I thought I’d do something different this week and share more personal details than I usually do on the blog by telling you a little bit about our vacation in Oregon. In this day and age of technology and social media, it can be confusing to know how much sharing is enough and how much is too much. By nature, I’m not a very private person and consider myself an open book but I definitely have come to be more cautious about how much I put out there about myself online. Less out of a privacy concern and more out of a “Do people really want to hear this? Do people need to know this about me?” concern. There’s a lot of oversharing on the internet and we’re over-saturated with content, who has time/energy to read extra details about random people? But what I’m noticing is that people do want to hear and see more personal stuff today than they have in the past. People are curious . . .and since I’m not ready to take the plunge onto all the video options of sharing personal details, I’m going to put it out there on the blog.
If you read last week’s blog post, you know I had come down with symptoms of strep throat right before we left for our 9 day trip to Oregon. I was starting to freak out about it but decided I was going to enjoy our trip even if I was sick. It did end up being strep and I was on antibiotics for most of the trip but by day 3, I kind of forgot that I was sick, thankfully.
We stayed for 4 nights at Hotel Vintage, in downtown Portland. We had a small but really cool room with panoramic skylights which was fun. It was nice to have so much natural light in a hotel room (don’t worry it had electronic shades so we didn’t bake in the sun or give neighbors a full view at night) and the extra windows helped make the room feel a lot bigger than it was. It ended up being the perfect location to explore Portland – it was easy walking distance to tons of great restaurants and lots to do within a few blocks. Portland is super walkable – 20 blocks equals a mile so you can cover a ton of ground in a little time.
We visited the International Rose Test and Japanese Gardens which were less than a 2 mile walk away from our hotel. It was 97 degrees out and sunny for the first several days we were there and we walked between 6-8 miles each day – John didn’t complain once! A huge difference from some of our previous trips where I made him walk, bike or hike everywhere. He quit smoking 2 years ago this week and he’s been exercising on his own lately. He’s like a new man.
We kind of joked that this change in him was the “new John”. And then we joked that the Andrea that didn’t “over plan” the trip was the “new Andrea”.
In fact this became a recurring joke and theme of our whole trip.
The Andrea who normally stresses out about every detail of a trip and who normally panics at signs of even the most benign illness, she wasn’t here. We left her at home. This was a “new Andrea”.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this in yourself but it’s easy to keep doing things exactly the way we’ve always done them. As we get a little older, those natural habits and tendencies can start to make us feel stuck, stagnant and that we’re hitting the same walls over and over again. It’s hard to get farther or have new experiences in life if we limit our experiences before they begin – know what I mean? Both John and I have noticed things about ourselves that have started to feel cemented in place and we don’t want that. On this trip, visiting a state we’ve never been before – seeing things we’ve never seen before, we found it easy to loosen up, shed old habits and be a different or “new” version of ourselves.
Just because I’ve always freaked out when getting sick or planned every detail of a trip doesn’t mean I have to keep doing that if it isn’t working for me. John always told himself he hated exercise – but that only made him hate exercise. It wasn’t providing any benefit. Lately he’s been trying to think of it as exploring (we’ve even done a few hikes together this summer!). That helps change how he feels about it and in turn his whole experience is different and he looks forward to going out and moving his body more.
The same goes for our eating habits. If comfort eating after a long day at work isn’t actually bringing you the comfort you originally thought it was, something needs to change. If eating lunch out every day of the work week isn’t making your body feel good, maybe packing your lunch one or two days week is worth trying. If counting calories, trying to burn off every bite you eat with exercise isn’t serving you – you don’t have to just keep doing it.
We don’t have to accept the way we do things as permanent, unchangeable. Sometimes I think one of the purposes of life is just figuring out how to navigate through it and to do that successfully it might mean changing direction or the way we do things sometimes. Being a new version of yourself!
As I mentioned earlier, we went on this trip with me letting go of the reins of planning and just winging a lot of it. This brought up a lot of anxiety for me. I like to seek out the best restaurants wherever I go. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy but they have to be good – creative and with fresh ingredients. I turn into a monster brat when I go out to eat and have a rotten meal. It’s partially because I’m a snobasaurus, but also it’s a leftover imprint from food issues where I didn’t allow myself to enjoy food except under rigid circumstances. Now that I can enjoy food more easily . . .I have an expectation that it has to be amazing (yeah, I know, my work isn’t over yet!) so picking restaurants with me is often a dramatic hassle (at least for John). I let go of that in Portland.
