, please read that other story for some context. Because me getting her drunk was payback for her getting me so drunk I almost missed her brother’s wedding. All is fair in love and war.)

Now back to the point. I never thought I would ever one-up myself on that fun little escapade. But I DID. Because a couple of months ago, I got my Dad so drunk at a gin festival that he made a complete fool of himself. I only wish my cousins had been there to witness the glory, but that is why I am writing this blog. So they can relive it with me!

So here’s how it all went down.

In May, my parents came to visit me in Amsterdam. (For those of you new to blog, I live in Amsterdam! I had only moved a few months prior, so my parents’ visit was their first to Amsterdam and very exciting overall.) They were here for a whopping 9 days, and because my Dad had a conference in the middle of their week here, we couldn’t really take any big side trips. 9 days is a long time to vacation in the same city, so towards the end of their time here, we had already seen and done a lot. So we needed a fun family activity.

Enter: the Amsterdam Gin Festival.

DSC_0160 copyI promise that server isn’t creepy, he just happened to catch me right as I shot this photo.

For the entire week, my mom was completely on board with this plan. “The Gin Festival sounds really fun!” she said. And DUH, of course it would be fun. There would be drinking involved! Also, my mom is amazing and excited about most things that I suggest. She’s the best mom ever.

But I intentionally failed to mention it to my dad for most of the week because I feared he would not be excited. For my whole life, I have never known my dad to be into gin. He loves wine. He loves scotch. He loves cognac (ask the family about that story). But gin? Not a thing he loves, as far as I knew.

But boy was I WRONG.

My dad apparently LOVES gin. Also rum. And jenever. And vermouth.

The whole thing became dangerous very quickly.

So I don’t want to bore you with too many details, but I must set the stage here. Because, honestly, this story only gets better the more you know.

The plan began as follows: We were going to meet my friends, Bex and Luke, at the Gin Festival. We would go early (around 2pm), so we could drink in the middle of the afternoon, and then have dinner and sober up in the evening, so as not to have any hangovers. Because we are pros and know how this works.

So we headed to the ferry terminal. Because it’s Amsterdam, and sometimes you get to a gin festival via a (free!) ferry across the IJ. (It was actually really amazing. First we got on a boat. The boat ride was lovely. And then when we got off the boat, there was gin EVERYWHERE. Fucking YES.)

Bex and Luke were running a little late, so we decided to do some reconnaissance and wander around the festival a bit. There were so many stands, so it was worth taking a few laps to discover what was what.

But that’s where things went wrong. Because my father has the patience of a 5-year-old. So as soon as he saw something he liked, he had to try it. And then he saw something else. And something else. And before Bex and Luke had even arrived, my dad had tried 3 different gins. My mom and I had managed to limit ourselves to just one taste, but somehow my dad wandered off, and when he came back he was babbling about some dude from Brazil who had served him “this incredible rum, seriously you have to try it!”

Oh no.

My mom and I tried to remind him that we were going to be here for several hours, so he should probably pace himself. To which he just waved us off and wandered into the crowd again.

Once my friends arrived, things only got worse. Because of course we all got excited and wanted to try things, and then we completely lost track of my father. At one point, after probably 3 or 4 shots of alcohol in his system, he realized he should probably eat. So he tried to make us all stop drinking and come get food with him. So we went to the food trucks. And we ate. And everything was fine, for a short while.

But then the gin-tasting recommenced. And by that point, all of us were feeling a bit buzzed. But not as buzzed as Dad. I mean, just look at this goofy man:

DSC_0171 copyWhy is he holding up that juniper plant?! We will never know.

Those of you who know my dad know he’s a pretty strange guy. But somehow in spite of this, he manages to charm people. He charmed the “magical Brazilian rum man” so much that he opened a super special-edition rum just so my dad could taste it. And then, even though the gin-makers weren’t actually allowed to sell bottles at the event, he got one of the guys to sell him a bottle completely under the table. So he could take it home to America. “How else am I supposed to get it?” he said.

*Facepalm* (Although to be fair, he had a point.)

By the time we finally left, I think we’d been there for over 5 hours. Which is a long time when you’re drinking straight liquor all day. (Side note: I really love gin, actually, and this festival was DOPE. I am absolutely going back again next year.) So we hopped back on the ferry, where even more hilarity ensued.

First, let me tell you: my dad was quite drunk at this point. In fact, I’ve never seen him in such a state. He was slurring his words so thoroughly that I wasn’t sure we’d even make it home.

So his first move was to try and get Bex and Luke to come over for dinner. They respectfully declined, because they are very smart. Also, they were exhausted.

