Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Oregon Trail & Other Adventures

"The cowards never started and the rest died along the way."
-Phil Knight, Shoe Dog

When I named my blog ‘Claire Going Everywhere’ a year and some odd months ago, I had no idea the premonition that title held. I remember feeling awestruck any time I thought of Prague before I left. I envisioned castles, cobble stone lanes, beautiful architecture, and delicious foods in my future but didn’t quite comprehend the adventure I was about to embark on at that time.

When I got back from Prague, I struggled trying to fit back into my normal life. It’s not that anything back home had changed, it’s just that I had. I was too big for my little life there, stifled by the narrow lifestyle and viewpoints of the community I had once thrived in. I think deep down I was terrified that Prague would be my only ‘Great Adventure’ and I couldn’t stand that thought. I missed my friends and the thrill of discovering a new city and being exposed to new concepts and cultures and people.

So I went to Madagascar.

And had a blast.

And then I was hooked.

It seems that now I have an uncontrollable addiction to traveling, and meeting new people, and trying new foods, and not knowing where I’m at in the world in general, or even what I’m doing with my life at all. And it’s amazing.

Here I am, having spent the last three months living here in Oregon and about to embark on another adventure, and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier with my life.

Oregon has been amazing. I’ve completely fallen head-over-heels for the state, the city of Portland, and the Pacific Northwest. I’ve said this before but it feels like Portland was specifically created just for me. I couldn’t have designed a more perfect place even if I tried. As wrong for me as Tyler was, Portland is right. I love the culture, the values, the people, the food, the beer, the wine, the hiking, the mountains, the trees, the coast, and everything in between. It’s impossibly perfect.

Which makes it impossibly hard to leave.

Oregon has tons of fresh berries in the spring in summer which is my favorite food. So i was basically in berry heaven. 

When I think about Thailand and this new chapter in my life I’m of course excited. I know Phuket is going to be absolutely amazing and beautiful. It’ll be nice to be back to island-living which is obviously my favorite. I’m sure I’ll meet tons of amazing people, make some great friends, eat a lot of delicious Thai food, and hopefully get to travel around Southeast Asia.

I’m also really excited to have a real job doing something I’m passionate about. This will definitely be a great step in the right direction for my future. Most people don’t know what I’ll be doing in Thailand, so for the sake of time and word-count, I’ll be working with a non-profit in Phuket that works with government schools to teach the children English and give them more opportunities in life. A lot of the kids also live in orphanages or don’t have great home lives so the organization also runs an after-school program for the kids to play games and have somewhere safe and educational instead of just going back home. I obviously won’t be teaching but will be working on the operations side of the organization.

My contract is a minimum six months which still hasn’t really sunk in yet. This trip will be even longer than my time in Prague which seems insanely long and really sad because I don’t even want anything to ever top Prague. It has a special place in my heart.

I’ve been going through my usual pre-trip checklist, packing and planning getting random things done. It’s funny how familiar this whole thing is becoming. Visa requirements, insurance, new luggage and traveling gear, booking my flight, exchanging some cash, etc. It’s a lot more work than you would think to move abroad for an extended amount of time. I feel like I have a good grasp on though at this point and have handled it all pretty easily. This is my third long-stay visa that I’ve had to get and it wasn’t too bad. There is an honorary consulate here in Portland so I didn’t have to travel to an embassy. I’ve bought like six swimsuits in the past month which is probably an overkill. My flights might be the death of me though. I remember how horrible the 28 hours were it took me to get to Madagascar. This time around it’s going to take me about 37 hours, mainly due to a ten-hour layover in San Francisco.

So anyways, a lot has happened in the last three months so I felt the need to catch everyone up on what I’ve been up to. I’ve been working at a bar here on weekend nights in Portland and on weekdays I’ve been working at Portland Golf Club

I’ve been lucky enough to do some really cool things in and around Portland as well. One of my favorite things about the city is what’s around it. The city is surrounded by amazing views, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes which means there is tons of hiking to do. Here are a couple of pictures from some of my hikes and escapades.

