California · USA · Utah

Goodbye, California

It’s official. Our bosses know. We had a goodbye party. We are leaving California. We are moving to Utah in three weeks.

Why?

I miss my mommy, duh. No but really, I just miss my family way too much. It’s become too difficult to be out here without either my or Erwann’s family. We don’t really plan on living in a one bedroom apartment forever and can’t imagine ever being able to afford anything bigger. We also don’t love that we have to drive two hours and fight through hosts of people every time we want to escape civilization.

Of course, there are things that we will miss.

A handful of really good people, for starters. When we’ve been far away from our families, some awesome friends have always stepped up to help us move and celebrate Christmas and birthdays. We’ve also taken lots of fun trips to places we’ll probably never see again. And, I know we will miss California this winter when we’re scraping the ice off our cars.

Do we have jobs?

No.

Aren’t we scared?

A little? Not too much, though. We’re mostly excited. The job market in Utah is pretty good, and we have an awesome support system if it takes some time to get settled.

Where will we live?

With my grandma and grandpa until we find jobs.

When are we moving?

“Unofficially” on May 24th, we will pack up everything we haven’t sold and drive up to Utah with our kitties. But, the “official” moving date is really later in August, because we’re spending the summer with Erwann’s family and doing this:

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Stay tuned…

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California · USA

Birthday in Joshua Tree

I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday this year. We are pretty spoiled in Southern California with mild winters, but they are not so mild that we can camp in December or January, so when my birthday began to approach we started planning a trip into California’s best desert:

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The 14th fell on a Friday this year, so Erwann and I took the day off work to try to beat the weekend traffic. Not remarkably, we were not (nor are we ever) the only ones to have this idea. Between Easter and the weekend, the park was packed.

We stayed at Hidden Valley Campground last year and loved it, so we tried there first. No luck. The next closest was Ryan Campground, which was also beautiful. No luck. The next was Jumbo Rocks Campground, the park’s biggest. We wanted to avoid Jumbo Rocks for this reason, because it’s where the LA party people tend to go first, and the last thing I want when I go camping is to be around other drunk people. Everyone knows that the whole purpose of camping is the get drunk ALONE in nature.

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Or, it’s at least about getting drunk with a few people you actually like, which is what we did with our friends Kirt and Eleanore.

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We intended to do a bit of hiking as well, but we had the wild, beautiful, empty desert literally right behind our campsite. Although the desert is stunning in its own bizarre way, it’s not ideal for hiking. It gets real hot real quick, and it starts to look the same after a short time, so we stuck to meandering off the beaten path with all the hares. We were excited about the hares. Otherwise we stayed in the tent or under the sun reading. I finished two books during the trip.

I was also stoked on the adorable family who camped right next to us. They had three curly blond-haired, green-eyed boys of 8, 6, and 4 years old. The 8-year-old immediately offered to help us set up camp. We played soccer with the 6-year-old using the wood bundles as goal posts. The next day he told Erwann he wanted to play soccer with him again before they left. The 4-year-old showed off his glow stick and attempted to impress us by rolling around in the dirt.

To summarize: nature, bunnies, munchkins, friends, and reading. Quite a productive camping trip.

 

About Me · France · Italy · Normandy · Rome · USA · Utah · Wedding

How I Found My Tribe

A few days after my wedding, Margaret, Aaron, and I went for a long hike in the mountains by my parents’ house. We were covered in dirt and sweat, but we made it to the beautiful waterfall and were now on our way back down the mountain. Somehow we walked right passed the bridge we were supposed to cross to continue to the trail on the other side of the river. I thought I had been following the trail, but eventually realized that the “trail” was no longer such. We had been hiking all day, and the thought of backtracking up the hill to find the bridge and relocate the real trail was not a bit appealing.

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I scanned my surroundings and noticed that the trail was just on the other side of the ravine and across the water. We decided it would be faster to go down the muddy slope, cross the river, and climb up the slope on the other side. All too quickly we realized what a stupid decision this had been. It had rained recently, so we were immediately slipping and sliding down the damp slopes. But, it was too late to change our minds, so we laughed at the mud collecting all over our bodies and clothes and just kept on sliding.