His second move was to get involved in a ridiculous conversation with an American guy on the ferry who was living in the Netherlands, but planning his wedding to his “true love” back in Kentucky. And they were going to get married this summer and she would move to the Netherlands with him. And it was a really strange story, because they had no money, but they were going to do it anyway because they were so madly in love (I think he may have been reciting a movie…). And at this point, my dad tried to give him €50. My mom and I had to forcibly prevent him from doing so. Because, c’mon dude, that shit is WEIRD. You don’t just hand out cash to strangers!

And his third move was to promptly pass out on the couch in my living room when we arrived back at my apartment. And I mean PASS OUT. He was snoring heavily. It was amazing.

Given that it was only 8pm, and I was hungry, I offered to run to the store for some dinner fixings. When I returned, my mother and I began to dine on a lovely meal of bread and cheese and salami, with a side of salad and even a glass of red wine. (Because she and I were actually not that drunk.) We kept trying to wake up Dad to get him to come eat. After swatting us away multiple times, he made an attempt, took one bite, and went back to the couch to pass out again. It was after 10pm before we could finally get him to actually eat dinner.

The entire day felt like a drunken fairytale. And then we all went to sleep.

This may seem like an anticlimactic ending, but for those of you who have met my dad, you know this entire story is completely unbelievable. I mean, I’ve hardly ever seen the man drunk, let alone slurring-trying-to-give-strangers-money-passed-out-on-the-couch drunk. It was incredible.

And Mom and I will never forget it.

And, dear cousins, if you still don’t believe me after reading this, just ask my mom. She and I still laugh about it. It was absolutely AMAZING. (And maybe let’s pretend I just recounted this story to you instead of putting it on the internet… I don’t think Dad will be very happy with me.)

 

*****

[Next time: I went to an insane festival in Ghent, Belgium. INSANE, I tell you. These Belgians are cray.]

My triumphant return to the mountains (of cheese and beer)

DSC_0023

After living in Amsterdam for two months, I was starting to lose my shit a little bit. I love this city, but the lack of even the tiniest hill has started to wear on me. I don’t handle the flatlands very well.

This doesn’t mean I moved to the wrong place, by any means. It just means I will need to leave about once every 2 months and go see some mountains. Yes, I know. I’m a weirdo. But I happen to be addicted to very tall, pointy rocks. Call me crazy.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go all that far from Amsterdam to find mountains in Europe. Also, Switzerland is BOSS.

I hardly know where to start, because as I think back to those two-and-a-half days I spent in Switzerland, my brain is bombarded by memories of snow (SNOW!), fondue (CHEESE!), beer on the mountainside (BEER! IN THE SNOW!), and trying not to fall off a sledge and tumble down the mountain (DANGER!).

So I will start here: a good friend of mine moved to Geneva last fall. This was all very exciting to me, because we determined that once I moved to Europe (just a few months later) we MUST hang out (duh) and I really needed to be in a place with mountains, so this was all just too convenient.

So I flew to Geneva. Melissa met me at the airport. And then we went out for fondue because HOW COULD WE NOT?! I mean, I’ve never been to Switzerland.* It had to happen.

(I should probably mention here that the fondue was DELICIOUS. I mean, holy shit. Swiss cheese is the fucking bomb, man. Wow.)

The night ended there because we had to get up early (lame).  But not really lame, because on Saturday we caught a 7:30am train to Interlaken. I COULD HARDLY CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. I still can’t, apparently.

The whole thing was basically magic because Melissa had organized everything. So we got in, dropped our stuff at the hostel (which she had previously arranged, of course), and then went and had a leisurely lunch while overlooking the mountains. So romantic!

And then the REAL shit happened. We went UP one of those mountains. In a gondola. For like, half an hour. It was insane. I’ve never spent so many successive minutes in a gondola. It was truly epic.

And then at the top, we walked into the little ski shop and asked for sledges, just like we had been told to do by the woman in the hostel. And they gave us sledges. With basically zero instructions. And they said “Yeah, you just go down the mountain. Follow the purple signs. It takes about 2 hours.”

2 HOURS?! The whole thing was completely insane. Because…2 hours? How fucking high up were we?? And of course at first we couldn’t even find the purple signs. And then when we did, we realized it was fucking steep, and we had NO CLUE how to actually steer or stop our sledges.

So, as you do in such situations, you get on a sledge, point yourself downwards, and hope you don’t die.

Chester was Melissa’s steed, and he was a gentleman. For the first several kilometers, Chester slowly and steadily steered Melissa down the mountain (i.e. she dragged her heels because she was terrified and didn’t want to fall off a cliff, which is pretty reasonable if you ask me). On the other side was Tony, my very mischievous steed, who led me on a wild ride that involved a lot of yelling, a lot of very sharp corners, a collision with a snowbank, and several intentional falls to avoid going off the edge of the mountain. (All this is to say, I attempted to sledge down the mountain with abandon, and it’s pure blind luck that I’m still here to tell you this story.)

IMG_0019Melissa and Chester on their grand day out.