These pictures are from Abiqua Falls, definitely one of my favorite hikes. We were there only ones there and it was beautiful.

We went on a fun, family Father's day hike to Punch bowl falls.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from Table Rock. We hiked like five miles straight up and down, but we got some awesome views out of it. From the top you could see the Three sisters, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Hood. And probably more. Oregon has tons of pretty mountains. 

Mount Hood

On Fourth of July I watched the parade in downtown Lake Oswego from our friend's apartment and then met my friends in Portland where we had some drinks and then watched fireworks. They were shooting them off a big barge in the middle of the river so everyone stood on one of the many bridges to watch.

I went on a hike by myself in Silver Falls State Park that was a nine mile loop and passed seven waterfall. I literally have tons of waterfall pictures. These were cool because there were three or four where you could walk behind the falls which was really neat.

I also got to go to Crater Lake! This is the only National Park in Oregon. It was once the largest mountain/volcano in North America until it erupted. Supposedly, the top of the mountain flew straight up and straight back down and is now an island in the center of the lake. The water is incredible clear and blue. It's the deepest lake in the US and the tenth deepest in the world. It's incredible how far down you can see and it literally just goes down for forever. You can drive all the way around the lake but there is only one place where you can actually hike down and get to the water. It was like a mile of just switch backs all the way down and all the way back up. Tiring, but really neat and pretty. It was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Oregon and I really want to go back.

The coast is only about an hour and a half away from Portland so my friend Megan and I drove out there one day and hung around the beach towns and checked out a few beaches. There were a lot of surfers which surprised me because the water isn't exactly warm. 

A few weekends ago my family and I went on a super fun hiking/camping trip. We hiked along the Timberline Trail and part of the Pacific Crest Trail to Romona Falls where we camped for the night. The next day we met my two cousins and went to a campground along the Deschutes River, the we rafted on the next day. I had never been rafting before and it was a blast. We seriously had such a great time. Until my aunt got a concussion…It’s a bit of a long story but basically our raft got hit super hard on one of the rapids and almost everyone- even our guide- got knocked off the boat. So my aunt ended up taking an ambulance to the Emergency room. She’s okay though now. My two cousins and I continued down the river and did some fun rapids where you floated on your own.

Romona Falls was beautiful. Definitely one of my favorite waterfalls from this summer. 

The sunset the night before we went rafting was amazing. 

Side note: All the water here is freezing. Like 58 degrees freezing. So anytime I’ve gone swimming this summer it’s been a little too cold for my liking. I think I’m almost used to it though and not sure I could handle the 90 degree Texas water anymore- at least not happily. Also, the weather here has been great all summer. It’s usually about 65 in the mornings and gets up to around 82ish. We’ve had two or three hot days that have gotten up to the 90’s though but besides that everyday has been perfect weather.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have two of my best friends come all the way out to Portland to see me.  

Haley and I lived together in Prague and she’s one of my most favorite in the entire world. We have had countless adventures, trips, and memories together. When I think back to Prague, she’s one of the absolute best parts. Prague gave me so much in life but the best thing to come out of it all was definitely my friendship with Haley.

We had such a great weekend together. It’s crazy that we hadn’t seen each other in over a year. It was instantly just like old times though and felt like we had never been apart. We had so much to catch up on and it was so great.

It was a sad goodbye of course when I dropped her off at the airport. I’ve realized that you never know much you’ve missed someone until you see them again.

She of course especially loved the vineyards because they're just absolutely amazing and who wouldn't?!

Voodoo donuts because it's just a Portland thing.

Matching hats because we're too adorable. Love this girl so much.

A short two weeks after that, Torie came to visit! She and I have been friends all the way back to sixth grade. I actually sat across from her on my first day at Rains and I remember loving her curly blonde hair. 

