Day Trip to the Northwoods

This past weekend, my family took a day trip to Northern Minnesota.  It was the first time we’d been together in six months and wanted to celebrate.  We gathered our belongings, grabbed coffee at the local shop, and drove two hours to the port city of Duluth.  After a brief picnic lunch on some boulders at a little park along the shore of Lake Superior, we continued along the North Shore–enjoying views of the lake through the pine forest.

Our mission?  Hiking.  We did a 6 mile loop on the Superior Hiking Trail along the Split Rock River.  The trail was muddy and nearly impassible at points.  After attempting to skirt around the edges, I gave up and slopped through the mud.  It reminded me of the footpaths in England and wished I had a pair of trusty Wellies.  By the end of the day, my legs were crusted in a layer of slime. Continue reading

Couch Surfing in Konstanz

Staying with strangers is odd.  You spend a couple of weeks emailing back and forth with a person you’ve never met, making arrangements.  But, the whole time, you’re never really sure if it will work out… will it be a total disaster?  Will we get along?  Will I be in the way?

I’ve spent the past few days in Konstanz, Germany staying with a friend of a friend.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it’s been a really positive experience.  My hosts have been incredibly kind and accommodating, giving me a room of my own to sleep in, a bike to use, and a spare key so I can come and go as I please.  They even invited me out with their friends for an all-you-can-eat and drink meal of what they called “German pizza”.  (I don’t know what the real name is, but it looks like pizza, only with no sauce and different toppings.)

After a few weeks of exploring big cities and cultural centers, it feels good to be off the beaten path.  Konstanz is a tourist town, but most of the tourists are either German or Swiss.  It’s located on the shores of Lake Constance (the largest lake in Germany) at the intersection of three countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  On a clear day, you can see the Alps from across the lake.

On my first full day, I biked out into the countryside.  I spent the morning among rolling hills, vineyards, and blooming fruit trees.  In many ways, it reminded me of being home. I visited a nearby island filled with small, independent farms and old churches.  My afternoon was spent wandering around Konstanz, exploring the old town and harbor. Compared to some of the grand old cities I’ve explored, it wasn’t anything to write home about, but still nice.

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One of the old churches on Reichenau Island (near Konstanz) that I biked past.

On day two, I took a day trip.  I pulled myself out of bed bright and early, found my way to the bus stop, and an hour later, I was in Zurich, Switzerland.  Most of my day was spent wandering around, exploring whichever narrow, cobbled streets caught my fancy.  Sadly, I didn’t do any traditional Swiss things.  No new watches or fancy chocolates for me… Switzerland is expensive and I’m on a tight budget.  I did spent a couple of hours in the city’s art museum, delighting in their national collection.  I lingered on the shores of Lake Zurich for a long, long time, soaking in the Alps and enjoying the fresh air.

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View of the Alps from across Lake Zurich

On day three, I did absolutely nothing. I mean that literally.  I stayed in bed almost the entire day, reading and binge watching Call the Midwife on Netflix.  Travel is exhausting!  It sounds weird, but it’s sometimes good to take a vacation from vacation.  I did venture out to the supermarket in the morning, along with a short walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon.  Besides that… the day was all rest and relaxation.

It was a bit awkward because my main contact was away from home during half my visit.  She returned to her hometown to help a friend shop for wedding dresses, leaving me alone with her male roommates.  I felt a bit out of place, but they were nice, and I mostly kept to myself.

Now, I’m on to the next chapter of my adventure.  After a great week in Germany, it’s time to turn to it’s neighbor: Austria.

Stay tuned.

A Day in Midhurst

Thursdays are days off at L’Abri and we took advantage of our free time to explore the nearby town of Midhurst.  We got there by bus, arriving around one o’clock and spending several hours wandering the picturesque area.

Our first stop was the ruins of Cowdray, which were absolutely stunning!  We learned from the tourist website that, before being destroyed by fire, the site was host to illustrious figures like Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, and Guy Fawkes.  Although we couldn’t enter the ruins due to January being the off-season, we were able to satisfy our wonder and curiosity by exploring the perimeter of the property.

Next, we visited St. Ann’s Hill, which has played host to pagan rituals, an Iron Age fort, and a Norman castle.  We caught glimpses of the surrounding countryside.  The hill itself was capped with a ring of ancient trees and a network of stone ruins.

For the rest of the afternoon, we wandered around Midhurst itself.  It’s a beautiful little town and we marveled at the varying architecture–a conglomeration of medieval, Georgian, Elizabethan, and Victorian.  We wandered into the former school of H.G. Welles, found a small duck pond, and wasted time in a bookshop while waiting for our bus.

I’m not posting much these days, due to the fact that my internet access is limited to days off when I’m able to visit pubs and cafes.  It’s definitely been a challenge being so removed form technology, but it’s also extremely refreshing.  L’Abri is a wonderful place to explore ideas and reflect on life.  In many ways, living here feels like living in another time.  I’ve been having lots of adventures and have been continuing to write!  I spent an evening earlier this week drafting potential blog posts.

Hopefully, more of my reflections and adventures will make it to this space soon.

 

The benefits of dating yourself

Weird title, I know.

By two o’clock today, I had gone to church, worked out, and finished all my weekend homework.  All my friends were busy, and I was left with an entire afternoon with nothing to do.  I’m an introvert, but too much time alone in my room makes me lonely.  It’s like my heart feels heavy and empty and no amount of Netflix can make it better.  Knowing I had hours ahead of me in my own company, I didn’t want to waste the day moping around.

So I took action by taking myself on a date.

It was a wonderful afternoon.  I sang to the radio during the hour drive to and from Alexandria.  I talked to my mom on the phone.  I went to see Cinderella a second time and loved it just as much as the first.  (Be sure to check out my post about it!)  I went out to eat and spent dinner with my favorite John Green novel.  (Which, in case you were wondering, is Paper Towns.)   I meandered through Target, sighing over pretty clothes and household decorations.  I purchased a new purse and the final Hobbit movie.  (Be sure to check out my post about that one too!).

On the drive home, I spent a great deal of time meditating on the nostalgia that comes with the end of a season in life.  With only a handful of weeks left of college, there are so many aspects of life here that I’ve taken for granted.  As I approached Morris, instead of heading to campus, I drove to the overlook just outside of town.  Perched on a rock, I watched the sun set over the tiny town I’ve called home these past few years.  It was such a beautiful, peaceful moment– one that I know I’ll hold in my heart for a long time.

Afternoons like this one remind me that incredible joy can be found in little things.  It felt so good to forget the stresses of college, to drive away, and do things just for the sake of doing them.  I think that it’s important to learn to date yourself.  You can have a lot of fun and learn a great deal in your own company.

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Driving home to Morris in the sunset.