Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the category “Travel”


Thank you for the TV show recommendations!

942534_544571575594846_24838399_nDaydreaming about Holland today….

it seems like it happened a lifetime ago, not a few months!

Travel and Home

A few bloggers who I follow have written on the topic of travel on more than a few occasions, in particular the idea that the more you travel, the more wanderlust you have. I definitely see that as being true- my trip to Amsterdam was almost 2 months ago (!) and I’m already thinking about what adventure I want to go on next.

But my trip to Amsterdam made me realize two other things about myself and my ‘relationship’ with travel– 1. How much I have yet to discover in my own home state, region, country and 2. How much I have come to love the sense of belonging and peace that home brings.

Traveling through the museums and historic sites of Amsterdam, taking in the architecture, and enjoying quiet afternoons in the city were wonderful, but it also made me think about how many places within a short driving distance from my homebase that I haven’t seen. With the exception of a few museums visits and a Halloween stop in Salem, MA, I haven’t seen much of the North Shore of Massachusetts. I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island only once, yet they are a close ( and somewhat inexpensive) ferry ride away. I looked at a map of the United States the other day and realized I’ve seen a great deal of it with the exception of the Northwest and a good chunk of the middle. There is so much of the world I want to see and so much traveling I have yet to do, but I definitely want to focus a lot on seeing a bit of home more too.

The other thing traveling really has made me think about is how my relationship with my home has changed so much over the years. I loved my vacation and time with my mother, but I longed for my bed after a week in the hotel. I don’t know if we had rented a place via AirBnB if that feeling would have been different, but I doubt it. It wasn’t just my own space and bed that I missed, but more that unique calm feeling that comes with relaxing in a space that is uniquely me. I have often said that it takes a special grace and peacefulness with yourself to enjoy a quiet night at home reading and relaxing without a lot of distractions, and my traveling definitely confirmed that for me. Traveling sort of made me realize it’s about that balance- of wanting to learn and experience new places, meet new people, but at the same time, it’s about appreciating and seeing the value in what you already have.

Wordless Wednesday

65671_544571505594853_1807430506_nAt Alkmaar Cheese Market, May 2013

Amsterdam: Food Edition

The Dutch are not entirely known for their cuisine- chocolate, cheese, and beer seem to be the things they do best. In my prep for Amsterdam, I had only a few food “bucket list” items- Indonesian, croquettes ( the Dutch like to mash things up together and fry them), Dutch pancakes ( essentially crepes), and lots of cheese.
shrimp croquettes


Shrimp & cheese croquettes

Needless to say, there was a lot of cheese which was fantastic, but there was also a lot of ham. In fact, almost every time there was cheese, there was ham. So much that by the end of the week, I’m pretty much over ham and cheese together. I try not to eat a lot of carbs in my regular diet, but considering I was on vacation, I made sure to eat all the food of the area– by the end of the week, I was definitely sick of the pancakes, sandwiches, and other matter of carbs I was consuming, though since my mom and I were doing so much walking, I actually LOST weight while on vacation!



Dutch pancake with gouda and ham

The Indonesian food did not disappoint- while we didn’t do the rijsttafel (Rice table), a traditional Indonesian meal, we thoroughly enjoyed a wide array of choices with a lunch special that included the highlights of the restaurant’s menu ( with the exception of a fried banana which might have been the grossest thing I ever put in my mouth). The many frites (French fries) we ate from street vendors and restaurants were amazing- I am definitely a convert to eating fries with mayonnaise.



Shrimp “bread” with dipping sauce at Sama Sebo, awesome Indonesian food

We had some good meals and a few so-so ones; as most Europeans do, breakfast and lunch are big meals and dinners are often small, tapas style, which is smart, but when you’re walking around all day like we were, we found ourselves snacking a lot later trying to quench our appetites. My mom and I both learned we definitely need coffee to function properly ( we arrived in Amsterdam after a red eye and we’re lucky we found our bags we were so out of it) and almost everywhere we went had such small coffees, we probably spent a good portion of our food money buying multiple cups!




Gratuitousness tulip shot!