So we did a lot of Portland-things and had a blast. We also went on a really fun hike where you had to climb over a log jam and swim through freezing water to get the the falls at the end of the gorge. It was pretty cool.

I obviously took her wine tasting because I love it and look for any excuse to go. 

These are all pictures from the fun hike we went on. 

My best friend is model pretty.

Pittock Mansion is also one of my favorite places in Portland. It's a really old, well preserved mansion at the top of the hill that over looks the whole city. The family originally came to out here on the Oregon trail in the early nineteen hundreds. Although I normally drive up there, I did hike all the way up once through Forest Park which was also pretty much just switchbacks all the way up through the trees until you get there. 

The mansion has perfect views of Mt. Hood which I'm slightly obsessed with. 

Finally however, the time came for me to load my car back up and start driving back to Texas. It worked out well because I was able to drive twelve hours to Salt Lake City and stay with my cousin for a night. Then the next day we drove to Boulder, Colorado where her brother was getting married!

Thursday I met my parents at the airport! It was so nice to see them and I was really happy to be able to spend a weekend with my family before heading out on my trip. We had a lot of fun. Did some wedding things, did some hiking, and just hung out.

My cousin’s wedding in Granby was amazing. Marshall and Annie got married on top of a mountain. We literally had to take a ski lift to get to the ceremony! It was a beautiful wedding and it was great to get to see my extended family. My brother’s girlfriend, Taryn, was also there so that was really fun as well.
We did a four-mile loop hike around Monarch Lake which was really pretty. 

My parents are so adorable and I love it. 

Jarret & Taryn on the top of the mountain where the wedding ceremony took place.

Jarret, Taryn, my mom, me, my dad, my aunt Valli, my Uncle Charles, my aunt Kristin. 

I love these pictures from the photo booth at the wedding entirely too much. I literally laugh every time I look at them and I'm taking them all to Thailand with me. My family is so cute.

Sunday my dad and I drove fifteen hours all the way back to Texas. We actually got home at about 2am. I seriously can’t believe how supportive my parents are of me and my crazy adventures and I’m so thankful for that. I know they hate to see me leave and hate having me so far away, but they’ve both been so encouraging. I honestly don’t know where I’d be in life without them. Definitely not living in Oregon and about to be moving to Thailand! Having them there to support my dreams and push me to do more and be better has been highly influential in the decisions I’ve made in my life these past two years. They’ve never once been anything but supportive and encouraged me to chase my dreams. I love them both entirely too much.

I’m also so thankful for my family in Oregon. My aunt Susan and uncle Aron have been so awesome and allowed me to live with them these past three months and it’s been great. They opened their house and arms willingly and have made me a part of their family. They’ve actually been more than gracious. They let me eat their delicious food and even fold my laundry for me. It’s been great living with them and also getting to spend some time with my cousins now that we’re all older. I was so incredibly sad to leave my wonderful little Dinesen family.

It was a lot harder for me to leave Oregon than I thought it would be. When I was leaving for trips before, I was leaving Tyler, which I hated anyways. But now that I’ve found a place I love, it was way harder saying goodbye. Before I always knew that wherever I was going was better than Tyler. But now I’m unsure. We’ll see though. I’m always up for anything with an open mind and I know I’ll probably love Thailand. Portland will always be there, waiting for my return.

So now here I am, at my parents’ house in Tyler, and I’m surrounded by my teddy bear and old track medals in the room that I grew up in wondering how in the world I got here. I don’t even feel old enough to leave the state by myself let alone the country. It’s a surreal feeling. My life has changed so much in the past few years.

Excited to add some new patches to my backpack.

I leave for Thailand tomorrow. I actually already have my bags packed (and it only weighs 33lbs). Usually I wait till literally the night before and my parents love it. Haha. It’s crazy to me how fast this summer flew by and in a matter of a few days I’ll be waking up in my new home in Thailand. I’m super excited for whatever the future holds. I hope it’s lots of sunsets, new people, and crazy adventures.

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