The best part of all of this was when we were actually stopped by an older Swiss gentleman who was taking a leisurely sledge trip down the mountain (probably a weekly ritual, judging by his skill level). After watching me careen wildly around a corner and nearly fly off a cliff, he asked “So, do you ladies actually know how to stop?” To which we very bluntly replied, “No! We don’t!” And then he rolled his eyes and showed us how. And he suggested we try to be more careful. Our response to this was to burst out laughing because seriously, WTF were we doing sledging down a mountain in the Swiss Alps?

After this we actually started to slowly get the hang of it. The turns became easier, we finally understood which side of the rope to pull when we wanted to go a certain direction, and we became more attuned to the mechanics of slowing down.

But then we arrived at our first crossing. Our very gradual and windy sledging path cut directly across one of the ski routes. So we had to look left for incredibly speedy skiers coming full speed down the mountain, and then make an attempt to cross at a time that would be expedient for both parties. This turned out to be a complete disaster, with our initial attempt to cross being thwarted by a human going 15x our speed towards us, at which point we got up off our sledges, grabbed the ropes, and ran screaming across the ski slope. Because we are classy like that.

And here’s the point where this story actually starts to get relevant: after what seemed like an age of continued sledging down the mountainside (it might have been an hour, in fact), we saw a very simple sign in the snow. It said ‘BEER’ with an arrow pointing to the right.

SALVATION WAS HERE.

We dragged our sledges up a short hill to the ski-in bar and stopped for a drink. Because when there is beer on a mountainside in the Swiss Alps, you literally can’t say no. (At least, I couldn’t. Because this seemed like pure MAGIC. How the fuck do they even get the beer up there?! There are no roads! Just skis! It’s fucking magic, I tell you.)

It was pretty clear that we were being laughed at by all the actual skiers and snowboarders around, because we had no idea what we were doing and we had “parked” our sledges in the ski-drop area like we belonged there. Which, perhaps, we didn’t. But IDGAF. It had to be done.

And then we drank oversized beers. Like you do in Switzerland.

Version 2The biggest beers! The best beers.

So I’m not sure if it was the size of the beer or the altitude (probably a combination of the two), but we were decidedly tipsy after our pit stop. And we had another half hour of sledging ahead of us before we reached the bottom of the slope.

So we continued on in a hilariously inebriated fashion, with many stops for photos (OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY) or (LET’S TAKE A SELFIE!) or (We’re not that drunk, this is still safe. Right?). There was a whole lot of giggling. And for a while there we thought we might be a bit too drunk, until we saw a guy on a sledge collide with his friend such that they both slid off the side of a small cliff, at which point we realized that we were still fine and weren’t that drunk after all.

IMG_0020We’re not that drunk! (No, we are that drunk.)

So the story doesn’t have a very exciting ending, I must admit. We made it down the mountain. No one died (that we’re aware of). And later that night we even managed to go out for what turned out to be a very lovely and authentic Swiss meal. (With wine! See, I told you we weren’t that drunk.)

(Ok. We might have been that drunk.)

*****

*That’s a lie. I had been to Switzerland once. But it was actually a really awful experience, which included a failed attempt at finding dinner (we drank beer instead), sleeping for 7 hours, nearly losing a drone on the mountainside, the smallest pain au chocolat in history, and then finally escaping into Italy. So mostly I try to forget it. (Although the drone story is pretty fucking great. Ask me to tell it to you sometime.)

I really should put things here more often.

IMG_0145Urban beach party! This shit was the jam.

Well, here we are again. Months ago, I recounted the harrowing tale of my new life in Amsterdam. At this point, I’ve forgotten all about that crap. But at the time, it sucked. A whole fucking lot. (Ok, so I haven’t forgotten. The world and particularly the absurd Dutch bureaucracy spent many months telling me to pack up and go back to America. It was infuriating. I might still be a little bit angry.)

BUT. The point is, it’s over now. And guess what? THINGS ARE SO MUCH BETTER! In fact, I feel like I can basically live my life now and the Dutch government isn’t trying to make each day a living hell anymore! So that’s nice. (I’m not being sarcastic. It really is nice!)

But the REAL point is, I’ve been doing so many things and I haven’t written about any of them! It’s a total disaster. (Not the doing things part, just the failing to record it part.) I guess that’s what happens when you live a fast-paced, crazy, completely unreasonable lifestyle.

(I’ve gotta say, I really never expected to be living this kind of life. It’s a bit mad, really. But I love it, so who’s complaining?)

But here’s the kicker: there are two sides to every story. There’s the “my life is insane!” story (in a good way). On this side are some of the absurd things I’ve done over the past many months, such as:

  • Sledding down the side of a mountain in Switzerland while slightly tispy
  • Pouring honey rum into someone’s mouth from the top of a human pyramid 4m tall
  • Watching my father get hilariously hammered at a Gin Festival
  • Climbing on the roof of a building while very intoxicated against the advice of pretty much everybody
  • Drunkenly running around naked in a children’s playground in a London suburb at 3am
  • Falling off my bike while inebriated. Doing it again a month later.