I also let go of something else. While I don’t have rules anymore about what I can and can’t eat as far as whether it’s good for me or too high calorie or anything like that, I do try to avoid certain foods or food preparations that I know make me feel awful. Most dairy, wheat and fried food or baked goods are off my menu when I have the option and I like how eating that way makes me feel (less constipation, less skin issues, less asthma symptoms and digestive pain). But sometimes that can feel restrictive or annoying to follow too – even though I feel best when I don’t eat that stuff. Because we were on vacation and I was already relaxing about where we ate, I found myself also relaxing more than usual about what I ate or ordered.
At a brewery we ordered parmesan garlic french fries and a charcuterie plate with brown bread. I ordered latte’s (when in Rome). I ate some of John’s pizza, twice. I ordered soup with cheese in it. I drank a few beers and I ate some of John’s soft pretzel. Also mixed into all this stuff I normally don’t eat were lots of foods that made me feel good too – kombucha, raw and cooked vegetables, beans, seafood etc. I didn’t set out to eat anything just to see if I could do it. I wanted to relax about the menu and where we ate. John and I shared plates at a lot of meals. It felt great. I know I can’t eat certain foods on a daily basis (to do this with dairy would mean bad asthma all over again) but continuing to trust myself to eat and order various foods, whatever I want at the moment, even if it’s something that may make me feel “off” once in awhile is a part of normal eating. Sometimes we’re going to eat too much, too little or food that doesn’t feel or taste so great and that’s ok.
The interesting thing about being the “new Andrea” for 9 days was that I felt less crappy eating those foods than I think I expected to. Not stressing over where we were going or what to order meant my body overall was less stressed and I think this led to feeling less crappy than normal. We had an amazing meal at almost every meal we ate out. I can only think of one that was just “so so” and that was probably because we were tired and had been traveling all day (either way, I didn’t make a big deal about it – it was just a meal).
It certainly helped that Oregon, and Portland in particular has amazing food and amazing restaurants and that the people who work in them really seem to love the art of preparing and serving food! And also contributing to this overall feeling of letting go of rigid habits is the fact that everyone in Oregon seems really laid back. On the highway, heading out of Portland and to Astoria to have lunch before visiting Cannon Beach, I noticed that the speed limit was 70, yet everyone was driving at 55 mph. No one was riding my ass. No one was working to get around the slow cars in the passing lane. Everyone was just cruising along. For a minute the New England girl in me came out and I was like “What the fuck, can’t anyone go the speed limit?? These people would never survive in Boston!”. But then I realized they were on to something. What’s the rush? Why not be where you are right now, instead of rushing towards where you are going to be?
We spent the second half of our trip staying in McMinnville, which is in the Willamette Valley. We picked McMinnville as a base location for visiting a few of the 300 wineries in the area. When we visited Napa five years ago, I hand selected the wineries we were going to visit weeks before – doing diligent research on location, type and quality of wines, atmosphere, cost – you name it. We had a great time in Napa but again, I let go of my need for planning in Willamette. The urge to see as many as possible over a few days left me and we found ourselves just spending a huge chunk of one afternoon at one winery in particular because it was beautiful, the weather was gorgeous, the wine tasty and it was peaceful and happy. We opted for being in the present and listening to our needs and desires instead of checking off my tourism to do list. We felt relaxed and refreshed and even though we didn’t get to see as much of the valley as normally I would have hoped for, this felt perfect. We can always go back.
This was a great trip in so many ways. Not only did we get to explore a new state that we are excited to see more of but we both tried on new behaviors and relaxed old habits. I think this helped both of us relax and get the most out of our time away – we even found ourselves in several spontaneous conversations with fellow travelers and locals, which if you know John and I is not our usual mode of operation. We also sat at a bar more than once – for dinner and in a tasting room, which normally John won’t do. . .but he was open to because this was the “new John” and he actually liked it this time. I think the fact that I came down with strep right before we left and I had mentally made the decision to not let it ruin the trip actually became an awesome launching pad for being more open to other changes on the trip. So, thank you strep throat!
I spent 9 days in Oregon with the new Andrea and John and I liked them. Maybe I’ll invite them over more often.
There are certain things about myself that I find embarrassing or annoying (like my need to have perfect restaurant experiences or my over planning) and it felt good to play with changing those things in a safe way. I don’t want to get stuck being someone I don’t like. I don’t want to just accept that there are things I do that I don’t like. You are never too old to improve yourself or see and do things a bit differently (in your relationship with food or otherwise).
Next time you go to a new place, a new restaurant or are about to have any new experience, try doing things a little differently. What habits, quirks, needs of yours are holding you back? If there is something you don’t like about yourself, the way you do things or where your life is headed, what is stopping you from changing that? Could you allow yourself to be a “new” version of yourself, even if just for a week or two? What might happen?
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