At that moment I realized that these kinds of crazy, poorly thought out, and hilarious experiences are those which build the best friendships imaginable. All of the sudden, it felt like I was an international student in France again, part of me wishing I had been smarter, another part laughing hysterically, and another part petrified, all while having no other choice but to carry on. Sometimes during our year in France my American friends and I thought we had made a mistake in going there for a whole year, but all we could do was laugh and stick together until we made it to the other side. Even in the worst of times, we knew that the scary or horrible experiences would be unforgettable moments that would build lifelong friendships.

One particularly horribly unforgettable memory in France was waking up every Friday at 5:30 am to catch a train and be at work to teach English to middle school students at 8 am. Aaron, Margaret, and I all taught in a small rural city called Lisieux. Officially we were language “assistants” but in reality we were untrained English teachers. Lisieux was about a 20 minute train ride away, and we taught from 8 am until 5 pm every Friday. In order to take the train, walk to school, and begin class on time, we had to catch the 7:20 train. In Caen, the city where we were living, Thursdays were the best nights for students to go out to the bars. There were always parties on Thursday. My friends and I never went to these parties because we had to work, but they went on in our dorms without us every week. It was rare that we got enough sleep on a Thursday night due to the noise.

On top of that, we hated teaching. The students were between 12 and 16. They lived in a very small city in the countryside, so they didn’t see the use of English. They knew that we weren’t their real teachers and wanted to use the time in our classes to goof off. What’s more, we didn’t have sufficient training as “language assistants” to give engaging lessons. Dreading the following day, I always spent most Thursday nights lying in bed awake.

The only thing that made these Fridays bearable was my friends. Getting out of bed was made easier with the thought that I would spend the train ride with my friends. Although we were usually silent on the way to the train station, we would normally buy coffee and something sugary once we arrived. After perking up a bit, we would spend the time on the train bouncing ideas off of one another. None of us ever had a solid plan of what we were going to do on Friday; we all relied on each other for classroom activities.

During class, we would always send each other text messages about the happenings of our day. Aaron: “They’re fighting over the $1 prize for the game.” Alisa: “They’re rolling cigarettes.” Margaret: “They told me I have a big nose.” When the long day finally finished, we would meet up at the train station and spend the ride home venting and unwinding from the tiresome day. Aaron and I had been friends right from the start, but it took this uniquely miserable experience to bring me and Margaret together. We had always been cordial, but sharing those train rides was the building block of Margaret and my friendship.

Arin and I on the other hand, were already friends before we went to Rome, but we were bonded together after surviving a truly terrifying experience. There we overheard some American girls staying in the other room talk about whether or not their boyfriends back in the U.S. were cheating on them (they were). We saw the same old men from the restaurant at lunch on the news that same night. We giggled every time we got the opportunity to say, “Prego!”

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We left our bed and breakfast to go back to France at about 4 am. Our flight was at 7 am, and we had to catch the shuttle to the airport well in advance. It was pitch black when we left. Upon arriving in Rome, we had walked through the train station to get to our bed and breakfast. At 4 am however, the train station was still closed. We had to walk around the station to get to the other side. Arin and I felt terrifyingly exposed with our red and blonde hair. Numerous homeless men spoke to us in Italian. At one point, a car full of Italian men pulled over and signaled for us to get in their car. We held each other, praying that we wouldn’t get kidnapped and guiltily thinking about what our mother’s would say if they knew what their daughter’s had gotten themselves into.

Not wanting to cause her more grey hairs than was necessary, I didn’t tell my mom the full story about my trip to Rome until three years later. During those days leading up to my wedding, Aaron, Margaret, Arin, and I finally recounted all the silly and sometimes downright stupid things we had done while studying abroad in France. When I first met them back in 2011, Aaron was a guy from Pennsylvania, Arin was the redhead who lived on the third floor, and Margaret was the girl with the cute boots. As a normal girl from Utah, I never expected to form such a strong bond with other seemingly normal Americans. But, through surviving a year away from our country and our families, near kidnapping, and sliding down muddy mountain slopes, I found my tribe.