(If you hadn’t noticed, I like synonyms. But also, I promise I’m not always drunk.)

But, you see, there’s also another side to this story. There are all the very sober, very real “my life is insane!” moments that seem to scare the shit out of my non-insane friends. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “Um, you seriously need a vacation” or “WTF are you doing with your life?” or “You’re doing WAY more than one might consider normal” or the horrified stares I get when I say my next weekend at home isn’t for 2 months.

And to all those people, here’s what I have to say: you are right. This is totally unsustainable. I’m addicted to having a completely unreasonable schedule and I don’t know how to stop!

IMG_0029This is my “I am trying to be normal” face. Convincing, right?

But with all the bad comes the good, right? And lately, it feels like the good has been even better and more fun, so I don’t exactly want to stop, despite the fact that I am highly aware I might just drop dead from stress at any moment. But it’s worth it, damnit! #livingontheedge

[Cue: wine. I am drinking it now. Because why should I start being reasonable NOW? That would just be absurd.]

So, instead of listening to all the reasonable people in my life, I am doing EVERYTHING and loving it. Who needs sanity anyway? ALSO, I’ve realized I have a backlog of half-written posts about some of the aforementioned adventures, which I am planning to finish right now. Because, why not? Also, wine.

Get ready. The deluge is coming. And this time, I’m not fucking around.*

*She said for the millionth time.

******************

[Next time, on Christina’s totally unreasonable adventures: I’m about to spend a week in Belgium! Let’s see how much trouble I can get into there.]

The Turnaround

DSC_0127 copy

I knew this moment would come eventually. The moment when life suddenly felt right-side-up again. The moment when I stopped “trying to be” and started “being” an Amsterdammer. The moment when, sure, life was still scary and different and I’m still not really sure what I’m doing, but that’s just life so who cares where I am when I feel those things?

It’s been a month since my last post, and it’s not because I was lacking things to write about. There are several half-written posts sitting in my drafts folder that I just never managed to finish. That time I went to Carnival in Den Bosch. The fact that I’ve started cooking good food again. All the craft beer I’ve been drinking. That time I biked 50km round-trip to Haarlem and drank at a brewery inside a church.

But I never finished writing those posts because, frankly, it’s hard to write honestly and sound like yourself when you’re not really feeling like yourself. And basically since I arrived in Amsterdam, I’ve felt a bit like a ghost watching myself try to live this new life. But I wasn’t actually living it yet.

There have been many low points, including one night where I sent my boss a very emotional email at 9:30pm because, oddly enough, he was the only person who would really understand the stress and isolation I was feeling at that moment. That was rock bottom. That was when I thought I couldn’t do this. That was when I was sure I had made a horrible mistake by deciding to move to another country to run a mini-company.

But things got better, as they inevitably do. And this weekend marked the turning point. The moment when I remembered why I came here. The moment when I realized that this is what I was meant to do. And I realized that maybe, just maybe, I’m kind of good at it.

DSC_0083 copyThis weekend, we moved into our new office. That may not seem like a big deal, but somehow Saturday symbolized everything that I’ve been envisioning for the company I’m supposed to guide through 2016. I came to Amsterdam so that my company could actually accomplish something new and great. And moving into a new office was the symbolic starting point. Everything leading up to this point was just preparation.

Saturday was one of the most exciting days I’ve ever had at work. I had an amazing crew of people around me who were helpful and supportive and just lovely to spend the whole day with. The move went so incredibly smoothly that I could hardly believe it. There was so much smiling and laughing, and the only truly stressful moment was when I set the alarm off and thought the entire building was going to fall down from the racket. (Oops.) And after the move was done and the space was clean and pretty, we stayed there for hours drinking beers and eating burritos and simply enjoying each other’s company.

And no, my whole life doesn’t revolve around work. But work is the reason I came to this place, and all of a sudden I feel like I can actually live here and do things and be Christina again. This Christina just happens to live in Amsterdam now.

It’s finally real.

Sure, I got sick (again) after the move. And sure, there are still plenty of kinks to work out, and I know there will be many bumps in the road ahead. But right now, I’m sitting in bed drinking red wine (which is apparently good for colds, ha!), and I am so incredibly happy that I hardly know what to do with myself.

Thank you to everyone in Amsterdam, in Europe, in America and elsewhere who has been there for me over the past 6 weeks. I love all of you.

And to the Wrecking/Building/Moving Crew from Saturday: y’all are rockstars. I heart you like whoa.

*****

[Next time…] I actually go back to talking about the things I do best! Drinking, traveling, drinking, eating, and riding my bicycle.