As many of you know, I’m a native American who has lived abroad. I lived in the Czech Republic twice as a student, and married a German. Our lives are this incredible mix of Germany and American and Czechia. A hodge podge of cobblestone streets, castles, wide open spaces, mountains, bikes, and long road trips. No matter where I have lived over the past 15 years, my heart has always had a piece missing. It’s the reason I travel so much. It’s the reason our daughter is bilingual.
I am so lucky to have been able to study abroad, so glad to have met my husband, but there are days when the homesickness is really hard. And no matter where we live, no matter how recently we’ve been back to Europe or have another trip planned, a part of our lives is always missing. It’s celebrating German holidays and Czech holidays quietly at home. It’s phone calls and texts and emails to friends and family far away. It’s long flights and castles and cake and friends you travel halfway around the world to see.
Last spring, I found amazingly cheap tickets to Prague and without really thinking, I booked them. I booked them because it had been 4 years since I had been back and I was desperate for my host family to meet my husband (who hadn’t made that trip with me) and our daughter. And today I realized, I haven’t shared some of the photos I took, photos of places I used to walk all the time when I lived in Olomouc and Prague, and I am feeling extremely homesick, as I always do in the fall, and so here you go.
Prague is a quirky place to travel with a little kid. It’s not exactly stroller friendly, and it’s not filled with playgrounds or kids museums, but Czechs love kids. I think it’s best as a town for tiny babies or for slightly older kids, but found parks and playgrounds. We stayed in Prague 6 this time, at this sweet family apartment near a bunch of embassies and I hadn’t spent much time on that side of the river when I lived in Prague. We loved the apartment, and we were so sad to leave.
In Olomouc, I got to show my family all the the places I used to go, and we spent a few days with my host family. It was so strange to see my old school, the main square, and all my old spots. We met up with a few friends in both Prague and Olomouc and it just…was so good to show my husband and daughter all the places I used to go all the time.
All these photos were shot on my Nikon FG 20 film camera, on Portra 160 and Portra 800.
I know how lucky we are to travel as much as we do. We’ve been able to make decisions that have helped us pay down debt, and we make choices every single day that allow us to travel fairly regularly. A lot of our travel is to visit family, or is tagged on to a work trip for one of us, but we try to get in one good vacation each year. A few years ago, we realized that the best way to survive the long, dark, and cold winters in Spokane was to get away for a warm weather break. So, when I was pregnant with little miss and we knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere that winter (and it was a rough, rough, winter), H promised me we would finally go to Hawaii the next winter.
Maui was a dream, you guys. I’ve traveled all over and been to tropical islands before, but Maui is like living on a different planet. It was the most beautiful kind of place, and I left a little piece of my heart there. That said, it wasn’t the easiest vacation by any means. N was recently mobile, is a 100% winter baby who prefers snow and cold weather to hot weather and sand, and we made some key mistakes. Oh, and it rained half the time we were there. It was weird. But these photos don’t show that.
— We stayed near baby beach in Lahaina and really loved it. We walked into town a couple times and also drove in once or twice as well.
— Places we loved: Down the Hatch, Frida’s Mexican, Maui Brewing Company, the Pride of Maui Snorkeling Tour, the Maui Ocean Center.
— Baby beach was shallow and perfect for littles, but a little tame for our more adventurous swimmers. It’s nice and flat, which I loved. 100% would go back there, and there’s a decent amount of parking by it too.
— Please wear reef safe sunscreen anytime you’re in the ocean. Save the fishes.
I’ve been traveling to Germany for the past decade, and this was I think my 10th trip? I tried to count them up, but I can’t remember how many times I hopped across the border while studying in Prague. It’s like asking me to count how many times I’ve been to Portland. We’ve been to Munich a half a dozen times – after all, H grew up there. But for this trip, we knew we wanted a few day away from everything to just explore a new place. We looked at a bunch of different places, but when I saw this apartment on Airbnb, I knew we were coming to Schwangau.
Schwangau is where Neuschwanstein is – spoiler alert: we didn’t go to Neuschwanstein – and Hohenschwagau. It’s very typically Bavarian. In fact, on our second day there, the dairy across the street let their cows out into the field in the first photo. It was loud, and kinda smelly, but so very Bavarian. We laughed, and headed out to visit a few castles.
If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth, and loved it, you’re going to love the real Bavaria. Leavenworth, while good, isn’t anything like the real deal. The first morning, I woke up and snuck out on the balcony. The mist was out (that’s the first photo) and it was perfection. We wandered around and ate cake at a beautiful old cafe. I visited a cemetery (you can learn a lot about a village by how they treat their dead). We hiked a mountain with a baby and visited a castle. We almost got caught in the rain (which is why we didn’t make it to Neuschwanstein) and read books in the hammock on the balcony. It was good.
I didn’t take very many photos on our recent trip to Munich. We barely went into the city, in fact, we only went in once — to stroll around Schloss Nymphenburg on a sunny Sunday afternoon. As we wandered along the paths, the beautiful spring sunshine beating down on our shoulders, and the baby sleeping in her stroller, I had a moment where I realized — this could have been our normal.
I’d like to think that there are alternate universes out there, where things have gone ever so slightly different, and instead of living here in Spokane, we packed everything up and moved to Germany. In all realities, we probably wouldn’t be living in Munich, but it was a fun thing to think about as we sat down at the cafe and had our cake, and then posed in front of the lilacs on our way back to the car.
This last photo is something different. It’s the view from the sofa at my grandparents-in-law’s home in Munich. From there, you can see through the doors into their Winter Garten (the German version of a sunroom, it’s all glass and you put your plants in there in the winter). I’ve sat on this sofa during every trip to Germany, in this corner, and stared through these doors. I’ve seen rain and sun and snow fall out those windows. And this photo, more than almost any other, causes me such homesickness for a home I’ve never lived in. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Ah, Delos. The home of the Gods, the center of the cyclades, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Uninhabited, well preserved, an entire island masquerading as an archaeological site. Well, honestly, no masquerade here. Delos fulfilled all the archaeological wishes that I felt weren’t met in Athens (too neat, too tidy, too touristy). We wandered the paths on the map, and we meandered through the museum, and then we hiked up the mountain (not a mountain by any means) and yes, I traipsed up a small hill/mountain in sandals and a dress.
Delos is fascinating. It’s like walking through a ghost town, the place was abandoned in stages, and there are areas where the architecture is very old, and other areas where it’s just old. Homes where the walls are built with stacked rocks, and – from what I can tell – no visible mortar or adhesive atop of dirt floors. These homes are over 1,000 years old, some possibly more than 2,000 years old. They are single rooms with a fire pit in the center for cooking. Other areas have intricate tile floors, beautiful designs, and tell you about Delos’ rich past. What fascinated me most is that Delos is unapologetic. Delos just…is. It hasn’t been cleaned up, it hasn’t been commercialized, there is no tidy, Disney tour here. Transportation (and tour options) is provided by Delos Tours from Mykonos, but otherwise, you’re given a map and asked to stay on the paths. There are shards of broken pottery everywhere, the evidence of lives once lived in abundance here. A small cafe – we didn’t stop in – the museum, and the remnants of what was once the center of Greek culture and commerce. And yet…everything is gone.
My advice: go early, wear sunscreen, bring lots of water and some snacks, and be prepared to walk a decent amount in no shade (I think it’s about 2-2.5 miles for the longest route, which we took) over a couple hours.
All photos taken on my Nikon FG-20 film camera with Kodak Portra 160 film by me (I am a rockstar at film camera selfies). Many of the photos from Delos can be purchased as prints, like my other travel images.