California · Family · USA

First Anniversary: Yosemite National Park

Erwann and I have been married for one year. August 2015 was a whirlwind; we didn’t even have a honeymoon. In September I went back to school, and Erwann went back to work. In October we “celebrated” Halloween at home with the cats, then we returned to Utah to party turkey style, and for Christmas we returned to Europe. Then the new year came, and we watched fireworks on the beach in Portugal. I have no memory of February. During my spring break, I went to the East coast. When I came home, Erwann was at work but he had surprised me with flowers, cookies, and a love note (*heart eyes emoji*). In April I turned 25 and Erwann spoiled me even more. We also had a great visit from Valerie and went camping in Joshua Tree. In May we went camping again. I had a week off of work in June and went to Utah alone to hang with the Metcalfs. In July we planned our anniversary trip. We got back last week. Did all of that happen in a year, or in a week? The latter seems more plausible.

To celebrate these 12 months of matrimony, we took a long weekend trip up the California coast towards Yosemite National Park. We were disappointed in Big Sur because the weather was yucky. Disappointment made us both grumpy, and we spent most of the first day snapping at each other. It was just in time to make us start regretting the jewelry on our ring fingers. Ha! Just kidding. A darling little gopher cheered us up. A few other people stopped and said it was so cute, but Erwann and I were the only ones happy to sit there and watch the little guy pop in and out of his hole for thirty minutes. Love at first sight (of a cute animal) sums up our relationship pretty well.

We crashed in the glamorous metropolis of Merced that night and rose early to take off for Yosemite. We were ecstatic to see blue skies the whole way, and they continued for the rest of our trip. Luck smiled upon us again, and we found a spot to camp right away. We set up the tent and left to hike the famous mist trail. It was packed with European and Asian tourists, but gorgeous nonetheless. We made friends with another cute rodent and decided that only people who can sit and watch a squirrel for 30 minutes should be allowed in national parks. We also saw a rattlesnake, which was equally as exciting although not as fun.

That night we returned to our temporary home, ate dinner and smores, and went to sleep in the coziest double sleeping bag you could ever imagine. We had planned to wake early and hike again, but at 6:00 am after a nine mile hike, I was not having it. We went back to sleep and woke up when the tent became too hot. We decided to take it a little easier and spent the day lounging by the river and swimming in the perfectly cool water. It was so dreamy. We enjoyed our final night with drinks in the wilderness behind our campsite and more dinner and smores. The next morning we sulkily packed up, saw a few more sites, and hit the road.

We were happy to see the kitties again, but man. The vacation blues hit us so hard. Spending time in a godly place like Yosemite makes you realize how dull and ugly suburbia is. This weekend we’re planning another return to the mountains for one last hurrah before my LAST SEMESTER of grad school. That’s right, folks. I’m almost a master! I wouldn’t have been able to get through any of the school, health, or work related challenges life threw at me this last year without my husband. He gives me strength. I am an extremely sensitive person, but in a way, that also makes Erwann stronger. The Hickels are a great team, and we’re ready for another year. Let’s do this!
Here’s our video from the trip:
Family

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

My dad laughs suspiciously when I call him Daddy. I know it’s a little childish, but it is simply my name for him, because he always makes me feel like a kid in the best way. I know that he’s wiser than me. I know that he will help and protect me if he can. I know he loves me. I’ve known this my whole life.

Earlier today I was very annoyed. Even after talking my husband’s ear off for 30 minutes and texting up a storm with my friends, I still wasn’t sated. I couldn’t get the anger out of my system, so on the drive home I racked my brains for someone who could help. I thought of my dad, because the annoying thing had to do with school and work. I knew he would understand. “Call Dad,” I told Siri.

My dad picked up after one ring. “Hello, my daughter!” he answered cheerily. I filled the next 20 minutes with ranting and whining, and he listened patiently. He was very understanding and supportive. Venting to him was exactly what I needed. He thanked me genuinely for calling and told me that he loved and missed me. He also said that he’s proud of me, which he does often. In fact, he rarely passes up the opportunity. How neat is that? No matter how miserably I may fail, I always know that my dad still thinks I’m awesome. I’m not so naive to assume that every kid is as lucky, so I am thankful.

Thank you, Daddy. Happy Father’s Day.