Reflections on the “Trip of a Lifetime”

Of course Amsterdam is not the only trip I’ve taken in my lifetime and I know that there are going to be many more adventures in my future. But going to Holland was something I wanted since I was 7 — that summer I read The Diary of Anne Frank, learned from my mom that she had visited the actual house, and had some weird fascination with the Dutch side of my heritage. Since then, I wanted to go to Holland.

For most of my years, a trip was discussed but for a bunch of reasons ( college, grad school, money, jobs), it never happened. Sometime in 2011 I decided that I wanted to go for my 30th birthday and we began to plan. In all honesty, up until the moment I purchased the airline tickets in January, I think I still had doubts that it would happen. I bought the tickets on a Friday afternoon while at work and kept saying to my office mate ” this still doesn’t feel real.”

With all that happens at my work in March and April getting the exhibit ready to open, going to Amsterdam at the end of April definitely didn’t feel real still- and it wasn’t until I found myself trying to find walking shoes two weeks before we were set to leave did the idea of the visit seem more like a actual thing that was about to happen. In the week or so before I left, everyone kept asking if I was excited and I think I let people down with my “sort of” response. It wasn’t that I was NOT excited- it was more that I was trying to temper my enthusiasm and feelings about the whole thing. This was something I wanted for so long and it felt slightly unreal that this huge goal was finally happening. It was an amazement on many levels- I accomplished something I said I was going to do- not just in that I said I wanted something when I was 7 and it finally happened when I was 30, but that I had budgeted and made plans so that I could take the trip.

Part of my coolness about getting ready for the trip was also that I did not want Amsterdam to disappoint me after wanting something for so long. Of course, the likelihood of that happening was small, but like so many other things in life, I worry or get anxious about something so that the feeling of relief ends up being so great. It’s a strange place in my brain when it comes to anticipation and achieving goals, to say the least.

Of course, in the end, Amsterdam was wonderful, having a week with my mom was an extraordinary treat, and doing all the things I wanted to do for so long met my expectations and surprised me too.

Not Quite Wordless Wednesday: Cheese


This is at Alkmaar, the 700 year old cheese market in The Netherlands. I don’t remember when I first learned about this place where dairy farmers brought their cheese to be purchased, but I do remember that on a season of The Amazing Race a few years back that the contestants had to try the task of running with the cheese like the men above. When my mom and I were planning our trip, I knew this was something I wanted to do.

The cheese market is only on Fridays for a couple of hours in the morning and only operates from April through September. It’s about an hour from Amsterdam so we took a bus tour there- and it seemed every other tourist in the Netherlands did the same thing. With it being high tourist season from the tulips, Alkmaar was beyond packed in that way too many people in a crowd way that makes you a tad uncomfortable and on edge. My mom and I walked into the square where the cheese is sold before it is run off by these men to the weigh house and there must have been 5,000 people in a small area. I snapped two photos and then we went and sat off to the side to eat delicious frites ( French fries) with mayonnaise. When my mom and I were recounting the trip on our flight home last weekend, she said the crowd at Alkmaar was her second least favorite part of the vacation. It was so crowded we didn’t even get to sample the cheese! No worries though since earlier in the trip we did quite a lot of cheese tasting already.

The big photo download of Amsterdam pics is coming but I’m trying to sift through the over 300 photos between my mom and I’s cameras to get some of the best shots.


There is so much to say from my trip to Amsterdam and about 300 images of tulips, food, beer, buildings,and canals. I’m still a bit jet lagged and behind on life to even begin to capture it all in this place, and I know there will be multiple blog posts on the topic. Suffice to say, the trip to Holland was all that I had hoped it to be and more- it was filled with lots of fun, laughter, and memory making with my mom, lots of cheese, and some of the most gorgeous flowers I have ever seen. While I try to get my head back into the game and my job, I’ll leave this teaser photo of the view from our hotel ( though not from our room).


Wordless Wednesday




I can hardly believe that in two months, I will be in Amsterdam and

going to Keukenhof to see the tulips. 