Family · USA · Virginia · Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., Joshua Tree, & California Mountains

I made it home safe and sound to my poor husband whom I left behind for my spring break. There were a lot of people worried about him. It’s funny because no one seemed to be worried about me taking planes, trains, and buses all over the country by myself, but everyone asked me how Erwann was going to manage a week at home alone. Somehow he survived, and I enjoyed a couple days not only in Kentucky, but also in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. My pal Aaron even drove into D.C. to join us, and my parents and Will just happened to be there at the same time as well (I’m not kidding. It was actually a coincidence).

Here’s photographic proof.

Shortly after I got home, I celebrated my 25th birthday. I was so spoiled. I even got my mother-in-law. Most people gave me a hesitant look of pity when I told them that she was flying in the day of my birthday, after which I would reassure them that yes, it really was okay, my mother-in-law really is awesome.Here’s photographic proof.

We didn’t have huge plans for her visit because we were mostly just excited to see her, but we still managed to squeeze in a camping trip in Joshua Tree National park. It makes me so happy when Erwann and Valerie get to see each other. It’s also a plus that she’s so much fun, so easygoing, and so adventurous.

After a weekend in the desert, Erwann and I were bitten by the camping bug. We kissed Valerie goodbye and took off almost immediately into the mountains. We have a great new tent, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to protect us from 35 degrees, rain, wind, and hail. It was an interesting night to say the least, but we stuck it out until morning and woke up to a beautiful, sunny day.

The time between then and now are very blurry. I guess I finished another semester of grad school, but I’m not really sure how? It’s been crazy. It seems like a week ago I had a million things to do, and like they just disappeared all of the sudden. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Erwann and I celebrated me being one step closer to a master’s degree with another little trip into the mountains. This time we brought the guitar and sung together by the fire. Also, it was less cold than our previous adventure. I still froze, but that’s an occupational hazard. A fun time was had by all.

Next up on the agenda: a visit from Arin (my friends and I are SLAYING this long distance thing), summer school, a trip back to Utah, and if I’m lucky, some more cold nights with Erwann and our tent.
Kentucky · USA

Kentucky

Kentucky is the furthest South and East I’ve ever been in the United States.

What am I doing in the bluegrass state you ask? I’m visiting one of my very best friends, Arin, and also visiting this awesome part of America, because it’s beautiful!

Arin has been a wonderful tour guide. Thankfully she was (is) actually a history major, and has been filling me in on all the cool facts about everywhere we go. Yesterday she showed me around the University of Kentucky campus, and I tagged along to watch her teach an undergrad history class (LOL is all I have to say about that). Afterwards, we walked all over Lexington, which is just adorable. I even found a cute (symmetrical) door. Nearly every single house I’ve seen has been stinking cute, complete with Southern charm, blooming trees, and a big porch.

Our jaunt led us to Ashland, Henry Clay’s estate. I knew that name, but not too much else. Arin was able to clarify, and the estate is quite gorgeous. There’s even a cute little grave for the kitty that used to live there- How sweet is that?!

We finished off our day with wine, chips, jelly beans, and playing dress-up. You might be wondering why two grown-ass women were playing dress-up, but we actually have a really great excuse: Arin is engaged!!! As of two weeks ago, Arin is marrying her high school sweetheart, John, whom she has been dating for the better part of a decade. I am so beyond excited for the two of them. We are already very busy with wedding plans, and she already has her dress, hence the dress-up. It’s just perfect for her, and we were able to try on a veil and play around with some hairstyles.Today, I got the tour of Arin’s hometown, Danville. It’s pronounced dan-vull. And apparently the Appalachians are the app-uh-latch-ins. I feel very strongly that the correct pronunciation of a city is that of the locals, but regardless, I’m having difficulty getting used to that. I was able to meet a couple of such locals, such as: Arin’s future mother-in-law, brother, sister, and nephew. I was so happy to finally put some faces with these names I’ve come to know so well.Our next stop was Perryville (pair-vull), the site of the “battle for Kentucky.” There is a mass grave there for the confederate soldiers who never got buried, an old cannon, and the original fence. Very cool; there’s so much history everywhere.

So far I’m pretty enamored by Kentucky, but sadly I already have to leave. Arin and I are off to Charlottesville, Virginia tomorrow, where we’re meeting up with another member of my tribe, Margaret. I know I’m in for a fun-filled, long overdue girl’s weekend!