Holland or Bust

Number 1 on my 30×30 list is traveling to Holland, a place I have wanted to visit since I was 7. After I read The Diary of Anne Frank my mother told me about when she visited the attic in Amsterdam where the family was in hiding. That, combined with half of my heritage being Dutch- the Netherlands was a spot on my must see list for a very long time.

A few years back, I decided that for my 30th birthday, I wanted to go to Holland, even if no one wanted to come with me. I have been blessed with lots of traveling experiences in my life- cruises, trips to Florida, lots of time out West when my aunt lived in Utah and now in California, trips to Nova Scotia to see family. My first big trip abroad though was not until 2006 when I went to London. I get to travel for work frequently and am thankful I have had a vacation every year at work in the past four years.

But this trip was something different. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong desire to go somewhere. Every time it seemed the opportunity would present itself to finally get to Holland, something would come up- the need to work before college started, the beginning of grad school, the lack of money in general, etc. Even after I decided that I wanted to finally see Amsterdam in 2013, I thought many times it actually would not happen for one reason or another.

But it’s happening. Two weeks ago I pulled the trigger on the purchase button and bought two round trip tickets to Amsterdam for my mother and me. A week ago, she finalized it by making our hotel reservations. The list of places to visit and research to do is growing by the day as we brainstorm what we want to do for a week together.

There is still part of me that worries that something will come up that will get in our way of going- ash clouds from Iceland or some other natural disaster, though– knocking on wood– I’m not sure anything could stop me from having this trip. It’s more than just a vacation- it’s really going to be a true exploration and discovery trip, more than anything else I’ve ever done. I am beyond excited and still a bit in shock that something I’ve wanted for so long is actually happening.

How Did I Miss This?

This week was tough. Not in any dramatic or stressful way, but I was just EXHAUSTED every day, in the way that you have to force yourself to stay up until 830 pm instead of falling into the bed at 6 after dinner ( Am I the only one that does that?) And of course the reason to do that is so that I don’t wake up at midnight bright eyed and bushy tailed when I should be in slumber land.

The reason for the exhaustion was a good portion allergies ( along with everyone else it seems), a smidge from the cooler, gray, rainy weather, and a whole lot from traveling around for work. I’m super excited that I have the opportunity to go far and afield for my job, but I am definitely looking forward to the long Columbus Day weekend coming up.

In terms of traveling, I caught the bug fairly early in life- my brother and I were incredibly fortunate that every summer vacation we would go stay wherever my aunt Cindy was living (Texas, Utah, California) and go on various road trips to national parks, museums, and whatever else we could find along the way. We went on a few road trips to Canada to see my mom’s family, cruises and vacations to the Bahamas, Mexico, and Caribbean. With all this travel, I did not get my passport until I was in grad school and my first big trip abroad was in January 2007 to London.

If I came into a winfall of cash, travel would definitely be on top of my list of things to do. I love exploring new places with map in hand, walking through a city to find great spots to eat or have coffee, meet locals, and of course, see awesome museums and history sites.

It’s a funny thing about travel. My whole life I’ve wanted to be this crazy world explorer, a gypsy as my Grandma would say. I have never backpacked around the world or taken a month off from adult life to explore- I deeply admire the people who do that. Because of that, I’ve frequently complained that I don’t get to travel enough- which, I see now, is far from the truth. Just in 2012 alone, I’ve traveled via road trip or air around the United States-either for work or personal ( much thanks to my guy) every single month of this year. So while I may not be spending one week in Croatia ( a dream for me!) and the next in Morocco, I am slowly fulfilling my dream of being a frequent traveler.

This whole thing of not realizing I have the things I have dreamed of is, I am seeing, a very bad habit of mine. In the past few years- especially in this past year of change, I have spent so much time focusing on getting through each day and over each bump in the road, that I completely missed where I was in the big picture. It’s really easy to look for the small things in life to be grateful for each day- quiet sunny mornings, hot coffee, or a great hair day- but in my search to be happy with the simple pleasures of life, I’ve completely missed that I was achieving, slowly, in my own way, one of my dreams.



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